ACTS AND THE EARLY CHURCH STUDY

By Rev. Dr. Jerry Schmoyer  jerry@schmoyer.net 

http://www.mainstreetbaptist.org/    http://india.christiantrainingonline.org/

 

ACTS OVERVIEW

 

TITLE: After the ACTions of the Holy Spirit

AUTHOR:  Luke

DATE of WRITING:  About 63 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Various places

TIME COVERED:  AD 30 – 60

RECIPIENTS:  Theophilus, then everyone

KEY VERSE: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit

comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in

Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends

of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

KEY WORD:  “Holy Spirit” (54 times); “name” (33 times),

“witness” (12 times)

PURPOSE:  The Gospels contain the facts of Jesus’ earthly life.      Acts continues the story about the start of the early

church and sets the background for understanding the epistles.

THEME:  To continue the record of the works (‘acts”) of the risen Lord. 

 

            The Old Testament shows our need of a Redeemer and God’s promise to send One.  The Gospels show how that was fulfilled in Jesus.  The book of Acts picks up the story after Jesus’ ascension back to heaven (1:1-26).  It shows how a handful of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, started the church and spread God’s message to the world.  The epistles are letters written to churches and individuals during the time of Acts.  Revelation shows the final fulfillment of all the ages. 

LUKE THE WRITER  Luke wrote both Luke and Acts.  While Paul wrote the most books in the New Testament, 13, and John was next with 5, Luke wrote the most pages.  His book called Acts was a follow-up to his Gospel of Luke.  It is a historical book, a transitional book.  It is not a theology for us to apply in every detail, but it is an accurate historical record of the transition from Law to Grace, from Israel to Church, from Jew and Gentile to Bride of Christ.  Any transition takes time and goes through various stages.  This was true of the early church, too. 


 

chapter

1-7

8-12

13-28

 

area

JERUSALEM

JUDEA – SAMARIA

ENDS OF THE EARTH

 

people

JEWS

SAMARITANS

GENTILES

 

men

PETER

PHILIP (Peter/Paul)

PAUL

 

church

ESTABLISHMENT

EXTENSION

EXPANSION

 

time

2 YRS (33-35)

13 YRS (35-48)

14 YRS (48-62)

 

 

 

Missionary Jour

1MJ

2MJ

3MJ

Rome1

Trip

Rome

 

 

Chapters

13-14

16-18

19-20

21-28

 

 

 

 

 

Years

1 ½

2 ½

4

5

5

1

Books

 

James

Mark

Gal.

IThes

IIThes

I Cor

II Cor

Rom

Eph

Col

Phile

Phili

Acts

ITim

Titu

Mt

Lk

I Pt

II Pt

II Tim

Heb

Jud

Jn

I Jn

II Jn

III Jn

Rev

            The book follows the outline laid down in 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I. “JERUSALEM” (1-7)  In the first section of Acts the focus is on Jerusalem.  Peter leads the early church.   The account is picked up with the ascension of Jesus to heaven (1).  The start of the early church in Jerusalem is recorded – Pentecost (2).  Events of the young church are then listed: a cripple cured (3), Peter and John arrested and released (4), Ananias and Saphira killed for deception (5), 7 deacons chosen to help with the work load (6) and the death of Stephen (7). 

II. “JUDEA & SAMARIA”  (8-12)   God used this first wave of persecution against the Christians in Jerusalem to cause them to scatter with the gospel.  They should have done this before but didn’t, now they must.  Philip’s preaching in Samaria and to the Ethiopian eunuch, (8), Paul’s conversion (9), and Peter’s evangelism of the Gentile Cornelius and his household (10-11) comprise the historical elements.  The church has gone from Jews in Jerusalem to Jews and Gentiles throughout Palestine. 

III. “ENDS OF THE EARTH” (13-28)  In this third section the focus shifts to Paul and his missionary journeys – 3 of them (13 – 20). Paul was the one to take the gospel to Gentiles and start churches in Asia Minor and even into Europe itself.   The book ends with Paul’s arrest and trip to Rome for trial (21-28).  After his release he continued to travel, then was martyred in Rome. 

            Now it’s our turn to take the gospel and spread it.  Like in a relay race, each one has his turn to do his part.  Now is your turn as part of this generation.  Don’t drop the baton!

 

 

1. ACTS 1: THE ASCENSION OF JESUS

Date: Spring, 33  AD                          

Place: Jerusalem

Rulers:        Tiberius, emperor of Rome (AD 14-37)

                   Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea (AD 26-36)

                   Joseph Caiaphas, high priest (AD 18-36)

                   Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee (4 BC – Ad 39)

OBSERVATION

Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.  Make notes of what pops into your mind: things you didn’t notice before, things you don’t quite understand, etc.  This is the most important part of Bible study.  It’s like when a doctor examines you before saying what is wrong.  The more you observe, looking for things you didn’t see before, the more you will enjoy and benefit from Bible study.  If you do this quickly, just to get the assignment done, you won’t benefit much and it may be boring hard work.

INTERPRETATION

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

            What is the “former book”?

            Who wrote that book and this one?

            Who is Theophilus?

            Why did the writer write this book?

            Why did God want him to write it?

2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

            Read I Corinthians 15 and make a list of all Paul says about the resurrection.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

What does the word “Witness” mean?  (Do a study to find out the root meaning, don’t just come

up with your own idea of a definition.)

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”        

What is the significance of Jesus’ Ascension for us today?

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. 15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus– 17 he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” 18 (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

            What was their own language?

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

            What were the “lots” they used (look in a Bible encyclopedia or dictionary)?

            Should we use them today to find out God’s will?  Why or why not?

            How are we to know God’s will for us today?  (Be SPECIFIC)

            Some say Paul was Judas’ replacement, not Matthias.  Who do you think it was and why

OUTLINE Acts 1.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?                        A promise to claim?

            A challenge to heed?              An action to take?

            A sin to avoid?                                    Something to pray about?

            A command to obey?                         Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (SECOND COMING)

Jesus will return in the same way he left (v. 11).  The Second Coming is mentioned 318 times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament (once every 25 verses).

Why does the Bible tell us so much about Jesus’ return? (I Thes 4:18)

What will His return be like? (I Thes 4:16; Acts 1:11; Rev 1:7; 19:11-16; Mt 24:27, 37-39, 44)

What is the purpose of His return?  (I Thes 4:16-17; I Cor 15:24-26, 51-53; 9:25; I Thes 2:19; II Tim 4:8; I Pt 5:4; Rev 3:21; Rom 4:12; Jude 14-15; II Thes 1:7-10; Zech 14)

How should knowing this affect us today? (I Thes 1:10; 4:14; 5:6; Mt 610; 25:14-30; 28:18-20; Rev 22:20; II Tim 4:1-2, 8; Titus 2:13; II Thes 3:5; II Pt 3:3-4; Phil 3:20; I Jn 2:28; 3:1-3)

 

CONTINUING JESUS’ WORK (Acts 1)

 

            It’s been said that of all the centuries, the 20th is most like the first.  That is true.  Therefore there is much we can learn from the early church which can help us today.  This series of articles on Acts and the early church will be very informative and practical.

            ‘Acts’ was the name given to Luke’s second book in the 2nd Century.  It was a sequel the Luke’s Gospel, picking up and continuing the story of Jesus which he had started.  Luke was the only Gentile to write a book in the Bible.  He was close to Paul and traveled with him for many years, that’s where he got his information.  ‘Acts’ shows the nature of the book – actions.  It isn’t called ‘wishes’ or ‘dreams’ but appropriately ‘Acts’ of the Apostles.  Really it was a record of the actions of the Holy Spirit.

            Acts records the continuation of the work Jesus started.  It didn’t die with Him but, as He had planned, continued after He went to heaven.  In chapter 1 we see some necessary ingredients to keep doing the work that Jesus started.

 

1. PROPER MESSAGE (1-2)  Luke makes it clear at the start that he is continuing the story of Jesus.  That message has continued even to today.  One generation after another has passed it on.  Now it’s our turn to take the baton of Truth and pass it to the next generation.  Our message, too, is Jesus.  Social reform, peace among men, psychological wholeness and self fulfillment have their place, but Jesus must come first. 

 

2. PROPER MANIFESTATION (3)  The heart of our faith is based on the resurrection, as Luke reminds us.  That is still the ultimate proof of our message.

 

3. PROPER MIGHT (2b, 4-5, 8a)  The Holy Spirit is the power behind our work.  Without Him within us, empowering and guiding us, we cannot continue His work today.  Thus this book is really the Acts of the Holy Spirit, and His story is not yet finished.

 

4. PROPER MYSTERY (6-7)  Some things we don’t know, though – mainly when Jesus will be coming back.  Each generation awaits the return of Jesus, and one will be fortunate to see it.  Until then the date of this remains a mystery.  We eagerly await His return but keep working all the same.

 

5. PROPER MISSION (8)  Luke reminds his readers of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to enable us to be witnesses for Jesus.  That’s how we continue Jesus’ work today.  A witness tells what he knows, gives first-hand information of what Jesus has done for him and what he knows about Jesus.  We are not called to be lawyers to argue Jesus’ case, but witnesses to testify to what He has done for us.  This isn’t an option, its an command.  We are told to be witnesses to those where we live as well as those on the other side of the world.

 

6. PROPER MOTIVE (9-11)  After this review, connecting the early church with the life of Jesus, Luke picks up the story where he had left it off before.  He tells about Jesus’ ascension 40 days after His resurrection: on Sunday, May 14, 33 AD.  The place was the Mt. Of Olives outside Jerusalem.  Angles assured the watching disciples that Jesus would one day return the same as He left.

 

7. PROPER MEN (12-26)  After the ascension the disciples went back to Jerusalem to await the promised Holy Spirit.  They met in the upper room when possible.  These disciples were committed to carrying on the work Jesus had started.  A ‘disciple’ was a learner, a follower, someone who lived with a teacher 24 hours a day in order to be able to think and act like him.  For Jesus’ disciples this is a life-long process.  The early disciples set an example for us today.  They were characterized by team spirit, perseverance, total obedience and deep faith.  Jesus was their undisputed leader, their master.  Peter became the spokesman for the disciples on earth, but all acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Sovereign. 

            Their first major action as a group was to find a replacement for Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and taken his own life.  Twelve was a special number in the Old as well as New Testaments, and so Peter suggested they select a replacement so they could be at full strength again.  Matthias was chosen.  He had been one of the 70 who followed Jesus despite being passed over when Jesus chose the 12.  Barsabbas, who was also considered but lost out to Matthias, continued to faithfully serve God in whatever way he could.  Like Caleb, he didn’t pout and quit but loyally served in any role God would have for him.  This willingness to serve anywhere was is an important trait of a disciple.

            Thus the transition was made as Jesus’ followers committed themselves to carry on the work that Jesus had started, no matter the cost or the obstacles.  It took total commitment.

In the days of the Roman Emperor Nero, there lived and served him a band of soldiers known as the “Emperor’s Wrestlers.”  Fine, stalwart men they were, picked from the best and the bravest of the land, recruited from the great athletes of the Roman amphitheater. In the great amphitheater they upheld the arms of the emperor against all challengers.  Before each contest they stood before the emperor’s throne.  Then through the courts of Rome rang the cry: “We, the wrestlers, wrestling for thee, O Emperor, to win for thee the victory and from thee, the victor’s crown.”

   When the great Roman army was sent to fight in Gaul, no soldiers were braver or more loyal than this band of wrestlers led by their centurion Vespasian.  But news reached Nero that many Roman soldiers had accepted the Christian faith.  Therefore, this decree was dispatched to the centurion Vespasian; “If there be any among your soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christian, they must die!” The decree was received in the dead of winter.  The soldiers were camped on the shore of a frozen inland lake.  It was with sinking heart that Vespasian, the centurion, read the emperor’s message.   Vespasian called the soldiers together and asked: “Are there any among you who cling to the faith of the Christian?  If so, let him step forward!”  Forty wrestlers instantly stepped forward two paces, respectfully saluted, and stood at attention.  Vespasian paused.  He had not expected so many, nor such select ones.  “Until sundown I shall await your answer,” said Vespasian.  Sundown came.  Again the question was asked.  Again the forty wrestlers stepped forward.

Vespasian pleaded with them long and earnestly without prevailing upon a single man to deny his Lord.  Finally he said, “The decree of the emperor must be obeyed, but I am not willing that your comrades should shed your blood.  I order you to march out upon the lake of ice, and I shall leave you there to the mercy of the elements.”

The forty wrestlers were stripped and then, falling into columns of four, marched toward the center of the lake of ice.  As they marched they broke into the chant of the arena: “Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!”  Through the night Vespasian stood by his campfire and watched.  As he waited through the long night, there came to him fainter and fainter the wrestlers’ song.  As morning drew near one figure, overcome by exposure, crept quietly toward the fire; in the extremity of his suffering he had renounced his Lord.  Faintly but clearly from the darkness came the song: “Thirty-nine wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!”  Vespasian looked at the figure drawing close to the fire.  Perhaps he saw eternal light shining there toward the center of the lake. Who can say?  But off came his helmet and clothing, and he sprang upon the ice, crying, “Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!”


2. ACTS 2: The BAPTISM of the Holy Spirit

Date: Sunday, May 24, 33  AD   Place: Jerusalem (Temple, homes)

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

            What is the Feast of Pentecost?

            What is the significance of God picking this day to start the church?

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

            “Like” and “seemed to be” are what figures of speech?  Why are they used here?

4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

            “Other Tongues” is a key word in this chapter.  Research what it means in Greek.

            Is this the exact same gift that is referred to in I Cor 12 (10,28) and 14 (2)?  Why or why not?

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

            Did different disciples speak various languages or did they all speak the same language and

people just heard them in their own language ?  (Support your answer)

7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs– we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

            What one main point is Peter trying to make by quoting Joel 2:28-32?

22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25  David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ‘ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off– for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

            What ingredients  (elements) for a church are listed here?  Do we do all they did? Why/why not?

Write an article as if you were a newspaper reporter.  What information would you include?  How would you explain what happened?

What can you learn about witnessing from Peter’s speech?  Give several specific principles.

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (HOLY SPIRIT)

Look up the following verses and list all the things they say the Holy Spirit does.  Then write a paragraph saying how these apply to your life.  John 3:5; 14:26; 15:26; 16:8, 13-14; Acts 5:30-32; 13:2-4; 16:6-7; Titus 3:5; I Cor 3:16; 12:4-11; Eph 3:16; 4:30; 5:18; Rom 8:11, 14, 26; Gal 5:22-23.

For these to happen we must be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18).  That means to yield our will (I Thes 5:19), confess any known sin (Eph 4:30) and live by faith and obedience (Gal 5:16).  Evaluate yourself privately in these areas.  Which areas do you need to work on?  Pray and ask for God’s help in them.


BIRTH of the CHURCH

(Acts 2)

 

The great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird’s cage and set it free.   Imagine the delight of Amundsen’s wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, “He’s alive! My husband is still alive!”

So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dove like Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right hand of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit’s message to us today as we continue Jesus’ work.

It was Sunday, May 24, 33 AD, the DAY OF PENTECOST (1-13).  ‘Pentecost’ means ‘fiftieth’ for it was 50 days from the Feast of Firstfruits (7 weeks of 7 days = 49 days, Pentecost was the following day).  It is similar to our Thanksgiving celebration, for it thanked God for the full fall harvest. 

On that day the disciples were, as was usual for them, meeting in the temple courts.  That was the only place large enough for all of them to gather – they didn’t have access to any room that would hold 70+ people!  The temple was available and used for such purposes.  Rabbi’s would gather there with their followers to teach them. 

All of a sudden God’s Holy Spirit came, as promised.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t visible, but there was plenty of evidence of His coming.  Audible evidence was a sound like a hurricane.  Visible evidence was tongues like fire on each believer.  Oral evidence was the ability to speak in other known languages, which they hadn’t previously known.  This enabled them to witness in the languages of those who were watching, telling them what was happening and passing on the message of Jesus.  Bewilderment (5-6), amazement (7, 12), curiosity (8-11) and denial (13) marked the responses of the people.  In response to the mocking charge that they were just drunk, Peter took up their defense.  He gave a tremendous sermon, a real world-changing message.

 

PETER’S FIRST SERMON (14-41)  Normally a preacher’s first sermon isn’t his best – ask anyone who preaches.  That wasn’t the case for Peter.  He was God’s messenger bringing God’s message.  With an audience of perhaps 200,000, he told them about Jesus.  He already had their attention because of their interest in how everyone could be speaking languages they didn’t know. 

            Peter, who knew his Bible well as all good Jews did, immediately turned to Joel 2 to form his explanation of what was happening.  These verses spoke of people in the Millennium speaking as the disciples then were, all from God’s Spirit.  What they were seeing that Day of Pentecost was just a prefulfillment of it.  If god can do that in the Millennium, why couldn’t He be giving a little taste of it right then?  He’s not saying the Millennial Kingdom has begun, Peter is just making the point that god can do this kind of thing.  Drunkenness isn’t the only explanation.

            Actually much of what is prophesied in Joel 2 wasn’t fulfilled on Pentecost (“sun to darkness, moon to blood,” etc.)  This passage really won’t find its fulfillment until the end of the Tribulation and the Millennium.

            Now that he has defended their speaking in unknown languages, Peter turns their attention to what was really happening there.  It had to do with Jesus.  Peter quickly summarizes Jesus’ incarnation (22a), life (22b) and death (23).  Then he focuses on the resurrection (24-32).  Again he quotes the Old Testament to help support and prove his point.

            Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11 which obviously refers to the resurrection of someone.  It couldn’t have been David, for his tomb was in Jerusalem as everyone knew.  Therefore David must have been writing about someone else – the Messiah.  Peter leads them to this conclusion.

            Having supported his claim to Jesus’ resurrection, Peter then continues his story with the ascension (33-35), sending of the Holy Spirit (37b) and exaltation in heaven (36).  Again he quotes a prophecy by David (Psalm 110:1) to support Jesus’ ascension.  David didn’t fulfill it, so who but the Messiah would?  This, too, helps support Peter’s defense of what is happening: they aren’t drunk, it’s caused by God’s Spirit.  Jesus, who ascended to Heaven, sent the Holy Spirit as promised. 

God’s Spirit, Who had indeed come, convicted the listeners of the truth of Peter’s words.  Sensing this, Peter applied his message to them.  Changing from 2 person to third, from plural to singular, and from active to passive, he gives them two distinct requirements.  First they must repent (v. 38).  This means to do a U-turn in their minds.  From legalism and law they must turn to salvation by grace.  Then, after they accept this free gift of salvation, they were to commit their daily lives to Him in discipleship as shown by baptism.  This same Holy Spirit would fill them, too.

About 3,000 people responded to Peter’s message by accepting Jesus as their Savior and making Him Lord by baptism (v. 41).

 

JERUSALEM’S FIRST CHURCH (42-47)  What a day!  In the morning 120 were filled with the Holy Spirit and in the afternoon another 3000 were baptized into Body of Christ.  But what were they to do?  There was no church to join, no leaders who had been through this before, no one with any experience, and no written New Testament .  What they did was pattern their new church after what they were used to – the synagogue.

GOD


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            TEACHING              

                                     WORSHIP

        

 

 

 

 

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clip_image004clip_image005                      FELLOWSHIP

clip_image006clip_image007clip_image008MAN                                                   MAN

 

            Teaching (God to man), worship (man to God) and fellowship (man to man) are the three ingredients necessary in any body of believers.  There must be a balance between all three.  Reaching outward is also necessary – evangelism.  Thus these four activities are all essential: Word, worship, warmth and witness.  Churches grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through teaching,  stronger through worship and larger through evangelism.

            It is God’s Holy Spirit that empowers and works through all these. Most homes are connected to a water main.  This supplies the house with adequate water for normal life.  But suppose a fire breaks out. Then firemen tap a nearby hydrant to secure a much greater flow of water to meet the emergency.  To be “full” of the Spirit is like a house supplied continuously with adequate water. But to be “filled” on occasion, as the apostles were in Acts 4:31, is to be given extra energy and power for special service. “And when they had prayed, — they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).  For the special task of persisting in evangelism, even when the religious leadership violently opposed them, the apostles needed a special filling of God’s power.  They had been “full of the Spirit” all along.  Now they needed “extra filling” to meet the extra demands on them.

 


3. ACTS 3: THE CURE OF THE CRIPPLE

Date: Summer, 33  AD     Place: Jerusalem (Gate Beautiful, Porch of Solomon)

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer– at three in the afternoon.

            Why do you think they were going to the temple?  What does this tell you about them?

2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

            Material things are not people’s greatest needs.  What do we have that they need most?

            What responsibility do we have for people’s physical needs (Mt 5:42; 25:34-40; James 2:15-16)?

7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

            Actually several miracles took place at once here.  Name as many of them as you can.

            Why didn’t Peter heal him before, he obviously say him other times when going to the temple?

Why didn’t Peter heal everyone there that needed healing, why just this man? (Note: it isn’t because of his faith, he didn’t know who they were nor ask for healing, he only asked for money).

9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

            What insight does this give you into why God wanted Peter to heal this man at this time?

11 While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.

            What was the healed man’s response to all that had happened to him?

12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.

            What progression of thought did Peter use in his sermon? 

How did he work Jesus into the message?  Why did he do that?

            What can we learn about how to work Jesus into conversations today?

14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. 17 “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you– even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’ 24 “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

            What can we learn about God from Peter’s message (look carefully)?

            What can we learn about Jesus from Peter’s message (look carefully)?

            How did Peter apply his message to the lives of his listeners?

            What challenge did he give them?

            What can we learn from this about challenging people we witness to?

What lessons can we learn about witnessing in general from this chapter?  There are several important lessons, so look carefully.

What lessons about how to witness to a group of unbelievers who have heard of Jesus but trust in their own religion instead of Jesus?

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  If it was all on one day, still break it down by events that happened together (healing, preaching, results, etc.). Give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (MIRACLES AND HEALING)

Define the word “miracle.”

Why are they called “signs”? 

During Jesus’ life on earth, what was His basic reason for performing miracles? 

Why did He only heal some people and not everyone?

Why were the apostles given the gift of miracles and healing? 

Does that mean all Christians today should be able to do miracles, too?  Why or why not? 

Why isn’t everyone who prays in faith healed today? 

Does anyone have the gift of healing today as Jesus and the Apostles had it?  Prove your answer.

Does God do miracles today?  Give some examples of miracles he has done in your life.

What is the danger in expecting miracles to happen and basing our faith on sensational things?


