The Elements of the pattern of church service and life can be seen in scripture

The elements of the pattern of church service and life can be seen in scripture.

True worshippers are to worship in truth and spirit (John 4:24), by the Spirit of God (Philippians 3:3). True believers remained in the teaching of God (2 John 1:9). They would have obeyed God as opposed to rebelled against God (1 John 3:10).

Men, women, and children would have gathered together to hear what was being taught – It may have been that only children who were old enough to understand who were in church service (such as those who were age 12, the age of when Jewish boys have their bar mitzvah, which happens to be the age of Jesus when he was in the temple courts sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions) (Deuteronomy 31:12; Nehemiah 8:1-3; Luke 2:41-47; Luke 18:15-17; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21; 2 John 1:1).

They met together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). They met in the temple courts, in people’s homes, beside rivers, in synagogues, and in lecture halls (possibly schools) (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 16:13; Acts 19:8-9).

The church leaders were male elders and male deacons and female deaconesses (Acts 6:2-8; Acts 16:13; Romans 16:1; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-10).

The communion supper (also known as the Lord’s Supper) was observed (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:18-32).

Prayers were offered up to God alone, in harmony with the will of God (1 Corinthians 14:15–16; Nehemiah 4:9; Matthew 6:9,;1 John 5:14).

Songs were sung to the glory of God and thanks to God was given (Ephesians 5:19-20; Psalms 95, 96, 98).

A free will collection was taken (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). The Church was not involved with business (Matthew 21:12–13).

Sometimes church discipline occurred (Matt. 18:17).

The Scriptures were publically read (Colossians 4:16; 1 Tim. 4:13), and the Word of God was proclaimed (Acts 20:7; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Timothy 4:2).

Indeed, each had a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:28).

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Train up a child in the way he should go…

There is a big debate among some Christians as to whether a Christian should homeschool or not. There are people who use scripture to say yes and others who say no.

I have already addressed the fact that both studies and scripture show that who and what we surround ourselves with affects us.

I decided to address this in light of a recent study:  Study Finds Homeschoolers Less Likely to Leave Faith Than Public, Private Schooled Students.

From the article: 

“Having a strong relationship with the child’s mother and father, attending church as a child, and years homeschooled were all clearly positively associated with Millennials’ basic Christian orthodoxy, broader biblical beliefs, Christian behaviors (e.g., attending church, keeping sex in marriage, prayer, not using pornography), satisfaction in life, civic and community involvement, and having beliefs similar to one’s parents,” Ray stated.

87% of study participants who were homeschooled said they have strong Christian beliefs. Conversely, Millennials who were enrolled in public schools or private Christian schools were more likely to walk away from the faith later in life.

“Number of years in Christian school and number of years in public school were negatively associated with most of the adult beliefs and behaviors just mentioned,” Ray explained.

Statistically, homeschooled young adults were six times as likely to be believers and seven times as likely to be stronger in their Christian beliefs as Millennials attending private schools. Homeschooled Millennials were also two times as likely to be stronger in Christian beliefs as those who attended Christian schools or public schools.

The study basically shows that people who are homeschooled (because of reasons of faith) are significantly more likely to be believers in Christ than those in either public OR private schools. This seems to run counter to the common wisdom that sending children to Christian private schools some how teaches children in a way so as to not reject Christ and help them stay in church. It also runs counter to the idea that we should send our children into schools  and allow them to be lights for Christ in environments which teach humanism.

Obviously, God has addressed the idea of teaching our children in scripture. Let’s take a look.

Proverbs 22:6 ESV

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV 

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Ephesians 6:4 ESV

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:5-11 ESV

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Titus 2:4-5 ESV

And so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All of these scriptures speak of morals, of righteousness, of equipping people for every good work. Some take that to mean the scriptures only speak of religious education. Others take that to mean all education.

Personally, I do not see a distinction between the spiritual and the physical.  I think both are intertwined. We can not separate the two. Whether we teach about God, work or life, we teach about living in a way so as to please the Lord. There is no separation.

1 Thessalonians 4:1
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
More than that, we must teach about philosophy, human tradition, and the basic principles of this world – this is secular education in today’s world. I few don’t teach about the truth in all areas of life, our children CAN be taken captive.

