Posted by Russ Jones On 12:15 PM
This chapter is a major event in the future of the church.  But to understand why this is happening, you have to know the story about Peter and some Gentiles.  The Jewish Christians were still practicing the law of Moses.  Many of them, because they had come from strict Judaistic practices, believed that you should follow Christ and obey the Laws of Moses too.  Peter, who was at a Gentiles residence eating nonkosher food was challenged by some of these believers.  As a result Peter withdrew from the Gentiles and other Jewish believers followed suit.  Paul took issue to this and confronted Peter concerning it.   You can find the story in Galatians 2.

1 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.” 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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.”

Now to take things a step farther you have Jewish believers who are saying that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved.  It is a little confusing as to what they were calling salvation.  After all, these Gentile believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in other tongues.  While their intentions are probably honorable, their theology is confusing at best.  There is nothing confusing about the Gospel of Jesus.  When we keep it simple, it will remain simple.  Man is the one who is prone to complicate matters, not God.  

To say that this brought some sharp debate and questioning is an understatement.  So much so that they church send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to get an official ruling.  So that everyone is on the same page now.  No one is disputing whether or not the Gentiles can be saved or that the Holy Spirit is evident in their life.  The dispute is whether or not they can keep their salvation and enjoy the blessings of God if they do not observe the Law of Moses. 

The church in Syrian Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas off with their support.  As they traveled south to Jerusalem the churches they stopped at received their testimony about the Gentiles with gladness.  When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed with open arms.  Then the ones who had a problem rose up to speak against them. 

Conflict is a part of life.  Even in the church.  Disagreements will be made and problems will exist.  As long as you have imperfect people striving to do the will of God - there will be mistakes.  What I do not see here is a desire to split the church or to destroy it (even though it can).  Everyone involved is doing their best to ensure the salvation of these Gentiles.  

6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 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. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 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. 

At first what you see here is a process of questions and answers.  People want to know more before they make any kind of decision.  This is wise and prudent.  But after a while, Peter puts a capstone on the discussion. 

He reminds everyone that God choose the Gentiles.  It was God who baptized them in the Holy Spirit.  It was God who recognized the faith of their hearts and granted them salvation.  That their hearts are clean by faith, not by their obedience to the Law of Moses.  Then he asks them why they would tempt God by ignoring what He has done and tell these Gentiles that they have to do all this other stuff too!  It didn't bring them (the Jews) salvation, it didn't bring their ancestors salvation either.  

Paul and Barnabas tell these people the signs and wonders done among the Gentiles.  This being further proof that what God was doing among them didn't need their observance of the law. 

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 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.”  22 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 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 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.”

James stands up and brings everything home.  Where there is good leadership, there will always be a good future.  He doesn't address them though as Pastor.  He says, brothers.  He is speaking person to person here.  

He recaps what Peter said. 
He quotes what the Old Testament says about this from Amos 9: 11, 12 where Christ's redemptive mission includes both Jew and Gentile.  
Then he says, "In my judgement" we should not trouble the Gentiles but write a letter to them asking them to:
- Stay away from idol worship and sexual impurity - These two are obvious in as much as both Jews and the disciples of Christ believed in ONE true God.  
- Eating meat full of blood and consuming blood was to promote fellowship among Jewish and Gentile believers.  In other words, don't go offending Jewish believers, this really upsets them.

Paul and Barnabas, along with 2 men, are then sent to Antioch to explain their decision.  The letter then explains their response to this need.  

A - The Jerusalem Church is not requiring Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Law. 
B - Their decision was unanimous.
C - Abstain from worshipping idols, sexuality immorality and eating food full of blood.  

Working through problems, while sometimes difficult, is a act of faith.  In verse 28 it says, "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit . . ."  In the end, they sought and found the will of God in this matter. When everyone wants the same thing, (the will of God) everyone will change their minds to fit His will. 

English Standard Version (ESV)
Posted by Russ Jones On 11:21 AM
Acts 14: 1 - 29

1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.

We now enter Iconium and we repeat the story.  Paul and Barnabas go to the local synagogue.  Both Jews and Gentiles believer.  Local Jewish leaders are not happy and try to start some trouble.  But unlike previous experiences, they are able to stay longer than usual.  The Jews apparently didn't not get the Gentiles on their side quickly.  Without their support they would not be able to run Paul and Barnabas out of town.  

