2436.) Acts 15

September 3, 2018

Acts 15 (New Living Translation)

The Council at Jerusalem

THE CRUCIAL PROBLEM 

The influx of Gentiles into the Church produced a problem which had to be solved. The mental background of the Jew was founded on the fact that he belonged to the chosen people. In effect they believed that not only were the Jews the peculiar possession of God but also that God was the peculiar possession of the Jews. The problem was this. Before a Gentile became a member of the Christian Church was it necessary that he should be circumcised and take upon himself the Law of Moses? In other words–must the Gentile, before he became a Christian, first become a Jew? Or, could a Gentile be received into the Church as such?

Even were that question settled there arose another problem. The strict Jew could have no intercourse with a Gentile. He could not have him as guest nor be his guest. He would not, as far as possible, even do business with him. So then, even if Gentiles were allowed into the Church, how far could Jews and Gentiles associate in the ordinary social life of the Church?

These were the problems which had to be solved. The solution was not easy. But in the end the Church took the decision that there should be no difference between Jew and Gentile at all. This chapter of Acts tells of the Council of Jerusalem whose decisions were the charter of freedom for the Gentiles.

–William Barclay

1 While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.

4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. 5 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

So the question at hand is this:  How are we saved?  — by our good works, or by Christ’s work on the cross, or by a combination of our obedience to the Law and our faith in Christ? The answer is crucial to the shape of the Christian faith.

6 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue.

15. meeting in progress

from Class Acts:  How Good Manners Create Good Relationships and Good Relationships Create Good Business,by Mary Mitchell

Nobody talks about good meetings; only bad ones.  But I think that if ever there was an opportunity for individuals to shine, it is at meetings. And if we, as individuals, are dedicated to mining our own talents to contribute to a greater good, a meeting is the place to do it. Meetings are the proscenium stages for business players. Meetings are an education about every person who participates in them.

7 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. 8 God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

In effect, the Jewish party said, “Religion means earning God’s favour by keeping the Law.” Peter said, “Religion consists in casting ourselves on the grace of God.” 

–William Barclay

Peter has obviously spent some time listening to the Holy Spirit and thinking about this issue. His answer goes straight to his vision, that “I should not call anyone unclean.” The Law of Moses did not cleanse the hearts of the Gentiles (Cornelius and his household) — rather, they were cleansed by faith!

12 Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

13 When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written:

16 ‘Afterward I will return
and restore the fallen house of David.
I will rebuild its ruins
and restore it,
17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord,
including the Gentiles—
all those I have called to be mine.
The Lord has spoken—
18 he who made these things known so long ago.’

19 “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. 21 For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.”

_________________________

Music:

Thank you, Council at Jerusalem, for settling the question and affirming that salvation from Jesus Christ is by faith and not by works!  HERE  is “We Can Work It Out,” a Beatles classic from 1965.

_________________________

The Letter for Gentile Believers

22 Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas. 23 This is the letter they took with them:

“This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings!
24 “We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but we did not send them! 25 So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We are sending Judas and Silas to confirm what we have decided concerning your question.
28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”

In the Good News translation, verse 28 begins, “The Holy Spirit and we have agreed . . . ” I love that! Don’t we wish every church council meeting, every congregational meeting, every committee meeting, every national assembly, would close with the members saying, “The Holy Spirit and we have agreed!”

30 The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. 31 And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message.

32 Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith. 33 They stayed for a while, and then the believers sent them back to the church in Jerusalem with a blessing of peace. 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord there.

Paul and Barnabas Separate

The Second Missionary Journey

The narrative of Paul’s second missionary journey, which occupied him for about three years, is given in the section of Acts which extends from Acts 15:36 to Acts 18:23. It began from Antioch. Paul first made a tour of the churches of Syria and Cilicia. Then he re-visited the churches in the regions of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. There followed a period when he could not see his way clear before him. That time of uncertainty ended with the vision at Troas. From Troas, Paul crossed to Neapolis and thence to Philippi. From Philippi he moved on to Thessalonica and Beroea. From there he went to Athens and then on to Corinth where he spent about eighteen months. From Corinth he travelled to Jerusalem by way of Ephesus and finally back to Antioch, his starting point. The great step forward is that with this journey Paul’s activity passed beyond Asia Minor and entered Europe.

