"The Church from Birth to Abroad"
By Dr. Edgar Pierce
The following is the beginning of my commentary on the book of Acts. I have entitled the entire work "ACT ONE...The Church from Birth to Abroad." This is an ongoing work that has been stopped for the immediate time. I wish to return to it in the next months or years to complete.
A few thing that will help you navigate this work are that all internal links on the page or in Orange. For instance the link for (1) Setting the Stage of ACT ONE looks just like this. You will find embedded in the page also links that will return you to the Outline.
Acts 2:12b, 14-36
(1) Setting the Stage of ACT ONE Acts 1:1-7
It has been stated that the whole world is a stage on which we are only actors. If this is true, and it most assuredly is, then the study that lies before us is part of the drama. Howbeit with the death of Jesus the church age began and a new play was begun on the stage of human life. I have entitled our study of the book we know as Acts, "ACT ONE." The implication of this is that the events of Acts were only the beginning of the drama of the church, which continues to unfold even unto this day.
Acts 1:1 states, "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." So the Word of God itself bears witness that the book of Acts is only the beginning. I wish to imply that we are part of the drama that only began as ACT ONE in Acts. We are not part of a new play only the continuation of what had it’s beginning in Acts.
We could probably argue from church history, of which I claim no expertise and little knowledge, that the dark ages were ACT TWO, the reformation ACT THREE and we today are living in ACT FOUR. I leave this for greater minds and other times wishing only to secure our connection to the early church in order that we might see we too have a place on the stage of the church.
The book of Acts is one of the most important books in the Bible. It has been oft called the Acts of the Apostles. However this seems to not adequately describe it because only a few of the apostles are even mentioned. Primarily two apostles namely Peter (of the original 12) and Paul (not of the original twelve) are given any notice. For the others we must go to other books of the Bible or even to extra biblical sources to know anything about their ministry. You may have heard it referred to as the, "Acts of the Holy Spirit." Certainly this is a fitting title because the Holy Spirit working through the early church is the overall theme of the book. Most often we simply refer to the book as "The Acts" leaving it for the application of any other attachment the hearer wants to add.
II- Purpose of the Writing:
In order to understand the purpose of the writing we need to see to whom it is addressed. It is to a man named Theophilus as we see from Acts 1:1 "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." The writer of Acts that was most assuredly none other that the writer of the gospel of Luke. Luke the Physician is the human writer used by God. Notice Luke 1:1-3 "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus."
It appears that the relationship of Theophilus has changed from the writing of Luke to Acts. Luke addressed him as most excellent in Luke and simply Theophilus in Acts. This has lead many scholars to speculate that the relationship that changed was that he had become a believer. H.A. Ironside in his work on Acts said the following:
"He is called in the introduction to Luke, "most excellent Theophilus." The words translated "most excellent" were used only in addressing a Roman official, generally on set over a country. So that this man Theophilus was evidently an official of the Roman empire, probably a governor of a province, who had an interest in the story of the our Lord Jesus Christ." (Lectures on the Book of Acts by H.A. Ironside. Lizeaux Brothers, New Jersey, 20th printing, March 1988, p 13)
Pointing out the fact that the most excellent is omitted in Acts Ironside goes on to say:
"That may be more significant than we think. I like to think it means that this Roman official, as a result of reading the Gospel of Luke, had come to such definite knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ that he had openly proclaimed himself a Christian." (Ibid., p 14)
It seems certain that the Book of Acts was written to inform Theophilus. However, another purpose of the Book of Acts is to act, as the agent to introduce us to many things that without this book would leave us wondering. For instance we are introduced to a man by the name of Saul, later to be the Apostle Paul. Without Acts the epistles would make less sense. The Acts also at times seems to be a defense of Christianity and especially the apostle Paul. The Christians had been portrayed as troublemakers but the fact that Paul was allowed to preach the gospel while under Roman guard shows that the Romans did not find the Christians so.
Acts has been referred to as the book between; between Law and Grace, between the Gospels and Romans. It could be said it is the hinges on the door of church history. In the Gospels the church was only a future prophecy and then in the epistles we see the church has spread to many localities around the Mediterranean Sea. The book of Acts tells us how this was accomplished.
III- Division of the Acts:
The books of Acts has been divided many ways by many teachers. We have stated that it follows the story of basically two of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. If divided along these lines we find the first twelve chapters given to the activity of Peter. Chapters thirteen through twenty-eight are then give to the Apostle Paul.
Another natural outline of Acts is found in Acts 1:8 that states the gospel should be preached first in Jerusalem (chapters one through seven). Next in Judea and Samaria (chapters eight through twelve) and next to the uttermost parts of the earth (chapters thirteen through twenty-eight).
IV- Threads in Acts:
We can identify several themes that run throughout the book of Acts. First is the resurrection of our Lord. In Acts 1: 3 we read "To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." (My underline for emphasis)
The reference here is to the post-resurrection appearances of Christ. There are a total of twelve of these. Allow me to list them.
1- To Mary Magalene in Mark 16:9 and John 20:15-16.
2- To the woman at the tomb in Matt 28:9.
3- To the two disciples on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24:13-31.
4- To Peter in Luke 24:34 and 1 Cor 15:5.
5- To the ten (Thomas not present) recorded in John 20:19.
6- The eleven (Thomas present) found in John 20:26.
7- The seven in John 21:1-22.
8- The eleven on Galilee mountain recorded in Matt 28:16.
9- The twelve (included Matthias) found in Acts 1:26 and 1 Cor 15:5.
10- The 500 brethren at once in 1 Cor 15:6.
11- James the brother of Jesus in 1 Cor 15:7 and Gal 1:19.
12- All the apostles evidenced in 1 Cor 15:7; Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:3-12, 26.
The resurrection became the cornerstone doctrine of the preaching in the early church. Notice the purpose of choosing the replacement for Judas was "… must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" Acts 1:22. This thread of the resurrection runs throughout the book of Acts.
Another theme that runs through the book is the need for evangelism and thusly the need of men to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. We find the great missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul here as evidence of this.
And last but not lease another part of the fabric of the book is certainly the working of the Holy Spirit as He directs and empowers the work of the early church.
Acts 1:4 "And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me." This verse looks back at the promise that would be fulfilled at Pentecost.
As we prepare to exit off the stage of the written page and take our place on the stage of life to continue what was started in the book of Acts lets look at one more thing that is important.
Acts 1:6-7 says, "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
The character in the book of Acts lived their life with the expectation that the Lord could return at any moment for His own. We who are part of the drama some 2000 years later should live with an even greater urgency to be about the Father’s business. The question is not if God wants to teach us but are we willing to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to our hearts.
Return to Outline:
(2) The Final Commission Acts 1:8
The stage is set. The drama of ACT ONE begins to unfold. What is the driving force behind what has happened over the centuries of the church? What is the authority from which the characters operate? Who gave them and us our commission to do?
Please see that the Lord Himself is the one who gives us our commission to go forth with the Gospel. In Acts 1:8 we have what I have called the Final Commission. James Strachan said, "Saving knowledge is diffused over the earth, not like sunlight but like torchlight, which is passed from hand to hand." (Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 2.) God has and continues to use the redeemed to tell those who are lost the good news of the gospel.
I have entitled this message, "The Final Commission." Jesus told us simply in Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
I- Prior Commissions:
We have before us as a text one of the great verses in the Bible in Acts 1:8. I submit to you for your consideration that this, while being the last commission, was not the only commission to the disciples; both then and now; given by Jesus. Let us take a look at the other commissions recorded in the Word of God for a moment to help us understand this last commission.
On the day of His resurrection Jesus gave the disciples who were hiding behind closed doors in the upper room a commission. John 20:21-22 says, "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost."
Then we have what is oft called the great commission given by Jesus to His disciple in Galilee. This is found in Matthew 28:16-20 "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." This is seen as the marching orders of the church to go into the world with the Gospel.
Then we finally see that on the day of His ascension He gave the Final Commission to His followers living in ACT ONE and all succeeding generations.
II- Components of the Final Commission:
We see a hint of the promises found in the Act 1:8 commissioning in the others but Acts 1:8 brings some key ingredients together for us. First in John 20 Jesus breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. This was a special indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon only a few believers because this took place prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
He also mentioned all power was given to Him in Matthew 28 but does not tell us with what power we were to accomplish this gigantic task of world evangelism. He said He would be with them but the question could be asked how. When we read the text of Matthew 28 we bring into it our knowledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit and do not ask how it is to be accomplished. However if we look at it there is no promise of the Holy Spirit’s help in carrying out the task given.
Now notice Acts 1:8 fills in the blanks so to speak for us. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…" The promise was that the Holy Spirit would come upon them to given them power to be witnesses.
We need to look at three things in relationship to this verse. We need to look at the power promised, the task of witnessing and the scope.
A- Power Promised:
Power is a wonderful thing, unless it is abuses. There are two basic words used in the New Testament for power. In Act 1:7 the word power is exousia (ex-oo-see'-ah) and is also translated in the KJV as authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, and strength. This is like the king or president having power to do certain things. The word in Acts 1:8 is another word entirely. It is the Greek word dunamis (doo'-nam-is) and is translated ability, abundance, miracle strength among others.
If you could hold power to do anything your heart desires what would you use this stewardship to accomplish? Men use power for many things. Some use it to get rich or gain fame. Some us it to control others and make them do as they please. You will notice however the power mentioned here was and is not human power but supernatural power from God Himself. We see this evidenced in Acts 4:33 " And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all."
God did not promise us power to gain great wealth or to become famous. He did not promise we would be without neither problems nor heartaches. May I say the power promised here was for very narrow and specific purposes? It was power to become witnesses and servants of God.
B- The Task of Witnessing:
Let us now look at the task of witnessing for which we are promised power. Of special interest is the word that is translated witnesses here. It is the Greek word martus (mar’-toos). It is translated in Acts 22:20 when Paul talks about his confession to God concerning Stephen as martyr. "And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by…" It is also translated the same way in Rev 17:6 "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus."
In all but one other of the 34 places in appears in the New Testament it is translated witness(es).
So we can say that God has called us to be His witnesses and intends for us to do so. This is not just a New Testament concept with God. He has always called me to witness of him. Notice but one place in the New Testament. Isa 44:6-8 "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. 7 And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? And the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. 8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any."
Let us now look at things that pertain to being a witness and particularly a Christian witness. If we enter a court of law a man cannot give testimony unless it is first hand material. Hearsay evidence is disallowed. So a witness must know what he is saying is true. A witness for Christ must be one who has settled the matters of his faith in his own heart. We do not have a think so religion we have a know so.
In a Christian witness there must also be a consistent walk to match the talk. Remember Jesus said to do as the Pharisees said not as they did. They were not consistent in their life and thusly their witness was weak. The character of witnesses is constantly put on trial in our courtrooms to see if they are truthful people.
Another thing to refer back to the word martyr again is that if we truly believe something we should be willing to die for it. If faced with denouncing our faith or death would be chose to die. I remind us we must die to live again.
By the way God can put the words in our mouth any time He wants. Let me illustrate.
"Before the lunch hour rush at the restaurant where I waitress, I recited a memory verse to myself--Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." To my surprise, the words that came out as I greeted my first table weren't the usual "Hello, are you ready to order?" but instead, "Hello, are you ready to live?" The couple had a sense of humor and I even had the opportunity to share the verse with them." -- Valerie Catura, Diamond Bar, CA. "Heart to Heart," Today's Christian Woman.
C- The Scope of the Task:
Most of the time preachers spend on this verse are on the emphasis of what I call the scope of the task. William Barclay said, "The power of the Spirit was going to make them Christ’s witnesses. That witness was to operate in an ever-extending series of concentric circles, first in Jerusalem, then through-out Judaea; then Samaria, the semi-Jewish state, woulc be a kind of bridge leading out into the heathen world; and finally this witness was to go out to the ends of the earth." (Barclay, William, The Acts of the Apostles, The Westminster Press, Phil, p 4)
The scope of the witness that the Holy Spirit was to empower the church, and us, for was the entire earth.
III- Will We Answer the Call?
The commission has been given. We are empowered to become witnesses for Christ in all the world but who will answer. The call is for all but I think sometimes many of us are summed up by what Jan Johnson said.
"Many believers are "rabbit hole" Christians. In the morning they pop out of their safe Christian homes, hold their breath at work, scurry home to their families and then off to their Bible studies, and finally end the day praying for the unbelievers they safely avoided all day." -- Jan Johnson in Moody Monthly (Nov. 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 8
Does this mean preacher that I have to give up my job, sell my house, leave my family and go to the jungles of the Amazon? If I said yes would it sadden your heart? The answer is simply I do not know. God calls different ones of us to different things. The call on my life is different than yours. I can say one thing with certainty however the thing that He wants us to all be is willing to go and busy where we are. The drama continues today what was began in ACT ONE.
Return to Outline
(3) The Same Jesus Soon Will Come Again Acts 1:9-11
The final words spoken by Christ while He was on earth, the final commission, have been spoken. The next event that took place was the ascension of Jesus, God in the flesh, back to heaven. Consequently there are great deals of things we need to see in the three verses that are our text.
Acts 1:9-11 "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
I have entitled this "The Same Jesus Soon Will Come Again." I must confess that this title leaves our many critically important things. We could also have entitled it "The anticipated return " or perhaps, "What if it were today." I chose this one feeling it was an inadequate attempt to capture the meaning of these verses that the Holy Spirit desires to apply to our lives today from these few verses.
I- The Ascension: 1:9
The disciples were on the Mount of Olives with Jesus, probably basking in His teaching and certainly enjoying being in His presence. Immediately after He spoke the words of the final commission gravity ceased to hold Him and He rose from this earth toward the sky. Can you imagine the awesomeness of this scene? I see Jesus, in my imagination, begin to slowly lift up and to rise like a balloon filled with hot air that the earth’s fingers no longer holds in its grip. How do you think the disciples felt? Men have employed some wonderful words to attempt to describe their wonder. One said, "They stood with necks intently stretched…" (Carver, William Owen, The Acts of the Apostles, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1916, p.16.) Another said they were, "gazing in rapt amazement." (Greene, Oliver The Acts of the Apostles, The Gospel Hour, Inc. 1968, p 33) My favorite description however was by Hershel Ford when he said the disciples were, "Looking their eyes out." (Ford, Hershel Simple sermons from the Book of Acts, vol. 1, Zondervan Publishing House, 1950, p 18)
Regardless of how you describe it this certainly was one of those "WOW!" moments in history. The one whom they had walked with and then seen crucified only to rise again now was rising into heaven.
Luke is the only writer in the Bible that God chose to relay this information to us. In Luke’s first writing in the gospel he wrote in Luke 24:50-53 "And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen."
Now in the book of Acts he sums it up in three verses. We see from the gospel the ascension took place in Bethany, which is simply the backside of the hill on the Mount of Olives. Notice they worshipped Him and then returned to Jerusalem rejoicing.
Please notice something else in verse nine. It says as He was taken up and a cloud received Him. May I suggest this cloud was not an ordinary variety? In fact I feel it is certain that this was the glory cloud of God receiving its own back.
The cloud of God’s glory led the children of Israel as they left Egypt. Ex 13:17ff says, "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines…18 But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea…21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
This cloud of glory also filled the temple when Solomon dedicated it. 1 Kings 8:10-11 "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD."
This cloud of glory was also seen in the life of Jesus at various times. On the mount of transfiguration we see it. Matthew 17:1-5 records this for us. "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."
The ascension is describe in the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16 "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
The cloud of glory is promised at His return as well. Matthew 24:30 shouts, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
I mean to suggest that Jesus was received back into the fold from which He had been absent from the time of His conception in the womb of Mary until now. Remember the words of Jesus in John 17:5 were, "…O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
II- The Message: 1:10-11
While they stood, "looking their eyes out" two men, most certainly angels, stood by them and spoke, "…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
This same Jesus was going to come again was the message. This was not the end only a promise that He would return. Jesus had made this promise before. John 14:1-3 "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
This promise of His return was the hope of the early church and in no less real today than it was then. It is often called the "blessed hope."
III- Reasons For His Ascension:
If I may, I feel we need to take time to explore the reasons for the ascension. There are many reasons that God chose to have this event not only happen but be seen and recorded in His precious Word. May I suggest the following, which certainly is not an exhaustive list of reasons.
A- He ascended so the Holy Spirit could come. In John 16:7 Jesus said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." It was critical that He ascended so the Holy Spirit could descend. Jesus while He was here could only be in one place at a time physically but He can be in all places by the Holy Spirit.
B- To bring the Second Coming into focus. The focus no longer was on His presence here but the promise of His return. This moved believers from walking by sight to walking by faith.
C- To give a definite end to His bodily presence here. He had appeared over the last forty days to the disciples off and on. The ascension signaled and gave a definitive end to these appearances. If He had not ascended this way we would have been left to wonder where He went or where He is. There is no doubt because of the record of the ascension that He is in heaven.
D- Because He had work to do interceding. Notice with me a few verses to bear this out.
Hebrews 4:14-16 "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
1 John 2:1-2 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
E- To confirm Heaven is a real place. The stories were true. The ascension showed that there was indeed a place that lies beyond the clouds. Heaven is not a myth but a place.
F- To reunite with the Father. Luke 24:26 "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?"
Can you imagine the scene in heaven? The excitement must have filled the air thick with anticipation. The one who had been missing was coming back. Listen to the words of Hershel Ford as he pictures the scene.
