കുറ്റിച്ചല്: ഇന്ഡ്യാ പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് ഫെയ്ത്ത് മിഷന് ചര്ച്ചിന്റെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില് കുറ്റിച്ചല് ബഥേല്പുരം കല്ലറത്തോട്ടത്തിനു സമീപം കണ്വന്ഷനും പവ്വര് കോണ്ഫറന്സും നടന്നു. പാസ്റ്റര്മാരായ ഷൈജു തോമസ് ഞാറയ്ക്കല്, സ്റ്റാന്ലി, ഷിജു റോബിന്സണ്, എന് ബോവസ് എന്നിവര് ദൈവവചനം ശുശ്രൂഷിച്ചു. പാസ്റ്റര് ജോണ് ക്രിസ്റ്റഫര്, സെന്റര് പാസ്റ്റര് ജോണ്, രാജന് വിക്ടര് എന്നിവര് അദ്ധ്യക്ഷത വഹിച്ച് യോഗങ്ങള്ക്ക് സഹോദരന്മാരായ ലാലി, കൊച്ചുണ്ണി, ജസ്റ്റസ്, രാജന് എന്നിവര് നേതൃത്വം നല്കി.
Sunday, 24 May 2015
കുറ്റിച്ചല്: ഇന്ഡ്യാ പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് ഫെയ്ത്ത് മിഷന് ചര്ച്ചിന്റെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില് കുറ്റിച്ചല് ബഥേല്പുരം കല്ലറത്തോട്ടത്തിനു സമീപം കണ്വന്ഷനും പവ്വര് കോണ്ഫറന്സും നടന്നു. പാസ്റ്റര്മാരായ ഷൈജു തോമസ് ഞാറയ്ക്കല്, സ്റ്റാന്ലി, ഷിജു റോബിന്സണ്, എന് ബോവസ് എന്നിവര് ദൈവവചനം ശുശ്രൂഷിച്ചു. പാസ്റ്റര് ജോണ് ക്രിസ്റ്റഫര്, സെന്റര് പാസ്റ്റര് ജോണ്, രാജന് വിക്ടര് എന്നിവര് അദ്ധ്യക്ഷത വഹിച്ച് യോഗങ്ങള്ക്ക് സഹോദരന്മാരായ ലാലി, കൊച്ചുണ്ണി, ജസ്റ്റസ്, രാജന് എന്നിവര് നേതൃത്വം നല്കി.
മാനന്തവാടി: ന്യൂ ഇന്ഡ്യാ ഇവാഞ്ചലിസ്റ്റിക് അസോസിയേഷന്റെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില് മാനന്തവാടി പഞ്ചായത്ത് കമ്മ്യൂണിറ്റി ഹാളില് വെച്ച് ന്യൂ ഇന്ഡ്യാ ബൈബിള് ചര്ച്ചിന്റെ 2 ദിവസത്തെ മലബാര് മേഖല പാസ്റ്റേഴ്സ് കോണ്ഫറന്സും കണ്വന്ഷനും നടന്നു. മലബാര് മേഖലയിലെ ആറു ജില്ലകളില് നിന്നുള്ള പാസ്റ്റര്മാരും വിശ്വാസികളും പങ്കെടുത്ത യോഗത്തില് പാസ്റ്റര് ഷൈജു തോമസ് ഞാറയ്ക്കല് ദൈവവചനം ശുശ്രൂഷിച്ചു. ന്യൂ ഇന്ഡ്യാ ക്വയര് ഗാനങ്ങള് ആലപിച്ചു. ന്യൂ ഇന്ഡ്യാ ഇവാഞ്ചലിസ്റ്റിക് അസോസിയേഷന് മലബാര് മേഖല ഡയറക്ടര് റവ. എന്. സി ജോസഫ് ഈ യോഗങ്ങള്ക്ക് നേത്യത്വം നല്കി.
കലഞ്ഞൂര്: ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് ഇന് ഇന്ഡ്യ കലഞ്ഞൂര് സഭയുടെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില് സഭയില് ഉപവാസ പ്രാര്ത്ഥന നടന്നു. പാസ്റ്റര് ഷൈജു തോമസ് ഞാറയ്ക്കല് ദൈവവചനം ശുശ്രൂഷിച്ചു. ഉപവാസ പ്രാര്ത്ഥനയുടെ ഫലമായി സഭ ആത്മീകമായി ഉണരുകയും അനേകര് വിടുതല് പ്രാപിക്കുയും ചെയ്തു. സഭാ പാസ്റ്റര് ആഷിഷ് ആന്റണി അലക്സാണ്ടര് യോഗങ്ങള്ക്ക് നേതൃത്വം നല്കി.
Thursday, 23 October 2014
A PRECIOUS BOOK
In one sense Acts is the most important book in the New Testament. It is the simple truth that if we did not posses Acts, we would have, apart from what we could deduce from the letters of Paul, no information whatsoever about the Early Church.
The title “Acts” comes from Latin ‘Actus’ (also Acta) which is itself a translation of Greek ‘Praxies’; the current title is a very old one, and other designations include “Luke’s Testimony Concerning The Apostles”, “Luke’s Commentary” and so forth.
Acts serves admirably as a link between the records of Jesus and the apostolic correspondence. In many ways the epistles are not fully intelligible until they are read against the background of the book of Acts. The book shows effectively the main trends in the development of Christianity and presents in examples of the continuing work of Jesus. It therefore makes a vital contribution to the discussion of the relationship between the teachings of Jesus and the apostolic doctrine. J. Sidlow Baxter also points out that this book holds the same relationship with the New Testament as the book of Joshua does with the Old Testament.
Joshua is not part of the Law, yet it is a continuation of it. Acts is not a part of the Gospel, yet is a continuation of it. Joshua is not one of the historical books, yet it introduces them. Acts is not one of the Epistles, yet it introduces them. Joshua is a liaison between Law and History. Acts is a liaison between the Gospel and the Epistles.
The Acts shows the coming of the Son of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gospels tell us of the crucified and risen Saviour. The Acts portrays Him as the ascended and exalted Lord and Leader. In the Gospels Christ teaches. In Acts the effect of His teaching is seen in the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts is unique and invaluable because it is the only bridge across the gulf that separates Jesus from Paul, Christ from Christianity, and the gospel of Jesus from the gospel about Jesus.
WHO THE BOOK IS BY?
Although the author does not name himself, evidence outside the scriptures and inferences from the book itself lead to the conclusion that the author was Luke. The earliest of the external testimonies appears in the Muratorian Canon (C.A.D. 170) where the explicit statement is made that Luke was the author of both the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Eusebius (C.A.D. 325) lists information from numerous sources to identify the author of these books as Luke (Ecclesiastical History, 3.4). About Luke we really know very little; there are only three references to him in the NT (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; II Timothy 4:11).
- The Book is by a doctor called Luke. It was a scientific man who wrote this book (Colo.4:14).
- Luke was a friend and companion of missionary Paul. Indeed this book is his personal diary. Because, again and again the word ‘they’ changes to ‘we’ (Acts 16:10 – 17; 20:5 – 21:18; 27:1 – 28:16; also Philemon 23 – 24; Colo.4:10 – 17).
- Luke was a gentile. The important thing about the author is that, he was the only writer in the whole Bible who was not a Jew but a gentile – one of us (Colo. 4:11-12). God wanted a gentile to write the story of how the good news was taken from the sacred capital of the world – Jerusalem to the secular capital of the world – Rome.
WHO THE BOOK IS ABOUT?
It is vol. 2 of two volumes of the beginning of Christianity. Vol. I is the Gospel about Jesus Christ. Vol. II reads the title ‘Acts of the Apostles’. But when you read through at least nine of the Apostles are not mentioned after the list in the first chapter. So it is not the acts of all the apostles. It is in particular the acts of two apostles – Peter (the first half) and Paul (the second half). Acts of the Apostles, this title was added to it later.
You could call it as the ‘Acts of Jesus’. In the Gospels (especially of Luke) what Jesus began to do and in Acts – what He has continued to do, you will find a remarkable parallel between Luke and Acts. They both have ‘Mary’ the mother of Jesus in the first chapter, both move rapidly to the time when there is the baptism of the Holy Spirit; both then move on to preaching then to miracle – healing, then to a growing opposition building to a crises and to a trial at the end.
It is the ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit’. Forty (40) times in the first twelve chapters of Acts alone the Third Person of the Godhead is mentioned. The whole of the Old Testament is about the First Person of the Trinity, God the Father; the four Gospels are about the Second Person of the Trinity – God the Son, Jesus. With Acts begins the third section of the Bible and the Third Person in fullness – God the Holy Spirit.
In reality, the work of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ is carried forward through the Holy Spirit. Many of the same things which Jesus did on earth – preaching, teaching, healing, casting out demons, bringing sinners to conversion, etc., are seen here on a large scale. This fulfilled the promise of the Lord, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father” (John 14:12).
1. The Pentecostal coming of the Spirit (ch.2).
- The refilling of the apostles with the Spirit (ch.4:23 – 31).
- The sin of lying against the Spirit (ch. 5:1 – 11).
- The reception of the Spirit by the Samaritans (ch.8:14 – 17).
- The guidance of Philip by the Spirit (ch. 8:29).
- The reception of the Spirit by Cornelius and his household (ch. 10:44 – 48).
- The call of Barnabas and Saul by the Spirit (ch. 13:1 – 4).
- The guidance of the Spirit at the Jerusalem Council (ch. 15:28).
- The guidance of Paul in his work by the Spirit (ch. 16:6 -7).
- The reception of the Spirit by the Ephesians disciples (ch.19:1– 6).
- The predictions by the Spirit of the fortunes of Paul (ch. 20:22 – 23; 21:11).
- The appointment of bishops by the Spirit (ch. 20:28).
Thus, Acts has rightly been called ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’.
WHO THE BOOK IS FOR? The recipient of the book:
Luke wrote both his Gospel and Acts to a man called Theophilus (Lk. 1:3; Acts 1:1). We can only guess who Theophilus was. Luke (1:3) calls him “most excellent Theophilus”. The phrase really means ‘your Excellency’, and indicates a man high up in the service of the Roman government. There are three possibilities:
1) Just possibly Theophilus is not a real name at all.
In those days it might well be dangerous to be a Christian. Theophilus comes from two Greek words, ‘Theos’ which means God and ‘Philein’ which means ‘to love’. It may be that Luke wrote to a lover of God whose real name he did not mention for the sake of safety. This could be a polite form of address with no official connotation.
2) If Theophilus was a real person, he must have been a high government official.
Perhaps Luke wrote to show him that Christianity was a lovely thing and that Christians were good people. Luke develops a political apologetic, because he is deeply concerned about the attitude of the Roman authorities towards Christianity. He therefore goes out of his way to defend Christianity against criticism. The authorities, he argues, have nothing to fear from Christians, for they are legally innocent and morally harmless.
Luke repeatedly makes three points of political apologetic:
a] Roman officials were consistently friendly to Christianity, and some have even become Christian (e.g. Centurion at the cross, The Centurion Cornelius, Sergius Paulus, and the Proconsul of Cyprus. So, Christianity was harmless.
b] The Roman authorities could find no fault in either Jesus or His apostles. Jesus had been accused of sedition, but neither Herod nor Pilate could discover any basis for accusation. As for Paul, in Philippi the magistrate apologized to him, in Corinth the Proconsul Galio refused to adjudicate, and in Ephesus the town clerk declared Paul and his friends to be innocent. Then Felix, Feasts and Agrippa all failed to convict him of any offence – three acquittals corresponding to the three times Luke says Pilate had declared Jesus innocent. So, Christianity was innocent.
c] The Roman authorities conceded that Christianity was a ‘religion licita’ (a lawful or licensed religion), because it was not a new religion (which would need to be approved by the State), but rather the purest form of Judaism (which has enjoyed religious freedom under the Romans since 2nd C.B.C). The coming of Christ was the fulfillment of O.T. prophecies, and the Christian community enjoyed direct continuity with the O T people of God. So, Christianity was lawful.
3) There is a more romantic theory than either of these based on the facts that Luke was a doctor, and that doctors in ancient days were often slaves.
It has been conjectured that Luke was doctor of Theophilus, that Theophilus had been gravely ill, that by Luke’s skill and devotion he was brought back to health, and that in gratitude he gave Luke his freedom. Then, it may be, Luke wished to show how grateful he was for this gift; and since the most precious thing he had was the story of Jesus, he wrote it down and sent it to his benefactor.
The Gospel records – all that Jesus did with His body. In Acts we read about all that Jesus continued to do with His another body. All that He did was change His body. After the resurrection Jesus took His body up to heaven. How could He then continue His work on earth ? The answer is by using another body – i.e. other’s mouth, feet, hands, etc. The church is His body. But how could they do what He did ? The answer is He did by the power of the Holy Spirit. All that was needed for His ministry to be continued on earth was a new body given with the same Holy Spirit, whom He had received at the baptism. And this is the whole story of this book.
