Sunday School Bible Study in 2018 and 2019 presented by John Green. The Acts of the Apostles.
References: Online Blue Letter Bible study with David Guzik – https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Act/
Gangel, Kenneth O. (author), Max Anders (editor), Acts, Holman Commentary New Testament, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 1998.
Boice, James Montgomery Acts, an Expositional Commentary (Baker Books, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1997).
Bruce, F.F. The Book of the Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988).
Acts of the Apostles – Acts 1
The author of this book is Luke. He was not an apostle. Unlike many of the apostles of Jesus, his occupation was a doctor or physician. (Colossians 4:14) He was a devoted companion of Paul (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24 and 2 Timothy 4:11). Based on his name and his Greek writing style and cultural perspectives, Luke was a gentile and not a Jew.
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
The book of Acts is written to Theophilus and us. There are numerous thoughts of who this man was but none are conclusive. The name means “Friend of God” which is a Greek name but this man is believed to be a first century Roman official who was given this name when he was saved.
Together the books of Luke and Acts make up more than 30 percent of the New Testament. The book of Acts is believed to be a sequel to the first book. The book of Luke ends with the ascension of Jesus. (Luke 24:50-53) It appears that Luke is writing this book as a historical account of the birth of the Church. Based on what we read in Luke 24 and these first few verses, Luke was not an eyewitness to these events so it was a secondhand account of these events. He used the pronouns, they and them.
1:3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke starts off confirming that Jesus truly died and was alive. He gives examples and stated that Jesus appeared over 40 days and said that Jesus even ate with them. He confirmed the prophecy of John the Baptist had come true? (Luke 3:16) John baptized with water and Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
1:6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and to the ends of the earth.”
This question asked by Jesus’ disciples tells us that they had not learned very much throughout their time with Jesus. They still thought Jesus was going to set up an earthly kingdom. Jesus did not give them an absolute answer. He told them that it was for them to know the time or date when that would happen. He answered them with a key verse of Christian Evangelism / sharing Jesus. We have heard sermons on the last words of Christ such as, “I thirst”, “Father forgive them” and “It is finished”. Acts 1:8 or “to the ends of the earth” are really the last words of Christ.
1:9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Next, Jesus was taken up on a cloud. This was the last or final appearance of the Lord after His resurrection. The ascension took place in the vicinity of Bethany. (Luke 24:45-53) Two angels appeared to those watching the ascension. They tell the “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
1:12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
When they got back to the upper room in Jerusalem, they prayed constantly. This list of disciples was not the same as one listed in Luke 6:14-16. The list in Luke included Judas Iscariot but now Judas was dead. Remember he is documenting for historical purposes. So having the list of disciples present would be historically accurate.
1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas,who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our numberand shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their languageAkeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
There were 120 believers present at this gathering. This is not believed to be all of the believers at this time. Peter stood up as the leader. Peter would have been nervous. He was a fisherman and would not have been accustomed to speaking in front of people. Peter starts with talking about Judas and what the Scriptures through King David had to say about Judas and his demise. He quoted Psalm 69:25 to tell what would become of the Field of Blood, the land that Judas purchased with the 30 pieces of silver. He quoted Psalm 109:8 to tell what their next step was.
Originally Jesus chose 12 disciples. Judas hung himself after giving Jesus over to the Sanhedrin. Now they needed to select a replacement.
1:23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.
24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Since they had two candidates to take Judas place, they prayed and then cast lots to determine which man would take Judas place.
The following verses tell us about casting lots or about why they were used.
Proverbs 18:18 King Solomon – ends a dispute
Joshua 18:10 Joshua distributes the land when the Hebrew nation took Israel
I Samuel 14:38-45 Should King Saul attack an army that included his son Jonathan.
Leviticus 16:6-10 The choice of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement
Jonah 1:7 Jonah – to decide who was at fault for the storm.
Matthias was chosen as the new 12th disciple.
Acts of the Apostles – Acts 2
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
As Pastor Brian says The important things in the Bible occur on one of the Jewish festivals. The Day of Pentecost occurs on the Jewish festival, Feast of Weeks. It originally celebrated the giving of the Law/Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. It was celebrated on the 50th day after Passover. (Leviticus 23:15-21) Pentecost means 50th Day in Hellenistic Judaism. It occurs Post Barley and Pre-Wheat harvest. In 2019, Passover will occur on 19-April 2019 and Pentecost will occur 8-June 2019. Pentecost is a new covenant that celebrates the birth of the church or when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples.
Here at the beginning of the Church we find the Christians or believers together in one place. The source of the rushing wind was Heaven. The word for ‘wind’ is ‘pneuma’ which is the same word used by Jesus to explain the Holy Spirit to Nicodemus. John 3:7-8
2:3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”
The Holy Spirit appeared to the believers in the house As a tongue of fire on each of them. This signified that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The following verses tell us about the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:15 John the Baptist will be filled with the HS before he is born
Luke 1:35 Mary and the Virgin birth
Luke 3:22 Jesus baptism
Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist – baptism with water vs the Holy Spirit
John 14:16-17 Jesus tells about the HS coming the Advocate
John 16:7b Jesus says He must leave so the HS can come
John 16:13-14 More details about the coming of the HS
2:4b “and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
“These were languages that they were never taught, and they spoke these languages, speaking as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Guzik
We know that they were not speaking in a new strange language by this verse because it says they began to speak in OTHER tongues.
The Greek word for ‘other’ used here is ‘heterais’. The word ‘heterais’ is also used in the following verses. The following verses do not refer to something new but just another of something that already exists.
Ephesians 3:5 other generations
Luke 4:43 other towns
“Galileans had difficulty pronouncing gutturals and had the habit of swallowing syllables when speaking; so they were looked down upon by the people of Jerusalem as being provincial.” (Longenecker)
There were so many different Jews speaking different languages in Jerusalem because it was the Festival of the Weeks. If you look into Israel’s history all of Israel and Judea were exiled. When captured, they were sent all over the middle east, so they learned other languages. Luke listed all of the different people that present to verify that there were more than just a few languages.
The people around them think that those believers speaking in tongues are drunk. We know that the speakers are speaking in tongues and not the hearers are hearing in tongues because Luke told us that only the Holy Spirit came on the speakers/ believers and not all of Jerusalem. They were trying to explain the supernatural with something they could understand.
Peter Addresses the Crowd
2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Here we see Peter stand up and start to speak. Peter said that they weren’t drunk “It is 9 in the morning.” This was prophesied about in the Old Testament (Book of the Law). As Jews, they would have heard these scriptures. Peter quoted the Prophet Joel. This prophecy was about the End times. This verse talks about supernatural events occur at the end times. Peter would have been like us. He looked at the times they were living in and believed it must be the end times.
God meets Peter where he is. These were not believers. They were devout Jews. The verse ends with “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Does this sound like a perfect time for an altar call?
2:22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Peter says “miracles, wonders and signs” were used by Jesus in His earthly ministry. Peter credited those listening to his sermon with the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter did not sugar coat his message, he even called them wicked. This doesn’t sound like someone trying to convince them to become converts. “You killed Jesus!” Even today, we helped killed Christ. Mel Gibson felt that he contributed to the crucifixion of Christ. So much so, that his hand appears in the Passion of the Christ holding the hammer and pounding in the nails. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. According to Peter, this was not by accident, it was according to God’s plan and foreknowledge.
Peter moves right on to the Resurrection. He didn’t prove it, he just proclaimed it. Peter quotes David in Psalm 16:8-11 show that these verses were not about him but this was a prophecy about the coming Christ or Messiah. Peter says that David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. David was a Shepherd and King but Peter credits David with being a Prophet. According to Peter, if the prophecy was about David, his body would not have decayed and wouldn’t still be in the tomb. Peter is making Jesus the unifying link between the Old and New Testaments. Peter uses another reference from the Psalms (Psalm 110:1) to point out that not only was Jesus the Christ or Messiah but that He was sitting at the right hand of God. In verse 36, Peter puts it all together for them. “ God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
The source of Peter’s knowledge about who Jesus was in Matthew 16:13-17 was God and the source of Peter’s knowledge about who Jesus was in these verses was the Holy Spirit. These sources are the same.
2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Those who heard Peter’s message were moved by the Holy Spirit or cut to the heart. You must respond to the Gospel message. You can either accept it and move closer to God or reject it and your heart is hardened to it. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. Peter told these men that they had put the Messiah to death. Yet there is room at the cross for them.
Peter says in verse 39 that the promise of God is for “You and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” About 3000 accepted the message and were baptized that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The final six verses in Chapter 2 give us a blueprint of the things that a church should be doing. From these verses we can make a list of these things.
Studying God’s word
Spending time together
Sharing property and wealth with anyone in need.
Meeting together in church
Eating together in their homes
Enjoying their time together
As a result, God blessed their number
Acts of the Apostles – Acts 3
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3:1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Obedient Jews in Jesus day went to the Temple to pray three (3) times a day. They prayed during the morning sacrifice, during the afternoon sacrifice and at sunset. Peter and John were entering the Temple with plans of worshiping and praying and were most likely not looking for an opportunity to witness. They encountered a Beggar who was lame. This tell us that as we go through our daily lives, we should expect to have the opportunity to share the Gospel.
