Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 28

Acts 28

-The remarkable description of the events on Malta begin the last chapter of this incredible book of Scripture. The natives, which history tells us were of Phoenician descent, were extremely kind and helpful to the weary and beaten down travelers. They were nourished back to wellbeing (Acts 28:1-2). *Application* The word of God is clear that we should be welcoming to strangers and sojourners who come along our path (Exodus 22:21; 23:9, Leviticus 19:10, 33-34; 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:20-21; 26:11, Zechariah 7:10, Matthew 25:34-40). In fact we may at times be entertaining angels and be total unaware of it (Hebrews 13:2). These people from Malta should be our example in how to help people in a sincere and loving fashion.

-Paul, after gathering a bundle of sticks for a warming fire, find a snake that fastened to his hand, which he flings onto the fire on the Island of Malta. When he doesn’t swell up and die, the accusers turn to worshipers (Luke 10:19, Mark 16:17-18). Although the text is silent after this event where the islanders proclaim him to be a god, I am sure that Paul corrected them and directed them to the true God and Lord, Jesus Christ, who gives the power for protection and all good things (Acts 28:3-6).

-Paul does a healing of a leading man of the island’s dad. This leads to other miraculous healings and a powerful witness on the island. The crew destined for Rome is treated well with many marks of respect as they set sail and were provided with all that they needed for their journey (Acts 28:7-10). *Application* What a powerful story of hospitality in a desperate situation. God ordained this event for safe passage to the capital of the Roman empire so that His fame could be spread throughout the whole world! God looks after His servants and works all things out for good (Romans 8:28).

-As the party ventured northward towards Rome they made several stops along the way. It is fascinating to read how the brethren (God fearing believers in Christ) connected up with Paul and his entourage. The question becomes, how did they come to know Christ in these places? The answer lies somewhere in the spreading of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. It may have been other converts that matriculated to these environs. It could have been people who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost and returned with the joy and Spirit of the Lord to spread the gospel (Acts 2:10). In any event, the word of God was reaching places further and further away from Jerusalem as was prophesied (Acts 1:8). These brethren encouraged Paul a great deal. This gave him the vigor and strength to go on and face the call of God on his life in Rome (Acts 28:11-15). *Application* Be an encourager to someone today. All they may need to continue on is a good word from you. People need words of blessing and hope.

-Paul finally enters Rome and is given some privileges by his guardians. He calls together the leading men of the Jews and witnesses to them defending his innocence of being against his people and their customs. We must understand that Paul never ventured away from his Jewish roots. He abided by the Law, but accurately pointed out the deficiencies in its ability to provide salvation (Galatians 2:15-3:29). As was always the case, some were persuaded to believe in Christ and received eternal life. Others rejected the message of God and left unbelieving. Paul quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 upon their rejection of the gospel and again turned his message of salvation to the Gentiles. There arose a great dispute over the issue of Jesus concerning His work on the cross and resurrection (Acts 28:16-29). *Application* This fight for faith still rages today in the hearts and minds of people, doesn’t it?

-Paul remains two full years in his own rented quarters awaiting trial by his accusers. He was welcoming all who would come to him as he preached the Kingdom of God and taught the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered (Acts 28:30-31). God had given him an open door! He was even able to penetrate Caesar’s household with faith in Christ (Philippians 4:21-23). We are not told from Scripture what happened next in Paul’s life. The point of the Holy Spirit’s work unto the utter ends of the earth (Rome was the commercial and governmental center of the known world) was accomplished in the text, and therefore there was no need for further revelation. Historical tradition has that Paul was released for a short period of time (maybe because of the two year limit on the prosecution bringing a case to trial). There is no record of him standing before Caesar. He also indicated that he hoped he would soon be released in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:24). Paul mentioned places he would like to take the gospel like Spain (Romans 15:24, 28). He may have gotten that chance according to early Christian literature that speak plainly about other travels by Paul.

Writings from nonbiblical orthodox and heterodox traditions include:

  • The Acts of Paul (Orthodox, 160-190) A collection of legendary stories which emphasize the asceticism of Paul and his followers
  • The Acts of Thecla (Orthodox, circulated separately and as a part of the Acts of Paul, 160-190) Legends about a young virgin from Iconium (now Konya, Turkey) who refused to marry and followed Paul in the face of many persecutions
  • The Acts of Peter and Paul (Orthodox, c. 200) Only the first chapters of this book describing Paul and Peters last days and their confrontation with Nero survive
  • Acts of Xanthippe, Polyxena, and Rebecca (Orthodox, c. 270) Legends about some women in Spain who leave their husbands to follow Paul
  • Apocalypse of Paul (Orthodox, c. 380) A widely circulated book which claimed to describe Paul's experiences when he was caught up in the third heaven (I Corinthians 12:2-4)
  • Apocalypse of Paul (Gnostic, 2nd century) This heterodox fragment of a book exalts Paul above all of the other apostles. It is entirely different from the one by the same name listed above.

Tradition tells us that Paul eventually died a martyr’s death in Rome in the mid to late 60s A.D. His life is a testimony of the graciousness of God and a man who died to himself and lived in Christ’s resurrection power (Galatians 2:21). His example has been the standard for Christian missionaries ever since.

-God’s church was expanding and the world was becoming aware of His love and chance for redemption. We read in Acts the work of the Holy Spirit in ever-widening circles of influence through merchants, travelers, slaves, jailers, church leaders, males, females, Gentiles, Jews, rich, and poor. The gospel is for all and we should receive and transmit it gladly. It is the hope for eternity! Let’s all continue the story of God’s glory!

Verses to Memorize: Acts 28:30-31

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 27

Acts 27

-Paul finds himself being boarded an Adramyttian ship on the first leg of his journey toward Rome and an appeal to Caesar. Luke is on the trip as evidenced from the use of his pronouns in this narrative. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica who was spoken of when they were in Ephesus, also accompanied them (Acts 19:29; 20:4, Philemon 1:24). The centurion given charge of Paul was Julius of the Augustan battalion. He gave Paul some favorable treatment and spared his life during the course of travel, probably because he had a closeness in proximity to the Apostle and gained respect for him (Acts 27:3, 31, 42-43).

-The Lord was with them during this long and arduous trip, even though there were times that brought the company to the point of despair and hopelessness. Just at the crucial moment, “that very night,” an angel of the Lord came to Paul and told him, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you (Acts 27:24).” Paul then addressed the men, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told (Acts 27:25).” *Application* God is near us in our times of need. He is an ever present help in time of trouble (Psalm 37:39; 46:1). Many times God will take us to the brink of disaster so that our confidence and faith will be solely on Him. God is our great rescuer.

-In the end, God’s word of prophecy comes to fruition and they all were brought safely to land (Acts 27:44). *Application* God always keeps His promises.

Verse to Memorize: Acts 27:24-25

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 26

Acts 26

-Paul makes his defense before Agrippa and Festus pointing out Agrippa’s vast knowledge (Acts 26:3) and faith in Judaism (Acts 26:27) and recounting his testimony as he himself turned to Christ. He made a vital point that it was not his religion that saved him, but it was the Savior, Jesus Christ (Acts 26:4-5). This defense was convincing and almost persuaded Agrippa to become a Christian it appears from the text. Paul would have been let go had it not been for his appeal to Caesar (Acts 26:32). They concluded he had done nothing worthy of death or imprisonment (Acts 26:31).

