Church Planting In Thessalonica

Church Planting In Thessalonica

Book of Acts Chapter 17

Last week when we left the apostle Paul there had been a great salvation in the house of the jailer. Paul had caused problems with the local government when he had informed them that he also was a Roman citizen who had been treated improperly.

But they had still requested that he leave the city of Philippi and before leaving Paul stopped by the house of Lydia to comfort the church that was beginning in her house.

And, the Holy Spirit continued to open doors in what we now call Europe.

We should always be aware that when we are following the Lord there will be problems along the way.

Listen to these words of Jesus:

Luk 12:51  Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

It had not been easy being beaten and mistreated by the government of Philippi but there had been a great salvation and many lost souls receive the gift of God, which is eternal life with Him in Heaven.

The lessons we learn today can be best realized if we study the parable of the sower in Matthew chapter 13.

God told Jeremiah that men must break up the fallow ground and not plant in the thorns in order to reap a harvest. This also holds true when planting the seed of the “gospel”!

It is the condition of the soil that determines the bounty of the harvest.

There may be many sowers but they all should plant the same message which is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Show map of Paul’s second journey.

Let’s begin:

*****Act 17:1  Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
Act 17:2  And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

This chapter will describe Paul’s ministry in three cities and how some of those people responded to the Word of God.

As we study the missionary trips of the Apostle Paul we should have a better understanding of how to support the missions of today’s church.

It was 100 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica and Thessalonica was the capitol city of Macedonia.

As we study the Apostle Paul we learned that he was one of the most effective witnesses for the Lord who’s ever lived. So we can and should learn from his manner of witnessing.

It was typical for Paul to reason with the lost out of the Scriptures.

This is more than just reading or quoting particular verses in the Bible!

In the days of Nehemiah we find this Scripture:

Neh 8:8  So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, [and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading].

The apostle Paul used a similar method to reach the lost of Europe.

The apostle Paul later wrote to us some of the methods he used:

To the Colossians:

Col 4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

To witness “with grace” would be to use words that “attracted” rather than “repel” a person.

And to be seasoned with salt would be making the Word of God pleasant to the taste and also not to corrupt God’s Word.

2Ti 2:15  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

To be a good witness we have to study God’s Word. We also have to rightly divide the truth of the Gospel. This would be to treat it honestly and in a straightforward manner.

As disciples we should teach no other doctrine so there would be no confusion. Leave that to Bible scholars so that it no way we would corrupt the Word of God.

To a sower of seed this would be like plowing a straight furrow and placing the seed at the required interval!

1Pe 3:15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

If we have not sanctified the Lord within our own hearts, we will never be a good witness. And if we have not studied the Word of God then we will never be ready to give an answer to every man that may ask.

We may not have to know the answer to every question but we should know where the answers are located!

We should also notice that Paul reasoned with these people on at least three separate occasions, so we should not expect good results every time we witness and most times there will not be any results.

We must remember what God says:

1Co 3:7  So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; “but God that giveth the increase”.
We can only be the sower of the seed. We can only be the fisherman who cast the line and hook or the net.

*****Act 17:3  Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

When the Apostle Paul went into the synagogues we must remember he did not have to convince these people of the Scriptures.

Most all of them already believed the Old Testament Scriptures!

The apostle Paul had to take those same Scriptures and preached Jesus!

These Jews already believed in creation as it was written in the book of Genesis. Sadly not many today accept creation as it is written in the Bible.

So the apostle Paul had to preach Jesus as the promised Messiah which means He was the Christ child they had been looking for to come!

Whenever possible this is the message we need to give to those lost world!

But in many cases today we will also have to present “Creation” as the truth of the Bible, which it is.

And we must do this as we present the “Gospel” in many cases, just as Paul.

If our belief is not based on “Creation” as the entire truth as it is written in the Book of Genesis then we will fail to be a good witness!

And if our belief is not based on Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah then we will also fail to be a good witness!

We notice as we study the Apostle Paul that he used both methods depending on those he was witnessing to.

*****Act 17:4  And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

We find that some of the Jews believed.

Many of the Greek proselyte also believed.

And there was a great multitude of the devout women of the city who were openly friendly to the Word of God.

These could include women who were proselyte of Judaism, and Gentiles, and Jewish wives of Gentiles and Gentile wives of practicing Jews.

*****Act 17:5  But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

Again we see the success of Paul of leading many to the Lord Jesus Christ, stirred up trouble in the Jewish community.

These Jews did not like what they heard from Paul and they brought in a gang of roughnecks to create a commotion against him. They also stirred up the whole city against these missionaries. But once this crowd was gathered that were unable to find the apostle Paul so they assaulted the house of Jason. It is the house of Jason where they had been staying during this time.

*****Act 17:6  And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Act 17:7  Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

They brought Jason out onto the ruling government of the city. But they made their charges against Paul and Silas accusing them of “turning the world upside down”.

Jesus Christ came into this world to turn it upside down.

It’s a shame when a small group of people can stir up the government who is supposed to be for all people.

We find that today in America as a small group of gays, a small group of atheists, try to spread their influence over the entire population of America.

Christians are commanded by God to witness but it is God Himself that has control of the results.

These enemies of the Lord, also said that Paul and Silas were proclaiming Jesus to be a rival king to Claudius Caesar which was also a lie.

Jesus will one day rule as King on this entire earth. This is prophesied but not during the “Church Age”!

*****Act 17:8  And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
Act 17:9  And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.

At least in this case the government took control of this mob and dispersed it and secured Jason and those with him to safety.

It was “the riot itself” that would bring the powers of Rome into the city, not one man housing a few missionaries.

So they released Jason and those with him.

*****Act 17:10  And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

It is very probable that Paul and Silas were in real danger in Thessalonica.

They escaped in the darkness of night, but we know that persecution continued to those that believed the “Gospel”.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

1Th 2:14  For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: [for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews]:

Paul went to Berea which  is about 50 miles from Thessalonica.

*****Act 17:11  These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

In Berea the people listened to the Preaching of the “Gospel” with an open mind! They did not criticize the Word of God but instead searched the scriptures themselves to verify what Paul was preaching.

In fact they met daily to seek the truth of the of the Bible.

This is what we call Bible study and we all need to be involved in Bible study!

We are taught the truth here at Gethsemane but in our own best interest we cannot rely on the preaching to be our only source. We must study ourselves, seeking the truth of the “Gospel”!

There are still those that preach a false message!

*****Act 17:12  Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

“Therefore” the results were that many of the Bereans believed and were saved! 

Jewish women mainly had household duties and had little say in the synagogues but we find that these Greek women had a place outside the home in society and held a high rank.

Many of these men and women came from what we would call the upper class in Berea.

And there were a great many that believed so things were going good in Berea.

We must never forget that “we present the most powerful life-changing force in the world” when we preach Jesus Christ.

*****Act 17:13  But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

All was going well again until Satan brought his followers to hinder the spread of the “Gospel”.

These are wicked men who had no allegiance to any law but their own! Societies of this world are filled with these sort of evil men, even in America and even more so.

Remember what God says:

2Ti 3:13  But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

The Bible teaches us that Satan has his own missionaries:

2Co 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
2Co 11:14  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2Co 11:15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

These are just more signs that Jesus is coming to get His Bride very soon!

*****Act 17:14  And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.

It is easy to see that the apostle Paul was the target of these evil men.

But the Church outwitted the enemy and took Paul and put him on a ship bound for Athens.

But Silas and Timothy stayed to help grow the church.

*****Act 17:15  And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.

It was only after Paul had arrived safely in Athens that word was sent to Silas and Timothy to join him there.

Athens was the most celebrated city of Greece. Athens was the central place of Greek literature and art, and philosophy. But Athens was also the seat of false worship for the entire Greek nation!

“There was a saying in Rome at that time, that it was easier to find a god in Athens than it was to find a real man”.

The apostle Paul noticed all these things as he waited for the rest of his group to join him.

*****Act 17:16  Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

Athens may have been the cultural center of the world but we should always realize see that culture does not bring wisdom.

The name Athens comes from the Greek goddess Athena who was worshipped as the goddess of wisdom.

But the Bible says:

Ecc 12:13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

There is no goddess of wisdom though there still those that think so!

The Apostle Paul was not led to Athens to see these wondrous sights and to be a tourist.

Paul was sent by the Holy Spirit to seek the “souls of the lost”!

The real religion of Athens was the worship of art and amusement!

Athens was a city that had no morals!

Even the Jews had got caught up in the idolatry of this city and none opposed the Apostle Paul as they had in the other cities.

*****Act 17:17  Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

Therefore the Apostle Paul preached throughout the city.

That word “disputed” would mean that Paul reasoned with these people and had discussions with them about the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul found a great mixture of people here in Athens.

He found Jews who were not worshipping as they should.

He found devout persons which were probably proselytes who were trying to worship in the Jewish way.

And he found those at the marketplace who were caught up in the immoral practices and the idolatry of the city of Athens.

The marketplace was not only a place were provisions were sold, but it was also a great place for philosophers to gather and engage the public in discussion.

*****Act 17:18  Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.

The definition of philosophy is: “the love of human wisdom”!

I believe it can be said that humans have no wisdom until they know God!

Most of the world would dispute this saying but the Bible says:

Pro 9:10  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

And also:

Psa 19:9  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psa 19:10  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Are there smart people in the world, sure.

But being smart and having an education does not by itself make us wise!

Wisdom is taking the knowledge that we have and the understanding that we have, and making sound judgments while avoiding evils but attempting good things.

God says:

1Co 3:19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
1Co 3:20  And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

God says the wisdom of this world is foolishness!

Like all philosophers of that day the Epicureans and the Stoicks had an evolutionary worldview!

The Epicureans were essentially atheists like the modern Darwinist!

The Stoics were pantheist much like the New Age evolutionist movement of our day!

Both of these groups believed in an infinitely old universe and both rejected the concept of an Omnipotent Creator.

They used astrology, spiritualism, associated with many gods and goddesses, who they identified as persons controlling nature, and the natural systems of this Earth.

They would strongly oppose biblical creationist and therefore Christianity!

Jesus would not be considered to them as the only true God!

*****Act 17:19  And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
Act 17:20  For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
Act 17:21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

Having never heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ it was still some new thing to them and they wanted to hear this “new age” concept that was unknown to them.

This world is always trying to find some “New Age” philosophy to rule in their lives but God teaches us with these words:

Jer 6:16  Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the “old paths”, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

And just as these in the Book of Jeremiah, the Old Path was rejected for the New Age movement which brought failure to the nation of Israel.

*****Act 17:22  Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

Mars Hill is the same as Areopagus.

This hill which was near the Acropolis was used as a gathering place to evaluate your religious views or some new immoral philosophies.

“Ares” was the Greek God of war, corresponding to “Mars” who was the Roman God of war.

These “Athenians” worshipped the great number of gods and goddesses.

So what was religious to the Greeks was actually superstitious to the apostle Paul!

It is a sad note that these people attributed the forces of nature to some imaginary god!

This is why the Bible teaches us that the education of man is foolishness in the eyes of God.

It is only when we understand and accept Creation as explained in the book of Genesis, that we can actually understand the forces of nature in this world we live in.

*****Act 17:23  For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

There are too many reports that are known that say, “there was actually altar to an unknown God in first century Greece!

But it has also been shown that “many polytheistic cultures do retain a dim remembrance of a high God”, who was much greater and much more powerful than those they worship that day.

They just refuse and reject this truth!

Let’s remember what Jesus told that Samaritan woman at the well:

Joh 4:22  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
Joh 4:23  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Joh 4:24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

There was a desire for these Greeks to seek out God, that they knew nothing about and who was the true God.

Jesus brought the knowledge of God to the Samaritan woman.

The Apostle Peter brought the knowledge of God to Cornelius who was a Roman.

The Apostle Paul was now bringing the knowledge of the true God to those in Greece.

And many a missionary are sent to bring the knowledge of God to the uttermost parts of this Earth even today!

That is what a Christian is to do, to bring the knowledge of the Triune God to the world. It is this God who then must bring conviction and results.

*****Act 17:24  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

Paul said this is the God that I bring to you today, the Creator of all the Earth!

Paul said, the city of Athens may be filled with many beautiful temples, many monuments, and many images, but the true God is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and He will not ever dwell in anything made by the hands of man.

Skip to verse 28:

*****Act 17:28  For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

The Apostle Paul said, it is the God of Creation that sustains the life of every person.

The same God of Creation even sustains those who do not believe that He exists.

But He is certainly not very far from each and every one of us!

Col 1:17  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

*****Act 17:29  Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

The Apostle Paul says that since we are all the offspring of God, then we cannot believe that our Creator can be man-made.

The God of Heaven and Earth has revealed Himself as, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This is to Tri-Une God!

And He can never be represented by any image or any model which man can make either with his hands, or in his mind.

God has given us His model “of the Godhead” in His Creation!

Rom 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

And God says there is no excuse for not seeing these things!

*****Act 17:30  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Act 17:31  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Act 17:32  And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

God has revealed Himself not only in His creation but also in the Virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the death of, the burial of, and the resurrection of Jesus.

Is this God who created all men who can then be the “only” Judge of His creation.

Paul points out that the founders and the leaders of all the religions and all other philosophies eventually die BUT the Lord Jesus Christ is alive today!

His tomb is empty.

He has a resurrected body.

And He has ascended back to the Father in Heaven.

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is a fact!

It was witnessed by more than 500 people!

And there are many in fallible proofs!

And just as most of the world does today these people mocked at the truth!

There are many today that believe in the Creator, but they reject that He is also the Redeemer!

*****Act 17:33  So Paul departed from among them.
Act 17:34  Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

God does not send us out to dispute with those that we witness to in this the world!

Our job is to teach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and in doing this we sometimes have to teach Creation just as it is written in the Book of Genesis.

But no matter which way we start with, we must always to go to the Cross.

And there will always be some who believe!

These that believe are the only reason that God has not returned to take us home.

When is the Lord going to return to take us home?

As soon as that last soul that God already knows about is saved!

Questions?

Let’s pray!

Church Planting In Philippi

Church Planting In Philippi

Book of Acts Chapter 16

Last week we saw that the “Gospel Message was clarified for the Gentiles and the Jews. Nothing was to be added too or taken away from the truth that is in Christ Jesus.

Today we will look into what is known as the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey. Let’s begin by looking at a map.

The purpose of this journey was to deliver the letter from the apostles and the elders of Jerusalem.

When we left off last week Paul and Barnabas and others had returned from Jerusalem to the church at Antioch in Syria and delivered the letter from James and the Apostles and elders of Jerusalem.

These things that were decided did not have anything to do with being saved and they were not part of the original false teaching of those certain Jews.

These were just things that would allow the Fellowship between the Jew and Gentile to improve.

Our lesson is, that our liberty, by the grace of God should never become a stumbling block to others who are weaker in their faith.

