Acts 17

Acts 17:1-9
Thessalonica
This city, now called Thessaloniki was on the coast and on a highway from Italy to the east (Egnation Way). It was a centre of commerce and military base. Paul went into the synagogue to speak to Jews and Jewish proselytes because they had at least some knowledge of God and he preached Christ.
He used the Old Testament scriptures, likely the Greek Septuagint, to show that Christ portrayed in them, had to suffer die and rise again, fulfilling prophecy. He did this because this is the central tenet of the gospel, the only way of salvation and the power of God.
This teaching was contrary to the Jewish idea of a conquering, political, military king-messiah. Some Jews believed and wanting to learn more spent time with Paul and Silas. The numbers suggest more Gentiles than Jews were present and the mention of prominent women suggested the men were busy elsewhere. The unbelieving Jews instigated trouble because they were envious of the influence of the apostles and were undoubtedly moved by Satan to persecute them. They enrolled a mob attempting to find and assault them. It looks as though Jason had given the apostles hospitality but they had left his house before the mob struck. The Jews accused Jason, and by inference the apostles, of instigating a new religion asserting that Jesus was a new king. The rulers took bail money from Jason as security there would be no further trouble.


Fist century synagogue ruin.

Acts 17:10-15
Berea
The Thessalonians sent Paul and Silas away at night so they could escape persecution just as Christ prescribed in Matthew 10:23, this was wise. Paul went into the synagogue and preached to the Bereans who were more receptive than the Thessalonians, showing deep interest to learn the truth and obey it, like good prepared soil. They checked the scriptures to verify the content of Paul’s message. The word searched, studied and believed brought them to faith (Rom.10:14). There appeared again to be a majority of women here and many upper class. The Jews from Thessalonica, again jealous of the apostles’ influence and perhaps fearing financial loss and detesting the message of Messiah, stirred up trouble. Paul, because persecution was imminent, was taken to Athens but Timothy and Silas stayed to teach and establish the new converts.

Acts 17:16-34
Athens
Paul was so disturbed (the Greek word used is APOPLEXY meaning a stroke or epileptic fit)because of the idolatry which was robbing God of his rightful glory and worship. Paul disputed with the Jews and proselytes because their worship was idolatrous and false in alleging any other way than Christ and self-righteousness as the way to God. In the public market he disputed with people who were buying and selling. Epicureans were Greeks who were atheists, believers in chance, and who developed into pure hedonists (lovers of pleasure). Stoics were Greeks who believed in a creator who now stood back from creation (deism) and that happiness came in bravely accepting everything that happened to you. Some called Paul a babbler (picker up of scraps) and others of teaching new Gods-Jesus and Anastasis (resurrection).

The Areopagus hill in Athens.
The Areopagus on Mars Hill (Mars being the Greek god of war) was a venerable institution and centre of learning and worship. The Athenians wanted to know what he was speaking about but with only a superficial interest. They were later very dismissive and generally thought the gospel was foolishness (I Cor. 1:23). They were an inquisitive people and religious, perhaps realising that there was another God the creator and wanting to ensure he was not missed out of their pantheon. They were ignorantly worshipping because they had no knowledge of true worship of God through his Son. Paul started with creation, rejecting the notion that God could be represented by anything material (Rom.1). He taught God as self-sufficient, omnipresent, creator and sustainer of all life and who made all men from one and controls all peoples and nations. Paul mentioned in support of his speech, a Greek poet Aratus who belonged to the Macedonian court and who was an astronomer and stoic who wrote the exact same things.His conclusion was that since all things were made by an omnpresent invisible God he cannot be represented by an idol/image. This willful ignorance of the nature of God was culpable (Romans 1) but God refrained from judging it immediately. Because the revelation of Christ has now come God now commands all men to repent and believe. Paul refers to the final judgment because that is when all will give account and be judged, the proof being God’s resurrection of Christ. The Athenians mostly mocked but some showed slight interest and presumably he departed because of their poor response despite one Greek philosopher, a noble woman and some others becoming believers.
Next Study (DV) Saturday February 1st 2020 on Acts 18

Acts 16:13-40

CPRC Mens Bible Study
Acts 16:13-40
Conversion of Lydia
Philippi was a Roman colony, named after Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s father), many of its citizens may have been ex-army, the people had a forum and theatre and nearby gold mines.

 

Artists impression of ancient Philippi.              Remains of their theatre.