WHY SHOULD WE READ/STUDY ACTS? Three reasons:
1] For our enlightenment.
The Acts of the Apostles is the link between the Gospels and the Epistles. We cannot understand the Epistles unless we study this link (Acts). It is the beginning of the Christian Church, and we certainly want to know how it began?
2] For our encouragement.
The key thought in Acts is that of witness to Christ; the key verse is undoubtedly ch. 1:8; “Ye shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” In this verse, there is the divine appointment, the spiritual equipment, and the geographical commitment of Christ’s witnesses.
The book of Acts falls into six panels, and each ends with what might be called a progress report.
The six panels are as follows.
a) Acts 1:1 – 6:7;
This section tells of the church at Jerusalem and the preaching of Peter; and it finishes with the summary, “The Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem; and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
b) Acts 6:8 – 9:31;
This describes the spread of Christianity through Palestine and the martyrdom of Stephen followed by the preaching in Samaria. It ends with the summary, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it was multiplied.”
c) Acts 9:32 – 12:24;
This includes the conversion of Saul (Paul), the extension of the church to Antioch and the reception of Cornelius, the gentile into the church by Peter. Its summary is, “The Word of God grew and multiplied.”
d) Acts 12:25 – 16:5;
This tells of the extension of the church through Asia Minor and the preaching tour of Galatia. It ends, “So the churches were strengthened in faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”
e) Acts 16:6 – 19:20;
This relate the extension of the church to Europe and the work of Paul in great gentile cities like Corinth and Ephesus. Its summary runs, “So the Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily.”
f) Acts 19:21 – 28:31;
This tells of the arrival of Paul in Rome and his imprisonment there the ends with the picture of Paul “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered”.
Of These six sections the protagonist in the first three is St. Peter, in the last three St. Paul. There is a parallel between peter in the first part and Paul in the second part, which seems to be more then merely coincidental.
First sermon – Acts: 2 First sermon – Acts: 13
Lame man healed - 3 Lame man healed – 14
Simon the Sorcerer – 8 Elymas the sorcerer - 13
Influence of Shadows – 5 Influence of handkerchief -19
Laying on of hands – 8 laying on of hands – 19
Peter respected – 10 Paul respect – 14
Tabitha raised – 9 Eutychas raised – 20
Peter imprisoned – 12 Paul imprisoned – 28
Hence, we see how the book of Acts is divided shapely into two equal parts. This division is done strictly in accord with the verse, Chr 1:8; the first part of the Acts (Chr 1-12) we have “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria” in the second part (13 – 28) we have the uttermost part of the earth”
PART – I (1-12) PART – II (13-28)
Jerusalem the center Antioch the center
Peter the chief figure Paul the chief figure
Out of Samaria Out of Rome
Word rejected by Jews of home land Word rejected by Jews of Dispersion
Peter imprisoned Paul imprisoned
Judgment on Herod Judgment of Jews
So the Church began with few – 11 then 120 and with in 300 years the whole Roman Empire was officially Christian. If you think you are small and can’t do much, read this book.
3) FOR OUR EMULATION
In this book God has shown – what and how the church ought to be. In secular affairs (in science/ Technology) the best is always ahead – we are always striving after some thing better ahead, but in spiritual things we have to go a long way back to catch up.
AUTHOR/ PLACE/ DATE
Author: Luke, the writer of the 3rd Gospel and a companion of Paul on his Journeys.
Place: As place of composition have been suggested: Rome, Macedonian, Achaia, Asia Minor and Antioch (Syria).
Date: Two dates are possible for the writing of this book:
1) A.D. 63, soon after the last event recorded in the book,
2) 70 or even later
The earlier date is supported by:
a) Silence about later events.
While arguments from silence are not conclusive, it is perhaps significant that the book contains no allusion to events that happened after the close of Paul’s two-year imprisonment in Rome: e.g., the burning of Rome and the persecutions of the Christians there (A.D.64), the martyrdom of Peter and Paul (possibly A.D. 64) and the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70).
b) No outcome of Paul’s trial.
If Luke knew the outcome of the trial Paul was waiting for (ch. 28:30), why did he not record it at the close of Acts? Perhaps it was because he had brought the history up to date.
Acts is a continuation of the Gospel according to St. Luke. It deals chiefly with the founding of the Christian Church by Peter and the extensions of it by Paul.
The occasion of this book grew out of some definite situations in the early church.
1) There was the need for authoritative information concerning the activity of the leading apostles, Peter and Paul, how their work related to each other in the spread of Christianity.
2) There was the need for showing that the Christian movement was one movement, whether the believers were Jews, Proselytes, Samaritans or gentiles
3) There was the need for showing that God bore witness with apostles, “both by signs and wonders and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Heb 2:4).
THEME & PURPOSE
The Theme of the work is best summarized in 1:8; it was ordinary procedure for a Christian at this time to begin a second volume by summarizing the first volume and indicating the contents anticipated in His second volume. Luke summarizing his first volume in 1:1-3; the theme of his second volume presents ‘in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” This is in effect an out line of the book of acts.
The main purpose of the book appears to be:
1. TO PRESENT A HISTORY
Luke aims to provide a correct and trustworthy historical record of how the earliest church began and the most important highlights of its progress. He tells of the founding of the Church, the spread of all gospel, the beginnings of the congregation and evangelistic efforts in the apostolic pattern.
2. TO GIVE A DEFENSE
In acts we find a record of Christian defenses made to both Jesus (e.g. 4:8-12) and gentiles (e.g.25:8-11) with the underlying purpose of conversion It shows how the early church coped with pagan and Jewish thought the Roman government and Hellenistic society.
3. TO PROVIDE A GUIDE
Luke had no way of knowing how long the church would continue on this earth, but as long as it will be one of its major guides. In Acts we see basic principle being applied to specific situations in the context of problems and persecutions these same principles continue to be applicable until Christ returns.
4. TO DEPICT THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE FACE OF BITTER PERSECUTION.
The success of the Church in covering the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome and in planting local churches across the Roman Empire demonstrated that Christianity was not a mere work of man. God was in it (5:35-39)
Acts may be outlined in a number of ways. Two of the most natural are the geographical and the biographical approaches. For the sake of comprehensiveness these means are combined in the following outline. The key verse is Acts 1:8, which sketches the geographical boundaries.
The apostolic commission given Acts 1:1-11;
II. The Gospel in Jerusalem: Origins Acts 1:12-8:3;
a) The ministry of Peter 1:12-5:42;
b) The ministry of Stephen 6:1-8:3;
III. The gospel in Samaria and Judea: Transition Acts 8:4-11:8;
a) The ministry of Philip 8:4-40;
b) The ministry of Saul (Paul) begun 9:1-31;
c) The ministry of Peter concluded 9:32-11:8;
IV. The gospel in the uttermost parts: Expansion Acts 11:19-21:14;
a) The ministry of Barnabas 11:19-12:25;
b) The ministry of Paul the Apostle 13:1-21:14;
1) The first missionary Journey 13:1-14:28
2) The Jerusalem council 15:1-35
3) The second missionary Journey 15:38-18:22
4) The third missionary Journey 18:23-21:14
V. The gospel in Caesarea and Rome: Imprisonment Acts 21:15-28:29
a) Paul as a prisoner in Jerusalem 21:15-23:10
b) Paul as a prisoner in Caesarea 23:11-26:32
c) Paul as a prisoner in Rome 27:1-28:29
VI. Conclusion: Acts 28:30-31
The apostolic commission fulfilled
Introduction to the Acts
Here Luke tells us how he thinks of his two-volume work on the origins of Christianity which constitutes approximately one quarter of the NT “In my former book” i.e. the gospel of Luke, the first volume, where he had told the story of the life of Jesus upon earth. The gospel was only the story of what Jesus began to do and to teach. Now in volume two, the Acts he tells the story of the Church of Jesus Christ from its birth in Jerusalem through its sufferings by persecutions to its triumphant conquest of Rome some thirty years later. For the contrasting parallel he draws between the two volumes was not between Christ and His Church, but between two stages of the ministry of the same Christ.
Two sections in this chapter:
1] The ministry of Jesus continued: Acts 1:1 – 14;
2] The ministry of Judas continued: Acts 1:15 – 26;
In the case of Jesus, He simply changed bodies. In the case of Judas, someone else replaced him. Jesus taught them until He died on the cross. Teaching was His vital ministry soon after His baptism. He taught by the Holy Spirit. Even after His resurrection, He was teaching them until His ascension. During those six weeks He taught them more about Bible than during those three years (Lk. 24:).
He not only taught them, but He gave them many infallible proofs that He was alive. So that they might be fully convinced and stand firm that Jesus has conquered death. Christian faith rests on proofs/evidences. It is not a shaky faith. The great evidence of His resurrection was that “He showed Himself alive to His apostles”(ch. 1:3).
So from the teaching of Jesus, Luke moves to the promise of the Father. What Jesus was saying to His followers is this – they needed two baptisms: water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the water does not bring power to overcome the evil one, but the promise of the Father does.
So already in just five verses you have got:
· Jesus and His teachings – Resurrection
· God the Father and His Word – Promises
· The baptism in the Holy Spirit
All three involved, because the Church is, (1) The Family of God the Father, (2) The Flock of God the Son and (3) The Fellowship of God the Holy Spirit.
Let us note here that, the apostles were instructed by our Lord to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit. They had to wait in the Lord and they had to wait for the Lord earnestly seeking. We would gain more power, courage and peace if we learned to wait. In the business of life, we need to learn to be still, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Amidst life’s surging activity, there must be time to receive. They (the 120) waited by praying together.
Acts 1:6 – 11;
This section stretches our horizon in two directions, (a) to the farthest end of the earth and (b) to the highest point in heaven. The problem in the churches today is that often people are bound within four walls. Jesus had been speaking to the apostles for six weeks about the Kingdom of God. However, the disciples asked ‘when are you going to get back the kingdom of Israel for us?’ It was their narrow and petty view. Get a bigger view, the worldview, says Jesus.
In addition to speaking to them about the Kingdom of God (v. 3) and the Holy Spirit (v. 4-5), He gave them certain instructions through the Holy Spirit (Who inspired all His teachings – Lk. 4:18). The instructions found in (Lk. 24:47; Acts 1:8). Here we have a portrait of an apostle. ‘Apostolos’ was an envoy, delegate or ambassador, sent out with a message and carrying the authority of the sender. Therefore, Jesus chose His apostles and commissioned them.
Here was the fourfold equipment of the apostles of Christ. These were also the special qualifications of an apostle:
- A personal appointment as an apostle by Jesus Christ
2. An eyewitness experience of the historical Jesus
3. An authorizing and commissioning by Jesus to speak in His name
4. The empowering Spirit of Jesus to inspire their teaching
It was primarily these uniquely qualified men through whom Jesus continued “to do and to teach”, and to whom Luke intends to introduce us in the Acts. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (ch. 1:8). Power to go out, power to convince people about the truth we know about Jesus our Lord.
Thus Jesus’ ministry on earth, exercised personally and publicly, was followed by His ministry from heaven, exercised through His Holy Spirit by His apostles. Moreover, the watershed between the two was the ascension. Not only did it conclude Luke’s first book (Lk. 24:51) and introduced his second (Acts 1:9), but it terminated Jesus’ earthly ministry and inaugurated His heavenly ministry.
Jesus the only one who went up to space, no man can go form here without enough air and food, etc., as the space men do. The last words of Jesus were ‘uttermost part of the earth’. Now He was going to seat in glory.
The angels were there while He was born and while He rose again. Now they were there while He was taken up. The disciples were gazing at Jesus while He was ascending up. The angels who came and asked the shepherds to go and see the manger, the angels who bid the women to come and see the empty tomb where Jesus was laid, are now telling the apostles, “don’t simply stand here as onlookers, but go, wait and then get on with the task.” The missionary task of the church is tied up with the end of history. The more we get on with that, the surer we can be that the coming of the Lord is near.
The 120 in the upper room:
Jesus began His church with a group of people where women also had vital part in the fellowship. Among them was Mary the mother of Jesus, not to be worshiped, but to pray and worship the Lord as others were doing. The apostles along with the other disciples were in the upper room and waited on the Lord in one accord.
2] The ministry of Judas continued – Acts 1:15 – 26;
Peter stood up and called the disciples ‘brethren’ as he addressed to them. Why did they replace Judas? Not just because Judas died, but because he forfeited and lost his apostleship; and they did not even expected him to be among the twelve in heaven. Why did they have to have twelve (apostles)?
A] It was the intention and desire of the Lord Jesus to have twelve apostles. He was saying that He was going to build a new people of God, a new Israel, and a new people to be His missionaries. The old Israel was made up of 12 sons of Jacob, 12 men who became 12 tribes. Jesus was going to start all over again with the 12 new men.
