Paul is persecuted and brought before leaders such as Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Bernice, and would soon appear before Caesar. When he first came into the faith, the Lord had said that Paul would bear His name before kings (Acts 9:15), so all of these defenses of the Gospel he had to give where part of the plan of God. This reminds me of what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:17-19: “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak.”
What happens in the beginning of chapter 28 makes an important point. When the snake came out of the fire and bit Paul, the natives of Malta said, “"No doubt this man is a murderer.” After they waited and saw he didn’t suffer any consequences from the snake bit, they said he was a god. The opinions of people don’t matter, and we can’t pay attention to them. Proverbs 29:25 says, “the fear of man is a snare:” this “trap” of the fear of man has captured many people. Many make decisions to please people and many are offended when they don’t get treated the way they think they should by others. These people in Malta made two completely wrong assumptions about Paul based on what they saw and people are going to do the same in your life. You can’t worry about what people think of you. Fear God and do His will; that is the only way to truly love people.
As you read the last two verses of the book of Acts, you see that Paul spent what was probably the last two years of his life in house arrest in Rome. He got to preach to “all who came to him” along with Caesar’s household (See Philippians 4:22). Paul had finished his race and was ready to see Jesus’ face when he became a martyr under Nero’s rule.
I am inspired by Paul’s words to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:18-35. He said he was going to Jerusalem “bound in the spirit” (verse 22); he had made himself a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn't know what would happen when he got there except for "chains and tribulations." He says in verse 24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul wasn't moved by any present circumstances or trials; the only thing that moved him was the will of God to so he could finish what God called him to do. This is an example that we are all called to follow.
I noticed something about Apollos as I read through this today. In Acts 18:25 it says “he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.” Then we read that Aquila and Priscilla heard him and explained the way of God “more accurately” to him. Apollos went from teaching “accurately” to “more accurately.” What does this mean? What he taught before meeting Aquila and Priscilla was true but it was lacking many important things; Aquila and Priscilla were able to give him a more complete view of God’s plan and purposes. So, maybe what we know of God is accurate, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be “more accurate.”
Acts 19 records one of the biggest (maybe the biggest) revivals and moves of God seen through Paul’s ministry. Paul called it a “great and effective door” but with “many adversaries” in 1 Corinthians 16:9. In Acts 19:9-10 it says that Paul was, “reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” How do you preach in one school for two years and cause the gospel to reach everyone in the whole region? The answer is one word: “discipleship.” Paul’s wasn’t trying to get everyone in the region to come to his “training course” at the school. He was training disciples that would take the gospel to the region and they did. Are we making disciples in our churches or just members? We are to multiply not just be added to. Think on this for a moment.
The apostle Paul was not an eye witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ but he spoke about the resurrection as proof of what he preached. He said to those in Athens in Acts 17:30-31, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." God gave us “assurance” by the resurrection that Jesus Christ will come again and rule.
People were coming to Christ and the churches were progressing when “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved"” (Acts 15:1). If this was true it meant that righteousness could be attained by the Law instead of by Christ alone; therefore “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them” (verse 2). When Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders they found out where the problem was coming from. Acts 15:5 says “some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." Pharisees were getting saved; this in itself was great! These Pharisees were bringing their love for rituals and righteous by the Law into the church; this was not great. Being born again is a wonderful thing, but we must go on and be transformed in our thinking. These differing opinions caused the apostles and elders to seek the heart of God in this matter, and they were able to deliver these truths to the Gentile churches. Acts 15:28 records that they wrote these words: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” I love that; the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (what seemed good to Him), He deposited into the heart of the apostles and elders! Holy Spirit gave the churches a few laws they should abide by to come out of their pagan ways, but circumcision was a sign of faith in the old covenant so was not necessary for salvation.
Acts 13:1 says there were “certain prophets and teachers” in the church at Antioch. The synergy of the prophetic and solid teaching with the prayer produced a powerful apostolic team. Paul and Barnabas brought the kingdom into every city they went to. Both Jews and Gentiles (non Jews) believed but their ministry had the most success with the Gentiles. In one city “almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44), but the Jews being filled with envy began to contradict and oppose them. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke to the Jews, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). It appeared that they could be beat or killed in most cities they went to, but this caused them to trust in God all the more.
Acts 13:9 says “Saul” was also called “Paul;” this wasn’t a name change. “Saul” was his given Jewish name and “Paul” was his Roman name since he was a Roman citizen.
Reading Acts chapter 12 we see the church press forward in great opposition and with great help from God. The chapter starts with King Herod killing the Apostle James, then he imprisons Peter; finally, near the end of the chapter Herod is killed by an angel. It’s noteworthy that Herod didn’t face immediate recompense from the Lord for killing James or putting Peter in prison, but when the people called him a god and he accepted their praise, an angel struck him and he immediately died.
After losing James, the people could have been very discouraged when Peter was put in prison. If they focused on what happened to James instead of God (The miracle worker), they may not have prayed like they did. Because of the church’s earnest prayer, God set Peter free. We can never give up when we have setbacks.
The testimony of Paul’s conversion shows us that no one is too far gone. In one day Paul went from “breathing threats and murder” against believers to becoming a believer himself. One encounter with the presence of Jesus can change someone forever!
Acts 9:31 tells us what is essential for the church to multiply; it says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” We must walk in the fear of the Lord, and we must receive comfort and help from the Holy Spirit trusting He wants to help us in His love.
There is a powerful truth contained in Acts 10:4. Our prayers and our giving cause a “memorial” to come before God. When we pray and give out of love, God is not unjust to forget; He will answer and reward.
Let me make a couple very important points from Acts chapter 8. First, people will be much more apt to hear the preaching of the gospel when they see it in demonstration. Here is a good example of this in Acts 8:6; it says, “And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.”
The second important point I will make is this; the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a distinct and subsequent work from salvation. In other words, being baptized with Holy Spirit doesn’t happen automatically when someone comes to Christ; we must receive the Holy Spirit baptism by faith also.
Acts 8:14-16 says, “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The point is seen very clearly in those verses. When someone comes to Christ, the Holy Spirit washes and makes them new by the Holy Spirit in their spirit, but that doesn’t mean they have received the baptism (immersion) of the Holy Spirit.
Last, I want to give the ”1,2,3’s of Evangelism” from Acts 8:35. It says, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” OK, here we go; the three steps of evangelism:
1. Open your mouth. (God can give you words, but you got to speak them. The scripture says ‘Phillip opened his mouth and you do too)
2. Use Scripture (Phillip used Scripture. Don’t be deep; keep it simple, but let the hearer know you are not giving them your own opinion; you’re giving them God’s word)
3. Preach Jesus (Phillip had one subject when he preached: Jesus)
Below is a video of some people bringing the power of God and the Gospel to to a mall is Sweden. It's a little long, but try to watch at least the first 7 1/2 minutes.
These chapters give us a glimpse of what the church looks like when people are yielding to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to work through them. Peter summed up this point well in Acts 5:32 when he said, “we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." It was a cooperation and teamwork of “witnesses” and “Holy Spirit.” This goes along with what Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:26-27: "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus Christ, and we cooperate with Him and testify also. There isn't any job the Lord has given us that He expects us to do without His grace and ability. Let’s not strive; let’s pray and ask Him to “grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30).
Read through the Bible with us in 2012! The reading plan can be downloaded below; we are reading in chronological order. Check back often to read the blog posts on the Bible readings and discuss things in the "comments" section.
2012 Bible Plan