The missionaries went down by the riverside where Jews and Jewish proselytes worshipped and prayed, perhaps because they were persecuted and had no synagogue. They could also follow ritual washings there. We think Lydia was a God-fearing Gentile proselyte.
She sold purple* (and perhaps clothes) called Lydian purple. She would have been well off. Coming from Thyatira in Lydia, in Asia Minor where there may well have been a church founded already (Rev.1:11).
The Lord enlightened her mind (already regenerated) to understand the gospel proclaimed by Paul and she listened intently, being good soil. She professed faith and in line with God’s covenant promises the baptism of her household followed and was significant suggesting as a widow or single woman she was head of it (family and/or servants). She had great respect and love for the missionaries and wanted to serve them materially who had served her spiritually (II Cor.9). She implored them persuasively to accept her hospitality and this meant they could give their full attention to preaching and teaching and not have to earn their keep.
Acts 16:16-24
Persecution of the apostles at Philippi.
This soothsaying girl was demon-possessed and told people’s fortunes making money for her minders. This was a supernatural evil power and must have been correct some of the time though we don’t know how, as only God knows the future. The spirit knew the apostles and their Lord because evil spirits work in the same realm and know who their enemies are (like Legion in Mark 5:9) who recognised Christ and the demons who overpowered the sons of Sceva in Acts 19:14 who knew Jesus and Paul. She was an agent of Satan to mislead the people (“a” way of salvation, not “the” way) and draw unnecessary attention to them. Paul commanded the spirit by the Spirit and with the authority of Christ (Matthew 10:1). The girl’s masters wanted to persecute and prosecute the apostles because they had ruined their source of livelihood. They charged the apostles with teaching foreign unlawful customs, which may have been true except that obedient believers do not break any righteous law (Gal.5:23). Perhaps Caesar worship was a problem or the fact that any new diety had to be approved by the senate. Antisemitism was rife then, witnessed by the fact Jews were expelled from Rome (Acts 18:2). Although ultimately this persecution served the gospel and was for the sake of the gospel it was motivated mainly by financial loss. The magistrates tore off their clothes so that the whipping would be harsher, skipping a fair trial because of mob rule and pressure. The high security imprisonment may have been to pacify the plaintiffs and also because they recognised the apostles had power.
Acts 16:25-34
The conversion of the Philippian jailer.
In the Psalms we hear of praises in the night. Whether this was their habit or they just could not contain their joy in persecution we cannot be sure and we can only guess they praised God for his working through them. The timing of the earthquake was certainly providential but only possibly coincidental-did God show he was the living listening God? All earthquakes are signs of God’s power and his judgment. This one had the unusual effect of loosing the prisoners and opening gates. The jailer was about to kill himself realising that execution was inevitable if his prisoners escaped. He asked the apostles how to be saved realising that these men were godly and he was a lost sinner. Paul’s response was God’s command in the gospel, not a condition. Only a regenerated man could obey this in conversion. It is implied all his family followed him, confessing their faith or being covenant children who all got the sign (see also Acts 2 for baptism immediately upon confession). As a result the jailer cared for them, was overjoyed in his new faith and also relayed messages from and to the magistrates concerning the apostles. The magistrates had to free them as there were no charges and they wanted them to leave quietly. Paul wanted a public apology as they had been publicly punished. They were afraid as they were unaware of Paul and Silas’s Roman citizenship. The magistrates timidly begged their pardon in complete contrast to their earlier rough assault on them. The apostles stayed a while in Lydia’s teaching and encouraging the saints and then departed into Greece.

Next study (DV) Acts 17:1-34 on January 11th.

*Purple’s elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it. Purple fabric used to be so outrageously expensive that only rulers could afford it. The dye initially used to make purple came from the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, which is now in modern-day Lebanon. “Tyrian purple” came from a species of sea snail now known as Bolinus brandaris, and it was so exceedingly rare that it became worth its weight in gold. Clothes made from the dye were exorbitantly expensive—a pound of purple wool cost more than most people earned in a year—so they naturally became the calling card of the rich and powerful.

Acts 15:30-16:12

Acts 15:30-16:12

The church at Antioch were notified of Jerusalem council decision.

The believers in Antioch, many of whom would have been Gentiles, were very glad to be told the contents of the letter. Judas and Silas, sent with Paul and Barnabas were also New Testament prophets who may have foretold future events but definitely preached and taught. (Acts 11:28, 21:10, 1 Cor.12:28, Eph.2:20).These men along with the apostles laid the foundations of the New Testament church. Silas stayed in Antioch to continue preaching but we know God planned for him to accompany Paul in the future. The church at Antioch had many teachers but we have no idea what size it was. Is one teaching elder (the norm in PRCA etc) optimal? (1 Tim.5:17).

