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Acts 10-16

Sunday (Acts 10)

Peter Visits Cornelius

10:1 Now there was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort. 10:2 He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was all his household; he did many acts of charity for the people and prayed to God regularly. 10:3 About three o’clock one afternoon he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, “Cornelius.” 10:4 Staring at him and becoming greatly afraid, Cornelius replied, “What is it, Lord?” The angel said to him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have gone up as a memorial before God. 10:5 Now send men to Joppa and summon a man named Simon, who is called Peter. 10:6 This man is staying as a guest with a man named Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 10:7 When the angel who had spoken to him departed, Cornelius called two of his personal servants and a devout soldier from among those who served him, 10:8 and when he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

10:9 About noon the next day, while they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10:10 He became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing the meal, a trance came over him. 10:11 He saw heaven opened and an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down to earth by its four corners. 10:12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth and wild birds. 10:13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!” 10:14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything defiled and ritually unclean!” 10:15 The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!” 10:16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into heaven.

10:17 Now while Peter was puzzling over what the vision he had seen could signify, the men sent by Cornelius had learned where Simon’s house was and approached the gate. 10:18 They called out to ask if Simon, known as Peter, was staying there as a guest. 10:19 While Peter was still thinking seriously about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look! Three men are looking for you. 10:20 But get up, go down, and accompany them without hesitation, because I have sent them.” 10:21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the person you’re looking for. Why have you come?” 10:22 They said, “Cornelius the centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man, well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear a message from you.” 10:23 So Peter invited them in and entertained them as guests.

On the next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 10:24 The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting anxiously for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 10:25 So when Peter came in, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. 10:26 But Peter helped him up, saying, “Stand up. I too am a mere mortal.” 10:27 Peter continued talking with him as he went in, and he found many people gathered together. 10:28 He said to them, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, yet God has shown me that I should call no person defiled or ritually unclean. 10:29 Therefore when you sent for me, I came without any objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?” 10:30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock in the afternoon, I was praying in my house, and suddenly a man in shining clothing stood before me 10:31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your acts of charity have been remembered before God. 10:32 Therefore send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter. This man is staying as a guest in the house of Simon the tanner, by the sea.’ 10:33 Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come. So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.”

10:34 Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, 10:35 but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. 10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all) — 10:37 you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 10:38 with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. 10:39 We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 10:40 but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, 10:41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. 10:43 About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. 10:45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 10:46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 10:47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 10:48 So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for several days.

Prayer

Lord, Your truth is known, some who should recognize and respond to it do not and others unexpectedly do. May I be alert to observe and ready to obey.

Summary & Commentary

Cornelius, Gentile believer and officer in the “Italian Cohort” (a regiment of 600 soldiers, about 1/10th of a legion), was instructed in a vision to send for Peter. He did so.

Peter, had a vision that challenged his Jewish-only definition of Christianity and community, then was sent to meet with Cornelius - something he would have refused to do prior to the vision.

Peter obediently traveled to Caesarea to meet with Cornelieus, bringing some other believers. Cornelius had gathered people to hear from Peter. Cornelius misunderstood who Peter was and tried to worship him but Peter corrected him, saying “I am a mere mortal ...”. [Note: It is important to recall that throughout the Bible no God-honoring being, man or angel, ever allowed anyone to worship them in any way. Only Jesus, God incarnate, did so.]

Peter and Cornelius shared their experiences with the Lord God through the visions, then, together they discovered that God wanted them to recognize that He plays no favorites based on racial or political or social standing but is interested only in the status of our faith in Jesus and our obedience before Him.

As Peter recited the works of Jesus during His public ministry, and His commandment to the Apostles, the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles whom Cornelius had gathered - the same as it had at Pentecost for those gathered for the Jewish celebrations. [Note: There were Jewish-Christians with Peter whom God needed to witness this because, like Peter, they still struggled with a Jews-only misconception of the ministry of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Note once again that this experience with “speaking in tongues” is clearly identified as the same as at Pentecost where they spoke in “known languages”. This text is unavailable for use as a proof-text for a “Heavenly language”, though such is not herein excluded from the NT, it is simply good scholarship to recognize that such was not reported anywhere in the Gospels, nor so up to this point in the Book of Acts.]

