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ACTS 8-14

TRACING THE CHURCH'S WITNESS TO THE WORLD

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
ACTS

 

ACTS 1:8

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS IN JERUSALEM (1-7)

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA (8) (the first barrier broken—between Jewish and Samaritan Christians)

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (9-28)
(the second barrier broken—between Jewish and Gentile Christians)

1. The Preparation Period (9-12)

2. The First Missionary Journey (13:1-15:35)

3. The Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)

4. The Third Missionary Journey (18:23-20:38)

5. Paul's Prison Journey and Imprisonment (21-28)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of
Acts

The author:  The author is not mentioned in the book.  We know from the book that the author traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and was with Paul in person from "we" being used in Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-21, 21:1-18, and 27:1-28:16.  Early church writings tell us that Luke was the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.  "The earliest of the external testimonies appears in the Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 170), where the explicit statement is made that Luke was the author of both the third Gospel and the 'Acts of All the Apostles.' Eusebius (c. 325) lists information from numerous sources to identify the author of these books as Luke (Ecclesiastes History, 3.4)" "NIV Study Bible Introduction."

Luke is mentioned in only three verses in the Bible.  But from these verses we learn much about him:  "Our dear friend Luke, the doctor . . . ." (Colossians 4:14a)  From this verse, we learn that he was a doctor and a good friend of Paul's.  We also learn of his loyalty to Paul, for he was with Paul while he was in prison.  Furthermore, we learn that he was a Gentile, for in 4:11 Paul said that those he just mentioned were "the only Jews among" his "fellow workers."  Then, in 4:14, he speaks of Luke.  So, he was not a Jew but a Gentile.  He was, therefore, the only Gentile author of the books of the New Testament.

"And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers." (Philemon 24)  Paul, here, describes Luke as one of his "fellow workers."  Luke, on these journeys was not someone like a news reporter who came along on these journeys with Paul, but he was one of the "workers" in the ministry—he was involved in the work of sharing the gospel and making disciples.

"Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Timothy 4:11)  Luke was with Paul at his second imprisonment and he was probably with him there in Rome when he was killed—tradition tells us Paul was killed by Nero.

We learn of Luke's method of gathering information from Luke 1:1-4.  "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."  In these verses, we find four steps in how what Luke wrote came to us and was recorded:  1) Jesus' life fulfilled prophesies made about Him ("that have been fulfilled among us").  2) The accounts "were handed down" from "eyewitnesses."  Although Luke was not an eyewitness, what he recorded was passed on to him from "eyewitnesses."  3) Luke "carefully investigated" what was passed on to him.  4) Luke wrote it down.  Then, Luke sums it up saying, "that you may know the certainty" that what is recorded in the Gospel of Luke is accurate.

The book of Acts takes off right where the Gospel of Luke leaves off, by reviewing the last words of Luke in more detail, and continuing on from there.  "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."  (Acts 1:1-3) 

Who was this "Theophilus"?  We are not told anywhere.  "Theophilus"  means "God lover."  It may refer to all Christians, but it is most likely he was some Gentile official.  "Most excellent" was an appropriate way to speak to an official of some type.  Luke may have written these two accounts to some official as a defense against charges that were made against Christianity, Jesus, and Paul.

The historical accuracy of Luke's account in the book of Acts was challenged by the skeptic William Ramsay.  John Stott described what Ramsay's personal pursuit of truth led to:  "Sir William Ramsay . . . who at first had been an admiring student of the radical critic F. C. Baur, was later led by his own researches to change his mind.  He tells us in his St Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen (1895) that he began his investigation 'without any prejudice in favour of the conclusion' which he later reached, but 'on the contrary . . . with his mind unfavorable to it.'  Yet he was able to give reasons 'for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank.'" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

 

THE MESSAGE OF ACTS

In Acts 1:8, Jesus gives the church its mission.  "'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'"    The book of Acts describes how that mission was carried out.  Also, the book of Acts describes how the church developed from a small band of Jesus' followers to the worldwide movement that it became.  We see in the book of Acts the power of Jesus Christ and the strategy used by His followers to penetrate a pagan society and transform people's lives from Jerusalem and beyond.

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA (8) (The first barrier broken—the Samaritans became part of the church.)

1. The persecution scatters the church into Samaria (8:1-3) (Stephen got the fire burning and Saul, the anti-Christian and future apostle, spreads the fire)
"And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison."

Thought Question:  What are some ways, that you are aware of, where persecution has ended up helping God's work to go forward (in the church or in the lives of a Christian or Christians)?

 

 

"And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria."  In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised the church the following: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Here in Acts 8:1, we learn how the church began to spread out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria.  Persecution in Jerusalem spread to church beyond Jerusalem.  Like a rock thrown into a campfire scatters the flames beyond the campfire, so persecution against the church in Jerusalem scattered the church beyond Jerusalem.

So, the church was scattered and the seed of the gospel was sown outside of Jerusalem.  The church was scattered, but the result was not negative; for its witness was also scattered.  As a result, a crop was produced outside of Jerusalem.

"and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria."  We can only conclude that "the apostles" remained in Jerusalem because of both their courage and their conviction that they were to remain as leaders in the founding church of Christianity.  As we will see, the church of Jerusalem remained a key to the stability of the early church.  James, the brother of Jesus and Peter were leaders there. See Acts 15

"Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him."  The Greek word translated "witness" in Acts 1:8 is martures.  From this Greek word, we get our word "martyr."  Stephen had been a bold witness in Jerusalem, and he became the first martyr of the church.  "The word translated 'witness' has given us our word 'martyr.'  The reason is simple: so many of the early Christian witnesses became martyrs."  Jerome stated it well: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church."  We see here the great respect that was felt for this godly man Stephen who died proclaiming the truth powerfully, though he knew it was a truth that those in religious power in Jerusalem did not want to hear.  He continues to be respected today.  My wife and I named our son after him.  And these men who buried him took "a considerable personal risk by . . . identifying with Stephen." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison."  "Like the laying waste of a vineyard by a wild boar." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." See Psalm 80:13  "The verb lumaino ["destroy"] expresses a brutal and sadistic cruelty." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

Saul (the future Paul the apostle) became the head of the religious Gestapo in Jerusalem, doing what the German Gestapo would later do in Germany and in other countries to rid the world of the hated Jews.  Saul was seeking to rid the world of the hated Christians in much the same way.  All of us who became Christians later in life have sad memories of our pre-Christian life.  These days of Paul were part of his sad memories. See Acts 22:4; Galatians 1:13  See also Acts 9:1-2, 26:9-11

2. Philip's preaching leads to Samaritans becoming part of the church (8:4-13)

a. Philip's ministry to the Samaritans begins (8:4-8)
"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city."

Thought Question:  Those who were "scattered preached the word wherever they went."  Where are there opportunities to share the good news today?

 

 

"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."  The Greek word translated "preached" is the word from which we get our word "evangelize."  They were sharing the gospel message.  "Those who had been scattered" were not the apostles, but ordinary Christians.  The church reached new people by the gospel witness of ordinary Christians.  Some feel that it is only the professional and trained Christians that have the responsibility for reaching the world with the gospel message.  That is not what took place in the early church.  Ordinary Christians shared the gospel message at great risk to themselves.  They believed that they had such great news to share that they needed to tell the world about Jesus Christ and what He has done for us all.

"Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there."  "Samaria" was a mongrel group of people between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south.  When the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C., their pattern was to bring people from another conquered country and put them into the newly conquered country.  Then, they also took people out of the newly conquered country and transplanted them into other conquered countries.  As a result, the Jews that remained in "Samaria" intermarried with the people introduced to their land and created a mongrel people made up of mixed races. See John 4:9

"Philip" who was later called "Philip the evangelist" (21:8) "proclaimed the Christ" where he had been forced to go.  We also are to take root wherever we are planted.  Then, we are also to seek to reach those around us with the gospel message.

"When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said."  God continued to show that the church was His church by giving its leaders the ability to perform miracles.  God helped Philip in this new mission field in "Samaria" by enabling him to do miracles.

"With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed."  Here, we are told the types of miracles that Philip performed.  "Evil spirits came out of" people "with shrieks."  When Jesus delivered people from "evil spirits," it was somewhat similar.  "Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God.'" (Mark 3:11)

"So there was great joy in that city."  God's truth, God's power, and God's light had come into a dark place; and, as a result, "there was great joy in that city."

b. Philip's ministry attracts Simon the sorcerer (8:9-13)
"Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.' They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw."

Thought Question:  What do we learn about this man "Simon" that will help us to tell the difference between when a man is truly from God and when he is a false spokesman for God?

 

 

"Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.' They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic." 

Through the years there have been many false teachers and false Messiahs.  "Simon" was a false teacher.  We are given here some ways that we can distinguish false teachers from genuine teachers.  A major goal of false teachers is that people come to think that they are "great."  "Simon" "boasted that he was someone great."  A genuine teacher will want people to see God's greatness.  A second characteristic of false teachers is that people will be drawn not to God, but to him or her.  Here, "Simon" "amazed all the people" "with his magic."

"But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw."  It appears that "Simon" was attracted by Philip's miracles and joined those that followed him.  He was "astonished by the great signs and miracles" that God enabled "Philip" to perform.  Luke says that he also "believed and was baptized."  Did he become a genuine Christian?  What he did later causes us to question whether his belief was genuine.  That will be dealt with in the coming verses. See 8:18-24

3. The apostles officially welcome the Samaritan believers into the church (8:14-25)

a. The apostles lay hands on the new Samaritan believers and they receive the Holy Spirit (8:14-17)
"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."

Thought Question:  Is what happened here to be a regular way in which the Holy Spirit is received or is it a unique situation?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." 

These verses bring up a number of issues that have divided Christians in belief and practice for many years.  A key to resolving some of the issues is to determine whether or not what happened here is meant to be a regular pattern in the church.  Should people believe and be baptized and then at some later time have an official in the church lay hands on them; and, then, they will receive the Holy Spirit?  Another issue that is brought up by these verses is whether these believers in Samaria believed first and later were regenerated or born again when the apostles laid hands on them, or whether they were regenerated by the Holy Spirit and then received the Holy Spirit in some different way when the apostles laid "hands" on them.

First of all, even in the book of Acts, what happened to the Samaritans was not a normal practice when someone believed.  When Peter preached and 3,000 Jews believed, the apostles did not go around and lay hands on these new believers so that they could receive the Holy Spirit.  Peter said to them, " . . . Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

Also, when "Philip" led the Ethiopian Eunuch to believe in Jesus, he did not lay hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit, nor did the apostles come to lay hands on him. See 8:26-40  Paul did lay hands on a group of John the Baptist's followers and they received the Holy Spirit. See Acts 19:1-7

We should be careful not to base our doctrinal beliefs on a narrative in the Bible.  Just because something happened once in a particular way does not mean that it is to become normative for the church from that time on.  For example, Jesus washed the disciples' feet.  Should pastors and church leaders, as part of regular church ritual, wash their church members' feet?

Here, there was a unique reason why "the apostles" traveled to "Samaria" to lay "hands" on these Samaritan believers.  If "the apostles" had not gone to "Samaria," there probably would have been two churches—the Jewish church and the Samaritan church.  "The apostles," by laying "hands" on these Samaritan believers, included them into the church—that from that time on was made up of both Jews and Samaritans.  Also, it appears that God chose to not give them the Holy Spirit immediately so that this giving of the Holy Spirit described here by the laying on of the "hands" of "the apostles" would dramatically include them in the church.

It appears that until "the apostles" laid "hands" on these Samaritan believers, they were like Old Testament believers and like Jesus' disciples were before Pentecost. See John 7:37-39  It was a Samaritan Pentecost.

Now, all who believe in Christ are like Jesus' disciples after Pentecost and like the Samaritan believers after "the apostles" laid "hands" on them.  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)  "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:13)

The book of Acts describes a transition from the Old Testament pattern of God revealing Himself to the world through the nation of Israel to God revealing Himself through the New Testament church made up of both Jews and Gentiles indwelt by God's Spirit.  This transition period should not be used to determine what should be normative for those of us who are now part of the New Testament church.  In short, though the Samaritan believers went through two stages in becoming full-fledged members of the church; but we do not need to go through those two stages today.

The next issue is more difficult to unravel.  Were these Samaritan believers already born-again of God's Spirit before "the apostles" laid "hands on them"?  In other words, were they born-again upon believing Philip's message about Jesus and then later received the Spirit in power?  Or, were they unregenerate believers who later were born-again when "the apostles" laid "hands" on them?  It is my contention that they were at first like Old Testament believers and like Jesus' disciples before Pentecost.  Then, I ask another question, "Were Old Testament believers born again of the Holy Spirit?"  And a similar question,  "Were the pre-Pentecost disciples born again before they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?"  Calvinists must believe that Old Testament believers were born again, for they believe that no one can believe in Jesus until he or she has already been born again.  To them, it is only the Holy Spirit already indwelling us that gives us the ability and desire to believe—we, then, are born again before we have faith.  The Old Testament does not teach that there is a need to be born again of the Holy Spirit, but it does promise a future New Covenant that will result in people being born again—made possible by the blood of Christ.  "'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:33)  "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

The pre-Pentecost disciples of Jesus did not have the Spirit in this way.  "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39)

New Testament exhortations are based on this indwelling Holy Spirit in each Christian. See Romans 8:3-11; Galatians 5:16-25  There are no similar exhortations to Old Testament believers.

My conclusion, therefore, is that being born-again by the Spirit and the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit began at Pentecost.  This view, I believe, explains best what happened in the book of Acts as the Holy Spirit came upon people.  The fact that there is so little taught in the Old Testament on the Holy Spirit; whereas, the New Testament is filled with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit backs up this view.  It is an issue that I have pondered for many years.  A big part of the difficulty I have had with this subject is that there is little in the Old Testament that addresses this subject.  So, most Bible scholars avoid addressing the subject directly or admit that they are not sure about what is true.  Here is an example: "The doctrine of regeneration is obscure in the Old Testament." "Taken from Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer. Volume VII under "regeneration. Copyright 1948 by Dallas Seminary Press."  So, I lean toward the view that regeneration or being born-again began for all believers at Pentecost, and that these Samaritans believed but were not born-again by the Spirit until "the apostles" laid "hands on them."   John Stott puts it this ways: "These things have no precise parallels in our day, because there are no longer any Samaritans or any apostles of Christ." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

b. Simon tries to buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit (8:18-25)
"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.' Then Simon answered, 'Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.' When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages."

Though Question:  In what ways is Simon's motivations different from what a Christian leader's motives should be like?

 

 

"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'"  "Simon" saw that "the apostles" were enabled by God to do that which was supernatural.  We are not told what "Simon saw" that revealed that supernatural power was coming on people as the new believers received "the Holy Spirit."  They may have seen and heard them speaking in other languages as happened at Pentecost.  Whatever happened, "Simon" knew that God had enabled "the apostles" to give His "Spirit" to people, and he wanted to be able to also have the power to do that.  So, he offered to pay them to get that power.  "He was not interested in bringing the Holy Spirit to others so much as in the power and the prestige it would bring to himself.  The exaltation of self is ever the danger of the preacher and the teacher." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"Trafficking in things sacred like ecclesiastical preferments in England is called Simony because of this offer of Simon." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'"  By making this sordid request, Simon shows what was in his heart.  He had not truly become a follower of Christ.  He had merely gotten on the bandwagon of the latest miracle workers in town.  He wanted some of the prestige they were getting.  "Peter" immediately and bluntly describes the selfish state of his heart.  "Your request shows that you are on the way to hell.  May you money be burned up also."  And Peter states that "Simon" would never have a part in "this ministry."

But "Peter" does give him a way to get right with God: "Repent."  "Simon" could admit that his request and the heart attitude it came from was wicked.  I believe the "perhaps" is not the doubt that God will forgive him it if he truly repented, but the doubt that "Simon" would truly "repent." 

"'For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'"  This is why, I believe, that Peter is uncertain that "Simon" will truly "repent."  His heart was filled with the opposite of humble mourning over his sin.  Peter must have thought that Simon was too far along in wickedness to be able to truly "repent."  Simon's type of "bitterness" is described in Deuteronomy 29:18: "Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison." (Deuteronomy 29:18)

"Then Simon answered, 'Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.'"  "Simon" does not pray and ask God's forgiveness, but he asks "Peter" to "pray" for him.  This is the last mention of "Simon" in the Bible.  There many accounts of him, though, outside of the Bible; but we cannot be certain about whether or not they are accurate accounts.  Primarily, he may have been a key figure in the spread of the Gnostic movement—a great threat to the early Christian church.