Earlier this year Terry and I went to hear Dr. David Jeremiah speak. During his sermon, he talked about the beggars that were sitting outside the arena. He said that it was important that we SEE them. Peter and John looked directly at him. The first thing that Peter said to the man was “Look at us!”
3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
I can’t imagine that Peter’s response was what the beggar expected. Peter told him “I don’t have money but I can make you walk.” Peter then helped him up. Peter gave credit for the healing to Jesus Christ. Peter, John and the beggar went into the temple courts. This was significant because a person with a defect was not allowed into the temple. Leviticus 21:16-18 This man probably hadn’t ever gone inside the temple courts. The people that recognized the beggar were filled with wonder and amazement. Put yourself in their place. What would be your response?
Peter Speaks to the Onlookers
3:11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
Why did Peter say that they shouldn’t be so surprised? How does this compare to Acts 2:22?
The onlookers should have seen or at least heard about Jesus. They are the same.
3:13b “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
Peter charges them with putting Jesus to death but credits God with raising Him back to life. This is the same as in Acts 2:23-24. This approach seems counterintuitive. In verse 16, Peter gives credit to God/Jesus for his strength and the healing of the lame beggar.
Peter was not afraid to confront their sin, and he shows amazing boldness. “One commentator says that the miracle of the speech of Peter is a far more wonderful one than the miracle wrought in the healing of the man who lay at the Beautiful Gate.” (Morgan)
3:17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets,saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’
In verse 17, Peter says the root cause for them putting Jesus to death was the ignorance of them and their leaders. Peter is explaining to these Jews that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ who was foretold by the Prophets. Peter calls on these Jews to repent. This means more than apologizing but it is a change in their lives.
“Repentance does not describe being sorry, but describes the act of turning around. And as he used it in chapter two, here also Peter makes repent a word of hope. You have done wrong, but you can turn around to get it right with God!” (Guzik)
Peter keeps going back to the Old Testament/Book of the Law. In this case he quoted Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 19 to show that Moses prophecied about Jesus as the prophet and if they didn’t listen to him, they would be cutoff or destroyed. (NASB). The Greek word used here is ‘exolethreuō’ and it means to be “utterly destroyed”. It is only used once in the Bible.
These religious Jews had to be thinking Peter was a fisherman. Acts 4:13 says “they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
3:24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Peter starts in these verses with the Prophet Samuel. He then connected them with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the covenants that God made with them. He pointed out that they were heirs of the promises made by God through the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah. Finally, he connected Abraham to Jesus and the initial or first offering of salvation was given to the Jews.
“Just as the lame man was hindered by expecting something from God, but expecting the wrong thing, so it was with the Jewish people at this time. They were expecting the Messiah, but not the right kind of Messiah. They were looking for a political Messiah, not one to turn every one of you from your iniquities. Are you expecting the right things from God today?” (Guzik)
Acts 4 (NIV)
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
4:1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
Chapter 4 continues after Peter and John healed the lame beggar. “So, the priests, captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John.” Why do you suppose that the Sadducees are named but not the Pharisees? Besides the fact that the Sadducees were in power at this time in history, their beliefs were being attacked more by what John and Peter were saying. Although there were differences in the beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Sadducees rejected life after death or the resurrection of the dead. They also interpreted the law differently. Leviticus 24:20 says “an eye in for an eye”, the Pharisaic understanding was that the value of an eye was to be paid by the perpetrator. In the Sadducees’ view, the words were given a more literal interpretation, in which the offender’s eye would be removed.
The whole purpose of this ordeal was meant to intimidate John and Peter. It had to be a troubling ordeal for them. John and Peter spending the night in jail made me think of someone that was drunk and disorderly. Spend the night in jail to sober up or in this case, one night in jail to make you think correctly. As you read these early chapters of Acts, I want you to consider the difference in the behavior of the disciples, as well as the Jewish leaders. Throughout the final chapters of the Gospels, the disciples were tentative, lost and unsure of themselves when Jesus was crucified. Here they are speaking boldly. Unafraid of what might happen to their physical bodies. You find yourself asking, “Are these the same men?” The answer is “No”. They have been forever changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I was recently asked, “Why did Jesus have to leave?” I believe that part of the reason is so that the Holy Spirit could come and give God’s power to all believers. In His human form, Jesus was one man but the Holy Spirit could indwell all believers thus forever changing the lives of numerous believers. Additionally, many men tend to be followers unless challenged or pushed to step out. For three years these men followed Jesus. After Jesus was crucified they returned to fishing. This wasn’t what God wanted them to do. Christianity would have ended if it had been left up to these disciples alone. Acts 1:8 tells us that they received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. It was the life-changing power of God through the Holy Spirit.
The Jewish leaders finished those same verses victorious. They had crucified Jesus and ended what they considered heresy. At that time they were sure they wanted Him dead. Now they seem unsure of what they want. It is interesting how God can use us for His own purposes. Throughout Jesus entire life until today, the majority of Jews have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. This won’t change until the end times but the message is reaching Jews. We are told that their number grew from about 120 members to 3000 (see Acts 2:41) to 5000 members.
4:5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Pontius Pilate named Caiaphas the High Priest over his father-in-law, Annas, but you have to figure that he still had the power even though he was no longer the high priest. These are the same high priests that Jesus appeared before. Five of Annas’ sons became high priest’s after Caiaphas. The Jewish leaders asked Peter and John “By what power or what name did you do this?” They wanted to know by whose authority they were teaching. You can almost picture kids in a schoolyard, saying “Who said you could?”
4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
In verse 9 the words “called to account” are translated from the Greek word ‘anakrinomai’ which means that this was a preliminary inquiry and not a full trial. Peter and John answer the Jewish leaders with “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” and then by accusing them of the crucifixion of Jesus. They also poked these Sadducees by saying the God raised Jesus from the dead and they credited Jesus with healing the lame man. Peter called Jesus “the stone you builders rejected” from Psalm 118:22. Peter says that salvation can only come from Jesus and there is no one else that can save you.
“Instinctively, man responds: “Isn’t there some way that I can save myself? Isn’t Jesus just for those ones who can’t save themselves?” No. If you are going to be rescued; if you are going to be made right with God, Jesus is going to do it.” (Guzik)
4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.
These Jewish leaders saw the boldness of Peter and John. They also realized that they were uneducated and ordinary. The Jewish leaders were astonished but then they realized that they had been with Jesus. The text tells us that the healed man was standing right there with them and this truly shut up the Jewish leaders. They could not argue with the facts.
4:15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
The Jewish leaders ordered Peter and John to step out so they could decide what to do. The discussion sounds more like a political discussion than a religious one. The Jewish leaders were more concerned about how it would look to the people than being amazed by the healing of the lame man. No one that saw the healed lame man could deny that this was truly a miraculous sign.
4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The Jewish leaders told Peter and John to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter and John did not agree to do that. They said they should listen to God and not them (the Jewish leaders). They were going to testify to what they had seen and heard. What threats can you imagine these Jewish leaders would use to scare the disciples? After all, they did get Jesus put to death by crucifixion. They couldn’t punish Peter and John because the people were praising God. This man had been lame for over 40 years.
The Believers Pray
4:23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
When Peter and John told the other believers about their experience, what was their response? They specifically prayed about the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. They also prayed for boldness to speak and power to perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. After they prayed the place was shaken.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Dr. Luke tells us about how the Christians in the first church had great unity but he told us that these Christians were unselfish because they shared their possessions.
All things in common: It isn’t accurate to see this as an early form of communism. Communism is not koinonia. “Communism says, ‘What is yours is mine; I’ll take it.’ Koinonia says, ‘What is mine is yours, I’ll share it.’” (LaSor)
Luke even gave an example of such a believer. This believer had two names, Joseph and Barnabas.
Joseph was his name given at birth and Barnabas was given at re-birth. Barnabas was a good example because he was willing to sell land and give the money to the family without any stipulations. This was truly sacrificial giving.
Acts 5 (NIV)
Ananias and Sapphira
5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
At the end of Chapter 4, Barnabas sold his land and gave it to the apostles. Ananias and Sapphira kept back a part of the money from the sale of the land. There wasn’t anything wrong with them keeping a portion of the money. Peter told Ananias that it was ok to give a part but do not lie about it. The issue was they were taking credit for giving all of the money but they were keeping some of it. This was a lie. The ancient Greek word for kept back is nosphizomai, which means “to misappropriate.” The same word was used Titus 2:10a which means to steal. Ananias and Sapphira stole from God. Ananias’ punishment for cheating God was death and God carried out the punishment on Ananias. Their motivation for saying that they were giving all of the money from the sale was to they wanted the image of great generosity or to build their status and their egos.
In trying to deceive God and the apostles, Ananias was showing that he lacked faith, he was vain and a hypocrite.
5:7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
In verses 2 through 6, God judges and deals with Ananias. In these verses, God judges and deals with Sapphira.
“It is a good general rule that secret sins should be dealt with secretly, private sins privately, and only public sins publicly.” (Stott)
The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira caused great fear in the Church and to all who heard about it. This is the first time the Greek word ekklēsian is used in the Book of Acts. This word means church. The fear in the church was centered about the power of God and the ugliness of sin. Satan has slipped into our group of believers. The picture of the church here in Acts 5 is different than the one described in Acts 2:42-47. In Acts 2, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and there was a sense of unity and sincere hearts. Here there is a sense of fear and Ananias and Sapphira have brought discord to our group of believers.