Peter then instructed his Jewish-Christian companions to baptize the Gentiles and to perform a “washing of the feet” act of humble-fellowship to illustrate the teaching - originally direct from Jesus - that there is no more any division between Jew and Gentile.

Interaction
Consider

God repeats Himself in order to overcome our resistance to change. In the late texts of the OT God says that He was bringing a new covenant — one no longer exclusive to the Jewish tribes. Jesus said more than once that there was to no longer be a separation between Jew and Gentile - yet here again He had to repeat Himself because the Apostle Peter still didn't get it.

Discuss

Can you recall a moment in history, or perhaps from your own personal observation or experience, where "a mere mortal” allowed, or even required, people to worship them? What was the result?

Reflect

The religious leaders didn't get Jesus but Cornelius, a gentile, did.

Share

When in your life has it has been necessary to cause cliques or other sub-groups to interact with one-another in order to bridge unhealthy divisions? Did it improve things?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of a time, perhaps even recently, where you had been unaware of, or confused about, a Biblical teaching but the Lord God's persistence finally led to a correct understanding.

Action:

Today I will share the Lord's correction of my understanding with a fellow believer and ask that God will continue to find me teachable. I will also identify and pray for healing within the Christian family where divisions exist. It may be cliques within a youth group, competition between denominations, stylistic preferences about music or programs, or some other non-Biblical cause.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Monday (Acts 11)

Peter Defends His Actions to the Jerusalem Church

11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 11:2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 11:3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 11:4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 11:5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 11:6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 11:8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 11:9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’ 11:10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11:11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 11:12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 11:13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 11:14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 11:15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 11:16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 11:17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 11:18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles.”

Activity in the Church at Antioch

11:19 Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one but Jews. 11:20 But there were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene among them who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus. 11:21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 11:22 A report about them came to the attention of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 11:23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 11:24 because he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and a significant number of people were brought to the Lord. 11:25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to look for Saul, 11:26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people. Now it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

Famine Relief for Judea

11:27 At that time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 11:28 One of them, named Agabus, got up and predicted by the Spirit that a severe famine was about to come over the whole inhabited world. (This took place during the reign of Claudius.) 11:29 So the disciples, each in accordance with his financial ability, decided to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 11:30 They did so, sending their financial aid to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Prayer

Lord, You not only overcame the enemy's intent to harm Your mission to Jerusalem — by using the flight of Jews from persecution — You also overcame Jewish-Christian convert resistance to evangelizing Gentiles. May I resist the confused notions of humankind and view things through Your eyes.

Summary & Commentary

Peter was challenged by the Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem and explains his interaction with God and the Gentiles to them in detail - they repented of their objections and praised God.

Disciples who scattered due to the murder-martyrdom of Stephen preached and taught Jews in Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch but had refused to share with the Gentiles. God raised-up others from Cyprus and Cyrene to send to the Greeks and many were saved.

The gathered believers (the Church) in Jerusalem, recognizing that the “harvest” was ready among the Greeks, sent Barnabas to Antioch and many more were saved. It is here that the Biblical text first actually notes the use of “Christian” as applied to believers.

Famine throughout the Roman Empire is prophesied so the disciples donated relief funds for the Christians in Judea, to be delivered by Barnabas and Saul.

Interaction
Consider

The early Church reacted with outreach to the evidence that many people in a certain area or among a certain population were responding to the invitation of the Holy Spirit - have you observed this in modern times?

Discuss

The early Church recognized and met the needs of fellow believers - are we taking the same care of fellow believers around the world or do we support organizations that divert some of our funds to non-believers leaving believers in need still in need?

Reflect

God overcomes fear and prejudice in order to deliver His Word to everyone. Have you observed this done in a faith-community of which you are a member?

Share

When have you observed believers doubting something that clearly was of-God but which a detailed presentation of the circumstances and the relevant Biblical texts resolved the confusion and the potential conflict?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a ministry opportunity in a "harvest-ready area" and/or sub-population.

