Acts 14:1-28

Acts 14:1-28

Events at Iconium, Lystra and Pisidian Antioch

The apostles Barnabas and Paul went to Iconium and preached in the synagogue the result being a great number of Jews and God-fearing Gentile proselytes believed. The unbelieving Jews stirred up unbelieving Gentiles to prejudicially persecute the brethren no doubt by spreading lies. The apostles stayed a while there to make the converts disciples getting them grounded in doctrine (the foundation of the apostles). The signs God enabled them to do were to authenticate their message. The final result was that the city was divided (example of the antithesis). Opposition to the apostles was going to bring about imminent attack so they fled in obedience to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 10:23.

In Lystra Paul preached and healed a lame man (possibly had congenital club feet-see pic).

We have no idea how Paul perceived this man had faith (perhaps in his eyes). Faith was not a condition to his healing (many other healings were of unbelievers or doubters or friends of believers) but faith was the means of his healing. The people of Lystra wanted to worship the apostles as gods as they were naturally idolaters.

Barnabas was called Jupiter the supreme Roman god and Paul Mercury who was the messenger of the gods. The priest was going to sacrifice an ox. Paul was upset and remonstrated with them, teaching them that they too were only men, whereas the true God was creator and oversees providence of all things. The Jews from Antioch must have spread lies perhaps about religion and threats to livelihood to sway the people. Stoning was a Mosaic capital punishment which showed utter contempt and detestation of the victim who had either blasphemed, murdered, been a rebel son, cursed or been a false prophet. Paul was badly injured but survived by the prayers of the saints and the grace of God (remember Malchus’ ear). In Derbe many were converted and made disciples. The apostles retraced their steps on their way home so they could confirm (strengthen) the faith of the disciples in the towns and exhort them to obedience, as well as ordain gifted men to eldership and thus institute churches.

Back in Antioch their sending church, they reported all that had happened on their first missionary journey, which tells us that mission is the work of the whole church (praying and supporting). They stayed there a long time to continue teaching (Paul after all was a specially gifted apostle with special unique divine revelation) alongside the other prophets in the church.

Next study (DV) Acts 15:1-29  Saturday 2nd November 2019

Acts 13:13-52

Acts 13:13-52


John Mark left the apostles in Perga but we do not know why. The apostles went to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch because they expected among the Jews prepared hearts for the gospel. The custom was to stand to pray or teach. There was opportunity in this community centre for the men to speak as they were centres of society, government, education and worship. A copy of the law of Moses written on scrolls was kept and read every sabbath. The leaders of the synagogue invited the apostolic visitors to speak. Paul addressed the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, summarizing the history of the Jews as background to the coming of the Messiah. They would have been familiar with all this but likely did NOT know the significance. Paul stopped at David to point to David’s greater son whom he describes as his seed and the promised Saviour. Paul spoke of John the Baptist as it is likely some would have heard him or of him and even been his disciples. Paul emphasizes that John pointed to Christ.
Paul compares his audience with the Jews and their leaders in Jerusalem who crucified the Messiah affirming that the message was for them but exhorting them not to be like them in rejecting him, thus fulfilling Scripture (Acts 4:32) and perishing as a result (Hab. 1:5). The Jerusalem Jews did not recognize their Messiah because they were blind (II Cor.3:14, 4:4) without divine revelation concerning what the prophets said. Paul’s central point was justification by faith in the historical resurrection (Isaiah 53:11). Two or three witnesses established truth and there were plenty witnesses to the risen Christ.

Paul compares and contrasts David and Christ using the psalmist’s writing to show that what he said was fulfilled in Christ. He states that the message of justification by faith must be preached.The Gentiles were keen to hear more the next Sabbath and many Jews and proselytes were saved.The witness of Jew and Gentile must have spread throughout the city to bring so many the next week. The Jews were envious of the apostles’ popularity and influence and detested the fact the message contradicted the Jewish religion. Blasphemy pours scorn on God and his messengers. The apostles said they would go to the Gentiles because of the Jews rejection and the fact the Gentiles listened (cast not your pearls before swine!). The Gentiles were responsive and many believed. The Jews needed the support of influential people in the city to be able to expel the apostles. They went on to Iconium, shaking the dust off their feet as Christ had instructed (Mark 6:11) as a sign they wanted nothing more to do with them.

