Acts 18 Part 2–Living the Great Commission

Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half.  It was a time of growth for the church.  It was not without trial.  Paul was arrested and brought before authorities but as God promised He was protected.  He did not even have to say a word.  Then it became time to go, and Paul took Aquilla and Pricilla with Him.  They ministered together and then He left them at Ephesus.  He went back to Antioch and other churches to build the faith and the churches. 

Paul was always a man on mission.  It never mattered where he was, that place was where he was called to minister. It is the same with us.  Sometimes God calls us to minister in a certain place, and other times he simply says as you are going make disciples.  The Great Commission prompts us to always be ready to make a difference. Jesus’ parting charge was, “All authority has been given to me, now go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Teaching them all that I have commanded you and know that I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

That is what Paul was doing, and that is what we are also called to do.  Whether in one spot or across the globe, we must be ready to give an account of what we believe and ready to do our part to make disciples.

God Bless You

11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews[b] made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Paul Returns to Antioch

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers[c] and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Acts 18 Part 1–Time to Settle In

Paul and the gang had moved from city to city.  He preached to the Jewish people first and then to the gentiles.  The experience saw many saved, but Paul had been pushed out of each community.  Then as Paul reached Corinth, He met up with Aquilla and Pricilla.  the team were tent makers and lovers of God.  They worked together and began to make a difference in Corinth.  Paul had received continued resistance by the Jewish leaders and was ready to make his exit.  But God had a different plan.  It was God’s plan that Paul stops and build the church in Corinth.  He wanted Paul to build a church to act as a hinge post.

Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months.  In that time, He helped to build a thriving and exciting church.  In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, it is apparent that he loved the church and saw them as His spiritual kids.  He gave them great teaching on living a life worthy of the Gospel.  We learn of Love, stewardship, gifting, and being new creations in the Lord.  We learn that we must not follow men, but God.  We frown on division and praise ambassadorship.  Paul’s work in Corinth was a great time of development for him, the team, and the church.  I am so glad that God had Paul settle down.

God Bless You

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Acts 17 Part 2–God Created Man in His Image…

As the missionary journey continued, God was blessing the team with amazing success.  As is always the case, with that success came spiritual attacks.  So, Timothy and Silas put Paul on a boat to Greece and Paul landed in Athens.  While he was taking in the city, He made an amazing discovery.  These people who did nothing but sit around and search for meaning and purpose missed the one true source of both.  

Paul addressed the philosophers and noted that these people had fashioned gods for every thought or situation.  They had a God for every possible scenario. They even had a place for the unknown God.   Paul went on to explain that they could know the unknown God, and that would in-fact change their lives.  Some laughed at him, some simply pondered the notion as thinkers do, but there were some whose lives were changed.  

My old preacher used to say, God created man in His image, and men have been trying to return the favor ever since.  Paul was talking to a group of folks that had been trying to return the favor.  They wanted to make gods that fit their plan rather than follow the true Adonai and allow His plan to unfold and shape their lives.  Nothing has changed.

In our culture, we shape for ourselves gods that bring success, power, gratification, or any other self-perceived need we think we have.  Since we are the designer of our gods, they have no real value–yet, we worship them with an intensity that would transform anyone that directed the energy in serving the one true God.  Paul told these mighty philosophers and now tells us, “Use the wasted energy you expend upon your idols to seek the one true God; and get to know this ‘unknown’ God in your life.”  

If we would seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all the other things we want, and need will be added to us.(Matt 6:33).  That was a promise from the Lord then and remains so now.  God is a gentleman, though. He will not force that upon us, we must follow willingly.  But, if we will, He will meet our needs, fill our spirit, and prepare us for an eternity with Him in Glory.  I think it well worth the effort to trust and follow the Lord!

