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- Restoration, Salvation and Rewards for Obedience to God Text: Isaiah 54-56
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Friday, December 30 2011
We all love happy endings; don't we? Although Paul had a very tragic experience on the journey to Rome, the last verse of chapter 28 concludes that Paul did not die (yet). This book did not give the account of Paul before Caesar or how he died. But unproved history tells us that he died by be-heading about A.D 67; approximately five years after Acts 28. But from the end of Acts to when Paul died he wrote the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews, Titus, First and Second Timothy. But let's learn from the last account of Paul's actions before the end of the book of acts; let's dip our hands into this final chapter and fill our hearts with the assortment of priceless nuggets!
1. Just a Perfect Example of a Leader - Verses 3-6
3-6Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its torpor by the heat, struck his hand and held on. Seeing the snake hanging from Paul's hand like that, the natives jumped to the conclusion that he was a murderer getting his just deserts. Paul shook the snake off into the fire, none the worse for wear. They kept expecting him to drop dead, but when it was obvious he wasn't going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!
Paul was always willing to get his hands dirty; a do as I do kind of preacher. If he preached oneness, he was first at the scene showing oneness.
2. We know in part; only God knows all and He allows nothing without purpose - Verses 7-9
7-9The head man in that part of the island was Publius. He took us into his home as his guests, drying us out and putting us up in fine style for the next three days. Publius's father was sick at the time, down with a high fever and dysentery. Paul went to the old man's room, and when he laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed. Word of the healing got around fast, and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed.
Is it all coincidence that Paul would appeal to Caesar, change ship at Myra, and then forced to swim to safety in Malta? Is it also coincidental that Paul got bitten by a snake and because he did not die the people erroneously concluded that he was a god? No, I don't think so. God does everything for a purpose. Verses 7-9 clearly show us that.
3. A Special Prisoner - treated like royalty - Verses 10-16
10-11We spent a wonderful three months on Malta. They treated us royally, took care of all our needs and outfitted us for the rest of the journey. When an Egyptian ship that had wintered there in the harbor prepared to leave for Italy, we got on board. The ship had a carved Gemini for its figurehead: "the Heavenly Twins."
Paul's stay in Malta was more or less as a free man; a king! His gift had made a way for him and he and his traveling companions were treated like royalty!
They were allowed to stay with friends in Naples Vs 14-15
"We found Christian friends there and stayed with them for a week. And then we came to Rome. Friends in Rome heard we were on the way and came out to meet us. One group got as far as Appian Court; another group met us at Three Taverns?emotion-packed meetings, as you can well imagine. Paul, brimming over with praise, led us in prayers of thanksgiving."
Paul used the opportunity to minister to brethren from all around the Roman province. People couldn't wait for him to arrive; they traveled and joined him on the way. The NIV and KJV say "Paul was encouraged". Vs 15
4. Clarity cannot be over emphasized Verses 17-20
"Three days later, Paul called the Jewish leaders together for a meeting at his house. He said, "The Jews in Jerusalem arrested me on trumped-up charges, and I was taken into custody by the Romans. I assure you that I did absolutely nothing against Jewish laws or Jewish customs. After the Romans investigated the charges and found there was nothing to them, they wanted to set me free, but the Jews objected so fiercely that I was forced to appeal to Caesar. I did this not to accuse them of any wrongdoing or to get our people in trouble with Rome. We've had enough trouble through the years that way. I did it for Israel. I asked you to come and listen to me today to make it clear that I'm on Israel's side, not against her. I'm a hostage here for hope, not doom."
Paul did not tag all of the Jewish leaders to be the same as we learnt a while ago we also see here. He instead invited them for a meeting at his house (note - his house). In the meeting, he stated the facts and explained his intentions; he left nothing in the grey area, no room for misinterpretations. The plain old truth it was!
5. What did we say about tale bearers? Verses 21-22
21-22They said, "Nobody wrote warning us about you. And no one has shown up saying anything bad about you. But we would like very much to hear more. The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it."
They cannot handle face-to-face confrontations; they also need people of like minds to thrive. The Jewish leaders in Rome, to me appear to be more objective and liberal than their Jerusalem counterparts; possibly the reason why they were not involved. All of a sudden, the accusations were over. "Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down" Prov. 26:20
6. Paul's approach created the right atmosphere to preach a hard sermon Verses 23 - 28
In these verses we see Paul preaching the Gospel that has caused him the biggest problems in his life to the Jewish leaders. Some were convinced but some weren't; he dropped words that spoke volumes to the listeners. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah [Isaiah 6:9, 10]
In this last chapter we see Paul again demonstrating traits of true leadership, being clear and approachable. It is as if he was re-iterating the traits we have learnt in previous studies. As we round up, I wish to remind us of that time during Paul's journey when Agabus prophesied and the people feared that Paul would die and begged him not to go But he wouldn't budge? Remember what he said? "Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You're looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can't you see that?" Acts 21:13
Well, the benefit of hind sight; Verses 30-31 tells us that this story had a happy ending!
30-31Paul lived for two years in his rented house. He welcomed everyone who came to visit. He urgently presented all matters of the kingdom of God. He explained everything about Jesus Christ. His door was always open.
Friday, December 30 2011
As we come towards the end of this book; we encounter a story that parallels the present situation in the world around us. A case of total hopelessness! Hopelessness has driven many to the brink and thrown many over the edge. There are lessons to learn from Paul's journey to Rome; let us observe his actions and reactions and learn timeless lessons that even in our contemporary world today very well applies. So once again, I invite us to come along, apply our hearts, observe and learn from what we see. Prov.24:32 and most importantly apply them!
1. Physical or Spiritual? Coincidental or pre-planned? - Verses 4-8
"Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us, and then along the coast westward to the port of Myra. There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board. We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of the island of Crete and docked at Good Harbor (appropriate name!).
In the preceding verses we see that the trip for Rome became treacherous and although it was a difficult time to travel naturally, let us consider the questions above. Was it an attack of the enemy or was it just a natural tsunami? Did it just happen? Or did God plan it?
2. Paul Was Sensitive and sounded the warning Verses 9 - 12
9-10By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, "I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship?to say nothing of our lives!?if we put out to sea now."
11-12But it was not the best harbor for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul's warning aside and let the ship captain and the shipowner talk him into trying for the next harbor.
Paul's warning was not heeded. Typical isn't it? "What does he know about sailing?" they would have asked. He's just an ordinary prisoner! We should be careful not to discard advice from those who we see less than us. We dismiss them with a wave of the hand; she is not spiritual enough, he is not ordained, she is not old enough, what does he know? Remember Namaan's maid? 2 Kings 5:2-3, and his servants? 2 Kings 5:13
"It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right." Job 32:9 But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. Job 32:8
Verses 18-19 "Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions.
3. When all hope is lost; we are to offer hope. Verses 20 - 26
It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue. With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, "Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there's no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there'll not be a single drowning among us, although I can't say as much for the ship?the ship itself is doomed.
23-26"Last night God's angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, 'Don't give up, Paul. You're going to stand before Caesar yet?and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.' So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we're going to shipwreck on some island or other."
In verses 13 - 19, Paul's prophesy in verse 10 came to pass; the ship was battered and they had lost cargo but see how Paul handled the "I told you; but you will not listen" situation "But there's no need to dwell on that now" Sometimes we ruin the opportunity to resolve an issue by dwelling on the irrelevant; we miss the opportunity to "gain a brother" by wanting to know who was right or wrong; whose fault it was."I was right; you were wrong!"He mentioned it but did not dwell on it; because "if I had known" only creates extended anxiety. He instead offered hope. Just hear his words from verse 22; words that offer hope and comfort without any guile.
4. To be realistic is not a sin; wisdom calls for it. Verses 30-32
30-32Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, "If these sailors don't stay with the ship, we're all going down." So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.
I can imagine what our response will be: "Don't talk like that! It is God that will keep us up; not them" or "that is not faith" Wisdom taught Paul that God did not tell him He was going to calm the storm so he needed sailors to be able to cut the anchors, loose the tiller and raise the sail. Vs 40
He was also realistic when he asked them to break their fear imposed fast in Vs 34 because they will all need strength to swim to the beach when the ship breaks in verse 41.
5. His actions were in line with his words - that's the best encouragement to offer Verses 35-36
"After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves."
Fear and panic had sent the passengers of the ship into compulsory fast; fear had knotted their stomachs so when Paul brought hope of safety and encouraged them to eat, it was important that he showed them that his stomach was not knotted by fear. So he ate and they were encouraged to eat. It was "do what I do" not only "do what I say."
6. When God promises; He sees it through Verses 42-44
"The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so none could escape by swimming, but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them. He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it, and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely."
The world is in need of leaders who will offer hope in our world today; leaders who will lead by example and offer encouragement to those who have lost courage and hope to the hopeless. It is not also coincidental that we are in the festive season - the celebration of the birth of our Savior who brought hope to a hopeless world! We also see once again, God using vessels to accomplish His plan. God is not a magician; although He can perform wonders; He, in His infinite wisdom uses creation to show His powers. Paul was destined for Rome; no trigger happy soldier was going to prevent that.
Friday, December 30 2011
Last two weeks, we in the study titled "No Light in Sight at the End of the Tunnel? We answered the question "What do you do when it seems you are not in any way near the end of the tunnel?" We saw how the enemy renewed their vendetta against Paul and as well as how Paul with wisdom handled the situation; and ultimately how God orchestrated the opportunity for Paul to preach to the crème de la crème. This week we shall be looking at how Paul handled his defence in King Agrippa's presence. So I invite us to come along, apply our hearts, observe and learn lessons from what we see. Prov.24:32
1. Paul made it Clear - Verses 4-8
4-8 "From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up?and if they were willing to stick their necks out they'd tell you in person?knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion.
Paul was not a hypocrite; his belief is this; if you believe the word; live by the word, fulfill the word! Don't be hypocritical, don't sit on the fence. Be a doer!
Vs 6: It's because I believed it and took it seriously, committed myself heart and soul to what God promised my ancestors?the identical hope, mind you, that the twelve tribes have lived for night and day all these centuries?it's because I have held on to this tested and tried hope that I'm being called on the carpet by the Jews. They should be the ones standing trial here, not me! For the life of me, I can't see why it's a criminal offense to believe that God raises the dead.
2. He Spoke the truth sincerely - Verses 9 - 11
9-11"I admit that I didn't always hold to this position. For a time I thought it was my duty to oppose this Jesus of Nazareth with all my might. Backed with the full authority of the high priests, I threw these believers?I had no idea they were God's people!?into the Jerusalem jail right and left, and whenever it came to a vote, I voted for their execution. I stormed through their meeting places, bullying them into cursing Jesus, a one-man terror obsessed with obliterating these people. And then I started on the towns outside Jerusalem.
Paul did not exonerate himself; he wasn't preaching the message as if he was "born again" from the womb. He also did not prove to be "holier than thou". "I admit that I didn't always hold to this position." When we preach showing vulnerability; people are able to identify with us and see that if God can deliver you (the preacher) He can deliver them too!
3. He obviously was excited about his conversion and would not hesitate to tell it! Verses 12 - 18
Paul narrates his encounter (again). Recall in chapter 22 Paul captivated an angry mob; the same people who wanted him dead. He was at it again; an adept story teller!
4. He engaged his audience (with a rhetorical question) Verses 19 - 20
19-20"What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn't just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot. I started preaching this life-change?this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life?right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world.
5. He summarized skillfully - Verses 21 - 23
21-23"It's because of this 'whole world' dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. They want to keep God for themselves.
Verse 22b - 23 "And everything I'm saying is completely in line with what the prophets and Moses said would happen: One, the Messiah must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God's daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing."
His summary addressed the main problems with the Pharisees (they wanted God for themselves only and not the Gentiles) and Sadducees (did not believe in the resurrection and therefore denying the very essence of our faith)
6. He knew it had to be God! Verse 22
Verse 22a: "But God has stood by me, just as he promised, and I'm standing here saying what I've been saying to anyone, whether king or child, who will listen."
7. Stand your ground - don't allow anyone make mockery of your faith! Verse 24-29
24That was too much for Festus. He interrupted with a shout: "Paul, you're crazy! You've read too many books, spent too much time staring off into space! Get a grip on yourself, get back in the real world!"
But Paul stood his ground. "With all respect, Festus, Your Honor, I'm not crazy. I'm both accurate and sane in what I'm saying. The king knows what I'm talking about. I'm sure that nothing of what I've said sounds crazy to him. He's known all about it for a long time. You must realize that this wasn't done behind the scenes. You believe the prophets, don't you, King Agrippa? Don't answer that?I know you believe."
28But Agrippa did answer: "Keep this up much longer and you'll make a Christian out of me!"
29Paul, still in chains, said, "That's what I'm praying for, whether now or later, and not only you but everyone listening today, to become like me?except, of course, for this prison jewelry!"
In conclusion we will consider the concluding verses: 30 - 32. Did Paul make a mistake? No!
30-31The king and the governor, along with Bernice and their advisors, got up and went into the next room to talk over what they had heard. They quickly agreed on Paul's innocence, saying, "There's nothing in this man deserving prison, let alone death." 32Agrippa told Festus, "He could be set free right now if he hadn't requested the hearing before Caesar."
Naturally at this point one will say; "if only Paul had not appealed to Caesar, he would have been a free man!" Yes, naturally. But he wouldn't have had the opportunity to preach to Festus. His wife and the people gathered and definitely not Caesar himself! So Paul did not make a mistake; neither should we when the opportunity comes for us to stand our ground. Don't take it lightly when guile people try to make mockery of your faith! "Despise the despicable" Ps. 15:4 [MSG]
Friday, December 30 2011
God's plan cannot be hindered! Truth always prevails! How true! Having been working with the Lord and walking in Him for some time now, you and I know these to be true. We learnt some important lessons along these lines last week as Apostle Paul continues his defence against the barrage of false accusations levelled against him by the high chief and the chief men of Jews. The importance of knowledge was also re-iterated last week. We must know who we are and the basis for our faith and take our stand no matter what. Over two years have passed, and it looks (to the physical eyes) that Paul has been going around the same mountain and not making any progress. Paul will still stand to defend himself again before Governor Festus. What do you do when it seems you are not in any way near the end of the tunnel? This is what we will be looking at today.
THE ENEMY'S VENDATTA RENEWED - Vs 1-5
"Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to take up his duties as governor, he went up to Jerusalem. The high priests and top leaders renewed their vendetta against Paul. They asked Festus if he wouldn't please do them a favor by sending Paul to Jerusalem to respond to their charges. A lie, of course?they had revived their old plot to set an ambush and kill him along the way. Festus answered that Caesarea was the proper jurisdiction for Paul, and that he himself was going back there in a few days. "You're perfectly welcome," he said, "to go back with me then and accuse him of whatever you think he's done wrong.""
SHREWD AS SNAKES, INNOCENT AS DOVES - Vs 6-12
"About eight or ten days later, Festus returned to Caesarea. The next morning he took his place in the courtroom and had Paul brought in. The minute he walked in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem were all over him, hurling the most extreme accusations, none of which they could prove. Then Paul took the stand and said simply, "I've done nothing wrong against the Jewish religion, or the Temple, or Caesar. Period." Festus, though, wanted to get on the good side of the Jews and so said, "How would you like to go up to Jerusalem, and let me conduct your trial there?" Paul answered, "I'm standing at this moment before Caesar's bar of justice, where I have a perfect right to stand. And I'm going to keep standing here. I've done nothing wrong to the Jews, and you know it as well as I do. If I've committed a crime and deserve death, name the day. I can face it. But if there's nothing to their accusations?and you know there isn't?nobody can force me to go along with their nonsense. We've fooled around here long enough. I appeal to Caesar." Festus huddled with his advisors briefly and then gave his verdict: "You've appealed to Caesar; you'll go to Caesar!""