Before this journey began there was a great dissension between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along but Paul did not. In fact the contention was so sharp that they decided to split up. Barnabas took John Mark and Paul chose Silas who had come from Jerusalem and decided to stay.

We should realize that John Mark was cousin to Barnabas so they did have family ties. Barnabas was ready to give John Mark another opportunity to prove himself because John Mark had deserted them on the first trip.

The apostle Paul took the stand that the ministry was too important and the word was too demanding to take someone who might prove unreliable.

Obviously we know later that Mark, who wrote the book of Mark, did prove himself worthy to serve the Lord, in the eyes of Paul.

From Antioch Paul traveled first to Derbe and then over to Lystra. Here the apostle Paul found a young man we will later know as Timothy.

Paul knew his mother and his grandmother and he had turned this young man to the Lord on his first trip.

Paul’s team now consists of at least himself, Silas, and Timothy.

According to Mosaic Law, Eunice, the mother of Timothy was not permitted to marry a Gentile. When she did her children were not considered legitimate Jews. Paul later circumcised Timothy, according to Luke because of the Jews in the area and to point out that Timothy was a Jew because of his mother. Remember the promised seed was to come through Sarah the wife of Abraham and not Hagar.

We will see that whenever doctrinal issues were not at state, Paul was willing to be flexible to encourage the spread of the gospel.

1Co 9:19  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. (Vs 19-23)

And before these missionaries moved into Galatia and other areas we know that the church was strengthened by these letters from Jerusalem.

So let’s begin with our lesson today:

*****Act 16:6  Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
Act 16:7  After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

What we should notice is that it is God who was in charge of missionary journeys. After visiting all the churches that had been founded, Paul tried to enter a new territory but the Lord closed that door.

We should notice that it was never the apostles that decided the direction of the gospel. It was God Himself that showed the direction the gospel should take.

God chose at this time for Paul to introduce the gospel to Europe and not to Asia.

*****Act 16:8  And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

We can believe that the apostle Paul did not know exactly what to do with his time. Troas was city on the coast of Mysia, in Asia Minor and Troas was named after the ancient city of Troy.

Paul later explained to the Corinthians that this is where the door to Europe was open to him.

2Co 2:12  Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,

AND Paul had another vision.

*****Act 16:9  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

Macedonia is across the Aegean Sea, over in Europe. The apostle Paul is in Asia. The gospel is going to cross from Asia into Europe.

(Again look at the map.)

Macedonia was the Roman name for Northern Greece and the apostle Paul was quick to respond to this vision.

*****Act 16:10  And after he had seen the vision, immediately “we” endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

Since this is the first use of the word “we” instead of the word “they” this seems to dictate that Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, has now joined this group of missionaries.

One of the main things we should see is that the apostle Paul was already active preaching and teaching the gospel in Asia. Paul was not waiting at home for the Lord to give him direction. The Holy Spirit in some very clear way closed two doors, but then opened another.

It is very possible that if the Apostle Paul had not been obedient to the Lord and directed to Philippi and Greece, at this time that he might never have gone to Europe and Christianity might have remained an Asian religion.

This is why we must follow God’s Plan!

As Paul sailed the Aegean Sea, he first set foot in Europe and the town of Neapolis. This was the seaport of the city of Philippi which was the chief city of that part of Macedonia and a Roman colony.

A Roman colony would be governed by their own senate and their own magistrates and not come under the rule of the local foreign government.

It is said that Macedonia was a place where Roman war veterans could retire and live under Roman law with freedom from taxes.

And it was Philippi that was the chief city in this part of Macedonia but it was Thessalonica where the capitol of Macedonia was located.

*****Act 16:13  And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

We can see that it had taken a few days maybe to rest or to seek out a synagogue of the Jew, but none was found. But what this group with Paul had found was that there was a group that met for prayer outside the city near the river. This would probably been the Gangites River.

If there had been at least ten men active in Judaism, then normally a synagogue would be built for worship.

The Greek word for “Prayer”, [Pros-yoo-khay] “proseuche” means that this place was set apart specifically to offer prayer to the Lord.

If the men were meeting in this location it was not mentioned by Luke, but the women were there and that’s where Paul began to witness.

That word “spake” meant that Paul began with an informal conversation.

We will see that the results of this informal conversation was the establishment of first church in Europe.

*****Act 16:14  And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, [heard us]: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
Act 16:15  And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Thyatira was the home city of Lydia that was located between Sardis and Pergamos. This area is well known for it’s red and purple dye but is known most of all for it’s labor unions.

It is probable that Lydia was not a Jew but probably a Jewish proselyte. Lydia, which is also the name of her country, listened to what Paul had to say and she and her entire household became the first Christians in the city of Philippi.

Notice in the words “heard us”, it is obvious that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart but she first heard the “Gospel” because that was the way of the Apostle Paul.

Paul later wrote to the Church of Thessalonica these words:

2Th 2:13  But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because [God hath
from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth]:
2Th 2:14  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even before the foundation of the world God also chose the Gentiles to be a part of His Saving “Grace”.

Our lesson again skips some verses where Satan again tried to hinder the Word of God.

If we read them we will see some important things.

We will notice every one of Satan’s workers know exactly who is the true God. And we know that there are always those that make a living off of the work of Satan.

It was only after losing their income that they complained to the local government. The people of this area worshipped Apollo who was the Greek and Roman Sun god among many other things.

Notice again a government took a stand against the Word of God. Paul and Silas were not accused of violating Judaism but they were accused of violating “the government approved” religion of Rome and Greece.

We do not need government approval for Christianity. Christianity is approved by a much higher authority!

*****Act 16:23  And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

Notice the law of the land did not search for the truth and treated these missionaries as they were already proven guilty. Sounds like America!

In Jewish law, a man could only be given 39 stripes. Now we know that a whip called “a cat of nine tails” was invented to increase this punishment.

But Roman law did not  have a set number stripes. Stripes were not counted by just the number of lashes. Stripes were counted by the number of lashes that left a wound.

The magistrates determined how many stripes were enough and our verse says that there were many stripes.

Paul later tells the Corinthians that “in stripes above measure” which means he lost count of how many times he was beaten. The Roman custom was to make the body bare and beat it with rods then cast in prison without medical attention.

To keep them safely meant to block any and all means of escape!

*****Act 16:24  Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

That inner prison would be like a cell of solitude. It would be dark and damp. Those stocks were large pieces of wood that would clamp the legs down far enough apart to cause pain.

*****Act 16:25  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
And after all this Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to the Lord.

They were pouring out their hearts to God.
Paul and Silas were bound, placed in a position of pain where they could not move their tortured bodies but they still had the peace of God because they also had peace with God.

And the other prisoners who had heard these things that went on, then heard the praying and the praises. Notice Paul and Silas never complained nor did they ask God to judge their enemies.

God listened and God heard!

*****Act 16:26  “And suddenly” there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

God said enough is enough. God had a plan for the Apostle Paul and that work was just getting started and it was not completed.

We could say that there is nothing strange about an earthquake. But we would have to admit that there was something strange about an earthquake at this precise time, where Christian missionaries were imprisoned, where there had been a Christian “pray and praise meeting” going on, and all the cell doors opened and all bonds were broken.

Psa 42:8  Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, [and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life].

While this praising was going on “at midnight” an earthquake shook this jail.

The foundations of this jail shifted.

The jail cell doors were opened.

And “everyone’s” bands were loosed!

*****Act 16:27  And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
Act 16:28  But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

Roman custom would hold this jailer accountable for any prisoner that escaped and we can see how serious this was by the fact that this jailer was more willing to take his own life than face that judgment. Paul’s quick response saved this man’s life.

*****Act 16:29  Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
Act 16:30  And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

No doubt this jailer had also heard the songs of praise and he already knew all the punishment these two men
had been through. He also knew why they had been imprisoned.

This city of Philippi was committed to Pantheism. A religion that opposed Judaism and certainly Christianity.
God provided just the perfect miracle to provide a breakthrough for the “Gospel”.

This jailer recognized this miracle immediately! He knew this was a supernatural happening!

He realized he was lost and in need of such a Savior as who could do these things and who had such a power as this he had witnessed.

We all have to know the answer to this question before we die!

*****Act 16:31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

There is never a change in the way for anyone to be saved. It is always the same. That word “Believe” means “to
have faith”!

The Bible teaches us:

Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

And this way:

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

This is the way for this jailer and the same way for his entire household.

*****Act 16:32  And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

Paul and Silas then led these to the Lord.

*****Act 16:33  And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and
all his, straightway.

We see that good works and baptism follow salvation.

*****Act 16:34  And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing
in God with all his house.

Now it was time to rejoice in their new life.

We know the remaining verses of this chapter teach us that Paul refused to leave this prison until those
magistrates, recognized and apologized for his treatment because he was also a Roman citizen, who had not
gotten a proper trial.

Questions?

Let’s Pray!

Clarifying The Gospel Message

Clarifying The Message

Book of Acts Chapter 15

We will see today that Satan had so far not been able to stop the spread of the “Gospel”. Just as God uses people to spread the “Gospel”, Satan will use everything in his means including people to hinder the spread of the “Gospel”!

AND, there will always be those who stand in front of open doors just to block the way of others from coming to the Lord!

We must remember what Jesus told to the Philadelphian church:

Rev 3:8 says “behold, I have set before thee an [open door] that no man can shut”

We cannot ever allow those false brethren, who are amongst us, to stand in front of that door!

God has already given us all this command:

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We do not need any other command to make us move in obedience of this command to witness.

If this means we must go without the support of our local church then we must still go!

We also have this warning to the church:

Col 2:8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, [and not after Christ].

God has given us the only the means of salvation.

We must beware of anyone adding to or subtracting from, God’s plan of salvation!

This is the main thing we must insist on!

The Bible says:

Act 2:21  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

All other matters must be left it the guidance of the Holy Spirit!

And, the Holy Spirit will always lead us to Jesus.

Joh 14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send [in my name], he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, [whatsoever I have said unto you].

So let’s begin:

*****Act 15:1  And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

The question we need to answer within ourselves is whether Christianity is merely an extension of Judaism or a New Dispensation that has taken its place.

We do not have to guess!

Jesus had these words to answer this question for us:

Luk 22:20  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the [new testament in my blood], which is shed for you.

So who were these certain men?

The Bible teaches us:

Gal 2:4  And that because of “false brethren unawares” [brought in], “who came in privily to spy” out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, “that they might bring us into bondage”:

These were Christians in name only!

These men were not brought in from any of the established church!

They were brought in to the Christian brotherhood to which they did not rightfully belong!

These were really some evil Jews, Satan’s messengers, trying to hinder the spread of the “Gospel”!

*****Act 15:2  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

These men  were called “Judaizers” who became a real problem to the early church!

This is a form of legalism, and legalism is still prevalent today in many places of worship!

The Bible is specific:

Eph 2:8  [For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God]:
Eph 2:9  “Not of works”, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The church of Antioch of Syria, which was a mission minded church, this church decided that it would be best for a council of the apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem to provide the guidelines. Remember the New Testament had not been written at this time.

We now have the completed Word of God and it is the Word of God that has replaced any need for apostles, and any need for further councils. The Bible is our counsellor!

But remember the New Testament that we have is the same as the doctrine of Jesus that He gave to the apostles!

Eph 2:20  [And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone];
Eph 2:21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Eph 2:22  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

*****Act 15:3  And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

Notice “it was the church that wanted answers” and it was the church at Antioch that decided it would be best to send Paul and Barnabas and “certain others that believed as Paul”.

The Apostle Paul knew the old Mosaic system better than most other men and who better to seek the answers to these questions!

We can determine that the early church certainly wanted to go in the direction set forth by Christ Jesus.

They did not want to make up their own rules or their own doctrine!

AND, Old Testament tradition has no place in the New Testament Church!

The Apostle Peter wrote:

1Pe 1:18  Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1Pe 1:19  “But with the precious blood of Christ”, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
1Pe 1:20  Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
1Pe 1:21  Who “by him” do believe in God, that raised “him” up from the dead, and gave “him” glory; that your faith and hope might be “in God”.

Just what is the “Gospel” the “Good News”?

1Co 15:1  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
1Co 15:2  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you [first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins] according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4  And that [he was buried], and that [he rose again the third day according to the scriptures]:

If Jesus Christ did not do these things then there can be no salvation for anyone!

Paul did not miss this opportunity to tell the Phoenicians and the Samaritans, that even the Gentiles could be converted and this brought great joy unto all the “true brethren” that heard this “good news”.

You see the “Gospel” would not be believable if it did not include “whosoever” will believe!

*****Act 15:4  And when they were come to Jerusalem, “they were received of the church”, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

This group of believers from Antioch were first received by the believers of the Church at Jerusalem.

We must always welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where they come from.

Only then was there a meeting with the Apostles and  the elders of the Church.

BUT, before any questions were asked, a report of how the “Gospel” was spreading was first made.

Paul told them of the wonderful things that had happened in Galatia.

In Galatia “they did not know anything about Mosaic Law”, they just believed in the work of Jesus Christ!

You see God must first get the glory!

It was not what Paul had done.

It was not what Barnabas had done.

And it was not what the sending church of Antioch had done.

IT WAS WHAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM ALL!

It takes the entire Body of Christ to spread the “Gospel” of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Rom 12:5  So we, being many, “are one body in Christ”, and every one members one of another.

And then Paul explained it had nothing to do with Judaism or the Laws of Moses.

All true believers understand this!

*****Act 15:5  But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

Why is there always “a certain group” of people that have to have things their way?

Any believer that has been converted to the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ “must” release themselves to Him!

Some of these were men who felt that Christianity was just an extension of Judaism and they were severely wrong!

Christianity is not the extension of Judaism, Christianity is the fulfillment of the Word of God.

These were people who wanted to add something to the “Gospel”.

But the only way to approach the Lord Jesus is by “Faith”!

In John 14:6, Jesus says, He is the only way to Heaven and we must believe Him!

God only has one question for all of us:

God ask, “What are you going to do with my Son Jesus”?

We must answer this question before we die a physical death!

Php 2:9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
Php 2:10  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
Php 2:11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

*****Act 15:6  And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

The answers could not come from the public or from that certain group of men, who wanted things their way.

The answers had to come from the Apostles of Jesus and the church elders and the Body of Christ.

This was an important issue that had to be resolved or the early church would fail.

God had already said that this was impossible!

*****Act 15:7  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago “God made choice among us”, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

We now see the rest of the lesson that the Apostle Peter had learned from his time spent with Simon the tanner and Cornelius and his vision.

Let’s look at how God had used Peter already:

1.) God had chosen Peter to present the “Gospel” to the Gentiles, [“Note” Cornelius and his family and some others].

Act 10:45  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

2.) Jesus had given Peter the keys to the Kingdom to build the Church on the “Rock of Jesus”:

Mat 16:18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Mat 16:19  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

3.) Peter had opened the door of “faith” to the Jews:

Act 2:41  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

4.) Peter had opened the door of “Faith” to the Samaritans:

Act 8:14  Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

Peter had made it very clear that all these had been saved by the hearing and believing of the “Gospel” of the Lord Jesus Christ.