Action:

Today I will pray in agreement for more "workers for the harvest" and as-appropriate either offer to join them and/or send them a financial contribution to support their work.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Tuesday (Acts 12)

James is Killed and Peter Imprisoned

12:1 About that time King Herod laid hands on some from the church to harm them. 12:2 He had James, the brother of John, executed with a sword. 12:3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too. (This took place during the feast of Unleavened Bread.) 12:4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him. Herod planned to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but those in the church were earnestly praying to God for him. 12:6 On that very night before Herod was going to bring him out for trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 12:7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the prison cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly!” And the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 12:8 The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” Peter did so. Then the angel said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” 12:9 Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 12:10 After they had passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went outside and walked down one narrow street, when at once the angel left him. 12:11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from everything the Jewish people were expecting to happen.”

12:12 When Peter realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered together and were praying. 12:13 When he knocked at the door of the outer gate, a slave girl named Rhoda answered. 12:14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she did not open the gate, but ran back in and told them that Peter was standing at the gate. 12:15 But they said to her, “You’ve lost your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was Peter, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 12:16 Now Peter continued knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were greatly astonished. 12:17 He motioned to them with his hand to be quiet and then related how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. He said, “Tell James and the brothers these things,” and then he left and went to another place.

12:18 At daybreak there was great consternation among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 12:19 When Herod had searched for him and did not find him, he questioned the guards and commanded that they be led away to execution. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.

12:20 Now Herod was having an angry quarrel with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they joined together and presented themselves before him. And after convincing Blastus, the king’s personal assistant, to help them, they asked for peace, because their country’s food supply was provided by the king’s country. 12:21 On a day determined in advance, Herod put on his royal robes, sat down on the judgment seat, and made a speech to them. 12:22 But the crowd began to shout, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 12:23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck Herod down because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. 12:24 But the word of God kept on increasing and multiplying.

12:25 So Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem when they had completed their mission, bringing along with them John Mark.

Prayer

Lord, You protected Peter to complete the ministry which You had assigned to him. May I be confident that You protect and provide for the ministries that You have determined must be completed.

Summary & Commentary

James was murdered by Herod, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in order to garner the approval of the religious leaders. James was the first Apostle to be martyred.

Herod then had Peter imprisoned under heavy guard with the intent of a public trial following Passover; however, the believers committed themselves to earnest prayer and God sent an angel to release Peter from prison. Peter walked out with the angel, gates opened without human action, and none of the guards noticed them as they passed.

Peter walked to the home of John and Mary (the mother of Jesus) where the believers had gathered for prayer. The believers doubted that it could be Peter at the gate—even though they had prayed for his protection and release—and thought it was “his angel”.

Peter explained all that happened, asked them to tell James and the “brothers”, then left for a place unmentioned in the text. [Note: It appears that Peter was not yet aware that James had been murdered.] Herod had the guards punished.

Herod traveled to Tyre and Sidon to resolve a conflict, in an effort to mollify the angry ruler the crowd called to him as if he were a god - he (Herod) failed to stop them from that blasphemy - so an angel struck him down and an infestation of intestinal worms slowly killed him from the inside.

Interaction
Consider

Contemplate history since Jesus and try to recall any political or religious leader who has allowed himself to be worship as a god who has lived long and died peacefully.

Discuss

Why would Herod have been so foolish as to tempt the wrath of the Lord God by permitting the people to worship him as a false god?

Reflect

There was a convergence of God's plan to preserve Peter for additional ministry (recall that Peter had the prophesy from Jesus that he would die young because of his ministry) and the fervent prayer of the believers for their brother and leader.

Share

When have you observed a leader of any sort permitting people to treat them as a sort of god?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a Christian who has been wrongfully persecuted.

Action:

Today I will identify and pray fervently for their freedom and vindication and that God will be glorified in the process. I will also pray for political and religious leaders that they be wise enough to stay far away from anything that approaches the encouragement or acceptance of god-like worship.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Wednesday (Acts 13)

The Church at Antioch Commissions Barnabas and Saul

13:1 Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood) and Saul. 13:2 While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 13:3 Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.