God Bless You

14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Paul in Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[c] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[d]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[e]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Acts 17 Part 1–Standing Firm in Battle

The message did not change.  Paul went to Thessalonica and began preaching in the Synagogue. They were not being rude or unreasonable.  They were pointing out fulfilled prophecy and God on Mission.  Many were persuaded.  But the Jewish leaders, ever so righteous, gathered the bullies and thugs in Town to attack Paul, Silas, and Luke.  Fortunately, they were moved out and onto Berea.  But their host, Jason was harassed and imprisoned.  He was able to make bail and was released.  The team preached in Berea, many were saved and yet, when the men in Thessalonica heard of the success , they headed to Berea to raise another ruckus!

The enemies of our Lord are relentless.  Often time, those that follow the Lord think they should simply back off and not raise a fuss as that is the “Christian thing to do.”  That simply does not meet Biblical proof.  The Bible is filled with warriors that fought the status quo so that the Gospel would be preached.  We are in a time when the world would have us believe we have reached post Christian era.  Christ is obsolete and the Church antiquated. 

Still, when the world shows its strength it quickly turns to chaos and complete disarray.  The Church, when it quits cowering before public opinion, starts to fill the void people have failed to fill with every other possible means.  After the recent election, Kirk Cameron held a 100-day campfire revival on Facebook live.  It was a look at the constitution and the Republic from a spiritual perspective.  Many thought it would ruin Cameron, but instead it drew an average of 17K folks from all parts of the country and all walks of life.

We must not walk away from spiritual battles.  We must stand firm and speak clearly as we testify to the power of Christ.  Paul said it best in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the power of God unto salvation for anyone who would believe.”  Expect battles if we live for the Lord.  With the battle, also expect the Lord to provide the power to withstand the fight.  Christians that have stood firm in battle have changed the world.  We should never forget who is in charge and follow God closely.  

God Bless You

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews[a] were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Paul and Silas in Berea

10 The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds.

Acts 16 Part 3–The Adventure at the Philippian Jail

What had started out to be a great day turned nasty quickly.  The team started to see lives changed and even miracles done, then; they were arrested, beaten,  thrown into stocks, and placed into the bowels of the jail.  So, after such a rotten turn of events, Paul and Silas did what any mistreated Roman citizen would, they prayed and worshipped the Lord. Well, that captured the other inmates’ attention. 

That was just the beginning, though.  Next, God sent an earthquake, one violent enough to shake the stocks loose and the jail doors open.  The jailer, who became personally responsible for any escapes, was ready to kill himself. Paul cried out for the jailer to stop; as neither He nor any of the other prisoners had escaped.  The jailer was amazed that they had not escaped, and therefore spared his life.  

From there, the day improved greatly.  Paul and Silas’s wounds were treated, the jailer and his family heard the Gospel and were saved.  They were baptized, and the church was now well on its way.  The Philippian jailer was ordered to release the men. After a discussion, those that had wrongfully imprisoned the Paul and Silas, had to face them, apologize, and politely ask them to leave town.  The team, having successfully established a church in
Philippi, kindly moved on. 

The spread of the Gospel was never going to be easy. But God is faithful not to leave His chosen to complete the mission alone.  The Lord’s presence is felt by His missionaries, the people they touch, and many who are just there.  God never leaves us , nor does He ever forsake us.  Like any Father, He cares for us, leads us, and empowers us to complete the mission.  When we face trials, we must never doubt the Lord’s desire to carry us through it.  We must seek God and allow Him to complete the plan He has started.  If we will, the Lord will do great and amazing things in and though us.  All we will have to do is pray and worship.

God Bless You

And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The Philippian Jailer Converted

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to 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 everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[e] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Acts 16 Part 2–Big Changes, Big Conversions, and Big Battles

So, the Lord called the team to Macedonia. it was a new adventure far from the other cities they had ministered to.  When they landed in Philippi, the adventure continued.  It is interesting to note that this was the first instance where Luke spoke in the voice of first person.  in verse 11 Luke says WE made a direct voyage to Samothrace and in verse 12, WE remained in the city for several days. That is a significant change in perspective.  Luke was watching events unfold rather than reporting information he had gathered from others. 

Paul starts the adventure by leading a top businesswoman in the area to the Lord.  This would be a great thing in the days ahead.  Next, Paul freed a demon possessed girl, but in doing so, he cut off her owner’s income stream.  This, of course, caused much anger and retaliation.  Paul and Silas were beaten and jailed.  What was to happen next would be the beginning of a major revival. 