The Apostles Heal Many
5:12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
In Chapter 3 and 4 (see Acts 3:11), Peter and John were captured by the Sadducees and Temple guard at Solomon’s Colonnade. Peter and John were commanded, “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Here they are in the same place performing many signs and wonders among the people. Because of their teaching and healing of the sick, the number of believers was increased.
In John 14:12, Jesus says “12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these”. It is not known for sure whether these signs and wonders are what Jesus was talking about but no other human will ever do what Jesus did. John 14:12 may mean that as a whole over the last 2000 years we may have done more than Jesus did. Despite the persecution that has occurred so far in Acts, the church has continued to grow. The disciples that we see here are different than the apostles we saw in Matthew 17:14-16. In Acts 5:16 the apostles were casting out demons from “those tormented by impure spirits” and in Matthew 17:14-16, the disciples had weak faith and did not have the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles Persecuted
5:17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
The apostles find themselves arrested and put in a public jail. An angel released them and told them to “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life.” God has added some divine humor here because Sadducees do not believe in angels
“Luke alternates between a picture of the church by itself…and a portrait of the church as it exists in its relationship to the world. The second portrait increasingly deals with persecution.” (Boice)
When the Jewish leaders arrived at the Sanhedrin they called for the apostles to be brought to them. They jailers could not bring them because they were gone. The text tells us that they found “The jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.
God does not always send angels to deliver us from trials. The apostles were delivered this time but in the future:
Matthew was beheaded with a sword.
Mark died in Alexandria after being dragged through the streets of the city.
Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.
John died a natural death, but they unsuccessfully tried to boil him in oil.
Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.
James was beheaded in Jerusalem.
James the Less was thrown from a height then beaten with clubs.
Philip was hanged.
Bartholomew was whipped and beaten until
Andrew was crucified and preached at the top of his voice to his persecutors until he died.
Thomas was run through with a spear.
Jude was killed with the arrows of an executioner.
Matthias was stoned and then beheaded – as was Barnabas.
Paul was beheaded in Rome.
Taken from https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Act/Act-5.cfm
5:25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
The apostles were found doing the same thing they had been doing the day before. They were NOT taken forcibly back to the Sanhedrin. The Temple guards were afraid of the people. This shows that popularity of Christianity. The Jewish leaders were angry because the apostles taught in the name of Jesus, filled the people with His teaching and they were afraid they would be accused of killing Jesus.
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
The reason that the apostles gave for disobeying the Sanhedrin was that same as they gave in Acts 4:19-20, they were following God’s commands and not man’s. Again Peter is not out to make friends. He accused them of putting Jesus to death. Peter is making the argument that Jesus was resurrected and is sitting at the right hand of God to a group of men who do not believe in resurrection or life after death. What do you think the reason for Peter making the same argument to the Jewish leaders? Is he trying to make them confess or feel guilty about putting Jesus to death or is Peter trying to get the High Priest to repent and come to the saving grace of Jesus. It is probably the latter. He truly understood that Jesus came for all people. Peter said that they were witnesses but so was the Holy Spirit. If he could have convinced these Sadducees to repent, it would have been a miracle. Their belief system did not include resurrection and spirits. Instead of accepting Jesus as the Messiah, the Jewish leaders wanted to put the apostles to death.
5:34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
One of the Pharisees, named Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin that other men had come and stirred things up but they came to nothing. He told them to “Leave these men alone! Let them go!” They would know if the apostles were from man or God because if it is from man, it will fail but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop it. So they flogged the apostles and let them go. It must not have been an extreme flogging as Jesus received as was depicted in the movie “The Passion of the Christ” because the text handles it in a matter of fact fashion.
5:41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah
They left the Sanhedrin rejoicing. They continued to teach in the temple courts and from house to house. They never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Acts 6 (NIV)
The Choosing of the Seven
6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘apostle’ as “one of an authoritative New Testament group sent out to preach the gospel and made up especially of Christ’s 12 original disciples and Paul.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘disciple’ as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another” In the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke uses the word apostle as someone that was taught by Jesus and a disciple believed in Jesus. Based on these definitions as believers we are also disciples of Jesus.
In these verses, we are told about two different kinds of Jews, Hellenistic and Hebraic. There are more than one kind of Jew because Israel and Judah were conquered and scattered. The Northern tribes of Israel were conquered by the Assyrians and scattered and then Judah was captured and taken to Babylon. Daniel 2:36-40 tells us about the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. When Daniel interpreted the dream with God’s help we find out that each section of statues body was a different country that would lord over Israel. These included the Babylonians (the golden head), Medes and Persians (the breast of silver), the Greeks (the brass thighs), the Romans (the iron legs) and the divided world (the feet of iron and clay). Jesus was symbolized by the destroying rock. At this point in time, Israel was under Roman rule. The Hellenistic Jews had ended up in Greece during the rule of Alexander the Great. The Hellenistic Jews spoke Greek and the Hebraic Jews spoke Aramaic from Assyrian and Persian control.
“Satan loves to use an unintentional wrong to begin a conflict. The Hebrews were right in their hearts, and the Hellenists were right in their facts. These were perfect conditions for a church-splitting conflict.” Guzik
The disagreement was about the care of widows was interfering with sharing the Gospel. Those that were preaching did not have time to spend taking care of widows.
6:5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The problem was solved by delegating the care of the widows to other men. They chose seven men who were of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. (NASB) Paul puts a title to these men in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8 and that title is ‘deacon’. 1 Timothy 3:8 says “In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.” These verses tell us that the deacons were ordained because they were chosen and then prayed over.
The important point about creating these positions was that spreading the Gospel was NOT more important than caring for the widows. One name stands out in the list above the rest and that is Stephen. Luke called him out specifically as being a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that they other men were not full of faith and of the Holy Spirit? No, Luke was most likely drawing attention to Stephen because of what happens later to Stephen. The result of solving this potentially divisive issue was that “the word of God kept on spreading; the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
In verse 3, the deacons are described as full of the spirit and of wisdom. In verse 5, Stephen is described as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Here in verse 8, Stephen is described as “a man full of God’s grace and power, they performed great wonders and signs among the people. It looks as though Stephen is growing beyond caring for the widows. Throughout the Gospels and Acts, we have seen that these characteristics in Jesus and the apostles. They have caused Jewish leaders to become jealous.
6:12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
These Jewish leaders began to argue with Stephen.
Those from Cilicia: “The mention of Cilicia suggests this may have been Paul’s synagogue before he was converted. He came from Tarsus in Cilicia.” (Lovett)
They weren’t successful because Stephen was speaking with wisdom and the Spirit. The Jewish leaders tried to overcome their inability to win their arguments with Stephen by creating false gossip or rumors or lies against Stephen. We have heard these same techniques used by the Jewish leaders during Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. Matthew 26:59-61 says “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally, two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
Popular opinion changed easily at that time. One minute they were for Stephen and against him the next. We saw the same thing happen to Jesus. Consider how they felt about Jesus in Luke 19:35-40 (Triumphal entry) and then in Luke 23:18-23. (Crucifixion) We are again facing the mob mentality. When they looked at Stephen they saw the face of an angel.
“The face of an angel also means that Stephen was at perfect peace. His face was not filled with fear or terror, because he knew his life was in God’s hands and that Jesus never forsakes His people.” Guzik
Acts 7 (NIV)
Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin
7:1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?
This verse gives the Sanhedrin the appearance that Stephen was getting a fair trial. We previously heard in Acts 6:11-14 that the Jewish leaders persuaded people to lie and give false witness in order to put Stephen on trial. Looking at Matthew 26:59-61, the Jewish leaders had not changed their tactics.
7:2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.
Stephen starts a dissertation on the Pentateuch with Abraham. These verses do not appear to be a defense in order to save himself. It appears that he knows where this trial is leading.
“A single thread runs right through the first part of his defense. It is that the God of Israel is a pilgrim God, who is not restricted to any one place…If he has any home on earth, it is with his people that he lives.” (Stott)
Stephen is starting his argument with God going to “the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran” to talk to Abraham because God has always been everywhere and is to be worshiped everywhere. The place, say the Temple in Jerusalem, is not as important as what is in your heart. In John 4:19-24, Jesus told us that there would come a time when we could worship God anywhere in spirit and truth. The false testimony presented against Stephen said that “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.” So Stephen is discussing this holy place (the Temple) and the Law. The statement that God gave the land to Abraham and his descendants even though he had no sons is significant because it shows that God always fulfills His promises.
7:6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
For 400 years, the Hebrew nation lived in bondage in the country of Egypt. During that time, God did not stay in the land settled by Abraham. See Genesis 15:13-14. Stephen is being thorough with his historical defense. He covers Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s twelve sons.
7:9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
Again Stephen says “God was with Him” pointing out that God did not stay home and talk to Joseph from a long distance. Stephen is very thorough in his historical account, He wants the Jewish leaders to know that he doesn’t have a superficial understanding of Jewish history or what we call the Old Testament. Joshua 24:32 says “And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants. This confirms that Stephen is still on track with his history of the Jews.
