Handout: Studies in the Book of Apostolic Acts

Journey in the Spiritual Unknown Dallas Willard Part 1 of 10

A handout for the course Studies in the Book of Apostolic Acts

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Table of contents

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A GENERAL OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF ACTS

I. The Divine Society or Community comes Within the Jewish Nation
The New Wine in the Old Bottle, before the bottle burst (Luke 5:37)
Jewish Christianity: Judaism’s Fullest, Christianity’s Oldest form

  1. The New—Supernatural and Spiritual—community formed within Judaism (Acts 1:1-3; 26).
  2. The Initial Jewish Resistance to the New Society of God
    The Struggle within Judaism, in the ministry at Jerusalem and to Jews only (Acts 4:1-6; 7).
  3. Persecution and Propagation. The Flight from Judaism
    “The blood of the martyrs as the seed of the church”
    Ministry outside of Jerusalem to Jews as well as to Gentiles (Acts 6:8-12; 25). The ‘Old Bottle’ bursts.

II. The Divine Community Moves its Center outside of Judaism
The Initial Attempt at a Divine Community without Cultural
Presuppositions of any Kind (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11)—New Bottles for the New Wine

  1. The “Christians” of Antioch (in Syria). (Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-2a)
  2. Paul and Barnabas separated and sent out to evangelize westward from the church at Antioch (Acts 13:2b-14; 28).
    (The 1st ‘Missionary’ Journey of Paul)
  3. The Council meeting at Jerusalem of 50 A.D. on the Momentous
    Question: Can people (males) with foreskins be saved? (Acts 15:1-35).
  4. Paul and Silas travel through Asia Minor and eastern Greece evangelizing (Acts 15:36-18:22)
    (The 2nd ‘Missionary’ Journey of Paul)
  5. Paul re-traverses the area previously covered with Silas, and—at some point—takes Luke as Companion (Acts 18:23-21:20).
    (The 3rd ‘Missionary’ Journey of Paul)
  6. Final rejection of God’s new way and community by the Jews (Acts 21:21-23:10)
  7. Paul and Luke go to Rome, the center of the Gentile world (Acts 23:11-28; 31)
    (The 4th ‘Missionary’ Journey of Paul)

FIRST LESSON: The Book of Apostolic Acts in the Plan of God for All of Mankind

  1. In the beginning God – The Maker of all things, who is a personal agency working for righteousness and joy in human history and society, and whose moral features are seen in Jesus Christ the reconciler of men to God. (Rom. 1:19-20; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:23-29; Psalm 19:1-4; II Cor. 4:6; John 1:9; 18.
  2. God’s Aim in History – The creation of an all-inclusive Community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant. (Isa. 11:9; Isa. 65:17-24; Habakkuk 2:14; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8; 10-12; Eph. 2:19-22).
  3. The World-Side Revelation of this Aim – An actual, historical event. With the appearance in India of the Upanishads (800 to 600 B.C.). Gautama, the Buddha (560 to 480 B.C.), and Mahavira (599 to 527 B.C.), of Confucius (551 to 479 B.C.) and Lao Tze (604 to 517 B.C.), in China, Zarathushtra (660 to 538 B.C.) in Persia, and the Pre-Exilic prophets (750 to 586 B. C.) in Israel, sacrifices, ceremonies, propitiations, and other externalities ceased to be enough to make up the religious life of man. In this period the principle of peace on earth to men of good will swept across the face of the earth. (Micah 6:6-8; Isa. 58:1-59; Isa 15; Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:6-11).
  4. The World-Wide Barrier to the Realization of this AimPride and Fear, complicated by the individuals relation to the Group or Culture (the “World”) and by the Spiritual Warfare (the “devil”) now in process, (Gen. 3:1-11; Gen 11:1-9; Acts 5:17-18; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 6:12).
  5. The Vocation of Jewish People in God’s Plan – To be the Divine/Human Community, which is God’s Aim in history (see #2), by dwelling in God and by bringing all nations in (Gen. 12:3; Micah 4:1-5; Ex. 20:1-17; Isa. 43:10-12; Isa. 44:1-8).
  6. The Failure of the Jewish Nation – By becoming just another, but still very special, social-natural unit.
    1. Mediators Called for (Ex. 20:18-26).
    2. Kings Called for (I Sam. 8:4-22)
    3. Rituals – later, Circumcision – as the principle of inclusion among the “saved” (see the book of Leviticus).
    4. The prophetic response (Hosea 6:6 and above passages).
    5. Destruction of the Jewish Nation-State, (Jerusalem) (II Chronicles 36:15-21; Lamentations 1:1-4).
  7. The Success of the Jewish Nation, in spite of itself, for God’s purposes – A social basis was prepared which was adequate for the reception of the Community (or Kingdom) of God. The “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) was come. A Divine/Human Community which did not rest on Pride and Fear could get its start in the ashes and cinders of the Jewish Nation, left by the killing of the best man by the best people, and by the physical destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
  8. Christ as the End of the Jewish Law and Nation. (Rom. 3:20-31: Rom. 10:1-4: Gal 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9: Acts 15:5-11).
  9. The Unity of God’s Community. (Psalm 119:63; Eph. 4:1-6; Gal. 3:28-29).
  10. The Book of Apostolic Acts in the Process of Holy History – This book shows acts of two main apostles – Peter and Paul – in the process of God’s deliverance of the Universal Community of God from its “Jewish Captivity.” The “administrative” headquarters of the community moves from Jerusalem, to Antioch, and finally to Rome in the course of the book of Acts. Galatians 6:14 is the heart of the message of Acts: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision counts for any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Yet, the lesson is not learned, as we now know the Community only moved from a Jewish captivity to a Roman or Christian captivity. The Jews came to be despised by the “Christians” just as the Jews despised Gentiles. We today find the way of Christ cumbered by what we may, in general, call the “Cultural Captivity of God’s community.” Who is willing to accept as an equal in the righteousness of God anyone who only “does justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God?” (Micah 6:8). They are always better if they are like us in ways other than these.

FIRST WEEK: THE KINGDOM COMES IN POWER

(Mark 9:1 & Acts 1:8: 2:2)
(Study Acts 1:1-2:13)

I. Last visible contact with the incarnate word with his Jewish followers (Acts 1:1-9).

  1. Luke and his mission (vss. 1-3).
  2. The final gathering (vss. 4-8).
    1. Final instructions (vss.4-5).
    2. The enduring error (vs. 6)

    ADDENDA:

    1 – Power without a kingdom. Note the contrast between kingdomless power and powerless kingdoms. We will see this juxtaposition throughout the book of Acts (vss. 7-8).

    2 – Where the kingdom is to come – your ‘neighbor’ hood. Compare this with today’s popular forms of evangelism.

