Tag Archives: Acts
I wrote several articles a while back about a radio station in the Miami area that bills itself as Christian but the content of the DJ discussion could best be labeled as culturally tolerant and traditional Christianity intolerant. As a brief reminder of previous content I have heard from this station over the years, once the morning DJ said he doubted the existence of eternal hell and encouraged a guy who claimed to believe in soul extinguishing (a Buddhist teaching), many times the morning team has staged skits and call-in contests with careless and disrespectful references to Jesus, and several instances where the morning crew totally mislead callers with answers to questions that are much more new age than Christian in content.
Yesterday, I heard the morning guy tell a caller that he did not care for going to church! He said he preferred a more interactive experience where there was no “preacher yelling at me about how bad I am” but where someone would encourage and affirm him. Now I agree that yelling is not necessary but that is as far as I can agree with the morning DJ dude. People who are lost do not need to be affirmed and encouraged to remain lost. Immature Christians need to grow in conforming to the image of Christ and not to be affirmed and encouraged to remain novices. Nothing good can be accomplished with an “Anything goes, dude” mentality. Read 1 Corinthians if you do not believe me.
How immature and self-indulgent can you be?! I only want to hear good things about myself and I want someone blowing smoke into my ear about how great I am… Give me a break! The danger in this immature and culturally tolerant stuff lives in the fact that people on the radio claiming to be Christian carry some credibility. Others listen to the radio assuming they can trust what they hear to be true and beneficial to them. When Emergent garbage is spewed from people who are too immature themselves to be in Christian leadership, the result is confusion and even deception.
Look at the book of Acts. God’s people met together. The total truth about God’s grace through Jesus and why people need it was clearly discussed. When Peter, Paul, and others preached in the open square or in the synagogues, they confronted people about their sin and their need of the Savior. How else can lost people hear? God’s plan is for His people to take His message to the world. God never asked for anyone to encourage and affirm the lost or spiritually immature Christian to remain in their current state.
“Emergent Radio” is another example of what happens when all solid, doctrinal teaching gets removed from life. People become worldly in their thinking. To be Christian is not to simply ” be nice ” within your own self-defined concept of niceness. To be Christian is not to drift around on every wind of false doctrine that replaces truth from the Bible because it is more palatable to the flesh of the worldly.
Every town in America probably does not have an Emergent Radio like this one. However, I can guarantee you that every Christian radio station in America is under pressure to broaden their appeal and gain more monetary support. The pressure comes from without even if it does not come from within. Increasingly, more stations are scuttling teaching programs in favor of continuous music. Also increasing is the extent to which the music being played on Christian radio merges with the current worldly culture. Much music remains solidly appropriate for honoring Christ but too much of it has shifted to a style-driven sound with lyrics that are indecipherable. Does sound alone honor God? Maybe or maybe not. It is above my paygrade to make that determination. Does recording otherwise worldly music and throwing in a casual reference to God or Jesus once in a while honor God? You be the judge based upon what scripture teaches about the glory of God and His Son who sits at His right hand in splendor.
To downgrade or not to downgrade… that is the question facing America. How will she respond?
Last time I stated that the giving of the gospel is not an academic exercise but a spiritual one. Paul and Barnabas were opposed outwardly by the magician Bar-Jesus but they were also being opposed inwardly as well. The magician apparently sought to not only distance Sergius Paulus from Paul and Barnabas but to convince him not to believe them as well. We will also see later how a growing disagreement between Paul and Barnabas would lead to the separating of this ministry team that God had sent out with a definite mission. The opposition to God’s work was indeed fierce.
Paul addresses Bar-Jesus directly giving him an ear-full of revelation about the false messenger’s lack of character. Paul also pronounced a time of blindness to be upon him which did indeed occur. The proconsul believed the message of Paul and Barnabas according to verse 12. He also witnessed the power of God in seeing the judgement upon his deceitful sidekick.
So, did the proconsul carefully weigh the information and “decide” to accept Jesus based upon his intellect alone? There is no example of such a thing anywhere in scripture. To the contrary, we are told over and over again how God rescues the perishing by His grace by producing faith in those who believe. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. The sovereign hand of God plucks out a people to be His own. We never see someone give out info about Jesus and wait while people carefully consider the information as if they were deciding whether to buy a used car. We never see the apostles give out the gospel and then try to manipulate the audience to get “decisions” in a pragmatic way.
