Archives for posts with tag: Acts

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm continued to rage, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:20)

Luke writes concerning the vicious storm in which he and Paul, a centurion and Roman soldiers assigned to bring Paul to Rome, and many other people were trapped.  On board were experienced sailors [of which Luke appears to have been one himself] so when he writes that all hope of being saved was abandoned, we can be sure that the ship and all 276 people who were on it, were in existential danger.

They had not, however, reckoned with Paul’s God.  God had a plan to get Paul to Rome and of course that plan was going to be accomplished and as a sign that it was going to be accomplished, an angel appeared to Paul to tell him.

“For there stood by me this night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you as a gift all those who sail with you.” (Acts 27:23–24)

Thus the angel prophesied, and so it was done.  Eventually all souls on board the ship made it safely to shore.  God did what he said he would do.

The God that we serve today is the same God whom Paul served.  We do not often see visions in our day [though it appears that the Islamic world is somewhat different], but God is still God and will accomplish his purpose for us and stormy winds and raging seas are no barrier to Him doing so.

[Side note:  My son, a pastor, just returned from a trip to a Middle Eastern country and while there he heard the testimony of a guy who had received a vision of a man telling him to walk 45 minutes in a certain direction, because he needed to meet someone.  The man walked 45 minutes, stopped in front of the building that was next to him and went inside.  There was a man waiting who said, “I’ve been waiting for you to appear.”  The man led him to faith in Christ.]

Acts 18:27 And when he wanted to continue on into  Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there, he greatly helped those who had come to believe through  grace. (Mounce NT)

The Complete Word Study Bible defines “grace” as: “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” We have a good example of what this means in Acts 18.27.

Remember that Luke, no doubt due to the fact that he was a physician, is very precise and careful in his use of theological terms.  Here Luke is describing the ministry of Apollos and how many responded to his preaching of the gospel and came to believe through grace.  We expect Luke to write that many people came to believe through the preaching of Apollos, or through the preaching of the apostles, but Luke knows that this isn’t accurate.  Yes, Apollos played his part, but those who came to follow Jesus by faith did so because of grace, not Apollos.

Here is why this is such a crucial and happy fact:  God doesn’t need an Apollos to draw us to faith.  He can use a terrible Methodist preacher as he did with Charles Spurgeon; He can use the death of an unknown, suffering person in the next hotel room (who turned out to be a close, colleague from college), as he did with Adoniram Judson; or He can even use no one in particular, as he did with my wife who came to faith wandering around a graveyard.  God doesn’t need an Apollos because he uses grace.  Thank the Lord that He uses men like Apollos, he doesn’t need them, but he uses them, but everything is ultimately of grace, the sheer bounty and benevolence of the Good Giver.

 

Acts 15:3 So being sent on their way by the church, they went through  both Phoenicia and Samaria, narrating in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.

I was reading through Acts 15 this morning and came across vs. 3 in which we discover that the news that many Gentiles were coming to faith brought "great joy" to the church [which at the time was composed mainly of Jews]. I began to wonder what else brought the believers "great joy." Here are some things:

  • The discovery of the resurrection of Jesus. Matt. 28:8 So they left the tomb at once, with fear and great joy, and ran to break the news to his disciples.
  • The demonstration of the power of the gospel under Philip's preaching. Acts 8:8 So there was great joy in that city.
  • The news that followers of Christ were walking in the truth. 3John 4 I have no greater joy than this: to hear that  my children are walking in the truth.
  • Our reaction when we stand in God's glorious presence. Jude 24 Now to the one who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in his glorious presence  without blame and with great joy

Great joy then comes in the knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that he is not dead, but that he has risen and this leads both to the salvation of our own souls and the promise of our own resurrection. Great joy comes in seeing the work of the Holy Spirit extended to people whom we did not expect to see follow Jesus. Great joy comes when we see the working of the Holy Spirit in power as people come to faith and as those who are sick are healed. Great joy comes to us as we see fellow believers overcoming the temptation to live according to the world's standards and embrace and live according to the truth of God's word. Finally, this great joy will extend into the gates of heaven itself as we stand in the presence of our Great God with everyone else who has been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, who has been forgiven, and who stands before God's presence with us in great joy.