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

We must be sure to teach about NOT becoming friends with the world, and how can we do this if we put our children in schools, public or private, which do exactly that.

James 4:4

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

So parents are responsible for teaching our children about God. But more than that, we are responsible for teaching them how they should live – and this includes being sure they are taught appropriately about human traditions, philosophies, and basic principles. This is not merely teaching morals, or about God, but teaching how to not be ensnared in such things. We can not do that if we turn our children over to a school which purposefully ensnares them. We MUST educate spiritually as well as in other areas of life. to do this, homeschooling is the best option.

1 Peter 1:13-25

1 Peter 1:13-25

Be Holy, purify yourselves by obeying the truth!

1 Peter was written to believers in Christ in various towns in what is now Turkey. It was written about 64-67 AD. And it was written to encourage believers in what were very difficult times – they were suffering persecution and many were trying to find jobs or even food. With that short introduction, let me begin with the text of the Bible. (The bold letters are the text in the Bible.)

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 

Peter was sent By and For Christ

To God’s elect,

God’s chosen people are those who hear the truth of Christ and accept Him as savior. If you believe in Christ as the only way to heaven, then you are a chosen person. God chose you. God did it. Oh, you had to accept Him, but HE gave you the faith to do so. John 6:37 –  “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away”

                strangers in the world, 

We are to NOT be citizens of the world. Our citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. As such, we need to live here as if we are strangers. We might take an interest in what is going on here, but it should not affect us as much as people who are not looking forward to going home.

                scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

These people, like you and I, are scattered like seed – we are all planted to grow where God wants us to grow. We are where God wants us to be.,

                        2 who have been chosen

Notice, the elect are people who have been CHOSEN – they did not do the choosing. God did it. Not you. Everything is about God, not you.

In the next part of this verse, we see the explicit mention of the Trinity – Father, Spirit, Christ, as well as the four steps of salvation:

                                                  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,

Step 1: Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love” God chose us – before the world was created. Before he had even made the world, he chose YOU to be one of his adopted children – to believe in Him.

                                                 through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,

Step 2: 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you[a] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” And God chose you to be saved through the work of the Holy Spirit and belief in the truth – that Christ is the son of God, sent by God to live a perfect life, suffer and die to pay for your sins, and be resurrected again to demonstrate he was God.

                                                                                  for obedience to Jesus Christ and

Step 3: Obey the truth, the Gospel, which means change (or repent) from following your own ways, to following God; trust Christ as Savior; exercise faith – believe and act like it. In John 14:15, Jesus Christ said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” In Deuteronomy 5:9-10 and Exodus 20:5-6, God said, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God love those who love Him and do what He says. Trust God and do what He said.

                                                                                   sprinkling by his blood:

Step 4: we see the benefits of faith. In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” GOD LOVED THE WORLD so much that he sent His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him (as savior sent by God for our sins) will not die, but have eternal life. THAT Is the benefit of faith – eternal life. Without faith, we are doomed to never enter heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus said “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

3 Praise be to the God and

                                Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Peter was praying peace and grace to the believers and praising God. Grace, in this case, is something that is bestowed upon you that by  someone of higher status – that which is needed to gain entrance into heaven – God’s love and faith and patience.

                                In his great mercy

Notice the word “mercy”.  This is us receiving something we do not deserve. Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.” We all deserve to die, because we are all sinners – we are all people who can not do everything perfect – we miss the mark of perfection (which is what sin means).  As such, we deserve death. But God is merciful.

                                                            he has given us new birth

Note the past tense of ‘given’. This has already happened. It happened before we came to believe in Him. It happened before God created the world. John 3:1-5 reads, “1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”   3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”  5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  Being born of water does not speak of baptism. Jesus is talking about being born physically. But when he talks about being born of the Spirit, he is speaking about accepting Jesus as being sent by God to save us. The Holy Spirit works in us to be able to believe and accept what God has done. And Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9 that what God has done is a gift, and we can not earn it, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”

                                                                                      into a living hope

This “hope” is not wishfullness. It is knowledge – expecting something to happen. We expect God to keep his promise – we expect God to take us into heave, having forgiven our sins because of the suffering and death Christ endured for our sakes.

