Acts 11 Gentile Church atozmomm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

Summary Acts 11:19-30:

Those who had been scattered when Stephen died  traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch preaching to the Jews there.  However some men from Cyprus and Cyrene began to speak to the Greeks as well in Antioch about Jesus.  As a result, many Greeks believed.

Jerusalem sent Barnabas when they heard the news to help.  Then Barnabas traveled to Tarsus to bring Saul to Antioch to help preach the Good News.  For a whole year Saul and Barnabas preached the Good News and it was here at Antioch that the term Christians was first coined.

More prophets arrived from Jerusalem.  One of them, Agabus, predicted a severe famine for the entire Roman world (which was most know places).  The disciples decided to help their brothers in Judea during this time.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

12)  Antioch was the third-largest city in the Roman empire.  It sat at a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the eastern world.  It was a huge trading center and had a large Jewish and Greek population.  It was the first church with a large number of Gentile members and from here the first missionaries were sent out to spread the Gospel.

13) Personal Question. My answer: This blog. My work. Continue to pray for strength to continue as there are days where I am just tired.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

Another great example of the church growing and God using people to grow the church.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

The first mission to the Gentiles begins in Antioch.

Antioch was founded about 300 B.C. by Seleucus I, one of the inheritors of Alexander the Great’s empire. He named many cities after his father, Antioch, about fifteen in total. This city of Antioch was called “Syrian Antioch” or “Antioch on the Orontes.” In the first century, it was a city of more than half a million people; today it is a Turkish city with a population of about 3,500.

Antioch was about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of Jerusalem and about 20 miles (32 kilometers) inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Many considered Syrian Antioch the third greatest city in the Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria. Antioch was known for its business and commerece, for its sophistication and culture, but also for its immorality.

Map of Antioch and Tarsus atozmomm

“The city’s reputation for moral laxity was enhanced by the cult of Artemis and Apollo at Daphne, five miles distant, where the ancient Syrian worship of Astarte and her consort, with its ritual prostitution, was carried on.” (Bruce)

This is the plan for church growth spoken of in Ephesians 4:11-16. Leaders in the church dedicate themselves to building strong, healthy Christians. As the saints are equipped for the work of the ministry, they grow into maturity, and do their ministry, and it causes growth of the body.

Barnabas remembered the precious brother Saul, and how he was sent to Tarsus for his own protection (Acts 9:28-30). Now Barnabas went and found him.

Barnabas was probably exhausted and overwhelmed by all the work and opportunities in Antioch, and then remembering Saul of Tarsus.

To seek Saul is more literally to hunt him up. MacArthur says the original word “suggests a laborious search on Barnabas’ part.” Saul was so valuable to Barnabas that it was worth it for him to leave the work in Antioch for a season and search hard to find him.

Antioch became a center for great teaching and preaching. Antioch “had the greatest preachers – in the first century Barnabas, Paul, and Peter; in the second Ignatius and Theophilus; in the third and fourth Lucian, Theodore, Chrysostom, and Theordoret.” (Hughes)

church atozmomm

The Introduction of the Name Christian

It wasn’t until these years at the Church in Syrian Antioch that the name Christian became associated with the followers of Jesus. They had previously been called disciples (Acts 1:15), saints (Acts 9:13), believers (Acts 5:14), brothers (Acts 6:3), witnesses (Acts 5:32), followers of the Way (Acts 9:2), and Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).

In Latin, the ending ian meant “the party of.” A Christ-ian was “of the party of Jesus.” Christians was sort of like saying “Jesus-ites,” or “Jesus People,” describing the people associated with Jesus Christ. Boice thinks the idea was that they were called “Christ-ones.”

Also, soldiers under particular generals in the Roman army identifed themselves by their general’s name by adding ian to the end. A soldier under Caesar would call himself a Caesarian. Soldiers under Jesus Christ could be called Christians.

In Antioch, they probably first used the term Christians to mock the followers of Jesus. The believers appreciated the title so much that it stuck.

They gave according to the ability of their resources; those who had more gave more, probably referencing a proportional giving. It also means that they gave according to the ability of their faith, trusting that their gift to God’s work was a worthy investment in His kingdom, and not a loss.

