Tag Archives: Bible Study
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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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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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.
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Daily Truth Bible Study Acts 6:1-15 part 2
Last time, we saw howGod continued to build His church. The twelve apostles made the decision to organize the efforts to serve those who were in need allowing the twelve to continue in their prayer and study. This is the first instance where organization as a method of operation is shown. The outcome was that God continued to add to the number of believers. The organization did not add the believers, God did. The organization was a step in effective operation in order to best honor God.
We now see Stephen briefly appear on the scene. The brevity of time should not indicate to us a smallness of his ministry, however. Look at verse 8. Stephen was full of faith and power and he did great wonders and signs among the people. The mention of him in scripture is brief but that does not diminish how we should feel about his impact.
Watch what happens as a result of Stephen’s effective minstry. Opposition arose from a group of religious people. These people did not see eye-to-eye with the truth taught by Stephen because the Bible says they disputed with him. Not only did they dispute with him, verses 10-11 say they were not able to resist his wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke so they secretly induced men to lie about what Stephen was teaching.
So, since the opposition could not win by debating the facts and issues, they formed a group of liars to spread falsehoods in order to swing public opinion away from Stephen. This sounds like typical politics today. Not much has changed over the years. If you cannot win with the strength of your cause, lie, cheat, and steal until you can win through corruption. Yes indeed. This sounds like politics in the US today. The truth matters little. What matters is how many people and how much media you can get to spout your lies until people generally begin to believe you.
There is a huge problem with this tactic however. One day, all people will stand before God. The Bible says that God cannot be mocked and people will reap what they have sown. Abe Lincoln said you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. That seems to be true. It is also true, however, that you cannot fool God ANY of the time.
The disputers stirred up the people and the temple officials. Stephen was brought before the council. More liars were put into place to twist Stephen’s words and to connect him to the same lies told about Jesus when he was on trial.
Watch what happens in verse 15. Despite being on trial before corrupt politicians with a group of lying witnesses, all of the people who were seeking Stephen’s demise saw his face to be like that of an angel. I would imagine that most people would be in a bit of stress standing before a kangaroo court full of cheats, liars, and thugs. Yet, Stephen had the calmness and serenity of an angel. Stephen was given grace by God to withstand the trial he was facing.
It is difficult to imagine how a person could be calm during an uproar like this one. His life was definitely in jeopardy. God gave him the grace he needed when he needed it. It seems to me like God is not one to waste. We cannot imagine how Stephen could remain so calm despite his circumstances because we have never been there. However, for those who have been in similar circumstances and lived, their testimony reveals that God provided what they needed when they needed it. May God bless the study of His word. Comment below if you wish.