Highlights in Acts-Chapter 12
Around that same time, Herod, the king went after certain in the church. He ".…killed James, the brother of John with the sword." (From Verse 2). When he realized that it pleased the Jews, he went after Peter also (during the days of unleavened bread). Peter was arrested and put in prison. He was guarded by four quaternions of soldiers. If I understand it right, this amounted to eight sets of four soldiers each, working in three hour shifts. Two soldiers were chained to Peter and two stood guard outside the cell. Herod planned to bring him out to the people after Easter and probably have him put to death. "….but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." (From Verse 5). The night before Peter was to have been brought forth, guess what he was doing. Can you believe it? He was sleeping! He was between two soldiers and bound with chains. What happened next was beyond astonishing! An angel appears on the scene, a light shone in the prison, Peter was jarred awake by a poke in his side by the angel, and his chains fell off! After that Peter is told to get himself ready. He did. (God expects us to do what we are able to do. God acts for us in the things we cannot do). Next, Peter is instructed to put his outer garment around him and follow the angel. All the while, he thought it was a vision. The two passed through two wards, came to the gates which opened supernaturally, and Peter found himself alone in the street. It finally dawned on him that an angel has just engineered the most amazing jailbreak in all of history. When he came to his senses, he gave the credit for his release to God. Selah! This was amazing and needed for that occasion. Nevertheless, prayer is God's means for accomplishing far more than we imagine. Ron Do return tomorrow to see how this event continues to unfold.
Highlights in Acts-Chapter 11
This fascinating chapter climaxes with the visit of some prophets from Jerusalem to the church in Antioch. One of their number, a man by the name of Agabus, stood up (apparently in their assembly) and spoke. He "….signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world." (From Verse 28). This happened, as predicted, in the days of Claudius Caesar. After the church heard about this coming time of distress, they "…. determined to send relief to the brethren which dwelt in Judea." (From Verse 29). Every man did this according to his ability. It would be easy to skim over this report, without noticing that these at Antioch (which were mostly Gentiles) were sending help to Jewish brethren. When people love the Lord, they love the brethren, regardless of race. It is also worth noting two other things: First, they sent it to the Elders. The Elders were the Pastors and, being servant leaders charged with the care of the flock, it was appropriate to do this. Instead of a majority vote on the use of the help, the Elders were trusted with the responsibility. Secondly, Barnabas and Saul were to take the help to Jerusalem. The use of Saul shows us that he had fully won the trust and respect of the saints at Antioch. Grace received leads to grace extended! Selah! Saul had gone from being a destroyer of the church to being an instrument for the blessing of it and the building of it. How far have we come since we were saved? Ron
Tomorrow, Lord willing, we want to examine what may be the most unusual jailbreak of all times. Why not plan to be here for another exciting adventure in the spreading of the Gospel?
Highlights in Acts-Chapter 11
Those who cherished the rite of circumcision, and who undoubtedly considered themselves bettert than others who were uncircumcised and who also viewed themselves as defenders of their religion, challenged Peter. What was the meaning of his "hobnobbing" with Gentiles? How could he do such a thing? Peter then gives a detailed account of the remarkable way that God worked in all involved in this outpouring of His grace. To their credit, they believed Peter and "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying 'Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.'" (Verse 18). Next, Luke records that those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled some distance, including to Antioch. As they had opportunity, they preached but only to Jews. Some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, when they came to Antioch, preached Jesus to the Grecians. "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord" (Verse 21). The news reached the church in Jerusalem and Barnabas was sent to check this out. Barnabas was thrilled and exhorted these new converts to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. Barnabas was a Spirit filled man and a man of faith. He led many to the Lord while on this trip. Barnabas left and went to Tarsus for the purpose of finding Saul. When he located him, they came back to Antioch together and spent a year being involved in the church there and teaching many people. Then follows an interesting statement: "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (From Verse 26). Selah! It was said as a term of derision but the disciples considered it "a badge of honor!" Do we? Ron
Highlights in Acts-Chapter 10