Fun Fact: Luke is the only New Testament author to date his books by referring to Roman emperors. He refers to Claudius three times in the book of Acts. All of the events in Luke’s Gospel occur during the reigns of Tiberius and Augustus.

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Acts 8:36

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

Summary of Acts 8:9-40:

A man named Simon had been practicing sorcery and amazing the people in Samaria.  He was boastful and loved the people’s attention.  They thought him divine.  But then Philip shows up, preaching the Good News, and performing real miracles.  So Simon follows Philip everywhere, trying to learn his secrets (not truly believing in miracles himself).

The apostles Peter and John traveled to Samaria to pray for the people to receive the Holy Spirit.  Simon, seeing this, offered to pay for the ability to give people the Holy Spirit as well.  Peter tells him to keep his money for his heart is wicked, to repent and pray for forgiveness.  Peter and John return to Jerusalem, stopping in many Samaritan towns along the way.

An angel tells Philip to follow the road to Gaza.  Along the way, he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official to the Queen of Ethiopia.  He is reading the book of Isaiah.  Philip asks him if he understands and the eunuch said, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”

He was reading Isaiah 53 where Isaiah is speaking about Jesus so Philip explained this to him.  Philip baptized the eunuch and the Spirit of the Lord whisked Philip away to Azotus where he continued preaching until he reached Caesarea.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

6) A man named Simon had been practicing sorcery and amazing the people in Samaria.  He was boastful and loved the people’s attention.  They thought him divine.  But then Philip shows up, preaching the Good News, and performing real miracles.  So Simon follows Philip everywhere, trying to learn his secrets (not truly believing in miracles himself). He followed Philip everywhere and even was baptized in Jesus’ name. Simon then saw how Peter and John were laying hands on people and giving them the Holy Spirit. Simon was impressed, so he asked them to give him this ability as well. He offered to pay for it. This is the indication that he never believed; he was only following Jesus for what Jesus could give to him and not vice versa.

Thus, I think Simon merely professed, looking still for attention. He is full of greed, manipulation, and self-aggrandizement.

7) Persoanl Question. My answer: God knows everyone’s heart. Peter calls out Simon and his hypocrisy and Simon then is worried about what will happen to him. we need more people to call out hypocrisy when they see it. One cannot deceive the Holy Spirit.  He knows your heart and your true motives.  Only those who are worthy will have the Holy Spirit within.  Those who are evil will not.  Simon was not struck down for his manipulation like Ananias and Sappira were but he was denied God’s gift.

8a) Jesus was all of those things that Isaiah describes:  pierced for our transgressions, despised and rejected by men, and crushed for our iniquities.  We, the sheep, had turned our own way so God laid on Jesus all of our sins.

b) Personal Question. My answer: My desire is what it always is: to live out God’s truth every day of my life the best I can to my abilities.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

Last go around, we had to read all of Isaiah 53 along with this passage. In the study of Isaiah, one whole week was spent on Isaiah 53, which should tell you something of its importance. You can see Isaiah’s lessons here: Click herehere, and here.

2011’s Study of Acts is here for this passage HERE

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

Simon the Sorcerer

In the Bible sorcery is associated with occult, magical practices – and often with the taking of mind and mood altering drugs. Whatever real power Simon had, it was from Satan, not God.

i. The specific wording indicates that Simon was a magi. In the ancient world there was a class of astronomers and scientists known as magi (Matthew 2:1), but local wizards and sorcerers also took the title. They used it to prey on the ignorance and superstitions of the common people.

Up until Acts 8:13, there is nothing to indicate that Simon’s belief was false or insincere. Yet it will be tested by his conduct and response over time.

Often, the empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit is received as hands are laid on a person and prayer is offered for them (Acts 9:171 Timothy 4:142 Timothy 1:6). We should always be ready to receive whatever special graces and gifts God has to give us through the laying on of hands.