What we do see however is God’s message being proclaimed and people responding. Those who are the elect will believe is the general idea. Those who are not have no capacity to do righteousness or it would be works that demand a credit to their accounts. In Phillipians 2, Paul tells believers that it is God who works in believers both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Jesus stated very plainly that those whom the Father gives Him would come to Him, would be kept by Him, and nothing could take them from His hand in John 6. Again in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 we see God’s sovereign election of His own unto salvation and eternal life. Many more examples of the same idea exist throughout scripture.
So what do we take away from this knowledge? We MUST evangelize the world! God has chosen to use the spreading of his word to call out His elect. In Jesus’ great commission to His followers, He told them to take the message to the world. He didn’t say to conquer the world politically nor militarily. He didn’t say to build mega-churches nor to repackage His message into gobblygook that doesn’t resemble the original idea in order to bring into a social group those who would not respond to the gospel.
In our day as well in any day, we must not lose track of the central truth that God is doing His work using us as His tools. His will will be accomplished with or without us. God is sovereign, we are not. God has the roadmap. God is the pilot. He drives the bus…you get the message.
We see an excellent example of His sovereignty in Acts 13. Sergius Paulus responded in belief despite cultural, political, physical, economical, social, and religious differences. May God be praised for His sovereign grace.
Last time we saw the early church in Antioch fasting and praying and ministering to the Lord. The Holy Spirit called for Paul and Barnabas to be separated from the others to take the message to the gentiles.
Let’s talk for a moment about a Spirit-filled church. Many times we hear folks refer to themselves as a Spirit-filled church. The proof they offer can be the handling of snakes without getting bitten, the speaking of tongues, the manifestation of various healings and miracles… and so forth. But, what is a Spirit-filled church, really?
John MacArthur says that a Spirit-filled church is one in which its members walk in obedience to the will of God. God reveals His will through scripture so a Spirit-filled church will be deeply committed and obedient to the word of God. An examination of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 shows how being filled with God’s Spirit and allowing the word of God to richly dwell in one’s life produce same outcome.
I’m afraid at this point that I must detour for a moment in order to hit upon an important topic. Many people today talk about “God showed me” or “God spoke to me and told me” and other such things. These things that “God spoke or showed” usually result in you being asked to send money to the one who received the revelation. Don’t do it! God reveals Himself in His word. Every claim of revelation or inspiration must be thoroughly examined against what is taught in scripture.
There is also a rising tide of false teaching existing today. Much Emergent, Prosperity, Word of Faith, Roman Catholic, New Age, and other teachings are competing against the truth. And since the word of God is not richly dwelling in the lives of people, many are falling headlong into deception.
Our scripture today shows an excellent example of this. Verse 6 says that Paul and Barnabas had been across and throughout the entire island of Cyprus preaching and teaching Jesus. Luke makes a point, however, of mentioning this next bit of information as opposed to anything else that occurred on Cyprus. A local Roman official, Sergius Paulus, summoned Paul and Barnabas so that he could hear their message.
Luke notes that Sergius Paulus was a man of intelligence. His job as a local leader would have required him to learn of the teachings of traveling evangelists. He doubtlessly kept himself informed of all the news about the happenings in his area. The scripture seems to insist, however, that this man was interested on a deeper level that simple curiosity about Paul and Barnabas. Regardless of his reason, he seeks to hear from God’s men.
Now note how the proconsul is flanked by a messenger of Satan. A Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. I remember in school when studying math that sometimes a problem would have variable noted as A and another noted as Bar A (A with a bar above it). There was a huge difference between the value of the A and the Bar A. As a matter of fact, there was no relation at all between A and Bar A.
There was also no relation at all between Jesus (the real and only Son of God) and Bar-Jesus (a false prophet of Jewish descent). This Bar-Jesus was attached to the proconsul for some reason. Scripture says that Bar-Jesus (also known as Elymas which was a Greek word for magician) opposed Paul and Barnabas. He tried to stop them from giving the word of God concerning Jesus Christ to the proconsul.
We are told in Ephesians 6 that ” our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Telling someone about Jesus will be met with resistance by the enemy forces because hearing the gospel message is the method God uses to call His elect unto Himself. ” Faith comes from hearing the word of God” we are told in Romans 10.