While Peter is thinking about the vision, the men sent from Cornelius arrive at Simon the tanner's home and inquire if Peter is residing in his house. While this is going on, the Holy Spirit informs Peter of their presence and directs Peter to go down and go with them. Can you imagine the neighbors watching? "Gentiles being received by Peter!? He's going somewhere with them? This is unthinkable!" Nevertheless, Peter went and entered Cornelius' home. Would he have done that, had there been no vision? It's highly doubtful. Peter took others with him and when they entered, Cornelius' family and close friends were present. Cornelius knelt to worship Peter but Peter stopped him and reminded him that he, Peter, was only a man. After a discussion of how this meeting came about, Peter launched into a sermon, which included his realization "….that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him." (From Verses 34-35). Peter then went on to bear witness of Jesus and His resurrection and to preach the Gospel. The results: "….the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the Word." (From Verse 44). Those of the circumcision, those that came with Peter, were astonished that this happened to the Gentiles. These new Christians spoke, supernaturally, in a language other than their own, a language likely to be the language of those with Peter. Peter proposed baptism which was done in the Name of Jesus. These Gentiles urged Peter to remain there with them for awhile. Peter apparently agreed and likely gave them some training and teaching. Selah! Step by step, inexorably, God was acting to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth, preparing and using human instruments, and is still doing that very thing today! Are we usable instruments today? Is He preparing us? Ron
Highlights in Acts-Chapter 10
In response to the angel's instructions, Cornelius called for "….two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa." (From Verses 7-8). The next day, as they came close to the city, Peter went to the housetop to pray. He was very hungry and from Luke's account, we surmise that Peter was ready to get something to eat. Before he could do anything, he fell into a trance and saw a vision of heaven opened. This vision was a unique vessel descending to the earth (like a great sheet knit at the four corners). This "sheet" was loaded with all kinds of "unclean" beasts (including wild beasts), fowls, and creeping things. Peter heard a voice saying,".…Rise, Peter; kill, and eat." (From Verse 13). Peter said something that was contradictory. He first said, "Not so…." Then, he added: "Lord…." (From Verse 14). If He is Lord, we don't say "no" to Him. If we say "no" then He is not being submitted to as Lord! Peter's objection was that he had never eaten anything common or unclean. This earned Peter a stern rebuke: "….the voice spake unto him again the second time, 'What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common'." (From Verse 15). Keep in mind that this is not a reason for us to eat any kind of unclean creature. God was using unclean creatures to make a point to Peter about people. This vision was shown three times. This suggests (three is the number of the Godhead) that God was impressing this upon Peter to prepare him for what follows next. While Peter is trying to figure out what the vision means, visitors arrive. What happens next is for tomorrow's article. Selah! When God reveals Truth from His Word, the correct response is to obey! Ron
Highlights in Acts-Chapter 10
Luke now chronicles an incident in the life of a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius. He was devout, feared God with all his house, was generous with the people, "….and prayed to God alway." He had, in a vision, a very unexpected visit from an angel of God. The angel told Cornelius that his prayers and alms "….are come up for a memorial before God…." (From Verse 4). God doesn't limit His love to just one racial group but extends it to all who will open their lives to Him. Then, this man is told to send for Peter (remember that Peter is in Joppa, not too far from here) and that he will come and instruct Cornelius in what he ought to do. Keep in mind that Jews did not enter despised Gentiles' homes. Would Peter come? What could convince him to do this? What would be the outcome? You won't want to miss it when Peter's tranquility is disturbed, and his world is turned "topsy-turvy." God is about to launch another phase of His ongoing acts to touch the lives of many, as His "good news" spreads. Selah! Never think that anyone might not ever receive God's offer. You never know! God's love is for the world! Is ours? Ron
Highlights in Acts-Chapter 9
Luke has shared the conversion and early days of Saul of Tarsus and while God is working with Saul, Luke shifts to a look at Peter in ministry. Peter is on the move. As he "….passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda…." (From Verse 32). There, a man by the name of AEneas, who has been bed-ridden for 8 years and suffered from palsy, was addressed by Peter in these words: "….AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole…." (From Verse 34). The man was cured and all those at Lydda and Saron saw him and they "….turned to the Lord." (From Verse 35). Nearby, in Joppa, a tragedy developed. A woman, whose name was Tabitha (who by interpretation was called Dorcas) and was noted for her good deeds, became sick and died. The disciples, aware that Peter was in the vicinity, dispatched two men to summon Peter to come and help. Praying for God's intervention, Peter spoke to her corpse and addressing her by name, he said, "….Tabitha, arise," (From Verse 40) and she did! Peter called the mourners to come and he presented her alive! This was known all through Joppa and many believed in the Lord. A sort of footnote follows: "And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon, a tanner." (Verse 43). There is fascinating significance in Peter's decision to stay with Simon, the tanner, for awhile. Selah! We tend to notice the wonderful healings. Understandable, but we also fail to notice much about the praying. We can see God work in and through us, in proportion to our reliance on Him. How God uses you is up to Him. Nevertheless, He honors believing, fervent prayer. Ron