The Gospel at Work

The apostle Paul is defending himself; and it is yet to be determined what his penalty will be for preaching the gospel to the hard hearted religious leaders who hated Jesus.  Accusations are hurled of “Heresy”, and maybe to the religious Jew, with their strict adherence to the Law; it probably was.  None the less the gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth.

Hear Paul’s defense (Acts 24:10-21)…

“But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: and have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:14-15 (KJV)

Paul did not deny the heresy charges, but rather confirmed what he believed concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 9:32-33).

Paul had not changed his belief’s concerning the Law and the Prophet, he had only received the One of whom the Law and the Prophets had spoken.  His name is Jesus the Messiah of Israel; and that is not what the religious establishment wanted to hear.

Thing we Christians need to realize is that no matter what kind of thing happens in our lives we must be ready to present the gospel of Jesus, without fear, favor or compromise.  On trial for our faith?  Share the gospel.  Laying in a hospital bed?  Share the gospel.  Stopped for speeding?  Respect the officer, and share the gospel.  Before the traffic court Judge?  Take your medicine, and share your faith – if not by words, at least by your actions toward the verdict.  You get the point.

Your life; whether there is a chaotic event, or no specific event in your life; is a witness.  Make it a good one.  When your life testifies to the genuineness of your faith, then share the words.

The Prisoner of the Lord

During Paul’s life as a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ he was beaten, and left for dead; he was whipped; he was shipwrecked; he suffered at the words of false brethren, and he endured it all for Christ sake.

My heart’s desire is that I could have that said of me.  Someone could say it, but would it be true?  It is true of Paul.  Everything that happened should be seen as the closing or opening of a door by the Lord as He directs our paths.  That is the way  Paul viewed things. He was truly a PRISONER OF THE LORD.

“And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23:10-11 (KJV)

The prisoner of the Lord often encounters problems with the religious crowd.  The Sadducees, and the Pharisees were united against the apostle at first.  Then Paul realized their differences, he used that to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ (Acts 23:6).  At issue was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If Jesus is alive then the religion that crucified Him is greatly in error.  One group did not believe in resurrection, or anything spiritual.  These religions who are stuck on religion, but not the truth completely miss out on Christ Jesus and the salvation that is available to all who will believe.

In verse 11 where the Lord speaks to Paul giving him assurance that he will go to Rome and be a witness of the resurrection of Jesus.  He receives a message for the Lord that he might be courageous.  It is also a message of commendation for ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit within him and upon him.  Can you imagine what this did for Paul’s confidence?  Wonders.

When people do not like the truth being spoken they will more often than not attack the one speaking it (vv. 12-22).  Get this in your heads:  The messenger is not the one making you the way you are.  The truth often hurts, and if the truth makes you angry then you are the problem.

These are some who hate the truth; no matter where it comes from.  They are blind to the providence, and sovereignty of God.  Enraged mobs are thoughtless and heartless.

Some things we can learn from chapter 23 of Acts:

  1. Most times God uses what some would call “Unapparent means”;
  2. God uses time, that seems wasted, as a time for ministry to others;
  3. God uses people to accomplish His ways.

The following are the persons He uses:

  • The government;
  • The rebellious;
  • Satan;
  • Willing servants.

Let us be willing to trust the Lord.  Trust Him in such a way that He will work in our lives changing us, then work through us to change the lives of others.  Every open door should be viewed as an opportunity provided by God unless by going through it you would be violating His Word, His Spirit, or your conscience.

Citizenship Responsibilities

I have been blessed to have been born in the United States of America.  It has been called “The land of the free, and the home of the brave”.  Some have called the U. S. of A.  a “Christian nation”, some “Not a Christian nation”.

I want all to know, however, that I am a citizen of two Nations.  The nation in which I was physically born; and the Nation of Heaven into which I was born again through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I could not; neither can any other person, get into that nation without new birth through faith in Christ Jesus (John 3:3).

Now to the point of Acts 22…

“The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” Acts 22:24-29 (KJV)

The apostle Paul was also the citizen of two, actually  three nations, though one [Israel] was not recognized as a nation at that time.  He was on trial for his witness; his testimony he has shared in verses 1 – 22 of this chapter.  They were about to beat him with a whip, and he was a Roman citizen, a born free Roman citizen.