"He is reported by Irenaeus to have started a heretical teaching referred to as 'Simonian doctrine.'   Irenaeus and others regarded him as the first major heretic, the initiator  of a long chain of interrelated errors.  The modern association of Gnostic origins with heretical forms of Judaism may suggest that their instinct was not far from wrong." "Taken from The New Bible Dictionary article on Simon Magnus.  Copyright 1962 by Wm. B. Erdmanns Publishing Co."

"When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages."  "Peter and John returned to Jerusalem," but on the way, they began to follow Philip's example and preached "the gospel in many Samaritan villages."  In fulfillment of Jesus' prediction, the gospel and the church had spread from "Jerusalem," to "all Judea and Samaria." (Acts 1:8)

4. God uses Philip to reach an Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-40)

a. The Ethiopian eunuch asks Philip to explain Isaiah 53 to him (8:26-35)
"Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.' Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: 'He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.' The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?' Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus."

Thought Question:  Describe a time when you or someone close to you had an open door to share the gospel with someone like Philip had here?

 

 

"Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians."  This is one of those times when God leads in a direction that does not make sense at the time.  This "desert road" was not a "road" that an evangelist like "Philip" would typically choose.  Instead, evangelists normally choose to go to heavily populated regions.  "He could not have picked an emptier stretch of road.  There are no cities or villages enroute . . . . He leaves the awakening that is going on in Samaria, with its demands for training and teaching, and goes down to a desert road." "Taken from Birth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1974 Vision House Publishers." 

Years ago, I believed that God was leading me to leave a college ministry that was thriving to work in a little church that was just getting started.  I became a Christian at 27 and was still unmarried two years later in seminary.  I was getting concerned about meeting the right person.  Leaving the college ministry where there were many opportunities to meet the right person to go to a ministry where I was unlikely to meet even a single person my age made it a poor choice, humanly speaking.  But, I chose to go to minister at the little church.  That year, I met Shirley.  We have now been married more than forty years.  Philip also chose to obey God and go to this remote "road," even though I am sure it did not make sense to him at the time.

On this "road" was a man who held a high position in the country of Ethiopia.  He worked for the "queen."  The "queen's" name was not "Candace."  "Candace" was the name given to all queens in Ethiopia.  "The 'Ethiopia' of those days corresponded to what we call 'the Upper Nile,' reaching approximately from Aswan to Khartoum." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"When told that that a man was Ethiopian, people of the ancient Mediterranean world would assume that he was black, for that is the way that Ethiopians are described by Herodotus and others." "Dr. Constable's notes.  He quotes Tannehill."

"It was not uncommon for men in high Near Eastern government positions to be castrated.  This prevented them from impregnating royal women and then making claims on the throne.  However the word 'eunuch' (Gr. eunouchos) appears often in the Septuagint (e.g., of Potipher, Gen. 39:1) and in other Greek writings describing a high military or political figure.  This Eunuch may, therefore, not have been emasculated but simply a high official.  Some scholars believe he was both." Dr. Constable's notes."

"This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.' Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked."  This is what is called an "open door" for evangelism.  When God opens a door, it is very easy to walk through it.  The "Ethiopian" official was reading a chapter in the Bible that predicts the Messiah.  It turns out that he was very eager to understand it.  All Philip needed to do was ask a simple question, and, as we will see, it was very easy for "Philip" to share that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

"The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.'"  Here, the Bible is clear that "the Spirit" is a Person—a Person spoke to Philip.

"This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,"  "In those days the world was full of people who were weary of the many gods and the loose morals of the nations.  They came to Judaism and there found the one God and the austere moral standards which give life meaning.  If they accepted Judaism and were circumcised they were called proselytes; if they did not go that length but continued to attend Jewish Synagogues and to read the Jewish Scriptures they were called God-fearers.  This Ethiopian must have been one of these searchers who came to rest in Judaism either as a proselyte or a God-fearer." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him."  This man in such a high position in his country was also a humble man.  He quickly and freely admits that he does not understand what he is reading.  As a young Christian, I learned that Christians should seek after disciples who are F.A.T. people—Faithful, Available, and Teachable.  This "eunuch" was one of those people, "so he invited Philip to come up and sit with him."

"The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: 'He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.' The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?' Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus." 

Are we not all glad that the New Testament confirms that Isaiah 53 is a prediction of the Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.  "Philip" uses these verses to share about Jesus.  As a child, I memorized Isaiah 53:6.  "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)  I, at that time, knew it was describing our sin being placed on Jesus.  I did not know at that time, though, that this verse and all of the verses in Isaiah 53 were written about 700 years before Jesus was born.  It is a remarkable prediction of Jesus, and "Philip" explained to this "Ethiopian eunuch" how it predicted Jesus' death for his sin.

Jesus also stated that Isaiah 53 predicted Him and His death for us.  "This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'" (Matthew 8:17)  "Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: 'Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'" (John 12:37-38) See also Luke 12:37

b. The Ethiopian eunuch is baptized (8:36-40)
"As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?' And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea."

Thought Question #1:  Do you believe that these verses give proof that the baptism that was practiced at that time was by immersion?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that Philip was miraculously taken away and transported to another place? (like being raptured)  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?' And he gave orders to stop the chariot."  Somehow, the "eunuch" knew that belief in Jesus was expressed through baptism.  "Philip" may have told him; he may have heard it in Jerusalem; or, because Gentiles were baptized who entered the Jewish faith, he may have assumed that his new faith required that he be baptized.  But, whatever the reason, he was now eager to be baptized.

"Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him."  The fact that they "went down into the water" makes it more likely that what is being described here was baptism by immersion.  If it had been sprinkling or pouring, they would not have needed to get into the water.  Romans 6 shows that baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Baptism by immersion fulfills this symbolism—as the person being baptized goes under the water, the death and burial of Jesus Christ is symbolized; then, as he or she comes up out of the water, it symbolizes his or her identification with the resurrection of Christ. See Romans 6:1-10

Jesus "coming up out of the water" in Mark 1:10 also appears to be describing baptism by immersion.

In the KJV there is a verse 37 that reads: "And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest, and he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God."  This verse is not in the earliest manuscripts and appears to be a baptismal liturgy that was added later.

"When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing."  Some dismiss the idea that "Philip" was carried away miraculously.  They say, for example, that both "Philip" and the "eunuch" were so filled with the Spirit and with "rejoicing" that they suddenly realized that they were all alone.  But, in the next verse, it says that "Philip" "appeared at Azotus" which is "19 miles from Gaza" "NIV Study Bible note."  It is unlikely that "Philip" did not realize that he was alone until 19 miles later.  Everyone who has hiked 3 or 4 miles knows how unlikely that is. 

"the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away,"  "Suddenly and miraculously, for harpazo, like the Latin rapio, means to carry off.  Cf. II Cor.12:2; I Thess 4:17" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  What happened to "Philip" was like the rapture by Jesus Christ described and predicted in I Thessalonians 4:13-17.  "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

"Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea."  "Azotus" is "60 miles from Caesarea . . . his next appearance is 20 years later, and he is still located in the same place (21:8)." "NIV Study Bible note."

THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (9-28) (The Conversion of the Gentiles)

1. The preparation period (9-12)

a. The conversion of Paul—the apostle to the Gentiles (9:1-31)

(1) Paul's dramatic conversion (9:1-9) See also Acts 22:1-22 and 26:1-18
"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything."

Thought Question:  Did Jesus force Paul to change directions or did Paul make that decision himself?  Please explain your answer to this question.

 

 

"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem."

"The taste of blood in the death of Stephen was pleasing to young Saul (8:1) and now he reveled in the slaughter of the saints both men and women." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

The Christian Paul describes what he was like at that time in Acts 26:9-11: "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them."

How could Paul, who was the greatest evangelistic missionary of the church, have been so completely hateful of all that was Christian?  Down through the years, the worst persecutors of Christians have been religious people.  Paul admits in Acts 26 that the problem for him and for religious people who persecute Christians is self-righteousness. See Matthew 23:27-32; Philippians 3:1-11; I Timothy 1:12-16

"Synagogues in Damascus"  "Damascus" was and is about 150 miles to the northeast of Jerusalem.  Paul probably heard that some of the Christians from Jerusalem were hiding out in "Damascus"; and he wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem to face his judgment and his wrath.  His hate for Christians had driven him to go on a 150 mile journey so that the Christians there would need to face the same fate as those he had already captured in Jerusalem.

" who belonged to the Way,"  Christianity was called "the Way" before it was called Christianity. See also 16:17, 19:9,23, 22:4, 24:14,22 See also John 14:6

"whether men or women,"  Paul was also a persecutor of women.

"As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'"  In his self-righteous fury, Paul was nearing "Damascus."  Jesus predicted that there would be those who would kill Christians who would believe that they were "offering a service to God." (John 16:2)  Certainly, Paul fit that definition.  He thought that God was in support of what he was doing.  Then, very suddenly, he finds out that Jesus is God, and that he is persecuting the followers of God.

We learn from Acts 22:6 and 26:13 that this startling event took place around "noon," and that the light was "brighter that the sun." (Acts 26:13)  We get more details on what happened in Acts 26: "'We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”'" (Acts 26:14-18) See also I Corinthians 15:8 and Galatians 1:15-17

So, suddenly, everything changed for Paul.  Instead of going to "Damascus" to root out belief in Jesus Christ, he had come face to face with Jesus and now knew that He is God!  He would now go into "Damascus" not to oppose Jesus, but in obedience to Jesus as his Lord.

"The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone."  Acts 22:9 says:  "My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me."  "They heard the sound (9:7), but did not understand the words. (22:9)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  In 26:14, Paul said: "'We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me. . . . ”'"

In 26:14, Paul tells us that Jesus said to him: "It is hard for you to kick against the goads."  A "goad" was a spiked stick that was used to poke particularly a young oxen that was kicking and being unruly while pulling a plow.  When the oxen kicked, the handler would poke his feet with the "goad" until it stopped kicking.

God had been prodding "Saul" to believe in Jesus, and "Saul" had been fighting it—but it was as Jesus said, "hard" to fight it.  What were the goads?  One of the goads was both Stephen's testimony and His prayer that the sin of those who were murdering him would not be held against them. See Acts 7:60  Also, it was the life of Jesus in the people that he was persecuting who continued to believe in Jesus, though it led to their death and imprisonment.  "But Saul would kick against the goads and push the thoughts away.  He knew something was wrong but was unwilling to examine himself or repent." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Here, it says that "the men traveling with Saul stood there speechless"; but in 26:14, Luke records Paul as saying "We all fell to the ground."  Did Luke contradict himself?  Like many apparent contradictions in the Bible, both are true and there is no contradiction.  During the entirely of the event, at one point "they stood there speechless"; and at another point in time, they "fell to the ground."

"Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything."  The ferocious and very able "Saul" the Pharisee, trained by Gamaliel, was now as helpless as a tiny child.  Paul's sudden and awesome experience with Jesus had transformed him from a very self-confident man into a very weak and sightless man.  He was entering "Damascus" much differently than he had planned.

The application to us is very obvious.  For us to seek God, we need to see that we have been going in the wrong direction.  Paul recognized this very dramatically.  For most of us, we learn over a period of time that life without God and life lived in the darkness is the wrong direction.  Jesus dramatized this whole process in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The prodigal turned from his father—us turning from God—and his life went downhill, until he realized that he would be better off being a servant in his father's house.  Instead, his father welcomes him back—as God welcomed "Saul" and as God welcomes us also when we turn back to Him.

Saul's conversion, though dramatic, resulted in "Saul" voluntarily following Christ.  John Stott explains that Jesus' appearance to "Saul" did not coerce or force "Saul" to follow Him.  "The Christ who appeared to him and spoke to him did not crush him.  He humbled him, so that he fell to the ground, but he did not violate his personality.  He did not demean Saul into a robot or compel him to perform certain actions in a kind of hypnotic trance.  On the contrary, Jesus put to him a probing question, 'Why do you persecute me?'  He thus appealed to his reason and conscience, in order to bring into his consciousness the folly and evil of what he was doing.  Jesus then told him to get up and go into the city, where he would be told what to do next.  And Saul was not so overwhelmed by the vision and the voice, as to be deprived of speech and unable to reply.  No, he answered Christ's question with counter-questions: first; 'Who are you, Lord?' (5) and secondly, 'What shall I do, Lord?' (22:10)  His response was rational, conscientious, and free." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

(2) God uses a man named Ananias to lead Saul into regaining his sight and into being baptized (9:10-19a)
"In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, 'Ananias!' 'Yes, Lord,' he answered. The Lord told him, 'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.' 'Lord,' Ananias answered, 'I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.' But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.' Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength."

Thought Question: What is there that is admirable about how "Ananias" responded to God?

 

 

"In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, 'Ananias!' 'Yes, Lord,' he answered. The Lord told him, 'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.'"

"for he is praying."  Paul was also fasting. See 9:9  This showed that Paul had humbled himself.  What was Paul praying about?  Certainly, he was asking God to forgive him for horribly persecuting His people, the Christians.

"There is a joyful, poetic irony in the Holy Spirit's choice of two names which elsewhere in the New Testament are tainted: Judas and Ananias.  Judas Iscariot was the betrayer of our Lord, and Ananias was the first Christian to manifest the deceit and hypocrisy of an unreal life.  Yet here two people who bear these same two names who are honored and used of God." "Taken from Birth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1974 Vision House Publishers." 

"Ananias"  "means 'Jehovah is gracious.'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street'"  "This was a great street that ran from the east to the west of Damascus.  It was divided into three parts, a centre part where that traffic ran, and two sidewalks where the pedestrians thronged and the merchant-men sat in their little booths and plied their trade." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  "Straight Street, by the way, is still a main thoroughfare in Damascus known as Derb Le-Mustaquim." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

The task given by God to "Ananias" was a difficult one for a number of reasons: 1) There were no apostles to go with Ananias.  He was to go to Paul with only the authority of what God had said to him.  (2) As we will see, he was aware of Saul's reputation for imprisoning and executing Christians.

"'Lord,' Ananias answered, 'I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.'"  The Christians in "Damascus" had heard that Paul was coming after them, and they even knew that he had "authority from the chief priests" from Jerusalem.  "Ananias" was inclined to run from him, not go to him.

"But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'"  God chose "Saul," later the apostle Paul, before "Saul" chose him.  Paul was to become God's apostle to "the Gentiles."  Paul describes himself as having this mission in Ephesians 3:7-8: "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . ." See also Romans 1:5; Galatians 1:15-17

God also chose Paul to proclaim the gospel message to "kings." See Acts 25:22-36:31  And, finally, Paul was to be a witness to "the people of Israel."  Paul's pattern when he went into a primarily Gentile city was to go first to the synagogue in that town or to a gathering place of Jews. see Acts 13:14-43, 14:1, 16;13-14, 17:1-4, etc.

"'I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'"  Why is suffering always part of the life of those who are obedient Christ?  There are a number of reasons.  First, seeking others' best no matter what it costs us requires that we be patient, forgive, and seek to understand even when we are not understood.  True love will always lead to suffering as we pursue others' best.  Secondly, when we truly serve God, we must tell others what they do not want to hear.  When people prefer a lie to the truth, they do not want to hear the truth.  Next, when we are seeking to obey Jesus, we are on God's side against the ruler of this world and his spiritual forces.  Also, when we are seeking that Jesus be obeyed and glorified, we are living in opposition to men's desire that they be glorified.  Paul later recognized that the more he submitted to Christ, the more he would also suffer.  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11)

"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength." 

"Ananias" believed that "Saul" had become a "brother" in the Christian faith.  A few years ago, my wife Shirley and I were in a church Kabale, Uganda for the first time.  We were asked to introduce ourselves.  Then, the pastor said that from now on, we would no longer be strangers—we were from that time part of their church family.  He, next, led the church in singing a song of welcome to us.  As we felt part of that church family (and still do), so "Saul" felt that he was part of the Christian family after he was welcomed as "Brother Saul." 

We need to stop and consider Ananias' courage and obedience to God.  Though "Ananias" is only mentioned one more time in the Bible, he was a key person and a Christian hero.  He, by himself, went to the greatest enemy of the church—a man who might have suddenly turned on him and imprisoned him—and, in faith, welcomed him into the church.

"Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again."  "Saul" was blind "for three days." (9:9)  Luke does not say "scales fell from Saul's eyes," but "something like scales fell from Saul's eyes."  It may be that Paul shared with Luke what it was like for him when his sight was restored.