Verse 3 it says that they were able to speak boldly for Jesus.  In return Jesus backs up what they are saying with signs and wonders.  No matter how you read the book of Acts, you cannot deny the fact that Jesus never lets His people down.  They place their faith in Him and He will meet their needs. 

In time, things finally turned ugly and before they could stone Paul and Barnabas to death they left town.  

8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 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.  

In Lystra Paul is preaching in the streets.  There he observes a man who was crippled.  Then Luke tells us that Paul could see that he had enough faith to be healed.  Now we don't know how long Paul had been preaching up to this point and time and we don't know how long the cripple man had been listening.  But there is no evidence that it had been an extended period of time.  My question is, how long does it take to have enough faith?  Many time we think that we need to have more faith to meet a need.  That time isn't on our side and that we cannot possible get enough to meet the needs we face. But the reality is, faith is so simple - a man who is cripple can have enough to be completely healed.  

Now we have a language problem.  Paul and Barnabas don't speak Lycaonian.  When this miracle took place, the people got so excited that they reverted back to their original language.  If you speak two languages you understand what happened.  If you don't, just take my word for it.  They thought the Greek gods had come down to pay them a visit.  The priest of the temple of Zeus arrives with sacrifices to make to Paul and Barnabas.  With they realize what is happening they react immediately. 

The act of ripping their clothes was a sign of grief and dismay.  They openly declared that there were men just like them.  That they were they to bring good news that would turn their life around.  

Paul now does something you haven't seen before.  He preaches the Gospel without mentioning the history of Israel, the Old Testament prophecies or use Biblical language.  Why?  Because these people have no frame of reference to these things.  Instead, takes them back to creation, to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.  He talks about how God has made his presence known, because he is the one who gives rain, seasons which bring them food and joy.  Still they were having a hard time keeping the people from making sacrifices.  

What happened?  Well Luke doesn't say, "They were successful."  He lets his readers connect the dots. 

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. 

Paul and Barnabas were successful enough in Lystra to get the attention of those Jewish leaders from their previous stops to come and persecute them.  The plot to kill Paul and Barnabas hadn't died, it had just moved.  This time they did stone Paul and carried him out of the city.  Fortunately, they only knocked him out.  Undoubtedly there was sever bruising and broken bones.  As soon as the crowd left, the disciples gathered around Paul.  He rises up and goes back to the city.  There is nothing to suggest that he wasn't completely healed of his injuries in as much as he is apparently able to walk and travel the next day.  

Think about this.  Paul was willing to give his life to a people who A) Believed in idol worship and B) hated him with a passion.  It doesn't seem fair that God would ask this of Him.  But it isn't about fair.  Think about this.  God so loved the world (that's you and me) that He gave His Son Jesus (who came and willing died on a cross for our sins so that we could be forgiven).  Paul loved these people so much that he was willing to die, if necessary so that they might know this message.  If you still don't get it let me put it this way.  Paul loved these people as much as God loved them.  

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.  24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 

Derby would have been a very successful event for Paul and Barnabas.  The Jews thought he was dead so they would have left him alone.  After establishing a church there though, the do something very brave.  The go back to their previous stops.  The purpose of their visits are different.  #1 - They encouraged the believers in each of these cities.  They didn't sugar coat anything about their faith in Jesus.  They told them it was going to be tough and that they would have to face some tough situations.  But - KEEP THE FAITH!  

#2 - They were there to appoint leaders in each church.  Some read this to mean that the Apostles appointed someone.  But in fact, the Apostles were there to help the church choose the right person of the job.  They know what we know today.  A church that has leadership and is organized around the Word of God is much more powerful and effective than one who isn't.  

26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

Paul and Barnabas now return to Syrian Antioch.  They report to the church everything that had happened while they were gone.  Why?  Because they were missionaries of this church.  They were accountable to this church and felt compelled to tell them what had happened.  

English Standard Version (ESV)
Posted by Russ Jones On 11:27 AM
Acts 13:29-52

29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
41  “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

We pick up where we left off yesterday.  Paul is preaching in a synagogue.  There are Jews and Gentiles (those interested in Judaism) together.  Paul has reviewed Israel's history and is currently addressing the death and resurrection of Jesus.  

