Month: August 2019

August 30, 2019

Acts 6-7 – 2019-08-30

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

    What is the function of the historical survey in vv.2-46, the lion’s share of the speech? A careful reading of the survey, with attention to the Old Testament traditions Stephen chose and the linkages between his treatment and the earlier speeches of Acts, shows a definite “slant” in Stephen’s interpretation of Jewish history…Two recurring themes stand out:

    1. God can never be tied down to one land or place and correspondingly that his people are closest to him when they are a “pilgrim people,” a people on the move.
    2. Israel’s pattern of constantly resisting and rejecting its God-appointed leaders. The second theme has accompanying it a subtle Christological emphasis, which is ultimately the main goal of the speech.  Israel’s past points to the present.  The pattern of rejection in the past foreshadows the ultimate rejection of God’s appointed Messiah in the present.
    3. Other themes: Fulfillment of Israel’s true worship is in the Messiah.”[1]
    4. Worship acceptable to God is not confined to the Jerusalem temple.”[2]

     v.12-13: “What Stephen did emphasize…was the seemingly insignificant detail that the brothers made two visits and only recognized Joseph on the second.  Why this emphasis? The same would be true of Moses later on in Stephen’s speech.  His fellow Israelites did not recognize him either on his first visit but rejected him (vv.27-28).  Only on his second visit did they recognize him as the one God had sent to deliver them from Egypt (vv.35-36).  One is strongly tempted to see here a reference to the two “visits” of Christ.  The Jews had rejected him on his first coming.  Would they now accept him when confronted by Christ through Stephen’s preaching?”[3]

    v.23-29: “Both of Stephen’s central themes are emphasized – Israel’s rejection of its divinely appointed leader and the “pilgrim” motif.  The theme of rejection is given the major treatment and is developed in vv.23-28, which relates the story of how two quarreling Israelites refused Moses’ intercession in their dispute.  Stephen’s version follows fairly closely the account given in Exod 2:11-15 and quotes Exod 2:14 directly in vv.27b-28.

    …Just as clearly as Stephen established the role of Moses as God’s emissary he depicted also the flat rejection of his leadership by the Israelites.  This began with Stephen’s interpretive comment in v.25.  The Israelites did not recognize Moses as their God-appointed deliverer and leader.”[4]

     v.35-36: “With the emphasis on Moses himself, his relation to Christ was more explicitly drawn.  Stephen reminded his hearers of the Israelites’ rejection of his role as “ruler and judge” over them.  They denied Moses, but God “sent” him (v.35).  It is a familiar pattern that already has appeared frequently in Peter’s speeches with reference to Christ – Israel rejected him, but God affirmed him.  The comparison to Christ becomes even stronger in the reference to Moses as “deliverer/redeemer” of Israel.  It is the only occurrence in Luke-Acts of the noun “redeemer”; but the verbal from, “the one who was going to redeem Israel,” is applied to Christ in Luke 24:21.  The word “redeemer” is virtually equivalent to “Savior” (cf. 5:31), and the comparison to Christ is unmistakable.  Moses was a type of Christ.  Both were sent by God to deliver Israel.  Both were denied, rejected by those they were sent to save…Moses performed “wonders and miraculous signs” in Egypt, the Red Sea, and in the wilderness (v.36)…but one cannot fail to remember how Jesus also performed signs and wonders and that he had granted the same power to his apostles through his name.”[5]

    [1] J. Pohill, p.188.

    [2] A. Fernando, p.246.

    [3] J. Pohill, p.192.

    [4] J. Pohill, p.196.

    [5] J. Pohill, p.199.

  • Acts 6:8-7:60 (ESV)

    8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

    7 1 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said:

    “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh.

    14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

    17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive.20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

    23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

    30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

    35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.

    39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

    “‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
    during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
    43 You took up the tent of Moloch
    and the star of your god Rephan,
    the images that you made to worship;
    and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

    44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, 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 what is the place of my rest?
    50 Did not my hand make all these things?’

    51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

    54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

    57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

    59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

  • Study Questions: Acts 6:8-15, Acts 7:54-60
    • What was Stephen like and what kinds of things was he doing?
    • What ended up happening to Stephen?
    • How does this challenge my notion of discipleship and following Jesus?