"'and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'"  It appears that Saul was "filled with the Holy Spirit" when "Ananias" laid his "hands" on him.  It was similar to how the Samaritan believers "received the Holy Spirit" when the apostles Peter and John laid hands on them. See 8:17  There is nothing said about whether or not there were any miraculous signs besides the healing of the blindness that accompanied Paul being "filled with the Holy Spirit"—like the miraculous speaking in tongues.

"He got up and was baptized"  "Saul" obeyed Jesus and was "baptized."  He publicly  proclaimed through the ordinance of baptism his identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. See Romans 6:1-10

(3) Saul begins his ministry to the Gentiles in Damascus (9:19b-25)
"spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, 'Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?' Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall."

Thought Question: What do you think was going through Paul's mind when he was being "lowered" "in a basket"?  

 

 

"spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, 'Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?'"  Here, we have evidence of Paul's complete conversion—his whole life made a 180 degree turn and he was now going in the exact opposite direction from where he was going before.  Paul's encounter with Jesus turned this zealous Pharisee and hater of Jesus into a zealous apostle and lover of Jesus.  Just as the whole city was going to see his hatred of Christians as he ravaged the city searching for and capturing Jews, now the whole city heard from his own lips that "Jesus is the Son of God."

Paul had that new Christian enthusiasm.  Hughes makes this observation: "Every Christian goes through three states: 'This is easy!'—'This is difficult!'—"This is impossible!'  Saul was in the first stage." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan."  We learn in Galatians 1:15-18 what Luke left out. "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days."

The "Arabia" is not our modern-day "Arabia," but part of the "Arabia" of Paul's time that was a desert region near "Damascus."  So, Paul spent some time there undoubtedly realizing that Jesus was the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament.  So, Paul must have spent time looking at those prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament.  So, he "grew more and more powerful"as he began to understand how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies.  Just as Jesus explained this to two travelers on the road to Emmaus, so Jesus spiritually revealed this to Paul.  "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)  "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:31-32)

Paul then returned to "Damascus" and preached.  His knowledge of the Scriptures and his ability to persuasively argue that Jesus is the Messiah "baffled the Jews living in Damascus."  Did he win them over?  He may have thought that he was winning them over; but, instead, he discovered that they were conspiring "to kill him.""The Jews" were seeking to do to him what he had desired to do to Christians.  Now, he was in the shoes of those he had once hated.  "the hunter was now the hunted." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972." 

"After many days had gone by,"  We learn in Galatians that the "many days" was "three years."  We are not told what part of the "three years" was spent in "Damascus" and how long he was in Arabia; only that the full time was "three years." 

"Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall."  In II Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul gives us some more details about this event.  "In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands."  The "governor under King Aretas "guarded" the "city gates."  There appears to have been the same type of arrangement between the civil government and chief priests in Jerusalem that would have allowed Paul to arrest Christians in "Damascus" and take them to Jerusalem.  Now, this arrangement was working against Paul.

How was Paul able to be "lowered" through an "opening in the wall"?  Barclay explains that the large wall of cities "were often wide enough for a chariot to be driven around on top of them.  In these walls there were houses whose windows often projected over the walls.  In the dead of night Paul was taken into one of these houses, let down with ropes in a basket and so smuggled out of Damascus." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

In II Corinthians, Paul shares this incident as one of many examples that shows his human weakness.  It was a very humbling time for Paul.  He thought that when he, the great Bible scholar, persuaded his fellow Jews, he could win them over.  Instead, they wanted to kill him.  That was not the response that he expected.  Then, he became a "basket case" as he was "lowered" "in a basket" to escape them.

God uses our failures to teach us that it is not our human abilities that will accomplish His goals.  He needs us to see our weakness so that we will depend on His strength. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) See also II Corinthians 1:8-19, 4:7-11; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:29

(4) The disciples reject him, but Barnabas accepts him (9:26-31)
"When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord."

Thought Question:  What do you find that is admirable about the way Barnabas responded to the converted "Saul"?

 

 

"When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." 

For a short time, "Saul" was a man without an identity.  He could not return to the Pharisees since he now sided with Jesus—the man they crucified.  And the Christians in Jerusalem didn't trust this former hater and persecutor of Christians.  Also, they most certainly had family members and friends that he had imprisoned and even killed.  Then, enters "Barnabas."  We have already learned that he was called the "Son of Encouragement." (Acts 4:36)  He was that type of Christian that you can sense is pulling for you and believes that God has an important role for you in His plans.  "Barnabas" believed in "Saul," and he convinced the other Christians in "Jerusalem" that "Saul" had seen the Lord on the way to "Damascus" and that the Lord had spoken to him.  He also told them that in "Damsacus," "Saul" had "preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." 

And, so, because of "Barnabas," "Saul" became an accepted part of the Christian community in "Jerusalem."  He who had wanted to eradicate the Christian community in "Jerusalem" became a part of that group—due to "Barnabas."

"So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him."  We learn in Galatians that he was "with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days."  Paul also says in Galatians, "I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother." (Galatians 1:18-19)

"Saul" still had a heart to reach his fellow Jews.  So, he spoke to Jews "in Jerusalem" and to the "Grecian Jews""Jews" from outside Israel that had been influenced by the Greek culture.  "Saul" himself was a "Jew" from outside Israel—he was from Tarsus, northwest of Israel.  But these "Grecian Jews" "tried to kill him." 

Paul  ("Saul") shares in Acts 22 what Jesus shared with him at that time.  "When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'" (Acts 22:17-18)  "Saul" still thinks he can reach them, but the Lord sends him away.  "'Lord,' I replied, 'these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.' Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 22:19-21)

"When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus."  And, so, Paul returns to his hometown.  He remains there until Barnabas comes to get him, as recorded in Acts 11.  "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul," (Acts 11:25)

"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord."  Luke does not says "churches" in these regions, but "the church throughout" this region.  He is speaking of the worldwide "church"—the worldwide Body of Christ.  The "church" in that region was part of this universal "church."  This "peace" in "the church" that Luke describes here certainly was to some degree the result of the primary persecutor of the church—Paul—being no longer a persecutor of "the church," but now a member of "the church."

It was a time when God's Spirit "encouraged" and "strengthened" "the church."  Over the years, I have tried to attend some type of conference once a year.  I have found that God's Spirit uses these times to strengthen and encourage me.  This early church had one of those times.

b. The healing of Aeneas and the resurrection of Dorcas (9:32-43)

(1) The healing of Aeneas (9:32-35)
"As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 'Aeneas,' Peter said to him, 'Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.' Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord."

Thought Question:  What do we learn about Peter's style of ministry from these verses?

 

 

"As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic 'Aeneas,' Peter said to him, 'Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.' Immediately Aeneas got up."

We get insight into the early ministry of the church leaders from these words.  Peter was moving about and visiting "the saints."  "The saints" is another way of saying that they were members of Jesus' church—they were Christians.  Church leaders today need to also be making regular contact with their flocks.

Here, Peter had traveled to "Lydda."  "Lydda" was a little town to the northwest of Jerusalem between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea.  "The airport outside of Tel Aviv is at the ancient town of Lydda, now known as Lod." "Taken from Birth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1974 Vision House Publishers." 

There Jesus Christ enabled Peter to do a miracle of compassion.  God enabled Peter to heal a man named "Aeneas" "who had been bedridden for eight years." 

"Get up and take care of your mat.'"  He could now clean up after himself.  Whereas, up to this point, others had to take care of him and to clean up after him. See John 5:8-9

"All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord."  "Sharon" was the plain of Sharon."  "The fertile plain of Sharon runs about fifty miles along the Mediterranean coast roughly from Joppa to Caesarea.  The reference here, however, may be to a village in the neighborhood of Lydda instead of to a district (an Egyptian papyrus refers to a town by that name in Palestine.)" "NIV Study Bible note."

Did every single person in the plain of "Sharon" or villages of "Lydda and Sharon" turn "to the Lord"?  It appears that Luke is describing a large number of people turning "to the Lord," rather than to every single person turning "to the Lord."  In other words, Peter's miracle had a significant impact on this region.

(2) The resurrection of Dorcas (9:36-43)
"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, 'Please come at once!' Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, get up.' She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 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."

Thought Question:  Who do you know that is a servant like "Dorcas"? (Describe one of them)

 

 

"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, 'Please come at once!'" 

"Joppa" is "about 38 miles from Jerusalem, the main seaport of Judea.  Today, it is know as Jaffa and is a suburb of Tel Aviv." "NIV Study Bible note."  "Lydda is about 12 miles from Joppa." "NIV Study Bible note on 9:32."

Most of us who have been a Christian for some time have known a Christian woman like "Tabitha" or "Dorcas."  A number of Christian ladies who have been like "Dorcas" stand out to me.  They were dedicated to Christian service, and they had what seemed to be endless energy.  One of them is my wife.  As I am writing these words, she is taking care of an elderly woman.  Thank God for Christian women like "Dorcas." 

Suddenly, there was a hole in the church at "Joppa""Dorcas" had suddenly died.  "The disciples heard that Peter was" near, and they went to him immediately.  They had certainly heard of the miracle in "Lydda," and they were undoubtedly hoping that Peter could do something. 

"Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them."  "If they were not saying these words, they were thinking them: 'How can we ever get along without Dorcas?'" "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

We just received an email message asking us to pray for an important leader in an international ministry.  He is dying and those in this ministry believe that God would have him continue on in his important role in that ministry.  So, they have put out an urgent appeal for Christians to pray.  That is how "the disciples" felt about "Dorcas."

"Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, get up.' She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 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." 

Jesus' words in Mark 5:41 are very similar to Peter's words here. "He took her by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha koum!' (which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, get up!)."  "Peter" may have been thinking of Jesus' words that raised Jairus' daughter from the dead as he said the words, "Tabitha, get up." to "Dorcas."  "Peter," like Jesus,  also sent everyone out of the room before he performed the miracle raising "Dorcas" from the dead.

Here is what "Peter" saw Jesus do:  "But they laughed at him [at Jesus]. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was." (Mark 5:40)  "Peter" was one of those that saw Jesus' miracle, and "Peter" performed a miracle in the same way as he had seen His Master perform a miracle. See also I Kings 17:19-23; II Kings 4:32-37

Dorcas' resurrection from the dead brings up a question.  Why was "Dorcas" resurrected and not Stephen?  Later, the apostle James will die in jail and "Peter" will be miraculously delivered from jail.  Why did Jesus allow John the Baptist to be killed?  These are questions that we do not have easy answers for.  In my lifetime, there have been Christian leaders that have died when it appeared that they were in the prime of their ministries.  We can only trust that God's ways are beyond our ways.  We can only speculate about the answer to these questions.  What we are to do is to trust in God's love and wisdom. See Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-38

"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."  Paul says this in II Corinthians 12:12: "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)  The "believers and the widows" in "Joppa" knew that an apostle of Jesus Christ stood among them.  As Jesus raised people from the dead and rose from the dead Himself, so Jesus gave "Peter" the power to raise "Dorcas" from the dead.

"Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon."  "The significance of this is that a tanner's place of business was anathema to a fastidious Jew.  It was highly unpleasant and smelly, and animals were slain there.  Tanners were ostracized and had to live fifty cubits outside of town.  Rabbinical law stated that if a betrothed woman discovered that her fiancé was involved in tanning, she could break the engagement.  However, Peter had met a Jewish tanner who loved Jesus, and he was willing to associate with him.  God was at work in the apostle's heart.  The old biases were wearing thin." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

c. Peter's vision and the beginning of the Gentile church (10)

(1) Cornelius, a seeker after God (10:1-8)
"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, 'Cornelius!' Cornelius stared at him in fear. 'What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel answered, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.' When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that "Cornelius" was born again already or do you believe he was seeking God without being born-again?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly."  Barclay gives this definition of the place of the "centurion" in the Roman army.  "In the Roman military set-up there was first of all the legion.  It was a force of six thousand men and therefore was roughly equal to a division.  In every legion there were ten cohorts.  A cohort therefore had six hundred men and comes near to being the equivalent to a battalion.  The cohort was divided into centuries and over each century there was a centurion.  The century therefore is roughly equivalent of a company.  The parallel to a centurion in our military organization [British] is a company sergeant-major.  These centurions were the backbone of the roman army." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  "These Roman centurions always appear in a favorable light in the N. T. (Matt. 8:5; Luke 7:2; 23:47; Acts 10:1 22:25; 27:3)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." See also Matthew 8:5-10, 27:54; Luke 7:2-10; Acts 22:26-27, 27:42-43

"Caesarea" was about 30 miles to the north of Joppa where Peter was staying.  It was named after Caesar Augustus.  King Herod built his castle in this city, and the Roman governor's headquarters was in this city.  So, "Cornelius" was a key figure in the world of his time.

"Cornelius" was not a typical Roman "Centurion," for he had become a believer in the God of the Jews.  He was a Gentile who, though he had not been circumcised and become a Jew, was receptive to their belief in the God of the Bible.  So much so, that it had affected his life—"he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly."  His belief also had affected his family—they also "were devout and God-fearing." 

We learn in 10:22 how the Jews felt about him: "The men [sent by Cornelius to Peter] replied, 'We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. . . . '"  He was a Gentile who worshiped the true God, rather than believing in the many gods of the Romans.  Paul speaks to some God-fearing Gentiles in Acts 13:26: "Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent." See also 13:26, 43, 17:4, 17

"One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, 'Cornelius!' Cornelius stared at him in fear. 'What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel answered, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.'"

"Cornelius" responds to the angelic visitor as we would have responded, if an "angel" suddenly visited us—"Cornelius stared at him in fear."  Daniel was also afraid when an "angel" suddenly appeared to him. "I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, 'Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.' And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.'" (Daniel 10:5-12) See also Matthew 14:26-27

The angel immediately encourages "Cornelius."  "'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'"  Then, the "angel" gave him the reason why he was appearing to him.  "'Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.'" 

We have here what provokes a number of questions.  Have there been, throughout time, men and women like "Cornelius," who have turned or are turning to God before they are born-again?  Does not the Bible teach that no one seeks God? See Romans 3:11  Yet, people are encouraged to seek God.  Ray Stedman puts it this way.  "Cornelius was still unregenerate [not born again] without Christ.  Yet he was acceptable to God because he was honest.  Anyone, in any circumstances, who comes to God with an honest heart will find an open door to the truth of Jesus Christ." "Taken from Birth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1974 Vision House Publishers."  "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near." (Isaiah 55:6)  "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)  See also Hosea 10:12; Amos 5:4-6

"Cornelius" appears to be one who sought the Lord.  We also have Rahab who believed in God before she was taught about God.  "Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, 'I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.'" (Joshua 2:8-11)  She was a God-fearer before she knew anything about the Scriptures.

Also, it appears that "Cornelius" was seeking God before he was born-again of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came upon him at a later time.  "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message ["Cornelius" was one of them]." (Acts 10:44)

As I said, "Cornelius" provokes a number of questions.  My personal conclusion is that, though man's normal inclination is not to seek God, God can bring men and women to a place where they begin to recognize their need for God.  God's appeals for us to seek God are legitimate invitations to men and women to seek Him.  Men like "Cornelius" did seek God, even before they knew much about Him.  They are those have become humbled rather than hardened by trials and needs.  "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger." (Zephaniah 2:3)  They are those who have concluded that true life can not be found in what the world has to offer.  They are those who humbly yearn for more.  I can remember a time in my life like that; my search took place over a period of years.  And this all took place in the years preceding the time I invited Christ to come into my life.  I actually wrote down my search in a notebook at the time.  Those who do this type of searching find that God is the One who truly meets that need.

"When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa."  There was a fellow "soldier" that "Cornelius" trusted and he told him about the vision he had just experienced.  There were also "two of his servants" that he told.  So, they began their journey of about 30 miles to "Joppa."

Stedman said that since Peter was living with a tanner, " . . . they merely needed to follow their noses in order to find Peter!" "Taken from Birth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1974 Vision House Publishers."  Robertson passed on to us this information about tanners.  "Some tanneries are by the seashore at Jaffa [modern-day name of "Joppa."] today." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

(2) Peter's vision (10:9-16)
"About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' 'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.' The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven."

Thought Question:  When have there been times in your Christian walk when God has changed your direction, and you had to do something that was uncomfortable to you? (changing cities, jobs, churches, ministries, etc.)

