Read Acts 13:13-52
Jesus Is The Answer
The man who was formerly one of the most feared persecutors of the disciples of Jesus became one of the most fearless proclaimers of the truth concerning the Son of God. In Antioch of Pisidia, during his first missionary journey with Barnabas, Paul appealed to the historical background of the Messiah as well as the proof of fulfilled prophecy in Jesus’ life.
Paul concluded his message by identifying Jesus as the answer to man’s biggest problem: sin. Because of sin, man’s relationship with God is severed (Isaiah 59:1-2). Because of Jesus, man can be reconciled to God! “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be made justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). Man can be forgiven and justified in the sight of the Almighty!
What was the response to this message? The Gentiles received the message and desired to know more. “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42). There were also “many of the Jews and devout proselytes” who “followed Paul and Barnabas” and “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:43).
However, there were other Jews who “were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45).
The same is true today. Some will receive the word like the Gentiles who “were glad and glorified the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:48), while others will “reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life” (Acts 13:46). Each individual must make the choice: receive or reject the gospel of God; turn to Jesus as the answer or turn away from Him and continue in rebellion. What is your choice?
Read Acts 10:1-11:18
The Gospel Is For All
Under the Old Law, the Jews were God’s people. If you were a Gentile, few Jewish people would have anything to do with you. There was a process of proselytization, but that was not typical for Jews to actively promote such among Gentiles.
The prophets of old, however, told of a day when “the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2). Jesus told His apostles that they were to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Even Peter himself, when he preached that first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost, said that God’s promise was for the Jews (“to you and to your children”) and the Gentiles (“to all who are afar off”) (Acts 2:39).
It seems that the early church didn’t really understand these things, or perhaps they simply weren’t paying close attention. When the church was established, it took a while for them to get out of Jerusalem. In fact, it took “a great persecution” to get them out of Jerusalem. “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). You may recall that Philip was the one who took the gospel to the Samaritans.
Fast-forward a bit to Acts 10, where we are introduced to the Gentile Cornelius, described as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). Cornelius was not a Christian, nor was he a Jew. But he had the heart of one who would accept the truth when he heard it.
Peter was sent to preach to Cornelius, and the apostle admitted, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Cornelius and his household were immersed, and the Jews recognized that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18).
Read Acts 9:26-30
Are You An Encourager?
“Did you see who came to worship on Sunday?” “What nerve he must have to show his face around here!” “Does he think we have forgotten what he did?” “He doesn’t belong here!”
Perhaps you have thought these things at one point in your life. Perhaps these very thoughts were going through the disciples’ minds in the first century when Saul of Tarsus came to Jerusalem. Luke tells us that “he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). It’s understandable, though, isn’t it? Did not Ananias himself express doubt and perhaps a hint of fear when Jesus told him Saul was coming? If this guy showed up at the church building next week, don’t you think you would be a little leery?
Enter Barnabas. Remember what his name means? “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). He was the disciple who sold everything he had to help others in need. And if there was ever anyone in need, it was Saul of Tarsus. Perhaps he wasn’t hurting financially, but this man needed some support, didn’t he?
It was Barnabas who stood up with Saul and “took him to the apostles” (Acts 9:27). He stood by him as the apostles listened to his report, “how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27).
Were the disciples justified in demanding evidence? Certainly. Paul himself later wrote, “Test all things, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the word” (1 John 4:1). John the Immerser said, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Based on his past, it was fair to ask Saul questions and “test” him.
Barnabas saw that Saul passed the test, and was willing to stand by him upon further questioning. He was true to his name: a Son of Encouragement.
Read Acts 9:10-19; 22:12-16
Why Are You Waiting?
When the Lord told Ananias that Saul of Tarsus was headed his way, his heart must have skipped a beat. The man who was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples” (Acts 9:1), who had authority to imprison those who professed the risen Lord, was coming to his house. But Saul was not coming to arrest this “devout man” (Acts 22:12); Saul was coming to learn from him.
Ananias chose to trust in the Lord and obey the command to go to Saul. He went to the house where Saul was praying and fasting, and said to him, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-16).
There are many religious groups that teach the doctrine of the “sinner’s prayer” for salvation. They claim that if you simply pray and ask Jesus into your heart, that you will be saved. There is no Scriptural support for such a statement. In fact, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus shows the exact opposite. Saul prayed for three days, but when Ananias arrived, he told him to stop praying!
What did Ananias teach Saul of Tarsus about salvation? He said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Can a person be saved if his sins are not washed away? If it is baptism that washes away sins, can one be saved without baptism?
I understand that someone you trusted probably told you something different. They meant well, but they were misinformed themselves. When we stand before the Lord in judgment, He will not accept the excuse, “I didn’t know!” Jesus makes it clear that we can know the truth (John 8:32) and that we have that which will judge us (John 12:48). If you have not obeyed the Lord by putting Him on in baptism, why are you waiting?
