What’s happened so far in Acts? – Well the young church has grown by preaching the life and teaching of Jesus, by doing good works, by healing, miracles and growing a loving community. The Temple priests have tried unsuccessfully to discredit Peter and John, they had Stephen killed, and Saul started persecuting the followers however he was converted and as Paul then became a target himself. Authority was first given to Peter to outreach to the Gentiles. As the followers fled away from Jerusalem they set up churches and in Antioch followers accepting gentiles into their church. Barnabas was asked to take on its leadership and he brought in Paul to help. Herod has the apostle James killed, and when Herod is declared a god and accepts the praise he dies. The first mission to Jews and gentiles in Cyprus and Turkey was led by Barnabas and Saul
Talk Session 10 Acts 14- 15
In Iconium 14:1-7 Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time at Iconium (I-co-de-m) speaking boldly for the Lord, they performed signs and wonders and a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. Those Jews who refused to believe stirred up trouble which divided the people and a plot was made to stone the two apostles, but finding out about it they fled to Lystra and Derbe where they continued to preach the gospel.
How would the people we know react if we were to do signs and wonders? Some would believe but some would not accept what happened as being true so what should our reaction be when people not only disbelieve but react badly against us, well Jesus told them the truth if they didn’t want to know then he moved on. The basic cause of arguments are wanting others to think or do as we want and it seems that every page of the Bible is covered with disagreements. When challenged, people defend their situation thinking the other must be wrong. When Barnabas and Paul could not convert people they moved on to new cities.
In Lystra and Derbe 14:8-20 In Lystra a lame man from birth was listening and Paul looking directly at him, seeing he had the faith to be healed he called to him, “Stand up on your feet!” the man jumped up and began to walk. The crowd shouted “The gods have come down to us in human form!” They called Barnabas, Zeus and Paul, Hermes because he was the chief speaker. When the apostles heard this, they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, we are only human, bringing you good news, of the living God, who made heaven, earth and the sea and everything in them.” But they still had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Barnabas and Paul didn’t want to be seen as special and put on a pedestal it becomes difficult when some leaders like that situation, when the adulation goes to their head and they start interpreting The Bible in their own way. These are the people who have given Religion and Christianity such a bad reputation. We need to beware of anyone who tries using God’s Word as a tool for their own advancement.
Paul looked at the lame man and saw he had faith to be healed. so can a person be healed who hasn’t the faith and the answer is yes. We know Jesus healed from a distance and the people didn’t know they were being healed; Peter’s mother-in-law, The Soldier’s servant, Canaanite woman’s daughter, Malchus’ ear, and also when Peter healed the Beggar at the temple.
Plus we have examples of the people who effectively were healed by their own faith. The woman’s bleeding who just wanted to touch Jesus’ robe, a blind man, then we have the sick healed by being laid so Peter’s shadow would pass over them. Jesus tells us if we have faith we will receive what we ask for. In having belief things can be done, but often our fear overcomes our faith.
Opposition 14:21 However Jews who had come from Antioch and Iconium (I-co-de-m) won over the crowd and they stoned Paul, thinking he was dead, they dragged him outside the city. When the disciples found him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Studying Acts we can wonder how fickle crowds are, how one moment words can turn people from one direction to the exact opposite. Whatever augments we hear there is one over-riding rule to look out for we must beware of anyone who isn’t demonstrating God’s ways in what they do. The fundamental command is to love God and your neighbour, now the Jews knew this so why did the Jewish leaders, including Saul to begin with act in the way they did, why were they so opposed to Jesus and his followers.
The answer in why they acted as they did can be found in Deuteronomy 13:1-5
If a prophet, announces a sign or wonder, and it happens, then the prophet says, “Let us follow and worship other gods,” you mustn’t listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow and revere, keeping his commands, obeying, serving and holding fast to him. That prophet must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. Prophets who try to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded are evil and must be killed.