Paul and Barnabas Preach in Cyprus

13:4 So Barnabas and Saul, sent out by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 13:5 When they arrived in Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. (Now they also had John as their assistant.) 13:6 When they had crossed over the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 13:7 who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. The proconsul summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 13:8 But the magician Elymas (for that is the way his name is translated) opposed them, trying to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 13:9 But Saul (also known as Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at him 13:10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and all wrongdoing, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness — will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 13:11 Now look, the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind, unable to see the sun for a time!” Immediately mistiness and darkness came over him, and he went around seeking people to lead him by the hand. 13:12 Then when the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, because he was greatly astounded at the teaching about the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas at Pisidian Antioch

13:13 Then Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. 13:14 Moving on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 13:15 After the reading from the law and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of exhortation for the people, speak it.” 13:16 So Paul stood up, gestured with his hand and said,

“Men of Israel, and you Gentiles who fear God, listen: 13:17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay as foreigners in the country of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 13:18 For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 13:19 After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave his people their land as an inheritance. 13:20 All this took about four hundred fifty years. After this he gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 13:21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 13:22 After removing him, God raised up David their king. He testified about him: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do.’ 13:23 From the descendants of this man God brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, just as he promised. 13:24 Before Jesus arrived, John had proclaimed a baptism for repentance to all the people of Israel. 13:25 But while John was completing his mission, he said repeatedly, ‘What do you think I am? I am not he. But look, one is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet!’ 13:26 Brothers, descendants of Abraham’s family, and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. 13:27 For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him, and they fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning him. 13:28 Though they found no basis for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 13:29 When they had accomplished everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. 13:30 But God raised him from the dead, 13:31 and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses to the people. 13:32 And we proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, 13:33 that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have fathered you.’ 13:34 But regarding the fact that he has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.’ 13:35 Therefore he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.’ 13:36 For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors, and experienced decay, 13:37 but the one whom God raised up did not experience decay. 13:38 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 13:39 and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you. 13:40 Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you:

13:41 ‘Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish!

For I am doing a work in your days,

a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you.’”

13:42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people were urging them to speak about these things on the next Sabbath. 13:43 When the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and were persuading them to continue in the grace of God.

13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city assembled together to hear the word of the Lord. 13:45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and they began to contradict what Paul was saying by reviling him. 13:46 Both Paul and Barnabas replied courageously, “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. 13:47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed. 13:49 So the word of the Lord was spreading through the entire region. 13:50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high social standing and the prominent men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their region. 13:51 So after they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, they went to Iconium. 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Lord, You prepare teachable hearts and then use the willing to reap Your harvest. May I be willing, available, and teachable.

Summary & Commentary

The Holy Spirit prompted the Antioch Church (gathered believers) to fast and pray and then lay-hands on Barnabas and Saul/Paul to commission them to be sent-out.

Barnabas and Paul, with John, preached in Cyprus. A magician who was also a false Jewish-prophet tried to keep the proconsul from accepting the truth of God was struck blind by the Holy Spirit through Paul and the proconsul was saved.

John returned to Jerusalem and Barnabas and Paul continued through Perga to Pisidian Antioch where they were invited to share at the synagogue. There they reviewed the Biblical record, concluding with a challenging condemnation of those who rejected Jesus whom they should have recognized as the Messiah.

Many believed, the existing believers were encouraged, and they were asked to return for the next Sabbath gathering. The religious leaders were jealous and began personal and religious attacks upon Paul and Barnabas.

Paul and Barnabas replied that since the religious leaders did not find themselves worthy of eternal life they would instead go to the Gentiles. [Note: They abandoned the religious leaders and their followers, all of whom had proved unteachable.]

The Gentiles rejoiced and many were saved but the religious leaders incited the upper class citizens to persecute and ultimately banish Paul and Barnabas - who then “shook the dust off their feet” [symbolically condemning them to their rejection of God’s gift of salvation] and took their ministry to Iconium where “the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit”.

Interaction
Consider

The enemy tried to use the magician to interfere with the evangelizing of the proconsul but the Lord God, through Paul, struck him blind — demonstrating His presence and His power.

Discuss

Isn’t it amazing that all Paul and Barnabas had to do was to review the Biblical record, essentially what we know as the Old Testament, and many recognized and surrendered to the Messiah?

Reflect

How interesting is the difference between those who were teachable - welcoming the truth even though it challenged much of what they had previously believed and would upset their social status - versus those who violently rejected obvious truth.

Share

When have you or someone you know, had to "shake the dust off your sandals" and move on when someone with whom you were sharing truth demonstrated a rigid refusal to consider truth.

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct me to where the Lord God wants to send me where His truth will be heard.