-Some interesting words of Christ are given in this third detailed account of Paul’s Damascus road conversion. God called Paul and sent him “to open their eyes so that they (Jews and Gentiles) may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me (Acts 26:18).” There is some great theology in this statement by Jesus. First, there must be recognition (an opening of the eyes) of our depravity before a living, holy, and righteous God. Our sin is great and separates us from the God who illuminates us in His light and His control (dominion). Repentance (a turning, a changing of the mind, a new direction in life) must occur for us to begin to inherit the Lord’s salvation and receive forgiveness of the terrible and horrible sins we have committed that tear us apart from the God who loves us (John 3:16). The crucial last step is sanctification (a setting apart, a making holy), which happens as a result of our faith in Christ Jesus’ atonement based on His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection (faith is only as good as the object it is placed in). Christ gave Paul this message upon revealing Himself to him along that Damascus road. Then, Paul was faithful to preach it everywhere he went after receiving it.

-*Application* Have you been saved and sanctified? Have you turned from the darkness of Satan’s dominion to the light of the Lord’s authority? Have you believed in Him? Some people might think we are crazy as Festus did with Paul. But the facts of the gospel stand and the resurrection gives us power to hope in a bright future for all eternity. Paul’s hope was for all to be as he was as a believer (Acts 26:6, 29). Let us also tell the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 26:6, 18-19, 29

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 25

Acts 25

-Festus arrives in the province to be governor and three days later he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea Maritima, the Roman port city on the west coast of Israel. He is confronted by the chief priests and leading Jewish men concerning Paul as they wanted him to be brought back to Jerusalem for a trial and planned to kill him on the way (Acts 25:1-3).

-Festus wisely has them come to Caesarea for the accusations at first, but wants him to consent to a trial in Jerusalem as a favor to the Jews. This was a political move much like Felix had done to attempt to keep the peace with these religious fanatics from the Roman perspective. Paul, however, maintains his innocence of any wrongdoing  from these vicious accusations and appeals to Caesar as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:4-12).

-King Agrippa and Bernice come and spend many days with Felix in Caesarea and hear about the situation with Paul. Amid great pomp and circumstance Paul is brought out before the king and the prominent men of the city to give his defense since it seemed absurd to his captors to send a prisoner all the way to Rome without indicate a substantial charge against him (Acts 25:13-27). *Application* Paul’s life had been prophesied and now was the time of fulfillment to stand before kings and give an account for the hope that was in him through Jesus Christ, his living Savior (Acts 9:15-16). How about you? Has God given you a word about your future and the destiny that He has for you? Abide in His plan and work and He will bring forth all His good promises for you even though there will be suffering associated with it. Keep the faith and persevere!

Verses to Memorize: Acts 25:12-13

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 24

Acts 24

-After five days in Caesarea Maritima, the high priest Ananias (who had struck Paul in the mouth and been rebuked by the Apostle, Acts 23:2-3), came with his attorney, Tertullus, to accuse Paul before the governor, Felix. Tertullus smooth talks this high political figure to gain favor and a decisive advantage in their case against the Apostle. The Jews along with him joined in the accusations. Here we see the venom of these religious power players (Acts 24:1-9). *Application* Religious fervency doesn’t necessarily put one in the right. The truth is what we should all be after. These Jews were sincere, but sincerely wrong just as Paul had been at one point in his life. They had so hardened themselves to the truth of the gospel and its saving power that they missed the entire point of Paul’s message, which he states in his defense, “having a hope in God,” and “resurrection” of the soul (Acts 24:15). Paul’s message was not for destruction, but for life change into the abundant grace of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). We too can become so callous in our beliefs that we make no room for truth to invade our lives and change us to what God really wants us to be. Be an open vessel and pliable clay in the hands of the living God (Isaiah 64:8).

-Paul makes a successful defense and questions where his accusers from Asia were at because they should have been present for this trial, though they were not. He also appealed to his presentation before the Council when he was in Jerusalem, which did not incriminate him in any way as to the accusations which were now being levied against him (Acts 24:10-21).

-Felix ends up postponing the case as a political favor to the Jews and waits for Lysias, the commander, to come down to the coast there in Caesarea Maritima. Felix gives Paul quite vast freedoms in his custody allowing his friends to minister to him in whatever things he needed. He listened to Paul often concerning faith in Christ Jesus, but never would accept Him and sought after a bribe never getting one from the Lord’s anointed apostle (Acts 24:22-26). *Application* It is a tragic mistake to turn God away when He comes calling in your life. Felix was close to salvation by his hearing of the message, but he denied the power of it and is now suffering the consequences of that. We will too if we don’t accept the truth of Jesus Christ and let it change our lives.

-Paul was left imprisoned for two years until Porcius Festus succeeded Felix (Acts 24:27). This was a season in Paul’s life where he was forced to slow down as the Lord willed it. He took this time to minister to those who would come to see him as he had opportunity and he no doubt wrote some of his letters to the churches that we now have as the New Testament. *Application* Make the most of the time that the Lord gives you no matter what the situation. As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

Verse to Memorize: Acts 24:14

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 23

Acts 23

-Paul defends himself before the Council of the Jews declaring his life lived under a good conscience before God. Ananias had him illegally struck on the mouth for this comment and Paul rebuked him strongly in the presence of all. However, when he found out that Ananias was the high priest, he retracted his comments and apologized in accordance to the Law (Exodus 22:28, Acts 23:1-5). *Application* Ananias’ inability to follow the very Law that he was supposed to be chief priest over left him unrecognizable to Paul. The same can happen to us if we are covert Christians who do not really represent Christ Jesus. Do people actually know who you are in this world, O Christian?

-Paul then astutely divides the Council with his “hope and resurrection of the dead” beliefs. This led to a great dissension and the binding of Paul being taken into the custody of Roman barracks (Acts 23:6-10). “But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also (Acts 23:11).’”

-This orchestrates the vow made on Paul by 40 Jews to kill him. Paul’s nephew learns of this mayhem and saves Paul’s life. Paul makes his way to Caesarea Maritima under custody of the Romans and is incarcerated in the official governor’s residence of Herod’s Praetorium waiting to appear before Felix, the governor (Acts 23:12-35).

-*Application* The voice of the Lord is sure. His promises never fail and we can count on every one of them. The Lord stands beside His chosen people. Paul does end up in Rome spreading the gospel of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Verse to Memorize: Acts 23:11

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 22

Acts 22

-Paul makes his defense before the Jews in Jerusalem in Hebrew recounting his testimony. This time he emphasizes the question he asked of the God, “What shall I do Lord (Acts 9:1-29; 22:1-21)?” *Application* This question reflects steps in a journey that begins with our finding the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul asks the right questions: 1. Who are You, Lord? and 2. What shall I do? Once we figure these two things out the rest of life naturally falls into place one step at a time.

-Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles is what makes them extremely upset and wanting to kill him. This reveals the exclusive nature of their thinking, which was not at all what God intended when He choose the Jews to be His people (Acts 22:22-24). *Application* Exclusivity should not be a part of the Kingdom of God once Jesus Christ is introduced (Galatians 3:27-29).

-Paul goes through quite an ordeal with the Roman commanders, and Paul uses his Roman citizenship, as he had before, to his advantage and well-being (Acts 22:25-30).