                                                                through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

                                                                                                               from the dead,

And this is how we got that living hope: Christ was resurrected from the dead. It is only through his suffering, death, and resurrection that we can hope to gain entrance into heaven. Any other way is us trying to earn our way in. Since we are not, and never will be perfect, it is impossible to gain entrance into heaven without what Christ did for us.

                                                                                                4 and into an inheritance

Notice the future tense – we expect to receive an inheritance from our parents, in the future. When we accept what Christ has done for us, we are adopted into the family of God. Before that, we were creations of God, not not children of God in the sense that we could expect any inheritance.

                                                                                that can never perish,

                                                                                                            spoil or

                                                                                                            fade—

                                                                                kept in heaven for you,

            We know that our inheritance, eternal life with God in heaven, will never de destroyed. It is imperishable – it can not be taken from us, it can not be lost, it can not be denied us – IF we  TRUST God. I am not speaking of belief as in having an idea that something is true. I am speaking of having faith – confidence – that what God has done for us is true. If we believe something is true, we might say that we believe it, but we will never act on that belief. If we have confidence, if we TRUST in something, then we will act on that trust we have. For instance, if we might say, “I believe this 30 year old car will be able to be driven from Miami to Los Angeles.” But if we do not trust the car, we will let someone else drive it. If we trust the car, we will get into it and make the drive ourselves. THAT is trust, a belief, plus an action. And we need to TRUST Christ.

5 who through faith are shielded

                                                   by God’s power

                                                   until the coming of the salvation

                                                             that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Here is our assurance that we are saved when we trust Christ. We are shielded through faith by God’s power. This is the God who created the universe. This is the God who created you. This is the God who CHOSE you before he created the universe. If he can do that, he can certainly guard your inheritance so that you never lose it and it is never destroyed or taken from you.

6 In this you greatly rejoice,

                                          though now

                                                        for a little while

                                                        you may have had to suffer grief

                                                             in all kinds of trials.

We might suffer in this life, but it is only temporary suffering. We will have all of eternity to not suffer and to be with God. Look to the future, not the past or even the present.

                                                                      7 These have come so that your faith—

                                                                        of greater worth than gold,

                                                                               which perishes

                                                                                 even though refined by fire

                                                                               may be proved genuine and

                                                                               may result in praise,

                                                                                                       glory and

                                                                                                       honor

                                                                               when Jesus Christ is revealed.

True faith does not go away. True faith does not perish. Our faith is worth greater than anything. Gold is refined through fire. The impurities are removed that way. We suffer in life, but it helps us to mature in our faith. As we suffer, if our faith does not go away, if we rely on God, then it is real.

                                                              8 Though you have not seen him,

                                                              you love him; and

                                                              even though you do not see him now,

                                                              you believe in him and

John 20:29 says, “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Thomas had faith because he saw. WE are more blessed than Thomas, because we have faith without having seen Christ. Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We are sure of what we hope for.

                                                               are filled with an inexpressible and

                                                                                        glorious joy,

Faith leads to joy. If we are not joyous that we are going to be with Christ, then we are not sure of what we have.

                                                               9 for you are receiving

                                                                                          the goal of your faith,

                                                                                          the salvation of your souls.

Notice the present tense. We ARE RECEIVING the goal of our faith – the salvation of our souls. It is a process, an ongoing process. It will be finished when we are in heaven with God.

                                                              10 Concerning this salvation,

                                                                   the prophets,

                                                                       who spoke of the grace

                                                                                   that was to come to you,

Faith comes through knowledge. If we do not know about something, how can we believe in it, let alone trust it? The prophets wrote of the grace, the free gift of salvation that would come to us.

                                                                       searched intently and

                                                                           with the greatest care,

                                                                       11 trying to find out the time and

                                                                                     circumstances to which

                                                                                     the Spirit of Christ

                                                                                          in them

                                                                                          was pointing

                                                                                          when He predicted

                                                                                             the sufferings of Christ and

                                                                                             the glories that would follow.