‘RELIGION’ or JESUS(Acts 3)

 

            It’s often been said that there is a big difference between religion and Christianity.  Religion is works-based, man reaching up to God by his own works, traditions and rituals.  True Christianity isn’t like that.  It’s a relationship.  God is the initiator, not man.  He reaches down to may by grace, offering salvation which is free for man but paid for by Christ.  The Jews in Jesus’ day had a full-blown case of religion.  Jesus came to reintroduce the relationship part – Christianity.  Unfortunately they didn’t respond.  They rejected and crucified Him.  Now his followers are offering the same free salvation in Jesus.  If you’ve ever tried witnessing to someone who is ‘religious’ you know how hard that is.  It’s like having an inoculation.  You get a bit of the bug and that keeps you from getting the real thing!  That’s how it is with religion.  Still, God can break through those walls.  He did in the summer of 33 AD in the temple in Jerusalem.  Let’s see how He did it so we can better know how to witness to religious people.

 

1. Keep your own personal relationship with God strong through daily devotions (1-2).  Peter and John were opposites in many ways, that’s what made their friendship so unusual.  Older & larger Peter was an outgoing extrovert who liked to be around people and didn’t have natural self discipline.  Young and smaller John was an introvert who tended to be overly sensitive and become moody and depressed.  What they both needed, and had, was a strong pattern of spending time with God in personal devotions each day.  That’s what they had.  Daily they went to the temple to participate in the worship there.  They didn’t see themselves as too good for or above the temple worship.  God used this to change them, He also used it to bring them in contact with a crippled man.

            Now the temple was full of cripples.  Poor sanitation and hygiene let to many birth defects among the people.  They couldn’t earn a living and there was no government program to support them, so they had to be carried to the temple to lay and beg for money all day.  Hundreds were there each day, but only one was chosen for healing.  Why this one?  Was there something about his faith in God or his openness to the gospel of Jesus?  Or did God simply elect him out of the many?

 

2. Be sensitive to those God puts in your path (3).  Peter and John must have been asked for money over and over each day.  It became natural to just ignore such requests for they couldn’t all be met.  Peter was sensitive to their needs, not hard and callous to them.  He was also sensitive to God’s leading in his life, and he sensed (and obeyed) the Spirit telling him to do something different with this man.

 

3. Be flexible, change your schedule when God sends an interruption (4-5).  Instead of walking past and continuing on his way inside to worship, Peter paused to minister to the man.  He never will make it in to the temple that morning, but that is OK this day for He has other plans for Peter’s day, plans Peter never imagined.  How flexible are you when God sends interruptions and tells you to meet the needs of another before your own?  Often God chooses warmth and love to break through the cold, hard exterior of religiosity. 

 

4. Let God do something to get the people’s attention (6-11).  When the man asks for money Peter honestly tells him he doesn’t have any, but he can give him something much better.  In Jesus’ name, so Jesus gets the credit and not Peter, he tells the man to walk.  Immediately a miracle occurs and the man is healed.  His legs are healed from whatever deformity he had. They grew strong and the muscles developed, plus he could walk without trial and error – he had balance and coordination.  When God does a miracle, He does it right!

 

5. When He does get their attention, be quick to speak for Christ or the change will be gone (12a)  Naturally, the people who were nearby noticed what was happening, and others stopped and looked as the ex-cripple jumped and shouted his praise to God. As they moved into the temple court the went to Solomon’s Colonnade, where groups gathered to hear the rabbis teach.  Peter seized this opportunity as an occasion to speak for Jesus.  If he wouldn’t have been alert it would have passed.  We, too, must be alert to the opportunities God gives us to speak for Him and to use them before they are gone.  When they are gone, the don’t return!

 

6. Don’t feel superior to those who don’t know Jesus (12b).  Right off Peter makes sure they know the man wasn’t healed by his power.  He doesn’t want to take any glory from God.  He is truly humble.  As nice as it is to get attention and credit for what happens, it is more important to make sure God gets the attention and credit.  Don’t steal God’s glory!

 

7. Keep the focus of your comments on Jesus (13a).  Right away Peter makes it clean that it is Jesus who gets the credit for this.  He calls Him “God’s servant Jesus” (13), “the Holy and Righteous One” (14), and “the Author of Life” (15).  Jesus must always be our focus, all we say and do must give credit to Him.

 

8. Point out how ‘religion’ fails to meet man’s inner need for a relationship with God (13b-14).  Peter doesn’t hesitate to point out their sin and failure.  He clearly says they rejected and crucified Jesus.  Their self-centered system of pride and works failed, for it rejected God Himself, the One they claimed to serve.  We, too, need to show people how and where their religious systems fail.  They don’t have inner peace, joy, assurance of forgiveness and a new meaning and purpose in life.

 

9. Tell them that only Jesus satisfies (15-17).  Only Jesus can bring what we need, never our own religious works.  Peter says that, although they rejected and killed Jesus, God brought Him back to life.  As proof of that Peter says that it was that resurrection power that healed this cripple.  Therefore Jesus was greater than their religious system, for He overcame it and conquered death. 

 

10. Quote Scripture, don’t just use your own words (18).  Even Jesus, suffering and death were part of God’s plan, as Peter says the Old Testament prophets had foretold.  He backs up what he says with Scripture, as he did in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). 

 

11. Challenge them to repent and ask for God’s grace (19-24).  It’s not too late, though, Peter tells them.  They can right now repent and turn to God from their man-made system.  Then they will have salvation and, who knows, Peter says, maybe Jesus will return as the Messiah to set up the kingdom He offered them? 

 

12.  Encourage them by using examples of godly people from the past (25-26).  Peter concludes by reminding them of their rich heritage from Abraham, a man who had a deep personal relationship with God.  He doesn’t scold them but encourages them to follow Jesus.

 

13. Accept rejection as part of witnessing for Jesus, don’t take it personally (Acts 4:1)  While many probably will accept Peter’s words, the immediate result is persecution and rejection by the same religious rulers who rejected Jesus.  Acts 4 tells that story.  Don’t let the rejection and persecution of a few keep you from spreading Jesus’ message whenever you can.

4. ACTS 4: DISCHARGE OF PETER & JOHN

Date: Summer, 33  AD     Place: Jerusalem (prison, Sanhedrin meeting room by temple)

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.

            Who were the Sadducees?    Who were the Pharisees?

            How were they the same?      How were they different?

2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

            Why were the religious rulers “greatly disturbed” by Peter’s preaching about Jesus?

3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.

            Why do you think God allowed this after they had faithfully witnessed for Him?

4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

If there were now 5,000 total men in the church, how many accepted Jesus listening to Peter? (see Acts 2:41 for help.) If there were 5,000 men, how many total people do you think there were?

How many followers did Jesus have when He was crucified?  Why the sudden growth now when for 3 years the number of Jesus’ followers actually decreased?

5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.

            Who were the rulers? Who were the elders? Who were the teachers of the law (‘scribes’)?

6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family.

            Who was Annas?        Who was Caiaphas?

7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit,

            Exactly what does “filled with the Holy Spirit” mean?

            Why are we told here that he was filled with the Holy Spirit?  What difference does it make?

            What can we learn from this to help us better speak for Jesus?

said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

            Summarize Peter’s speech.  What is the main idea?

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

            Just exactly how were these men different because they have been with Jesus – be specific?

            Just exactly how are you different because of Jesus in your life (be specific)?

14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

            Why didn’t these men believe in Jesus, even though they knew the miracle was done by Him?

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

            Can you say “I can’t help speaking about Jesus”?  If not, why not?

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (JESUS THE ‘STONE’)

The Messianic prophecy of Psalm 118:22, quoted in 4:11, is one of the earliest such prophecies.  Make a biblical study of the word “stone” as it appears in the Bible and refers to Jesus (explicitly or by implication).  See Matthew 21:42ff; Luke 20:17ff; Mark 12:10ff; Isaiah 8:14ff; 28:16 Daniel 2:35; I Peter 2:6; Romans 9:33 and Ephesians 2:20. (Note: “ff” means “and verses which follow”.)


HANDLING PERSECUTION (Acts 4)

 

            Standing up and speaking for Jesus often carries a cost.  Peter and John will go through this over and over.  In the summer of 33 AD they first experienced this.  Oh they had had some of it while with Jesus, but now they were on their own and had to face it directly.  What they did sets a pattern for us to follow when we get persecuted for speaking about Jesus.

 

1. Be submissive (1-7)  The healing of the cripple had given Peter an opportunity to speak for Jesus (Acts 3).  This brought opposition from the hard-core religionists – the religious leaders.  They sent their temple guards to roughly grab Peter and John and throw them into prison. 

            After keeping them in prison overnight to intimidate them, the religious rulers (the same men who had condemned Jesus to crucifixion) challenged them as to how this miracle was done.

            Note that ‘religion’ intimidates those who challenge it.  It is built on works and tradition and persecutes those who oppose it.

 

2. Be filled with the Holy Spirit (8a)   The last time Peter was challenged as to Jesus, he lied and fled from a servant girl of Caiaphas’.  Now he stands before Caiaphas, Annas and the others and clearly stands up for Jesus.  What made the difference?  Peter knew he couldn’t do it on his own strength, he needed to have God’s Spirit within him.  Without the filling of God Spirit we, too, are unable to stand up to persecution, opposition and rejection. 

 

3. Be bold, use opportunities (8-18)  Filled with the Spirit, Peter clearly spoke to them of Jesus.  That wasn’t the name they wanted to hear.  They gave Jesus the credit for the healing of the crippled man.  He continues to quote Scripture to support what he says (Psalm 118:22).  He challenges them to turn to Jesus for salvation.

            God used their courage and stand to speak to the religious rulers.  Note the verbs in verse 13.  They “saw,” “realized,” “were astonished,” and “took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  What could they say – there was the ex-crippled man standing right there, healed and whole!  All they could do was to threaten the disciples to no longer speak about Jesus.  The religious rulers were more concerned about their power and prestige, not about obeying God.  They knew the truth, as they did about the crucifixion.  The Roman soldiers had given them the truth about the resurrection, but they chose to cover it up.  Their pride was great.

 

4. Be obedient to God at all costs (19-22)  However the disciples made it clear they would obey God and not man.  There wasn’t much the religious rulers could do, for to punish them would not be well accepted by the people since they all knew the man and it was clear he had been healed.  Despite the threats the disciples continued to speak about Jesus.

 

5. Bind yourself to others for fellowship and support (23-24a)  The first thing that Peter and John did upon being released was to go back to the other believers.  Persecution brings people closer together.  As believers we need each other for fellowship and support.  Having close contact with other believers is necessary in so many areas, and helping us stand up to persecution is one of them.  One of the reasons cult members can withstand the rejection and criticism they face is because they have a strong support system.  As Christians, we need to stick together, especially as persecution increases and the Second Coming draws closer.

 

6. Bless, praise and thank God throughout it all (24b-28)  Recognizing God as sovereign, they saw all things as coming from His hand, whether seemingly good or seemingly bad.  Psalm 2:1-2 is quoted to show God knew and had it all planned all along. 

 

7. Ask God for greater boldness (29-31)   What is most impressive is that the early believers didn’t pray for removal of the persecution but for courage to face it.  That should be our desire, too.  God answered their prayer by filling them with His Holy Spirit.  That is how God provides courage for us today, too.

 

8. Watch God work despite (or because of) persecution (32-37)  Despite the persecution, many continued to believe.  There were about 5,000 men (15,000 + total people) in the church at this time (v. 4).  Man can incarcerate the messengers, but not the message.  Persecution just makes the church grow.  It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire to put it out. 

Many in our day and time face great persecution, too.  It’s been said that there is more persecution going on today than in all the previous centuries combined. 

 

An African pastor was overwhelmed by rebels who demanded that he renounce his faith. He refused. The night before they took his life, he wrote the following lines on a scrap of paper:

            “I am part of the ‘Fellowship of the Unashamed.’ I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

“My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought , compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of

popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

“I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

“I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.  And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

“Lord, develop in me the perseverance and faithfulness to pursue Your goal for my life even in the face of rejection.”

 

 

 

 

 

5. ACTS 5: EMBEZZLEMENT OF ANANIAS & SAPPHIRA

Date: 34  AD          Place: Jerusalem (Homes, Solomon’s Porch, prison, council room)

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.

What is the connection between what Barnabas did (4:36-37) and what Ananias and Sapphira did?

2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

            No sin is mentioned here, but read between the lines and see what it is.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?

            What does it mean to “lie to the Holy Spirit?”  How did they do that?

            Give some examples of how this can be done today.

4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

            Would it have been a sin to keep some of the money if they would have been honest about it?

            Why were they deceptive?     Name some similar sins of deception which are committed today

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

            Why did our God of grace and mercy kill him for his sin?  Why doesn’t He kill everyone who sins?

6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

            Why did she die for her husband’s sin?  Wasn’t she supposed to obey and follow him?

11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

            What was God trying to teach the early church?

12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin– the full assembly of the elders of Israel– and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. 25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

            Why did God miraculously release the prisoners here when other times He let them stay in jail?

27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead– whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” 40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

What is flogging?  Why did God allow them to be flogged now when the night before He didn’t even let them stay in jail overnight (which is a far easier punishment)?

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

            How could they rejoice when God hadn’t rescued them from the flogging?

            How can you rejoice today in painful and unfair situations?

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (VICTORY IN TESTING)

Describe the four tests in this chapter (5:1-11; 5:17 5:27-28 and 5:33-40) and how there was victory in each one (512-16; 5:19-26; 5:29-32 and 5:41-42). 

 

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GOD HATES HYPOCRISY(Acts 5)

 

            One of Satan’s more successful activities is to tempt believers to sin through pride.  He encourages us to compare ourselves to others, to play a subtle form of ‘spiritual king of the mountain.’  Pride, self-centeredness and greed are basic values of Satan’s which led to his rebellion and fall.  He uses them to feed our rebellion and bring about our fall as well.  That is nothing new.  It’s always been that way.  It started with Adam and Eve.  It can be clearly seen in the early church, too.

            In Acts 4:32-37 we have find that believers with resources were using those things for the benefit of those who were without.  Barnabas even went so far as to sell a field and gave the money to be used for poorer believers. Now that must have really caused people to think highly of Barnabas, although that wasn’t why he did it.  Still, Satan used it to tap into the pride and self-centeredness that is a natural part of all of us. 

 

THE HYPOCRITICAL ACT (1-4)  Ananias (“God is gracious”) and his wife Sapphira (“Beautiful”) were middle class believers who lived in Jerusalem.   They sold a piece of property, too, and brought some of the money and gave it to the apostles to distribute to the needy.  The problem was that they didn’t give all the money they had received.  Now there was no law that said she had to give it all.  It was entirely up to them.  What they did wrong was to imply, actually state, that they had given all of the money.  Why would they say they did if they didn’t?  They wanted the same approval and popularity that Barnabas had gotten from his action. 

            Thus their sin wasn’t in keeping some of their money, for they didn’t have to give it.  Their sin lay in pretending to give it all so people would be impressed with them.  It was hypocrisy.  Their motive was the sin, not their action.  Jesus called hypocrites “whitened seplecurs.”  They were whitewashed graves, pretty white on the outside but full of death and decay inside.  Other word pictures to describe hypocrisy include leaven, over grown graves, a broken pot whose crack is painted over to hide it, tares, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an empty well and a hired mourner who acts sad at a funeral.

The Bible makes it clear throughout that God hates hypocrisy (Amos 5:21-24; Isaiah 1:11-18; Mark 7:6-7; Matthew 23).  The Greek word translated (really transliterated) ‘hypocrisy’ means literally “to speak from behind a mask.”  It was originally used for an actor who would hold a large wax mask in front of his face while acting a part in a play.  That is a good picture of a hypocrite. 

            Cain, Absalom, Joab and Judas are all examples of hypocrites.  Their stories don’t have happy endings.  The story of Ananias and Sapphira doesn’t have a happy ending, either.

 

GOD’S JUDGMENT ON HYPOCRISY (5-11)  Everything would have gone fine for Ananias and Sapphira.  No one knew they weren’t giving all their money.  No one but God, and He told Peter.  It’s called the gift of discernment, and how it works is that the Holy Spirit wordlessly tells a servant of God something they need to know but wouldn’t have known any other way.  Peter knew, just knew down inside, that they didn’t give all the money.  The Holy Spirit had convicted them of their sin but they hardened themselves against repenting and confessing (something VERY dangerous to do).  As a result God struck Ananias down dead.

            Ananias was a believer.  He didn’t lose his salvation and go to hell, but he did lose any opportunity to serve God on earth and receive rewards in heaven.  He was accountable and sinned willingly and knowingly.  He tried to cover up his sin.  It was all based on pride, self-centeredness and greed.

            God is so very fair with all of us.  He gave Sapphira her own chance, so she wouldn’t seem forced by Ananias.  She came in later on her own, not knowing what had happened to her husband.  She was also asked if this was all the money.  She could have told the truth but didn’t.  It wasn’t a matter of wifely submission, she was greedy as well.  She, too, died immediately.

            That brings up the question of God’s standards.  Why did God kill them when He doesn’t kill every greedy hypocrite in the church today?  Well, He should and could.  It’s only His mercy that keeps Him from doing so.  He sets His standards at the start so we know what they are, then shows mercy.  He did that when the nation Israel was forming and Nadab and Abihu used their own fire instead of God’s fire in the Tabernacle (Lev 10:2).  They both died.  He set His standard when the Jews entered the land of Canaan and Achan in his greed and self-centeredness hid some of the spoils from Jericho (Josh 7:25).  He and his whole family died.  Thank God for His mercy on us today, or there wouldn’t be any of us alive!  Don’t take advantage of God’s mercy.  Instead live a life of holiness for God.

 

JUDGMENT RESULTS IN PURITY (11-14)      Anyway, as you can imagine, this had a profound impact on those within and those without the church!  It showed the believers the need to be honest and holy.  It warned unbelievers about pretending to be part of the church just to get the free food.  God has always been more interested in quality than quantity.

 

PURITY RESULTS IN POWER (12, 15-16)  When we live holy lives in obedience to God He will use that to work His will through us.  God’s greatness was seen in the early church.  God did miracles through them to show He was behind all they did.  Today God uses changed lives – our changed lives.  Through us He shows others that He is behind it all.  They had power over Satan’s forces as well.  God’s power was active and everything got stirred up.

 

POWER RESULTS IN PERSECUTION (17-28)  Satan’s forces also got stirred up and in turn stirred up the religious rulers against the disciples.  He incites the religious rulers to have Peter and John arrested.  But God’s power is greater and He sends an angel to release them.  Then God does one of those strange things that He so often does – He sends them right back where they were when they got arrested!  Instead of getting them out of town or having them hang low for awhile, He puts them right back in the temple preaching.  Sure enough, they get arrested again and brought before the religious rulers who again threatened them and tried to intimidate them.

 

PERSECUTION RESULTS IN PERSISTENCE (29-41)  Persecution has refined and strengthened Peter and John, however, and again they stand without giving in.  They preached about Jesus, which so angered the religious rulers that they wanted to kill them then and there.  Gamaliel brought reason to the group by saying that if they were not from God then He would bring about their demise, but if they were they would be opposing Him.  Let God handle it was his advice.  They adopted this suggestion, but this time they had them flogged.  They considered it a privilege to be scourged like Jesus was before His crucifixion, though, and persisted in faithfulness to God.

 

PERSISTENCE RESULTS IN PRODUCTIVITY (42)  Instead of discouraging the early believers, this just encouraged them all the more to witness and speak of Jesus.  They spoke to any who would listen about their Savior, one on one or in groups.  God blessed their efforts and brought continued growth.  

            Hypocrisy brought judgment which brought purity which brought power which brought persecution which brought persistence which brought productivity.  Where are we on that formula today?  Where do we get off the path?  Stay pure and God will use you for His glory!

6. ACTS 6: THE FELLOWS (7 DEACONS)

Date: Late 34 AD to early 35  AD         Place: Jerusalem (Believers’ homes, council room)

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

            Who were the Grecian Jews?

            Who were the Hebraic (Aramaic speaking) Jews?

            What happens when problems between people or groups aren’t stopped before they grow?

2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.

            Did they think they were too important to do menial work?  Do you?

            What are God’s priorities for us today?

            What is the word for “wait on tables”?  How is it translated other places?

            Exactly what was this problem the early church faced?

3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

            What solution to their problem was proposed?

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

            List the qualifications and characteristics of those to be chosen (v. 3-5)

            What additional qualifications does Paul have for those in this position in I Timothy 4:8-13?

            Do these apply to all Christians or only those in leadership?  Prove your answer.

6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

            What was the significance of laying on of hands? (Look up your answer, don’t just take a guess.)

7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

            Why was this plan so successful?

            How can we apply this principle to us today?

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)– Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

            Why did the religious rulers resort to lies to stop Stephen?

            Why didn’t’ God defend Stephen and show they were lying?

            Why doesn’t God always defend us against other’s lies today?

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

            What does it mean that his face was “like the face of an angel”?

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (SATAN)

Do a study on Satan.  First write the name or title attributed to him:

            Matthew 4:1                                                    Revelation 12:10

            Matthew 12:24                                                Revelation 12:9 (3)

            Matthew 13:19                                                II Corinthians 4:4

            John 8:44 (2)                                                   John 12:31

            Ephesians 2:2                                                 Matthew 4:5

Satan is a person, not an impersonal force.  How do these verses show that?

            Acts 5:3                                                           Job 1:7, 9-11; 2:7

            Matthew 4:8-11                                               I Chronicles 21:1

            Eph 6:11                                                          Genesis 3:1-5

Satan is the head of demons (Luke 11:14-18; Matthew 25:41) and unbelievers (Eph 2:2; I John 5:19).  How does he exercise authority over each group?

What is his work in relationship to God’s children (believers) (I Peter 5:8; Eph 6:11-18; I Thes 2:18)?

What limits does God put on Satan’s power (Job 1:12; 2:6; Luke 22:31)?

What is Satan’s chief method of operation (II Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9)?

What is Satan’s main purpose and goal in all he does (Matthew 4:9; I Cor 10:20)?

What do the following verses say about Satan’s wickedness?

            I John 3:8                                                        John 8:44

            II Cor 4:4                                                         Luke 8:12

What event in history broke Satan’s power (Heb 2:14)?

What is his future destination (Matthew 25:41; Rev. 20:10, 15; 21:8)?

How can we have victory over Satan and his forces?

            I Peter 5:8                                           Ephesians 4:27

Ephesians 6:11                                   James 4:7

WANTED: SERVANTS(Acts 6)

 

            Moses had 2 ½ million ex-slaves to lead and turn into a nation.  Can you imagine the work load!  He was overworked and stressed out. He was busy all day, draining himself with details.  He wasn’t able to do all that needed doing so the people were frustrated and complaining.  What could be done?  Moses’ father-in-law suggested he delegate lesser chores to other competent men and focus on the major needs himself (Exodus 18:13-27).  That’s good prioritizing.  It worked!  It always does.   When the early church faced a similar situation, they also followed Moses’ example.  It worked then, too.