Verses to Memorize: Acts 22:14-16

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 21

Acts 21

-Paul and the team go back to Jerusalem despite the prophetic words that he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles. Luke details the journey back to the Promised Land, which Paul is determined to get back to. Beautiful scenery of believers and their affections and hospitality for one another are evident in the text. Paul’s farewell words in Caesarea Maritima, where he would later find himself imprisoned for two years (Acts 23:23-35; 24:27) are courageous, passionate, and encouraging all at the same time as the man of God he was, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus.” By the end, since he would not be persuaded to avoid this prophesied conflict, the entourage remarked, “The will of the Lord be done!” After these days, the team got ready and started their way to the holy city (Acts 21:1-15). *Application* Paul’s courage should embolden us to step up for Christ in this Godless-secular age in which we live. If we love the Lord, we will certainly not be cowards.

-Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Paul meets with the elders and reports all God had done among the Gentiles where he had traveled. The disciples relate how many Jews had accepted and believed in Christ, but they were exceptionally zealous for the Law. They advise him to purify himself and pay four men’s expenses for head shaving in keeping with the Law. Rumors were circulating in the city that Paul was preaching to the Gentiles and that all the Jews should forsake the Law of Moses in regards to circumcision and walking per the traditional customs of Judaism. These accusations were not true, so the disciples wanted Paul to make it obvious to people that he obeyed the Law and had no qualms with it. James reiterated the requirements laid out in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 for Gentiles who were converting to Christianity from their pagan cultures. Paul did take their advice concerning the men, and the next day he purified himself along with the others until the proper sacrifice was offered for each of them (Acts 21:16-26).

-When the seven days of the Jewish festival were almost over, some Asian Jews stirred up the Temple crowd with these false accusations over matters of the Law. They had “supposed” that Paul had brought Trophimus the Ephesian (a Gentile) into the Temple, but this had never occurred. These words provoked all the city. Paul is taken hold of, dragged out of the Temple area, and the Jews were now trying to kill him. This is when a report came to the commander of the Romans cohort who was there to keep peace in this province of Imperial Rome. There was mass confusion in Jerusalem, and they appeared on the scene where the crowds were now beating Paul. Taking hold of the apostle, the commander ordered him bound with chains asking all the while as to who he was and what he had done. Contradictory words were being shouted among the crowd; therefore, the commander could not discern any of the facts of the uproar. Because of this, he ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks. Things were so bad by now when he got to the stairs that the soldiers had to carry him due to the violence of the mob. Prophesy was coming true, but Paul kept his Spirit-filled composure. As the multitude followed him shouting, “Away with him!” much like they had done with Jesus some years earlier, he was realizing quite a disturbance. Now, as they were about to bring Paul into custody within the barracks, Paul politely asks his captor if he could say something to him in the Greek language. This surprised the commander letting him know that Paul was not an Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led 4,000 men of the Assassins out into the wilderness. Man, things certainly were confusing around there at the time. Paul told him confidently, “I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city.” Then he begged the commander to be allowed to speak to the ruckus crowd. When he had been given permission to speak, Paul stood on the stairs, and motioned to the crowd to be quiet. When there was almost instantly a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect (Acts 21:27-40) *Application* What selfless heroics we see in this sold-out man of God. He would go through whatever punishment and sacrifice that it would take to gain an ear for the message of Christ and His salvation, which he was about to give. He typifies here what he wrote about in Romans 12:1-2. Pray that we would be that yielded to the Spirit’s work in our lives!

Verse to Memorize: Acts 21:13

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 20

Acts 20

-After the debacle in Ephesus, Paul exhorts the brethren there and takes leave to Macedonia through those districts giving much exhortation all the way southward into Greece. He returned through Macedonia because of a plot by the Jews was discovered as he was about to set sail for Syria. Back in Asia at Troas he teaches for a week during the Unleavened Bread days. This is where Eutychus falls from the 3rd floor after falling asleep during Paul’s midnight message (Acts 20:1-9). *Application* Don’t fall asleep in church or other times when the Word of God is being preached; bad things can happen J.

-However, Paul falls upon him and the young man’s life returns to him (a miracle). Paul goes back up and preaches until daybreak and then goes by land to Assos and then to Mitylene (Acts 20:10-14). *Application* This gives us a glimpse into the hard-core nature of the early church. There were no watch watchers in Paul’s audience. He would go all night! These disciples of Christ were fervent and didn’t let time get in their way!

-The disciples go from Mitylene to Chios to Samos to Miletus. In Miletus, Paul called to him the elders of the church in Ephesus and gave his farewell message to them. These are the things he did while laboring over them in the Name of Jesus Christ: He was humble, shed tears, suffered in trials, did not shrink back from declaring the word of God and anything that was profitable and according to the whole purpose of God, went from house to house, taught repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, did not covet, and worked hard to help the weak remembering the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul prophesies what awaited him in Jerusalem. He relates that his life was meaningless in comparison of finishing his course for God in His strength. He tells the elders to beware and be alert for the savage wolves that would come in (Acts 20:15-35, Revelation 2:1-7).

-The tearful goodbye with embracing and affectionate brotherly kisses ends Paul’s time with the elders as he moves on toward the Promised Land. There was definitely a solemnity to the occasion by his words that they would not see his face again this side of Heaven. They accompanied the apostle all the way to his ship with their goodbyes and farewells (Acts 20:36-38). *Application* What a picture-perfect way to say so long. Paul had no regrets in his labor over this body of believers he had diligently poured into. He is beloved and the brethren knew this would be it. Remember to say good-bye appropriately and passionately when the time comes to leave any particular situation. Remember too that we as believers will all be reunited in the eschaton when we are resurrected in Christ.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 20:18-24, 27-28, 35

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 19

Acts 19

-While Apollos was in Ephesus, Paul came once again and believers received the Holy Spirit who were familiar only with the baptism of John. They were baptized in the Name of Jesus and Paul laid hands on them. With that laying on of hands they received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues and prophesying (the power of God came upon them!). There were about twelve of them (Acts 19:1-7). *Application* Oh the mighty power of God when He is in a place. I have seen His awesomeness sweep through a place that is hungry for Him and allows Him to have His way in all things. It is truly supernatural and just as real as in these New Testament times. Praise the LORD!

-Paul taught in the synagogue for 3 months with effectiveness, but some were becoming hardened and disobedient to the faith speaking evil of him and the Way (Acts 19:8-9a). *Application* Any time God’s Spirit is moving there will be a counter punch by the enemy. These are spiritual battles we should expect and prepare for with fervent praying and many times fasting (Matthew 17:21).

-Paul withdraws then from the synagogue and takes disciples that were of faith in Christ. They reason together in the school of Tyrannus for 2 years. In this amount of time the Bible states that all in Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:9b-10). *Application* Notice that the message of Christ was not taught in the traditional setting here as the church grew in Asia. In Christian work and ministry we must remember to be flexible. The church is the body of Christ and not a building. His message can spread from any location. Be flexible and adaptable in your service for the Lord as Paul shows in this passage. God can do great things in whatsoever manner He pleases. Rejection in a traditional place doesn’t mean God is through working through you in a particular locale.