Notice that it was GOD doing the work. GOD gave them the prophecies. God said in Isaiah 53:5 that Jesus would suffer for our sins, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” If Christ suffered for our sins, then why do so many people keep trying to earn their way into heaven? I am not saying that we should not do good things, such as go to church, give money to those who need it, give to the church, feed the poor, etc.. I am saying that we can do all the good things in the world, but those things will not get us into heaven. There are some really great and wonderful people who do not believe in Christ who do those things. They are still going to go to hell. There are many people who go to church who will still be in hell because they do NOT TRUST Christ. We must TRUST Christ to enter heaven. Nothing else can do it.

                                                              12 It was revealed to them

                                                               that they were not serving themselves

                                                                                                    but you,

            The prophets KNEW they were speaking for the good of the people to come – for our good. They were not speaking for their health; they did it because God gave them the words.

                                                                when they spoke of

                                                                           the things that have now been told you

                                                                           by those who have preached the gospel

                                                                                     to you

                                                                                    by the Holy Spirit

                                                                                                     sent from heaven.

            See, even though the prophets preached, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke. Even the apostles were guided and given words by the Holy Spirit. That is how WE should live, guided by the Holy Spirit and letting HIM speak through us.

                                                      Even angels long to look into these things.

            The wonderful things the prophets of the Old and New Testaments spoke of, the thing we look forward to, is sooo great that the Angels want to see it. This thing called salvation, where we accept the gift of God – the fact that His SON died in our place so we could be with God in heaven – this is what the prophets spoke of. And this is what the angels want to see. And this is what we, if we trust God through trusting his son, have to look forward to!

Remember, even though we may suffer in this life, it is a temporary thing. What we have our hope set on is eternal life with the one true God of the universe – the creator of everything. We know we are looking forward to life with God in heaven, so we should not be discouraged by the suffering we see and deal with in this life. We are strangers here, not citizens of this world. We might live here for a time, but we are citizens of heaven. As such, we need to live like we are citizens of heaven. If you believe what Christ has done for you, then ask God to remind you when things are difficult that you are not a citizen of this life, or of this world, but a citizen of heaven and you look forward to life with Him. If you have not asked God to guide your life, to take control of your life, if you are still trying to control your life, then I urge you to change and recognize you are not perfect. God is perfect. Ask HIM to take over your life, and then you will also have your hope in the future – to a time when you are living in heaven with God.

Acts 20

Day 20, Acts 20.

One of the common themes seen in the book of Acts is Paul going to new places to share the gospel, leading people to Christ, planting churches. But just as common is Paul returning to cities where he had previously been to encourage, exhort, and strengthen believers.

In one of those towns, Troas, Paul began speaking at mealtime. Since he intended to leave the next day, he prolonged his message until midnight. One young man was sitting at a window sill and fell asleep. In so doing, he fell out the window, to the ground three stories down. He was picked up dead. What was Paul’s response?

11But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

When Paul got to Miletus, he called the elders of the church at Ephesus to him. He reminded them how he had served God humbly, dealing with the plots of the Jews. He reminded them how he bravely declared what was profitable, going house to house, telling people of the need to repent toward God and faith in out Lord Jesus Christ.

But notice that Paul knew he was headed to bonds and afflictions in Jerusalem.

22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.

He wanted to finish the path God had laid out for him; he wanted to accomplish the ministry the Lord Jesus had given him to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. He then warned the elders of the church to be alert for those who would come into and from within the church to attack.

28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

He realized he was on his way to death. He told them they would no longer see him. The elders were saddened, realizing what he would face and how they would miss him.

36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

I pray God make us so effective. I pray God make us so diligent. I pray God make us so loved. May we each by used of God to move people to trust in Christ and live for God.

Acts 18

Day 18, Acts 18.

This starts out with a couple, a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla, met and lived with and worked with Paul in Corinth.  I have to think that would be so cool. But more importantly, that is when they would have come to a great understanding of the Gospel and the Christian life.