B] The Bible not only says that Judas was going to betray our Lord; it also says that his office should be given to another. Peter was now beginning to get orders from the Bible. This was the first beginning of Christian guidance to discover what the Lord intends and what His word says.
They cast lots and believed that God could control lots and guide the person’s hand who pulled the stone out of the bag. That was the last occasion of casting lots. Why, because from the day of Pentecost there was, a much more direct way of finding out what God wanted. When the Holy Spirit inhabits people, He can bring into their minds direct without any lots what God wants.
Here is a picture of a church that knew Jesus, His death and resurrection, that knew God and He wanted them to do, and yet something was missing. They were all inside the room. You will never turn the world upside down (or rather, right side up), until you turn the church inside out. How do you do this? Believing in Jesus, regular Bible study, fervent prayer, witnessing and evangelism, joy and faith all should be part of it. The death and resurrection of Jesus will be center of it; but is there not something missing still ? The answer is found in the 3rd person of the Holy trinity.
It is only when a church begins to understand what is it to be filled with the Holy Spirit that it gets inside out and can witness effectively.
Acts – 2: 1-21
One of the questions that scholars have been debating for very long time is, when did the church begin? Many say in the day of Pentecost. But we could go way back beyond that and say before the foundation of the world – when Adam began to worship God, when God called Abraham, when Moses led the Israelites from Egypt, (In fact, that is the first time the word ‘church’ is used in the Bible), when Jesus called the twelve apostles, the new tribe. However, Pentecost was the crucial day when the church was first out. What was the day when the power came to get whole thing moving, it was day of Pentecost. Pentecost means the 50th day after the Passover feast. This 50th day was significant because it was a harvest festival and they brought first fruits. The day of Pentecost also commemorated the day when God on Mount Sinai gave 10 commandments (The law) to Moses. When they got the 10 commandments, on Mount Sinai within a short time that Law had been broken and three thousand people lost their lives. It is a remarkable contrast that when God gave the law three thousand people died, but when God gave the Spirit three thousand people were saved.
It was nine AM on Sunday morning in the year 29 A.D. Where did they gather? Many think that Pentecost happened in the upper room, there is no suggestion from the Bible on that. If we study, it is clear that it happened in the temple and the following reasons can make it clear.
1. They were in a very public place
2. It was 9.00 AM in the morning on a feast day and every devout person will be in the temple at that time
3. We were told that the early Christians met in the temple during the time of prayer and the first prayer was during 9 AM.
4. In spite of the idea that they all went rushing out of the upper room to the streets not one of those (120) people move an inch. The three thousand came to them; the temple also has been called as house in Acts 7.
If some body cuts out Acts 2, we would not understand the rest of it. Three parts to this passage,
a) The experience that they had
b) The excitement that caused
c) The explanation that Peter gave
What the experience was, what the Bible says about it? Here were 120 people praying and waiting together. Their minds filled with Bible knowledge, their hearts full of prayer and love for each other, they were in one accord and one mind. Three things happened:
1. What they heard – they heard a howling gale (sound of the mighty wind) in the Old Testament the word “ruach” (Hebrew) is used for Spirit. This word means ‘loud breath’ (of God).
2. What did they see – They saw a fire. God revealed to Moses through fire. All through the 40 years whenever the children of Israel moved in the wilderness, there was the pillar of fire before them. When Elijah wanted to prove the presence of God two thousands of unbelieving fellow country men, he prayed God to send down fire from heaven. Therefore, in the day of Pentecost when the fire came they knew that God was there, Gods power, purity coming down on men. Luke describe that the fire was burning from heaven to earth, burning down and just touching their head and their single hair was not burned. It was Gods presence and they knew what it meant.
3. What did they do – They began to speak. They overflowed. Every time people were filled with the Spirit in the New Testament days, they overflowed and spoke. They open their mouths and spoke in languages they have never learned before. It was fact, and not mere feeling. God was by passing their intellect, their mind was not involved in this. God was using their mouths and was enabling them to say something that was not in their mind. Indeed, it is a miracle.
They were not given these languages just to speak to men, but to praise God. Our minds often wonder around with different thoughts for which we fail in our continued expression in praise. Therefore, the need of the Holy Spirit in our life is essential.
What was the heart of their experience? Not the fire, wind or the languages, but for the first time God was right inside them and had complete control of them. What marvelous works God can do, If He could fill a person and get complete control of him! The tragedy is God does not have all of us, for most of the time only part of us. They had now met the third person of the Godhead. They always believed in God the Father. They have been brought up in that way. They had then met God the Son and after three years, they came to realize that this human being was divine. Now they met God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, those ordinary people could do extra ordinary things. To their heartfelt weeks’ (10 days) of prayer was now added praise. This is the first mark of the Spirit filled life that they can praise God. Praise is not natural to us, by nature we cannot praise, we can present our prayers but not praise.
The church was on fire, people came. Never judge spiritual things by your feelings, judge them by your facts. There is not a word in this chapter about disciples’ feeling, but the feelings of others.
The People: Who were they?
1) The dispersions – there were more Jews living out side than inside the Holy Land. There were Jews who were born that way
2) There were proselytes – they who became Jew by being circumcised/ baptized and offering sacrifices.
3) There were devout men who were trying to keep the 10 commandments by birth and baptism.
They were all from East, West, North and South of the Holy Land. We find it as a most striking reversal of the tower of Babel. There was a day when God came down in power and He confused the language of men so that they could not understand each other and they scattered everywhere. Now God in His infinite mercy has reversed the process. He has come down in power and given languages again. Now they come together again and understand. Is not it marvelous how God is able to put right what goes wrong? How He is able to offer mercy where formerly he brought judgement. Therefore, it is a reversal of Babel (Genesis 10).
What did they think of it all?
First, they were curious, and then they were surprised, because they heard many different languages. They were also amazed because they saw their clothes; looking at their clothes they said these are Galleons. As they got closer to them (120 people), and heard what they were speaking about, they began to be afraid. They began to sense supernatural and when people sense the supernatural they do not come closer, they begin to pull back a bit. Whenever supernatural things happen, you will find always some who will give natural explanation for the supernatural things. They said these people are drunk. We have never known alcohol / wine give anybody any fluency in a foreign language they never learned. There might be certain fluency, but not in foreign language. Usually the fluency tales off the fuller they get.
Therefore, Peter now stands up and gives the explanation. He was the rid, now a rock. He stood up with the eleven. They did not to move anywhere, people came and he preached, he said we are not drunk. God’s promise in the Old Testament has been fulfilled now. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon only few people and only came on them for a short period. However, when he came he did extra ordinary things, particularly with their mouths – they prophesied. It was a wish of Moses that all Gods people would prophesy. Joel prophesied it and this prophecy full filled on the day of Pentecost.
Peter says now according to Joel there is going to be a last period in human history, the last days they called and the begging of it will be the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and in the end, it will be sun and moon changing. These are the two things, which will happen to mark the last period of human history (the spirit poured out in the beginning and sun, moon the heavenly bodies shaken at the end). This means we are now in the last period of human history. Between that period of the last days of Pentecost and the end of the world, anybody who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved.
Far too many Christians are living on the right side of Easter and the wrong side of Pentecost. They understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, know their Bible, they pray and are full of joy in believing the lord, but some how they do not yet understand what it is to be filled with the Spirit to over flowing until the mouths become the channel of Gods word itself. The promise is still at work, for Peter says, “it is to you....”
Acts 2:22 – 47;
Three things happened on that day of Pentecost.
1] They (the 120) had an unforgettable experience,
2] Their experience caused great excitement, and
3] Peter gave Biblical explanation.
He said this is the beginning of the ‘end.’ We have now moved into the last period of the history. God has said His last word, and we are now living in the last opportunity for men to be saved. Peter got all these from the book of Prophet Joel, and the last thing he says, if you really are serious and realize that we are in the last period of human history, then you will want to know how you can escape the end. The answer is in the same prophecy, “whoever call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Nevertheless, it leaves one question unanswered, ‘what is the name of the Lord upon which we are to call?’
So, Peter now preaches a sermon on that name which is the only name in which men will have salvation (Acts 4:12), i.e. Jesus Christ. There were seven people with that name Jesus in the NT alone, and so, Peter had to begin by giving His address, “Jesus of Nazareth,” this is the name.
One of the most striking things of all about the preaching in the NT is that, they did not preach Christmas. The gospel is not the Christmas story alone. What do people need to know about Jesus Christ in order to be saved is this;
1) A person needs to know that He (Jesus Christ) lived.
He was a real man who traveled around and performed supernatural miracles. God was with this Man, He healed the sick, raised the dead, and He went about doing things that only God can do.
2) A person needs to know that Jesus died on a cross.
That tragic event at the age of thirty-three was not an accident. Moreover, that had been planned before the world began. God had arranged it (there is no contradiction here between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, between God’s free will and man’s free will). Both were true, God was responsible fro the cross, so were men. The cross was both a divine and human event. God was doing something good, but man was doing something evil. Rightly it is been called ‘Good Friday’ and not a ‘bad Friday’.
3) A person needs to know that God reversed the human verdict by raising Him from the dead.
Peter says, we are His personal witnesses. We touched Him, heard Him, and have seen Him. God declared about Him saying, ‘He is My Son.’ Peter quotes from Ps. 16: ‘The Holy One of the Lord will not see corruption.’
4) A person needs to know where Jesus is now.
Neither the Jews nor the Romans were able to produce the dead body of Jesus from the tomb, nor were the disciples able to produce the live body of Jesus, why? He was no longer on earth in bodily form. Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of God. Peter quoted once more from Psalms: ‘The Lord called to my Lord...’
When Jesus said, He is both the Lord and Christ in various occasions, the Jews did not want to believe Him, and so they shouted “crucify Him, crucify Him”. The Jews (and us as well) have crucified God’s Christ and Lord which is the greatest crime ever committed.
Though ignorant and unlearned, Peter could preach a marvelous sermon. This is because he had been with Jesus. He declared, your sins crucified and murdered Christ the Son of God. Therefore, what you need is to repent from your sins and be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then God will forgive your sins; give you the gifts of Holy Spirit.
The fellowship of the saints:
Three thousand people believed on Jesus and only 120 were there to baptize them that day and deal with them, one Christian to counsel and take care of 25 new believers. Five things they did and five things they were:
Five things they did
1) The apostles baptized them - Baptism for every body as they came in to the Christian faith and in to the church, this was the way in.
2) The apostles taught them - they needed food to grow, so teaching was essential in the early church and so it is in our churches today. We do not have those apostles to teach us now, but we have their writings. Therefore, the systematic Bible study in the church is very important.
3) They had fellowship – sharing something so much deeper than friendship. In the New Testament if you sit together and eat, your own sandwich that is friendship; but if you each eat the same sandwich that is fellowship. Christian fellowship shares the deepest things together.
4) They broke the bread – having a meal together as one family and after the meal, they used to share the bread and cup remembering the Lord.
5) The continued in their prayer – the Jewish prayer was just letters/ dead words / phrases and meaningless for years. Now the prayer in the church is living and real after the Holy Spirit has come, for He knows how to pray and what to pray. The Holy Spirit enables the believers to pray.
Five things they were:
1) They were a reverent church – fear was upon them all because super natural things happened. Signs, wonders and mighty works God did in the church.
2) They were a sharing church – they even shared their money and their belongings. It was not communism, but it was voluntary, the real community. They sold their possessions willingly because they saw the needs of other Christians.
3) They were a consistent church – they were just as happy in the temple as in their homes. They maintained same standard in their private as well as public life.
4) They were a sincere church – they were just as sincere praising God before they had their food as when they were in the temple. Life was all of a peace.
5) They were a happy church – with gladness and generosity in their heart.
Therefore, the last verse of this chapter (Chapter 2) tells us they were a church that grew every single day. The Lord made it to grow. We cannot make the church any bigger; the Lord adds to the church daily with those who are saved. We know of no other way to join the church but except by being saved.
Two thousand years have passed, since then there has not been a single day when the lord has not added to His church. Every minute we spend, there are 15 more Christians in the world then there were a minute ago. The Lord added daily.
God’s way of doing things is beautiful. People outside the church were attracted because so much happened inside it. Peter never needed to collect a congregation; he usually just preached to those who came. People will always come running when the house is on fire.
Two parts to this chapter:
1) Healing the sick – miracle: 3:1-11
2) Preaching the saviour – message: 3:12-26
Healing the sick – miracle (3:1-11)
The man who begged for alms was given legs. The gate was called “beautiful”. It was made of brass and its size was about 31/62 feet. Moreover, the man there was not beautiful but was crippled from birth. Peter and John came for prayer at about 3 pm. The Jews had 3 hours of prayer per day – at 9 am, at 12 noon and at 3 pm. They taught that Abraham instituted the first (9 am), Isaac instituted the second (12 noon) and Jacob instituted the third (3:00 pm.). The apostles kept their Jewish prayer.