 

THE PROBLEM  It is the winter of 34 BC.  The young church is 1 ½ years old.  They have grown from 70 to 30,000 strong.  They were all new believers.  There were no established churches, grounded leaders, written books, or even a New Testament to turn to.  They had 12 average men to lead this whole movement!  Under perfect circumstances it might have worked.  But when are circumstances ever perfect?

            Remember, when a Jew became a Christian and showed that by being baptized in public, his or her family had a funeral.  They buried all that had that belonged to him and never talked about or to them no matter what.  Passing on the street, they would stare straight through them.  For a Jew this excommunication was severe.  Family and Jewish ties meant everything to them.  They lost family, friends, loved ones, culture and traditions.  They also lost their jobs, income and inheritance.  Who could these new believers turn to but each other?  Because of this those who had money or property contributed it for the welfare of those who had nothing (Acts 4:33-35).  Barnabas was one such man (Acts 4:36-37).  Ananias and Sapphira pretended to do the same thing for the glory (Acts 5).  Because of their deceitfulness they died.  Enough was contributed to meet the needs of thousands of needy new believers.  Collecting it was one thing. Distributing it fairly was something else.  That turned out to be quite a major job!

            What made that all the worse was that there were actually two groups of Jews in the early church.  Hebraic Jews were those who spoke Hebrew and were natives of Jerusalem.  They were of the same stock as the Apostles, were networked, and knew their way around.  If all the Jews in the early church would have been of this group there wouldn’t have been a problem.  Many Jews, though, grew up in the Greek culture and Greek was their native language.  These were the Grecian Jews.  They moved to Jerusalem for business, or were visiting on a Feast Day and accepted Jesus as Messiah so they stayed to learn more and grow.  Whatever the case, they weren’t able to communicate their needs as well, weren’t known as well and weren’t part of the local group.  Thus they tended to be overlooked.  They didn’t think this was fair, and they started complaining about it.  If this was the way they as Christians should have responded or not isn’t the issue here.  The Apostles knew something needed to be done.  But what?

 

THE SOLUTION  The Apostles know there was more of a problem than just some widows being left out.  As it was they were so busy distributing food they weren’t able to spend the time in prayer and Bible study and teaching that they wanted to.  It was throwing their priorities off.  So it wasn’t a matter of them putting in more time in the food distribution area.  There had to be better answer, and there was!  It was ‘delegation of responsibility’. 

            The solution was really very simple: assign others to take care of the food!  Why didn’t they think of that earlier? 

            Of course it couldn’t be just any men.  If it wasn’t the right men the situation would just get worse, not better.  They needed men (not women – I Tim 2:11-15) who were believers (“brothers”) and who were committed to their body of believers (“among you”).  They had to have a good reputation (“honest report”) and be full of the Holy Spirit as well as full of wisdom. 

            Their ministry was to be one of “waiting on tables.”  The same Greek word root is used for “distribution” (v. 1), “wait on tables” (v. 2) and “ministry” (v. 4).  The Greek word used is ‘diakonia,’ and is the word also translated (really transliterated) ‘deacon’ in the Bible.  “Deacon” and “minister” both come from the root word that means “to wait on tables,” for they are jobs of serving others.  This is the main trait the Apostles looked for in men to help them, men who would be called ‘deacons.’ 

            The men chosen were all Greeks (Acts 6:5-6).  This way there could be no mistake as to the Grecian widows being understood and cared for.  Doing this kept unity in the early church.  Satan does all he can to cause divisions and splits in a group, and had he been successful here it could have really slowed the spread of the church.  There would have been competition and difficulties from then on. 

 

THE RESULT  With this roadblock gone the church experienced another growth spurt (v. 7).  Even many of the priests put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. 

            Another result was the emergence of Stephen as a leading force in the early church.  A leading speaker and apologist, he didn’t mind being given a job that seemed menial and difficult.  He was willing to serve any way he could.  God still used him to evangelize, though (v. 8).  God even did miracles through him, as a way of showing those listening that he had God’s power.  Without these “great wonders and miraculous signs” no one could tell a man of God from a false prophet.  Today we can look at a man’s life, his ‘fruit’, to see if he has God’s power or not.  Then there wasn’t time for the people to wait years to see changed lives.  There were counterfeits everywhere right then.  Something needed to be done right away. 

           

THE OPPOSITION  Whenever God works, Satan opposes.  Actually this was Paul’s home synagogue (v. 9) and they tried to win debates against Stephen.  Probably Paul himself (still called Saul then) trying arguing with Stephen – and lost.  (Later Paul will use the same approach and outline that Stephen used. Although he will silence Stephen, God will use him to replace Stephen.)

            Since they couldn’t silence Stephen any other way, they bribed men to say he blasphemed (it worked with Jesus, why not try it again now?  Perhaps Stephen had said that man could worship God anywhere, he didn’t have to only be in the temple to do so (v. 11). 

 

THE OPPRESSION  Everyone got stirred up against Stephen (v. 12).  Obviously the religious rulers who refused to believe were just looking for an excuse to attack Christians.  It was really Jesus they were opposed to (v. 14).  Since Satan can’t get at God Himself he is left at taking out his hate and anger on God’s people.  It is really a battle of light versus darkness, of Satan’s kingdom versus God’s kingdom. 

 

            Stephen was violently and cruelly seized (v. 12 in the Greek).  The chapter ends with Stephen in the Sanhedrin, threatened with beating and death.  Still, God gives him perfect peace.  God’s presence and glory was even visible in his face (v. 15).  The next chapter then summarizes Stephen’s defense of his preaching that Jesus is the promised Messiah (Acts 7).

 

            Today, too, God is looking for those who have servant hearts to step in and help take the load from overworked leaders so they can focus on what is their top priority.  Are you willing to do ‘deacon’ work, to ‘wait on tables,’ to serve in any menial way that is needed?  Such people are invaluable to any church, family or group.  There are never too many of them!

7. ACTS 7: GRAVE OF STEPHEN

Date: April, 35  AD          Place: Jerusalem (council room)

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ 4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs. 9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. 11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money. 17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. 23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. 30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’ 35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. 37 “This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 “But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt– we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon. 44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built the house for him. 48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: 49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’

            Stephen wasn’t just giving a history lesson.  He was making a point in his defense.  What was his point?  What was the main idea behind all he said?

            Was Stephen defending himself or Jesus, or both?  Support your answer.

51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him– 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

            Stephen is showing how all God’s prophets suffered persecution and rejection for being faithful to God message.  Starting with Abraham, list each person Stephen talks about and how they were persecuted/rejected (there is more than one way for several of them).

 

            Why did Stephen point out their sins when he knew they already hated him and wanted him dead?

54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

            Why did God show Stephen heaven at that time?

            What do these verses say about what God does for His people when its time for them to die?

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

            Why didn’t God protect Stephen and keep him alive?

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

            Why does the Bible so often call death ‘sleep?

            What is the significance of Saul being involved (7:58; 8:1)

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?       Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?           A command to obey?    Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (GRACE)

“Grace” is used 10 times in Acts.  Look up these uses and summarize how Luke uses this word.  How does his use of it compare to Paul’s use of the word ‘grace.’


STEPHEN’S GRAVE (Acts 7)

 

            Trying to defend ones self can be difficult as well as frustrating.  I’m sure we’ve all had times when we’ve been misunderstood or falsely accused of something.  We assume that as soon as we present the true facts everything will be all right.  For some reason, though, the more we try to straighten things out the more knotted they become.  Eventually we realize we’d have been better off not trying to defend ourselves.  Nothing we say makes anything better anyway.  It can be disconcerting to say the least!

 

THE CHARGE: BLASPHEMY (7:1)  That’s exactly what Stephen faced when falsely accused of blaspheming against God. For the past two years the early church was steadily increasing and sharing their faith in their risen Savior. Perhaps the top theologian and most successful debater and apologist among the early Christians was Stephen.  By saying Jesus was God, Stephen opened himself up to the charge of blaspheming against God.  He held his ground when challenged, even out debating those who challenged him (which included Saul of Tarsus).   Since they couldn’t out-argue him, they decided to silence him another way – kill him!  So they arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin to be tried for blasphemy.  Out of all those who were preaching, only God knows why Stephen was the one chosen to be charged and condemned.  It was part of God’s perfect plan.

 

THE DEFENSE: JEWISH REJECTION OF GOD’S MESSENGERS (7:2-53)  Stephen doesn’t try to explain what he said or meant.  He knew that was a dead-end street.  He knew that gossip and false accusations can’t be tracked down and unraveled.  It just won’t happen. 

Neither did Stephen try to prove Jesus was the Messiah, God Himself come to earth.  If Jesus really was god then Stephen wasn’t guilty of blasphemy at all, but of speaking the truth.  Why didn’t he try to prove Jesus was God?  He knew it was useless.  The religious rulers had more proof than anyone, starting with a firsthand report of the resurrection by the Roman soldiers.  They knew it was true so they bribed the soldiers to lie about what really happened.  They saw lame people healed.  They knew of many of their own numbers who became believers in Jesus and left the priesthood to follow Him.  They heard it all, over and over.  There was no use telling them again.  The problem wasn’t ignorance, it was a hard, stubborn heart.  They refused to humble themselves and yield to the truth.  As God has often said, they were a “stiff-necked and stubborn people.”  This was what Stephen pointed out to them.  His ‘defense’ was that they had a history of rejecting God’s prophets, as they were doing with Stephen.  It was a gutsy approach, not one calculated to get the charges against him dropped.  It did make them all the more accountable and responsible for their actions, though. 

            What Stephen did was review Jewish history, something they already clearly knew.  He wasn’t teaching them history, but picking out certain events to show a pattern.  They had wrongly rejected those whom God had sent before.  In fact, they did this to each messenger God sent.  Perhaps by seeing this pattern in their past they would stop it now and no longer reject Jesus or His messenger, Stephen.  It was an argument geared to appeal to their mind, but they were going by their emotions.  Jealousy, pride, anger and self-centeredness so controlled them that there was no room for rational, objective decision-making. 

            Stephen used the examples of Joseph and his brothers (v. 9-16) as well as Moses (twice: 17-38; 39-43) to show how the Jews had consistently rejected God’s messengers.  He quickly developed this from history, supporting it with quotes from the prophets.  Seeing his listeners were getting the point and were about to cut him off, Stephen hit home:  “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him- you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it (7:51-53).”

           

THE VERDICT: GUILTY AS CHARGED (7:54-56) The religious rulers were ‘furious’ when they heard this.  This Greek word could also mean that they were ‘cut to the heart as with a sword’ like when the Spirit convicted unbelievers of their need of Jesus in Acts 2.  Here, though, the response was anger at Stephen.  Silence his voice and the conviction wouldn’t be felt!

            An interesting note to this event is that Saul, later to be called Paul, was present. In fact, he may have been in charge of the trial and stoning of Stephen.  That could be the significance of the witnesses laying their clothes at his feet (7:58).  He might have set the arrest up and carried it out.  As the leading theologian and debater among those opposed to Jesus, he would have been paying careful attention to what Stephen said.  It’s quite likely that God’s Spirit brought all this to Saul’s mind during those days when he sat blind after meeting the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. In fact, Paul himself used this same line of reasoning in Pisidia (Acts 13).  He went on and completed what Stephen was unable to finish.  God, in effect, used Stephen’s death to bring about Paul’s salvation.  Paul actually became Stephen’s replacement – the leading theologian and apologist of the early church.

 

THE SENTENCE: DEATH BY STONING (7:57 – 8:1)  Stephen was filled with God’s Spirit to help him through this difficult time.  He looked up (not down) and, in what could be called a near-death experience, saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand in heaven!  Usually Jesus is seen sitting in heaven, a sign of His work being finished.  Now, though, He is standing as if to help Stephen.  God always provides dying grace for His people.  When He calls on us to die, He is there is a special way to encourage and support us.  Stephen was, in some ways, already in heaven!  There was no fear for him, only God’s magnificent peace.  Imagine seeing Jesus in heaven about to help you!

            When Stephen told those who were there what he saw, though, they only increased their charges of blasphemy.  They “rushed at” Stephen.  The same Greek word that is used here is used of the demon-possessed pigs rushing over the cliff into the water.  The similarity is obvious. 

            Stoning was the official method of capital punishment used by the Jews.  The victim would be pushed off a cliff used for this purpose, which was located right outside town.  The law required there be two witnesses to affirm the guilt of an individual.  These would be the first to drop rocks on the victim where he had fallen below.  Others then would also drop rocks.  It was a relatively quick and pain-free death, especially compared to crucifixion.

            As he was dying Stephen prayed for those who were Killing him.  Like Jesus, he asked God to not hold this sin against them.  Then he fell asleep  — a beautiful word picture for death.  Immediately his spirit and soul went to heaven while his body remained on earth.  One day his body will be resurrected and transformed into an eternal body, replacing the temporary body God gives all those who die (see I Corinthians 15 for more information about this). 

 

            Why God chose to have Stephen, who was an excellent Christian man, die young as a martyr while allowing Peter, who denied him, have the privilege of living and leading thousands to salvation, only God knows.  When we make ourselves available to be used by God in whatever way He chooses, we know that whatever He chooses for us is right and best (Rom. 8:28).  Do you trust Him with your life and your death?  You aren’t ready to live until you are ready to die!


8. ACTS 8: PHILIP PREACHING

Date: May, 35  AD    Place: Samaria and nearby villages; road from Jerusalem to Gaza

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

            How does Romans 8:28 apply to this passage?

            Put yourself in Saul’s place.  Why do you think he so severely persecuted believers?

5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.

            Read about Samaritan history in a Bible dictionary.  How does this fulfill Acts 1:8?

            What does it mean that he went DOWN to Samaria when Samaria is up north of Jerusalem?

6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

            What was God’s purpose in doing miracles through Philip?

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” 24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” 25 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

            Of all the miracles that Philip did, why was this one chosen to be elaborated on?

            What kind of man was Simon?  Read carefully.  Read between the lines.  Be exact and detailed.

            What do you think Simon’s motive was in wanting to follow Jesus?  Think first, don’t just quickly jump to conclusions.  Put yourself in his place.  Tell why you came to your conclusion.

Was Simon a believer?  Prove your answer.

            Are there people like Simon today?  Describe how a person today can be like Simon was then.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road– the desert road– that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,

            Find Gaza on a map.  Why was he going there?

List what these verses say about this man.  Look up in a Bible dictionary what they mean.

28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

            Which passage from Isaiah is quoted?  What does it mean?  Why did he choose to quote this one?

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

            What do these verses teach about baptism?

                        When?

                        Where?

                        Who?

                        Why?

                        How?

39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

            Why did God remove Philip so quickly?

40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (WITNESSING)

List as many lessons and principles as you can find about witnessing from this chapter.  Write how each applies to your life today.

PHILIP PREACHING (Acts 8)

 

            Why is it that persecuting God’s Church is like pouring gasoline on a fire to put it out?  What causes believers to grow stronger under opposition?  That has been true from the beginning and is also evident round the world today.  The purpose of oppression is to cause believers to quit, and some do.  However as a whole outside pressure strengthens, not weakens the church.  Why?

            I think the reason is because God’s people then must turn to and depend on God in a way they wouldn’t have had to otherwise.  They are more receptive to His power working through them.   They turn more completely to Him and need His more.  Also, difficulties in this life cause a person to focus on what really matters.  It helps one view eternal things as more important than daily, material objects.  It gives a more realistic perspective of what is truly important in life.  As others see this some of them are then attracted to God and want this same reality in their lives.  Thus individuals grow and the church grows.  That’s always the way it has been, and the way it still is.

 

EARLY CHURCH PERSECUTION  The early church is a perfect example of this.  “On that day (when Stephen was killed, Acts 7)a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.    Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:1,4)  The Greek word for “scattered” is the word our word ‘ evangelize’ comes from.  It refers to sowing seeds.  Thus the persecution caused believers to be scattered throughout the whole area.  The purpose of the persecution was to stop the growth of the early church, instead it caused the church to grow ever more because people told about Jesus wherever they went.  It’s like throwing seeds all over to kill them instead of leaving them all piled up in one place.  Or it can be seen as spreading a campfire throughout the woods to put it out.  This helped the spread of the fire/seeds instead of stopping it.

            The early Christians had been clearly told to take the gospel to the whole world and not stay in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18).  They hadn’t done that, so God allows this to spread them and their message everywhere.  Satan would have been better off to allow them to stay in Jerusalem keeping the good news to themselves.  Instead the word spread everywhere.  I guess he learned from that, for how many of us and our churches are guilty of keeping the wonderful news about Jesus to ourselves instead of scattering and spreading it?  What will God need to do to spread His word today?

            “All things work together for the good of those who love Jesus, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  That is true of persecution and opposition as well.  God used Satan’s attempt to destroy the church for His benefit.  The church grew in quality (as individuals grew closer to God) and quantity (as they then spread the Gospel to those around them). 

 

EARLY CHURCH PERSECUTOR  Paul was God’s instrument of persecution (8:3).  As a wild animal, he ravaged the church in Jerusalem, tearing it apart in a frenzy (this is what the Greek word for “destroy” means).  We must remember that his motive was right – to serve God.  His action, however, was very wrong.  God would soon reveal Himself to Paul, who will then say he had been “acting in ignorance” (I Timothy 1:13).  It was the biggest regret of Paul’s life.

 

EARLY CHURCH PROTECTOR    The story now focuses on one of those who were scattered.  Philip, one of the deacons ordained along with Stephen, went to Samaria and spread the Gospel there (8:5).  Because of the faithful witness of the woman at the well (John 4) 5 years before, there was a great response.  God authenticated His message of spiritual healing by doing physical healings (8:6-7).  This was God’s way of showing He was behind the speaker.  Today he uses the testimony of our changed lives to authenticate His words, but there wasn’t time to wait for years as the church slowly spread. 

            Of all the people who responded, the story of one man, a man named Simon, is recorded in the Bible.  He had used Satan’s power to do things to impress others.  He loved the attention of the people and the power he held over them.  When he heard the gospel he responded and accepted Jesus as his Savior (8:13).  Peter, who had the gift of discernment (Acts 5; 8:20-22), baptized him as a believer.  The Bible clearly says that he was a believer (8:13) and Peter knew he was a believer or he wouldn’t have baptized him.  However his fleshly attachment to self-glorification and his pride caused him to want to have God’s power for selfish reasons.  He wanted the Holy Spirit’s power (v. 19) for the wrong reason.  While Paul did the wrong thing for the right reason (persecuting the church because he thought it was opposed to God), Simon did the right thing (wanting the Spirit’s power) for the wrong reason (his own pride).  God looks at our motives, not just our actions (I Cor 3:11-15; Mt 7:22-23; Rom 7:6; Heb 4:12; Mt 6:1-4; widow with 2 mites, Cain and Able, etc.).  

Jealousy and pride kept him from being used by God (8:21-23).  He was a believer who was acting in the flesh,  concerned with his own glory more than God’s glory.  Aren’t we all guilty of that at times, too?  To his credit, he repented when challenged with this (v. 24).   His salvation wasn’t in jeopardy, but his earthly usefulness was (“You shall have no share in this ministry” [21], but his salvation was intact). 

Check your own motives.  Make sure you aren’t using spiritual gifts to impress others!

 

EARLY CHURCH    Another example of the church growth that resulted from Paul’s persecution is seen in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-39).  God sent the evangelist, Philip, from the midst of a great revival in Samaria to go to speak to one man on the opposite side of Jerusalem (v. 26).  This one man, however, was important to God.  It wasn’t just because he could and would influence his whole nation for Jesus, it was mainly because he was seeking and God always reaches out to and meets any soul that is seeking for Him. 

            The Ethiopian had been reading Isaiah 53 but didn’t understand it, so Philip used that as an opportunity to witness to him.  Of course he used the Old Testament, for there was no New Testament yet.  We, too, can use the Old Testament to present the gospel to those who only accept it and not the New (especially Jews).  We can show them that the heart is wicked (Jer 17:9 – worse than pork).  We cannot earn our salvation, for all our righteousness’ are like filthy rags (Isa 64:6).  Our sin separates us from God (Isa 59:1-2) and we need someone sinless to intercede for us (Lev. 17:11).  This perfect One had to be sacrificed (Isa 53:1-12) to pay for our sins so we could be reunited with God.  The One to do this was the coming Messiah (Dan 9:29).  He would suffer and die for sin (Psalm 22 – description of crucifixion).  Salvation is provided by the Messiah, but we must  put our faith in Him, believe and receive His free gift (Gen 15:6) for it to be ours. 

            Because he was a eunuch, the Ethiopian wasn’t able to be baptized into Judaism, but he understood what Philip said about Jesus.  He accepted that free gift and then wanted to be baptized as a Christian, so Philip did so.  Immediately Philip was taken away, and the Ethiopian continued on his way home to spread the good news in court of Candace the queen.

 

            Thus we see how God used the worst (Stephen’s death) for the best (spread of Christianity everywhere).  Romans 8:28 wasn’t even written yet, but it was already happening.   God used that to spread the early Christians and therefore the Gospel.  Lets make sure we spread the word where we are, not keep it in our family or church.  Like Philip, faithfully tell others about Jesus!

 

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9. ACTS 9: PAUL PERCEIVING

Paul’s Conversion (1-7) – Road to Damascus – Summer 35 AD

In Damascus & Arabia (8-25) – Damascus (Straight St) and Arabia – June 35 – May 37

Jerusalem visit (26-29) – Jerusalem – Summer 37 AD

To Tarsus and Syria-Cilicia (30) – Autumn 37 AD

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

            What does “The Way” mean?  Why was it used, what is it’s significance?

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.

            Why did God appear to him as a light?  Why not some other way?

4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

            What exactly do you think Saul thought/felt when he found Jesus was God’s Messiah?

            Why did Jesus say it was HIM Saul was persecuting when it was actually Christians?

6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

            Why didn’t God let anyone else hear what He was saying?

8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.

            Why did God take away Saul’s sight?

So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

            Why did he fast from food and drink for this time?

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord– Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here– has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

            Why did God use Ananias to restore Saul’s sight instead of doing it directly Himself?

            What was God trying to teach Saul through all this?

            What was God trying to teach Ananias through all this?

20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

            Saul probably used Stephen’s reasoning and arguments.  How did this make him feel?

21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. 23 After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him,

            How do you think Saul felt when it was his own life in danger, as he had endangered others?

24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. 26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

            Was this lack of faith (fear) or common-sense caution?  How can you tell the difference?