So Paul and Barnabas are opposed outwardly by Bar-Jesus but spiritually, they are opposed by Satan and/or his emissaries. This is very important to understand. I will end today’s lesson with this truth and pick up next time with it as a reminder. Giving someone the word of God about salvation through Jesus is not an academic exercise where someone simply weighs the information intellectually and makes a decision. Heaven and hell are in a struggle that God allows to take place when someone is confronted with the gospel. We will look more deeply into this in the part 3 of this text.
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The 13th chapter marks a change from being focused upon Peter and what was occurring in Jerusalem to being focused upon Paul and his taking of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen are mentioned as being prophets and teachers in Antioch.
Of notable importance, followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. It was a derisive term used by those who were not sympathetic to the calling of the people who followed Jesus but the Christians of Antioch wore the name proudly as it identified them with their Savior.
Now, when the scripture says of the men previously mentioned that they were prophets and teachers, it means exactly that. The terms prophet and teacher get thrown around rather loosely today. The men mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 13 fit the Biblical definitions. Prophets received and proclaimed direction from God and teachers rightly schooled others in God’s revelation of scripture.
Another thing notable about the 13th chapter is that Saul becomes known by his Roman name Paul. He would lead the charge of taking God’s word to the Gentiles. Now, let’s take the remainder of today’s lesson to discuss why and how Paul became the leader to take God’s word to the Gentiles. This is of great importance.
Modern day workings differ from Biblical workings many times. Today, we see people being chosen to lead organizations and ministries for all sorts of reasons. MBA education, leadership-oriented and/or experience, popularity as a former athlete or entertainer, ability to generate a following, ability to separate people from their money… all serve as reasons for people to be selected to head some types of ‘ministries’ in modern times. What do we see in the book of Acts?
Verse 2 says, ” As they ministered to the Lord and fasted…” which implies that these men diligently sought God and ministered to Him through worship and correct handling of God’s truth. They had a correct understanding of who God is. They apparently were not devising techniques and methods in order to sell books to those who did not want to spend time reading God’s word but wanted a Reader’s Digest version instead. These men were diligently serving God.
Verse 2 continues by saying that the Holy Spirit told them to separate Barnabus and Saul/Paul for a special work to which He was calling them. Notice the response of those who were not selected. They fasted, prayed, and laid hands on the chosen ones and sent them on their way. The implication is that the ones not chosen for this specific duty served those who were and supported them as they began their journey.
Notice there were no difficulties with the selection of God’s chosen. The others did not have a tantrum for not being selected. The church did not split. People did not withhold their offering money in protest. Everyone did their part according to their calling. Why must things be so hard today? I think the answer lies in the activities of these early church people. These people were devoutly seeking to serve God. There was no room for them to worry about their image, prestige, notoriety, reputation in the world or any of that type of nonsense.
When people focus upon God and do His work, God is honored. There is not room on a throne except for one. Either God is on the throne of a person’s life or they are on it themselves. God chose Barnabus and Paul for a special purpose and they obeyed. We will contiue this study next time.
I thank the John MacArthur Commentary on the Book of Acts for notes and insights for this study.
We pick up with verse 11 after Peter is led out of prison by an angel. Peter gathers his thoughts and runs to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark. This is where a group of Christ’s followers are praying for Peter. Peter knocks on the door and calls to a young girl who answers. No one inside the house believes it is Peter. After persisting in knocking on the outer door, Peter is finally let in and the people are astonished.
The group had been faithfully praying for Peter yet are surprised to see him alive. I can imagine how they felt. Too often we pray yet are surprised when God answers. May God forgive our weakness of faith.
Peter tells them the story of how the angel released him from prison. I’m sure the church was greatly uplifted to hear this account and word quickly spread among the faithful.
Now back in the prison area and inside the local political structure, the news was not so well-received. Verse 18 and following tells of the reception of Herod to this news. The guards were executed for their ‘failure’ to keep their prisoner secure.
Herod’s plan to garner increased favor among the non-Christian Jews had been derailed and he was furious. I would bet he searched for Peter harder than he had ever searched for anything yet Peter was gone. Herod then does the only thing a spoiled brat can do when defeated… he runs away to Caesarea. News didn’t travel as quickly then as today. Maybe he could outrun the news for a while or even get his mind occupied by badgering other people for a change.