· Oh! Not again, Paul must have mustered at the sight of the accusers. God's plan for Paul to testify in Rome was in no doubt to him, but I am very positive he had not anticipated another trial with the accusers.
· Paul was resolute in his defense. Note that at this time, his response was precise and brief. We (as Christians) must always be sure we suffer for the right reasons and that there is no case against us (1 Pet4:14-16)
· With unsubstantiated charges and a solid defense from Paul, the next step should be acquittal. However, we see another miscarriage of justice in the making as Festus's next question (instead of acquitting Paul) is motivated by a desire to get on the good side of the Jews.
· Paul displays his sound knowledge of scriptures in his response (Matt. 10:16). He displays shrewdness (astute or sharp in practical matters) and appealed instead to Caesar. This is in other words, taking proceedings out of the hands of this lower court and appealing directly for a trial before the imperial court, which was the right of every Roman citizen!
· Paul's shrewdness allows him to overcome the governor's moral failings and the fatal results that they would likely produce. It also enables Paul to retain the initiative of the divine "must" that has ultimate control of his personal destiny
GOD'S GIVES A MEAN MAN AN OPPORTUNITY - Vs. 17-22
· King Agrippa is the son of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12) who killed James and the great-grandson of Herod the great who sought to kill baby Jesus (Matthew 2). He was the last of the Herodian line.
· Bernice is Agrippa's sister who is a year younger than he. At the death of her husband, she returned to live with her brother Agrippa and engaged in incestuous relationship with him. This is the man, whose opinion, Festus was seeking. Unlike Felix, Festus has no good knowledge of The Way.
· I believe that King Agrippa and Bernice visit at this time was divinely orchestrated for his salvation. To hear a messenger with the word of God is the first step on the path to saving faith (Lk 8:8, 15, 18; Acts 4:4; 10:22). Agrippa and Festus at this point unwittingly appear to model two essential prerequisites for receiving the gospel: a teachable spirit and a desire to hear the message.
CRÈME DE LA CRÈME IN CAESAREA HEAR THE WORD OF GOD- Vs 23-27
"The next day everybody who was anybody in Caesarea found his way to the Great Hall, along with the top military brass. Agrippa and Bernice made a flourishing grand entrance and took their places. Festus then ordered Paul brought in. Festus said, "King Agrippa and distinguished guests take a good look at this man. A bunch of Jews petitioned me first in Jerusalem, and later here, to do away with him. They have been most vehement in demanding his execution. I looked into it and decided that he had committed no crime. He requested a trial before Caesar and I agreed to send him to Rome. But what am I going to write to my master, Caesar? All the charges made by the Jews were fabrications, and I've uncovered nothing else. "That's why I've brought him before this company, and especially you, King Agrippa: so we can come up with something in the nature of a charge that will hold water. For it seems to me silly to send a prisoner all that way for a trial and not be able to document what he did wrong."
· Finally, Paul gets a great opportunity to preach the word to the prominent men of Caesarea just like Peter did and thousands were converted!
· Festus also confirmed the innocence of Paul here and yet would not let him free - Because Paul must of necessity get to Rome which is God's ultimate goal for his life
It's been a very trying time for Paul indeed. We will all agree that he has stood the test of time indeed and fight the fight of faith. Paul has been unshaken and he models what our stand should be when facing trials or having to suffer for the sake of Christ. We must be able to hold our head high and say with all clear conscience that I have not done any wrong! I hold a clear conscience before God and Man!
Friday, December 30 2011
For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 2 Corinthians 13:8
In this study we will learn from Paul's defense the invaluableness of truth. For you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!
1. A BARRAGE OF FALSE & INCONSISTENT ACCUSATIONS (it is tough keeping up lies) Vs. 5-8
"We've found this man time and again disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, the ringleader of a seditious sect called Nazarenes. He's a real bad apple, I must say. We caught him trying to defile our holy Temple and arrested him. You'll be able to verify all these accusations when you examine him yourself." [MSG]
Notice the accusations had been refined for the court. If we recall from Acts 21:28, the accusation was: "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place."[KJV]
2. TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH Vs. 10-21
The fact that Paul was a lawyer is seen here as he carefully presented his case:
o We will however see that he did not twist the truth as regular lawyers would do; but he spoke the truth in his defense. He made it clear that if Felix had his doubts, he could check out the dates. Vs. 11
o He challenged his accusers for witnesses and flawed their accusations for lack of it. Vs. 12 - 13
o He admitted to only "one crime" the one everyone of them were guilty of Vs. 12 - 13 and therefore not worthy of condemnation
o He absolved himself of any guilty conscience Vs. 16 an important aspect that we should adhere to today.
We should therefore make every effort to speak the truth from our hearts! Ps 15: 2b. Let your ye be ye and your nay be nay! Matthew 5:37 [NIV]. It will save us from a whole lot of embarrassment in the long run when you get caught. "The person who tells lies gets caught; the person who spreads rumors is ruined" Proverbs 19:9 [MSG]
3. TALEBEARERS CANNOT HANDLE FACE-TO-FACE CONFRONTATION Vs 18b - 19
"There was no crowd, there was no disturbance. It was some Jews from around Ephesus who started all this trouble. And you'll notice they're not here today. They're cowards, too cowardly to accuse me in front of you." [MSG]
We discussed the issue about people who spread gossip two weeks ago and that the litmus test is to request that they accompany you to the "accused" and they will naturally decline. Here is a similar situation here with the Jews from Ephesus. It was the Sadducees from Ephesus that started the riot. We know that from the major differences between them and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were elitists who wanted to maintain the priestly caste; they rejected the idea of the Oral Law and insisted on a literal interpretation of the Written Law; consequently, they did not believe in the resurrection, because it was not mentioned in the books of Moses. The main focus of Sadducee life was rituals associated with the Temple. Paul had split his accusers in Acts 23: 6-10. Notice the Sadducees did not come for the trial in Caesarea! This also explains why the accusation was different in vs. 5-8
4. BE IN THE KNOW - DON'T BE IGNORANT OF THE DEVIL'S DEVICES Vs. 20-21
"So ask these others what crime they've caught me in. Don't let them hide behind this smooth-talking Tertullus. The only thing they have on me is that one sentence I shouted out in the council: 'It's because I believe in the resurrection that I've been hauled into this court!' Does that sound to you like grounds for a criminal case?" [MSG]
I deliberately highlighted this statement made by Paul again because last week it was mentioned in passing during the discussion and it was loosely accepted that it had no bearing with why Paul was being beaten. But let's look at it differently today in the light of this truth. "The Way" that Paul referred to was Jesus; Him crucified, dead and buried and after 3 days rose again. That's the hope of the Way; our hope today! It was because of this belief that they attacked him; because every other accusation was made up. See Verses 14-15, 26: 4-8
5. ONLY GOD IS JUST; SO ONLY HIM CAN BE TRUSTED Vs 22-27
Felix shilly-shallied. He knew far more about the Way than he let on, and could have settled the case then and there. But uncertain of his best move politically, he played for time. "When Captain Lysias comes down, I'll decide your case." He gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul in custody, but to more or less give him the run of the place and not prevent his friends from helping him. [MSG]
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD [Prov. 21:31]
Felix knew about The Way but he was a secret admirer a distant observer but he obviously was not a just judge; the message says he played for time for political reasons. He could have settled the case then but he didn't. I believe he didn't because God still needed this situation that started in chapter 21 to reach out to some more people. See Vs 24-25, 26: 12- 29, 27:21-26, 28:7-10, 17-31
Vs.26 "At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently." [MSG]
Felix had ulterior motives; he was expecting Paul to bribe him for his freedom. He was a corrupt man obviously; the Jews must have been "settling" him. He wanted to play the highest bidder game with Paul; but Paul couldn't care less. The next verse tells us that it lasted 2 years and because he wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison
27After two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Still playing up to the Jews and ignoring justice, Felix left Paul in prison. [MSG]
Imagine if Paul had any iota of hope that because Felix kept having these conversations with him was because he had found favor in Felix's eyes and one day Felix (who had become his friend) would release him. How wrong he would have been! Ps.146:3. But how wrong Felix was too! He must have thought he was using Paul to gain popularity but God was using Him to send Paul to his final destination - Rome.
We can do nothing but for the truth; it is truth that sets us free; an awareness of the times and seasons and our environment will help us avoid pitfalls Prov.22:3 and finally, it is in God and in Him alone we should put our trust. Psalm 118:8, 9
Prayer: Gracious and Merciful God; please grant us grace to be truthful, fearless and trusting. And be merciful to us all in every way we have fallen short and gone astray in Jesus' name.
Friday, December 30 2011
In last week's study titled "GOD IS FAR AHEAD OF THE ENEMY" we saw Paul exhibiting character worthy of emulation. We also saw how God frustrated the plans and intents of the wicked by divinely placing Paul's nephew at the scene where a Paul's was being planned. We also learned how information when properly processed could lead to the fulfilling of one's destiny as it did Paul. Today's study is a catch-up study concludes last week's study; as we go on, we will learn a number of invaluable lessons we need for our walk with God and we will also see The Master Planner unfolding His plans unhindered.
1. RESPITE FOR PAUL DIVINELY ORCHESTRATED Vs 23-24
"The captain called up two centurions. "Get two hundred soldiers ready to go immediately to Caesarea. Also seventy cavalry and two hundred light infantry. I want them ready to march by nine o'clock tonight. And you'll need a couple of mules for Paul and his gear. We're going to present this man safe and sound to Governor Felix."
Jesus in Matt 11:28 said for us to come to Him and He will give us rest. At last Paul was getting some respite after a spell of difficult times.
2. FEAR TORMENTS! IT CAN CRIPPLE A MAN AND BECLOUD ONE'S JUDGMENT Vs 25-30
"Greetings! I rescued this man from a Jewish mob. They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers."
Fear is bad; for the fear Claudius had, he twisted the truth ever so slightly "They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers"
If memory serves me right I believe it was not because he was a Roman citizen he sent his soldiers". We should not be afraid of men but God. The fear of men will lead us to hell by our actions influenced by fear but the fear of God will take us to heaven.
3. DIVINE PROTECTION & "FAVOR" FOR PAUL Vs 31 - 35
In verse 11 God assured Paul that he would testify in Rome; in these verses we see God unfolding that plan by protecting him. O how sweet it is when we see God's promises unfolding in our lives. Vs 35b says, (NIV) . "Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod's palace. "
Paul was safely transported to Caesarea; no longer in chains and then sent to the palace! More like house arrest.
As we journeyed through these verses we saw God unfolding plans. His plan was not for Paul to die untimely, so He provided a way of escape for him. He will do what He wants to do and no man can hinder Him. God can also put our fear in the hearts of men! God made Moses a god to Pharaoh, Exodus 7:1; he made Paul a god to Claudius Acts 22: 29, the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. Joshua 6:1. But we should not be afraid of man ourselves but God only!
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week, we had a double dose of vital lessons from Paul's leadership skills. His ability to know his crowd coupled with his ease to captivate his audience. As usual, Paul never spared the opportunity to preach the message even though that evoked an angry mob. This opportunity was a result of an angry outburst which resulted after Paul took to the advice of taking purified men with him (Acts 21:23-26). Although, God in His infinite mercies used the occasion for His glory, however, we all learnt the lesson that helping God does not help. We will look at the sovereignty of God as He steps far ahead of the enemy to overturn the planned execution of Paul in his bid to fulfil God's purpose!
1) PAUL - MAN OF ENVIABLE CHARACTER AND RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY (vs. 1-5)
1 Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: "Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!" 2 Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. 3 But Paul said to him, "God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?" 4 Those standing near Paul said to him, "Do you dare to insult God's high priest?" 5 "I'm sorry, brothers. I didn't realize he was the high priest," Paul replied, "for the Scriptures say, ?You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.
The character of an honest man is being displayed here. Paul was mindful of his words here, notice he said I have always lived..Paul always strive to have a clear conscience Acts 24vs16. Notice his efforts. The word always depicts a man who is conscious of what he does (his conduct), how he does it and his words too. We should take a cue from this. Ephesians 4:29
Notice also, Paul's response which is very different from Jesus' words in Luke 6:29. This tells us that Paul was also vulnerable to the operation and reaction of the flesh (unholy anger). However, at the rebuke of those who stood by, Paul was quick to express his ignorance of the priest and offer what can pass for an apology. Despite being unjustly treated, Paul never so that as enough reason to disrespect authority.
2) NO TRUE FRIENDSHIP AMONG THE WICKED (vs. 6-10)
6 Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!" 7 This divided the council?the Pharisees against the Sadducees?8 for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. 9 So there was a great uproar. Some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up and began to argue forcefully. "We see nothing wrong with him," they shouted. "Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him." 10 As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress. 11 That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, "Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well."
The Sadducees, from this scriptural passage, are anti-scriptures in their beliefs as opposed to the Pharisees. Though they both seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against The Way that Paul preached, yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked, and in a moment, and with the utmost ease, God can turn their union into open enmity. A very good reflection of Isaiah 54:15, which will make for a great prayer point. Paul, being alone at this trial saw an opportunity for support from the enemy. What a way of escape (1Cor 10:13). Because Paul's way pleased the Lord, He made his enemies to be at peace with him. Awesome! Paul must have been so comforted by God's visitation that night. He was also let into God's plan for him as it relates to testifying for Him in Rome.
3) HE FRUSTRATES THE PLANS AND INTENTS OF THE WICKED (vs 11-22)
12 The next morning a group of Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty of them in the conspiracy. 14 They went to the leading priests and elders and told them, "We have bound ourselves with an oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 So you and the high council should ask the commander to bring Paul back to the council again. Pretend you want to examine his case more fully. We will kill him on the way." 16 But Paul's nephew?his sister's son?heard of their plan and went to the fortress and told Paul. 17 Paul called for one of the Roman officers and said, "Take this young man to the commander. He has something important to tell him." 18 So the officer did, explaining, "Paul, the prisoner, called me over and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you." 19 The commander took his hand, led him aside, and asked, "What is it you want to tell me?"20 Paul's nephew told him, "Some Jews are going to ask you to bring Paul before the high council tomorrow, pretending they want to get some more information. 21 But don't do it! There are more than forty men hiding along the way ready to ambush him. They have vowed not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are ready now, just waiting for your consent."22 "Don't let anyone know you told me this," the commander warned the young man.
Amazing isn't it that after God had assured Paul that he will testify of Him in Rome, the previous night, a plan was being hatched by men who have sworn an oath possibly to a deity to have him assassinated the very next day. See how wicked men can be? KJV says they bound themselves under a curse! A learning point here is how wisely Paul handled the privileged information. Paul could as well have waved aside his nephew's revelation of the plan believing that since God has assured him the previous night, there was no need to be bothered. Awesome God. Paul's nephew must have been placed at the vicinity mysteriously, to have heard all the plans word for word. Imagine what would have happened if Paul did not act on the information? He would have died without fulfilling God's agenda. We must be very sensitive and alert. God answers to our prayers come in diverse forms. In this case, it came to Paul in the form of privileged information meant to be acted upon with wisdom! God had already prepared the heart of the commander to take the appropriate action and to counsel Paul's nephew accordingly
Are you currently facing some challenges? Not to bother, if God has done it in the past, He is still in the business of doing it over and over again. He rescued Paul. He will rescue you too. All He requires from you is to be in His will and be sensitive and alert to His answers to your prayers because they will surely come in Jesus Name. I pray for grace for every one of us to act wisely when God's answers to our prayers come.
