The Jerusalem Council, AD 49-50

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 45

The Jerusalem Council, part one

Acts 15:1-11

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer

4     Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.

  1. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  2. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  3. The apostle/missionaries return to their home base, the church at Antioch of Syria.
  4. “Some men from Judea” arrive from the Jerusalem church—these are Jewish Christians, sometimes known as Judaizers, who are convinced Gentiles must conform to the laws of Moses, beginning with circumcision, in order to receive salvation.
  5. Notice Paul and Barnabas had ”no small dissension and debate” with them. All was not peaceful and wonderful in the early church, and nothing has changed since then.
  6. Paul and Barnabas, along with others, are commissioned to go to Jerusalem to settle the issue.
  7. The two travelled south toward Jerusalem and visited “brothers” in Phoenicia and Samaria indicating churches were already established in those areas by AD 49.
  8. In Jerusalem, the “apostles and elders” welcomed them; Paul and Barnabas then described their missionary tour and the conversion of Gentiles.
  9. The “party of the Pharisees” interjected that these Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.
  10. The leaders of the Jerusalem church then convened to consider the matter. Peter spoke about his being called to Gentiles (Cornelius) and present the Gospel to him and other Gentiles. Peter also witnessed the working of the Holy Spirit coming upon those Gentiles.
  11. Peter sees no reason to place the yoke of the law upon them.

 

Paul & Barnabas at Lystra and Paul Stoned at Lystra

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 44

Acts 14:8-23

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra & Paul Stoned at Lystra

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From Iconium the missionaries travel some 90 miles to Lystra, a city in the province of Galatia.
  7. A man who had never walked is healed; Paul somehow saw, or realized he had been healed, was being healed, or would be healed. Paul asked the man to stand. He did and the viewers were shocked and impressed. They thought the gods had visited them, Zeus and Hermes. (Roman Jupiter & Mercury.)
  8. The citizens of Lystra though it right to honor these gods who had become men. The priests sought to offer sacrifices.
  9. Paul & Barnabas, likely at first misunderstanding the Lycaonian (Latin) language, rushed to halt the process.
  10. Paul uses the event as an opportunity to preach. This Graeco-Roman audience is not prepared to hear of the great O.T. themes so Paul speaks about General Grace or God’s care of humans by way of the natural order. He does the same at Athens and speaks of it in Romans 1:18-23.
  11. “Walk in their own ways” (verse 16) and “overlooked” in Acts 17:30 is in sharp distinction with Romans 1:18-23)—or so it would seem. The answer to this lies in the mystery of God.
  12. Those who would repress the preaching of Jesus arrived from Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium. Paul is then “stoned” and whether to death or not is not known. Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 11:25—“Once I was stoned.”
  13. Back the apostles go through the cities where they had preached the Gospel. Very courageous journey indeed!
  14. In the very young churches they appointed elders to care for the congregants. Thus an historical precedent is set.

 

Acts 14:1-7, Paul & Barnabas at Iconium

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 43

Acts 14:1-7

Paul and Barnabas at Iconium

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Rather than retreat after their experience at Antioch of Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas head 90 miles east to Iconium.
  7. Again they visit a synagogue and proclaim Jesus; many Jews and Greeks believe.
  8. As usual there is opposition, underscoring the reality that what one believes and identifies with will not go unchallenged.
  9. Luke does not detail what the persecutors did exactly, but he does report that the “minds” of the Gentiles were “poisoned.” Luke, the physician, uses a word that describes a very potent, even dangerous influence.
  10. Then Luke says, “So they remained for a long time” when it would be expected Paul and Barnabas might go elsewhere.
  11. “Speaking boldly”—courageous at minimum and driven by love for those lost without a Savior. Their main theme was the “word of his grace.”
  12. The “granting” of “signs and wonders”—“by their hands”— we wish we had more information. Were these healings? Were hands laid on? Luke assumes the reader understands.
  13. Division was developing, some sided with the apostles while others were against them. Things have not changed from that day to this, which creates a tension, at minimum, for those who preach the Gospel message.
  14. Once the political rulers become involved, the way is clear for the mistreatment of the apostles. Indeed it is now possible to stone them to death.
  15. Paul and Barnabas hear of the plot against them and escape.
  16. They travel south to Lystra, then east to Derbe. As they go they continue to preach the Gospel throughout the region.