–William Barclay

36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated.

from Daily Readings from Luther’s Writings,
edited by Barbara Owen:

Paul and Barnabas had been set aside for the ministry of the Gospel among the Gentiles and had traveled through many areas and announced the Gospel. Yet Luke testified that there came such a sharp disagreement between them that they parted company. Here there was a fault either in Paul or in Barnabas. It must have been a very sharp disagreement to separate such close companions, and this is what the text suggests. Such examples are written for our comfort. For it is a great comfort for us to hear that even such great saints sin–a comfort which those who say that saints cannot sin would take away from us.

Samson, David and many other celebrated leaders who were full of the Holy Spirit fell in huge sins. Such errors and sins of the saints are set forth in order that those who are troubled and desperate may find comfort and that those who are proud may be afraid. No one has ever fallen so grievously as to not have stood up again. On the other hand, no one has such a sure footing that he or she cannot fall. If Peter fell, I, too, may fall; if he stood up again, so can I.

Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 41 Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Ephesians 2:8-9.    https://www.amazingfacts.org/news-and-features/scripture-pictures/scripture-pictures-by-verse/verse/e/29238/t/ephesians-2-8
Meeting in progress.    https://www.flipotv.info/meeting-in-progress-clipart.html
writing the letter.   http://bradsmusicroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/11_Paul_Jerusalem_1024.jpg
in good company.     http://savemefrominiquity.blogspot.com/

2344.) Acts 14:21-28

April 26, 2018

Acts 14:21-28   (NLT)

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch of Syria

21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

As Paul and Barnabas decided to head back home to Antioch, they passed through the cities they had visited before, to strengthen and encourage the Christians in those cities. Paul and Barnabas wanted to do far more than gain conversions; they had a passion to make disciples.

–David Guzik

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

THE COURAGEOUS SPIRIT

One of the characteristics of the early church was courage. The Twelve crept fearfully into the upper room to protect themselves from the authorities, but they came out on Pentecost boldly proclaiming the risen Christ to everyone they could reach. Your knees may knock together for a time as you go out into ministry, but that’s all right. Keep on going. Do the thing Christ asks you to do, and he will fill you with his Spirit and therefore with courage. The courage comes only when you act.

The first Christians became unstoppable. The world had no categories to deal with people like these. They did not fear prison, and they did not fear death. The world had no weapons to use against them that could succeed (Isaiah 54:17).

On Paul’s first missionary journey the citizens of Lystra stoned him so badly that the Christians there believed him to be dead. However, he was revived and continued on to preach in Derbe. Then, instead of returning to safety, he went back to Lystra to check on the believers. He was anxious to go back to where he had been stoned and beaten and encourage them by telling them what a marvelous thing it is to be a Christian. He returned to Lystra to strengthen the believers and encourage them to continue in the faith. Then he went on his way from Lystra, rejoicing.

Do we know anything about that kind of courage? The same Spirit who was in Paul can be in you and me.

23 Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

“The apostles had left behind only a tiny core of believers, and these had hardly been taught anything, since the apostles had been there at best for only a few weeks. How could this little group survive? It survived because the work was actually being done by God. The church was his church.”

–James Montgomery Boice

24 Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. 25 They preached the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia.

26 Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. 27 Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. 28 And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is another Don Moen favorite — “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Remember that His grace is sufficient for everything you may face today!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Staying strong in the Lord.   http://fbcobpodcast.blogspot.com/2015/11/staying-strong-in-lord-acts-1419-28-900.html
the lion gets courage, from The Wizard of Oz. http://matchstic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/courage.jpg
back with the believers in Antioch.   http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/yo-paul-turkey/

2343.) Acts 14:1-20

April 25, 2018
"St. Paul healing the cripple at Lystra" by Karel DuJardin, 1663 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

“St. Paul healing the cripple at Lystra” by Karel DuJardin, 1663 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Acts 14:1-20 (NLT)

Paul and Barnabas in Iconium

1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2 Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. 3 But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.