  3. A final concession of the Logos to the limitations of his followers (cf. Phil. 2:8) (vs. 9).
  4. Why he had to go away – John 16:7
    From John the Baptist to Jesus to ha parakletos
    Christ no more known after the flesh – II Cor. 5:16

 

II. Life as viewed from a blind alley
Where the only way out is up—
Following the instructions of 2a (Acts 1:10-26).

  1. Assurance that Jesus is not done with them (vss. 10-12).
  2. The ‘upper room’ – what went on there (vss. 13-14).
  3. Selection of a replacement for Judas (vss. 15-26). Why and how this was done.
    ADDENDUM:
    The significance of the fact that God had finally found a people who would wait (vss. 4-5 & 2:1). Consider what it might mean for us to wait today—what form would it take?

III. Fountains opened in high places (Isa. 41:18). The kingdom comes in power (Acts 2:1-3; 26).

  1. The initial fact of the new presence (Acts 2:1-13).
    1. The posture of reception (vs. 1).
    2. Manifestation to sight and hearing (vss. 2-4).
    3. Response of non-participants to strange hearings (vss. 5:13).
    4. The nature of these ‘tongues.’

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For next week

  1. Study Acts 2:14-3:26
  2. Memorize John 16:7-8
  3. Begin reading Living Together

SECOND WEEK: THE NEW COMMUNITY OF GOD REACHES OUT IN POWER TO THE OLD JEWISH COMMUNITY

                                                     (Acts 2:14-3:26)

III. (Continued from last week)

  1. The initial fact of the new presence (Acts 2:1-13).
  2. Power to Witness (Acts 2:14-2:47).
    1. Peter explains the behavior of his fellows by reference to the promise of God by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:14-21).
    2. Peter charges the Jews with murdering their own Messiah (Acts 2:22-36).
      1. FACT—God commended Jesus by “wonders, portents and signs” which he did (vs. 22).
      2. FACT—The Jewish leaders murdered Jesus anyway (vs. 23).
      3. FACT—But Jesus arose from the dead (vss. 24 & 32).
      4. PROPHECY OF DAVID—
        That the Messiah shall rise from the dead (vss. 25-32)
        That the Messiah shall ascend to God’s place of power (his right hand) to work by his Spirit (vss. 33-35).
      5. CONCLUSION—
        The Jewish nation has become so opposed to God that it has killed the one (Jesus) whom God appointed to save it (vs. 36)
    3. The Spirit strikes home with Peter’s discourse (Acts 2:37-47).

      ADDENDA:

      The way by which popular forms of evangelism abrogate the work of the Spirit.
      1 – The work of the Spirit in Conviction (vs. 37 & John          16:8).
      2 – Man’s part in salvation—But ONLY after the Spirit has done His work (vss. 38-39).
      (i) Repent—The turn in the heart from my (our) way, governed by pride and fear, to God’s way (vs. 38).
      (ii) Be Baptized—A standard, well-understood way of showing forth repentance to others (ss. 38-41 and se Matt. 3:7-8 on connection between repentance and baptism).
      3 – The work of the Spirit after conviction and the appropriate human response—A life lived in God and in his New Society (vss. 38, 39, 42-47).
      ADDENDA:
      (i)The practical character of the New Society of God.
      –  The importance of their remaining together.
      –  The experiment of common sharing.
      (ii) The difference between first century Jewish culture and American Nuclear Families.
  3. Power to Heal for Blessing and for a Witness (Acts 3:1-3:26)
    1. The place of the Temple in the New Community (vss. 2:46 & 3:1-4).
    2. Kingdomless power heals a man lame from birth (vss. 5-10).
    3. Peter witnesses through the physical event (vss. 11-26)
      1. He disclaims any power or piety of his own did the healing (vss. 12-13a).
      2. He ascribes this miracle to Jesus the murdered one (vss. 13b-16).
      3. He acknowledges that God’s plan was fulfilled in the events of Jesus’ death, and that the Jews acted in ignorance (vss. 17-18).
      4. He tells how Jews may yet receive their Messiah (vss. 19-20).
      5. But not for the purposes of forming another little exclusive mutual appreciation club (vss. 21-26).

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For next week

  1. Study Acts 4:1-6:7
  2. Memorize Acts 4:12-14
  3. Begin reading Living Together

THIRD WEEK: JEWISH CHRISTIANITIY ATTACKED FROM WITHOUT AND FROM WITHIN

                                                     (Acts 4:1-6:7)

(Outline continued)

IV. The first attack by official Judaism and its effect on the new Community (Acts 4:1-37).

  1. The Sadducees offended at the teaching of the resurrection (vss. 1-4).
  2. The encounter with ‘officialdom’ (vss. 5-22).
    1. The human, worldly question, ‘Who are you in with?’ (vss. 5-7).
    2. Peter answers, ‘We’re in with Jesus, murdered and yet living, the only present Savior.’ (vss. 8-12).
    3. ‘Officialdom’ silenced by the fact of a supernatural presence and its manifest effect (vss. 13-22).

  3. The new Community rolls on in lives of praise to God (vss. 23-37).
    1. The place of the Temple in the New Community (vss. 2:46 & 3:1-4).
    2. In prayer of thanks for deliverance from ‘officials’ (vss. 23-31).
    3. In deeds of trust and love (vss. 32-37).

V. The first attack from within: Lying disciples (Acts 5:1-12).

  1. What Ananias and Sapphira did – Why they lied (vss. 1-3)
  2. What was wrong in their deed – pride and fear again (vss. 4 & 9).
  3. The effect of the truth upon Ananias and Sapphira (vss. 5-10).
    (Vindictiveness or Punishment not necessarily implied here)
  4. The effect of these events upon the Community of believers (vss. 11-12a).

    ADDENDUM:

    Why the experience of Acts 5:1-12 is not occurring today – “low voltage Christianity.”

VI. The Second Attack by Official Judaism and Its Effect (Acts 5:12 -42)

  1. Offense taken at the influence of he Apostles—Pride and envy or jealousy at work (vss. 12b-17) (see 13:45 & 17:5 as well as Matt. 27:8 & Mark 15:20).
  2. Imprisonment and angelic deliverance (vss. 18-20).
  3. Officialdom perplexed—Where are our prisoners? (vss. 21-25)
  4. Before the ‘Officials’ again (vss. 26-40).
    1. The complaint against the Apostles: Authority versus power, or the powerless kingdom versus kingdomless power (vss. 26-28).
    2. Peter:–When forced to choose, we obey God rather than men (vss. 29-32).
    3. The urge to Kill! Kill! Kill! (vs. 33, but see James 3:16).
    4. Gamaliel’s advice: God is able to manage his Kingdom, which is larger than our preconceptions (vss. 34-39, but see Matt. 15-12:14).
  5. The Apostles come off FLOGGED but FERVENT (vss. 40-42 but see also Phil. 1:29-30 as well as Acts 9:16 and I Peter 4:12-13 and II Tim. 3:12).