-God was giving great power and authority to Paul. The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were trying to cast out demons but the demons didn’t know them and chased them out naked and wounded. Fear of the Lord was on Ephesus as a result of these remarkable events and magic practices were being eradicated and destroyed. The word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing (Acts 19:11-20)! *Application* Our nation at this time needs some of this type of Holy Spirit type fire and power. However, Christians must stand up for God and what is right for this to happen. Are we giving God a chance to show up big for us?

-After these things, the revelation by God to Paul concerning his eventual destination in Rome begins to form. Paul purposed in his spirit to go to Jerusalem after passing through Macedonia and Achaia. But, about this time an incredibly disruptive event takes place concerning one Demetrius, over Artemis’ idol worship. The financial effects of losing people to Christianity is the issue here, and the city goes into an uproar over this matter in Ephesus. It was the town clerk who eventually restores order. Paul, in his spiritual fervor, wanted to participate in the ruckus to see what the Holy Spirit would do, but the disciples along with some of the Asiarchs (political and/or religious officials in this region) who were friends would not let him in the theater in fear of his protection (Acts 19:21-41). *Application* What are the idols in our modern society? Where would we see this kind of back lash to the growth of the gospel and sold out Christianity? I know one thing for certain here where I live in Texas. If you dared to put a Christian meeting up against high school football in the fall, there would be an uproar from the carnal saints. Where do our affections really reside?

Verse to Memorize: Acts 19:20

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 18

Acts 18

-Paul arrives now in Corinth and receives the vision of the Lord in the night to stay at that point speaking out unafraid and boldly in the Name of Jesus Christ. Further, he is told that no one will attack him in order to harm him for God has many people for Himself in that city (Acts 18:9-10).

-The leaders of the synagogue and many Gentiles in Corinth come to believe in Christ (Acts 18:1,4-11). *Application* God always fulfills His word; His promises are magnificent, great, and sure (2 Peter 1:4). Trust in what He reveals no matter how hard the situation may appear.

-During Gallio’s proconsul a disturbance is brought before the judgment seat but is dismissed. Sosthenes, the new leader of the synagogue post Crispus’ conversion to Christianity, is beaten but Paul stayed out with the brethren’s protective efforts. He stays many more days and meets  the believers, Priscilla and Aquila, there doing tent making together for provision (Acts 18:2-3,12-18a).

-Paul departs Corinth finally going to Cenchrea and Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, and back to Antioch (Acts 18:18b-22).

-After spending some time there back at the home bases, he ventures out on a third missionary journey starting by land through Galatia and Phrygia. In Ephesus, Apollos the Jewish Alexandrian who was an eloquent speaker and knew Jesus from John the Baptist’s testimony and studying the Scriptures is introduced. He was taught Christ’s completed work through Priscilla and Aquila. He had great power and giftedness as the Lord was upon him to refute the Jews in public (Acts 18:23-28). *Application* God gifts certain people for His mighty purposes. Sometimes these need growth and understanding. Who knows, you may influence the next great Christian leader of the future generation by your simple acts of Christian obedience. Think about that for a bit.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 18:9-10

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 17

Acts 17

-As the team moves out from Philippi they go through Amphipolis and Apollonia (two good sized cities but apparently without a synagogue to connect the gospel with) coming into a city where there was a synagogue of the Jews, Thessalonica. As was the custom, Paul began with the Jews reasoning with them for several weeks of Sabbaths from the Scriptures concerning Jesus as Messiah preaching the suffering of Immanuel and His resurrection (Acts 17:1-3). *Application* This has always been how God has worked. He begins with His people in His plan for salvation. The Old Testament focuses primarily on the Hebrew people, who were chosen as His instruments for bringing Jesus the Savior into the world. Jesus was primarily concerned for “the lost sheep of Israel” in His earthly ministry (Matthew 15:24). Even the church begins with the Jewish people in the proclamation of the gospel. So, salvation and its message begins with the Jews and extends outward to all the nations (Luke 24:47). We need to thank God for His willingness to include all of us in His plan for redemption and His impartiality (Deuteronomy 10:17, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Galatians 2:6, Ephesians 6:9).

-Once again we see the conflict that the message of Christ brings eventually with those being confronted with the truth of God. Jealousy springs forth from the unbelieving Jews and a mob scene ensues in an attack on the house of Jason who had welcomed the disciples. The famous quote is mentioned here, “These men who have upset the world (inhabited earth) have come here also (Acts 17:4-9).” *Application* May we have the courage, boldness, and tenacity to “upset” our world with the message of Christ Jesus. In other places of Scripture, we see why this message was not accepted right away. The cross was the barrier along with unbelief. To the Jews the Messiah would perform signs and wonders and leave no doubt about His Kingdom. Jesus became a stumbling block for them because they could not see the humility of their Messiah. To the Greeks this criminal that was hanged on a cross showed no wisdom and power that they were accustomed to seeing in their saviors. For more read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

-The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas out of Thessalonica to Berea, where there was another synagogue of the Jews. “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:10-12).” Actual reading of God’s word and letting the Spirit of God move how He wanted is what led many to believe here in Berea. *Application* How eager are we to get into God’s Word and examine the Scriptures daily to find His truth? God’s Word is the power tool for transformation in one’s life.

-Trouble comes from the raging Jews coming over from Thessalonica pretty quickly, and Paul departs for Athens, the great city of Greece, which was full of idols. As Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive he observed the city of great prominence and prestige in regard to philosophical debate with many vain idols. He was reasoning with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue and the market place every day. Eventually Paul is given an open door to speak in the Areopagus about the salvation message of Christ Jesus. This he does in brilliant fashion as we get perhaps the best biblical glimpse of his artistry and form for presenting the good news. He connects with his crowd by observation of their worldview and quoting their own poets. He preached repentance and judgment and the righteousness of Christ to save furnishing proof through the resurrection from the dead. Some rejected the message and mocked, but some believed and wanted to hear more from this stranger (Acts 17:13-34). *Application* Here is the best biblical example of assimilation into a culture for the missionary purpose. If we are to evangelize an area, any area home or foreign, we must be observant and relevant to the culture we are engaging. Otherwise, our message will have no impact. Notice too that Paul does not compromise the gospel in any form or fashion. He speaks the truth boldly with no concession. This is how the message of Christ goes forward into the darkness of lost people.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 17:11, 30-31

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bible Stufy Notes in Acts- Chapter 16

Acts 16

-Paul and Silas come back to Derbe and to Lystra on this second missionary journey of Paul. Lystra is where Paul picks up his son in the faith, Timothy, who is circumcised by him since his father was Greek. Timothy had a Godly heritage from his mom and grandmother and proved to be indispensable in partnership with the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:1-3, 2 Timothy 1:5). *Application* This narrative proves that Paul was a man of custom who did not desire to cause any offense to the gospel. He knew that the first individuals in the cities they would go to would be the Jews in the synagogues. If Timothy was to be effective and accepted by the Jews, he would need to be circumcised to prevent any kind of offense towards the gospel of Jesus Christ. This willingness to be “all things to all men” was a hallmark of Paul and Timothy’s ministry (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). In our lives, it is good to know our audience when relating the gospel, and remember to do all we can to prevent any distractions from telling the good news of Jesus Christ.