Paul and friends stay in a town as long as they can, to establish the believers and ground them strongly in their faith, for they all know that opposition will come.

Acts 14:4 is the first time Paul and Barnabas are called apostles in the Book of Acts. The only other time the title is used for them in Acts is at Acts 14:14. Paul often used the title of himself in his letters.

5 Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. 6 When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. 7 And there they preached the Good News.

“The apostles did not go into these cities to do miracles, and then to preach. Rather, it was the other way around: They went to preach; then sometimes there were healings.”

–James Montgomery Boice

Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe

8 While they were at Lystra (19 miles south of Konya in present -day Turkey), Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting 9 and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.

10 So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” 12 They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker.

The god Hermes was the messenger of the gods, so he would be the one talking.

14. Zeus and Hermes

Psalm 95:3 (ESV)

For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.

13 Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening,

That may have taken a bit. It says the crowd was shouting in their local dialect, which Paul and Barnabas may not have understood. But the preparation for sacrifice needed no explanation!

they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.”

No soft sell here! Paul calls their gods “worthless things” and urges them to turn to the “living God.” And the rain and good crops and joy that they thought came from Zeus — all of it really comes from God!

18 But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.

In his book Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the tale of an old married couple, Baucis and Philemon, who were the only ones in their village to welcome the gods Zeus and Hermes when they came disguised as poor men. This story was well-known in Paul’s day, especially since Paul was in the area where Ovid said this event had occurred.

Baucis and Philemon entertain the gods, by an unknown artist.

“Zeus and Hermes came disguised as ordinary peasants and began asking the people of the town for a place to sleep during that night.
“To a thousand houses did they go, asking for lodging and for rest.  A thousand houses did the bots fasten against them.” Finally they came to Baucis and Philemon’s rustic and simple cottage. Though the couple were poor, they showed more pity than their rich neighbors, where “all the doors bolted and no word of kindness given, so wicked were the people of that land.”

After serving the two guests food and wine, which Ovid depicts with pleasure in the details, Baucis noticed that although she had refilled her guest’s beechwood cups many times, the wine pitcher was still full. Realizing that her guests were in fact gods, she and her husband “raised their hands in supplication and implored indulgence for their simple home and fare.” Philemon thought of catching and killing the goose that guarded their house and making it into a meal for the guests. But when Philemon went to catch the goose, it ran onto Zeus’s lap for safety. Zeus said that they did not need to slay the goose and that they should leave the town. Zeus said that he was going to destroy the town and all the people who had turned him away and not provided due hospitality. He said Baucis and Philemon should climb the mountain with him and not turn back until they reached the top.

“After climbing the mountain to the summit (“as far as an arrow could shoot in one pull”), Baucis and Philemon looked back on the town and saw that it had been destroyed by a flood. However, Zeus had turned Baucis and Philemon’s cottage into an ornate temple. The couple was also granted a wish; they chose to stay together forever and to be guardians of the temple. They also requested that when it came time for one of them to die, the other would die as well. Upon their death, they were changed into an intertwining pair of trees, one oak and one linden, standing in the deserted boggy terrain.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baucis_and_Philemon

19 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side.  They stoned Paul

How fickle the crowds are! One minute they are calling Paul a god, the next, stoning him.