Paul & Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia, part 3 Acts 13:44-52

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 42

Paul & Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia, part 3

Acts 13:44-52

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. The second Sabbath many from the city came to the synagogue to hear more from the missionaries.
  7. However, opposition from some fellow Jews was inevitable. Both the message and messengers were attacked since so very much was at stake.
  8. Paul and Barnabas countered their opponents boldly stating that the consequences of rejecting the message is of upmost concern, to the point of
  9. It was, and is, necessary that the message of Messiah’s salvation be presented to the Jews first, then secondly to the Gentiles. (see Romans 1:16)
  10. Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6 to show the necessity of presenting the Word of the Lord to Gentiles.
  11. The Gentiles in the crowd rejoiced to hear this and many of these are now converted, those that were appointed to believer. Here we encounter the Biblical doctrine of election.
  12. An awakening is under way now and the “word of the Lord” spread throughout the region.
  13. The missionary’s enemies persuaded women God-fearers to apply political pressure upon the Gospel preachers. These women were likely connected to Roman officials.
  14. Paul and Barnabas are “expelled” from the area and as a result “shook the dust off their feet” as a sign of both regret and judgment to follow. (see Luke 9:1-5)
  15. The “disciples” Luke says indicating that indeed some are now believing in Jesus as Messiah and Savior, born again of the Holy Spirit and with the joy of salvation.

 

Paul & Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia, part 2

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 41

Paul & Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia part 2

Acts 13:34-43

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Now the second phase of the Paul’s first missionary journal: the apostles are in a synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (modern day Turkey), Paul is invited to speak. After recounting a brief history of God’s dealings with Israel Paul moves to the work of Jesus.
  7. Paul’s focus is on the crucifixion and resurrection. For Jew and Gentile alike, how could it be that the Messiah would die the death of a criminal and this on a Roman cross. But this death, Paul points out, was prophesied.
  8. Now the resurrection, and Paul quotes passages from Psalm 16 and Isaiah 55 that point to resurrection.
  9. This established Paul goes to the heart of the matter: forgiveness of sin. Jews knew well that God is holy and no sin may be in His presence. Thus sin must be atoned for and this Jesus did once for all on the cross. That which is horrible beyond imagination becomes the very instrument of God for the forgiveness of sin. This incredible event and truth is the point of Habakkuk 1:5.
  10. The synagogue congregation is so struck by the message they “begged” the missionaries to return next Sabbath day.
  11. After the service many Jews and devout Gentiles were “following” Paul and Barnabas, wanting to hear more.
  12. Luke does not tell us whether any of these who wanted more from the apostles were born again or not. But when they urged these to “continue in the grace of God” may well indicate that true conversion was in place.
  13. That one sermon in the synagogue was just the beginning.

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia, part 1

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 40

Acts 13:13-33

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia, Part 1

  1. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  2. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  3. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  4. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  5. This the second leg of the first missionary journey; from Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas, sail northeast to Antioch of Pisidia in the Roman province of Galatia. John Mark, for reasons not explained, returns home to Jerusalem.
  6. “To the Jew first” is Paul’s methodology proven by his entering a synagogue to begin the ministry in Antioch.
  7. After the traditional call to worship, some prayers recited, and Scripture read, Paul would have stood at the Bema or pulpit to deliver the early kerygma preaching points.
  8. Politely and clearly Paul addresses his audience, made up of Both Jews and Gentile God-fearers. Paul proceeds to present the time honored account of God’s dealings with those he had called out, His chosen ones.
  9. The focus of the message goes to King David, a man after God’s own heart, who would do His will. The major point is that from David’s offspring, God has brought forth a Savior, namely Jesus. (No need to say, Jesus of Nazareth as the hearers must have know of whom Paul spoke).
  10. Paul speaks of John the Baptist, whom so many regarded as a prophet, who pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. Yet the rulers did not recognize Him.
  11. Then there is the recounting of the betrayal and the role that the Romans played. Jesus is crucified and is buried.
  12. But, God raised Him from the dead and He Appeared to many over a period of days.

Paul and Barnabas are then messengers of Good News; God has fulfilled what He had promised to the fathers.

Gospel Meditation # 39

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 39

Acts 13:1-12

Barnabas & Saul Sent Off & Barnabas & Saul on Cyprus

 

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Barnabas and Saul, having completed their mission to Jerusalem (relief from the famine), are back at their home base, Antioch.
  7. Luke lists the “prophets and teachers” at the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene,, Nanaen, and Saul.
  8. While “worshipping and fasting” the Holy Spirit directs the church to set Barnabas and Saul aside for a “work” they have been “called” to.
  9. After prayer and fasting then, these two first to be designated as missionaries are sent off.
  10. From Antioch they set off for Seleucia, the port city of Antioch, 10 miles to the east, from which they board a ship for Cyprus. Barnabas is from this Mediterranean island.
  11. They arrive at Salamis, a major city, and go directly to the Jewish synagogue where they “proclaimed the word of God.” (We note “word” is from the Greek Logos.)
  12. Luke is careful to point out that John, otherwise known as John Mark, is with the missionaries.
  13. In Paphos the trio come across a sorcerer or magician name Bar-Jesus, a Jewish false prophet, who had somehow connected with the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulos, who wanted to hear their “word of God” message.
  14. Elymas (name means magician), or Bar-Jesus, oppose the preachers. Saul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, causes Elymas to go blind. Seeing the miracle, the proconsul becomes a believer.

