Month: September 2019

September 16, 2019

Acts 13 – 2019-09-16

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  • Acts 13:13-52 (ESV)13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:

    “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

    26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of 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 appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,

    33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

    “‘You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you.’

    34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

    “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

    35 Therefore he says also in another psalm,

    “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’

    36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:

    41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
    be astounded and perish;
    for I am doing a work in your days,
    a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

    42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

    44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

    “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

    48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

  • Study Questions: Acts 13:16-41
    • Read the record of Apostle Paul’s sermon carefully and allow the message to speak to me as if I were in Paul’s audience that day.
    • Reflect on the goodness of the gospel promises recorded in vv. 36-39.
    • Note the continued presence of persecution in the midst of people being saved through the preaching about Christ; explore why this might be the case. How does this challenge me regarding my response toward persecution and setbacks in ministry?
  • Prayer
September 13, 2019

Acts 13 – 2019-09-13

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  • CHAPTER 13 COMMENTARY

    v.1: The list of prophets and teachers ‘symbolized the ethnic and cultural diversity of Antioch,’ a city with a ‘cosmopolitan population.’  Barnabas is mentioned first, possibly because he was the leader of the group.  He was a Jew from the Jerusalem church but was originally from Cyprus (4:36), an island west of Palestine.  Simeon is a Jewish name, but he is called Niger, meaning black. […] Bruce suggests that Niger was a ‘descriptive addition, given to him perhaps because he was an African.’  Lucius was from Cyrene, which was in North Africa (present-day Libya). […] Manaen is a Jewish name.  The NIV translates syntrophos as ‘has been brought up with’ Herod the tetrarch, but it means foster brother or close friend from childhood.”[1]

    v.2: “The spirit directed Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for reaching the lost.  As we noted above, these were the top leaders of the church, and the young church in Antioch presumably had many needs.  But when God calls, we must release even those we consider the most important and valued persons.”[2]

    v.9: “From this point on Saul was called Paul.  In those days nearly all Jews had two names.  One was a Jewish name, by which they were known in their own circle; the other was a Greek name, by which they were known in the wider world.  Sometimes the Greek name translated the Hebrew.  So Cephas is the Hebrew and Peter the Greek for a rock; Thomas is the Hebrew and Didymus the Greek for a twin.  Sometimes it echoed the sound.  So Eliakim in Hebrew becomes Alcimus in Greek and Joshua becomes Jesus. So Saul was also Paul.  It may well be that from this time he so fully accepted his mission as the apostle to the Gentiles that he determined to use only his Gentile name.  If so, it was the mark that from this time he was launched on the career for which the Holy Spirit had marked him out and that there was to be no turning back.”[3]

    vv.38-43: Following the exposition of the Christ event is an offer of forgiveness (v.38) and justification (v.39).  Verse 39 contains ideas that are typical of Paul’s letters:  belief, justification, and the inability to be justified by the Law of Moses.  Stott adds to these references some others from elsewhere in the speech:  death on the tree (v.29), sin (v. 38), and grace (v.43).  After pointing out that Paul was addressing Galatians here, Stott observes that theses ideas provided the foundation stone to his letter to the Galatians, which he would write a few months later.”[4]

    vv.44-45: “Evidently the “God-fearing Gentiles” who had heard Paul’s sermon the previous Sabbath had understood that the salvation he proclaimed in Christ included them.  The word has spread like wildfire through the Gentile populace, and they were there en masse.  The Jews were filled with jealousy and began to speak abusively against the things Paul was saying, perhaps even blaspheming the gospel itself (v.45)  The reason for their sudden change in receptivity was evident: their “jealousy” was over the presence of all these Gentiles.  It was one thing to proclaim the coming of the Messiah to the Jews.  It was quite another to maintain that in the Messiah, God accepted the Gentiles on an equal basis.  To them this was little short of blasphemy, and Paul’s witness to them was over.”[5]