As for Paul — did he think of Stephen, and his own role in Stephen’s death?

and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. 20 But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town.  The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Lord, I Offer My Life to You”  by Don Moen. I look at Paul’s “all in” attitude for Christ and I am inspired to focus less on self and more on the Lord!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
DuJardin.  http://www.wga.hu/art/d/dujardin/2healing.jpg
map.   https://markmeynell.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/acts-13-14-map.png
Zeus and Hermes.  http://www.alexanderstoddart.com/images/sideimage_contact.jpg
bringing the sacrifice.   http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/yo-paul-turkey/
Baucis and Philemon entertaining.    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Oq8Hy5YMraw/SDIJn6S-5JI/AAAAAAAAATI/uZWo2u44Me4/s1600-h/Baucis-Philemon.jpg
stoning.   http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/yo-paul-turkey/

2342.) Acts 13:30-52

April 24, 2018

Acts 13:30-52   (NLT)

Paul’s preaches the resurrected Jesus

Now Paul gets to the best part of the story:  Jesus’ resurrection!

30 But God raised him from the dead!

But God! What glorious words! Humankind had done their best to fight against God — even to kill Him — but God was greater than our sin and rebellion, and Jesus rose in triumph over sin and death.

–David Guzik

The study of the biblical phrase “But God” is certainly a rewarding one, showing God always to be wise and loving! Here are just a couple examples:

Genesis 8:1  (NIV)

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

Romans 5:8  (NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

31 And over a period of many days he appeared to those who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to the people of Israel.

32 “And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, 33 and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm says about Jesus:

‘You are my Son.
Today I have become your Father.’

34 For God had promised to raise him from the dead, not leaving him to rot in the grave. He said, ‘I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.’ 35 Another psalm explains it more fully: ‘You will not allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.’36 This is not a reference to David, for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. 37 No, it was a reference to someone else—someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay.

38 “Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. 39 Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do. 40 Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said,

41 ‘Look, you mockers,
be amazed and die!
For I am doing something in your own day,
something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it.’”

Paul ends with a warning to believe that the promise God made long ago has come true in Jesus Christ!  As it says in Hebrews, “All of God’s promises are YES in Christ!”

42 As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue that day, the people begged them to speak about these things again the next week. 43 Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.

Paul Turns to the Gentiles

44 The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord. 45 But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous; so they slandered Paul and argued against whatever he said.

Of course there will be opposition. Do not be surprised. As James said in his letter, chapter 1, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.” I once heard Elisabeth Elliot speak on this passage; who could address it with more credibility than she?

46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. 47 For the Lord gave us this command when he said,

‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. 49 So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.


50 Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. 52 And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

The believers were filled with joy! “The happiness of a genuine Christian lies far beyond the reach of earthly disturbances, and is not affected by the changes and chances to which mortal things are exposed. The martyrs were more happy in the flames than their persecutors could be on their beds of down.”

–Adam Clarke

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Matt Redman’s “Yes and Amen.” I like this song a lot.

Father of kindness, You have poured out of grace
You brought me out of darkness, You have filled me with peace
Giver of mercy, You’re my help in time of need
Lord I can’t help but sing
Faithful, you are, Faithful forever you will be
Faithful, you are,
All your promises are yes and Amen
All your promises are yes and Amen

Beautiful Saviour, You have brought me near
You pulled me from the ashes, You have broken every curse
Blessed redeemer, You have set this captive free
Lord, I can’t help but sing
Faithful, you are, Faithful forever you will be
Faithful, you are,
All your promises are yes and Amen
All your promises are yes and Amen

I will rest in your promises My confidence is your faithfulness
All your promises are yes and Amen
All your promises are yes and Amen

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
verse 47.   https://iteams.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/acts-13.png
 empty tomb.   http://www.biblestudyresources.org/why-we-believe-jesus-rose-from-the-dead.html
a light to the Gentiles.    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51xwYP4kBnL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

2341.) Acts 13:1-29

April 23, 2018

13. verse 2 with dove

Acts 13:1-29   (NLT)

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Old Testament. But sometimes I get to the point where I have had enough of the prophets! So at a break in the book of Ezekiel (we have finished the chapters on the judgment of Israel), we will return to the book of Acts. Wonderful New Testament stories! Thrilling accounts of God at work in miraculous ways as the good news of Jesus Christ spreads beyond the Holy Land!

