Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Chs. 15 & 16
Chapters 15 & 16
Introduction to Acts Chapters 15 to 20
In the previous Studies in this Series, we saw how the Lord had put His hand on Saul, soon renamed Paul, and used him to reach out with the Gospel to towns further away from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. At the end of that set of studies, we had left Paul and Barnabus back at home in Antioch after having established a number of churches in the south of Galatia.
As we push on through the book of Acts in this set of Studies we will cover Paul's second and third missionary journeys. We will see that initially the intention was to simply go back and strengthen the churches that they had already established. However as they went, the Lord directed Paul to go further on to Macedonia and then down to Achaia, the provinces of northern and southern Greece . Eventually they made their way home, mainly by sea.
Having been at home for a while, the desire to strengthen the churches stirred Paul to start off again on what turns out to be his third and last missionary journey, roughly covering the same areas again but this time returning mainly by land, coming back through the cities he had already visited. This is very much a strengthening exercise.
The structure of these studies will be:
In each case you are strongly encouraged to follow Paul's travels using a map so that you can see exactly what the Lord was doing through His servant.
The final set of Studies in this series in Acts will then cover Paul's arrest and the events that finally leave him in Rome .
PART 1 : Second Journey, Part 1
In this Part watch how the Lord leads on the new apostolic team to go from simply building up the existing churches to raising up new ones. This will not always be easy and Paul & Silas even find themselves in prison because of the Gospel - but God is still there!
Chapter: Acts 15
Passage: Acts 15:36-41
A. Find Out:
1. What did Paul suggest? v.36
2. How did Barnabus want to do it? v.37
3. But what did Paul feel about that? v.38
4. So what happened? v.39a
5. What did Barnabus do? v.39b
6. What did Paul do? v.40,41
Observe first of all, the apostolic strategy: to go and strengthen what they had already built. This was the natural thing to do, to go back and check the growing family, this was why they went out again. Note that it isn't a big sending thing but a natural progression. Sometimes we don't need major guidance directives, there are simply things that are natural for us to push on with.
Next observe the characters of the two leading missionary apostles at this time. Paul is the pusher. He is the one suggesting the going out again. As an initiator the goal is the all important thing for Paul and people have to fit into that, and if they don't, well put them aside (note that he clearly did come back into a friendly relationship with John Mark later on). Barnabus on the other hand, as his name suggests (see Acts 4:36 ) is a “people-person”, an encourager who puts people before plans. Both of these men are loved by God and significant in His purposes. Disagreement doesn't have to mean painful upset. If we see that in this story it's perhaps more our expectation of it from our experience rather than what happened. They simply go their different ways to do the same job, both starting from their individual home ground, and so the work progresses even more effectively.
1. We're human, we sometimes disagree, but God still loves us.
2. Identify the “type” of person we are: plans or people. Both are valid.
A. Find Out:
1. Where did Paul go? v.1a
2. What are we told about Timothy's background? v.1b,2
3. What had to be done and why? v.3
4. What did they do as they went from place to place? v.4
5. With what outcome? v.5
Paul goes back to those places on the mainland where he had established churches before, with the clear aim of encouraging and building them up, while also bringing the message from the church in Jerusalem that they did not need to be over concerned to conform to Jewish laws, especially those pertaining to circumcision. At this point we feel there is an inconsistency for we see Paul had Timothy circumcised out of consideration for the Jews in the area, that he would not be a stumbling block to them. What is the answer?
The answer is that Paul knew, and insisted, that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. He emphasised that in his letter to the Galatians, the people he is now going to. Circumcision was not part of the salvation package, just faith in Christ. We cannot please God and win our way into His presence by doing things, only by belief in Jesus. BUT, for the sake of the Gospel, to take away any stumbling block before the Jews, to ensure the Gospel is not hindered by petty concerns, Paul ensures the Jewish team going to the Jews, fully complies with everything the Jews might be concerned about. This is grace. It is not necessary for salvation, but if it means this particular people group will be more open to receive the Gospel then he will ensure they all comply.