27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

            Some say Barnabas and Saul were old friends.  Learn all you can about Barnabas.

28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

            What encouraged the church?

32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

            Why did Peter send everyone out of the room?

41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

            Why is this miracle recorded in the Bible?  Be specific.

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?       Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?           A command to obey?    Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (SUFFERING)

Acts 9:16 says Saul will suffer for Jesus.  Do a study on suffering in the Bible. Why does God allow His people to suffer?  (there are numerous reasons, see how many you can find)  How does this apply today?

 

PAUL PERCEIVING (Acts 9)

 

Paul was one of those people who does everything 100%, whether he was opposing or supporting the church. He never did anything half way. 

ANCESTRY   Paul was his Latin (Roman) name and Saul his Jewish name, which was used at home. His great-grandfather, from the tribe Benjamin, left Giscala in Galilee to move to Tarsus.

HOME TOWN  Tarsus was a prosperous, self-governing city-state of ½ million people.  It was a leading center of finances and education.  It was a very worldly city for a Jew to grow up in.

PARENTS  Paul’s father was a wealthy Pharisee.  He made tents from the long black wool of local sheep.  He was also a burgess of Tarsus and a Roman citizen, which was a proud privilege for anyone.

            Not much is known about Paul’s mother.  Perhaps she was sickly, maybe having died when his sister was born.  Somehow his sister ended up in Jerusalem, if could have been she was raised by relatives there when her mother died.

EDUCATION  Paul was mainly home educated.  In the synagogue he was taught Hebrew.  By 13 he would have mastered Jewish history, poetry and prophets.  He had an excellent mind and marvelous memory.

LANGUAGE  Paul, as most everyone in his day, was multilingual.  He knew Greek from infancy, it was the main language of the day.  Aramaic was the common language Jews used in their homes.  Hebrew was the scholarly language boys learned to study the Bible.  He also had a good working knowledge of Latin. 

CAREER  Tent making was a humble occupation, but the Jews believed that all boys should learn a craft and know what it is to work.  Tents were common and were used by caravans, nomads and armies.  Paul would have spent many hours weaving cloth, pushing the shuttle back and forth.  This would have left his mind free to think.  His mind probably focused on God and Jewish beliefs.

FAITH  While he lived in Tarsus, he didn’t feel at home there.  Baal worship, immorality, and persecution of those who worshipped God would have turned his heart to the land of his ancestors.

HOME LIFE  Paul’s home seemed to have been a haven of piety with obedience to God emphasized.  Perhaps there was a stern over-emphasis on external conformity.

GROWING UP   Paul went through mar mitzva at 13 which is probably when he took his first trip to Jerusalem.  He would have gone with his father and other men who were making the trip for various spiritual and/or business reasons.  This was not only a special time religiously, but Paul got to see his sister.

            Some time later Paul returned for training and study with the famous Rabbi Gamaliel.  Jesus had spent time with him when He went to the temple for His Bar Mitzvah several years earlier.  Paul’s training would have been long and hard.  He would have to master not only the Hebrew Scriptures but also Jewish interpretations and commentaries on them: the Mishna, Gemerra and the Targum.  He quickly outstripped his contemporaries with his intellectual giftedness.  He had a very logical mind, and excellent memory, fertile imagination and analytical reasoning.  Because he always expected much of himself and others, he didn’t seem to have many close friends.  Many others in training were only concerned about external conformity (hypocrisy) and impressing others.  Paul was always concerned about doing the right thing for the right reason.  Outside he seemed to attain perfection, but inside he struggled with pride, lust and materialism.

RETURN TO TARSUS  In his early 30’s Paul returned to Tarsus and became a leader in the synagogue there, teaching the Scriptures while supporting himself by making tents.  Perhaps it was in tent making that he met Barnabas.

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE  Paul seems to have been athletic, strong and in good physical condition.  Tradition says he was under 5 foot, broad shouldered, with closely knit eyebrows and a thick beard.  He had a long, crooked nose.  He became prematurely gray and then bald.  From his conversion experience he had eye troubles.  Friends said he was ugly, enemies preferred the term ‘repulsive.’  He great impact on the world didn’t come from his physical appearance.

MARRIAGE  While much in Paul’s life is unknown, from information in his writings, knowledge of Jewish history, and traditions, we can piece together some things about him.  It seems he was married at one time and probably had a son.  Perhaps both died in an epidemic which so common in those days.  How that must have broken his heart and depressed him!

            It may have been that, along with the events of April 14, 33 AD, that caused him to return to Jerusalem.  On that day it got dark everywhere at 12 noon.  At 3 PM an earthquake shook the world and the light again shone.  These things were obviously supernatural.  When word from Jerusalem about the strange events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth came, Paul was intrigued.  Being a strict Jew, Paul would have wanted to do anything he could to stamp out this new heresy.  Perhaps all the hurt and pain, the depression and emptiness came out in anger and hate to those who saw this Jesus as the Messiah.  Paul ended up in Jerusalem opposing this new movement with everything he had.

PAUL THE PERSECUTOR  Throwing himself into this new venture would help him escape the memories of his lost family as well as give him a new challenge, something to fill the empty void inside.  It was a reason to keep going.  He lived and worked on the street of the tentmakers in Jerusalem but spent as much time as he could with the religious rulers.  He became a leading Pharisee in Jerusalem.  Men that he had admired and respected, such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Stephen, now became his hated enemies.  Paul was one of the youngest Sanhedrin members, and thus one of the most influential men in Israel.  His whole future was before him.

SPIRITUAL YEARNINGS  Yet obviously Paul was empty, searching for real meaning and purpose in life.  The harder he worked at being a perfect Jew the more he felt empty.  Eventually he stopped striving after that elusive peace that evaded him.  He felt crushed under the burden of the law and tradition, but know of no other way to seek God.  All these frustrations and fears he took out on those he saw as the enemies of Judaism.  When they claimed to have the answers and the peace he was looking for he overreacted all the more against them, making it a personal battle against them.

ONLY JESUS SATISFIES  Paul had everything the world could offer, everything one could want.  He had a well-to-do, important, supportive and loving family.  He had the finest education one could have in both Judaism (Hebrew) and secular (Greek) knowledge.  He had a successful career as a tentmaker and also as a rabbi.  He was in the Sanhedrin (the top 70 men in Israel world-wide with the power to govern in all areas of Jewish life).  He was on the rise for he was still quite young.  He was near perfect in his religion, exhibiting outward sinlessness.  He seemed to have it all.  But he was empty and searching inside.  He missed the one thing that along can satisfy – Jesus.

            He had heard plenty about Jesus being the answer to his needs.  His good friend Stephen told him often.  At least they had been good friends from the same synagogue when Paul had been in Jerusalem before to study.  Stephen was as mellow as Paul was abrasive.  Stephen had the peace, and the answers that Paul sought.  Paul couldn’t counter Stephen’s arguments proving Jesus as the Messiah.  Paul grasped the full implication of it all, what it would mean to him personally and to Judaism as a whole if Jesus of Nazareth really had been the promised Messiah.  It would take away the one thing Paul built his life on – Jewish law and practices.  Finally, since he couldn’t silence Stephen’s words any other way, he used his authority as a member of the Sanhedrin to have Stephen stoned to death.

FULL-BLOWN PERSECUTION  That didn’t settle the matter for Paul, though.  In fact things got worse.  He attacked Christianity like a mad man.  His choleric temperament, his zeal for the things of God, the pain from the loss of his wife and son, the emptiness he felt spiritually, and the jealousy he experienced towards Christians who seemed to have everything he sought, all drove him fanatically. 

            He would burst into homes and synagogues.  He imprisoned or killed old men and women as well as children.  Others were beaten and crippled.  During all this, though, Paul was coming in deeper and deeper contact with the gospel.  As he unfiltered their services and heard their defense at their ‘trials,’ he learned more and more about this Jesus.  He heard from those who were eye witnesses of Jesus miracles and who had memorized whole speeches Jesus had given.  He saw that the great pain he inflicted on them didn’t take away their joy.  Nothing did.  They had something he lacked and he hated them all the more because of it.

CHRISTIANITY SPREADS  Finally the Christians in Jerusalem were driven out of town or so deeply underground that they couldn’t be easily found.  Jerusalem seemed safe from this new cult, but instead of putting it out Paul discovered he had just spread it around.  Like kicking a fire apart to put it out, only to realize that each spark caught on and started a new fire where it landed, Paul realized that those who left Jerusalem were taking their message elsewhere.  Not content to just purify Jerusalem, Paul wanted the belief totally eradicated everywhere.  He knew that if he didn’t stop it soon it would spread beyond his ability to destroy it.  It was already getting a strong footing in Damascus to the north.  If that was allowed to take root and grow there was no telling where this heresy would spread and what damage it would do!

ON TO DAMASCUS  Damascus had a large Jewish population, which make it ripe for the spread of this new message.  Paul got the official papers he needed, gathered Jewish soldiers (Levites) and other officials, and set out to move his headquarters to Damascus.  There he end, once and for all, this blasphemy.

            Damascus was a 4-day donkey trip to the north, 150 miles away.  They traveled through Galilee, past the Golan Heights, then by Mt Hermon.  These brought to mind the adventures of God with His people at these places.  Why couldn’t Paul find this victory and satisfaction in God that his ancestors seemed to find?  He was filled with guilt, emptiness and no peace.  He even had doubts about the eventual success of his mission, although he kept shoving them to the back of his mind every time they surfaced.  He was grieved by the pain his persecution was causing so many people, but he justified it as necessary to rid Judaism of its enemies.  Still, there was something about these Christians …

CONVERSION!  Suddenly a light greater than the sun, the Shekinah Glory itself, shown on Paul and the whole group he was traveling with.  They all fell down before it.  All heard a sound, but only Paul the words: “Why are you persecuting Me?”  They were spoken by a Man about Paul’s own age, and instantly Paul knew Who it was, even though he had never seen the Man before.  To confirm his suspicions Paul asked, “Who are you?”  The answer was what he expected, “I am Jesus.” 

            In a second that seemed like an eternity Paul knew that He loved those whom he was persecuting, and He loved Paul.  Immediately Paul broke in surrender.  All his old theological arguments melted away.  It no longer mattered what his Jewish contemporaries would think or what future in Judaism he was giving up.  Stephen was right, Paul was wrong – it was that simple.  Accepting that brought what Paul had been seeking his whole life, for instantly sweet peace flooded over his soul.  He surrendered his life 100% to the authority of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, God Himself come to earth as man.  Paul had a new Master Whom he served with unswerving dedication the rest of his life.

THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF NEW LIFE  Paul was blind for the next 3 days.  In fact, his eyesight was affected for the rest of his life.  It was a constant reminder of when God broke him, as Jacob’s limp reminded him of a similar event in his life. 

            Those three days were spent without food or water, for he had no desire to eat.  He was so focused, so overwhelmed with the newness of this it was all he could think about.  Proud, independent, self-sufficient Paul had to be led by the hand into Damascus and cared for by others.  He was no conquering hero, but a conquered prodigal.  He had plenty of time to think.  Stephen was a time bomb that detonated in his mind.  He recalled point after point that Stephen made, word for word, and each one hit home like a sharp sword.  How could he have been so blind?  How could he have missed it?  It was so clear, so very clear to him now.  Guilt and remorse washed over him in waves, followed by grace and peace. 

The words of Stephen would stay with him forever.  They would become the framework, the basic structure for the words Paul himself would speak.  Now Paul would be speaking Stephen’s words.  It was as if Stephen still lived – certainly his message lived on.

Then God sent a man named Ananias to Paul.  That was quite an act of faith for Ananias who had been praying Paul wouldn’t come, and if he did wouldn’t find him!  Through Ananias Paul received his sight and publicly showed his new faith by adult baptism (immersion). 

Paul spent the next few days in Damascus and at once preached that Jesus was the Messiah in the synagogues.  What a time that must have been!  Some probably thought, though, that he was using this as a truck to sneak into the church and find out who was a Christian so he could have them killed.  Because of this uproar he wasn’t able to stay in Damascus long, though. 

BASIC TRAINING   Paul spent the next two years in the Arabian desert, from the summer of 35 to the summer of 37 AD.  He fled partly to protect his life but also to learn more about his new faith.  He learned to depend on God during these years.  God taught him spiritual truths and how to apply the information he already knew about the Old Testament to Christianity.  He learned more, perhaps meeting with Jesus directly for instruction.  He had time to think, reflect, digest and integrate this new world view into his life.  He witness to and taught others he happened upon, learning to share his new faith.  He had time to grow spiritually.  Something similar happened to Moses in the same desert.  God used this time for Paul to grow spiritually.

APPRENTICESHIP  From the summer to the fall of 37 AD Paul spent back in Damascus for awhile, then in Jerusalem and finally in Tarsus.  He started apply his new knowledge n practical situations, gaining experience teaching and preaching about Jesus. 

            Jerusalem was especially hard on Paul, for his conversion account wasn’t believed by the Jews, who didn’t trust him.  Only his old friend Barnabas stood by him and encouraged the others to accept him as a brother in the faith.  With the persecution now over and Paul helping spread the word, a period of peace and growth came to the church. 

            It seems Paul went home to Tarsus during this time, too.  I wonder how his father and others there responded to this change in Paul’s life?  He must have really desired to see them put their faith in Jesus, but we don’t know if any did or not.  It seems he was scoured 5 times by the synagogue leaders, so he wasn’t any quicker to quit than that were to believe.  Some say this is what undermined his health and that he was bowlegged the rest of his life.  A complete break from family and Judaism occurred here and now. 

BEGINNING MINISTRY  Then Paul went to Syria and Cilicia from the fall of 37 to spring of 43 AD – 5 ½ years.  He ministered, but he learned as well.  He traveled on his own as God was preparing him for the upcoming missionary journeys he would lead.  He preached, planted and strengthened churches, and learned patience through suffering.  He may have even experienced death and come back to life during this time (II Cor 12:1-10).

            There was a complete, total change in his life and heart.  Now he had the satisfaction and peace which had eluded him for so long.  His life totally turned around.  Outwardly he went from the top to the bottom (a leader in Judaism to a disciple of Jesus).  Inwardly, though, things went from the bottom (turmoil and guilt) to the top (peace and satisfaction).

            Eventually Paul ended up in Antioch where a very strong Christian church had begun, and where believers were first called ‘Christians.’  It was at this time and place that the story ‘Ben Hur’ takes place.  Paul became a leader in the church there – not one of the top men but a leader in training.  God was preparing him for the upcoming missionary outreach to Gentiles which Paul would soon spearhead.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE RANCH …  During these years the early church grew and prospered.  They went through a time of consolidation and maturity in preparation for the next growth spurt.

            In about 38 AD Peter was in Lydda ministering when God used him to heal a man named Aeneas (9:32-35).  In nearby Joppa he brought a woman named Dorcas back to life (9:36-43).  God used these things to get a hearing for the gospel.  Note that these miracles were done with a word or touch.  Healing was instantaneous and 100% total and forever. All were healed, not just some.  Organic diseases were healed and the dead were brought back to life. As time went on, though, the testimony of a changed life lived among people became the proof that the gospel had power.  In AD 35 all were healed (Acts 5:16).  By 60 AD some were healed.  Epaphroditus (Paul 2:25-27) and Paul’s own thorn in the flesh were not healed.  In 67 AD few were healed.  Trophimus (II Timothy 4:20) and Timothy’s stomach were not healed.  Today God uses the testimony of a changed life as proof of His power to touch and changed lives.  That’s one reason it is so important for us to life a holy life for Jesus in this time.


10. ACTS 10-11: PETER PIONEERING

Peter to the Gentiles (10:1 – 11:18) – Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea, Jerusalem – 40 – 41 AD

Barnabas to Antioch (11:19-24) – Antioch – 41 AD

Paul to Antioch (11:25-26) – Tarsus, Antioch – Spring 43 AD

Agabus predicts famine (11:27-28) -Jerusalem – Spring 44

Paul’s relief visit (11:30) – Jerusalem – Autumn 47

OBSERVATION  Read the chapters several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

10  1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.

            What was a Centurion (look up your answer to make it specific)?

            What was the Italian Regiment?  Why are we told he was with that regiment?

2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

            What does “God-fearing” mean?  (Look it up, don’t just take a guess.)

            If he was god-fearing, did good and prayed to God, why did God have to send him Peter to tell him about Jesus?

3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

            Why did God tell Cornelius that Peter was coming?

7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants.  8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. 9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.

            God told Cornelius that Peter would come before He even asked Peter.  Does this mean Peter didn’t have a free-will choice?  What if Peter would have rejected God’s directions?

10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

            What significance does Peter’s vision have for all Jews (see also 11:5-10)?

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” 22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” 27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” 30 Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached– 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen– by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

11  1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

            Why does the Bible go into so much detail, and so much of it repeated, about one man and his salvation experience?

            What significance does this story about Cornelius have for you personally?

            We see a different Peter in this story than we see in the life of Jesus.  What has changed about him?  List as many changes as you can.  What do you think caused them? 

            What areas in your life need to change? 

How can God change you?

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

            What is the connection between these verses and the story of Cornelius?

            The center of the early church shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch.  Why?  What was there about Antioch that made it a good place for early Christianity (learn about Antioch from a Bible dictionary)?

22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

OUTLINE THE CHAPTERS.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapters a title and summarize the main idea of these chapters.

Pick one key verse in the chapters and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (‘CHRISTIAN’)

In Acts 11:26 the term ‘Christian’ is used for the first time.  Just exactly what does it mean?  Why was it chosen over other options?  Look up the term and list the various ways the word is used today.  Try and find the various ways the term has been used throughout history.  This can be a very interesting and informative study, so take your time and do a good job of it. 

 

 


PETER PIONEERING (Acts 10-11)

 

            Gabriel said John the Baptizer would be a “light to the Gentiles.”  Jesus Himself said He had “other sheep” to bring into the fold (John 6:37; 10:16).  But if you would have told a Jew that their Messiah died for Gentiles as well as Jews, they would have been shocked.  Jews saw Gentiles (called “goy”) as unclean, created by God only for the purpose of ‘stoking the fires of hell.’  A godly Jew would not touch a Gentile, drink milk from their animals, eat bread that they baked, or allow dust from their land to settle on his clothing.  These would make them ‘unclean.’  To tell a Jew, then, to go invite them into the Kingdom as equal heirs with Jews was quite a cultural change!

            Peter, who wasn’t know for his open mindedness and tolerance, was God’s choice to make the first breakthrough.  Praise God it happened, though – or we would have to become Orthodox Jews before we would be eligible for salvation by Jesus!

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CAESAREA AND JOPPA  In 40 AD Peter was in a town called Joppa (10:5) which was Jerusalem’s seaport, 38 miles away.  It was an average sized city.  Today it is called Jaffa.  Our story, though, takes place in Caesarea (10:1), 30 miles (2 days travel) north of Joppa.  It was a showcase city built by Herod the Great and the seat of government for Judea.  It had the best port around.  Philip settled here, and it had a strong church for centuries. 

CORNELIUS  Many Roman soldiers were stationed in Caesarea, and one was a man named Cornelius (10:1).  He came from a distinguished upper class Roman family.  He was a centurion, which means he commanded 100 soldiers.  That would be like being a sergeant.  Centurions were the backbone of the army.  Like Abraham was chosen to be the first Jew, so Cornelius was chosen to be the first Gentile in the Church.  He believed in the Jews’ God and helped those in need.  He was a spiritual man who sought a close, personal relationship with God (10:2).  God knew his heart and sent what he needed to develop that relationship.  So God sent an angel to tell him to fetch Peter from Joppa and to listen to what he said (10:3-6). 

PETER GETS THE WORD  Before the messenger arrived at Peter’s place, God prepared Peter for what was to happen.  He was on the roof where it was cooler and more private, praying (10:9). This shows a change in Peter, for it’s hard for a sanguine to have consistent devotions.  God showed him a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals in it, clean and unclean (kosher and not kosher).  God told Peter he could now eat all these animals (10:10-13).  Peter said no, because he knew it was against the Old Testament laws (10:14).  God, in effect, was negating those laws.  It was so strong in Peter, though, that it was hard for him to give up.  God has to repeat this three times for Peter to get the message (10:15-16). 

            God has been working in Peter in others ways.  The very fact that he was staying in the house of a tanner (10:6) shows he was facing and working through his prejudices.  Tanners were unclean because of the dead animals they constantly touched.  They were socially ostracized and forced to live apart from others purely because of the stench that came from their trade.  Staying with one showed Peter was moving in the right direction. 

MESSENGERS ARRIVE  About this time the messengers showed up and God’s Spirit told Peter to go with them (10:17-20).  The old Peter wouldn’t have had anything to do with a Gentile, much less go into one’s house.  Peter now invites these Gentiles into the home where he is staying (10:23),  That is a major step by Peter, something he had never done before.

PETER’S MESSAGE  For two days Peter walked and thought about all this until they got to Caesarea (10:23b-24). He took some Jewish Christians along.  During this time Cornelius had gathered friends and family in anticipation of Peter’s arrival (10:24b).  He trusted God would provide and He did.  Peter even entered the house with his Jewish brothers ((10:25-27). 

            Peter explained why he, a Jew, would do such a thing with a Gentile (10:28), then asked Cornelius why he sent for him (10:29).  Cornelius replied that he didn’t know, just that God had told him to do so (10:30-33).  Peter put two and two together and realized that if Cornelius had been a Jew then Peter would have told him about salvation in Jesus.  Because of God’s revelation of the animals in the sheet, Peter realized that the Jew-Gentile line was removed and he should do the same for Cornelius as if he was a Jew.  So he went ahead and told everyone present about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection (10:34-43).  Luke summarizes what Peter said here.  The fuller version is recorded in the Gospel of Mark, for Mark records Peter’s words in his gospel. 

CORNELIUS’ CONVERSION  Before Peter was even done speaking God’s Spirit came upon the Gentiles there (10:44).  They had accepted Peter’s words in their heart as he spoke and were born again while listening.  All praised God because of the salvation of these, and that Gentiles were not one with Jews in Jesus (10:45-46).  They were baptized (10:47).  Peter stayed there several days talking with them and teaching them (10:48). 

RESPONSE OF JEWISH BELIEVERS  When the Jewish believers heard about this they were astonished (11:1).  Peter went to Jerusalem to answer the questions of those who objected (11:2-3).  Peter went through the whole account with them (11:4-17).  Actually this event is recorded in detail three times in the book of Acts, showing how important it is!  When Peter was done they all agreed that God has included Gentiles in his plan of salvation (11:18).