"What a reception He must have received! What great rejoicing there must have been in heaven! How the angels must have crowded around Him! How warm must have been the embrace that He received from His heavenly father! The best part of any trip is getting home—now Jesus is home at last. No more cruelties—no more injustices—no more misunderstanding—no more beatings—no more sweat, blood and tears. Gethsemane is over—Calvary is past—the tomb is empty and the Son is at home. He has gone from the agony of earth to the adoration of heaven. He has gone from the bruises of earth to the blessedness of heaven—He has gone from the hell of earth to the heaven of the Father’s house." (Ford, P 17)
IV- Discerning His Returning:
"This same Jesus…" tells us that it will not be another being or another god that comes but the same one that went will come again. This also reminds us that Jesus is unchangeable (immutable) Heb 13:8 puts this great truth this way, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." He will not come the same way concerning the contrast of a suffering Savior the first time verses the Judge and King the second time but it will be the same Jesus.
Notice the men said also that He, "shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." As we discern His return we can glean a great deal from these words.
First His ascension was visible, as will be His return. Some teach that Jesus has already come secretly in 1919. He did not ascend in secret and will not return that way.
He also ascended and will return bodily. His will not be a spiritual coming that only can be seen or felt spiritually but He will return bodily. He ascended beloved in a body of flesh and bone, not flesh and blood, into heaven and I suggest that He will return in the same glorified body.
He also left in a cloud as we have discussed. He will return the same way. Notice Revelation 1:7 "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."
Another thing that we can discern here is that His ascension was sudden and unexpected. Remember the gospel of Luke says in Luke 24:50-51 "And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." They most certainly were not expecting what transpired that day. The Word of God makes it plain we should be watching for we know not the time that He will come again. However, His return is certain. Many today will scoff at this teaching and say that we have been saying this for 2000 years but this does not diminish the fact that it is certain. What seems like a delay to man is only the long suffering of God as the sin of man runs it full course.
V- The Application:
The applications into our lives of these powerful truths are many. The soon coming of Jesus should move us to serve Him and strive to live a life pleasing to Him. We have but a short time to be busy continuing in the work started in ACT ONE.
Is the fact that someday soon He will come again a reality in your life? Are you busy in the work of the Kingdom?
The aged Apostle John wrote some words that I leave us with found in 1 John 3:2-3. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
Return to Outline:
(4) Principles for Seeking God’s Will Acts 1:12-26
After Christ ascended back to heaven quickly we see the hand of God beginning to lead the men would become the charter members of the early church. I referred to this as the 1st church business meeting in a message I preached about 18 years ago. I wish to disagree with myself now. This cannot be a church business meeting because the church had not been birthed yet. This is still prior to Pentecost. However, having said this I submit to you that we see the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God in these verses.
In the remainder of chapter one of Acts we find the process of replacing Judas. We will spend two sermons on this. Now I want us to focus on some principles we find in these verses for seeking God’s will.
I- Return to Jerusalem: Acts 1:12-14
Jesus had told them to wait on the power of the Holy Spirit to come. They return the short distance from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem to wait. This was only what is given here a "sabbath days’ journey." This was one of the rules the Jewish rabbis had placed upon the people. This was a journey of some 2000 cubits. (between 1000 and 1200 yards) The place they found this was in Josh 3:4 "Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore." This had nothing to do with traveling a distance. They had attached not working on the Sabbath as not traveling. This moves us to thank God Jesus has set us free from this kind of legalism.
The Holy Spirit would not come for some ten day afterward. This was 50 days from the resurrection. Remember Christ had been seen of them for 40 days. They went back to a very familiar place, a place of comfort. They went back to the upper room. Acts 1:13 "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James." All were there of the original twelve except Judas.
This upper room had been the place that they celebrated the Passover with Christ just prior to His death. In Mark 14:15-16 Jesus told them to go into the city and there they would find a man " And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. 16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover."
I believe that there is little if any doubt that this was the place that Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening after the resurrection. John 20:19 "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you."
A week later we find them again assembled and Jesus appeared to them again here. Remember Thomas was missing the first time. John 20:26 "And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you."
This room was a place they had hide from soldiers and had been blessed by appearances of the Master. Now they return to this most familiar place to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit that had been promised. They probably expected it to happen instantly but as we have stated it would be 10 days.
II- Peter Speaks: Acts 1:15-22
Christ had told Peter in Luke 22:31-32 "…Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Peter spoke many times for the whole group prior to the death of Christ and now we see this continuing.
Peter sometimes in the interim time stands and provides leadership. His words here show a spiritual maturing on his part. He recounts the story they knew so well about one of their own that had been a traitor and had ultimately killed himself. Peter tells them that they need to look at replacing him.
We might ask why they could not continue to function with eleven instead of twelve. They may not have even been aware of the reason but we see it has prophetic implications. Rev 21:14 even tells us that the New Jerusalem. "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." This may I say was an act of the Holy Spirit of God moving Peter and the others to do what they may not have understood the implication of.
We also see within these words of Peter that to be an apostle one must meet certain criteria. Acts 1:21-22 "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." They had to be one who had seen Jesus in the flesh and one who was an eyewitness of the resurrection.
III- Principles for Seeking God’s Will:
Did you notice they continued to do as they waited? They were waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit but in the mean time they were not idle. Many times we sit down and say when God speaks with a great booming voice and I know every detail of His will I will proceed. Beloved may I say there are many things about the will of God that are already revealed and clear? We need to continue to do where we are and what we already know to be doing as we wait for additional instructions. When I entitled this message "Principles for seeking God’s will" I felt some would naturally assume what was meant was the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was not. The context in which this is set precludes this because they were seeking the will of God prior to the coming on the Spirit as they waited.
Let me make a couple of general statements concerning the will of God before proceeding. First God wants us to know what His will is for us. Most of the time it is our attitudes our actions or something else that impedes God being able to reveal His will. Secondly God does not want to reveal His will to us so that we can simply know the will of God but so that we can do the will of God.
I think there are some excellent principles for discerning the will of God that we can find in these events.
A- Pray: Acts 1:14, 24-25
Many times we try to discern the will of God without asking God what His will is. If I want to know what my wife feels about something I would not ask a stranger or not ask at all. I would ask her. Notice two times in these verses that it says that as they attempted to discern His will it says that they prayed. Acts 1:14 "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…"
Acts 1:24-25 "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."
We have another example of this that leaps off the pages of the Word of God and will link us into the next point. Let’s go to the time of Daniel the prophet. Daniel had been taken into Babylon at a very early age. Many think he was the one who was given charge of preserving the scriptures during the time of captivity. Daniel as we enter this story is an old man. Almost seventy years have passed in captivity. Daniel is going to seek the will of God for the future. We will look in a moment and see what triggered this but for now notice the used of prayer Daniel employs. Daniel 9:3-4 "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: 4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession…." God gave Daniel in this context what is the single most important prophecy concerning Israel and the end times, the seventy weeks of Daniel. Now what motivated Daniel? Look at our next point.
B- Bring Scriptures to Bear: Acts 1:16, 20
Daniel had been studying the Word of God given to Jeremiah the prophet. Daniel 9:2
"In the first year of his [Darius the Mede] reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem."
Daniel allowed the Word of God to motivate him to seek God’s will at that time and for that time. He allowed the Word of God to be used in understanding God will.
Now notice what Peter and the early apostles did in the upper room. Acts 1:16 "Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus." And then in Acts 1:20 "For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take."
They brought to bear the scriptures on their situation and sought its guidance in what they should do. This linked several applicable Old Testament Psalms. The key point here is that we first be familiar with the Word of God so the Holy Spirit can bring it to bear and that we look for the answers to what God would have us do in His Word. God will I submit will never conflict with His Word.
C- Look at Choices: Acts 1:21-23
One thing that many of us do not do is to use the brains God gave us as we attempt to understand the will of God. Many times God’s will can be understood as we take time to evaluate the choices before us. These men looked around, set the criteria, saw who met the criteria and proceeded. The great British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said "Most people would rather die than think. Many do."
I tell people often I have a standing prayer in heaven. God I want you to unfold my path as I travel not if I travel. I am constantly making choices within the parameters of God’s will.
D- Look for Clear Answer: Acts 1:26a
Acts 1:26a "And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias" They did not look for the answer to be beyond the obvious. They had discerned that it would be one of the two now they look to see which. The story of Gideon comes to mind here. Judg 6:37-40 "Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. 38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. 40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground." Gideon didn’t put a new interpretation on the obvious. He understood the clear answer. We many times will try to weasel God’s clear answer into something else by spiritualizing or saying we did not understand it clearly.
E- React to Revealed Will: Acts 1:26b
Notice what they did when the will of God was plain. Acts 1:26b "…and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." Are you committed to seeking, understand and doing the will of the Father? Are you earnestly contenting for the will of God in your life? Has He revealed it and you pretended to not understand it? Remember God wants us to know His will not just for the sake of knowing it but so we will do the will of the Father.
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(5) Collecting Dust On A Shelf Acts 1:26
What could possibly be the worst thing that could happen to a Christian? It cannot be death because if and when we die we enter the presence of God. This cannot be the worst fate. Perhaps it is persecution. I submit this cannot be the worst thing because if we suffer we shall be rewarded. Perhaps it is to suffer some physical illness. Again this may not be the worst because many times these cause us to grow closer to God. I submit that the worst thing that could possible happen to a Christian is to be placed on a shelf to collect dust. To be set aside to not be used again by God or set aside to not fulfill our fullest potential.
I- The Historic and Prophetic Setting:
In the circumstances of Acts chapter one we have an occurrence of someone being places on a shelf. Judas not only was placed on a shelf but committed suicide as a result of his sin that I submit weighted heavy upon him.
Notice Acts 1:18-19 "Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood."
Matthew in his gospel says in Matt 27:3-10 "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me."
We know that these events in the foreknowledge of Almighty God were not a surprise. We see that the Prophet Jeremiah has prophesied concerning this. This brings to our lives the fact that God in His foreknowledge knows things about us that have yet to occur.
II- Paul’s Concern:
We also see in the whole canon of scripture that the apostle Paul was aware of the danger of being placed on a shelf. Notice 1 Cor 9:27 "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." The word castaway is in the Greek adokimos (ad-ok'-ee-mos); and means "unapproved, i.e. rejected; by implication, worthless (literally or morally)" (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
In the KJV this word is translated "castaway, rejected, reprobate." Notice Rom 1:28 it says "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."
2 Cor 13:5-7 "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? 6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. 7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates."
Robertson's Word Pictures provides us some insight into the uses of this word. He says it "is an old adjective used of metals, coin, soil [Hebrews 6:8 "But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned."] and in a moral sense only by Paul in the New Testament. It means not standing the test…. Paul means rejected for the prize, not for the entrance to the race. He will fail to win if he breaks the rules of the game. (from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft & Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright (c) 1985 by Broadman Press)
So it is apparent that even the great apostle Paul was well aware that by his own actions he could in effect place himself on a shelf for service. I submit that he was not concerned here of losing his salvation. After all many place the scriptures make it plain that he was well aware of his struggle with sin and his shortcoming.
II- What Would Cause God to Place Us On A Shelf?
I think God gave me three words that are the reasons for shelving, pretender, surrender and blender.
A- Pretenders: Judas is in this first group. Notice the scriptures says in Acts 1:17 "For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry." Judas was pretending to be a followers of Jesus.
Listen to Matt 7:22-23 "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." How sad and how unnecessary for anyone to stand on the day of judgment and hear the words depart, I never knew you. Beloved there are many pretenders today who are fooling the people, churches, the world and in some cases maybe even themselves. But it is very apparent that we cannot fool God. Those who are only pretenders for the faith here may seem that they are not shelved but the accounts of men will not be settled until death.
Have you done as the Apostle Paul said, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." 2 Cor 13:5
B- Surrender: Another reason that God can put us on a shelf is if we surrender to sin. Many men to day in the ministry are falling from failing. There are multitudes of men who are surrendering to the lust of the flesh and compromising their ministry and integrity.
The word we talked about a moment ago castaway has a moral sense to it as we saw. The picture is according to Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary "Borrowed from the athletic games, the word describes a contestant who, because of some infraction of the rules, is disqualified from winning the prize." (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)Remember Paul said "…I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection…" 1 Cor 9:27
When we think of surrender the greatest example that comes to the surface is the story of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brother he rises to a place of prominence in the house of Potiphar in Egypt. The problem was Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to lie with her in sin. Joseph says to her, "Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Gen 39:8-9
Joseph found himself in a potential compromising position one day. He was seemingly trapped and would have to surrender. Notice his reaction. Gen 39:12-13 "And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. 13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth." Joseph ends up in prison for a crime he did not commit but beloved he remained pure toward his God. He did not surrender and we know the end of the story is that God had a grand purpose for Joseph. How many men that God had a grand purpose for has ended up on a shelf collecting dust because of sin?
Let us hear well 1 Cor 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
C- Blender: It is not necessary to be in great sin but just weak in our witness and compromised with the world in order to be ineffective for God. 2 Cor 6:14-18 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
This is also spoken again in the letters of our Lord to the seven churches in the Revelation. Rev 3:14-17 "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
In Titus 1:16 we read, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
IV- Dusting Off the Idle:
What should be our reaction to God when we find ourselves in this situation? First and foremost it should be repentance. If we are lost we need to repent of our sin and come to Christ. If we are saved we need to repent of the sin and again make ourselves available for service. Many times we want to wait for restoration to the place we were when many times God wants to take the things we have experienced and teach others to not fall into the trap of sin and idleness.
One of the lessons we also need to learn is one that is not stated but I submit is implied in the text. Notice we do not hear any negative from Barsabas Joseph. It is assumed that he continued to serve and be used. We can all learn a lesson here that will help us guard our heart if God chooses to seemingly pass over us to another for what we perceive as a greater honor or place of service. God in the day to come will reward faithfulness not necessarily grandeur.
May I ask are you just a pretender of the faith, have you surrendered to sin, or are you guilty of becoming a blender with the world. May I suggest that you become a contender instead of one of these? Jude said some fitting words to part with, Jude 3 "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
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(6) The Holy Spirit Empowers the Church Acts 2:1-13
In the month of March each year in America there is a sports aurora called lights up the landscape called, "March Madness." It is the culmination of the college basketball season when what seems like thousands of games are played in just a few days in conference tournament and then finally the national NCAA tournament known as the "Big Dance." In countless locker rooms coaches give their best pre-game and halftime speeches in an attempt to motivate the teams to win. These coaches can only talk but are powerless to actually empower the teams with their presence.
The work of God is not so. The one who is the coach is also capable of indwelling and empowering and yea, if I may say it, play the game through us.
I- The Promise:
The disciples were busy worshipping and waiting for the power that had been promised. Acts 1:8 remember is a promise that Jesus gave them, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…"
Jesus was not the first to mention this promise. Notice what John the Baptist said at the baptism of Jesus found in Matthew 3:11, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."
Jesus had told His followers many things about what would take place after His return to heaven. Mark 13:11 "But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost."
He had told them that that after He left the Comforter would come. Notice some additional Scripture related to the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit and His function toward the church and the world after He came.
John 14:16-17 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
John 14:26 "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 15:26-27 "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."
John 16:7-8 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment."
So the promises were many and the anticipation must have been great. Acts 1:13 tells us that there were some 120 people gathered in this upper room. On the day of Pentecost the first thing that we notice is that no such assertion is given as to the location. Acts 2:1 simply says, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Most simply attach the location of the upper room but this may not have been the case. The place is not specified, nor need it be because the place was secondary to the event that took place, the Holy Spirit Empowering the Church. The timing of the event is recorded as being on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost may be thought of by some in the church as being a church only event but this is not true. While I believe that the church was birthed on this day the celebration was a celebration of one of the feast of Israel that had been going on for generation and even continued to be afterward. We find two places in the rest of the New Testament where Pentecost is used as a mark for timing events. Acts 20:16 "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost."
1 Corinthians 16:8 "But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost."
Lets look briefly at the Old Testament foundation of this feast. Leviticus 23:15-16 "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD." Pentecost simply means "fifty." Fifty days after Passover it was celebrated. This places the events that are recorded in Acts 2 as being some 10 days after the ascension. Acts 1:3 remember says Jesus, "…being seen of them forty days…"
Oliver Greene said, "In the Old Testament era the feast of Pentecost commemorated the wheat harvest, and after the exile it became the traditional festival where Israel remembered the giving of the law of Moses." (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 75)
The Bible says that this group was in one accord.
III- The Event:
The event that took place here is recorded for us in Acts 2:2-4 "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Three things demand our attention in this portion of God’s Word, wind, fire and tongues. These have come to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
First this event is described as a sound like a rushing mighty wind. It was not a slight breeze but a wind of divine origin that swept into the room. Remember Jesus in John 3:8 said speaking of the Holy Spirit, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." This portrays for me the divine part of this, unseen but still the hand of God.
The second element used to attempt to describe this event was fire.
Fire is symbolic with the presence of God. Remember Moses and the burning bush in Ex 3:2 "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed."
At Mount Sinai where Moses was given the Ten Commandments notice, Ex 19:18 "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." Fire came into the room and sat upon them. The fire is said to be like cloven tongues. This means it was not just one big fire but was broken up into individual little fires. Barnes’ Notes says, ""The idea is that they were separated or divided one from another; it was not one great flame, but was broken up, or cloven into many parts, and probably these parts were moving without order in the room."(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
We need to also remember that fire is a great refiner and purifier. Fire is also a judge of things. Heb 12:29 in fact says, "For our God is a consuming fire."
1 Cor 3:13 says, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."
As a matter of fact we are told that eternity without God is hell fire, flames and a lake of fire among other things.
The third thing is tongues. These tongues were not just any random babbling but coherent and understandable languages. Notice the specific languages mentioned in Acts 2:9-11 "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."