Now on to more of Herod’s vain self-absorption. He held the power strings that controlled the food supply to Tyre and Sidon. He was miffed at them for some reason not given to us. A feast was held in honor of Roman Emporer Claudius according to historical writings of Jewish historian Josephus. It was possibly at this feast that the events of verses 21 – 23 took place.
The people of Tyre and Sidon and other locals who were at the event where Herod gives an oration, applauded him wildly. This was perhaps due to the splendid apparel he was wearing and the assumed power he wielded and could also have been at least partially due to their desire to flatter him in order to gain something from him later.
The people cried out, “The voice of a god and not of a man” which was complete foolishness. Herod took the glory upon himself according to Josephus’ account and the Bible doesn’t say exactly but the implication is that he loved the flattery and was puffed up with himself. Verse 23 says that an angel of the Lord struck Herod because he did not give glory to God. Herod later dies of being consumed (internally) by worms.
Verse 24 tells us that the word of God grew and multiplied which is exactly what it does according to God’s will. There is no stopping it. Herod was shown not to be all that he believed himself to be and that the people who flattered him hoped he was. However, God always proves to be exactly who He has told us He is. Praise His name.
Notice in verse 19 how believers had scattered to far away places as a result of the persecution that arose concerning Stephen’s ministry. Notice particularly that despite Stephen being killed by the Jewish religious leaders, the spreading of the good news of Jesus continued and increased! The scattering of some resulted in the Gospel being taught in new and different places. The work of God had not been halted, it had increased!
Notice also in verse 20 how it was the Lord Jesus that was being preached to the locals. It was not felt-needs, pop psychology, how to improve your sex life, prosperity now, or any other such madness. They were preaching the Lord Jesus. The result was that the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed and turned to the Lord (verse 21).
This is not the first time we have seen this formula (if we can call it that). The disciples of Jesus took His message to people and the Lord’s hand blessed this activity resulting in many believing and being saved. Wow, so simple yet so profound…why is this so hard to understand? Why do so many today put on entertainment extravaganzas each week to entertain men producing little if any lasting changes in their lives and call it ministry?
The book of Acts makes it amazingly simple and easy to understand. Faithful men preach the Lord Jesus to unbelievers. God blesses this activity. Many believe and are changed. Any questions?
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In this final installment of this section of scripture, the focus shifts from Saul/Paul back to Peter. Beginning in verse 32, we see Peter traveling. Traveling was not glamorous back then. It was laborious, dangerous, and time-consuming. Surely there were underlings that could have traveled for Peter. However, we will see that Peter was not above person-to-person ministry.
Depending upon where you live, you may or may not have experienced the mega church concept. 3000 members, 40 pastors, 40-acre campus, 3-ring megaplex… all of these are common place in many American cities these days. Call up and ask to meet with the senior pastor and you will be told that he doesn’t do that. One of the junior pastors will meet directly with the public. The senior pastor focuses on strategy, leadership, growing the church’s brand, building the spiritual empire and so forth.
Peter was the senior pastor. He was there in the beginning when Jesus directly gave him responsibility for the church. No man could be more senior than Peter was in his time. Yet, we see Peter directly involved with individuals.
Verse 34 shows Peter reaching out to Aeneas and healing him in the name of Jesus. Peter was careful never to take credit or even appear to take credit for the miraculous. He made it clear where the power came from. The local people saw the result of the healing of the man they had known since their youth. As a result of God’s power on display, many (turned) came to faith in the Lord. The Greek word used for ‘turned’ in turned to the Lord means a conversion of life direction instead of a simplistic turn of curiosity.
Peter’s celebrity could not have produced this conversion. God was working powerfully in His Church.
Next we see Peter was summoned to go to Joppa where a believing woman had died. Now Peter may have been tired. It may have been the end of a long day. He could have sent an associate or asked for a delay in traveling yet more distance to minster but he did not. He went where he was asked to go. Peter prayed for the woman in private once arriving where the woman lay and God raised her from the dead. The Bible says this event was known all over Joppa and that many believed in the Lord (again, not the casual belief but the life-changing kind).
I am not saying that division of labor or delegation of duties inside the church is wrong. I see the message of this part of scripture as saying that a minister is never larger than his personal ministry. That includes all of us. God has the power and we are to have the availability. None of us are too cool to get our hands dirty, so to speak, with direct ministry. Peter knew this. Paul knew this. They more than any others could have felt they were too senior to get involved but the example they set was one of personal involvement with others when the opportunity presented itself.