Action:

Today I will ask a fellow believer to pray in agreement with me for the discernment to recognize the difference between someone whom the Holy Spirit has prepared for "harvest" and one who is unteachable - and the strength and wisdom to walk away from the unteachable.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Thursday (Acts 14)

Paul and Barnabas at Iconium

14:1 The same thing happened in Iconium when Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a large group of both Jews and Greeks believed. 14:2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 14:3 So they stayed there for a considerable time, speaking out courageously for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace, granting miraculous signs and wonders to be performed through their hands. 14:4 But the population of the city was divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 14:5 When both the Gentiles and the Jews (together with their rulers) made an attempt to mistreat them and stone them, 14:6 Paul and Barnabas learned about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding region. 14:7 There they continued to proclaim the good news.

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

14:8 In Lystra sat a man who could not use his feet, lame from birth, who had never walked. 14:9 This man was listening to Paul as he was speaking. When Paul stared intently at him and saw he had faith to be healed, 14:10 he said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man leaped up and began walking. 14:11 So when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 14:12 They began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 14:13 The priest of the temple of Zeus, located just outside the city, brought bulls and garlands to the city gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard about it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 14:15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men, with human natures just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you, so that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. 14:16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own ways, 14:17 yet he did not leave himself without a witness by doing good, by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and your hearts with joy.” 14:18 Even by saying these things, they scarcely persuaded the crowds not to offer sacrifice to them.

14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and after winning the crowds over, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, presuming him to be dead. 14:20 But after the disciples had surrounded him, he got up and went back into the city. On the next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

14:21 After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. 14:22 They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.” 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed. 14:24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia, 14:25 and when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 14:26 From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 14:27 When they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported all the things God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. 14:28 So they spent considerable time with the disciples.

Prayer

Lord, You said that You were opening the doors to Gentiles, that there would no longer be a separation between Jew and Gentile, and You made it happen. May I always beware of false divisions among the people of Your Church (believers, not buildings, not human-assembled religious institutions) and favoritism toward the people-groups to be reached, insisting that all be treated with equal regard, just as You have commanded.

Summary & Commentary

Barnabas and Paul shared at the Word at Lystra, much the same conflict occurred there as in Pisidian Antioch with many new believers, challenges to the truth from religious leaders who did not want the truth to be told, and a threat against their lives which led to Paul and Barnabas moving on “to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra, Derbe, and the surrounding region.”

Paul called out the healing of God in a lame man whose faith the Holy Spirit disclosed to him and the pagan worshipers there offered sacrifices to them. Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and cried out against their misplaced worship. Despite their efforts to persuade them to the truth the people resisted, then the religious leaders arrived to take advantage of the chaos and manipulated the crowd into dragging Paul out of the city where they stoned and left him for dead. The disciples gathered and prayed and Paul revived, returned to the city, then left with Barnabas for Derbe where they declared the Word.

Barnabas and Paul then return to Lystra, then Iconium, and Antioch in Syria where they “appointed elders for them in the various churches” [Note: Churches referred to the gatherings of believers in parts of the various communities. The term “elder” here refers to someone who would meet the requirements of a Deacon but serve as something like an Apostle.]

They continued on eventually arriving home in Antioch from where they had been commissioned for the journey, sharing all that God had done then staying a long while with the disciples.

Interaction
Consider

How our modern-day notion of "pastor" may have drawn a parallel to the "elder" of ACTS 14.

Discuss

Isn’t it amazing how quickly the people were turned from worship to murder?

Reflect

Pagans often try to make everything fit their beliefs and practices, such as trying to make Jesus fit into an existing religious system, or forcing non-Biblical elements into an otherwise Biblical gathering.

Share

When have you observed an idolatry of a celebrity or religious leader?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me any place where I may have drifted into the acceptance of a non-Biblical belief about an organization or a person.

Action:

Today I will prayerfully consider all that I do in my daily walk and times of gathering together with other believers, looking carefully for any indication of an element of non-Biblical elements slipping in. I will also pray for safety and wisdom for the spiritual leader or leaders of my Christian fellowship.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Friday (Acts 15)

The Jerusalem Council

15:1 Now some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 15:2 When Paul and Barnabas had a major argument and debate with them, the church appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this point of disagreement. 15:3 So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they were relating at length the conversion of the Gentiles and bringing great joy to all the brothers. 15:4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all the things God had done with them. 15:5 But some from the religious party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses.”

