Acts 9

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Summary of Acts 9:19b-30

Saul spent several days with disciples in Damascus. He began to preach about Jesus and all those who heard him were confused since Saul was known as a hater and persecutor of Christians.  So the Jews conspired to kill Saul but he slipped away in the dead of night.

When he did return to Jerusalem (after 3 years), he endeavored to join up with the disciples but they were afraid of him still.  It took Barnabas (an ordinary man) to take Saul and vouch for him, saying how he has preached so fearlessly in Jesus’s name, before he was accepted.  Saul spoke in Jerusalem for Jesus and with the Grecian Jews who again tried to kill him for his beliefs.  So he was sent off to Tarsus for his safety.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

12a) After Saul’s conversion, he started preaching the word, angering the Jews (the non-believers) living in Damascus. They just didn’t believe a man so full of hatred could do an about-face. So after many days, they conspired to kill him.

b) The disciples were afraid of Saul, not believing that he was really a disciple. Barnabas took Saul to the disciples and vouched for him. Only then was Saul allowed to stay. Still the people wanted to kill him.

13) Part personal Question. My answer: They in essence his Paul. They too him to Caesarea and then sent him to Tarsus. We can protect fellow believers in the same way, sheltering them from people and other things when they need it the most. The Galatians passage BSF had us read in 2011 explains this further (Galatians 1:11-24).  Saul stayed with Peter for 15 days (Galatians 1:18).  He saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19).  He fell into a trance while praying and the Lord warned him to leave Jerusalem immediately because his testimony would not be accepted (Acts 22:17-18).

14) To increase their faith and strengthen them.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Last go-around, we read this passage along with Galatians 1:11-24. The extra readings we did back then just gives us a fuller picture of what actually happened. Too bad most of these have been omitted thus far in an effort to save people time when studying God’s word.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Lessons From Saul’s Conversion

  • At its core, salvation is something God does in us. What we do is only a response to His work in us.
  • God finds some who, by all appearance, are not looking for Him at all. Seeing how God reached Saul encourages us to believe that God can reach the people in our life that we think are very far from Him. We often give up on some people and think they will never come to Jesus; but the example of Saul shows God can reach anyone.
  • God looks for people to cooperate in the conversion of others, even when they are not really necessary, except as a demonstration of the importance of the family of God.
  • It isn’t enough that we be broken before God, though that is necessary. God wants to only use brokenness as a prelude to filling.

At the Jewish synagogue, the custom was that any able Jewish man could speak from the Scriptures at synagogue meetings.

To be called the “son of” something meant in Jesus’ time that you were totally identified with that thing or person, and their identity was your identity. When Jesus called Himself the Son of God, and when others called Him that, it was understood as a clear claim to His deity.

In fact, on two occasions when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, He was accused of blasphemy, of calling Himself God (John 5:17-18Matthew 26:63-65). Everybody knew what Jesus meant in calling Himself Son of God, and everyone knew what Saul meant when he preached that Jesus is the Son of God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When you are newly converted, you still understand the way people who don’t yet know Jesus think.

timeline acts 9

Saul, an expert in the Old Testament, could easily see how Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In Galatians 1:13-18, Paul explained more about what happened during these many days. He described how he went to Arabia for a period of time, and then returned to Damascus. After his return to Damascus, he went to Jerusalem. Paul spent a total of three years in Damascus and Arabia (Galatians 1:18); truly these were many days.

In 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul refered to this incident and mentions it happened under Aretas the king. This means that this escape from Damascus happened between A.D. 37 and 39. So, taking into account the three years mentioned in Galatians 1:18, and that this incident happened at the end of those three years, we can surmise that Paul was converted sometime between A.D. 34 and 36.

“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul, and sometimes he didn’t quite escape. Sometimes they caught him, imprisoned him, beat him. He did indeed have to suffer many things for Jesus’ sake.” (Boice)

Paul made a point of the limited nature of his time with the apostles in Jerusalem to show clearly that he did not receive his gospel from the other apostles. Though he was no doubt blessed and benefited from that time, he received his message by direct revelation from Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Somewhere between 8 and 12 years passed in the life of Saul before he again entered into prominent ministry, being sent out as a missionary from the church at Antioch.

map ancient tarsus paul's journey

Tarsus

Tarsus was one of the great cities of the ancient world, with an excellent harbor and a strategic placement at trade routes. It was especially known as an university city, being one of the three great educational cities of the Mediterranean world. “Strabo speaks of the Tarsian university as even surpassing, in some respects, those of Athens and Alexandria (Geography 14.5.13). It was especially important as a center of Stoic philosophy” (Williams)

The Book of Acts tells us nothing about the planting of churches in Galilee. We don’t know who started these churches, how they did it, or all the great works of God which took place in these young churches. This reminds us that Acts is only a partial history of God’s work during this period.