As a citizen he was not to be beaten, whipped; at least not without a legal trial.  Yet, that is what was about to happen; so Paul uses his Roman citizenship.

In many nations the citizens of that country has rights and freedoms foreigners do not have in that country.  Citizens of the U. S. of A. have rights and freedoms that foreigners do not have.  That is being tried daily in our press, and in our government; and of that I will say only this.  Rights and freedoms of this country belong to citizens of this country.

Our earthly citizenship is a tool of God to bring others to Christ Jesus; so we can use our rights and freedoms to see others gloriously redeemed through the blood of Jesus.  As with Paul,  “God was using the great power of the Roman Empire to protect His servant and eventually get him to Rome.  God’s missionary did get to Rome — and the Romans paid the bill.”  Warren Wiersbe

Our earthly citizenship – not matter what nation we live in – should not be used to cause shame toward our Savior, or to our heavenly citizenship.  Let us live faithfully for our Lord and Savior in this world.  Our first responsibility is to our Lord.  That means being good citizens in the world in which we live.

Committed to the Gospel

The apostle Paul was greatly burdened for his people Israel.   He was burdened for Jerusalem, and was set to return there, despite continued warnings from others who were speaking for the Holy Spirit (Acts 21:4).

Paul’s response to loving people for him is a breaking heart, yet he is determined to go to Jerusalem.

“Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:13-14 (KJV)

The following is the commentary from the Believer’s Bible Commentary…

  • 21:12–14 When the apostle’s companions and the Christians in Caesarea heard this, they pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. But he could not sympathize with their concern. Their tears only served to break his heart. Should the fear of chains and imprisonment restrain him from doing what he considered to be God’s will? He would have them know that he was ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. All their arguments proved of no value. He was determined to go, and so they simply said, “The will of the Lord be done.”
    It is difficult to believe that Paul’s parting words were spoken by a man who was knowingly disobeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know that the disciples in Tyre told him through the Spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem (v. 4). But did Paul know they spoke through the Spirit? And did not the Lord later seem to approve his trip to Jerusalem when He said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (23:11)? Two things are clear: First, Paul did not think his personal safety was the main consideration in serving the Lord. Second, the Lord overruled all these events for His glory. From the BELIEVER’S BIBLE COMMENTARY

Paul is the one who inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote….

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galations 2:20

Let us live faithfully for the Lord Jesus Christ that we might die faithfully in His name.

…Night and Day With Tears

There was something on Paul’s mind as he stated these recorded words.  Luke sensed it, saw it first hand, then wrote it down for the Church through every age might to read, and to know that there are things which happen in the Church, in every local congregation which will need to be addressed.  The Church in every age needs to hear the warnings of Scripture, and to heed them.

“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Acts 20:26-31 (KJV)

As Paul, so should the Bible preacher, Bible teacher, Bible Christian of 2017  proclaim “All the counsel of God”.  Not part, but all.  Far too often men stand in the pulpit saying words people want to hear, rather then being the preacher of God saying what God says; what God wants us to hear.  May God forgive us.

The apostle had not shunned the responsibility to warn of “Wolves” fierce liars, deceivers, scam artists who would come in to lead people astray, and devour them; devour you if you do not live by the word of God.

Men of God have the responsibility to speak to the Church, who is bought with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son; so yes God has purchased us with His own blood (also see 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

It is imperative that the flock learn to identify the false teachers [the wolves] who are coming in to deceive, destroy, steal and kill.  You must know the truth of the word of God.  Read it. Study it. Apply it to daily living.  Know who Jesus truly is; and when you know Him, having the Holy Spirit in you you will not be deceived, but will know a lie when it is about to strike.  Then, you will reject it.  You will warn others of it, and like Paul “…night and day with tears”.

What makes you weep?  Maybe I need to ask, “What makes me weep?”  I have wept about many things; including not having enough money to pay the rent or the house payment.  I have wept over a broken down car, because I did not have the means to get it repaired.  I have wept over the sickness of a child because we had no insurance or money to take them to the doctor.  I am glad to say, though, that I have wept over lost souls as well.  I have wept when I have noticed brethren in Christ being led astray, going down the path of sin and shame; and into false doctrines, and living.

O for my heart to weep over the wayward sheep of Christ Jesus.  If you are a Christian today get into the Word of God, and most of all let the word of God get into you.  There is a place for rejoicing, always.  There is also a time for weeping, and that time is now.