Next Bible Study (D.V.) Saturday October 12th Acts 14:1-20

Acts 13 (part one)

Acts 13:1-12

The commissioning of Paul and Barnabas

The Antioch church was catholic with leaders from Cyprus (Barnabas), Libya (Lucius), Israel (Manaen) and Asia Minor (Paul). We believe Simon was a black man hence probably from sub-Saharan Africa and may have been the Simon who carried Christ’s cross. Manaen was a courtier brought up with Herod Antipas (the one who killed John) and the fact he was converted shows God’s electing grace.

Prophets are directly divinely inspired and able to say “thus says the Lord” with some of their prophecies relating to future events. There are no prophets in that sense today. Pastor-teachers take the written scriptures (written by divinely inspired prophets) and expound them.

Ministry to the Lord includes all of our worship-praise, thanks, preaching (prophecy), giving and fasting. Fasting is refraining from food and/or drink so as to concentrate on prayer, make an important decision or in a special time of need. It is associated with spiritual power and receptivity (Matthew 17:21). We presume one of the prophets or all collectively came the decision to send Paul and Barnabas. Laying hands on them was their public ordination to ministry and the sign that the church identified with them and would support them.

They first went to Cyprus because that was Barnabas’ home with family and contacts and John Mark would have been a helper perhaps carrying things and cooking. They initially always went to synagogues of the Jews because these people would have background knowledge of the Scriptures, some would be prepared to recognize Messiah and Christ’s timetable and Paul’s priority was Jews first (Rom.1:16) then Gentiles. We do not know if a church was founded in Salamis or Paphos.

Barjesus (son of Joshua) or Elymas (learned) was a sorcerer (wizard/magician) and a Jew who flagrantly denied the Old Testament prohibition of this evilly inspired means of controlling and influencing others. It was a capital offence (Deut.18:10-11, Ex.22:18). Sergius Paulus was Roman governor of the island and a wise man willing to hear the gospel. Paul used severe language because Elymas was doing Satan’s work seeking to prevent Sergius Paulus hearing and believing but his purposes backfired. Paul’s spiritual fulness gave him boldness and power (Acts 6:10,7:52, Prov.28:1, Luke 21:15) although as an apostle he had supernatural power too to inflict temporal blindness on the sorcerer. His spiritual blindness was topped appropriately by physical blindness perhaps to give him an opportunity to repent. The doctrine taught Sergius Paulus was what led to his conversion but the miracle authenticated the message.

We believe Luke calls Saul (Hebrew name) “Paul” (Greek name) from here on, because his main thrust was going to be to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).

Next Study (DV) Saturday September 21st on Acts 13:13-52

 

Acts 12

Herod’s persecution, Peter’s deliverance and Herod’s death.

We believe the persecution mentioned in the first verse occurred about the same time as the famine that Agabus prophesied namely around 43AD.
Herod was a title given to the kings not a name and the Herod here is Herod Agrippa (see charts) who also executed John the Baptist.

