Vs. 1, “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.” Corinth was one of the greatest cities of that time! It was famous for its Olympic style events, sexual immorality, & wickedness. As Paul began his ministry & worked part-time as a tentmaker, he meets Aquila & his wife Priscilla. It must have been a joy for Paul to meet such genuine friends who opened their hearts & home to him. Paul would stay in Corinth for 18 months with God’s special favor & protection. They would go on to Ephesus as they met Apollos who was good intentioned but had yet the knowledge. Paul would then find his way back to Anticoch completing his second missionary journey.
Regarding application…God’s Promises. Vs. 9-10, “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” God promises are ALWAYS true! Isn’t that amazing? Paul was able to confidently preach without fear for 18 months knowing that God was going to directly protect him! And we see that God backed up his promise! Throughout history, we see God fulfilling his promise. From Abraham, to Moses, David, the promised Messiah, the birth of Jesus, etc…. God’s promises will never be broken. That is why we can confidently stand up with faith & know that the promise of Jesus’ second coming WILL happen! The promise of a new Heaven & Earth where we will live with God forever! The struggles & pain of this world are nothing to eternity with God one day! We’ve all had situations in our lives where someone promised us something and it didn’t happen. In fact, we’ve done the same to others too. Yet, let us never doubt the promises of God! And let us do our best in fulfilling our promises to each other! Look what Paul said to the Ephesians…Vs. 21, “But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Paul would make good on his promise! Let us endeavor always to do the same for others!
Vs. 26, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” As we continue traveling with Paul on his second missionary journey, we see him in three different cities, and we see three different reactions to the Gospel. In Thessalonica, though some turned to the Lord, the overall response was opposition to Paul because of jealousy from the Jews. As they traveled to Berea, we see a different response. In Berea the people there opened their hearts to Scripture and received the Word. Paul left Timothy & Silas behind to go on to Athens. Athens was the center of religion & culture. Athens is known for its philosphers and Paul took advantage of that by going to discuss God with them. They began to mock Paul & the Gospel, but Paul stood strong & eloquently presented the truth!
Regarding application…Enemy Always Near. Vs. 13, “When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.” Note…while the Christians from Thessalonica were busy sending out the Gospel…Satan was busy stirring up trouble! In essence…Satan was sending out his own “missionaries” to Berea. We have to be very mindful of always being cognizant of how the enemy lurks about. When the preaching of God’s word and the power of the Gospel are at hand…Satan will always try relentlessly to interfere.
Vs. 4, “As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.” Paul will now set out with Silas & young Timothy on his second missionary journey. This one will take him into southern Europe. We know that Paul was sensitive to the Spirit & was able to discern where God truly wanted to lead him (vs. 7). God would later honor Paul by giving him a vision in a dream to go to the area He had willed for him. Upon arriving to Philipi, They would meet Lydia who would open her heart to the Gospel but they would also meet the possessed slave girl. Her testimony seemed okay, but it was a hindarance…and God was not flattered. But the casting of the demon would lead Paul & Silas beaten nearly to death & thrown into prison. But then we see the power of prayer as the prayed & sang, God rescued them & in the process the jailer came to know the Lord & his family too!
Regarding application…Finding God’s Will. Vs. 9,”During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us…” This is really remarkable situation. Paul was set on going a certain direction to bring the Gospel, but God would make it known to Paul that he should not go there. Paul must have been troubled and wondered why God would inform him of such a thing. But, God would show Paul that even though Paul wanted to do it, God had something else in mind. This was all possible because Paul lived in such a way that He knew it needed to be God’s will…not his. It was possible because Paul was walking in a relationship with Jesus & praying. That is why God was able to show him a different path. Sometimes, we rack our minds to try to figure out what God wants us to do…when all we have to do is do the foundational things (read His Word, pray, serve, etc.)…and God will show us the way! The same God that showed Paul the Way…is the same God that shows us the Way! Open your mind, spirit & heart to the Lord Jesus and He will be a lamp unto your feet!
Vs. 1, “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Remember, whenever the church is growing, Satan is going to do everything he can to oppose it. Here we see Jewish believers ignorant of how God’s grace was to work in the present time. That is why is is so important that we KNOW God’s Word! We see Paul & Baranbas go down to Jerusalem, Peter makes his final appearance in Acts as he endorses Paul’s belief, and James (the brother of Jesus & author of James) appears to make his final comments. The admonitions in Vs. 29 are not rules to adhere by, but rather suggestions during that present time to keep good relations with the Jewish Christians. We also see the dispute of Paul & Baranabas concering John Mark & of the visit Peter (Gal. 2:11-21). Paul was untrusting of Mark after he had left them on the last journey & perhaps disappointed with Barnabas. But both parties were a little too harsh in how they dealt with this, but in the end…Paul & Mark reconciled (II Tim 4:11).