Weep for the deceived.  Weep for the perishing.  Weep for the word of God to have a powerful affect on the lives of all the people you know through the Lord Jesus Christ who has purchased us with His own blood.

Magnifying Jesus the Lord

The power of the gospel of Christ is evident as we read the book of Acts.  The work of the Holy Spirit is seen as the word of God is proclaimed, and people’s lives are dramatically changed.  People who were lame are not walking, some who were possessed by demons are now delivered and walking, working, going about in their own mind.  Sicknesses, and diseases have been healed.

Some unwise Jewish chaps who thought they had the power try and imitate the Holy Spirit and Paul, and find themselves overrun and overpowered by the spirits they supposed could be cast out by evil men (Acts 19:14-16).  Woe be to anyone today who thinks they can act for or do the work of the Spirit of God.

“And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Acts 19:17-20 (KJV)

When these foolish Jews took on themselves to cast out demons, they did not know the Son of God Jesus Christ.  They did not have the Spirit of God within them, or upon them.  They even attempt to use the name of Paul, not the name of Jesus to do this empty deed.  Rather than overpowering the demons, the demons overpower them; and they run from the house “naked and wounded”.

I love that sentence, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.”  When things look dark and evil that is when the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ will shine the brightest, and the darkness is overcome.

“The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”  This is greatest of all.  To magnify the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest thing for a Christian to do.  If you are laboring to gain fame or fortune; you are laboring for the wrong thing.  You may get those things but you will find “leanness of soul” (Psalm 106:15) rather than fulfillment in the Lord.

The greatest thing the child of God can do is live to magnify the Lord Jesus, and worship, and glorify His name in all that we do.

O Christian let us decide today to live to be a blessing to His name.  If we do with a “Got to” attitude we fail.  When we do it with a “Get to” attitude, because we love Him and His word, then He is glorified.  And the word of God grows mightily and prevails.

The Only Bible They Had

Several years ago I read a book by Philip Yancey titled “The Bible Jesus Read”, and it opened my eyes concerning the Scriptures.  I began looking at the Bible in a whole new way.

When we read the New Testament which is the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ to mankind, we see Jesus.  The Old Testament was the only Scriptures which Jesus had, and the only Scriptures which the apostles had; because the New Testament was only a work in progress.

Many a New Testament Christian in our day wants to shun the Old Testament, and not even use it for reading, or study; however, the Christian does herself, or himself a great disservice by doing so.  Let us look at the last five verses of Acts 18…

“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Acts 18:24-28 (KJV)

Apollos was a Jew who was an eloquent speaker, and “Mighty in the Scriptures” meaning that he was quite familiar with them, could quote much, if not the whole of them, and defend them.  He, in our day, might have been called an “Apologists of the Scriptures”.  However, this is not about Apollos.  I want us to focus on the Person of the Scriptures.

After Priscilla, and Aquila had “Expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” then the Scriptures did a work in him, and by his greater understanding and the presence of the Holy Spirit convinced other Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

The Scriptures, the Old Testament, is about Jesus the Christ – the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of all mankind.  Some have said that you can find Jesus Christ on every page of the Old Testament.  In the Law;  In the Prophets;  In the Historical books;  In the Wisdom/Poetry books you find Jesus.

Someone put it this way:  “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”

The human author of the Revelation of Jesus Christ has written;

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”” Revelation 19:10 (NKJV)

When we read the Old Testament we read of Jesus who was to come to die for the sins of the world; then to return as a reigning King.  When we read the New Testament we read of Jesus who had come, who died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and arose from the grave; and has said, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself…” (John 14:3).  So, as Christians, we await His return.  Be ready by getting into the Scriptures, and grow in Him.

The Times of Ignorance

Are they back?  Did they ever leave?  The times of ignorance, that is.

Biblical ignorance seems to be on the rise; not just among the unbelieving, but those who profess to be Christian.  When we have people believing that at their babies death they become an angel; people believing their dead loved one has become an angel, then there is definitely Biblical ignorance.  Just stating some things I have noticed.  Do not mean to be ugly or mean, just truthful.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31 (KJV)

Idol worshiping is what Paul has been addressing in this seventeenth chapter of Acts.  On Mars Hill he noticed that they worshiped many gods, and one in particular “The Unknown God”.  He tells them about the One who made the earth and the heavens; all things (vv. 23-29).