Daily Truth Bible Study Acts 9:1-21 part 2 Bible Study Bible Study Acts
The doctrine of election. We are waist-deep in it so let’s continue. Where exactly does the Bible say that God sovereignly elects man? Well, I would point you to begin in Genesis and continue to Revelation. Throughout the Bible, God sovereignly does what He does…He chooses whom He chooses…He hardens whom He hardens. Anything less would be our work of ‘making a decision’ to allow Jesus to be our Savior and to allow God to be the sovereign creator and Lord of all!
I am waiting for the dust to settle…Ok. Now, let’s look at what we see and hear today. People believe and preach in some places that man makes a decision to follow Christ. And this is true to an extent. But, the main thing to understand is that man cannot make such a decision unless He is chosen by God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God. Not by works lest anyone should boast.”
Some try to suggest that God selects those whom He knows will accept Him ultimately. This still suggests that man sovereignly chooses to allow God to be God. Man has some ability to be good, in other words.
The calamity of American society is that we are a self absorbed nation. We cannot fathom that we are not in control of everything. We even get to determine who God is and what He can and cannot do. Not! The Bible is not in harmony with American thought.
Man is dead in his sin. This death is total and complete. It is unalterable apart from God. The sinner cannot do anything about his condition. Psalm 14:1-3 sums this up precisely, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Ok, so much for man having some amount of goodness or ability to choose God. Let’s look at something Jesus said concerning the subject in John 6:37-40, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” And John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
In the passage above, the crowds were following Jesus because He had fed them physical food. Jesus changes the direction of the conversation and teaches them what it really means to follow Him and who can and does follow Him. Those that God gave Him follows and stays secure in Christ. No one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them. Man does not come up with the idea nor does man have the impetus to do anything apart from God but to hate God and the things of God (refer back to the passage from Psalms). Romans 8:7 says that the carnal mind of man hates God and is not subject to God’s law nor does it have the ability to be.
God sovereignly chooses to save and whom to save. He is able and just in doing so because He is God. Saul is an example of one chosen by God.
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After reading the Bible text, look at verse 1. We see the introduction of Saul (who would later be known as Paul). At this time, he is the vehement enemy of the Church. He consented to Stephen’s death. This is another way of saying that he also killed Stephen, maybe not with hands, but with his thoughts, intentions, and desires. He was heartily glad the deed was done, in other words.
Go back in memory to Matthew 5:21-22 where Jesus said that hatred and anger are the same as murder because the heart and mind has done the deed, not the hands. This was said to show how a self-righteous person cannot avoid the spirit of law by heeding the letter of it only. There are no not-guilty-by-technicalities with God.
So Saul as much as killed Stephen himself. This is what the people of the day likely understood. Saul was probably avoiding becoming ceremonially unclean even though he was spiritually unclean and did not know it.
Verse 3 says Saul made havoc of the church by entering every house and dragging off the men and women and throwing them into prison. Let’s camp out here for a while. Notice it did not say that he made havoc with the church by destroying the building. The Church was not a building…it was people. It would be a long time before the Church would be thought of as a church building. When people talked about the Church during this time, everyone knew the people were the Church.
Please allow me to digress for a moment. Many years ago, I traveled to a work location where one of our industrial buildings was located in a town that had been devastated by a tornado. Less than a quarter mile from our plant, a church was leveled. Now, when I say leveled, I mean the only thing visible about the church building was the hardwood floor. Even most of the pews were gone. (Don’t ask me what a pew is…that is a discussion for another day)
The majority of the building and its former contents were scattered across the small town. However, when Sunday morning came, the Church met on the lawn where the church building had been. Why? Because the Church is the people God has redeemed not the building inside which they meet.
Saul (and others) attacked God’s forming Church by attacking the people. Prison would be the home of those captured by Saul. Wow, what would happen today if people were thrown in prison for being found to be members of God’s Church? I will leave this as a rhetorical question.
The result of Saul’s persecution was a scattering of the people. Yet verse 4 says that those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Uh oh, apparently God not only withstood the assault against His work, He also used it to prime the pump, so to speak. Now the scattered people are not cowering in the corner, they are preaching everywhere!
Praise God! His work cannot be stopped. I will leave you with a question…where is the power found? May God bless the study of His word.