SPEAKING IN TONGUES  To show that Gentiles are equal to Jews in the church, the exact thing happened to them as happened to the Jews at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit first came upon Jews – they spoke in languages they hadn’t known.   This hadn’t been the pattern, for Peter says “the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning” (11:15).  Peter had to go back to Pentecost to describe what happened.  Speaking in tongues was not the normal way of showing salvation.  In fact, we can see a real pattern in Acts.  First the Holy Spirit came with the Jewish sign of tongues as a sign of judgment to the nation for rejecting God’s messiah (2:3-11).  Hearing the Gospel spoken to them in Gentile languages was a sign in Isaiah that they missed it!  Then when the Holy Spirit Gentiles were added the exact same thing happened to show there were not two churches but just one.  No account of anyone speaking in tongues between these two is given.

CHURCH GROWTH SPURT  This brought a growth spirit for the next several years.  A strong church developed at Antioch during the next several years (11:19-21).  Barnabas asked Paul to come join him ministering and teaching there (11:22-26).    This was Paul’s training for when God would send him our as the missionary to the Gentiles. 

            When word came that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were in financial trouble, the Gentile believers saw an opportunity to help them so they collected money and sent it by Barnabas and Saul (47 AD).  Thus the Jews and Gentiles needed each other and worked together, as God wants us to continue to do so today.  All we have is by His grace anyway!

 

11. ACTS 12: PEOPLE PRAYING

Agrippa Persecution, James martyred (12:1-23) – Jerusalem, Caesarea – Spring 44 AD

Paul in Antioch (12:25 – 13:1) – Antioch – Autumn 47 – Spring 48

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.

            Who was this Herod (Herod Agrippa I)?  Learn what you can about him.

2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

            Summarize John’s life from information in the Gospels.  What is known about him?

3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.

            Why did God allow James to die (v. 2) but Peter to live?  How is that fair?

10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

            Why did God release Peter in such a supernatural way? 

What was God trying to teach Peter?

What is God trying to teach us?

What lessons in life is God trying to teach you right now?

11 Then Peter came o himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

            If they were earnestly praying for Peter (v. 5) why didn’t they believe it was him when he came?

            Give some examples in your life of when you prayed for something and then were surprised (didn’t quite believe it) when it happened?

17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

            Rewrite verse 23 in your own words, elaborating on it and explaining in more detail what happened and why it happened.

24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread. 25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

            Carefully list all the miracles that are involved in Acts 12.  Go slow and read between the lines or you will miss some.

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse in the chapter and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (ANGELS)

Study about angels in a Bible Dictionary.  Summarize what is said about them.

Look up each use of the word ‘angel’ in the Gospels.  Summarize each passage.


Matt 1:20

Matt 1:24

Matt 2:13

Matt 2:19

Matt 4:6

Matt 4:11

Matt 13:39

Matt 13:41

Matt 13:49

Matt 16:27

Matt 18:10

Matt 22:30

Matt 24:31

Matt 24:36

Matt 25:31

Matt 25:41

Matt 26:53

Matt 28:2

Matt 28:5

Mark 1:13

Mark 8:38

Mark 12:25

Mark 13:27

Mark 13:32

Luke 1:11

Luke 1:13

Luke 1:18

Luke 1:19

Luke 1:26

Luke 1:28

Luke 1:30

Luke 1:34

Luke 1:35

Luke 1:38

Luke 2:9

Luke 2:10

Luke 2:13

Luke 2:15

Luke 2:21

Luke 4:10

Luke 9:26

Luke 12:8

Luke 12:9

Luke 15:10

Luke 16:22

Luke 20:36

Luke 22:43

Luke 24:23

John 1:51

John 12:29

John 20:12


Look up each use of the word ‘angel’ in the book of Acts.  Summarize each passage.


Acts 5:19

Acts 6:15

Acts 7:30

Acts 7:35

Acts 7:38

Acts 7:53

Acts 8:26

Acts 10:3

Acts 10:4

Acts 10:7

Acts 10:22

Acts 11:13

Acts 12:7

Acts 12:8

Acts 12:8

Acts 12:9

Acts 12:10

Acts 12:11

Acts 12:15

Acts 12:23

Acts 23:8

Acts 23:9

Acts 27:23


List specifically what angels are doing right now.


PEOPLE PRAYING (Acts 12)

 

I moved the mouse, but nothing happened. I hit the enter key, but all was quiet. I typed in several letters, but still no response. Then all of a sudden, everything I had done happened in rapid succession. The computer had finally awakened!  Many computers these days have a nice featured called the Energy Saver Mode. When there are no demands on the system, no instructions to be followed, no programs to execute, the computer will slip into a quiet restfulness that is designed to save electricity. The computer will stay in this suspended mode as long as it is left undisturbed, and will wake up (sometimes rather slowly) only when the user begins to initiate an action on the computer.

JAMES DIES, PETER IS NEXT   It was the spring of 44 AD, only 11 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, and the Christians were experiencing some serious persecution. King Herod had arrested James and killed him (12:1-2).  When he saw how well that went over with the religious leaders of the day, he arrested Peter with the same intent. Peter was kept in prison awaiting execution (12:3).  He must have prayed to be released, but God seemed silent.  Day and night he sat, awaiting his execution.

PEACEFUL SLEEP  While he was there: “On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping” (12:6).  He was sleeping?! One of his best friends had just been executed. He was next in line. The execution was only hours away. And he was sleeping?

When do you sleep the worst? When a project is due the next day? When the bills on the kitchen table add up to more than the balance in the checking account? When your kids are out late? When you are nervous, stressed, worried?  When do you sleep the best? When you are on vacation? On Friday evenings when you know you can sleep late the next morning? When your projects are completed and you are “ahead of the game?” When you are at peace?

“Peter was sleeping…”  We toss and turn with thoughts of work and life. We stare wide-eyed at the ceiling wondering how we will make it till the end of the month. We lie awake, our head spinning with our responsibilities. Then we look at Peter and think: “How in the world could he have slept at such a time?”  Perhaps he was remembering the words of Christ: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“God,  It is late in the evening, and I can’t sleep.  My mind simply won’t slow down.  I need Your peace. I need to be reminded that rest is found in you.  That the security that allows sleep starts in You.  That I can come to You, and you will give me rest.  Work in my heart and in my mind and in my emotions.  Give me Your peace. Lead me into Your rest.  Amen.”

DELIVERANCE  Peter was sleeping so soundly it evidently took awhile for him to awaken!  The angel had to tell him to get dressed (12:8).  Peter was totally confused, unaware he was awake (12:9).  The guards didn’t even see them leave, they invisible to the guards’ vision.  When the angel left Peter out in the cool night air he fully awakened and realized God had delivered him (12:11).  What a tremendous experience that must have been!  What peace Peter had, all from God’s grace.  If it had been God’s will for him to die, he would also have experienced the same grace.  Being in God’s will means it doesn’t matter to us what happens, as long as it is what God wants.  James must have had the same peace when he was killed.  Why was James killed and Peter spared?  Why not the other way around, or both spared?  No one knows but God.  We don’t need to know why God does what He does, we only need to know that it is His will that is taking place. 

ALL NIGHT PRAYER MEETINGS  How very human and like us believers then were!  Peter goes to an all-night prayer meeting, where they are praying for him, but they don’t believe it is Peter (12:12-15).  They think it is his ‘ghost.’  Before we are too hard on them, though, remember that often we are so surprised when God answers a prayer of ours that we can hardly believe it!

            Eventually Peter got in and told them what had happened, then went to report to another group of believers who was praying (12:16-17).  I wonder how much knowing that groups of believers were gathered throughout the city praying for him helped Peter relax and sleep?  Wouldn’t it help if you knew people were praying for you!  Maybe you need to let them know when you have a need and ask them to pray.  They can’t read your mind you know.  Don’t let pride rob you of a blessing!

‘NO SMALL COMMOTION’  In the morning, when it was discovered that Peter had escaped, everyone was in an uproar (12:18).  A somber note is that the 16 guards assigned to watch Peter were all executed (12:19).  The officials looked for a human explanation to what had happened but couldn’t find one, so they took their embarrassment and frustration out on the innocent guards.  They should have asked God what had happened, not the guards!

HEROD’S ‘GLORIFICATION’  The scene now shifts to Caesarea, where Cornelius lived.  A difficult political situation was resolved (12:19b-20) and a special celebration was being held (12:21).  Herod sat on his throne in royal robes and gave a speech.  Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived shortly after this time, said it was a festival day to honor Claudius Caesar (August 2). 

            The speech was fine, the king impressive, sun reflected off the silver and gold trimmings, and everyone was in a good mood.  The people said, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man” (12:22).  Now it was up to Herod in his heart to decide how to respond to this praise.  He took it as his own in his pride and didn’t give God any credit for his health or position (12:23a). 

What an awful thing it is when we steal God’s glory!  It’s easy to do – just take credit for something God has done in your life.  When someone complements your for a musical performance, meal, good grade, completed project at work, or whatever it may be, make sure that, in your heart, you share the glory with God.  Recognize where you would be and what you would have without Him.  What talent or gift do you have that hasn’t come from Him?  You can graciously say “Thank you” to the person, but inside pass on the glory to God!  Herod didn’t do that and he paid for it!

HEROD’S HUMILIATION  “An angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died” (12:23b).  God judged him for his pride.  He was also guilty of persecuting the church, killing James and trying to kill Peter.  Josephus says he suffered in terrible agony for 5 days before dying.  God was humbling him and giving him time to repent and humble himself, but we have no record that he did so. 

CHURCH GROWS  All these things encouraged the new Christians and the church continued to grow (12:24).  In the fall of 47 AD Barnabas and Paul went back to Jerusalem after having delivered the Gentile Christians’ offering to the Jewish believers (12:25).  John Mark went from Jerusalem up to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.  God is gathering together His team for the first mission journey which will soon start (Acts 13).  Gentiles are ‘in’ and now things are prepared for a larger push among the Gentiles. 

JAMES WRITTEN  It was during this time that James, the half brother of Jesus, wrote his letter to Jewish believers everywhere.  That will be summarized in the next article. 

12. JAMES: TRUE FAITH

Date: 45 ADPlace of Writing: Jerusalem      Author: James, brother of Jesus

Recipients: Jewish Believers Scattered Everywhere

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

What does “faith without works is dead” (2:17) mean exactly.  This is very important to know.

How is Abraham an example of this (2:20-24)?

How is Rahab an example of this (2:25-26)?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (WISDOM)

James 1 has a lot to say about wisdom.  First do a word study on the Greek and Hebrew words for wisdom.  The Greek word is sophia (sof-ee’-ah); Strongs number 4678 and 4680.  The Hebrew word is chokmah (khok-maw’); Strongs number 2449 and 2451.  Both are translated ‘wisdom.’ Then look up uses of these words in the Bible and come up with your own definition.  Compare this to what James says about wisdom in chapter 1. 


JAMES: TRUE FAITH

 

TITLE:  Named for the author

AUTHOR:  James, half brother of Jesus

 

 

DATE of WRITING:  45 AD (1st NT book)

PLACE of  WRITING: Jerusalem

TIME COVERED: 45 AD

RECIPIENTS:  Jewish Believers everywhere

KEY VERSE: “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith

without deeds is useless?” 2:20

KEY WORD:   “faith” (16 times); :works: (15 times)

PURPOSE:  For James to communicate with Jewish believers

wherever they were.  Since salvation wasn’t by works, then

what role did good works have in the Christian life?

THEME: True faith produces true works.

 

            Suppose someone in your church fell over and didn’t move.  How would you know if they were dead?  You’d check for signs of life: a pulse and breathing.  When there is breathing there is physical life, when there is no breathing there is no life.  James says the same thing is true spiritually.  How is one to know if a body has spiritual life?  If there are good works there is life, if there are no good works there is no spiritual life.  It’s that simple.  “Faith without works is dead” is James’ theme.

A Christian man worked each day transporting tourists across a lake.  On occasion he would present the Gospel and its implications for life in a most unusual way.  He had painted the word “Faith” on one of the oars of his rowboat and “Works” on the other.  When they got quite far from shore, he would stop, then, beginning to row with only the one oar marked “faith,” he would cause the boat to go in circles to the left.  Reversing the process, he would pull on the other oar marked “works,” and they would circle in the opposite direction.  By this time the bewildered passengers were waiting for an explanation.  This afforded him a wonderful opportunity to give them the truth concerning discipleship and the Christian life.  He always concluded by saying, “You see, neither faith nor works can stand alone.  They are twins that cannot be separated!”  (James 2:20)

FAITH AND WORKS  James is the first New Testament book written. Four hundred years of silence are broken.  Nothing has been inspired since Malachi.  Now God’s Spirit again moves man to write. Their first problem is the relationship of grace and works.  The second book written, Galatians, is about this same theme.  Each seeks to avoid an extreme.

Now that Jews could become Christians without having to keep all the Jewish laws, what is the place of holy living?  If it doesn’t gain salvation, why live a godly life?  If salvation is free, what does it matter how we live?  Good works don’t earn our salvation, but they do show that we already have salvation.  They a sign of faith.  If faith is true, it will be manifest in how one lives.  Salvation by faith will result in changed priorities, godly motives, humility, love, a desire to witness, and a live like Jesus. 

 

JAMES THE MAN was the brother of Jesus.  He became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, along with John, when John’s brother James was killed.  This James grew up with Jesus but didn’t believe until he saw His half brother after the resurrection. 

I. TRUE FAITH AND TRIALS (1 – 2)  James starts by talking about faith in times of trials and testing.  It’s one thing to say we believe in God and trust Him, it’s another to show it when life is painful and unfair.  It’s interesting that James should start the New Testament by dealing with the problem of pain.  The first book in the Old Test., Job, is about the same subject!  True faith will triumph over obstacles.

II. TRUE FAITH AND TALK (3)  A second way true faith is shown is by our words.  Since they show what is in our hearts, when our hearts change so will our talk.  When we seek God’s wisdom then we will become more like Jesus and our life will show it in all areas.  In order for our life to show this, though, we must seek God’s wisdom, not the world’s wisdom.  God’s ways are different than man’s ways.  God’s priorities and values differ from the world’s. 

III. TRUE FAITH AND TROUBLES  (4)  Another evidence of spiritual life is how one faces temptation.  All will be tempted, and temptation is not sin, but continual progress over sin in life will be seen when one lives by faith.  There doesn’t have to be total victory immediately, but there must be progress in that direction.  Faith results in one turning from worldliness. 

IV. TRUE FAITH AND TRUST (5)  Staying on the theme of materialism, true faith sees things as temporary and not the main thing in life.  True faith will result in patience, godly speech and prayer.

            Now, can you prove that YOU are alive?  OK, physically you are breathing, so you have physical life.  What about spiritually?  Do you have spiritual life?  Are there good works in your life, fruit of the Spirit, Christlikeness being reproduced in you?  If not, what needs to happen in your life now to bring about the good works God requires?

Billy Graham had this to say about faith and works and their relationship to each other:    “There really is no conflict between faith and works.  In the Christian life they go together like inhaling and exhaling. Faith is taking the Gospel in; works is taking the Gospel out. Actually, what James is saying is:  you can’t have one without the other. The book of James balances off this matter of faith and works, and reminds us that the Christian must have both.  True, we are not saved by works, but James reminds us also that we are not saved if good works do not follow.  Some people argue this point so vehemently that it almost becomes like the old argument of which comes first, the chicken or the egg.  The word “believe” comes from two words, “be” and “live”.  Faith helps us to “be,” spiritually.  But after we receive life, it is to find expression in Christian works and deeds.  To show that there is no conflict in the Scriptures between the two, Paul, the advocate of faith speaks of “being rich in works,” and James, the exponent of works, says, “rich in faith.”  Why be content with either when God has provided for, and says we must have both.”

 

 


13. ACTS 13-14: FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY

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Departure from Antioch – April 48

Cyprus – April to June 48

Pamphylia – First of July to middle of July 48

Pisidian Antioch – Mid July to Mid Sept 48

Iconium – Oct 48 to end of Feb 49

Lystra & Derbe – March to Middle of June 49

Return to churches – Mid June to August 49

Return to Antioch of Syria – September 49

OBSERVATION  Read the chapters several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

13  1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.

            Note that Saul is listed last.  He’s a leader, but not one of the top ones.  God tains all His people for service, and that takes time.  What has been going on in Saul’s life during the last several years?  (use a Bible dictionary, Commentary or book on the life of Paul to see what has been happening)

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

            Why does Luke refer to the Holy Spirit so often (v. 2, 9, etc.)? 

            How do you think the Holy Spirit told them?  Did they hear voices?

            How are we to hear the Holy Spirit today (be specific)?

            Why did god put Paul and Barnabas together when they are so different? (give this serious thought)

3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. 4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. 6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord. 13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.” 16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ 23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’ 26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. 32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ 34 The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ 35 So it is stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ 36 “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. 38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'” 42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. 49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

14 1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news. 8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

            What was the main goal of the First Missionary Journey?

            Use a map to trace Paul’s travels.

            Only some of the events of this missionary journey are recorded in the Bible.  What is the main significance of each of the following events and why was it chosen to be recorded in the Bible?

            13:6-12            13:13-52          14:1-7              14:8-20            14:21-23

            Was the goal of the First Missionary Journey met?

            Would Paul have said it was ‘successful’?

            What was the most outstanding contribution the First Missionary Journey made to the church?

OUTLINE THE CHAPTERS.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give it a title and summarize the main idea of these chapters.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (SYNAGOGUE/CHURCH)

The church started in the synagogue.  Read about synagogues in the time of Jesus and Paul.  What similarities are there between synagogues then and churches now?  What differences are there?

 

 

PAUL’S 1ST MISSIONARY JOURNEY (Acts 13-14)

 

            The church at Antioch found itself as the center of the new movement of believers in Jesus the Christ.  Persecution had moved the central focus from Jerusalem, and it ended up in Antioch, where believers were first called ‘Christians’. 

God had assembled a leadership cadre from various nations and ethnic backgrounds to lead the fledgling church there.  One of the lesser men in that group was a man named Saul.  He had been brought there by Barnabas, perhaps the main leader, to help with the teaching (Acts 12:1).

APRIL, 48  God has obviously already working in the hearts of some of them to take the Gospel to those who haven’t heard.  Perhaps Barnabas and Saul, who were friends from way back, had talked about going to Cyprus with the plan of salvation.  Mountain ranges rimmed the north, desert the east, and Jerusalem was to the south.  The natural direction to go was to the west. 

            When the church there was seeking God’s guidance and worshipping His greatness, the Spirit showed them that they should send Barnabas and Saul on this journey (v. 2).  The church prayed and fasted about this, committed them to the work, and committed themselves to pray for them and support  them (v 3). 

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APRIL – JUNE, 48  Barnabas and Saul went to Seleucia, Cyprus and Salamis (4-5). Wherever they went they preached, first in the synagogues then where ever people could gather (5).

JUNE 48  While in Paphos they had a run-in with a Jewish sorcerer who worked by Satan’s power, named Elymas (6-12).  God blinded him in such a way that He was glorified and many came to faith (12).  A change in leadership took place here, though.  Verse 7 says “Barnabas and Saul” went there, then Saul was used by God to defeat Satan’s forces (9-11).  From here on we see Saul as the leader.  “Paul and his companions” (13). 

Saul (Hebrew name) is now called Paul (Roman name) because the focus of his ministry switches to Gentiles here.  Naturally they would call him ‘Paul.’ 

Paul’s natural leadership skills came to the forefront and he took over leadership.  Notice, though, that he waited patiently until the time was right for this transition.  He didn’t push himself to the front.  Notice, too, that Barnabas wasn’t competing with him and let the change naturally come.  He didn’t care if he was first or second, just so God’s work was done and Jesus glorified.  We certainly need more people like Paul and Barnabas today!

            Not everyone then was like them, either.  In fact, Mark, who came along to help, returned home shortly after that. Didn’t he like Paul taking over leadership from his uncle Barnabas?  Was the trip too long and hard for him?  Was he homesick?  Lovesick? Was he discouraged about the response?  Did he not want to see Gentiles saved? Was he concerned about illness?  It seems Paul may have contracted malaria at this time and was nursed back to health in Galatia.  Did Mark fear this?  Whatever the cause, his defection really hurt Paul who wouldn’t let him come along on the second missionary journey.  Barnabas took him and they went on their own trip.  Later, however, Paul and Mark were reunited and again worked together for the cause of Christ. 

EARLY TO MID JULY, 48  Paul and Barnabas then sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, then to Pisidian Antioch (13-14).  Paul gave a long message about Jesus to those in the synagogue here (14-41).  It was typical of his messages to Jews that were living in Gentile cities.  First he shows that a Savior is promised (16-25).  He quotes Old Testament scriptures and uses historical examples to show a Savior is needed.  Then he talks about a savior being provided (336-37).  He explains about Jesus’ life, crucifixion and resurrection.  He concludes with an invitation to accept Jesus as their Messiah and Lord (38-41).  He also warns them about what will happen if they don’t turn to Jesus. 

MID JULY TO MID SEPT, 48  The response to this message was so positive that the people wanted to hear more, so Paul and Barnabas stayed in Pisidian Antioch for two months, teaching and preaching.  The Jews rejected their message, but the Gentiles welcomed it (42-52).  The word spread throughout the whole geographical area, including Galatia.  Paul did some traveling there during this time, forming a close report with the people there.  His malaria got so bad they had to nurse him back to health (Gal 4:13-15).  These people were rough, independent and in many ways uncivilized.  After Paul returned to Antioch at the end of this missionary journey, he wrote back to the people.  It was his first letter that is recorded in the Bible, the book of Galatians.  Eventually those who rejected the message had Paul and Barnabas sent out of town so they went to Iconium. 

OCTOBER 48 TO END OF FEB., 49 AD  At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue first, as was their pattern  Acts 14:1-5).  Some Jews believed, but many rejected and stirred up the Gentiles against them.  To avoid physical harm they fled.

MARCH TO MID JUNE 49  Paul and Barnabas went to the Lycoanian cities of Lystra and Derbe.  These were small, rural villages. The whole area was rough and primitive.   Timothy, Lois and Eunice lived in Lystra.   God used them to heal a crippled man in Lystra (8).  The people believed that they were gods and wanted to offer sacrifices to them (9-13).  Local tradition said that in the past Zeus and Hermes, the gods, came to Lystra, but were rejected so they destroyed the town.  Folklore said they would one day return.  Paul and Barnabas looked like them, and the miraculous sign seemed to prove it to the people. 

            They denied their deity, though (14-18), and tried to point the people to Jesus.  Still, they wanted to deity them.  Then some Jews who had traveled 100 miles just to oppose Paul, Barnabas and the Gospel arrived and turned the crowd against Paul and Barnabas.  They stoned Paul and drug him outside the city, leaving him for dead (20).  It seems he really did die and God brought him back to life.  Paul tells about this time in II Corinthians 12:1-5).  What an encouraging, motivating experience that must have been for Paul!