There is such ignorance in the world today.  I do not intend to insult anyone with the word “Ignorance”.  Ignorance is fixable.  It is not a bad thing to be ignorant.  It is a bad thing to remain that way though.  Willful ignorance, however, is not fixable.

Now, God calls for all people to repent.  There is coming a day when Jesus Christ the Son of God, God the Son will judge this world, and all who are in it.  The righteous Son of God will judge.

When you believe in Jesus, trusting His finished work on the cross, you will never need worry about judgment in the fires of Hell.  You were judged through Jesus on the cross.  All God’s wrath of sin was poured out on Him.  Your sins are forgiven.  Your sins have been washed away.  You are clean in the eyes of God.  Forgive.  For sure.  For ever.

The Saving of Sinners

“And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” Acts 16:5 (KJV)

The early Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is reaching further and further into the then known world.  People are coming to faith in Jesus in notable numbers.  Lives are being changed wonderfully, powerfully, and God is being glorified.

They are being “Established in the faith”,  they are also “Increasing in number daily”.  If we stop to think about it the Church of 2017 is being established in the faith more and more, and increasing in number as well.  We are just not so aware of it; maybe as we ought to be.

In chapter sixteen we have the witness of three individuals being delivered from the power of evil and sin;

  1.   There is Lydia (vv. 14-15) who has been called “A Cultured Sinner”;
  2.   Then, we have the sorceress (vv. 16-24) who has been called “A Captive Sinner”;
  3.   Finally, there is the Philippian Jailer (vv. 25-34) who has been called “A Calloused Sinner”.

As the Christians of that day went about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ many people came to Jesus believing that He alone paid their sin debt.

The Philippian Jailer came asking, “What must I do to be saved?” (v.30).  That is an appropriate answer for all to ask.  You may need to ask that today; and the answer is… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your house.” (v. 31).  When the jailer believed, then his whole household believed too.

God is still saving souls through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, God the Living Son.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your house”.

No Yoke

Sometimes there is strife, and arguments in the Church.  Maybe that is whey there are so many different denominations; but I think it probably goes beyond our differences.

Even in the early Church there was conflict.  Since the first members of the first Church were Jewish, having believed the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature – all of Scripture; then they had to deal with how the Gentiles fit into their beliefs.  That is what the conflict was over in Acts 15.

“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” Acts 15:6-12 (KJV)

There were some in the Jerusalem Church who were teaching that the Gentile believers which had believed needed to agree with the law of Moses, and follow Jewish practices.  The verses above are the apostles defense of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.

The Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentile believers without the Law.  Why would, or why should they be expected to be put under the “Yoke” of the Law, “…Which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear…”.

We must understand, however, that freedom from the “Yoke of the Law” does not mean freedom to sin.  Since Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, was buried carrying sins death, condemnation, guilt, and bondage with Him; then rising from death leaving those things far away; we are free.  It does mean freedom from sin, and its yoke of bondage and death.

It is stated again in the text above.  “…We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they…”  Jews and Gentiles are saved by grace through faith in the work of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Continuing the Work of the Resisted Cross

The world today needs the cross of Jesus Christ just as the days of the past.  ‘Today is the day of salvation” not tomorrow.  Today.  We as Christians have the most urgent message for people; men, women, children, and their families to get our of their condemnation of sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Today is not the day to cease.  Today is the day of salvation…

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22 (KJV)

Christian as we look at the above verses we see the early Christian and their leaders never ceased preaching.  They just moved on.  They moved on to other places, and sometimes they may have stayed where they were.

We read of Paul (who had been Saul who hated the gospel of Christ) being stoned, and they supposed to death, and drug out of the city (14:19-20).  Then, Paul got up and went to another city.  Why did he go to another city?  To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  O for the passion of Paul for Jesus and His love.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s love for us on display at the cross where Jesus bled and died for our sins.  He was buried in a tomb, and three days later arose from that grave alive.

Nothing real good comes without a price.  We are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).  It cost me nothing.  It cost you nothing.  God paid the price for you; because we do not have the price to pay.  The price for sin is death, and if we were to pay our own sin debt through death, then there would be no eternity except Hell’s fire.