Herods

He was the son of Herod the Great who killed the babes of Bethlehem and he reigned over most of Israel (Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Perea). He was an Edomite.
He sought to please the Jews (especially Jewish leaders) and this was why he persecuted the apostles and the church and killed James (Boanerges and son of Zebedee).
He imprisoned Peter with a view to executing him and Passover was when Jerusalem was filled with zealous Jews from all over Israel and beyond. Perhaps he thought to stamp out the church.
We presume the church prayed for Peter’s release, witness in prison and likely his impending martyrdom. Surely Peter’s release was answered prayer!
We believe Peter was at peace enabled by grace to trust his Saviour (Psalm 4:8, 119:165 etc).
The angel who delivered Peter was a messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ (v11).
Sequence of events: light in prison, angel smites Peter, angel instructs Peter, Peter’s chains fell off, angel further instructs Peter, Peter follows angel out of prison, gate opens, they walk through the streets, angel leaves.
Peter thought it was a vision but after the angel left he realised what he was experiencing was real.
The Jews expected Peter to be killed. He went to Mary’s house (mother of John Mark and Barnabas’s sister) to see the other apostles and all the disciples to tell them the news and encourage them. The interaction between Rhoda and Peter was funny. Peter commanded that his news be told to James (the Lord’s half brother), and then he went presumably to another believer’s house.


The soldiers were terrified because they knew the penalty for allowing prisoners to escape was death and this is what happened because Herod was a cruel man.
Herod left Jerusalem for Caesarea possibly to escape awkward questions from Jewish leaders and went there because of displeasure with the inhabitants of the region. The local populace got his secretary on their side desiring peace. Herod subsequently gave a speech on a planned day arrayed in royal apparel no doubt speaking of his greatness and reign over the people desiring to impress and subdue them. Their reacion was either foolish flattery or outright deception (sent by God-II Thess.2:11) as they attributed divinity to him.


God struck him down immediatley (cf Ananias and Sapphira) because he proudly and wrongfully accepted glory that belongs only to God (Isaiah 42:8). Compare also Nebuchadnezzar reduced to madness (I Peter 5:5). The immediate judgment empasized prompt punishment by God which in other cases is postponed (Rev. 6:10). It was the angel of the Lord who smote Herod (cf Egypt, Assyrian 185,000 etc). He died of an overwhelming worm infestation, most likely over a few days and appropriately because pride consumed him first.
The church work of preaching and teaching prospered and it grew.
Barnabas and Saul returned to their home church in Antioch (chapter 13) after passing on their benevolence in Jerusalem.
John Mark was related to Barnabas, propably a nephew and son of Mary (Col.4:10).

Next study (DV) August 31st 8pm

Acts 11:1-30

Acts 11:1-30

Peter reports to the church in Jerusalem because certain Jewish leaders were critical of his association with Gentiles in Caesarea. Some of them accused him of associating and eating with Gentiles which was a traditional addition to God’s law. These men were called the “circumcision”. Their accusation was correct but unjustified. This tells us that many in the New Testament church were zealous converted Jews who kept the law but were ignorant of the fact that ceremonies were passing and the church was becoming catholic or universal (see also Acts 15:24 where the same thing is repeated and 21:21-25 where Paul makes a small concession to them).

Peter logically recounted in detail the events in Joppa and Caesarea to show God’s providential hand in them. He gives three arguments that Gentiles are to be included in the church:

  • The Holy Spirit was poured out on them
  • Christ said his disciples would be baptized with the Spirit
  • The gift of tongues was seen as proof

The church at Jerusalem had nothing to say because Peter proved that the events were orchestrated by God and should be cause for gladness not criticism and that Gentiles as well as Jews were granted repentance and eternal life.

Luke recalls that after Stephen died great persecution broke out and many disciples scattered over the Roman Empire going as far as Crete, Cyprus, Libya and Antioch. These believers, some of whom were preachers, preached to Jews only because of their similar background and language (carrying on the ministry of Christ and the apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel). Grecians were Jews who spoke Greek, who likely came from outside Israel. When the church in Jerusalem heard about conversions outside, they sent Barnabas to assess, as far as Antioch where most were converted. The grace of God (v23) is his power to save (Titus 2:11). Barnabas is described as a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. He went to get Saul from Tarsus because Saul was very knowledgeable in the Scriptures, an apostle and a teacher, who alongside him, taught and established and built up the church making them disciples.

Apparently, the minister of the church in Antioch and possibly outsiders there, nicknamed the disciples “Christians” or Christ-ones. We do not know if this name was an insult or compliment.