AND, None of these things had anything to do with the Mosaic Laws or any other man-made laws!

*****Act 15:8  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

God had made it very clear “by sending the Holy Spirit” to the Gentiles just as He had done on the day of Pentecost to the Jews.

God was truly no respecter of persons!

The message was to “whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ”!

The message was not to “whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and obey the Laws of Moses” or any other man-made laws!

*****Act 15:9  And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

It is by “faith” that the heart is purified!

Not by works!

Not by ceremonies!

Not by traditions!

You see we are all sinners and saved only by the “Grace” of God!

1Co 6:11  And “such were some of you”: [but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God].

There is no other means of salvation!

Salvation has been about “faith” from the time of Adam!

Salvation has never been about any law!

Rom 4:16  Therefore “it is of faith”, that “it might be by grace”; [to the end the promise might be sure] to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

*****Act 15:10  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of “the disciples”, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Why do people, even in our day tempt God, by trying to add works to His plan of salvation and just as bad, why are there those that tempt God by taking away the blood, or the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection or the truth of the cross or anything else from the Lord Jesus Christ?

It was a fact that not one Jew, but Jesus, was ever able to keep all the Laws of Moses!

We see that the Apostle Peter stood boldly with the Apostle Paul and Barnabas!

How can this world associate Peter with any of the false doctrine of Rome and read these scriptures?

*****Act 15:11  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [we shall be saved, even as they].

Notice that Peter says the Jew will be saved just like the Gentiles are saved!

Peter does not say the Gentiles will be saved just as the Jews!

The Gentile never had the Law and are saved by “faith” in The Lord Jesus Christ which brings the “Grace” of God!

The Jew will also be saved just as though they never had the Laws of Moses, “by faith” which then brings “Grace”!

Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is the gift of God]:

It is a “GIFT” that cannot be bought by any means!

Skip to verse 14 to the words of Paul:

*****Act 15:14  Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, “to take out of them” a people for his name.

We see that this verse makes no mention of circumcision.

This verse also indicates that the saving of Gentiles was part of God’s plan from the beginning, in fact before the beginning!

We know that “whosoever” believes will be saved BUT this verse indicates that only a portion of Gentiles will be believers, taken out of a large group of Gentiles, not all.

It is not that God would not save them all, but that most Gentiles will still reject the truth of the “Gospel”.

Jesus had said:

Luk 21:24  And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, [until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled].

The time fulfilled would be the end of what we call the “Church Age”.

Again Paul explained it like this to the Jewish believers:

Rom 11:25  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”.

The Apostle Peter added:

1Pe 2:9  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
1Pe 2:10  Which in time past [were not a people], “but are now the people of God”: which had not obtained mercy, “but now have obtained mercy”.

The time of the Gentiles is slowly coming to an end! AND “after this”, God says:

*****Act 15:16  “After this” [I will return], and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

This the prophesy of Amos 9:11-12.

In other words after the time of the Gentiles, the Church Age is over, The literal kingdom of Israel, “on this Earth”, will indeed be restored under the Messiah, at the second coming of the Lord to this Earth.

The Church composed of Jews and Gentiles will already be “Raptured” out of this Earth when Jesus comes in the clouds as a thief.

*****Act 15:17  That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

These are things that the rest of the world will take notice of after the “Rapture” of the Church.

Today, God is calling out a people, which is the Body of Christ.

After the Rapture of the Body of Christ there will be a great many turning to the Lord during the terrible time of the tribulation period:

*****Act 15:18  Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

God had revealed all these truths gradually to the world through His prophets, BUT now we have the entire Word of God which explains these things to us all.

BUT, this has been God’s Plan from the beginning of Genesis 1:1.

*****Act 15:19  Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

James, the half-brother of The Lord says, that since it is evident that this was God’s plan from the beginning, “it would be foolish of them” now to hinder God’s plan by insisting the Gentile should follow Jewish practices and traditions!

*****Act 15:20  But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

James added that the Gentiles “could have a better relationship to their Brother Jews and have their greater respect” IF:

1.) If they avoided food used in idolatrous practices of false religion.

2.) Rejected food that came from strangled animals.

“When an animal is strangled, some of the blood will stay in the animal and could make the meat unfit to eat”.

Every hunter knows to get a clean shot to keep the animal from being in a panicked state.

3.) Refusing to consume blood as food.

God had given this command before the Laws of Moses were ever written. Genesis 9:4 says that, Blood is used to make atonement for the “soul” and blood must be poured out before God.

Jesus shed His own blood on Calvary’s Cross. To drink of any blood, showed no respect for God’s Word!

4.) Abstain from sexual immorality.

God has also commanded this from the beginning. BUT the world has never considered this to be sin.

And even less in our day!

But God says to keep our bodies pure. God has called us to be a clean and a holy people.

1Th 4:7  For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

These were things that would allow the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians to grow in harmony and these things pleased the early church.

Paul later wrote:

Rom 14:13  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, [that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way].

*****Act 15:22  Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Act 15:23  And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

We can see that it took a compromise on both the Jew and the Gentile in order for there to be harmony in the early church.

Though we can never compromise on the “Gospel” of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be aware of cultural differences of the Body of Christ and all strive to be in one accord with all our brothers, no matter where they are located:

Php 2:1  If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Php 2:2  Fulfil ye my joy, “that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”.

*****Act 15:24  Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: [to whom we gave no such commandment]:

Those Judaizers that had shown up in Antioch of Syria had not been sent by the church in Jerusalem!

James also realized the turmoil that false doctrine could bring to the Church!

False doctrine could subvert the soul of the believer making them useless witnesses for the Lord!

James had finally understood the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom he had spent so many years not understanding.

*****Act 15:25  It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, [to send chosen men] unto you with our “beloved” Barnabas and Paul,
Act 15:26  [Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ].

Things can happen when the local church is in one accord but even greater than that is when the entire “Body of Christ” can be in one accord.

Those Judaizers were considered to be deceivers.

“Chosen men”, these are men who chose to serve the Lord but also chose to not try to profit from their opportunities!

These two men would confirm the written letter sent from the Apostles and the Church at Jerusalem to those at the church of Antioch in Syria.

Barnabas’ name is mentioned first because he is the elder of Paul and more well known at the church in Jerusalem.

AND, the sufferings of Paul and Barnabas was recognized by the early church.

*****Act 15:27  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

Judas: Not a whole lot is known of Judas accept he is later called a prophet, which probably means he was preacher.

After preaching in Antioch for awhile he returned to Jerusalem.

It is possible that he was a family member to Joseph Barsabas who was one of the two selected by the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot.

[Act 1:23  And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.]

Silas: Silas became well know because he chose to travel with Paul on his mission trips. He is later known as Silvanus.

This does not make one man greater than the other because we know the Holy Spirit is the one that must guide all our lives.

*****Act 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Act 15:29  That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

We can see that we must allow the Holy Ghost guide us in every decision we make and we must follow His lead!

These things that are mentioned were given so that the Gentiles would not cause the Jews to fail.

Gentiles are never required to meet any demands of the Mosaic system, but they are to exercise courtesy to those that do!

And no one is to commit fornication, which is sexual behavior outside of marriage!

But it can also include placing an Idol before the Lord!

*****Act 15:30  So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Act 15:31  Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

These things that happened to the early church are written for us that we learn from them and not make the same mistakes.

We are never to become stumbling blocks to believers in our own place of worship but also to those of another culture! 

There is only one means of salvation and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14:6)

But problems and differences of opinion are best brought before the church and be based on the Word of God and quickly resolved.

Most church problems are not caused by doctrinal differences but from headstrong leaders, or headstrong followers.

Listen to the prayer of Jesus:

Joh 17:9  I pray for them: I pray not for the world, “but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine”.

Joh 17:20  Neither pray I for these alone, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”;
Joh 17:21  “That they all may be one”; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

It is when the entire “Body of Christ” is in one accord that the Church will have it’s real power in this world.

But this must happen in every local church at one time.

We cannot separate ourselves by denominations!

Every group of believers may be diverse but  we must use this as a tool to make a unified church and this begins with Jesus and the work He did on the Cross.

If we cannot get to the Cross THEN we cannot get together.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—–Sweetest name I know!

Questions?

Let’s Pray!

The Pattern Of The Sending Church

The Pattern Of A Sending Church

Text Acts 13

We find as we get further into the Book of Acts that the “Gospel” is finally moving. It is easy to say that the Church at Jerusalem was holding things up but we cannot blame anything on a building nor entirely on a group of people until we accept the blame on ourselves also.

We should all ask ourselves “are we being obedient to God’s command”?

The “key” to the Book of Acts is still Acts 1:8:

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

This command given by Jesus was not to a building or a gathering  place called a church, BUT to each individual that has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior!

It was to begin in Jerusalem then all Judea, on to Samaria, and then to the uttermost places of this entire globe we live on, called Earth.

We will see that the Body of Christ that was located and that gathered at a place at Antioch of Syria, finally understood, “with the help of the Holy Ghost”, what God meant about spreading the “Gospel”!

What we may not realize it but at this time but Antioch of Syria was one of the largest cites of the known world. It’s population was near that of Rome and even Alexandria of Egypt.

Though the title missionary is not found in the Bible it is clearly understood and “it can be said”, that at Antioch missionaries were sent out, sponsored, and supported by a group of believers in a local church.

Those that had gone out from Jerusalem had done so, because of persecution!

We can also see that the church at Jerusalem was not considered to be a home church but that all houses of God are on the same level of equality!

This group of believers in Antioch of Syria. gladly accepted the task of sending God’s Word out to the world!

This is the same task that every group of believers have, no matter their location, on this Earth!

Let’s begin:

*****Act 13:1  Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

We should notice immediately that the church at Antioch, is a “whosoever” church.

We have Barnabas from Cyrus.

We have Simeon who was a black man but also a teacher in the early church.

We have, Lucius from Cyrene, who is listed in the Book of Romans as a kinsman to the Apostle Paul. This could mean that he was of the tribe of Benjamin or possibly some closer kin.

We have Manaen who had been in the company that traveled with Herod Antipas who was  the governor assigned by Rome and who had beheaded John the Baptist.

And not the least of them but we also have Saul, already at this time considered at least a teacher of the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ.

*****Act 13:2  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, “the Holy Ghost said”, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”.

Notice, these men were already busy.  They were already serving the Lord and committed to His Word at this time!

They were committed to fasting and prayer!

We don’t hear a whole lot about fasting in the modern church but maybe we should!

Fasting is giving something up for the Lord! It is more than just missing a meal, though nourishment is the means for this flesh we live in, to live.

Jesus said:

Luk 4:4  And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Jesus sent the devil packing with these words, SO, we we can certainly send the devil packing by fasting along with our prayers!

Satan hates to see anyone give up anything for the Lord, because he used to get all that affection when we were all out in the world with him.

1Co 6:11  “And such were some of you”: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

It is only when we are already busy about the work that the Lord has given us to do, that the Holy Spirit will come calling for His special work.

When we just sit around waiting on something from the Holy Spirit, our wait will be long and He will not be forthcoming unless in chastisement!

The Holy Spirit calls people who have proved themselves to be in God’s Army by being on the front lines!

We can also see that there was no guessing as to what the Holy Spirit was saying. The Holy Spirit had already been working on Paul and Barnabas for the work He was calling them to do!

*****Act 13:3  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

The Holy Spirit is very clear when He calls, but we should still pray and fast to get His latest instructions!

Paul and Barnabas knew what they were to do, but the entire “Body of Christ” must also get involved!

When the church sent them out for God’s work, “they knew they would have to provide as much as they could for them”.

The first thing they needed was prayer but they would also need to meet their physical needs!

“To be sent” also means to carry the message of the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ!

“To be sent” also means that there would be some accounting of these men that were sent.

“To be sent” also means that there would be some accounting of those that sent them!

This whole church at Antioch, was behind this action and not just Saul and Barnabas!

You know we have two men, Nathan Sears and Scott Davis, that were sent out from our church that we totally support but sometimes that support is not enough because we get lax in giving for them.

*****Act 13:4  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
Act 13:5  And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

Seleucia was the seaport of Antioch but it was about 15 miles from the city limits.

Cyprus is an island and it was the native land of Barnabas.

Salamis was on the eastern coast of Cyprus and the chief city of Cyprus at that time.

Cyprus was about 130 miles by sailing ship from Seleucia.

We might not understand all we need to know about John Mark at this time but what we do know is that he was probably an eyewitness to the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

SO, His information to Paul would be firsthand, eyewitness information.

Cyprus was a good choice because it was the native land of Barnabas and also of Manaen.

AND, we can also know that the Holy Spirit would have already been working in Cyprus.

There were many Jewish synagogues located there, because Rome did allow freedom of religion for many years, at least until Christianity began to grow and spread!

In a lot of cases, without those “certain” Jews from Jerusalem causing problems, these synagogues welcomed Paul and this also gave he and Barnabas access to the Gentile population!

Skip down to verse 26

*****Act 13:26  Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

It is best to keep in mind though we call these missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas they were much more than hasty dashes from one city to the next.

When the Apostle Paul entered a city he established a foundation for a local church. He only moved to another city when he came under pressure from the local authorities or by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Barnabas was with Paul throughout this entire first journey, BUT John Mark had departed when Paul and Barnabas left Cyprus.

This first journey had begun with success, but there was some unexpected trouble from a sorcerer. These men were just magicians as we have in our day but these men were counted as “wise men” in most cultures of this time.

What did God say?

Pro 26:12  Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

We may not know why John Mark departed from them but the Apostle Paul was not impressed much with him at this time.

AND, Mark did not return to Antioch of Syria but went back home to his mother in Jerusalem.

Paul later changes his mind about Mark and he makes that clear in his epistles.

At the time of this verse Paul and Barnabas had arrived in Antioch of Pisidia which is an entirely different place than Antioch of Syria.

Paul would usually try to to begin his ministry in the local synagogue, if one was available.

Paul had a never ending burden for his people and he usually always found at least some of them that were ready to hear the Word of God.

*****Act 13:29  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
Act 13:30  But God raised him from the dead:

Paul presented the ministry of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy that it was!

Paul used the same Old Testament scriptures that these people had a copy of, and preached Jesus to them.

Paul appealed for them to avoid the error that Jerusalem had made, by rejecting Christ Jesus.

But Paul emphasized to all of them, that those in power at Jerusalem had done all these things, BUT “God had raised Jesus from the dead” which was the fulfillment of prophecy of the Messiah!

Jesus’ life as a man in the flesh was taken away from Him and He certainly died!

Jesus was taken off that cross as a dead man!

Jesus was buried as a dead man!

And even in death the flesh of Jesus was not allowed to see sin! He was only in that grave for 3 days and not 4!