As a Christian today we are called to live the gospel, spread the gospel, share the gospel, preach the gospel.  Where?  Wherever we may be.  What ever we may be doing.

Notice Luke’s words in the verses… “exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”  No one; not even Jesus ever said that the Christian life would be easy, but we are told “Through much tribulation…”  “In the world you will have tribulation”; and “Yea all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (John 16:33;  2 Timothy 3:12).

Just as with the early Church, so too in the Church today, where there is trial, persecution, or tribulation because of the cross of Jesus Christ God will be blessing and increasing the kingdom

On this Valentine’s Day start it off right by loving the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; because that is how He loves you.

Religions Resistance

There are many times when the message of Christ is clearly presented that there will be resistance, even persecution, because the gospel of Christ turns religion upside down.  It is as true in 2017 as in the days of the apostles of Jesus.

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” Acts 13:46-52 (KJV)

Paul and Barnabas were in a town where there was a Jewish synagogue, and they went there to fulfill the word of God, “To the Jew first…”.  They were made bold by the power of the Holy Spirit within them and upon them.

They had shared the history of the people of Israel; reminding them of the power of God on the people, His love, His grace, His mercy; upon the people in their journey in the wilderness.  All these as well with the Judges and the Kings of Israel, and how the LORD had called the Jews to be the messengers of God to the whole world.

Religion of men seeks to control men, women and children, and keeps people in bondage of sin.  Christianity, following Jesus frees men, women and children from the bondage, death, and scourge of sin.

What should the messenger of Christ do when opposed by the religious elite?  Do as Paul and Barnabas did.  Keep on preaching, teaching, living for the Lord.  “Shake the dust off your feet”, and go on doing the work of the ministry.

Praying For Others

“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 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. 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. 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.” Acts 12:5-9 (KJV)

Prayer, in the early Church was not a means for changing the will of God, but the means of getting into the will of God, and doing it.  God works and moves when His people pray.

Puritan Preacher Thomas Watson is quoted

“The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.”

Peter’s life lay in the balance; yet he lay peacefully in prison, lying in chains, and bound to a prison guard.  He had confidence in the Lord God, and peacefully slept while God was at work delivering him from a cold dark, damp and dank prison. Yet, he slept so soundly the angel needed to smite him on the side to awaken him, and it seems “Raised him up”.

There is no place the child of God can get where God is not there.  God was in prison with Peter that day.  Why was Peter in prison? For preaching Jesus and Him crucified, buried and resurrected fulfilling the will of God for His life.

Peter was being an obedient servant of the Spirit of God.  We must learn to be praying for all those who do the will of God; and pray that we be doing the will of God, and glorifying His name.

Warren Wiersbe has written

“God works when churches pray, and Satan still trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”

Peter was delivered from prison.  When the Church prays, when we who love the Lord Jesus Christ prays, heaven pays attention, people’s lives change, things change, and God is glorified.

 

…The Hand of the Lord was with Them…

“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21 (KJV)

There was a problem with the salvation of the Gentiles, of which we read in chapter 10.  Peter’s defense is read in 11:1-18.  The Jewish apostles, and brethren had that problem.  There was no Biblical difficulty, if they were willing to see it, because God intended that all the nations know “He is the LORD” (a theme mentioned throughout the Old Testament).

Due to the persecution of the Church at Jerusalem the Christian community was spread to other countries, and areas on the map.  It was how the Spirit of God was moving.

Those being persecuted did not cease preaching the gospel; rather they kept on preaching, but only to the Jews, in synagogues as God allowed it.  The gospel was given first to the Jew and also to the Greek [Gentiles] (Romans 1:16; 2:10). The “Grecians” would be the “the Greek speaking non-Jews” MacArthur Study Bible.  That would mean Gentiles.  They too were hearing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ; which God has meant for all to hear.

When “The hand of the Lord was with them” they prospered and grew in great number.  We must be sure when we are seeing a growth that it is of God.  That there are truly regenerated  people coming into our congregations, and not just an entertainment seeking, soft skinned, self made gods, but truly turning to the One who saves us from sin, and gives us eternal life.

Turn to the Lord, and live.  Reject Him and perish.  You reject Him by refusing to believe what He has said.

 

God is no Respecter of Persons

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:34-43 (KJV)

This chapter begins by telling us of a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the “Italian band” (v. 1), a devout man who feared God, but did not know the Savior.  God does marvelous things to get His Chosen to Himself.