END OF JUNE 49  The next day Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe.  The response there was great and positive (21).  They could have took a short cut home through the Cilician Gates to Paul’s home town of Tarsus, but retraced their steps so they could revisit, encourage and strengthen the churches they had just started (22-23). 

JULY – SEPTEMBER 49  They traveled through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch on the way (21), then Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga and Attalia.  They were glad to see the churches they started growing.

SEPT 49 – APRIL 50  Back in Antioch they told of how God had worked in Jews and Gentiles alike.  They spent several months there.  Paul wrote the Letter to the Galatians during this time.  The time had been successfully spent, for many Gentiles had responded to the Gospel.  Soon God would put it on Paul’s heart to revisit those churches and travel even further until the Word spread to us now.


14. GALATIANS: CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

Date: Fall 49 AD    Place of Writing: Ephesus         Author: Paul

Recipients: Churches in Galatia (Asia Minor)

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (LAW & GRACE)

Paul compares law and grace in Galatians.  List as many of these comparisons as you can find. 

What arguments does Paul use to show that grace is greater than legalism?

In what ways can we become legalistic today?

What is the solution for it?

 

 

GALATIANS: CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

TITLE: Named for the recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:  49 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Antioch

RECIPIENTS:  Churches in Galatia (Asia Minor)

KEY VERSE: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand

firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” 5:1

KEY WORDS:   “Christ” (43 times); “law” (32); “Flesh” (18); “Faith”

(22); “spirit” (15)

PURPOSE: To show the readers that the purpose of the law is to

lead us to Christ (3:24) and the purpose of Christ is to free us (5:1), bring Christian liberty.

THEME:. To show that the believer is free from the law and legalism.

When I was a new Christian I was invited to join the Mormon church as well as Herbert W. Armstrong’s Radio Church of God.  As I checked into these groups I found they each had at their core a set of practices that one must adhere to.  The big things, even the little things in life, were regulated and specific responses were set for most any event.  That didn’t seem too unusual, though, because the Baptist church I was a member of was pretty much the same way.  New members took their cue from the older ones about how to dress, act, talk and think in most any situation.  If one didn’t know they had only to ask and the answer was given.  Everything was black and white.  At first that nice because I didn’t have to make decisions on my own.  They were all made.  As a new Christian I could act and look just like those who had been Christians their whole lives.  Instant spirituality was available to any who would just follow the ‘rules.’  However before long I realized that my Christian life was being lived by and for other Christians, not Christ.  Fear of what others would think motivated all I did.  It was empty.  Oh, it appealed to my pride, but where was the ‘personal relationship’ I so longed for?

Then in Bible College the first book of the Bible I studied in depth was the book of Galatians – just what I needed!  Paul was writing to people who were facing the same dilemma I was.  He had just completed his First Missionary Journey, going through Asia Minor into the area of Galatia in the middle of it.  Several churches were started there, but after Paul left Jewish Christians who said one had to keep all the Jewish law in order to have salvation came in and misled the people.  So when Paul got back to Antioch he wrote them to straighten them, and me, out about the relationship of law and grace.  What he did was give three proofs why we are free from any form of law.  These are as follows:

I. BIOGRAPHICAL PROOF (1:10-2:21) – An Independent Revelation  First Paul talks in detail about himself, something he does in no other book.  However in no other book is he writing to people who distrust him and his motives.  He must prove that God is speaking through him or no one will listen to anything he has to say.  Thus he gives his credentials first.

            Paul points out that he got his message directly from Jesus, not Jewish rabbis, for they were opposed to him (1:10-14), nor from the apostles for they kept away from him (1:15-17).  Neither did he get his message from the churches in Judea for he didn’t learn from them (1:18-24) nor from anyone else (2:1-18).  He himself had kept the law better than any of them ever could, yet he knew from experience that that was empty (2:19021).

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II. THEOLOGICAL PROOF (3:1 – 4:31) – Failure of Legalism  Having shown that his readers could trust the source of the message (Paul) he now focuses on the message itself.  He reminds them that if grace is how they were saved, that should be how they live the Christian life (3:1-5).  Any system that focus on impressing or pleasing man or God fails because the focus is on outer actions, not inter attitude.  Paul even uses Abraham as an example of salvation and Christian living by faith, before God gave him any laws (3:6-22).  Actually the law makes us slaves, not free (4:8-31).

 

III. PRACTICAL PROOF (5:1 – 6:10) – THE Effect of Liberty  After showing that trying to keep the law is an inferior way to live, Paul shows the superior way of following Jesus. Legalism is under God’s judgment for it seeks to add to the finished work of Jesus.  It elevates our work of the flesh and feeds our pride.  God wants us to obey and serve Him out of love.  When we obey and serve out of love the results will be evident in our lives: the fruit of the Holy Spirit, humility and meekness, faithfulness, perseverance, to name a few (5:25-6:10). 

 

            A woman worked for a man whose wife had died.  Every day he gave her a list of chores and jobs to do and she did them because he paid her at the end of the week.  Eventually they got to love each other and married.  She found she was doing the very things he had paid her to do and more, but there was no list and no pay.  She now did them out of love.  Her motive had changed.  What is your motive in serving God?  If it isn’t love, it isn’t right/


 

15. ACTS 15: THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL

Date: Autumn 49  AD       Place: Syrian Antioch, Phoenicia & Samaria, Jerusalem

OBSERVATION  Read the chapter several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

            What conditions do people today put on salvation?

            What conditions were they putting on salvation in Paul’s day?

1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

            Why was circumcision so important to the Jews?

            What did circumcision signify?  Why did God give it as a sign?

2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. 5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”

            What do you think caused these enemies of Jesus to committed followers?

6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 that have been known for ages.

            What passage is quoted here?  What is its main point?  Why did they use this passage?

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” 22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. 23 With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul– 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

            Summarize what happened:   The Problem ____________

                                                            The Discussion ____________

                                                            The Conclusion ____________

            Summarize each ‘side’ in the conflict and who championed it.

Compare and contrast law and grace.  What is different between the two?

30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. 36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

            Why did Barnabas want to take Mark?

            Why didn’t Paul want to take him?

            Who was right?

            Was this split God’s will? (think this through before answering)

            How does Romans 8:28 apply to this situation?

How could Paul and Barnabas, who had been through so much good together, get into such a bad fight?  Was their anger sinful or not? 

OUTLINE THE CHAPTER.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give the chapter a title and summarize the main idea of this chapter.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (DISAGREEMENTS AMONG BELIEVERS)

What principles and lessons can be learned from this about how believers are to handle theological differences.  List at least 5 or 6 principles and how they can be applied today.

 


JERUSALEM COUNCIL (Acts 15)

 

            We all know the words “salvation by grace,” but still we often add ‘conditions’ to salvation or the Christian life.  When I was a new believer I was disciples by some fine Christians who unfortunately exposed me to some very subtle but strong legalism.   What I came away believing was that if I did (or didn’t do) certain things I would be more spiritual.  I could instantly be among the older, more mature believers if I talked and acted certain ways.  I really didn’t have  many decisions to make for it seemed everything had already been decided about Christian behavior.  Dress, hair length and styles, activities, entertainment, use of time and money – all was clearly set down.  I had only to follow.

            God led me out of that, and I don’t want to be judgmental or critical.  I do appreciate the grace I now have in Jesus.  It’s funny, but my Christian life even now is outwardly very similar to the way it was then.  It’s my inner motive for what I do that has drastically changed.  I am acutely aware of the danger in doing things to impress others, to impress God or to impress myself.  All I do must be done out of love and a response of faithfulness to Jesus.  That must be my first and only motive for all I do.  For me, any other motive is legalism.  It includes me trying to earn or deserve something from God.  There is absolutely NOTHING I can do to impress God.  All I have or ever will have is by His grace.  The only thing that ever impressed Him was the work of Jesus on the cross.  Satan, in his pride, would feed into ours and have us think we can do something for God but we can’t.  Satan will do whatever he can to keep the focus off of God’s grace and on man’s works instead. 

            I thank God for His amazing grace.  I want to always live in it.  I want to make sure I don’t in any way influence others to jump through hoops of legalism and externals.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if we did have to do (or not do) certain things for salvation or the Christian life.  God could have made it that way, but praise His name He didn’t.

 

FALL, AD 49 — CHURCH PROBLEM   All this is nothing new.  Early Christians were Jews who grew up keeping the law, then accepting Jesus as Savior.  Then as the kingdom spread many Gentiles started believing in Jesus, accepting His free gift of salvation.  Some early church leaders, though, taught these Gentiles that they also had to keep the Jewish law (Acts 15:1).  This means circumcision, dietary regulations, sacrifices and offerings, dress codes, festivals, tithes, Sabbath observances and every area of life.  Paul and Barnabas greatly opposed this (v. 2a) for they had seen how God worked in Gentiles on their first missionary journey.  The whole issue of if a Christian  had to observe the Jewish law or not became such a big thing that they realized they would have to go to Jerusalem and consult the apostles and leaders there (2a).  going to those in spiritual authority over you is always important.  Let those who are more experienced and mature spiritually decide.

 

MEETING #1  When they arrived in Jerusalem (v. 3) they were warmly welcomed (v. 4a).    They told the apostles everything that happened on their missionary journey (v. 4b).  This was a private meeting between Paul, Barnabas and the leaders.  It seems Titus was with them as well (Gal 2:1-2).  He was a Gentile who came to salvation in Jesus without the law.

 

MEETING #2  Next was held a general, open meeting to discuss the problem.  Those who said it was necessary to keep the law along with salvation spoke first (v. 5; Gal 2:3-5).  Paul and Barnabas told of their experiences as well. 

 

MEETING #3  Then the apostles and leaders met alone to discuss and consider the question (v. 6).  Peter shared his testimony about Cornelius and what God has showed him (v. 7-11).  Barnabas and Paul shared what God had done through them as well (v. 12). 

Then it was James’ turn to speak.  He was head of the early church, so the final decision fell to him.  He based his decision on the Bible, not personal experience (v. 15-18).  Too often today we are influenced by the person who has had this or that experience, when our final determining authority is the Word of God.  James went back to the Word and based his decision on it.

He quoted Amos 9:11-12, stating that Gentiles can also find God.  They don’t have to become Jews to do so.  James uses this for his decision.  Note they didn’t have everyone vote.  Democracy is fine, but God’s system of government has always been a godly sovereign, not rule by the majority of the people). 

Anyway, James’ decision was that Gentiles didn’t have to keep the law for salvation or Christian living (v. 19).  What a difference that makes for us today!  If the decision would have been different we’d be living, eating, dressing, talking and acting like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day!  Can you imagine witnessing for that! 

Still, they warned the Gentiles to now use their new freedom to set a stumbling block before their Jewish brethren.  The Jews couldn’t put a stumbling block (the law) before them, and they can’t do that to their Jewish brethren.  They had to be considerate (v. 20-21).  They could not take advantage of their freedom, nor do anything that would offend the conscience of the Jews.  We, too, must be considerate of other believer’s consciences and not exert our freedom in a way that might cause them to stumble in their Christian life. 

 

MEETING #4  The word was spread, and men were chosen to take it to other churches (v. 22).  Especially important was Antioch, for that was becoming the new center of Christianity and rapidly replacing Jerusalem. 

            To make sure everyone knew who was behind this decision, and people didn’t just say Paul was making this us, they wrote a letter to send along (v. 23-29). 

 

WINTER, AD 49-50 Antioch was glad for the decision, and the church went through a new growth spurt (v. 30-35).  It seems after ever challenge they successfully faced there was a growth spurt.  That’s how God works. 

            It was during this time that Paul had to publicly reprimand Peter for compromising with those who were legalistic in their view (Galatians 2:11-14). 

 

APRIL, AD 50  With this issue settled Paul wanted to go back and visit the churches he had started, to encourage and strengthen them (v. 36).  They sharply disagreed about taking mark, so ended up splitting up (v. 37-40).  Barnabas took Mark but Paul took Silas instead.  The story in Acts follows Paul and Silas through Syria and Cilicia (v. 41).

            While this ‘sharp disagreement’ obviously hurt these two friends, it just shows how human God’s servants are.  Later Paul was reconciled with Mark and did recognize his contribution to the ministry, but Mark had done a lot of growing by then, too.  At leas God was glorified and all things did work for the good, because now there were two missionary teams going out.

 

            Be careful in your life, to make sure you don’t put and faith or pride in anything you do.  All we have and are is by grace alone.  Don’t ever judge others by outer appearances.  We can evaluate fruit but never judge motives.  Show others as much grace as you want God to show you!

16. ACTS 16-18: SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY

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Departure from Antioch – April 50

Syria & Cilicia  April 50

Lyustra & Derbe – May 50

Iconium – end of May to Mid June 50

Pisidian Antioch – Mid June – First July 50

Antioch to Toras – July 50

Philippi – Aug to Oct 50

Thessalonica – Nov 50 to Jan 51

Berea – Feb 51

Athens – last of Feb to Mid Mar 51

Arrival at Corinth – Middle of March 51

Silas & Tim arrive from Berea – April 51

Departure from Corinth – Early Sept 52

Ephesus – Mid Sept 52

Jerusalem visit – End of Sept 52

Return to Antioch – Early Nov 52

OBSERVATION  Read the chapters several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

16 1 He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

            If a Christian doesn’t have to be circumcised to be a Christian (Acts 15), why did Paul have Timothy circumcised?  He led the fight against circumcision.

4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

            Why do you think God’s Spirit wouldn’t let them go into Bithyna?

            How did they know God wasn’t allowing them to enter?

            How do YOU know when God’s Spirit talks to YOU?

8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

            Lydia had a special privilege of being a ‘first’ like Cornelius.  Look in your footnotes or a Bible dictionary to see what it was.

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

            Why didn’t Paul want this girl testifying about Jesus?  Wouldn’t that have impressed people?

19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved– you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God– he and his whole family. 35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

            Why didn’t Paul just leave?  Was it pride that had him do this?

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

17  1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. 5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. 10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. 13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. 16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone– an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

            What does the word ‘repent’ mean.  Look it up and write a detailed explanation.

31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

            Many scholars study this for lessons of how to witness to unbelievers, especially intellectual ones, like on a college campus today.  What lessons can they learn from Paul at Athens?

18  1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.

            Learn as much as you can about Priscilla and Aquila, they were very special people.

Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. 12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law– settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he had them ejected from the court. 17 Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever. 18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.

            What kind of Jewish vow was this and why did Paul take it?

19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. 24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. 27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

            What was the main goal of the Second Missionary Journey?

            Use a map to trace Paul’s travels.

            Only some of the events of this missionary journey are recorded in the Bible.  What is the main significance of each of the following events and why was it chosen to be recorded in the Bible?

16:6-10; 16:11-15; 16:16-40; 17:1-9; 17:10-15; 17:16-34; 18:1-17; 18:18-28

            Was the goal of the Second Missionary Journey met?

            Would Paul have said it was ‘successful’?

            What was the most outstanding contribution the Second Missionary Journey made to the church?

OUTLINE THE CHAPTERS.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give it a title and summarize the main idea of these chapters.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?            Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?      A command to obey?Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (MISSIONS)

What can missionaries today learn from Paul the missionary?  Slowly read and think about Paul as a missionary and what principles can be learned from him as a missionary.

 PAUL’S 2ND MISSIONARY JOURNEY (Acts 16-18)

 

            Paul wasn’t good at staying put.  He always wanted to move ahead for God: spreading the good news, starting churches and encouraging believers.  Six months after the return from the first missionary journey he was on the road again.  During those 6 months he went to the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) and wrote to the Galatians.  Now he wants to visit them again.

 

MAY 50  Paul headed overland into Asia Minor this time, stopping at Derbe and Lystra (Acts 16:1) where Timothy joined them. 

 

LATE MAY TO MID JUNE 50 Paul, Silas and Timothy then went to Iconium (v. 2-3) and ministered there.  He had timothy, who was half Jew, circumcised so he wouldn’t be a stumbling block to sincere, seeking Jews who might thing they were flaunting their freedom from the law.  They spent the next 6 weeks visiting churches in the area and telling them about the decision of the Jerusalem Council (v. 4).  This brought another growth spurt in the church (v. 5).

 

JULY 50  They traveled through Phrygia and Galatia (v. 6), stopping in places like Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Philadelphia, Sardis, Thyatira, Pergamum and Smyrna.  They wanted to push on into northern Asia Minor but God’s Spirit showed them that that wasn’t His will (v. 6b-7).  Instead they went to Troas (v. 8).  There Paul had his well known vision of a man calling them over to Macedonia (v. 9-10) so that is where they went.

 

AUGUST 50  The first place they stopped in Macedonia was Philippi (v. 11-12).  When they went to the place where the Jews gathered they found only women (v. 13).  Here was the well-trained and highly motivated Paul, clearly directed by God to enter the continent of Europe to spread the gospel there (although others had brought the gospel to Europe with them already).  What kind of a reception does he get for all his labor and work?  A handful of women are all that show up!  We tend to notice such things too clearly.  Paul didn’t seem disappointed at all.  He met the leader, Lydia, who listened to Paul’s message, accepted Jesus and was baptized along with her whole household (v. 14).  The men even stayed at her home (v. 15). 

            Others joined the new church there: a slave girl who was delivered from demons by Paul (v. 16-24) and the jailer who was life was spared when Paul and the others didn’t escape prison after an earthquake (v. 25-34).  Others became part of the church such as Clement, Euodia, Sytche and more.  Paul left soon after the earthquake event, though (v. 35-40).  It was time to take the gospel and plant it in other locations.

 

NOVEMBER 50  In Thessalonica (Acts 17:1) Paul, as was his custom, went into the synagogue first (v. 2-3).  Some Jews, many Gentiles who had been won to Judaism and a number of prominent women believed and followed Paul (v. 4).  The Jewish leaders were so jealous they started a riot to have Paul and the others with him harmed (v. 5-9).

 

FEBRUARY 51  Paul, Silas and Timothy slipped away at night to protect themselves (v. 10).  They planned on returning as soon as things settled down but other events prevented that so Paul later sent Timothy back to help them (I Thes 3:2).  Meanwhile they went to Berea, where there was a much more mature, open response to the gospel among the Jews.  Many believed and became fine students of the Word (Acts 17:11-12).  Soon, however, Jews came from Thessalonica and stirred people up against Paul so he again had to flee for his life while Silas and Timothy stayed to continue the work in Berea ((v. 13-15).

 

LATE FEBRUARY 51  Meanwhile Paul went to Athens where their idolatry so distressed him that he spoke to them about Jesus being their ‘unknown god’ (v. 16-34).  The response was small there, as often is the case in urban areas of higher education and ‘enlightenment.’

 

MARCH 51  Being very disappointed with the attitude of the Athenians, Paul moved on to Corinth (Acts 18:1).  There he stayed and worked with fellow tent-makers Aquilla and Priscilla (v. 2-3).  Every Sabbath he preached in the synagogue (v. 4).  These were hard days for Paul.  He was lonely, drained physically and emotionally, financially broke, sorrowful about so many rejecting salvation and upset about the immorality and idolatry in Athens and Corinth.  Then Silas and Timothy rejoined him (v. 5) and the ministry improved.  A new church began (v. 6-7) and many came to salvation.

            Then God appeared to Paul in a night vision and encouraged him to keep on preaching in Corinth despite how bad things were (v. 9-10).  Paul stayed there for 1 ½ years (v. 11).  During that time he planted churches in Corinth, Cenchrea (Romans 16:21) and Achaia (II Cor 1:1).  He wrote letters to Thessalonica.  The first was in the early summer of 51.  Timothy took the letter to them and stayed awhile.  Paul wrote to them again later the same summer.

            When the year and half were almost up Paul was brought to court but the judge kicked the case out (v. 12-17).  Soon after that he left to head back home (v. 18).

 

SEPTEMBER TO NOV 52  Paul had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken (v. 18b), then went to Ephesus (v. 19) where he left Priscilla and Aquilla to work.  They wanted Paul to stay, and he wanted to spend more time in Ephesus, but told them he would return (v. 20-21). 

            Then he sailed to Caserea and greeted the church, then returned to Antioch (v. 22), where he stayed until the spring of 53.

 

SPRING TO SUMMER 53  Paul just couldn’t sit still!  He continued to travel throughout Galatia and Phrygia (v. 23).  Meanwhile Apollos, a gifted speaker of John the Baptizer’s message, came to Ephesus, Aquilla and Priscilla updated him on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (v. 24-26).  He became an outstanding evangelist for the early church (v. 27-28). 

 

 


17. I THESSALONIANS: Jesus is Coming AGAIN

Date: Early Summer 51             Place of Writing: Corinth  Author: Paul

Recipients: Church at Thessalonica

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

Look for clues in this book about how Paul feels about the Thessalonians.

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

What things does God want us to do to please Him (4:1-12)?

ADVANCED STUDY (RAPTURE)

Read about the rapture in other books.  What is it?  What does the word mean?  What does this book say about the rapture?  Write a list of events that will happen and in what order, based on what this book says about the Rapture.

What difference in our lives should it make knowing Jesus could return at any moment?

I THESSALONIANS: JESUS IS COMING AGAIN

TITLE: Named for the recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:  51 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Corinth

RECIPIENTS:  Church at Thessalonica

KEY VERSE: for they themselves report what kind of reception you

gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve   the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven,          whom he raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from

the coming wrath. (1:9-10)

KEY WORDS:   “comfort” (6 times); “coming (of the Lord)” (4)

PURPOSE: To commend the Thessalonian believers for their faith

and to defend himself against criticism.  He also instructs

them in areas of difficulty: sexual purity, love & especially

the Second Coming of Christ.

THEME: The Second Coming of Christ

 

            When Gideon’s 10,000 potential soldiers went to drink, only 300 of them were chosen.  These were the ones who drank looking up.  For us to defeat our enemies today we must be found ‘looking up’ as well.  That’s Paul’s message to the Thessalonians. 

            Paul started a church in Thessalonica on his Second Missionary Journey.  It was only the second church established on European soil.  It had much opportunity but faced a lot of persecution.  Paul wrote to them from Corinth to encourage them in their times of suffering. 

 

LOOK AWAY FROM: Troubles (chapter 1)  Paul starts of praying for them, encouraging them in faithfulness.  He commends them for their fruit: receiving the gospel and passing it on.  They godly reputation had been spreading quickly.  Paul wants them to look to God and what He has done for them, not to focus on their suffering and persecution.