But as God, “He could not be held in a man’s grave”, because God the Father raised Him from the dead by the Power of the Holy Spirit!

The Bible says:

Psa 16:10  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

And:

Act 2:24  Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

You see God had also promised that “He would swallow up death in victory”! (Isa 25:8)

God had also said that His redeemed, would live together with the dead body of Jesus which did rise from the dead. (Isa 26:19)

And Job said:

Job 19:26  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Job 19:27  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

This is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

*****Act 13:31  And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ “was the great proof” of His being the true Son of God with power!

The resurrection “was the fulfillment” of all that was written about Him.

The resurrection “was His confirmation” that the Bible is the true Word of God and cannot be denied!

*****Act 13:32  And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
Act 13:33  God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, {Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee}.

We should see that the prophecy of the second Psalm (2:7) is specific when it says that Jesus was “begotten” at His resurrection and not at His birth!

This term is used 15 times in the New Testament and can also be used to describe the “Rapture” of the Church!

1Jn 5:1  Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him “that begat” loveth him also that “is begotten of him”.

And the Apostle Peter:

1Pe 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath “begotten us again” unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4  To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Another thing we should not miss in this verse is what Paul says:

He uses the words “the second Psalm”.

This teaches us that the division of at least the Psalms, then was “not done” many years later by Bible scholars but were already done in the day of Apostle Paul.

*****Act 13:38  Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Act 13:39  And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Notice Paul was not preaching a deliverance from Rome.

Paul was preaching a deliverance from sin!

Paul was preaching that Jesus was the expected Messiah!

Paul was preaching that those highly revered Laws of Moses could not justify anyone from sin!

Paul was preaching that not just Jew and Gentile but “whosoever” would believe these things could be justified from all sin forever!

Paul was preaching the “good news”, the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ!

“Justification” is an act that only God can perform and this was the method God had chosen!

It is God’s “plan” and not for us to question His plan!

The Jews were taught that God justified the righteous and punished the wicked BUT the “Gospel” says that God will justify “the ungodly” who will put their faith in Jesus Christ “because there are no righteous” people on this Earth!

Rom 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

NO Law can ever justify the sinner!

Rom 3:19  Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Paul closed his sermon with a word of warning, He said these words from God:

Act 13:40  Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; (Habakkuk 1:5)
Act 13:41  Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, “though a man declare it unto you”.

*****Act 13:43  Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

Notice it is always the same, some believe, some do not believe, and some are curious enough to want to come back.

Jesus explained this to the Apostles:

Mat 13:3  And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
Mat 13:4  And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Mat 13:5  Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
Mat 13:6  And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
Mat 13:7  And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
Mat 13:8  But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Mat 13:9  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Some were persuaded to continue in God’s Grace.  And from where comes God’s “Grace”?

Joh 1:17  For the law was given by Moses, “but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”.

2Pe 3:18  But grow in grace, and “in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

When we can be persuaded of this fact of “Grace” we can then, get on that path of righteousness:

Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

*****Act 13:44  And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

We can see that there was much discussion of Paul’s message. BUT, The topic of that discussion was the Lord Jesus Christ.

*****Act 13:45  But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.

These Jews here were those same Jews who were zealous of Judaism.

As we go through the Book of Acts we will see this group over and over again trying to stop the spread of the “Gospel”.

Jude the half-brother of the Lord Jesus wrote these words about this group of non-believers.

Jud 1:10  But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

They were extremely jealous. They had not seen this much interest in the God of the Hebrews and were certainly not willing to share Him with all these Gentiles.

They regarded the Law as the standard of salvation and would not agree to any other means.

The Apostle Paul was preaching blasphemy in their eyes!

*****Act 13:46  Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Paul informs this entire congregation that he was being obedient to the Word of God.

AND, Paul later wrote to the Romans:

Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Rom 1:17  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

When we reject the truth of the “Gospel” we are saying that we are unworthy of God’s “Grace”!

When we refuse the free gift of God’s “Grace” then we have rejected the results of that “Grace” which is eternal life!

It was Jesus Himself who said to preach the “Gospel” to the Jew first but He then said go to the uttermost parts of the world which included “whosoever” would believe.

*****Act 13:47  For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

It was now time to fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament:

Isa 49:6  And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

We will see this pattern develop and continue even in our day. There are many Jews who have come to the knowledge of the saving “Grace” of the “Gospel”.

This will continue until the “Church Age” has been completed and God will then turn His attention back to the Jew.

Paul would continue to plant churches until God called him home.

We see that Paul and Barnabas played a great part in taking the “Gospel” to the Gentiles but more important “they were sent by the Holy Ghost”!

We will continue to see that there is no power on this Earth that can stop the spread of the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ!

But we can also see that Satan, the Devil, will not cease to hinder God’s Word even though he cannot ever prevail!

We are on the winning side if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!

*****Act 13:49  And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.

Questions?

Let’s Pray!

The Power Of The Praying Church

The Power Of The Praying Church

Book of Acts Chapter 12

In today’s lesson we will see what happens as Satan loses one battle after another in trying to stop the Church.

The persecution of the Church began immediately after Pentecost. Christ Jesus had been persecuted and He had said all of His followers would be persecuted.

There is no doubt that we can expect persecution from false religion because Satan tries to hide the truth of God from all false religion!

Most all mankind, if not all, are seeking a god in their lives.

Most of mankind has moral values and they realize that plants cannot have moral values and though animals can show signs of affection and a degree of learning they also do not have moral values.

If man is then the highest level of life then most people believe that there must have been a Creator, a God!

The others just reject the truth!

Satan has taken advantage of these thoughts in all of mankind and uses all his power to try to stop the truth of God.

In Jerusalem the persecution of the Church began with the religious leaders who instilled a hatred of Christianity into most all Jews. They had failed and now the Church had expanded outside Samaria and was making it’s way to the uttermost parts of this world.

But now another enemy comes on the scene. Government officials had been used by these religious leaders to aid in this persecution but now an evil ruling government took it own it’s own to try to stop the spread of the Christian Church.

All during this period of persecution it seems that the Apostles had been exempt but that was about to change.

If we believe in “types” then we should be aware that these things are happening before our eyes even in America and in a great part of the world.

We have one truth that we can place our faith in and these are the words of Jesus Our Lord:

Mat 16:18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; [and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it].

And God also says:

Isa 54:17  [No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper]; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

This the truth of the Bible.

The “strength” of the Church and the “Power” of the Church comes through “Prayer” and we can see this again today. We have a God that listens to His people!

Let’s begin:

*****Act 12:1  Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.

This Herod was Herod Agrippa 1. He was the grandson of Herod the Great who was ruler when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and had murdered all the babies up to two years old.

Herod the Great had even murdered Agrippa’s own father Aristobulus. It was this Agrippa’s sister, Herodias who had married within the family to his and her uncle Herod Antipas who had murdered John the Baptist.

And it was the son of this Herod, Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, who also later witnessed the trial of Paul before Festus, before Paul was sent to Rome. He also had another sister named Drusilla who was married to Felix who had kept Paul in prison in Caesarea for so long a time.

Herod Agrippa I would do everything he could to make himself popular with the Jews to help him maintain his influence in Rome.

The Pharisees had a special admiration for this man so he decided to do away with the leaders of the Church.

*****Act 12:2  And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

James became the second recorded martyr, after Stephen, in the New Testament and the first of the Apostles to die for preaching the Word of God.

This James was the older brother of the Apostle John and we already know he preached vigorously and could stir up a commotion with his boldness.

Mar 3:17  And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:

James was beheaded which was one of the four capitol punishments of the Jews and considered to be the most shameful and the most disgraceful. This beheading was usually reserved for deceivers and all the Apostles were considered deceivers by the Jews.

Jesus had told this James that he indeed would suffer from the same cup as He!

Mar 10:38  But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
Mar 10:39  And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

*****Act 12:3  And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
Act 12:4  And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

This was all the encouragement that this Herod needed to proceed in murdering all the Apostles! If the murdering of James made them happy then surely by killing Peter would delight them even more. We can see that this King Herod fed off this feeling of power over the people.

God permitted the killing of James and God permitted the arrest of Peter. They placed Peter place under heavy guard but Herod knew he needed to wait until after the festival of unleavened bread was complete before he killed Peter.

The last time Peter had been arrested he had miraculously escaped, so this time 16 soldiers were assigned to watch Peter around the clock with two soldiers being chained to him at all times. There was no way for Peter to escape this time, or so they thought.

Of course this observance of “Easter” was a day that the Christian church observed, as the Jews still observed it as “Passover”.

We could ask ourselves why James had to die and not Peter, but all we can say is that it is still God’s plan and it is He that sits on the throne!

It is the throne of Heaven that is in control and not any throne that is on this Earth, just as we will witness one day soon when the Anti-Christ tries to sit on the throne of Jesus.

*****Act 12:5  Peter therefore was kept in prison: [but prayer was made without ceasing] of the church unto God [for him].
 
We must never under estimate the “power” of the praying church! Notice, it was not time to have just a general prayer in the church. It was time to have a specific prayer for the Apostle Peter, that he would be released and be able to continue in God’s work.

We will see that there is an obvious relationship between the prayer for Peter’s release from prison and the angel’s releasing him.

This prayer was probably not made in a single gathering place because of fear after James was killed but they gathered in homes and in little groups, each group praying earnestly and from the heart and without ceasing.

This prayer was specifically for Peter!

*****Act 12:6  And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

We can see that there was no way for Peter to escape by any, so called, normal means.

But we can also see that Peter was asleep. We will see that the Apostle Peter was sleeping so soundly that the angel had to awaken him by punching on him and lifting him up.

In spite of his circumstances and knowing he was to executed on the following morning, Peter had the peace of a man who knows that Heaven is his home and he was about to go there. This is the peace of God that we all should have.

The Bible says:

Psa 121:7  The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
Psa 121:8  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

And God tells each of us these words:

Psa 127:2  It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: [for so he giveth his beloved sleep].

God tells us that it is foolish to worry about our circumstances. We should be resting for the work ahead.

Remember, Peter had also been promised by Jesus, that he would live to be an old man:

Joh 21:18  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: [but when thou shalt be old], thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

Now we might not know how old that would be but Peter was not that old at this time!

*****Act 12:7  And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.

What are some of the things that angels do?

1.) They minister to God the Father.

2.) They ministered to Jesus Christ, God the Son.

3.) They minister to every believer:

a.) They can offer physical protection:

Psa 91:11  For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

b.) They can help provide a need in times of peril as they did to Elijah:

1Ki 19:5  And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
1Ki 19:6  And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.

c.) They can offer encouragement as they did to Paul:

Act 27:23  For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Act 27:24  Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

d.) They can give us direction as they did to Philip:

Act 8:26  And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

And as they had to Cornelius about Peter:

Act 10:3  He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

e.) Angels may one day carry us home to Heaven:

Luk 16:22  And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and [was carried by the angels] into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

f.) And in this lesson we see they assist in answered prayer!

But Angels will one day also minister to all unbelievers!

Mat 13:41  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
Mat 13:42  [And shall cast them into a furnace of fire]: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

In order for Peter to be saved, from this peril, he had to do what this angel told him to do!

*****Act 12:8  And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. [And so he did]. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

Even in the middle of a miracle, we are expected to be civil and do the things that we can do. Peter needed to dress himself and put on his own shoes because it was time to get out of jail.

We are to do the things God has given us power to do and God will do the things that we are powerless to do!

And then we are to obey “the one” that God sends!

*****Act 12:9  And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.

Peter felt like he was having a dream and that dream came with a vision.

His chains had just fallen off.

The soldiers were not aware of anything that was happening.

Locked cells and gates were just opening up.

Unbelievable things were happening that could not be explained so Peter felt that they must not be real.

*****Act 12:10  When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.

These two wards were places inside the prison where guards were stationed and that iron gate was the entrance, or in Peter’s case, the exit from that prison where he had been kept.

Prisons were not outside the city walls at this time!

These gates just opened on their own. They did not have to open for the angel, so they were opening for Peter’s escape.

This angel did not leave Peter until Peter knew which way he could go to escape and it was at this time that Peter realized he had been saved from death!

*****Act 12:11  And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

Peter knew he had been delivered from the hand of Herod and from the Jewish leaders.

Peter was no longer confused!

Peter knew that his own people the Jews had expected him to be murdered just as James had been.

BUT, even the government could not stop what God had in store for Peter.

AND,  the “power of prayer” is a force that is also unstoppable. These are lessons that we all seem to have forgotten.

The Bible says:

Psa 41:1  Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
Psa 41:2  The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: [and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies].

*****Act 12:12  And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

This probably a Mary we have not yet met, and more probably, a sister to Barnabas we have just recently met.

When Peter had gained control of his senses, he realized that his brothers and sisters may be gathered together and most probably in a place familiar with them all.

Peter knew this place and this family very well and had led Mark to the Lord:

1Pe 5:13  The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; [and so doth Marcus my son].

This was most likely the same upper room where they had been praying on the day of Pentecost.

The same room where they had observed the Lord’s Supper with the Lord.

It is very possible that Mark and even Barnabas had been in that house with them both of these times.

*****Act 12:13  And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
Act 12:14  And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.

It is most probable that while this church, that met in Mary’s house was still praying, the answer to their prayer had appeared at the door!

Rhoda was so overwhelmed that she neglected to open the door, though she recognized the voice of Peter.

Peter had to keep knocking while the church could not believe their prayer had been answered.

*****Act 12:15  And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
Act 12:16  But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. 

They had been praying earnestly but they had no faith that their prayer would be answered.

This a great lesson for us all!

There are indeed guardian angels assigned to each believer:

Psa 34:7  The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

These people knew that Peter was not to be executed until the Passover or after it, so they were not referring to this as Peter’s spirit or the ghost of Peter.

And this could not ave been an angel or he could have walked right on in that house.

The lesson we learn here is that though they believed in fervent prayer, they had their doubts that God would answer such a prayer.

The Bible teaches us:

Mar 9:24  And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, [Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief].

When we doubt that our prayers will be answered then most times they will not!

As a child of God the Father, He has given us the “power” to come directly to His throne at any hour and with any need.

We are wasting our time and His time if we do not believe that Our Father can do the impossible, as this simple illustration we are given in this passage!

Remember Herod had murdered James, the brother of John.

He had intended to do the same to Peter.

The early church was driven to it’s knees and God, not only answered their prayer and released Peter, but God began to turn the tide against this Herod and these Jews.

More than just saving Peter happened that day because of prayer!

The Bible says:

Jas 5:16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. [The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much].

In other words there is endless power in the fervent prayer of “faith”!

*****Act 12:17  But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord
had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he
departed, and went into another place.

The Apostle James was already dead, so this James was the half brother of Jesus, and even at this time this James was taking more responsibility in the church at Jerusalem and this James was also the writer used of the Holy Ghost to write the Book of James!

Peter disappears for a period of time at least until after the time of Herod’s death.