What is the significance of this? Please notice that Acts 2:5 says, "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." I think the significance of the different nations hearing the gospel was that the gospel is for the entire world. The dispersion from this event alone allowed the gospel to go to the known world.
IV- The Miracle:
The emphasis of Pentecost is sometimes in my opinion misunderstood. It was the indwelling and empowering of the Church as the Holy Spirit descended to take up His abode in the hearts of these believers and all others in the succeeding ACTS to follow. Many times the emphasis is place on the tongues that these men spoke with that we have just discussed. I want us to notice what I think was the greatest miracle concerning Pentecost. Acts 2:6-8,11 "Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?….11B we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."
The great miracle of Pentecost was not in speaking with tongues but hearing of tongues. Three times this key and critically important fact is stated in these verses. This points out the observable fact that God meets all of humanity within their culture, nationality, language with the gospel message. The Gospel is in fact a message for the entire planet not just for English or some other language speakers.
The reaction of the people was one of amazement by some and doubt by others. Men still react to the gospel in this same way today. What has been your reaction to the gospel? Has it been one of receiving it as the truth or as a doubter?
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(7) What Meaneth This Acts 2:12b, 14-36
As we looked at the first part of Acts 2 we saw that the Holy Spirit came as promised and empowered the church. There is a question that gives rise to a sermon by Peter in
Acts 2:12 "What meaneth this?" was asked by those that heard the miracle of hearing when they heard the Galilaeans speak in their native tongue. Peter explains to the crowd on this day "What meaneth this?"
We see that this was not just some haphazard event that took place but was promised and anticipated and again confirmed that the things that were taking place were of God. One of the Pharisees would later council them concerning the movement that was taking place "But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." Acts 5:39 We are going to see that the meaning was that it was of God.
I- It is Not Due to Intoxication: Acts 2:14-15
Acts 2:14-15 "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day."
The world is always looking to find another cause for the things of God and will make all kinds of accusations when they do not understand. Remember Paul said in 1 Cor 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Peter tells them that the events that just took place were not because of drunkenness. Eph 5:18-19 tells us "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord"
II- It Was Prophesied by Joel: Acts 2:16-21
Peter first reminds them that this very thing had been prophesied by the Prophet Joel. Acts 2:16 "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel"
Joel 2:28-29 says, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." This was what Peter quoted in Acts 2:17-18 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy."
The rest of the prophecy of Joel is still future. It is yet to be fulfilled but will be when Jesus comes again. Peter mentioned this in Acts 2:19-20 "And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come."
Joel says in Joel 2:32 "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call." These words of Joel are brought directly to application of the Lord Jesus in Acts 2:21 "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Peter explains that the events they have witnessed have been to the salvation of men.
III- You Saw the Miracles: Acts 2:22
Peter next appeals to their own personal knowledge based on what they had witnesses. Acts 2:22"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know."
Peter is saying that they should be able to discern that Jesus was not a criminal but that He was sent from God. Jesus said in John 14:11 "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." The walking on the water, the healing of the blind, the raising of the dead, the feeding of the multitude among many other things testified of Jesus. John ends his gospel with these words, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." John 21:25
IV- Testimony of David: Acts 2:25-31
He next appeals from the greatest King that had ever ruled Israel, King David, and informs them that David had look for this to happen. Acts 2:25-28 "For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance." He uses Psalms 16:8 in this appeal.
He reminded them of the obvious that David was dead and buried but he spoke of the resurrection of Jesus. Acts 2:29-31 "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption."
Peter makes it plain that these verses could not be about David because he was dead and buried and they could go to the tomb if they wanted to do so and verify it. David had spoken about one that would come and that "…he (God) would raise up Christ to sit on his throne."
V- Testimony of Resurrection: Acts 2:24, 32
Peter reminded them that only a few short weeks ago another event had taken place in the city of Jerusalem. Most of these men would certainly have at least been aware of the crucifixion and probably the stir about the resurrection. He tells them that the resurrection was proof of Jesus being Messiah as had been promised.
Acts 2:24 "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." Dead could not hold Him, it was not even a possibility.
Acts 2:32 "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." This again points to the testimony of the resurrection that many could bear witness too. During the forty days after the resurrection Jesus was seen by a great number of which certainly many were in the hearing of Peters sermon at this time. 1 Cor 15:6 says, "After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."
VI- This Was God’s Plan: 23, 33-36
Lest they or we think that the events that took place some almost two thousand years ago were chance Peter reminds them and us that this was God’s foreordained plan for the salvation of men. Acts 2:23 "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
This being God’s plan does not in any way excuse the wickedness of these men.
Acst 2:33 "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." He reminds them that the events that had just taken place was the fulfillment of the promise because Jesus was now back in heaven at the Father’s right hand.
Notice with me some very comforting and wonderful verses concerning the fact that Christ is at the right hand of the Father. Heb 1:3 "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
Heb 8:1 "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."
Heb 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
He again reminds them that David is not the one who ascended back to God but it was Jesus. Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool." Please notice yet another future prophetic word spoken by Peter here. He again quotes from David, "Until I make thy foes thy footstool."
Heb 10:12-13 "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God…"Heb 10:13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
The writer to Hebrews is making the argument that Jesus is greater than the angels.
So what "What meaneth this?" The last verse of our text today gives us a great summary of the meaning of Pentecost. Acts 2:36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." It’s all about Jesus.
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(8) The Supernatural Reaction to the Gospel Acts 2:37-41
It is possible to have faith and not be saved? (Please allow me the courteous of explaining this before you jump to a unwarranted conclusion.) Is it possible to react simply only out of emotion to the gospel message or in fact to a story of a fuzzy warm puppy and not accept Jesus. I would say that it is because salvation is a supernatural event not something that is of the natural to accomplish.
Peter delivers the message of the gospel to the crowd on the day of Pentecost. What would be their reaction? First may I suggest that they did not have reaction such as they would have to an other event but they had a supernatural reaction. Let us see the reaction of a lost man to the gospel as convinced, convicted and then converted in this section.
I- Convinced: Acts 2:37
That the message of Peter was the truth and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. There are some things that we must believe to be saved. We are not saved by faith in anything but we are saved by faith in Christ. Heb 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
One of the great frustration of many who attempt to witness is that they cannot get people to believe what they are saying. Remember Jesus said in Matt 13:15-16 "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."
May I say to us all that it is the Holy Spirit that must open the eyes and ears? Remember when Jesus walked on the Road to Emmas with the two and entered their home. Notice it says in Luke 24:45 "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures."
1 Cor 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
There is a song that is sang by many today that says, "Open the eyes of my heart Lord, Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You…" These in Acts 2 were supernaturally convinced of who Jesus was by the Holy Spirit. This was one of the jobs that the Holy Spirit was sent into the world to do. We cannot convince men that the gospel message is true, God must do this. We are only responsible for the deliverance of the Gospel not the convincing of its truth.
II- Convicted: Acts 2:37
Many times we pray for our family or friends to be saved. This is well and good but the thing that must precede salvation is conviction of the Holy Spirit of their lost state and their need of Jesus as Savior.
It says here that many of those that heard the message of Peter were, "pricked" in their heart. Notice what Barnes’ Notes says about this word:
"The word translated were "pricked," …is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly denotes "to pierce or penetrate with a needle, lancet, or sharp instrument"; and then "to pierce with grief, or acute pain of any kind." It corresponds precisely to our word "compunction." It implies also the idea of sudden as well as acute grief. In this case it means that they were suddenly and deeply affected with anguish and alarm at what Peter had said." (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
A sinners response to the gospel upon conviction of their sin is to know what they have done can not be undone. The conviction convinced them that God wanted to and could save them.
The greatest question men can ask, What can we do for forgiveness. Paul ask in Acts 9:6 "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Also notice that the Philippian jailer asked in Acts 16:30 "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Again Barnes’ Notes gives us a great list of the state of mind of a convicted sinner. Notice the following:
(1) A deep sense of the evil of the past life; remembrance of a thousand crimes perhaps before forgotten; a pervading and deepening conviction that the heart, and conversation, and life have been evil, and deserve condemnation.
(2) Apprehension about the justice of God; alarm when the mind looks upward to him, or onward to the day of death and judgment.
(3) An earnest wish, amounting sometimes to agony, to be delivered from this sense of condemnation and this apprehension of the future.
(4) A readiness to sacrifice all to the will of God; to surrender the governing purpose of the mind, and to do what he requires. In this state the soul is prepared to receive the offers of eternal life; and when the sinner comes to this, the offers of mercy meet his case, and he yields himself to the Lord Jesus, and finds peace. (ibid.)
I think the scripture teaches us that conviction is not a natural things that occurs with in men but a supernatural thing. The Holy Spirit must work this work in the heart of sinners. Remember the words of Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11 "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."
These people that heard Peter preach were supernaturally convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sin and need of Jesus.
III- Converted: Acts 2:33-41
Peter tells them that the one who they crucified was the one who could give them forgiveness. He tells them to repent. Repentance is a critical part of conversion. Repentance is simply agreeing with God that we are a sinner and turning from that sin to Christ. Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Cor 7:9-10 "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
Godly repentance is more than just feeling sorry for something for a short time until the feeling passes or we get over it. Many men feel sorry that they go caught with have repentance toward God. Repentance alone without turning to Christ is nothing more that a sham that will lead to a false sense of security. After all men have so called religious experiences all the time without ever being converted to Christ. Repentance should be seen through the eyes of grace in which a lost man realizes the goodness of God and that God wants him to be saved by turning to Christ.
Peter also said, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." He was simply telling them to not be unduly persuaded by the men around them because they were corrupt in their teaching and beliefs. Jesus had described this generation in Matt 11:16-19 "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children."
Please notice the great number that turned to Jesus in faith and experience conversion. Acts 2:41 "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Also please notice that here we have the second time that believers received the Holy Spirit and it was not anything like the events just a few minutes prior. It was in the same mode that believers today receive Him, by faith in Christ. Based upon these events receipt of the Holy Spirit is promised upon belief. 2:38c "…and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." There is no indication that the apostles laid hands upon these new believers before they received the Holy Spirit.
Let me endeavor to clear up as much as possible in the scope of this message the in problem in Acts 2:38 that has caused so much confusion. There is a little word that is translated "for" in this verse that has lead to false doctrine. Some teach that this verse teaching that we must be baptized to be saved. This is often referred to as "baptismal regeneration." Acts 2:38 says, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
We must allow the whole canon of Scripture to speak and not build doctrine on one verse let alone one word in a verse. This word translated "for" is the Greek word eis (ice). This little word is a preposition. Please notice how many different ways it is translated in the KJV.
"[abundantly-], against, among, as, at, [back-] ward, before, by, concerning, + continual, + far more exceeding, for [intent, purposefore],, + forth, in (among, at, unto, -so much that, -to), to the intent that, + of one mind, + never, of, (up-) on, + perish, + set at one again, (so) that, therefore (-unto), throughout, til, to (be, the end, -ward), (here-) until (-to), ... ward, [wherefore-], with. Often used in composition with the same general import, but only with verbs (etc.) expressing motion (literally or figuratively)." (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
It is found 1793 times in the New Testament but is only translated for 144 of these times. It could have been translated "into" which it is most often. Acts 2:38 would "…be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ into the remission of sins"
One of the strongest argument against baptismal regeneration is found in the writings of Paul. Notice the plain language in 1 Cor 1:14-17 "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect."
So we can clearly see that conversion is brought about before baptism and that the Holy Spirit comes into believers at the moment of conversion not as some special act of second grace.
So what should be your reaction to the gospel. May I say it should be a supernatural reaction? You should be convinced of who Jesus is, convicted of your sin and need of Christ and be converted to Him by faith and them you should be baptized as an act of obedience.
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9) Reasons for Assembling Together Acts 2:42-47
Many organizations today have benefits for belonging to them. They used these benefits to entice people to pay the dues or fees in order to be a member of their group. What if it cost to be a member of the church or to attend church how much would you be willing to pay?
If someone asked you, "What is the benefit of going to church once you are saved?" What would you tell them? Could you tell them the benefits of assembling together?
Many people are under the impression that they can live as close to God as they need to and never darken the doors of a church. While it is possible to be saved and not attend church it is not possible to be saved and live as close to God as you and I need to without meeting on a consistent basis with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
The writer of Hebrews would not have been in the group that believed we could live without each other. He stated in Heb 10:23-25 "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
The early church was very young in this state of Acts. Literally thousands were coming to the Lord by the preaching of the gospel by the Apostles and others. The benefits of assembling together are clearly evident in the church from this early stage of ACT ONE. Are they any less important today? I submit to you they are not.
So what are the benefits of assembling together? Is it so we can see what the others are wearing on Sunday? Or perhaps to catch up on all the news we have missed during the week? Many times politicians come to churches at election time to be seen and derive what they hope will be benefit. Many times Doctors and Lawyers and professional people will join "the church" in town in order to rub elbows with the right people to enhance their profession. These reason may I say are foreign to the Scriptures. So what are the benefits? Let us notice together some we find here in the last few verse of Acts chapter two.
I remind us again that we are looking in the Scriptures at the very early church. It is only a few says old. Still there are some things that we can see that developed that we can take with us from Acts 2:42-47 about the purpose of attending church.
Acts 2:42 "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine…" One of the greatest needs we have as believers is to be reminded of what we knew and forgot and what we know and do not put into practice. They continued in the teachings of the apostles. I am reminded that Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim 4:2-4 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
We live in a world today when the masses do not want to be taught the word of God undiluted. They want a watered down version with sugar water in it so it is sweeter. I recently got a letter that wanted me to come to such and such a church that, "Accepts me just the way I am." The only thing wrong with that is God does not accept us just any old way. We need teaching of doctrine to find out what God wants. While you may get a little from TV or radio there is nothing like the real live thing where you can interact and participate. No teaching can replace the teaching of the church.
Acts 2:42 "…and fellowship…" They not only were benefited by teaching but also with fellowship. Lets face it we all are social creatures. We all need to have interaction with other humans. Most people who don’t begin to develop problems.
The Bible talks about us being part of the body. You know what happens if you cut you hand off and lay it on a shelf. You can figure it out.
One of the functions of a church is fellowship. I think it is important that we have fellowship within our walls as well as with other brothers and sisters of other churches. I am glad we have ties with other Baptist churches. In 1993 on survey said there were 405,000 place of Christian worship but 100,000 had no ties with any others. I think the early Christians who for the most part met in house would not have thought this possible.
Why is our fellowship not what it could be, maybe should be, and certainly will be in heaven. Tommy Holtzclaw gave the best illustration of why mission trips are so special. When you are on the mission field for a short term mission everyone sleeps at the same place, eats the same food, have the same project they are working together to complete and as a result they have great fellowship. Our lives day to day in most churches are not lives in this closeness so our fellowship is not what it could, should or will be. Still we need to take time and effort to develop sweet fellowship in our churches. This is one of the great benefits of attending church, having a place to belong. We need to foster a place where people can become part.
I read a great little story that I think sums up the need for a personal touch. I must ask the question, are we like "Joy Inc." in this story. I hope not God have called us to fellowship.
I had a delightful, fifteen-minute telephone conversation last Tuesday. Actually I shouldn't call it a conversation. It was more ... well, I'll just tell you about it.
I called a company I do business with. A pleasant female voice said, "Hello, thank you for calling Joy, Inc. If you're on a touch-tone phone, select your choice at any time. If you're calling to check on your credit account, press 1 now. If you have questions about ordering procedures, press 2. If you would like a review of new products, press 3. If you would like to speak to a particular person and you know the extension, key that in now. If you ..."
Well, I was in luck because I knew Joe's number, so I keyed 357 knowing I would soon be chatting away with my rep.
Sure enough, after three or four rings, there was Joe's familiar voice. "Hi, this is Joe. I'm away from my desk right now. But if you'd like to leave a message, you can do so at the tone. If you prefer to wait, my secretary will assist you as soon as possible."
I wasn't particularly pressed for time, so I decided to wait. The tone beeped pleasantly, and since I didn't say anything (I guess) I heard the voice of a pleasant woman: "I'm sorry we can't get to your call immediately, but if you'll hold, your call will be serviced by the first available person. In the meantime, Joy Inc. would like for you to sit back, turn on your speaker phone, and relax to music of your choice. If you prefer classical orchestral music featuring the London philharmonic playing Dvorak, press 1. If you're in the mood for Christian vocalists, enjoy Dawn Rike's new album by pressing 2. If you'd ..."
After several minutes of soothing sounds, Joe's voice surprised me. "This is Joe. Apparently your call hasn't been processed yet. If you'd like to leave a message, you can do so now."
"Joe, this is Louis. I wanted to know about the payment date we discussed a few weeks ago. Please give me a call at home."
Before I could hang up, Joe's voice returned. You can imagine my delight.
"This is Joe. Thanks for calling ... Louis ... I value your business, and you can be assured I'll get back to you soon. It has been a pleasure to bring you Joy." Louis McBurney, Marble Retreat, Marble, Colorado. Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 2.
III- Observation of the Ordinances:
Acts 2:42 "…and in breaking of bread" This was most certainly observation of the Lord Supper that Jesus had instituted. What is the benefit here? It is I think found in the fact that church is a place to be reminded that Jesus is coming. Listen as we hear Jesus in Luke 22:19 as He tells us about "breaking of bread" or the Lord’s Supper. "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." Now to 1 Cor 11:26 "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
The observation of the Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus dies for us but also points to His coming and reminds us of that. We all need to be reminded of this and a benefit of the church is it does this.