J.B Phillips wrote the New Testament in Modern English. He was a paraphrase and he would have told the Sanhedrin that “Your God is too small”. They were worshiping a small god that would fit in the Temple. God told David that He didn’t need a home on earth. In 2 Samuel 7:6 “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.”
7:17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
Stephen moves on to the story of Moses. Moses lived 120 years and Stephen broke up Moses life into 40 year chunks. The first 40 years were birth, salvation and education.
Moses was also like Jesus who would come after him, in that he was wise, skillful with words, and a man of mighty…deeds. (Guzik)
The next 40 years, Stephen covers the Hebrews’ rejection of Moses as their leader.
“Stephen’s message was plain: “You have rejected Jesus, who was like Moses yet greater than him, and you deny that Jesus has any right to be a ruler and a judge over you.” (Guzik)
7:30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
During the final 40 years, Moses became their deliverer even though they rejected him. Where is Stephen going? Stephen was trying to show these Jewish leaders that Jesus was like Moses. We consider Jesus much greater than Moses or any other man but at that time Moses was the greatest Bible figure that had lived. Everything in Jesus history went back to Moses leading the Exodus from Egypt. Stephen is talking about Jesus, the Messiah in verse 37 regarding Moses’ prophecy about a prophet like me. This is not the first time we have heard this prophecy in Acts. In Acts 3:22-23, Peter used it in Solomon’s Colonnade. Stephen is tying Moses and Jesus together. Both were prophets and deliverers of Israel but both were denied or rejected and both did miraculous signs.
7:39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.
44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: 49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’
What started out as a historical account, is turning into Stephen pointing out all their failings or faults. Stephen points out what was one of the greatest sins ever performed by the Israelites, returning to Egypt. They sinned in their hearts. Stephen is staying true to the Pentateuch. Verse 40 is a quote of Exodus 32:1. The false testimony presented against him said that “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.” Throughout this “sermon”, Stephen gave the Jewish leaders a history lesson on the Law and on this holy place.
Things are about to change.
7:51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
Merriam-Webster defines “stiff-necked” as haughty (blatantly proud) and stubborn. When I read these verses my mind when back to Matthew 23:13 and on. Jesus was warning these same men about their sins.
There are 6 things that Stephen accused these Jewish leaders.
Always resisting the Holy Spirit
You are doing just as your fathers did.
Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?
They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One,
Betrayers and murderers of Jesus.
You who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.
The Stoning of Stephen
7:54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
From the time that Stephen was arrested, he knew that this was where it was leading. He had defended his faith and proved that he did not speak against the Law and this holy place, the Temple but he knew it would end in his death. When Stephen looked up to heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
They stoned Stephen to death and a young man named Saul or Paul was present as a witness.
Stephen’s final words are very much like those of Jesus in Luke 23:34. “Father forgive them.”
Alfred Lord Tennison wrote of Stephen.
He heeded not reviling tones,
Nor sold his heart to idle moans,
Tho’ cursed and scorn’d,
and bruised with stones.’‘But looking upward, full of grace,
He pray’d, and from a happy place
God’s glory smote him on the face.’
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 8
8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
We are not told how much of a role Saul/Paul played in Stephen’s death. Luke merely tells us that Saul/Paul approved of putting him to death. Luke also says that this became a time of the great persecution. Saul began ravaging (NASB) or destroying (NIV) the church. He didn’t merely arrest them but he dragged them off. The believers were scattered throughout Samaria and Judea, except for the apostles who remained in Jerusalem. The word “But”, separates verses 2 and 3. Luke is comparing the Godly men that buried Stephen to Saul. Saul was imprisoning men and women.
Philip in Samaria
8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
It is interesting how the persecution of the Christians helped spread the Gospel. They were forced out of their comfort zone and began proclaiming the Gospel where they went. Specifically, we are told that Philip went to Samaria. Philip was not met with resistance from the people of Samaria. They saw and heard and believed. They were of one accord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip was able to cast out demons and heal the paralyzed or lame. We are told that there was rejoicing because of what God was doing through Philip.
Simon the Sorcerer
8:9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
The miracles that God was doing through Philip were also thought to be magic. Simon was not someone that Philip would have wanted to have associated with his ministry because Simon’s motivation was for personal gain. In the days of the Wild West, he would have been a snake-oil salesman. He would do anything to make a dollar. We know that the people were believing the correct message and for the right reason because they were accepting the message of Jesus and were being baptized. Even Simon was baptized and followed Philip for a time. Verse 12 says that Philip proclaimed (NIV) or preached (NASB and KJV) the good news. This was different than Simon the magician who was selling his message. Philip was proclaiming his message and allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work.
8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When the apostles heard what was happening in Samaria, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. This was because Philip was a layman baptizing in the name of Jesus and Peter and John baptized with the Holy Spirit.
“They sent Peter and John to them: When Jesus gave unto Peter (and the other apostles) the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19) it was really for this purpose. Here they officially welcomed those (the Samaritans) who had previously been excluded from the people of God into the kingdom of God.” (Guzik)
8:18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Simon saw that something more happened when Peter and John laid their hands upon the Samaritans. Simon offered the apostles money to obtain this gift. There is a word named for Simon which means the sin of buying or selling church offices or privileges, it is ‘Simony’.
8:20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
Peter rebuked Simon, essentially cursing him for his wickedness. He told him to repent and pray for forgiveness. Simon asked Peter to pray for him so that nothing that he said would happen. Then Peter and John headed home and they shared the Gospel to other Samaritan villages.
Philip and the Ethiopian
8:26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Philip, even though he is a layman or disciple, is the main character or even utterly indispensable
“If one heard the call to leave such a blessed, fruitful ministry, one likely would think it was the devil speaking and not the Lord. One might think, “Not now” or “Not me” or “Not there.” (Guzik)
An angel told Philip to head south toward Gaza. The road is described as a desert road, where he met an Ethiopian man heading to Jerusalem to worship. This man was a eunuch and he was important because he was responsible for the Ethiopian queen’s money. This man was reading the book of Isaiah. It seems strange to me that this Ethiopian man was going to Jerusalem to worship. He was not from a Jewish nation but he had found a Jewish book but not necessarily God.
8:30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Philip did what he was told, he went to the chariot and started talking to the man. God puts people in our path to witness to but sometimes we don’t listen. He started the conversation with a question. He said “Do you understand what you are reading?” The passage that the Eunuch was reading was Isaiah 53:7-8. This passage was a prophecy about the Messiah or the Christ who was Jesus.
8:36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
As they walked they came upon water, Philip gave the Eunuch an invitation to be baptized. There is no verse 37 in the NIV and NASB adds “Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” This verse is present in the original Greek. Philip and the Eunuch went down into the water and baptized the Eunuch. When they came out of the water, Philip was taken away. He appeared in Azotus which is Ashdod today about 40 miles away and then preached the good news of Jesus all the way to Caesarea about 60 miles away.
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 9
9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
Saul’s persecution of the members of the “Way” caused him to get permission to go to Damascus in Syria. Saul might need permission from the Sanhedrin to go into Syria to capture these believers to prove that he was who he said. He also may need to show that they were sanctioned arrests or they could be used as extradition papers. Believers were not called Christians until Antioch. Acts 11:26 tells us “and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Saul wanted to bring the believers back bound (NIV) or as prisoners (NASB). Just before they arrived in Damascus, all of the travelers heard a voice. Saul saw a bright light, so bright it could be seen in the middle of the day. It appears that Saul knew it was from heaven because he said “Who are You, Lord?” Saul heard Jesus talking to him. Jesus asked Saul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
9:6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
The men with Saul heard the sound or voice but didn’t see the light. The Greek word ‘phōnēs’ is used throughout the New Testament to mean ‘voice’ as in John 10:16 but the NIV translates it as ‘sound’. Voice could mean they could understand what was being said but Sound would mean they didn’t. They were true witnesses if they heard and understood the voices. We know the other men did not see the light because only Saul was struck blind. Jesus told Saul to get up, enter the city and wait and it will be told you what you must do. Saul did just what he was told but he had to be led into the city. He was without sight and did not eat or drink for three days. Many believe that it had to be three days because Saul was dying to his old self and he would be resurrected to the new Saul in the same number of days that Jesus was in the tomb.
9:9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
In Damascus, there was a disciple named Ananias. In a vision, Jesus told him to get up and go to Saul on Straight Street to help Saul regain his sight. Ananias did want to meet Saul because Saul has done terrible things to the believers in Jerusalem and he is authorized to arrest believers in Damascus. In the case of Ananias, the vision from God was specific. God told him about:
A specific street – Straight
A specific house – Judas
A specific man – Saul of Tarsus
A specific thing the man was doing – praying
A specific vision the man had – in Saul’s vision he has seen a man named Ananias.
9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Jesus told Ananias that Saul was a chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles, the kings and the sons of Israel. Jesus also told Ananias that He would show Saul “how much he must suffer for My name’s sake”. So Ananias did what Jesus told him to do.
He went to Saul,
He entered Saul’s house,
He laid his hands on Saul,
He healed Saul’s eyes,
He prayed for Saul to receive the Holy Spirit.