When Paul’s team arrived in Corinth, he devoted himself to testifying about Christ to the Jews. They rejected the truth and blasphemed. At which point, Paul said,  “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

He led Jews and Gentiles to the Lord, many of the Corinthians believed when they heard and were baptized. God had Paul stay there another 18 months to teach the word of God:

 9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

At some point, the Jews rose up and tried to get Paul in trouble with the Romans, taking him before Gallius the Procounsel. This would have been sometime around 51AD. But before Paul could open his mouth to defend himself, the procounsel threw out the case, saying it was an internal matter of the Jewish religion.

In response, the synagogue leader named Sosthenes was beaten. Its not clear whether this was a leader of a different synagogue or the same one where Crispus had been leader, but probably the latter. When this trail was over, Paul deaded to Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. He went to Ephesus and reasoned the Jews there. Then he went on through Caesarea and on to Antioch, which seems to have been Paul’s base of operations/

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul went through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. We must remember that part of our reason for preaching and teaching is to evangelize. But part of it is to strengthen those who trust in Christ.

This chapter ends with an example of how a married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, took Apollos aside to teach him more accurately. He was already mighty in the scripture and was fervent in spirit, and was accurately teaching the things concerning Jesus. Afterwards, he wanted to go to Achaia, where he ended up being a great help to the believers.

We must be careful to not put a man under the spiritual authority of a woman teacher, nor to allow a woman to teach a man.

1 Timothy 2:12

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

And when a woman is teaching and her husband approves but does none of the teaching or is not ensuring she is teaching correctly, or is not even present for the teaching, then the woman is teaching the man and is in spiritual authority over the student without her husband’s direct knowledge and authority. When a woman is helping write sermons  to the point where she is correcting him or he is changing what he teaches because of her, she is in spiritual authority over the man. When a woman is teaching a class of men and women, she doing something scripture says not to do. These are situations which contradict scripture. Any church which allows these sort of situations to occur is a church which is not following scripture and a danger to Christians – what other areas are they wrong about?

Acts 11

Day 11, Acts 11.

In the previous chapter, we saw how God had called Gentile believers and baptized them in the Holy Spirit and then Peter baptized them in water.

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

At first, the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were upset, but when Peter explained what GOD had done,

‘When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”’

How I wish we would all treat people as God did – seeing no preference for Gentiles or Jews. God sent His Son to pay the sins of everyone – effective for those who were appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48).

The Jews went forth during the persecution, and some of them shared the gospel with Greeks.  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord

Verse 21 is an interesting statement,And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” Does that mean that not everyone who believed turned to the Lord? Scripture does not say here. But we know that Barnabas went and got Saul so together they could teach the church.

A prophet spoke and warned of an upcoming famine. The believers in Antioch, mostly Gentiles, gave money to the Jewish beleivers in Jerusalem. Should non-Jewish believers ignore the believers in Israel today? No! We should do likewise and do what we can for their well-being.

What about you? Will you seek ways to bless believers of other nations and ethnic groups and languages and colors? This is what a believer in Christ is supposed to do – love GOD and love others in practical means.

Acts 9

Day 9, Acts 9

Saul was on his way to Damascus to hunt Christians. Can you imagine the excitement? I mean, think how excited and crazy people get when they are going to play a sport or watch one. Hunting gets your blood up. Its the fight or flight thing. So Saul had to be feeling good.

 

And then God….

Saul met God on the road to Damascus. How do I know? Because he fell down at the power of the entrance of God. A flash of light from heaven came, blinded him, and he fell to the ground.

When people are in God’s presence, they fall down.

Ezekiel 1:28

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Mark 3:11

Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

John 18:6

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

He probably had no idea what had happened, I mean a flash bomb so bright he was blinded basically went off from heaven. vBut he realized he was not the one with the power. So when the voice asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”, Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?”

The response? “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”

Its interesting that the people with him heard the voice but saw no one. I wonder if they saw the light. Scripture does not tell us.

What happened then? Saul got up. Saul was led by the hand into Damascus. Like Christ was three days in the tomb, without seeing, without eating, without drinking (as is appropriate for a dead man), so was Saul.

Then the Lord spoke to a man in Damascus through a vision. He was very direct, and very exact as to where He wanted the man to go – including who to ask for. The Lord told the guy, Ananias, the Saul had seen he was going to come and lay hands on him to receive sight.