This will help us to walk the way we need to walk. 1 John 3:2-3 says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
IV- Corporate prayer:
Acts 2:42 "…and in prayers" The early church continued in prayer. One of the great benefits of church attending is that others can know when you need prayer and pray for you. There are times we cannot pray, such as when we are incapacitated or deathly sick then isn’t it wonderful to know others who you have taken time to study the Word of God with, fellowship with and celebrate the Lord’s Supper with can pray. DL Moody said, "I'd rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher; Jesus Christ never taught his disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.".
One of the things we also need to notice is that prayer was not just an after thought nor a reminder to be about in the announcements. It was something they did together. I remind us all that Jesus said in Matt 18:19-20 "That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
V- Outreach to Lost friends and family:
Acts 2:43 "And fear came upon every soul…47 And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
I tie these two verses together to simply say that if you are concerned with a loved one getting saved what better place to bring that concern to light than at church. Not that the church can save them but beloved it is here that we can pray for convection of the loved one by the Holy Spirit.
It is also here that we can attempt to reach the loved one with the gospel message by presenting the gospel to them.
VI- Help in Trouble:
Acts 2:44-45 "And all that believed were together, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."
We are told in Gal 6:2 to, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
James says in James 2:15-16 "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"
Churches deal with benevolent needs every day. Today there is a great skeptic attitude about who to help and who is only using the church. It is easy to be skeptical when things like happened to one pastor occur. He took a call at church one day for a need and hung up. He got a call immediately from the same woman on the second line of the church. She was simply going down the phone book calling all churches.
One of the great benefits of being actively involved in church is if you have a need, and we all do at some time in life, then our brothers and sisters can and will help.
The benefits of being active in church have not changed since the early church. The benefits continue to be great and should encourage all of us to be involved in a local church.
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(10) The Greatest Gift for the Greatest Need Acts 3:1-10
What should be our outcome based emphasis toward everything we do? Should it be to get the church full of people so we can brag about numbers? Should it be to take care of all the needs that people have both in and out of the church as far as housing, utilities, groceries etc. are concerned? What is the underlying reason or motivating cause of our work as a church and us as individual believers? The text before us today gives us an example of what the end desire should be.
Lets take a quick look at the scripture presented here and then go back and see some things.
Peter and John go to the temple to pray about three o’clock in the afternoon. (v 1) They see and man who was born lame (v 2) who was begging. The man asked for an alm from Peter and John. (v 3) Peter and John tell him to look at them (v 4) and the man expected to get and offering turned toward them. (v 5). Peter tells him he does not have any money to give him but will give him all he has (v 6). The man is healed of his infirmity (v 7). The man leaped with joy and praised God (v 8) and all the people say it (vs 9-10). Let us now look at some things we can learn from this.
I- The Man’s Greatest Need:
What was the man’s greatest need? From his perspective it was money. He needed to eat and could not because of a birth defect work and fend for himself. His was not due to laziness but was chance. Why did he ask Peter and John? He did not single them out I feel but was asking everyone who came along.
Notice that when Peter and John addressed him they first took his attention away from the distractions around him. Acts 3:4 "And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us." They took his attention off of others who would be passing by and which would command the attention of the cripple very quickly. Many times for us to effectively witness to someone we must first get the distractions away. When we go into a home or some other place to witness one of Satan’s greatest weapons is distraction. The phone rings, a baby cries, a spouse interrupts.
In the broader scheme of things the world and its attractions keeps many from seeing their need of spiritual things.
Please notice that Peter and John gave him not what he wanted but what he needed. Many times people do no see their greatest need as it really is. They see the tree but not the forest so to speak. The man looked at them expecting something.
Peter’s reply was a tremendous statement, "…Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." Acts 3:6 This begs a couple of questions. What does the world expect of us? Are we trying to live up to their expectations or are we giving them what they need.
It was not that the man did not need silver and gold, he did, but that was not his greatest need. It is not that the world does not need food, clothing and shelter but that is not their greatest need. The man received much more than he asked for. He asked for alms and received healing and Jesus.
Many times if we are not careful we will focus on the temporary gifts and not include the eternal gifts. We will focus on the building and other things and not the needs of people. It seems ironic that this man lay at the gate called Beautiful. He was marred by a handicap. He was incapable of helping himself. We need to take from this text first that men have a need that they do not recognize and that they are incapable of helping themselves. We need to give them what they need most not simply what they think they need. This however does not keep us from ministering to the needs physically but we must not stop there but minister to the whole person.
II- The Greatest Gift:
Could the church today do more for the needs of the poor and needy. If we lump all the churches of all denominations and varieties together the church today is a very wealthy organism. JV McGee had a unique perspective on Acts 3:6.
An incident is told of one of the early saints of the church in Rome who walked in on the pope as he was counting money. Realizing that he had walked in on something which was private, he started to walk out. The pope said to him, "No longer can the church say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’" As the saintly man continued walking out, he said, "Neither can the church say to the impotent man, ‘Rise up and walk.’"
Today the organized church has wealth. I suppose that if one could put together all the holdings of all the churches, all groups, denominations, and non-denominations across the country, we would find the church wealthier than any other organization. I think it is wealthier than the Standard Oil Company. Yet the church today lacks power. (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.)
So what is the message of the church today. May I say it has not changed since ACTS ONE. The message is one that can only be born of an inward change. 1 Cor 1:18 tells us, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
1 Cor 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
The greatest testimonies we have ourselves are changed lives. When we witness to others they may argue with a lot of things but cannot argue with the testimony of what Christ has done for us.
Are you still excited about what Jesus did to you when you were saved? Notice the last three verses in our text. Acts 3:8-10 "And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God: 10 And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him."
This man was an effective witness for telling others about Christ because of what had happened to him. We were all cripples and without hope, incapable of helping ourselves when Jesus found us. When He restored strength to us we were changed. That should be etched in our very inner being and glowing so the world can see it. One of the challenges we all fact is staying fresh and excited about our salvation. 2 Cor 5:17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
So what is the greatest message? Paul stated in 1 Cor 15:3-4 "…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
He also told us about why people at times will not receive the gospel. 2 Cor 4:3-5 "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake."
The greatest need of mankind is Jesus and the greatest gift we can give them is the saving good news of the gospel. Such as we have, Jesus, let us be busy giving the world.
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(11) Through Faith In His Name Acts 3:1-11-26
There are found a multitude of names in the Holy Bible for Jesus. Man people call him many things. After the healing of the lamb man by the Apostles that we looked at in the previous verses we find a crowd responding.
The man according to Acts 3:11 held onto Peter and John. Acts 3:11a "And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John…" This commotion caused the people to gather around wanting to know what was going on. Acts 3:11b "…all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering."
This gives Peter and opportunity to share the gospel. Acts 3:12 "And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" He quickly tells them it was not about him and about his holiness and power but notice he seized the opportunity to preach about Jesus.
I- Through His Name:
He tells them it was by this man Jesus that the man was made whole. Acts 3:16 "And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." Peter make it clear that it was by faith in Jesus that this man received healing.
In Acts 4:12 says, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." We will focus on the Names that Peter used in this sermon in a moment as the main part of our sermon. First allow me to point out a couple of other items.
II- The Kingdom Offer:
The Kingdom was offered to the Jews by Jesus and they rejected Him. Jesus told them in Matt 21:42-43 "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Israel was symbolized in the Scriptures by the fig tree. There was great symbolism when Jesus cursed the fig tree in Matt 21:19 "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away."
Some see the Kingdom offered to them again in this sermon of Peter’s. Acts 3:17-20 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you."
Acts 3:25 "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."
I do not wish in any way to be saying that God is done with Israel forever. I do not think scripture teaches us any way that the church is new Israel and the promises to Israel are passed. Notice but two verses in the letter to the Romans. Rom 11:25 "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."
Rom 11:15 "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?"
He also reminds them of the cost of rejecting Jesus. Acts 3:23 "And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." The cost of rejecting Jesus has not changed beloved. It is still separation from God for eternity.
III- The Names:
A- Son of God:
Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
One of the things that we first notice here is that Peter is quick to tie the God of the Old Testament to Jesus. God is referred to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob many times. Over 100 times in the Bible these three names are used in the same sentence. I remind us all that it was to Abraham that the promise was given and it passed to Isaac and then to Jacob who’s name was changed to Israel. So when Jesus is referred to as "his Son" it establishes the continuity between the Old Testament God Jehovah and Jesus.
B- Holy One:
Acts 3:14a "But ye denied the Holy One …" 48 times in the Bible the name Holy One is used. One example of this is the Messianic prophecy found in Ps 16:10 "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."
The demons of Hell recognized Jesus as the Holy One. Luke 4:34 records a man who was possessed and the demons crying out "Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God."
This shows that the Holy One of Israel was used to refer to the Messiah often.
C- The Just:
Acts 3:14b "…and the Just…" This can also be translated "righteous." He was righteous as opposed to all other men who ever lived. Rom 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." Jesus was the most perfect righteous and just man who ever lived. This was necessary because if He had not been He could not have been the Lamb with spot or blemish. Heb 4:15 tells us Jesus "….was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
D- Prince of Life:
Notice now He is called the Prince of Life. The contrast here is that they desired a murderer and killed the one who gave life and gives life. Acts 3:14b-15 "…and desired a murderer to be granted unto you 15And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses." The NIV translates this Author of Life. Peter established the fact that Jesus was the originator of life itself and they had put Him to death.
E- The Prophet:
In Acts 3:22 we see that Peter identifies Christ as the Prophet that would arise like Moses. "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you." This promise was given by God in Deut 18:18 "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." Beloved this simply points out the fact that Jesus was everything promised by God and indeed He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Holy One, the Just, the Prince of Life, The Prophet that was to come. He was and is God manifest in the flesh to bring us eternal life.
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(12) The Rejected Cornerstone Acts 4:1-11
At the end of the sermon Peter preached to the people Acts 3:12 "And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" This was mainly a Jewish audience as evidences by Acts 3:17 "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." As well as Acts 3:25 "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed." The Sadducees (remember they didn’t believe in the resurrection) came and put Peter and John (them of Acts 4:3 is reference to 3:1) still there were 5000 that were saved.
Jesus has begun to build His church. Remember it was to begin in Jerusalem, Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." What we have in the imprisonment of Peter and John is the first recorded persecution of the church that has not ceased since ACT ONE.
The next day, Acts 4:5 "And it came to pass on the morrow" members of the High Priest family and possibly others, "…that their rulers, and elders, and scribes" sent for Peter and John and had them set before them. Acts 4:6 "And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem."
It is of worthy note that the most of the persecution of the church, not all, will come from the Sadducees and the High Priest group. They demanded to know by what power they had healed the cripple. Acts 4:7 "And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" If we did not know better we would wonder if they had not been in Jerusalem in the last few weeks. They knew what the turmoil was about. It was about Jesus and His death and resurrection.
Peter, you remember the one who denied he even knew Jesus, stands now with boldness and speaks. The difference was the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the fact of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Acts 4:8-10 "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole."
I- Rejected Cornestone:
Peter quickly answers that it was by the name of Jesus of Nazareth that this was done. He reminds them that they crucified Him. We find this indictment has foundation in Matthew 27:24-25 "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children."
We can argue who it was that killed Jesus. The Jews have suffered persecution over the years because Christians blamed them for killing Jesus. While technically we might say it was so we could also blame the Romans because it was the soldiers of the Roman Empire that carried out the crucifixion. Many also claim it was you and I that placed Him on the cross and this is certainly true as well. However I wish to remind us all that it was the plan of God from the foundation of the world that placed Him on the cross. It was God’s plan of redemption for mankind.
The thing that in all probability distressed these Sadducees the most was when Peter told them "10…whom God raised from the dead…" They did not believe it even thought they personally knew many eye witnesses to the fact. Beloved whether men, yea even all men, reject the resurrection it does not make it any less fact. The resurrection if found in the sermons of the early church because it is the resurrection of the dead that sets Christianity apart from any other religion.
He stated in Acts 4:11 "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." This is an reference to Psalms 118:22 "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." Notice what Barnes’ Notes says concerning this.
The ancient Jews applied this to David. In the Targum on Ps 118:22, this passage is rendered, "The child who was among the sons of Jesse, and was worthy to be constituted king, the builders rejected." The New Testament writers, however, apply it without any doubt to the Messiah. (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
A few years ago I built a small home in the mountains over in Elizabethton. I recall the first thing I did in the construction of it was to fix the first pillar from which all of the building was laid out. The back right corner pad was poured and two blocks were laid on the concrete pad. I waited for this to set up and went back a week or so later and pulled the strings and marked the other corners. From this one cornerstone the whole building was plumbed and leveled and squared. There has to be a point of reference when we build anything such as a house or room.
The Bible says that Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. He is the one from which all else is judged and found to be true or not. He is the one who takes primary place in the building of God’s church. He is the chief Cornerstone.
While some may say this applies to someone else or to something else we find that Jesus Himself applied it to Himself. Matthew 21:42 "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?"
Isa 28:16 "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste."
Even though the Jewish leader to whom Peter was preaching had rejected Jesus as fit to be the cornerstone God had raised Him from the dead to be. This was the Lord’s doing and should be marvelous in our eyes. He indeed was a tried, precious and sure stone.
Others that came after Jesus were used by God to also contribute to the building of the church. Notice Ephesians 2:20 "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."
II-The Rock On Which Many Stumble:
Still the fact remained that they had rejected Him. Jesus had in effect become a stumbling block to them. They would not believe, Notice 1 Peter 2:6 "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded." And also Rom 9:33 "As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
Many today want to be religious as long as we do not mention Jesus. He today is a stone that is still a stumbling block to many today. The fact that Jesus was rejected and then raise fulfilled prophecy and gave credence to the fact He was the Messiah.
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(13) The Narrow Way to Heaven Acts 4:12
Within the message that Peter preached to the High Priest and his family we find one of the most critical doctrinal statements found anywhere in the Bible. Acts 4:12 shouts, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
I- Exploring this Statement:
Let us now look at this statement and attempt to dig it apart word or word and see what it says. Peter is most assuredly talking about Jesus we can quickly discern from Acts 4:10ff "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner."
So we can quickly lay aside the suggestion from anyone that this talking about anyone but Jesus Christ. We could ask the question that relates to this and use the very words of Peter, "…is there salvation in any other…" I am not trying to make the word of God say something it does not here nor am I implying that Peter was asking a question. It is I alone who is asking this question and not Peter. So is there salvation to be found in any other? We have the answer here in the next few words in this verse, "…for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." The answer according the Bible is a resounding "NO!"
So what exactly is salvation. I have heard many times about people who were asked if they were saved replied, "saved from what." What do we mean when we talk about salvation? In the Old Testament when salvation is mentioned it usually meant safety, deliverance and other things. In the New Testament it is primarily connected to the deliverance from sin’s power and dominion through the blood of Christ.
How do we know about salvation? May I state that the only way we can know about salvation is by revelation of God on the subject. Men cannot figure it out on their own. Heb 2:3 "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him."
Another related question is "Why is salvation possible only in Jesus?" Salvation is possible only in Jesus because only Jesus provided the acceptable and accepted sacrifice for our sin. We see this reflected in Matt 1:21 "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."
How did He do this? Through His suffering. Notice Heb 2:10 "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
Heb 5:9 "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."
Is there any other who was sent from God to earth to die? Is there any other who came and was born of a virgin, lived a perfect sinless life, was lead as a lamb to the slaughter, was crucified on the cross and then on the third day arose. If there is anyone else who fulfilled every possible prophecy concerning the promised Messiah then they too would qualify as a Savior but beloved there is none other than Jesus.
II- The Narrow Way:
One of the things that Christians are accused of is being narrow minded about who gets to go to heaven. Many so called Christians compromise and try to make it possible for anyone who is good to his neighbor, or someone who treats his wife good, or goes to church, or believes anything as long as he believes it enough is going to get to go to heaven. When we water down the Word of God like this we in fact violate it so egregiously that we make it of no effect. The apostle Paul said in Gal 1:6-9 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
I sat in the stands of the Dome in Atlanta at the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago and heard Reggie White the great football player speak. The news reporters were there with their TV cameras and newspaper reporters etc. Reggie was taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality at the time. Reggie made a statement concerning this that I think is applicable to the issue of us being narrow-minded. He said, "I want you to quote me exactly on this subject. Reggie White did not say homosexuality is wrong." He then paused for a few seconds of deifying silence. He then said, "God said it I only repeated it." Beloved God is the one who said the way to heaven is narrow. We only repeat it when we say you must come through Jesus and His blood. We can either take a stand on this or we can compromise and make the gospel of none effect.
Matthew 7:13 "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."
The only way to heaven beloved is a one lane path. Not a road but a path that is only shoulder width wide. Men cannot carry someone along beside them or walk arm and arm in order to get someone else into heaven. In the sense that salvation is an individual responsibility the way is narrow. I am not implying in the least that we do not need each other only that we can be of no uses to each others concerning accepting Jesus as Savior. It is a narrow one lane path.
"We must be saved" gives us the indication that it is imperative that we are saved. The word "must" here exclude again any other way for salvation than Jesus. It did not say we might be or could be but must be saved.
III- Implications of the Narrow Way:
If you had a map to a secret treasure would you share it with others or keep it a secret. Most would not share it because they would be afraid of losing it. The great thing about the treasure of Jesus is the more we share the secret is the more our treasure grows. The more we give Him away the greater the rewards.
One thing that this narrow way implies is that we cannot get to heaven on our own merit. We must have Jesus righteous imputes to us. Titus 3:5 says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
The next implication is that we need to be actively sharing Jesus because He is the only hope. Remember "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
This also negates any of the other religions of the world that claim truth and hope based on tenets that reject Christ. Beloved either Christianity is true and Christ is the risen living Savior or it is a lie and we all are damned to hell. Paul stated it this way concerning the resurrection of Christ that proves He is the narrow way. 1 Cor 15:14 "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain…17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."