VII. The Second Attack from within: Racial and Cultural Discrimination (6:1-7).

  1. Old oppositions break out within the new Community: the Jews against the Greeks (vs. 1).
  2. The necessity of different sorts of ministries – Administrative means of resolving a spiritual problem (vss. 2-4).
  3. The qualifications of assistance or ‘Deacons’ (vss. 3 and I Tim. 3:12-13).
  4. The appointment process for deacons (vss. 5-6).
    ADDENDUM:
    Note: It was mainly Greeks who were appointed – they chose the deacons from the aggrieved party.
  5. Once again, the new Community rolls on! (vs. 7)

 

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For next week

  1. Study Acts 6:8-8:40
  2. Memorize Hebrews 12:1-4
  3. Begin reading Living Together

 

 

FOURTH WEEK: JEWISH PERSECUTION DRIVES THE NEW COMMUNITY TO THE GENTILES

(Acts 6:8-8:40)

(Outline continued)

VIII. Stephen Brings the Jewish Opposition to a Head (6:8-8:1).

  1. The Work of God through Stephen (vss. 8-10).
  2. The Charge against Stephen – He would change the customs (vss. 11-15).
  3. Stephen’s Indictment of the Nation of the Jews – That they with their God-given institutions are opposed to God (6:15-7:53).
    1. He first shows how God’s people have always been the outsiders, the rejected, the cast-offs, which God has yet made victorious (7:2-50 and see I Cor. 4:13) “the ______________ of all things” and Lam. 3:45, as well as Hebrews 13:12-14).
      1. The case of Abraham (vss. 2-8).
      2. The Case of Joseph (vss. 9-16).
      3. The Case of Moses (vss. 17-50).
        1. As a babe (vss. 17-22).
        2. As a man (vss. 23-26).
        3. As a prophet and priest (vss. 37-50).
    2. He aligns his hearers – the Jewish leaders – with the long tradition of God rejecters, by pointing out that they had rejected the Messiah himself (vss. 51-53 and see Matt. 23).
  4. Stephen’s Martyrdom (7:54-81).
    1. His ‘blasphemy’ (vss. 54-56).
    2. The manner of his murder: “cast him out of the city.” i.e., off the city wall, and drop boulders on him (vss. 57-58).
    3. The spirit in which he died: praying for his killers (vss. 59-60).
    4. Saul the killer introduced (vss. 58, 8:1, and see I Cor. 15:9).

IX. The Gospel Persecution under Saul’s Direction and the Use to Which God Put It (8:1-4).

X. Philip Brings the Gentiles into the Kingdom (8:5-40).

  1. The despised Samaritans saved, brought into God’s New Community, without becoming Jewish proselytes (vss. 5-25, see John 4:9).
    1. Philip preaches Christ and heals in “a city of Samaria” (vss. 5-8).
    2. Philip wins Simon Magnus, chief With-doctor of the area (vss. 9-13).
    3. Peter and John come to Inspect this wonder of God reaching the Samaritans (vss. 14-15).
    4. They (1) prayed for them and (2) laid hands on them that the Samaritans might also receive the fullness of God’s Spirit (vss. 15-17).
    5. Simon Magnus Misconceives the conditions of transmittal of the Holy Spirit – The Spirit not to be made Merchandise of (vss. 18-25).
      ADDENDA: 1 – The Doctrine of the Laying on of Hands
      The Laying on of hands is a teaching found both in the Old and New Testament. It is a real and valid ministry ordained of God in the church for the benefit of the body of Christ. It is not a mere church form, nor an empty ritual, but a clear understanding of the law of Contact and Transmittal. It is one medium through which God imparts to men and women what they desire or need, or what God, in His infinite wisdom knows is best for an individual. The Laying on of Hands is used in Scripture in a number of ways such as:BLESSING. A common form as the tribal blessing. In Genesis 48:14-16 Jacob laid his hands on the heads of Ephraim and Manasseh saying, ‘The Angels which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.’ Oftentimes it went beyond mere tribal blessing, i.e., Moses laid hands on Joshua and he received ‘the spirit of wisdom.’ (Deuteronomy 34:9) When the people brought children to Jesus it was not for him to play with them or talk to them, it was so he would lay hands on them and bless them. (see Mark 10:13-16) One of the great ministries that God’s people can perform is to take our children in our arms and bless them-when we do so in faith God’s blessings actually comes upon the child. The thing which will keep us from it is pride and fear!BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.  According to the book of Acts there are three principal ways by which the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was received. (No doubt there are others—who can confine the Spirit!) 1) Through obedience of faith—Acts 1:4,5; 5:23. 2) Through the ministry of the Word—Acts 10:44-46; 11;15. 3) Through the laying on of hands. In Acts 8:5-17 the Samaritan believers received the Holy Sprit through the laying on of hands by Peter and John. In Acts 9:17 Paul received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of Ananias. In Acts 19:1-6 the disciples at Ephesus received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of the apostle Paul. This is a ministry which should be gladly received and freely exercised. The thing which will keep us from it is pride and fear.DIVINE HEALING. While healing can occur in many, many ways (for example see II Kings 2:1-11, James 5;16, Acts 19:11-12, James 5:14-15, Psalm 107:20) the Laying on of Hands is one means through which the power of God flows. Jesus laid hands on the sick at Nazareth and healed them. (Mark 6:5) The blind man received his sight through the laying on of Jesus’ hands. (Mark 8:22-25, note the unusual nature of this experience.) Consider the following passages: Luke 4:40—everyone was healed; Mark 16:18—believers did it: Acts 28:8—Paul did it. The laying on of hands in itself does not heal the sick—it is Christ who heals the stick. The laying on of hands is a simple act of obedience which quickens one’s faith and gives God the opportunity to import the healing virtue. The thing which will keep us from this good work is pride and fear!SPIRITUAL GIFTS. Spiritual gifts are received by the sovereign act of God (I Cor. 12:7-11; I Kings 3:5-12) and by the laying on of hands and by . . . and by . . . Paul laid his hands on the disciples at Ephesus and they received the gift of prophecy. (Acts 19:6) The young leader Timothy was encouraged to continue the effective use of the gift that was given to him by the laying on of hands. (I Tim. 4;14 and II Tim 1:6)  The importance of this is to underscore the fact that the gifts of the spirit are given and exercised within the context of the Divine Community. We need the body of Christ. An individual is severely limited in the good which he can accomplish—we are to receive the life and power of God from one another.

      SPECIAL MINISTRY.  Read and carefully consider the significance of the following passage: Deut. 34:9; Num. 8:10-26; Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3. Note: The laying on of hands is considered one of the elementary matters of the Gospel, without which one cannot go on to maturity. (Heb. 6:1-6) Further this is not something that is to be done lightly or carelessly. You simply do not go around plopping your hands on anyone you please. We are to “lay hands on no man suddenly” (I Tim. 5:22) because to do so means that we become a partaker in his sin, i.e., we bring him/her into something for which he/she is not ready and thus do not help but hurt his/her spiritual walk.