-The purpose for this second missionary journey is described for us in verse four. They were basically relaying the information discerned and approved of by the Jerusalem Council (see Acts 15) for the Gentile believers in these areas they had previously evangelized in Asia Minor. Verse five says that they continued to strengthen all the churches in the faith and the church kept increasing in numbers daily. *Application* How awesome to see the early church’s methodology of doing something every single day to affect life change in people. This is something that we’ve gotten away from in our modern culture. Does your church have activity which could daily change lives, or is it primarily a once or twice a week show for the saints? Compare the Scriptural difference we see here and ask, “What can I do to make a difference every single day?” or “What can our church do to make it more effective in the society we live in?”

-The leading of the Holy Spirit is again paramount as these missionaries desire to go one direction, but the Lord directs them another. Paul’s Macedonian vision is an important development as the team goes into Europe for the first time with the gospel. Notice that the action was immediate when the word of the Lord came. They got the call and responded without question and/or rationalization. God had great things in store for them as they went forward in obedience (Acts 16:6-10). *Application* When God reveals His will to us it is important to obey. This will not always be easy as we see here in the Scriptures (Paul and Silas were beaten and incarcerated for their faith), but the blessings and the power of God was on their lives through this obedience to God’s revealed plan. When we turn away from what you know the Lord wants us to do, we rob ourselves of blessing, honor, and power in the spiritual realm. We must always act out our faith, never compromising and never giving up.

-Philippi is where a majority of the action takes place as the missionaries invade Europe. Lydia is converted with her household and the disciples find a place to stay there with her. A spiritist girl is radically transformed angering her masters and upsetting the city. This leads to the beating and imprisonment, illegally, of Paul and Silas. This sets up the earthquake and dramatic conversion of the jailer and his household. What an array of diverse church members the Philippian church had! The point is that God was at work, and He was calling all people to Himself for salvation using a variety of methods and encounters (Acts 16:11-40). *Application* God is at work in our lives too! We should allow Him to direct us through each day observing where He is at work reconciling the world to Himself using us as an instrument for His glory. We are no different than Paul and Silas. Get to work! The simple message we proclaim is this, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…(Acts 16:31).”

Verse to Memorize: Acts 16:10

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 15

Acts 15

-The Jerusalem Council is the focus of this important biblical chapter. It was vital for the early church to come to some kind of understanding as to the requirements of those coming to faith in Messiah Jesus from Gentile backgrounds and cultural customs. Obviously, there were some important differences pertaining to what Moses had laid out under the direction of a Holy God on Mt. Sinai. Pharisaical believers were convinced that new converts must keep all the requirements of Mosaic Law to fully come into salvific faith, but the disciples lead by Peter, Barnabas, and Paul who had actually ministered to the Gentiles, expressed a different viewpoint and emphasized belief over the requirements of the Law. James, the elder, brings the council into agreement with four basic requirements that deal primarily with the idolatry Gentiles were being saved from. The council sends out the edict that they should abstain from: 1) things sacrificed to idols [a requirement Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8], 2) things from blood (the life is in the blood, Leviticus 17:14), 3) things strangled, and 4) fornication (any sexual sin, it related to many of the nations’ idolatrous pagan practices). These requirements were accepted with great joy because they encouraged the Gentile brothers with a light load in regards to following the extensive demands of the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1-31). *Application* Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17). The fact remains that God’s Law is perfect and there is no contradiction in it for life, love, and happiness. If a society could ever carry out this Law of the Lord, there would be a utopia. But, the reality is that we are marred, corrupted, and have essentially no hope for ever faithfully keeping God’s perfect commands. This is the point that Peter makes here to the council in stating that the yoke of the Law no man can bear. It is Christ and His work on the cross that makes a way to God, and we grasp that by faith (Acts 15:10-11). For a more detailed look at this theology see Galatians 3:5-29 and the entire book of Romans.

-The church continues to grow and prosper under this new directive in Antioch. Judas and Silas make their way to this developing center of Christianity as prophets, preaching the Word of God. After some time, Barnabas and Paul determine to go back out west to the churches they had planted on a second missionary journey to see how things were going. This is where a sharp disagreement occurs over John Mark and his usefulness to the mission, since he had abandoned them on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13). Barnabas and Paul end up separating over the matter as Barnabas takes John Mark to Cyprus, and Paul takes Silas along the land route through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:32-41). *Application* Sometimes it is best to separate when there is dissension and disagreement. Both sides felt they were in the right in this case, and it proved to be the will of God that they branch out and go different directions in the Lord’s work. In time, they were able to reconcile their differences and accept each other’s position (2 Timothy 4:11). If you are having trouble agreeing with a particular spiritual viewpoint, there are times when it makes sense to break apart and find like-minded believers that are better connected to the things that are important to you. However, we always need to maintain the greater unity in the body of Christ and work in love in all situations. Say good and do good. Love one another (John 13:34-35). 

Verses to Memorize: Acts 15:10-11

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 14

Acts 14

-The missionary journey continued on now to Iconium, where proclamation was made in a way that brought many to faith in Jesus Christ, both Jews and Greeks. However, the Jews who did not believe stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and they became bitter toward the believers. There was a long period here in Iconium to speak out in the Name of Christ and there was boldness with reliance upon the Lord and His grace. There were also many signs and wonders being done by the disciples as the Holy Spirit gave them power to accomplish His will. In time they were driven out of the city by a plot to mistreat and stone them and they dispersed to Lystra, Derbe, Lycaonia, and the surrounding region (Acts 14:1-6).

-In Lystra, a man lame from birth was healed as Paul noticed him and his faith to be made well (Acts 14:7-18). *Application* Here is another faith healing in the same dispensation in which we find ourselves living today. Do we believe in the power of God for miracles of this nature? Notice that there was a recognition of faith and a command given which preceded this wonder. Notice that the lame man had the faith to heal his condition. Notice that Paul and Barnabas were quick to give proper recognition to the Lord for this miracle and used it in an attempt to persuade people to turn their faith to Christ. The glory only belongs to the Lord! He is the One who gives the power to heal!

-Again the crowds were stirred up by Jews that came from Antioch and Iconium and this time Paul was dragged out of the city and stoned, left for dead. But while the disciples stood around him, probably praying, he came back to, got up, and re-entered the city. It did not take them long to head for another town in this threatening environment (Acts 14:19-20a).

-The next day Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe. In this city there was more preaching, believing, and many disciples were made. After these things the missionaries returned to Lysta, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch strengthening to souls of the disciples and encouraging them to continue in their faith. The message was clear enough, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).” Here in these new places, elders were appointed to oversee the newly established churches and they were commended to the Lord with prayers and fasting (Acts 14:20b-23). *Application* Here we see the Biblical method of planting churches in new areas. First, there is proclamation and believing by lost people. As they come to Christ and are saved they are to be strengthened and encouraged in the Christian walk. There comes a time when leaders are called and chosen to have oversight in the work of the church for the continuation of it (for more detailed description of qualifications see 1 & 2 Timothy and the book of Titus, these are called the pastoral epistles). These should be appointed after careful consideration with much prayer and fasting by the apostles (church planters). Finally the commendation is given and they are given authority to labor in the field in which the Lord has placed them. There should be a unity, partnership, and accountability in all these matters under the direction of the Lord in whom we have believed.

-At this point Barnabas and Paul make their way back toward the southern coast and preach in Perga and Attalia. From there they sailed eastward back to Antioch, where they started from, and reported all that the Lord had done with them in opening the door of faith to the Gentiles. Here they spent a long time with the disciples (Acts 14:24-28). *Application* One of the best things in the life of a church is to hear testimonies of what God is doing, particularly after mission trips like what we’ve just read about. Take the time to share the great things God is doing on your adventures into lost and dying areas spiritually speaking. This will encourage those who were not able to go. They many times are the ones who have been the prayer supporters as well as the monetary support to make these trips possible. Share what God has done boldly and joyfully!