Regarding application…Disagreements. Notice how the church dealt with the beginnings of legalism…they met with prayer & discussion. When Christians disagree in the church, it is so important that they get together with prayer & sharing to discern & see how God wants to resolve the disagreements. Communication is such a huge asset!!! It’s human nature to not want to deal with the things that might cause division…but ironically, that is exactly is the downfall of division…lack of communication. Brothers & Sisters in Christ…the early church has so much to offer in wisdom to our churches today! We must learn to communicate & be wise in how we go about dealing with problems in the church! Disagreements are going to be unavoidable in the church….but it is how we deal with them that will determine the growth & spiritual maturity of each church! Let us humble ourselves & open our hearts in communication with each other in our church & youth group! How can we be a light to the world, when our churches are battling each other?
Vs. 27, “On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” This chapter records the completion of Paul’s first misssionary journey. We see how God had impowered Paul to do miracles to help the unbelieving see the truth (For the NT had not yet been completed). However, in Lystra, the Gentiles believed Paul & Barnabas to be Zeus (Chief of the Gods) & Hermes (Messenger of the God’s). Just as Paul ordered Stephen to be stoned, the Jews stirred the crowds and they too stoned Paul. But Paul would barely escape death, and even near death…Paul would not give up. Paul & Barnabas go back to help ensure the planting of the Gospel is met with encouragement & foundation for these new believers & their churches.
Regarding application…Having Priorities. Vs. 26, “…they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.” Paul & Barnabas knew their priorities. Christ was first, others were second, & they were last. Not only did they understand their priorities…they had the courage to see it to completion. David Sarnoff, An American pioneer & radio & televsion once said, “The will to persevere is often the difference between failure & success.” Question: How did Paul & Barnabas persevere? Because they knew their priorities! Sometimes, I have students who come up to me and ask me what are the most important priorities in their life? Of course, I tell them “GOD” must come first…no if, and’s or but’s. However, after that…it can get a little difficult. God has given each of you a family (Blood or adopted). He gave them to you for a reason & you must make every effort to be there for your family. I have only “one” mitigating circumstance where your family could be superceded. That is if they are asking you to do something that would cause you to disobey God’s will. Other than that, they are second. Your church family comes a VERY close third in this regard. Then, your efforts in schooling & giving your 100% (I Cor. 10:31) comes in fourth. That is my humble opinion on priorities.
Vs. 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.” We now come to a major division in the book of Acts. This new period is a time where the Gospel spreads out to the Gentile world. Local churches are established by Paul and others. The church of Antioch takes center stage as it sends out missionaries to the world. As Paul, Barnabas, & Mark (John Mark), travel on Paul’s first missionary trip they come upon Bar-Jesus, a false prophet. Paul denounces the false prophet & shows God is far more powerful than any of Satan’s evil agents. Here, we also read of Mark desertion from Paul & Barnabas…we will discuss this matter later on. They arrive to Pisidian Antioch (Not the same Antioch in the beginning) and preach first to the Jews & then to the Gentiles. However, the Jews became jealous & ran them out of the region…but we see that did not hinder the growth of Christians in that region.
Regarding application…Facing Opposition. Vs. 50, “…They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” Where God plants prophets, Satan will plant false ones. Jesus himself would share this point from the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). Satan sows seeds of weed among the wheat. Do not ever be suprised or shaken when you face opposition for serving & walking for the Lord. Remember, consider it an honor if you are persecuted because it means Satan sees you as a threat…and that is a very good thing =) Notice that Satan used “religious” people this time, not just false prophets. These are religious people who persecute in the very name of Christ, yet are agents of Satan. But the opposition would not stop Paul & the others because they were filled with the Holy Spirit & had the energy & power to continue on!
Vs. 2, “He (Herod) had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.” Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, was like the rest of his family…murderes. King Herod was a Edomite a descandant of Esau…James was a descandant of Jacob. James would be the first Aposlte martryed. Satan went after the inner circle of the apostles with James & Peter. Question: What kept Peter from meeting the same fate? One, God has a unique purpose for each person…Two, the power of prayer. We then read of Herod’s fate & God’s wrath! The people worshipped Herod and honored him, and God would not allow such pride to continue. The great Herod is struck down while God’s Word multiplied! Let us never fear evil & the men & women who share in it. The day of judgment is sooner than we realize.
Regarding application…Power of Prayer. Vs. 5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” We constantly are reminded that we must pray as Christians, but I wonder if we truly believe in its power. Take the example we read in this chapter…Peter shows up at the house of Mary’s the mother of John Mark where a bunch of followers were praying for Peter. Question: Did they respond with faith when the little girl ran to tell them Peter was there? No! Why? Because there was still a certain amount of unbelief. Yet, God would honor their prayers. Do you know what the means for us? We don’t have to be perfect in our prayers to honor God and for God to answer them. There are going to be times when we pray with doubt. There are going to be times when we pray with heavy hearts. Yet, God honors our prayers anyway. God is sufficient…we are insufficient. That is why we must pray. Even when all seems impossible. James had just been slain…to the followers, Peter was sure to be next. Yet, they did not give up in their prayers. They did no sulk & feel sorry for themeselves. They understood even with a certain amount of unbelief…that they MUST pray. They were compelled to pray by the power of the Holy Spirit. Brothers & sisters in Christ…Let us pray.