LOOK AWAY FROM: Temporal (chapter 2)  Then Paul defends himself against attacks and criticism some in Thessalonica have been spreading about him.  He assures them that both his motives and methods were pure.  His focus was on serving God, not on gaining money or a reputation for himself.  He encouraged them, too, to not focus on this temporary world during the hard times they were facing.

LOOK AWAY FROM: Temptation (chapter 3)  Paul tells them he sent Timothy to help then faithfully endure their trails, and Timothy’s good report about them really encouraged Paul as well.  He concludes this section praying that he will be able to visit them in person very soon.  After telling them what to look away from, he then tells them what to took towards:

LOOK UP TO: Trumpet (chapter 4)  Paul challenges them to be pure in their lives, for some of them continued in their old pagan immorality.  He emphasized that they are to love each other.  He corrected those who said they didn’t have to work because Jesus was coming back soon.  Then he gave the most complete description on the Rapture in the Bible (4:13-18). The trumpet will one day sound and those who have accepted Jesus as Savior will have their bodies instantly changed and taken to heaven.  Those who have already died have temporary bodies in heaven and their earthly bodies will be raised at that time and taken to heaven, too.  Thus we don’t have to fear death nor grieve the loss of believers who die before us.  Those killed in persecution just get to heaven first!  Jesus could return any day, ending their earthly suffering.  Thus they are to live looking up, awaiting the trumpet.

LOOK UP TO: Triumph (chapter 5)  Immediately following the rapture will be the Tribulation.  The persecution they were enduring was not the Tribulation.   Believers are not under God’s judgment (‘wrath’ v. 9; cf Rom 8:1).  Until this time they must live victorious Christian lives, growing and ministering to others.

            Paul concluded by praying for their total being.  He prayed they would live a holy Christian live until Jesus returned for them.  By knowing and remembering that Jesus was coming back for them, they could keep the sufferings of this life in proper perspective.    He assured them that God would preserve them.  Then he ended with his typical request for prayer on his behalf, a greeting, a charge and a benediction. 

            One day a business came to a school and promised the children that one day he would return and bring a special present for all who had their desks clean when he arrived.  A certain girl in the class room really wanted to receive this prize so she committed herself to clean her desk every Monday morning.  Knowing that it wouldn’t stay clean long, for the girl wasn’t normally a very neat person, the teacher asked her what happened if the man came on Friday.  She decided to clean her desk Monday and Friday.  Then when asked about if he would come on Wednesday, she decided she needed to clean her desk every morning.  But what if he came at the end of the day?  Finally she realized that what she needed to do was keep her desk clean at ALL times.  Paul wants us, like the Thessalonians, to always be aware of and ready for Jesus’ soon return.  Don’t focus on your problems or difficulties, but on His return!

 

 

 


18. II THESSALONIANS: Jesus is Coming SOON

Date: Summer, 51 AD      Place of Writing: Corinth  Author: Paul

Recipients: Church at Thessalonica

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

What does Paul pray for the church in Thessalonica (1:3-4)?  Why does he pray for that?

What does Paul want them to pray for concerning him (3:1-3)  Why does he want that?

What does this teach us about prayer?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (ANTICHRIST)

Look up and read about the antichrist in a Bible dictionary, commentary or book on prophecy.  Summarize what it says about him.  List specifically everything II Thessalonians says about the antichrist.  What have you learned from this?

II THESSALONIANS: JESUS IS COMING SOON

TITLE: Named for the recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:  51 AD, shortly after I Thessalonians

PLACE of  WRITING: Corinth

RECIPIENTS:  Church at Thessalonica

KEY VERSE: This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed        from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will

punish those who do not know God and do not obey the

gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with

everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of

the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he

comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled

at among all those who have believed. This includes you,

because you believed our testimony to you.  (1:7b-10)

KEY WORDS:   “Day of the Lord”

PURPOSE:

I THESSALONIANS

II THESSALONIANS

Teaches the WHAT of the Rapture

Teaches the WHEN of the Rapture

Teach something NEW – Rapture

correct WRONG – time of Rapture

Mainly about the church

Mainly about Satan, Antichrist, world

THEME: to tell the Thessalonian believers Christ would return BEFORE the Tribulation, and to

explain to them how they were to live until Christ came. 

 

            The truth of the Rapture is one of the most glorious of all Christian doctrines.  It is wonderfully encouraging and uplifting.  Knowing Jesus will return soon to take those who believe in Him to heaven to be with Him forever is comforting and motivating.  Yet, despite its simple truth, much confusion and misunderstanding has arisen around this simple doctrine.  It’s easy to understand that Satan would do what he can to confuse and cloud this beautiful truth.  He did the same thing in Paul’s day, too. 

Not long after Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, telling them about Jesus’ coming back for them, wrong ideas started to develop which took away from the comfort of this truth.  For instance, some false teachers in Thessalonica said the persecution they were then facing was the Tribulation which had already started.  Yet Paul said the Rapture came before the tribulation.  What was true?  Who was right?

I. THE ANXIETY ABOUT THE RETURN OF CHRIST (chapter 1)  Again Paul starts with thanksgiving for their faithfulness in times of suffering.  He assured them that God was not unfair in permitting them to experiences the trials they were going through.  He reminded them about what the future held if they didn’t die before Christ returned. If they had accepted Jesus as Savior they would be taken to heaven immediately when Jesus returned.  If they hadn’t accepted Him they would live on into the Tribulation and  fin themselves under god’s judgment.

            Paul then prayed God would continue to work out His will in their submissive lives, and they would glorify Him.  He assured them they were doing right and weren’t under God’s judgment, for the Tribulation had not started yet.  Then he goes on to prove that they couldn’t already be in the Tribulation.

II. THE ANSWER ABOUT THE REVELATION OF ANTICHRIST (chapter 2)  No, Paul says, you haven’t missed the Rapture and entered into God’s judgment.  His proof is that the Antichrist has not yet been revealed and when the Tribulation really begins the Antichrist will be right there.  In fact, he can’t be revealed until after the Rapture, when the Church and the Holy Spirit are gone.  The Antichrist couldn’t possibly be revealed yet, for the Rapture must come first.  The fact that they were still here proved the Rapture hadn’t come. 

            Paul then builds on the many details given by Daniel and Ezekiel about the Antichrist and his actions on earth.  Paul then gives thanks for their spiritual standing as seen in contrast to the deceived world around them.  He encouraged them to stand fast in what he had taught them while there and in his first letter. 

III. THE APPLICATION ABOUT THEIR RETURN TO WORK  (chapter 3)  Paul then tackled the final problem that had arisen about the Rapture.  Some refused to work because the Rapture could come at any time, so why bother?  Paul got very strong with them, telling them that if someone wouldn’t do his share to support himself, no one should do anything to help him!  That’s how important it is for God’s people to live a holy Christian life. 

            We can’t and won’t know exactly when it is time for the Rapture, but we can tell when the season gets closer (Matthew 24:36-39).  Contractions can be felt earlier, but labor doesn’t begin until the pains (‘signs’) come close and hard.

            Paul then closed with prayer.  He asked that they would be conscious of God’s presence, peace and grace.  After a final benediction and greeting, the book closes.

 

 

 

 


19. ACTS 19-20: THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY

Departure from Antioch – Spring 53

Visit Galatian churches – Spring to Summer 53

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Arrival at Ephesus – Sept 53

Leave Ephesus (riot) – Early May 56

Troas – May 56

Macedonia – Early June to Mid Nov 56

In Corinth – End Nov 56 to End of Feb 57

Philippi – April 6-14, 57

Troas – April 18-25, 57

Troas to Assos – Mon, Apr 25, 57

Assos to Mitylene – Apr 26, 57

Mitylene to Chios – Apr 27, 57

Chios to Trogyllium – Apr 28, 57

Tryogyllium to Miletus – Apr 29, 57

Ephesus Elders – Apr 30 to May 2, 57

Miletus to Patara – May 2-4, 57

Patara to Tyre – May 5-9, 57

Tyre – May 10-16, 57

Tyre to Cawsarea – May 17-19, 57

Stay at Caesarea – May 19-25, 57

Caesarea to Jerusalem – May 25-27, 57

OBSERVATION  Read the chapters several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

19  1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

            Is this a pattern for us today?  If so, why don’t we do it?  If not, why not?

8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. 11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul,

            Does God still do miracles through people today like He did then?  Why or why not?

12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

            How do these verses apply today?

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. 21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer. 23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. 32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

20  1 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. 7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. 13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me– the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. 25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.

            Several times Paul was warned about what would happen when he went to Jerusalem (see also 21:4, 11-14).  Still he went.  Was he being obedient to God or stubborn about what he wanted to do?  In other words, WHY was God telling him what would happen, to warn him or stop him?  Prove your answer.

26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” 36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

            What does this even teach you about the man Paul.

            What was the main goal of the Third Missionary Journey?

            Use a map to trace Paul’s travels.

            Write down how long Paul was at each place.  Why is this information given now when it wasn’t for the First Missionary Journey?

            Only some of the events of this missionary journey are recorded in the Bible.  What is the main significance of each of the following events and why was it chosen to be recorded in the Bible?                                 19:1-7; 19:8-22; 19:23-41; 20:1-6; 20:7-12; 20:13-38

            Was the goal of the Third Missionary Journey met?

            Would Paul have said it was ‘successful’?

            What was the most outstanding contribution the Third Missionary Journey made to the church?

OUTLINE THE CHAPTERS.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper)

Give it a title and summarize the main idea of these chapters.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?          A command to obey?          Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY (CHURCH PLANTING)

Paul traveled planting churches.  How ‘successful’ was he?  What made him succeed where he did?  What can we lead from Paul’s successful church plants?  What can we learn from his difficulties and failures?  From Paul’s Missionary Journeys, come up with a list of what is important in order to successfully start a new church and keep it going. 

 

 

PAUL’S 3RD MISSIONARY JOURNEY (Acts 19-20)

 

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            When Paul returned from his Second Missionary Journey, he continued to travel in Galatia (Acts 18:23), but 6 months after getting back Paul again left for another missionary journey. 

 

SEPTEMBER 53  As he had promised, Paul went back to Ephesus to spend time with friends there. It was the largest, most important and influential city in Asia Minor and an important location for the church.  In fact, the center of Christianity, which shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch, will soon move to Ephesus, and then finally to Rome.   John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, will stay here, too. 

            While there some who had only heard of John’s baptism believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, uniting them with all Jews and Gentiles who also had accepted Jesus as Savior (Acts 19:1-7).  Speaking in foreign languages they didn’t know was the sign that they were included, just as the others who had received this sign: Jews (Acts 2), half Jews (Acts 8), Gentiles living in Palestine (Acts 10-11) and Gentiles living elsewhere (Acts 19).  It was the last time this gift would be given, for no other mention is made of it except Paul’s correcting of the Corinthians excesses.

 

SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 53  Paul spoke boldly in the synagogue for 3 months, until the Jews hardener their hearts against him, and then he left (Acts 19:8-9).

 

DECEMBER 53 – DECEMBER 55  For 2 years Paul taught daily in a local lecture hall (v. 10).  Everyone in Ephesus and its surrounding area was exposed to the gospel during that time.  Miraculous things happened, showing that God’s power is greater than the demonic power behind the idols they worshipped there (11-20).  Tradition says Paul taught 5 hours a day in addition to discipline Apollos, Aquilla, Priscilla and others and witnessing in town (Acts 20:20f).  He probably worked some at making tents for an income.  He was instrumental in starting churches in Colossae, Laodicea, Hieroppolis, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and other places.  He was jailed at least once (II Cor. 11:23-27).  This is his longest recorded stay in one place.

            Paul was no super-hero.  He faced all the same problems and frustrations we do.  He was plagued with the carnal Corinthians and wrote 2 letters to them, one lost and the other is our ! Corinthians.  He wanted to take the money he had gathered to Jerusalem but wasn’t able to do that (v. 21-22).  He had terrible trials and sufferings there, things he referred to as “fighting with beasts” (Acts 20:17-19; I Cor 15:30-32; II Cor 1:8-11).  There was much opposition without and stress within (Acts 20:19).  Still, he persevered one day at a time on God’s strength. 

           

SPRING 56 When a great disturbance arose against him from those who made idols of Diana, Paul realized it was time to leave and minister elsewhere (Acts 19:23-41).  God often used riots and rejection to cause him to move on to a new group.  Too often we quit all together when God just wants us to move on to work with someone else.

 

SUMMER 56 Paul went to Troas where he wrote a third (lost) letter to the Corinthians.  He was distracted by Titus’ failure to return from Corinth so he went to find him (II Cor 12:13). 

 

LATE SUMMER 56  Paul landed at Neapolis, then went to Philippi.  The church there was the most fault-free, supportive church of all the ones he started so it must have been encouraging and helpful to spend time with them.  Even though they couldn’t afford it, they kept sending money for his support.  They were going through much persecution and many were being killed.

 

EARLY FALL 56  Paul then moved on to Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 20:1-2).  Timothy rejoined Paul, who was suffering much from his thorn in the flesh.  He was depressed and distracted by the problems the Corinthian believers were causing.  Then Titus arrived from Corinth with good news of the repentance of many in sin in Corinth.  Still, many there were bitterly opposed to Paul.

            Paul then went to Nicopolis, a better climate for his health, and wrote his forth letter to the Corinthians (II Cor.).  He also visited Illyricum, which was a vast province which was out of his way and contained aggressive, warlike people with old pagan religions (Yugoslavia and Albania today). 

 

NOVEMBER 56 Paul returned to Corinth to spend the winter (Acts 20:2b).  He encouraged the believers to be faithful and reach out to other churches in the area in Athens, Cenchrea, etc.   His plan was to go on to Spain and Rome, but that had to be put off because he had to take the money collected for the poor, suffering believers to Jerusalem first.  Therefore he wrote a letter to the Romans saying he would come a little later and containing a summary of the messages he wanted to give them.  His disappointment is our blessing, for now we have the Book of Romans written down.

           

MARCH – MAY 57  Even those plans changed because of a plot against his live (Acts 20:3) so he went back through Macedonia instead, which must have tried his patience.  His interruptions are even interrupted.  His change in plans have to be changed again and again.  No one is immune from that.  He did have friends come along for fellowship and protection (v. 4-5).  April 6 they set sail from Neapolis, the seaport for Philippi.  If took 5 days to sail to Troas and they waited there April 15-19 for others to join them.  Then they ministered there April 20-25.  This is when Eutychus fell asleep and fell out the window and died but God brought him back to life.  Paul, Luke and others went by boat to Assos, Mitylene, Kios, Samos, Miletus and Ephesus Monday, April 25 to Sat, April 30.  He stayed in Ephesus until Monday, May 2.  During this time he had a long talk with the leaders.  Leaving Ephesus was a hard, tearful event for all concerned.  Paul took a ship to Tyre, arriving Tuesday, May 10.  During his 7 days there he was urged to not go to Jerusalem because God was showing that troubles awaited him there.  He traveled by foot to Caesarea (May 20) and stayed at Philip’s home.  Agabus again warned him about being arrested but Paul followed God’s leading and arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday, May 27.  Paul’s last major missionary trip was over.  God had an entirely new type of assignment awaiting him.

20. I CORINTHIANS: WORLDLY WISDOM

Date: Early Spring 56      Place of Writing: Ephesus         Author: Paul

Recipients: Church at Corinth

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (WORLDLINESS)

What does the world ‘worldly’ mean (3:1-3)?  Look it up and make sure, don’t just take a guess. 

In what ways were the Corinthians worldly?  (The whole book is Paul addressing one area of worldliness after another – list each area where they needed straightening out.)

What advice does Paul give in how to be spiritual instead of worldly in each area?  Use the chart: on the other side:

 

 

PROBLEM/SITUATION

THEIR WORLDLY ACTIONS

PAUL’S SPIRITUAL SUGGESTIONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I CORINTHIANS: WORLDLY WISDOM

TITLE: Named for recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:   55 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Ephesus

RECIPIENTS:  Church at Corinth

KEY VERSE::  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. … But everything shojld be done in a fitting and orderly way.  … But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   14:33; 14:40; 15:57

KEY WORDS: “Wisdom, love, resurrection, cross, Spirit, body,

gifts, corruption”

PURPOSE: Address certain situations of worldliness that were

defeating the Corinthian church.

THEME: To correct errors in Christian conduct by going by God’s

wisdom instead of man’s worldly wisdom.

 

            We generally think that the greatest danger to the church today comes from without: persecution, oppression, etc.  The real danger, however, comes not from without but from within.  We are often our own greatest enemy!  That is especially true of the church in Corinth.  They were believers, but they lived like unbelievers.  The church wasn’t influencing society.  Society was influencing the church. 

 

CORINTH  The city of Corinth was in present-day Greece.  It was Greek, but very ‘Roman’ since it was the capital of the whole area.  It was large (1/4 million people) and full of pride and pleasure.  It had a reputation for being very immoral.  To call someone a ‘Corinthian’ was a great insult.  Paul was there on his Second Missionary Journey, 50-52 AD.  When he was kicked out of the synagogue he started a church and stayed 1 ½ years.  He actually wrote 4 letters to the church there.  We have the second (called I Corinthians) and fourth (called II Corinthians) in our Bible.  Paul then visited them again for 3 months.  It was a very worldly, carnal church.  The people were believers, but their world view, their motives, their priorities and their thought processes were the same as they were before salvation.  They were living by the world’s ways and wisdom, not God’s.  That is why Paul writes to them.

 

I. DIVISIONS (1 – 4)  Because of their ungodly viewpoints and values, they were having the same problems after salvation that they hade before.  They were comparing themselves with each other and putting down those who were different.  They had groups based on who they followed: Paul, Apollos, Peter or Christ (the ‘super-spiritual’ ones claimed this).  They also divided over social status and material means.  They even made some spiritual gifts superior to others and had divisions over that.  This undermined their unity and brought other problems.

 

II.  DISORDERS (5 – 6)  In taking the world’s outlook on things they opened themselves to sins.  Incest, lawsuits against fellow believers, and immorality in general were tolerated and accepted.  Paul has to warn them and show them how they are wrong in these things.

 

III. DIFFICULTIES (7 – 14)  While only some were involved in the immorality and lawsuits, it seems everyone was affected in other ways.  By still following their beliefs and views from before salvation, they were experiencing troubles in other areas.  What about marrying someone who wasn’t a believer?  If one became a Christian and their mate didn’t, could they leave that mate?  Why not divorce when things got tough like the rest of the culture?  What was wrong with sex before marriage or sex outside marriage?   Was it OK to eat cheaper meat which had been offered to idols?  Why should a woman have to submit to her husband?  Why did a man have to take the lead in his family?  What was wrong with observing the pagan love feasts and adding the Lord’s Supper to them?  Why wasn’t one who had an impressive spiritual gift like tongues superior spiritually to one who didn’t have that gift?  What was wrong with showing off one’s gift during the church service?  On and on the list went.

 

IV. DISBELIEF (15)  The culmination of these worldly thoughts and attitudes was that the resurrection was questioned.  It didn’t make sense to think of one coming back from death.  But without the resurrection, what was left of their faith?  If Jesus never raised from the dead there is no power, no hope, no forgiveness – nothing but another belief system which is no better nor any worse than the others.  That’s where their thinking was going, and that’s why Paul was so concerted to writ to them as quickly and directly as possible. 

 

What about you?  What about your world view, your value and belief system?  Does it line up more with the world or the Bible?  I don’t mean just what you profess to believe, I mean what you practice in daily life.  How different are you from the unbelievers around you in values and goals, in priorities and motives?  There are many modern Corinthian believers today – make sure you aren’t one of them!
21. II CORINTHIANS: A GODLY MINISTRY

Date: Sept or Oct 56        Place of Writing: Macedonia               Author: Paul

Recipients: Church at Corinth

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

Rewrite 6:14-16 in your own words.

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (LIFE AFTER DEATH)

Most say 12:1-10 is about Paul.  Why didn’t he say it was about him?  From what we studied in Acts, name some times this could have happened. 

What does this passage tell us about what happens when we die?  Find other passages that speak of life after death and summarize them, too.

 


II CORINTHIANS: A GODLY MINISTRY

TITLE: Named for recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:  Late 55 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Ephesus

RECIPIENTS:  Church at Corinth

KEY VERSE:   For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.    We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   4:5; 5:20-21

KEY WORDS:  “Ministry” (18 times), “glory, boast” (20 times)

PURPOSE: 

I CORINTHIANS

II CORINTHIANS

Objective & Practical

Subjective & Personal

Insight into the character of an early church

Insight into the character of Paul

Deliberate Instruction

Impassioned Testimony

Warning against pagan influences

Warning against Judaistic influences

THEME: Paul defends himself as a true minister of the Gospel and reestablishes a good

            relationship with the Corinthians.

 

BACKGROUND  Paul spent 1 ½ years at Corinth on his Second Missionary Journey.  He left for Ephesus and Apollos stayed at Corinth awhile.  Then Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians condemning immorality and asking them to start a collection for the poor.  We don’t have a copy of this letter.  As reports came to Paul in Ephesus about the problems arising in Corinth, he wrote to them the letter we call I Corinthians.  Timothy went to Corinth to help get things settled, but more difficulties arose.  To counter Paul’s recent letter, his apostolic authority was being questioned.  Timothy personally went to Paul with this matter and Paul stopped by Corinth for a short visit during which grossly insulted by someone e in the church.  After he left Paul sent a letter about the money they were collecting for Jerusalem, a letter we don’t have.  Titus delivered this letter and then was to bring a report back to Paul.  Paul was so anxious to find out the news that he started out to meet Titus.  They ran into each other half way, and Paul rejoiced in Titus’ good report of their godly response to Paul’s words.  This made Paul so glad he immediately wrote another letter to them, which we call II Corinthians.  Later Paul went there and stayed for 3 months, during which time he wrote the letter to the Romans. 

II Corinthians is the most autobiographical of Paul’s Epistles.  It provide insight into his personal life and ministry not seen elsewhere.  Because of the false charges against him, Paul reveals things about himself and his ministry he would never had written down.  If it sounds like bragging, its really just self defense.  Paul knows they won’t believe God’s truth unless they see him as God’s true messenger.  Thus we get rare insight into the warm, human side of Paul.  This letter comes from his heart, unlike Romans which comes from his head. 

 

I. COMMISSION OF PAUL  (1:12 – 7:16)  False teachers caused Paul a lot of trouble.  They often carried fake letters of commendation so they could minister in churches and be paid by those churches.  While doing so they viciously criticized Paul’s appearance and poor speaking ability.  They said he didn’t have apostolic authority since he wasn’t one of Jesus’ 12 disciples.  Paul answers heir charges and talks about what he had been doing and why.  He shows that his worlds are from God, and that therefore they are correct in believing and accepting them.  H shares from his heart about what he has been through and why. 