Verse to Memorize: Acts 14:22

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 13

Acts 13

-During prayer and fasting and ministering to the Lord, Barnabas and Saul were set apart by the Holy Spirit to go on their first major missionary journey to the island of Cyprus and Asia Minor. The narrative describes the miraculous encounters in these places and the unique experiences of bringing the gospel of Christ to Gentile regions. However, notice the strategy that is used in these missionary endeavors. They would always start with the established synagogue in a new city. This was to tie in the known with the unknown and show how Christ Jesus was a fulfillment of Old Testament truth given by God to His people (Remember Romans 1:16). They needed a reference point from which to share the good news of the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection of the Savior of the world. Also, notice that they went to the population centers where there could be a larger audience for their presentations. The idea was to proliferate the message outward towards the rural communities from the epicenters of the larger cities in each region. These proved to be effective methods as they were led by the Lord’s Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-12). *Application* What strategy do we have for winning the lost to Christ Jesus? Seek the Spirit’s guidance and be intentional about evangelizing our world with the good news!

-An interesting tidbit of information is given in verse 13, which would later create tension and controversy between Paul (Saul) and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40). In fact they would separate as missionary partners over the decision of John Mark to return back to Jerusalem. This was certainly not a move that Paul endorsed for whatever reason. But, Barnabas as was his nature was patient, compassionate, and encouraging of the young and growing brother in Christ. Later, Paul reconciled and approved of the help that John Mark was to the Kingdom work (2 Timothy 4:11). *Application* Let us not be too quick to dismiss and cast away people that make mistakes. John Mark demonstrated immaturity, possibly through fear, fatigue, and failure by his quick return from a missionary adventure. Perhaps he got homesick or the persecution and hardship was too much for him to handle. We really are not sure, but we do know that later Barnabas stuck with this young lad and helped to restore him in the Lord. We should have the same compassion on those who fail us.

-The scene in Pisidian Antioch becomes a familiar response to the gospel as it goes forth into these untapped regions. First, there is curiosity and intrigue as the message of Christ is preached. Then comes a Jewish response of jealousy and accusations of what they thought to be a false message. This usually ends up in a disturbance of some sort with some believing and receiving the message, but others adamantly against the word of the apostles. The Gentiles are awakened to God’s truth and rejoice, but the Jews drive out the apostles trying to thwart their message. The apostles shake the dust off their feet in protest against the rejection of the gospel and go on joyfully with the Holy Spirit to the next city and adventure (Acts 13:14-52). *Application* In our strategy to share the message of Christ we will find diverse responses as well. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guiding and leading when sharing faith. Remember that to some we will be an offense, but to others the fragrant aroma of a saving Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

Verses to Memorize: Acts 13:2, 38-39

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 12

Acts 12

-Herod the king (Herod Agrippa I) began to lay violent persecuting hands on the believers in Christ including some of the apostles. James, the brother of John, was killed in this persecution, and when Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, he had Peter imprisoned during the feast of Unleavened Bread intending to bring him before the people after the Passover (Acts 12:1-4). What must have been the feelings in Peter at this time? He had to have anticipated the same fate as his Savior and fellow brother in Christ, James. These must have been intense days of suffering and other world expectation.

-However, the Bible tell us that the brethren were praying fervently for him and the Lord delivered him miraculously with His angel. The reunion was precious and almost unbelievable for those who were gathered in the house of John Mark’s mother, but Peter had been rescued. God was not finished with His faithful servant-leader yet and delivered him out of certain death (Acts 12:5-17). *Application* Our God has His timing for all things and will protect when He has a purpose and a plan for you. Walk in faith, God is sovereign. He will deliver you from the most strenuous circumstances and conditions when you are accomplishing His will.

-The narrative explains the large disturbance among the soldiers when they could not locate Peter, their prisoner. Herod Agrippa I made a search for him, but could not find this disciple anywhere. Upon examining the guards, he ordered their execution, and then departed for the west coast city of Caesarea Maritima.  Now the text jumps to Herod Agrippa’s arrogance amidst receiving praise. He accepted man’s applause and the honor of being called a god to the anger and wrath of God Almighty. He was struck down because he did not give God the glory and worms ate his carcass (Acts 12:18-23). *Application* Make sure the proper credit is received by our Lord for all your success, right? There very well could be dire consequences for your conceit.

-The word continued to grow and be multiplied. Barnabus and Saul returned to Antioch from Jerusalem after they completed their mission (Acts 12:24-25). *Application* Multiplication of God’s Word in His church is a fundamental principle we need to grasp. We should have a growth mentality in our personal lives as well as the lives of our ministry and church. Spread the message of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom wherever we go. It will increase; His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11).

Verse to Memorize: Acts 12:5

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 11

Acts 11

-Peter has to defend the work of the Holy Spirit among the Jewish brethren back in Jerusalem upon his arrival because they took issue with breaking the Law to go into a Gentile’s home to eat. Peter’s conclusion was that he could not stand in God’s way because it was the Lord who gave the visions and the Holy Spirit to them according to His will. When the Jewish brethren heard this, they quieted down and glorified God for opening up the door for Gentiles to come into the Kingdom of God through the “repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18).”

-Luke describes how the gospel was now going out to regions beyond Israel. He lists Phoenicia, to the north, Cyprus, an island to the west in the Mediterranean, and Antioch, even further north. This again happened as a result of the persecution that broke out in Jerusalem over the martyrdom of Stephen. Even Greeks were becoming obedient to the faith and the word was spreading. As word spread about what was going on in these places, Barnabas was sent out from Jerusalem to Antioch, and he strengthened the work there being full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He was an encourager with resolute heart and diligently worked to help these new believers remain true to the Lord with steadfast purpose (Acts 11:23). *Application* The world desperately needs people like Barnabas who are willing to leave their comfort and go to a new place to encourage, exhort, and strengthen brethren in the Lord. This spirit should be evident in all Christians. Is it in us?

-At some point Barnabas left for Tarsus to find Saul. Tarsus was just west of where he was in Antioch and was not too long of a journey. He found him and brought him back to Antioch, where for an entire year they met with the church and taught them in considerable numbers. It was at this time and in this place that the disciples were first called Christians. Up to that point they had been known as the Way (John 14:6, Acts 9:2).

-Also at this time some prophets came down Jerusalem (Jerusalem’s high elevation and spiritual center point metaphorically speaking causes everything to descend from it. We often would think of going north as going up but this is a different figure of speech here used in the Scripture). Agabus prophesied that there would be a drought and great famine in all the world. This happened a short time later in the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. It was determined here that any proportion that the disciples had as far as means should be shared with brethren in Jerusalem and Judea for their relief. So they sent Barnabas and Saul to the elders in Jerusalem with this gift. *Application* The giving spirit is again manifested in the early church as anyone had need. The same should apply in our lives. If we have the power and ability to do good, we should not withhold it (Proverbs 3:27). Let generosity pervade our Christian lives!