Friday, December 30 2011
Paul had been falsely accused, beaten with the intention of being killed and was arrested; bound in chains. All that orchestrated by the Sovereign God to create a podium to preach; an opportunity for Paul to share his testimony.
It was the first time many of them will hear what Paul had to say and for 21 verses he held them spellbound by his testimony. The major learning point; (although there are not very many points to learn) was the wisdom Paul applied in delivering a sensitive message to an angry mob. We shall consider this wisdom under the following points.
1. HE SPOKE A LANGUAGE THEY COULD UNDERSTAND
2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.
Recall in Chapter 21: 37 he spoke in Greek but in this verse he spoke in Aramaic. All of a sudden, he was accepted (though momentarily) because he had identified with them. He was not that man teaching everyone everywhere against their people and their law and Jerusalem anymore. He was one of them and they became quiet and listened for 21 verses!
He did not belong to the category of preachers who use clichés or those with the philosophy of "why use one simple word when you can use 10 difficult ones?"
He wasn't going to appear sophisticated and speak Greek so he could get an interpreter. In other words, he brought the message to their level.
2. HE CAPTIVATED THEM AND WON THEIR ATTENTION FROM THE ONSET Vs 3-5
Then Paul said: 3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
In effect, Paul was saying; hey! I am just like one of you. He didn't approach them with piousness; he identified with them. He wasn't preaching at them! He'd been there and done that!
Note his approach in verse 3 ". . . was thoroughly trained in the law of OUR ancestors". At this point; they were at his finger tips. "They were going to stay till the end of service"
3. HE NARRATED HIS MIRACULOUS ENCOUNTER - PREACHING JESUS, THE MIRACLE OF HEALING AND HIS BAPTISM Vs 6-20
In verses 6 to 20, Paul engaged his listeners. Remember that it was the same people who wanted him dead? (It was almost like in Tom & Jerry where Jerry stops to do a dance and Tom waits to watch and amaze himself before Jerry slams his face with a shovel or something). His narration of the encounter on the road to Damascus was graphical! (If you are not careful; you may be blinded by that same light!)
He covered his conversion, baptism and commission in a breath and the crowd listened . . . quietly!
4. HE WAITED FOR HIS MOMENT TO DROP THE BOMB Vs 21-22
21 "Then the Lord said to me, ?Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' 22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!" 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air
I am not sure Paul expected the response at this stage but the deed had been done. He had shared his testimony, taught about healing and baptism and preached Jesus. The only thing he couldn't do was take the offering and benediction! But do we think that God was not in their response? God was done with them; now He needed Paul to address the chief priests and Sanhedrin See verse 30
5. HE WAS AWARE
24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen." 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I am," he answered. 28 Then the commander said, "I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship." "But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.
Paul was aware; he knew what he had and the value of what he had. Verse 39 of Chapter 21
Paul answered, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people."
He used the fact that he was a Jew (nationality of Benjamin and Judah) - to be given the opportunity to speak to the Jews and in verse 25 he used the fact that he was born in the Roman province of Cilicia to get justice. Ignorance would have kept him in chains
29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
God was simply fulfilling the scriptures in Paul's life. Luke 21: 12-15
12 "But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
Paul demonstrated wisdom in the delivery of his message that stunned an angry mob. He displayed a wisdom that silenced his accusers. We cannot but conclude that wisdom indeed counts; it is the principal thing! (Prov.4:7) The Bible says in Eccl 9:16a "So I said, "Wisdom is better than strength."
Jesus says in Luke 21:15 [MSG] I'll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters.
Let's ask God for wisdom; He gives generously to all without finding fault.
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week we looked at the importance of believers' bonding and unity in God's church and that the more we see the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ approaching, the greater we need to fellowship with one another. That God always uses pure vessels especially as it concerns sexuality and every believer must purpose to stay undefiled. Finally, believers must be accountable to one another but with the purpose should be to please God and Him alone. This week we shall be considering these verses relating to Paul's encounter in Jerusalem; I pray that in the study of these 14 verses today, God will change our mind set about the story and open our eyes to a new light about this exciting encounter. Let us watch this interesting scenario unfold that has caused a few controversies over the years. But with our eyes opened to learn and know and be prepared.
1. HELPING GOD - DOESN'T HELP
26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
Here was the problem: a report had been circulated widely that Paul went about constantly teaching that Jews, especially those who lived in Gentile lands, to "forsake" Moses. If we recall in Acts 16:3, Apostle Paul circumcised Timothy in order to prevent offense to the Jews. Paul had not opposed observing certain elements of the law ? provided the intent was not to seek justification on that basis.
I think the bottom line here is that Paul was not insensitive to the feelings of the Israelite brethren (which is a good thing). James and the brethren felt the matter needed remedy in some fashion. That ended up as a futile attempt to defuse a volatile situation.
My take is that they tried to help God by trying to appease unreasonable people (see Acts 22:22). Possibly because the intent was an attempt to (unknowingly) alter God's plan.
What happened in verses 27-29 would have happened whether or not Paul purified himself. Remember Agabus' prophesy?
Man's plan was to avoid the situation; God's was to use it for His purpose
2. PAUL ARRESTED BASED ON FALSE ACCUSATION - NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, "Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place." 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
People can very easily, based on their prejudice accuse us falsely. So let's be aware and be prepared. Matt. 5:11-12 (Not a time to complain and fight back but rejoice!)
Man's plan for false accusation was to cause despair; God's purpose for it is our rejoicing
3. ON TIME GOD! - HE WILL SHOW UP EVEN WHEN WE ARE NOT EXPECTING! VS. 30 - 33
31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
In verse 30, they locked the Temple gates so he couldn't get back in and gain sanctuary. But God showed up on time for him. 2 Peter 3:9
Man's plan was to terminate Paul's life; God's purpose was to show Himself Sovereign
4. IGNORANCE IS AN EVIL WEAPON OF THE ENEMY - STEER CLEAR! VS 34 - 38
34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks.
The Bible says in verse 30 that people came running from all directions; not knowing what the matter was. Verse 34a says Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another. We should be careful not to be sucked into a similar vortex of following the crowd. Can you imagine the embarrassment or the pain to be caught with the "wrong" crowd because we were not patient or wise enough to probe further?
"Do you speak Greek?" he replied. 38 "Aren't you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?"
The rumors and lies have gone round the whole of Jerusalem and Paul had also been mistaken to be an Egyptian; the leader of a terrorist group! I am sure that the commander must have seen his name in lights as the one who finally caught "Osama Bin Laden" and "shot him"
Man's plan (the Devil's plan) was to use ignorance to eliminate Paul; God's purpose was to create a podium for him to share his testimony
History has taught us time and again that God's ways are not our ways. He is never late to fulfill His promises. So let's brace and go through whatever situations we find ourselves. 2 Cor. 4:8-9
Ignorance is a killer; Hosea 4:6. Let's not join the band wagon to do things without knowing what the purpose is for doing it.
The study of this chapter has also revealed that these men were mere mortals like us used by God; that have their frailties too. James and the brethren in Jerusalem seem to be in a constant struggle trying to understand Paul's mission to the Gentiles. They are examples that God can use anyone; and that they are not to be worshipped! It also shows us that we ourselves; frail as we may be can also be used by God.
So let's go beyond the controversies; who was right or wrong and learn virtue
"I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw. . ." Prov24:30-32
Friday, December 30 2011
Twelve traits of a genuine leader were the focus of our last week's study. We saw Paul through the help of the Holy exuding these traits which include offering continuous encouragement, enjoying believers' fellowship, possessing decisive faith, being focused, transparency, fearlessly trusting God, serving others, showing vulnerability to mention a few . No doubt, every believer is in one way or the other a leader or rather will soon be one so it is important not only to covet these traits but consciously develop them in his/her life. This week, we will continue in the same spirit; Looking at Paul and his companions on their way to Jerusalem.
1. BONDING OF BELIEVERS vs. 1-7
As they set out to Jerusalem, they had a stop-over at a major seaport at Tyre in Syria. As we have seen in their practice since the beginning of the book of Acts, one of their main priorities whenever they arrived at a place was to locate the disciples (vs. 4).
"... not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh." - HEB. 10:25
More interesting among these believers was the rate at which they bonded. In just seven days that Paul and his entourage stayed with them, they became so close that when they were leaving, all the members of their family escorted them (vs. 5). They knelt down publicly unashamed to pray together. In this season, our bonding and unity must be non-negotiable! Few miles down the road in verse seven, they arrived at Ptolemais and again went to greet the brethren there.
2. THE HOUSE OF PHILIP vs. 8-14
In verse 8, it is interesting to note how believers made their home available for the work of the ministry! Equally important is the humility exhibited by the Apostle to stay in different houses and with different people. Is there anything for us to learn in our present day church?
Virginity of Phillip's daughters (vs. 9): In this world where sexuality is at all time all, believers (especially our unmarried singles) might to ask if it is possible to be a virgin before marriage. The answer is yes! The exciting thing is, if you a single sister or brother, you are not the only one who is looking forward to being a virgin before marriage as the world and its systems will want us to believe. By tapping into God's grace each day and determination (purpose) from your heart, it can be done.
"Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22);
"Marriage is honorable with all and their bed is pure, but fornicators and adulterers God judges." HEB. 13:4
Furthermore, there is one-to-one mapping between these ladies' virginity and their ability to speak inspired Word of God (being prophetess). Would you like to be used greatly by God? If yes, then stay as virgin before marriage!
Agabus' prophesy and Paul's response (vs. 10-14): Here we see the gift of prophecy revealing the happenings in the future. The local disciples and Paul's entourage discouraged Paul from proceeding further. Sound familiar? Remember similar incidence concerning Peter and Jesus when the latter told the former of all that would happen to Him in Matt. 16:21-23? Lesson: We must be careful of what we say to people when the goings will be tough or are already tough. In as much as we want to be sympathetic/empathetic with them in their situation, we should endeavor to find out what the will of God is in that situation and speak along that line.
On Paul's response, it is important to stress that Paul was not out rightly in the dark concerning what lies ahead (Acts 20:23, vs. 4). Often times, prophecies should not be things that are entirely new to believers. They must either confirm what God has been speaking to you or the Holy Spirit confirms them immediately they are spoken. Paul answer to the disciples was based on one of the traits that we looked at last week: FEARLESSLY TRUSTING IN GOD
The will of God be done (vs. 14). After much persuasion, all the parties resigned to the will of God. This must be our attitude at all times too.
3. PAUL IN JERUSALEM vs. 15-25
Accountability (vs. 18-20a): Although Paul was also an Apostle but on getting to Jerusalem, he was humble enough to give the report of all that God did through his ministry. "Paul ascribed all his success to God, and to God they gave the praise. God had honored him more than any of the apostles, yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary, glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to go on cheerfully in his work." Henry commentary
A word of Caution (vs20b-25): James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem requested that Paul comply with the ceremonial law in order to gratify the believing Jews thinking that it was prudent for him to conform. That marks the beginning of his troubles in Jerusalem
Henry Commentary puts it this way: "It is vain to attempt to court the favor of zealots, or bigots to a party. This compliance of Paul did not answer, for the very thing by which he hoped to pacify the Jews, provoked them, and brought him into trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and Paul's compliance with it, to serve a better purpose than was intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be pleased with nothing .... Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige us."
In sum, the importance of believers' bonding and unity in God's church cannot be over emphasized. The more we see the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ approaching, the greater we need to fellowship with one another. God always uses pure vessels especially as it concerns sexuality. Every believer must purpose in his/her not to defile himself/herself (as Daniel did) so that God can reveal His glory in him/her. Finally, believers must be accountable to one another. However in doing this, care must be taken not to see such occasions to please men. Our ultimate goal must be to please God and Him alone.
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week we looked at the riot in Ephesus engineered by Demetrius the silversmith's false allegation. And also how God again used people (like Gallio in Chapter 18) to calm impending disaster. Today, we will continue with our study as we follow Mark's narration in this chapter and by the actions of Paul discover a few traits of a genuine leader.
1. OFFERS CONTINUOUS ENCOURAGEMENT
1-2 "With things back to normal, Paul called the disciples together and encouraged them to keep up the good work in Ephesus. Then, saying his good-byes, he left for Macedonia. Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope."
Here we learn that Paul was constantly encouraging the disciples, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope. That's what a leader does (even when it's a rebuke) it should end up as an encouragement not condemnation, it should lift people's spirits, not pull them down and give them hope!
2. ENJOYS THE FELLOWSHIP OF FELLOW BELIEVERS
7-8We met on Sunday to worship and celebrate the Master's Supper. Paul addressed the congregation. Our plan was to leave first thing in the morning, but Paul talked on, way past midnight. We were meeting in a well-lighted upper room.
The purpose of fellowship (meeting together) is mainly for worship, celebration and exhortation. Did Paul talk too much? Was it a boring message? Did he continue to talk because he was feeling nostalgic?
3. HAS DECISIVE FAITH
9-12 A young man named Eutychus was sitting in an open window. As Paul went on and on, Eutychus fell sound asleep and toppled out the third-story window. When they picked him up, he was dead. Paul went down, stretched himself on him, and hugged him hard. "No more crying," he said. "There's life in him yet." Then Paul got up and served the Master's Supper. And went on telling stories of the faith until dawn! On that note, they left?Paul going one way, the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves.
O that God will take us to the place when in the face of disaster we pray and act in faith not fret and panic in fear! That He will grant us the grace to trust Him absolutely to move in our situations.
4. IS FOCUSED IN URGENCY
16Paul had decided to bypass Ephesus so that he wouldn't be held up in Asia province. He was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem in time for the Feast of Pentecost, if at all possible.
Once again, we can say "there is time for everything". He knew he would be delayed in Ephesus so he avoided Ephesus. He was focused on what God wanted Him to do; we should know when to use the wisdom God gave us. It wasn't the Holy Spirit that told him not to go through Ephesus, he knew (maybe from experience)
5. MAKES IT CLEAR -HAS NOTHING TO HIDE
17-21From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. When they arrived, he said, "You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally?laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn't skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.
Paul was clear with the Ephesians' leaders. They didn't need to read between the lines; everything was said "on the lines" Read 2 Corinthians 4: 1-2 [MSG], 2 Corinthians 1:13 [MSG] & Matthew 5:33-37 [MSG]
6. PRIORITIZES APPROPRIATELY
22"But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem".
24" What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
Paul could place a finger on what matters to him and God
7. FEARLESSLY TRUSTS IN GOD
23"I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little.
. . . Although he could not place a finger on what could happen to him.
8. GIVES IT THEIR ALL - SPENT FOR THE MASTER
25-27"And so this is good-bye. You're not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God's inaugurated kingdom. I've done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God's will for you.
9. SEES AHEAD AND ACTS APPROPRIATELY - A WARNING FOR ALL TIMES
28"Now it's up to you. Be on your toes?both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people?God's people they are?to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.