The Book of Acts can be divided into four principal parts with Acts 1:8 serving as a key text:

“And you shall receive power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria even to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The four main divisions are:

  • Part 1 — The Church in Jerusalem
    (chapters 1-7)
  • Part 2 — The Church in Judea and Samaria
    (chapters 8-12)
  • Part 3 — The Church in Gentile Territories
    (chapters 13-21)
  • Part 4 — Paul’s Trials and Voyage to Rome
    (chapters 21-28)

We will be DWELLING in the Word in the first portion of Part 3 and watching Paul and his associates bring the Gospel to Galatia.

Barnabas and Saul Are Commissioned

In Acts 12:25, we learned that Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark were all at the church in Antioch, having returned from delivering a gift of support to the church in Jerusalem “(Acts 11:27-30). Saul and Barnabas were among the teachers and prophets there.

1 Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas),

Quick, which Herod is this?  The one who ordered the killing of John the Baptist.  The one who mocked Jesus just before His crucifixion.

and Saul. 2 One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.”

You can’t really say “yes” to God’s call on your life until you can say “no” to things that will keep you from that call.
–David Guzik

Ephesians 2:10 (Contemporary EV)

God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.

3 So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.

Paul’s First Missionary Journey

4 So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus.

Barbabas grew up on the island of Cyprus; as long as he is traveling, he might as well drop in on the folks!

5 There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant.

This is the same Mark who will later write the Gospel of Mark.

6 Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus.

This city was known for its immorality: “Paphos was infamous for its worship of Venus, the goddess of [sexual] love” (Barclay). We will see in Paphos a familiar combination: Immorality connected with spiritual darkness.

–David Guzik

7 He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.

9 Saul, also known as Paul,

Saul’s father was a Roman citizen, and Saul received a quality Greek education. So in Jewish circles he was Saul, and with others, he was Paul. It is not unlikely that he went by both names all his life, depending on which group of people he was with.

was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. 10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.

Surely Paul must be thinking of his own days of darkness, and hoping that Elymas would also find the light of God.

12 When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Paul Preaches in Antioch of Pisidia

13 Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga.

They leave the island of Cyprus and arrive at the mainland, what is now Turkey.

There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia.

The fact that John Mark abandoned them here will cause friction between Paul and Barnabas later.

On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services. 15 After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.”

A synagogue service generally went like this:  Opening prayers were offered, then there was a reading from the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament). Then, a reading from the Prophets. Then, if there was an educated person present, he was invited to speak on subjects related to the readings.

16 So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me.

Paul gives a brief overview of Jewish history which shows that God has a plan for Israel.

17 “The God of this nation of Israel chose our ancestors and made them multiply and grow strong during their stay in Egypt. Then with a powerful arm he led them out of their slavery. 18 He put up with them through forty years of wandering in the wilderness. 19 Then he destroyed seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to Israel as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.

“After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’

23 “And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel! 24 Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized. 25 As John was finishing his ministry he asked, ‘Do you think I am the Messiah? No, I am not! But he is coming soon—and I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the sandals on his feet.’

Paul goes on to say that some Israelites accepted Christ, but many did not.

26 “Brothers—you sons of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles—this message of salvation has been sent to us! 27 The people in Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus as the one the prophets had spoken about. Instead, they condemned him, and in doing this they fulfilled the prophets’ words that are read every Sabbath. 28 They found no legal reason to execute him, but they asked Pilate to have him killed anyway.

29 “When they had done all that the prophecies said about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb.

_________________________

Music:

One of my favorite missionary hymns! I love the words “story,” “light,” and “kingdom”!  HERE  is “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nation,” sung by the Melody Four Quartet (memories of my childhood and Christian radio!).

The Melody Four Quartet used an eclectic mix of influences in their tightly-woven harmonies to create an elegant sound consisting of less showmanship than many of the flashy quartets of the 1950s. Each member — Glenn Jorian, Clair Hess, Ray Felten and Bill Pearce — was an incredible singer apart from the group, and together they created a unique sound that was as sophisticated as it was musically solid.