Verses to Memorize: Acts 11:17

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 10

Acts 10

-Revival in the midst of Gentiles as the Holy Spirit comes upon them is the theme of this remarkable chapter in God’s Word. The narrative begins with a description of Cornelius who is devout, a God fearer, a giver, and a continual prayer warrior in Caesarea Maritima, a coastal-port city built by primarily Herod the Great. An angel miraculously appears to this centurion and he sends men for Simon Peter down south a ways in Joppa. He was staying in this coastal town in the house of Simon the Tanner (A house that is still standing and actually being lived in to this day in what is now known as Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv).

-God gives Peter a vision on the rooftop of this house declaring that what God calls clean is no longer to be considered unholy. He uses foods in the vision, but the meaning is found in verse 28, “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” This is a departure from the strict separation Jews lawfully adhered to in the ancient times, and many still do to this day. God was showing His faithful people, like Peter, that the message of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was for all the nations, not just His chosen people (Acts 10:34-35).

-Peter, with some of his brothers in Christ, accompanies the delegation from Cornelius back to Caesarea and meets Cornelius, who wants to worship him; however, Peter reminds him that he too is just a man and not God. A Spirit-filled presentation of Christ is delivered as the Holy Spirit comes upon Gentiles for the first time here in this place. They are baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ as all the circumcised believers are amazed at what God is doing.

-*Application* We must not put limits on what God wants to do in certain and specific situations. He is a God who reaches out to people that fear Him and want Him in their lives. Never cease to be amazed at what the Spirit of the Lord is up to in our generation. He still moves!

Verses to Memorize: Acts 10:2, 34-35

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 9

Acts 9

-Acts 9 gives us the details in Saul’s (Paul in Greek) conversion on the road to Damascus, where he intended to bind disciples of Christ Jesus and take them back to Jerusalem for punishment. He was attacking the church in an attempt to destroy it and its momentum. However, Jesus shows up along the road and changes everything! His voice spoke, and His light shown down. Saul would never be the same. Ananias obeyed the Heavenly vision in Damascus and Saul was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. Immediately he began to speak out in the Name of Jesus and became Christ’s most passionate supporter. A miracle had occurred for the sake of the gospel, and God called Saul to be a chosen instrument to bear His Name among the Gentiles, kings, and sons of Israel all while suffering for His purpose (Acts 9:15-16). *Application* Our evidence here is that only God can change a life and many times with these lost and hardened souls it is a radical rebirth. What is your testimony in the saving saga of our Lord Jesus Christ? If you’ve never experienced His Spirit’s presence come upon you, pray to receive, and He will in no way cast you out (John 6:37). Believe in Him and call upon His Name for salvation (Romans 10:13, Ephesians 2:8-9).

-Another interesting note here in this chapter is Christ’s identification with His church. Notice the words He uses to Saul along the road to Damascus. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me (Acts 9:4)?” The church is an organism, not an organization. Notice here that Jesus is one with His body, the church. Christ is the Head of all things pertaining to the church, and we are His bride (Colossians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 12, Revelation 19:7). There is a vital unity that we need to understand, and there are no unimportant parts to His body.

-After Saul’s dramatic escape from Damascus, he arrives back in Jerusalem to a suspicious and fearful welcome from the disciples. It was Barnabas who brought him to the apostles and explained to them the genuineness of Saul’s conversion. After this, Saul was accepted and began to talk and argue with those in Jerusalem concerning the Lord Jesus. After a period of time some Hellenistic Jews got angry with him and threatened to kill him, which led to his departure to Caesarea Maritima and then on the Tarsus. The church enjoyed peace and growth after this in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:20-31). *Application* There will be times of trial and tribulation and war in the Christian walk. There will be other times of peace and relative tranquility where the Lord is prospering you. Be true to Him in both instances and let Him have His perfect way and will in your life. Be built up in Christ no matter what you go through.

-Now some information on Peter’s ministry is narrated as he proceeds westward through Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa doing the work of the Lord. There are great accounts of a paralytic healing and a resuscitation given as many believe in the Lord Jesus Christ through Peter’s work (Acts 9:32-. *Application* Here is more evidence of the Holy Spirit leading and directing with some amazing results. God’s power is always on his humble, faithful, and obedient servants.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 9:3-4, 27

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 8

Acts 8

-Acts 8 marks a turning point in the spreading of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in the church (i.e. the body of Christ, meaning believers in Him). Refer back to Acts 1:8 and we have the structure for the book. First, the witness of Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit begins in Jerusalem; it then spreads to Judea and Samaria, and then to the rest of the region and world. Here in this section we see that the murder and subsequent persecution of the church led to the scattering of believers out into other places where they shared their faith in Christ Jesus. This was God’s purpose and plan (Acts 8:1-3). From this point on Jerusalem began to stagnate as the rest of the world began to be drawn in to the gospel story for salvation (Romans 11:25). *Application* There are points in our life where we personally stagnate and need a jolt of God-sized proportions to move us and shake us. When the feelings of complacency and mundaneness begin to creep into your being you are one step away from being dull, and spiritual growth will shrivel. We have to be constantly on guard against this. The apostle Paul puts it well in Philippians 3:12-14, as he describes this “pressing on” mentality that will help him realize his “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This is often where faith will kick in and God will stretch us out into new possibilities and challenges that will keep us reliant upon Him alone. Otherwise, we will become lethargic in the race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-2) and in the battle (Ephesians 6:12-18, 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 4:7). For a good song that depicts this attitude check out Switchfoot’s More than Fine at It is interesting to note here that the church in Jerusalem faded away as a power source for Christianity. Even today all you will find in this city of God are some relic type churches full of religiosity and man-made tradition. The power of the Holy Spirit is present in other parts of the globe much more mightily (see, ). However, God’s glory will one day return to this city (Matthew 25:31-32, Romans 11:26). The Lord will never forget about His people, the Jews.

-The first place that the gospel takes root outside Jerusalem which Acts speaks about is through Philip’s witness in Samaria where many believed and received Jesus as Lord. The narrative on Simon the magician is intriguing and shows a first century perspective on how men reacted to the demonstrations of the Holy Spirit as it went forth. Peter’s exposé on the fact that money has nothing to do with the power of the Holy Spirit is impressive. He turns Simon’s intentions back to the heart and leads him to repentance (Acts 8:4-24).

-Verses 14-16 give us some intriguing interpretative matters. Some theologians will say this is a special occasion in history, as with Cornelius and his family in Acts 10:44-47, where the Holy Spirit makes a dramatic appearance much like the Pentecost experience with the apostles. These would point out that in other, more usual circumstances; the Holy Spirit indwells the believer at the point conversion. There are other theologians who say that there are two baptisms: one for belief in Christ and one for the filling of the Holy Spirit. This is a passage these theologians will use for a proof text. This matter has been debated and is too extensive for discussion in this blog beyond what has been stated.