Amen and Amen!

“When he had seized him, he put him in prison, handing him over to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was made earnestly to God for him by the church.” (Acts 12:4–5)

As near as we can tell from what Luke describes, Peter was imprisoned in this way.  There were 16 soldiers that were responsible for guarding him.  He was shackled with two chains. He was not dressed with his outer clothes. He was behind at least two locked doors…and he arose, followed the angel and everything opened for him.  He simply walked right out of that prison.

It’s interesting how Luke connects his rescue with prayer from the broader church.  Frederik Meyer writes: “a praying household is stronger than the strongest precautions of human might.”

And so it is.

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace; being built up, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in number.” (Acts 9:31)

There is an interesting juxtaposition in Acts 8 an 9.  At the beginning the fledgling church is under threat by Saul of Tarsus:

“But Saul was making havoc of the church; entering every house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.Now those who were scattered went from place to place preaching the word” (Acts 8:3–4)

While Saul was rabidly persecuting the church, the church was under pressure and so Christians fled away from Jerusalem to various parts of Israel and even beyond.  Then Saul got radically saved while on the way to Damascus to continue his oppression of Christians there.  He suddenly began preaching for faith in Christ!

The result is listed in our verse.  Paul was no longer in pursuit of Christians and so the broader church was at peace and then: It increased in number.

When the church was under pressure it was increasing in number due to Christians being spread out and preaching the word.  When it was at peace it was also increasing in number.  This is something that only the Lord could bring about in his sovereignty.  It should also make us think twice about our assumptions of how and where the Word of God will bear fruit.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of joy with your presence.’” (Acts 2:28)

In this passage Peter is quoting David in Psalm 16.11, and applying the quote to Jesus.  Peter teaches his listeners during his great sermon at Pentecost that when Jesus was crucified, he did not stay in the grave, but was raised up to be seated with God in the heavenly places.  Jesus rose again to life with God the Father, where he is “full of joy with your (God’s) presence.”

Here is true and abiding hope.  When we die, God will not leave us in the grave any more than he left Jesus in the grave.  As he was raised up to new life, we also will be raised to new life.  As he entered into the presence of God, we also will enter into God’s presence.  As Jesus was full of joy in God’s presence, so also we will be. The apostle Paul is very clear on this teaching:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23, ESV)

The doctrine of the resurrection is hope for the hurting; it is rest for the weary; it is renewed joy for the elderly, and comfort for every follower of Jesus.  No matter what our situation in this short and [sometimes] difficult life, we have the promise of Scripture that we will be raised to new life in the presence of God.  In his presence is true joy.  In his presence is eternal comfort.  In his presence [and only in his presence] will our souls rest, satisfied.

Oh, Josh Lavender puts this to music:

“For as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.” (Acts 17:23, NLT)

Paul to the citizens of Athens in his great sermon at the Areopagus. We see some important characteristics of Paul as he traveled and proclaimed the glad tidings of Jesus Christ.

  1. He was willing to study and understand the culture. Paul had obviously studied the religious shrines of the Athenians.  He understood whom they worshiped.
  2. Paul used their culture as a jumping off point in his sermon. Paul saw that he had a point of connection with the Athenians when he came across the shrine that said, “To and Unknown God.”  He must have instantly seen this as a point of entry and connection with them, as he uses it so effectively.
  3. Paul was bold enough to speak the truth without flinching. Paul flatly states that their worship of this Unknown God is without knowledge.  He then tells them that he himself will instruct them about this exact God.  It’s a gutsy statement, but Paul was a gutsy person.

We can learn a lot from Paul’s presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ to the Athenians.  We need to understand culture and use it as a point of connection when we proclaim Christ.  We need to be bold and speak the truth and let the Holy Spirit blow where he may.