      2 – The sin of Simon Magnus. The sin of Simon Magnus was to attempt to take the power of God and use it for his own ends. This is the sign of all false religion. But before we dismiss Simon Magnus out of hand we must understand how totally saturated American Evangelical “Christianity” is with exactly this mentality. Further we must understand how very easy it is for us personally to fall into this very trap—to desire the power of God for our own ends.

  2. The Kingdom Goes to Ethiopia—without a mission society (vss. 26-40).
    1. Philip’s leading in the spirit (vss. 26-27).
    2. Who the Ethiopian was (vss. 27-28). He was a high official in the Ethiopian Government, and a proselyte or a ‘God-fearer.’
    3. The ease of the guided, unforced witness (vss. 29-35).
    4. The Ethiopian invites himself into the new community and ‘goes with God’ (vss. 36-39).
    5. Philip preaches to yet another ethnic group—descendants of the Philistines—at Azotus and north to Caesarea (vs. 40).

 

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For next week

  1. Study Acts Chapters 9, 22, 26.
  2. Memorize Philippians 3:7-11.
  3. Begin reading The Man Who Shook the World, Ch. 1-6.

FIFTH WEEK: SAUL, KILLER OF CHRISTIANDS, IS CONQUERED BY THE RISEN JESUS

XI. Saul’s (Paul’s) Conversion and Calling (Acts 9:1-31, 22:1-21, 26:1-23).

  1. Saul’s zealous war on the disciples (9:1-2 & 26:9-11).
  2. The encounter on the road to Damascus (vss. 3-9).
    1. The sensuous manifestations involved (vss. 3-4 & 7, compare 22:9).
      (Note: apparently no vision of Jesus in human form was involved).
    2. How the invisible Lord dealt with Saul (vss. 4-6)
    3. Saul’s obedience (vss. 8-9 & 11b) waiting in fasting and prayer.
  3. The Ministry of Ananias to Saul (9:10-19).
    1. The Lord speaks to his servant (vss. 10-12).
    2. The servant talks back, requesting clarification (vss. 13-14).
    3. The Lord explains and insists (vss. 15-16).
    4. Ananias ministers by the laying on of hands (vss. 17-18).
    5. And by baptism, food and fellowship (vss. 18-19).
      ADDENDUM:
      God directs and blesses through his people. See Eph. 4:15-16.
  4. The early years of Saul’s life in Christ (9:20-30).
    1. Saul powerfully preaches Jesus as the Christ of the Jews (vss. 20-22).
    2. He escapes his would-be assassins via a basket-drop over the wall of Damascus at night (vss. 23-25). A time to run
    3. Saul spends three years in Arabia and back in Damascus (Gal. 1:15-18).
    4. He then is with the brothers at Jerusalem briefly, through the aid of Barnabas (vss. 26-28).
    5. He disputes with the Grecian Jews in Jerusalem, who set out to kill him (vss. 28-29).
    6. He flees to his old home town, Tarsus, for a number of years (vss. 30 & 11:25-26).
      ADDENDUM:
      The hidden preparation through which God puts his ministers.
  5. The Church rolls on (9:31).

 

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For next week

  1. Study Acts Chapters 9:32-12:25.
  2. Memorize Acts 10:34-35.
  3. Continue reading The Man Who Shook the World, Ch. 7-14.

SIXTH WEEK: THE CONCLUDING ACTS OF PETER RECORDED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

XII. Peter ministers to Jews only, outside of Jerusalem (9:32-43).

  1. In his travels he comes to Lydda.
    1. Aeneas—eight years as invalid—is made whole by Jesus (vss. 33-34).
    2. The impact of this wholing (vs. 35).
  2. Peter’s trip to, and stay at, Joppa (vss. 36-43).
    1. He geos because Dorcas, a disciple whose services were still needed, had died (vss. 36-39).
    2. What Peter did when he came—
      ADDENDA:
      The importance of the life of simple goodness in the kingdom of God, “Who has despised the day of small things.”
      1 – He considered her works (vs. 39).
      2 – He prayed for her to continue them (vs. 40).
      3 – He spoke to her and lifted her up (vss. 40-41).
    3. The impact of this wholing vs. 42).
    4. Peter tarries in Joppa (vs. 43).
      ADDENDUM:
      Peter had tarried at Jerusalem until endued with power, as the Lord had commanded. (Luke 24:49) But many tarrying places are needed, all long our way. Note in 10:9f what Peter did while tarrying.

XIII. Like Jonah, Peter without fully intending it—goes from Joppa to be a minister to the despised Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48).

  1. How Cornelius reached God—prayers and alms (vs. 1-4).
  2. How God reached Cornelius.
    1. By the visionary messenger (vss. 3-8)
    2. By the human messenger (vss. 9-43).
      1. Peter prepared for his work as he ‘tarries’ (vs. 9-16).
      2. Peter gets a ‘letter of recommendation concerning Cornelius (vss. 19-20).
      3. Meshing of the messages to Cornelius and to Peter (vss. 17-18 & 21-23).
      4. Peter—signals straight—delivers the word.
        ADDENDA:
        “Respect for persons’ means to hold people as ‘better’ because of things which have nothing to do with love of God and neighbor.
        1 – He spells out his new insight that God does not ‘respect persons’ (vss. 34-35).
        2 – He preaches the by-now-standardized truths about Jesus and announces that belief in Jesus brings remission or forgiveness of sins (vss. 36-43).
    3. By the gift of that Spirit in which Jesus (see vs. 38) lived and worked (vs. 44).
  3. How God reached Peter through Cornelius, to confirm, without any qualifications, the content of vss. 34-35 as well as 2:39 (vss. 44-47).
    ADDENDUM:
    The role of supernatural languages here, and the bystanders of 10:45-56 with those of 2:6-12. ‘In both caes the effect was to convince them that God was at work in a group previously held to be outside his blessings. See I Cor. 14:22: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, . . . to them that believe not.”
  4. Peter tarries some more (10:48).

XIV. Peter explains his heterodox behavior in associating with Gentiles or his Jewish brothers (11:1-18).

  1. Outrage at Peter for eating with the uncircumcised (vss. 1-3).
  2. Peter describes the series of events in question (vss. 4-17).
  3. The Jewish brothers (temporarily) concede that God loves people who aren’t circumcised (vs. 18).

XV. The beginnings of the Gentiles church—
The first church which was not a Jewish organization (11:19-30).

  1. The intent to preach to Jews only (vs. 19).
  2. But some non-Judean Jews spoke to Greeks, who caught fire at the word (vss. 20-21).
  3. Barnabas sent from Jerusalem to check this out (vss. 22-24).
  4. He sees that this is God’s work, and that brother Saul is just the man needed here, and brings him in (vss. 25-26).
    ADDENDUM:
    The significance of: “And the disciples were called ‘Christians’ first in Antioch.” (vs. 26b) Here it first became clear that the way of Christ was not a movement within Jewry.
  5. The famine of these years led the Gentile church to minister to the Jewish church in material things, by the hand of Saul and Barnabas (vss. 27-30).
    ADDENDUM:
    Missionary enterprises then and now were two very different things. This is studied in Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967), but will be obvious to anyone who considers the relation between established churches and missions in the book of Acts.