29-31"I know that as soon as I'm gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.
10. RECOGNIZES THAT WE ALL NEED GRACE
32"Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.
11. IS CALLED TO SERVE NOT TO BE SERVED
33-35"I've never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I've done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You'll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, 'You're far happier giving than getting.'"
12. SHOULD NOT CREATE A SMOKE SCREEN - SHOULD SHOW VULNERABILITY
36-38Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again?he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.
Genuine love becomes visible when we drop our guards and let the family realize that we are mere mortals.
Everyone one of us in one way or the other are leaders of one sort or the other or will soon be one. In our study today we have learnt 12 traits of a genuine leader. We will do well to covet all of these and much more.
Friday, December 30 2011
In last week's study, we the arrival of Paul in Ephesus and his impart on the lives of the twelve disciples who needed to be baptized in The Holy Spirit. We saw his consistency in preaching the word of God and the manifestation of the power of God resulting in special miracles by the hand of Paul. We also saw how copy cats were disgraced and the mass conversion of Ephesians to Christ.
1. DETERMINIATION; Acts 19:21,22
Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
It is impossible to determine from the passage whether or not Paul's travels were directly commanded by the Holy Spirit, or whether it was a decision of Paul that was approved by the Holy Spirit. In either event it was clear that God saw greater events unfolding in the life of Paul. Paul clearly saw a greater purpose for him in mind. He was determined to travel to Rome to preach the gospel. He had transmitted this desire to the Roman brethren (Romans 1:10-11, 15). He was also desirous to travel to Jerusalem. His purpose in this was to take the contributions of the various Gentile brethren to the church in Jerusalem for the care of the needy saints there. See Romans 15:25; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8, 9)
Paul returned to Ephesus but dispatched two of his most trusted young helpers, Timothy and Erastus (Concerning Erastus see Romans 16:23 and 2 Timothy 4:20). It is likely that they were sent to collect the funds for the various churches around Philippi and Greece. It was also during this time that they had traveled on to Corinth to deal with the problems that existed in the Corinthian church (at least Timothy, 1 Corinthians 4:17).
2. REACTION TO MASS CONVERTION; Acts 19:223-27
About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. "You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. "Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence."
It was in the spring of the year that Ephesus held a great month long religious festival for their patron god Diana (Artemas).People would come from many miles away to participate in the festivities. There would be opportunities to make a great deal of money for the enterprising entrepreneur.
Diana (Artemas) was the mother goddess, the goddess of fertility. She was pictured as a many breasted woman with arms extended. Her worship included frenzied dancing and temple prostitution and sometimes human sacrifice. These silversmiths evidently did a brisk trade in small statues of the goddess. These would be blessed at the temple of Diana and then placed in homes or small ones worn as good luck charms.
Demetrius' motive clearly was not the love of Diana but money. We can surmise that Christianity had put a dent in their business. Many who had formerly bought their statues (much like souvenirs of our day) would no longer participate in idol worship. In order to mask their real intentions, Demetrius declared that if they did not do something the temple of Diana would fall into disrepute and decay.
The effect of the mass salvation of souls in verses 18 to 20 simply resulted in bad business for Demetrius the Silversmith and all the people in his trade. We must be on the lookout for negative reaction to conversion.
3. RIOT IN EPHESUS; Acts 19:28-34
When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia. And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater. So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
While greed was the motivation, religious fervor was what stirred them into action. They started chanting, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" In the ancient world the worship of the local diety was a point of civic pride and loyalty. So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions
This group had either known where to find Gaius and Aristarchus, or had happened upon them and knew that there were fellow helpers of Paul.
a. Gaius is mentioned four other times in the New Testament. It is not certain whether any of the others are him. Gaius was quite a common name in ancient times.
b. Aristarchus is named in Philemon 24 as one of Paul's fellow labourers.
Paul was certainly not a coward. He wanted to speak before the crowd, but the brethren thought it wise not to do so. They would have likely killed Paul, as angry as some of them were.
We learn the extent of the preaching of the gospel here. It had spread to even some of the provincial officials of Asia. We are not sure whether these men were Christians or friendly disposed to Paul; likely the latter. We can see from this account that a man motivated by greed was able to bring the whole city into confusion.
4. A TIME FOR EVERYTHING
After quieting the crowd, the town clerk said, "Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? "So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. "For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. "So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. "But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. "For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today's events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering." After saying this he dismissed the assembly." [NIV]
This uproar had not escaped official notice. It is likely that the chief native official, the city clerk, had to hurry quickly into the night after getting word of what was going on. He was the highest official in the city, acting as a go between with the citizens' assembly of Ephesus and the Roman proconsul. He was the recorder of official papers, the keeper of the citizens' list, and the treasurer for all of the city's municipal funds. The city clerk was determined to calm down the mob. He would be in trouble with the Roman authorities if anything rash took place. He starts out by complimenting their religious devotion. They had the high privilege of being the keeper of the temple to Diana (Artemis).
The town clerk begins to calm things down, and tells the peoples that if the craftsmen have a complaint to make, they need to bring it to the authorities. After this the crowd was dismissed.
... It is amazing how the Lord can use people who are nonbelievers in bringing about a positive result for His people.
Friday, December 30 2011
Another very interesting bible exposition from the series, last week. One that readily comes to mind is on Vows and Promises. I can recall vividly about the exhortation to pay our vows (promises) if we make any. We also learnt through the text, how God can orchestrate situations for the actualisation of His ordained destiny for our lives. So much about Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos, Paul's faithful co-labourers exhibiting characters worth emulating. This week, we look at Paul's 3rd missionary journey which started from last week's lesson, his encounters at Ephesus (The principal trading centre of Asia) and how God orchestrated the presence of the Jewish Exorcists at the time of Paul's visit to win the souls of erstwhile Magicians to Jesus Christ.
1. PAUL PLANTED, APOLLOS WATERED (1 Cor 3:6) - Acts 19:1
1a. And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth..
Recall Paul's 2nd missionary journey from Athens to Corinth in Acts 18 and Apollos desire to cross over to Achaia in vs 27? (see map). Having planted churches there, our dear Apollos, who now bears the unmistakable marks of a Christian, after his encounter with beloved Priscilla and Aquila proceeded ahead of Paul to Corinth to help the brethren who had believed through grace (Acts 18:27). The lesson here is that if we can humble ourselves and are teachable like Apollos, we will learn the whole gospel and become so effective like Paul and Apollos were in Corinth. See 1 Cor 3:1-9.
1b. ".that Paul, having passed through the upper region (Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch), came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples" [Emphasis Mine]
Recollect that during Paul's 2nd missionary journey (Acts 16:6), they (Paul, Timothy and Silas) were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Also, in Acts 18:19, it was recorded that Paul did not stay a longer with them at Ephesus when asked to do so. Why? We will see later that this is in accordance with God's divine orchestration.
From Paul's diagnostic questions and the response of the Ephesian disciples we quickly learn what Paul evidently suspects: these persons are not truly regenerate. Luke labels them disciples probably because at first their outward identification with the Christian believers led Paul to take them for true Christians. Does Paul's first question about receiving the Holy Spirit indicate that he sees none of the Spirit's fruit or giftings in their lives? The combination of questions certainly tells us that Paul assumes that saving faith, the reception of the Spirit and Christian baptism converge at conversion. The disciples' response about the Spirit, should probably be taken to mean that they have not heard of the Holy Spirit's contemporary presence (compare John 7:39).
Just like Apollos, the best analogy to these disciples today are nominal, cultural Christians (without power) raised in the liberal theological tradition of the West. These disciples had only been baptized into John's baptism, indicating that their conversion experience was accompanied by the knowledge that a fuller experience with the Holy Spirit would come (Matt.3:11), but without the realization that it had come (Acts 2:1-4).
Also note Paul's corrective action in preaching the complete gospel to the twelve by pointing out the preparatory and therefore partial nature of the baptism of repentance and of John's message pointing to the Messiah who was to come. Just in line with what Aquilla and Priscilla did to Apollos. He did not question the reputation of their teacher; he built on what they already know and got them baptized in the Holy Spirit!
The Jews' reaction - becoming obstinate (literally, "being hardened" or "hardening themselves"; compare Acts 7:51) and refusing to believe (literally, "disobeying") shows the negative effects of rejecting the gospel over a period of time. We cannot remain neutral; we are either softened toward or hardened against an oft-repeated message. Their rejection was expressed in a public maligning of Christianity (the Way). This may mean a formal rejection, since publicly translates a phrase that literally means "before the multitude."
As always, Paul's withdrawal leads to further advance, for he now reasons daily in the lecture room of Tyrannus [AMP]. The Amplified Version has an interesting time reference, "about ten o'clock till three" (Acts 19:9). The Mediterranean "siesta" occurred from the fifth hour (11:00 a.m.) onward, and we know from Acts 20:34 that Paul worked at his trade while in Ephesus. This gives us a picture of a tireless apostle and an eager audience. Each is willing to give up the normal time of rest in order to speak and hear of the kingdom. Only where there is such commitment to teach and such hunger to receive the word of the Lord will there be advances like that portrayed in the next verse. For two years, an entire province hears the gospel (Col 1:7; 2:1; 4:13). The churches of the prison epistles, the letters to Timothy and the book of Revelation are proof of the mission's effect.
Following the resistance by the Holy Spirit to preach in Asia at the start of Paul's 2nd missionary journey, and his refusal to stay longer with them on his way back, I strongly believe that God divinely withheld Paul's prolonged missionary itinerary till the presence of the itinerant Jewish exorcists. The followings will encourage us in our walk with the Lord;
1) In a divine initiative, God wields extraordinary miracles with the spread of the Word of the Lord throughout Asia, a territory that Satan had firmly and manifestly in his grasp. We have met such strategic "power advances" before in Acts: in Jerusalem and its Judean environs, Samaria, and Macedonia (5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18).
2) The authority of the name of the Lord Jesus has been granted only to believers (Mark 16:17). It is not given as a magical phrase calculated to guarantee good or bad results. There is no guarantee of power when it is impulsively uttered, particularly when the situation involves an ecclesiastical or stylized exercise. However, when employed in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, His might and glory is expected to be manifested. Inherent in the name of Jesus is not only the resource of His authority, but also the fullness of His nature and character. Thus, any prayer offered or ministry attempted in the name of Jesus must be in accord with His nature and purpose.
3) As the evil spirit responded to their attempted exorcism, the power encounter is transformed into demonic manhandling. Neither the exalted Lord Jesus nor Paul is directly involved. Yet the results reveal the unquestioned superiority of Jesus, whom Paul preaches. The demon displayed spiritual insight: he knew both Jesus and Paul (compare Lk 4:34, 41; 8:28), but he did not recognize the magicians.
4) From the mouth of a demon we learn the valuable lesson that Jesus will not allow his name to be reduced to a magical formula (Ex 20:7). Only those with a personal relationship with Christ and who invoke his name in humble faith are in the correct position to see God act to drive out demons.
5) They make the break in word by coming and openly confessing (literally, "confessing and announcing") their evil deeds, their magic practices, possibly revealing the spells themselves. Then they collect books of magic spells and burn them. Their repentance is costly. Fifty thousand pieces of silver, the fees for all the formulas in the books, was thirty-five thousand dollars in today's U.S. currency. The repentance is complete: these believers have removed any temptation to go back to the old life.
6) Despite the oppositions, the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed!
Most times, when we face oppositions or resistance, God is at the background strategizing and turning around the circumstances in our favor. Paul's mission to Ephesus is not without the approval of God. In fact, it shows God at work in the background. Twice (Acts 16: 6-7), they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia and the neighboring regions simply because God has appointed the Jewish Magicians/ Exorcists unto salvation. He (God) also had plans for the twelve disciples to be filled with the Holy Spirit with an evidence of speaking in other tongues - Hallelujah!
Friday, December 30 2011
In last week's study, we looked at Paul's ministration in Corinth. We saw Paul's consistence in preaching the Word; we also learnt that God has all knowledge and all understanding of whatever we might be going through and when He promises, He sees it through. We also saw the entrance of Priscilla and Aquila into the scene. This week we shall be considering 11 loaded verses. The first thing that came to my mind was; "what are we going to get from 11 verses?" I shouldn't have bothered. Reading through and by the help of the Holy Spirit we shall reveal vital nuggets in our walk and work.
1. GOD - THE MASTER PLANNER
18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.
It is possible for Priscilla and Aquila to feel discouraged; last week we discovered that they were tent makers but they were expelled from Rome verse 2. They would have left a thriving business behind in Rome but God had a plan; He wanted to use them for ministry; Paul must have seen something in them for the period he fellowshipped with them to take them from Corinth to Syria. So let's be encouraged; God can use any situation (even disappointments) to set us up for our destiny.
2. OF KEEPING VOWS
Verse 18b: "Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken."
A number of people have debated what sort of vow he took, why he took it and so on. After considering their arguments I realized it wasn't worth it - if you make a vow, pay it! Psalm 116:18, Job 22:27 & Ps.15:4b
3. OLD HABITS DIE HARD - KEEP GOOD ONES
19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. [NIV]
22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. [MSG]
Week in week out we talk about Paul and the other apostles consistence; the reason is not far from developing healthy habits. It had become a part of them so regardless of what had happened a few verses back, Paul will still make a stop at the synagogue to reason with the Jews.
4. A TIME FOR EVERYTHING
" 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, "I will come back if it is God's will." Then he set sail from Ephesus." [NIV]
Notice he did not refuse, he declined; ?Refuse' has a strong sense of saying 'no'. While to Decline is to refuse politely.
It was not the time to hang around for 3 Sabbaths debating; so he politely refused and promised (if God wills) he'll be back. There's a time to say "Yes" and a time to say "No" but sometimes we say "yes" when we should say "no" because we are afraid of offending someone and in the process offend God.
5. FOLLOW UP - ESSENTIAL FOR GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. [NIV]
23After spending a considerable time with the Antioch Christians, Paul set off again for Galatia and Phrygia, retracing his old tracks, one town after another, putting fresh heart into the disciples. [MSG]
Paul went through the towns and cities he'd preached before to encourage and strengthen all the disciples. This is vital because everyone needs encouragement; everyone needs to have the flame fanned. The Bible says of Jesus;
"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory" Matt.12:20
6. KNOW YOUR STUFF - STEMS FROM DILIGENCE
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. [NIV]
"A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures. He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with power in the meeting place." [MSG]
What we can learn from Apollos:
a) He had thorough knowledge of the scripture - Complete with regard to every detail; not superficial or partial. The message says he was a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures
b) He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; this tells us that he had humbled himself to learn
c) He spoke with great fervor - burning with enthusiasm. Confident of what he had and bold to declare it!
7. DIVINE HELPERS - WE ALL CAN BE
"When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately." [NIV ]
"When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story." [MSG]
This couple strikes me as people who have their heads screwed on right.
They did not see Apollos as a threat, they did not castigate him or compete with him or even condemn him for not knowing it all. Imagine what we would have done . . . talk behind his back and say "instead of him to humble himself and learn, he's out there preaching only part of it"
We will try to make what he knows of no effect because of what he does not know.
But they took him aside and "told him the rest of the story"
Also tells me something about Apollos
He was not full of himself; he could have as well been carried away by his eloquence and zeal and fervor and missed the whole picture. Shame how that happens these days; "Who are you to tell me I have missed something?"