 

 

"About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'" 

"The house-roofs were flat and, since the houses were small and crowded, people often went up to the roof for privacy." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  "Peter went up on the roof to pray" "about noon."  What he saw was completely unexpected.  He, in "a trance," saw "something like a large sheet" coming "down" to him filled with both clean and unclean "animals," "reptiles," and "birds."  To "Peter." the unclean "animals," "reptiles," and "birds" would have been detestable. See Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 for a listing of unclean animals.  "Peter" did not expect that God would go against His own instructions and command him to eat that which He had declared was unclean.

"'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.' The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven."  Here, we see that God reserves the right to change the rules for His own perfect purposes.  We call this progressive revelation.  God moved from working through the nation of Israel to working through the church that was made up mainly of Gentiles—non-Jews.  God begins this transition with the vision to "Peter."  The Gentiles were unclean to the Jews.  But, God chooses to make them "clean."  "Peter" needed to understand this so that he would be willing to go with the three Gentiles that would take him to another Gentile by the name of "Cornelius."

"From these and other laws, Judaism developed the concept of 'non-kosher' foods.  Moreover, since even the touch was sufficient to profane the person, the Jew was particularly careful not to have table-fellowship with a Gentile, usually to not even enter the home of a Gentile.  Peter refers to this taboo when he says to Cornelius.  'You yourselves know unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or visit any one of another nation' (Acts 10:28)." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972." 

And, so, all of us who are not Jews are those that "Peter" at one time saw as "impure" and "unclean."  God's vision to "Peter" changed his attitude toward us and started the church in the direction of reaching out to us; even though, it took God repeating the vision "three times."  The "three times" reminds us of Peter's three denials and the three times that Jesus asked "Peter" if he loved Him.

"'Surely not, Lord!'" These words do not go together.  It is sort of like saying, "Yes Jesus, You are my Lord, but, No, I am not going to do what you say."  Robertson, though, says that the word that "Peter" uses is not a "blunt refusal," but a "polite refusal with a reason given." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Nevertheless, it was a "No!"

"Peter" was torn in two by what God said to him.  "Peter" had obeyed God's instructions not to eat "unclean" food; now God is telling him to eat "unclean" food.  This reminds us of another time that "Peter" had a problem with what Jesus said.  Jesus had just said that He was going to die.  Peter's response was "Never, Lord!" (Matthew 16:22)

(3) The conversion of the "clean" Gentiles (10:17-48)

(a) Peter receives the Gentile messengers from Cornelius (10:17-23)
"While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.' Peter went down and said to the men, 'I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?' The men replied, 'We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.' Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along."

Thought Question:  Name a time when you believed God was leading you, but it was very uncomfortable for you (like was the case here with Peter)?

 

 

"While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.' Peter went down and said to the men, 'I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?'"

Peter immediately learned the meaning of the vision, for outside "the gate" of the "house" where he was staying were "three" unclean Gentiles.  The "Spirit" instructs "Peter" to "not hesitate to go with them."  As John Stott offers, the "not hesitate" "could mean 'making no distinction' (11:12, RSV), that is 'making no gratuitous, invidious distinction between Jew and Gentile." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  Once more, Peter in Acts 10 describes the normal attitude that a Jew had toward a Gentile.  "He said to them: 'You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.'" (Acts 10:28)

So, "Peter"  finally accepted the directions from His Lord.  The church would be made up of saints—people made holy by God from both Jews and Gentiles.

"the Spirit said"  Here we learn, as is taught throughout the Bible, that the Holy Spirit is a Person.  We should always, when we speak of Him, refer to Him as a Person. See also Acts 8:39, 13:2, 16:6

"'Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.'"  It was an "angel of God" (10:3) that sent the three messengers to "Peter," yet God's "Spirit" says "I have sent them."  The Father, the Son, and the "Spirit" are united with the angels in God's purposes.  What the "angel of God" said was what the "Spirit" also said.

"The men replied, 'We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.' Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along." 

We are told in 11:12 that "Peter" took "six brothers" with him.  The Christian Jews that came with "Peter" were also willing to follow God's instructions to Peter and to associate with those who had once been considered by them to be unclean.  And, so, this party of seven Jews and three Gentiles began the thirty mile trip back to Caesarea.

(b) Peter meets Cornelius and they each explain how God directed them to come together (10:24-33)
"The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. 'Stand up,' he said, I am only a man myself.' Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: 'You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?' Cornelius answered: 'Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.” So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.'"

Thought Question:  What will help us to give glory and credit to God when someone tries to give us the credit and the glory? (Does Peter's unwillingness to be worshipped help us in any way?)

 

 

"The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. 'Stand up,' he said, 'I am only a man myself.'"  We learn a lot about both "Cornelius" and "Peter" from these verses.  We see Cornelius' humility and reverence for God by his attitude toward "Peter."  Remember, he was a Roman centurion.  Then, we see Peter's humility and reverence for God by his immediate refusal to be worshipped.  Later, we will see that the King Herod of that time received being worshipped as God.  We see God's response to his reception of worship in Acts 12:21-23.  "On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died."

Paul and Barnabas, later will also reject being worshipped, just as Peter did.  "In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, 'Stand up on your feet!' At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have come down to us in human form!' Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 'Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.'" (Acts 14:8-15) See also Revelation 22:8-10 where an angel also refused to be worshipped as God.

How would we respond if someone thought so highly of us that they wanted to worship us?  Hopefully, we would do exactly what "Peter" did.  There are those in our world who are worshiped and receive this worship.  They may be religious leaders, sports' superstars, or entertainment idols.  Some receive this worship, but some reject it because they realize, like Peter, that they are "only a man"  or are "only" a woman.

"Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: 'You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?'"  God got Paul's attention by suddenly and gloriously appearing to him on the road to Damascus.  "Peter" also had the full attention of these Gentiles when he, a Jew, contrary to the pattern of the Jews, entered an "unclean" Gentile's home.  "Peter" immediately explains that God had revealed to him that they were not "unclean""I should not call any man impure or unclean." 

Of course, all men are "impure" before God, for we are all sinners—"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)  But Paul is speaking of ritual impurity.  The Jews tended to focus more on their rituals than on what God meant the rituals to teach them.

 observes that "there is no O.T. regulation forbidding such social contact with Gentiles, though the Rabbis had added it and made it binding by custom." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

It was not God's intent that made Israel to feel that they were clean and the Gentiles were "unclean," but it is where their national pride had led them.  God's intention is described by Paul in Romans 3:19-20:  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20) See also 11:1-3; Galatians 2:11-13; Ephesians 2:11-22

"Cornelius answered: 'Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’"

"Cornelius" repeats to Peter what happened to him when the angel appeared to him.  He tells us here more about the appearance of the angel than was told earlier: he was "a man in shining clothes." See Matthew 28:2-4; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12; Acts 1:10

"'So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.'"  Here, we have what is called an open door for the gospel.  Paul asked the Colossians to pray that God would "open a door for" his "message." (Colossians 4:4)  "Peter" had that open door!  Peter's obedience in following God's instructions both to believe that he should associate with these "unclean" Gentiles and to go to Cornelius' home had led to this open door to share the gospel message.  Following God's directions has often led his servants to these types of open doors.  Through the years, you also may be able to remember a situation or situations where you knew that there was an open door to share the gospel message.  May we also pray that God would open doors for His servants today.

c. Peter's message to Cornelius and the other Gentiles at his house (10:34-43)
"Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that God limited who would see the resurrected Jesus?

 

 

"Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."  This is one of the most attention-getting first lines of a sermon.  A once-racist man proclaims that he now realizes "that God does not show favoritism."  "Peter" now comprehends and accepts that the belief that existed throughout Judaism that Jews were superior to Gentiles was not from God, but was the product of human conceit.  Robertson points out that what Peter now realized was in the Old Testament.  "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." (Deuteronomy 10:17)  "Now let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." (2 Chronicles 19:7)

Certainly, "Peter" had a "receptive audience" for what he was about to say. "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." 

"Peter" begins by describing the life and ministry of Jesus.  "God sent" a "message" through Jesus Christ.  What was the "message"?  Jesus' life proclaimed Jesus' Lordship, God's goodness, God's "power," and the way to "peace" with God.  Through Jesus, God has personally revealed to us what God is like.  Jesus is the Christian "message." 

It is likely that Luke summarized Peter's message.  "Peter" may have gone into more detail about Jesus' life and ministry.

"'We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.'"

God, who had chosen them and blessed them through the years, revealed Himself again to Israel through Jesus.  What did Israel do in response to this good act of God when He revealed Himself to them through His Son?  "They killed him by hanging him on a tree."  What did God do in response to their evil deed?  "God raised him from the dead."

"He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen."  Why did God choose to limit who would see the resurrected Jesus?  Why did He not appear to everybody—as He appeared to everyone before His resurrection?  Here are some possible answers to this question:  (1) He appeared to those who would not reject Him again.  God chose those who would rejoice at seeing Jesus; and God did not choose those who would try to kill Him again.  Those who could harden their hearts to the miraculous healing of a blind man (see John 9) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead would still be hardened when a resurrected Jesus appeared to them. See Luke 16:27-31  (2) God chose those who would faithfully and accurately witness to seeing the resurrected Jesus. See I Corinthians 15:1-8

"by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.'  "Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead." (John 21:13-14)  This provided proof that Jesus resurrected in a body that could consume food.  He did not return in a mystical body as a phantom, but He returned in a body of physical substance.

"'All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'"  Here, "Peter" states that the only requirement that there is for any person to be forgiven of his or her sins is to believe in Jesus.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)  God offers us the gift of " forgiveness of sins" and eternal life.  Our part is to choose to receive this gift of "forgiveness of sins" by believing in Jesus.  "Peter" makes it clear here that this gift is available to Gentiles without them (most of us) first needing to become a Jew.

"All the prophets testify"  The Old Testament predicts the coming of Jesus and His death on the cross.  Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, plus all of the sacrifices in the Old Testament point to Jesus and His death on the cross for our sins.  Also, the Old Testament is clear that it is by faith that we are made right with God.  "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—" (Habakkuk 2:4) See also Romans 4 where Paul proves that Old Testament saints were also saved by faith.

(d) What occurred after Peter's message (10:44-48)
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days."

Thought Question:  How is the Gentile Pentecost different and the same as the Jewish Pentecost and the Samaritan Pentecost? (See Acts 2:1-13; 8:1-19)

 

 

"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God."  As "Peter" was preaching, the Gentiles in the room believed, and Peter's message was interrupted by these new Gentile believers "speaking in tongues" in a similar way to what had happened at Pentecost.  We are not told that a "sound like the blowing of a violent wind" occurred here.  Nor, are we told that "what seemed to be tongues of fire" "came to rest on each of them." (Acts 2:2-3)  But, we are told that the Jewish believers "heard them speaking in tongues and praising God," as the Jewish believers were also enabled by God to do at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down upon them.  This outward manifestation of God's Spirit convinced "Peter" and his Jewish friends that these Gentile believers were God-authenticated members of God's church.  It was "what some have called 'the Pentecost of the Gentile world.'" "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

Robertson points out that here the baptism of the "Spirit" precedes water baptism, while in Acts 2:37, Peter says that they would receive the "Spirit" after they were baptized.  "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:38)  And there was no laying on of hands here preceding them receiving the "Holy Spirit" after their baptisms as occurred with the Samaritan believers. See 8:14-17  That is why it is not good to conclude that God will do in the future exactly what He did in the past—do everything the same way every time. See also 9:17-18

"The circumcised believers who had come with Peter"  We see in 10:23 that "Peter" took some Jewish believers with him from Joppa: "Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along." (Acts 10:23)  In 11:12, "Peter" said that he took six Jewish believers with him.  "The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house."  "Peter" had "six" witnesses to what had happened when he preached to these Gentiles.

"Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days."  "Peter" "ordered that they be baptized."  There are a number of indications in the Bible that baptism need not be done by ordained clergy. See I Corinthians 1:13-17; John 4:1-2

So, then, they were baptized Gentiles who were equal members of Christ's church—equally baptized with the "Spirit" and with water.  So, these new church members ask "Peter to stay with them for a few days."  They were baby Christians and needed some baby care.  New Christians need immediate follow-up as they begin their new life with Christ.

d. Peter's defense of the Gentile church (11:1-18)

(1) Peter describes to Jewish Christians who were critical of him the vision God gave to him at Joppa of the unclean food (11:1-10)
"The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.' Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 'I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” I replied, “Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The voice spoke from heaven a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.'"

Thought Question:  If you had been there and were a Jew, would you have believed Peter and accepted that Gentiles were no longer unclean based on this vision he told about?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'"  Somehow, the news about "Peter" entering a Gentile's house and what happened when Peter preached the gospel message there reached Jerusalem before "Peter" got there.  Possibly, some of the six Jewish Christians Peter took with him from Joppa went there and told them what had happened.  The Jewish Christians were upset that he had eaten with Gentiles.  There were many ways that he could have gotten ceremonially unclean from eating with Gentiles.  Gentiles had no reason to prepare their food so that it would be ceremonially clean according to Jewish standards.  So, in the mind of Peter's critics, he had become automatically unclean by eating with these Gentiles.

Some think that "Peter" was criticized by a group of extremists that would later be a problem for Paul—those that have been given the name "Judaizers."  "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." (Galatians 2:4-5) See Acts 15; Galatians 2:11-13  There is no evidence here that Luke is describing this group.  In fact, Peter's defense will satisfy those who were critical of him.  "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'" (Acts 11:18)

"Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 'I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” I replied, “Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The voice spoke from heaven a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.'"

"Peter" describes the vision he received at Joppa.  More space is given to Peter's vision and the conversion of Cornelius than is given to the conversion of Paul.  Both were very important events in the early church.  Peter's vision and the conversion of the Gentiles expanded the church to include everyone.  That very important and radical change from belief in God coming only through the Jews and Judaism to the new situation where Gentiles share the gospel with other Gentiles needed to be made very certain.  Nevertheless, it still became an issue that needed to be dealt with by the Jerusalem council and the book of Galatians.

John Stott quotes Rackham to give a clarifying insight on the sheet with clean and unclean animals.  "The sheet is the church, which will contain all races and classes without any distinctions at all." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

(2) Peter shares what occurred when he shared the gospel at Cornelius' home (11:11-18)
"'Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, “Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.” As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?' When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that these Jews accepted what Peter said and accepted that Gentiles could become equal members of the church with them?

 

 

"'Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, “Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”'"

"Peter" shares the occurrence in the order that they happened to him, rather than in the order that they happened (as given in chapter ten).  Peter did not learn of the angels' appearance to Cornelius until Cornelius told him.

"'“He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”'"  This message that Cornelius received from the angel is not recorded in chapter 10 of Acts. See 10:5-6, 22, 32-33

So, we find here that Cornelius was awaiting a "message" about how they could "be saved."  They learned, as a sign on Gospel missions used to say, "Jesus saves."

"you and all your household"  The gospel message would not only lead Cornelius to being "saved," it would also lead his whole "household" to being "saved."  This explains why Cornelius had "called together his relatives and close friends." (10:24)

"'As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?'"  When did Jesus say that "'“John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”'"?  This is a quote from Acts 1:5.  "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

And "Peter" strongly points out that God authenticated the authority of the early apostles and followers of Christ by the "gift" of the "Spirit" accompanied by speaking with tongues.  Now, He has done the same for these Gentiles.  If they rejected their salvation, they would also be rejecting God's acceptance of them.  "Peter" was not going to "oppose God," and it would be equally inappropriate for them to "oppose God." 

"The power of his argument is overwhelming.  Peter did not set out to convert Gentiles; over his protests (11:8) he was practically forced into it by God through a series of visions and divine commands.  Peter did not decide that Gentiles were converted, baptize them, and learn that the Spirit had come on them.  In fact, even before he finished what he had planned to say, the Spirit fell on them as they began to speak in tongues.  Clearly, this was an act of God from beginning to end.  As an obedient servant, Peter could only confirm what God had done." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

"When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'"  So, they believed that God had directed "Peter"; so that the Gentiles would also become part of His church in the same way as the Jews had became part of the church.  Now, it was clear to them that the gospel message was to be shared with the whole world.  We who are not Jews are in God's church as a result of this momentous new directional change in the mission of Jesus' followers.  "As F. F. Bruce neatly puts it, 'their criticism ceased, their worship began.'" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

This section brings up again the issue of whether Christians today immediately receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit when they believe or if there is regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and then later, they can receive a baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues.  Here, regeneration and the baptism of the Spirit happened simultaneously.  There was no waiting period at all and no second experience of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came on them even before they were baptized with water.  Today, Christians are all baptized with the Holy Spirit when they believe in Jesus Christ.  Paul said that all the Christians in Corinth—an immature and fleshly church—were baptized with the Spirit.  "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:13)

e. The Gentile church at Antioch (11:19-30)

(1) A church begins at Antioch (11:19-21)
"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."