There still were extraordinary prophets in the New Testament church because the canon of Scripture was not finally fixed. These men got direct divine revelation and were able to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” Agabus prophesied a famine in Israel which happened sometime between 43 and 46AD. The disciples in Antioch decided to send money to the Jerusalem church because of their unity and care and we need to respond in the same way today.

Next study (DV) August 11th at 8pm Acts 12:1-25

Acts 10 (continued)

Acts 10:1-48 (cont)

In the Old Testament clean animals (Lev. 11) could be eaten and used for sacrifices but unclean ones could not. But note that Noah after the flood was not constrained by these ceremonial laws which only were binding from the time of Moses to Christ.

Peter was commanded to kill and eat but he refused believing as he still did, that the law had to be kept. The Lord then in the vision said that he should not call these animals common or unclean and reinforced the message by making it happen thrice which may well have reminded Peter of his denial three times and Christ’s question, “Do you love me.” It is worth remembering that these food laws had stood for 1400 years.

The messengers from Cornelius arrived straight after this which was very providential. We cannot tell how the Spirit spoke to him but we can distinguish between the uncreated inaudible voice that created the worlds by Christ the Word of God and the created voice heard for example at Christ’s baptism and many times in the New Testament e.g. Acts 13:2. Peter needed reassurance he should go and we also need to remember that the Jews had added unbiblical rabbinic tradition to their law even forbidding social association with Gentiles.

By illumination and deduction Peter realised that he ought not to call any man unclean. The messengers came because of Cornelius’ request as he awaited instructions from God’s messenger. When Peter arrived there was a house full of Cornelius’ family, friends, servants and perhaps soldiers showing how influential he was. Note that the message was to show them how they could be saved subjectively by conversion (c.f. Acts 16:31) because we believe both he and the jailor in Philippi were born again prior to their conversion experience.

Cornelius overdid his welcome of Peter and was rebuked because only God must be worshipped (c.f. Rev.19:10). Peter reminded Cornelius that Gentiles were still considered unclean and not God’s people (c.f. Eph. 2:12 and I Peter 2). He surmised that the unclean animals represented people and asked again why he had been sent for, to which Cornelius replied about his vision and his expectation of a message from God.

God does not respect persons, meaning he does not treat any differently because of race, station or anything else (c.f. James 2:1 and I Tim.2:4) men of all kinds are part of the church and this Peter now knew because he speaks of “all nations”. By the way Peter really ought to have known this by the great commission in Mathew 28:18-20 and Christ’s saying in Matthew 21:43 but he did not understand. Peter emphasises his being a witness to underline his apostolic authority and truthfulness.

He states that God’s word sent was the gospel of justification by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) through which forgiveness comes and this is attested to in the prophets e.g. Isaiah 53.

The Spirit was poured out on these Gentiles just as at Pentecost in a public and obvious way as they spoke in tongues and openly praised God. The Spirit used the word as his power and it is always the case that word and Spirit must work together to accomplish God’s purposes. The Jews looking on were astonished as they still felt they as a nation had a monopoly on God’s kingdom and salvation. Water baptism is the outward sign of inward Spirit baptism. Peter stayed to instruct them because he was commanded to make disciples not just converts!

It is worthwhile reading into Acts 15 to see Peter’s account to the Jerusalem synod of these events.