We will see very little of Peter throughout the remaining chapters but we will begin to see a whole lot of the Apostle Paul.

We know that Peter gathered his wife and went on the road preaching the gospel:

1Co 9:5  Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, [and Cephas]?

In fact Peter is on the short list of some that preached to the church of Corinth after it was established:

1Co 1:12  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; [and I of Cephas]; and I of Christ.

The Bible does not give us any evidence that the Apostle Peter ever visited Rome, and in fact, if Peter had establish a church in Rome then the Apostle Paul would not have had his yearning to go to Rome:

There is proof of this:

Rom 15:20  Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, [lest I should build upon another man’s foundation]:

The Bible encourages us to be in earnest prayer for those Christians locked up for preaching the “Gospel” and to have enough faith that God will use these people to grow the church.

Heb 13:3  Remember them that are in bonds, [as bound with them]; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Prayer can change lives and it is vastly important that we realize the power of prayer!

Herod who was the ruling government was shaken up by what happened!

The military was shaken up and blamed and at least 16 soldiers who then lost their lives!

Herod commanded a great search be made, but Peter could not be found!

Herod decided it would be best if he left Judea and he went back to Caesarea but he could not hide from God and in a short time his own life was ended because he did not give God the glory!

Questions?

Let’s Pray!

The Progress Of The Gospel

The Progress Of The Gospel

Book of Acts Chapters 10-11

Before the Book of Acts turns it’s attention to the Apostle Paul, we get to see the Apostle Peter again.

God has clearly revealed the direction the early church was to take!

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

There is no power in any house of God without “Born Again”, “Holy Ghost Filled” believers!

There is no power in the child of God without the Holy Ghost who indwells each believer!

We will see the Apostle Peter complete three things in this study.

Peter will show his God-Given power to heal the sick.

Peter will show us his God-Given power to raise the dead.

Peter will shows us his God-Given power to lead the lost to the Lord, so they could be saved by the “Grace” of God.

So what is God’s greatest miracle?

First none of things theses happened without the power of God.

Everyone that is sick, will again get sick.

Those that were raised from the dead in Bible times had to die again.

Then the greatest miracle must be Salvation!

Salvation will lead us to a place where there will be no sickness and there will be no death but only a place of eternal life!

Let’s begin:

*****Act 10:1  There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,

We should not miss the fact that Peter was on his own missionary journey.

Act 9:32  And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.

Peter had traveled from Jerusalem to Lydda. As one would travel to the city of Joppa a city on the Mediterranean coast some 30 miles of Jerusalem they would first pass through Emmaus, 7 miles from Jerusalem and then on to Lydda which was 9 miles from Joppa.

While in Lydda Peter had healed a man named Aeneas who had been so sick that he could not get out of his bed for 8 years. That’s like going to Hospice care and healing someone who could then go back home.

Many in Lydda, which were mostly Jews came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

This same area is known as Sharon and the phrase “the rose of Sharon” comes from this area of Israel. Of course we know that the true “rose of Sharon” is Jesus Christ our Lord just as He is the “Lily of our valley”!

While Peter was in Lydda, he and his ministry was known in Joppa, he was called to Joppa for an emergency. Peter found a grand old lady of Joppa called Dorcas which means “gazelle” but her real name was Tabitha.

This grand lady of the city of Joppa was raised from the dead:

Act 9:40  But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

Peter then stayed in Joppa for a period of time in a house of a man named Simon, who was a tanner. Not many Jews would have stayed with a tanner because a tanner had to deal with dead animals which made him unclean in the eyes of the Jew.

Peter was in this place as our lesson unfolds today.

Caesarea was also located on the Mediterranean Sea and was about 70 miles from Jerusalem. This city was built by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar Augustus.

This city was used as the capitol city and the seat of civil government of Rome while they ruled Judaea. Cornelius was an actual Roman Centurion and we can tell by the phrase “the Italian Band”.

Roman citizens and Roman governors would be protected by Roman soldiers collected out of Italy. A Centurion would normally command 100 soldiers.

*****Act 10:2  A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Cornelius was truly a man who had forsaken Roman idolatry and the false religion in which he had been raised as a child. He had come to fear the only true God, who is the God of Israel. Cornelius had even brought up his family in the fear of the God of Israel.

Cornelius gave charitably to the Jews, and Cornelius prayed to God “alway”, which means he prayed continuously.

In the following verses we can see that Cornelius was praying for a closer walk with God!

*****Act 10:3  He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
Act 10:4  And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

Don’t you just love the fact that God and all His angels in Heaven know your name. You know if Cornelius lived in America today, he would have pass as a Christian and he would be persecuted by the masses for the way he lived.

He was a military officer, a man of influence, and the foundation of his home. 

God had made Himself known to him  but he had never heard the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ!

Rom 1:19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
Rom 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

There are so many that live in our world today in this same position waiting on someone to come by and tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

It is believed that this event took place 10 years after Pentecost. We can only know that God has His own plan and it is His plan that works.

But what we see is that when the time came the Holy Spirit began His work on Cornelius and He responded knowing He was meeting the Lord.

In the sense of the Law, Cornelius had been offering a sacrifice that was well pleasing unto God, an odor of sweet smell.

His prayers and his sincerity had won the ear of God!

“But”,  All men shall be accountable to God by Jesus Christ.

He is the only Judge who can Justify each believer!

It is those that believe in His name that can rest assured that there will be no further condemnation!

*****Act 10:5  And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
Act 10:6  He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

Another great thing about our father in Heaven is that, He always knows exactly where we are located at all times. Peter was doing a work in Joppa.

BUT,  this was Peter’s training ground and he had not yet realized it.

It was 30 miles from Caesarea to Joppa and those messengers started that same evening. The business of a tanner would not be hard to find because of the smell and would always be by a large source of water.

The main thing we can see in Cornelius is that he knew his religious devotion was not enough to save him!

Salvation cannot ever be of works!

Those that are satisfied with their good character will still not get into Heaven because they have no concept of their own sin and of God’s “Grace”!

AND, Cornelius needed someone to tell him these things!

*****Act 10:11  And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Act 10:12  Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Act 10:13  And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

Before Peter could lead the Gentiles to the Lord, he needed a little more training. God had to prepare the already Apostle Peter for this work.

The message of the Gospel and God’s “Grace” is the same and will never change but as we carry God’s message to the lost we must have a better understanding of them.!

What we will see in this passage is that most of the barriers to us being true witnesses for the Lord, are within our own selves.

The Apostle Peter had the right message!

He was at the right time and the right place!

BUT,  Peter had lived the life of an orthodox Jew all his life and the Law of Moses was a great wall between the Jew and the Gentiles!

We know that this wall was removed at the cross!

Eph 2:11  Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Eph 2:12  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus [ye who sometimes were far off] are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

God had declared that there was no difference between the Jew and the Gentile:

Rom 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
Rom 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Rom 10:12  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Rom 10:13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Notice God knows exactly what it will take to reach each of us in any situation!

Peter was hungry, so God used food to teach Peter a great spiritual lesson.

Peter would also get a first hand lesson on what Jesus had taught him earlier:

Mar 7:15  There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

*****Act 10:14  But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

The first thing we should see in this verse is that if Christ Jesus is truly Our Lord then the answer “no” cannot exist!

When we say “No” to The Lord then we are not recognizing Him as Our Lord!

This is a contradiction in words!

Jesus teaches us all this truth:

Luk 6:46  And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

It is a fact that food can cause us many problems but the food we eat CANNOT change our relationship with Our Lord!

After these things were over, Peter was still wondering what had just taken place but as we see God’s timing is always perfect and those messengers from Cornelius had just arrived.

*****Act 10:34  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

That voice that Peter had heard said “What God has cleansed, thou call not thou common” and this was repeated 3 times.

As far back as King Jehoshaphat in the Old Testament, we can find the phrase “nor respect of persons” referring to the Lord.

And the exact truth is:

Rom 2:11  For there is no respect of persons with God.

Every person on the face of this Earth stands at the same level before the justice of God and there are no exceptions!

We are all in need of the salvation that can only come through Jesus Christ!

All mankind have the same Creator, and all men need the same Savior, this is the Word of God that is given to us all or to “whosoever” accepts the truth of the Word of God!

Joh 3:36  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

That wrath will come to it’s entirety at the Great White Throne Of Judgment!

*****Act 10:35  But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Before Christ, the Gentile nations were “aliens” from the commonwealth of Israel.

Before Christ, the Gentile nations were “strangers” from the covenant promises to Israel.

Before Christ, the Gentile nations had no hope, and were without God in this world.

Before Christ, there was the Law, but it is Jesus Christ that brought the “Grace” of the Almighty God to every creature on this Earth!

From the very first day of Adam, Our God has required “faith” and after “faith” comes then the “Grace” of God can be shown by Christ through the preaching of the “Gospel”!

God does not honor works as a means of salvation!

But God does honor works that come after faith in those that fear Him! He is the true God of Creation, and  the true God of the Bible!

Cornelius had understood the preaching of John the Baptist according to verse 37:

Joh 1:8  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Joh 1:9  That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

We will see many other times in the Book of Acts that the preaching of John the Baptist had reached many places outside of Jerusalem.

Yet salvation can still only come through Jesus Christ as we will see in our lesson!

*****Act 10:38  How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

Peter begins by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter begins by preaching the facts!

You see it took a great power and a great victory to break Satan’s tyranny over the bodies mankind.

Luk 13:16  And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, [whom Satan hath bound], lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

It took great power and a great victory to break Satan’s tyranny over the souls of mankind.

2Ti 2:26  And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

This is the greatest evidence of the truth of the Gospel and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy:

Isa 49:25  But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.

Isa 54:17  No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

*****Act 10:39  And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
Act 10:40  Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;

Jesus had been crucified before the entire world and these things were not hid from the public nor from the Roman army. It was the Jewish leaders that had tried the Lord and it was Rome who had crucified Him.

This was not superstitious reverence but “witnessed”, and “historical” facts!

It was the Apostles and the followers of  Christ who were “eye witnesses” to the resurrection and the days that followed Jesus until He ascended into Heaven, which they also wirnessed.

And there had been many other infallible proofs given to them.

And many prophecies fulfilled:

Hos 6:1  Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
Hos 6:2  After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, [and we shall live in his sight].

*****Act 10:43  To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi are just a few of the prophesies we are familiar with but John wrote in the Book of Revelation that Jesus was the Spirit of Prophecy.

Peter said this is who Jesus is. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Anointed One sent from Heaven!

*****Act 10:44  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Just as soon as these that heard Peter, believed, and the Holy Ghost interrupted this meeting:

Peter later explained it like this, he said:

Act 11:15  And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

Just as the Holy Ghost had fell on those 120 in that upper room on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost fell on this meeting with Cornelius.

Peter was not able to finish his sermon this day, enough was said, because salvation comes to those that believe in the death, the burial, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The early church now had Jews, Samaritan, and Gentiles and it was time to go to the uttermost part of the earth.

The key to these things is for every “Born Again” believer to reproduce himself through another lost soul and to produce fruit!

*****Act 10:45  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

These are the Jews that were with Peter that day.

It is hard for us to realize the great barrier that existed between the Jew and the Gentile that day but we must realize that war and foreign domination can cause hate. It was the Jews that had brought forth the Word of God and they simply could not believe that Gentiles could be saved. They were enemies to the Jew and certainly, they believed that no Gentile deserved to know their God.

Peter went to where ever God sent him and he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “whosoever”. This was his job and it it God who calls those to Himself who will be saved.

Gal 3:26  For ye are all the children of God [by faith in Christ Jesus].
Gal 3:27  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:29  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

After salvation comes baptism and after baptism comes the work of telling others about Jesus!

Questions?

Let’s Pray!

The Persecutor Becomes The Proclaimer

The Persecutor Becomes The Proclaimer

Book of Acts Chapter 9

Who was the Apostle Paul?

Who was the apostle to the Gentiles?

We will begin to find out these things today.

God had begun His Church in Jerusalem. God had laid the foundation for world wide evangelism but the Church had remained in Jerusalem and grown at a fast pace.

God had told His Church these words:

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The Church had grown in Jerusalem and Judaea. Philip had taken the “Gospel” to Samaria.

It was now time for the Church to grow “unto the uttermost part of the earth”.

God had already sent witnesses to the known world from those that were witnesses on the day of Pentecost:

Act 2:5  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

But it was now time for “the Church to send” out the Missionaries, the Evangelist, and the Preachers.

Saul the “persecutor” became Paul the “proclaimer”!

God continues to work out “His plan” to bring the “Gospel” to the entire world!

It is only when we see life as God sees it that we can get an accurate picture of life, of living, and of eternity!

Lets begin:

*****Act 9:1  And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Act 9:2  And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Saul of Tarsus was a very zealous man who actually thought he was doing God a service by trying to put a stop to Christianity.

The Apostle Paul later gave this testimony of himself:

Act 26:9  I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Act 26:10  Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

The Apostle Paul later wrote to Timothy:

1Ti 1:12  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
1Ti 1:13  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, [because I did it ignorantly in unbelief].

Saul had set at the feet of Gamaliel a great teacher:

Act 22:3  I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

But even the great Gamaliel did not know God spiritually and could not teach this to Saul.

These old teachers taught that the Messiah could only come when everyone completely obeyed the Law as given by Moses and added to by the Pharisees.

The Messiah could never have come under these conditions because it was impossible for anyone to keep all 613 of those laws.

Saul was spiritually blind:

2Co 3:13  And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
2Co 3:14  But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 

The Nation of Israel is still in this state of spiritual blindness until this day!

They still stumble over the Cross as even Saul did at this time:

1Co 1:23  But we preach Christ crucified, [unto the Jews a stumblingblock], and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Co 1:24  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

The persecution of the Church at Jerusalem had driven the Church underground and many had been scattered. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were enthused as they thought Christianity was coming to an end in Jerusalem but Saul wanted to go beyond the borders of Jerusalem and even Judaea.

Like many of today, Saul hated Jesus Christ!

Even in foreign lands the High Priests and the Sanhedrin Court were still recognized as the spiritual rulers and certain things of Judaism were allowed by Rome when it came to religious practices of the nations under Roman rule.

Damascus is one of the world’s oldest cities and was first mentioned in the Bible in the time of Abraham:

Gen 14:15  And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

There are many suffering in Damascus today as it is the capitol of Syria and war is consuming Syria at this time.

But in Saul’s day many Jews lived in Syria.

*****Act 9:3  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

Saul (Paul) never forgot these things that happened to him this day on the road to Damascus.

In chapter 26 Paul says that it was midday or noon time.

In chapter 22 Paul says it was about noon time.

So when the Sun was at it’s highest in the sky and at it’s brightest, a light even brighter than the Sun shined round about Paul.

The Apostle Peter uses this instance in one of His epistles:

2Pe 1:19  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, [and the day star arise in your hearts]:

Jesus uses these things in the Book of Revelation:

Rev 22:16  I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and [the bright and morning star].