8. ENCOURAGEMENT - WE NEED EACH OTHER
27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. [NIV]
27-28When Apollos decided to go on to Achaia province, his Ephesian friends gave their blessing and wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the disciples there to welcome him with open arms. The welcome paid off: Apollos turned out to be a great help to those who had become believers through God's immense generosity. He was particularly effective in public debate with the Jews as he brought out proof after convincing proof from the Scriptures that Jesus was in fact God's Messiah. [MSG]
We see that when Apollos wanted to travel to Achaia, the brethren rallied round him and wrote a letter of recommendation so that he would be accepted and the Message said "The welcome paid off" because he turned out to be great help to believers in Achaia. Imagine if Aquila and Priscilla did not take him in and teach him or they just wrote him off and ran him down or the brethren with the influence of Aquila and Priscilla did not encourage him and recommend him; but thank God they did what they did and the results was fruitful and effective.
There's so much we have learnt from these few verses of scripture. We have learnt that God can use any situation to set us up for our destiny; we have also learnt of Paul, of Priscilla and Aquila and of Apollos. All of them exhibiting character worth emulating; nothing more to say; we should simply be hearers and doers.
Friday, December 30 2011
In last week's study, among other issues, we heard Paul's sermon on Mar's Hill which concluded in three ways: firstly, Rejection "some begin to sneer" (V. 32), secondly, Delayed Decision "we shall hear you again concerning this" (V. 32) and thirdly Belief "some joined Paul and Believed" (V. 34). This is related to the parable of the Sower in Matthews 13 and we concluded that every sermon preached will always have these three effects.
In today's study we shall be looking at Paul's ministration in Corinth. Corinth was a Grecian city, on the isthmus which joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. It is about 48 miles west of Athens. It is noted for its wealth, luxury, immoral and vicious habits of the people. It had a large mixed population of Romans Greeks, and Jews.
From Athens to Corinth; Verses 1 - 4
1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
When Paul arrived at Corinth he meets with Aquila and his wife Priscilla whom had just sent out of Rome by Claudius the Roman Emperor. Verse 3 revealed that Paul was multi-skilled. The scripture also says in Acts 22:3 that Paul had a Formal Education where he studied to become a Rabbi (a minister, a teacher and also a lawyer all in one) according to Jewish customs however he had learnt a trade before entering into ministry. The trade he had acquired was the making of tents from goats' hair cloth and we realise that he did not let his work disturb him from preaching the Gospel in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuading both Jews and Greeks.
Arrival of Silas and Timothy Verses 5-8
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titus Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
In verses 5-8, the same thing that happened in Athens happened again! Some Jew were opposing him because he said that Jesus is Christ at the same time the Crispus the ruler of the synagogue believed in the Lord; both him and his household and many of the Corinthians believed and were baptised.
Do Not Be Afraid; Verses 9 - 11
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
God spoke to Paul in a vision this shows us that in any situation we find ourselves in the ministry we should be confident that God is watching over us and is able to lead us and direct us all we have to do is be in tuned with the Holy Spirit at all times
Gallio: An Unexpected And Unwitting Instrument of God; Verses 12 - 17
12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 "This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."
14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, "If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law?settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things." 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.
When God speaks a word to us by His Spirit or through a vision we can be rest assured that he has all knowledge and all wisdom. In verses 12-17; when they brought Paul to the judgment seat accusing him of persuading men to worship God in a contrary way to the law, before he opened his mouth Gallio said to the Jews
"if it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. But if it is a question of word and name and your own law, look to it yourselves for I do not want to be a judge of such matters."
So we can rest, assured that if God gives us a guarantee as He did Paul in verse 10; no one can harm us. He has placed many people in Corinth and our cities as well and as He encouraged Paul to continue to preach so we are encouraged too! He is more than able to deliver on His promise; this is what Jesus Christ says in Matthews 28: 18-20
"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Paul continued to be consistent in preaching the Word; when the Word is preached, it always has varying effects on the people. Last week we saw three of them; Rejection, Delayed Decision and Belief. This week we saw two of them; Rejection (verse 6) and Belief (verse 70. We also learnt that God has all knowledge and all understanding of whatever we might be going through. He promised Paul that no one can harm him and He was true to His promise. Paul didn't need to defend himself on this occasion; God spoke through the mouth of the Gallio in his defence! He did it for Paul; He will do it for us!
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week's bible study amongst other things highlighted the importance of unity even in suffering among believers. In verse 6, Jason and some of the brethren were dragged before the city authorities when they failed to find Paul and his team. They stood their ground and paid bail without betraying Paul. In our study today, we shall be looking at the approach of Paul when he was challenged by the Philosophers of Athens to present the message of the gospel to them. This was no easy task, since the city of Athens had literally hundreds of gods, which Don Richard called "god capital of the world," in his book, Eternity in Their Hearts. It is a place so full of gods and it was popularly said that "there are more gods than Men in Athens".
1) A stirred Spirit: vs 16-17
"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him."
Paul saw the idolatry of the Athenians as damnable. He was deeply struck by the lostness of this city, and of the judgment of God which each person would someday face. He knew these people needed a Savior, and He knew that the Savior had come for sinners such as these, and thus Paul could do nothing but preach Christ to them. Just the way Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matt.9:36). He got down to business by engaging them with his message both in the synagogue with the Jews and in the market place with the Religious gentiles.
Lessons: We must constantly allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see and touch our hearts to know the hopeless condition of the unsaved around us. Our spirits must be stirred to reach out to the dying around us.
2) Preaching to Philosophers: vs 18-21
"Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)"
Paul seldom passed up an invitation to speak, when it gave him the opportunity to preach the gospel to lost men and women. The opportunity to speak in the synagogue was apparently a matter of custom, but the invitation to preach to pagan philosophers was more rare. He is given that opportunity in Athens. As Paul spoke with those who would listen in the market place, he got the attention of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were actually rivals. It is enough to say that the Epicureans were atheists. They held to no future life, and that our present life was to be lived in all sorts of pleasures. The Stoics were just the opposite. They were rigid in their philosophy. They believed that the world was governed by fate, that happiness could only be found in virtue, and that a good man had complete rule over all his passions. But their belief in one god is sometimes likened to pantheism, or, God is everything. Both groups were eager to tare Paul apart. They took him and brought him to the Areopagus." 'Epi ton Areion Pagon' means 'unto the Hill of Mars.' This was where the court met to determine if any new teaching was to be held lawful. This was not a court of judgment but rather of examination. The Athenians were a refined people. They prided themselves in the 'wisdoms' and 'arts.'
Lessons: It was not just the new teaching that attracted the Philosophers to Paul but his ability to present his teaching with clarity of mind as a result of his educated background.
3) Paul's Sermon on Mar's Hill: vs 22-31
"Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
Vs 22: The term "very religious", can be used in a good or in a bad sense. Here Paul is using the term in a conciliatory manner. He is acknowledging their deep religious feelings. (A wise man knows how to make words acceptable.).
Vs 23: Unknown God is 'Agnosto Theo.' (Where we get our word agnostic, or, 'I don't know', or, 'without knowledge.') The Athenians were afraid of offending one of the gods so they had more than one altar to an unknown god. It was also illegal to introduce a new God that was not on their list of gods. The 'unknown god' could serve as a point of discussion. Notice how Paul disarms any accusation of heresy or promoting a new god. He is simply saying, "I want to talk to you about the God you already worship, but of whom you don't know much about." The word 'ignorance' is 'agoneo.' It speaks of unawareness. Paul is not calling them ignorant. At this point he has their full attention.
Vs 24-28; Paul strikes at the very root of idolatry; the peoples thought that the gods had to be appeased with 'food' offerings and such like. But one of God's names is El Shaddai; He is sufficient in all things.(Gen.17:1, Exo.6:3). Some of the ancient philosophers had an understanding that there was only one true Supreme God. Actually this understanding is embedded in most every culture. This God cannot be known directly. This truth was even presented in the tabernacle plan of Moses.
Paul quotes from the poet Aratus, who made this statement almost 300 years before Christ. Aratus as well as other poet-philosophers spoke of the Supreme God as 'Father.' But here Paul applies this quote to the God of the Hebrews.
Lessons: We can see the wisdom that Paul used to relate the subject of the supreme God to these religious Philosophers in Athens. He even quoted from their scholars to preach the gospel to them. Paul also quotes the Epicureans in 1 Cor. 15:32 and Menander, Thais, in 1 Cor. 15:33. Paul was trained in Greek literature and rhetoric, probably at Tarsus, which was a major university town.
CONCLUSION: There were three responses to the gospel of Paul; Vs 32-34
1. Rejection, "some began to sneer" (v. 32)
2. Delayed decision, "we shall hear you again concerning this (v. 32)
3. Belief, "some joined Paul and believed" (v. 34; I Thess. 1:9-10).
These parallel the parable of the sower (cf. Matthew 13).
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week, we looked at Acts 16: 16-40 and how Paul and Silas were sensitive to the Holy Spirit to detect familiar spirit working in the young girl. We also saw how they handled suffering for Christ and how they stood their ground when they were to be released secretly. One other thing we learnt was that in all, God was working things out so that the jailor and his family could be saved.
Today we shall look at some of the ways we can achieve results working with the Lord.
1. Consistency is Vital
Verses 1-2a "NOW AFTER [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them"
As we learnt in previous lessons, these men were consistently doing what they were called to do; they had the habit of assembling with the saints.
2. Apply Reason - Don't be Subjective
Verse 2: "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,"
The AMP version says he reasoned and argued with them with the scriptures; something we are afraid to do these days for the fear of offending people.
He was trying to convince the Jews the MSG version puts verse 3 this way:
"He opened up the texts so they understood what they'd been reading all their lives: that the Messiah absolutely had to be put to death and raised from the dead?there were no other options?and that "this Jesus I'm introducing you to is that Messiah."
It was not a pointless or meaningless argument he was involved in; he was reasoning with people who taught they knew but somehow had missed the vital truth. Take notice of the way the message puts it - "He opened up the texts so they understood what they'd been reading all their lives:"
3. Be Resilient
Verse 2 tells us he was there for 3 Sabbath days; for three weeks he stayed at it; he didn't just sweep the issue under the carpet and move on, he didn't think they were wasting his time. He reasoned and argued his point. To reason implies that he heard the other party out; he listened to their views and opinions - he didn't
This teaches us that we need staying power; keeping at a thing (as long as it is right). Little by little, with resilience soon truth will prevail. See verse 4: "And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few."
4. In Persecution, Don't Give Up or Give In
Verses 5- 9
"But the unbelieving Jews were aroused to jealousy, and, getting hold of some wicked men (ruffians and rascals) and loungers in the marketplace, they gathered together a mob, set the town in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring [Paul and Silas] out to the people. But when they failed to find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them to his house and privately protected them! And they are all ignoring and acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, [actually] asserting that there is another king, one Jesus! And both the crowd and the city authorities, on hearing this, were irritated (stirred up and troubled). And when they had taken security [bail] from Jason and the others, they let them go."
5. Unity - We Need Each Other
The brethren were obviously united in the suffering; See verses 6 - 9. They did not complain that they were dragged before the city authorities, neither did they complain about having to pay bail. They could have as well brought them out to come and face the suffering by themselves but they didn't! They all suffered together! And then in verse 10a, sent them away by night.
6. Avoid Bias -Preconception Deters
The one thing that we usually do when verses 5 - 6 happens to us is to brand and tag people. "The Jews are wicked people; avoid them!", "Experience is the best teacher", etc
In as much as there could be a genuine justification, we should never take the Holy Spirit out of the equation.
Verse 10 - 12 "Now the brethren at once sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea; and when they arrived, they entered the synagogue of the Jews. Now these [Jews] were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [[a]concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore became believers, together with not a few prominent Greeks, women as well as men."
Paul and Silas were quick to forget the dangers of verses 5-9 when they arrived at Beroea, they entered the synagogues and discovered that the Jews here were better disposed. What of if they had written them off saying that "All Jews are the same"
These are once again very useful steps and tips you and I can follow and achieve similar results with the help of the Holy Spirit. They are not only steps for achieving results but steps that will aid us in living fulfilled lives here on earth.
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week we studied the lives of Paul and timothy with Paul and Titus. While Paul decided to circumcise Timothy, he did not insist on Titus being circumcised and the reasons were explained. We also looked at their submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit for every instruction and their prompt obedience.
They were faithful and loyal to God; they did not seek to prove points but sought peace as much as possible.
Wisdom was employed in their dealings in day today conduct in varied situations.
This week's study will look at how their strength and faith was put to extreme test and how their strength did not fail in the day of adversity.
Vs.16. Spiritual alertness spirit (could discern). Do you know the people around you?
17. What was her motive? What is your motive for the things you do? Is God your ONLY motive or is there a hidden agenda? The devil subtly manifested as an angel of light in order to cause confusion. The bible enjoins us to test all spirits. 1 John 4:1, Matthew 7:15, 2 Peter 2:1
Satan will sometimes conceal himself under the guise of truth in order to deceive.
18. But Paul, being grieved - Being molested, troubled, offended. Paul was grieved..WHY
DO WE GET GRIEVED WHENEVER WE SEE THE WORKS AND DECEPTION OF THE DEVIL?
19. The hope of their gains was gone - It was this that troubled and enraged them. Instead of regarding the act as proof of divine power, they were intent only on their profits. What is your heart focused on? The love of money blinds to the truth of the gospel. Many in evil businesses are unwilling to abandon it or be committed in church because eyes are fixed on gains.. (1Tim 6:10) the love of money.
20. The charge which they wished to substantiate was that of being disturbers of the public peace. The moment their course of life is attacked and exposed, they become full of zeal for laws that they were violating or won't hesitate to violate. HYPOCRITICAL CONSCIENTIOUSNESS.
21. Charged the apostles with introducing a new religion which was unauthorized by Roman laws. This was a cunning and artful accusation. They had no way of revenge except causing confusion, spreading lies and using the MULTITUDES. This is one among many instances where wicked and unprincipled people will endeavor to make religion the means of promoting their own interest.
22. And the multitude ..the confusion of multitudes, easily incited even though they don't understand what is going on (looter in London) MULTITUDES (Matthew 27:25). MAJORITY IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.
23. And when they had laid many stripes on them - The Jews were by law prohibited from inflicting more than 40 stripes, and usually inflicted but 39, 2 Corinthians 11:24. But there was no such law among the Romans. They were unrestricted in regard to the number of lashes, and probably inflicted many more. Perhaps Paul refers to this when he says 2 Corinthians 11:23, "In stripes above measure."
24. Secured feet in the stocks - These were probably those large pieces of wood, in use among the Romans, which not only loaded the legs of the prisoner, but also kept them extended in a very painful manner. THE RIGHTEOUS DO SUFFER
25. And at midnight - Probably their painful posture, and the sufferings of their recent scourging, prevented their sleeping. Yet, though they had no repose, they had a quiet conscience, and inner strength from the Holy Spirit, their strength did not fail in the day of adversity. They were able to sing and pray. Job 35:10. Psalm 77:6, 42:8 Nothing but a deep relationship with God could have birthed this. The prisoners heard them - And doubtless with astonishment. Prayer and praise are not common in a prison. Songs of rejoicing and praise is not usual among men lying bound in a dungeon. WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR NIGHT SEASONS?