Now Paul moves to the "good news".  What would be the point of telling someone about Jesus if you didn't tell them what Jesus can do right now?  Paul tells his listeners that their forefathers promised it and that Jesus is the fulfillment of it.  

The quote from Psalms 2 emphasizes Paul's point.  Most people think of this passage like a King declaring to His Kingdom that He is raising up a son to rule someday.  But that this day, he and the son would share the throne of the Kingdom together.  The fact that God raises Jesus from the dead is is evidence to this fact.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made to King David that from his lineage a Savior would come.  Paul explains this more fully in Romans 1: 3 - 4 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Next Paul quotes Isa 53:3 “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’  This blessing could not be fulfilled without the resurrection of Jesus. 

He quotes Psalms 16:10 “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ David was dead, his body has been corrupted.  Jesus isn't dead, His body is not corrupted.  

Paul finishes by stating that through Jesus, one could be forgiven of their sins.  That one could even be free from the guilt of those things which the Law of Moses could not address.  

Paul concludes by quoting Habakkuk 1:5 “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”  It's a warning from Paul that they should watch out for a greater judgement if they don't listen to him.  

Ministering to the religious lot is difficult at best.  Paul was a master at it, simply because he use to be one.  It is always easier to help someone discover their faith than to change their faith.  But what you and I face today is even harder.  People place their faith in things, education, their careers and so much more.  Getting them to change their faith to Jesus requires the skill of a Paul.  But that is what the Holy Spirit is for.  To help us do what we cannot do for ourselves.  Trust in Him and let Him change your life.  

42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God  44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,  “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Things went so well that they were asked to come back next week.  Many who were there followed Paul and Barnabas during that time.  Most likely because they wanted to learn more.  The fact that the encourage them to continue in the grace of God was significant inasmuch as they believed the God would bring them salvation. 

Work apparently got out about the previous meeting and the whole city showed up to go to church.  What an awesome thought huh?  But remember, it wasn't Pauls great preaching or Barnabas' great teaching that filled the place.  It was the message that they were sharing.  Jesus Saves! 

Well no good deed goes unpunished.  The Jewish leaders were jealous that Paul and Barnabas received such attention.  So they began to discredit and defame Paul.  The idea here is that they were very abusive.  

And here's their answer.  It was their calling to go to the Jews first.  But since they have rejected and decided that they don't want to spend eternity in heaven.  Then they will turn to the Gentiles and give them the same message and opportunity.  This would have caught the Jews flatfooted and flabbergasted.  Or WHAT?  

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

The Gentiles jumped at the chance!  They were so spiritually hungry but Judaism neither accepted them nor would they ever do so.  To be a part of their own spiritual community was a breath of fresh air to them.  They rejoiced and believed!  

The Jewish leaders were not done.  They simply rounded up all their high profile and political connections and had them run out of town.  Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off of their feet when they left town.  Ouch!  It was something that Christ had encouraged his disciples to do when they were not welcomed (or thrown out of town).  It's another way of saying or singing, "Let it go!" 

FYI - From what we know of church history, these persecutors did not destroy the church in Pisidian Antioch.  Praise God!  
There is something to be said for unity vs uniformity.  The Judaism of that day was all about uniformity.  Everyone had to be the same.  The same race, the same faith, the same laws - etc.  Anyone who didn't fit that "sameness" was doomed.  The Gentiles.  Even if they became a proselyte Jew - they were never really accepted as one who was a true decedent of Abraham.  

Unity of the faith though is something different.  Jesus doesn't care about our heritage.  He cares about the condition of our heart.  While we may be different people coming from different places in life.  We can agree on one thing.  Jesus is the Savior of our sins and the Authority of our everyday life.  

English Standard Version (ESV)

Posted by Russ Jones On 12:03 PM
Acts 13:1-28

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

The church in Antioch has grown to the point that it has prophets (those who preach and edify the Church) and teachers (those gifted to help others comprehend the Word of God.)  A few of them are named here, but notice Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch.  This is the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded.  Manaen would have grown up with Herod and been like a brother to him.  He quite possibly served Herod in some capacity in the palace.  He very well could have been influenced by John the Baptist.  