1. Salvation may not demand we do certain things but grace towards others may require us to go the extra mile.
2. Salvation is by faith alone, and works follow on afterwards.
A. Find Out:
1. Where did they travel? v.6a
2. What did the Holy Spirit do? v.6b
3. What did the Spirit subsequently do? v.7
4. So where did they go? v.8
5. What happened to Paul at night? v.9
6. So what did they do, concluding what? v.10
So far the apostles seems to have simply gone where it naturally seemed right for them to go, and God seemed quite happy with that. Suddenly all that changes.
As they are working their way northwards in Asia Minor , they are suddenly aware that the Holy Spirit is seeking to stop them preaching in the small province simply known as Asia in the north. So they move westwards to the next province known as Mysia and prepare to cross over into the northern province of Bithynia but again the Holy Spirit gives them a strong impression that this is not what they should do. When this sort of thing happens to you here are two ways you can react: first, you can be negative and get frustrated or, second, you can be positive and say, ‘Well the Lord is shutting this door so He obviously has a different door for us to go through' and just keep on looking. The latter course seems to have been what the apostles did for, rather than turning round and going home, they simply push on westwards until they run out of land.
It is at this point that Paul had a vision (not a dream) calling them to cross the water into what we now call Europe . This is to be a major new initiative in the missionary plan of God.
1. God's guidance comes in many forms, each needing faith.
2. When we are stopped it is so that we can be started elsewhere.
A. Find Out:
1. Where did they next travel? v.11,12
2. Where did they go on the Sabbath and why? v.13a
3. What did they do there? v.13b
4. What are we told about Lydia ? v.14
5. What happened to her? v.15a
6. What also did she do? v.15b
Responding to the vision they cross the see into Macedonia and travel on to Philippi a “leading city of that district”, i.e. they went where they knew there were plenty of people, especially Jews. Having been there a few days they found there was (obviously) no synagogue but, as there was a designated place of prayer outside the city, on the Sabbath they went there to see who turned up. It seems it was mostly women who came to pray, obviously Jewish as it was the Sabbath, and so Paul starts sharing the message with them. At least one of them, a business woman named Lydia responds to the message, together with other members of her household.
Being next to the river, the first thing they do with new believers is baptise them. This is the standard practice. After being publicly initiated into the newly formed church (church comes into being as soon as believers are created and the Spirit indwells them - they ARE the church there), Lydia invites them to stay at her home. Hospitality is her gift back to them. [Note in passing that Luke has joined Paul's team now - see the “we” of verse 10 onwards - so there are at least Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy in the team now]
1. Share the Gospel with those who are already interested, who perhaps
show signs of being religious, but who don't yet know Jesus.
2. Baptism is to follow conversion.
A. Find Out:
1. What was the fortune-telling girl doing? v.16,17
2. How did Paul eventually react and what happened? v.18
3. What did her owners do? v.19
4. What did they say about Paul & Silas? v.20,21
5. What happened to them? v.22,23a
6. Where did they end up? v.23b,24
The apostles remain in Philippi , presumably sharing the Gospel at the “place of prayer”. One day they are met by a fortune telling girl, a slave owned by men who make money out of her. This girl calls out about them, and kept on doing this day after day. What she says is right but it seems it is coming more as mockery than as declaration. Eventually Paul has had enough. He has either been told, or discerns, that she has an evil spirit that is working through her, and senses that this is the time God wants her to be delivered, and so with a word of authority he delivers her from the spirit.
Note that it says that “Paul became so troubled” that he acted. There are times when, in grace, we try to put up with the attacks of the enemy, but there comes a time when we are so disturbed by what is happening that it is as if we are forced to act, and then God does something dramatic! The effect of this deliverance was quite dramatic: the enemy rose up in anger against them, the owners of the girl, presumably a gang, grabbed the apostles and bundled them into the market place before the magistrates. They, without checking the facts, had them beaten and thrown into prison. Not a happy ending! Life can be like that, but that is not the end of the story!