At the end of Acts 9:31, we reach an important historical crossroads in Acts and the events of the Roman Empire. In A.D. 37, Caiaphas was replaced as high priest, first by Jonathan, then by Theophilus. In the same year, Caligula succeeded Tiberius as Roman Emperor. Caligula was bitterly hostile against the Jews and was assassinated four years later.

Saul on Road to Damascus

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Summary of Acts 9:1-19a:

Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way, trying to imprison them or kill them.  As Saul neared Damascus, a light from haven flashed around him and he heard a voice (Jesus), asking why does he persecute him?  Jesus tells Saul to go to the city and he will be told what to do.

The others with him did not see anyone.  They lead Saul to Damascus because Saul had been blinded by the light.  In Damascus, the Lord called a disciple named Ananias to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that Saul may see again.

Ananias tells the Lord that Saul is a bad man (as if God didn’t know) and he might be arrested if he goes.  The Lord explains his purpose for Saul to Ananias, saying Saul is His chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles.

So Ananias complies, healing Saul and filling him with the Holy Spirit.  Saul was baptized and regained his strength.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

9) Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way. There are different types of persecution, including social persecution and emotional. You can be ostracized when you don’t conform.

10) Personal Question. My answer: It’s okay to question the Lord, but you still go and do it anyways.

11) Part personal Question. My answer: Saul was completely transformed and probably in shock since he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days, now about to become one the greatest disciples for Christ. Jesus has made all the difference in allowing me to do what I do, how I do it, and blessing me with a great life.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Last go-around, we read this along with Acts 22:1-16; 26:9-19

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

The Conversion of Saul — One of the Most Important Passages in the Entire Bible

We last saw Saul in Acts 8:3, where it says that he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Here he continued and expanded this work to the city of Damascus (about 130 miles or 210 kilometers northeast of Jerusalem; a six-day journey altogether).

Saul hated the disciples of the Lord. He wasn’t seeking Jesus when Jesus sought him. We might say that Saul was decided against Jesus when Jesus decided for Saul.

Saul did his persecuting work under the direct approval of the highest religious authorities. He asked and received letters from the high priest authorizing his mission.

The high priest was Caiaphas. In December 1990 an ossuary (something like a burial urn; essentially a bone box) was discovered in Jerusalem. The ossuary was inscribed with the name of this Caiaphas and positively dated to this period. Inside were discovered some of the remains of a 60-year-old man, whom many researchers believe was this same Caiaphas. If true, these are the first physical remains (such as bones or ashes) of a specific person mentioned in the New Testament.

The Way

Here, Christianity is referred to as the Way. This seems to be the earliest name for the Christian movement, and a fitting one – used five times in Acts.

  • The name the Way means that Christianity is more than a belief or a set of opinions or doctrines. Following Jesus is a way of living as well as believing.
  • It is significant to see that there was a Christian community large enough in Damascus for Saul to be concerned about. Christianity – the Way – was spreading everywhere.
  • map of road to damascus paul

God on the Road to Damascus

God does not normally confront sinners with a heavenly light and an audible voice from heaven. Yet Paul said that this light was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13).

Saul, Saul: When God repeats a name twice, it is to display deep emotion, but not necessarily anger (as in the Martha, Martha of Luke 10:41 and the Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Matthew 23:37).

As the heavenly light overwhelmed him, Saul was confronted by the true nature of his crime: He persecuted God, not man.

  • Saul thought that he was serving God in viciously attacking Christians, but he discovered that he was fighting God.
  • This has been sadly true through history. Often those who are convinced they are doing God a favor do much of the worst persecution and torture ever practiced.

In all probability, Saul heard Jesus teach in Jerusalem; and as a likely member of the Sanhedrin, Saul sat in judgment of Jesus in the trial before His crucifixion.

“Unless Saul was hallucinating, the appearance of Jesus proved that Jesus was alive and that Jesus was God.” (Boice)

Two Most Important Questions to Ask God

  1. Who are You, Lord? We must ask this question with a humble heart, and ask it to God. Jesus showed us exactly who God is, and He can answer this question. Paul spent the rest of his life wanting to know more completely the answer to this question (Philippians 3:10).
  2. What do You want me to do? Few dare to really ask God this question, but when we ask it, we must ask it with submission and determined obedience.