    vv.46-48: “Paul and Barnabas responded “boldly” (v.46). […] Paul had to focus his attention on those who were receptive—the Gentiles.  Since Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled God’s promise to the Jews, it was essential to proclaim the gospel to the Jews first (Romans 1:16, 2:9-10).  But the Jews in Antioch had rejected the eternal life that is to be found in Jesus, and Paul had to turn to those who were “worthy” (v.46).  Paul backed his decision to turn to the Gentiles by quoting Isa 49:6, an Old Testament text that was “programmatic” for the Christian mission in Acts (Acts 1:8;26:23; cf. Luke 24:47).  The text of Isaiah, a “servant” passage, originally envisaged Israel’s destiny as being that of a witness to God to all the nations of the world.  As Servant-Messiah, Jesus fulfilled this divine destiny.  He was to be “a light to the nations.”  Now, the messengers of the Messiah are likewise commanded to be “a light for the Gentiles” (v.47).  The Jews of Pisidian Antioch could not accept a messiah who embraced the Gentiles.  In rejecting Paul’s witness to the Gentiles, they thus rejected their Messiah as well. […]

    One could view the present statement as definitive: Paul would no longer turn to the Jews:  he would now witness only to the Gentiles.  Such was not the case.  In the very next city on his missionary itinerary he would again begin his witness in the synagogue (14:1).  Again and again he experienced the rejection of the Jews and turned to the Gentiles of that town.  But he never gave up on his fellow Jews (cf. 28:17-28).”[6]

    […]

    [1] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),373

    [2] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),381

    [3] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976), 100

    [4] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),387

    [5] John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville, TN:Broadman Press, 1992), 306-307

    [6] John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 308

  • Acts 13:1-12 (ESV)

    1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 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.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

    4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

  • Study Questions: Acts 13:1-3
    • What is notable about the Antioch church’s leadership from this passage?
    • How did God set apart Barnabas and Saul for his work? What false notion regarding “God’s calling” does this passage correct?

    Acts 13:4-12

    • Why was Apostle Paul so harsh with Bar-Jesus (Elymas)?
    • Who or what functions like Elymas today? Are there any such forces or people in my life?
    • What are some ways this passage applies to my efforts to share the gospel with seekers?
  • Prayer
September 12, 2019

Acts 12 – 2019-09-12

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  • CHAPTER 12 COMMENTARY

    vv.1-17: “To this point in Acts, the apostles of Jerusalem are keenly favored by the ‘people’ of Israel and resisted only by the council – the ‘official’ religious authority in the holy city.  The reputation of the apostolate throughout Palestine has most recently attracted the malicious attention of Herod Agrippa I, client of Caesar Gaius and the principal political authority of the region.  […]According to Josephus, his reign was characterized by violence and caprice, which is vividly captured by the account of his death in Acts (see vv.20-22).  Perhaps this is sufficient evidence to fill in the historical gap left by the narrative, which tells the reader nothing of Herod’s motive for this most recent attack upon the Judean church.  Nor does Luke make clear why the apostle James is beheaded and the apostle Peter spared; presumably the church prayed for the release of both.  The brief mention of James’ martyrdom indicates the depth of difficulty Peter finds himself when Herod ‘proceeded to arrest Peter also’ (v. 3). More importantly, however, James is not replaced as Judas was before him (see 1:15-26), and so the circle of the Twelve seems broken beyond repair with their rule at an end in Jerusalem.  The succession of their spiritual authority appears necessary, since the Jerusalem mission must continue on under new leadership (= James the brother of Jesus) as Acts makes clear (see 15:4-29; 21:17-26).” [1]

    v.5: “To the gloomy picture of Peter in prison Luke adds the hopeful note of the church earnestly in prayer for him (v. 5). […] While Peter was fast asleep in prison in the middle of the night (the angel had to wake him – v. 7), the church was engaged in vigilant prayer for him.”[2]

    vv.12-17: “The second instance of irony is the unbelief of Peter and the praying church that their prayers had been answered (vv. 9-11, 15).  And this came after God had similarly released Peter from imprisonment on an earlier occasion – that time too through an angel at night (5:19-20).  In fact, when the servant girl Rhoda was overjoyed over the answer to the prayers of the believers, they pronounced her out of her mind (vv. 14-15).”[3]