15:6 Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate about this matter. 15:7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 15:9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith. 15:10 So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.”

15:12 The whole group kept quiet and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 15:13 After they stopped speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 15:14 Simeon has explained how God first concerned himself to select from among the Gentiles a people for his name. 15:15 The words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written,

15:16 ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it,

15:17 so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord, namely, all the Gentiles I have called to be my own,says the Lord, who makes these things 15:18 known from long ago.

15:19 “Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 15:20 but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood. 15:21 For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, because he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to send men chosen from among them, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, leaders among the brothers, to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. 15:23 They sent this letter with them:

From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! 15:24 Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, 15:25 we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, 15:26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15:27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person. 15:28 For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: 15:29 that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.

15:30 So when they were dismissed, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the entire group together, they delivered the letter. 15:31 When they read it aloud, the people rejoiced at its encouragement. 15:32 Both Judas and Silas, who were prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with a long speech. 15:33 After they had spent some time there, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 15:34 [[EMPTY]] 15:35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming (along with many others) the word of the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas Part Company

15:36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return and visit the brothers in every town where we proclaimed the word of the Lord to see how they are doing.” 15:37 Barnabas wanted to bring John called Mark along with them too, 15:38 but Paul insisted that they should not take along this one who had left them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. 15:39 They had a sharp disagreement, so that they parted company. Barnabas took along Mark and sailed away to Cyprus, 15:40 but Paul chose Silas and set out, commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers and sisters. 15:41 He passed through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Prayer

Lord, the early participants in Your “Church” faced many challenges, internal struggles with tradition-bound Jews and conflict among other members. May I pray regularly for peace and wisdom among believers — and to expect the same of myself.

Summary & Commentary

The Jerusalem Counsel attempted to impose legalistic Judaism on the Gentile believers, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James all reflected on God’s sending of them to the Gentiles and His teaching that one is saved by responding to Jesus through the Holy Spirit in faith.

They agreed not to add the artificial “difficulty” of mandatory circumcision but instead sent a letter of instruction and encouragement to live righteously.

Judas-Barsabbas and Silas traveled with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to explain the decision of the Apostles as to the Gentile believers, the others returned to Jerusalem while Paul and Barnabas remained.

Barnabas and Paul parted company due to Mark [apparently Mark had abandoned them in Pamphylia and lost Paul’s trust] so Barnabas took Mark and set out for Cyprus while Paul took Silas and went to Syria and Cilicia.

Interaction
Consider

It took Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James to persuade the Jerusalem Counsel not to impose legalistic Judaism upon the new Gentile believers.

Discuss

Why would Jewish believers try to impose mandatory circumcision and other Jewish traditions upon Gentile converts?

Reflect

Even apostles and disciples struggled with interpersonal relationships.

Share

When have you Share a time when religious leaders, or others with influence and power, tried to impose extra-Biblical traditions upon new believers. What was the result?

Share a time when there was a disagreement among the leaders of a Christian fellowship and some leaders went separate ways. What was the result?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a relationship for which He wants you to pray for reconciliation between leaders who have gone separate ways due to a conflict.

Action:

Today I will Today I will pray that Christian religious leaders everywhere will refrain from distortions of the Word of God that come from confusing tradition with truth and the discouragement that may create for new and potential new believers.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Saturday (Acts 16)

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16:1 He also came to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy was there, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 16:2 The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 16:3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 16:4 As they went through the towns, they passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the Gentile believers to obey. 16:5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in number every day.

Paul’s Vision of the Macedonian Man

16:6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in the province of Asia. 16:7 When they came to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this, 16:8 so they passed through Mysia and went down to Troas. 16:9 A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 16:10 After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

Arrival at Philippi

16:11 We put out to sea from Troas and sailed a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, 16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia, a Roman colony. We stayed in this city for some days. 16:13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down and began to speak to the women who had assembled there. 16:14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. 16:15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.

Paul and Silas Are Thrown Into Prison

16:16 Now as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit that enabled her to foretell the future by supernatural means. She brought her owners a great profit by fortune-telling. 16:17 She followed behind Paul and us and kept crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 16:18 She continued to do this for many days. But Paul became greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out of her at once. 16:19 But when her owners saw their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 16:20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion. They are Jews 16:21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us to accept or practice, since we are Romans.”