In Acts 9, we are only given the briefest account of what happened during this time. Paul says more about this experience in Acts 22:3-11Acts 26:12-181 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. Barnabas said more about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:27 and from what Ananias said about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:17.

Jesus only told Saul what to do right at that moment.

  • God often directs us one step at a time instead of laying out the details of the grand plan all at once.
  • So many of us want to plan out our entire lives. but that is not how God operates.

In the three days of blindness and deprivation, Saul was dying to himself. It would only be after the three days of dying that he would receive resurrection life from Jesus.

unknown road we all must travel atozmomm.com

Ananias and God

Ananias was an ordinary man – not an apostle, a prophet, a pastor, an evangelist, an elder, or a deacon. Yet God used him because he was an ordinary man.

God spoke to Ananias in a completely different way than He spoke to Saul. Saul had a bold, almost violent confrontation from God, but Ananias heard the voice of God sweetly in a vision, where God called and Ananias obediently responded. God speaks to us differently too, just as we need to hear Him.

God considered Saul His chosen vessel long before there appeared anything worthy in Saul to choose. God knew what He could make of Saul, even when Saul or Ananias didn’t know.

So often we underestimate ourselves when God doesn’t.

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.

Acts 8

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Summary of Acts 8:1-8:

On the day Stephen was executed, a persecution against the church began so all the believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Stephen was buried, and Saul began a relentless drive to destroy the church.  Philip went to Samaria and began to preach the word there.  Great joy was brought to that city because of Philip’s deeds.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

3) The opportunity to spread the Gospel. Philip, a Jew, would normally never have been near Samarians who were looked down upon for racial and religious reasons. Here, all are included in the Good News.

4) Because all Jews looked down upon the Samaritans for racial and religious reasons. Samaria used to be Jewish lands until the Assyrians resettled foreigners there when the Jews were exiled to Babylon. The Samarians did not worship God, or if they did, they intermixed their religions with the Jewish religion. Hence, they were seen as not equals in the eyes of the Jewish people.

5a) Personal Question. My answer: All things are possible with God, and the Gospel will reach all corners of the world and will breach every barrier of the heart.

b) Personal Question. My answer: Same. People are the same no matter where you go in the world. God will reach those whom He has chosen to believe, and we can help by telling others about Him.  Not let our prejudices stand in our way of telling those who otherwise would have no opportunity to hear about Jesus about him (such as homeless, poor, and minority sects).  Basically, speak in your community where God plants you.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

BSF last go around had this lesson as Lesson 4, Day 2. We were also required to read John 4:6-42 with Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. You definitely need to read the 2 Kings passage and Jesus and the Samaritan to get the most out of this lesson.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Persecution Begins

In Philippians 3:6, Paul said of his life before Jesus that he was so zealous in his religious faith that he persecuted the church. Saul’s supervision of the execution of Stephen was just one example of this persecution.

Consenting or approval describes Saul’s attitude, but the English translation probably isn’t strong enough. The idea behind the ancient Greek word suneudokeo is “to approve, to be pleased with.” Some people are reluctant persecutors, but Saul wasn’t one of these; he took pleasure in attacking Christians.

Saul of Tarsus – whom most of us know by his Roman name, Paul – later came to deeply regret this persecution of the church. He later wrote, For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Acts 26:11 described what perhaps Paul regretted most: And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. Paul may have suffered many sleepless nights thinking about those whom he compelled…to blaspheme.

Stephen’s death was only the beginning. The floodgates of persecution were now open against the Christians. Saul was only one of many persecutors of Christians.

Fun Fact: This was the first persecution of the Christians as a whole. Before, the apostles had been arrested and beaten and persecuted; here, every believer was threatened with violence and perhaps death.

The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.

Diaspora

According to Boice, there are two different words in the ancient Greek language for “scattered.” One has the idea of scattering in the sense of making something disappear, like scattering someone’s ashes. The other word has the idea of scattering in the sense of planting or sowing seeds. This is the ancient Greek word used here.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus clearly told His followers to look beyond Jerusalem and bring the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the whole world. But Jesus’ followers had not done this.

Hence, some scholars believe this is why persecution happened. God can and will use pressing circumstances to guide us into His will. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do.

Since Jewish law prohibited open mourning for someone that had been executed, Luke’s record suggests that these devout men publicly repented of Stephen’s murder.

Destroy or wreck havoc is an ancient Greek word that could refer to an army destroying a city or a wild animal tearing at its meat. Saul viciously attacked Christians, including women.