Two things about the beggar: -
1) He got far more than he asked for.
This is how God deals with us. Jesus once said this is the way God gives to His people, shaken together, pressed down and running over.
2) He got the means to get what he asked for.
He didn’t get any money but got the means to earn money. That put him to work, he got indirect help. God answers prayer in different ways.
The apostles ‘Peter and John’ mentioned seven times in Acts (3:1, 3, 4, 11; 4:13, 19; 8:14). They had no human resources but they had divine resources. The more human resources you have the less divine resources you will tend to need and therefore the less godly a church you become.
There is power in a name depending on the position of the person, whose name it is. e.g.; if someone says, you want that, get such and such a place and use my name. We have not found that works when the person is dead, it is a person who is alive with authority and power whose name gets you to places. The power that acted on the life of beggar was not a medical power. Dr. Luke explains it. Neither was it magical power, it was miraculous power. It was God who did this thorough the name of Jesus. There was power and faith in His name, not faith on healer (Peter and John) but on Jesus.
Who is this Jesus? His name must have power, because He has position. The higher the position is, the more the power. Jesus is now in the highest position in the universe and that is why, the name of Jesus will get you further than any other name. Using the name of Jesus in a holy privilege is an awful responsibility. You got to be careful in using His name for those things that He would use it for and not for the things that we would use it for.
Jesus was a common name among the Jews, but among Christians – we don’t use/give that name for/to our Children; because this name has become absolutely unique (Ch. 4:12).
PETER’S SERMON (Message) 3:12 – 26
Peter gives 2nd sermon almost similar to his Pentecost sermon – he begins with the (1) passion of Christ the sufferings, rejection and vicarious death that He went through. People were ignorant, if they could realize that they are ignoring the Son of God;
2. The person of Christ - There are 250 different names & titles of Jesus in New Testament.
Peter gives/calls 4 titles here
1. God’s servant - to Jews it would mean a lot, for prophet Isaiah describes this in Chapter 53.
2. The Holy & Righteous one – someone who is perfect.
To Jews it would speak of one that God promised the prince of life – the pioneer, the one who opens way to eternal life. Peter said you took that person & killed Him; but He is still alive. For you can’t kill the prince of life.
3. The Christ – the anointed one. The one whom God anointed as king.
4. The seed - God said in Genesis 3:15 that He will defeat Satan through the seed of the woman. To Abraham God said – He will fulfil this promise through Abraham’s seed. Christi is the fulfillment of the promise to Adam to Abraham & to everybody.
Peter closes his sermon with the purpose of Jesus what did He come to do & what is he doing?
The Purpose of Jesus:
Many things that the promised Christ and saviour was said to be doing in OT did not happen in the New Testament. They didn’t all come true when Jesus came. Because, Jesus was going to come twice – He came once & will come again. On His first coming He came only to do 2 things.
1. To get our sins wiped out.
2. To give us refreshment of spirit.
In His Second Coming (Jn 3:17, 12:47), He will do what He did not do; He will start all over again.
There is power in the name of Jesus, no other names. Only the name of the Son of God our Lord Jesus – He came from the highest heaven to the lowest earth was obedient even to death on the cross. And God raised Him all the way back again.
The proof that we live in an evil world is that anybody who goes about doing good will sooner or later gets into serious trouble. The supreme example of this is the life of our Lord Jesus Himself. He went about doing well and within weeks He was in serious trouble. It started when He healed the man with a weathered hard. In Mk. 3 we find opposition developing.
And just as our Lord’s ministry in His own body developed that way one would expect His ministry in His next body the church to do the same thing. Therefore very quickly in the book of Acts someone doing well leads the disciples into the trouble. Jesus has said His disciples – if you follow me; (remember) you will be in (will face) troubles;
The other thing he said to them when you get in to trouble don’t worry. The Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.
The first time that Christians were ever charged with the crime of being Christians. And we live in a day when thousands upon thousands of Christians have brought in to the court, thrown in to prison and executed for no other crime then the name of Jesus.
Chapter 4: in 4 parts
1) There is the Arrest.
Why were they arrested and put in to custody? Three answers, Why Christians should be regarded as criminals just as our Lord was regarded as a criminal?
- They disturb the peace – Wherever Christians have gone, they have been a disturbing element.
- The second reason comes from the priests. The reason why they supported the arrest was that the disciples were disturbing their power. They were the official teachers. They were in charge of the religious views of the people. Here the crowd were listening to the Galileans so that was disturbing to their Possession. So the disciples were arrested, because they were teaching God’s truth to the people.
- But the main reason, why they were arrested come from the theologians – the Sadducees- wealthy, aristocratic, rationalists who by collaborating with the enemy, occupying powers; now control the whole situation and whole nation- They were rationalist – they did not believe in any supernatural things. They were the new theologians of those days. They did not believe in miracles. They even denied the possibilities of His resurrection and said these things can’t happen.
So the apostles were arrested because they did miracles and taught the resurrection of Jesus. The church grew up to 5,000.
2) The trial 4:5-12;
This is the very same identical court in which about 3 months previously Jesus had stood. And they on the bench are the identical judges who cruelly and unjustly put Him to death. It is a history being repeated again, both began without a real charge.
Two fisherman and Holy Spirit within them before the most educated ... they (Peter & John) put all the judges (70 Sandrine) in the dark. Are we charged with the crime of helping a cripple? Is that a crime to help the helpless?
If you want to know by what authority / power/ name we do this? Then I want to tell you that it is in the name of the one who stood here 3 months ago. If you want the real criminal here – then it is Jesus who did this. I accuse you of murdering the messiah whom God raised. The name of a dead man does not have power but His name that is alive today.
At this point Peter added 2 more things about his own faith in Jesus. He quoted a verse from Ps. 118:22;
In simple explanation says – you could not fit Jesus in to your religion, but God has built everything on Him. He is building a new religion its foundation is Jesus. Because you couldn’t fit Him into your religious system it does not mean that He was wrong; but you are wrong. No other system/ religion works. Christianity is an exclusive religion.
It is inclusive in this that (1) “whoever calls on the ...” (2) John 3:16 “whoever believes ...”, but it is exclusive in this, ‘in no other name is there salvation’. It is either Christ or every other religion both can’t fit together. Peter is no more concerned about their lives and forgiveness than his own life. Jesus is alive – the empty tomb proves that (but they could not produce His body) – the more positive proof is many lives have been changed. The marvelous proof is – changed lives.
The people marveled – 3 things:-
1) For their boldness.
2) Because of their brilliant answer.
They have not been to schools – their clothes tell that what class they belonged to. They recognized that they have been with Jesus. This could mean 3 things:-
A) They have seen them following Jesus from Gethsemane.
Peter & John went up to the courtyard. They may have remembered – how Peter was denying & now the same one speaking boldly.
B) They might have been well trained by Jesus to be able to speak like this.
C) The real reason is not that they had been with Jesus but the disciples were still with Jesus. His spirit was within them. The same Spirit, who was in Jesus, is now in them doing miracles.
Chapter 4:14 – but seeing the man ... standing beside them...
A man who never stood on his own for last 40 years, They see him standing straight now. Yet they put their minds off to know about Jesus. They made a now law.
Peter says 2 things.
1) You are judges, but I appeal to the higher court; the court of God where you will stand one day as prisoners and before God you got to answer for what you have said to day.
2) God said us to speak; therefore we will speak.
Now the law is – it is crime to do miracles or preach in that name. What did they (disciples) do? They Prayed. When you are afraid of some thing; get the bigger view of God. If you fear God, you will fear no one else.
They quote Ps. 2. In their prayer God is in charge and in control of everything. Having got the right view of God, they finally asked for 2 things in their prayer
1) Give us boldness to preach publicly
2) Go on doing miracle
God joining their Prayer Meeting and shook the house, why He was saying – every thing is in my hand –History, nature, and all human beings. God gave them again another Pentecost the same thing happened again they were filled with the Holy Spirit & spoke boldly. The people thought that the church will disappear. But the Church grew and grew more. It will never be disappeared until Jesus takes it back.
Most people think that early church was perfect church. Dr. Luke presents that church in this book as it was. Here we got a picture of a mixture of people. If you ever think that you have found a perfect church sooner or later you will discover that it is made up of imperfect people. If you read the N T very carefully, you will find that the church was full of imperfect people.
If your wife were ill you would not say she is not going to those hospital, because those hospitals are jammed full of sick people. You would say, she is not going to those hospitals because nobody ever gets better in those hospitals; but that would not be true. It does not worry you that the hospital is full of sick people; but what you ask is that, is there a doctor in that hospital who can help, could do something for your sick wife.
This church is full of sinners, but there is always room for one more; this is what the church meant to be. A hospital for sin-sick people; it only worries you if they never get any better. The question about a church is not what are the people like? But, is there a divine position there who can help who can heal; make sinner into a saint. So in early church we find the honest picture of people just like us.
A couple – what they did? And what happened to them because they did it? – Before that we should see something good.
Here is a profound lesson to be learned from the NT, if you are going to say something bad about someone say something good first; so that you keep a balance picture. Same way before you talk about Annania and Sapheera you got look at Barnabas first. You got to look at someone generous before you look at some one greedy.
So let us now look at:
(1) Group (church), (2) Barnabas (3) Ananais and Saphira
In the first section we are shown that the church and its relationship between the members in private. In the last section we are shown its relationship with people out in public. Here we have the church in its private life & the church in its public life or a Christian in a good life and a Christian in a bad life.
I. The private life of church:
The word “great” keeps coming, in this word is being devalued e.g. ‘it is great, every thing is great ...’ with great power means they convince to hundreds of people that Jesus is alive.
Great Grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense
God was always giving them things they did not deserve. Here is the law of cause and effect, a chain reaction when you received great grace; it produces great generosity. Generosity is directly related to your gratitude. If you are greedy you are a grumbling and complaining person. The result of that great grace was that they began to share their goods. This is the thing that has never been practiced so fully and freely since those days. In those days, no Christian ever had a need because as soon as the need was known it was met.
Some communist’s claim, which is what the communism is and they are not true, why? 6 reasons here we see the difference from communism.
1) They were of one heart. Nobody had to force anybody else to accept it. They loved each other.
2) There was a spiritual basis. They were of one soul. Where as communism today is utterly atheistic and has no spiritual basis.
3) It was spontaneous. Nobody told them to do it.
4) Everyone wanted to do it. They all did it voluntarily.
5) The property was under no one’s control but their own. e. g. chapter 5:4;
6) It achieved something that no communist state in the world has yet achieved.
You may think that the communists believe from each according to his ability to each according to his need. That is not true. The principle is from each according to his ability to each according to his work. They cannot yet live by the principle, ‘according to his need.’
II. One man – Barnabbas who practiced Christian communism.
There are only two people in the whole of the NT ever called good man. They both got the same name called Joseph. One was Joseph called Aramathia, and the other was Joseph Barnabbas. They both did the same thing, gave their property. One had the garden, the other had the field. Barnabbas the son of encouragement (one who picks others up), he was the one who first did it (sold his property and brought to the apostles).
Now we got to see the other side of the coin. The ‘but’ in the Bible is the most important word. Like in the book of Joshua (Joshua 7), here in Acts we find ... but Ananias. For the very first time in the NT in the book of Acts the word church is used in this very passage of Ananias and Sapphira. We will never understand the story unless we get the right view of the church and a right view of God. What is the church? The people whom God has called out to Himself. If the church is the people of God, or the family of God, the flock of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit then what you do to the church is done to God the Holy Father Son Spirit. Whatever you do to the church, you do to Him. Ananias did against the Holy Spirit. It was the worst crime/sin in Jesus’ eye. What He condemned most is hypocrisy.
The word ‘hypocrite’ originally in Greek means ‘Actor’. In Greek theatres the actor used to come out holding a mask instead of make up and the mask was called hypocrite. That is letting people think you are something other than what you really are.
The Lord was tender with the woman who was taken with adultery, but He was blazed with hypocrites and said you are like white washed tombs. Ananias & Sapphira held back some and gave some saying this is all. Dividing money according to their decision was not wrong. But they wanted to be thought to be better than they were. They wanted to be higher in other people’s estimate than they had right to be.
Why did Peter take it so seriously? Because this sin was exactly the same to the new Israel as Achan have been to the old. And Peter knew if it were allowed to go unchecked this sin of hypocrisy would wreck the early church. There is nothing wrecks the church’s reputation more quickly than a bit of hypocrisy in the members. You are lying to the Holy Spirit. The wife also joined him. The church has far more to fear from corruption with in than from opposition with out.
This is the most challenging part in the book of Acts, because it comes home in a very direct way to every one of us. Is there anything in our lives that could be doing just this kind of thing to the church of which we are the members? Do we let people think that we are better than actually we are?
The result of this event was ‘great fear came upon the whole church’ (twice it is mentioned). A church full of the right kind of fear will not be hypocritical church.