He did rise, He is living, and He is the only way, the narrow way to Heaven.
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(14) Signs You Have Been With Jesus Acts 4:13
After the miracle of healing that took place and Peter preached his short sermon to the High Priest and his family we find a verse that screams at us. Acts 4:13 "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
These enemies of the cross, while rejecting Jesus as Messiah, recognized something about Peter and John and were astonished at them. The Word of God says they "marvelled." Them being unlearned simply meant they were perceived as unlettered or illiterate men. Marvelled means they took full note of. They came to the conclusion that the difference that these men had was the fact that they had been with Jesus.
So what are the signs that we have been with Jesus? Can the world tell the difference? What actions and deeds should we be doing that tells the world we are set apart for the glory of God?
Notice that it says that they saw the boldness of Peter and John. What would make a Christian bold? Have you ever noticed someone who is unsure of themselves they are not very bold unless it is an over aggressive boldness that is transparent but someone who is sure of themselves has a quite boldness.
We can be bold when we have a confidence in the message we are proclaiming. When we settle the message of the gospel in the bedrock of our heart.
Notice the following verses:
Pr 14:26 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.
Pr 28:1 The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
Eph 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Heb 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Peter and John had experienced the risen Lord in their life and they had boldness in the message that He was Messiah. Do you and I have the boldness we need at work, home or in public? Do we have the holy boldness we need to witness and take a stand for right?
Many of us worry about offending people with the gospel. Let me give us a quote from many years ago by the great man of the past Martin Luther.
"I find it impossible to avoid offending guilty men, for there is no way of avoiding it but by our silence or their patience; and silent we cannot be because of God's command, and patient they cannot be because of their guilt."--Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.
II- Knowledge Beyond Ourselves:
These men were acknowledged as having understanding beyond what they should have. The words of Jesus literally came true in their lives. Luke 12:11-12 "And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: 12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say."
These men had power and authority beyond human words and power. They were indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit of God with knowledge beyond themselves.
Peter and John were uneducated fishermen. This should challenge us because most in America today have more education than most of the men and women of the Bible. Romans 10:11 "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
III- Other Applicable Scriptures:
There is another place in the Word of God that speaks to this subject as well. Notice Matthew 5:13-16 "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." We will look at a couple of others in a moment. Let’s see two things from here now.
IV- Salt of Earth: Matt 5:13
Salt is used to cleanse, preserve and to create thirst. But salt can do none of these things without contact with the wound, the meat or the mouth. The earth is a large area and the disciples were just a few men but look at the areas they have infected with the gospel.
How do we salt? With the gospel certainly but also with out speech. Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
This excludes dirty jokes, foul language or destructive talk. We can salt with the wrong kind of salt if we are not careful. We must be careful to season our world with the right flavor.
There is a warning in this verse and that is that we need to not lose our savour. This means we should guard our testimony and not lose our influence.
V- Light of the World: Matt 5:14ff
We are to also be a light into the dark world. Notice it says we should not put our light under anything that dims it. We should also not allow our lamb to suted up with sin and grow dim. The world is in darkness and we are called to be light.
How can we be light? By being a neighbor and being a friend who gives of ourselves. We need to be someone who can be imitated. Our life is set on a hill. These men even made an impression on the enemies of the gospel by the light they were being for Christ.
Notice also it says the reason for our being light is that God would be glorified.
VI- Living Water: John 7:38
Another sign we have been with Jesus is that our lives will produce fresh water. John 7:38 "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
The world is dying of thirst. They are looking for answers in all the wrong places. We are called to be giving drinks of the Living Water that will quench the thirst of the world.
A sign we have been with the giver of fresh water is when we are being used to help those whose mouths are dry with sin to enjoy the refreshing Water of Life.
VII- Love of Others: John 13:35
If we are bold but not arrogant, salt that had not lost it savour, light that is shining and water that is flowing then the world will know we have been with Jesus. However, there is one final way we need to touch upon that the world can know that we have been with Jesus.
John 13:35 "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
Would our friends testify that they can see that we have been with Jesus? Is our light shining and our love flowing in ways that glorify Jesus?
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(15) Things that Get in the Way of Faith Acts 4:14-18
One of the most amazing and confusing things that someone faces when witnessing to someone is when the person we are trying to reach just refused to believe. In spite of any thing we say or any scriptures we bring to bear they refuse to accept Jesus as their Savior. Many time they will agree with all you say and admit that they need to do it but will still refuse.
In our text we know that a man had been healed and this gave great rise to an opportunity for Peter and the others to preach Jesus. It gave those around them an opportunity to understand who Jesus was and by the virtue of that to accept His claim on their life.
We saw from verse 13 that they were confronted with the changed lives of the disciples and they marveled. Let us take this occasion to attempt to understand things that get in the way of faith that we see here in order that we might better understand humanity and salvation.
So what are things that get in the way of faith?
Acts 4:14ff "And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 16…indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it."
The facts are well established here. There is no doubt that these men had all the evidence they needed to believe. They could not deny the miracle of the healing. They said so themselves. Still they would put a spin on it for many reasons.
I- Political Correctness:
Today we live in a time where to be politically correct is to agree that all points of view are as valid as the next. Truth has been sacrificed on this altar. For political reasons these men would not and in their mind could not accept the fact that Jesus was the ultimate cause and effect of this mans healing. This however was not the first time that this group had made the politically correct decision. I find at least two times in the gospel of John prior to Jesus crucifixion that the politically correct decision was made.
John 11:47-52 "Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."
John 18:14 "Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people."
II- Religious Teachings:
Today in our world many times the truth is rejected because of prior teachings that are ingrained that they are almost impossible to overcome. Many who are saved from other religions say that the teaching they had received as a child was difficult to let go of to embrace the truth.
Jesus told us in John 5:39 "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
2 Thess 2:11 talks of the tribulation time and the anti-Christ who will come. "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." However when we look around we see that the words of 1 John 2:18, 22 have come to pass. "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time…22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son."
There are many today who are being taught lies about Jesus and it is difficult to win someone out of a cult or false religion. Impossible, with God nothing is impossible, but I am saying only that false teaching and indoctrination stands in the way of faith.
III- Self Interest:
One of the plain truths that is evident when we study the Word of God and these leaders of the Jewish religion during the time of Jesus and the early church is that they had a good thing going. Their self interest keep getting in the way of their faith. Many today who accept Christ are treated as if they have died. The early believers were persecuted because of their faith in Jesus.
How many did not embrace Christianity because of self interest and unwillingness to live with the consequences of what faith will cost them.
Luke 14:27-28 gives us an account of Jesus words, "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?"
In John 6:66-67 we find many who turned back and quit following Jesus when it was not longer in their interest to do so. "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away…" Many times jobs or some other personal interest stands in the way of faith.
IV- National Interest:
This may be very similar to the first point but I think it is a valid point as well. These men said in John 11:48 "…the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation." Many times national interest can get in the way of faith. Are there probably not rulers of nations who cannot embrace faith in Christ because of their nations interest would somehow be betrayed.
Certainly many of the early leaders in the church were converted out of the Jewish faith to Christianity. We have no record of any of these doing so. But another thing that stands in the way of faith is found later in Acts. Notice in Acts 24:24-26 "And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. 26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul…" Many men have gone to hell intending to someday get things right with God.
As we close this subject let me leave us with a couple of what we might call "Constant’s of the Way to Faith."
1- Jesus must draw: John 6:44 "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
2- Faith comes by hearing the Word of God: Rom 10:17 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
So we must rely on God to draw and use His word to help the world overcome the things that get in the way of faith.
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(16) When We Choose to Obey God Acts 4:19-31
Down through the ages men and women have had to make decisions of obedience to their own conscience as to what God has called them to do. Notice the High Priest speaking for the Jews in John 19:15 in the context of the crowd crying for Jesus crucifixion, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priest answered, We have no king but Caesar." The early church had to decide whether to serve Christ or to serve Caesar as individuals. Many times we fail to grasp that the decision to follow Christ and to be obedient is both an individual one and a corporate one.
I- The Decision:
The disciples were faced with a choice
of whom to serve. The easy way is not always the right way. It is only water that can follow the path of least resistance and still be true to its nature. The Jewish leaders forbade any future teaching in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:17-18) The response of Peter is found in Acts 4:19 "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." Peter and John had to make a decision. Was it a hard decision, it most certainly was in some ways but in other ways it was easy. It was hard because the lives of those who made the decision to follow Christ were taken in just a short time from these events. It was easy because the conviction of who Jesus was had been settled in the inner being of the disciples. Acts 4:20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
Man are called upon to make this decision for themselves. Many times the decision to follow the things of God comes under distress. Remember the three Hebrew children said in Dan 3:18 "But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Jeremiah said the message of God was in his heart as a fire. He could not help but speak. Jer 20:9 "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor 9:16-17 "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! 17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me."
Does the message of the gospel burn within our hearts? All God calls us to do is tell what we know and have experienced. The writer John said in 1 John 1:1-3 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
II- The Repercussions:
As we have stated the persecution would intensify in the future. Because the Jewish leaders feared the crowd and because there was no denying the miracle they released the disciples without anything but a warning. Acts 4:21 "So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done." This may have been the way God was preparing them to face more difficult trials in the future. Regardless of the repercussion we might face we must remember Matt 10:28 "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
III- The Response of the Church:
Acts 4:23 "And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them." Upon being released Peter and John returns to the other disciples and report what had taken place.
Look at the response of the church found in Acts 4:24-28 "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."
They praised God for being the Creator, for being the one who sent the Savior, and they also praised Him because they knew it was the plan of God for all of this to take place. The group that faced the future with boldness understood the resurrection power. They understood that it was God who was in control.
IV- The Empowerment of God:
Acts 4:29-31 "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."
The disciples had been promised that after Jesus left the Holy Spirit would come and empower them. This took place on the day of Pentecost. Now we see that they ask for boldness to speak the Word of God and God empowered them to do so.
V- When We Choose to Obey God:
When we choose to obey God it strengthens us for the next trial. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." God’s Word says that one of the purposes of trials is so we can help others.
When we choose to obey God it strengthen those around us. Remember the Hebrew children stood firm and then Daniel did as well. Dan 6:10 "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime."
When we stand for the things of God it emboldens other believers. When Peter and John were released they went back to the group to find encouragement and strength. We also have the promise of Christ found in Matt 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Remember the words of Jesus when He spoke of the reaction of the world to our faith and take heart. John 15:18 "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."
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(17) Things In Common Acts 4:32-37
What are some things that you share with others? With your brothers and sisters you share the same parents, the same DNA, the same heritage. With your friends you share the experiences and adventures you have done together. With you wife you share you family and children. With members of your church you share the common worship experiences and history of the church that make up the whole of the church’s life.
Still there are other things that believers share that the world does not because they have not been born again. There is a common heritage of Christians across the world. It crosses all racial, economic, cultural and age barriers.
In our text we move into a new area. The commonality of the believers will be a subject for the last six verses of Acts 4 and then the first few verses of Acts 5.
I- Our Text:
Acts 4:32-37 "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."
II- One Heart and One Soul:
The things that the early church shared comes into focus here. It says they were of one heart and one soul. Notice what Vincent’s Word Studies says concerning heart.
The heart, not only as the seat of the affections, but as the center of our complex being-physical, moral, spiritual, and intellectual. (from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
Concerning "Soul" Vincent’s says:
…the word denotes "life in the distinctness of individual existence" (Ibid)
So the church moved with one heartbeat, one soul. The lives of the individuals were melted into the fabric of the church seamlessly. I remind us all that Jesus had prayed for this very thing. John 17:20-22 "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."
The theme of the church being of one heart and soul is sounded repeatedly throughout the New Testament. Notice a few places that it is said of the early church that they were of one accord. Acts 1:14 "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…" Acts 2:1 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Acts 2:46 "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart…" "One accord" means unanimously.
We are told in Phil 2:1ff "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind… 4 "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," One accord here means "Co-spirited."
This would answer the question of why this man sold his possession of and gave it to the whole. Before we make the mistake of thinking this was an isolated occurrence please note that it says, "…as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold…" Acts 4:34 They each had others welfare at their heart.
The purpose of unity is wrapped up nicely in Rom 15:6 "That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
III- Things In Common:
The farther away from the origin of anything men get the more differences set in. We are told that the farther away from Adam the more corrupt the gene pool of men become and therefore there are more birth defects, etc.
If surprises no one therefore that we do not have the closeness that these early believers had. Why, one thing we do not have to depend on each other the same way for existence in life itself. The differences of personalities and personal taste have divided us. Lets look at the things that the early church had in common to help us to be more united.
1- Shared burdens. As we can see from our text there was great need. Many who had converted had lost their means of making a living. Remember that Nicodemus came to Jesus, "…secretly for fear of the Jews, John 19:38
While the burdens are different today still all men have burdens. We are told in Gal 6:2 "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
In the context of the scripture teaching us that all believer comprise only one body we have the words that touch suffering. 1 Cor 12:26 "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
Rom 12:15-16 "15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits."
2- Shared Doctrine: It is certainly true that the more men handle the doctrines of God the more they have injected their interpretation and spin upon it. Many times it is for selfish reasons many times it is done through ignorance.
One of the things that the early church had early was shared doctrine. Acts 2:42 tells us, "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
All through the book of Acts you will find that the doctrine was important. It was the doctrines that they taught that upset the Jewish leaders so. Acts 5:28 "Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
Paul when he was chastising the Corithinans spoke in 1 Cor 14:26 "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
3- Same Lord and Savior: Many of these had been witness to the resurrection of the Lord. They knew he was Lord and were willing to lay down their lives for their faith. The Bible tells us in Eph 4:4-6 "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all…"
4- Same Destiny: In the verse we just quoted there is one more point we need to see, "one hope of your calling." The tie that binds us together also is the fact that heaven will be our eternal home.
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(18) The High Cost of Hypocrisy Acts 5:1-11
I heard a story of someone who requested pray for someone on a soap opera not able to determine the difference between acting and reality. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English defines it hypocrite as follows:
1. One who feigns to be what he is not; one who has the form of godliness without the power, or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute of true religion.
2. A dissembler; one who assumes a false appearance.
The modern 2001 version says, "a person who practices hypocrisy, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs."
He defined Hypocrisy in 1828 as:
Simulation; a feigning to be what one is not; or dissimulation, a concealment of one's real character or motives. More generally, hypocrisy is simulation, or the assuming of a false appearance of virtue or religion; a deceitful show of a good character, in morals or religion; a counterfeiting of religion.
Today it is defines as:
"The false profession of desirable or publicly approved qualities, beliefs and feelings, exp. A pretense of having virtues, moral principles or religious beliefs that one does not really possess."
We have many biblical examples of hypocrites. Remember that Judas pretended to be a follower of Jesus Christ when he was not.
Jesus said about the Pharisees, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Matt 23:27-28
Jesus spoke of the hypocrites doing thing to be seen in Matthew 6:2. And perhaps the one of the greatest
Jude said "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude 4
It is clear that the Bible is full of teachings about hypocrisy in believers as well as pretenders to the faith. But perhaps the most graphic illustration of someone playing the game of hypocrisy is found in our text.
Acts 5:1-11 records for us the story of a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira.
I- The Story:
Acts 5:1-11 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things."
We see from this story that these were pretenders. Not necessarily pretenders to the faith but pretending to be what they were not.
You will notice that Peter tells them that they had not lied to him but to God. This points out a very important thing for those who be a hypocrite, God knows. Who do we think we are fooling? Is it God, certainly not, is it others, maybe, is it ourselves, perhaps.
We might fool others and even perhaps ourselves at times but certainly not God. Let us look at why.
He knows us intimately. Luke 12:7 tells us, "But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered."
Ps 103:14 "For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."
Jer 17:9-10 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."
Heb 4:12-13 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
We can see from these selected verses that God knows us. I again ask who do we think we are fooling? Certainly not God! The author of Proverbs perhaps said it more simply than any other when he said, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." Prov 15:3
II- The High Cost of Hypocrisy:
The story is a sad one for the couple in Acts 5. They paid dearly for their hypocrisy. It cost them their lives. The question may be what are we will to pay to hang on to our pretense? What price is too high? Lets quickly at thing hypocrisy can cost us.
1- Loss of Peace with God.
It has often been stated that the most miserable people in the world are those who are saved and out of fellowship with God. Rom 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We know that we have peace with God through Christ but also clearly it is taught that while we cannot lose our salvation we can lose the joy of it.
David said, Ps 51:12 "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."
2- Loss of our Testimony.
How many times has some said, "I won’t go to that church because of those hypocrites." More than we would like to admit. Certainly this is just an excuse but should give us food for thought. When we are known throughout the community for being twofaced we lose our testimony and give God a black eye.
3- Loss of our Family.
How many families have been lost to the sin of pretense? Someone is claiming to be a certain thing when in fact they are lying to everyone including their spouse. Loss of family is at times a cost for hypocrisy.
4- Loss of our Liberty.
What if our hypocrisy includes criminal acts? Is it possible for us to live the double life and wind up in prison or jail for our hypocrisy? Certainly it is.
5- Loss of our Life.
This may seem far fetched but I remind us all that is exactly what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. God took them out of this world. Remember in the letter to the Corinthians Paul talked about being a hypocrite and that because of it some slept. 1 Cor 11:29-31 "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
Again what are we willing to pay to continue to pretend to be what we are not.