The end result was for the glory of God, because the persecution simply served to spread the message. These “accidental missionaries” talked about Jesus wherever they went.

Most people don’t come to Jesus through a professional preacher or an evangelist; they come to Jesus through people just like us.

Philip

Like Stephen, he was one of the men chosen to serve the church family in practical ways when the dispute regarding Hellenist widows arose (Acts 6:5). He was one of those forced to flee persecution (Acts 8:1), ending up in Samaria.

File:Kingdoms of Israel and Judah map 830.svgSamaria

600 years before this, the Assyrians conquered this area of northern Israel and deported all the wealthy and middle-class Jews from the area. Then they moved in a pagan population from afar. These pagans intermarried with the lowest classes of remaining Jews in northern Israel, and from these people came the Samaritans.

The Jews of that day hated the Samaritans. They considered them compromising half-breeds who corrupted the worship of the true God.

James and John (and the other disciples as well) once thought that the Samaritans were only good for being burned by God’s judgment (Luke 9:51-56).

Jesus’ experience with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and His story about the kindness of a Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) illustrate the natural tension between the Jews and Samaritans of that time.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF THE SAMARITANS

Jesus himself had visited Samaria in his teachings as we see from the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26.  In John 4:39-42 we also see how many Samaritans were converted from Jesus’ teachings. He also told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  the Samaritans still worshipped the One, True God along with other gods so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to convince them of the power and fortitude of the One, True God.  Also, the Jews remaining after the deportation intermarried the foreigners so they probably kept a portion of their heritage and worship culture intact.

So when Philip showed up and started performing miracles, the stage was set for him to reap the rewards from Jesus’ work.

This can be applied throughout the Bible and throughout time into today.  We reap what others have sown.  The Old Testament prepared the people of the New Testament to be saved.  Every small step has been planned by God for His purposes and we (and everyone after us) reap the benefits of this as we continue to plant seeds for the next generation.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow…  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to his labor.”

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of despising one another (please see link in concluding notes). The Jews thought them the lowest of the low and unworthy to know the Good News.  James and John had once asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), which speaks to how little the Samaritans were thought of by the Jews.  I think the Samaritans would have been the last people on Earth the Jews would have converted.  So, God in His infinite wisdom made them because as we all know they were special in His eyes too.

Ancient Samaria and Central Israel

Note on the Map:  Sychar is next to Shechem where Jesus met with the woman at the well.

Fun Fact:  My study Bible points out the fact that the conversion of the Samaritans is the first time non-Jews followed Jesus.  Awesome fact!

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 13:42-52

Summary of passage:  Paul and Barnabas were invited to speak the next Sunday at the synagogue.  The people followed them and talked to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.  The next Sabbath almost the entire city showed up to hear the word of the Lord.  The Jews were jealous that so many showed up to hear Paul speak and spoke against them.  Paul and Barnabas answered them saying we spoke the word of God to you first but you rejected it so we turned to the Gentiles as commanded by God.

Many believed and the word of the Lord spread throughout the region.  But the Jews continued to come against them, expelling them from their region.  So, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium filled with the Holy Spirit.

Questions:

13)  Beginning in grace of God is not enough.  People must continue in it after they have faith in the Lord.  Grace is a foundation of what God gives to us and what He calls us to show to others.  Paul is urging the people not to stop after the beginning.

According to my Bible Dictionary, grace is the unmerited favor of God toward sinners whereby He has provided for their redemption.  He extends favor to all who have faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Grace is a major theme of Paul’s.  He identifies it as the instrument through which God has effected salvation of all believers.  Grace is also regarded as the sustaining influence enabling the believer to persevere in the Christian life.  It is not the initiatory act that secures salvation but that which maintains it throughout a Christian’s life.

All of the above is from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney under grace.

14)  Verse 46 “Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”

Acts 18:6  “…Your blood will be on your own hands!  I am clear of my responsibility.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Acts 19:9  “Some of them became obstinate.  They refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way…”

b)  Isaiah 49:6  That the Gentiles will be granted eternal salvation

15a)  They converted many Gentiles but were ridiculed and persecuted by the Jews.  Yet they continued on in joy to Iconium to deliver the Good News there as well.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I pray about it.  Seek advice.  Listen.  Then follow what God has laid on my heart to do.