God continues to move and build in His way and time.  If we are faithful, we can be a part of what is happening.  Like Luke, we begin to see His plan in person, not just hear of God’s work from others.  With that, however, comes the spiritual battles that accompany spiritual activities. 

Knowing that, we must arm ourselves through prayer and study.  In addition, we must surround ourselves with fellow travelers to support our journey.  It was no coincidence that Dr. Luke accompanied Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  As Jesus told the crowds, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33.

God Bless You

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the[d] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 16 Part 1–New Teammate and New Direction

Paul and Silas were sharing the Gospel boldly.  They came to Derby and Lystra and met Timothy.  Paul was drawn to Timothy and knew He would be a great leader in the Church.  So, Paul brought Timothy onto the team.  Timothy was half Jewish but had never been circumcised.  So, Paul had him circumcised so that he would be more effective in preaching to the Jewish people on their journey. 

It was ironic, since they had just established that circumcision was not a prerequisite to being saved or part of the Church.  Paul knew that it would save a lot of problems within the Jewish communities and give Timothy, a young preacher, one less issue to have to confront as he built up churches.

Paul was also intent to preach the Gospel to the people in Asia.  So far, God said not to preach there.  Every time Paul would start that way, God would stop Paul cold.  Paul was faithful and followed God’s lead. Paul simply preached wherever the Spirit led.  Then one night, Paul had a vision to go to Macedonia.  That vision was like a flag releasing Paul and the mission to expand the Church in a new direction.  Paul took off immediately.  

The Church was growing daily.  The men that God used to spread the Gospel would do whatever it took to lead as many as possible to the Lord. We must have that kind of boldness in our lives as well. We must be willing to make sacrifices, like Timothy, if that will open doors to lead people to Christ.  We must be willing to wait and listen for God’s prompting to move forward; even if we are excited to take on a challenge.  Sometimes, our timing and God’s simply do not align.  His timing, however, is always perfect! We cannot confuse our enthusiasm to help God’s mission with God’s prompting and leadership.  Our time in the word and in prayer will give us clarity and confidence as we move forward to serve Him.

God Bless You

 Paul[a] came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers[b] at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

The Macedonian Call

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[c] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Acts 15 Part 2–Great News and A Parting of Ways

 The Bible has always distinguished itself in literature by being transparent.  It shows the lives of the people that built the people of Israel, and the people that helped to build the Church.  In all cases, the Bible shows these people at their best and at their worst.  Luke just told the story of the Church settling a major dispute by telling the people of the church that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised or follow Jewish tradition to follow the Lord.  That issue was a primary tool for division among believers.  Paul and Barnabus were thrilled to go back and continue their mission of leading people to Christ across the globe.  

Barnabus, the encourager, was ready to join Paul on another round of encouraging and building churches in Asia.  He wanted of course to bring John Mark.  John Mark quit Paul and Barnabus last journey and went home.  The account never says why, but it must have been very disappointing to Paul and Barnabus.  Now as they were headed out for round two, Barnabus, the encourager and mentor, was ready to give John Mark another chance.  After all, if he was willing to go again and Paul and Barnabus now had a handle on the mission, why would they not continue to mentor this disciple of God? 

Paul, on the other hand, had no time to carry men that quit.  He had a mission to lead men to Christ, not to babysit quitters!  It was another game changer. Paul and Barnabus split over the issue.  Paul took Silas and Barnabus continued to mentor John Mark.  While seemingly a sad turn of events, God clearly used it.

Paul and Silas would continue to have a great impact starting and building churches across Asia.  Barnabus and Mark would also build and encourage churches.  What’s more, Mark would write the first version of the Gospel for the churches. One can only speculate what might have happened if Barnabus had given up on John Mark.  The truth is, however, this son of encouragement did not. Conversely, Paul and Silas now were doing the mission and changing lives.  God used the separation to do even greater things.