During a worship service the Holy Spirit commands the whole church to set apart Saul and Barnabas.  Here we see the Holy Spirit directing the actions of the church directly through the Gift of Prophecy or Tongues and Interpretation.  You need to think about this for a moment.  People come to church to worship God - they don't expect a direct proclamation from Him about the direction of their lives.  Especially one that changes the direction of someones life drastically.  But this is what happened.  The people not only welcomed what happened, apparently they were not surprised.  Everyone came willing to do whatever God asked of them.  This action would have been welcomed.  I wonder what would happen if we were as willing to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives too?  

The phrase in verse 3, "Then after fasting and praying" should have a comforting effect.  They tested what was declared to make sure that it was right.  This wasn't out of a spirit of doubt, but of faith and reverence for God.  No one would ever think that God made a mistake, but they understood (as should we) that men can.  

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.  13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 

There is an important lesson to be learned from verse 4.  It says that the Holy Spirit sent them.  But the church was involved in the process.  Many times people do things on their own saying, "God told me."  But what ever happened to allowing the church to be a part of the process?  Many times people want to serve Christ with all their heart, but they want to do it on their own.  That has never been nor will ever be God's plan for us.  

This first missionary journey was a easy on for them.  First they go to Cyprus.  Barnabas grew up there so he would know the people and their customs.  They proclaimed the Gospel in local synagogue.  Saul would have shined here in this setting.  It was always his preference to reach his own people too - the Jews.  

Have you ever struggled lead someone to Christ?  Does it seem that your words are falling on deaf ears?  Then you can relate to what is happening here in this next section.  Barnabas and Saul meet a false prophet and magician (Remember Simon the Sorcerer?) names Bar-Jesus.  He is in the company of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus.  Sergius wants to hear the Gospel that Barnabas and Saul are sharing.  Apparently they did share it, but Bar-Jesus then twists their words in order to lead Sergius away from placing his faith in Christ.  His purpose is simple.  Job security.  There would be no need for him and he would be out of a job very quickly.  

Now we see Sauls named changed to Paul.  Paul was a Roman name that would identify better with the Gentiles.  From this point on Sauls is now Paul.  

Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit much the same way that Peter was filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost he he delivered his message to the people.  Paul tells Bar-Jesus that he is full of evil, that he is sneaky, a son of the devil and a enemy of anyone trying to have a right relationship with God.  

Paul now asks the rhetorical question whether or not he was going to stop perverting the Gospel for his own purposes?  Bar-Jesus didn't need to answer because what happens next has his full and undivided attention.  Paul tells him that he will be blind for a time (that is until he repents) and immediately Bar-Jesus goes blind.  Sergius converts.  Not out of fear.  What does he have to be afraid of?  The true liar was exposed and the truth was revealed to him.  

We live in a world full of Bar-Jesus like people and ideas.  Each time that we try to share the Gospel Satan will have someone or something to stop it.  Press on as Paul did and trust in Jesus.  While I don't think that it will be necessary to strike people blind, God is on your side. 

Now Paul and his company return go to Perga and Mark (John) deserts them and returns to Jerusalem.  This will be important later. 

14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ 26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed.

Paul and Barnabas stop in Antioch (a different one from the preceding verses) and are allowed to speak in the local synagogue.  The local leaders ask them to speak up and encourage them.  Paul steps up to the plate and begins.  

Paul in the first part (which we are reading today) reviews the history of Israel.  We have seen Peter and Stephen do this too.  He highlights that King David was a man who sought after the will of God.  That from David a Savior would come to the people of Israel.  He then highlights the message of John the Baptist, the one that was proclaiming to all that the Savior was coming.  He also points out that John declared that Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy.  

Paul understands who he is talking to and verse 26  “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation."  In the synagogue there are Jews (sons of Abraham) but there are Gentiles too (Brothers) and those among you who fear God (those who were tired of worshipping false idols and were seeking God).  