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(19) God’s Certificate of Authenticity Acts 5:12-16
Today we have many ways of authenticating items. We have a notary seal that can be affixed to a document that certifies something as genuine. Many times beef is certified USDA or Black Angus certified. When truckers go down the interstate they are weighed on certified scales that have been calibrated and checked for accuracy. They are dependable. There are samples of cloth tested to ascertain the age of the cloth. DNA is used everyday across the nation and world to make identifications of people in criminal and civil actions.
So if you were God how would you certify that something was of you? Regardless of how you think God should have done it the way He chose to certify events that transpired in history were orchestrated by Him was by supernatural miracles.
I- Miracles of Apostles:
In our text today we find that mighty miracles were performed. We have discussed miracles performed by the apostles prior to this but these verses seem to tell us that the amount of signs and miracles actually increased.
Acts 5:12-16 "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. 13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) 15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one."
Even the shadow of the Peter passing by was attributed to people being healed. This was an age of miracles unlike any other in history because of the scope and the sheer number of those who performed them.
II- Pattern of Miracles:
Let us now explore some of the miracles that are recorded for us in the Word of God to see the pattern of miracles and thereby understand the purpose of miracles.
First we go to the one in the Bible that performed the first divine miracles recorded for us. Notice in the section of scripture I have chosen to illustrate this that the promise of miracle to be preformed is tied to the purpose.
Ex 10:1-2 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: 2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD."
Moses as you will recall was used by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. There were many miracles preformed by Moses as part of the plagues that were used by God to convince Pharaoh to let His people go. The miracles were God’s certificate of authenticity that it was Him, both to the people of Israel and to the Egyptians.
The next cluster of miracles was during the time of Elijah and Elisha. God was instituting the office of the prophets. One thing that glares out of the Bible at us is the fact that most of the prophets did not perform any miracle. Men like Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Malachi, Micah, Jonah and on and on did no recorded miracles. However you will discover that Elijah performed at least 7 while Elijah is attributed with 14. (Remember he ask for a double portion.) The reason for the cluster of the miracles in the lives of these two men is that God was establishing the office of the prophet as his mouthpiece to the nation of Israel and wanted to authenticate it. How does God give His certificate of authenticity, by supernatural miracles. To not believe in miracle is to not believe in a supernatural God who is bigger than man. If God is not bigger than man is he is not much of a god. But He is bigger and He is a big God.
III- Messianic Miracles:
Nicodemus makes a statement in John 3 that sums up Jesus miracles. John 3:2 "The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
Jesus told the John 14:11 "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake."
The Pharisees saw the miracles and because they had already decided that Jesus could not be from God wondered how He could perform them. John 9:16 "Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?"
So why did Jesus perform miracles? Certainly it was His nature as God to be able to do them but even Jesus did them with the purpose of showing He was from God. John 10:25 "Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me."
Jesus performed these to show He was sent from God and was God.
IV- Apostles Authenticated:
It seems only natural that God would send miracles to authenticate that the setting up of the church was of Him. This was the purpose of these miracles.
There are some things that these signs and wonders were not intended to do that reveal a lot about their purpose.
It was not to simply build up the Apostles as great men but to reveal Jesus and establish the church through these men.
It was not simply to heal the sick, open they eyes of the blind or any other natural cause. The miracles of God had a spiritual implication to them.
The purpose of these was to authenticate that it was a work of God and not men.
V- Warning about Wonders:
Today we live in a time when the supernatural is explored in many ways. There are a lot of people into magic and other things. We cannot believe our eyes at times and certainly nothing can be believed for the most part because of special effects on TV and the movies. Reality had been abandoned and shipwrecked for the sake of entertainment.
The world is fascinated with UFO, the occult, out of body experiences, and act with loved ones from beyond this life. The world is ripe for a deceiver. The Bible talks about a man who will come and deceive with miracles. 2 Thess 2:8-9 "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."
This man is known as the Anti-Christ in Bible prophecy. We are told in 1 John 4:1-2 how we can know if things are of God.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God."
So God certified that the early church movement was of Him. Miracles like the new birth, changed lives and love we have for each other authenticate the message today.
Return to Outline:
(20) God Still Has the Keys to the Jailhouse Acts 5:17-24
Whatever it may be that you struggle with, and all of us have something, God has the answer. Regardless of what it is you face God knows what needs done. The text before us gives us assurance that God even holds the keys to the jailhouse. But first let us begin to unwrap the Word of God before us. This is the second of at least four recorded times that Peter was arrested for the gospels sake.
Acts 5:17-24 "Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. 24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow."
I- Motives Why Others May Accuse God’s Children:
The Bible tells us that the Sadducees "…were filled with indignation." The word for indignation is also translated zeal, fervent mind, emulation, envy, envying, and jealousy as well in KJV. Within the meaning of this word we find several reasons for the ungodly to accuse the children of God. We are told that they rose up. This is the same word that will be used in Acts 6:9 concerning the men who rose up against Stephen.
We can speculate on several reasons that they were filled with this anger. They were jealous is probably one. There had only been a few at first but now thousands were coming to Jesus. Acts 2:41 "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." It is easy for the natural man to get jealous when others succeed.
Another reason was probably one of religious prejudice. These Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection and this was the cornerstone of teaching that they were doing. Another belief that they held was that there was no such thing as angels. God sent an angel to deliver them from prison.
There are three verses of scripture that need to be brought to bear on this thought before we pass on. They concern when we suffer. 1 Peter 2:20 "For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."
1 Peter 3:17 "For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing."
1 Peter 4:19 "Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator."
II- Why Did This Happen to God’s Men?
Finis Dake in Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible gives seven reasons why the apostles were delivered from prison. Allow me to share them. No need to reinvent the wheel so to speak.
1 To encourage the apostles
2 Prove they were under God’s care
3 Show Jewish rulers they were fighting against God
4 Show Jews that they were persecuting true followers of God
5 Show Jews they were hindering the gospel of salvation to all men
6 Give Jews another loving reproof
7 Give Jews another chance to repent
(Dake Bible Sales, Lawrenceville, Ga. P 127)
I will simply say that in the economy of God He does not waste anything. There may have been and probably were other reasons. All we know is that God opened the doors of the prison.
III- Commands Given to Those Who Have Been Released:
After their release they do not run for the hills. They are instucted to go back to what they were doing. "But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." Acts 5:19-20 Within the context of these words are several instructions. Notice them if you would.
1- Go- They were to go. This implies that they were to get busy again.
2- Stand- May I suggest this says they were to take a stand against the injustice that had been perpetrated upon them by simply standing in defiance of the order to stop preaching.
3- Speak- They had been warned to quit preaching. They were instructed to go and speak.
4- In public (the temple)- God doesn’t do things in backrooms and ally ways because there is something to hide. He wanted them to go preach the gospel in the temple before the world.
5- To the people- The message of the gospel while being rejected by the leaders was being received by the people. They were to return to the audience that was receptive.
The message was not an argument of how they had been falsely imprisoned. It was not telling how great they were and how sorry that the leaders of the Sanhedrin were. They simply were to preach the words of life.
Paul told Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." 2 Tim 4:2
While we may not have been imprisoned for preaching the gospel we all have been prisoners of sin. We are too called upon to go, stand, speak, in public, to the people the words of life.
IV- God Still Has the Keys to the Jailhouse:
That they obeyed the instruction is no mystery. They did at they were instructed. The next morning when the council convened that would hear the matter they called on the guards to bring them in. They find that they are missing, the prison was shut, the doors locked fast but they were gone. The report came that they were in the temple preaching and teaching. Acts 5:25 "Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people."
May I suggest that God had the key to the jailhouse and He still does. Regardless of what circumstances you and I face we have a God who is a deliver. He delivered the children of Israel from Egypt, from Pharaoh at the Red Sea. The Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lions den. Beloved He can deliver us as well. Take heart.
To show that God still has the key to the jailhouse lets look at two more places that He used them.
First is found in Acts 12:7-11 "And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews."
Next is Acts 16:25-28 "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."
God is still the same God as He was in the time of ACT ONE.
Return to Outline:9; 9;
(21) The Doctrines That Filled Jerusalem Acts 5:25-33
Have the basic doctrines of the church changed? Do we still hold to the same truths that were revealed about 2000 years ago? Is the same things true today that were true during the time of ACT ONE?
We live in a time today of constantly improving things. The new and improved version of everything is the latest fad. Do the doctrines revealed in the Bible need to be updated? Can we still trust the things that the apostles taught?
In order to answer this question immediately before we proceed any farther notice what Mat 5:18 says about God’s Word, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
I- The Arrest:
Again we see the circumstances in our text surrounding the third arrest of the apostles and especially Peter. The angel had released them the night before from prison. (Acts 5:19) They went to the temple and began again to preach Jesus. The report came to the Sanhedrin that they were in the temple. Acts 5:25-26 says, "Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. 26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned."
II- The Accusation:
Notice now Acts 5:27-28 "And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
If you would allow we need to make a detour for a moment to address a statement made here that gives the flavor of the moment so to speak.
Annas, the High Priest, had been around for all the events since Jesus arrest. John 18:13 "And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year." So he could not plead innocent with the statement he made in Acts 5:26 "…intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
I wish us to understand that it was not the apostles preaching that had brought the blood of Jesus upon the unbelieving Jews but their own words. Matthew 27:24-25 " When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children."
Finis Dake in his footnotes on Matt 27:25 said, "The Jews quickly assumed full responsibility for His death: We accept the punishment due for such a crime; let it be upon us and upon our children. They were visited with the same kind of punishment and worse, for the Romans crucified them in such numbers that there were no more crosses or places for them. As many as 500 a day were scourged and crucified." (p 32)
So the statement that because of the preaching of the doctrines the apostles were preaching being designed to bring blood upon them was a false accusation at best.
III- The Doctrines That Filled Jerusalem:
Finis Dake gives the list of doctrines that filled Jerusalem at 40. We will not look at but a few in our study. Most are contained in our text verses.
1- Doctrine of Crucifixion: Acts 5:30 "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree."
While this certainly may seem like a given, after all those involved in these events at this time at the least were probably in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. Still it is an important doctrine because some claim that Jesus never live let alone died. The Bible is clear that He was crucified. This was also not news to them. They had heard this message before. Acts 2:23 "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
The doctrine of the crucifixion is critical because it says in Col 2:14 "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
2- Doctrine of Bodily Resurrection: Acts 5:30 "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree."
Acts 2:24 "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it."
Acts 2:27-32 "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses."
Acts 3:15 "And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses."
Acts 3:26 "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."
Acts 4:2 "Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead."
Acts 4:10 "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole."
Acts 4:33 "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all."
Room will not permit us to quote all the verses for all the doctrines we are looking at. But because the most critical doctrine in the Bible is the resurrection I did so here. This was a common theme in the early church preaching, as well as should be today. 1 Corinthians 15:15-17 "Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
This doctrine as we have discussed before was one that the Sadducees did not believe in. They taught there was no resurrection. Because He lives we have hope of eternal life as well.
3- Doctrine of Exaltation of Jesus: Acts 5:31 "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."
Col 1:18 speaking of Christ says, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
Acts 2:33 says, "Wherefore being by the right hand of God exalted,…"
1 Peter 3:22 "Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."
Heb 8:1 "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."
Beloved the doctrine of the exaltation of Jesus was and is a critical doctrine. He was not just another man. He was and is God.
4- Doctrine of Forgiveness of Sin in Jesus: Acts 5:31 "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."
It is of utmost importance that we understand this doctrine. There are a lot of winds of doctrine today that say you can be forgiven from sins by doing good, being kind, keeping certain rituals. But the Word of God is clear. Forgiveness of sin is found only in Jesus. Col 1:14 "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins."
Eph 1:7 "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
5- Doctrine of Jesus as Prince: Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
In Acts 3:15 Jesus is called the, Prince of life." The word for prince in both of these is also translated in the KJV as author. Heb 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author [same word] and finisher of our faith…"
6- Doctrine of Jesus as Savior: Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
There is no doubt about the doctrine of Christ as Savior. Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
The Bible is plain in its teaching of an exclusive way into heaven. There is but one Savior, the Lord Jesus.
7- Doctrine of Christ Suffering: Acts 5:30 "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree."
The vicarious suffering of Christ in our place was taught and is still true today. This was the plan of God for the salvation of men. Notice Acts 4:27-28 "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." This was part of a prayer to God by the early disciples. Salvation may be free but it cost Christ.
8- Doctrine of Second Advent:
We cannot leave this section until we talk about the hope of His coming. This doctrine is first found in the ascension. Acts 1:11 "Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
The doctrine of the second coming was certainly an early church doctrine and remains a critical one today as well. Acts 3:20-21 "And he shall send Jesus Christ,… 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
The Holy Spirit made these doctrines come alive in the hearts of men who heart them. He still today brings men’s hearts alive to the truths concerning Christ.
Return to Outline:
(22) The Advice Not Heeded Acts 5:34-42
The Apostles have been placed in prison, released by the angel, and arrest the third time and now stand before the council. Peter has just preached to them again. His words have cut them to the heart.
I- Gamaliel’s Advice:
The advice of Gamaliel was given concerning how to treat this whole situation. Gamaliel was the teacher of the Apostle Paul according to Acts 22:3 "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel…" It is obvious that he was a man of influence because of the way they listened to his advice.
I remind us that they were men who had blood in their eyes. Many times to settle down men who are this upset is impossible. He first asks that the prisoners be removed for a moment. (Acts 5:34) Gamaliel then says, "…Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men." Acts 5:35
He next used two others who came claiming to be the Messiah as illustrations. These men managed to gain a following but when they died their work was not lasting. It quickly became apparent that they were not what they claimed to be. They knew these events.
This points out an obvious truth. The Lord Jesus was and is who he claimed to be. One of the proofs is the fact that after His death the movement of Christianity only picked up steam and did not die.
However, Gamaliel was used of God to preserve the Apostles in a very dangerous and difficult situation.
The advice of Gamaliel was good in as far as it went. Please notice with me what he did not say. He did not day these men are right, Jesus is Lord. He did not say lets investigate this ourselves and make sure it is not true. He simply told them to act carefully. There is no record in the Bible or historic record that indicate that Gamaliel ever became a follower of Jesus Christ.
The devil succeeded in getting these men on the Sanhedrin to fight against what they perceived as the enemy. He is the master of getting people to fight false enemies. He doesn’t even care if we do good as long as we do not do the best or God’s will.
These two examples that he gave remind us that today there are many religious organizations and religions with strong leaders. Jesus told us about these to come. Matthew 24:4-5 "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." He continued, "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Matthew 24:23-24
Today there are literally hundreds of men that have managed to convince many that they are something special spiritually.
II- Futility of Fighting Against God:
The basic advice that he gave was that they not kill these men but let this movement run its course. The overall tone seems to indicate that he expected it to fade from the scene like the latest fade in clothes. He said a very true statement in Acts 5:39 "But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
Have you ever thought about how futile it is to fight against God? First God sees all. When we realize that if that were all God could see perhaps He could be deceived. If He could only see the outside we might get away with things. The truth is that God not only sees the outside be the inside as well. God see the intents of our hearts.
Many times when someone plays a game whether it is a board game, card game or a game such as HORSE on the basketball court they try to find a way to cheat so they can win. God does not have to do anything because He after all has all power to go with the ability to see all things.
III- Advice Not Heeded:
The advice of Gamaliel was not heeded completely. Besides these men had already been guilty of fighting against the plan of God. After all they had condemned Jesus to die. The advice I wish us to focus on now is not the advice Gamaliel gave but the advice that was given to the Apostles yet again. Shut up and live. Acts 5:40 "And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go."
They agreed only to not kill them. These men were beaten. These beating were provided for in the law. Deuteronomy 25:2-3 "And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee."
These men were guilty of not obeying the command they had given them to not preach in Jesus name again. Paul would later tell of receiving these stripes five times. 2 Corinthians 11:24 "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one."
Did they accept the advice or the punishment? Notice Acts 5:41-42 "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
We might wonder how could someone stand with such conviction and strength in face of these beatings and further threats.
May I suggest a few reasons for such conviction? First they knew God was still in control. They had heard Jesus say in Matthew 5:11 "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." They knew the events that had transpired in the last few days were of God.
They were well acquainted with the suffering of Christ for their sins and counted it a badge of honor to suffer for Him. They were willing to put their life on the line because they hearts were full of Jesus. Their Savior was real, His resurrection was real, their message was real and they stood.
Return to Outline:
(23) To Each His Own Acts 6:1-7
We enter into a new section in Acts with chapter six. The focus will shift off of Peter for a few moments to a man named Stephen. Stephen will become the first of the church. Millions more followed in martyrdom. Before we get to that however we need to look at a very practical and important section of the Word of God in Acts.
Our text is Acts 6:1-7 "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
I have entitled this, "to each his own." By that I wish to address the purpose and calling of God on lives. Rom 11:29 in NKJV says, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Each person has a purpose that God has given him or her.
I- The Callings:
Paul stated concerning the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon men, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Eph 4:11-12
When Paul used the analogy of the body he made it clear that each part of the body does a different function. Notice in the NJKV Eph 4:16 "from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
It is clear that God has different places for each of us in the economy of God. Therefore I say, "To each his own."
Many times the jobs God gives us are not the ones we apply for. A lot of Pastors run from the job as long as they can, some never surrender. Some surrender and then desert. The scriptures of our text give us some understand of the working of the early church concerning the teaching of the word and the taking care of the needs of the church.
II- The Conflict:
Act 6:1 "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." These Grecians were Greek speaking Jews and the Hebrews were Hebrew speaking Jews. The problem was a real one. The distribution that is mentioned in Acts 2:45 "And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" was not being done equally. They did not deny the fact that a conflict was there.