Saul responded by being baptized. Then he got up and ate.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
9:19b Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Paul immediately started telling people about Jesus. People that heard Saul preaching were in disbelief because they knew that Saul had persecuted the believers in Jerusalem. In the Greek, Saul was preaching that was Jesus the ‘Huios tou Theou’ which means ‘Son of God’.
“To preach that Jesus is the Son of God is also to preach the perfection of His life, and especially His work for us on the cross. It is to preach how God saves us through the work of Jesus.” (Guzik)
Saul could argue with the Jews because he was an educated Jew and he had seen the power of Jesus first hand.
9:23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
The Jews resorted to their old habits. If you can’t win the argument, kill your opponent. Saul was saved because other believers lowered him over the wall in a basket.
“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul, and sometimes he didn’t quite escape. Sometimes they caught him, imprisoned him, beat him. He did indeed have to suffer many things for Jesus’ sake.” (Boice)
9:26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
So Saul returned to Jerusalem. He did not receive a warm reception because the apostles and disciples were afraid of him. Barnabas took Saul before the apostles and testified on Saul’s behalf. Saul did not hide out in Jerusalem. He walked around Jerusalem speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. The result of Saul’s behavior in Jerusalem was the same as it was in Damascus, Saul had to be shipped out of town to Tarsus. The church became peaceful and stronger when Saul left town.
Aeneas and Dorcas
9:32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
At verse 32, Luke makes a shift to talk about Peter’s ministry. He heals a man that was bedridden or paralyzed for 8 years. The result of this healing was not just a physical healing but also spiritual healing of the man and those that lived in Lydda.
9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
Tabitha/Dorcas was described as a woman abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. She lived in Joppa (Tel Aviv today). She fell sick and died. Since Peter was in Lydda which was close to Joppa, they sent for Peter. So when Peter got there, he sent them all out, he knelt down, he prayed and said, “Tabitha, arise.” She was brought back to life. Believers rejoiced and many believed in the Lord because of the news of Tabitha’s resuscitation.
“As in the three resurrections Jesus performed, the raising of Dorcas was not resurrection in the technical sense of immortality. Yet our English word resuscitation, hardly seems strong enough. Dorcas died, and she would die again.” (K. O. Gangel)
Peter stayed with Simon the Tanner for many days. Luke included this information because he must be planning to use it again.
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 10
Cornelius Calls for Peter
10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
Now we are introduced to Cornelius who is a Roman Centurion. In Deuteronomy 1:15, Moses appointed men as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The centurion is over one hundred men. Now this leader was a Roman centurion which makes him a Gentile. This leader and all his family are described by Luke as devout and God-fearing; generous and prayful. Not what you would have expected from a Roman soldier and gentile.
“Because of the way the life and heart of Cornelius is described, we see a man who obviously had a real relationship with God. At the same time, he was not a part of the mainstream of Jewish life. (Guzik)
We are told that an angel came to Cornelius and told him to “send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.” Peter was staying with Simon the Tanner, sounds familiar right, the end of the last chapter.
In v 7-8 Luke tells us that People who act upon the revelation they have will be were given More Revelation, leading them to the truth of the gospel.
Romans 1:20 tells us that even though we have not been told about the Gospel we have no excuse for not knowing about God. God is everywhere in His creation. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
10:9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
So the Centurion is ready to meet Peter now God prepares Peter to meet the Centurion. This is interesting because when Philip was in Samaria, he baptized a number of Gentiles but it doesn’t sound like Peter has accepted them yet. While Peter was on the roof praying, he became very hungry and he fell into a trance. In his dream he saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. The sheet contained “all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.”
10:13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
God tells Peter to kill and eat these things. Peter refused to do what God asks him to do because obviously there were things in the large sheet that were not kosher and Peter was still a good Jew.
Leviticus 11 tells us what kinds of things are kosher or acceptable for a Jew to eat. The list includes cattle, not camels, not rabbits, not pigs, yes fish with scales and fins, not reptiles, not predator birds, not scavengers. God’s response was that what He cleansed, no longer consider unholy or unclean. This vision played out three (3) times.
“By the time the drama had been acted out the third time, Peter must have begun to get the idea that God was trying to tell him something, even though he did not know exactly what it was.” (Boice)
Some people take Peter’s vision as the freedom to eat whatever they want but Luke has already given us an indication in the first 8 verses of this chapter that the vision is about Gentiles. Jesus had already addressed unclean food in Mark 7:19. In Mark 7:19 we are told “For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)”
10:17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
It is interesting that while the Spirit had Peter’s attention, he told him about the men that Cornelius had sent to get him. As far as witnesses testifying for these men from Caesarea, they had the Spirit and an angel.
“By entertaining these Gentile guests, Peter went against the customs and traditions of Israel, but not against God’s Word. Possibly, at this very moment, God flooded Peter’s heart with an understanding that though the Old Testament said God’s people were not to become like their pagan neighbors, it also said God wanted His people to become a light to their neighbors who didn’t know the true God.
Peter at Cornelius’s House
10:23b The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.
They walked from Joppa to Caesarea which is about 38 miles. This is about a 45 minute drive by car or a 12 hour walk. I would have expected Peter and Cornelius’ meeting to be a quiet meeting behind closed doors but Cornelius had invited his family and close friends. When Cornelius first met Peter, Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet and worshiped him. Peter told him to stand up because Peter was just a man (NASB). We have seen in the past that when even angels were bowed to as Cornelius did Peter, the angels told the men to get up. Only the Son of God was worthy of being worshiped. For example, Daniel fell on his face and the angel told him to get up in Daniel 10. In Luke 8:28, a demon-possessed man bowed to Jesus but he wasn’t told to stand because he was in the presence of the Son of God.
“Peter and Cornelius honored each other. Peter honored Cornelius by coming all the way from Joppa to see him. Cornelius honored Peter by bowing low before him. They did just as Paul would later write, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10). ” (Guzik)
10:28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Peter told Cornelius that Jews should not associate with foreigners or visit them. One possible source of this law was Joshua 23:6-7. Joshua warns Israel not to associate with these nations that remain among you. The purpose of Joshua’s warnings was so they didn’t pick up other religions or gods. BUT God showed Peter “that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. We have heard this before in Acts 10:15 above. Peter came to Caesarea without objection because of the vision and what God had told him that God did not make anything that was unclean.
10:30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Cornelius tells Peter that he had been praying and a man stood before Cornelius and told him to send for Peter. The man’s directions were exact or precise. At this point, was Cornelius a Christian. I believe so, God heard his prayers and remembered his generosity. Cornelius then said “we are all present here before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.
“When you go to church, do you want to receive a good message? If so, the best way is to come with a prepared heart. I know that the preacher must be prepared too. But when God prepares the messenger as well as those who are to hear him, then tremendous things happen.” (Boice)
10:34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Peter starts his short sermon stating what he had learned from the last few days that God does not show any partiality. Peter says that God accepts anyone that fears Him and does what is right. Peter’s sermon covers all aspects of Jesus’ life. The sermon included:
Jesus was baptized (v 37) in identification with humanity
Jesus was anointed (v 38) with the Holy Spirit and with power.
Jesus went about doing good and healing and delivering those oppressed by the devil (v 38).
Jesus did this with the power of God (v 38), for God was with Him
Jesus did these things in the presence of eyewitnesses (v 39)
Jesus was crucified (v 39)
Jesus was raised from the dead resurrected, in view of many witnesses (v 40-41)
Jesus commanded His followers to preach the message of who He is and what He did. (v 42)
Jesus is ordained by God to be the judge of the entire world. (v 42)
Jesus is the one foretold by the prophets. (v 43)
10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
The order of the baptism and coming of the Holy Spirit in these verses differs from Acts 8:12-13, in Acts 8, Philip baptized and then Peter and John came and gave them the Holy Spirit. Here the Holy Spirit came upon them before they were baptized. The order doesn’t matter. The Baptism is an outward sign of what is going on inside. The Jews present with Peter so amazed because the Holy Spirit was given to ”even Gentiles”.
“Peter made the point clearly when he noted that they received the Holy Spirit just as we have. It wasn’t just that God loved or blessed the Gentiles that astonished them. It was that God loved and blessed the Gentiles just as He loved and blessed the Jews, and He did it while they were still Gentiles.” (Guzik)
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 11
Peter Explains His Actions
11:1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the news that he had gone into the house and ate with Gentiles or the uncircumcised by the circumcised or the Jews. It is interesting that even without email or snail mail, the news had traveled quickly to the Apostles and believers throughout Judea. The fact that Peter had eaten with Gentiles should have been an amazing thing but it appears it wasn’t acceptable to the Jews.
“This reaction of the Christian Jews shows how significant the change was that God initiated in Acts 10. The change said, to the Gentiles, “You don’t have to become Jews first, and put yourself under the Law of Moses first. Repent and believe, and you can come to Jesus.” But it also said to the Jewish followers of Jesus, “Receive your Gentile brothers and sisters as full members of the family of God. They aren’t inferior to you in any way.” (Guzik)
11:4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
Peter is being very thorough as he recounts the events leading up to the baptism of the Centurion and his family. Peter is not denying what had happened. He is telling them what had happened in great detail. He is making it a point to let them know that he did not act on his own. He did what he did because of direct orders from Heaven.
