Changing the Hearts of Two Apostles – Acts 9-10

A lot happens in Acts chapter 9, but clearly the most important thing is that the man (Saul of Tarsus) who had ravaged the church and approved of the deaths of Christians (including that of Stephen) is converted. In fact, he is found  preaching in the synagogue and declaring that Jesus is the Son of God. This naturally amazed and bewildered a great many people. Such a turnaround in such a short time made a lot of people skeptical. It is the most significant conversion of the New Testament because Paul, as he came to be called, ended up writing the epistles that became most of what we call the New Testament.

English: Peter's vision of a sheet with animal...

English: Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals, from Acts 10; illustration from Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In chapter 10, Peter has a vision that changes his life once again. The vision shows him that no animal is unclean, and Mosaic Law had demanded and that Gentiles, by extension, required a revision of his views. After he arrived at his house, Peter had told Cornelius of how the Spirit had pointed him toward their meeting. So then Cornelius told him of his vision, and that all present were commanded to hear what Peter has to say.  So then, Peter preached to them about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There will be much more discussion about Gentiles in the kingdom of the Lord before the “Jerusalem Conference” of chapter 15, but Peter’s mind on the subject is made up already, it appears. In verses 34-35, he says “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” And he finishes preaching with these words “all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 /Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 11, Acts 12

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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The Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8

The baptism of the eunuch by Rembrandt, 1626, ...

The baptism of the eunuch by Rembrandt, 1626, depicting Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Chapter 8, an angel of the Lord appeared to Philip and told him to go to the desert land that was to the south on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. Philip did obey, and upon arriving, he met with an Ethiopian eunuch who was a court official to Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. “Candace” was a name assigned to all such rulers of Ethiopia during that time (much like the name Pharaoh was given to rulers of Egypt. Because the Ethiopian would have been returning from worship in Jerusalem to a destination over a 1,000 miles away, he must have been a a very devout man. Some speculate that he was a “God-fearer” — a Gentile who had converted to Judaism. That certainly seems to fit. Philip found him in his chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit sent him to join the Ethiopian in his chariot.

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 11, Acts 12

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Selecting the Deacons and the Death of Stephen Acts 6-7

In chapter 6, at the urging of the apostles, the disciples chose seven men for the apostles to appoint to “serve tables” for the church – the first deacons. It is an important distinction. It is the elders of the church who are to appoint the deacons, true enough. But they make their decisions as to who to appoint based solely upon the group of men that the church members select. One could logically assume that the wisdom in doing it this way is because the members are closer to their fellow disciples and they are going to better know the hearts and lives of the men that they select,

English: St Stephen (detail), painting by Giac...

English: St Stephen (detail), painting by Giacomo Cavedone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two of the men they select will become key figures. Though Stephen’s time will end in chapter 7, his life, the speech that he gives, and his death have great meaning and served the fulfillment of the Lord’s commands, as well as the growth of his church in ways that we can only partially know. Phlip will be instrumental in chapters to come for the conversion and salvation of many. The other five that the text mentions do not appear elsewhere after this chapter.

Stephen makes his enemies much angrier in his “history lesson to the Sanhedrin in chapter 7. He speaks of the tabernacle that Moses had built under God’s direction (verse 44, Exodus 25). He speaks of the Israelites bringing it into Canaan under Joshua, where it remained until David’s time. Then Solomon built a house for the Lord. But he reminds them in verses 48-50, that God does not dwell in the temple, and for all its glory, His own hands made everything in it.

He then addresses the council more personally, and speaks of their own vile rejection of “the cornerstone” and their betrayal of God and His son, saying:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.

Stephen had not only turned the tables on his own accusers as having gone against God, but had called them the murderers that they were! Their fury had to have been something to see. So they dragged him out of the city, and laid their garments at the feet of a man named Saul (stoning was hard, sweaty work) before they stoned Stephen to death.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 3, Acts 4, Acts 5, Acts 6, Acts 7

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Peter and John Arrested and Released – Acts 4-5

In chapter 4, Luke tells us that the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees “came upon them.” The “captain” of the temple was not a military figure , but someone in a supervisory role to the priests and Levites in the temple. The text says that they were greatly annoyed because Peter and John “were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” This would be particularly annoying to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:8). So they arrested the two apostles, and kept them for the night, as it was already late in the day.

