Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Chs. 11 & 12
Chapters 11 & 12
Chapter: Acts 11
Passage: Acts 11:1-18
A. Find Out:
1. What happened when Peter went back to Jerusalem ? v.1-3
2. So what did Peter do? v.4
3. What did he first recount? v.5-14
4. What did he also tell about? v.15
5. What did he remember & conclude? v.16,17
6. What was their conclusion? v.18
The word soon gets out about what has happened at Caesarea and when Peter arrives back at Jerusalem , he finds that not everyone is happy about it. It is obvious that there were Christian Jews there who still held onto the necessity for circumcision, still holding onto a very Jewish form of Christianity, and they were not happy that a large group of Gentiles seemed to come into the church.
So Peter explains what happened, how God had directed him to go, by vision and by the Spirit, and then what had happened when he had been preaching. His conclusion is excellent: if God gave them, when they believed, the same as he gave us when we believed, then who am I to go against God. When he says this they all agree and rejoice that Gentiles are saved the same way as Jews.
The big lesson here is that the truth is not to be feared. Peter had gone against the way most believers thought was right, yet he had been sure it was at God's leading. When God turned up, he was vindicated. All he had to do was tell it and leave the result up to God. If other people react badly to us when we tell the truth of what God has done, when it goes against their belief system, they are responsible to God for it, not us! God will hold them answerable to Him.
1. Trust in the truth and to God vindicating you.
2. How people respond to the truth is not our responsibility.
A. Find Out:
1. How far had persecuted believers gone and to whom? v.19
2. Yet who had gone from where to where with what effect? v.20,21
3. Who was sent, how was he described & what did he find? v.22-24
4. So where did he go, who did he get & what did they do? v.25,26
5. What did Agabus prophesy? v.28
6. What did the believers there do? v.29,30
So much information in so few verses. The Jerusalem persecution had spread the Gospel far and wide, but mainly to Jews. However, Jews afar off, not so traditional as the Jerusalem Jews, had taken the Gospel on to Gentiles. In Antioch especially, it had born much fruit and the church was well established there.
It was a Jew, originally from Cyprus (see 4:36 ), who was sent to see what was happening in Antioch . Now Barnabus had already shown himself to be a main of faith and encouragement when he accepted Saul when he first came to Jerusalem (see 9:27 ). Now he's chosen to go to Antioch as the church's representative. Saul had been sent home to Tarsus after the upset at his preaching in Jerusalem , and so when Barnabus arrives in Antioch and sees the need, he straight away thinks of a man who would be good to teach in this situation. Saul comes to mind so he sends for him so the two work together there in Antioch teaching the church, an ex-Levite and an ex-Pharisee, both men well grounded in Scriptures, both men full of faith and wisdom. No wonder the church grew and was well established with “ great numbers of people”. Next when great need is foretold and the church there seeks to meet it, who is sent, Barnabus and Saul. What a team!
1. God takes the most unlikely people and transforms them.
2. God uses their abilities and talents for His purposes!
A. Find Out:
1. What had king Herod done? v.1
2. What had happened to James? v.2
3. What did he do with Peter and why? v.3,4a
4. How many guards did he put over him and why? v.4b,c
5. But what did the church do? v.5
Why pause on such a few negative verses, you might ask. Because there are some important lessons here. First of all, note that persecution turns up and shatters the peace. Sometimes it comes gradually, sometimes suddenly. There had been peace in all Judea ( 9:31 ), the word had gone to the Gentiles (Cornelius and Antioch ), and now suddenly it seems, the enemy prompts Herod to rise up against the home church in Jerusalem . There are arrests and even a killing and some of the key leaders of the church are involved. 2 Tim 3:12 tells us that those who wish to live a godly life WILL be persecuted, it is part of the package.
The second thing to consider is the effect such plundering of the leadership would have on the church. No doubt initially there was great concern and great anxiety and even great anguish over James' death. Then when Peter is taken, even more so. What does the future hold, is this the end? What will happen to him? What will happen to us? But then they settle down to prayer, not just a quick casual prayer, but earnest, sustained prayer. This was a crisis and God is their only hope. It sometimes takes a crisis for us to learn the lesson in more than our heads: God is our refuge and strength in time of trouble (see Psa 18:2). In blessing, pray. In trouble, pray!
1. The Christian life is sometimes tough!
2. God is always there. Talk to Him about it.
A. Find Out:
1. Where was Peter sleeping? v.6
2. What did the angel do and say? v.7
3. What did he then tell Peter to do? v.8
4. What did Peter think about all this? v.9
5. What happened when they came to gates? v.10
6. What did Peter eventually realise? v.11
This story is one of the best examples in the Bible of the combination of the divinely supernatural and the earthly human. Let's consider first the supernatural elements of this story.