    “The statement ‘it must be his angel’ (v. 15) reflects the Jewish belief in protecting and guiding angels, who ‘were sometimes thought to resemble the human beings they protected.’  Thus the believers thought that Rhoda mistook Peter’s guardian angel for Peter.  The irony continues as Peter went on knocking while the believers argued among themselves (v. 16a).  While the big iron gate of the prison opened with no effort to let Peter out (v. 10), he was unable to get past the gate of his own friend’s home.”[4]

    “Though we do not know from where Luke got these details, the record of Peter’s anxious gesture of motioning with his hand for them to be quiet (v. 17) indicates ‘the authentic touch of an eyewitness.’  Peter probably then went ‘underground so successfully that no one to this day has discovered for certain where he went.’  Peter wanted James to be informed about what had happened, which suggests that he had already become an important leader in the church (cf. also Gal 2:1-10).” [5]

    vv.19-23: “We are not told the exact cause of death; Longenecker suggests it may have been through infection by intestinal ringworms.  There is irony here too, for the man who was glorious on the outside was rotting of worms on the inside.”[6]

    vv.24-25: “Immediately after the report of Herod’s death Luke gives a report of the growth of the church he had brutally tried to suppress.  The customary summary of growth in verse 24 ends the description in Acts of the Christian mission to the Jewish world.  The section closes on a positive note.  The early popularity of the church has given way to hostility, but that does not hinder the forward march of the gospel.  From the next chapter to the end of Acts, the focus will be on Paul and his missionary activity.”[7]

    [1] Leander E. Keck, The New Interpreter’s Bible: Acts  (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 178-179

    [2] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 362-363.

    [3] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 362-363.

    [4] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 362-363.

    [5] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 362-363.

    [6] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 363-364.

    [7] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 363-364.

  • Acts 12:1-25 (ESV)

    1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

    6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

    12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.

    18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

    20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

    24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

    25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

  • Study Questions: Acts 12:1-12
    • Consider the picture of “earnest prayer [being] made to God by the church” for Peter (v. 5), and Peter being rescued out of prison by the angel (vv. 6-11). Who are some people in need of deliverance that I need to intercede for?
    • What is ironic about the believers’ response to Rhoda’s report? Given this, what can I learn about the power of “many gathered together” (v. 12) in concerted prayer?

    Acts 12:20-25

    • Reflect on the irony of an outwardly impressive man who is dressed in “royal robes” and sitting on a “throne,” yet is full of parasitic worms.
    • Reflect on the words of v. 24 that follow the report of Herod’s death.
    • What lessons can I apply from this passage?
  • Prayer
September 11, 2019

Acts 11 – 2019-09-11

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  • CHAPTER 11 COMMENTARY

    v.1: “A Gentile was anyone who was not a Jew; the Jewish believers are sometimes referred to as the ‘the circumcised believers’ (11:2).  Most Jewish believers thought that God offered salvation only to the Jews because God had given his law to them (Exodus 19, 20).  A group in Jerusalem believed that Gentiles could be saved, but only if they followed all the Jewish laws and traditions—in essence, if they became Jews.  Both were mistaken.  God chose the Jews and taught them his laws so they could bring the message of salvation to all people (see Genesis 12:3; Psalm 22:27; Isaiah 42:4, 49:6; 56:3-7;60:1-3; Jeremiah 16:19-21; Zechariah 2:11, Malachi 1:11; Romans 15:9-12).”[1]

    vv.1-3: “‘The circumcised believers’ (hoi ek peritomes; lit., ‘those of the circumcision,’ usually meaning only ‘the Jews,’ but in context certainly connoting ‘Jewish Christians’ here) immediately confronted Peter and charged, ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.’ This charge, while traditionally worded, was tantamount to saying that Peter had set aside Christianity’s Jewish features and thereby seriously endangered its relation with the nation.”[2]

    v.8:Impure or unclean.  Unacceptable according to dietary restrictions of the law, thought by some to be for health reasons and by others for religious reason.  The Jews gained insight into God’s holiness by visual lessons reinforced in their daily diet.”[3]