    Acts 7:1-53

    • When finally given a chance to protect himself against these false accusations, Stephen delivers a sermon that highlights the work of God. Reading his sermon closely up to v. 50, what are the parts that would have offended the members of the council? [See the commentary section for additional information.]
    • Notice that Stephen’s sermon follows the typical pattern of the apostolic preaching that we’ve seen in Acts thus far: Christ is Israel’s true Messiah spoken of through Moses and the Prophets. What can I learn from the fact that this was more threatening to the council than if the disciples had been espousing a foreign religion?
    • In vv. 51-53, Stephen finally confronts the council with strong words based on his Scriptural understanding of Israel’s response to God. Consider if Stephen’s message simply ended with v. 50. What is the role of confrontation and of direct application of God’s word in Christian proclamation?
    • How does Stephen’s response to the council—his countenance (6:15) and his sermon—challenge me?
  • Prayer
August 29, 2019

Acts 6 – 2019-08-29

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

    v.1: “Conflict between these two groups was likely fueled by raw emotions.  The Grecian Jews spoke a different language and had a different cultural background than the Hebraic Jews.”[1]

    “Widows naturally formed a considerable proportion of the poorer members of the church, and the Hellenistic widows were said to be at a disadvantage in comparison with the Hebrew widows, perhaps because the distribution of charity was in the hands of the “Hebrews’.”[2]

    v.3-4: “The procedure adopted in choosing the Seven is instructive (We see here the beginnings of church leaders laying hands on believers and commissioning them for specific tasks.  The church has developed various orders of worship for such functions and given them names such as commissioning, ordination, and induction services). [3]

    v.8: “The narrative of Stephen constitutes a major turning point in Acts…To this point a growing opposition toward the Christians from the Jewish leaders had been thwarted by the favor of the people toward the young movement.  Then the picture changed.  The people joined in the resistance to Stephen.  With the death of Stephen and the dispersal of his fellow Hellenists, the focus would no longer be on Jerusalem but on Samaria and all of Palestine and, finally, with Paul on the further reaches of the Roman Empire.  Stephen is thus a key figure in the narrative of the wider Christian mission, and the lengthy treatment of his martyrdom is no coincidence.”[4]

    [1] The Quest Study Bible, Study Question for Acts 6:1.

    [2] F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p.120.

    [3] A. Fernando, p.246.

    [4] J. Pohill, p.183-184.

  • Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)

    1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

    7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

  • Study Questions: Acts 6:1-7
    • What problem arose in the church, and what lessons can we draw from these realities of church life?
    • Note the parallels in v. 1 and v. 7, as well as what comes in-between. Reflect on the things that can derail a church, and what this passage has to say about them.
    • What can we learn from how the apostles handle the problem? Play out what might have happened had they not appointed the seven men to take care of the administration of “tables.”
    • How does this passage challenge my thinking regarding human realities and the achieving of an ideal?
  • Prayer
August 28, 2019

Acts 5 – 2019-08-28

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • Acts 5:34-42 (ESV)

    34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 5:34-42
    • Examine Gamaliel’s advice. What seems sensible about it? What is attractive about it? What is wrong about it?
    • Note the apostles’ response in vv. 40-41, and consider Jesus’ words: Matthew 5:11–12 (ESV) 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
    • What can I apply or learn from this?
  • Prayer
August 27, 2019

Acts 5 – 2019-08-27

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • Acts 5:12-33 (ESV)

    12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

    17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

    Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

    27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

    33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 5:12-33
    • List out all the evidence and signs the members of the council needed to ignore in order to maintain their position.
    • Consider God’s continued patience and kindness to these rulers as he appealed to them through the apostles’ words, deeds and changed lives. Recall God’s patience and kindness towards me.
    • What is Peter’s message (summarized in vv. 30-32) that causes the rulers to be “enraged” (v. 33), and what lessons can I draw from this?
  • Prayer
August 26, 2019

Acts 4-5 – 2019-08-26

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • CHAPTER 5 Commentary

    vv.1-2: “Lest any should think that the material question is a small issue, Luke moves from the positive account of the generosity of Barnabas to the chilling tale of Ananias and Sapphira.  There, possessions and what they do to us is a matter of life and death, the very first crisis to hit the young community.”[1]

    vv.2-3: “The desire to gain a higher reputation than is one’s due for generosity or some other virtue is not so uncommon that anyone can afford to adopt a self-righteous attitude toward Ananias.”[2]

    “There is something quite natural about the lies of Ananias and Sapphira, for we all know the way we rationalize and excuse our own covetousness, acquisitiveness, and greed.  ‘I’m not really all that well off,’ we say.  ‘I have all I can do just to make ends meet.’   ‘I worked hard for this and deserve it.’  Our lies are a correlate of our materialism, for both our materialism and our self-deceit are our attempts to deal with our human insecurity, our human finitude, by taking matters into our own hands.  Luther once called security the ultimate idol.  And we have shown time and again that we are willing to exchange anything – our family, our health, our church, the truth – for a taste of security.”[3]

    v.11: “The fear of God and of the consequence of sin is a major theme of this story (5:5, 11).  Paul told Timothy that elders ‘who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning’ (1 Tim 5:20).  Public rebuke gives people a sense of seriousness of sin, and that in turn acts as a deterrent to sin.”[4]