11:11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
In writing this chapter Luke could have copied the previous chapter. In these verses, Peter tells them how God is in control of the entire encounter. God had prepared things in Joppa, as well as Caesarea. Peter told them that he went with the men by the authority of the Holy Spirit.
11:15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Peter said that the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles just like it did for Peter and the other apostles and believers on the day of Pentecost. We have been told by John the Baptist that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:11 and Jesus told the apostles that they will also Baptist with the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5. Matthew 3:11 says, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Acts 1:5 says, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Isaiah 49:6 says that the Messiah will bring salvation to the Gentiles. Since they believed that Jesus was the Messiah then how could they argue with the conversion of Gentiles. Peter finishes his explanation with “And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way”. The response of the Jewish apostles and disciples was they stopped objecting and praised God. In the end, they accepted the Gentiles as brothers or joint/fellow heirs. Romans 8:17 tells us,” Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
The Church in Antioch
11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
When the Great Persecution started, most of the believers were in Jerusalem. The persecution caused the spreading of the Gospel to other places, like Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. They spread the message only to Jews but these verses tell us that they began speaking to the Greeks. These people were Gentiles. The result of being forced out of Jerusalem was growth in the number of believers.
“One might say that Jerusalem was all about religion; Rome was all about power; Alexandria was all about intellect, and Athens was all about philosophy. Adding to that, one might say that Antioch was all about business and immorality.” (Guzik)
When Peter took the Gospel to Cornelius at Caesarea, he was a devout man (Acts 10:2) and one who feared God. When the men of Cyprus and Cyrene brought the Gospel to Antioch, it came to an utterly pagan city.
11:22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Again without modern communication tools, the news of the successfully reaching the Greeks for Christ made its way back to Jerusalem. So the Christian leadership sent Barnabas to Antioch. When Barnabas saw what was happening in Antioch:
He witnessed the grace of God.
He began encouraging them.
He went to Tarsus to get Saul.
He found him.
He brought him to Antioch.
Verses 21, 24 and 26 tell us that God was blessing the outreach to the Gentiles or Greeks in Antioch. They stayed in Antioch for one year. The disciples were first called “Christians” in Antioch.
11:27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. Agabus, one of these prophets told them about a great famine would come during the reign of Claudius.
“We know from other sources that Claudius’s principate as marked by a succession of bad harvests and consequent scarcity in various parts of the empire – in Rome, Greece, and Egypt as well as in Judaea.” (Bruce)
The Christians or believers gave according to their means. After they collected the offering they sent it to the elders with Barnabas and Saul.
Boice, James Montgomery Acts, an Expositional Commentary (Baker Books, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1997).
Bruce, F.F. The Book of the Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988).
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 12
Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison
12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
When Chapter 11 ended, “the Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (v21) Now things have changed, King Herod has beheaded or killed the apostle James, the brother of John and the Jews were pleased. With the same first names, it makes you wonder how they could keep track of kings with the same names.
This was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great
Herod the Great ruled in the days of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-16).
Herod Antipas was the uncle of Herod Agrippa I, who had a part in the trial of Jesus (Luke 23:7-12).
The death of James was a significant blow to the Christians because it showed there was no divine protection for the apostles. The King had Peter arrested. He was being guarded by sixteen soldiers. The trial was going to be held after the Festival of the Unleavened Bread which is part of Passover.
12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
While Peter was in prison, the believers prayed for him. It would not be easy for Peter to escape because he was chained to two soldiers and there were two sentries guarding the door. An angel appeared, lit the cell and woke up Peter and the chains fell off his wrists.
12:8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
This angel is different from the angel and Spirit in Chapter 10 seen by Peter and Cornelius because what is happening is real and in Chapter 10 it was a vision. Peter thought he was in a vision. Peter was NOT met with resistance as he left the prison. He walked past the guards. Peter was not sure that it was not a vision until he got outside the prison and the angel left him.
12:12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
Once Peter came to his senses, he went to the house of the mother of John Mark (author of the Book of Mark). Peter chose to go to this house because he knew people would be gathered and praying. The girl that answered the door was so excited about hearing Peter’s voice that she left him outside. The people that had gathered inside the house told her that she was out of her mind. Their explanation was that it must be “his” angel. This verse leads some to believe in guardian angels. Peter kept knocking on the door. When they went to the door they were astonished because there stood Peter. Peter told them to tell “James and the other brothers and sisters about” his escape. Has Peter lost his mind? James, the brother of John was dead. This must be another James, the brother of Jesus. Galatians 1:19 tells us, “The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother.” Then Peter headed to another place.
12:18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
The escape of any prisoner was not a small problem for the guards. They not only lost Peter but they lost their lives.
“The execution of the guards was customary. In that day, if a guard’s prisoner escaped, the guard was given the penalty due to the prisoner – in this case, death.” (Guzik)
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
In these verses we find Luke adding some historical information. King Herod traveled to Caesarea where he was quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon, who depended on Israel for food. It is interesting to note that more than 1000 years before this happened, King Hiram of Tyre struck an agreement to supply cedar to build the Temple and other building projects for King Solomon. In return for the cedar, King Solomon would supply huge amounts of food to King Hiram of Tyre (See 1 Kings 5:10-12). Herod was arrogant and did not praise God. The people shouted that he was a god and not a man. Herod was struck dead because he was corrupt inside and out.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus – writing to the Roman world – also described the death of Herod in gory detail (Antiquities, XIX.8.2).
“He put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another (though not for his good), that he was a god…A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner…when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”
12:24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
Barnabas and Saul Sent Off
25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
Verse 24 says, “The word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Barnabas and Saul returned from their mission to Jerusalem bringing with them John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark.
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 13
13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Just as a reminder of who Barnabas was, Acts 4:36 says Barnabas was also called “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). This is Paul’s first missionary journey. There was an interesting group of men on staff at the First Baptist Church of Antioch. The NLT Bible says Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas, and Saul. Figure 1 shows the route Paul took on his first missionary journey.
The Holy Spirit called Saul and Barnabas for mission work. So the others fasted, laid hands on them, prayed for them and sent them out.
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
Antioch is in Syria and so is Seleucia which was a seaport where they could catch a boat to the island of Cyprus. Salamis is a town on the island. They proclaimed the Word of God. John Mark was with them as a trainee/assistant/helper/apprentice.
13:6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
When they arrived in Paphos the proconsul (governor) wanted to hear the word of God but a sorcerer with two names, Bar-Jesus (means son of Jesus) and Elymas (means sorcerer) was trying to keep the proconsul from faith or believing the Gospel message. As it says in verse 9, Paul simply had two names. Up to now, Luke has been using his Jewish name which was Saul of Tarsus and from now on he will call him Paul. It is interesting that Paul was struck blind on the road to Damascus and here Paul strikes the sorcerer blind. The proconsul saw and believed what he saw and was taught by Paul and Barnabas.
In Pisidian Antioch
13:13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
They traveled to Pisidian Antioch which is in modern day Turkey. John Mark returns to Jerusalem. These verses merely state that John Mark left for Jerusalem. We find out later that Paul had issues with him and sent him back. I would not expect to find a Jewish synagogue this far from Jerusalem (almost 900 miles). It goes back to the Assyrians conquering the northern tribes of Israel and spreading them all over the area. Paul and Barnabas are asked to preach or speak.
“A first-century synagogue service followed a general order. Opening prayers were offered, and then there was a reading from the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament). Then, a reading from the Prophets. Then, if there was an educated person present, they were invited to speak on subjects related to the readings.” (Guzik)
The leaders of the synagogue invited Paul and Barnabas to speak. This was a perfect opportunity for Paul to preach the Gospel message to these Jews. Remember the synagogues were an extension of the Temple and not a replacement.
13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
Paul started his sermon explaining how Jewish history leads to Messiah/Christ, who is Jesus. Remember Pastor Brian has told us before that Christ is a title for Jesus and not part of His name. He takes them through the Exodus from Egypt, 40 years in the wilderness, the distribution of the inheritance to the tribes of Israel, the Judges, the Prophet Samuel, King Saul and King David.
“This survey of Israel’s history demonstrates that God has a plan for history, and we need to sense a connection to that plan. Jesus is the goal of history, and as we are in Jesus, we are in the flow of God’s great plan of redemption.” (Guzik)
13:23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb.
After leading them through the Law and the Prophets to Jesus, Paul uses the examples of John the Baptist and the Jewish leaders to show how people have accepted and rejected Jesus. Paul was making it clear that John the Baptist did the right thing, accepting Jesus. As the one called to bring the Gospel message to the Gentiles, Paul is starting with the Jews. In verse 26, Paul points out that the message of salvation was sent to Jews first. In earlier chapters, we have read about Peter and John attacking the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem for crucifying Jesus. Here Paul is saying THOSE Jews in Jerusalem put Jesus to death.
13:30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
“‘You are my son;
today I have become your father.’
34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
35 So it is also stated elsewhere:
“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
Paul makes two facts clear (1) Jesus was dead and God raised Him from the dead. There were numerous witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. He uses two Psalms to testify about the promises made to their Jewish ancestors about Jesus. Psalm 2:7 tells them that Jesus is the son of God. Psalm 16:10 tells them that Jesus was holy even in His work on the cross. He made it clear that Jesus’ body did not undergo decay because of the resurrection.