Thought Question #1:  When has it been clear to you that God gave you an open door to witness to someone about your relationship with God and how they could know Him also?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why are we today not usually as zealous in sharing the gospel as they were at that time?

 

 

"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews."  Here, we see that the gospel was not just shared by the apostles or evangelists, but by ordinary Christians.  It is the good news of Jesus Christ who died for the forgiveness of our sins so that we could have eternal life.  It is both a powerful message and a simple truth that even a child can tell—and they often do.

"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution"  "Persecution" spread the church rather than stopping the church.  As was said earlier, "persecution" was like throwing a rock into a campfire to try to put it out.  Instead, the rocks spread the fire.

"Phoenica.A country about 15 miles wide and 120 miles long stretching along the northeast Mediterranean coast (modern Lebanon).  Its important cities were Tyre and Sidon.  Cyprus. An island in the northeastern Mediterranean; the home of Barnabas (4:36).  Antioch. The third city of the Roman empire (after Rome and Alexandria).  It was 15 miles inland from the northeast corner of the Mediterranean." NIV Study Bible note." 

"telling the message only to Jews.'"  They were not yet deliberately reaching out to the Jews.  They may have not yet heard of the conversion of Cornelius and the other Gentiles. 

"Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."  There is some controversy over whether the Greek word that is translated "Greeks" in the NIV is referring to Greek Jews or Greek Gentiles.  But the fact that Barnabas and Paul went there and the fact that the missionary journeys of Paul started there, argues that the new converts were Greek Gentiles.  Antioch, then, was the first church that was made up of both Gentiles and Jews.  Later, there definitely were both Jews and Gentiles in this church. See Galatians 2:11-14 and Acts 15:1-4

"The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."  The Gentile church in Antioch exploded on the scene just as the Jewish church had exploded in Jerusalem.  God's hand powerfully enabled this to occur.

"men from Cyprus and Cyrene,"  Two individuals are highlighted in the Bible for being "Cyrene."  First of all, there was Simon the Cyrene who was recruited to carry Jesus' cross. See Luke 23:26  Then, there was a "Lucius of Cyrene" (Acts 13:1) who was among those in the church of Antioch who were with Paul and Barnabas when they were commissioned by the Holy Spirit to go on the first missionary journey.  Also, there were Cyrenians present at Pentecost. See Acts 2:10  "Cyrene" was the capital city in Libya.

(2) The church at Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch (11:22-24)
"News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord."

Thought Question:  If you were a member of the church and Antioch, why would you be glad about "Barnabas" coming to your church?

 

 

"News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts."  "Barnabas" was a good choice for the church at Jerusalem.  He was a Hellenistic Jew from Cyprus.  He would fit well among the Greek church at Antioch that had been partly evangelized by "men from Cyprus." (11:20)

"He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord."  The NIV omits a connective that is present in the Greek text.  It can be translated "for" or "because."  The Disciples Literal New Testament translates it as follows:  "And he was encouraging everyone to be continuing in the Lord with purpose of  heart because he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith."  "Barnabas" was the exact opposite of the Jewish religious leaders.  They resented the success and popularity of Jesus and the early church leaders because it diminished their place of importance in Israel.  "Barnabas," instead, rejoiced at the success of the church at "Antioch" in reaching Gentiles.  Why?  It was because of the type of man that he was—"He was a good man."  Barclay says that the church of Jerusalem "sent the man with the biggest heart in the Church." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

It is interesting that Luke records later that there was a bitter dispute between Paul and "Barnabas." See 15:36-40  Yet, Luke, here, still characterizes "Barnabas" as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith."  It appears that good men can have strong disagreements.  George Whitfield and John Wesley had a strong disagreement over Calvinism and Arminianism; yet few would say that they were not both "good men."

"full of the Holy Spirit and faith,"  We know what it means when someone is said to be full of anger.  It means that at that time, anger dominates their personality.  Barnabas' whole personality was dominated and controlled by "the Holy Spirit and faith" in God.

"and a great number of people were brought to the Lord."  "Barnabas" did not go to this church to check up on it and to control the church there.  That's what the religious leaders at Jerusalem would have done.  No, he went there to encourage and mentor the new Christians.  When Luke first introduces "Barnabas," he tells us that "Barnabas" was called "Son of Encouragement." (Acts 4:36).  As a result, he did not get in the way of the church's growth, but was a help and an encouragement.  As a result, "a great number of people were brought to the Lord."

(3) Barnabas goes to Tarsus and brings Saul to Antioch (11:25-30)
"Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul."

Thought Question:  What do you see in these verses that is presently going on in your local church?

 

 

"Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."

 "Barnabas" needed help in following up and teaching the large number of new believers in "Antioch," so he went to "Tarsus" where "Saul" (later Paul) had been staying.  When we left "Saul" in Acts, he had been sent to his hometown of "Tarsus."  "Saul" had been debating Grecian Jews about Jesus being the Messiah.  But when they tried to kill him, the believers in Jerusalem "sent him to Tarsus." (Acts 9:29-30)  "Saul" had been in "Tarsus" for some time.  Time estimates for his time there vary from 5-10 years.  So, he had been there for at least 5 years.  We know little about what took place during this time.  The vision of heaven described in II Corinthians 12:1-4 likely took place during this time.  Tarsus was about a 100 mile trip from "Antioch."  So, Barnabas' desire to involve "Saul" in the ministry at "Antioch" required that he make this long trip back and forth.  "Tarsus" was to the northeast of "Antioch."

"The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."  "We use the term so commonly that we think that it must be a word scattered all across the New Testament, but it appears only three times—Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; I Peter 4:16.  Normally in Acts, Luke refers to "Christians" as 'believers,' 'disciples,' or 'brothers.'  Christians was an outside nickname, possibly given in derision.  It means 'Christ followers' or 'people of Christ's party.'" "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

The people of "Antioch" apparently named them "Christians" to distinguish them from the Jews.  It may be that all three uses of the term "Christian" may be referring to the term from the outsiders' perspective and in that case, then, it would be a term of "derision."

"During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul."

Some scholars believe that this visit is the same as the visit to Jerusalem described in Galatians 2:1-10.  There are a number of similarities to the visit described in Galatians 2:  (1) Both times "Saul" went with "Barnabas."  (2) In both cases, "Saul" went in response to a revelation—here, the prophecy of Agabus."  (3) He was asked "to remember the poor." (Galatians 2:10) and this visit was to help during a "famine."  My own conclusion, though, is that Galatians 2 describes the visit described in Acts 15.  The arguments on both sides and my own conclusion are found in Digging for Gold on Galatians 2:1-10.

A pattern in the early church was to pool resources to help the needy among them. See Acts 2;44-45, 4:32, 34-37; Romans 15:25-27; I Corinthians 16;1-4; II Corinthians 8-9

"During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus,"  This is the first time in Acts that we hear of "prophets."  Like the apostles, we learn that "prophets," had an important role in the early church.  Paul tells us that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20)  The "apostles and prophets" were God-gifted men and women who played a key role at the beginning and foundational period of the church.  God supernaturally communicated with them and through them to establish His church.  We read of these "prophets" throughout the book of Acts. See also Acts 13:1, 15:32, 21:8.  Agabus is mentioned again in Acts 21:10-11.

"predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)"  "The reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) was marked by drought and famine, which would indicate a series of local famines rather than a single empire-wide famine.  Josephus reports a famine in Judea" during this time. "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

"This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul."  A good pattern is to choose to have those who have proven to be trustworthy to handle the money that is given to the church.  Here, the money was transported by the trusted "Barnabas and Saul."  Then, it was given to the church elders. See I Corinthians 16:2-3; II Corinthians 8:16-24

"The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help."  The giving came from hearts of concern among the people in the church.  And they gave "according" to what they were able to give.  This was not at all a giving that was required of them nor was everyone required to give the same amount.  The people "decided" what they were able to give.

f. The martyrdom of the apostle James (12:1-2)
"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe God allowed James, who was one of three in Jesus' inner circle of disciples, to die so early in his ministry?

 

 

"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword."  These two verses have troubled me for years.  Jesus spent the most time with three men—"James," John, and Peter.  John and Peter went on to be key leaders in the church.  "James," though, died shortly after the church began.  Why?  Up until recently, I had no answer to this question.  A young man I have a regular study with gave me what may be the answer.  He said that "James" willingness to die emboldened others not to be afraid to die.  His closeness to Jesus, then, would have made his death more significant to the early church.

Through the years, I have asked, "Why?" many times.  Many that were key leaders in the church-at-large have died suddenly at the peak of their ministries—Keith Green, Paul Little, James Montgomery Boyce, Rich Mullins, and those not so well known.  I myself was influenced by a man who was my boss as a new Christian.  I worked at a Christian camp.  I was the recreation director at a Christian camp in northern California.  The man who hired me was a wonderful Christian man by the name of David Kraft.  He was one of the most genuinely caring Christians I have ever met.  When he was a camp counselor, he maintained relationships for years afterward with the children he met at camp.  He was a devoted husband and father.  He was the son of a respected pastor in the region.  Yet, he died as a young man.  Why?  If I were God, these men and others would not have died.  I do not know the answers, but I do know that God's ways are above my ways.  "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:8-9)  The death of "James" teaches us that we can never assume what God will do.

Gangel observes that the death of the apostle "James" is the only apostolic death by martyrdom described in the New Testament.  Years before, the mother of "James" and John came to Jesus:  "'What is it you want?' he asked. She said, 'Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.'" (Matthew 20:21)  Jesus, then, told "James" and John:   "'You don’t know what you are asking, Jesus said to them. 'Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?' 'We can,' they answered.'" (Matthew 20:22)  "James" did drink from Jesus' "cup"—he also died at the hands of God's enemies as Jesus did.  "James" did live for about ten years after Jesus ascended into heaven.  So, he did have a fruitful ministry for that time.

g. Peter is miraculously rescued from jail (12:3-19a)

(1) Peter is rescued from jail by an angel (12:3-10)
"When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, 'Put on your clothes and sandals.' And Peter did so. 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,' the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him."

Thought Question:  Describe a time when God used you or did something for you where you, like Peter, felt weak and helpless.  

 

 

"When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also."  The "he" here is "King Herod." (12:1)  Is this the same "King Herod" that learned of the birth of Jesus and tried to kill Him? See Matthew 2:1-18  No, this is not that "Herod," the "Herod" here is "Herod" Agrippa I who was the grandson of the "King Herod" of Jesus' time.  Still another "Herod" beheaded John the Baptist and was the "Herod" that was part of Jesus' trial. See Matthew 14:3-12; Luke 23:6-12; and Acts 4:27  His name was "Herod" Antipas, and he was the uncle of the "Herod" Agrippa we learn of here in Acts 12.

"Of all the Herodian Kings, Agrippa was possibly the most popular with the Jews, due to the fact that he was descended from the Hasmonean line.  He was careful to preserve and enhance that good will." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

"From this family history it may be seen that Herod Agrippa of this chapter was a direct descendent of the Maccabees through his mother Mariamne.  He had been educated at Rome, but he sedulously cultivated the good graces of the Jewish people by meticulously keeping the Law and Jewish observances." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover."  We can easily make three observations from this verse: (1) Peter was heavily guarded.  "Herod" had undoubtedly heard of how the apostles had escaped from prison earlier. See Acts 5:17-26  He had 16 soldiers watching one man.  (2) "Herod" was more careful to observe "the Passover" Feast than the Jews who had tried Jesus during "the Passover" Feast.  (3) "Herod" wanted the trial to be public.  He would have gained popularity by trying this enemy of the Jews in "public." 

"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him."  "Peter" had been miraculously released from prison previously. See 5:18-20  But, "James" had just been killed by "Herod."  So, what would happen to "Peter" this time?  We can feel like this at times as well.  God took care of us in some way in the past—financial help, the salvation of a family member, etc.—then, we are going through a tough trial.  What will God do this time?  What can we do?  We can pray. 

What could these early Christians do with one of their main leaders closely guarded and in prison?  They had lost "James."  Would they lose "Peter" also?  They prayed "earnestly." 

"The Greek word translated 'earnestly' comes originally from a word that means 'to stretch' or 'to strain.'  They were straining in prayer—praying 'with agony,' as G. Campbell Morgan says.  If one of our closest brothers or sisters in Christ were awaiting execution, we would pray fervently too." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Prayer was a vital part of the life and ministry of the early church.  "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." (Acts 1:14)  "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:31) See also 4:24-31, 6:4, 6, 9:40, 10:2, 4, 9, 31, 12:12, 13:3, 14:23, 16;25, 22:17, 28:8

"The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists."  Here, we see how the four "soldiers" at this part of the night were watching "Peter."  Two were chained to "Peter."  The other two were outside the door.  There was no human way that "Peter" could escape.  And, then, help came from outside the human world.

"Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!'"  I am reminded of something that happened to me in the middle of the night 36 years ago.  I was suddenly awakened by my wife.  She said, "It is time!"  I said, "Huh."  Then, I suddenly realized that it was time for our first child Tammy to be born.  Then, I was suddenly awake.  It must have been like that for "Peter."  At first, his head was not clear—his mind was in a sleep-clouded state.  It appears that he stayed in that groggy state for a while.  The "angel" said, "Quick, get up!" 

"Peter obeyed, but he was probably in disarray—sandals on the wrong feet, his tunic hanging loosely, his hair uncombed.  He needed his morning coffee.  Peter was dazed and bewildered, like a sleepwalker who is not quite sure where he is or why." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"the chains fell off Peter’s wrists."   We are not sure what the guards were doing at the time.  Whatever they were doing, they were not at all a problem that night.  The guards were no match for God and His angels.  Remember how the guards reacted when the angels appeared at Jesus' tomb.  "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men." (Matthew 28:1-4)

"Then the angel said to him, 'Put on your clothes and sandals.' And Peter did so. 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,' the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him." 

To "Peter," this was all like a dream.  In a trance-like state, he walks unimpeded out of his cell and out of the prison.  The prison "gate" "opened" for him much like automatic doors open for us today.  The Greek word here that is translated "opened for them by itself" is automate.  The Greek word from which we get our word "automatic."

Then, suddenly, he finds himself outside of the prison.  One thing is very clear, it was not Peter's heroism that rescued him on that day.  Just the opposite, "Peter" was hardly aware of what happened!

(2) Peter reports to a prayer meeting that he was freed by an angel (12:11-17a)
"Then Peter came to himself and said, Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.' When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the door!' 'You’re out of your mind,' they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.' But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. 'Tell James and the brothers about this,' he said, and then he left for another place. In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while."

Thought Question:  What have you prayed for, but though you did not really expect to receive it, your prayer was answer with a "Yes"?

 

 

"Then Peter came to himself and said, Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.'"  Peter's grogginess cleared, and he realizes that it was not a dream and that he is truly standing on a street outside the prison.

"and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.'"  "James had been put to death and the Jewish people were eagerly waiting for the execution of Peter like hungry wolves." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

King "Herod" had pleased the "people" when he executed James.  He was about to have public trial and then he would execute "Peter" to please the Jews.  The devilish and ravenous desire to see "Peter" executed would not be met this day.  Like the lions in the lions' den where Daniel was thrown, they would remain hungry.

"When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the door!'"  Early Christians were gathered together in "the house" of "John" "Mark," "and were praying." See Acts 13:13, 15:37-40; Colossians 4:10; II Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24; and I Peter 5:13 for other references to "John" "Mark."  He also was the author of the Gospel of Mark

It was the middle of the night, so they were praying through the night.  We see here the importance of prayer.  Who can remember being part of a prayer group like this?  Often our modern-day prayer meetings are sparsely attended.

Prayer is one of the mysteries of life.  Does prayer really produce a change in what occurs in life, or will what God ordains to take place happen no matter how much we pray?  Years ago, in the late 1960s, as a new Christian, college students at San Jose State college committed to pray for God's movement on the campus.  I was part of one group of Christians that prayed each evening from 10-11 p.m..  I do not know how many others did.  But I do know that I saw the results of that prayer.  At spring time, it was no longer the hot-bed of civil unrest and protests that it had been before, and the largest rally was a Christian rally.  J. Edwin Orr, an expert on revivals, came to speak on revivals while we were in the midst of a revival.  If the church gathered in meetings like the one in Mary's home, would it have an impact on our world?  Did this prayer meeting result in "Peter" being rescued from jail?  I can only quote what the Bible says about prayer:  " . . . The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)

And so "Peter" came to the house "where many people had gathered and were praying."  What were they "praying" for?  Luke does not tell us, but we can presume that the main reason they were "praying" was for "Peter" to be released from jail.  And there was "Peter" outside their door knocking and yelling.  But, the "servant girl" "Rhoda" was so excited that she leaves him at the door and runs back to tell the prayer group that their prayers had been answered.  She was sure they would also be excited to hear that the answer to their prayers was standing at the door.