Jesus Christ is the true Light that comes into this spiritually dark world.

John the Baptist said of Jesus:

Joh 1:8  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of “that Light”. {Referring to the Lamb of God}

Jesus said of Himself:

Joh 8:12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: [he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the “light of life”].

Here again we can see that only Christ Jesus is the “Light of Life”!

*****Act 9:4  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Suddenly Saul found himself on the ground. “Every knee will bow to Our Lord”. A personal meeting with Jesus Christ will humble us all.

Everyone with Saul fell to the earth but only Paul could understand the words that were spoken:

Act 26:14  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

With the emphasis on the Hebrew language it may have been that these others with Saul may not have known the Hebrew language as Aramaic, Greek and Latin were the dominant languages of that day.

BUT, When God repeats a name such as in these verses it always means that a message of special importance will follow!

He did this with Abraham (Gen 2:11).

He did this with Moses. (Exo 3:4)

He did this with Samuel. (1 Sam 3:10)

He did this with Absalom. (2 Sam 18:33)

He did this with Peter. (Luke 22:31)

He even did this with the city of Jerusalem. (Mat 23:37)

Paul knew he had to respond, because there is no place to hide when Christ Jesus shows Himself!

*****Act 9:5  And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

It is easy to see that Our Lord described Paul as a stubborn animal. We are all stubborn when we reject the truth of the “Gospel”!

These pricks were pointed objects that were placed in the harnesses of animals that hurt them when they rebelled against that harness.

Jesus was telling Paul, “what injury or what physical harm have I caused you?”

This tells us that the the Lord through the Holy Spirit had already been working on Saul.

Not many of us come to know the Lord on our first calling. Thank God He is the God of the second chance!

Saul had seen many of his friends and his own family come to know Jesus before him:

Paul later wrote:

Rom 16:7  Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, “who also were in Christ before me”.

And above all Jesus makes it “very plain” that when His Church, The Body Of Christ, suffers then He also suffers along with them.

Our Lord will always identify Himself with His believers!

*****Act 9:6  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

No doubt Paul came under conviction and this conviction woke him up to great guilt for what he was doing to the followers of Jesus.

Now, Saul had actually seen the risen Christ and instantly, he became a believer!

1Co 15:8  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

When any of us reach this point our next question should be the same as Paul:

“Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

Isaiah put it this way:

Isa 6:8  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? [Then said I, Here am I; send me].

The Apostle Paul would have a similar response as Isaiah!

*****Act 9:7  And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Act 9:8  And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

Saul was not traveling alone this day on the Damascus road. These other men had seen a great light but they had not understood the Words of Jesus.

Act 22:9  And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

Those men that were with Paul could not get words to come out of their mouths, they were speechless. What they had witnessed, they were in amazement of! They were bewildered by what they were witnessing!

Saul learned that Jesus was indeed alive.

Saul learned that he had to repent, something that was almost impossible for a Pharisee to do.

Saul learned that he was in danger of God’s Judgment!

Saul learned that he was a lost sinner in need of Salvation.

Saul learned that all of a sudden his personal values were meaningless.

Because, Saul had now been arrested by Jesus Christ:

Php 3:12  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for [which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus].

Saul had to loose his religion, before he could accept his unrighteousness before the Lord Jesus Christ!

No other Christian up till this time, had, had this kind of conversion experience but at the end of the Church Age most all the nation of Israel will have a similar experience as this one of Saul:

Zec 12:10  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: [and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced], and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Zec 12:11  In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.

This experience had left Saul temporarily blind and he was led by the hand on to Damascus!

God had to thoroughly humbled Saul and he would never be the same!

And at this same time ,God was preparing a Christian man named Ananias.

*****Act 9:17  And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Ananias despite everything he had heard about Saul, believed what the Holy Spirit had laid on his heart. He went to Saul and graciously accepted Saul as a brother in Christ.

Despite his great education at the feet of Gamaliel, Saul was just now only a “babe in Christ”.

Saul was converted to Paul on the Damascus road and was baptized by the Holy Spirit at that time because this is what the Bible teaches and what Paul would later teach. There was at this time a need of the “filling” of the Holy Spirit which took place immediately when Paul received “his sight”.

Remember the Jews “require a sign”.

Paul received his “physical” sight at the same time he received his “Spiritual” sight submitting himself fully to the Lord.

Saul of Tarsus became Brother Saul!

*****Act 9:18  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

It was only after these things that Saul was baptized. Again we see that “water baptism” had nothing to do with Saul’s salvation!

And, Like the other Apostles, Paul received his Apostleship from the Lord Himself and we can also see that there was no such thing as “apostolic succession” as taught by some other religions.

*****Act 9:19  And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

It had been 3 days since Saul had eaten or drank anything and he had also been blind for those same 3 days.

Saul got to know God’s disciples and how loving and forgiving they truly were!

Luke uses the phrase “certain days” in this verse. This word can mean “some days” with the disciples that were at Damascus.

What Paul tells us, explains this time period better:

Gal 1:15  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
Gal 1:16  To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Gal 1:17  Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; [but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus].
Gal 1:18  Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

This visit to Arabia is the place where the Lord Himself taught the Apostle Paul just as He had taught the other Apostles.

*****Act 9:20  And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

Paul never forgot this period in his life and repeated it over and over again in his epistles:

Gal 1:1  [Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ], and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

The Apostle Paul knew for sure that Jesus Christ was the Messiah sent of God and Paul was even more zealous to preach this truth than he had been in persecution of the Church!

We may not know exactly how long Paul was in Arabia but we do know that it was 3 years before Paul returned to Jerusalem.

*****Act 9:21  But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

The reputation of Saul had proceeded him into Damascus but this city of Damascus saw a different Saul than they had been told.

The dramatic change in Saul’s life was a source of wonder to the Jews who had fled to Damascus partly because of him.

And, this was the place that God first sent Paul to begin his ministry.

*****Act 9:22  But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Saul was a very intelligent man and highly educated and as a Pharisee he was well learned in the Old Testament scriptures. When the Lord opened his eyes to the truth in those scriptures Paul said that the Lord had revealed to him the mysteries of the Bible.

1Co 4:1  Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, [and stewards of the mysteries of God].

Paul also went on to say that as stewards, or overseers of God’s Word, (Preachers) then he needed to be found faithful.

1Co 4:2  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

This is true for everyone called of God, especially God’s ministers, to be faithful in preaching the truth of the Word of God.

We know that there is a great falling away from the truth of God in our day. That’s why the Church needs to make a full return to the “Apostles Doctrine”.

Maybe the world would look upon Christianity again in wonder and amazement and not in anger.

The truth will still make us free today!

*****Act 9:23  And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

Those many days probably refer to that period of time Paul spent in Arabia.

These same Jews had been anticipating Paul’s arrival in Damascus and they knew the purpose of his coming was to arrest the Christians who were seen as creating problems for Judaism.

But when Paul came into the synagogues with this message of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, this only made matters worse for them.

These Jews could no longer win by arguing God’s Word because the truth was easily seen in the scriptures once Jesus could be seen throughout them all.

The part of Saul’s reputation of being him being a zealot meant the only way to silence him would be his death.

*****Act 9:24  But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

Damascus was a walled city like most the old cities of the Bible. So there were gates in and out of the city. Paul explains to us later that these Jews had enough pull in Damascus to get aid from the ruling Gentile authorities.

2Co 11:32  In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:

They knew if Paul was apprehended or even if he made it through those gaits they would kill him.

But God always makes a way for His disciples. God had already said why He had called Paul:

Act 9:15  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Act 9:16  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

*****Act 9:25  Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

Just as we had studied on the city of Jericho, there were houses built on the city walls with windows that allowed them to look out upon the country side.

Paul said:

2Co 11:33  And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

God would not even allow the ruling government to detain His preacher man!

There have been many excavations in and around Damascus and one of those discoveries includes the remains of “the street called Straight”.

It is a truth that more than 84 facts of the Book of Acts have been verified archaeologically.

The writings of Luke and the acts of Paul are the truth of the Early Church and the Apostle Paul was truly the Apostle to the Gentiles as we will learn from most of the remaining Book of Acts.

There are also many other great things we have not covered in this chapter. Please take a look on your own time.

Questions?

Let’s Pray?

The Product Of Persecution

The Product Of Persecution

Book of Acts Chapter 8

With the death of Stephen, persecution increased for the church in Jerusalem. The religious rulers of Israel wanted to totally eliminate Christianity!

So what was the product of this persecution?

The Word of God began it’s journey to the uttermost parts of this world!

No matter how things appear to us, it is God who who sits in control of this earth and the things that happen on this earth.

We should never forget this verse:

Rom 8:28  And we know that “all things” work together for good to them that love God, [to them who are the called according to his purpose].

The “Gospel” of Jesus Christ is much, much, more than an idea or some new religion that can be stopped!

The “Gospel” is the Power Of God!

Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: [for “it is the power of God unto salvation”] to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

The “Gospel” of Jesus Christ is the “Doctrine of Christianity” and those that believe and have faith in the “promises” that God makes to each believer shall be saved.

You see Satan is “forced” to remove his hold on those that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

2Ti 2:24  And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
2Ti 2:25  In meekness instructing those that “oppose themselves”; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the “acknowledging of the truth”;
2Ti 2:26  And that they may “recover themselves” out of the snare of the devil, [who are taken captive by him at his will].

Let’s begin:

*****Act 8:1  And Saul was consenting unto his death. [And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad] throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

The Church at Jerusalem had grown large by this time. It began with those 120 and in addition to those 3000 early converts we know of at Peters sermon we just recently studied over 5000 more were added and women and children were not even mentioned.

They were called a great multitude of believers who were in one heart and one soul.

It is said that they multiplied greatly “But” they were all staying in Jerusalem!

What had God commanded?

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

They had not even started to do this. So, we can see that God allowed some things to happen. We will soon see that they indeed began to scatter and they first stayed close again which was Samaria.

We can see that God’s “will” will be done!

We can be willing participants or unwilling participants but God will see that His Word is fulfilled!

A church that is willing to send and support missionaries to wherever God sends them may grow and remain large enough to provide that support!

BUT, a church that is not willing and refuses to support those that are called of God and the Men, God has chosen, has little purpose for remaining in great numbers and if they will not even work in their local community there is little need in that church existing.

We can see what this leads to:

Rev 3:14  And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
Rev 3:15  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:17  [Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked]:

And we know that this is the direction that the church is headed in our day!

It is more efficient for the church and more Christ honoring, for members to be scattered and form new churches in other areas where they are more needed!

But is was not the right time for the Apostles to be scattered!

Here again we can see that God preferred the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem and protect the flock at this time.

The Bible teaches us:

1Pe 5:2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, [but being ensamples to the flock].

*****Act 8:2  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

Lamentation is an expression of sorrow, and is usually accompanied with cries of grief. We should have this expression every time a man of God is called home and Stephen had fulfilled his purpose set forth of God and “only his body” went into the ground awaiting the resurrection or what we call the “Rapture of the Church”.

2Co 5:8  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

The soul of Stephen had departed out of this world. The interval between death and the resurrection, is a state of absence from the body, during which time the soul exists in a separate state “with the Lord” and the body in a state of inactivity and “sleep” waiting on the resurrection when “both will be reunited together again” but in a glorified body as that of the Lord.

1Th 4:13  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are “asleep”, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1Th 4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, [even so them also which “sleep” in Jesus “will God bring with him”].

*****Act 8:3  As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Saul was a young man full of zeal about his religion:

Php 3:6  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Gal 1:13  For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that “beyond measure” I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
Gal 1:14  And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Saul went into every dwelling where it was reported that a Christian lived and into every house where they gathered and physically dragged these believers out into the streets and then into the prisons.

It can be said that “making havoc” would be like treating these believers as “the filth of the world” especially of Jerusalem.

*****Act 8:4  Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

And what were the results of this persecution?

It would still be wrong to believe that God caused this persecution but it could be said that God allowed this persecution to take place.

Our God is a righteous and a God who is also Holy!

AND, These believers that were scattered abroad went preaching the Word of God!

The Greek word “diasperio” used for the English word “scattered” means to “sow throughout”.

These believers of the early Church in Jerusalem were “God’s spiritual seed” and “persecution” was used of God to “plant this seed in new soil” so it could bear fruit!

It is in the best interest of every house of God to be sure to teach the entire truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which should also include all the Old Testament.

Because every child of God must be “rooted and grounded” in the entire truth of God’s Word!

Col 2:6  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Col 2:7  “Rooted” and built up in him, and “stablished” in the faith, as ye have been taught, “abounding” therein with thanksgiving.

*****Act 8:5  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Philip’s glad reception in Samaria is proof of all these truths!

Most of these Samaritans, [with no disrespect], were a half-breed people, a mixture of Jew and Gentile. This was brought about many years earlier when the Assyrians had captured the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel.

In 732 BC many of these of Israel were deported into foreign lands and many Gentiles were imported who then inter-married with the Jews that were left behind.

These Samaritans openly opposed the Jews!

It is interesting to note that Israel, gained possession of Jerusalem and most of the old remnant of Samaria during the Six Day War of 1967, which at that time the nation of Jordan “had claimed but were not a part of”.

The nation of Jordan was never the owner of these lands as they belonged to “Israel”.

It should also be noted that Jordan, no longer had any power of this region which we now call the “West Bank”, but they ceded that land “that they never owned but just claimed” to the Palestinian Liberation Organization or the PLO. This happened at two times in 1988 part A and 1994 part B.

Jordan had no authority to do these things and the PLO had and has no right to claim these lands!

The true owners, “Israel” had regained their land in 1967!

Let’s continue:

Philip was one the seven chosen men and what we now call a Deacon but after the death of Stephen and this persecution, he fled to Samaria probably in fear of his own life.

Here Philip preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That word “Christ” means In Greek, “The Anointed One or “The Messiah”.

It seems even many of the Church of today reject that Jesus is the “Christ” or Jesus is the “Messiah”, God in the flesh!

The “lost” cannot be saved if they reject this truth!

*****Act 8:6  And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

When God calls someone to go to a specific place of ministry, God will also soften the hearts of those in that place He is sending that person. We will see this over and over again in our study of the Book of Acts.

We can also see that God had given Philip some of those powers that only the Apostles had. All these powers and gifts of these sort, disappeared at the death of the Apostles and only God Himself uses these powers today and most of them go unnoticed.

Salvation did not then nor will it ever come from a miracle or a wonder!

Salvation can only come from the heart of that once lost person!

*****Act 8:7  For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
Act 8:8  And there was great joy in that city.

Nobody can ever be saved simply because of some miracle!

These people paid more attention to the Word of God that Philip was preaching than they did the miracles that came about through him!

When Philip mentioned that he had left Jerusalem “because the hatred showed to him”, he was probably received with open arms in Samaria and his message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought great joy to these people.