-The gospel keeps going forth and the apostles, lead by Peter and John, were spreading the word in Samaria on the way back to Jerusalem. At this point, Philip was called by an angel to go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is a desert, or wilderness, road. Philip obeys the call and goes to this location where he finds an Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scriptures out of Isaiah 53. Right at the appropriate moment, Philip is able to clarify understanding of the Messiah to this worshiper of God. The eunuch believes and receives Christ as his Savior and is baptized. At that point the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away towards the north to Azotus and then even further northward and westward towards Caesarea (Maritima). *Application* Philip’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to move and direct him is an example for us in our modern walk. What is God telling you to do today and how does He want you to do it? His instructions are surprisingly clear and specific when we make the choice to obey.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 8:4

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 7

Acts 7

-Stephen now makes his defense before the high priest and the Council of the Jews. He develops the history of the Jewish nation recounting many of the events of the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and made an argument for their continued disobedience to the Word of God and His prophets. His conclusion was that they were stubborn and unfaithful in heart and had ears that were resisting the work of the Holy Spirit just like their forefathers (Acts 7:51). Stephen practically pronounces his own death sentence by standing up to the hypocrisy and obstinacy of these religious leaders. These leaders are of the spirit to persecute the prophetic Word of the Lord and do not keep the oracles of God (Acts 7:52-53).

-Stephen is caught up by their fury and dragged out of the city to be stoned. He remains full of the Holy Spirit and actually sees the glory of God in Heaven as he is being persecuted with Jesus standing at His right hand. As the stones came crashing on his fragile flesh, he cried out for the Lord to receive his spirit and not hold this sin against them. He departed earth the first Christian martyr in a blaze of Spirit-filled glory.

-Besides all of this, a young man by the name of Saul (the Apostle Paul) was with them and the witnesses laid their robes at his feet for the stoning. This man would later become one of the most ardent promoters of Christ in the early church. The Lord had heard and blessed the prayer of Stephen as at least one of these angry men eventually turned to Jesus and received complete forgiveness.

-*Application* The words here of Stephen make me think of how difficult it is for high religious people in authority to receive a prophetic word. What I mean from a prophetic word is a word from Scripture that pertains to an event or circumstance that needs correction. It is hard for men, or women, in power to come into conformity with the Word of God sometimes, especially when it is coming from someone they feel like is beneath them on the authoritative ladder. However, God calls the prophets to take a stand when no one else will or can. He does this over and over and over again in the Scriptures and still does this in the modern age. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, teaches not to despise the prophetic utterances, but to examine all things carefully holding fast to what is good. The issue here is pride. Correction on a matter causes one to humble himself or herself. This is exactly what the religious leaders of Stephen’s time, Jesus’ time, many of the kings’ time, and even our current time in the church have great problems with and do not want to accept. Remember this statement that will change your life, “Pride make excuses, humility makes adjustments.” This is what God desires from all of us.

Verses to Memorize: Acts 7:51

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 6

Acts 6

-The necessity for help now arises in the Church as it keeps growing and people have needs. Think about the numbers the text gives us about this early movement of Jesus followers (Acts 2:41; 4:4). There are probably around 10,000 members of His Body by now and some complaints arose between the Hellenistic Jews (who held to Greek customs and languages) and the native Hebrews because the Hellenistic Jews felt they were being overlooked in the daily serving of food (Acts 6:1).

-The twelve brought the congregation of disciples together and mandated that seven men be given charge of this service task. They lay down three important requirements of having a good reputation, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and being full of wisdom. The twelve maintained that they needed to be devoted to prayer and ministry of the Word, which necessitated this arrangement of what would later be termed deacons (from diakonos in the Greek). These were servants that helped in the work of the Church, and they are given qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:12-13. These men were approved of the whole congregation as great men of faith, and then brought before the apostles to be prayed over and anointed with the laying on of their hands (Acts 6:2-6). *Application* The modern Church in some denominations have given undue power and authority to the deacon body. The term deacon means “servant,” and this is to be their function. There is a different group given oversight of the local body of Christ. These are called elders, which have some diverse words describing them in the text of Scripture (pastor- poimen, episkopos, presbyteros). Here we must remember that the Church is an organism which has a Head, Jesus Christ, and is not an organization like the world operates. God has given each part of the body importance and relevance to the Kingdom advancement (1 Corinthians 12). Leaders must first be followers and servants to advance in Christ’s Kingdom. Think of the call Christ gave to Peter, James, John and the rest of the disciples. It was, “Come follow Me (Matthew 4:18; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24, John 1:43; 10:27 to name a few verses, there are many more).” Jesus modeled His leadership by washing His disciples’ feet and giving up His life for them. He followed His Father’s direction even though He was Deity. Followers become leaders if they do it God’s way. Here we see the advancement into leadership by the apostles and their desire to train up more men equipped to make the spiritual journey into church leadership. Always allow yourself time and patience in learning the art and tasks of a spiritual leader in God’s Kingdom. Build for yourself a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit and His fruits, and soak in spiritual wisdom from His Word.

-The word of God kept spreading and the numbers kept growing greatly in Jerusalem. Even a great number of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).

-Stephen became a great man of God full of grace and power and performing great wonders and signs among the people. There was a newly formed group called the “Synagogue of the Freedmen (probably Jews from the Diaspora that were Greek speaking)” that stirred up the people by speaking lies against Stephen by seducing people secretly. This led to Stephen being dragged before the Jewish Council with accusations that he was against Moses, the Law, and the Temple. But as these religious men fixed their gaze on this remarkable follower of Christ filled with His Holy Spirit and all faith, Stephen’s face shone “like the face of an angel (Acts 6:8-15).” This sets up Stephen’s defense of the gospel in chapter 7. *Application* Here we see the hand of evil present to disrupt the spreading of the message of Christ as it was gaining great strength and power through the Holy Spirit. Count on this in your life as well. As soon as you move forward with Christ and His Kingdom there will be opposition and persecution trying to thwart, distract, and confuse the work of God. Pray against this, but expect this spiritual warfare. It will come in new and unique ways every time and we must be on our guard to recognize these threats. It is always wise to know the enemy so that he can be combated and overcome through the Lord. 

Verse to Memorize: Acts 6:3

Bible Study Notes in Acts- Chapter 5

Acts 5

-The property being sold and money brought into the church became the source of the first controversy in the church age. Ananias and Sapphira collaborated to lie against the Holy Spirit of the Lord in their contribution from their real estate proceeds. They both fell dead in the presence of the apostles and great fear came upon the disciples of the Lord (Acts 5:1-11). *Application* The LORD loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Ananias and Sapphira collaborated to deception, which was the reason for their great downfall in the presence of God’s anointed. It is better to be honest in your assessment of generosity when giving your gifts unto the LORD. He is honored when you do things from a pure heart; He is disgusted when you do things for self-indulgence.

-The numbers kept growing as the message of Christ went out further and further and people’s lives were being changed. Many signs and wonders were being performed by the apostles, and every one coming for physical and spiritual healing were set free, even from the surrounding areas (Acts 5:12-16).

-The apostles were jailed again because they kept speaking out in the Name of Jesus. Peter stood up and said that they must follow and obey God rather than men in this regard, then he again gave them the gospel as an eyewitness (Acts 5:17-32).

-The Council is once again perplexed over its decision for these men of faith in Christ. Gamaliel finally brings some sense to the chaos with his statements that denote at least some healthy fear of the Lord. His final statement is absolutely poignant, “So in this present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” The Council takes his advice, has the disciples flogged, and releases them once again ordering them not to speak in the Name of Jesus. The apostles went away rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His Name. “Every day in the Temple and from house to house they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:33-42).” *Application* Jesus told us that we would encounter persecution for His Name sake (Matthew 24:9). Our response should be the same as these role models in the faith. We should consider it a joy and a privilege to suffer like He suffered (Philippians 3:10).

Verses to Memorize: Acts 5:29, 31, 38-39