"'You’re out of your mind,' they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.' But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished."  Oh well, not everybody believes what we say.  They thought that her emotions had taken over and she was no longer able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. They said, in so many words:  "Quit bothering us by telling us our prayers have been answered, we need to get back to our 'praying.'"

Have we ever been just like them?  We pray and pray, and then our prayer is answered and we are surprised and shocked just like these people were surprised and shocked.  J. B. Phillips wrote a book titled, Your God Is Too Small.  Often, that is true.  The God we pray to is not the all-powerful God that created the universe, but a God who is overwhelmed with our problems, just like we are.  But, the God that this group of early Christians prayed to was able to deliver "Peter" from prison.

"'It must be his angel.'"  "It was a popular Jewish belief that each man had a guardian angel." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Although Robertson did not believe that the Bible teaches this, it was what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:10: "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)  They might have thought that "Peter" had died and "his angel" had come to announce his death.  They accepted anything but that their prayers had been answered and that God had rescued "Peter"; and that "Peter," alive and well, was at their door.

"But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. 'Tell James and the brothers about this,' he said, and then he left for another place."

"Peter," first, calmed down the enthusiasm that was generated by their discovery that "Rhoda" was not hallucinating—"Peter" was at the door!  Peter, then, tells them how God had delivered him from jail.  Then, "Peter" instructs them to "tell James and the brothers about this."  "James" was the brother of Jesus who was a key leader in the early church in Jerusalem.  We learn in I Corinthians 15:7 that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.  That post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to "James" changed everything for him. See also Acts 15:12-21, 21:18; Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 12  This also is the "James" who wrote the book of "James."

"and then he left for another place."  Staying with them, would have put them in danger.  He was also still a wanted man.  Luke does not say anything more about "Peter" in the book of Acts until Acts 15. see Acts 15:6-11  It is possible that Luke does not mention where "Peter" went into hiding, to conceal the hiding place and to protect those that had hid him.

"In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed."

The innocent soldiers died because somebody had to be the scapegoat.  "Herod" was in power, and did not see himself to be at fault, so it had to be them.  It was, though, the pattern at that time for the jailer to die if a prisoner escaped. See Acts 16:27, 27:42  But, as Gangel points out, "Herod" was not required to kill them.  He could have spared their lives, but he didn't.

h. Herod is miraculously slain (12:19b-2)
"Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to increase and spread. When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark."

Thought Question:  What does what happened to "Herod" tell us about how we should treat the temptation to get proud?

 

 

"Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply."  

The "people of Tyre and Sidon" "belonged to Syria and Herod Agrippa had no authority there." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  But, because they needed food from the region "Herod" Agrippa did have authority over, they were forced to seek peace with him.

"On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.'"  "The Jewish historian Josephus wrote of this same event.  On a festival day Herod presented himself in the theater in Caesarea to make a speech dressed in a beautiful robe woven of silver.  As he moved in the sun, the brilliant flashing at times blinded the people." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"The people" were so impressed with him, that they deified him.  How would we handle this type of praise from people?  Ray Stedman, my first pastor as a Christian, said that when someone pats us on the back there is a reflex action that takes place—our head swells up.  Because he was becoming too affected by the nice comments of the people in the church, he found that he could not meet people at the door after a Sunday morning service.  Instead, he would stay at the front of the church.  Those that come up to him there mostly came to him with their needs and questions.  We see in Acts 14 that Paul and Barnabas rejected the type of praise that "Herod" received. See Act 14:8-15

"Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died."  Just as Peter was rescued by "an angel of the Lord" (12:7) from the prison that "Herod" put him in, so "Herod" was killed by "an angel of the Lord" for receiving worship and for not giving "praise to God."  It could have been the same "angel."

"Josephus reported that Herod lived in pain for five more days and died at the age of fifty-four (Antiq. XIX 343-50, vii 2)." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."  "Herod" may have died from being eaten by worms internally.  "The word skolex [worms] was used of intestinal worms." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." In the end, one thing was clear: God is God and "Herod" was not.  With us, one thing is clear: God is God and we are not.

Years ago, the college-career group I was leading at the time attended an event of  a college group of another church.  Someone recently had taught them on theseverses.  They used what happened here as a warning about the temptation to be proud.  When they felt that they were giving in to pride, they would say to themselves or to each other, "Here come the worms!"

One of the most well-known verses in the Bible is, "Pride comes before a fall."  The NIV puts it, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18) See also Daniel 4:28-33 for where God humbles King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

What can protect us from pride?  What is taught here can protect us.  May we remember how God responded to Herod's pride when we are tempted to be proud and take credit for what God has done.  Fear of God protects us from pride.

"But the word of God continued to increase and spread. When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark."  The "mission" that is referred to here is described in 11:27-30: "During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul."  And, so, "Barnabas and Saul" return to Antioch bringing "Mark" with them.

"Herod" and the Jews were unable to stop the growth of the church—"the word of God continued to increase and spread."  In the coming chapters, we will learn of the ministry of these three men—as they continue the outreach of the church to the ends of the earth.  In the coming chapters, the central person will be Paul, the former "Saul." 

2. The first missionary journey (13-14)

a. How the missionary got started (13:1-3)
"In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off."

Thought Question:  What does the way these men sought God's direction teach us about how we should seek God's direction for our lives?

 

 

"In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'"

The international ministry of the church began in a church led by international and interracial leaders.  Here, Luke describes five of them.  "Barnabas" was from the island of Cyprus. "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)," (Acts 4:36)  "Simeon" may have been an African man, for his second name, "Niger," means "black" in Latin (the nation of Nigeria).  "Lucius of Cyrene" was from Ethiopia.  "Cyrene" was its capital city.  "Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch)" may have been the royal officer or his son that Jesus healed. See John 4:46-54  And, finally, "Saul" who was from Tarsus—which is to the northeast of Antioch.

"there were prophets and teachers"  Each of these men, then, was either a prophet or a teacher in Christ's church.  What is the difference between a prophet and a teacher?  Paul, in I Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 distinguishes between "prophets" and "teachers."  "And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28)  "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers." (Ephesians 4:11)

"Prophets" in the early church received direct messages from God. See Acts 11:27-29, 15:32, 21:8-11  The church at that time did not have the completed Bible as we have today, so God used the "prophets" to speak His words to the church.    "Prophets" were necessary at the beginning and foundation of the church: "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20)

"Teachers" are those gifted by God to explain the meaning of the words of the prophets and the meaning of the Bible, so that the church can understand the meaning of God's truths.

"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,"  First, we see what they were doing at this time.  Their "worshiping the Lord and fasting" shows that they realized that the ministry of the church is God's work.  It is not our project, but His.  They were seeking His guidance and His empowering for His work.

"fasting,"  "Fasting"—not eating so one can focus on God—takes the focus off worldly needs and concerns and allows there to be a singular focus on God. See Acts 14:23  The early church needed God's direction at this key time.  What did He want them to do next?  They were not sure, but they were about to receive His directions.

"the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'"  Now, we see what God's response was to what they did.  The next step in God's agenda for the church was to "set apart" "Barnabas and Saul" as missionaries to reach the world outside of the region in Israel and Syria that had already been reached.  God chose those for His missionary work who were already actively involved in His work.  Within the last week from writing these words, a young couple traveled to Kenya.  They were, though, already busy in God's work here in the church helping with the youth group, teaching a children's Sunday school class, supporting the mission's effort in the church, and being on the worship team.  "Barnabas and Saul," like this young couple, were eager to follow God's direction and step out in faith and head out to an area of the world where they had never been before.

"the Holy Spirit said,"  We are not told how the "Holy Spirit" spoke to them.  He may have spokeN to them through one of "the prophets."  He also may have spoke to them in an audible voice; or there may have been a spiritual awareness that they became united on.  We do not know how God spoke to them, but they clearly knew what God wanted them to do.

"So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off."  "After" God's "Spirit" spoke to them, they continued with their focus on God and continued to fast.  Then, they "placed their hands" on "Barnabas and Saul" "and sent them off."  By placing "hands on them," they were expressing to them that the church at Antioch was supportive of them and identifying with them in their ministry.  "Barnabas and Saul" were not going out on their own; they were being sent out by the church at Antioch.  When they returned from their first missionary journey, they would report to the church all that had taken place. "On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples." (Acts 14:27-28)

"they placed their hands on them and sent them off."  Was the "they" here only those who "fasted and prayed" with them, as described in 13:1—"Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch)"?  That is unlikely.  It is more likely that the whole church at Antioch "sent them off."

b. Why they kept going (13:4-15:35)

(1) They went out trusting God to open doors (13:4-7)
"The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God."

Thought Question:  What does the way these men sought to reach their world tell us about how we should seek to reach our world?

 

 

"The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper."  "Barnabas," "Saul," and "John" (John Mark) began where the gospel message had already been shared.  "Barnabas" was from "Cyprus." See 4:36  There were already Christians in "Cyprus." "Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus." (Acts 11:19-20)

"Seleucia" was "the seaport of Antioch."  "Salamis" was "on the east coast of the central plain of Cyprus." "NIV Study Bible note."  They began a pattern that Paul would follow throughout his missionary journeys.  They first went to the Jews in "the Jewish synagogues." See 13:14, 14:1, 17:1-4, 10, 18:4  There must have been many Jews in "Salamis," for there was more than one synagogue there.  There needed to be ten married men to have a synagogue.  So, they spent some time speaking in different "synagogues."  The leaders of the "synagogues" would allow a visiting Pharisee, such as "Saul" had been, to speak at the end of their synagogue service.  We learn here that that they took "John" along to assist them in the ministry.

What do we learn from them about how we are guided by "the Holy Spirit"?  It appears that they did not stop and do nothing until God's "Spirit" told them what to do next.  Instead, they moved out in a reasonable and rational way by first going to Barnabas' home island; and, then, by going to "the Jewish synagogues" where people would be familiar with the God of the Bible.  They expected, though, that God's "Spirit" would open doors, strengthen them, and make real what they were teaching about Jesus.  They moved out trusting in God's "Spirit" to lead them and to open doors.  How does this apply to us?  We also are to move out trusting in God's "Spirit" to lead us and to open doors. 

"They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God."

"Paphos" is on the west side of the island.  So, they traveled across "Cyprus," a distance of about 100 miles.

Here, we have an obvious open door.  "Sergius Paulus" the governor, using our modern-day term, was both "an intelligent" and searching "man."  He was searching for a spiritual life, for he was seeking spiritual answers through a "sorcerer" by the name of "Bar-Jesus."  He sent for "Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God."

Sir William Ramsey at first sought to prove Luke's accounts in the book of Acts were not true to actual history.  But, after studying the history and archaeology of the regions that Luke describes, he concluded that Luke was an accurate historian.  That there was a "Sergius Paulus" is supported by archaeology: "A Cyprian Gr. coin inscr. from Soli mentions a proconsul Paulos who is prob. the same official." "Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia. of the Bible."

"Sir William Ramsey had uncovered evidence that he was a Christian and that his whole family became Christians and were very prominent in Christian circles after this event." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."

Rendle Short makes this observation about the accuracy of Luke's terms:  "It was the Roman custom to try to govern the scattered provinces of their great empire through rulers maintaining the forms to which these provinces were accustomed.  So a great variety of titles was to be found in towns or provinces around the Mediterranean, and a writer who had neither sat in the Foreign Office of the Emperor, nor gone the rounds himself was unlikely to get all these titles correct.  A century later, the task would be well-nigh impossible, except to a trained, painstaking historian of the modern type.  But Luke does get them right: he mentions a tetrarch, Herod, in Galilee, and Lysanias, in Abilene; another Herod is a king, by special favor of Caligula.  He lists a proconsul at Cyprus; praetors at Philippi; politarchs at Thessalonica; Gallio the proconsul at Corinth; a town-clerk and Asiarchs at Ephesus; chief-man Publius at Malta.  All of these titles we can confirm by independent evidence, either from historians, or from coins, or from inscriptions." "Taken from Archaeology Gives Evidence by Rendle Short.  Copyright 1951 by Intervarsity Press, pp. 55-56."

(2) They were strong in the Lord and the strength of His might (13:8-12)
"But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.' Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that "Saul" was so confident in confronting "Elymas the sorcerer"?

 

 

"But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.""Bar-Jesus" was Sergius Paulus' teacher.  His name indicated that he saw himself as the son of Jesus—that is what "Bar-Jesus" meant.  He certainly saw "Saul and Barnabas" as threats and intruders on his territory.  So, he was "opposed" to their ministry with "Sergius Paulus."  Most, if not all, in God's work have had times when there were those who were opposed to them and to their ministry.  That is what "Saul and Barnabas" faced in this "Bar-Jesus."  Hughes comments on the cost of service to Jesus.  "There is a cost to sincere service for Christ.  Never share your faith and you will never look like a fool.  Never stand for righteousness on a social issue and you will never be rejected.  Never walk out of a theater because a movie or play is offensive and you will never be called a prig.  Never practice consistent honesty in business and you will not lose the trade of a not-so-honest associate.  Never reach out to the needy and you will never be taken advantage of.  Never give your heart and it will never be broken.  Never go to Cyprus and you will never be subjected to a dizzy, heart-convulsing confrontation with Satan.  Seriously follow Christ and you will experience a gamut of sorrows almost completely unknown to the unbeliever.  But of course you will also know the joy of adventure with the Lord of the universe and of spiritual victory as you live a life of allegiance to him.  For Saul and Barnabas, the battle was on." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"Elymas the sorcerer"  "Elymus.  A Semitic name meaning 'sorcerer' or 'magician' or 'wise man' (probably a self-assumed designation)." "NIV Study Bible note." 

"tried to turn the proconsul from the faith."  His goal was the exact opposite of Barnabas' and Saul's goal for "Sergius Paulos."  They were seeking to lead him to "faith" in Jesus Christ.

"Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.'"

This is the point where leadership is shifted from "Barnabas" to "Saul," or as he will be called from now on, "Paul."  From now on it is "Paul" and "Barnabas," not "Barnabas" and "Saul." See 13:13, 16, 42, 43, 46, 50, 14:1, etc.  It is "Paul" here, who takes the leadership in confronting "Elymus."  "Saul" was his Jewish name and "Paul" was his Roman name.  There are a number of examples of Jews having both a Jewish name and a Roman or Greek name—Simon and Peter, John Mark, and others.  From now on "Saul" is called "Paul""Paul" the apostle.

How was he able to so strongly and effectually confront this "sorcerer"?  It was because he was "filled with the Holy Spirit."   God enabled him to take on this child of the devil in his home territory.  "Paul" made it clear that "Elymus" was not a follower of Jesus, but he was empowered by the "devil."  Instead of teaching God's "ways," he was a perverter of God's "ways."

This type of thing has been happening over the years.  False teachers are always present.  Their pattern is the same as that of "Elymas."  They twist and distort the Bible to get it to say what they want it to say to further their own selfish interests.  They use " deceit and trickery" to further their evil ambitions.

"Paul" says nothing to him or about him that is positive.  "Paul" obviously was not trying to win a friend in what he says here.  How, can this be a Christian way to treat someone?  He was "filled with the Holy Spirit" when he said it, so it is right and holy to speak strongly against evil and evil-doers.  It was right for "Paul" to speak strongly to this evil magician.

How did "Paul" know that God was going to strike this "sorcerer" "blind"?  I believe that God, at that moment, revealed to Paul what He was going to do.  "Paul" did not choose to do it, rather he believed that God was going to do it.  The is the first miraculous sign of Paul's apostleship recorded in the Bible.  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)

"Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord."  When this "proconsul" saw what happened, he believed, "he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord."  This "proconsul" or governor immediately saw whose side God was on.  Who would he choose to follow, this man who had just been blinded by God or "Paul" and "Barnabas" whom God used to "blind" him?  These two missionaries did not win this governor over with their eloquence or intelligence, God won him over.

The spiritually "blind" man was shown to be spiritually "blind" by being struck physically "blind." 