XVI. Peter has a run-in with Herod (12:1-25)
(This is essentially an attack by Jewish non-Christians, see vs. 3.)

  1. Herod attacks the church at Jerusalem (vss. 1-2).
  2. Peter is imprisoned (vss. 3-4).
  3. The Apostolic method of victory—
    1. Prayer together, without ceasing (vss. 5 & 12b).
    2. The Angelic deliverer (vss. 6-10).
    3. Peter dared by this heavenly intervention (vss. 11-12).
    4. His prayer group dazed by the answer to their prayers (vss. 13-16).
  4. Peter goes to Caesarea and Herod rages (vss. 17-19).
  5. Herod takes God’s Glory to himself and dies of it (vss. 20-23).
  6. The Church rolls on (vss. 24-25).
    But the focus from here on through Acts is on Paul & Gentiles.

 

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For next week

  1. Study Acts Chapters 13-15.
  2. Memorize Galatians 5:1-6.
  3. Continue reading The Man Who Shook the World, Ch. 15-19.

SEVENTH WEEK: THE CHURCH TURNS TO MISSIONS

ADDENDUM:  WHY MISSIONS

Why are missions to the world necessary if, as we have seen, all men have a knowledge of God (Psalm 19; John 1:9; 14:6; Acts 10:34-35, Romans 1:20; 2:6-29) and can be pleasing to God without any special revelation, whether Jewish or Christian?  Jesus as the Logos (Prov. 8:22-31; John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:3) is present everywhere and is not blotted out or overwhelmed by the powers of darkness (John 1:5). Why, then, are we to go into all the world and preach the gospel? The answer is, very simply—“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” etc. (Rom. 1:21f) The world is full of rebels toward God and failures before God, both Jewish and Gentile. Jesus said: “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17) All sorts of human beings are equally loved by God, and to love God is to share this love of his for all men alike, without thinking it necessary to proselytize them for our culture—even our religious and ethical culture, where it is not (and for the most part it is not) necessary as an expression of love to God and neighbor. We must distinguish the heavenly treasure from the earthen vessel in which we carry it (II Cor. 4:6-7), and remember that it is the treasure which we are to pass on. The treasure is the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The earthen vessel consists of the body and the cultural forms in which it is enshrouded, including most of the doctrinal and ritualistic forms in which we concretely express our apprehension of the treasure. We cannot redeem people by imposing our earthen vessel upon them. Too often missionary efforts have involved just such an imposition. In fact, cultural proselytizing only enslaves the proselyte—“Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matt. 23:15) Ours is to share the good news and presence of Jesus as redeemer and deliverer of evil human beings, and to see God call people to him on the basis of that message.

 

*********************

We now enter into the second main division of the book of Acts—See point ‘II’ of your “A GENERAL OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF ACTS”—

The Divine Community Moves its Center outside of Judaism:

A Divine community without Cultural Presuppositions:

New Bottles for the New Wine—

*********************

I. The ‘Christians of Syrian Antioch—Who and what they were (Acts 11:19; 22-17; and 13:1-2a).

ADDENDUM:
Why only at this point the new Community could reach out with conscious, voluntary effort—not just as a result of being scattered by persecution (as Acts 8:4)—in an attempt to reach all men, according to Mark 28:19-20:  Only now do the disciples of Christ understand that all men are equally precious to God. It is worth pondering whether or not the church today understands this point. Before framing an answer it might be worthwhile to read, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

II. The Manner of Guidance in the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3).

  1. A number of people—“prophets and teachers”—constantly working together over a lengthy period of time (vs. 1)
  2. During periods of “worshipping and fasting: an impression grows that Barnabas and Saul have a special work to do (vs. 2). How the Holy Spirit ‘speaks.’)
  3. The group response to this impression: Fasting/Prayer/Laying on of hands (vs. 3).

III. The First ‘Missionary Journey’ of Saul (Acts 13:4-14:28).

  1. The Events in the Isle of Cyprus (vss. 4-12)
    1. They go from the east end of the isle to the west, preaching mainly in the synagogues (vss. 4-5).
      QUESTION:  Why did Paul and Barnabas first go to Cyprus?
    2. At Paphos, on the west of the isle, they encounter Sergius Paulus, a Roman official, with his friend Elymas (vss.6-12).
      1. Elymas resists Paul’s message, whereupon Paul places him in spiritual irons (vss. 6-11).
      2. Thus causing Sergius Paulus to believe the word (vs. 12)
  2. The journey to Pisidian Antioch—involving little significant incident except the desertion of John Mark (vss. 13-14). (15:38)
  3. The work in Antioch, one of the Galatian cities (vss. 14-52).
    1. The open door at the Synagogue (vss. 14b-16).
    2. Paul’s first address to the Galatians (vss. 17-41).
      1. A review of the history of Israel (vss. 17-41).
      2. Jesus announced as the culmination of that history.
        1. As son of David (vs. 23).
        2. As endorsed by John Baptist (vss. 24-25).
      3. The rejection of Jesus at Jerusalem means that the   message of salvation is sent to Jews and Gentiles elsewhere (vss. 26-28).
      4. Jesus overcame the rejection and used it to God’s own purposes by fulfilling the prophecies, and especially those concerning the resurrection from the dead (vss. 29-37).
      5. The promise of redemption stated to people who are not ‘the best’ (vs. 38).
      6. The superiority of Jesus’ way over the way of Moses proclaimed (vs. 39).
      7. Finally, a warning not to join those who reject God’s way in the Christ (vss. 40-41).
    3. The good response to God’s word here (vss. 42-43).
    4. The local Jewish rejection and its motives—jealousy (vs. 45).
    5. Paul and Barnabas denounce the opposition and go to the Gentiles—talking, of course, their converts with them (vss. 46-47).
    6. The word prospers without the support of a special culture (vs.48).
    7. Officialdom and devout women go on the warpath and drive Paul and Barnabas out of Antioch (vss. 50-51).
    8. The lasting effect of the ministry in Antioch—people of all sorts, Jews and non-Jewish, filled with Joy and the Holy Spirit (vs. 52)
  4. The work in Iconium, another Galatian City (14:1-7).
    1. The local synagogue addressed again (vs. 1).
    2. Many believe the word again (vs. 1).
    3. The Jews against the disciples again (vss. 2-4).
    4. The Apostles run out of town again—leaving converts behind (vss. 5-8).
  5. The work in Lystra, another Galatian city (vss. 8-20)
    1. The contact with the people of this city made through the wholing of a crippled man (vss. 8-11).
    2. Here, for the first time, the religious tradition within which the Jesus people are met is Greek religion – Zeus and Hermes (vss. 11-13).
    3. Paul and Barnabas preach to them within the Greek tradition (of Acts 17), and do not lay Jewish history on them (vss. 14-18).
    4. Yet, the Jewish people from Antioch and Iconium hunt them out in Lystra, and persuade the (some) people to stone Paul until he appears dead (vss. 19-20).
  6. But the next day after being stoned, Paul gets up and goes on with Barnabas to Derbe, the final Galatian city which they will visit, where many discipels again are made (vss. 20-21).
  7. Then the two great missionaries return through the Galatian cities already evangelized (vss. 21b-23).
    1. Strengthening the disciples which were made on 1st visit (vs. 22).
      ADDENDUM:
      We are commanded, not only to make disciples, but also to teach “them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). This is today what could be called “the Great Omission from the Great Commission,” in almost all churches of our nation and others. Paul supposed that the ministry was to ‘perfect the saints’ (Eph. 4:12-13).
    2. Appointing elders in every church (vs. 23).
      ADDENDUM:
      Paul had a ministry of the spirit. Hence, those affected by his preaching were immediately in the school of the spirit, and made rapid progress in the things of the Kingdom. A ministry of the spirit yields (almost) ‘instant elders,’ unlike current American churches, where the vitality and level of spiritual nutriments in the ‘body’ of the church is so low that the people brought to birth in her must spend years recovering from the deficiencies of the ‘womb,’ and perhaps remain spiritual cripples for life.
  8. They return to the Mediterranean Coast, preaching at Perga on the way (vss. 24-25).
  9. Paul and Barnabas sail home to Antioch (in Syria), where they report—Note: this beautiful and accurate description of what had happened—“all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” And now they are here at home again for some while (26-28).