III- Possible Solutions:
What could have been done? If they had formed a committee to study it and then bring a recommendation back to the church it probably would never have been solved. If that committee had brainstormed the problem they may have come up with several options.
First they could have said do nothing. Life if unfair and they will just have to get over it.
Or perhaps they could have said, "Let the preacher do it." Or they may have take the example of Moses and said we need to share the workload. It was not sent to a committee. Notice how it was handled. Acts 6:2ff "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business."
The solution that the leadership of the church recommended and was adopted was that seven men be found to do the work of waiting on the tables and ministering to the neglected widows and orphans.
IV- The Purpose for the Solution:
There are several purposes that this course of action was taken. First certainly that the needs be met. Another was that the work and Word of God go forward.
"It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." The apostles understood the importance of the Word of God being taught. The calling of the Word is the highest calling of God. It is also the most fearful and awe striking. They said, "4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."
I remind us all that few if any men desired the call of God to be teachers of the Word. Jeremiah said, "I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." Jer 20:9
Notice what Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim 4:1-2 "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
It is the Word of God that must be proclaimed. 1 Thess 2:4 "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."
The purpose of these seven men being set aside for the task of ministering to the members of the church was so that these men who had the calling of the Word could study and teach it.
V- The Results of the Solution:
Isa 55:11 says, "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." God’s Word will accomplish it task. Notice with me the results in ACT ONE.
First the Word of God increased. "And the word of God increased." It increased in its influence as these men studied it and taught it.
There were many added to the church. Without me trying to be too cute please notice it says the "and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly." They multiplied. The way a church grows is when members multiply. God does the adding we need to seek to multiply. Remember 1X1=2.
Another result of the solution and each member doing what God had called him to do was "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." May I say that impossible salvation took place?
Many times I wish I could step aside and not preach but the calling is too strong. When I try to be anything but what God has called me to do I will mess up. When anyone else tries to do what God has not called them to do they will miss the mark as well. To each his own. Let us discover what God has called us to and get busy being an effective part of the body of Christ. Remember the greatest is to be the servant.
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(24) Confronted With The History of Israel Acts 6:8-7:53
We will swiftly pass through a large portion of Scripture during this session. The context of this is set in the time of the death of Stephen. Stephen we remember was the first martyr for the faith. Within this setting we have what is perhaps the best summary of the history of Israel found anywhere in the Bible or anywhere else. Literally the Jews are going to be confronted with their history one more times in relationship to their actions.
I- The Accusation:
In Acts 6:8-11 notice that Stephen is said to speak against Moses. These synagogues were among the 480 that were in Jerusalem. There were many different nations of the world that came through Jerusalem in the form of the Jews who were dispersed there.
Acts 6:12-15 we find that Stephen is called before the Sanhedrin Council.
Acts 7:1 records they ask him if these things he is charged with are true.
II- Confronted With the History of Israel:
Stephen begins his defense that is recorded over the major portion of Acts seven. Let us notice some of the corresponding verses from the Old Testament as he confronts the Sanhedrin with their history.
A- Call of Abraham:
Acts 7:2-5 He addresses the call of Abraham.
Acts 7:3 is rooted in Genesis 12:1 "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee."
Acts 7:4 is rooted in Genesis 12:4-5 "So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came."
Acts 7:5 foundation is Genesis 12:7 "And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him."
Genesis 13:15 "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever."
B- Sojourn in Egypt:
In Acts 7:6-10 Stephen addresses the seed of Abraham sojourn in the land of Egypt.
Acts 7:6 foundation is Genesis 15:13;16 "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."
Acts 7:7 is a reference to Exodus 3:12 "And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain."
Acts 7:8 is rooted in Genesis 17:9-11 "And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. "
Acts 7:9 references Genesis 37:4ff "And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him…. 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying….28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt."
Along with Genesis 39:2ff And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian…. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison….23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper."
Acts 7:10 is rooted in Genesis 41:37 "And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants." And also Gen Genesis 42:6 "And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth."
C- Joseph Reveals Himself:
Next in Acts 7:11-16 he recounts the story of Joseph making himself known to his brothers.
Acts 7:11 reference Genesis 41:54 "And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread."
Acts 7:12 is grounded in Genesis 42:1-2 "Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? 2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die."
Acts 7:13 is sourced in Genesis 45:4 "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt." And Genesis 45:16 " And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants." Acts 7:14 if found Genesis 45:9;27 "Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not…27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived."
Acts 7:15 is found in Genesis 46:5 "And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him." As well as Genesis 49:33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people." And Exodus 1:6 "And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation."
Acts 7:16 then is found in Exodus 13:19 "And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you."
D- Another Pharoah:
Stephen reminded them in Acts 7:17-22 of the Pharaoh that arose who did not know Joseph.
Acts 7:17 is from Exodus 1:7-8 "And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. 8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph."
Acts 7:19 is a reference to Exodus 1:22 "And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive."
Acts 7:20 looks at Exodus 2:2 "And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months."
Acts 7:21 is a nutshelling of Exodus 2:3-9 "And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. 4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. 5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. 6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children. 7 Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? 8 And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. 9 And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it."
E- Moses Flight into Midian:
In Acts 7:23-29 Stephen remind them that Moses visits his brethren, kills an Egyptian and flees in Midian.
Acts 7:23 is from Exodus 2:11-12 "And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand."
Acts 7:26 is found in Exodus 2:13 "And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?"
Acts 7:29 then is from Exodus 2:25 "And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them."
F- Call of Moses:
In Acts 7:30-36 they are confronted with the call of Moses in the Burning Bush.
Acts 7:30 is rooted in Exodus 3:2 "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed."
Acts 7:33 speaks of Exodus 3:5 "And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
Acts 7:35 corresponds with Exodus 14:19 "And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them."
Acts 7:36 then is from Exodus 12:41 "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt."
G- Prophet Like Moses:
Stephen next in Acts 7:37-43 reminded them that a prophet like Moses would come. Stephen says that God would raise up a prophet like Moses. He begins to tie Jesus and the Old Testament promises together.
Acts 7:37 can be found referenced in Deuteronomy 18:15;18 "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken…18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." We also find this in John 1:21 " And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No."
H- The Golden Calf:
Acts 7:40-43 tells again the story of the golden calf when Israel went after the god they created with their hands. is understood from Exodus 32:1-4 "And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. 3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. 4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."
I- The Building of the Houses of Worship:
Acts 7:44-50 records Stephen remind them of the building of the tabernacle and temple. Acts 7:48 Points out that God does not dwell in temple made by hands. Mark 14:58 Jesus perspective on the temple being temporary. "We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands."
J- Linked to the Past:
After this lengthy discourse and history lesson we find that Stephen links the things they did with the way that the Prophets of God had been treated down through the history of Israel. Acts 7:51-53 He tells them that Jesus was the one promised to the Jews as Messiah and that they had killed him.
The important teaching here is that Jesus did not start a new religion. He simply was the fulfillment of the promises that were made to the Jews. Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
III- Stoned to Death:
The response of these of the leadership of the Jews is recorded in Acts 7:54. They stoned Stephen to death rather than face the truth concerning their actions. We will pick this up in our next lesson.
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(25) What Does a Christian Lose in Death? Acts 7:54-60
The Book of Acts records for us the events surrounding a man named Stephen. In Acts chapter seven Stephen preached the great sermon that we just previously looked at where he confronted Israel with their past. He clearly taught that Jesus was the one looked for, the promised Messiah. The response of the Jewish leaders followed the same pattern that had been since the time of Jesus.
I- The Death of Stephen:
We are certainly not going to sneak up on anyone who is familiar with the Bible when we state the fact that Stephen was martyred for the faith. Notice now the account in Acts 7:54-60 "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
There are few interesting things we see in this passage. First you will recall that Hebrews many times we are told that Jesus sat down on the right hand of the Father after His ascension. Notice a couple of places that plainly teach us that He is even now there. Heb 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; Heb 10:12 "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God"
Heb 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
We notice that the Bible says in Acts 7:55ff "But he… saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see …the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." I love the way HA Ironside commented on this.
"What does it mean? It is just as though the blessed Lord in His great compassion for Stephen has risen from His seat and is looking over the battlements of heaven to strengthen and cheer the martyr down on the earth." (Lectures on the Book of Acts, Loizeaux Brothers, p 174-175.)
Regardless we know that Stephen was received up into heaven at the moment of death. The Bible is plain about this fact as well as the fact that all believers who die in Christ are as well. Notice 2 Corinthians 5:6ff "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: …8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
We also see a stellar example of how to love our enemies. Most of us will never transcend to the heights that Stephen did in this because even as they were killing him he asked Christ to not lay it to their account. This has often, and rightfully so, been compared to the Lord Jesus dying when He said, "Father forgive them…"
Still we ask the question that we must return too. That is "What does a Christian lose in death?" Let us notice a few things now.
II- Grip of Gravity:
We all learned very early in science about what science calls gravity. It is the magnetic force that holds things onto the earth. May I be so bold as to apply the grip of gravity to both the physically as well as the spiritually.
We all know that there is a gravitation pull that keeps us from flying into space. When the astronauts go into space they have to fly at a great speed and attain great heights to escape gravity and become weightless. Still gravity is pulling them back. Remember that the Russian space station came back into the atmosphere a few years ago. Gravity pulled it back to earth. Physically gravity has a hold on our mortal bodies.
It is also spiritually that earth has a gravity that pulls us. Men are attracted and held by the things of earth. Notice what Jesus said concerning the pull of earth. Mat 6:24 "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
And then 1Jo 2:15 "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
But at the moment of death the things of the world will no longer have a hold or pull on us. We lose the gravitation pull of earth both physically and spiritually.
III- Bad Eyesight: Acts 7:56
The Apostle Paul said it well in 1Co 13:12 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
We are blinded by the things of earth. We cannot see God the way we will see Him.
Notice the eyesight of Stephen change in Acts 7:56 "And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."
Moses was told that no man can see God and live. That is in this life. We will see God when we lose this poor eyesight that we have when we are earth bound.
IV- Separation from Christ: Acts 7:59
While we are here on earth there is a separation from God. We cannot be totally where He is while we are here. I know we can say, and be right about it, that God is here. But beloved sin still impedes our fellowship with Him. Notice again the Apostle Paul in 2Co 5:6 "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."
We know that at the moment of death Stephen was not longer separated from Christ. Acts 7:59 "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
V- Partial Knowledge:
The knowledge that man has is because God has allowed him to discover it or God has reveled it to him. There is one who knows the cure for cancer and that is God. Today we are limited by how little most of us know. No one on earth knows very much compared to what is known collectively by men. We do not much about heaven and the realm of life beyond death. 1Co 13:9 "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part." One of the things we will lose when we die is this partial knowledge. When we get to heaven we will have knowledge beyond our comprehension here.
VI- Pain, Fear and Heartaches:
Did the rocks hurt Stephen? This may seem like a foolish question but I submit they only hurt for a little time then all the pain was gone. Rev 21:4 "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." The Bible says perfect love 1Jo 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.." At death Christian will move into the place where the perfect love of God abounds.
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(26) The High Cost of Persecution Acts 8:1-4
Down through the ages of the church there has been persecution. Fox’s Book of Martyrs tells stories of men such as John Wycliffe, John Huss, John Calvin, William Tyndale and other who were persecuted and many put to death by burning at the stake for their faith in the Lord Jesus.
It is said that during the 1200 years of the dark ages that 50,000,000 people were killed for the faith. Along one European highway, for 30 miles stakes were set up every few feet with their tops sharpened and a head of those known as Ana-Baptist were placed.
The modern day stories are vivid and varied as our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted around the world even now for their faith. Losing jobs, physically tortured, sold into slavery and killed. The persecution has gone on from the time of the birth of the Church.
I- Persecution Spreads:
We basically have seen until this point in the book of Acts the persecution take place in Jerusalem. With the death of Stephen, we find that it spread and picked up steam so to speak. Let us look at our text a see a few things of importance.
Acts 8:1 "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
The first appearance of Saul who would become the great Apostle Paul is found at the time of Stephen’s death.
Acts 8:2 "And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him." Apparently, there were some men while not believers in Christ did not partake of the stoning of Stephen. Most scholars feel these were not saved men but were devout Jewish. The practice of lamenting over the dead was a common practice of the day. Professional mourners could be hired to wail. One such example of this was at the death of Jarius’s daughter recorded in Matt 9:18-26. Matthew 9:23 says, "And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise."
Acts 8:3 "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." The word translated "havock" here is a word that bears some remarks. I love the graphic way a translation known as The Message says it, "And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail."
One author said havock, "is used frequently in Greek literary writings and has to do with the slaughter committed by wild beast-lions and wolves. In making havock of the Church, Saul raged like a lion and devoured like a wolf." (The Acts of the Apostles, P 16)
Another said it, "…denotes a brutal and sadistic cruelty. It is used of a wild boar ravaging a vineyard into which he had broken, and of a wild animal savaging a body." (Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, p 64.)
Paul went from house to house and drug Christians out of their house an off to jail.
II- The Cost of Persecution to the Christian:
We have touched on this in a small way but I wish to expound upon this idea. What did persecution cost the believers in the days of the book of Acts? It cost them their freedom, their jobs and many time their lives. It has often been stated that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
This persecution should not surprise us in the least. It had been prophesied many times. Notice a few verses that show it plainly.
Matthew 10:17 "But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues."
Matthew 24:9 "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."
John 15:20 "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…"
John 16:2 "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."
Just in case we feel this time has passed in its entirety. 2 Timothy 3:12 "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
III- The Cost to the Enemy:
I must now confess that the title I gave this section has more to do with this point than the latter. I think the greatest cost paid for persecution was not the cost of human suffering, and that was beyond comprehension. The enemy of the church, Satan, paid the greatest cost. Notice what it says in Acts 8:4 "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."
Jesus told the church in Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Until this time, the main thrust of the church was at Jerusalem. It had settled down there. The persecution actually spread the gospel to the world.
A friend I heard preach reminded me that the emphasis of the great commission is not on the word go but on the word preach. We are going to be going but we should be preaching as we go. If we are born again we should be telling the story of our birth and helping others to see the preciousness of the good news.
There are some things we need to see concerning persecution and what effect it has upon the church. First let us look at a verse from the Prophet Amos. Amos 6:1 "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion…"
Oliver Greene said, "When men are "at ease in Zion" they are prone to grow cold, indifferent, and careless to the point of backsliding. Righteousness has always flourished under sever persecution. Christendom today is at ease in Zion, there is very little persecution of the Church, the kind of persecution which produces active, zealous, fearless believers." (p 19)
IV- The Benefits of Persecution:
There are some points that we need to see to help us process the benefits of persecution.
First, I remind us all that Rom 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." It does not say that things will always be good but that God will make good come from all things.
The second thing is that trials strengthen us. James 1:2-4 tells us, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
The last thing is that sometimes God has to shake things up to get us out of our rut. God had given the church orders to spread the gospel to the world but they had settled down and were enjoying fellowship and worship. It took the severe persecution of these early believers to thrust them into the marketplaces of the world.
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(27) The Reason for Joy Acts 8:5-8
Every year at Christmas time we sing songs such as "Joy to the World." We read things like Luke 1:14 "And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth" where Mary was told of the joy to come. We also read where the shepherd heard the angels say, "…Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10
The point we are at in the book of Acts finds us with the gospel beginning to spread due to the persecution.
Acts 8:5-8 "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8And there was great joy in that city."
Philip was one of the men who were set aside to minister to the widows and orphans in Acts 6 along with Stephen who has been killed. He goes to the city of Samaria and preached Christ. Samaria was both a region and a city.
I wish to focus on the last part of our text mainly in this study. The Bible says, "…there was great joy in that city."
I- Landscape of Joy:
Before we get into our text let us look at what I have called the landscape of joy. What were some things that brought joy prior to this that will set the stage for us as we look at this particular event.
First there was great joy at creation. Notice what God said to Job in Job 38:4-7 "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" We can rejoice that God created us.
Another time was at the coming of Jesus that we mentioned a few moments ago. Look at an additional verse. Matthew 2:10 says, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." This is the wise men who came from the east. There was not only joy in Jerusalem but other parts of the world as well.
Another time of joy was when Jesus rose from the grave. Matthew 28:8 "And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word."
One other that has impact is the joy that was at the ascension of Christ. Luke 24:52 records for us the emotions of those on the Mount of Olives. "And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."
All these previous points of rejoicing set the landscape that make the events found in Acts 8 possible. The creation, coming of Christ, resurrection and ascension are critical. Without them, there could be no gospel to preach.
II- Joy Over the Gospel:
When Philip came to the city, he came preaching Christ. One of the reasons people have to rejoice is the good news. The good news was that Jesus had come, lived, died and rose again for the sins of the world. The gospel message was not only received but brought joy to the hears.
1 Peter 1:8 "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
The gospel today still brings joy to the hearts of lost men and women when it is received. It brings great stress, anger and frustration to those who reject it. 1Co 1:23-24 says, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. 24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
III- Joy Over the Inclusion of Gentiles:
I think it is important that the field into which Philip now goes had been plowed previously and was ready for harvest. Let me explain. Remember the Lord Jesus traveled through Samaria intentionally. Perhaps it is best if just read from the Bible account. Lets look at John 4:3-7 "He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. 4And he must needs go through Samaria. 5Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink."
John 4:25-30 "The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30Then they went out of the city, and came unto him."
It was in this content that Jesus uttered the words, "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." John 4:35
Philip is just harvesting the crop that Jesus had planted and saw was ripe. One joy of the gospel is that the Gentiles were included in the good news. These Samaritans were considered outcast. It has been said that Samaria furnished the bridge between Jerusalem and the rest of the world.