    “The idea of going through life fearing both God and the consequences of sin seems unattractive in our age where people are so devoted to good feelings.  Fear is considered a bad feeling, and therefore people think it is wrong […]  Actually, fear is a friend that alerts us of the danger of sin […] The fear of displeasing God and of the consequences of sin does not take way the enjoyment of life.  It is rather a gateway to true enjoyment.”[5]

    One prominent feature that becomes apparent in this portrayal of the early church is the centrality and the authority that the church seemed to have had on the individual Christians.  The influence of the faith community on its members is so intense that it seems rather foreign to our culture.

    “While being one in heart and mind is considered the usual model for Christian community life, it is not easy to maintain in today’s individualistic society.  We do not like having anyone ‘pry’ into our personal lives, which would be necessary if the model shown in Acts were to be followed.  For this reason many have lowered their standards and settled for a functional unity that comes more from secular management studies than from God’s Word […]  This is an area where the church needs to be countercultural.  In a society where people deny the community orientation that is part of human nature in order to protect their privacy, close Christian community life may be one of the most important prophetic messages we can give the world […]  But such unity is not easy to maintain.  If our standards are high, our expectations from each other will also be high.  Consequently the pain of disappointment will also be high.  I believe this is a primary reason why people have lowered their standards of what to expect from Christian community. […] Many Christians do not feel a church has any right to make demands on members.  They choose which church they will join and choose to leave it when ‘it does not meet their needs.’ Such people will not get the benefit of deep fellowship from any church and will not receive the security and enrichment that comes from spiritual accountability.”[6]

    [1] Hillimon, William.  Interpretation: Acts, p.53

    [2] Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.105

    [3] Hillimon, William.  Interpretation: Acts, p.54

    [4] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.201

    [5] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, pp.206-207

    [6] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, pp.185-186

  • Acts 4:36-5:11 (ESV)

    36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

    1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

    After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 4:36-5:11
    • What might have driven Ananias and Sapphira to lie?
    • What are some modern parallels, and how might such tendencies weaken or damage the church?
    • Are there any deceptive patterns God is prompting me to repent of through my study of today’s passage?
  • Prayer
August 23, 2019

Acts 4 – 2019-08-23

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • Acts 4:23-37 (ESV)

    23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

    “‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
    26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

    27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

    32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 4:23-31
    • Consider the content of their prayer. What stands out as noteworthy?
    • What is the role of the Holy Spirit according to v. 31?

    Acts 4:23-37

    • List out the features of the church shown in this passage. What aspect am I most challenged and inspired by? What aspects of the church have I experienced? What steps can I take to strengthen the church?
  • Prayer
August 22, 2019

Acts 4 – 2019-08-22

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  • Acts 4:13-22 (ESV)

    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 4:13-14
    • What do the rulers and elders observe in vv. 13-14? How do they respond to these observations, and how could they have responded instead? What lessons and warnings are there for me regarding pride and truth?

    Acts 4:18-20

    • Consider the parallels between what the rulers attempted and today’s social climate toward speech about Jesus. How have I experienced this?
    • What is behind Peter and John’s courage? How can I grow in my courage to speak for Jesus in a forbidding environment?
  • Prayer
August 21, 2019

Acts 4 – 2019-08-21

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  • Acts 4 Commentary

    v.4:  “This growth is phenomenal, considering that women and children are not included in this accounting.”[1]

    vv.8-12: “Peter proceeds to preach the gospel to his judges, and he bases his argument on a well-known Old Testament text.  ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’ (Ps. 118:22) is one of the earliest messianic testimonies […]”[2]

    “When we read Peter’s speech, and remember to whom it was spoken, we recognize one of the world’s great demonstrations of courage.  It was spoken to an audience of the wealthiest, the most intellectual and the most powerful in the land, and yet Peter, the Galilean fisherman, stands before them rather as their judge than as their victim.  Further, this was the very court which had condemned Jesus to death.  Peter knew that he was taking his life in his hands.”[3]

    v.13: “In other words, though Peter and John are professionally unqualified, they are boldly conducting their own defense with great eloquence before this august assembly.  The Sanhedrin already knows that these men have been with Jesus.  But this performance reminds them afresh how they have been influenced by Jesus, who also ‘taught… as one who had authority’ (Mark 1:22).  Jesus’ ministry once prompted the Jews to ask (John 7:15), ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’”[4]