 

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For next week

  1. Study Acts Chapters 15:1-35 and Gal. 1:6-3:3.
  2. Memorize Galatians 6:14-15.

EIGHTH WEEK: THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL OF A.D. 50

(Acts 15:1-35)

IV. The Council of Jerusalem in 50 A.D.: On the question of Whether One can be in God’s Community without Obeying the Rules of the Jewish Culture (Acts 15:1-35, but also see Galatians 2:1-16).

ADDENDUM:
Note that Paul’s account of the upshot of the Council differs from that recorded in Acts 15 by Luke. Compare especially Gal. 2:10 with “these necessary things” of Acts 15:28 and 20-21. The Lord’s work does not depend upon the agreement of his people even about what happened at certain meetings.

  1. Some ‘brethren’ come from Judea to lay Moses upon the Christians then in Antioch, and a debate ensues as to the necessity of obeying the Mosaic Code (vss. 1-3).
  2. Paul and Barnabas (with Titus—see Gal. 2:1) go to Jerusalem to settle this question—
    1. Initial discussions and dissentions upon arriving in Jerusalem (vss. 4-5)
    2. The solemn assembly convenes for business (vss. 6-29).
      1. Peter leads off with a statement that the Mosaic burden is not to be imposed (vss. 6-11, but see Gal. 2:llf).
      2. Paul and Barnabas tell of God’s work in the Gentiles (vs. 12).
      3. James—blood brother of our Lord Jesus—proposes what is essentially a compromise solution, requiring not the whole Mosaic Code—especially not circumcision—but only right sex and proscription upon blood food and most of animals which had been offered to idols (vss. 13-21).
      4. Essentially James’ position is passed as a resolution and sent by letter to the Gentile churches (vss. 22-29)
    3. The church at Antioch rejoices in this liberty from Moses and continues to prosper, with many able persons involved in the work of the Lord there (vss. 30-35).
      ADDENDA:
      1 – “These necessary things” of vs. 28 is another reminder of how certain parts of the ‘earthen vessel,’ even culinary culture, are often imposed as necessary parts of the ‘treasure’ (II Cor. 4:6-7).
      2 – In the first century the critical issue was circumcision. Paul knew that if the Judaizers succeeded the Gospel was doomed—culture religion would take over. (Which did in fact happen after Paul’s death.) What is the issue(s) today?

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For next week

  1. Study Galatians.
  2. Study Galatians.
  3. Study Galatians.
  4. Memorize Galatians 5:1
  5. Continue reading The Man Who Shook the World, Ch. 20-18.

NINTH WEEK: PAUL’S GOOD NEWS ABOUT GOD AS SEEN IN GALATIANS

The Apostle Paul concerns himself with three major arguments in his epistle to the Galatians: 1) a defense of his authority and independence as an apostle, 2) a defense of the truth of his message of justification by faith, and 3) a defense of the liberty found in justification by faith.

The whole of Paul’s influence and teaching to the peoples of Galatia had been endangered by Judaizers who had sought to throw disrepute upon his teachings by seeking to discredit his authority as an apostle. Hence Paul includes in his greeting to the churches a terse declaration of his apostleship. He claims to derive his right to be heard directly from Jesus Christ and not from men. He denounces their turning to a gospel of a different kind and mocks its inferior quality (vs. 7). He argues that his gospel, unlike theirs, was not the result of men’s teaching but of God’s. One evidence of this was that Paul did not seek to please men but God (vs. 10).

To further demonstrate that his gospel was not a result of the teaching of men Paul gives a brief history of his past life. His life under Judaism was diametrically opposed to his teaching. His actions and emotional make-up were in opposition to his present life. His past could in no way account for the present. Upon his direct confrontation with the living Christ and subsequent conversion, Paul did not go to Jerusalem to be taught by the Apostles but spent three years in Arabia. Since the trip to Arabia replaces the teaching of the Apostles, Paul thereby implies that these three years were spent being taught by Christ. After this period of training Paul made a hurried visit to Jerusalem and saw only Peter and James, not to confer with them on doctrinal matters again for fourteen years.

In chapter two a slight shift in Paul’s argument is noted. He continues to show how little he is indebted to the Apostles for his gospel, indeed, when conferring with them it is found that the Apostles agree with him and if any were found inconsistent it was not Paul but Peter. Thus Paul not only shows his lack of indebtedness to the Apostles but this equality with them. In addition it is significant to note the carefully chosen examples Paul uses to prove his point. Paul brought Titus with him to Jerusalem but absolutely refused to give in to the Judaizers who wanted Titus to be circumcised. Next, Paul cites the results of the Jerusalem council which placed no burden upon the Gentile believers in regard to the Jewish ritual. Finally, Paul cites the inconsistency of Peter at Antioch where, through pressure by Judaizers from James, he leaves the Gentile fellowship – an act which in essence declares that faith in Christ is imperfect without the righteousness of the law. Paul opposes Peter not as vacillating under pressure but as sinning against the light. Each example is cited to emphasize what Paul is next to argue – namely, that justification is by faith along (sola fide) and that all attempts to require cultural trappings as “necessary” destroy the good news of the gospel. To mistake the “vessel” for the “treasure” spells doom. Paul argues for a gospel without cultural presuppositions of any kind because he saw that God loves all men/women equally and requires only that people do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God plus nothing.

Paul concludes the rebuke given to Peter and at the same time introduces the second major concern of the epistle. Emphatically he states that submission to the righteousness of the law produces death; for no man can keep the law. This is contrasted to submission to be crucified with Christ which produces life. In essence the law brings death; redemption by the cross, life.