But it was too late to stop what had obviously been God’s purpose that day. Verse 4 makes it pretty clear that the two apostles had not simply drawn the attention of a couple of dozen of temple-goers. Luke says that many believed as a result of their preaching and the miracle, and that the number of men came to about five thousand. So we can assume that upwards of 10,000 men and women had been persuaded in the gospel by that incident. Jesus’ church was growing very quickly indeed.

 

Peter and John were arrested. When they were released by the council, they went to their friends and told them all that had happened. What followed was what had to have been an incredibly uplifting experience, to say the very least. They start by praising God in a beautiful prayer, much of which is a wonderful model of prayer for us today as well.

 

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When they finished, Luke tells us that the place where they were assembled actually shook! And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. God was giving His people everything they needed to move forward with the Lord’s church – knowledge, the Holy Spirit, and the confidence of knowing that He was with them.

 

In chapter 5, Ananias and Sapphira were telling everyone that they were putting all of the proceeds of the sale of their property to use for the Lord’s church. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, knew what had actually transpired, and rebuked Ananias for the lie, pointing out that it was all unnecessary in the first place. It was his house and his money, and he could have done with it as he pleased. Ananias collapsed and breathed his last breath upon hearing Peter’s words.

It was about three hours later when his wife Sapphira arrived, and Peter asked her whether they had sold the house for “so much” (Luke uses those words there because the actual amount was not important to the scripture). When she lied, saying that was the case, Peter rebuked her as well, and she also breathed her last breath.

The problem was not just with the lie itself, but with the intent behind it that showed an insincere heart when it came to what they were doing. God would have no such hypocrisy tarnish the unity and momentum that the Lord’s church had at that time.

 

/Bob’s boy

 

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

 

Acts 3, Acts 4, Acts 5, Acts 6, Acts 7

 

___________________

 

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

 

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

 

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and John in Solomon’s Portico – Acts 3

Dormition of the Theotokos Church in Matejče, ...

Dormition of the Theotokos Church in Matejče, Macedonia (1348-1352), The Cycle of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter Preaching in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter and John, in chapter 3, heal a man who was lame from birth. In Solomon’s Portico (or porch), the two had created quite a stir. Solomon’s Portico, according to Josephus was a part of the original temple surroundings that still remained from Solomon’s time. It was a large colonnade with double columns that ran along the eastern wall in the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus taught there at the Feast of Dedication in the winter (John 10:22-23).

The astonished crowd was growing, and Peter of course, used the opportunity to preach to them. He began by letting them know that it was not by their power that the man had been healed, but by that of Jesus. He used the opportunity to tell that they had denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you” (Barabas). He then said that they “killed the author of life.” This is a significant statement by Peter, in that it demonstrates that Jesus came to earth fully Lord and God, having been from the beginning, just as John’s gospel states.

He tells them that he and the others are witnesses that God raised Him from the dead, and that it was by faith in Him that this man was healed. Peter would not be oblivious to the fact that among the listeners would be Pharisees and their sympathizers. It was a message that was intended for them to hear – not for the purpose of confrontation, but for the opportunity for salvation.

Peter continues preaching in the Portico, telling his listeners that they must repent and turn back from their wickedness. He tells them that Jesus must now be received by heaven until it is time for Him to return. there He will remain, he says, “until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” It is the restoring of what God had proclaimed was very good in the beginning — until sin entered the world.

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 3, Acts 4, Acts 5, Acts 6, Acts 7

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The Day of Pentecost – Acts 1-2

Luke begins the book of The Acts of the Apostles by addressing Theophilus again. He summarizes what he had told him in “the first book” — the Gospel of Luke, emphasizing the charge Jesus had given to the apostles after his resurrection, and the fact that He spent 40 days speaking with them about the kingdom of God. He also made a point to say that Jesus provided “many proofs” during that time. It was an important point, and one that Paul also stressed at times (1 Corinthians 15:5-7). Peter also said plainly that they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

English: The Pentecost. From the Acts of the A...