Maybe not all of them had forgotten that day Jesus had stropped by and converted that woman at Jacob’s well.

Joh 4:7  There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

While the church in Jerusalem was suffering misery because of persecution, Samaria was having great joy!

*****Act 8:26  And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

We have skipped many verses to stay with the theme of this lesson but that does not mean they are not very important.

Peter and John “had been sent” to confirm Philip’s work.

This would be the first steps in removing the walls of separation between the Jew and the Samaritan!

We see that Peter and John had been sent as messengers of the Gospel and not in any function as a ruler.

Not one Apostle was regarded or elevated above any of the other Apostles!

And by this time of this verse, Peter and John had returned to Jerusalem and shared, with enthusiasm, the good news that God also would save those that were lost in Samaria.

The Bible says that the truth is:

Act 2:21  And it shall come to pass, that “whosoever” shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But while revival was going on in Samaria, Philip was called of God for a more important task.

There was a single individual on his way home that was under conviction by the Word of God and needed to be shown how to make application of God’s Word.

We must realize that no angel has ever experienced God’s “Grace” therefore, they can never bear witness of what it takes to be “Saved”!

1Pe 1:12  Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; [which things the angels desire to look into].

The angels desire to know the salvation that “Grace” provides and also the feeling of the “indwelling” of the Spirit but they will never know these things on a personal level.

But they do have great joy for everyone of God’s creation that does when they see the pleasure on God’s face.

Luk 15:7  I say unto you, that likewise [joy shall be in heaven] over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Gaza was the southern most city “of Israel” and a route between Syria and Egypt. This road was well traveled by visitors to Jerusalem.

*****Act 8:27  And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Act 8:28  Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

As we witness for the Lord we should also realize that God will direct us to the right person at the exact right time.

This eunuch was a man of great authority and that word “Ethiopia” is given to us to tell us that this was a black man.

This is one of the places where God shows us that the Gospel is for “whosoever” and through this man the “Gospel” would be spread to this area of the Gentile world as well as all others.

That word “Whosoever” means exactly what it says!

Not only was this man black but being a eunuch for whatever reason, which could have been his own choice but probably not, he could have “never” been accepted into Judaism and though he was allowed to worship in Jerusalem, he would never have been accepted into the family of God “by the standards of the Law”.

AND, it would be hard to question a man’s love of God who had traveled more than 200 miles alone to worship Him.

In “type” this man represents all people who are religious, and read the Bible, and seek the truth “but do not know the saving faith in Jesus Christ”.

Philip had been among the first to go to Samaria and now he was of the first of Jerusalem to witness to the outside world!

*****Act 8:29  Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

It had been an angel of the Lord who had directed Philip to this location in Gaza but now the Holy Spirit was giving Him direction to lead this man to Jesus.

Joh 15:26  But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, [he shall testify of me]:

It is the Holy Spirit that leads every believer to where God sends!
It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is to be preached upon arrival to that place!
It is the Holy Spirit of God that brings conviction to that one that hears the Word of God!
It is “faith” in God’s Word that brings Salvation!

The Word of God is already in this chariot with this man and he is reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. “There was no New Testament at this time!”

*****Act 8:30  And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest
thou what thou readest?
Act 8:31  And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

This Ethiopian was reading the Word of God out loud and God had already prepared this man’s heart to receive a Christian witness and God had specifically sent Philip!

When we obey the leading of the Holy Spirit we can be sure that God has gone on before us to prepare the way!

This man was reading this passage:

Isa 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the
slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
Isa 53:8  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

*****Act 8:35  Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

All the Old Testament scriptures relate to Jesus one way or another!

The Bible says of our Lord:

Heb 10:7  Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

This Book of God had been written in Heaven long before it was given to men by the Holy Spirit!

Psa 119:89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

Again:

1Pe 1:18  Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1Pe 1:19  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
1Pe 1:20  [Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world], but was manifest in these last times for you,

Christ Jesus came into this world specifically to do the will of God!

And what is the will of God?

Joh 3:17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world [through him] “might be saved”.

Isaiah 53 describes our Lord as the willing Sacrifice for all sinners even to the point of “loosing all His human rights”!

And it takes the Holy Spirit to open our minds to this truth!

*****Act 8:36  And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Act 8:37  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

This verse clearly shows that baptism is to take place only after the “saving faith” of the believer.

It is not enough for a lost person to desire salvation!

Everyone must understand God’s plan of salvation!

AND, It must come from the heart!

Jesus said:

Mat 13:23  But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, [and understandeth it]; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Jesus Christ is the “fulfillment” of the prophesies of the Bible!

And then:

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and “hearing by the word of God”.

And then:

Rom 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God
hath raised him from the dead, “thou shalt be saved”.
Rom 10:10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

*****Act 8:38  And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and “they went down both into the water”, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

It is obvious that these verses refer to a “complete immersion” into the water used for this baptism!

If we recall the time of Noah we know that the world was repopulated by his three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth.

God has now reached out to the descendants of Shem which is the Jews.

God has now reached out to the descendants of Ham, this Ethiopian and those with him.

God in our next chapters God will reach out to the descendants of Japheth, the Gentiles, through the Apostle Peter and then the Apostle Paul.

ALL, These things began to happen because of the persecution of the early Church!

Questions?

Let’s Pray!

The Preaching Of A Deacon

The Preaching Of A Deacon

Book of Acts Chapters 6-7

The word “deacon” from the Greek word “diakonos” means “minister” or “servant”.

Jesus said:

“whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister”

Again Jesus said:

“If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all”

Jesus said these that choose to serve can be my deacons.

The Church has adopted the office of “Deacon” and this office originates from the passage we will study today. It was the “deacon” that allowed the Apostles to devote their time to “prayer” and “the ministry” that the Lord Jesus had given to them.

We should see that the office of “Deacon” is to be inferior to and assisting to the Pastor, the Elder of a Church. It is the function of the Pastor, the Elder, to preach and to teach the congregation and the function of the deacon to assist to and to see that the material needs of the congregation are cared for.

Another thing we should see is that the Church does not tell the Pastor what to do and the Pastor does not tell the Church what to do they must both work together to find the will of God for everyone BUT the Pastor must be the leader of that local assembly.

The qualifications of the “deacon” are given in 1Timothy:

1Ti 3:8  Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
1Ti 3:9  Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
1Ti 3:10  And “let these also first be proved”; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
1Ti 3:11  Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
1Ti 3:12  Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
1Ti 3:13  For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The Church as the “Body Of Christ” is a living organism and compared in scripture with the human body BUT the head of the Church must always remain “Jesus Christ”!

It is the Pastor, the Elder that is to feed the flock until the Chief Shepherd reappears.

1Pe 5:1  The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
1Pe 5:2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
1Pe 5:4  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

God is a God of order so there should never be changes in God’s Church nor God’s Word!

Oh, and when we see those words “not  given to much wine” it means that these men have been proved to be in “absolute denial of the use of wine”, just as the Elder!

There is no place for alcoholic beverage in the House of God and this includes wine!

Pro 23:29  Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
Pro 23:30  They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Pro 23:31  [Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright].
Pro 23:32  At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

If we are not even to look upon wine, then we surely are not to drink of it!

Let’s begin:

*****Act 6:1  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

We might ask ourselves when were “those days”?

The last verse in Chapter 5 tells us the answer:

Act 5:42  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

It is the preaching of Jesus Christ that had allowed the Church to grow!

We know that the first church had grown from 120 when 3000 were added and now 5000 more were added and we know that more were added daily.

The church had been at one time, all in one accord but there had been some defection from this. Ananias and Sapphira had tried to deceive the Church and this was handled by the Holy Spirit, God Himself.

Now we see the Church experiencing growing pains!

What is murmuring? Murmuring is complaining. Murmuring is grumbling. Murmuring is sinful.

In Chapter 4 we found that some of these local Jews had sold their possessions and had given the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to all those that had need:

Act 4:34  Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold
them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
Act 4:35  And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

But as always we find that there were some that were being neglected and not always purposely.

These Grecians were not Greeks nor Gentiles but rather Jews who had been raised outside of Palestine and spoke the Greek language.

These Hebrews were Jews of Palestine and they held themselves superior to these foreign Jews.

This murmuring did not come from among these widows but because of them!

It was probably because the Hebrew followers that had been assigned to distribute to the needy, and these widows from outside of Jerusalem could very well have been overlooked.

So we see the early church was not free of hypocrites and they were not always clear of feuds and contentions.

This is how Satan gets into the Church to try to gain a foothold!

The Apostles wisely began a process to deal with these things.

We should see that when the Church faces a serious problem it is a time to come together and not to grow apart.

The Pastor and the members must seek solutions.

It is not time to divide as this only allows Satan to win!

We must regularly examine the ministries of our Churches to see if they are according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting the needs in our lives and every members life.

*****Act 6:2  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we
should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Act 6:3  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Act 6:4  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 

The Apostles accepted that they were to blame. They had not only tried to be obedient to the Word of God and to meet the spiritual needs but they had tried to meet the day by day physical needs of the flock.

They realized that they could not do both!

They could not allow the preaching of the Word of God and the needed ministry of prayer to suffer or the Church would suffer!

The words “ministration” and “serve” are where we get the word “deacon”. The men that are chosen at this time are not called deacons at this time but the office of “deacon” came from this activity of the early church.

Every Church needs qualified leaders to handle some of the things of the Church so the Pastors can devote more of their time to the study and the presenting of God’s Word and to prayer.

These seven that were chosen did also engage themselves in spiritual and worldly needs of the members.

The Church was instructed to search out these that met certain qualifications and then it was the Apostles that appointed them and gave them direction.

This is basically the same approach we use here at Gethsemane!

*****Act 6:5  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

We should notice that all seven of these men had Greek names. This indicates that they would serve the Hellenist of the early Church or those that came from places other than Jerusalem which had been neglected.

One man Nicolas was a proselyte and was probably the only Gentile among these seven and there was probably a particular reason that he was chosen.

A proselyte was a Gentile who had been converted to Judaism and now Nicolas was a Born Again Christian.

Of these seven only Stephen and Philip are mentioned elsewhere in scripture but this does not mean these others did not serve their purpose.

Stephen was destined to become the first Christian martyr unless we include John the Baptist and it is “OK” to include him as he certainly knew who his Savior was!

We also will find that Philip became a great and powerful Evangelist and “tradition” says that the other five did also.

*****Act 6:6  Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

Again we can see that any problem in the Church can be solved when the congregation can come together!

The next thing we should see is that there is no great mystery in the “laying on of the hands”!

This the first time that the “laying on of the hands” was used in the early church.

There is “no great transfer of spiritual power” through the “laying on of hands” this was a “symbolic” gesture only!

In fact it was more “a symbolic sign of prayer” that God would provide these men with the necessary gifts they would need to perform these duties.

These men had already been filled with the Holy Ghost when they were saved as noted in [verse 3].

So what is this meaning?

In the Book of Leviticus, the sinner would place his hand on the animal to be sacrificed. This meant that this animal was to be sacrificed in their place.

When these Apostles put their hands on the heads of these that would be deacons it meant that these men would be partners with them in the ministry of the Church.

This method of ordination is still used in most churches today and most Pastors go through this ordination.

It meant that these men had been set aside for this office of the early Church!

This was a social service within the assembly in Jerusalem.

This church tried to meet the needs of it’s own members and every house of God should use this as an example.
 
*****Act 6:7  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

I believe we can see that there were still many sincere and godly priests in Jerusalem at this time and by witnessing that the veil had been rent, and the conversion of Nicodemus, the lame man, and many other signs and wonders and they would be well aware of the teachings of Jesus.

With the truth of the resurrection of Christ Jesus they began to understand the Word of God they had been so zealous for.

These were once the true descendants of Levi but now had turned to the Lord.

It could be said that it was the preaching of Stephen, as we will find out in verse 14, that caused more an more of these Jewish priest to convert from Judaism to Christianity. If so, then we can also see how this caused such turmoil with Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin court.

These actions by the early church allowed the Word of God to increase and the Church to grow.

Church growth cannot and should not always be measured by numbers, this Church in Jerusalem was also growing “Spiritually”!

It is sad that the world does not see this spirit of harmony in our places of worship today and to be honest there is much to much turmoil even in our Baptist Churches to the point where many are ashamed to call them selves Baptist.

I consider myself “a Christian first” and then I attend this Baptist Church here at Gethsemane because I believe the “Apostle’s Doctrine” is followed here. If that changes then I will seek one that teaches the “Apostle’s Doctrine” in some other place and could even be some other denomination.

I love our church here and we must strive to always be in harmony and for the most part we are.

Being “obedient to the faith” means “faith in the work of Jesus Christ Our Savior”!

Php 1:27  Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or
else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the
faith of the gospel;
Php 1:28  And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

*****Act 6:8  And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Stephen is the first preacher/teacher who was not an apostle whose work is mentioned.

Stephen not only did the work of a servant but he sought diligently to lead people to Christ Jesus. We can see that God truly did give Stephen some powers.

God used Stephen to bear witness to the religious leaders of Israel and it is after this time of Stephen that the “gospel” began to spread to the Samaritans.

*****Act 6:9  Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.

These Libertines were “freedmen” who were formerly slaves of Rome and had been freed by their masters.

All of these groups were Jewish immigrants to Jerusalem from other lands.

It is said in research that there were a great number of synagogues in Jerusalem that were for the use of foreign Jews who were visiting.

The Cyrenians were from upper Libya.

The Alexandrians of Egypt probably made up the largest group of these foreign Jews.

Those of Cilicia in Asia Minor would include Saul of Tarsus and those from Asia would be of Asia Minor near the Aegean Sea.

All these were very legalistic and very zealous of the Mosaic traditions, especially involving the Temple worship!

*****Act 6:10  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

None of these including Saul, could match or resist Stephen’s wisdom and power!

Jesus had promised this:

Luk 21:15  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

These groups could only see one alternative, they knew they would have to destroy Stephen!

*****Act 6:11  Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.

Most of these Jews were wealthy and they had no problem using their wealth to bribe some false witnesses.

That word “suborned” actually means  to employ  type of  “secret agent” to take one of their place, and to instigate or secretly instruct him on what to say in a court of law.

And we just thought that secret agents were a modern thing.

*****Act 6:12  And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught
him, and brought him to the council,
Act 6:13  And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

This is similar to the way the Jewish leaders had treated Jesus.

These Jews were jealous over their law and did not want to believe that Christ Jesus had come to fulfill those laws!

They were extremely proud of the Temple that Herod had restored and refused to believe that God would allow it to be destroyed.

This verse is not part of our lesson today but let’s look anyhow:

Act 7:42  [Then God turned, and gave them up to worship] the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?

These Jews along with the world we live in now and certainly including America do not believe that God will give them up to worship as they please but they are wrong!

America is trying to remove the one true God from everything and from everywhere, trying to boot Him out of this nation!

This verse says that God will just allow a people such as these to worship as they wish.