The group got its start when WMBI was looking for a standby quartet, in case they needed to fill airtime. Clair and Glenn were part of that standby quartet with two other gentlemen. One day their first on-air opportunity came, and 10 seconds before they went live the producer asked, “Does this quartet have a name?” With the clock ticking, someone called out, “We are calling them Melody Four!” That day a quartet was born. And these same four singers stayed together for 52 years of performances and recordings.

–from http://www.homecomingmagazine.com/article/hall-of-honor-melody-four-quartet/

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Acts 13:2.  https://www.heartlight.org/gallery/1709.html
Prayers over Barnabas and Saul.   http://www.marysrosaries.com/collaboration/images/8/84/Paul_and_Barnabas_sent_on_1st_missionary_journey_Acts_13.jpg
map of first missionary journey with arrows.  https://markmeynell.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/acts-13-14-map.png
Paul signature.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/paul-signature.gif
map with close-up of Turkey.    http://www.bible-history.com/maps/maps/map_paul1.jpg
Jesus on the cross.   http://www.jesuschristsavior.net/Words.html

2189.) Acts 12:20-25

September 21, 2017
theater

According to Josephus, Herod Agrippa died here in the theater at Caesarea Maritima.  Photograph by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acts 12:20-25   (NLT)

The Death of Herod Agrippa

Herod the Great was ruler when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1-16). His grandson is this Herod, Herod Agrippa I. And there is also Herod Antipas, who was there at Jesus’ trials (Luke 23:7-12).  Herod Antipas is an uncle to this man, Herod Agrippa I. And later in Acts we will meet Herod Agrippa II, this man’s son. Too many Herods!

20 Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, 21 and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. 22 The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”

23 Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.

The diademed head of Herod Agrippa I on this ancient coin from Judea.

The ancient Jewish historian Josephus described the death of Herod in gory detail (Antiquities, XIX.8.2).

“He put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another (though not for his good), that he was a god . . . A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner . . . when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”

24 Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers.

25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned to the church at Antioch, taking John Mark with them.

Acts can be neatly divided into two sections, the first dealing primarily with the ministry of Peter in Jerusalem and Samaria (Acts 1-12) and the second following Paul on his missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13-28). Acts is significant for chronicling the spread of the gospel, not only geographically but also culturally. It records the transition from taking the gospel to an exclusively Jewish audience—with Peter preaching to a small group in the Upper Room—to the gospel going out among the Gentiles, primarily under the ministry of the apostle Paul. The transition is best illustrated by Peter’s vision in which he heard a voice telling him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (10:15). This led Peter to then share the gospel with many Gentiles. The lesson? God wants His message of hope and salvation to extend to all people—“in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8).

–Charles R. Swindoll

_________________________

Music:

Verse 23 tells us that Herod was struck dead because “he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God.”  Let’s join in a song in which we give the glory to God! Two versions of “To God Be the Glory” follow, so take your choice!

HERE  is a big production from the Royal Albert Hall, stage choirs and audience. This is the Fanny Crosby hymn.

HERE is Sissel Kyrkjebø, a Norwegian soprano. (The first name ‘Sissel’ is a Norwegian variant of ‘Cecilia,’ from St. Cecilia, the patron saint of church music.) This is the Andre Crouch song, also known as “My Tribute.”

_________________________

Images courtesy of:
Jenkins.     http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/caesarea_theater-t.jpg?w=500&h=340
Herod coin.    http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/greece/judaea/agrippa_I/Hendin_546.jpg
You will be my witness.   http://www.parkwoodbaptist.com/files/419/Pictures/Clipart/Acts-1.png

2188.) Acts 12:1-19

September 20, 2017

“The Liberation of st. Peter” by Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger, 1619 (Windsor Castle, London)

Acts 12:1-19   (NLT)

James Is Killed and Peter Is Imprisoned

1 About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword.

The Beheading of St. James — by Fra Filippo Lippi, 1455 (part of the Pistoia Sante Trinita Altarpiece in the National Gallery, London)

So James drank the cup . . .