Acts 9:36 -10:16

Acts 9:36-43
Raising of Dorcas
Dorcas (Greek) and Tabitha (Aramaic) means a gazelle.
She spent her time serving others by making clothes etc
Alms deeds were acts of giving-of clothes or the proceeds of sewing.
The believers in Lydda especially the widows were the objects of her charity.
Her body was washed and put in a room to allow mourning and perhaps because they expected a miracle.
The believers sent for Peter either expecting him to preach at her burial or raise her from the dead (Matthew 10:8).
Peter removed everyone wanting the miracle to be private and peace and quiet so he could pray.c.f. Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:54.
Peter must have prayed that her soul would return.
Tabitha responded because she must have been alive and heard c.f. Lazarus in John 11 and Elisha and the boy in 2 Kings 4.
The widows are specifically mentioned because they were especially dependent upon her James 1:27. I Tim.5:3-4, 5:16.
Many believed because of the miracle and Peter’s subsequent preaching.
Simon the tanner’s work must have been unclean because he was touching the skins of dead animals. Perhaps Peter was coming to realize the Old Testament ceremonial laws were passing away but in any case this brother offered hospitality.
By the healing of Aeneas God was preparing the disciples, especially Peter for the in-gathering of the gentiles into the church.

Acts 10:1-16
Peter, Cornelius and the beginning of the inclusion of Gentiles in the early church.
Cornelius was a Roman soldier, with 100 men under him, stationed in Caesarea, a seaport town in the north of Israel. He was a devout proselyte and undoubtedly regenerate.
He and his family worshiped God through the Messiah they expected and gave generously to the Jewish synagogue. His devotion, alms-giving and prayers prove he was a believer but he needed confirmation of the gospel and that Christ had come through Peter. We guess he prayed for his family, his men and the Jewish nation. His prayers and good works are called a “memorial” showing that they were recorded and will be rewarded (treasure in heaven).
He saw an angel at 3 p.m. who spoke to him. He was afraid because angelic glory reflecting God’s holiness, brightness, purity, power and glory is awesome c.f. Moses, Joshua, Manoah, Isaiah, John and confirmed to him it was God speaking through him.
The angel commanded Cornelius to send for Peter and precise directions were given because any arranged meeting needs a precise time and place. So he did and his men walked or rode the 40 miles to Joppa.
Peter went up on the housetop at the regular Jewish time of prayer at the temple namely noon-see Psalm 55:17. His hunger may well have been related to the vision he saw of animals he was told to eat. A trance is a state of unresponsiveness and in this state he saw the vision (v.v. 17,19) of a sheet full of unclean animals
Next study (D.V.) June 29th Acts 10:17-48

Were miracles all signs?

Can we prove that Christ’s (and the apostles’) miracles had spiritual significance?

Clearly they were all God’s work authenticating his messengers.
Everything Christ and the apostles did was to further the kingdom of God which is spiritual.
Christ came to redeem men and creation.
Everything in creation points to spiritual reality e.g. the sun-the Son, grass and food-the word of God, water and fire-the Holy Spirit, the blue sky-heaven, trees-Christian life etc.
Christ taught in parables using earthly things to teach spiritual truth.
Christ equates physical and spiritual healing e.g. blindness (John 9) where he speaks of physical and spiritual blindness, paralysis (Matt.9)-see below*, death (John 5 and 11) where resurrection of the soul by Christ in this life is equated with physical resurrection of the dead. These miracles were all signs signifying deeper reality. *Christ both healed a man and said his sins were forgiven simultaneously, both healings being God’s prerogative and one signifying the other.
Healing and wholeness are the same Greek word (SOZO- I Peter 2:24).
The huge catch of fish in John 21 pictures the apostles being used to catch men.