III. The church in its public relations
They had to meet publicly in Solomon’s portico. Everything they did people came and watched. It was a supernatural church. Six things they did, not one of them could be done by natural gifts or energy.
1] Signs and wonders the gospel was visible. The people could see as well as hear what the power of Christ could do.
2] There was a complete unity in the church the crowed could see that they were of one accord.
3] There was a clear boundary between believers and unbelievers, church and the world.
4] Their evangelism was as effective among the men as among the women.
5] Sickness was healed.
6] People with unclean spirits, possessed by demons came to the church and the demons were cast out.
This was a church where God was busy. The people those who believed were not only added to the church but also to the Lord. The question is would I really want to belong to such church? Do I really want to see such a church in my ministry?
Acts 5:17 – 42;
In the earlier passage we have seen the danger of being unbeliever among lot of believers. Now we see the opposite - the danger of being believer among lot of unbelievers. For the second time, the apostles are going to be thrown in to the prison for no other crime than that they preached Jesus. There were four points to this story at which commonsense would have said stop the fight. There were four points at which they could have got out of the problem, they had four opportunities to run away, yet they did not take any of those four.
1] They had already been warned that if they preach in the name of Jesus once more, they would be arrested.
Did that stop them? They went on preaching. This was their opportunity they could have left the city and hide. Why was it inevitable that they would get into trouble? Because, the authorities were jealous of them, and jealousy makes people to do terrible things. It makes people to be cruel, unjust, and unfair.
Those authorities were jealous, simply because the authorities were the religious leaders of the whole nation and here were a bunch of ignorant fisher men who could draw ten times the crowds, than they ever saw. Deep down in them (authorities) was envy.
Envy was responsible for first murder in history. Cain killed Abel out of envy. And it was responsible for the worst murder in history. That’s what Pilate saw that Annas and Caiphas wanted Jesus dead for envy – they delivered Him up. So they arrested the apostles. And the apostles missed the opportunity not to escape.
2] The angel of the Lord came and let them out of prison.
They were free; they could have run away and got out of trouble. But they did not; rather they went back to the temple and preached. “Go and tell all the people the Words of this life” (ch. 5:20). Christianity is not a religion, it is ‘...this life’. It is not just the way of life, but the way to life (Jn. 14:6). So the angel said “go and tell them about this life”.They called for the prisoners – but the prisoners were not there.
They were in the same place and doing the same thing when they were arrested. According to Psalm 2, God must have had a lovely laugh at the council. They thought they could chain the Word of God. Paul wrote, “The Word of God is not bound” even though he was bound in Rome.
3] The third opportunity was, people were in apostles’ side.
If one apostle could have lifted up his finger against the soldiers, the soldiers would have been dead on the spot. But they did not resist, they quietly submitted and were being led up to the court. The angels set them free, but they walked freely to the court. We must obey God rather than men. There are most occasions we can obey both to God and man, (e.g. Ephes. 6:1,5) But in every single one of our lives there will come a point when you got to stand with Peter and say ‘I am sorry, God has told me to do this, and I am going to do what He has told me to do.’ This fundamental principle is the heart of the Christian living. We must obey God rather than man. Christians are those who take their orders from higher up. This is why a Christian basically fears no man, because he fears God more.
Further more the judge said – this man ... (5:28), but Peter said – this man is the son of God, Christ.
Two fold witness:
1. Of those who know that Jesus is alive.
2. Of the Holy spirit who was within them.
4. Being accused of these crimes they did not recount.
Gamaliel - He was a popular man; but he was a bad man. His example was bad, his tolerant was bad. He was a Pharisee – who believed in resurrection from the dead. He was a man who took his religion seriously. What he said we can read in 5:33 – 39, what was his motive? He was waiting for a time – ‘let’s see... how far it goes....’He was unwilling to take a stand either for or against this movement at this stage. He was afraid, he thought, it might be true. But the tragedy was, he never made his mind.
If you say; was not he good, tolerant, conscious in saying wait and see? Let me say this; you will never hear anymore about Gamaliel. He vanishes right out of the picture; & we know that the day he died which was years later; he still has not made up his mind whether it was of God or of man. He was a man who said, wait & see, I will think about it; he was a man who was over conscious, who was apparently very wise & very tolerant but the man who was afraid to take side & be definite. A man like that, you will not hear of them again. They are neither against, nor for the church.
Gamaliel was a professor of religion, in his class room there was a keen student (Saul) who wanted to be a great religious man when he heard about this new religion he was against it. That’s why you hear of Saul again but not of Gamaliel. People like Saul can become a means/channel to spread the gospel of Christ; but people like Gamaliel are stumbling block for it.
They (apostles) were beaten; it means ‘thirty nine strife’ according to Jewish custom of punishment. This was first time; Christians have suffered in the body for Jesus, what was their reaction? (5:41), ‘they rejoiced ...’ for they said, were worthy to suffer for Jesus’ sake.
What did they do next? They did not cease to teach & preach – both in temple & in their home. Only one difference between Jewish religion & Christians that we believe, Jesus is Christ.
ACTS – 6:1 – 15
Christianity would never have become a world religion to us gentiles accept for one man – Stephen, who was one of the first deacons in the Christian church. It all happened, just because a group of Christians in the church began to grumble. Well all things works together for good.
Out of that grumble came the first step towards the division between the Jewish & Christian religion which has meant so much liberty & freedom for us – You are not bound now by the Jewish law.
How it happened?
1. The Jews began to spread in all directions, they were good businessmen, they traveled, and they were known as the ‘Diaspora’ the dispersed/ scattered Jews those who gone to the uttermost parts of their known world to live. It happened to them, that they gradually forgot the language of their fathers. They spoke Greek, but they were Jews & were proud of it.
So there were 2 groups of Jews.
a) Hebrews – those who spoke Hebrew in the land of their fathers.
b) Hellenists – were Greek speaking Jews who visited the land of their fathers but could not speak the language. Therefore when they went to worship in Jerusalem; they had to go to the special place of worship. In Hebrew Synagogue, they worshiped in Hebrew and Hellenist synagogue, they worshiped in Greek.
2. They began to allow other people who were not Jews to come to their synagogue. In a synagogue they kept 3 lists.
a. They were first of all the Jewish members themselves – they have been born Jews.
b. The next list was, the list of people called Proselyte- they had been born gentiles, but they have become or been converted to Jews – circumcised , baptized , kept the law – it happened before Jesus came.
c. The 3rd circle was the circle of those who like worshipping in the synagogue but didn’t want to get involved. They were called (as) the God fearers.
So in that church the problem began; they developed in to groups within the church. Early church distributed everyday the hot meals for widows, for they (widows) did not get any pension. She had no support or no one to look after her at all in those days. So those widows came for a cooked meal everyday, gradually sat in 2 different groups according to their languages, so that they may chat together.
One group thought others received more than them; they were served first when the meal was hot, etc, they began to grumble & complain. The early church was just like us, human beings. Out of that split , 4 basic principles were laid down.
1] The Principle of suitable management. They chose a structure, an organization that met the need
2] The principle of separate ministry. A one minister church is not a church; there should be a shared ministry. Happy is that church where the ministry is shared out. Every Christian is a minister, every minister is a member. Minister is a servant, helper.
3] The principle of saintly men. To serve tables they must be qualified in 3 directions.
A] IN relation to others they must be men of good repute.
B] IN relation to God they must be full of Holy Ghost.
C] In relation to themselves they must be wise. A wise man is not (always) the clever man; but a wise man who knows what is the right thing to do.
4] The principle of the selective method. The leaders said to the church, you select them; and we will appoint them. There are two interesting things in these 7 men.
A] Every man had a Greek name, not one of them had a Hebrew name.
If the Greek widows (Hellenists) are grumbling then let the Greek men handle them. Here is the principle of an indigenous church, matching the people to the need.
B] One of these seven had not been born a Jew, he was proselyte. His name was Nicolas, a gentile. The Christian church is beginning to breakout in to the gentile world in this little incident.
When did the disciples increase in number?(Ch. 6:15). When the word of God increased, the number of the disciples multiplied greatly (Ch. 6:7). The church goes on increase, never decrease. The priests began to get converted.
As soon as a priest gets converted and comes now what must he do? Should he go on cutting the lambs? No, Stephen was going to the Greek speaking Synagogues & was preaching 2 things.
1. Christ is the end of the temple; you can come to God any where now; any time without a sacrifice.
2. Christ is the end of law; you no longer need to keep the 10 commandments to get to heaven. The law is no longer the way to get to heaven.
Some argued, though they never won the argument. When a person can’t win a verbal argument he will resort to a physical exchange. They began to bring false accuses. When you know Christ, all your religion, good works etc. is nothing compared with His grace; no value at all, but dung. If you are saved by grace, it means 2 things.
a. It does not matter how many bad things you have done in the past prior to your conversion, you can get to heaven. This means you have experienced God’s forgiveness.
b. It does not matter how many good things you have done they won’t help you to get there.
The Jews religion in Christ’s eye is dung, He said, “I go My way and you will not find Me”. ‘Your ways are not my ways’. It was Stephen who saw this truth/reality. They saw his face like an angel. It was unearthly yet it was ordinary. They saw the face of a man who did not live here, a man who lived there in glory. Stephen became the first Christian martyr; he had no inspiration or example, but Jesus; to follow. He knew it was to be his last sermon. The last thing that this great man said with the face of an angel, was ‘Once you got Christ, you don’t need religion, temple or 10 commandments – once you got Christ, you have got everything you need, because you got the Holy spirit”.
Stephen does the same thing as Peter did few months earlier. He did not defend himself or Christianity but did (said); I attack your understanding of your religion. I accuse you of twisting the word of God. I accuse you of doing 2 things:
1. You are restricting Gods dwelling.
You have got God locked up in a nice little temple; you have got God just where you want Him in that lovely little building. He said, almost every time God spoke to one of our Jewish forefathers, He spoke outside the Holy land; never mind the temple – Abraham in Mesopotamia, others, in Egypt, Moses in Sinai in Median, Jews/ Israelites – in wilderness. Indeed, every where God speaks is holy land, therefore put off your shoes...? You cannot limit God. Get big ideas about God.
Stephen said, all the formative ideas that you hold, all the heart of your religion was given to men out side this holy land, and certainly before you ever had a temple. God preferred to live in a tent than in a temple, because He was a God who was on the move. The God who gets up, walks before and guide us on is Jehovah.
In O. T. God’s meeting place was in a tent (tabernacle). David sought habitation for that but Solomon built Him a house. The prophet had to come to Solomon and said “Heaven is my throne ...”
2. He says; you think, you have got the Law of Moses, May I tell you that you don’t keep it. May I tell you that from the very first day that Moses gave the law, you and your fathers have refused to obey? You claim to have the law, why is it then you betrayed and murdered the greatest prophet of them all; predicted by Moses the holy and righteous one even Jesus Christ.
You always resist the Holy Spirit. That is the most serious thing men can ever do.
Jesus said men will be forgiven for what they have said about and against me; but man who blasphemes against the Holy Ghost can not be forgiven, because there is no one to help you.
They were so angry, they didn’t even bother this time to go and get permission or Pilate’s signature. There was no appeal, no trial.
There is an extraordinary parallel between Stephen’s trial and trial of Jesus – there was no council for defense...
Before all these angry judges/ persecutors Stephen could see the glorious Lord Jesus. Jesus said at His trial, you will see the Son of man coming in glory. Now Stephen says ‘I can see.’ How foolish the men are to think that they can kill the truth by killing them that hold the truth.
So they stoned him down. Yet, he prayed (as Jesus prayed before dying). ‘Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit’, they can kill my body; but you catch hold of my spirit.
His prayer was Christ like prayer, ‘do not hold this sin against them’.
Acts 8:4 – 40;
In this chapter (8) we have:
1) The church suffering ch 8:13-3;
2) The church spreading ch 8:4-40
The program for Christianity, which was a world program was not promoted by any society, committee or by any individual. Jesus gave them the program, Acts 1:8;
But by unexpected way Christianity spread, because the thing that moved it first from a Jewish nation to the Samaritans was persecution. It was not a deliberate design. They were scattered abroad by persecution. In fact Saul was promoting the spread of Christianity long before he became a Christian. God can use the wrath of men to praise His own purposes.
Ch 8:4; and every where they went, they gossiped (Anglo section translation) the word. They were not professional preachers.
There was a real tension between Jew and Samaritans. They hated and did not talk to each other. In Luke, Jesus and His disciples went to one of the Samaritan village and were thrown out; James and John ‘the sons of thunder’ said, ‘shall we call down fire from heaven...’