"and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.'"  It appears that the physical blindness was only temporary.  It, nevertheless, accomplished God's purpose.  And. so, "Paul" and "Barnabas" leave Cyprus, leaving new believers in Jesus Christ behind.  And, one of the new believers is the Roman governor of that region.

(3) They took advantage of open doors (13:13-52)
(13:13-15) "From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, 'Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.'"

Thought Question:  The synagogue provided "Paul" the Pharisee with an open door.  What is an open door to share the gospel that your background gives to you? (For example, a club you are in, your family, your profession, a group you are part of, etc.)

 

 

"From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem."  "Perga was an important city on the Cestrus river; it was served by the port of Attalia . . . There are extensive Greek and Roman ruins at Perga." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

"where John [Mark] left them to return to Jerusalem."  We learn in Acts 15 that Paul saw it as Mark deserting them.  "Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.' Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord." (Acts 15:36-40)

Why did Mark leave them?  It is suggested that Mark did not like the change from "Barnabas," his uncle, leading to "Paul" leading.  Also, we learn that "Paul" contracted an illness at this time.  He tells the Galatians that an illness led to him preaching to them.  "As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself." (Galatians 4:13-14)  Mark may have been repulsed by the illness or concerned that he might also get sick.  Another possibility is that Mark opposed Paul's mission to Gentiles.  Still another reason is that they were about to begin a mountainous climb into a strange and dangerous land.  Cyprus was beautiful, but the trip after Cyprus was very difficult.

Whatever the reason, Mark was like so many that find the rigors of missionary life to be not so glamorous as they once thought it would be; and, as a result, they return from missionary life prematurely.  May it cause us to appreciate our modern-day missionaries and the difficult work that they do.

We do know that Mark did not stay in his condition of uselessness.  Some of Paul's last words speak very highly of Mark.  " . . . Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Timothy 4:11b)  God also was not through with Mark, for he was the author of the Gospel of Mark.

"From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, 'Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak."  They had started their missionary journey at Antioch in Syria.  Now, they come to another "Antioch" that is located in the Galatian region.  The book of Galatians was written to the churches in this Galatian region.  The churches were about to come into existence as the "synagogue rulers" invite Paul and Barnabas to speak in their synagogues.  The other new churches that are about to be brought into existence are Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. 

Barclay accentuates the dangers and the tiresome toil that was involved in these earliest missionaries reaching "Pisidian Antioch."  "One of the amazing things about Acts is the heroism that is passed over in a sentence.  Pisidian Antioch stood on a plateau 3,600 feet above sea level.  To get to it Paul and Barnabas would have to cross the Taurus range of mountains by one of the hardest roads in Asia Minor, a road which was also notorious for robbers and brigands." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"Pisidian Antioch" was about 100 miles from Perga.  Our home in the state of Washington is about 100 miles from Seattle.  To get there we need to cross a mountain pass.  Paul and Barnabas did not have a car with balloon tires and freeway to travel on.  Our imagination can fill in what their trip was like.

"'Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak" "It was customary to invite visitors, especially visiting rabbis (such as Paul) to address the gathering." "NIV Study Bible note."

(13:16-22)  "Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: 'Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that "Paul" started with a history of Israel's relationship with God?

 

 

"Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: 'Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert,'"  Paul began his message at the "synagogue" by tracing Israel's early history.  He summarizes the earliest years with the words: "The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers."  Paul agrees with his listeners that Israel was chosen by God and that God chose the "fathers" of Israel –Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then, Paul summarizes Israel's about 400 years in Egypt. See 7:6

"he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert"  Paul does not sugarcoat Israel's history to please the Jews and God-fearing "Gentiles."  Israel wandered "in the desert" because of their sin.  Paul summarizes their sins in I Corinthians 10:7-10: "Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.' We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel."  A key purpose of the Old Testament is to describe Israel's sins and their need for a Savior.  We are to see that we, like them, are also sinners and also need a Savior.  As they failed, so we would have failed if we had been there.  And we have  failed as they failed.

Stedman points out that the central Person in Paul's history is God.  Look at the verses once more.  "The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert,'"  As we continue, we will see that God continues to be the central figure and hero of Paul's history of Israel.

"he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years."  We read of the "nations" that were conquered by Israel in Deuteronomy 7:1-2: "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy."

"450 years."  "450 years" sums up the about 400 years in Israel and the about "forty years" in the wilderness added together.

"'After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”'"  Then, "Paul" moves forward in Israel's history, skipping the time period that is described in the book of Joshua, and moves up to the time of the Judges.  As we read in the book of Judges, "God gave them judges" when they cried out to God after they had become enslaved to some nation as a result of them turning to idolatry.  This period of Judges ended with "Samuel the prophet."  The people grew tired of God being their king and wanted to have a human king like the other nations had.  God first gave them "Saul"—a man after man's heart.  "Saul" was from "the tribe of Benjamin." Paul the apostle's original name was Saul.  Since he also was from "the tribe of Benjamin," he may have been named after king "Saul." See Philippians 3:5 

Then God gave Israel a king after His own heart—"he will do everything I want him to do."  "The words quoted by Paul as a direct saying of God are a combination of Psa. 89:20, 21 and I Samuel 13:14." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

How can Paul say that David was a man whom God could say, "he will do everything I want him to do"?  Obviously, since David was both an adulterer and a murderer late in his life, he did not do "everything" God wanted him to do.  But, even after these sins, he continued to be referred at as "a man after" God's "own heart." See also I Kings 15:5  Why?  "David, God's man committed some sins that were actually more terrible than anything Saul had done.  But whenever a prophet or someone else confronted him and said, 'David you've done it, man.'  David would crumble.  Falling on his face he would cry, 'I've sinned against my God!  Oh Lord have mercy on this sinner.' He would mean it to the depth of soul.  He would confess it and strive to make it right with God." "Taken from Heart After God  p. 33 by Luis Palau.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

David's heart is open for God and us to see in his Psalm 139: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

(13:23-25) "'From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: “Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”'"

Thought Question:  What type of heart attitude enabled "John" to be able to so accurately compare himself to Jesus? (How can we also have this type of attitude?)

 

 

"'From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel."  Paul explains that the "Savior" that God "promised" would come from David's "descendants," had come!  That the "promised" "Savior" would come from David's family is predicted in the following verses.  "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:16)  "The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: 'One of your own descendants I will place on your throne— if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.'" (Psalm 132:11-12)  "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6) See also Isaiah 11:1-5

Then, Paul focuses on "John" the Baptist.  Paul explains that he was God's immediate forerunner—He went before Jesus and "preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel."  They may have heard of "John" and his popularity from Jewish travelers who went to Jerusalem for the festivals.

"'As John was completing his work, he said: “Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”'"  If they heard of "John" the Baptist, Paul's quote of him saying that he was "not worthy to untie" Jesus' "sandals" surely caught the interest and curiosity of his listeners about who Jesus is.  "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)

(13:26-29)  "'Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.'"

Thought Question:  In I Corinthians, "Paul" said that "we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews."  What is there in what "Paul" said here that was a "stumbling block" to the "Jews" that were listening to him?

 

 

"'Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.'"  The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would die for man's sins.  "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)

The Jewish "rulers" unwittingly fulfilled prophecy about their Messiah by killing Him.  They killed an innocent man.  They killed the Messiah promised to them.  They killed Him even though they could find no charge against Him.  "The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward" (Matthew 26:59-60)  "For the third time he spoke to them: 'Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him." (Luke 23:22)

"When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.'"  And, so, we have the first part of the gospel message as described in I Corinthians 15:  "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, . . . " (I Corinthians 15:1-4a)

(13:30-37)  "'But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.” So it is stated elsewhere: “You will not let your Holy One see decay.” For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.'"

Thought Question:  "Paul" uses the Old Testament that he had memorized to share the gospel message.  Which Old Testament verses do you know that you could use in sharing the gospel message?

 

 

"'But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.'"  Paul, in I Corinthians 15 states the same truth.  "and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

"and for many days"  Jesus appeared to His followers for forty days. "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) See also Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21; Acts 1:3-11

"'We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.” So it is stated elsewhere: “You will not let your Holy One see decay.”'"

Here, we see Paul's pattern when he spoke in the synagogues.  It is summarized in Acts 17:2-4:  "As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women."

Paul sought to prove that Jesus fulfilled the predictions of Him in the Old Testament.  In these verses, Paul gives three predictions of Jesus from the Old Testament.  First of all, Psalm 2:7: "I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'"

"Raising up Jesus" does not appear to be referring to "raising" Jesus from the dead, but to bringing Jesus into the flow of man's history—causing Him to become a man in our world and fulfilling the promise to David to do that.

"Today" appears to refer to the time that Jesus lived—just shortly before Paul said these words.  Psalm 2:1-6 describes Jesus' life.  "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.' The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.'"

Jesus was declared to be God's Son during His lifetime on earth.  "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17)  "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (Matthew 17:5)  "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.'" (John 12:27-28)

The second Old Testament verse Paul points to is Isaiah 55:3: "'The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.”'"  Jesus is a permanent blessing to us because He is a resurrected and living Savior.  "Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David." (Isaiah 55:3)

The third verse Paul quotes is Psalm 16:10:  "'So it is stated elsewhere: “You will not let your Holy One see decay.”'"  "Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay." (Psalm 16:10)  Peter also quoted Psalm 16:10 at Pentecost. See Acts 2:27  This could not have been referring to David, for he was not God's "Holy One."  It could only be referring to the God-man Jesus Christ.  And, as predicted, the Holy One's body is not today decaying in a grave in Jerusalem.  His body became a resurrected body, just as God guided David to predict.

(13:36-27)  "'For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.'"

Thought Question:  How important is it that Jesus' body is not in a grave? (Seek an opportunity to share this with someone this week.  It can be a Christian or a non-Christian.)

 

 

"'For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.'"  Psalm 16:10 could not have been referring to "David," for "David" died and was buried as all men are.  But Jesus' body is not in a grave.  So, Psalm 16:10 does not describe "David," but David's ancestor Jesus Christ. See the similarity to Peter's sermon in Acts 2:24-32.

(13:38-41)  "'Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: “Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.”'"

Thought Question:  What does "Paul" mean by "justified"?

 

 

"'Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.'"  What Paul said at the beginning of his message about the history of the Jews is what the Jews commonly believed and agreed on.  What he said about the Jews murdering an innocent Messiah and what he says in these verses is quite different than what these Jews had heard before.  The Jews believed that they could get right with God "by the law of Moses."  Paul says here that they could only get right with God through the death of Jesus.  They were now in new and unfamiliar territory—controversial territory!

"everyone who believes is justified"  "Justified" is the opposite of condemned.  Everyone who tries to obey God's "law" ends up being condemned.  "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" (Galatians 3:10)  "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so." (Romans 8:7)  The law actually brings out our heart rebellion against God.  "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." (Romans 7:7-9)

So, we are "justified" "through" belief in "Jesus."  "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:15-16)

The book of Galatians was written to the Christians of this region as a result of their having gone back to trusting in the "law" rather than trusting in Jesus and His gracious death for them.

"'Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: “Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.”'"  Paul quotes Habakkuk 1:5: "Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."  "'“Look, you scoffer”'" is "not in the Hebrew, but in LXX [the Septuagint or the Greek translation of the New Testament]." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  God, in Habakkuk 1:5, predicts God's judgment on Israel by the Babylonians. 

Here, Paul warns his listeners not to scoff at what he says about Jesus.  Scoffing at God's warnings have grave results.  Israel scoffed at Jesus and, in about 40 years, they were completely overrun  by the Romans in A.D. 70.  Stedman comments that he does not believe that "these words were spoken in sharpness, but in sadness." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."

(13:42-45)  "As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying."

Thought Question:  What do you learn here about what will occur when the gospel is effectively communicated? See II Corinthians 2:14-16

 

 

"As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God." 

When we present the gospel message, there will be those who receive it and those who reject it.  Jesus Christ divided people and so does the truth about Him continue to divide people.  Here, we see that some responded very warmly to Paul's message and wanted to hear more.

"urged them to continue in the grace of God."  "At least some of them had actually believed and received God's grace, for Paul urged them to continue in the grace of God." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying."  It is an ugly part of us humans that we can resent those who are more successful than we are.  It is a rare person that can celebrate someone else's success, even though it is greater than his or her own success.  It is, though, what true love does.  "Love . . . does not envy . . . "     (I Corinthians 13:4)

"The Jews" had no love for "Paul and Barnabas" on that "Sabbath" when "almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord."  All that they saw was that they had become second fiddle to these men, and "they were filled with jealousy." 

"and talked abusively against what Paul was saying."  Two Greek words are used here to describe what these Jews were doing: (1) antelegon – speak against; and (2) blasphemountes – blaspheme.  They were slandering Paul and Barnabas and what they were teaching.  Paul's and Barnabas' ministry always took place in the midst of very strong opposition.  Jesus predicted that it would occur.  "'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.'" (John 15:18-20)

"Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: 'We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”' When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed."

Thought Question:  There is much to provoke thought in these verses.  Jews who are God's chosen nation rejected the gospel.  Yet, those "who were appointed for eternal life believed."   Does God choose us or do we choose God? (or both)  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: 'We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.'"  Paul's message had polarized the city, and he found it necessary to reject the Jews who had, with hardness of heart, rejected his message about Jesus Christ.

"'We had to speak the word of God to you first.'"  There are many reasons that Paul and Barnabas spoke first to the Jews.  The Bible expands on Paul's words in other places.  Jesus said, "salvation is from the Jews." (John 4:22)  The design of the tabernacle given to Moses symbolized and predicted how unholy men can enter into a relationship with a holy God through Jesus' blood sacrifice—one must first offer a sacrifice on the altar in front of the tent before approaching the Holy of Holies.  Paul also emphasized the Jews' importance in God's plans: "the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." (Romans 9:4-5)  It is appropriate, then, that Paul should preach the gospel "first" to the Jews.  He continued this pattern in each city—"first" to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.  "At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed." (Acts 14:1) See also Acts 1:8, 3:26

"Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life,"  Their rejection of the message of Jesus showed that they were unworthy of being members of His eternal family.  The Jews thought they were more worthy of receiving eternal life than the Gentiles.  But, that very attitude made them unworthy.  In Jesus' kingdom, the last are first.  "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (Matthew 19:30)  "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the 'stumbling stone.'" (Romans 9:30-32)  "Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness." (Romans 10:1-3)

"For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”' When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord;"  God's plan has always been to "bring salvation to the ends of the earth."  And, God's plan has always been to use Israel as "a light for the Gentiles."  Paul apparently quotes from memory Isaiah 49:6 here.  When the "Gentiles" learned that they were part of God's plan, they were delighted.  This verse in Isaiah is also quoted by Simeon in Luke 2:29-32:  "'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.'" (Luke 2:29-32)  And it is referred to in the description of Jesus' commissioning of Paul to be an apostle to the "Gentiles." See Acts 26:15-18

"and all who were appointed for eternal life believed."  This verse clearly teaches that God's election of us precedes our believing in Him.  Since we were chosen "before the creation of the world," that is unquestionably true. (Ephesians 1:4) See also I Peter 1:1-2  But God's election of His children does not rule out true choices being made.  Certainly, God elects those who are "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3) to be His children and does not elect those who are proud and hard-hearted—as the Jews were who rejected Paul and Barnabas.  Certainly, one does not become "poor in spirit" without any choices of his or her own being made.  Those God "appointed for eternal life" were also "poor in spirit."  Here, though, Luke does not focus on their choices throughout their lives that humbled or hardened them, but on God's choosing of them.  Ray Stedman put it this way:  "I don't know how it works.  God doesn't cancel out human responsibility, but underneath and above and all around is the sovereignty of God, working out his wonderful purpose in human lives." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."

Personally, I am encouraged that when we witness, there are those who are "appointed for eternal life" who will believe—who have been drawn to God and are ready to believe.  It is God's work in them, drawing them to Jesus, that makes us hopeful that a person or persons will believe.  That is what happened so many years ago in Pisidian Antioch.

(13:49-52)  "The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."

Thought Question:  Have you experienced anything like what these early Christians experienced? (people stirring up "persecution" against you, needing to turn from people in "protest," and being "filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" in spite of it all)

 

 

"The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region."

It does not appear that Paul and Barnabas spent only a week or so in this area.  "This would seem to indicate a stay of some months with active work among the Gentiles that bore rich fruit." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

The Jews were strongly opposed to Paul's and Barnabas' success among the Gentiles and found a way to force them to leave their "region."  They turned the people they had influence with toward being against "Paul and Barnabas."