When this happens Satan takes control and evil abounds throughout the land. We see this happening before our very eyes just as it happened in Israel:

Amo 5:27  Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.

and it is happening in America and everywhere where Christ Jesus is rejected:

Rom 1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves:
Rom 1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

and we know that God has a purpose for everything He does:

Rom 9:11  (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

And we also have no right to question anything that God does or has done or what He allows to be done:

Rom 9:20  Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Rom 9:21  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Rom 9:22  What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

We must only believe:

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Jesus preached that it was His body that is the Temple of God, and these Jews had indeed destroyed that Temple!

These Jews were not about to allow Jesus into their false religious beliefs!

Jesus had also warned them that their physical Temple would also be destroyed and that happened in just a few short years in 70 AD.

As I have already pointed out, the enemies of Jesus Christ will continue to attempt to undermine the Christian faith, by using distortions of the Word of God.

They cannot use facts because all true facts of Scripture, all true science and all true history supports biblical Christianity!

*****Act 6:14  For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

This enemy of the Church came upon Stephen suddenly and arrested Him while he was preaching.

They took Stephen before the same court that had tried Jesus.

They took him before the same court that had tried to stop Peter and John.

*****Act 6:15  And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

They saw something marvelous in his face. This man came closer to being an angel than any man before him.

It was not even necessary for Stephen to speak because the glow of his face told everyone on this council that this was a true servant of God!

These Jews knew all about the shining face of Moses. Stephen was not against Moses because he was like Moses and God was pointing that out to them!

*****Act 7:54  When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

Stephen had just reviewed the entire history of Israel along with the contributions made by the honored patriarchs.

Stephen had proved with their own scriptures that the Jewish nation was guilty of worse sins than those they had accused him of committing.

They had not understood their spiritual roots.

They had rejected the prophets sent from God.

They had disobeyed their own laws and made up some new laws that they honored even more than God’s laws.

They were stubbornly resisting their God and His truth!

There was a reason that Jesus had come at this time:

Gal 4:4  But when “the fulness of the time” was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

I believe the answer is also given to us:

Eph 1:10  That “in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ”, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Eph 1:11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Eph 1:12  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

God is gathering “in one” all things of Jesus Christ.

This is the time we live in now and is known as the “Church Age” and it will soon be coming to an end and God will again deal with the Jews!

When these Jews heard these things they were cut to the heart!

These upper class Jews of Israel became a hungry pack of wolves and Stephen knew it meant his death!

*****Act 7:55  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

Since God is a spirit then there can be no actual “right hand of God”!

This phrase indicates The Place Of Prominence and The Place Of Honor!

The FACT that Jesus is at the right hand of God teaches us that His saving work is finished but it does not mean He is not still working on our behalf!

Every born again child of God needs to take note here!

Our Lord Jesus stood up just to receive His child Stephen into Heaven.

Jesus is waiting on us all with open arms and He stands up to receive all His children especially those that have took their stand on His Gospel.

This world may not want God’s children but when our work is done on this Earth, we have a Father in Heaven who is tickled to death that we are coming home!

*****Act 7:56  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Jesus had used this phrase “Son of man” at least 80 times but this is the first time one of His disciples used this title.

Jesus had told this same mockery of a trial where they could find Him:

Mat 26:63  But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living
God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Mat 26:64  Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Stephen said, “I see Him”, He is right where He said He would be.

Normally Jesus is often presented as sitting at the right hand of God acting as our “Intercessor” and our “Advocate”.

Normally a defence counsel remains seated in the presence of “The Judge”, rising only to make an objection when His client comes under sever attack.

Stephen said “I see my Lord standing” and “I am going on home”!

How long will He stand?

Act 2:35  Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

1Co 15:28  And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

*****Act 7:57  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

This pack of angry wolves could stand it no more they became what they were:

Jesus had described them earlier!

Joh 8:43  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Joh 8:44  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Joh 8:45  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
Joh 8:46  Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
Joh 8:47  He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

*****Act 7:58  And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

Saul and Stephen meet for the only time they would be together. They were enemies and stood on opposite sides of the cross at this time.

This gives us an idea of just how far Saul had to come but we also know Saul never forgot this day.

Act 22:19  And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
Act 22:20  And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

*****Act 7:59  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

John the Baptist had died for preaching the truth. It was God the Father that had sent John.

The Lord Jesus Christ had died because He is the truth. It was God the Son sent to save us.

Now Stephen died for preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was God the Holy Ghost who had filled him with His Spirit.

Through this act against the Church the “Gospel” would now spread next to Samaria and then throughout the world.

*****Act 7:60  And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, [lay not this sin to their charge]. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen fell asleep in peace and in grace while still loving the sinner but not the sin!

When a Christian dies they fall asleep:

1Th 4:13  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

That old unsaved flesh sleeps while the spirit goes on to be with the Lord:

2Co 5:6  Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
2Co 5:7  (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
2Co 5:8  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Heb 12:22  But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Heb 12:23  To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

When Jesus returns He will bring back those spirits of those that are asleep to be reunited in glory:

1Th 4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, [even so them also which sleep in Jesus “will God bring with him”].
1Th 4:15  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
1Th 4:16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

When our loved ones that know the Lord die we do not weep in hopelessness for we know we shall meet them again when we die or when the Lord returns.

We need to realize that when the “Gospel” is preached powerful forces are at work on each one that hears it.

The Book of Acts will now turn its attention to Saul of Tarsus and the Gospel extending to the Gentiles.

If we believe in prayer and we must, then the Apostle Paul was the result of the prayer of Stephen!

Questions?

Let’s Pray

The Prescription For A Pure Church

The Prescription For A Pure Church

Book of Acts Chapter 5

Before we begin we found at the end of chapter 4 these words written about Barnabas.

Act 4:36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
Act 4:37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We will meet Barnabas many times as we continue our study of the Book of
Acts as he was one of the saints of the early church. We can see that Barnabas gave himself totally into the hands of the Lord.

Some will say that a Levite could not own land but that is not entirely true. God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of land and it was done according to the Law.

Jer 32:11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:

So, Barnabas had made a generous contribution to the early church and no doubt there was much talk of it.

And, Barnabas had a clear understanding of the words of Jesus:

Mat 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, o children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

This act of Barnabas was deliberate and voluntary. One evidence of this early “Spirit Filled” church was the way they sacrificed and shared with one another.

We can see that giving was a blessing and not a burden!

So today we get to see a lesson in “hypocrisy”.

The Lord Jesus Christ personally used the word “hypocrites” 17 times in the Gospels.

And, The Lord Jesus pronounced “severe judgment” on the hypocrite including the “7 woes”!

So let’s begin:

*****Act 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
Act 5:2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We should be aware that it is not hypocrisy to set high goals for ourselves even though we may never reach them.

Failure to reach a “Spiritual Goal” does not make us hypocrites!

It Is The “Deliberate” Deception That Is Hypocrisy!

A hypocrite is a “pretender”!

Every “actor” plays the hypocrite!

When we try to be more spiritual than we really are we are hypocrites!

The name Ananias means “God is gracious”. He learned that God was not only gracious but God is first “Holy”.

The name Sapphira means “beautiful” but in her heart Sapphira was ugly as sin and full of it.

I believe we can see that these two intended to get the same admiration that had been given to Barnabas.

We know of many things that are an abomination to the Lord and a “hypocrite” full of pride is one also one of them:

Pro 16:5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

*****Act 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart [to lie to the Holy Ghost], and to keep back part of the price of the land?

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not greed. They did give a substantial gift to the Church. Their sin was “Pride” that came because of “Covetousness”!

They desired the praise of others in the Church!

They lied in order to gain prestige in the Church!

And they had committed this sin against the Body of Christ, God’s Church!

This may not seem such a crime that required death but we must remember that the punishment came from God and not from the Apostle Peter!

God simply would not allow “hypocrisy” to gain a foot hold in the early Church!

This is not the first time we see this from Our God, when He has begun a new period of salvation history.

Remember Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who died for presenting “false fire” in the Tabernacle.

Remember Achan who took of the accursed thing when Israel first entered the Promised Land.

What we see in these two people is the working of Satan trying to hinder the early Church!

Satan had failed to stop the Church from the outside and he would now begin his attack on the inside of the Church.

Satan knows our weaknesses and for this reason God told us all to wear His Armor:

Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

*****Act 5:4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? [thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God].

There are too many people of the church today that deny that the Holy Spirit is God. We have proof in these verses that The Holy Spirit and God are synonymous because they are the same!

Satan will always attack with his lies!

The Church is God’s Temple in which He dwells!

Satan wants to move in but he cannot move into a Holy Ghost filled Church.

A Holy Ghost filled Church will preach the true Gospel and follow the Apostle’s Doctrine.

1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God “which is the church of the living God, [the pillar and ground of the truth]”.

God will judge His people and that judgment will begin with His Church!

Ananias and Sapphira had it in their own power to know right from wrong and they chose to be unrighteous!

*****Act 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Act 5:6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

We should not get confused, this was not church discipline.

This was the Judgment of God!

Heb 10:30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
Heb 10:31 [It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God].

To be quiet honest, I believe this happens today more often than we think.

We are to judge our own actions by the Word of God!

1Co 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

When we knowingly refuse to judge our own actions then we place ourselves in the hands of the Holy and Almighty God!

We sometimes bring God down to our level or put God in a box, thinking we can release Him at will.

But God is God and It is He that sits on His Throne of this universe!

2Co 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, [let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness “in the fear of God”].

God does not need our permission to act upon His Own Word!

Verse 6 again shows us that at death that Jewish person was wrapped in linen cloth and spices:

Joh 19:40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

*****Act 5:7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
Act 5:8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

We can be sure that Satan always keeps his servants in the dark of sin and it’s consequences!

But, God always gives His servants the truth:

Joh 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall “make” you free.

Sapphira may have come into the Temple expecting her husband to be exalted but what she found out was that none of us can defy God, none of us can dare God to act on His Word and not suffer for it!

Mat 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”.

Their sin was not in robbing God of some money!

Their sin was lying to God and robbing Him of His Glory!

They were not required to sell their land!

And having sold that land it was not required that they give any of it to the Church!

It was their “lust for recognition” that brought on this terrible sin and the results of this sin!

Jas 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Jas 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

*****Act 5:9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Act 5:10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

We need to realize that God would not allow a lie such as these two were committing to exist in the early Church.

God expected “Holiness” to reign in His Church. These things have not changed as God still expects His Church to be Holy!

1Pe 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
1Pe 1:16 Because it is written, [Be ye holy; for I am holy].

We must realize that there is still sin that brings death to the believer:

1Jn 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. “There is a sin unto death”: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
1Jn 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

This kind of sin was not allowed to exist in the early church!

The act of “giving” is the will of God!

Act 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, [It is more blessed to give than to receive].

God requires absolute honesty in our relationship with Him and Jesus spoke harsh words about “hypocrites”!

Every hypocrite casts a dark shadow on the work of the Body of Christ wherever God’s people are located!

So what were the results of this incident?

*****Act 5:11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Again we see the word “Church” this is the second time we see it in this Book of Acts.

The Greek word “ecclesia” used here for “Church” is used 117 times in the New Testament.

Up until this incident the early church had all things in common. We can see that sin takes this away!

Great fear came on all the Church and many have been saved who witnessed the “Power of God”.

There is the great “Power” of the Holy Spirit to form the Church.

There is the great “Grace” of God to keep His Church.

There is now the great “Fear” of God to maintain the Church and this was brought on when sin entered the Church.

The Bible says:

Heb 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
Heb 12:29 [For our God is a consuming fire].

*****Act 5:12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.

It is very important for us to realize that the office of “Apostle” was limited to the eleven that remained after Judas died and the Apostle Paul.

The Apostle Paul’s situation was unique as he said himself, he was untimely born:

1Co 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

The Bible also states that the Church must be built on upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets but Jesus Christ Is The Chief Cornerstone!

Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Eph 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

We now have the complete written Word of God which contains the “Apostle’s Doctrine” given to them by Jesus Christ and led by the Holy Spirit in the believer.

Therefore the office of the Apostle has ceased.

It is these 12 men who were given great powers and authority and these powers also have ceased and not given to any other men!

To be an Apostle, a man had to have seen the risen Christ!

During the time of the early Church the wonders performed by these Apostles were the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to them!

It is now in the power of the pastors, the teachers and the evangelist to build on to the Church but only if they use the “Apostle’s Doctrine”.

The most important thing today is not miracles but whether the message we hear is the true Word of God!

*****Act 5:13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
Act 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

We can see that no more hypocrites tried to enter the Church at this time and it was the Apostles that were magnified.

We can see that true believers were added because all the unbelievers kept their distance in the “fear of God”!

Today the world has lost this fear of God and this in itself is a sign of the end times!

*****Act 5:15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
Act 5:16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

We can see that people would crowd these Apostles as they walked down the streets and even had the superstitious belief that was healing in the “shadow” of the Apostle Peter!

The Bible does not say anyone was healed by lying in Peter’s shadow these people only supposed it might!

Verse 16 does not say that these that were healed were healed by faith but only that they were all healed.

Modern day “so called” faith healers are never able to heal never heal all that come to them or they could empty out the hospitals.

The gift of healing by the Apostles did not require some super faith by the receiver!

We can also see that some people were sick and some people were vexed with evil spirits.

These were two different groups of people!

None of these people went without a cure. This confirmed the Gospel preached by the Apostles and it irritated and provoked the enemies of God!

The Sadducees led the persecution of the early Church!

AND, Here is how John the Baptist described this ultra religious group:

Mat 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

*****Act 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Act 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

The purpose of this lesson is to show us that God takes “hypocrisy” seriously!

Jesus said we must worship in spirit and in truth:

Joh 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Joh 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

These Jewish religious leaders along with the governmental leaders of Israel had decided to kill all these Apostles to stop the early Church but God had a better plan.

God used Gamaliel a well respected Pharisee to give this evil council the truth.

Act 5:38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
Act 5:39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

We live today in a world that refuses to deal with disagreements on the basis of principle and truth. When understanding fails people usually resort to violence!

We can see that the Apostles did what was required of the Lord, “They Rejoiced”!

They were beaten and warned by the government of that day and by false religion but yet they still rejoiced!

Their ministry went on without ceasing!

This opposition of men meant the approval of God!

When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we accept the fact that we will suffer in His Name!

We simply cannot cease to teach and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ Our Lord!

God will simply not allow His Word to stop until He is ready!

To follow in the foot steps of the Apostles is to be obedient to God’s Word!

Act 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

We are not to go about arguing religion or condemning the establish religions of this world, we are simply to tell the people about Jesus Christ!

2Co 4:5 For we preach not ourselves,[but Christ Jesus the Lord]; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

And that message is:

Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Pride is the gateway to sin. Pride will lead to lies as we saw today where pride can also cost us our physical lives.

Spiritual matters are matters of life and death and we must be honest with ourselves and God at all times!

Questions?

Let’s Pray!