English Standard Version (ESV)
Posted by Russ Jones On 6:57 PM
1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 

Politics is brutal.  This king is Herod Agrippa I.  He is a descendent of another King Herod (this one who killed John the Baptist).  Apparently this king wanted to be a friend to the people he ruled over, therefore he practiced Judaism.  It wouldn't be a very big stretch to see that the religious leaders of that complaining about these "Christians" and their leaders.  So the king, being the king, arrested some of those who were a part of the church and had them put to death.  No trial, no witness.  Just a sword.  James the apostle, brother to John was among them.  

3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.  6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 

In politics if it pleases the people once, do it again.  I remember as a kid growing up that every two years, the intersections in our city would be repaved.  As I got older I noticed that it always happened right before a mayoral election.  Hmmmm.   

This time Peter gets arrested.  Because it was the time of the Passover he holds off on doing anything until after it was over.  But to be sure that he doesn't go anywhere, he places 4 squads of 4 soldiers each to watch him.  What does the church do?  Start the prayer engine.  The church in Jerusalem is  praying for his deliverance.  They know how this is going to turn out if God doesn't intervene.  

The night before his "trial" Peter is sound asleep between two soldiers, chained up, with two more guards standing outside his cell.  (Maybe the King had heard the stories about his previous prison breakouts)

7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”  12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.  18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

An angel pokes Peter in the side and tells him to get up.  (Now that's an alarm clock!)  As Peter gets up, his chains fall off.  He gets dressed and follows the angel out of the prison.  The description we have here tells us that Peter was incarcerated in the innermost part of this prison.  No matter how deep you are in trouble - Jesus can get you out! 

Peter really doesn't understand what is happening here.  Is he having a dream, is this a vision?  But after the angel leads him out of the prison and down a street (where he disappears) Peter snaps out of it.  He now knows that God has delivered him from the King and the expectations of the Jewish leadership (execution).  

He goes to the house of Mary, whose son was Mark (yes the one who wrote the Gospel).  Mark was a convert of Peters therefore, he would have trusted this home.  He knocks at the gate that leads to the house and a servant named Rhoda answers.  On hearing his voice, she got to excited she ran back to the prayer meeting that was going on and announced that he was there.  She forgot to open the gate.  You know that Peter had to be having one of those moments when you just have to laugh.  

The group is having a hard time grasping the concept that Peter is at the gate.  In fact, they told her that she was crazy.  In fact, they thought it might be his guardian angel.  This was a concept that Jews believed, but there is no scriptural teaching to back it up.  Why were they praying for his deliverance  if they thought he was dead?  It's because they assumed to much.  First of all, they were not praying for a jail break - they were praying for his deliverance.  Now is a jail break a deliverance in this situation?  Of course it is, but this prayer group doesn't make the connection.  Instead they assume the worst.  Peter is dead and his angel is there to make the announcements.  

Something followers of Jesus are guilty of is making assumptions as to how He is going to answer their prayers.  Don't be surprise how Jesus does what He does - just be thankful that He does it.  

Finally they let him in and they start rejoicing, which he quickly tells them to stop doing.  He doesn't want to alarm the neighbors as to what is going on.  He knows that at daybreak, it's going to get ugly out there.  He tells him his story and then instructs them to tell James (the brother of Jesus) and the other disciples.  James will get the word out as to what has happened.  

Peter now disappears.  He doesn't tell anyone where he is going so that no one has to be guilty of lying to any investigating authorities.  But at daybreak, there was a whole lot of explaining going on. Peter is gone.  Search parties cannot find him.  King Herod is ticked.  He interrogates the soldiers that were watching him.  They really didn't have much to say.  "Um, King!  He was there and then he wasn't."  Not much of a defense.  And as it was the rule of the day.  A prison guard who loses a prisoner was to suffer the same punishment due to that prisoner.  Off with their heads.  

The King was so embarrassed by this that he left town and went to Caesarea.   He never returned to Jerusalem.  

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king's country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.  24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

Politics is fickle.  Herod and the area of Tyre and Sidon were at the point of declaring war on each other.  Except Roman providences couldn't do that.  Remember that they are in a famine at this time.  Tyre and Sidon could not produce enough food to sustain themselves, even in the good times.  They are petitioning the King, through some political channels they have established, to allow them to receive food from the area of Palestine.  