    “God had promised throughout Scripture that he would reach the nations.  […] But this was an extremely difficult truth for Jews, even Jewish believers, to accept.  The Jewish believers understood how certain prophecies were fulfilled in Christ, but they overlooked other Old Testament teachings.”[4]

    vv.19-30: “In restrained sentences these few words tell of one of the greatest events in history.  Now, for the first time, the gospel is deliberately preached to the Gentiles. Everything has been working up to this. There have been three steps on the ladder. First, Philip preached to the Samaritans; but the Samaritans after all were half Jewish and formed, as it were, a bridge, between the Jewish and the Gentile world.  Second, Peter accepted Cornelius; but it was Cornelius who took the initiative.  It was not the Christian Church who sought Cornelius; it was Cornelius who sought the Christian Church.  Further, it is stressed that Cornelius was a God-fearer and, therefore, on the fringes of the Jewish faith. Third, in Antioch, the Church did not go to people who were Jews or half Jews, nor wait to be approached by Gentiles seeking admission; of set purpose and without waiting for the invitation, it preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Christianity is finally launched on its worldwide mission.

    Here we have a truly amazing thing. The Church has taken the most epoch-making of all steps; and we do not even know the names of the people who took that step. All we know is that they came from Cyprus and Cyrene.  They go down in history as nameless pioneers of Christ.  It has always been one of the tragedies of the Church that men have wished to be noticed and named when they did something worthwhile.  What the Church has always needed, perhaps more than anything else, is people who never care who gains the credit for it so long as the work is done.  These men may not have written their names in men’s books of history: but they have written them forever in God’s Book of Life.”[5]

    “Antioch in North Syria by the Orontes River was the largest of sixteen cities in the eastern Mediterranean bearing that name.  They were so named because many kings of the Seleucid dynasty (who ruled the eastern part of Alexander the Great’s empire after his death) bore the name Antiochus.  With an estimated population of about 300,000 Antioch in Syria was the third largest city in the Roman empire, surpassed in population only by Rome and Alexandria.  It was also the seat of administration of the Roman province of Syria.  A large Jewish population lived there, estimates of which range from 22,000 to 65,000.

    Antioch had lax morals, especially owing to cult prostitution at a shrine in Daphne, five miles south of the city.  Because it was an international commercial center, it was a cosmopolitan city.  People were accustomed to innovations there. ‘They had their rough corners rubbed smooth, and traditional attitudes which were taken so seriously in a place like Jerusalem did not matter much.’ According to Josephus, a large number of proselytes lived there. In fact, one of the seven men chosen to serve tables in Jerusalem was Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch (6:5).  It was, then, an ideal place to be ‘the real birthplace of Gentile Christianity.’ It remained an important center of Christianity for many centuries.  It is now a part of Turkey and is called Antakya, with a relatively small population of about 40,000.’[6]

    vv.22-26: “[Barnabas] introduced Paul into the circle of apostles (9:27).  He was chosen as their delegate to Antioch.  Barnabas was a ‘bridge-builder,’ one who was able to see the positive aspects in both sides of an issue and to mediate between perspectives.  That was the sort of person needed now to investigate the new mission […] Luke emphasizes these positive qualities in Barnabas. ‘He was a good man’ (v. 24), a phrase Luke used elsewhere only of Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50).  He was ‘full of the Holy Spirit and faith,’ just like Stephen (Acts 6:5).  When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, far from criticizing the new undertaking, he was able to see the grace of God at work in all the Gentile conversions, and he rejoiced (v. 23). More than that, he encouraged them in the ministry, thus living up to his nickname of being the ‘Son of Encouragement’ (4:36).  This quality of encouragement, of looking for the best in others, would reappear when Barnabas interceded on Mark’s behalf (15:36-40).[7]