1. Be ready to stand against a counter attack when you've had victory.
2. God is never defeated!
A. Find Out:
1. What were Paul & Silas doing at midnight ? v.25
2. What then happened? v.26
3. What did the jailor think had happened? v.27
4. When Paul stopped him what did he ask? v.28-30
5. What did Paul reply and with what effect? v.31-33
6. What was the outcome for the apostles? v.34
Having been severely thrashed and then put in stocks in a dungeon, you might expect the apostles to feel quite down. If they are they are showing it in a good way - praying and worshipping out loud. They are being a continual witness to those around them, the other prisoners there. In the midst of that God intervenes! (so you think the earthquake was a coincidence?) The jailor wakes and is distraught and prepares to take his own life. The apostles instead of quickly making their escape lead the man to salvation. They made the most of the situation for kingdom purposes. The end result is that the jailor and his family come to the Lord, and the apostles are free in his home.
The question that arises from this story is how do we react when in trying circumstances? Can God find us relying upon him like these men, calling on Him and receiving His grace for the circumstances? In the middle of a crisis do we see the needs of others also in crisis and reach out to them with God's love? Do we take any and every such opportunity to share the Gospel and lead others in distress to salvation?
1. In the most trying of circumstances God's grace is available for us to be a
blessing to others.
2. We may not be very good at this yet, but God wants us to learn to
receive His grace more and more for such situations.
A. Find Out:
1. What happened in the morning? v.35,36
2. What was Paul's reply? v.37
3. What effect did this have? v.38
4. So what did they do? v.39
5. So what did Paul & Silas do? v.40
When morning arrives, the order comes from the magistrates that they are to be released, an indication from the magistrates that a) they are in control and b) they are happy to let the apostles off with no further punishment. Apparently magnanimous. Not so according to Paul! He is not going to let this blatant injustice be passed by so easily. The day before it had not been Paul and Silas who were in the wrong but they had been punished without any proper hearing and in any person's book that was just negligent abuse of power by the magistrates. Not only that, Paul was a Roman citizen, which meant that he was guaranteed a trial in any Roman held territory, and he hadn't had it! No, these men were clearly in the wrong.
The interesting thing to notice at this point is that when the magistrates came apologetically and asked them to leave the town, presumably for the sake of the peace of the town, Paul and Silas comply. They take their time doing it, but they comply. We might have been tempted to make a point and stay on preaching the Gospel but these two ambassadors of God are simply happy to move on to the next place. They have established the church there and so now perhaps it is wiser to leave the church to stand on its own and move on.
1. With opposition will always come further opportunity to move on.
2. There are times to stand up for justice and times to remain quiet. We
need to ask God for wisdom to know when to fight what battles.
In this first group of 7 studies we have seen :
The apostolic strategy was to go back to the previous churches and encourage and strengthen them and sort out doctrine. Yet the Lord led them on into new land and established a church at Philippi , the first European church. After they established the church, when opposition came, they were happy to move on.
1. Disagreements between leaders do come; we are human beings.
2. Even such disagreements can be used to further extend the kingdom.
3. The Holy Spirit is the one who guides into new ventures.
4. Keep looking for those who show interest in spiritual matters.
5. Opposition may come but God's power will be there to cope.
6. Hindrances will come but God's grace will be there to cope.
7. Don't hold on too tight, be ready to move on.
Thank the Lord that “the work” is His. Ask Him to lead you in it and to provide all you need in it.
PART 2 : Second Journey, Part 2
In this next Part watch to see who Paul goes to and the different responses he gets to the Gospel. This section of Acts is Paul going to the “big” cities. In some places the message is gladly received, in others it seems there is little fruit, but never the less the apostles keep on, working to extend the kingdom of God .