So one day, Herod puts on his royal robes and addresses the people on this matter.  It so happens that we have the historical record of this from a man named Josephus.  His outer robe is made of silver.  Josephus notes that it reflected in the sun light.  As he is speaking, these greek speaking citizens (who would have been idol worshippers) being shouting, "A god's voice,  not a man's!"  Flattery will get you no where in this matter.  Herod makes to effort to correct them.  Even though he practiced Judaism faithfully, he easily accepts what these people have to say.  

Immediately an angel strikes him down, he is consumed by worms and he dies.  Josephus bears witness to the fact that he did in fact collapse in the middle of his speech, that he had intense pain in his stomach and that he died 5 days later.  

Don't think that God didn't notice take note of what he did to James and the other believers.  

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Saul and Barnabas are in Jerusalem delivering the offering they received from Antioch.  On their return they take with them Mark.  

English Standard Version (ESV
Posted by Russ Jones On 5:59 PM
Acts 11: 1 - 30

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Good thing that Peter took those extra witnesses with him.  Because there was a lot of explaining that had to be done back in Jerusalem.  Word of what had happened probably got to Jerusalem before Peter did.  Hearing that the Gentiles had accepted the Gospel and responded accordingly was new.  you see up to this point and time the Jews were simply adding their faith in Christ to the Judaism that they were already practicing.  This news was probably not good news for some.  

When Peter arrives there were these who criticized Peter for going into the house of the "uncircumcised".  (Remember, that was a no, no.)  This term "uncircumcised" wasn't a compliment.  How easy is it for us to forget whose church this is?  Here we see people treating the church like it was their own.  It wasn't and has never been.  The Church belongs to Jesus and what is the church?  The church is people, equipped by the Holy Spirit, meeting needs everywhere in Jesus name.  Jesus loves EVERYONE!  Even the ones you don't like.  But just because you don't like them doesn't mean that He doesn't expect you to attend church with them. 

Peter now recalled the whole story. The vision, the Holy Spirit direction, an angel visiting a Gentile.  His preaching, their repentance and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in other tongues.  All I can say here, I wish I could see the faces of those who were criticizing Peter!

Peter then adds to his testimony by saying that he remembers what Jesus said.  "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."  Then he connects the dots.  If God does the same thing for them as He did for us - who am I to question Him?  (Drop mic here)  They agreed.  

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 

The church in Jerusalem probably didn't start a Gentile Evangelism Division though.  Even Peter saw himself as an evangelist primarily to the Jews.  So Luke now wants shift gears and help you understand that many who left under persecution were ministering to the Gentiles.  (Especially the Antioch connection which will come up later.) 

Verse 21 says that "And the hand of the Lord was with them".  This was a popular phrase that indicated that the power of the Lord was with them.  Think of it this way.  What you've read so far was happening everywhere because of these evangelists from the early church of Jerusalem.  So successful were they, that many turned to the Lord.  This means that these Gentiles turned away from their false idols and ways.  Here is something to consider.  The followers of Jesus knew that these Gentiles were sick and tired of their idols.  They knew that if someone would offer them something better they would take it.  How simply can it be?  

22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

When the church in Jerusalem heard of this, they sent Barnabas to help.  Just as they did in Samaria with Peter and John, they simply want to help.  When he arrived he was excited about what he found. I have often wondered, if Jesus walked into our church - would He be pleased?  

Barnabas did his job.  He encouraged them and taught them.  He knew what these new believers would be facing.  He was the perfect man for the job.  But the church grew and he needed help.  The only reason I can think of why he retrieved Saul was that the Holy Spirit told him too.  It would seem acceptable to ask Jerusalem for assistance, but he didn't do that.  Nonetheless, he and Saul worked together for a year.  

Also, we discover that this is where the name Christian come from.  Because up to this time, the followers of Jesus were Jewish they had received a name that reflected that fact.  They were seen as a sect of Judaism that followed Jesus.  But these followers in Antioch were Gentiles, they were not Jewish, therefore they needed a new name.  

It was popular in those days to take the name of the General or political party that you were affiliated with and add the suffix "ian" to the end of it.  Soldiers who followed Ceaser were Caesarian, for example.  So the followers or soldiers of Christ were called "Christian"

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

In an event that is the exception rather than the rule, a man named Agabus (from Jerusalem) prophecies that there was going to be a great famine.  (FYI - There was a great famine in the Roman Empire from AD 41 - 54).  Because the believers in Antioch were grateful for the help that Jerusalem had been to them, they receive an offering of benevolence and everyone gave as they could in the relief effort.  