The Christian's source of happiness is within him. External circumstances cannot destroy his peace and joy. In a dungeon he may find as real happiness as on a throne. On the cold earth, beaten and bruised, he may be as truly happy as on a bed. The enemies of Christians cannot destroy their peace. They may incarcerate the body, but they cannot bind the spirit, they may exclude from earthly comforts, but they cannot shut them out from the presence and sustaining grace of God.
We see the inestimable worth of the Christianity. It fits for all scenes; supports in all trials; upholds by day or by night; inspires the soul with confidence in God; and puts into the lips the songs of praise and thanksgiving.
26. And suddenly - While they were praying and singing "A great earthquake" - Matthew 28:2. An earthquake, in such circumstances, was regarded as a symbol of the presence of God, and as an answer to prayer. This was to furnish them proof of the presence and protection of God, and to provide a way for them to escape. It was one among the series of wonders by which the gospel was established, and the early Christians protected amidst their dangers. Immediately all the doors were opened - An effect that would naturally follow from the violent concussion of the earthquake. Acts 5:19
Everyone's bands were loosed - And yet so eminently did God's providence conduct everything, that not one of the prisoners made his escape, though the doors were open. If any had escaped the jailor wouldn't have been in a frame of mind to accept the gospel.
27. Would have killed himself - Christianity is against self-murder in all forms.
28. Do thyself no harm - Christianity seeks the true welfare of man. God's laws are for our own good.
29. It is evident that he regarded them as the favorites of God, and was constrained to recognize them as religious teachers
30. Sirs - an address of respect; a title usually given to masters or owners of slaves. "What must I do to be saved"? -
31. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ - This was a simple plain and an effectual direction. Don't make the gospel complex
32. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord - Thus, by teaching him and all that were in his house the doctrine of the Lord, they plainly pointed out to them the way of salvation.
33. He took them the same hour of the night, after they had done preaching to him and to his family and washed their stripes.
34. He set meat before them - They were sufficiently exhausted and needed refreshment. As they were the instruments of bringing health to his soul, he became the instrument of health to their bodies. Genuine faith in Christ will always be accompanied with benevolence and humanity, and every fruit that such dispositions can produce.
35. It is evident from the narrative that it was not contemplated at first to release them so soon; it is not known what produced this change of purpose in the magistrates. It is probable that they had been brought to reflection, somewhat as the jailor had, by the earthquake, and that their consciences had been troubled by the fact, that in order to please the multitude, they had caused strangers to be beaten and imprisoned without trial and contrary to the Roman laws or they judged it best to be content with what punishment they had inflicted on them, and dismiss them.
36. And the keeper of the prison said the magistrates have sent to let you go; they have sent an order to let you out of prison: now therefore depart, and go in peace; which expresses the jailer's pleasure of mind, and joy of heart, in executing his orders; and his sincere and hearty wishes for peace and prosperity to go along with them wherever they went, who had been instrumental of so much good to him and his family.
37 They have beaten us openly un-condemned! - There are three aggravating circumstances mentioned, of which Paul complains: (a) that they had been beaten contrary to the Roman laws.
(b)The disgrace had been public and the reparation ought to be as public.
(c)Punished without a trial and un-condemned, and therefore the magistrates ought themselves to come and release them, and thus publicly acknowledge their error. Paul knew the privileges of a Roman citizen Acts 22:28
DO YOU KNOW YOUR RIGHTS PHYSICALLY AND SPIRITUALLY?
38. They feared when they heard ... - They were apprehensive of punishment for having imprisoned them in violation of the laws of the empire. they besought them to go out, saying: We were ignorant of your circumstances, that ye were righteous men. And, leading them out, they besought them, saying, Depart from this city, lest they again make an insurrection against you, and clamor against you." They seem not to be so hostile as the day before.
39. And they came and besought them - A most humiliating act for Roman magistrates, but in this case it was unavoidable. The apostles had them completely in their power, and could easily affect their disgrace and ruin. Probably they besought them by declaring them innocent; by affirming that they were ignorant that they were Roman citizens, etc.
40. They went to the house of Lydia, comforted, exhorted and encouraged them to persevere, notwithstanding the opposition and persecution which they might meet with. They would have shared their testimony of divine deliverance, jailers' family conversion and their release from prison and exhorted them to cleave to the Lord, to continue in the faith, and abide by the truths and ordinances of the Gospel.
God is faithful; He will always make a way of escape Isaiah 43:1-3. We must be spiritually and physically alert. Let not your strength fail in the day of adversity. Keep your focus on God and God alone.
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week's bible study amongst other things highlighted the power of documentation in everything we do, both personally and corporately as the body of Christ (the church). Another very applicable lesson was on conflict resolution using the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas as a case scenario. I recollect a contribution that both were right. Both shunned what the teacher called spiritual hypocrisy and were very moderate in their temper while resolving the issue. I believe we learnt a very good lesson from the study and pray that we will be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Today, we will be looking at three (3) connected, yet distinct scenarios as the ministry journey of Paul and Silas continues, aptly captured by Luke and also detailing some interesting lessons that we can learn as individuals and corporate body.
Paul and Timothy Vs Paul and Titus: Vs 1-5
The first two verses of this scripture heralds a disciple called Timothy. On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas preached in Lystra (Acts 14: 8-19), a city of Lycaonia, and experienced success and persecution. Note that it was at Lystra that ?they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead'. (Vs 19). However, it is likely that a Jewess named Lois, and her daughter Eunice, were converted to Christ during that ministry (See 2Tim1:5). Eunice was married to a Gentile, by whom she had Timothy, probably an only child. Timothy evidently had been instructed in the Jewish religion, but his father refused to allow his son to be circumcised.
When Paul returned to Lystra (also a place of Idolatry) on his second journey, he found Timothy to be a member of the local church and highly recommended by its leaders there and at Iconium.
The Third verse is however very controversial. Just a chapter before, the same Paul and Barnabas were sent to deliver the decision of the Parish Council and other brethren on the documented decree against circumcision of the Gentiles as a mark of salvation. Yet we read that Paul took Timothy and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region. Let us parallel this event with Galatians 2:1-5.
1) An account of where Timothy grew up shows that he lived in a very dangerous place, and yet his testimony was highly respected by the Christians who knew him and his testimony in that dangerous place. Little wonder Paul's admonition in 1Tim 4:12. Thank God for his mother and grandmother's influence on him, even though the father was probably an unbeliever. Though we live in a society whose moral decency is questionable, this is still not enough reason for us as parents and guardians not bringing up God fearing children.
2) On the controversy of circumcision, since they were going to be ministring among the Jews, Paul admonished Timothy to be circumcised, not for righteousness' sake, but for sake of Christian courtesy in order to avoid offending the Jews since his mother was Jewish. This was not compromise (as proven by the firmness of Paul in the case of Titus who was a Gentile in Gal 2:1-5); it was a mature recognition that social, cultural, and even religious differences should never become more important issues than the simple message of salvation in Christ. See 1 Cor. 9:19-23. (.I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.).We should, as a church and Christians be careful in handling issues bothering around tradition with great wisdom having the salvation of souls as the ultimate purpose of our calling in the Lord.
The result of Paul's action resulted in ?the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily' Vs 5
Forbidden By the Holy Spirit - Submission to the Leading of the Holy Spirit : Vs 6 - 10
We would recollect from Acts 13 how the Holy Spirit initiated the first stage of Paul and Barnabas missionary journey. However, the ways in which God guided them (Paul and Silas) to the "second stage" of their mission are both interesting and informative.
1) God first used "closed doors" to guide these missionaries (Vs 6 - 7). They did not interpret this to mean an opposition from the enemy! We should realize that not all open doors are God's doors. Has this principle of God's guidance ever been demonstrated in your life?
2) If they had disobeyed, I believe they would have missed the Macedonia opportunity. In fact, Paul would not have received the vision. We should know that a closed door simply means that God has a great and effectual door in the waiting! (share)
Riverside Experience: Vs 11 - 15
And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.(Vs 13 NKJV)
It is recorded that Jewish law required the establishment of a synagogue when there was a population of at least 10 men in a community. The absence of one in Philippi indicates a small Jewish population. Little wonder that there were more women at the riverside. It's however interesting to know how God had planned that people will be saved in the lowly populated city of Macedonia. God opened the heart of just one woman, Lydia from Thyatira, she and her household were saved and baptized! Her salvation led to that of many others subsequently and a church emerged (The Church in Thyatira - Rev 2:18-29)
Also notice the immediate evidence of her salvation in the last verse (Vs 15). God Himself (not us) determines who will be saved. How come it was the heart of Lydia that God opened and not all the women? We need to be very opened and sensitive to God's leading in evangelism. It's God's call and not ours!
Paul and Silas proved their faithfulness and loyalty to the cause they believe in by delivering the decrees documented by the elders in Jerusalem in every city they went. Paul also demonstrated great Christian courtesy which we should learn from, to the Jewish believers in circumcising Timothy, resulting in the strengthening of the church and an increase in their numbers. He was however resolute in his stand against circumcision of the Gentiles as we saw in the account of Titus. Wisdom is profitable in all matters. Also, God demonstrated His sovereignty through leading by closed doors and deciding to open the heart of just one woman in order to spread the gospel and save souls in Philippi. We must trust God for grace to follow the Leading of the Holy Spirit at all times.
Friday, December 30 2011
In our last bible study, we saw a major disagreement arising between the Jews and believing Gentiles about traditions. It is instructive to observe the method adopted by the early church in order to resolve the debate. They did not take matters into their hands or allow strife and division to take over the church. As the matter was brought to the attention of the Apostles in Jerusalem, it is very important to note that a very broad spectrum (of course many of them seasoned) was allowed to make inputs to the issue. In fact, it was James (someone not seen to be the leader of the church at the time) that took the leading role as he made his contributions, supported by the scripture, to the matter at hand. Finally, they all agreed on the way forward as led by the Holy Spirit. Today, we will finish up this Chapter by observing certain things in the final resolution of the Church council and the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas.
Letter to Gentiles: Vs 22 - 35
Principle of print (writing) and documentation
§ Chosen men whose integrity was not in doubt were appointed to go; yet the consensus was put in print. Is there a lesson for the church to learn?
Content of the letter
§ Agreed by those involved
§ Clarity of the letter is striking! No ambiguity.
§ Commendation of Paul and Barnabas
§ Note the word ?seemed good' in vs 28. (Compare to last week's comment on Mosaic Law?)
"The avoiding of fornication is necessary to all Christians at all times; the avoiding of things strangled, and of blood, and of things offered to idols, is necessary at this time, for the keeping up of a good understanding between you and the Jews, and the preventing of offence;" MH commentary
Disagreement between Barnabas and Paul: Vs 36 - 41
Here is an account of a private disagreement between two great ministers not willing to compromise but yet ending well.
§ A proposal to review their work and renew it: As believers and as a church, we must cultivate the habit of continual assessment/appraisal of every activity we engage in so as to improve on them. Note the word ?how they do' in verse 36. That must be the purpose!
§ The principle of two-by-two: We need one of another in quite a number of ways so we must not be ashamed to both borrow and lend assistance. Two are better than one. Every soldier has his comrade. Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1-3
§ The disagreement between the two was clearly defined i.e. about an assistant who was meant to be a witness of their doctrine, manner of life, and patience, and that should be fitted and trained up for further service. No ?spiritual' hypocrisy like ?it is well' of many modern believers meanwhile they are not in agreement with the subject matter.
What can we see from this?
§ Men will always be men even the best of us are subject to like passions. The two highly regarded men of God resolutely stuck to their opinions without even referring the matter to a third person as they did earlier.
§ It is not strange to have differences among wise and good men (Believers). In fact, different opinions, views and sentiments are to be expected from group of Christians. What it seems is the possibility that Paul and Barnabas amicably "agreed to differ".
§ We must be careful not to allow our differences over-ride the ultimate aim of glorifying Christ. What we should note here is that persecutions of the unbelieving Jews and the impositions of the believing Jews could not separate them yet they allowed unhappy disagreement to do so. This is written for us to learn from! I Cor. 10:11
God will always be God who knows how to make all things to work together for good to serve His purpose! Had it not been, He would not have permitted it.
§ More places visited. Barnabas went one way; he sailed to Cyprus (Ac 15:39), Paul went another way. God served His own purpose using it for the diffusing of gospel light.
§ More hands employed in the ministry of the gospel among the Gentiles.
§ Afterwards Paul seems to have had a better opinion of John Mark; Look at what he wrote to Timothy (2Ti 4:11). ?Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry'; and he writes to the Colossians concerning Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, that if he came to them they should receive him, bid him welcome, and employ him (Col 4:10).
The disposition of Paul later teaches us (As taken from MH commentary)
§ That even those whom we justly ?condemn', we should do so moderately and with a great deal of temper. This is because we may have cause to think better of them afterwards to the extent of seeing need to make use of them and make friendship with them. Therefore, we should regulate our resentments that if it should prove so, we may not be ashamed of them later.
§ That even those whom we have justly condemned, if afterwards they prove more faithful, we should cheerfully receive, forgive and forget, and put a confidence in, and, as there is occasion, give a good word to them.
§ That Paul, though he wanted his old friend and companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, yet went on cheerfully in his work (Ac 15:41): He went through Syria and Cilicia, countries which lay next to Antioch, confirming the churches. Though we change our colleagues, we do not change our principal President who is Jesus.
It is very crucial to engage the power of print (writing) and documentation in everything that we do in the church. This should be done in a clear and comprehensive fashion as we saw the Apostles did. Perhaps, if the inspirations/laws/instructions/etc had not been well-documented, we may not have had the bible.
In as much as the best of men will always be human, God is still able to use the ?faults' of his servants to the profit and building of the Church: yet we have to take heed, even in the best matters, that we do not let our anger overflow. Even when we mistakenly allow the heat-of-the-moment to take over and finally saw that our judgement had not been entirely right, we must be humble enough to admit it and wherever possible publicly as Paul did.
Friday, December 30 2011
Fortnight ago, while studying Chapter 14, we saw the consistent habit of the Apostles whenever they go to any city; 14:1"At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue" .We also saw their effectiveness in preaching the gospel with results. We also received the important lesson of knowing when to wait and when to run during persecution. Lastly, we saw the importance of not directing praise to ourselves even when we are at the center of attention.
1) The Issue at Hand: Act 15: 1-5
"Now some men came down from
To further understand these verses, let us look at Gal.2:11-16. I believe this was an incident that took place before Act 15. The ambivalence (hypocrisy) of apostles like Peter probably encouraged others who were even more radical in their views to press their demands publicly, as we read in vs 1 & 5.
We should note that these Judaizers who demanded circumcision and law keeping were not evangelists who were preaching their message to Gentile pagans. These were Jewish believers (those of the Pharisee party) who were targeting newly saved Gentiles. It is interesting how some are more than willing to let others do the evangelizing, only to prey upon these new converts with their distorted doctrines.
What were their demands? That gentile converts should be circumcised and made to uphold the Law of Moses.
In our Churches today, we still have leaders and followers who uphold the traditions of men rather than the gospel of grace. Gal.1:6-9. The gospel of Christ is the gospel of grace not of works and human traditions Eph.2:8,9.
