Bible Study – Acts of the Apostles

Sunday School Bible Study in 2018 presented by John Green.  The Acts of the Apostles.

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.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

Fellowshipping

Eating together

Prayer

Spending time together

Sharing property and wealth with anyone in need.

Meeting together in church

Eating together in their homes

Praising God

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. 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. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 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. 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.Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 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! 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

    death

    .

  • 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.”

Stephen Seized

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?” [37] 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

Saul’s Conversion

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. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 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!”

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. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

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. 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.” 

Peter’s Vision

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)

 

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