So we see those Jews from Antioch were doing exactly what Saul had done, believing that Jesus was not the Messiah, for he was putting himself up as a God. They imposed their beliefs without fully testing them against God’s commands for Jesus came to bring God’s definitive Word to the Jews. It was the priests thinking only they were the only ones who could know God’s ways and so they didn’t believe him after all how could a carpenter from the back end of Galilee know better than them? Although Jesus only taught to follow and worship The One God, he seemed to the priests to do things which to their beliefs were against Gods laws, plus to them, he certainly didn’t conform to who they thought the Messiah would be
From the start when John The Baptist told everyone that Jesus was The Son of God which was followed by Jesus challenged the priests way of life saying they were hypocrites, that they didn’t understand God’s laws, didn’t even practice what they preached, were greedy, self-indulgent, neglectful and were Children of Hell The priests wanted to discredit Jesus. He taught God’s laws differently from them and he didn’t keep to their strict laws.
The Jewish leadership wanted to stop Paul telling people about Jesus, however just imagine the reaction of those people in Lystra when Paul walked back into the city for they thought him stoned to death.
The Return to Antioch in Syria 14:21-end In Derbe, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel and many were converted. Returning to churches they appointed elders then with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord. Encouraging all to remain true to the faith, explaining hardships must be endured to enter the kingdom of God, reporting all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. They stayed there a long time with the disciples.
Each church needed to be built up, and then re-visited to strengthen them and help them grow. It was far too easy for those early Christians to move in the wrong direction since as there was no Bible it was all taught by word of mouth and they had very few first hand witnesses of Jesus’ life and teachings. Yet the church grew, it grew because the followers knew their leaders were demonstration God’s Spirit with the understanding that life for them was not going to be easy.
The Council at Jerusalem 15:1-21 People came to Antioch and taught that to be saved believers had to be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas disputed this and were appointed to go to the elders in Jerusalem. The believers associated with the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the Law of Moses.” After much discussion, Peter spoke: “God gave Gentiles the opportunity to hear the message of the gospel and believe. God accepted them, giving them the Holy Spirit and purified their hearts by faith. Let us not put upon Gentiles a yoke that our ancestors have not been able to bear. We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Then the assembly listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles. When they finished, James gave his judgement, “God used Peter to reach out to the Gentiles and he gave us the prophecy: ‘He’ll return and rebuild David’s fallen tent so all mankind may seek the Lord, therefore we shouldn’t create obstacles for Gentiles who are turning to God.
The key to this is that Paul recognised the Jews couldn’t keep to God’s Laws, a person cannot be saved by living to the law, they are saved by faith in Jesus. This together with that prophecy from Amos, James was able to give a judgement. This does not mean it doesn’t matter what we do, providing we have faith
As James writes, the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
John quotes Jesus stating, I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me and for God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Those accepting Jesus is the only way to God, need also to live to his ways, not to just the written rules which God knows we can’t live by but rather to the Word of God that lives within our hearts and is nurtured by God’s Spirit
Every person who truly seeks God will be acceptable to him, this is a fundamental change, for now anyone who truly wants to know God can come to Him and have a relationship with him through His Holy Spirit. Not live to man-made laws but instead to be guided by God’s Word and this is achieved by following the teaching of Jesus and accepting him as Lord.
The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers 15:22-34 The apostles sent a letter to the Gentile believers to be delivered by Judas, Silas, Barnabas and Paul, all were to confirm this message saying, ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
In those days it was common for gentiles to have different idols in their homes and this instruction was to discourage them from using them and acknowledge them as gods. Jews don’t eat blood as God told them it is a bodies life force and not to be eaten, they don’t eat meat from strangled animals since it’s an inhuman way of killing. Sexual immorality is likely to damage body and the mind and therefore the soul. By the way have you noticed how it was Barnabas who took Paul under his wing, however doing their missionary work, travelling and preaching together, things are about to change
Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas 15:35-end Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. After some time Paul asked Barnabas to visit with him the believers in the towns where they had preached to see how they were doing.”
Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul didn’t since Mark hadn’t continued with them in their work, after a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, Paul chose Silas and left to go through Syria and Cilica strengthening the churches. (Cilica is now known as south west Turkey)
How true to life the bible is, people argue and go their separate ways. Even two senior men of the early church and it was over something seemingly quite minor. We all have had arguments and we do need to resolve them if we can, yet Paul was not prepared to forgive Mark for not completing an earlier mission. We can expect that like most disagreements there must be more to this than we can know. Out of it come two missions instead of one. After some time Paul changed, we know for he came to better understand the need for forgiveness and love for he wrote in Colossians:-
Colossians 3:12-14 As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.