    vv.15-17: “It is particularly striking that neither on this nor on any subsequent occasion did the authorities take any serious action to disprove the apostles’ central affirmation – the resurrection of Jesus.  Had it seemed possible to refute them on this point, how eagerly would the opportunity have been seized!  Had their refutation on this point been achieved, how quickly and completely the new movement would have collapsed!  It is plain that the apostles spoke of a bodily resurrection when they said that Jesus had been raised form the dead; it is equally plain that the authorities understood them in this sense.  The body of Jesus had vanished so completely that all the resources at their command could not produce it.  The disappearance of his body, to be sure, was far from proving his resurrection, but the production of his body would have effectively disproved it.  Now the apostles’ claim that Jesus was alive had received public confirmation by the miracle of healing performed in his name.  It was, for the Sanhedrin, a disturbing situation.”[5]

    v.18: One lesson that can be learned from this antagonistic encounter with the Sanhedrin is that Christian life entails persecution and difficulties.  The notion that Christian life should be a life of smooth sailing is a false notion derived more from the materialistic Western culture than from the Bible.  “We live in an age that gives much attention to mastering the art of avoiding suffering.  We live in what may be called an ‘aspirin generation,’ which views pain and suffering as calamities that are to be avoided at all costs.”[6]

    The apostles themselves faced persecution from the onset from these religious leaders.  “We must, therefore, not be overly disillusioned when criticism and persecution come our way from those who should be encouraging us the most.  Parents, whose children’s lives are transformed for the better through a youth movement, may oppose the movement as they fear that their authority will be undermined and their hypocrisy exposed.  Our best efforts may be discounted on technicalities by those who do not like what we say or are threatened by our message.  For example, a powerful message through song, drama, or speech may be discounted because it took too long.  To our acts of deepest sacrifice selfish motives will be attributed.”[7]

    vv.23-24: “The individualism of contemporary society has caused us to lower our standards of fellowship.  One of the saddest results of this is that it leaves us ill-equipped for crises.  The apostles shared what happened and prayed together.”[8]

    vv.24-28: “We see a dual perspective in this prayer.  While the prayer takes evil into account, before and after that accounting is a description of God and his ways.  Evil is a reality, but God is a deeper and more powerful reality.”[9]

    v.29: “One would expect them to ask God for further deliverance.  They did not.  Instead they asked for more of the same, requesting of him boldness in witness and further miraculous signs.”

    “Following their gaze at god, the problems facing these believers received only a glance, while their major request had to do with obedience (v.29).  Today too obedience to God should be our primary concern when we face crises.”[10]

    v.31: God immediately answered their prayers for boldness.  The place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.  In 4:8, 4:31, 13:9, and throughout the book of Acts, one can observe that the direct result of being filled with the Holy Spirit was to speak the truth boldly.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit enables God’s people today to speak the word of God and proclaim the gospel truth with great boldness.  When the Spirit prompts us to reach the lost world with His gospel and we do not obey, we are putting out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thess 5:19).

    vv.32-37: Many attempts have been made by our modern consumerist culture to minimize and explain away the portrayal of the early church in these verses, calling them “idealized” vision of the early church and so forth. Especially the description of selling possessions to support each other financially has caused an uneasy murmur among the churches.  The disproportionate discomfort at the challenge and the desire to explain the passage away (while trying to maintain the principle of generosity) points toward a tense struggle in Christendom to create a Christ-like community while at the same holding on to all the treasures of the world.  How did we come to this point?[11]

    “It is said that the theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) once called on Pope Innocent II when the latter was counting out a large sum of money.  The Pope remarked, “You see, Thomas, the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’  Aquinas replied, ‘True, holy father, but neither can she now say, ‘Rise and walk.’’”[12]

    v.34: There were no needy persons among them. “Paul wrote, ‘Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality’ (2 Cor 8:13).  Relative equality is a goal every Christian should strive for.  I use the term relative because people’s spending can vary according to their culture and responsibilities.  But we must strive to have a situation where there are no needy people in the church.  Thus, Christians should not decide on their lifestyle by looking at their peers in society, but rather after looking at the needs of the believers around them.”[13]

    “Usually when we think of fellowship, we think of spiritual unity, of good relationships existing within the community, and of the sharing of good feelings towards each other.  But the characteristically Christian word for fellowship, koinonia, means much more than that.  Historian Justo L. Gonzales has shown that in the Bible, koinonia and its related words have the meaning of partnership as well.  Thus, we need to rethink our understanding of Christian fellowship in the light of what the New Testament records.  True fellowship includes the attitude ‘this is not my own’ to what one possesses.  True accountability must involve our finances as well as other aspects of our lives.”[14]