“We should not miss an emphasis on events in Paul’s preaching here; it is so evident that it can be missed. He focused on things that actually happened, not on philosophy or even theology. “Christianity is not just a philosophy or a set of ethics, though it involves these things. Essentially Christianity is a proclamation of facts that concern what God has done.” (Boice)
13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
that you would never believe,
even if someone told you.’”
Paul makes it clear regarding forgiveness of sins can only come through Jesus. The Law can’t save you, you can’t save yourself. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Salvation is a gift, it does not come through works.
“Some refuse to embrace the salvation of Jesus in the secret place of their heart, because they want a salvation of their own making. They want to be saved the old-fashioned way – they want to earn it. (Guzik)
Theologically, the word ‘justified’ means to be made righteous or worthy of salvation. We cannot become righteous on our own. We are given righteousness by God through faith in Jesus. Paul covers this further in Romans 3:21-26, which says, “21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
13:42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The Gospel message demands a response. You can accept it and be changed forever or reject it and be lost forever. Many of the Jews and proselytes (Gentile converts to Judaism) accepted the Gospel message and wanted to hear more.
13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region
Can you imagine a worship service in Alexandria where “nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.” When we used to have the joint Labor Day services or Funday Sunday, we had less in attendance than a normal ABC Sunday.
The response of the Jews differed from the response of the Gentiles in that the Jews got angry and the Gentiles celebrated. The Jews rejected the Gospel message because they were jealous. Paul is still using the Law and the Prophets to defend bringing the message to the Gentiles. Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6 tells us that “(God)he says: . . . I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” The result of Paul’s ministry here was that the Gospel message spread throughout the region.
13:50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
The Jewish leaders did what the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had done, they stirred up persecution of Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas moved on shaking the dust from their feet as a warning. This warning is covered in Matthew 10:11-15 which says, “11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
It says that the town will be treated like a God-rejecting town. It will be treated worse than Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of judgment. Paul and Barnabas did not take it personally. It was God’s message that the Jews were rejecting.
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 14
14:1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.
In Chapter 13, we learned that in Pisidium Antioch, the leaders of the Jewish synagogue kicked out Paul and Barnabas. They have developed a plan for their missionary work:
Only go to the cities.
Go to the synagogues and preach to the Jews
If they reject the message, go to the Gentiles.
Paul has been called the missionary to the Gentiles, but here we see that he has not forgotten about the Jews. Acts 13:46 doesn’t say that Paul turned away from ALL Jews, just the unbelieving Jews of Pisidium Antioch. Unfortunately, the unbelieving Jews not only rejected the message, but they also poisoned the minds of the Gentiles and embittered their minds against Paul and Barnabas, as well as the other believers. They literally “caused their minds to think evil”. Instead of leaving Iconium, they stayed longer. They spoke boldly about God’s grace and proved the message with miraculous signs and wonders. (NLT) Those that heard the message were divided. Some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.
14:5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.
Today, if you ask most people why they don’t witness for Christ, they say people will think that I am weird or they will reject me. Here in Iconium attempts were made to mistreat and stone them. They may have stayed longer but in the end, they had to flee to cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region.
In Lystra and Derbe
14:8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
When they arrived in Lystra, they came upon a lame man. This healing is different from Peter’s healing the man in Acts 3:4-9. In Acts 3, Peter took the man by the hand. He had not heard the Gospel message. Here in Acts 14, it tells us that the man was healed by his faith upon hearing the Gospel message.
14:11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
“The miracle merely attracted attention, and in a way, it was unwanted attention. The miracle itself saved no one.” (Guzik)
The people that saw the miracle praised Paul and Barnabas as gods. They called Barnabas, the god Zeus (King of the Greek gods) and Paul the god Hermes (son of Zeus, messenger to the gods). The people of Lystra were going to sacrifice bulls to Paul and Barnabas at the Temple of Zeus.
14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Paul and Barnabas were upset because the people from Lystra had missed the entire message. They worshiped the messengers and not the true God. We know that Paul and Barnabas were upset because verse 14 says, “They tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out that they were just men and giving credit to God. “ Paul said that God was “a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” This did not stop them from wanting to worship Paul and Barnabas, they still wanted to offer sacrifices for them.
“Paul did not preach to these pagan worshippers the same way he preached to Jews or those acquainted with Judaism. He did not quote the Old Testament to them, but instead appealed to natural revelation, to the things that even a pagan could understand by looking at the world around them. “
14:19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Even as Christians, bad things can follow us around. Things were going well until some Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium arrived to ruin things. These Jews stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city and left him for dead. Typical human nature says that after the opposition that Paul and Barnabas had received, it is time to give up but they didn’t, they headed to Derbe.
The Return to Antioch in Syria
14:21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia,
After preaching in Derbe, they headed back through the cities that they had previously preached in. As they passed through each city, Paul and Barnabas –
Strengthened the believers
Encouraged them to continue in the faith
Reminding them that we must suffer
appointed elders in every church
When they appointed the elders, they did it with prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord.
“It has more than once been pointed out that more recent missionary policy would have thought it dangerously idealistic to recognize converts of only a few weeks’ standing as leaders in their churches; perhaps Paul and Barnabas were more conscious of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the believing communities.” (Bruce)
14:25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
It is kind of obvious that Attalia is a seaport city. They took the opportunity to evangelize in this city. They missed this city on their way in from Paphos on the island of Cyprus. They caught a boat and made their way back to Antioch in Syria. The return to Antioch completed Paul’s first missionary journey. He needed to report what had occurred on the trip.
“The trip was a great success, though not without great obstacles: The difficulty of travel itself, the confrontation with Elymas on Cyprus, the quitting of John Mark, being driven out of the cities of Antioch and Iconium, the temptation to receive adoration, and being stoned in Lystra. Yet Paul and Barnabas would not be deterred from the work God had them to do.”
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 15
The Council at Jerusalem
15:1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.
At the end of Chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas had returned to the city of Antioch of Syria. In these verses, we find men coming from Judea to teach the believers in this city. From these verses, we can conclude that these men were Jewish Christians that were sent by themselves. These “certain” men taught that you must convert to Judaism (become a Jew) to be saved. Men must be circumcised. This would put Christians under the Law.
While Paul and Barnabas were in Pisidian Antioch Paul taught in Acts 13:39, “39 And by Him [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Paul taught that salvation came from Jesus alone and no the Law. Even Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18 that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but came to fulfill them. He fulfilled prophecy and the Law. We are now under the Law of Christ. Our righteousness comes from Christ through faith. Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation is a gift given through faith and not of works.
So the leaders from Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to talk to the Apostles and elders. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told believers that Gentiles had become believers in Jesus as the Christ. This fact made the people of Samaria happy because the Samaritans were not accepted into Judaism. They had a way to get to God without becoming Jews.
15:4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem they were greeted by the Apostles and elders. In verse 5, we find the Pharisees who are now believers were putting the Law first, again. They were saying that believers must be circumcised and held to the Law. We should not confuse the Law with the Ten Commandments. The Law included guidelines for living, as well as circumcision, food laws and sacrifices.
15:6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
Fortunately, Peter was part of the group. Peter had had a vision in Joppa about a Roman centurion in Caesarea. He understood that God had not made anything unclean and that it was acceptable for Gentiles to gain salvation through Jesus. God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Both were given the Holy Spirit without converting to Judaism. Peter points out that they were saved by faith in Jesus. Everyone listened silently showing that these men had honorable hearts not like the Jewish leaders or the Jews that they had encountered on their journey. Paul and Barnabas were able to report on the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.
15:13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
18 things known from long ago.
This man named James was the brother of Jesus and the author of the Book of James. His examples were taken from the Book of the Law and Prophets because these were mostly Christian Jews that he was speaking to. It is interesting that James uses the previous form of Peter’s name Simeon or Simon. From Peter’s experience, he says that God has shown that Gentiles are acceptable to bring directly to Himself without first becoming Jews. He quotes Amos 9:11-12 to tell them that God’s word concerning the Gentiles is fulfilled in Paul’s missionary trip.
15:19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
James reduces the requirements for becoming a Christian. He lists four laws that the Gentiles should abstain from: Food polluted by idols; Sexual immorality; the meat of strangled animals; blood. Abstaining from sexual immorality is understandable but abstaining from food polluted by idols goes back to Leviticus 17:8-9. It is food sacrificed to idols. Easting this food would have pointed to the god or gods that it was sacrificed to. It did not point to the true source, the one true God of Israel. For the issue with blood see Leviticus 17:10-12 and Genesis 9:4. These verses give this warning “‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.” The blood was where the living part of the animal was believed to be. If an animal is strangled it is more difficult to remove all of the lifeblood. They wanted the lifeblood drained for the same reason as above. James chose these laws because they were listed in the book of Moses and this book had been taught in the synagogues so surely all Jews or anyone being taught there would know these laws.
The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers
15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
A letter was adopted to take to the Gentiles so everyone would have the same understanding of what was required of them. We know that salvation comes from faith in Jesus alone. It does not require the addition of four additional laws. Barnabas and Paul, as well as two chosen delegates Judas called Barsabbas and Silas were sent to take the letter to Antioch in Syria.
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
The letter was very simple. It contained a salutation, introduction of Judas and Silas, a list of the four laws that all believers should follow and a closing.
