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Acts 9

If you knew you were going to lose your sight tomorrow, what would you do today?  In Acts 9 Luke records the interaction of Saul with Jesus - a life changing experience.  Let us begin with Acts 9:1-2...

"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

What do we know about Saul – prior to his conversion to Paul? Some members of the early Church had fled to Damascus (in modern day Syria) about 150 miles away.  Saul's mission is to arrest Christians and return them to Jerusalem to be imprisoned.  Jesus had another idea and had a very personal meeting with Saul.  We continue reading Luke's narrative at verse 5:

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything."

Jesus has a way of getting our attention, does he not?   Why would God use a man like Saul?  What character traits do you think God saw in Saul?   Why do you think God used such a dramatic event to gets Saul’s attention?   What is significant about the three days that Saul/Paul was blind?  What do you think Saul/Paul thought about during those three days?  What do you think Paul learned from this experience?  What we do know is that Saul complied with the directive given him.  Continue reading at verse 10:

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”  “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”  13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

I love how honest Ananias is toward God.  What impresses you about Ananias?   What do we learn from his reaction to the Lord's request?  What can we learn from Ananias?  Which of your character traits can God use?  Continue reading at verse 15:

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”  17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.  Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

Even though Ananias expresses concerns, when God tells him to go, he goes.  This is the obedience that God wants from us.   Three days ago Saul met Jesus.  This day he is filled with the Holy Spirit after speaking to Ananias.  While we cannot “know” the timeline of Saul’s confession of faith what might be a reasoned assumption based upon Luke's narrative?  Continue reading at verse 20:

20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.  23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

What was the source of Saul/Paul’s power in verse 22?  What is ironic about verses 23-24?   Have you ever done something that caused you to have a bad reputation?  Saul has a terrible reputation.  How does one change their reputation?  Continue reading at verse 26:

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.  31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

It is 136 miles from Jerusalem to Damascus.  In the first century this would be a 5-7 day walk.  If people sought to kill him, how can he escape? What do we learn about Barnabas in this passage?  What is the lesson for us?  In good times and in hard times, the Church continues to grow!   In Galatians 1:21-22 Paul writes, "Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:  But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed.  And they glorified God in me."  We do not know exactly how many years Saul, now Paul, was in Tarsus.  Clearly, God was working on him during this time and the church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and growth.   What we do know is that Paul spends some time in Tarsus, his home, and Luke returns the focus of his narrative to Peter.  Continue reading at verse 32:

32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

What is the result of Peter’s visit to Lydda?  Note that after Saul’s conversion and move to Tarsus, he is not heard from for some time – perhaps a few years.  In any case, Luke quickly shifts his narrative to the ministry of Peter.  This focus on Peter continues until the Counsel of Jerusalem in chapter 15. 

Joppa is now the city of Tel Aviv.  Modern day Tel Aviv is similar to any large city in America.  However, in Jonah 1:3-4 we learn, "But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.  But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.  Continue reading at verse 39:

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.  40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon."

What do we learn about Dorcas (Tabitha)?   What was the key to raising Tabitha/Dorcus?  How was this different from Aeneas? How is Peter's ministry now much like Jesus' ministry?  Have you experienced God’s healing in your life?


Posted by Bruce Powers with

Acts 10-11

In chapters 10 and 11 Luke continues with the ministry of Peter.  This is a fascinating story that needs little introduction, so lets turn to Acts 10:

"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

What do you learn about Cornelius in the first few verses?  According to first century historian Josephus, “The Italian cohort/regiment was among those stationed in Syria under legate (Centurion) Arridius Cornelianus.”  A Centurion was the commander of 100 men.  If Josephus is speaking of the same regiment as Acts, then Cornelius had the first name of Arridius.  If he lived in Joppa then he typically would have needed to travel 70 miles to his regiment in Syria.  Continuing at verse 4:

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”  When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Have you ever had a vision or a dream that you believe came from God?  Why do you think God selects Cornelius for this particular vision?  Why do you think God selects Peter to minister to Cornelius?  A good example of the Providence of God.  Less surendipity and more the direct action of God!  Does God send angels today?  Does God send dreams/visions today?  Continue reading at verse 9:

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”  15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Was Peter prejudice (in the American sense of the term)?   Was God changing Peter’s mind or spirit?  How does the Holy Spirit change our spirit?  Continue reading at verse 17:

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.  19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”  21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”  22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

How effective was God’s vision to Peter in effecting change in attitudes toward Gentiles?  What do we learn about Peter's attitude toward these gentile men, probably soldiers?  Let us continue reading at verse 23:

"The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea.  Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

I am amazed at the attitude and humility of Cornelius.  He was the leader of a 100 soldiers and was likely used to be treated with respect and obedience.  Yet he treats Peter, a foreign stranger, with respect.  Peter is equally humble, giving the glory to God.  Both men know that have been been directed by God and they act obediently.  Continue reading at verse 27:

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”  30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

Once again Luke informs the reader that Cornelius and Peter were immediately obedient and excited to be in the presence of God.  How often do we put off or minimize that which comes from God?  Continue reading Luke's narrative at verse 34:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

How does Peter’s approach with the Gentiles differ from his approach with Jews?   How would you summarize Peter’s message here?  What was the role of the Holy Spirit in this interaction?  Continue reading at verse 44:

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

What is significant about this passage?  Why is this so noteworthy for Peter and his fellow Jews?   What lessons can we take away from the interaction of Peter with Cornelius?  What can we learn about evangelism from this interaction?  Continue reading from verse 47:

"Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days."

Chapter 11 is a continuation of this story, so we will continue reading at Acts 11:1, "The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

While Peter has learned the lesson from God concerning gentiles well, he faces criticism from those in Jerusalem.  I think we often find this to be true in our lives.  Through the Word and the Holy Spirit, God teaches us, and often those lessons are criticized by the secular world.  Can you think of any examples of this concept in your life?  As we shall see, Peter must face this criticism a number of times as he retells the Truth.  Continue reading as Peter explains this lesson for the third time from verse 4:

Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’  “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’  “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

I love how Peter's obedience paid off.  Those in Jerusalem now understand and are praising God that "even to Gentiles God has granted repentance."  As we continue reading at verse 19, notice how quickly this Truth spreads throughout the region:

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

What do you know about Cyprus, Crete, and Antioch?  How significant is it that the Gospel spread to these locations (along with Africa)?  (1.  Greek speaking.  2. These were areas of merchants and travelers that would spread the news quickly.  3.  Comprised of Gentiles with many religious backgrounds.  4.  Multiple continients – Africa, Asia, Europe.)  Continue reading at verse 22:

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord."

During this period, Saul (Paul) was at home in Tarsus.  God was likely preparing him for ministry.  It is about time for Paul to get moving, so God sends a man named Barnabas to bring Paul to Antioch.  Continue reading at verse 25:

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Peter (and Barnabus) are still Luke's primary focus, and they will be for a few more chapters.  Yet Luke is careful to include Paul in his narrative because very soon, the focus shifts from Peter to Paul.  Phase three begins right on cue.  Continue reading at verse 27:

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul."

The fact that Luke included the statement "this happened during the reign of Claudius" helps us to date the narrative.  Claudius was Ceasar of the Roman Empire from 41 AD until 54 AD.  Luke also notes a severe famine, and multiple (secular) historians date this family to 47 AD.  Therefore, this portion of Luke's narrative can be dated to about 15 years after the resurrection of Jesus. 

This was happening a decade after Jesus rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit first appeared.

Posted by Bruce Powers with

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