The same John, who wanted to destroy the Samaritans, goes back to them to lay his hands on them here; so that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
Philip – one of the deacons ran for his life to Samaria as he ran away, he preached. He got a huge crowed listening to him. They listened, because they saw. A double testimony which God is longing to give any church. When people can see things happening in lives being transformed dramatically then they are ready to here the gospel. Many were healed, freed; baptized, no wonder! ‘There was much joy in that city’ ch 8:8
Simon - we are introduced to him with the word ‘But”. It is one of the saddest words in the Bible. It usually comes after a description of something wonderful. Then there comes ‘But’ and something is then said that spoils it. Power of Satan through black magic can’t reach the power of Jesus Christ.
Here is a great revival – people coming, hearing the gospel and being baptized. But there was one thing missing, they had not yet received the power which Philip had. Why did God held back His power in this case? Why they did not have the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Because, God did not want a Samaritan church separated from the Jewish church, so He made them wait until they have got Jewish Christians with them from Jerusalem, before the Holy Spirit was poured out.
Peter and John went them. John who once told, ‘ shall we call fire from heaven and destroy them ...’ It takes faith to talk like that, but it is faith without love ( 1 Cori.13) and when John came back for next time in this Chapter to this very same place he had love well as faith. He wanted fire from heaven but not to destroy them, but to fill with power, so they prayed.
Ch 8: 17 the literal translation of this verse would say “as they laid hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit”. As they laid hands on a person the power poured out – this was their confirmation. Not by apostles – but by God – giving the Holy Ghost.
When Simon saw things happening, he reached for his cheque book and said I like to buy that trick and this revealed incidentally/ exactly how he got all his other tricks for his black magic.
Simon was a man whose heart had two things in it which a man’s heart should not have or will not have if he truly repented and believed on Jesus:
1) He had a boasting heart
2) He had a bargaining heart
And if you really come to the Lord Jesus, those are the two things that vanish when you come. Here was a man who was still concerned about his own prestige above everybody else, a man who thought he can buy gifts from God. This sort of heart reveals straight away that a man is not truly converted. Even Philip, Peter &John made mistake by baptizing someone on profession of faith whose heart was not right with God.
So they dealt with it straightaway and told him to repent and pray. We know from the rest of the NT that he did not repent. Peter told him to pray but this man said, ‘no, you pray that none of these things may come upon me’. He is more concerned for his skin than his sin. The tradition tells us that this man consistently opposed Peter and Paul for the rest of his days. In Oxford English dictionary ‘Simon’ refers to those who think they can buy some thing from God, particularly in church status. Simony is the attitude that buys.
Philip goes to find one man in desert. An Ethiopian was a man who had to stand outside the temple to pray to the God of the Jews. He was only allowed to the court of the Gentiles by the Mosaic Law. He was humble enough to stand out and pray realizing / knowing that he would not be allowed in his country, because his people worshiped sun...
He got a scripture portion in his hand to read during his journey. The Holy Spirit told Philip to go and follow that chariot. Philip, (8:35) beginning with this (Isa 53) scripture he preached the good news of Jesus.
The Ethiopian asked, ‘what hinders me to be baptized?’ This is the difference between the Jewish religion and Christian: Christianity for whosoever believeth ... nothing hinders you to become a Christian, except you lack faith.
Philip was transported to Palestinian city by the Holy Ghost. The Ethiopian never saw Philip any more; all he had when he went to Africa was scripture. In great continent of Africa for 2000 years has been Christian by tradition. You will never know what the result will be of speaking to one man. As Lord said to Phillip ‘go ...’ and ‘He arose and went’, so must we obey the Holy Spirit both in our life and ministry.
Saul is already mentioned twice or thrice in the story of Stephen. His name in Hebrew was Saul which means ‘desired’; his Roman name was Paul which means ‘little’. He was born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, and a free city of the Romans and himself a freeman of that city. His father and mother were both native Jews, therefore he calls himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews; He was of the tribe of Benjamin. His education was in the Schools of Tarsus first which was called a little Athens for learning then he was sent to Jerusalem to study the Jewish law. His tutor was Gamaliel He had extraordinary natural parts. He was a tent maker by trade.
I. Before His conversion – enemy to Christianity.
He breathed death to Christians where ever he came. He resold to disturb the Christians at Damascus.
II. A blessed change took place in him.
As his journey he came near to Damascus and there Christ met him. He was still in the way. The work of conversion is not tied to the church (e.g. Ethiopian Eunuch) He was near Damascus almost at his journeys end. He who was to be the apostle of the Gentiles was converted to the faith of Christ in a Gentile country. Hear was a great kindness to the poor saints at Damascus who had the notice of his coming as appears by what Ananias said (v. 13, 14) Christ has many ways of delivering the godly out of temptation and trials, and some times does it by bringing change in their persecutors.
It was also a very great mercy to Saul himself. It is to be valued as a signal token of the divine favour, if God prevent us from prosecuting and executing a sinful purpose.
The appearance of Christ to him in his glory (v.17):
Lord Jesus was in this light. This light shone upon him suddenly. Christ’s manifestations of Himself to poor souls are many times sudden and very surprising. The devil comes to the soul in darkness but Christ comes to the soul in light, for He himself is light of the world. The first thing in this new creation, as in that of the world is light.
He fell on the ground (v. 4; 26:14):
Christ’s manifestations of Him to poor soul are humbling, they lay them very low. Those whom God will employ are first struck with a sense of their unworthiness to be employed. He heard a voice saying to him (and it was distinguishing, to him only, v.7; 22:9), Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute Me? Saul not only saw a light from heaven but heard a voice from heaven. God’s manifestations of Himself were never dumb shows, for He magnifies His word above all His name (Ps 138:2), and what was seen was always designed to make way for what was said. Saul heard a voice. Faith comes by hearing, the voice he heard was the voice of Christ. The word we hear profits us when we hear it as the voice of Christ.
He was called by his mane, Saul, Saul:
Some think in calling him Saul hints at that great persecutor of David whose name he bore. He was indeed a second Saul and such an enemy to the Son of David as the other was to David. Calling him by his name intimates the particular regard that Christ had to Him, ‘I summon you by name, and bestow on you a title of honour, though you do not acknowledge me’ (Isa, 45:4; Exo 33:12). The doubling of it, Saul, Saul intimates the deep sleep that Saul was in; He needed to be called again and again (Jer, 22:29). The tender concern that the blessed Jesus had for him, and for his recovery, he speaks as one in earnest; It is like Martha, Martha (Luk 10:41) or Simon, Simon (Luk 22:31) or O Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Mat 23:37).
The charge exhibited him is why do you persecute me? A humbling conviction of sin is the first step towards a saving conversion from sin. The person sinning is “It is you” the educated, religious man who has got the law and scriptures. It is worse in you than another. The person sinned again: “It is I”, who never did any harm to you, who came from heaven to earth to do good for you, who was crucified for you not long ago. The question put to him; why do you do it?
It is complaining language: Christ never complained so much of those who persecuted Him in his own person as He did here of those who persecuted Him in His followers.
It is convincing language: why do you do thus? Can you give any good reason for doing this? It is good for us often to ask ourselves why we do such and such thing, that we may discern what an unreasonable thing sin is, and of all sins none so unreasonable, so unaccountable, as the sin of persecuting the disciples of Christ, especially when it is discovered to be persecuting Christ (Ps 24:4). Those who persecute the saints persecute Christ himself and He takes what is done against them as done against Him, and accordingly will be the judgement in the great day (Matt 25:45).
Saul makes enquiry concerning Christ:
Who are you Lord? The question is proper and it implies his present unacquaintedness with Christ; he knew not His voice as His own sheep do, but he desired to be acquainted with Him (Judg. 13:17, Gen 32:29). There is some hope of people when they begin to enquire after Jesus Christ. Christ brings souls in to fellowship with Himself by manifesting Himself to them. He said, I am Jesus (The Saviour) I am Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 22:8). I am that Jesus whom you blasphemed. I am that Jesus whom you persecute and it will be at your peril if you persist in this wicked course. There is nothing more effectual to awaken and humble the soul than to see sin to be against Christ, an affront to Him, and a contradiction to His design.
His gentle reproof of Him: It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.
Saul’s address to Jesus Christ:
What shall I do, Lord? (22:10) this may be taken as a serious request for Christ’s instruction. A serious desire to be instructed by Christ in the way of salvation is an evidence of a good work began in the soul. The great change in conversion is wrought upon the will, and consists in the resignation of that to the will of Christ.
How far his fellow travelers were affected with this, and what impression it made upon them. In spite of the light/ sound they were not converted. No external means will of themselves bring a change in the soul, without the Spirit and grace of God. Among these that traveled together, one is taken, and others left. They stood speechless, none of them asked the question that Saul had asked. But none of God’s children are born dumb.
They led him by the hand into Damascus, thus he who thought to lead the Disciples of Christ prisoners and captive to Jerusalem was himself led a prisoner and a captive to Christ into Damascus.
A good work was begun in Saul, when he was brought to Christ’s feet, in that word. What shall I do, Lord? (22:10). Never did Christ leave any that were brought to Him. He who has convinced will also comfort. Ananias is here ordered to go and look after Saul. He was a certain disciple and a native of Damascus. There are three Ananias found in Acts, Ananias, Sappira’s husband (5:1-11), Ananias who prayed for Saul (9:10-17, 22:12), and Ananias the high priest (24:1). He had a good report of all the Jews at Damascus, a devout man according to the Lord and a disciple of Lord Jesus Christ (9:10, 22:12). He was directed to go and enquire at such a house for a person called Saul of Tarsus. Christ called Ananias by name. His ready response was, “behold, I am here, Lord”. Jesus very well knows where to find out those that are His, in their distress. We have a friend in heaven, who knows in what street, in what house, and more over in what frame or condition we are.
Why he must go? Because Saul was praying and his coming to him must answer his prayer. Ananias should not be afraid of Saul as he was (v 13, 14). There is no question of that, says Christ, because he is a true convert “for behold, he prays”. The word behold denotes the certainty of it. It also denotes the strangeness of it, ‘behold and wonder’.
But was it such a strange thing for Saul to pray? Was he not Pharisee? Yes, he was. But now he began to pray after another manner than he had done before. Then he said his prayers, but now he prayed them. If you can find a living man without breath, then you can find a living Christian without prayer. If breathless is lifeless, and so prayer less is graceless.
Ananias was asked to go quickly, he should not linger, for behold he prays. Saul was under conviction of sin, and conviction should drive us to prayer. He was under a physical affliction, blind and sick. Christ had promised him that it should be further told him, what he should be doing (v 6). What God has promised we must pray for?
He pleads that this Saul was a notorious persecutor of the disciples of Christ (v 13,14). We must render good for evil, and pray for our persecutors, this is what we learn from this story. Jesus Christ overrules his objection (v 15, 16), He was a vessel in which the gospel treasure should be lodged, an earthen vessel (2 Cor 4:7), but also a chosen vessel.
Saul is designed:
a) For eminent services. He is to bear my name...
Saul must be a standard-bearer, he must bear Christ’s name before kings, King Agrippa and Caesar himself; not only that he must bear it before the children of Israel.
b) For eminent sufferings: I will show him ... (v 16)
He that has been a persecutor shall be himself persecuted. Those that bear Christ name must expect to bear the cross for his name. And those that do most for Christ are often called out to suffer most for him. When difficulties are removed, what have we to do, but to go on with our work, and not hang upon an objection? Saul came to lay violent hands upon the disciples at Damascus; but here a disciple lays a healing hand upon him. Ananias called him brother; this shows his readiness to own Saul as brother; this also tells of God’s readiness to own him as a son; though Saul had been a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of his children.
Ananias now tells forth his commission to Saul. He says, the same Jesus ... sent me to you. The hand that wounded heals. His light has stricken you blind, but he has sent me to you that you might receive the sight. He assures him that he shall not only have his sight restored, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. At the word of Ananias, Saul is delivered from the Spirit of bondage by his receiving sight (v 18). The cure was sudden, to show that it was miraculous.
Converting grace opens the eyes of the soul. This was what Saul was sent among the gentiles to do, and therefore must first experience it in himself. The scales fell from his eyes, the cloud was scattered, and the Sun of righteousness rose upon his soul, with healing under his wings. Saul was baptized, and there by submitted to the government of Christ and cast himself upon the grace of Christ. Saul is now a disciple of Christ, not only ceases to oppose him, but devotes himself entirely to His service.
The good work that was begun in Saul is carried on wonderfully. He received his physical strength (v 19). Our body must be kept fit to serve God. Saul associated with the disciples at Damascus. He had lately breathed out threatening and slaughter against them, but now breathes love and affection to them. Those that take God for their God, take His people for their people. Thus he made profession of his Christian faith, and openly declared himself a disciple of Christ. He began to preach Christ in the Synagogues (v 20). He was so full of Christ himself, that the spirit within him constrained him to preach Christ to others. He preached nothing but Christ, and Him crucified. He preaches Christ as the Son of God in whom He is well pleased, and with us in Him. How people were affected with it? (v 21). All the people that heard him were amazed.