I. Expect the possibility of a storm
A. Even when you’re doing what you’re supposed to do (1 Peter 5:8)
B. The importance of prayer (Acts 27:29; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:17)
II. Express the promises of God
A. For our own benefit (1 Corinthians 11:26; 2 Peter 1:4; Psalm 42:5)
B. For another’s benefit (Acts 9:15; Romans 1:16; Galatians 3:26-28)
III. Exhibit the presence of God
A. Our faith should be evident to all (2 Cor. 4:8-10; Philippians 4:11-13)
B. Be present in the life of others (Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:24-25)
IV. Experience the peace that God offers
A. Will all problems vanish? Not likely! (Acts 27:21-26)
B. Again, the importance of prayer (Philippians 4:6-7)
I. Truth is indestructible
A. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and it cannot be destroyed (1 Peter 1:22;23; Mark 13:31; Psalm 100:5)
B. No man can destroy the Word of God (Jeremiah 36:1-2, 20-23; 31:33)
II. Truth is unchangeable
A. People may exchange truth for a lie (Romans 1:25)
B. God does not change (Hebrews 1:10-12)
C. The Word is God’s power (Romans 1:16; Galatians 1:6-7)
III. Truth is powerful
A. It is sharp (Hebrews 4:12)
B. It causes men to want to change (Acts 2:37) and tremble if they don’t (Acts 24:25)
IV. What can the truth do for us?
A. It can make us free (John 8:32)
B. It can sanctify us (John 17:17)
C. It can purify us (1 Peter 1:22)
V. What is our responsibility toward the truth?
A. Lovingly teach it (Ephesians 4:15)
B. Worship according to it (John 4:24)
C. Rightly divide it (2 Timothy 2:15)
D. Meditate on it (Philippians 4:8)
Read Acts 8:26-40
The Value Of Questions
Questions asked at the right time can be a wonderful teaching tool. When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch, the eunuch was reading from Isaiah’s prophecy. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30). This is a splendid question for a teacher to ask a student.
The eunuch responded with a question of his own: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31). This man was humble, seeing his need for a wise teacher. “He asked Philip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:32). He was hospitable to a man who was willing to study with him.
As they read from the scroll, the eunuch asked Philip another question. He said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” (Acts 8:34). Philip seized the opportunity to explain how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies recorded so many centuries before.
We can also infer from the eunuch’s next question that Philip taught him about baptism. “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Had Philip not expressed the importance of immersion, the eunuch never would have asked such a question. But Philip’s answer reinforced baptism’s place in the gospel plan of salvation. He declared, “If you believe with all your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37).
Without delay, the chariot was stopped, and Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. The eunuch died to his sins, was buried with Christ in baptism, and was raised again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). He was immersed for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). His sins were washed away (Acts 22:16). He believed and he was baptized, thus, he was saved (Mark 16:16).
Have you followed the example of the eunuch? Have you confessed your belief and been immersed into Christ? If not, why are you delaying?
Read Acts 8:9-25
God’s Second Law Of Pardon
Of all the Samaritans that accepted the gospel, Simon may have been the most surprising. He was a very popular entertainer as a sorcerer, “claiming to be someone great” (Acts 8:9). And he was not the only one making that claim; the people—“from the least to the greatest”—also said, “This man is the great power of God” (Acts 8:10). The people of the city “heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time” (Acts 8:11).
Things changed for Simon when Philip arrived in Samaria. Philip was not a master of the sleight of hand; the miracles he performed in the name of Jesus were legitimate. The truth he preached was powerful. The people believed him and obeyed the gospel. Even Simon heeded Philip. “Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:13).
Peter and John came to Samaria to see the good work that Philip had done. They laid hands on their new brothers and sisters, imparting upon them the ability to work miracles as well. That gave Simon an idea. “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hand the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 8:18-19).
Simon sinned, thinking that God’s power was for sale. He sinned, missing the acclaim he once enjoyed. He thought he could reclaim some of his former popularity. Peter rebuked him and said, “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23).
Our God is a merciful and gracious God, and He wants us to obey Him and serve Him from the heart. Even when we sin, He gives us the opportunity to repent and return to Him.
Read Acts 8:4-13
Philip, another one of the seven servants Luke introduced in Acts 6, was among the Christians scattered during the great persecution following Stephen’s martyrdom. Philip went to Samaria, and despite the typical Jewish opinion of Samaritans at that time, he “preached Christ to them” (Acts 8:5).
Hearing the truth and seeing the supporting signs, “multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip” (Acts 8:6). What were those things? Luke does not leave us wondering. He taught them and “preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). He told them about the Savior of the world and the church that He established. And at this preaching, “both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12).
There are many things involved in preaching “the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” One must preach the divine nature of Jesus. He is not a created being but eternal. He is God the Son, as much Deity as God the Father and God the Spirit.
One must preach the prophecies that point to Jesus the Messiah. His advent was prophesied, as was His suffering and His power. One must preach about the church, as it is the kingdom (Matthew 16:17-19). It is to the church that one is added when he obeys the gospel (Acts 2:47).
One must preach the truth of Jesus’ return. He is coming again, but not to set up His kingdom. He already did that. Nor is He coming to rule on this earth for one thousand years. He affirmed before Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). No, He is coming again to deliver the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Have you ever heard these things? Has the truth of the gospel been preached to you, or have you only heard fanciful theories based on nothing but speculation? Be like the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Read Acts 6-7
Reactions To The Truth
The seven men chosen to serve the widows in Acts 6 were “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). One of those men was Stephen. Luke says that Stephen was “full of faith and power” and that he “did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Yet, his teaching got him into trouble with some who did not believe; they “set up false witnesses” (Acts 6:13) and accused Stephen of blasphemy.
The high priest heard the accusation and asked Stephen, “Are these things so?” (Acts 7:1). Rather than defend himself against the charges, Stephen used the time he was given to preach the good news of Jesus. He began by talking about Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, about Moses and the wilderness wanderings, about Joshua and David and Solomon. He quoted from the prophets Amos and Isaiah.
Stephen then turned his attention to his audience. “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53).
Their reaction was quite different than the reaction of the people on Pentecost. Instead of recognizing their great need, Stephen’s audience was stubborn and hard-hearted. They “gnashed at him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54), “they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord” (Acts 7:57), and then they stoned the righteous Stephen.
How do you react when you hear the truth, and that truth speaks against you? Do you seek to correct your shortcomings so that you can serve God appropriately, as He has commanded, or do you ignore the man who has told you what God expects?