    “With the growing missionary success in Antioch, Barnabas needed help; and Paul immediately came to mind.  Paul was in the area of his native Cilicia (cf. Acts 9:30; Gal 1:21), to which he had departed after his first visit to Jerusalem following his conversion.  The text of Acts is compressed and selective, but the most likely reconstruction of Pauline chronology from Gal 1-2 would indicate that some ten years or so had elapsed from the time he first departed from Cilicia to when Barnabas set out to find him.  The verb Luke employed (anazeteo) means to seek out and implies he had some difficulty in finding him.  Quite likely Paul was off somewhere busily engaged in missionary activity.  When Barnabas finally located Paul, he brought him back to Antioch where the two were heavily occupied in preaching and teaching to ‘great numbers’ (v. 26).  Likely they particularly continued the witness to Gentiles.  This would prepare them for their first mission together in Cyprus and southern Turkey (13:4-14:26).” [8]

    “Luke appended the interesting note to v. 26 that the term ‘Christian’ was first applied to disciples in Antioch.  This may be of more significance than might appear on first sight.  The term only occurs in two other places in the New Testament (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).  In all three instances it is a term used by outsides to designate Christians.  Evidently the term was not originally used by Christians themselves.  They preferred terms like ‘believers, disciples and brothers.’  The first extensive usage by a Christian writer to designate fellow believers was by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, around the turn of the second century.  The term (Christianoi) consists of the Greek word for Christ/Messiah (Christos) with the Latin ending ianus, meaning belonging to, identified by […] The term was often used by Roman writers to designate followers of Christ.  The early usage in Antioch is perhaps indicative of two things.  For one, it is the sort of term Gentiles would have used and perhaps reflects the success of Antioch’s Gentile mission.  Gentiles were dubbing their fellow Gentiles who because followers of Christ ‘Christians.’  Second, it reflects that Christianity was beginning to have an identity of its own and no longer was viewed as a totally Jewish entity.  Again, the success among Gentiles would have hastened this process in Antioch. [9]

    [1] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 1972.

    [2] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.1-3.

    [3] Quest Study Bible, study notes  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1522.

    [4] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 1972.

    [5] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles: The Daily Study Bible, (Philadelphia, PN: The Westminster Press, 1976)  88.

    [6] Ajith Fernando, Acts: The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998)  348.

    [7] John B. Polhill, Acts: The New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992)  272.

    [8] John B. Polhill, Acts: The New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992)  272-273.

    [9] John B. Polhill, Acts: The New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992)  273.

  • Acts 11:1-30 (ESV)

    1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea.12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

    19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

    27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

  • Study Questions: Acts 11:1-18
    • God used Peter to preach to the Gentiles, corresponding with the final part of Jesus’ commission to his disciples to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (1:8). How do the Jewish believers respond to this?

    Acts 11:19-21

    • What was the new thing that took place in Antioch, and who were the ones responsible for taking this new step?

    Acts 11:22-26

    • What kind of man was Barnabas, as evidenced by this passage?

    Acts 11:26

    • What might have been behind the fact that the disciples got the name “Christian” at Antioch?
  • Prayer
September 10, 2019

Acts 10 – 2019-09-10

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  • CHAPTER 10 COMMENTARY

    vv.17-19:Grappling with what we are uncomfortable. In verses 17 and 19 Peter was grappling intensely regarding the meaning of the vision when the Holy Spirit spoke to him. At first Peter vehemently refused to be open to change […] He had strong convictions. But when he sensed that God was indeed teaching him something new, he seriously considered the implications of the vision. Thus, both divine guidance and Peter’s willingness to grasp what God was showing him combined to produce a change in his thinking, even though it was something he was uncomfortable with. A passion for obedience makes God’s servants open to changes with which they may at first be uncomfortable.” [1]

    vv.23b-24: “Six of the Joppa believers accompanied Peter to Caesarea the next day (cf. 11:12)–a wise action in view of the questions that would later be raised at Jerusalem.”[2]

    vv.25-28: “Cornelius shows great humility for a centurion, for like the centurion whom Jesus encountered (Luke 7:6), he ‘fell at [Peter’s] feet in reverence’ (v.25). But Peter will have none of this, as such reverence is reserved only for God. (v.26) Such acts of reverence to respected people were not unusual in the Near East in those days. In fact, it was ‘typical of the welcome a hero receives in the Greek novel.’ But Peter will not risk anything that might suggest that he is accepting the type of respect that is due to God alone.”