We should observe the method of dispute resolution in the early Church in vs 2. the church at
"Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate about this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are." 12 The whole group kept quiet and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 After they stopped speaking, James replied, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has explained how God first concerned himself to select from among the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 The words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written, 16 ?After this I will return, and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord, namely, all the Gentiles I have called to be my own,' says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from long ago. 19 "Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we should write them a letter telling them(a) to abstain from things defiled by idols and (Genesis 2:24 b)from sexual immorality and(c) from what has been strangled and(d Genesis 9:2-4) from blood. 21 For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, because he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath"
It is not just the apostles who gather to decide on the issue of circumcision (verse 6). It is the apostles and the elders of the church at
Peter recalled his encounter in Acts10 then made a remarkable statement: "We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are." This is exactly the opposite of how some Jewish Christians were thinking. The Jews were used to thinking that anyone who wanted to be saved must be saved like they were. In fact, some still are. They were insisting that Gentiles can only participate in God's blessings to the seed of Abraham by doing what Abraham did - be circumcised. But Peter insists that the Law never saved anyone; it only condemned (compare Romans 3:19-20). He then states that Jews must be saved the same way Gentiles are saved, by faith, apart from law keeping. Also look at Romans 4:9-12.
Vs 12 is very interesting because Paul and Barnabas pointed to the signs and wonders done among the gentiles just like God did among the Jews (Acts 2:43; 5:12 and Acts 14:3).
In verses 13-21, James steps forward. One does not get the impression that Peter is the dominant leader here; instead, James seems to play that role. James did something that the three before him had not done - he cites Scripture. Thus, the decision that is reached is based both upon Scripture and on experience. James follows up on what Peter has said. God has revealed His purpose to save Gentiles as well as Jews. This is the fulfilment of what the Old Testament prophets had foretold. James turns to the words of Amos 9:11-12 to establish his point:
Conclusion: The conclusion is clear. The four things prohibited in the Acts 15 letter are all NON-MOSAIC, universal regulations. They are, and always have been, universally binding on all humans. They are, however, also strongly emphasized in Mosaic law. Pagan society in the first century was woefully unaware of these universal regulations - except through the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures (hence James' comment in Acts 15:21). When the Jerusalem church agreed that Mosaic regulations should not be imposed on the Gentile believers, they recognized that with the rejection of Mosaic regulations as binding on Gentile Christians, it might be understood that the prohibitions against idolatry, eating blood, eating strangled meat, and fornication should also be thrown out, as they were only generally known through Mosaic law. The church was careful to restate these regulations not because they wanted to avoid scandalizing Jewish believers, but because they were and are and always will be universally binding on all mankind. They did not want to appear to be condoning what God had universally condemned.
Contributor: Alex Alajiki
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week's study titled: "Missionaries to the Gentiles" we saw the encounters of two of the Apostles (Barnabas and Paul) and their special mission and transforming journey led by the Holy Spirit. This week we shall continue in this journey and pick up learning points "Useful Tips" as we journey together. Reading through the passage we can pick up the useful tips from nearly every verse. Come, let's journey together:
1. They developed the habit of fellowshipping: verse 1a "At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue" Heb 10:25
2. They were effective: verse 1b "There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed."Eccl 9:10
3. They were wise to know that "there is a time for everything": - a time to stay Verses 2-3 "But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.", and a time to run! Verses 4-6 "The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country" Eccl 3:1-8
4. They were diligent and consistent: verse 7 "where they continued to preach the gospel". One of the virtues the church seem to lack. Either we start and don't finish or we seem to lose the zest after a while. But see verses 15-17, 21, 24-25& 26. Proverbs 22:29
5. They were spiritually alert and sensitive: verse 9b "Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed"1 Peter 5:8a
6. They acted in faith: verse 10 "and called out, "Stand up on your feet!"Luke 17:16
7. They were humble; verses 14 - 15a "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 "Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you." James 4:10
8. They capitalized on the opportunity to preach: verses 15b - 17 "We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." 1 Peter 3:15
9. They were a source of help and support for each other: verse 20 "But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe." Heb 10:24
10. They were focused and relentless: verse 21a "They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples." 2 Tim 4:2, Luke 9:62
11. Their follow up strategy was complete and noticeably honest: verse 21b - 22 "Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said." They visited and strengthened the people and told them the honest truth about what to expect. Eph 4:15, Matt 5:37
12. They communicated openly and collaborated by their actions: "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust."
13. They were consistent and continuously active doing what they were called to do: "After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia."
14. They finished the project assigned to them: [because they were focused] verse 26 "From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed." Disciples like their Master. 1Thess 5:24
15. They were direct, honest and accountable: verse 27 "On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles."
So much to learn, so much to adopt and adapt. So very many useful tips that we should fashion our lives after. Virtues that will not only keep us focused and effective but able to keep us ready for the coming of the Lord. These same virtues are capable if adopted by the church universal to prepare the bride for the coming Groom. Lord help us not to be forgetful hearers or hearers alone but to be doers of your Word!
Friday, December 30 2011
Two weeks ago, we looked at some Dos and Don'ts through the pleasant experiences of Peter in the hand of Herod and the resultant prayers of the rest of the Apostles and disciples. We were able to learn from this encounters and I am sure that we will continue to apply the lessons learnt when we go through pleasant situations too and we will surely overcome and grow stronger even as we do in Jesus Name, Amen.
This week, we will be looking at the encounters of two of the Apostles (Barnabas and Paul) as they were specially sent on a life transforming journey by the Holy Spirit. Just as we have been doing, we will be focusing on the acts of the Apostles in parallel with the acts of the church today.
PLURALITY OF GIFTED MEN - Ideal for the Church (Vs 1)
The chapter begins with an introduction to the church's leadership composition. Leadership by a plurality of gifted and godly men is an ideal for any church that will fulfill God's purpose (Eph 4; 11-14). This church did not depend on just a single gifted man! Five gifted men were mentioned. From our previous lessons on Barnabas, he was probably the most gifted (Leader) of them all with Paul probably being the rookie of the five. This ideal leadership structure will pave way for church growth which will result in sending out quality missionaries for church growth.
SOUND AND TESTED MEN TO THE RESCUE! - (Vs 2-4)
"Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
There are important lessons that the present day church can learn from this.
1) Unlike the disciples that were scattered due to the persecution of the church in Acts 8, these two Apostles were called and sent out by the Holy Spirit (Vs 4). Let us parallel this with what is obtained in the present church (Discuss)
2) The two that were sent out have been tried and tested. These are not baby Christians! They are gifted and godly men that have been effectively equipped by the Holy Spirit!
3) The Holy Spirit spoke while the church was ministering to (serving, worshiping) the Lord and fasted. The church (as her custom was) was very faithful in what they were doing. There is need for faithfulness in what we have been called to do before we can move on to the next level.
SYNAGOGUES AND JOHN MARK - (Vs 5)
The Synagogue is usually the first point of call for the Apostles whenever they get to any city (Acts 9:20, 13:14, 14:1, 17:1,10). The reason being that this is where God fearing Jews and Gentiles congregate.
Although John Mark (Barnabas cousin - Col 4:10) joined the two Apostles at this point, he later forsook them at Perga in Pamphylia (Vs 13). This was to cause a very sharp contention and subsequently separation between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:39. The lesson here is in recognizing the differences in the temperament of these two Apostles who have achieved so much together.(Discuss)
FILLED AND CONTROLLED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT - (Vs 6-12)
An interesting event happened here. The sorcerer (a Jew) must have some relationship with the proconsul (a Gentile) to have been with him. Called Bar-Jesus (Son of Jesus) whose real identity was revealed by Paul under the influence of the Holy Spirit as son of the devil!
I believed that the proconsul would have had some questions to ask and probably not made up his mind to believe immediately (following the influence that the sorcerer must have had on him) but for Paul "filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit" Vs 9, and the Elymas Blindness, that made him (proconsul) believed on the spot.
I believe when things are done under the very influence and proper promptings of the Holy Spirit, results manifest instantly! Also note how God orchestrates things! Imagine if Elymas has not been with the proconsul.
PAUL TAKES THE LEAD! - (Vs 13 - 41)
Notice the shift from Saul to Paul. Paul is the gentile translation of the Hebrew Saul. Also notice that Paul was the more outspoken of the duo. This is a reflection of his temperament (Discuss).
The emphasis of Paul in his word of exhortation is found in the following;
"But God raised Him from dead" Vs 30
"...in that He has raised up Jesus" Vs 33
"And that He raised Him from the dead,." Vs 34
"But He whom God raised up..." Vs 36
The contention by the Jews is borne from the fact that they find it hard to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead. See Paul's outrage in Acts 23:6-8
The core of our message should be the risen Jesus!!!
IMMEDIATE RESPONSE - (Vs 42-44)
A Holy Spirit led message will convict the heart of sinner anytime, anywhere. Remember that the duo was sent by the Holy Spirit. So there is no doubting what the result will be.
"...the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath." Vs 42
Not only the Gentiles, Vs. 43 mentioned that;
".many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas," (AMP)
OPEN DOOR ALONG WITH ADVERSARIES- (Vs 44-51)
"For a wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries."[1 Cor 16:9 AMP]
Crowds were gathered by the next Sabbath day because the news had spread. This was not without tribulations and adversaries, though. Most times, when we are being persecuted, provided we are in tune with God, it's not because we have done things wrongly, but mainly because we are doing things rightly and achieving results!
An interesting portion to ponder and meditate upon is verse 48b;
"and as many as were destined (appointed and ordained) to eternal life believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Jesus as the Christ and their Savior)."[AMP]
BETTER IS THE END OF THE MATTER - (Vs 52)
This verse shows the faithfulness of God. And I love the way the chapter ended;
"And the disciples were continually filled [throughout their souls] with joy and the Holy Spirit." [AMP]
There is quite a lot to learn as a church from this chapter especially in the area of missions and leadership. The church in Antioch was an ideal church with a very rich leadership base. So expansion was not a problem at all as they were well overripe for one. With Solid leadership base, letting go of two prominent leaders into the mission field was a sweat less effort especially when initiated by the Holy Spirit. There was no pressure involved here.
The results obtained at the field was outstanding, but not without challenges. But they were able to finish well because they embark on the mission based on the request and command of the Holy Spirit!
Friday, December 30 2011
In last week's study titled "The First Gentile Church (Embodiment of Love)" we saw some dramatic changes pre-planned by the Almighty God Himself for the sake of the propagation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ
We saw selflessness of Barnabas - the Encourager and we also saw that in the first gentile church, their love was a verb!
In as much as there are interesting occurrences in this chapter that would make interesting reading and present several learning points, we would focus only on the "acts" of the apostles and the early church. We will in the study of the following verses treat some Dos and Don'ts
Verse 5 - "So Peter was kept in prison, but fervent prayer for him was persistently made to God by the church (assembly)."
What they could have done and what we sometimes do
2. Trust God; even when the world is crumbling around you (Isa 50:10, Job 13:15 )
Verse 6 - "The very night before Herod was about to bring him forth, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison"
Ps 121: 4 - "Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps" [NLT]
Peter must have thought to himself "it is pointless for two people to lose sleep on the same matter" His trust for God was of the highest form!
3. Fear Not!
Peter was not afraid of dying. Fear and sleep don't go together! He made himself comfortable and slept (see verse 8)
Matt 10: 28 - "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
What he could have done and what we sometimes do
Stay up all night worrying, panicking and creating a foul atmosphere that may hinder God's plans.
However, God cannot be boxed in our little minds; neither can we undermine the Holy Spirit's move. How else can you explain these two similar situations?
· Paul and Silas prayed because they trusted
· Peter slept because he trusted
They did as they were led!
1. Insensitivity - they were praying but not watching (Luke 21:36a)
Verses 14 & 15: "And recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she failed to open the gate, but ran in and told the people that Peter was standing before the porch gate. They said to her, you are crazy! But she persistently and strongly and confidently affirmed that it was the truth. They said, it is his angel!"
2. Faithless prayers - they were not praying in Faith (Matt.21:22, James 1:5-8, Hebrews 11:6)
They clearly didn't believe God could do what they were asking for. Although they were fervently and persistently praying - they were simply going through the motions
3. Praying without expectations
Unlike the father of the prodigal son who was expecting his son to return (Luke 15:20) they were not expecting an answer to their prayers - see verse 15
"I call to You, God, because I'm sure of an answer." Psalms 17:6 (MSG)
So what have we learnt? We can safely say that God showed Peter mercy on the basis of his faith and trust in Him. It is possible that we can sometimes follow the motions when we pray without putting our hearts to it; we could be insensitive, faithless and not expectant. However, there still remains one possibility that we should objectively consider - "their expectation of how God will answer their prayers" They could have been expecting God to answer in a different way! So it is therefore vital that when we pray, (and as the 4th DO):
"We should be open to receive from God in any way He chooses!"
Having learnt all these we will now touch on the other learning points and useful prayers we can adopt from this chapter
1. That God will not allow us to be used as pawns in the Devil's chess game [James and the soldiers]
2. Always give God the glory - He gave us His only begotten Son and everything else with Him but He will not share His glory with man Acts 12: 23
3. God's work will continue to advance - no one can hinder it! Better to be a part of it than be against it. Verse 24
Friday, December 30 2011
Introduction: Another opportunity to learn more of the work of God in the lives of the men who turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) is here!
Last week's topic, titled "Handling Criticism" was remarkable. We learnt about how matured and worthy of emulating, Peter handled the Hebraic Jews' criticism of his association with the Gentile centurion and the ultimate conversion of his household and himself. As we will see today, God's ways are higher than any man's and His thoughts are past finding. This was the beginning of a new phase of movements which has since continued till this very present moment - The Gentile Church!
CHANGE IN TIME (Vs 19)
Interestingly, beginning from this verse down, we are going to see some dramatic changes pre-planned by the Almighty God Himself for the sake of the propagation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Personnel change from our beloved Apostle Peter to Barnabas and Paul, location change from Jerusalem to Antioch and time referral to the persecution of Stephen.
It's amazing how God orchestrates events simultaneously. In Acts 8, while God was preparing the Ethiopian eunuch for salvation, He was also guiding Philip to their meeting place in the desert. While God was preparing Saul for conversion, He was preparing Ananias for meeting with Saul to restore his sight and while God was preparing Cornelius for the arrival of Peter, He was also preparing Peter to go to the home of a Gentile. Same is true for our text today, while the Jews in Jerusalem were debating the legitimacy of the salvation of Gentiles; God was already at work saving Gentiles.
HELLENISTIC JEWS, NOT THE HEBRAIC JEWS (Vs 20 - 21)
Of course, God is not partial, neither is there discrimination in Him. "He knows us inside and out.." (Psalm 103: 14a MSG)
In reaching out to the Hellenistic Jews, God used their fellow brethren (Stephen, Philip, Paul and Barnabas etc). "God was pleased with what they were doing and put his stamp of approval on it?quite a number of the Greeks believed and turned to the Master." (Vs 21 MSG)
Supports the truth that God was the one orchestrating this.
HEBRAIC JEWS DECISION ACTED UPON (Vs 22)
What the Jerusalem church leaders (including the apostles) had decided in principle, they now had to act upon in practice - by sending Barnabas to Antioch.
BARNABAS, A MAN SUBMITTED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT (Vs 23 - 26b)
Real Name, Joses of Cyprus. First mentioned in Acts 4:36 as the fore -runner in the act of charity. Nicknamed Barnabas (Son of encouragement) by the apostles. This verse implies that he has been in the background doing what he knows to do best - encouraging! Know any Barnabas in the house? Now finding themselves in the way they have not been used to, the Gentiles needed some cheering. Who else is most qualified to do this than our man? He's always done a good job in the lives of the Apostles when they needed to be encouraged. An incurable optimist! Nothing ever weighed him down! Barnabas was delighted at the salvation of these Gentiles. See what the word says about him;
When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them all to cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart. (Acts 11:23 AMP - Emphasis Mine)
Continuously! A true encourager is diligent in what he does. The source of this attribute is not far-fetched;
For he was a good man [good in himself and also at once for the good and the advantage of other people], full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit and full of faith (of his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation). And a large company was added to the Lord.