Peter is Rescued & The Death of Herod

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 38

Peter is Rescued & The Death of Herod

Acts 12:6-25

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Peter, in prison and to be executed the next day, is woken by

     an angel, chains binding Peter are broken and fall off him, and Peter is lead out of the prison

by the angel.

  1. Peter thought at first he had merely seen a vision while

asleep. Finding himself on the street alone, he proceeds to the place where the church is praying for him.

  1. The place of the prayer meeting is the home of Mary, the

mother of John, whose other name is Mark. This home is

likely the place where the Passover/Last Supper was taken.

  1. Answering Peter’s knocking at the door is a servant girl

named Rhoda. She knew Peter’s voice, and in her excitement

she rushes in the tell the rest Peter is at the door. For unknown reasons she does not open the door.

  1. Rhoda is not believed; rather the church people think she

is delusional.

  1. Rhoda, however, was insistent and Peter kept knocking at

the door. Finally they do find it is Peter after all and Peter

then tells everyone of his miraculous escape.

  1. Peter, concluding his story, wants the account of events told

to “James and the brothers.” This James is the half brother of

Jesus, who had emerged as the head of the early church in

Jerusalem and is the author of the letter of James.

  1. Peter now goes into hiding at an undisclosed location. Herod tried to find him but to no avail. And according to Roman law, the jail keepers guarding Peter are put to death.

This Herod Agrippa I, thinking more highly of himself than he ought, dies a miserable death

some short time later.

Gospel Meditation, #37 James Killed and Peter Imprisioned

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 37

Acts 12:1-5

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. “Herod the king” a son of Herod the Great, ruled much of Palestine from A.D.41-44, was unscrupulous and did all he could to please the Roman emperors, Caligula and Claudius.
  8. He set about to persecute the Church and did so violently, thus demonstrating his political and religious convictions were weak.
  9. James was the older brother of John, the Beloved Disciple. The family name was Zebedee and they were fishermen. James and John were among the first followers of Jesus going back to the days of John the Baptist. (see Matthew 14:18-20)
  10. Herod would do anything to retain political power so he killed James “with the sword” and it is uncertain how the execution was carried out.
  11. The event pleased the “Jews” and this is in reference to the religious Jews, the Sanhedrin, who watched with horror no doubt, the growth of the numbers of followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.
  12. These events took place during the high holy days, the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. (see Leviticus 23:3-8)
  13. Wanting to further ingratiate himself with the Jewish community, Herod proceeded to imprison Peter who was a prominent leader amongst the Christians.
  14. “Four squads of soldier”—Herod would take no chances with Peter, who had escaped from a Roman prison before. (see Acts 5:17-21)
  15. The plan was to have Peter presented to the people, in a public display, at the time of Passover. This is, of course, is exactly what happened to Jesus.

The Church in Antioch

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 36

Acts 11:19-30

The Church in Antioch

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. This portion of Acts occurred without the church in Jerusalem knowning anything about Peter and Cornelius.

8,    We return now to the events following the death of Stephen. Believers were scattered about and in Antioch, the third most important city in the Roman Empire, the Jewish missionaries preached to Gentiles, a great number of whom were saved.

  1. News of this reached Jerusalem and the church sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he saw what the Lord had done, he was glad. This is one of the most significant and world changing events in history.
  2. While Barnabas was there, a great many more were “added to the Lord.” Barnabas, seeing the need for these new followers of Jesus to be discipled, heads north to Tarsus to find Paul and after doing so brings him to Antioch. (Antioch of Syria, is now part of Lebanon.)
  3. A whole year, Luke tells us, the two spent working with the Gentile believers; they “taught a great many people.”
  4. It was in Antioch where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” and the term essentially means, “belonging to Christ.”
  5. For unknown reasons, “prophets” came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, and one was named Agabus.
  6. This introduces something that is not clearly understood in terms of who prophets were and what function they occupied in the church. Here Agabus, who will be encountered in Acts 21:1-14, announces that a famine will come upon the world. History gives us a time period given for the famine, “in the days of Claudius” who ruled Rome from A.D. 41-54. It is thought the time period here would be about A.D. 44.
  7. Interesting to note that in Acts 21 Paul disregarded the prophesy of Agabus. But the church at Antioch acted on the word from Agabus and sent relief money to Jerusalem, which resulted in Barnabas and Paul traveling to Jerusalem, another significant historical event.