Acts 9:23-35

Acts 9:23-35

Further results of Saul’s conversion

After many days, which could have been three years, Paul went up to Jerusalem from Damascus. Galatians 1:17-18 do not necessarily teach that Paul went into the desert of Arabia for three years but it certainly means his base was in Damascus for that period during which during a non-specified time he was given direct revelation from Christ in the wilderness. It is worth noting other figures whose ministry started after time in isolation with God namely Moses, John the Baptist and Christ himself.
The Jews in Damascus resented Paul’s preaching and planned to murder him for the simple reason that totally depraved human beings hate the light (the antithesis) and those who bring the gospel message (John 3:20, 7:7) hence from Abel to Zechariah God’s servants are persecuted or killed by Satan’s minions.
The disciples let Paul down over the wall in Damascus to save his life.
The disciples in Jerusalem were initially afraid of Paul but Barnabas communed with him and related his testimony to them leading to him being accepted into the family.
Paul spoke “in the name of Jesus” which means as Christ’s representative he brought his message of salvation presumably based firmly on Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
The Grecians were Jews from Greece (Acts 6:1) who hated the gospel message.
The disciples transported Paul to the port of Caesarea and then by ship to Tarsus, his home town to prevent him being attacked and possibly murdered. Another reason for his going there was that Christ told him in a vision that he was sending him to the Gentile nations (Acts 22:17-22).
His departure, because he was the pre-eminent persecutor in Jerusalem, meant peace for the church who through their regular teaching and worship were edified and grew (I Tim.2:2).

Acts 9:32-35


The healing of Aeneas and groundwork for spread of the gospel to the Gentiles.
Peter it seems systematically went to the villages and towns around Jerusalem obeying the apostolic injunction to be witnesses in Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8).
Lydda or Lod was about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. The palsy or paralysis of Aeneas with which he had been afflicted for eight years could have been a stroke or spinal problem or result of a fall making his legs useless. It was clearly incurable (compare man at pool John 5:4).
The symbolic significance of this illness (disability) was that he was impotent which reflects depraved mankind’s impotence regarding salvation (Rom.5:8, John 6:44).
Peter attributed the healing directly to Jesus Christ and indeed was used to heal him in his name.
Peter told him to make his bed because he was not going to need it the rest of that day!
We believe there was a turning of many to the Lord through Peter’s preaching rather than the miracle because it is the word of God that saves men.

Next study (DV) Saturday June 8th 8pm

Acts 9:10-22

Acts 9:10-22

The events following Saul’s conversion.

Ananias was a disciple of Christ living in Damascus and also a prophet (all who see visions are either an apostle or prophet).

A vision is a supernatural audio-visual event through which God communicates with a person or reveals heavenly truth. Visions occurred with Jacob, Moses and the elders, King Saul, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and the apostle John (among others).

Ananias was told to go to Straight Street to Judas’ house to find Paul who was praying.

We do not know for what Paul prayed but we could guess it concerned regaining his sight and also getting direction from Christ (9:6).

The Lord also gave Paul a vision of Ananias coming to him.

Ananias was reluctant understandably because he had heard of Saul’s reputation for persecuting God’s people.

In explaining to Ananias the Lord makes clear that the tables would be turned and Paul would be terribly persecuted and suffer for Christ-this was revealed to Paul so that he knew and counted the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28,31). The rest of the book of Acts and II Cor. 6:6 and 11:24-33 bear witness.

The laying on of hands served to confer spiritual gifts/ordain, heal, show care for and identification with the recipient. It was typical of Christ and the apostles and continues in ordinations in Reformed churches today (see Mark 5:23, 16:18, Acts 8:18, 28:18, I Tim.4:14, 5:22, Heb.6:2).

Ananias called Paul “brother” because the Lord had told him of his conversion and future service. His attitude to Paul had changed.

The Lord had to have told Ananias what had happened to Saul.

Saul/Paul received the Holy Spirit through Ananias’ hands.

Saul knew baptism was commanded to signify and seal the washing away of his sins.

Saul began to preach that Christ was the Son of God because this was his calling among the Jews. He went for some time alone into Arabia, then back to Damascus and then some years later to Jerusalem (Gal.1:12, 17,18, I Tim.1:11, Gal.2:2, Acts 24 and 26).

The Jews were initially amazed but later started to violently persecute him.

Saul’s knowledge of and faith in Christ was strengthened.

He was able to prove from Scripture that Jesus was the Messiah and refute their arguments to the contrary. Note that with regard later to Agrippa and Festus he used more personal testimony. Our witness includes God’s word (and church preaching), personal testimony and life (I Peter 3:1, 3:15).

 

Next study (DV) May 18th    

Acts 9:23-35