 

II. CONTRIBUTION FOR THE SAINTS  (8:1 – 9:15)  Wherever he went Paul encouraged the Gentile churches to collect money to send to Jerusalem to help their poor brothers there.  The gospel came through the Jews to the Gentiles, and now they can help them back.  Jews in Jerusalem who became believers lost their families, jobs, everything.  Paul talked to the Corinthians about this, too, showing it is all of our responsibility to help believers in need. 

 

III. CREDENTIALS OF PAUL  (10:1 – 13:10)  Paul answered charges about his being too easy on some in the church.  He refers to Jesus’ example of forgiveness and mercy.  He is accused of not accepting support for his ministry, and he explains why he chose to not exercise that right.  He even told them of a time he died and went to heaven before coming back to life.  What a wonderful experience that was!

            In conclusion Paul tells them to repent and turn 100% from false teachings and teachers to God so things would be fine when Paul got there.  He said he wanted to come in love and joy, not with scoldings or disciplining.  He promised he would come soon and prove beyond doubt that God supported him and his teachings. 

 


22. ROMANS: SALVATION

Date: Winter 56 to 57 ADPlace of Writing: Corinth  Author: Paul

Recipients: Church at Rome

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

What does “wrath of god” (1:18) mean exactly?

What is Abraham an example of in chapter 4?

Rewrite 7:10-25 in your own words, about yourself.

Read Romans 8 in 3 different translations.  What strikes you most about this chapter?

Rewrite 12:1-2 in your own words about yourslef.

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (SIN)

Do a word study on ‘sin.’  List everything Romans 1-3 says about sin.  Be detailed and specific.

ROMANS: SALVATION

 

TITLE: Named for the recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:   56 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Corinth

RECIPIENTS:  Church at Rome

KEY VERSE::  I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”  1:16-17

KEY WORDS: “Christ” (39 times), “faith” (37 times), “justify” 17

times  

PURPOSE: To teach the basic truths of the Christian faith to a

place he has long wanted to visit but hasn’t been able to visit.

THEME: All about salvation and living the Christian life.

 

            Every preacher’s dream is to have one time in his life when he can say whatever he wants with no time limit and no interruptions.  Perhaps that’s why so many of us dream of writing a book.  Most of us will have to wait until heaven, though, for the chance to preach and teach without a time limit.  Few of us get that chance on earth.  Paul is one of the fortunate ones.  He was known to preach all night long, but he still had time constraints.  He started in Athens giving his total overall teaching of salvation and the Christian life, but he didn’t get to finish.  Finally in writing to the Romans he was able to say it all!

 

THE GREATNESS OF ROMANS  Romans is perhaps the finest book in the New Testament.  Many would say that if they had to pick just one book of the Bible to keep and use it would be the book or Romans.  It has led to more great revivals than any other book and, because of its breadth and scope, stands head and shoulders about other books.  Paul’s other writings were to address specific problems or doctrinal issues.  In Romans he is free to choose his topic, and he chose salvation and its results in our life.  There is no greater topic to be had.

 

LIVING BY FAITH   Paul starts off stating his theme in 1:16-17: “The righteous shall live by faith.”  This is actually quoted from Habakkuk and led to Martin Luther’s conversion and the Reformation.  It is actually a play on words in the Aramaic by Paul.  First is says that those who become justified shall have eternal life by faith, accepting God’s free gift of salvation.  That is expanded in Romans 1-4.  Then he also says that those who have become justified by faith shall live their daily lives by that same faith.  This is expanded in Romans 5-15.  This not only summarizes the book but our own lives.

 

I. SIN – guilt of all (1:18 – 3:20)  Before showing the solution, Paul shows the problem – sin.  Those without God’s revelation (Gentiles) are guilty of sin.  Those with God’s revelation (Jews) are also guilty of sin.  In fact, ALL are guilty and condemned.

II. SALVATION – provision for all (3:21 – 5:21)  God provided for our sins in the person of Jesus Christ (3:21-31).  It is up to us to freely accept this gift of salvation by faith (4:1-25).  When we do we have all the blessings and benefits of salvation (5:1-11).  This is all freely given in Jesus (5:12-21).  However the book doesn’t end here. Salvation is just the start, then comes the command to live for Jesus. 

 

III. SANCTIFICATION – provision for all believers (6:1 – 8:39)  After salvation we must life a holy life unto God.  Our sin has been paid for an removed, so in actual practice we are to not live in sin (6:1-23).  We are freed from the power of sin to control us.  Grace is not an excuse to sin.  We’ll never have victory over sin by trying to keep the law, for that isn’t its purpose (7:1-25).  We have freedom only in Jesus (8:1-39).  If Romans is the crown jewel of the Bible, then Romans 8 is the focal point of most beauty in this whole jewel.  It is certainly a chapter well worth memorizing.  It shows the victory we have in Jesus.

 

IV. SOVEREIGNTY – provision for Jews & Gentiles (9:1 – 11:36)  With Gentiles now accepted by faith, what about Jews?  God sovereignly chose them through Abraham.  Even though they disobeyed and failed Him, He won’t reject them.  He may temporarily set them aside so Gentiles can come to salvation, but they will one day turn to Jesus for salvation and be restored as God’s chosen people.

 

V. SERVICE – provision for daily life (12:1 – 15:13)  Paul concludes, as he always does, by applying the doctrine he has just taught to daily life.  He changes from teacher to preacher.  He talks about our daily life (12:1-21), daily conduct (13:1-14), and daily relationships (14:1 – 15:13). 

 

Spend time in this most special book.  It’s a treasure mine of special promises and blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


23. ACTS 21-28: TRIP TO ROME

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First day of Purification – Sun, May 29, 57

Fifth day of Purification (riot) – June 2, 57

Before Sanhedrin – June 3, 57

Appearance of Jesus (night) – June 4, 57

Conspiracy (day) – June 4, 57

To Antipatris (night) – June 5, 57

To Caesarea (day) – June 5, 57

Trial before Feliz – Thurs, June 9, 57

Trial before Festus – July 59

Trail before Agrippa – Early Aug, 59

Leaves Caesarea – Mid Aug 59

Myra – Early Sept 59

Fair Havens – Oct 5-10, 59]

Shipwreck at Malta – Last of Oct 59

Leave Malta – Early Feb 60

Arrival at Tome – End Feb 60

Roman Imprionment – Feb 60 to Mar 62

OBSERVATION  Read the chapters several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

            Read Acts 21 through 28     Outline these chapters by:

Chap vrs

Location

Time there

Main People

Summary of what happened

27:1-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Jewish regulations are referred to in 21:22-26?  Why did Paul agree to get involved in this?

Was Paul’s anger in 23:3 righteous indignation or sinful anger?  Support your answer.

On another paper write some detailed information about the following people:

            Philip 21:7                                                     Caesar 25:10-12

            Agabus 21:10                                               Agrippa  25:13

            Anaias (high priest) 23:2                            Bernice  25:13

            Felix  23:24                                                   Julius 27:1

            Tertullus  24:1                                               Publius  28:7

            Festus 25:1                                                  

On another paper write some detailed information about the following places

            Tarsus  22:3                                                  Malta 28:1

            Caesarea 23:23                                            Rome 28:16             

Why does this book end when and how it does?  Why doesn’t God have more written later?    

 

OUTLINE THE CHAPTERS.  Break it down by time periods.  In other words, give each separate event a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.).  Write down the ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘who’ and ‘why’ of each event.  Then break down each of these into parts using A., B., or C.   (use another sheet of paper). You can use your outline on the other side to help do this..

Give it a title and summarize the main idea of these chapters.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?          A command to obey?          Something to memorize?

ADVANCED STUDY 1 (PROMISES OF PROTECTION)

Look up the following verses and summarize what they say about God’s protection:                                Joshua 1:7-9             Psalm 84:11-12        Isaiah 40:30-31        Matthew 10:29-31                            Psalm 9:9                  Psalm 91                   Isaiah 43:2                Romans 8:28-29                              Psalm 46:1                Proverbs 14:26         Zechariah 4:6           II Thessalonians 3:3

ADVANCED STUDY 2 (WORSHIP ON SUNDAY)

Some say we should still be worshipping on Saturday, others say Sunday.  Which do you think and why (give proofs for your answer and answer the objections of the other view to your view).

 

PAUL’S 1ST TRIP TO ROME (Acts 21-28)

 

            This time in Paul’s life could be called the beginning of the end.  While he will live and minister for almost a dozen more years, he will no longer be the foremost evangelist and church planter.  He will no longer be in the vanguard of the church as it grows and spreads.  He will still write many important books, thus having a key role in formulating doctrine, but he won’t be the point man as the church moves forward.  No one man will replace him, but instead God will raise up a group of men such as Timothy, Titus, Mark and many others to work in various areas.  The church is too spread out for any one man to coordinate and lead it all any more.  Faithful Luke stays with Paul no matter what and records for us what Paul goes through (Acts 21-28) from 57 to 62 AD. 

 

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 57  Despite being warned that he would be imprisoned, Paul continued to Jerusalem to finish his mission.  He delivered the offering money to help the poor Jewish believers there and reported to James about what God was doing among Gentiles throughout the world.  Jewish believers in Jerusalem were very strict about believers having to keep the law.  They were reluctant to move quickly from law to grace.  This caused problems between them and Gentile believers.  The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) was to resolve such an issue.  Because of his great involvement with Gentiles, and because his main emphasis wasn’t to force them to obey the Jewish law, Jewish believers in Jerusalem were accusing Paul of telling them to NOT keep the law.  This was not true, but rumors can be a terrible things to stop.

            None of the leaders wanted the church divided into a Jewish church and a Gentile church.  With Paul’s high visibility, some would gravitate to him and others gather in opposition to him.  Paul thought he could avoid this by doing something to show that he wasn’t opposed to the keeping of the law, if it was done for the right reason (to honor God, not to earn salvation).  Thus it was decided that he would pay for the sacrifices for four Jews who wanted to offer them but couldn’t afford them.  This should show he wasn’t against keeping the law. 

           

SUNDAY, MAY 29  Saturday was the Sabbath so nothing was done in honor of keeping it free from work, but on Sunday Paul paid for the sacrifices for these men for 7 days.

 

THURSDAY, JUNE 2  As was his habit, Paul went to the temple every day to study, teach, pray and worship.  Some long-time enemies from Asia saw him in the temple.  They had seen him in town earlier with an Ephesian Gentile and thus jumped to the conclusion that Paul still had the man with him in the temple.  When this rumor spread a riot ensued, for the penalty of bringing a Gentile into the forbidden part of the temple was immediate death for the Gentile.  No Gentile was found but the mob of those who were opposed to Paul because he was a Christian grew and spread out, until they found him and tried to kill him.  Roman soldiers from Antonia rescued Paul and carried him away because he was too wounded from his beating to walk.  The Romans thought Paul was a trouble maker and were surprised to find he was an educated Roman citizen.  He got permission to speak to the crowd that had followed along and gave a short summary of his life.  When he got to the part about God providing salvation for Gentiles as well as Jews the mob erupted again and tried to kill him, so the Romans put him in prison for safe keeping. 

FRIDAY, JUNE 3  The Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel, sent some leading men to tell the Romans why they hated Paul.  Paul, not realizing the speaker was the high priest, verbally insulted him and a Jewish guard slapped Paul for it.  When Paul realized who the man was he apologized.  Then he started talking about the resurrection, which started the Sadducees and Pharisees, the 2 main political parties in the Sanhedrin, argue heatedly for each believed differently.  That night, while sleeping, Jesus appeared to Paul and told him to take courage, for he would testify about Jesus in Jerusalem.  That had been Paul’s dream for many years. Little did he know how it would come about.

 

SATURDAY, JUNE 4  Meanwhile, a group of 40 Jews banded together and pledged to not eat until Paul was dead.  They conspired as to how they could easiest end his life.  Somehow Paul’s nephew, who was in Jerusalem, found out about this plot and told Paul, who told the Roman authorities.  To protect his life, the Romans decided to transfer Paul to Caesarea where security was stronger and Jewish opposition lest severe.  Paul was moved by night, guarded by a large detachment of Romans soldiers.  They made one stop on the way and arrived in Caesarea safely.

 

THURSDAY, JUNE 9  Felix was an ex-slave who sole his wife from her first husband.  He was a fine military man but didn’t make the transition to political leadership too well.  Religious leaders and their fancy lawyers arrived from Jerusalem to press charges against Paul before Felix and his court.  They accused Paul of treason and stirring up trouble.  Paul gave his own defense.  Felix said he would issue a decision later and placed Paul under house arrest so his friends could have access to him.

 

MID-JUNE  Soon after that trial Felix help another trial with his wife Drusilla, who was a wild woman with some Jewish background.  They heard Paul’s testimony again, didn’t make a decision, and said they would listen more later.  They were stalling for a bribe, after which they would release him.

 

JULY 59  Two years passed with Paul still under house arrest.  Felix was replaced by Festus who was honorable, fair and good to the Jews, who were quite difficult to rule.  The religious rulers in Jerusalem petition Festus to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem for trial as a favor to them, a show of good will.  Paul refused, for he knew he would be ambushed and killed before reaching Jerusalem. 

When Festus wanted him to go to Jerusalem Paul appealed to Caesar, a special right that Roman citizens had, like appealing to our Supreme Court.  Nero was the Caesar at that time.

 

LATER IN JULY 59   Agrippa heard Paul’s case, along with his sister/wife Bernice.  Agrippa was a shrewd politician.  His father had beheaded James.  Festus asked his advice on how to handle Paul’s appeal to Caesar, for there really weren’t any charges against Paul except some religious ones by the Jews.  He couldn’t be sent to Caesar on those charges, but to release him would bring down the wrath of the religious rulers.  That would not be a wise  political move at all.

THE NEXT DAY Paul spoke to them all, giving his testimony again and inviting them to believe.  They stalled and put Paul off.  Now they couldn’t release him because he had appealed to Caesar. 

MID AUGUST – OCT 4, 59 Paul sailed to Crete.

OCTOBER 5 They arrived in Fair Havens.  It was too late to sail to Rome because the weather became dangerous, but the centurion didn’t want to wait until spring so decided to chance it.

OCTOBER 10-24  Sure enough, they ran into a terrible storm which swept the ship onto a beach.

OCTOBER – FEB 60 Paul and others spent the winter on Malta.  Paul spent the winter ministering.

EARLY MARCH 60 Paul arrived in Rome by the Appian Way.  During his 2 years in prison there he write letters to Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, and Philemon, letters in our Bible today.

 

24. EPHESIANS: IN CHRIST

Date: Autumn 60    Place of Writing: First Roman ImprisonmentAuthor: Paul

Recipients: Church at Ephesus

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

Paul has several prayers in this book.  List them, then summarize and title each prayer.

Draw a sketch of Ephesians 6:10-18.

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (BENEFITS & PRIVILEGES OF SALVATION)

Ephesians lists many blessings and privileges that come with salvation.  List as many as you can find, with the chapter and verse where they are found and a brief description of what each one is.

 


EPHESIANS: IN CHRIST

 

TITLE: Named for recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:    60 AD

PLACE of  WRITING:  Rome (prison)

RECIPIENTS:  Church at Ephesus

KEY VERSE: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. …  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  1:3; 4:1

KEY WORDS:   “In” (93 times); “grace” (12 times); “walk” (8 times); “body” (8 times)

PURPOSE: “In Christ” key phrase

            Romans: We are justified “in Christ” (3:24)

            I Corinthians: We are sanctified “in Christ” (1:2)

            II Corinthians: We are vindicated “in Christ” (11:19)

            Galatians: We are liberated “in Christ” (2:4)

            Ephesians: We are exalted “in Christ” (1:3)

            Philippians: We are exultant “in Christ” (1:26)

            Colossians: We are complete “in Christ” (2:9)

            Philemon: We are graced out “in Christ” (15)

            I Thessalonians: We are hopeful “in Christ” (1:3)

            II Thessalonians: We are glorified “in Christ” (1:12)

            I Timothy: We are faithful “in Christ” (1:18)

            II Timothy: We are triumphant “in Christ” (14:6)

            Titus: We are made examples “in Christ” (2:7)

THEME: The heavenly position of the believer and the daily life which corresponds to this position. 

 

            Suppose you had a long lost relative who died leaving their whole estate to only you.  The lawyers had tracked you down and re at this moment trying to contact you to tell you all these riches are now yours.  It’s already yours, you just don’t realize it yet!  It might seem impossible, but this is true.  God is trying to contact you.  Ephesians is the letter He is sending about all your inherited riches and blessings.  Its not about material possessions with will decay and be left behind, its about something yours eternally. 

 

EPHESUS  The city of Ephesus was one of the top 3 cities of its day, similar to New York City.  Paul spent 3 years there.  It was a very strategic location for a church. 

 

US IN CHRIST (1 – 3)  Paul starts talking about salvation, how God the Father planned it (election past, present & future – 1:4-6)  He was the Architect who drew the blueprint.  Then Paul writes about God the Son who provided it (redemption past, present and future – 1:7-12).  He is the builder Who followed God’s blueprint.  Finally he writes of God the Holy Spirit Who vapplied it regeneration past, present and future – 1:13-14).  He is the One Who delivers the title deed to that which Jesus built according to God’s blueprint.

            Of course, this is all by grace (2:8-9).  God loves us.  He knows everything about us and loves us anyway.  There is nothing we have done or can do to earn His love.  It is given freely and unconditionally.  This is grace.  There is nothing we can do to earn His love or lose His love.  If we wish, we may reject His love, or even reject God Himself.   But He will never stop loving us.  When we decide to recognize and accept His love, we will feel a joy like we’ve never known before. 

 

CHRIST IN US (4 – 6) 

(1-3) LIVE what

you ARE (4-6)

POSITION of the believer

PRACTICE of the believer

Heavenly Standing

Earthly State

Our heritage in Christ

Our life in Christ

DOCTRINE

PRACTICE

            As is his pattern, Paul applies in the second half of his writings what he teaches in the first half.  Because of our position in Christ we should live like Him.  We must live a holy life.  WWJD.  He applies this specifically to husbands, wives, parents, children, slaves and masters.  He concludes with a most important section on spiritual warfare and our armor.  Those who seek to live like Jesus and for Jesus better be prepared to fight for their spiritual growth for the enemy will oppose any attempts to grow spiritually. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


25. COLOSSIANS: CHRIST IS SUPREME

Date: Autumn 61             Place of Writing: First Roman ImprisonmentAuthor: Paul

Recipients: Church at Colossae

OBSERVATION  Read the book several times without answering the questions.

INTERPRETATION

STUDY THE BACKGROUND.  Read in your Bible footnotes, a Bible dictionary or a commentary about the background of the book:

            Who wrote it:

            When it was written:

            Where it was written from:

            Who it was written to:

            Why it was written:

Write a paragraph about the city or people to whom it was written. 

What were some of the problems the recipients faced?

ANALYZE THE BOOK.

Which verse do you think is the most important verse in the book and why?

How is Colossians similar to Ephesians?

How is Colossians different from Ephesians?

OUTLINE THE BOOK.  Break it down by similar teaching themes (not necessarily chapters).  Look into the author’s mind and try to figure out what he saw as major topics he was writing about.  Give each of these a Roman Numeral (I., II., III. Etc.). Then break each of these into parts using A., B. or C. (Use another sheet of paper)

Summarize the main idea of the book and give it a short title.

Pick one key verse and memorize it.

APPLICATION  Now apply what you have learned to yourself.  Which of the following apply (you don’t have to use them all, just which ones apply to this passage):

            An example to follow?   A promise to claim? A sin to avoid?   Something to pray about?

            A challenge to heed?   An action to take?     A command to obey? Something to memorize?

When would this book be useful  to you or others?  What needs or situations could cause you to study this book?

ADVANCED STUDY (HOLY LIVING)

What does the word “holy” mean?  How is it related to “saint” and “sanctify”? 

What does Colossians say about living a holy life (look thru the whole book, focusing especially on 3:1-17).  List all it says about holiness in our lives.

 


 COLOSSIANS: CHRIST IS SUPREME

 

TITLE: Named for the recipients

AUTHOR:  Paul

DATE of WRITING:  60 AD

PLACE of  WRITING: Rome (in prison)

RECIPIENTS:  Church in Colossae

KEY VERSE:   and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. … and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  1:8; 2:10

KEY WORD:   “head” (3 times)

 

 

 

PURPOSE::

 

TO GIVE TRUE TEACHING

TO CORRECT FALSE TEACHING

ABOUT SALVATION

Romans

Galatians

ABOUT CHRIST

Ephesians

Colossians

THEME:  Show the preeminence of Christ – the head not only of the church but of the whole universe.

 

            In my hometown is a gray concrete building just off the main street.  It’s not the largest, nor the smallest building in town.  I first remember seeing it when a child and often went past it but never paid much attention to it.  Oh, I’d been inside a time or two, but didn’t have any special memory of it.  Then one Sunday I went inside to worship with a church that met there and I found good fellowship, times of praise and worship, and a source of learning and growth.  Now the building has an entirely different meaning to me when I pass it.

            There’s a book in the New Testament that is quite similar.  It’s not the biggest nor the smallest.  We all know it’s there and go by it often, even stopping in from time to time.  However we often don’t take the time to really to see what’s inside.  It’s the book we call Colossians.

 

BACKGROUND  Colossae was a small town near larger Laodicea.  Although he was in the nearby region we have no record of Paul’s ever having gone to Colossae.  The church there  was started by some of the nearby churches which Paul had started.  Paul wrote this letter to them while in prison in Rome.  Because it is so similar in content to the book of Ephesians, it is often ignored and Ephesians chosen to be studied. 

            Paul wrote to encourage them to stay true to God and watch for the false teaching called “Gnosticism.”  Jude and I John also refute this heresy.  Gnostics believed that an intellectually enlightened few were far above the masses of humanity.  To them ‘god’ was an impersonal force and they rejected salvation for sin.  Many of their lies Satan is recycling today under the label of ‘New Age.’  Paul refutes this heresy, not by showing its inconsistencies and inaccuracies but by showing the truth of Jesus.  That’s a good lesson for us, too.  Instead of attacking another’s false teaching, lift Jesus up as the Truth.  Paul shows that Christ is Supreme over everyone and everything.

 

I. THE EXALTED CHRIST (1:15-29)  Christ is exalted as the head of all creation and the church.  He is also extolled as the reconciler of all things, the only One who reunites God and man.  He points out that He did it by His work on the cross as our substitute.  Paul says that true wisdom only comes by knowing Jesus, not through any counterfeit system which claims to have all the answers themselves.