The Conversion of Lydia & Paul and Silas in Prison

Gospel Meditation #49

The Conversion of Lydia & Paul and Silas in Prison

Acts 16:11-24

  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. Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy arrive in Europe, and stay in the Macedonian city of Philippi. They hear of and then visit a place of prayer (evidently no synagogue in the city) by a river on a Sabbath day.
  7. The missionary/evangelists speak to a group of women gathered there. One of them, Lydia from a prominent city, Thyatira (modern day Turkey and one of the 7 cities of the Book of Revelation) has her heart opened by the Lord.
  8. She is baptized, probably in that river, and also her household. (We have no details about the nature of the household.)
  9. She invites the apostolic team to her home; Paul and company eventually agree to do so.
  10. Fortune telling, divination, common in that era as centuries before, comes into view. A “slave girl” who makes big money for her handlers, follows the preachers and announce what sounds like an honorable and exalted spiritual authority and message. But Paul is annoyed.
  11. At some point, Paul commands the python spirit indwelling the slave girl to come out of her. It does.
  12. The result is she can no longer tell fortunes. Normally she would give knowledge of something in a person’s past thereby setting up a divination, which would be expensive.
  13. Now her handlers are upset and seek to punish Paul and Silas. They are stripped, beaten with rods, and cast into a maximum security part of a prison. There feet in stocks, they cannot even move.

 

The Birth of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:18-25

GOSPEL MEDITATION

The Birth of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:18-25

  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.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Only Matthew and Luke give us the story of the birth of Jesus.
  8. Matthew’s account is steeped in Jewish thinking; Luke has an historical rendering that is written for the Graeco-Roman world.
  9. For Matthew, the birth of Jesus took place to fulfill the statements made by the prophets concerning the Messiah. Luke places the story in actual time and space.
  10. The Savior of the world is actually and miraculously born of a woman in a real place.
  11. Caesar Augustus (ruled 31BC to AD14) was emperor in Rome and Quirinius was governor of Syria. In 5 or 6 BC, Mary & Joseph arrive in Bethlehem to obey Roman law.
  12. Mary, nine months pregnant, made the arduous journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth.
  13. She gives birth to her first child. The birth place was perfect for them: it was private, warm, dry, away from disturbances, and safe. Jesus has a good start in life and Mary and Joseph can enjoy the great moment. The Father has seen to everything.

 

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas & The Macedonian Call

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 48

The Book of Acts # 48 Acts 16:1-10

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas & The Macedonian Call

  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.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Timothy, his mother Eunice is Jewish; his father Greek. (Origen says they lived in Derbe.) He had not been circumcised. Paul reasons he needed to be however in light of the future ministry. (see Galatians 6:15) In that part of the world, there was a large Jewish presence.
  8. The trio of Paul, Silas, and Timothy visit the churches from the first missionary journey some years earlier.
  9. It was important to relay to the new churches the “decrees” made by the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem Church.
  10. Consult a map of Paul’s missionary tours at this point. There are points that are unclear, but most commentators think the trio headed northwest but the Holy Spirit, for reasons not known, did not want them to evangelize in that western part of Asia. At Mysia, they intended to advance northeast but Jesus did not allow that.
  11. The three then went off to Troas, where Luke probably joined them, and in the night Paul had a vision, in the Greek an arama, whereby Paul saw a man of Macedonia, the northern part of Greece, calling them to them for help.
  12. It was then concluded that God wanted them to preach the Gospel there.

 

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers & Paul and Barnabas Separate, Acts 15:22-41

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 47

The Jerusalem Council, part two-Acts 15:22-41

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers &

Paul and Barnabas Separate

  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 Jerusalem Church sends Barnabas and Paul back to their home church in Antioch. Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas go along as well.
  4. These will deliver the letter describing the decision James made in regard to receiving Gentiles into fellowship.
  5. The letter acknowledges that there were those from the Jerusalem church who had “troubled” them and their letter now seeks to address the issues about Gentile believers.
  6. James writes, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” which goes unexplained but which we would love to understand.
  7. Then James gives the four areas under consideration, but it is in a different order than what we find in 15:20. Again, there is no accounting for the difference. Commentators have varying opinions on this point, which is minor anyway.
  8. The church in Antioch, after hearing the letter read, rejoiced as a result. These had experienced true conversion, knew Jesus was Savior and Lord, and likely were concerned they would be required to obey the laws of Moses.
  9. After a time, Judas and Silas return to Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabas remain in Antioch teaching and preaching the word (Logos) in Greek.
  10. A second missionary tour is considered but Paul declines to take Barnabas’s cousin Mark with them. This results in a (temporary) parting of the ways.

The Jerusalem Council, part two, Acts 15:12-21

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 46

The Jerusalem Council, part two

Acts 15:12-21

  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. Peter recounts the Holy Spirit being given to Cornelius,

a Gentile, who was saved in the same manner they were.

  1. Silence came upon the church at Jerusalem. Then Paul

and Barnabas speak of the conversion of Gentiles also.

  1. James, the half brother of Jesus, who has risen to a place

of authority in the Jerusalem Church, makes a statement.

  1. James, referencing Peter (Simeon), admits that God has

visited the Gentiles, a truly revolutionary understanding.

  1. James quotes Amos 9:11-12 which talks about “Gentiles

who are called by my name.” The prophet Amos points to

the inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God.

  1. James then makes a judgment, based apparently on what the

church is coming to acknowledge, that Gentiles will be

welcomed in, but with certain considerations to be met.

  1. Gentiles are not to be troubled but a letter should be written

that outlines four things they should abstain from: one, things

polluted by idols; two, sexual immorality; three, what has been

strangled; four, blood.

  1. His reasoning is that from ancient times Moses, the Law of

Moses, is read every Sabbath in synagogues.

  1. Commentators think the reason for this is that Jews and Gentiles

might then be able to have fellowship together and there not be a

separate “branch” of Christianity.

  1. The meanings of the four items mentioned by James are not

easily interpreted or understood.

 

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.