    “Peter’s discovery, as he explains to his audience, is the pivotal message of this whole passage: ‘God has shown me that I should not call any man impure [koinos] or unclean’ (v.28). Here it has the idea of ‘being ritually unacceptable either as a result of defilement or because of the very nature of the object itself.’ A big shift has taken place in Peter’s thinking, for he now realizes that no longer are the typical Jewish distinctions among people significant. They have been rendered void once and for all. In this episode Jew and Gentile have come together. An attitude of repentance. When Peter realized that he had been wrong about his earlier prejudices, he readily admitted that in his conversation with Cornelius (v.28). When he preached to the crowd, he again publicly confessed the lesson he had learned: God shows no favoritism.”[3]

    v.45:What was so amazing to Peter’s friends? What they saw with their eyes, they could not grasp with their minds.  They had always been taught that the promises of Scripture were only for God’s chosen people.  They could not imagine how Gentiles could be made righteous without first becoming Jews.  It confused them to see God take the initiative and give the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles before they could earn his favor by following the Law.”[4]

    [1] Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998)

    [2] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.23b-24.

    [3] Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998)

    [4] Quest Study Bible, study notes  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1521.

  • Acts 10:1-48 (ESV)

    1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

    9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

    17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests.

    The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.

    24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

    30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

    34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

    44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

  • Study Questions: Acts 10:1-48
    • What are some observations and lessons I can draw from a character study of Cornelius?
    • What is the role of prayer in this chapter? What lesson is here regarding how God can lead my life to those who seek him?
    • Given the barriers Peter had to overcome in order to go to Cornelius’s house, reflect on Peter’s words in v. 28: “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Why is this a fundamental Christian principle? How much has this truth become a reality in my perspective towards myself and others?
  • Prayer
September 9, 2019

Acts 9 – 2019-09-09

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  • Acts 9:32-43 (ESV)

    32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

    36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

  • Study Questions: Acts 9:32-43
    • What can I learn from this picture of Peter going from town to town to minister to the established and growing churches?
    • What can I infer about Tabitha’s character and the relationships within the early church at Joppa, given the scene at her deathbed?
    • Note the similarities between this miracle and the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:35-43). Here is a picture of how Peter has taken up the work that Jesus carried out while he was on earth. In what ways can I imitate Jesus and take up his ministry in my life?
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September 6, 2019

Acts 9 – 2019-09-06

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  • Acts 9:26-31 (ESV)

    26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

    31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

  • Study Questions: Acts 9:26-31
    • What sort of man was Barnabas, and what was the role he played in Saul’s life and in the larger cause of the gospel?
    • What is noteworthy about the regions where the church had been established, and about how the churches are characterized in v. 31?
  • Prayer
September 5, 2019

Acts 9 – 2019-09-05

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  • Acts 9:18-31 (ESV)

    18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

    For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

    23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

    26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

    31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

  • Study Questions: Acts 9:18-31
    • What can I learn from the fact that Saul immediately started proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues and had “his disciples” (v.25) by the time he had to make his escape from Damascus?
    • What lessons can I learn from the way Saul’s life was targeted from the very start of his ministry as an apostle of Jesus, and from the ways he survived?
  • Prayer
September 4, 2019

Acts 9 – 2019-09-04

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  • CHAPTER 9 COMMENTARY

    CONVERSION.  The English word “conversion” comes from the Latin convertere, meaning “to turn around.”  The equivalent Greek word, epistrophe, appears only once in the New Testament (Acts 15:3), though the NIV translates as “convert” words that literally mean “proselyte,” “neophyte,” and “firstfruits.”  Related verbs like “to turn” (epistrepho) and synonyms such as “repentance,” “regeneration,” and being “born again” appear often.