However, it was not sufficient for Paul to show his authority as an Apostle. The Judaizers claimed to have the Old Testament Scriptures on their side and thus after a brief appeal to their personal experience he calls the scriptures to his defense.

Paul appeals directly to Abraham as the proof for his case. Abraham, “believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (3:6) Thus, argues Paul, only men of faith can be called sons of Abraham. Foreseeing this the prophecy was that through Abraham the Gentile nations shall be blessed. “So then those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith.” (3:9)

The blessing of faith is then contrasted with the curse of the law. The law is a curse simply because its way of salvation, perfect obedience, is impossible.

Further Paul argues that the matter of prime importance is not the law but the promise given to Abraham. A simple example is given: when a will is made and ratified it is not later cancelled. So it is with the promise given to Abraham of which Christ is the fulfillment. The law which came four hundred thirty years after the promise was not given to annul the promise. The law is inferior to the promise in both time and origin. (Ordained by angels through Moses: 3:19, 20)

Then, what is the purpose of the law? The law is not opposed to the promise of God but is rather our custodian to bring us to Christ. But now that we have faith we are no longer under a custodian’s care.

Another analogy is presented. The child though destined to be an heir remains under tutors as long as he is a child and thus Paul describes the era of the law as the era of tutelage. But Christ has done away with the need of a tutor and hence Paul rebukes them for going back to the tutor when they could have Christ.

At this point (4:11-20) Paul leaves his carefully thought out logics to make a tender appeal to their treatment of his when among them. His language is softened as he speaks of them as “brethren” and “my little children.” He reminds them of their affection for him when he was among them even during his “trial in the flesh.” The anxiety he holds for them is as one experiencing birth pains. They were not his enemies then, why are they now?

Returning to his original argument Paul illustrates from Hagar and Sarah. One was born according to the flesh, the other according to the promise. Thus Hagar represents the covenant of Sinai and Sarah, the heavenly Jerusalem. Just as the one born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the spirit so now the Judaizers persecute the true Israel which is born according to the spirit. (Note that “flesh” here refers simply to the natural human energies – Abraham needed no divine assistance to beget Ishmael upon Hagar, but to beget Isaac upon Sarah was totally beyond him. To operate in the flesh means to depend upon human energy and ability.)

In chapter five and six the third major argument is presented – namely that this liberty from the law results in a holy life.

Again Paul emphasizes the essential dichotomy between seeking salvation by means of the law and by means of the faith in the finished work of Christ. To make the keeping of the law essential for salvation, the work of Christ is annulled. Therefore neither circumcision nor un-circumcision is of any matter.

For Paul the fulfillment of the law in practice is not found in circumcision or other ritual but in love. This is what is meant by living and working in the spirit. Christian freedom from the law cannot lead to immorality because this would lead to a walk in the flesh which is diametrically opposed to the spirit. Those who belong to Christ cannot walk in the flesh because the flesh has been crucified.

After destroying the basis for a Christian to live under the Jewish law, Paul calls the Christian to holiness by submission to the “law of Christ” (6:2), that is, to evidence concern for one another.

Several practical suggestions are given to show what it means to walk in the spirit after which Paul warns then that God is not mocked but that He knows the kind of life each one lives.

Final warning is given against the Judaizers. Paul points out that their motive is to glory in gaining another convert (evangelical brownie points) while his glory stands only with the cross of Christ.

Significantly Paul draws the epistle to a close by pronouncing a prayer of blessing upon those who live by the rule of the spirit whom he calls “the Israel of God.” (6:16) A final appeal is given to do what he asks because of all he has suffered. In keeping with the entire thrust of the epistle the formal benediction emphasizes the blessing upon their “spirit” rather than the more traditional “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

In summary, Paul opposed the Judaizers in the same way Jesus opposed he culture religion of the Pharisees. Compare these words of Paul and Jesus: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Paul (Gal. 5:1) “You compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Jesus (Matt. 23:15)

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For Next Week

  1. Review and Study for Final Exam
  2. Conclude reading The Man Who Shook the World, Ch. 29-36.

TENTH WEEK: PAUL’S FINISHES HIS WORK IN GREECE AND ASIA MINOR

(Acts 15:36-20:38)