Apparently one can object during a vision. Ananias objected, making clear the danger Saul had presented for those who trusted in Christ – how he was supposed to come and arrest people (I’d imagine he didnt want to die). But the Lord was clear :“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

What was Ananias’ response?

So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

My wife, Lori, pointed out to me that immediately after laying hands on Saul, Ananias addressed him as brother. This was before baptism. Scripture records no decision having been made for Christ by Saul, no sinners prayer was prayed, nothing happened other than Christ confronted Saul, blinded him, Saul fell  to the ground, and Christ told Saul what he would do, and then Saul was healed. Yet Ananias addressed him as brother Saul – a fellow believer in Christ. Saul had no part in his salvation, other than to be the recipient of it.

It was after he believed, after he was healed and could see that he was baptized, and it was after baptism that he ate (after three days without vision,  food or water). This tells us how important obedience through baptism in the Lord’s name was to Saul, personally.

I have heard much about how we should not take celebrities and have them teach or share the gospel or [fill in the blank] yet. But Saul was preaching that Jesus was the Lord within days of his conversion – and he kept getting stronger and confounding the Jews by proving Jesus was Lord.

Then when the Jews began to plot his murder, instead of confronting and defending himself – he ran away. This is not the behavior one would normally expect from hero of the faith. This is a man who loved God, loved others. He wanted to proclaim the Word of God. Yet he was lowered by his followers in a basket through a hole in the wall so he could be safe. He went back to Jerusalem.

The believers there didnt trust Saul – but God provided yet again. God provided a Barnabas, who spoke up for Saul, giving Saul’s testimony of what happened on the road to Damascus and while there. Then for a while, Saul was able to proclaim Christ to the Jews in Jerusalem. The Greek Jews wanted to kill him. So the believers sent him to Tarsus, where he was from – I suppose the thinking was he would likely be safe in his home town.

Saul must have been quite the persecutor, because after his conversion (when he quit ravaging the church), scripture tells us in verse 31, “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”

What does it mean to “fear the Lord?” The Greek word is ‘phobos’. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon defines phobos as:

1.            fear, dread, terror

a.                  that which strikes terror

 

This is translated a few times as respect or awe or reverence. But mostly, its fear – as in BE AFRAID. The church FEARED God. They recognized God’s power. For this reason, the church continued to increase.

The church was built up. It continued to Increase.

How? People were sharing the truth about Jesus – they were sharing the Gospel.

John 3:3 reads,

“Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” There must be new life.

John 3:16-18 tells us,

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

This tells us if we believe, we have eternal life, if we do not, we are judged.

God tells us in John 3:36,

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

This tells us that if someone does not obey, they do not believe, and the wrath of God is still on those them. This tells us if you believe, you will obey. Do you obey? Is YOUR life one of obedience, showing you faith, or disobedience, showing a lack of faith?

The church FEARED God, and were comforted by the Holy Spirit.

Moving on….

Paul was not the only prominent person spoken of in this chapter. We see Peter was traveling, and he healed a paralytic, at which point many believed.

Peter also prayed for a woman, Tabitha (AKA Dorcas), and she returned from the dead. I doubt this is a common occurrence – even then. There seemed to have been lots of healing,but only a few recorded instances of dead people coming to live. Dead people dont seem to return too often, at least not after a few minutes. I mean, our dog died recently, but after a bit of mouth to mouth and a few compressions, she revived. This wasnt like that. This woman had been dead. The people had to send for Peter who was in another town. And they had already washed her and set her in a bedroom (for mourning, I suppose), before the sent for Peter in another town. When he arrived, the widows talked with him,showing her wares to him, before he sent them away and prayed and told her to get up. She did. I mean there was not any yelling or screaming on Peter’s part, no drama, just a quiet expectation of her obedience. And many people heard and believed.

I think many people come to Christ in a moment of crisis or healing. We seem to respond better then – perhaps because our mind is more inclined to believe during those periods in our lives when we need a miracle?

For me, the miracle is not a healed person or a resurrected person – but a forgiven person. It amazes me how we can take our salvation for granted. This is a God whom we should FEAR. Jesus said to be afraid of him who can DESTROY SOULS – he was not speaking of Satan, but of GOD.

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