    Paul’s conversion is sometimes described as a typical biblical conversion.  But it has many atypical features.  It was triggered by a post-resurrection appearance of Christ.  It was a sudden turnaround in direction with no evidence that he had been moving toward Christianity (as is the case with most converts).  His was a conversion like that of C.S. Lewis, who said, “I gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”  The last thing Saul ever intended to do was to become a Christian.  But he was, in his own words, “grasped by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12).  In the features given below, however, his conversion is typical of biblical conversions.[1]

    Features typical of biblical conversions:

    • Conversion comes as a result of a divine initiative. […]
    • There is a personal encounter with Christ (vv. 4-6). We all meet Jesus in different ways; but if we are converted, we have met him and entered into a personal relationship with him.  Jesus said that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3).  A. Carson comments on this verse, “Eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One.”
    • Paul surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. While the word kyrios in verse 5 can mean either “Lord” or “sir,” there is no doubt that what we have here is a deep surrender of Saul’s life to Christ.  This is evidenced by his total fast for three days, indicating that until he completed the process that began on the road, he was not going to cease from his intense quest for God.  Such surrender is indeed the norm for all followers of Jesus.  Paul’s later radical calls to discipleship imply nothing short of total surrender to the Lordship of Christ.  Roy Clements says he does not “use the phrases “decided for Christ’ or ‘committed to Christ,’ though decision and commitment are certainly involved…. Conversion is at root not a decision, nor a commitment, but a surrender to the supreme authority of Jesus.”
    • We see the important place of the body of Christ in the conversion process. While Paul was eager to show that the gospel he received had not been taught to him by any human but was given by the Lord himself (Gal. 1), others in the body of Christ played an important role in his conversion and early Christian life.  Through baptism he was incorporated to this body (Acts 9:18).  Then he “spent several days with the disciples in Damascus” (v. 19).  The thing that stands out in our passage is the role of the two encouragers, Ananias and Barnabas.  Probably the first words Saul heard from a Christian after his conversion were, “Brother Saul” (v. 17).  Stott says, “It must have been music to his ears.”  The archenemy of the church was welcomed as a brother; the dreaded fanatic was received as a member of the family.  Lloyd Ogilvie muses, “Imagine laying your hands on someone who you know had been on his way to arrest you!”  There you see the love of the encourager reaching out to a new believer in spite of his past. […]
    • Though Saul’s conversion is individual, it is not individualistic. […][2]

    vv.3-9: …To ascribe Saul’s conversion to God’s initiative can easily be misunderstood, however, and needs to be qualified in two ways, namely that the sovereign grace which captured Saul was neither sudden (in the sense that there had been no previous preparation) nor compulsive (in the sense that he needed to make no response).

    First, Saul’s conversion was not at all the ‘sudden conversion’ it is often said to have been.  To be sure, the final intervention of Christ was sudden: ‘Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him’ (3), and a voice addressed him.  But this was by no means the first time Jesus Christ had spoken to him.  According to Paul’s own later narrative, Jesus said to him: ‘It is hard for you to kick against the goads’ (26:14).  By this proverb (which seems to have been fairly common in both Greek and Latin literature) Jesus likened Saul to a lively and recalcitrant young bullock, and himself to a farmer using goads to break him in.  The implication is that Jesus was pursuing Saul, prodding and pricking him, which it was ‘hard’ (painful, even futile) for him to resist.  What were these goads, with which Jesus had been pricking him, and against which Saul had been kicking?  We are not specifically told what they were, but the New Testament gives us a number of hints.

    One goad was surely his doubts.  With his conscious mind he repudiated Jesus as an imposter, who had been rejected by his own people and had died on a cross under the curse of God. […] Even if they did not meet, Saul will have heard reports of Jesus’ teaching and miracles, character and claims, together with the persistent rumor from many witnesses that he had been raised from death and seen.