English Standard Version (ESV)

Posted by Russ Jones On 10:39 AM
Acts 10:23-48

23 So he invited them in to be his guests.  The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”  30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

The next day they traveled to Caesarea.  But notice that Peter takes 6 Jewish men of good standing (Acts 11:12) with him.  Why did he do this?  He knew that he was going to take some heat for walking into a Gentiles house.  The law required, that under these circumstances to take two or three. Peter double the number just to be sure.  Peters need to protect the integrity of the Gospel was serious.  I don't think that he was so concerned about protecting himself so much.  He had a vision and the Holy Spirit told him to go.  

He arrives to a house full of people.  Cornelius acted by faith here.  Anticipating his arrival, he has everyone ready to receive.  WOW what great faith!  

When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls down at his feet and bows on his knees before him.  This probably caught Peter off guard.  He stands him up and declares that he is a man too.  Peter, again in the name of integrity, does not want a personality to outshine the church.  

Still Peter is surprised to find so many people gather together to hear him.  He openly declares, "You know that this is very unusual, don't you?"  The law of Moses prohibited a Jew from entering into a relationship with a foreigner / unbeliever.  This idea of exclusion was originally intended to protect Israel from being tempted to adopt unlawful ways and from worshipping false gods.  However, it was never intended to be a law that prohibited Jews from influencing their world for God.  Do you think that some followers of Christ today exclude people from their lives because they are not "spiritual or holy enough?"  Because their lifestyle doesn't line up with their expectations or idea of what a Christian is?  What we see here is a great example of how the church is suppose to be IN the world but not OF it.  

Cornelius not recounts the events that have led up to this moment.  He doesn't take any credit for himself other than obey what the angel told him to do.  He is very pleased that Peter is there and they are ready to receive his instruction.  Bottom line, they don't care about laws and regulations, they just want to hear the good news.  Isn't it amazing how the Holy Spirit will simplify everything and just get to the point?  

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Now everything comes together.  The vision on the rooftop makes sense.  God shows no partiality to one people group or another.  That anyone (from any tribe, nationality, etc.) who will worship God and obey Him will be accepted into the Kingdom of God.  

Peter proceeds to tell them that the good news was sent to Israel, through Jesus Christ who is Lord of All.  This phrase has to take on new meaning in light of what is happening.  Jesus is the Lord of the Jew and the Gentile.  

He emphatically says, "you yourselves know".  Peter recognizes the fact that they know about Jesus.  Someone has been teaching them somewhere.  But the central message he shares is Jesus.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus healed the sick and helped the needy, Jesus cast out demons and delivered those that were oppressed.  

We (The Apostles) have seen all of this.  We lived with Him, we were there when He was arrested and put to death.  We were there on the third day when He came back to life.  We were there with Him for the 40 days following eating and drinking with Him.  (It was a physical resurrection)  He commanded us to share this good news with everyone and tell them that He (Jesus) will be the judge of everyone for all time.  (Past, present and future).  Peter goes on, as he usually does, to bring in the prophets, how they had promised us that this would happen.  Then he finishes by saying that everyone who places their faith (in heart and deed) in Jesus will have their sins removed from them, never to be called against them again.  

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

In the middle of his teaching, the Holy Spirit descends on these Gentiles and they begin to speak in other tongues.  The scripture says that the Jews were "amazed".  Think of it this way - it almost knocked them out of their senses.  They were AMAZED!!!!  

There is only one conclusion that Peter and his friends can make at this time.  The Gentiles were not a part of the church.  You see, up to this point and time the followers of Christ were Jewish.  This event though is now taking places years after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  

Peter, who is probably still reeling from what has happened asks if there is any reason why these people cannot be baptized in water?  They are and he stays a few days with them, probably to give more instruction and develop relationship with them.  

When was the last time that the Holy Spirit placed you in a situation that #1 Amazed you, #2 Changed peoples lives and #3 Changed your world?  Don't think that it can't happen - because it can. The question is - don't you think that it should happen? 

English Standard Version (ESV)