    [1] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.152

    [2] Bruce, F. F.  The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.93

    [3] Barclay, William. Daily Study Bible Series: Acts, p.39

    [4] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.153

    [5] Bruce, F. F.  The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.96

    [6] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.159

    [7] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.159

    [8] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, pp.170-171

    [9] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.175

    [10] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, pp.171-172

    [11] Hillimon, William.  Interpretation: Acts, p.53

    [12] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.149

    [13] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.191

    [14] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, p.189

    Acts 4:1-12 (ESV)

    1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

    5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 4:1-4
    • Note how the message of the apostles is summarized in v. 2. Reread 1:1-3, and consider afresh the reality that Christianity began as a testimony to a fact—Jesus rose from the dead—rather than as a new moral or religious system. What are the implications for me?

    Acts 4:5-12

    • Consider this scene and Peter’s message to the rulers.What stands out as noteworthy? How does Peter’s confidence challenge me?

    Acts 4:12

    • What does this verse state regarding the source of salvation?
    • What is my response to the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to salvation?
  • Prayer
August 20, 2019

Acts 3 – 2019-08-20

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  • Acts 3:11-26 (ESV)

    11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

    17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

  • Study Questions:
  • Acts 3:11-26
    • Identify the elements of Peter’s second recorded message. Summarize the message in two or three sentences. How does this message address me?

    Acts 3:19-20

    • Consider the promise to those who repent. How is it that repentance leads to times of refreshing?
    • Reflect on the message of Psalm 32:

    Psalm 32:1–7 (ESV)

    1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

    whose sin is covered.

    2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,

    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

    3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

    through my groaning all day long.

    4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

    5 I acknowledged my sin to you,

    and I did not cover my iniquity;

    I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

    6 Therefore let everyone who is godly

    offer prayer to you

    at a time when you may be found;

    surely in the rush of great waters,

    they shall not reach him.

    7 You are a hiding place for me;

    you preserve me from trouble;

    you surround me

    with shouts of deliverance.

    Are there some sins I need to confess and repent of? What am I gaining by keeping silent? What am I forfeiting?

  • Prayer
August 19, 2019

Acts 3 – 2019-08-19

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  • CHAPTER 3 Commentary

    v.11: “Solomon’s Colonnade was the porch that ran along the east side of the Court of the Gentiles.  It had rows of 27-foot-high stone columns and a roof of cedar.  It was a good thirty yards wide and over five hundred yards long, so there was plenty of room for large gatherings.”[1]

    v.15: “When he talked of his witness, he said, ‘We are witnesses of this’ (3:15; cf. 2:32; 5:32).  Peter was not a lone voice; he had a ministry team backing him when he spoke.  Peter and John ministered as a team after this incident too (8:14). When the first missionary team for Gentile evangelization was commissioned, the Holy Spirit wanted two people set apart (13:2).  When this team broke up, both Paul and Barnabas took others along to form their own teams (15:39-40).  We know that Paul almost never traveled alone.  He had his traveling Bible school, where he trained ‘interns’ like Timothy and Titus.  Even when Paul went to Rome as a prisoner, Luke was with him (27:2).  In his last letter written from prison, Paul asked Timothy to join him quickly and to bring Mark along (2 Tim. 4:9,11).  Only in exceptional cases, such as Philip the evangelist, do we see ministry performed alone in the New Testament.”[2]

    v.19: “All they had to do to avail themselves of this salvation was to change their former attitude to Jesus and bring it into line with God’s attitude.  God had clearly declared his verdict by raising him from the dead.  Let them therefore repent, let them repudiate with abhorrence their acquiescence in the murder of their true Messiah, let them turn back in heart to God, and the salvation and blessing procured by their Messiah’s death would be theirs.  Their sins would be blotted out, even that sin of sins which they had unwittingly committed in consenting to the death of the Author of life.  Here is the heart of the gospel of grace.”[3]

    [1] Life Change Series: Acts

    [2] Fernando, Ajith.  The NIV Application Commentary, pp.141-142

    [3] Bruce, F.F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, pp.83-84

  • Acts 3:1-10 (ESV)

    1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

  • Study Questions: Acts 3:1-10
    • Consider the setting: the temple, the Beautiful Gate (famous for its imposing height and golden adornments), and the crippled beggar “lame from birth” begging for money. How are different versions of this picture played out in our world today?
    • Consider the truths that emerge from the contrast between the beggar’s highest hopes for the day vs. what was actually available to him from Peter and John.
    • What are some ways the elements of the passage – the beggar, silver and gold, Peter and John, the “name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” – resonate with my story and ultimately commission me?
  • Prayer
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