Mark 10:35-40 (ESV)

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

And they said to him, “We are able.”

And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.

Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison

“The Liberation of St. Peter from Prison.” Fresco, by Filippino Lippi 1471 (Brancacci Chapel, Florence, Italy)

6 The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. 7 Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.

9 So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. 10 They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

Psalm 34:7 (NASB)

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”

12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 13 He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”

Don’t you just love Rhoda?!

15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”

16 Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a song has many sweet recollections for me — a trip down memory lane! “Let My Love Open the Door” by Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter for the English rock band The Who. He has written that his song was intended as a message from God, although I can’t say that most people hear it that way! This video is from 1980, as you will immediately recognize!

When people keep repeating
That you’ll never fall in love
When everybody keeps retreating
But you can’t seem to get enough
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

When everything feels all over
When everybody seems unkind
I’ll give you a four-leaf clover
Take all the worry out of your mind
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today, you’ll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say
Let my love open the door
It’s all I’m living for
Release yourself from misery
Only one thing’s gonna set you free
That’s my love
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door

When tragedy befalls you
Don’t let them bring you down
Love can cure your problem
You’re so lucky I’m around
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

_________________________

17 He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.

Not the James who was just killed, obviously. Perhaps James, the brother of Jesus?

18 At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 19 Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.

As was not untypical in ancient times, those responsible for a prisoner’s escape received the prisoner’s punishment.

________________________

Images courtesy of:
Steenwyck.  http://www.wga.hu/art/s/steenwyc/liberati.jpg
Lippi (in London).    http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/fra-filippo-lippi-and-workshop-beheading-of-saint-james-the-great-predella-panel
Lippi (in Florence).     http://www.abcgallery.com/L/lippi/lippi2.html

2187.) Acts 11

September 19, 2017

See Antioch of Syria, in the lower right side. This Antioch (one of many cities with that name) was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire. It was the western terminus of the Silk Road, with camels bringing silk, spices, and other exotic goods. The city served as St. Paul’s “home base” for his various missionary journeys.

Acts 11 (NLT)

Peter Explains His Actions

1 Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. 2 But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. 3 “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.

Such a close association with “them” was considered compromise and an affront to Jewish standards.

4 Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. 5 “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. 6 When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of small animals, wild animals, reptiles, and birds. 7 And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’

11. Peter's vision rooftop

8 “‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’

9 “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ 10 This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.

11 “Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. 12 The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. 13 He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 14 He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’

11. believe button

Acts 16:29-32 (NIV)

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

15 “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. 16 Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

The event at Cornelius’s house passes two tests:  that God is at work, and that what happens is in line with Scripture.

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”

Romans 10:12-13 (NIV)

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Church in Antioch of Syria

19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

“Praise God that you bear that name!”

–1 Peter 4:16 

_________________________

The word Christian can be understood as “the party of Christ” or “little Christ.”

Martin Luther wrote, in The Freedom of a Christian (1520):

“As our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another and Christ may be the same in all, that is, that we may be truly Christians . . .

“But alas in our day this life is unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached about nor sought after; we are altogether ignorant of our own name and do not know why we are Christians or bear the name of Christians. Surely we are named after Christ, not because he is absent from us, but because he dwells in us, that is, because we believe in him and are Christs one to another and do to our neighbors as Christ does to us.”

C. S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity (1952):

” . . . the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

“Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a song for today — “I am a Christian,” by NewSong. NewSong is an American contemporary Christian music group that was founded in 1981, at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia. They have had eight GMA Dove Award nominations. This is one of their new songs. (haha!)

_________________________

27 During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.)

Ancient records show that under Claudius there were years of bad harvests and subsequent food shortages in Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Judea.