Luke does not tell us how "Paul and Barnabas" were "expelled" from "their region."  Some of Paul's hardships that are listed in II Corinthians, 6:4-5 and 11:23-29 may have happened during this time.  Also, Timothy was aware of how "Paul" was persecuted here in Antioch.  "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them." (2 Timothy 3:10-11)

"So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium."  They left Antioch, both because they were forced to leave and because their message was being rejected by those in places of political power.  Jesus gave the following instructions to His disciples: "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:11-16)

This shaking of "the dust from their feet" symbolizes that they have been warned and that they have rejected that warning.  So, the responsibility was no longer Paul's and Barnabas'.  Now, the responsibility was fully on those who had rejected the warning.  "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself." (Ezekiel 33:7-9) See also Ezekiel 3:17-19

"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."  Certainly, the Jews who had conspired to have Paul and Barnabas "expelled" "from their region" hoped that Christians and Christianity would also be "expelled" "from their region."  Instead, God's Spirit prevailed in the lives of the "disciples" in "their region."  The new Christians were visibly both powerful and joyous.  God had accomplished His goal through the ministry of "Paul and Barnabas."

(4) They did not allow opposition to discourage them (14:1-7)
"At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the 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 do miraculous signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among the 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, where they continued to preach the good news."

Thought Question:  Are we poisoning "minds against" someone anytime we say something negative about him or her?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed."  "Iconium" was "about 100 miles Southeast of Antioch [of Pisidia], modern Konya." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."
"Konya" "today is Turkey's fourth largest town." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

Again, Paul and Barnabas begin by seeking to reach the Jews.  The "Jewish synagogue" gave them that opportunity.  But, we will see that again, also, the results were the same as at Pisidian Antioch—some believed and the others who did not believe hated them.

"But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the 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 do miraculous signs and wonders." 

When we read that "the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers," we would expect that Paul and Barnabas hightailed it out of town.  Instead, we read, "so Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord."  What if they had been timid and allowed themselves to be intimidated?  Are we able to be bold in intimidating circumstances as they were?  Or do we shrink back when we meet strong opposition to the gospel and to the truth?  We must admire what these two men were able to do.  It may be that Paul thought Mark would have shrunk back in these types of intimidating circumstances, and that is why he did not want to take him along on the second missionary journey. See Acts 15:37-40

"refused to believe"  The same Greek word is used in John 3:36; Acts 19:9, and 28:24.  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him." (John 3:36)  "But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus." (Acts 19:9)  "Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe." (Acts 28:24)  As it says in 19:9, "some of them became obstinate."  The result was that they "refused to believe."

"stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers,"  Here is something that we never want to be part of.  Poisoning minds against someone is to describe that person in the opposite way as the Lord sees him.  It is to twist and distort everything about him so that he looks like an evil monster. 

The apostle John is strong about Diotrephes in III John, but his description is accurate. See III John 9-10  Jesus is strong about the Pharisees in Matthew 23, but His description about them is accurate.  "Minds" are "poisoned" against someone when people begin to see someone in a distorted and inaccurate way because of what is said about them—faults are exaggerated and strengths are not seen; the worst is believed about him or her.

"for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders."  Paul's and Barnabas' boldness came as a result of God's support of them.  God supported the message of these early apostles with miracles.  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)  "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." (Hebrews 2:3-4)  Paul speaks of these "miracles" in Galatians 3:5:  "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?"

"The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles."  Jesus predicted the effect that the gospel and telling about Him would have on people.  "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)  "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:18-21)  We need to remember that it is no different today. See also II Corinthians 2:14-16

"some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles."  Here, Barnabas is called an apostle.  14:14 says the same: "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting."  It appears that here, "apostles" is referring to something similar to our term, "missionaries," rather than "apostles" in the sense that Paul and the Twelve were "apostles."   We can see in II Corinthians 8:23 that "apostles" refers to those who are "sent-out ones."  "As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives [apostles] of the churches and an honor to Christ."  In the NIV in this verse, the Greek word apostoloi is translated as "representatives," but it is the same Greek word that is translated "apostles" in other places. See also Romans 16:7  In Galatians 1:15-18, Paul is claiming to be an apostle on a par with the Twelve.

"There was a plot afoot among the 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, where they continued to preach the good news."  "Lystra and Derbe" were smaller cities.  It may be that, like Jesus did at one time, it was time to get away into a remoter region until things cooled down.  "Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples." (John 11:54)

They had been as effective in Iconium as possible.  If they did not leave, their missionary voyage may have ended there, with them being stoned to death.

(5) They rejected the praise of men (14:8-18)
"In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, 'Stand up on your feet!' At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have come down to us in human form!' Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 'Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 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.' Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them."

Thought Question:  What do you believe would have happened if Paul and Barnabas had allowed these people to worship them?

 

 

"In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, 'Stand up on your feet!' At that, the man jumped up and began to walk."  Paul and Barnabas did not follow their regular pattern of going first to the synagogue.  It appears, then, that there was not a synagogue in "Lystra."  So, instead, Paul spoke where there were crowds of people. See 14:11

Also, it was not a large city.  "Though little is known of the origin of Lystra, we do know that it was a frontier outpost.   Caesar Augustus had made it a Roman colony in 6 B.C., establishing it as the easternmost of the fortified cities of Galatia." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Sometimes, when speaking to a group of people, I notice that someone there is particularly interested in what I am teaching.  It appears that this is what happened  as Paul was speaking.  A "lame" "man" caught Paul's attention.

Now, let's consider the healing.  First of all, the man "was lame from birth."  So, this man was not someone who had just turned his ankle and was on crutches for a while.  Everyone in the city probably knew of his lameness, and that he had been born that way.

Secondly, Paul says that he had "faith to be healed."  What is meant by that.  There are a number of accounts where people are healed who did not have this "faith."  Jesus healed a man who did not expect to be healed.  In fact, he did not even know who Jesus was. See John 5:1-15  Peter also healed a crippled beggar who did not expect to be healed. See Acts 3:1-10

This man's "faith" provokes a number of questions in me.  Only one commentary that I have been using mentions this man's "faith."  My first question is what part of this man's faith came from God and what part came from this man?  Since Jesus commends those who have faith, part of their "faith" must come from them. See Matthew 8:5-13, 9:20-22, 15:21-28  This lame man appears to have been receptive to Paul's teaching.  But God also opens men's eyes so that we can believe. See Acts 16:14; Luke 24:13-33

This "lame" "man" was responsive to God and God made it real to him that He could heal him.  There are times when God's willing servants know what God is going to do.  Why does this happen?  It is because they are willing to do His will and because God chooses to make them part of what He is doing.  God was about to heal this man and this man knew it and Paul knew it. See James 5:13-18

When Paul "called out, 'Stand up on your feet!'"  This man, who believed that God was going to heal him, immediately "jumped up and began to walk."  This was an obvious and unmistakable supernatural miracle.  It is similar to Peter's miraculous healing of the crippled beggar in Acts 3—putting Paul's apostleship on the same level as Peter's apostleship.

Though there was no synagogue in "Lystra," and Paul and Barnabas therefore did not have the benefit of going into a synagogue where people were familiar with the God of the Bible, this miracle created in the people of "Lystra" a fixated interest in these two strangers who were speaking to them.  But, as we will see, Paul and Barnabas had to avoid a strong temptation if the correct message was to reach these people of "Lystra."

"When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have come down to us in human form!' Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them."  This was not at all the response that Paul and Barnabas had hoped for.  Sometimes people can so appreciate what God has done for them through a servant of God, that they can give the human messenger the credit for the help they have received rather being thankful to God for what He has done for them.  How do we respond when and if this happens—when people give us the credit for what God has done?

Here, the people of "Lystra" concluded that Paul and Barnabas were their pagan gods become human.  "Zeus" was the supreme god of the Greeks, and "Hermes" was the spokesmen of the Greek gods.  Jupiter and Mercury were the Roman equivalent of these two gods.

Paul and Barnabas did not know what was being said for it was "in the Lycaonian language."  They did not know at first that the "bulls and wreaths" were being brought to them so that they could be worshipped as gods.

Barclay explains why the people of "Lystra" may have concluded that Paul and Barnabas were the Greek gods "Zeus" and "Hermes."  The people believed that these two gods had once visited earth, but the people did not recognize them.  Then, an older couple took them in and were rewarded.  The people of "Lystra" were not going to make that mistake again.

"But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 'Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.'" 

In Acts 12:19-23, we learned of Herod Agrippa being worshipped as a god.  He, in his pride, received that worship, and "an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died."  Paul and Barnabas did not want to come to the same fate, and "they tore their clothes" to show that they were completely rejecting these people's attempt to worship them.  Instead of allowing these people to worship them, they turned the focus away from them and toward the true God who created them. See Psalm 146:6

"When Paul went to the Jews, he started with the Scriptures, the truth of God that they already knew.  When he went to the Gentiles, he started with nature, the truth of God they already knew." Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers." See also Acts 17:17-31

"turn from these worthless things"  Paul and Barnabas called what these people worshipped "worthless."  Here, we have what missionaries of today all over the world face.  They, at some time, need to tell those they are trying to reach that their idolatry and other religious beliefs are absolutely "worthless."  Paul and Barnabas boldly did this immediately.  They instructed the people not to worship dead idols, but the "living God."  "For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God," (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
See also Acts 19:19-20

"In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 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.'"  These pagan people did not have the Scriptures—what is called God's special revelation.  So, Paul starts with the evidence of God found in nature—called God's general revelation.  God has revealed His greatness and goodness to all people though what He has made.  "Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20)  "  . . . The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)

As Paul states here, we see God's kindness through His provision of all that we need—by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.'" See also Matthew 5:44-45

"In the past, he let all nations go their own way."  Why is the world the way it is and not the way it should be?  The answer is given here: God has "let all the nations go their own way."  "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; . . ." (Isaiah 53:6a)  "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." (Judges 17:6, KJV) See also Romans 1:24,26,28

"Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them."  A man we met briefly had a saying that has stuck with me. "People will do what people will do."  Paul and Barnabas were very clear that they were not gods.  Yet, the people still wanted to sacrifice to them as gods.  They wanted to worship them as gods, so they kept trying to do it.  And Paul and Barnabas kept trying to stop them from doing it.  Paul needed to reject the praise of men to be an effective spokesman for God.  They did not give in to this temptation to be worshipped.

(6) They were willing to suffer (14:19-20)
"Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 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."

Thought Question:  When have you had opposition to your ministry?  How were you like Paul here or unlike Paul?

 

 

"Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over."  We saw in 14:5, that the Jews in "Iconium" planned to stone him.  "There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them." (Acts 14:5)  It appears that these Jews from "Antioch and Iconium" became  unified in their hatred of Paul, Barnabas, and their message about Jesus, and were chasing them down to stone them.  They were able to convert the crowds from thinking Paul and Barnabas were gods to convincing them that they were imposters who needed to be stoned.  How fickle we people can be.

"They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead."  At a time like this, can't we think, "Why did not God do something miraculous like He did in healing the lame man?"  For reasons known only to God, He allows evil to happen to us and prevents it from happening to us at other times.  In
I Corinthians 11, Paul lists some of the troubles he encountered in serving Christ.  On that list is this stoning.  "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea," (2 Corinthians 11:24-25)

The scars from this stoning may have left the scars mentioned in Galatians 6:17:  "Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus."  Paul absorbed on his body the stones that were really aimed at Jesus, just as Jesus had absorbed the punishment that Paul really deserved.

"They . . . dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead."  Barclay offers that Paul's body was dragged outside of town in fear that the Romans would find the body and punish them for executing someone without their authority.  Paul was probably not conscious as they dragged his body.  At some time during this whole ugly and very painful experience, did Paul remember the stoning of Stephen?  At that time, he was an observer and not the one being stoned.  "A stoning was a horrible, bloody thing!  As the rocks crushed against Paul's skull, I wonder if his mind flashed back to Stephen's execution in which he participated." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"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."  "The outstanding feature of this story is the sheer courage of Paul.  When he came to his senses, his first act was to go right back into the city where he had been stoned.  It was John Wesley's advice, 'Always look a mob in the face.'  There could be no braver thing that Paul going straight back amongst those who had tried to murder him.  A deed like that would have more effect than a hundred sermons.  Men were bound to ask themselves where a man got the courage to act in such a way." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  Somewhere, during this time, Timothy believed in Christ.  It may have been at this time.

"But after the disciples had gathered around him."  We see here that it was no longer just Paul and Barnabas, but there was a gathering of new believers around Paul's body.  They continued to believe in Jesus in spite of the horrible treatment of His messenger Paul.

(7) They followed up the new Christians in spite of opposition (14:21-25)
"They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. 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. 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. After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia."

Thought Question:  What are some "hardships" that you have gone through in your service of Jesus Christ?

 

 

"They preached the good news in that city [Derbe] and won a large number of disciples. 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." 

"The quickest way to return to Antioch in Syria [their home church] would have been by the Cilician Gates or by the pass over Mt. Taurus by which Paul and Silas will come to Derbe in the second tour (Acts 15:41-16:1), but difficult to travel in winter.  But it was necessary to revisit the churches in Lystra, Iconium, Antioch in Pisidia and to see that they were able to withstand persecution." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

Paul and Barnabas did not allow the threat of more violence to deter them from continuing in their ministry to these cities where they had been persecuted.  They went to the small city of Derbe where there was an openness to their message, and they gained "a large number of disciples."  Derbe was southeast of "Lystra" about 60 miles. See Acts 20:4  Then, they returned to "Lystra, Iconium and Antioch."

Like parents, they were concerned about all their new spiritual children.  They went back to face the hatred they had stirred up in these cities so that they could help their spiritual children to also endure persecution.

How were they able to continue ministering in the face of such danger and opposition?  It can only have because of their trust in God.

"strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith."  Jesus instructed the early apostles to make disciples, not mere converts.  "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." (Matthew 28:19-20)  Making disciples requires more than one-stop evangelism.  It requires a lifetime of concern and a nurture of the new Christian.  Paul and Barnabas return to the new believers to build them up.  They will return again later.  The book of Galatians was also written to these Christians.

"'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said."  Fairy tales often end with: "They lived happily ever after."  That, sadly, is far from the real world.  We live in Satan's territory.  He will not easily give up those who are his subjects.  Paul and Barnabas went into Satan's territory and people turned to God and left the kingdom of darkness.  Satan's people, then, became their relentless enemies.  It would be the same for these new believers—they also would stir up animosity against them!  Listen to Jesus' words to his new followers:   "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:16-28)

"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."  These were young churches, but they still needed leaders.  Since they had only recently become believers, they did not have in their midst those who had matured over years of walking with God.  So, Paul and Barnabas chose "elders" who could best lead them in the right direction.  A college ministry does not have aged Christians, but they still can choose faithful young people to lead their group.  So, there were those in the churches that could give them leadership.  We see from the letter of Galatians, though, that they needed some immediate correction by Paul.

"and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord,"  This was probably done in a gathering of Christians.  Paul and Barnabas had begun their ministry as a result of a time of "prayer and fasting." See 13:1-3

Paul and Barnabas made it clear that they were entrusting these new Christian leaders to God.  On the mission field, American missionaries can do this; or they can try to Americanize the Christians of that nation and seek to totally control the churches they have begun.  The problem with this is that these churches become dependent on the missionaries and upon American dollars.  As a young Christian, I was told that goal of discipleship is that the new believers are to grow until they become independently dependent on God.  That should also be the goal of those who start churches.

"After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia."  And, so, Paul and Barnabas retrace their steps and return to where Mark left them. See 13:13  "Attalia" is the port city they landed at after sailing from Cyprus.

(8) They kept in touch with their home fellowship (14:26-28)
"From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples."

Thought Question:  How does what Paul and Barnabas did here remind you of what happens today?

 

 

"From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles."  What we immediately notice is that Paul and Barnabas did not report to their sending church what they had done, but what "God had done through them."

Certainly, the church at "Antioch" in Syria was encouraged as they heard what "God had done," just as we are encouraged when we hear what God has done when missionaries give their reports from the mission field to us today.  Churches are still sending missionaries out into all parts of the world today.  And, we also hear their reports.  Today, with emails, Facebook, and more, we hear their reports while they are on the mission field.

"he had opened the door of faith"  Unless God opens doors for ministry, we will not be successful.  But, if He does open doors, our ministry will flourish. See I Corinthians 16:9; II Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3

"And they stayed there a long time with the disciples."  And, so, Paul and Barnabas took a long missionary furlough.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

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