1. Paul’s second missionary journey to the West (Acts 15:36-18:22)

  1. Paul and Barnabas split up over John Mark, and Silas becomes Paul’s co-worker (15:36-41)
    ADDENDUM:
    The problem of division in the community. These things happen even in the most spirit filled persons. Anytime a people get serious about living the life of God together there will be conflict. But note II Tim. 4:9-11.“SEND JOHN MARK TO ME . . .”“Why should we take him along?
    He quit us as we sailed for Pamphylia.
    The fearful are not by Christ’s command sent
    Out to evangelize the world. No soldier
    Of the Cross deserts his regiment
    When things get rough . . .
    Why, not even stonings came at Cyprus,
    Just that noisy cultist, Elymas.
    In the power of God we stopped him cold,
    And convinced the governor by bold truth.
    No, Barnabas, if storms and riots bothered him
    Before we even reached Iconium,
    In fighting principalities and power—
    Satanic forces facing us—he’d fail;
    He would hinder Truth. Count John Mark out.”“You have no patience with him, Paul.
    Before you even knew about the Way—
    A loveless Pharisee—John Mark, after all
    Had known our Lord. When but a boy he heard
    What Jesus speaking to the throngs had said.
    He saw him heal the sick and raise the dead.
    With older—also fearful—men he watched
    That fateful night Christ was betrayed. Shivering
    In the cold he watched forgiving love.
    . . . Take Silas with you into Asia.
    John Mark and I will sail home to Cyprus,
    To Cyprus to confirm the churches there,
    If someone cares enough, this man will find
    Love’s road back up from to faith.
    I’ll care for Mark, just as I cared for you,
    And introduced you to the Church, that day.
    Some day, some year, Paul, you will send for him.”–Arthur O. Roberts
    Move Over Elijah, page 138
  2. Timothy (of Galatia) is circumcised to please the Jews, and also becomes Paul’s co-worker, building up the churches in Phrygia and Galatia (16:1-5).
  3. The Spirit closes and opens doors to Paul’s traveling party, bringing it through Troy (where Luke joins the group) and into unevangelized areas of Europe (Macedonia) (16:12-40).
  4. The mission to Philippi (in Macedonia) (16:12-40).
    1. How Paul begins his work in this non-Jewish context—As usual, he takes the religious life of the place—whatever it may be—as his starting point (vss. 12-13).
    2. How God honors his small effort (vss. 14-34).
      1. By converting the businesswoman, Lydia, thus giving Paul a basis for his operation in her establishment (vss. 14-15)
      2. By working a wonder upon a possessed child through Paul as he goes to that same ‘place of prayer’ where Lydia was converted (vss. 16-18).
      3. By allowing Paul and Silas to be beaten and jailed on a trumped up charge, because the child could no longer be used by her ‘masters’ to ‘tell fortunes’ (vss. 19—24).
      4. By responding to midnight prayers and praises and opening door to the prisoners for Christ—AND to their jailer (25-34).
    3. Paul uses his dignity as a Roman citizen to put Philippian officialdom in its place (vss. 35-39).
    4. Paul rounds out his work in Philippi with final meetings at Lydia’s place (vss. 16:40).
  5. The mission to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9).
    1. There is a synagogue here, and that is Paul’s launching pad in this mission (vss. 1-3).
    2. The now-standard response to Paul’s message: Many believe, but envy of those who are supposed to ‘have charge’ provokes persecution (vss. 4-9).
  6. The mission to Berea (17:10-15).
    (Just another verse of the same song.)
  7. The mission to Athens (17:16-34).
    1. Paul, greatly vexed by the bad religion here, attacks with the gospel medicine at all points (17:16-17)
    2. For making such a noise, he receives an invitation to address the Athenian Philosophical Society (vss. 18-21).
    3. The argument advanced by Paul to bring philosophers to Christ—
      1. As usual, he takes the best available toe-hold, complimenting the Athenians upon the extent of their religious devotion (vs. 22). His strategy is to avoid arguments about the existence of God, which the Greeks mainly granted, and concentrate on the issue of his nature, and how that relates to Jesus.
      2. He refers to their public acknowledgement of God unknown to them (vs. 23a).
      3. He proceeds to reveal this ‘unknown God’ to them (vss. 23b-31).
        1. God (as creator of all) is independent of the acts of man in temple building and rituals (vss. 24-25).
        2. God made all ethnic groups out of the same stuff, thus establishing the unity of mankind, and yet fixed the groups in different ‘vessels,’ where each in its own best way might reach out and relate to the Divine Spirit who is near to all, as the Greek poets themselves teach (vss. 26-28).
        3. Our human nature being spiritual or personal and also kin to God, from whom we sprang, proves the blasphemy of thinking of God as physical and as a human device or creation (vs. 29).
        4. God has borne long and forgivingly with this personality destroying blasphemy, but now calls all men everywhere to quit it, turn from it, repent (vs. 30).
        5. The standard of religious devotion and understanding for all men henceforth is Jesus, who was certified as God’s standard of judgment by his resurrection from the dead (vs. 31).
      4. The now standard of Pauline result—some believe and some do not (vss. 32-24). (There is a ridiculous myth that Paul’s attempt to speak philosophically to philosophers was a failure. But Paul’s results here are the same as usual, and the reasoning is of the same sort as he had used successfully earlier on, as at Lystra (Acts 15).
  8. The mission to Corinth (18:1-17)
    1. Paul lives and works (making tents) with Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth (vss.1-3).
    2. Paul preaches Christ to the Jews, who reject him (vss. 4-5).
    3. Paul then uses the house of Justus, right next door to the synagogue, as his preaching base for 1 ½ years, converting many (vss. 7-11).
    4. Roman law stands between the Jews’ wrath and Paul’s ministry (vss. 12-17).
  9. Paul travels back to Antioch in Syria, speaking briefly in Ephesus and visiting Jerusalem on the way (vss. 18-22).

 

2. Paul’s third missionary journey to the West (Acts 18:23-20:28).

  1. Paul revisits his earliest converts in Asia Minor (vs. 23).
  2. Apollos, an Alexandrine (Egyptian) Jew, is brought fully into Christ’s new community (vss. 24-28).
    1. He was a disciple of John the Baptist’s teachings, and come to Ephesus preaching a baptism of repentance only (vss. 24-25).
    2. Aquila and Priscilla teach him and lead him into life in the living spirit of Christ (vs. 26).
    3. Apollos goes on to Corinth, mighty in the spirit’s power (vss. 27-28).
  3. Paul’s ministry of the spirit (for about 2 ½ years) in Ephesus (19:1-41).
    1. Completing the work in some of Apollos’ converts (vss. 1-7).
    2. Preaching (until rejected) in the synagogue (vs. 8-9).
    3. Preaching daily from a school-house belonging to Tyrannus for a period of 2 years, exuding power in word and miraculous deed (vss. 10-12).
      ADDENDUM:
      Note the length of stay here as compared with previous missionary journeys. Could it be that Paul began to sense that it was important to stay with some groups for extended periods to establish them in the faith?
    4. Overcoming abuse of the spiritual—exorcism and magic (vss. 13-20).
    5. Putting idol-makers out of business (vss. 21-27).
  4. Paul is again protected by Roman “law and order” (vss. 28-41).
  5. Paul travels from Ephesus to Corinth through Macedonia, and then back to Troas via the same land route (20:1-6).
  6. Seven final days with the Brothers and Sisters at Troy, and a Midnight sermon and miracle (vss. 7-12).
  7. The last meeting of Paul with the Ephesian elders and the Asian church (vss. 13-38).
    1. Paul’s travel plans (vss. 13-17).
    2. His personal testimony among the Ephesians (vss. 18-27).
    3. His charge to the elders of the Ephesian church (vss. 28-31).
    4. What he trusted his spiritual children to upon leaving them (vs. 32).
    5. Final, simple word of testimony and exhortation (vss. 33-35).
    6. How Paul’s spiritual children loved him (vss. 36-38 and see 21:3-14).

From here to the end of Acts there is no new principle brought into the picture. Hence, for the purposes of this study, the outline ends here, though each student should be thoroughly familiar with the final chapters of Acts.

 

SOME OF THE “SPIRITUAL UNKNOWNS” MADE CLEAR THROUGH THE BOOK OF ACTS

  1. That the power which blesses is that which comes without a ‘kingdom.’
  2. That God loves all kinds of human beings equally, whether ‘sinful’ or ‘righteous,’ male or female, enslaved or free, young or old, Russian, Chinese or American, black or white, Catholic or Quaker—whatever or whatever.
  3. That the Gospel has no cultural presuppositions—hence we must always distinguish between the ‘vessel’ and the ‘treasure.’ We are to receive all persons with joy without imposing our vessel upon them.
  4. That ‘faith’ is better, as a basis of the relation of God and man, than ‘righteousness.’
  5. That every person—no matter what his ‘disadvantage’—can live in the very spirit of God, bearing all of that spirit’s fruit, and exercising some of His gifts.
  6. That life in God’s spirit is life in the ‘the body’—that the blessings of God are mainly received and administered through other human beings. Though every person is unique within the body, none are independent of the other members of the body for their spiritual sustenance. None lives solely by communion with God along, without drawing life through other human beings.
  7. That the law is fulfilled in those who simply and fully love God and their neighbors in the power of the spirit.
  8. That what makes God good or light—his special ‘glory’—is his love—love even of those who are His enemies.
  9. Etc., etc., etc.,
Listen to all parts in this Studies in the Book of Apostolic Acts: Journey in the Spiritual Unknown series