First there is an angel, second the guards don't wake up, third Peter's chain just fall off, fourth they pass guards who don't see them and fifth the gates open before them. Clearly these are all supernatural “impossible” (in the human sense) events. This is a story of one miraculous thing happening after another.
But now consider the very human aspects of the story . Peter is sleeping so the angel strikes him on the side to wake him up. Peter is still half asleep so the angel has to tell him to get up. Peter is still half in a dream so the angel has to tell him (like a little child) to get dressed and put on his shoes. Having done that he's told to wrap his cloak around himself, it's cold outside! And then they walk out! How down to earth can you get! That is the wonder of Christianity: it is the blend of the really human with the divinely supernatural. That's what makes this story so credible. That's what makes our lives credible, when the impossible happens to our very human lives, you know it's got to be real, it's got to be God!
1. Our humanity is important. Don't deny it.
2. God does the impossible in our human lives. Hallelujah!
A. Find Out:
1. To where did Peter go? v.12
2. Who came to the door & how did she respond? v.13,14
3. How did the church respond to her? v.15
4. How did they respond when they found it was Peter? v.16
5. What did Peter then say and do? v.17
6. What happened as a result of Peter's escape? v.18,19
Peter has been delivered miraculously and now makes his way to one of the homes used by the church. It is the home where many had gathered to pray earnestly for Peter. The response that he gets there should raise some questions in our minds. Note what it is first.
First there is the servant girl (note the personal touch, she is named) who is overjoyed and in her joy doesn't even open the door but goes to tell the others. But the others! They had been praying earnestly for Peter and they can't believe that he is there. What had they been praying? What had they been asking for in respect of him?
Perhaps they had been simply asking for his protection. That would be reasonable as a starting place, but why not go the whole way and ask for his release. Now if they had asked for his release, why didn't they believe when that came? The answer must be that they were so wrapped up in the drama that they were praying but without faith. It is so easy in prayer to get caught up in the “prayer meeting” feeling that we are not actually expecting to see an answer then and there. It is easy to pray words; it is less easy to have faith to expect and answer. The challenge to us here must be to examine our praying and ask if we really believe. (see Jn 15:7,16)
1. Do we pray just words, or pray in faith expecting answers?
2. Jesus calls us to pray in faith.
A. Find Out:
1. Who went where? v.19b
2. Who came to him and for what reason? v.20
3. What was he doing & how did the people respond? v.21,22
4. Why did the angel strike him down? v.23
5. Yet what continued to happen? v.24
6. Who then went where? v.25
This Herod is Herod Agrippa, the fourth of the Herod's we find in the Gospels and Acts and he is no better than any of the others. We have observed him persecuting the church and now Luke shows us his downfall at God's hand.
Some people from the north need his help and so when he makes a public speech they praise him in the most extreme way possible, they declare him to be a god. Now this foolishness would just remain that if Herod had stopped them, but instead, in his pride, he just accepts their tributes. There are times when, it seems, the patience of God comes to an end. If it does it is because He knows that if left the person in question will just become a bigger and bigger nuisance to the world and to the kingdom of God . Thus He acts quite simply and, by the hand of an angel, He has Herod struck down. This is a simple act of judgement. When the world looked on they saw a powerful man who apparently had been bringing anguish to the church. Now they see a man humbled as he finds a slow death. At any point he could have repented and been saved (see Ezek 18:32) but in his foolish pride he held onto himself and died. Meanwhile God's word continues spreading and God's men carry on going about their business. Foolish man!
1. No man is beyond the reach of God.
2. God puts up with human foolishness just so far and no further!
In this third group of 6 studies we have seen :
Life is often a mixture of blessing and struggle. This section of Acts is like that. One moment it is peace and extending the kingdom, the next it is fierce opposition. During the times of peace, and when all is going well, we just feel good, but it is when the opposition comes that we see the miraculous works of God occurring.
This section is also transition in Luke's writing. So far it has been much about Peter, but soon it will be mostly about Saul, or Paul as he became known. Transitions are always a bit uncertain and this time must have been a bit like that. If you are in transition, don't worry, it's just that God is about to take you on to His next phase.
1. How people respond to the truth is not our responsibility
2. God uses the most unlikely people
3. Tough times are an opportunity for God to move
4. We are not to just pray words but pray in faith
5. All men are answerable to God.
Thank the Lord for the tough times. Put them into His hands.
PART 4: "Paul's First Missionary Journey"
In this next Part Luke moves on to show us another way the church moved out and spread, through the travels of Barnabus and Saul. This is real church planting. Watch carefully how they do it.