The verses we look at today are the words of Peter which he spoke after leaving Simon the tanners house, going to the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, and now he shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with the household, from the Old Testament – it was the only Testament they had at the time.  Something we must not forget.

Note Peter’s words given by the Spirit of God;

  • He exalts the Father and the Christ above all things or anyone;
  • Peter tells us of the work and ministry ob Jesus Christ;
  • Peter declares the work of salvation which Jesus performed
  1. His work of the cross;
  2. His burial;
  3. and His resurrection.

It was the Spirit of God who caused all the Old Testament prophets to speak of the Christ, and it is the Spirit of God who leads us to Him for the remission [forgiveness] of sins.

Many of Cornelius’s household were born again that day.  They also who believed were baptized in the name of the Lord.

As Christians we need not look too far to see the work of God.  We need only look into our own lives, and see Him at work.  We can look into our families, our community, our State, our Nation and the world to see the Spirit of God is moving, working.  It is only the blind who cannot see.

Reverence, Rest and Results

“Then 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.” Acts 9:31 (KJV)

Chapter nine begins by telling us of Saul.  He is known as Saul of Tarsus a Pharisee, passionate about the Hebrew religion, and the death of any who spoke of the Christ as the Lord Jesus.

In his endeavors of religious lust he set out to kill, and destroy the Christian faith, and was very aggressive in doing so.  This chapter deals mostly with his glorious conversion to faith in Christ Jesus, believing in His death, burial and resurrection.

The early Church was fearful of Saul.  They fled from Jerusalem because of him; not knowing it was the will of God to scatter the Gospel of Christ into the world.  It is amazing and wonderful and marvelous how the Spirit of the Lord moves and works in our lives.

I have, for many years, found verse 31 of chapter 9 fascinating, and enlightening.  After Saul’s conversion the churches of Judea and Galilee and Samaria experienced “Rest” – the persecution had lightened up.

I want you to notice what happened, and this is a lesson for the Church of all ages;

  1.  They were walking (the Church was walking) in the fear of the Lord;
  2.   They were experiencing the comfort of the Holy Spirit;
  3.   The Church was multiplying in number – people were coming to faith in Jesus.

What does that mean for the Christian Church today?  We must walk in the Spirit of God; that means with reverence, fear of God, His Spirit and His Word; believing His Word, loving His Word, and applying it to our lives, in daily living.

If we are to experience the “Comfort of the Holy Spirit” that comes also loving God, and His Word.  How can a child of God through Jesus Christ grow in faith in Him without a daily diet of God’s Word?  We cannot.  Neither will their be any comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the Christian Church today can only rightly increase in number as people come to Christ, not necessarily “To Church”, but to Christ Jesus through His death, burial and resurrection.

When the Church; which is the Body of Christ – has Reverence and Rest, then there will be Results.

…Purchased with money

“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.” Acts 8:20-25 (KJV)

There are two men of God in this chapter.  Philip seems to be the one who was preaching when Simon the sorcerer makes a decision, and speaks, “This man is the great power of God” (v. 10).

Sorcery has always been rejected by God because it distracts from God, His power and authority and Spirit.  In the case of this sorcerer it appears to mean “Magical arts” or the “work of a magician”.  For Simon it was used to deceive people purposely for his own personal gain.  In our day we might call him a “Scam artist”.  He did, however, recognize Philip as a man of God.

The words of the verses above were spoken by the apostle Peter.  He had spoken and laid hands on some of the believers of Samaria, and they received the Holy Spirit.  For clarity the Holy Spirit comes into, is given by God to an individual when receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Simon saw this laying on the hands, as a “Power” which could be bought with money; and Peter rebukes him, even heavily condemns him for believing such a thing.

The gift of the Spirit of God has no price.  He is given by the grace of God upon one’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, His burial and His resurrection.  He is given as “Christ in you,” empowering us to live by the Spirit, and when we live in the Spirit we walk with God in full agreement with Him.

I do not know the outcome of Simon.  He did ask for prayer “…That none of these things which you have spoken come upon me..”   I do know that God is gracious and merciful, and if this Simon truly was born again through faith in Christ Jesus he is forgiven, and walking with Jesus in glory today.