Simon the Sorcerer

Different Explanations for Why the Samaritans Had a Delay in the Holy Spirit

  • Some scholars say they were never truly born again (converted) under Philip’s preaching. When Peter and John came, they really trusted in Jesus and then received the Holy Spirit.
  • Some scholars say they were truly born again. Then, in a subsequent experience, they received the Holy Spirit in a pattern that believers should follow today.
  • Some scholars say they were converted in response to Philip’s preaching; yet God, in a unique move, withheld the gift of the Holy Spirit until Peter and John could bestow it on them. God’s purpose in this was to ensure continuity between the church in Jerusalem and the new church in Samaria, guarding against division.
  • Some scholars say they were really born again and did really receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, but were given special gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit at the laying on of hands by Peter and John.
  • The best option seems to best explain what happened. Whatever the Samaritans experienced, it seems to have been more than the “regular” bestowal of the Holy Spirit at salvation. This is a filling of the Holy Spirit we should always desire and seek.

Fun Fact: Simony is the word for the sin of buying or selling church offices or privileges, because it is done in the same spirit as this Simon. This sin is sometimes practiced today; but more commonly people simply think that blessing follows money instead of money following blessing.

Simon’s Rebuke by Peter

Boice observed: “When Peter says, ‘You have no part or share in this ministry,’ it is interesting that he employs the same words Jesus used for him when Peter had objected to Jesus’ washing his feet in the Upper Room. Jesus said, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Strong words. Still Peter was not an unbeliever; he was just out of the will of God.” (Boice)

Without doubt, Simon was headed in the wrong direction, so he needed this rebuke. We don’t know what happened to Simon, as he disappears from Scripture. We won’t know until we get to heaven if Simon ever did believe or not.

 

map of christianity

Phillip and the Ethiopian

Ethiopia in ancient times was much larger than modern-day Ethiopia. It was the land where the Queen of Sheba came from, who saw the glory of Solomon’s kingdom and professed faith in the God of Israel. It’s possible that pieces of the Jewish faith were passed on through the centuries to men like this servant of the queen. Candace was the title for certain female royalty in Ethiopia.

We can’t say if the Ethiopian found God in his visit to Jerusalem, but he certainly found the Word of God – and reading the Word of God would lead him to God.

The Ethiopian was a rich man, a man of power, and at least in some way a celebrity. Yet Philip knew he needed Jesus just a much as anyone else. We should never fear speaking to those who are considered to be important people about Jesus.

We often shrink back from speaking boldly about Jesus, and the world lets us know we shouldn’t talk about such things. But the world does not hesitate to impose its own message on us. We should be just as bold to the world about Jesus as the world is bold to us about sin.

It was common in the ancient world to read aloud. Philip knew what the Ethiopian was reading by listening as he read.

God Grants Open Doors

Philip knew at that moment that God had given him an open door, a prepared heart. Plainly, God had arranged this meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian; this is a wonderful example of how God opens doors for evangelism. God directed Philip because God had already arranged an open door.

  • One of our greatest jobs in preaching the gospel is to simply pray for open doors. Then, having prayed for open doors, we must keep alert to the opportunities God presents.

Sometimes we all need guidance to understand the Bible.

road from jeruslaem to gaza acts 8

Isaiah 53

  • Some thought the suffering servant was the nation of Israel itself, as Israel had suffered greatly in wars, exile, and persecution.
  • Some thought the suffering servant was Isaiah writing about himself.
  • Some thought the suffering servant was the Messiah, but they found this hard to accept, because they didn’t want to think of the Messiah suffering.

We really can begin at any Bible passage and find where it leads to Jesus.

Too many preachers today focus on what we must do for God, but the gospel begins with and is founded upon what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

This shows that Philip started preaching not only to Samaritan cities, but also the Gentile cities – such as Caesarea. This is the very beginning of the gospel’s spread to the end of the earth – as Jesus commanded in Acts 1:8.

Fun Fact: Philip is the only one in the New Testament specifically given the title, “The Evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Acts 21:8  as we end this passage with him in Caesarea, doing his work of evangelism.