15:30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. [34But it seemed good to Silas to remain there. (early versions did not contain v 34]35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
We are told that they went to Antioch and delivered the letter. I picture Judas and Silas spending extra time explaining the laws contained in the letter. Judas and Silas went back to Jerusalem and Barnabas and Paul stayed in Antioch teaching.
Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
“Paul had the heart of both an obstetrician (bringing people into the body of Christ) and a pediatrician (growing people up in the body of Christ).” (Guzik)
We see a disagreement about whether or not to take John-Mark on this second mission trip. In Acts 13, we learned that they had taken him with them to help as far as Cyprus. Acts 13:13 told us that he went back to Jerusalem. Although it doesn’t say much in Acts 13 about why he left them, it must have been under less than honorable circumstances because Paul refused to take him along on this trip. So much so, that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus but Paul chose Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia.
“Strengthening the churches: This was Paul’s work, in addition to evangelism. New Christians needed strong churches to grow and mature in.”(Guzik)
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 16
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16:1 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.
As Paul starts out on his second missionary journey, we are told he goes to Lystra and then to Derbe. Derbe was the last town that Paul and Barnabas went to on their first missionary journey before they turned around and retraced their path going back to Antioch. Read Acts 14:20-21. Present on this trip was Paul and Silas and not Barnabas. They added Timothy who was highly recommended in that area. His mom was a Jew but his dad was a Greek. 2 Timothy 1:5 tells us more about Timothy and his lineage. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
16:3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
I think it was unusual for Paul to circumcise Timothy before taking him with them. But by doing so, Timothy becomes above question by the Jews. After the meeting of the in Acts 15, Paul and Silas were teaching a Gospel message approved by the Christian apostles and elders in Jerusalem. We have seen during Paul’s travels thus far that just because he has the Holy Spirit in him, does not me that he can get along with everyone. As Acts 15 closed, Barnabas and John Mark headed out without Paul. Loving someone doesn’t always equal living in perfect harmony with them. God must have blessed what they were doing because we are told that their visit strengthened the churches, strengthened their faith and their numbers grew.
Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia
16:6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.
Paul, Silas and Timothy headed on their journey. We will see some of these names of the regions again in Paul’s epistles or letters and the seven churches in John’s Book of Revelation. This region stands out from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Phrygia, Galatia, Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia were all districts in what is now Turkey. The Holy Spirit would not let them pass into Bithynia which is in the region of Ephesus.
“It is difficult to say exactly how the Holy Spirit said no; it may have been through a word of prophecy, or by an inward speaking of the Holy Spirit, or by circumstances. One way or another, Paul and his company got the message. Ephesus would come later, not now.” (Guzik)
16:9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Paul had a vision. In it, Paul was being welcomed into Macedonia. He concluded that God was calling them to Macedonia. In verse 6, Dr. Luke used the pronoun “they” and after going to Troas in verse 8, he is now using the pronoun “us” or “we”. This suggests that when they went to Troas they picked up Luke.
“Now we see another reason why they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. We see another reason why the Spirit did not permit them to go into Bithynia. God wanted Paul and his team to go to Troas and pick up a doctor named Luke. Because God said “no” to Paul these two times, we have a gospel and a Book of Acts written by Doctor Luke. (Guzik)
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
16:11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
After picking up Luke, they headed by boat to Samothrace. According to theologians, they had perfect conditions or God was with them. This trip of about 150 miles took 2 days instead of five days as it will on their way back. Read Acts 20:6. In these verses, they visit another city that Paul will write a Letter or epistle to. It is the colony of Philippi.
16:13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas had developed a plan of going to the cities, then preaching first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. This is new territory. He finds a quiet place where people are willing to listen. This scene makes me think of one of the songs our choir sings “Let’s Go Down to the River to Pray”. At this riverbank, they meet a woman named Lydia. She was a worshiper of God from Thyatira. We will hear of her hometown again in Revelation. It is one of the seven churches.
“Before Lydia was converted (as demonstrated by her baptism), the Lord opened her heart. This is a work God must do in all who believe because as Jesus said, no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44). (Guzik)
Lydia becomes the first believer in Europe. Not only did she invite them to stay at her home but she urged them until they accepted.
Paul and Silas in Prison
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
Paul and Silas ran into a demon-possessed female slave. The spirit inside her could foretell the future. She followed them around and yelled, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Not only was this annoying but it most likely scared people away. So Paul cast out the demon and the demon left immediately.
Bruce translates the phrase “It came out there and then.” He comments: “The words had scarcely left his lips when she was released from its power.”
16:19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
The female slave owners were mad because of their own greed. They realized that they had lost their only source of income. These slave owners trumped up charges saying that Paul and Silas were “ teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”
“In the Roman Empire there were two very different laws: one for citizens of the Roman Empire, and one for those who were not citizens. Roman citizens had specific, zealously guarded civil rights. Non-citizens had no civil rights, and were subject to the whims of both the multitude and the magistrates.” (Guzik)
What happens next is similar to what Pontius Pilate did to Jesus. If you don’t know what to do with someone, give them a beating. They were thrown into prison. Specifically, they threw them into the inner cell or dungeon and their feet were put into stocks to make sure that they were most secure. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-30.
“23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin,and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
In these verses, Paul is boasting about what God or Christ has gotten him through. What he is enduring here in Philippi is just one example.
16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
At midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. The violent earthquake caused the prison doors to fly open and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer tried to kill himself because as we learned previously if a prisoner escapes from a Roman jail, the jailer received the penalty of their escaped prisoners. Paul stopped the jailer because no one had escaped.
“This man was more affected by the love and grace demonstrated by Paul and Silas than by the earthquake. As well, this may have even been the same guard who beat them a few hours earlier.” (Guzik)
16:30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
The jailer’s response was to ask how to be saved. Paul and Silas’ reply was a God-given answer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved: You and your household.”
“This is how God wants our lives to be: Natural magnets drawing people to Him. Our Christianity should make others want what we have with God.”(Guzik)
The jailer’s response to salvation was to make sure his family was saved then he took care of their wounds. The jailer took them to his house and fed them. Everybody rejoiced because they all accepted the Lord.
16:35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
In the morning, they were let go. I find it strange that after a beating and a night in prison, now Paul brings up that they are Roman citizens. Remember being a Roman citizen would have prevented the beating and kept them out of prison. All that Paul asked for was to have the magistrates escort them out of the city. They went to Lydia’s house and spent time encouraging other believers. Then they left Philippi.
“It was a strange and wonderful church they left behind in Philippi: Lydia, perhaps the slave girl, the jailer and his household, and others. The use of “they” here suggests that Luke stayed behind in Philippi for at least a while, perhaps to care for this new congregation.” (Guzik)
Acts of the Apostles – Chapter 17
17:1 When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
Read Matthew 13:3-9.
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
As we go through Acts 17 keep in mind that Paul is sowing the Gospel message to people with varying levels of understanding. The Jews had an understanding of God but the Greeks did not.
In Thessalonica, Paul begins to preach the Gospel in a Jewish synagogue. For three weeks he reasoned with the Jews regarding Jesus as the Messiah/Christ. I picture Aristotle or Socrates sitting in the audience as Paul tries to “reason” with them. However, these Greek philosophers were around almost 400 years before Paul. In the synagogue, Paul encountered various types of soil. Those that accepted the message were good soil but those that rejected the message was soil with thorns that choked the message. Notice it wasn’t just the Jews in the synagogue. Those that heard the message were Jews God-fearing Greeks and even women.
17:5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
Here we go again. Just like in Philippi, the Jews became jealous or envious and started a mob and created a riot or uproar. I find it odd that there just happened to be evil men hanging around in the marketplace waiting to join a mob from the local synagogue. It makes me think of the “Brute Squad” in the movie “Princess Bride”. The New King James version says “these who have turned the world upside down.” Paul and Silas would have thought this was a compliment. The mob went to
Jason’s house and attacked him and others that were with him. Paul and Silas were not there. They were guilty by association and they were arrested and had to post a bond to get out. The complaint against them sounded a lot like the ones against Jesus. The Jews are not getting the concept of a heavenly kingdom. One of the commentators pointed out that it was strange that people post a bond to make sure they appear in court but here the bond was posted to make sure that they leave town.
17:10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
Again we see Paul leaving under the cover of darkness and they headed to Berea. This time the Gospel message was accepted by the Jews in the synagogue, as well as many Greek men and women.
17:13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
The non-believing Jews from Thessalonica behaved like the non-believing Jews from Psidium Antioch and Iconium on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 14:19). They heard Paul was preaching the Gospel and came to Berea to cause trouble. This scene was a clear example of Satan attacking Christians when things are going well. It is strange, their beef must be with Paul because he was taken to Athens by believers and Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea.
“The fact that both Silas and Timothy remained there showed again that Paul had a passion for planting churches, not just making converts. It also showed that Paul didn’t believe that he alone could do the work of teaching and strengthening Christians; men like Silas and Timothy also could.” (Guzik)
17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.
The Greeks had a reputation for collecting gods. They had their own gods and they adopted those of people they conquered, as well as those of the people that conquered them. Paul saw lots of idols in Athens. All translations say that Paul reasoned with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue and in the marketplace.