No matter what you have done know today that God loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son that if you will believe in Him you will never perish, but have eternal life with Him.

The LORD and His Truth

“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 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, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 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. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 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.” Acts 7:54-60 (KJV)

Stephen was one of the seven men chosen by the Jerusalem Church to serve the people (Acts 6:5).  He was a man full of the Holy Spirit, loving the Lord Jesus and His Word with a passion to share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all.

This event in the life of Stephen begins in chapter six shortly after the Church ordains him as one of the seven.  He begins telling the religious elite, the priests and all about their origin as a nation (vv. 1-8a); he reminds them of their envy and their bondage (vv. 8b-36); he told them of Jesus of whom Moses and the Prophets proclaimed (vv. 37-53);  he told them of the crucified, buried, and resurrected Savior whom they had rejected, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father;  he taught them of the forgiveness of Christ upon the cross (vv. 57-60) by showing it himself as he died, saying, “Lay not this sin to their charge”.

Why did Stephen die?  Why was he stoned to death by an angry mob?  Because of his love for God, His Son Jesus, His faith in Him, and His love for the Word of God which is the Truth of God.

Love for God means loving His Word, His truth, and that comes through the faith of the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus.

You do not know, nor trust, nor love God the Father or God the Son unless you love His truth.  See what Jesus said in John 14:21.

Ministry Led By the Holy Spirit

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 (KJV)

In chapter six there was some contention over the neglect of some of the Grecians because their widows were not being cared for; at least the way the families thought they ought to be.

The Church in Jerusalem was growing.  People were being delivered from sin and condemnation.  The apostles were loaded with many responsibilities, thus the accusations of neglect.

The apostles were chosen by the Spirit of God to be preachers of the gospel; so in that they would, and should give themselves to the ministry of prayer, and the preaching of the word.  O that the preachers of God’s word today would get that burden; for if we are not in the word of God and prayer we will be powerless, and find ourselves struggling with emptiness of heart and soul, wondering about if we are doing what we are called to do or not.

It is not that the apostles, or the preacher today would be neglecting their duties of service, and ministry; they are rather giving themselves to the greater responsibility of calling people to Christ, and His work in and through them.

With every Christian gifted by the Spirit of God to serve one another, the Church is blessed and it grows as God blesses and leads.  See Romans 12:3-15;  1 Corinthians 12.

The Church chose seven men.  The most remembered one is Stephen.  These seven men were full of the Spirit of God, they did the work they were chosen to do, and the apostles were able to do the work they were called and chosen to do, and the Church was blessed…

“…Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And 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.” Acts 6:6-7

You will note also, that, many priests of the Hebrews became believers as well.  Is God good, great, marvelous or what? He is.  He is indeed.

Great Fear on the Church

“And great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things.” Acts 5:11 (KJV)

When you read verses 1- 10 of chapter five you will understand why “Great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things.”  It would certainly cause me to set up and notice, but then I pray today that there was such fear for the Church  of God, and His people.

It all began (in this chapter) with a couple name of Ananias and Sapphira who were Christians in the new Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There was such a move of the Spirit of God that many of the congregation had sold all that they owned and given the whole amount of the sale to the Church to support one another and the missions of that congregation.

This couple took it upon themselves to sell what they owned, keep back part for themselves; and there would have been nothing wrong with that; except they told the apostles – thus telling the Spirit of God – that they were giving all that they had received for the property; lying to them.  Therefore the wrath of God fell on them, they died for their lies to the Lord, initiating the fear that we read of in verse 11.

Would to God that there was more slaying by the Spirit of those who hope to gain personally from the work of God in our churches. Is it any wonder that there is no fear of God, nor His people in the world today.  That is due, at least in part, to the allowance of the world and its ways in the Church across our Nation.

May God help us and forgive us and lead us in His Spirit to be the catalyst of His great salvation once again.

Maybe if the Lord would do that again in His Church people would quit coming into worship the Lord with the attitude of “What can I get our of attending Church today?”, and start thinking with an attitude of gratitude of what the Lord  has already done for us on the cross, and what He does for us daily in our lives; happy to be in the presence of the Lord… no matter what we get out of “Church”.  It does need to be a matter of us dying to self, being crucified with Christ (Galations 2:20), and Christ living in us.

Turn to Jesus Christ today, and watch the power of God in you start to work.