Paul suggested to Barnabas they revisit the fellowships they had planted and enquire of their welfare. Barnabas wanted to take his nephew John Mark (Col.4:10, Acts 13:30) but Paul did not agree because he had previously left them prematurely (Acts 13:5,13). Their sharp contention must have involved sin on both their parts, perhaps they should have got third party to advise. However as they separated, Barnabas with Mark and Paul with Silas, there were now two teams on mission. Paul and Barnabas were reconciled later (1 Cor.9:6, Gal.2:1) as were Paul and John Mark (2 Tim.4:11, Col.4:10). Silas, like Paul, was a prophet/pastor/teacher and commended by Jerusalem council. Their sending church prayed for them, supported them and may have laid hands on them. They taught the churches to reinforce their faith and establish them in the truth. This is what true preaching does today.

Paul’s second missionary journey (AD 49-52).

Macedonian costume.

Paul met Timothy in Lystra, son of a Greek gentile and a believing Jewish mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. He would not have been brought up as a Jew and not been circumcised. Paul as a concession to the Jews and to make Timothy more acceptable, circumcised him (I Cor.9). Paul wanted to take him with him because he was a young man of quality (faithful, hard worker) and of good report (see Phil.2:20). As they travelled through the towns they delivered the decrees of the Jerusalem council and helped establish the churches which also grew in numbers. Paul and Silas tried to go to Asia but were prevented by the Holy Spirit because God wanted the gospel to enter Europe via Macedonia. Paul saw a vision, a visual revelation while awake, of a Macedonian man (known presumably by his dress and accent) asking him to come over and help by preaching the gospel.

By this time the writer of Acts, namely Doctor Luke had joined the two. Come and help us from a group of believers is a good starting point to start a domestic or foreign mission field.

 

Next study (DV) December 21st  2019 on Acts 16:13-40.

Acts 15:1-29

 

The Jerusalem Council

The dispute was caused by Jewish converts, probably Pharisees, who were insisting Gentile converts in Antioch were circumcised and had to keep all the Mosaic law (moral and ceremonial) both essential for salvation (the Pentateuch has 613 laws!).

The reason behind this falsity was their religious background explained by Romans 10:3, a belief they carried over into their Christian lives. They were ignorant of justification by faith alone and the division of the law into eternal/moral and temporary/ceremonial.

This “baggage” from their background they found hard to shake off (think of Peter and the sheet from heaven) and even today believers who, for example were alcoholic, would teach alcohol is forbidden to Christians.

Paul and Barnabas argued they were wrong, and because it was a vitally important doctrinal issue regarding salvation, the gospel and preaching they referred the matter to the apostles and elders in “mother church” at Jerusalem. On the way south Paul and Barnabas declared in the churches how Gentiles were being converted and repeated this news in Jerusalem.

The council comprised the apostles and elders of the church. There were also church members present who along with the council decided the issue. This may not have been the first council or synod as we read in Acts 6 and 11.

The council discussed and disputed which was necessary so that all points of view were heard. Peter emphasized that the Gentiles had believed because that was the proof of real life-changing salvation. Peter was chosen as the first apostle to preach to the Gentiles and he relates how Cornelius and his household were converted, proven by the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them with the signs following. He refers to God knowing the hearts and hearts being purified because it is with the heart that one believes and is saved (Romans 10:10). This is the true essential circumcision, that of the heart (Romans 2:29).

Tempting or testing God would be opposing his will or ways in salvation, and this he had shown by his working among the Gentiles.

The unbearable yoke was the whole Mosaic law which would have to be kept perfectly for salvation by works, but of course this was impossible. The law was meant to lead the Israelites to Christ and so God never meant it as a way of salvation. God saves his people by grace through faith and Christ’s burden is light (Matthew 11:29). Pater calls the converted Jews “we” and converted gentiles “they” but includes both in salvation. Paul and Barnabas related their miracles because it authenticated their apostleship and message and was in fact the same as Peter’s experience and also the other apostles among Jew and Gentile.

James was Christ’s half brother and he summarized Peter’s speech by saying it was God visiting the Gentiles and quoted Amos 9:11 as being fulfilled. Indeed there is a unity in the Old Testament prophecies concerning the gathering of the Gentiles especially in Isaiah (42:1 etc). God’s decree and omniscience is what enables predictive prophecy. James said the Gentiles must not be troubled by this false teaching because the yoke of any Old Testament ceremonial law was a trouble. The prohibitions were: no food offered to idols (v29, 1 Cor.8), no fornication, nothing strangled to be eaten or blood. Only fornication is based on moral law (7th commandment). The other instructions were a concession to be sensitive among the Jewish converts and unsaved (1 Cor.9:19-23).

The church members ratified the council decision and delegates were sent to support and authenticate the message brought by Paul and Barnabas to the Gentile converts. The decision was also written down to make it clear and incontrovertible. The Pharisees were rebuked and told to desist so order was maintained (they may have been “lay preachers”). Somehow, perhaps just by consensus, the Holy Spirit confirmed the decision (similarly he presided in true Reforming synods ever since).

Next study (DV) November 30th 8pm Acts 15:30-16:12.

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.