English: The Pentecost. From the Acts of the Apostles printed in , Georgia, in 1709 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He further told Theophilus that Jesus had ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, “which you heard from me.” It was in Luke 24:49 that Jesus said “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you ware clothed with power from on high.” Here, he says “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” It is that baptism which will ensure that Jesus’ apostles have all of the knowledge they need to grow the Lord’s church.

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in “tongues” – not gibberish, but languages that people who spoke such would understand. Then Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, telling them who Jesus was, and how they were guilty in His death.

Verse 37 says that when they heard this they were “cut to the heart.” How many of them, one might wonder, had been among the frenzied crowd that was calling out “Crucify Him” just about 50 days earlier? So they asked Peter and the other eleven apostles what they should do. Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38 may be the most important verse in the this whole book:

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But Peter made certain that they knew that this was not just a “good idea,” considering what had been done to the Lord. It was not something that just a few of them — the ones who may have been among that mob mentioned above. And it was not just a passing ritual to be done for now, but meaning no urgency for times to come. Quite the contrary, Peter’s next words sealed it as the promise of the path to salvation for all to come, as he said in verse 39:

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

About three thousand of them were baptized then, as the church immediately took hold. Now, this number has brought about some criticism from skeptics, of course, saying that 12 men could not have baptized so many. But of course, Jesus’ other disciples would have been baptized already, and would be there to help. God’s will would be done. I suppose that as a number of these were baptized, several of them joined in completing the task with those who remained, as well.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Luke 22, Luke 23, Luke 24, Acts 1, Acts 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Priest of a New Covenant – Hebrews 7-8

In chapter 7, the writer of Hebrews offers some explanation of the “order of Melchizedek.” In Genesis 14:17-20, He is called “priest of God most high.” But Melchizedek came along before the Levitical priesthood. Aaron himself had not been born yet– much less Levi. It is clear that Melchizedek was a special case, and that he was very important. He blessed Abraham; and verse seven of Hebrews 7 says “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.”

Photograph of medieval canvas "Abraham an...

Photograph of medieval canvas “Abraham and Melchisedek” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know very little about this man. His genealogy is not given. He was the king of Salem. Some suppose that this was a shortened name for Jerusalem. If so, that would seem meaningful to us. But the most important thing for us to get from all of this is that Jesus is said to be the new “high priest;” and that He was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. He was not a Levite, and therefore could not be a priest under the old law. But he is to  be thought of as a priest under the new covenant, in that He intercedes for us through our prayers.

But unlike the high priests who had sin in their own lives, and would have to sacrifice for themselves as well, Jesus was without sin. He bore our sins for us on the cross. The writer closes chapter 8 by confirming the replacement of the old covenant with the new, when he says is verse 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Hebrews

Heb. 4, Heb. 5, Heb. 6, Heb. 7, Heb. 8

 

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

A Better “High Priest”- Hebrews 5-6

In chapter 5, the writer of Hebrews starts the chapter with an explanation of all that he had to say previously about Jesus being a “high priest.” Many Jews would appreciate the analogy because they were accustomed to having a high priest. In verse 6, he states that He was a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.”  This was quoted from Psalm 110:4.

Jewish high priest wearing a hoshen, and Levit...

Jewish high priest wearing a hoshen, and Levites in ancient Judah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The writer tells them that there is more he needs to tell them, but then begins a rebuke. He tells them that they have become “dull of hearing,” and that by now they should be teaching others. But instead, they are in need of “milk” instead of “solid food.” Those he was addressing had not grown spiritually. And how does on e become mature? The writer says it is attained by “those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Verses 4-8 of chapter 6 do not mean that there is a sin that is unforgivable. It simply means that it can be much harder for one who has tasted of salvation to come back once they stray than for someone to be converted who has never heard the gospel.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Hebrews

Heb. 4, Heb. 5, Heb. 6, Heb. 7, Heb. 8

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Walking With the Spirit – Galatians 5-6