He confounded those that opposed the doctrine of Christ (v 22). Saul increased in spiritual strength. He became intimately acquainted with the gospel of Christ. He grew more daring and resolute in defense of the gospel (v 21). He was instrument in converting many to the faith of Christ, and building up the church at Damascus.
Acts 9:32 – 10:35;
Lydda is known today as Lod. It is in Philistine territory and they worshiped a god called Dragon. That is the city near where David slew Goliath. And that is the city where Peter slew sickness and death.
Why is it that instead of Paul, suddenly we see Peter here? Dr. Luke wanted to give us a clear picture of two outstanding apostles, viz. Peter and Paul. Indeed it was Peter who preached the first sermon to the Jews, also preached his first sermon to the Gentiles. He was the first man that took the truth about God, man & Jesus outside the Jewish circle. Peter made his journey first from Jerusalem to Lydda & Joppa, and then from Joppa to Caesarea. Three amazing things happened on those routes.
1] The paralytic man was healed.
Peter is on tour among the Christian Jews, because he was the first pastor of the church. The church was scattered here and there. So, he went to Lydda to visit some people who had fled to Lydda from Jerusalem due to the persecution. There he found a man who was paralyzed for eight years. That man was a Christian believer, but could not do anything for him, or for others. Peter went to him and said, ‘rise up, because Jesus Christ heals you.’ In fact, he said three things: a) Jesus Christ heals you, (b) Believe and rise up, and (c) Make your bed (practical work), to make sure his health was in action. Some enjoy their sick bed. They rather lie down instead of doing work and look after themselves.
2] Tabitha (Dorcas) was raised from dead.
She devoted her life in helping the widows. Her good works did not make her a Christian. She did them because she was a Christian. This is the difference between doing good thing in order to get to heaven and doing good things because you are going there.
Good works and charity are no guarantee that you will not fall sick and die. Christianity was never meant to be an insurance policy. Let us not regard religion as insurance, Christ has never promised that.
Tabitha Died - they lay her down in the upper room and sent two men to Peter entreating him to come. Did they imagine what Peter did after his arrival? Peter made everyone to go out of the room and prayed, “Lord what should I do now, this woman is desperately needed for these widows to take care of them”. The answer was “tell her to get up” and Peter said the same thing. Peter was doing the things that the Lord told him to do; he was just doing what Jesus did before him. Jesus said the works that I do, you will do also. Now Peter faces even harder thing. There is one thing harder than learning that is unlearning. It is far harder to unlearn something than to learn, far harder for you to learn that something that you believe is wrong, than to learn to believe in some thing that you believe in is right. Peter had been brought up as a Jew, who believed in clean and unclean things.
Cornelius the major, who prayed constantly, was a generous man. He feared God, though he was a gentile. All the time that he prayed, he has never got answer. But one day, he got the answer and he was in terror. He got a name and address. When he got a clear reply, he acted at once, and sent two men. When you get a clear reply from God, act on it straight away.
Peter at this time, is on the house top, seeing a vision, now for the first time he hears a voice saying to him,”arise and eat”. Peter said ‘never’ one of his favorite words. Peter denied the Lord three times, was asked three times if he loved Jesus and was rebuked three times. When the two men came to him, he went with them. In chapter 10:26, Peter says, ‘I too am a man.....’ never think too much of a man, if you do so, you can never think too much of God. In 10:34, 35 he says ‘truly I perceive God has no favour’. What is the major problem in the world today, not disease or death but prejudice? God has no favorites. Christ is all and in all. If a man fears God and seeks to do what is right then God can begin with that man. God will reward his search for the truth by giving him the truth. This is most wonderful truth that I perceived just now, said Peter.
Earlier Jesus said to His disciples ‘I have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear now’. Peter would not have borne it, if Jesus would have told him this truth. But now Peter understood that and said truly now I perceive that God has no favorites.
Acts 10:34 -11:18
This passage does not say that God accepts everyone. But rather anyone, who fulfils two conditions,
1. Not anyone who believes in God, because most people believe in God. The first condition is to fear Him; this is the first step towards reality. The fear of the punishment of God, for doing wrong
2. To realize that it does matter how you live and you start trying to put it right.
These two things don’t save the men, they don’t get him into heaven, but they get him in touch with God. The word ‘acceptable’ means, to get a favorable hearing. That is where the Gospel begins. There are two things that a man who fears God and does what is right, does not have.
1. He does not have any peace – because he is never sure of whether he is right or not. That is why Peter said I have come to bring you the good news of peace. Peace comes through the Lord Jesus Christ only. Even if we manage to live a comfortable life that does not deal with what is on our conscience from the past, it does not deal with the wrong things we did in earlier years.
2. He does not have power - though he tries to do what is right, but he cannot, he has no power to achieve it, that is why he needs the Holy Spirit. In other words, if you begin by fearing God and doing what is right in His side that is the first in right direction. But we will not find peace and power in that because we have only found the fear of God. You need all of God, if you are going to be saved. All of God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And thus, find peace, forgiveness and power; begin with God to have peace with God and power of God. The Gospel is not good advice, but good news.
There are three level of understanding Jesus Christ.
1) Jesus of Nazareth, Chapter 10:38, a man who lived in a particular place, in a particular time, but if that is where your understanding of this person ends, you will not find peace,
2) Christ of Israel, Verse 38,39 & 43, that means he was the final fulfillment of a thousands of years of dreams yet this is not the deep enough level for one to find peace.
3) HE is Lord of all. verse 42, which means Lord of your total life.
Peter preaches certain facts, 1) He began His ministry from His baptism, God was with Him, devil was against Him, (2) He died being sinless, God raised Him up, (3) He is the judge now, He has won the battle.
The choice is now yours either you face Jesus someday to be punished or you come to Him right now to be pardoned. The good news is that Jesus who will judge you is prepared to forgive you now, if you take your case to Him now. The facts are:
1. Jesus was baptized
2. He went about doing good
3. He died on the cross
4. He rose again
5. You are going to face Him one day on His throne
6. You can receive pardon from Him now.
Suddenly the power came upon them while Peter was still preaching; they began to speak in tongues. The biggest miracle is extolling God. Four things are necessary to make a person fully Christian.
1. Repentance – which only comes if you fear God
2. Faith – This only comes when you hear about Jesus.
3. Baptism in water – which is commanded to every believer.
4. Confirmation / Assurance – to be sealed and anointed with the Spirit of God.
When Peter returns to Jerusalem, he was in trouble from within. He explained what God has done even among the Gentiles. After hearing Peter’s report, the church at Jerusalem rejoiced and praised God. You may criticize somebody else but you cannot ever argue against God, if God does something different than the way you are thinking.
Acts 11:19 – 12:25;
Because of persecution, the believers were scattered in to different places, some went to Antioch. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Every nation had a little corner of Antioch; there was the Jewish quarter as well as the Greek quarter. It was one of the most immoral towns in the world. The New Testament commentators called it as the Paris of the ancient world. IT was packed with night clubs, gambling centers and drinking places. The main religion of Antioch was the worship of Diana. In that city, for the first time ever in Christian history the word Christian itself is used.
We do not know who started the church there, there is no name mentioned. Much of the work of God that has done in most places has been done by People that are not being remembered. For the first time, the believers talked to the Greeks. The first time anybody that heard about Jesus who did not know, something of the OT, yet the amazing thing is that a great number turned in to the Lord, and then the church at the Jerusalem heard that the Greeks have responded to the Gospel, they sent Barnabas to them. Barnabas was full of Holy Spirit and therefore not full of his own ideas, but full of faith to believe that anything is possible to God. He came there and he had only one thing to say to them ‘just keep right on the way you are, just holding unto the Lord’. They were not Jews so the problem arose at this point of what to call this church? What to call this people? So they began to ask who did that. Who is the person behind? Who is in charge? And for every single question that they asked they got one answer, Christ. So they began to call them Christians. The Greek Christians preached the Lord Jesus. In those days they used to have two kinds of preachers, 1) they had teachers whose job was to teach the truth like Barnabas, who spent twelve months doing that. 2) they also had prophets, they were those who did not prepare a sermon, who did not work at it but who could stand up and give a direct word from God to the congregation, a direct revelation or something that they needed in that particular situation .
One of the men, who came from Jerusalem, was Prophet Agabus, who told that there was gong to be a famine. The local fellowship sent relief fund that is how Barnabas and Saul became missionaries. The church of God was mobile all this time spontaneously spreading and expanding.
What was happening in Jerusalem all this time?
Herod: this man’s grand father Herod the great, who slaughtered hundreds of innocent babies to try and kill Jesus before He was old enough to be the King. His uncle was the Herod who put John the Baptist to death to please the dancing girl. Another member of this family who was the Herod, whom Jesus called fox before whom Jesus stood and did not answer him anything. This was the last of Herods who was a close friend of the mad emperor Caligula in Rome. This man killed James with the sword in order to please the Jews.
Peter was rescued, but James was not. Sometimes God does not get His people out of trouble. Some times His purpose is fulfilled in different way – even martyrdom, rather than in safety or protection. Sometimes God glorifies Himself by healing a sickness or disease and sometimes He says to a person ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ He knows what He is doing. John and James were two brothers, James died first, and John was the last of the apostles to die.
In one side Peter was in bondage guarded by 16 armed soldiers in the prison. On the other hand, nothing but simple prayer was going on in the church. Through this we know that prayer is one of the mightiest things in the world. Prayer changes things. A man on his knees is a more powerful man than the greatest military leader on earth.
Angels are the intelligence beings superior to us in strength, in beauty and in intelligence. They are there to help those who fear God. God is able to do exceeding and abundantly above all the things we ask or think. The blockage is on our side. When we go to prayer lets expect an answer.
Herod went too far in the sight of the Lord and did something that he should not have done. A great feast was held. It was about the year 44A.D, a festival was proclaimed through out the world, which was celebrated in the every part of the Roman Empire. The festival was about the successful invasion of England. At this feast this man the last of Herods was eaten up by the worms.
But the word of God grew and multiplied. Empires rise and fall – dictators come and go, but the Kingdom of God and His Word goes on for ever.
(Volume II of Acts the book of happenings)
First half of this book is all about Peter. Second half is all about Paul. Other apostles are not mentioned a lot. Therefore instead of “Act of the apostles” this should better be called as the Acts of Jesus which continues from Gospel of Luke. The Acts of the Holy Ghost – He is the one who is active here. He is mentioned in this book more than any other person. He is mentioned / talked about 40 different time’s in first 12 chapters of this book. He is the one who is continuing the Acts of Jesus on earth. For our Jesus is seated up in heaven.
Without the Holy Spirit the church would never have got going. Without the Holy Spirit mission is impossible. In the first half the gospel is centered and spread out in Jerusalem and surrounding places as far as up to Antioch.
In the second half Antioch becomes a center and the gospel spreads out up to Rome. Paul was a missionary before he was a Christian. He was such a fanatic Jew that he used to leave his home, go to another country to speak against Christianity. He was a missionary of anti Christianity.
Paul did not go on missionary Journey immediately after his conversion. At least he took 3 years for preparation. So instead of Ch. 10: we see him as missionary in Ch. 13:
The church said ‘go’ &the Holy Spirit said ‘go’. There are two mistakes often being made today:
1) For individual Christians who have been called of God and filled with Spirit to go off without the church’s commission.
2) For the church to send people off who have not been called of God.
The inward call of the individual must be confirmed by the fellowship/church. So, Paul though he knew on the day of his conversion that he was going to go as a missionary to the gentiles had to wait many years until one day as the church at Antioch & the Holy Spirit said to them ‘you can send these two for the work that I have already called them to’.
The Holy Ghost calls in 2 ways.
1) He calls the individual hearts then
2) Through that individual’s fellowship He confirms that call and says ‘go’.
The first 3 vs. of Ch 13 takes us to a city called Antioch, a city notorious for its night life.
Here the believers were called as Christians (who are in Christ).
1) The people there – verities of people
Barnabas, a Cyprian, a man with a great heart & generous hand. Simeon a black African, he became a Christian on the day when Roman soldiers made him carry the cross of Jesus. Lucius, a Roman quite a different from others
Manaen – who was brought up in a place with a prince Herod?
Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin a Jew trained as a Pharisee, yet there they are in one fellowship.
II. Prophets – they had 2 types of ministries
1) The ministry of prophets
2) The ministry of teachers.
A prophet is someone who gives an immediately inspired, spontaneous utterance which is a word from God, for that situation and for that situation alone. It is not the word that is to pass on out side the situation.
A teacher is someone who takes those truths of God which are for all times and all places and all people and teaches their meaning to the people. They were praying and fasting, the denial of their physical appetites that they might stimulate their spiritual appetite. Today the opposite is happening. When they fasted and prayed God spoke. Lying of hands, it is an act of identification; you are part of me we are all one body, to let our hands express His love and our unity in the body.