Rembrandt Stoning of Stephen

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

Summary Acts 7:54-60:

Of course, the Sanhedrin weren’t happy with this attack, gnashing their teeth.  But Stephen looked up and saw the glory of God and Jesus at His right hand.  Appalled, the Sanhedrin attacked Stephen and stoned him to death. Stephen prayed for the Lord to forgive his attackers, while Saul looked on–something of profound significance coming up.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

12) God showed Stephen His glory, as well as Jesus sitting at His right hand.

13a) He prayed that the people’s sin of stoning him would not be held against them. Jesus prayed the same thing while on the cross before he died. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s difficult every day of my life when I’m a sinner, trying to do what Jesus would do in every situation and fighting against that and sin.

14) Personal Question. My answer: Even in death, Stephen is at peace. It gives me hope to one day have Stephen’s heart and to one day have Stephen’s peace.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The peace Stephen had at the end of his life while he is being stoned is what we all should strive for. To have others on your mind in the midst of terrible pain, agony, and anguish. To have a heart of Jesus when it’s so very difficult in this world.

Stephen was tried and executed because he upset the establishment. Yet, he died breathing forgiveness, giving us Paul as a result.

Going against the grain when led is what we are called to do as Christians. In today’s culture, this is harder than ever. Where do you stand?

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The Sanhedrin were angry because Stephen was right. Instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit, admitting they were wrong and asking for forgiveness, they stoned Stephen instead.

Can you imagine grown men gnashing their teeth? The idea of gnashing at him with their teeth can’t help but remind us of the imagery of Hell. Seven different times, Jesus described Hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). These men were prominent, successful, and appeared to be religious; yet they were rejecting God and associating themselves with hell, not heaven.

Jesus Standing

It is significant to note Jesus is standing here, as opposed to the more common description of Him sitting in heaven (Matthew 26:64Colossians 3:1), at the right hand of God the Father.

  • Jesus may have been standing in solidarity with Stephen at this moment of crisis. He does not react impassionately to the problems of His people.
  • Jesus may have been giving a standing ovation to Stephen, whose fate made him unique among believers. Among all the followers of Jesus, Stephen was the first martyr.
  • Jesus may have been standing to plead Stephen’s case before God the Father, assuring that though he was found guilty and punished on earth, he was found righteous and rewarded in heaven.

Jesus said, Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

When Stephen declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, it was too much. The Sanhedrin reacted quickly, violently, and together. When Jesus, before this same body of men, declared that He would sit at the right hand of God, they had the same reaction and sealed his death as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:64-66).

death of believers

Stephen Stoned

“For Stephen to suggest that the crucified Jesus stood in a position of authority at the right hand of God must have ranked as blasphemy in the thinking of those who knew that a crucified man died under the divine curse.” (Bruce)

The reaction of the Sanhedrin seems extreme, but is typical of those who reject God and are lost in spiritual insanity

Ran at him: This uses the ancient Greek word hormao. This is the same word used to describe the mad rush of the herd of swine into the sea (Mark 5:13). This was an out-of-control mob rushing at Stephen.

The extent of their rage was shown by their execution of Stephen, which was done without regard for Roman law, and which was performed according to traditional Jewish custom (stoning).

Saul stood there as the supervisor of the operation. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he had also approved of Stephen’s execution.

Young man literally means, “a man in his prime.” It certainly does not mean that Saul wasn’t old enough to be a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10, Paul says I cast my vote against them, and the plain implication was that he had a vote as a member of the Sanhedrin.

Stephen’s life ended in the same way it had been lived: In complete trust in God, believing that Jesus would take care of him in the life to come.

God heard Stephen’s prayer, and Paul is the evidence of it. We have no idea how greatly God can use us in our times of suffering.

Augustine said, “If Stephen had not prayed, the church would not have had Paul.”

Stephen displayed the same forgiving attitude that Jesus had on the cross (Luke 23:34). He asked God to forgive his accusers, and he made the promises loudly and publicly.

The text describes the passing of Stephen as tenderly as possible. Instead of saying simply that he died, it says that he merely fell asleep – with the idea that he woke up in a much better world.

  • If Stephen fell asleep, the church had to wake up.

Many have little idea of how greatly they can be used of God as they walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

stubborn people