29 So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. 30 This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Antioch of Syria map.    http://www.lakesideministries.com/images/ActsMap_1st_Missionary_Journey_Ends.jpg
Peter’s vision.  http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/The%20Early%20Church%20Artwork/target10.html
believe button.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/d2/c8/f5/d2c8f57cb1130cefe8732e49b0cf6759.jpg
cross and star of David.  http://syfilis.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Major-Differences-between-Christianity-Judaism.png
Hello.  My name is Christian.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/hello_my_name_is_christian_tshirt.jpg?w=450
Martin Luther.    https://www.biography.com/.image/c_fill%2Ccs_srgb%2Cg_face%2Ch_300%2Cq_80%2Cw_300/MTE1ODA0OTcxNzA3MjM3OTAx/martin-luther-9389283-1-402.jpg
C. S. Lewis.    http://www.turnbacktogod.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/cs-lewis.jpg

2186.) Acts 10:34-48

September 18, 2017

Acts 10:34-48   (NLT)

The Gentiles Hear the Good News

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, 41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

10. dove

44 Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. 45 The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter asked, 47 “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” 48 So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.

God keeps breaking out of the box religion tries to keep Him restrained in.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on “all flesh.” In the Old Testament it had been just the prophets, priests and kings who received the Holy Spirit. In the church age, the Holy Spirit is for everyone, even those who are not Jews.

When somebody receives the Holy Spirit, we know they must be born again–even if they don’t fit our picture of what a Christian should look like.

Prayer
Holy Spirit, come and fill me to overflowing. Amen.

–from New Life Christian Fellowship, NSW, Australia

_________________________

Music:

HERE is prayer to the Holy Spirit:  “Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God,” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Oh, to make this our daily prayer as believers! How would our world change!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
partiality.    http://cdn.knowing-jesus.com/wp-content/uploads/Acts-10-34-God-Does-Not-Show-Partiality-cream-copy.jpg
beauty for ashes.   http://fellowshiproom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/beauty_for_ashes_logo3.jpg
embroidered dove.  http://www.windstarembroidery.com/cw2/Assets/product_full/506.jpg
Peter preaches.    https://newlifenarrabri.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/janstyka-saintpeter.jpg?w=350&h=200&crop=1

2185.) Acts 10:1-33

September 15, 2017
Aeriel view of the harbor at ancient Caesarea

Aeriel view of the harbor at ancient Caesarea

Acts 10:1-33 (NLT)

Cornelius Calls for Peter

1 In Caesarea

Caesarea was the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province of Judea.

there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment.

The Italians were considered the most loyal of the Roman troops. Of course, this would have caused Cornelius to be all the more despised by the Jews.

2 He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. 3 One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.

4 Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.

And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! 5 Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”

7 As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

10. Peter's vision animals

9 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray.

The housetop was not unlike our outdoor open patio.

It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

17 Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, 18 they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.

19 Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”

21 So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”

22 They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” 23 So Peter invited the men to stay for the night.

Oh, now I get it, Peter thinks. This whole clean and unclean thing — not so much food, as people!

Peter Visits Cornelius

The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.

Many years before, another Jew had come to Joppa with the same mission — to take God’s word to the Gentiles. Jonah refused to obey. But Peter is willing to change his own perceptions to bring them in line with God’s plan for the world.

24 They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered his home,

He goes into a Gentile home! That act took, I think, no small amount of courage. Peter understands the vision, that all people are acceptable to God and have the right, if you will, to hear the gospel.

Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!”

Psalm 115:1 (NKJV)

Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.

27 So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.

28 Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. 29 So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”

30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. 31 He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”

It is frequently noted that Peter did not open the doors for the Gentiles as much as Cornelius opened the door for Peter. Or as John Stott puts it,  “The principle subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius as the conversion of Peter.”

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Music:

HERE  is an old Fanny Crosby hymn which echos the request Cornelius had for Peter — “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.”

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
harbor.  http://www.bibleplaces.com/newsletter/hr/Caesarea_aerial_from_northwest,_tb121704937sr.jpg
animals in sheet.   https://www.gci.org/files/tuvision.gif
Jonah and the whale.    http://bible.phillipmartin.info/bible_jonah.gif