Interestingly, In Paul’s final letter,  He closes with this request, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11.  Barnabus was right, and Paul wanted his old friend to know it.  It was Paul’s way of admitting his mistake and acknowledging the wonder of Barnabus and his encouragement that changed the face of our faith. It is not hard to imagine Paul remembering that Barnabus mentored him as a young believer and stuck with Paul through many battles and adventures.  It is another time the Lord allows the Word to show real people in real struggles still impacting the world and continuing the mission.  

God Bless You

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers[c] who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you[d] with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them.[e] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 15 Part 1–Jewish Law and Tradition Do Not Save US

A decision had to be made.  Clearly, God made the choice to spread the Gospel to both Jews and non-Jews.  Clearly the Holy Spirit was working in people’s lives even when they had not and would not follow Jewish law.,  This was causing an uproar inside the Jewish church and out on the road where Paul and Barnabus were on mission. So, all the leadership gathered and sought the Lord to decide the issue firmly and finally.  As they listened to Peter, Paul and Barnabus, it became clear that God was working in the Gentiles’ lives, without them conforming to Jewish law and tradition.

The decision was made by the Apostles and Elders that Gentiles need not follow Jewish Law to be saved.  They did need to live lives that Honor God–so no sexual sin and no practicing other heathen faith traditions.  But, trying to live up to Jewish law did not work for the Jews, and will not be demanded for the Gentiles.  This is what God made clear to the Church leadership and this is what the church has practiced ever since.

Men always want a to do list to show that their accomplishment somehow affects their holiness and salvation. God sent Christ because, try though they may, Men simply cannot live perfect lives and earn their salvation.  We are incapable of checking enough boxes or living perfect enough to overcome the sin in our lives and our desire to be in control.  God’s gift of salvation was wholly that, a gift.  It had no extra requirements.  Even now, we still try to do things to win favor with God, believing somehow, we will get some preferential treatment.  It is simply not the case.  Paul said it best, in Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works, lest, any man should boast.”

God Bless You

 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.[a] When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16 “‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
     and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant[b] of mankind may seek the Lord,
    and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
     says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts 14 Part 2–Rock Star or Heretic, God is Still in Charge

People are fickle.  Paul and Barnabus were literally being treated like gods.  They preached the Gospel, healed the sick, and the crowd loved it…well they did until they didn’t.  Paul and Barnabus told the crowd to cut it out.  They were just normal guys, like the rest of the crowd.  They continued to point back to God not to themselves.  Well, somehow the Jewish leaders in the area used that to stir the crowd up and change their mood from deifying Paul to killing him.  The next thing that we read is that the crowd stone Paul to what seems to be death and dragged him out of the town.  That could not have been pleasant.

The disciples were crushed.  Their leader was dead…or was he? Nope! Paul stood up and went back into town preaching and training leaders for the churches in the area.  Dr. Luke does not share details, but stoning is not a form of execution that one can easily fake.  God healed Paul.  There is no telling the amount of damage their stoning would have done to Paul, but Paul rose, went back into town, and carried on as if nothing had transpired! That was a miracle.

Each time I read one of the amazing stories of healing, I am reminded of 2 things.  First, God does not promise this journey will be easy, pleasant, or painless.  As soldiers in battle, we must expect opposition to take many forms and be in our path.  Sometimes we can easily confront it and move on, but other times, it will seem life altering and overwhelming.  We cannot see any way to get past it.  It is those times when God shows Himself the most amazing.  He promises to prepare, protect, and provide for His own.  What form that may take is often different than we would hope or expect.  When we see God’s handiwork, however, we know without a doubt it was Him all along.

Paul did not gloat or draw attention to himself upon His return.  Instead, he and Barnabus simply continued the work of the Gospel.  No fanfare, no revenge–simply showing grace and love for the people in the churches that the men helped to establish.  As our Lord’s soldiers, we must remember that serving God is simply not about us.  Whether we are being courted as Rock stars or stoned as heretics; we must focus on the Lord and His mission for our lives.  If we will, He will be glorified, and we will be blessed!

God Bless You

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Paul Stoned at Lystra

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.