As we reach the last two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the subject matter in the first half of chapter five is circumcision because that is one of the tenants of the doctrine that they have been deceived about. He then moves in verses 16-25 to “walking with the Spirit.” The contrast he gives is with the works of the flesh because, as he says, they are in opposition to the Spirit. He names some of the works of the flesh:

…the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Fruit of the SpiritIt is certainly not a comprehensive list, but entire sermons could be preached concerning each of those listed. The contrasting fruits of the Spirit are then given:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Belonging to Christ, we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. But what does that mean, really? Are we not tempted by such passions? And in giving in to those passions, do we not belong to Christ? WE shall be tempted, and we shall sin. We know that to be true because the Bible tells us that no one is without sin. With all good intentions, I will not go through the rest of my life without sinning. But by putting on Christ in baptism, I have renounced that way of life, and I will strive each day to walk with the Spirit.

Those nine “fruits” of the Spirit are characteristics that we must put to work consciously, so that they will most certainly choke out the works of the flesh from our lives.

Paul close the letter in chapter 6 with a final word about the law and circumcision. But before he does, he gives them other important admonishment. “Bear one another’s burdens,” he said. It is one of many reminders the Bible gives that everyone who thinks they can serve God without “going to church.” should heed. It is not about you. It is not even about just your relationship with the Lord. We are commanded to encourage one another in fellowship with the Lord, and bear each other’s burdens. Those things do not happen in the right way from one’s own living room.

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click here to read or listen to audio of this week’s chapters in Galatians and Ephesians

/Bob’s boy
___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Of Prayer and Faith – Mark 11-15

Jesus entering Jerusalem, the Triumphal Entry.

Jesus entering Jerusalem, the Triumphal Entry.

This week, we read Mark 11-15 in our five day per week journey through the entire New Testament this year. Chapter 11 begins with mark’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. he then cleanses the temple and further angers the Pharisees. There is also the account of the fig tree that he caused to wither. His statement that it would not bear fruit again is symbolic of His beloved Jerusalem. they had been given the stewardship of God’s word, along with His love and favor. But now their rejection of His Son, was too much.

The last account of the chapter is of another challenge by the chief priests, scribes, and the elders demanding to know by what authority He does the things that He has done. His answer is especially shrewd. He will only answer if they tell Him by what authority John the baptist did his baptisms – of heaven or of man. If they answered that it was of man, the people would become angry, for they knew John was a prophet. So they refused to answer.

The portion of the chapter that grabs your attention, however is when Jesus explained the lesson of the fig tree:

Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Grove of fig trees, a mature size.

Grove of fig trees, a mature size.

Moving a mountain in Jewish literature was a metaphor for doing that which seemed impossible (just as it would be for us). Jesus does not mean that God is our magic genie, to whom we only need to incant the proper words in prayer and get whatever we want. We must remember also that the Bible is a unified teaching, and that it has much else to say about prayers — such as in James 4:2-3: “…You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

So clearly, we are expected first of all to pray according to God’s will. But more importantly, we must examine why we should “move the mountain” in first place. Jesus said in Matthew 6: 33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So following His word, and trying hard to be the “light of the world” and “the salt” that He spoke of in Mark 9:50, must be our primary driving force in life. That’s is easy to say, but hard to really do.

At least as important, and possibly more so, is the lesson Jesus gave to the apostles in that same chapter, when they were arguing about which of them was the greatest. In Mark 9:35, He told them: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Jesus taught that being righteous in His kingdom is not about one’s self. It is about how we can serve others in order to help carry them to heaven with us. And that, my friends, is the hardest part of all.

Knowing this then, when we pray for the mountains” that we wish to move, we must ask ourselves how, in doing so, we might be able to put others first, build someone up, and nurse them along life’s journey and into His kingdom. Jesus was the King they had waited for so long to come. But they missed the fact that He was to be the greatest servant — the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. By following his example, and becoming a servant to others, there is truly no mountain we cannot move from faith in our prayers.

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click here to read or listen to audio of this week’s chapters in Mark

/Bob’s boy
___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.