    Another goad will have been Stephen.  This was no hearsay, for Saul had been present at his trial and his execution.  He had seen with his own eyes both Stephen’s face shining like an angel’s (6:15), and his courageous non-resistance while being stoned to death (7:58-60).  He had also heard with his own ears Stephen’s eloquent speech before the Sanhedrin, as well perhaps as his wisdom in the synagogue (6:9-10), his prayer for the forgiveness of his executioners, and his extraordinary claim to see Jesus as the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand (7:56).  It is in these ways that ‘Stephen and not Gamaliel was the real master of St Paul’.  For Saul could not suppress the witness of Stephen. […]

    But the goads of Jesus were moral as well as intellectual.  Saul’s bad conscience probably caused him more inner turmoil even than his nagging doubts.  For although he could claim to have been ‘faultless’ in external righteousness, he knew that his thoughts, motives and desires were not clean in God’s sight. […]

    If God’s grace was not sudden, it was not compulsive either.  That is, the Christ who appeared to him and spoke to him did not crush him.  He humbled him, so that he fell to the ground, but he did not violate his personality.  He did not demean Saul into a robot or compel him to perform certain actions in a kind of hypnotic trance.  On the contrary, Jesus put to him a probing question, ‘why do you persecute me?’  He thus appealed to his reason and conscience, in order to bring into his consciousness the folly and evil of what he was doing.  Jesus then told him to get up and go into the city, where he would be told what to do next.  And Saul was not so overwhelmed by the vision and the voice as to be deprived of speech and unable to reply.  No, he answered Christ’s question with two counter-questions: first, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (5) and secondly, “What shall I do, Lord?’ (22:10).  His response was rational, conscientious and free. […]

    To sum up, the cause of Saul’s conversion was grace, the sovereign grace of God.  But sovereign grace is gradual grace and gentle grace.  Gradually, and without violence, Jesus pricked Saul’s mind and conscience with his goads.  Then he revealed himself to him by the light and the voice, not in order to overwhelm him, but in such a way as to enable him to make a free response.  Divine grace does not trample on human personality.  Rather the reverse, for it enables human beings to be truly human.  It is sin which imprisons; it is grace which liberates.  The grace of God so frees us from the bondage of our pride, prejudice and self-centredness, as to enable us to repent and believe. […]

    vv.26-31: It is not an accident that the Greek word for witness (martys) came to be associated with martyrdom.  ‘Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship’, wrote Bonhoeffer.

    Yet the world’s opposition did not impede the spread of the gospel or the growth of the church.  On the contrary, Luke ends his narrative of Saul’s conversion, which culminated in his providential escape from danger, with another of his summary verses (31).  He described the church, which has now spread throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, as having five characteristics – peace (free from external interference), strength (consolidating its position), encouragement (enjoying paraklesis, the special ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete), growth (multiplying numerically) and godliness (living in the fear of the Lord).[3] 

    [1] Acts, The NIV Application Commentary, p.302

    [2] Acts, The NIV Application Commentary, p.302-4.

    [3] John Stott, The Spirit, the Church, and the World, p. 178-9

  • Acts 9:1-19 (ESV)

    1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

    10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

    For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

  • Study Questions: Acts 9:1-19 
    • Describe all that Saul must have been thinking and feeling as he encountered Jesus, heard these words, and was without sight for three days.
    • What can I learn about God through this passage? Consider what Saul was doing, Ananias’s initial response to God, and the way God chose to restore Saul’s sight. (Consider especially his view of you.)
    • Does this passage help me understand my own story, or challenge or commission me in some way?
  • Prayer
September 3, 2019

Acts 8 – 2019-09-03

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)

    26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

    “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
    33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
    For his life is taken away from the earth.”

    34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

  • Study Questions: Acts 8:26-40
    • What lessons can I learn from the Ethiopian eunuch?
    • How did the Scriptures, an obedient and equipped disciple, and the Holy Spirit all play a part in ushering in this one man’s salvation?
    • Are there elements of my journey to Christ that resonate with this story?
    • What is involved in being a Philip to someone? How can I become someone like Philip to a spiritual seeker?
  • Prayer
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