16:22 The crowd joined the attack against them, and the magistrates tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 16:23 After they had beaten them severely, they threw them into prison and commanded the jailer to guard them securely. 16:24 Receiving such orders, he threw them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them. 16:26 Suddenly a great earthquake occurred, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. Immediately all the doors flew open, and the bonds of all the prisoners came loose. 16:27 When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison standing open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, because he assumed the prisoners had escaped. 16:28 But Paul called out loudly, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 16:29 Calling for lights, the jailer rushed in and fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 16:30 Then he brought them outside and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” 16:32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him, along with all those who were in his house. 16:33 At that hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized right away. 16:34 The jailer brought them into his house and set food before them, and he rejoiced greatly that he had come to believe in God, together with his entire household. 16:35 At daybreak the magistrates sent their police officers, saying, “Release those men.” 16:36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent orders to release you. So come out now and go in peace.” 16:37 But Paul said to the police officers, “They had us beaten in public without a proper trial — even though we are Roman citizens — and they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Absolutely not! They themselves must come and escort us out!” 16:38 The police officers reported these words to the magistrates. They were frightened when they heard Paul and Silas were Roman citizens 16:39 and came and apologized to them. After they brought them out, they asked them repeatedly to leave the city. 16:40 When they came out of the prison, they entered Lydia’s house, and when they saw the brothers, they encouraged them and then departed.

Prayer

Lord, You called Timothy to ministry and like-Paul he was willing to whatever was necessary to remove obstacles to his value as Your instrument of saving-truth. May I be as willing to set-aside that which may be a distraction to Your message to a dark and dying world.

Summary & Commentary

Timothy joined Paul and Silas, but first Paul circumcised him so that the Jews who knew that his father was a Greek and his mother a Jew could not use that, or his failure to be circumcised, as an excuse to reject him as a leader.

The Holy Spirit prevented them from “speaking the message” in the Roman province of Asia or Bithynia but in Troas Paul had a vision (from God) of a man in Macedonia pleading for them to come there so they began the journey.

They first arrived in Philippi where they spoke with some women by the river, among them Lydia, a woman whose heart was inclined toward the Lord. She and her family were baptized then she invited them to stay at her home.

Paul cast the demon out of a young girl who was being used for profit as a fortune-teller and her slave-masters, angry at the loss of profit, had Paul and Silas imprisoned. They were beaten and thrown into prison where Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God.

God freed them from prison, as He had Peter, and when the jailer threatened suicide due to their escape Paul stopped him and shared Christ. The jailer and his family were baptized. [Note: This is not about a parent being saved and their minor-children being saved by association. The same qualifications apply as elsewhere, one must be capable of comprehending what one is doing if one is to make a meaningful decision for-Christ. The Biblically-consistent presumption has to be that both of these families consisted of older children and adults, and/or that those who were baptised were such — and that very young children simply were not intended in the general “family” phrase. Example: “The whole family walked to the car and drove away.” Did the baby-in-arms walk? Of course not. The generic expression was not intended to be that detailed.]

When the magistrates came to set them free Paul challenged them with his Roman citizenship and their mistreatment without a trial - a serious crime against a citizen - terrified they apologized, personally escorted them away from the jail, then begged him to leave. They visited briefly with the “brothers” at Lydia’s house then left.

Interaction
Consider

Timothy was not required by the Lord God to be circumcised, no Christian was, but he agreed in order to remove that from the excuses the enemy would give to those who might resist him as he served the Lord.

Discuss

Lydia and the jailer heart the truth and because their hearts were teachable they accepted it and were saved — and they led their families to saving truth as well.

Reflect

There are times when believers may be persecuted because non-believers blame them for lost income or lost influence, perhaps due to superstition, or perhaps a conflict of morality.

Share

When have you had an experience where a sacrifice of comfort or convenience was made by a leader in order to bypass resistance to the truth of God?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a leader in the Christian family who has sacrificed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord.

Action:

Today I will pray for that leader and for a believer, or a gathering of believers, who are being persecuted by non-believers for selfish reasons.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

 

All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org

Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.

Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.

Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2011 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study— “Acts” — prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in December of 2011. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.