So, they sailed to Cyprus (the happy Island). They (people) call it Makaria (GK) word for happiness / blessedness. Happy Island they say because of the climate. Why did they sail there? Because that was the place where Barnabas came from? When Saul was converted, he went first to Tarsus. When Barnabas joined him, they went to Cyprus. Mission begins right where we are before we go and start elsewhere.
They went in a group; God does not usually lead people to loners. Jesus sent His disciples 2/2 they started preaching in synagogues. Start with those whom you feel is nearest to God. They faced opposition from the occult people; here Paul the missionary of light confronting the power of darkness. Paul’s first miracle was a miracle of turning a man blind. He did the same thing to Elymas that Jesus had done to him. There the Governor was converted; he was a man with great influence.
Saul did 2 things after the Governor’s convention.
1) He sailed away from Cyprus.
2) He decided to change his name.
His Jewish name was Saul. When he became a Roman citizen his name became (changed) Paul It was changed after the Roman governor was converted ... why?
Before he was named as Saul after the Jewish ruler king Saul who was also from same tribe Benjamin. And Saul did not turn out to be a good king. So, Saul of Tarsus must have been a bit embarrassed that he was not good. But when Sergius Paulus became the first convert, Saul knew in his heart to which he belongs now. So he decided to change his name to the name of a gentile ruler who is a good one. And it is right here where Dr. Luke writes Saul (who is also Paul) and as soon as he left Cyprus. It is Paul, Paul all the way. He was even prepared to change his name that he might be more identified with the people to whom, he came.
Paul gave an individual gospel presentation. It is when people see the effect of instructions from the Lord in other people’s lives, they will believe.
Have you ever thought of Jesus being missionary, in fact that is the word He always used. Father has sent me, so do I send you. After knowing that we have been sent by God – we must know:
1) What we have been sent by God to do? and
2) How He wants us to do?
They moved (from) Pamphylia, because Paul fell ill. Pamphylia was a city full of mosquitoes. There is no guarantee for the Christian in the word of God that if you are engaged in Lord’s business you will be free from sickness.
1) Either he could have sailed back to Cyprus, back to Tarsus his home town or to Antioch his home church to get recovery,
2) Or to go on in to the interior for the ministry.
Paul went on, “when the going get tough, the tough gets going”. When the mission gets tough, the weak Christian leaves (Mark left), but the tough (strong) Christian keeps going.
The sickness can further the gospel. Yes, God can heal and does heal but He allows sickness too. They went up to Antioch (2nd) and began to preach in the Synagogues. This Antioch was on the Europe, Asian highway. In Synagogues, (start your mission) with the people who are like you. Start with the people you know and understand. There were two groups in Synagogues in those days.
1) The Jews, who knew the Law.
2) The God fearers, another group who used to sit separately, they were not full members of the Synagogues but they were the seekers; who used to say, we believed that you Jews are people of God, but we are not fully convinced that you have got the answer. So we have come to listen. Those were the best people to start with. What did Paul preach on? Paul preached about God.
Twenty one times in this brief summary Paul says, Jesus was always pointing towards God; He is the way to God, the truth about God and the life eternal in God. And all the time He was pointing men to God, His heavenly Father. We have got to get people to realize that there is the God and that Jesus is His son. Other wise you will finish up with Jews, people who don’t know God.
The neglected Father: So Paul preaches about God. 3 parts to his sermon:-
1) Israel, 2) Jesus, 3) You.
1) Israel: the history of their forefathers in Egypt, to Canaan.
Two things he is trying to do
- He is beginning with the things they are familiar with. Starting where they are and then you are likely to help them where you are.
B. He wants to talk to them about God before he talks to them about Jesus.
Paul always began, every sermon or message he gave by telling people what God had already done for them. So before he spoke about what God wanted to do for them; he brought from them a feeling that they were already involved with God and He had already been good to them. He said God gave you fertility from one family, you multiplied. God gave you liberty; He brought you out of Egypt. God gave you maturity; He endured your foolishness for 40 years. God gave you security; He destroyed 7 nations, and God gave you stability; He gave judges to rule your affairs. God gave you sovereignty; He gave you a king after His own heart.
Again Paul speaks about John the Baptist before he speaks about Jesus, John who was the last prophet of the OT and the first prophet of the NT. He was the one started water baptism but he was the man who said to the whole of his people do you want to make a clean start. You want to make a clean start, then listen what I am going to speak. Jesus that is what you need.
Paul Just talked about 2 things of Jesus
a) He died, b) He rose again
People put Him on a cross and killed Him saying He was a bad man and does not deserve to live. But God said that is not true I will raise Him up. The apostles never said Jesus rose from the dead they always said, God raised Him from the dead that was God’s doing.
a) Your past – what God has already done for you?
b) What God wants to do for you through Jesus’ death and resurrection?
Paul tells people the consequences of believing what he says and he warns them of the consequences of rejecting what he says. He offers them both on Positive and Negative things, the division they cause. It is tragic that the opposition to the gospel will always comes most fiercely from religious people.
When people made up their minds not to listen and do what Jesus told to do, Paul and Barnabas shook off the dust from off their feet and went somewhere, where people would listen.
But the gentiles were glad. Why? Because they had the good news, they didn’t have to become like Jews but only have to become like Jesus. Even when they were kicked out they were bold because they knew they have left the Holy Spirit and disciples who could continue the work. So now they could say mission accomplished.
One of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gave to early church was the gift of boldness. What makes this to go on, drive on etc...? What is the motive (behind) in driving himself on? Because he wants to save as many as he can. He feels in debt to the world. (Where as) the common out look today is that people feel the world is in debt to them.
I owe them the gospel (Paul), I have got a debt to pay. When we preach the gospel to others; we are not doing any favour to them but we are discharging (from) our debts. In fact they are doing the favour for us waiting so long to hear from us. Paul says – there will be a curse for me; if I don’t preach the gospel (woe is me). “Woe” is the opposite of “blesses” therefore first characteristic of Paul’s mission can be summed up in one word “Forward” as the going got tougher so they remained courageous.
Double testimony from now on; as they witnessed to the Lord with words that reached peoples’ ears the Lord witnessed to them with signs and wonders that reached peoples’ eyes. They fled; sometimes it takes more courage to run, than to stay when it is right to go.
Our Lord Jesus at least in 5 occasion runaway/escaped or hid Himself from death; why He did that? Not because of lack of courage, the answer is, if death is coming to you and your work is not finished you must move on, but if your work is done, you must stay. So, Paul left Iconium and went to Lystra. From Antioch to Iconium was 90 miles walk and from Iconium to Lystra another 18 miles walk.
Lystra was a pagan city, where idols were being worshiped, particularly 2 kinds of gods.
a) Zeus b) Hermes.
There is a legend in Lystra which explains what happened when Paul got there. The legend concerned two great trees that stood out side the Pagan temple in Lystra. Centuries ago the 2 gods Zeus and Hermes visited the town of Lystra in human disguise. And no body would give them a bed for the night except for 2 poor peasant couple and a few years later the entire population was destroyed (that probably) did happen in an earth quake) and the only 2 people could survive that earthquake and flood were these 2 peasant couple, they became the guardians of the temples of the gods. For there were no others left? And when they died they turned in to 2 trees. And those 2 trees were there when Paul and Barnabas came to Lystra. The people of Lystra were on the ready, they never let this happen again if the gods came in human form. They were ready to take them in. So, when those people thought the gods have come. Barnabas Zeus, Paul, Hermes.
The healing of the crippled:
Paul looking in to this man’s face saw, that he had the faith. We can’t try and work it up. It is the gift of God. A miracle took place and the cripple got healed. People brought flower garlands, bulls etc. to make sacrifice.
This was the most dangerous point for Paul and Barnabas. The most dangerous point for an evangelist is to be popular. Again Paul starts his message with (as his method was) where the people are with 2 things; every gentile knows about (1) Creation (2) Conscience.
Up till now God has let people go their own way. The picture of God that the world needs to know is the God who let people go their own ways but has gone on being good and happiness is willing to give you forgiveness.
Immediately the situation was reversed, the crowed went wiled and stoned Paul. Have you ever seen a man being stoned?
A miracle happened, the disciples stood around the bleeding body of Paul, suddenly he sat up, got up and walked back to Lystra. What courage! No holidays, no rest, he says there are people at Derbe without the gospel lets go. Here is the man sick in perge and Pamphylia, Antioch kicked out of the city Iconium the same (conked-out) now in Lystra stoned and left for dead and for ever after wards his body could never be the same. Writing to those same churches in what we call, the letter to the Galatians he says, I bear in my body the scars of the Lord Jesus ... yet went on preaching. His steadfastness of character was upset neither by opposition nor by sickness; they went around preaching and arrived back in Antioch. Paul says again let’s go back...
Half of the team goes on preaching bringing souls to Christ. Half of the team goes back to those areas again following up. Why he is going back? To see that the disciples are growing up in the church, you can be a Christian without being in a church. The world is interested in Christ today, but doesn’t have any place for the church. It is God’s will that we are born into a family. So he went and appointed elders, the church need appointed elders. The matured should guide the immature. They returned to their home church and reported what the Lord has done. What God has done through/ with them and how He (God) opened the door in to the gentile world? Christianity has become the world religion; Christianity has been transplanted in to the gentile world.
In this chapter we find Paul and Barnabas arguing with their fellow Christians, a long debate. There are two groups of people, who feel that this Church is a tragedy and there is something that should never have happened and some thing that is not edifying and should not occur among Christians.
I. The activists II. The pietists
1) The activist – is the person today and in those days who would say this ‘lets keep off doctrine. It only divides. Let’s not discuss to get hot with each other. Don’t have meeting to discuss what we believe. Let’s get on with the job, let’s get out and preach.’ “Theology divides, mission unites” is the slogan we here again and again.
2) The pietist group - those who have no room for Christians to get together for meetings to discuss different points of view. Who believe that you can settle all controversies by holding a prayer meeting and seeking a direct word from the Lord to settle the issue? Who don’t realize that there is a very important place for Christians to gather in a church meeting and discuss openly and frankly the different understanding of the ways of God. The discussion and the debate are not wanted it is a right and proper thing to do. When Paul transplanted Christianity from the Jewish culture to the gentile culture the devil did not like it so he got hold of those old Jewish Christians to pull it back, who have made the same mistake that nearly all of us could make. They confused their own culture with Christianity and began to preach their own cultural version, back grounds, and their principles and taught them as Christianity. We do that all the time.
They said unless you are circumcised, you can not be saved. This is the point which we go wrong where we add something to the gospel. A man can be saved with long hair. Of course the Bible tells him to cut it after wards. What must I do to be saved? That is the question; you got to sort-out before you go on a mission. Your answer, to that will tell you, whether you are free in the gospel and in the Holy Spirit. So, Paul argued and even he went up to Jerusalem on that issue. Because people who sent those false teachers said not only you must be circumcised, but also keep all the laws of Moses and that is not just 10 commandments, but 613.
Paul could see that this would destroy the Christian gospel if neglected. Now the gospel is this, you are saved by believing, not achieving, by trusting not by trying, by putting yourself in the hands of God for Him to do His work for you; not by putting yourself in your hands to cry and do something for Him. You are not saved by what you do for God, but by what God does for you.
We need a saviour, not a standard. In Jerusalem, they did not hold prayer meeting they hold a debate and discussed the issue, then settled.
1) The argument from experience what the Spirit does.
2) The argument from exposition what the Scripture say.
But these two arguments what God is doing through His Spirit and God is saying in His Scriptures when these line up together, you can be absolutely sure you have got the answer and the guidance that you need. Peter recorded his memory from the experience in Cornelius home.
Don’t be narrower than God. If He accepts a person then, you must. What we think is the work of the Spirit must always be checked by the word of scripture.
James said my Bible backs up Peter’s experience. God has accepted the gentiles. So, the whole church realized that God has settled this arguments in 2 ways.
1) What He has done
2) What He has said
Their decision was a double decision. It has two parts to it, as every church decision ought to have.
1. Liberty 2. Love
1) The first part of the decision was to repudiate the false teaching and say we do not approve it etc ... Here comes the liberty. Christianity stands by itself free of any culture.
2) The second part is we won’t impose circumcision on you but we do ask you to observe some rules of Jewish culture etc... Why? Do you see there is something more than liberty in it?
Love says – if a thing that I am going to do is going to offend and cause me to separate from another Christian, and then I will impose a limit on my liberty. I will limit my own freedom to keep in fellowship with others. Real freedom is not to say I am free to do this, it is to be able to say, I am free not to do it. Liberty and love, perfect partner together. When a decision of this kind is made (reached) people should be informed by written and spoken word, both are needed:
1) It should be laid down then it is fixed. So that it can’t be later changed, misunderstood.
2) Verbal confirmation of what was written. This chapter was a triumph for truth, not a tragedy. So that Paul could go with renewed confidence and the Christians would agreed upon.