IV- Joy Over the Power of God:
We need to again be aware that the performance of miracles was a very infrequent occurrence in the Bible. Many men such as Daniel, Isaiah, Jonah, Jeremiah and many others preformed no miracles at all. Philip was empowered to perform miracles of healing. Notice Act 8:6-7 "…and seeing the miracles which he did. 7For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed."
Certainly, when you or a loved one is healed of some disease this causes us to praise God or at least it should. We might ask why did God allow this power, His power, to rest upon Philip.
May I suggest that the reason was that in ACT ONE God allowed these dramatic healings and spirits to be cast out to verify the message that was being preached as His work and not simply the gospel of men. God wastes no energy in fruitless and unnecessary things.
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(28) The Price of the Gospel Acts 8:9-24
How much is the gospel worth? There are TV ads currently making the circuit that go something like, "Tickets to such and such stadium, $60.00. Two team jerseys $120.00. Spending the afternoon with you little brother, priceless."
I submit that the gospel is something that is beyond value. It is priceless. We will discover one in our text tonight that tried to by the power of the gospel. What is the price of the gospel?
I- Background of Simeon:
Let us begin with some background information. The events that are recorded in Acts 8 take place in Samaria. Acts 8:5 "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them." The evangelist Philip was preaching.
To introduce us to Simeon we go to Acts 8:9-11,13. "But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. …13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done."
We see several things about Simeon in these verses. Acts 8:9 He had a long history of deception of the people. He had made many claims of his own greatness. His deception was based on sorceries. Simeon had managed to gain a great following of the people.
In verse thirteen we see that he believed. We must ask the question of what die he believe. It seems apparent from the latter verses that we will look at in a moment that he did not believe unto salvation. So what did he believe? He believed in the miracles. He believed that something miraculous was going on. He believed that Philip had power that he did not have. He believed that miracles could be performed.
Is it enough to believe in miracles? No because the Devil sees the miracles and believes them. It is not simply enough to believe that Jesus works miracles. He may have even believed that Jesus was raised from the dead.
II- Conversion of Samaritans:
Acts 8:12 "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."
It seems that these were true believers. They were willing to turn their back on the sorcery of Simeon. These seem to be genuine conversions to Christ.
III- Holy Spirit Imparted:
The church at Jerusalem heard what was going on in this gentile city and send Peter and John to investigate. Acts 8:14 "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John."
Upon arriving they discover that the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on these believers. Acts 8:15-16 "Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)"
We must remember that we are in a very transitional period of time. The events that are recorded here cannot be interpreted as being the way the Holy Spirit is passed to men. Acts 8:17 "Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." We can say that God chose to send the Holy Spirit this way in this one isolated instance.
IV- Money Can’t Buy the Power:
If Simeon was interested in what he observed in Philip his interest was really peaked by Peter and John.
Acts 8:18-20 "And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost."
It seems natural that the reason he wanted to be able to do this was to continue to be somebody and to use this as a way of deceiving the people.
Acts 8:20-23 "But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."
Peter quickly states that Simeon was not where he needed to be. He wanted to buy the power of God that was not for sale.
We seemingly find additional evidence that Simeon was not right with God by the request he made to Peter in Acts 8:24 "Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."
V- Lessons for Life:
There are certainly many lessons that the Holy Spirit can apply to our lives from these events.
First, the gospel is not for sale. The gospel is available regardless of the financial statue of someone. In fact, the Bible seems to teach it is easier for those without money to accept Christ. Matt 19:23-26 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
It is not how much power the messenger has but the power is in the gospel. This man was a powerful man by deception but Philip, Peter and John are not mentioned as being great only proclaimers of the Word of God.
We have asked how much is the gospel worth. We see that it is spoken of here as a "gift of God." Acts 8:20 While the gospel cannot be purchased it is certainly not worthless. We need only look at the cost of it to God to see the price. It cost Christ His life.
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(29) The Gospel Spreads to Africa Acts 8:25-40
Our Lord Jesus told the disciples in Act 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." In the book of Acts, we see this promise unfolding. The Gospel will spread into Europe during the Apostles Paul’s second missionary journey (See Acts 16:14-40). However, the first place it spread to the uttermost part of the earth was into Africa we will see during this study.
I- Philip Is Called:
The story unfolds for us in Acts 8:25-40. The story begins with Philip preaching and having great success. "And they (Peter and John), when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. 26And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27And he arose and went…"
Peter and John return preaching to the villages to the Samaritans leaving Philip in Samaria. Notice a couple of critically important things we need to see so we might be more effective and surrendered to God’s call on our lives.
First, God can interrupt our plans when He wants. Philip was having great success and certainly did not want to leave however God said go. God’s ways are not always our ways and many times He does things the opposite of what we expect.
Second, we can learn from Philip’s example. It says, "…he arose and went…"
There is a story told by Jesus that illustrates his for us. Matthew 21:28-31 "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first…."
Certainly, God doesn’t want us to bicker or protest as the one who went in this story did. He also does not want us to say I’ll go and then never go. God can handle the struggles we go through to arrive at His will. Philip was simply presented the opportunity to go under the leadership of God and he went.
David Salley, Pastor of Gravely, was asked if he would pray about going to Nicaragua when another pastor could not go. He said, "I don’t have to pray about it, I’ll go. God called me to preach and this is just another opportunity. I don’t have to pray about what he has already called me to do."
II- Chariot In the Desert:
Acts 8:27b "…and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet."
HA Ironside said, "Now you must not thin of this as if Philip had just met a single individual chariot across the desert. Undoubtedly what Philip saw was a great caravan—soldiers, merchants and all—and in the midst a chariot (which would stand out over everything else), the chariot of the treasurer of Candace queen of Ethiopia." (Lectures on the Book of Acts, p 192)
Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot."
Philip was where God wanted him to be, in the desert of Gaza. Next we see he did what he was instructed to do once he got there. How many times are we where God wants us to be but then fail to follow through with the prompting of the Spirit of God?
III- Old Testament Witness:
When Philip gets near, he hears the eunuch reading from the Word of God. Doubtless, this was a prized possession because copies of the Old Testament were precious and valuable because they had to be copied by hand.
Acts 8:30-33 "And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth."
The man was reading from Isaiah 53. Notice what transpired next as Philip begins where he is and preaches Jesus.
Acts 8:34-35 "And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."
We never have to wonder if the Old Testament reveals Jesus to us nor if the one who came was in fact the promised one of Israel. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies found concerning the Messiah.
In John 5:39 Jesus said, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
All through the New Testament the words, "that it might be fulfilled appear."
Concerning His virgin birth in Mat 1:22-23 "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
Then notice with me at his crucifixion. Mat 27:35 "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of God to mankind to send a Savior.
IV- The Confession of Faith:
As Philip and the man journey on the come to water. The eunuch asked what would keep him from being baptized. Notice Philips answer. Specially notice that regeneration must occur prior to baptism.
Acts 8:36-38 "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
The eunuch confesses his faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior and is then baptized.
Acts 8:39 "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea."
The Gospel has just spread to Africa carried in the heart of the man in the chariot.
V- Parting Lessons:
Let us understand a couple of important lessons from these Scriptures.
First, we are privileged to be used by God to spread the gospel. Philip would have certainly have said it was worth leaving his comfort zone to go to the desert.
The gospel is for all nations, races, and cultures. Rom 10:12 "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him."
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(30) God Saves the Meanest of Men Acts 9:1-22
When we think of the meanest man we have ever known or heard about certainly there are a lot of evil men to choose from. Many times we wrongly assume that these evil men are beyond the grace of God. Is it so? I say to you that God saves the meanest of men.
The apostle Paul stated in 1Ti 1:15 "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." Paul confessed that he was an evil man. We have a tendecy to white wash Paul and remember him only as the great apostle and writer of the Word of God. The great missionary who was persecuted for his faith. The scriptures before you in the book of Acts remind us of who he was before he was saved. I remind us that Rom 5:20 says, "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
I- The Persecutor:
Paul, who was known as Saul, was nothing more than a hit man for the Sanhedrin. He was a murderer who enjoyed his work and did it with zeal. Acts 9:1 "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest."
Allow me to give us a lengthy quote from AT Roberson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament for us to understand the full impact of the implications of the words breathing out threatening and slaughter.
"Present active participle of old and common verb. Not "breathing out," but "breathing in" (inhaling) means that threatening and slaughter had come to be the very breath that Saul breathed, like a warhorse who sniffed the smell of battle. He breathed on the remaining disciples the murder that he had already breathed in from the death of the others. He exhaled what he inhaled. Jacob had said that "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf" (Gen 49:27). This greatest son of Benjamin was fulfilling this prophecy. The taste of blood in the death of Stephen was pleasing to young Saul (Act 8:1) and now he revelled in the slaughter of the saints both men and women. In Act 26:11 Luke quotes Paul as saying that he was "exceedingly mad against them."
Paul had asked permission from the high priest to spread the persecution wider than Jerusalem. Acts 9:2-3 "And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus…" We know from Acts 26:11 this was not the only city. "And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."
Another thing that made the persecution of Paul so grievous and cruel was that it was not only perpetrated on the men but women as well. We see this not only from Acts 9:2 we just read but from other places as well.
Acts 8:3 "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Acts 9:14 "And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." This seems to indicate that age did not matter either.
Acts 22:4 "And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women."
So who do you think the early church would have said was the meanest man alive? I think they would have said this man named Saul.
II- See the Light With Blind Eyes:
Acts 9:3-7 "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."
Saul as he journeyed, spiritually blind, is confronted with the presence of God on the road to Damascus. Notice the reaction of this man when he realized he was in the presence of God. "…4he fell to the earth…6he trembling and astonished said…"
I love the way Matthew Henry commented on this. He said before this Paul was saying prayers now he was praying them. God opens his eyes spiritually but closed them physically. Acts 9:8 "And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus."
III- The Least Lightly Salvation:
There is another important element to this story. We can see from Acts 9:10;13-14 that the least lightly man to be saved was Paul. Or should we say the one Ananias least expected at least.
Acts 9:10-14 "And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." Ananias gives us a glimpse into the opinion of the saints concerning Saul. He was well known and his intentions and reason for coming to Damascus was well known. You may even recall that Barnabas had to witness to the fact that Paul was now saved back in Jerusalem. Act 9:27 "But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus."
Paul was the most unlikely man to be saved. Who is the one most unlikely today?
IV- Saved for a Purpose:
We see in Acts 9:15 "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." This man was saved for a divine purpose. May I say that we all are saved for a purpose? Maybe not as grand in our eyes as Paul’s but grand in God’s eyes for us.
Ananias goes and we see the salutation to Saul being telling. "Brother Saul," he says as he enters. The scales fell from his eyes, he received nourishment and tarried at Damascus.
V- Sphere of Influence:
Paul immediately begins to exert his influence. Notice Acts 9:21-22 "But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 22But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ." He preached with such power that they could not argue against him. Remember the same was said of Stephen in Acts 6:9-10 "Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake."
Paul will continue to preach the gospel and stand for right from henceforth.
VI- Message of the Saved:
Remember when Paul reasoned in the synagogues that was "…22proving that this is very Christ." We might asks what is the message of the saved. Is it, come to my church? Or perhaps, you need to met our preacher. Or, we have a great time together. Church is fun. May I say there may be a place for all these but the main message is that as the woman at the well said, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" Joh 4:29
Paul would say later in 1Co 2:4 "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
Again he said in Rom 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
So what is the message of the saved. The gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Notice 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."
So the man least lightly to get save was gloriously saved. Not only was the saved he became a messenger of the gospel. We too must exert our influence and be about preaching the gospel with our lives and our voice.
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(31) God Makes Ways of Escape Acts 9:23-31
Saul, the persecutor, become the persecuted. The hunter has become the hunted. The one who fought against the church has now become the one who fight for it.
As our narrative opens Paul is in Damascus. His eyes have regained their sight and he now is preaching the gospel. During the course of his remaining years Paul would find himself in peril and danger. Notice what he told the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."
Beside this he had the thorn in the flesh so often talked about found recorded in 2 Cor 12:7. So we can glean some important things about the deliverance of God from these verses that will help us on our journey. With this background from Paul’s life we see that God does not always deliver the way we would want. Still let us see some ways He delivered Paul recorded here.
I- From Peril:
Acts 9:23 "And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him." Paul was now numbered with those who believed in Christ and the Jews at Damascus wanted him dead. Notice how intense it had gotten. Acts 9:24 "But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him."
The word used for watching means they did it on the sly or covertly. Paul was in peril and we see that God chose to make a way of escape for him. Notice the way.
Acts 9:25 "Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket." Paul was lowered by the brethren in a basket. This is very reminiscence of when the spies entered Jericho and were let down by Rahab. Paul told of this in 2 Corinthians 11:33 "And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands."
The verb used here is the same as found in Acts 27:30 "And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea…"
So God provided a way of escape from the peril at the hands of men. Does this mean that God is obligated to provide a way of escape from peril in every instance? It does not it only illustrated that God can if He wills. After all He has all the world at His beckon call to use.
II- From Past:
There is another thing we see that is escaped from here. Notice Acts 9:26-28 "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem."
It does not surprise us when we see that the Apostle Paul had a past of which he was not proud of after he was saved. How many believers have a past? Most! Notice that Paul’s past haunted him. "…they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple." They though it was a ploy by him to get inside information. Could he escape the past and have a future among the brethren?
We evidently quickly in Damascus he was accepted. Paul had been saved some three years prior to go to Jerusalem. Notice the progress found in Galatians 1:16-18 "To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days."
It is very likely that between Acts 9:22 and 23 was when the desert experience happened. Nevertheless when he went to Jerusalem they were still leery of him because of his past.
Notice it took someone believing in him before he was accepted. "27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way…" This reminds us all that we are no an island but need each other.
Paul was provided a way of escape from his past first by the blood of Jesus and then by the testimony of a friend testifying of his conversion.
III- From Persecution:
Next, we find Paul getting it to trouble so to speak again for preaching the gospel. He disputed with the Greek speaking Jews. Acts 9:29-30 "And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. 30Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." Paul moved on from Jerusalem to Caesarea and then to Tarsus. He is fleeing persecution.
Notice what the final verse we are considering says, "31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."
The political climate changed and the Jews came under persecution from the Romans and Egyptians and the focus of their attention was turned from the church. Many of the saints that had left Jerusalem returned again.
Some may think that this was an accident but I submit that God used it to give the church rest from persecution. It was a way of escape from that. God even has the political and military might of the world at His disposal.
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(32) What Will Be Our Epitaph Acts 9:32-43
I once wrote a song that asked, "Will I leave my name only on a slab of stone, or will the world speak of me long after I am gone."
Many is the number who have wondered what would be said at their funeral. Most would want to leave a mark on the world.
I- Could They Say, "He/She Has Been Made Whole":
At the risk of reading too much into this text, please notice with me first the story of Aeneas. Acts 9:32-35 "And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. 33And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. 34And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. 35And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord."
Here was a man who was sick for eight years. He was healed in the name of Jesus Christ. While this healing was physical lets allow the Holy Spirit to apply the spiritual lesson to us.
When someone writes our epitaph on our tomb stone could they say, "He was made whole by the Lord Jesus."
Jesus plainly taught that we need to be healed. Mar 2:17 "When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The physical illness of this man was palsy, the spiritual sickness of mankind is sin. Sin comes in all shapes, sizes and colors but when we take the cover off it is all black and ugly.
Jesus first question to mankind is a simple one. It is not do you want me to make you rich, or famous, or wise. It is simply, will you let me make you whole.
Remember the story in the gospel of John when the man lay beside the pool and had been sick for thirty-eight years. Notice Joh 5:6 "When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?"
Jesus told him to take up his bed and walk. Jesus simply asks us if we will be made whole or do we want to continue to deny we are sick and living with the stink of death. We can have an epitaph that reads, "Made whole by Christ."
II- Could It Say, "He/She Helps Others
on the Journey of Life?"
The narrative moves quickly to the story of Tabitha. Notice the story of her life. Acts 9:36-39 "Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. 37And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. 38And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. 39Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them."
It is obvious quickly that this woman was one that had helped others. If these women had written her epitaph it would have read perhaps something like, "She put others first," or "She gave to others at cost to herself."
Is this type of life not in keeping with what God would expect of one of his children?
Notice with me a few verses. Acts 2: 44-46 "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart."
James 2:15-16 "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"
We are clearly taught by the word of God to help others with this life’s problems. Dorcas was such a doer.
Listen to other verses.
Ac 20:35 "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Ro 12:13 "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."
Ga 6:10 "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
1Ti 6:18 "That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate."
When they write our epitaph will it be we helped others?
III- Will It Say, "He/She Once Was Dead but Now He/She Lives?"
Acts 9:40-43 "But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. 42And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. 43And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner."
What a scene! Perhaps Peter remembered when Jesus put the mourners out Mt 9:25 "But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose."
Perhaps it was an attempt to not create a spectacle. Never the less we see that Dorcas was raised from the dead. Physical death had its grip on her. This is the only record of anyone being raised in the book of Acts.
Resurrection is more than physical life restored. May I say it can be and is spoken of with the prodigal son as being a reformation of a life. Lu 15:24 "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."
There are numerous places where the Bible talks about being dead and being made alive spiritually in Christ. Eph 2:1 "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins."
Col 2:13 "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses."
This new life is made possible by what Christ has done for us. Eph 2:6 tells us, "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
Dorcus tombstone could have read she was dead but was made alive by Christ. Could yours?
We have an exhortation found in Col 3:1 for us who are alive in Christ. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."
When it really comes to it someone else will write our epithet but we will be the ones who give them the incentive.
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