(Vs 24 AMP- Emphasis Mine)
It's not enough, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, with an evidence of speaking in tongues! The ultimate is to be led (controlled) by the Holy Spirit;
The true children of God are those who let God's Spirit lead them. (Rom 8:14 NCV)
We need to consciously train our spirit to obey the voice of the Spirit in little things. This is a sure way to grow. When we learn to obey little instructions, we will not struggle in obeying some destiny determining instructions as we grow in the Lord.
Barnabas did not only encourage these Gentile Christians, he also went to Tarsus and sought Saul. He was not threatened by God's gift in Paul. In fact, if you recall in Acts 9: 26 - 30, he was the one that recommended Paul to the leaders in Jerusalem. He also took Mark with him when rejected by Paul in Acts 15. Barnabas was indeed a very good man who always sought after the good of and what will benefit and be of advantage to other people. This is the legacy we should all leave for the coming generation!
ARE WE TRULY LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE? (Vs 26b - 30)
I believe that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch because of the sudden change in the Lifestyles of the Gentile believers! Sudden, because these have only been converted and taught the word of God for a Year! They were all very united in purpose and ultimately, LOVE! It was this love that compelled them to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea at the prophecy of an impending famine.
One of the first signs of the truly saved is in their undeniable willingness to give sacrificially (out of pure love). Giving in all forms. No wonder they were called Christians! The foundation upon which the Christian faith is built is LOVE! This is the ultimate and the highest walk! The very first response of the Gentiles to the faith that they have come to sincerely embraced was in their showing of Agape Love through giving.
Whereas agape love is eternal, tongues will cease when we leave this earth. Love (Agape) will cross the barrier of death and go on to Heaven with you. (Dave Roberson)
Friday, December 30 2011
In last week's study titled "God shows no Prejudice" we saw a new wave of the move of the Spirit - away from the traditionalist mind set. A new wave to get the purpose of Christ's death fulfilled - salvation to the whole world!
We saw how "protocol" was bypassed when the Holy Spirit came upon "Gentiles". Today we shall study the reaction of this move and learn a few lessons from what God wanted to achieve and how by His Spirit Peter handled criticism
Verses 1-3 [AMP];
The first three verses of this chapter tell us an undeniable truth - "Every Move of the Spirit always triggers varying reactions" The Amplified Bible makes this clearer.
1. Verse 1: "NOW THE apostles (special messengers) and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard [with astonishment] that the Gentiles (heathen) also had received and accepted and welcomed the Word of God [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God]."- Acceptance [they were happy to hear that the Gentiles were being saved]. They were excited and were impressed!
2. Verses 2 - 3: "So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party [certain Jewish Christians] found fault with him [separating themselves from him in a hostile spirit, opposing and disputing and contending with him], Saying, Why did you go to uncircumcised men and [even] eat with them?"- Criticism [instead of seeing the good in what happened, they found faults] they were majoring on the minors. The same still happens today to the point that we miss out on God's blessings!
The fuel behind this fire bothers around pride, selfishness, tradition and religion
Verses 4-16 [AMP];
PETER'S RESPONSE TO CRITICISM
Once again, the Amplified Bible throws the light needed.
Verse 4: "But Peter began [at the beginning] and narrated and explained to them step by step [the whole list of events]. He said:"
Peter narrated the story from the beginning - He explained himself [Read verses 5 - 16]
He revealed how he too fought with the thought of associating with the unclean [Gentiles]
Verse 8: "But I said, No, by no means, Lord; for nothing common or unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean has ever entered my mouth."[AMP]
And in verse 16, it all made sense to him [WHAT GOD WANTED TO DO]:
"Then I recalled the declaration of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with (be placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit."[AMP]
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM PETER'S RESPONSE?
a) Humility: It takes humility in a leader to explain their actions. He could have flipped the coin, turned the table over and attack them for condemning him and challenging his authority.
b) Sincerity: He did not deny that he struggled as well with this move of the Holy Spirit (Verse 8)
c) Empathy: He knew what they were going through (he's been there).
d) Wisdom: He knew (by revelation) what they did not know; and with wisdom brought them to the same understanding by his explanation and he then posed a rhetorical question that stilled them in verse 17:
"If then God gave to them the same Gift [equally] as He gave to us when we believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I and what power or authority had I to interfere or hinder or forbid or withstand God?"[AMP]
His final statement left his critics spellbound! It was Luke 21: 15 fulfilled!
"For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist." [KJV]
The message puts it this way:
"I'll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters."[MSG]
See verse 18: "When they heard this, they were quieted and made no further objection." [AMP]
Verse 18b - "And they glorified God, saying, Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto [real] life [after resurrection]."[AMP]
In conclusion, we will consider verse 18 in the MSG version, apply our hearts and learn:
"Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. "It's really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!"[MSG]
Peter did not feel threatened when he was challenged, hence he did not lash back at his accusers. Let's come aside for a while, what if Peter did not handle the situation humbly and wisely? The enemy would have used the foothold given to him and created a stronghold of disunity, they would have missed the opportunity to praise God, failed to realise what God was doing and completely derailed from the move of the Spirit.
Friday, December 30 2011
You are welcomed again to the book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Apostles. It's been a very remarkable and impacting experience so far, looking at these ministers of the most High God, breaking traditions and setting Godly standards during their existence on this planet earth.
Last week, we started the study on the encounter of Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Regiment, with an Angel of God. His life was going to be changed forever. Not only this, but any Judaism related mindset was also going to be broken in the lives of the Apostles too. Hitherto, the Apostles have been in their comfort zones - preaching Christ to the lost sons and daughters of Israel, Cornelius encounter introduces them to a God that shows no prejudice!
In our study today, we shall be looking at this portion of Acts 10 through series of questions and we trust God that this will break the mould in the church today, take us from our comfort zone, and propel us into the harvest which is already very ripe (Matthew 9:37).
ARE WE READY FOR CHANGE?
Do you like change? Few of us do. It is so easy to settle into a comfortable rut rather than endure the discomfort of change. This lesson is about changes that were necessary for the early church to grow. Ask God what changes are needed in your life for you to become your best.
You see, nothing can be liberating than the truth! Remember the words of Jesus in Mark 2:22? This is the purpose of today's study.
THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTIONS
The next day Peter and his six companions set out for Caesarea. How sure was Cornelius that Peter would come? Who arranged this meeting?
What was the first thing Peter said to this Gentile crowd? What had Peter finally come to realize through this experience?
How did Peter begin his sermon? What are some subtle ways we "show favoritism"?
Can you recall a time when you felt separated from others because of social, economic or racial differences?
Which of the following groups are represented in your church? Irish, Poor, Physically Challenged, Divorced, Widowed, Homeless, Addicts, Orphan, Former Convict, e.t.c. Does your church "look like" the nation?
How have you observed people react when someone of different race, dress, looks or economic status joins? How do you react? Why do you think churches are still so segregated?
How are prejudices formed? How does God view our prejudices? (James 2: 8-9) How can we relinquish them? Share your struggles and/or victories.
Reread verse 35. Does this mean Cornelius' good deeds had earned him salvation? If so, why did he still need Jesus? What is the most crucial "right" thing to do in life?
In what way was this event (Acts 10:44-46) similar to (Acts 2:1-4)? What is the significance?
What did Peter and his companions do to show confirmation of Peter's new revelation from the Lord? [Compare this with Acts 2:38]
Throughout this lesson we have observed two men who were open to change and new ideas. What is the lesson for you from their example? What change in your life required the most adjustment? What do you need to change now? Discuss your struggles and/or victories.
Throughout this section, Peter is taken through a process to end his prejudices. Trace the process. What process has God taken you through?
Consider how difficult it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have when you try to change others! This is the job of the Holy Spirit.
Friday, December 30 2011
Last week we studied how Phillip was used of God and the fact that God can use anyone to build his church. We saw the characteristics of Philip, faithfulness and obedience, preparedness and sensitivity in delivery, he was not religious and in tune with the Spirit & extremely zealous. Having been chosen to be used by God, we should observe these characteristics and allow God work His work in and through us.
And straightway - IMMEDIATELY; it was an evidence of the genuineness of his conversion that he was willing at once to show himself to be the friend and disciple of THE LORD JESUS. The great question to be determined, for the conviction of the Jews, was that Jesus was the Son of God the Christ, or Messiah. As soon as he knew Christ himself, he preached him to others, and whom he always made the subject of his ministry.
Verse 21: "But all that heard him were amazed . . ."
Not the disciples that believed in Christ, but the unbelievers, as shown by their words.
Verse 22: "But Saul increased the more in strength . . ."
Not of body, but of mind; his gifts and graces, and spiritual light and knowledge increased; his abilities were greater; his fortitude of mind, boldness, and freedom of speech, every day increased. He confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus; confuted them, and put them to silence, so that they had nothing to say for themselves, or against the truth.
He went into Arabia, where he continued about three years, and then returned to Damascus, where what is related happened to him; Galatians 1:17. The Jews took counsel to kill him; being filled with indignation at him, that he had changed his religion, and from a persecutor to a preacher of the Gospel.
Verse 24: "But their laying await was known of Saul . . ."
Either by divine revelation, or by some friends, who had got knowledge of it, and gave him information, as in Acts 23:16. God will always deliver from every evil.
Verse 26 "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem . . ."
Three years had passed since he left the city, a proud, talented young Pharisee, with brilliant worldly prospects, the honoured agent of the Sanhedrin, commissioned to stamp out Christianity at Damascus now returns a disciple of Him whom he sought to destroy. They were all afraid of him. Little was known in the church of the change. A great part of the three years were spent in Arabia, probably in study and preparation of his great work.
Barnabas - brought him to the apostles - That is, to Peter and James; for others of the apostles he saw none, Galatians 1:19. It appears that he went up at this time to Jerusalem merely to see Peter, with whom he abode fifteen days, Galatians 1:18.
Verse 28: "And be was with them . . ."
Peter and James, and the rest of the disciples; he lived with them, conversed with them, and joined with them in all religious exercises.
Verse 29: "And spake boldly . . ."
He openly defended the doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. He was branded an apostate: guilty of death.
They brought him down to Caesarea. The same class of Jews who had raised the persecution against Stephen now sought the death of Saul.
Then had all the churches rest owing either to the conversion of Saul or to the Jews being engrossed with the emperor Caligula's attempt to have his own image set up in the temple of Jerusalem.
The Churches having rest, the apostles made use of this interval of quiet to visit the different congregations, in order to build them up on their most holy faith
Verses 33 -35
Peter does not pretend to heal by any power of his own, but directs Eneas to look up to Christ for help. Peter knew Jesus will heal him. This miracle birthed soul winning.
Dorcas was full of MANY good works: She was constantly doing good. Many are full of good words but empty and barren in good works. Secondly it is good to note the appreciation of the people who acknowledged her good deeds. Ingratitude kills miracles.
Verse 40: "Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed"
It was not even known to Peter that God would work this miracle: therefore he put all the people out that he might seek the will of God by fervent prayer, and during his supplications he wanted no distraction or interruption.
Verse 41 - 43 "He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon."
God is still in the business of building His Church are you available for use? He is not looking for ability, He needs your availability.
Friday, December 30 2011
Introduction: Saul thought he was "the man", Oh how wrong he was! Chapter 8:1 says "Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen" [NLT]. He set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem, Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail. He must have thought he was destroying the work but forcing believers to leave home base, made all of them missionaries! Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus! He must have found out that the Gospel had reached Damascus (probably by the ministry of Phillip) so he went to obtain arrest warrants for believers in Damascus. (Vs. 1-2)
This set the stage for one of the greatest conversions the body of Christ will ever witness. Reading through the verses we ask ourselves . . .
"What can we learn?"
Let's look at these two maps and see God's hand at work:
· Stephen was killed in Jerusalem
· This sparked off a great persecution and the people became missionaries preaching everywhere they fled to
· Philip headed for Samaria and caused a spiritual shaking; with people turning to Christ
· The Spirit teleported him to the road to Gaza where he preached to the Eunuch after which he was dropped off in Azotus
· Philip continued to preach along the way from Azotus until he got to Caesarea as accounted of in Acts 8:40
· I strongly believe that he continued to Damascus because 9:1-2 says Saul was getting arrest warrants for believers in Damascus
Following from the last study, God saw something in Saul (He saw zeal that could be appropriately channelled) so He set him up (big time!) Remember what He did to Pharaoh? He set him up as well. God can use anyone, anything, any situation for His glory. Trust Him, He can use you too. Just be willing, obedient and sensitive to His spirit.
Friday, December 30 2011
Two weeks ago we looked at Acts 8: 1-25 "Satan's Intrusion to the Camp" how the persecution of the church led to the spread of the Gospel to Samaria. Focus was on Philip's ministry, Simon's conversion and sin and how the apostles handled the situation. Today, we are going to play "catch up" as we deal with last week's study as well as today's. First, last week's:
One of the things we notice about Philip was that he was used by God to perform wonders. He was the only one the Bible recorded was teleported. His ministry affected not only Samaria but Ethiopia as well as other cities. We all want to be used by God and today's study about Philip will shows us characteristics of people who could be used by God.
Philip could hear God and was faithfully obedient (Vs. 26 - 30)
To be used by God, we need to have a relationship with Him and be able to hear Him speak to us and not only to hear Him speak but to obey whatever He asks us to do (1 Sam 15:22)
He was prepared for the task and was sensitive in delivery (Vs. 31-35)
He started a conversation; in verse 30, he asked the Eunuch if he understood what he was reading. He did not just join the chariot and began to preach. Though approach may differ, it is vital not to force the Gospel down people's throat because they will naturally resist it. The Eunuch's answer created the right environment and Philip seized it and preached Jesus
Philip was not religious (Vs. 36-38)
He did not wait for a ceremony before he baptized the Eunuch; sometimes, we miss the opportunity to do what we are expected to do because we want to follow protocol and tradition. The heart of the Eunuch had been prepared by the Spirit of God and the Word of God, it was his time to be saved; and God needed the words of Philip's testimony to complete the salvation process. Having said that, baptism is only for people who understand God's word and choose baptism on the basis of their own faith in Jesus
Philip was in tune with the Spirit & extremely zealous (Vs. 39 - 40)
When it was time to go, he was ready to go, the Spirit took him away and dropped him off in Azotus where he continued preaching until he got to Caesarea. He caught the momentum and continued with it. He did not rest on his oars or hold on to yesterday's glory. He trudged on with zeal similar to the one that consumed Christ.
God can use anything to do His work. But He wants to use us; He needs to see something in us (that the ordinary man cannot see) before He uses us. One vital characteristic is a right, willing and obedient heart. Having been chosen to be used by God, we should then endeavour to keep the "environment" right, be sensitive to His voice, be willing and ready to faithfully obey His commands, be prepared - ready to go when He calls, put away tradition and religion that could stand in the way of the move of the Spirit and remain in tune with the Spirit; excited at the opportunity that God would want to use you!
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Friday, December 30 2011