Conclusions:  This is a great lesson for us today as well.  Some people will believe in Christ.  Some won’t.  Our responsibility is to share the Good News.  It is up to the listeners to decide (Free Will) for themselves.  It is not our responsibility (Acts 18:6) like Paul was saying.  We are called to share.  Ultimately, it is the individual’s responsibility to believe.

Then joyfully, we continue on our journey in life to the next place and the next ears God puts us in contact with and do the same thing over again:  share Him with others.

Map of Iconium:  http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN217ACTSPaulOne.htm

So not too far from Pisidian Antioch to Iconium.  Now I can feel like I’m traveling along with these two as I trace their route!

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 13:14b-41

Summary of passage:  Barnabas and Saul are in Pisidian Antioch (Turkey, yesterday’s map HERE) at the synogogue. Paul is invited to speak.  He tells the people God has prospered them in Egypt, led them out of Egypt and gave them Canaan to live on, and sent them judges.  He sent King Saul and King David.  From David God sent Jesus who preached repentance and baptism.

The prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled:  no one recognized Jesus as the Savior, the executed him with no evidence of a crime, and God raised him from the dead and traveled amongst them for many days.  God has fulfilled His promise to His people through Jesus.

Through Jesus we (the people) are forgiven and justified.  And be warned if you do not accept Jesus, you shall perish as the prophets have predicted.

Questions:

9a)  First division:  16-25  Second division:  26-37  Third division:  38-41

b)  God chose men of Israel and the Gentiles who worshipped God.  He prospered His people in Egypt and led them out of that country.  He cared for them for 40 years in the desert and overthrew 7 nations in Canaan so He could establish His people there.  He gave them judges and when the people asked for a king God gave them Saul and then David. (verses 17-22)

God endured their conduct while in the desert (verse 18). The people asked for a king (verse 21).

God chose David so Jesus could come from his line.  John the Baptist tried to prepare the people for Jesus by preaching repentance and baptism. (verse 23-4)

10)  Personal Question.  My answer:  By giving me a Christian mom who took me to church.  Giving me a Christian husband.  Leading me to my church where I was baptized as a young adult.  Leading me to BSF and other bible studies where I can learn and grow in God’s word so I can teach others and raise my children knowing and seeking Him.

11)  The prophecies were fulfilled to the letter with Jesus’ coming.  No one recognized Jesus as the Savior.  He was unjustly condemned and sentenced to death.  He was risen from the tomb once killed and continued to abide here on Earth and seen by many as witnesses.  Jesus fulfilled God’s promises.

12a)  Forgiveness of our sins (verse 38) through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses (basically saying OT is nulled and void and now NT–Jesus–rids us of the OT ways and ushers in new ways).  Verse 39

b)  Believing in Jesus (verse 39)

c)  According to Webster’s believe means “to have a firm religious faith; to accept trustfully and on faith; to have a firm conviction as to the reality or goodness of something.”

In this instance, if you accept Jesus as your Savior, trust He is real and everlasting, hold a firm conviction of His reality, and hold faithfully to this knowledge in your heart, then you believe in Him.

d)  If we wonder about Jesus, if we are complacent and do not believe, we will perish.  For Jesus is coming (the something God will do we won’t believe).  Paul is quoting from the Old Testament here (Habakkuk 1:5) before Jesus has come.

e)  According to Webster’s Dictionary, to scoff is “to show contempt by derisive acts or language; to treat with derision; mock”.  People mock Christians, saying their beliefs are antiquated and question whether there is a God or not who would allow such horrible doings on this planet.

In my limited worldly experience of human behavior, I would say a lot of these people who scoff are masking a jealously or a fear.  They are jealous of those who profess faith or are afraid of what turning their heart over to Jesus would mean for them.  They might have to give something up or quit doing something in their lifestyle–a vice if you will.

Paul calls all these people out with dire consequences.

Conclusions:  I think Question 12 nailed it.  I think many today are “dreamers” and do more thinking than they do acting.  If we wait too long to accept Jesus, we might miss the boat and die, ending up on the wrong boat for eternity.  In this generation there is a tendency to “play it safe” and not take risks, a tendency to sit on the sidelines and let someone else make all the decisions.

Here Paul warns if that is you, you will perish.  Period.  End of story.  Too late.

So decide and make it quick.  For one day you might not wake up.

End Tip:  I must have changed my divisions 10 times while doing this lesson.  So I decided to skip that question and answer the rest and fill in the divisions based off of BSF’s questions.  So these are my guesses based off of what I believe BSF is looking for.

End Note on Justification:  I believe this is the first time the thought and idea of justification is expressed since Jesus’ death.  We talked about this last year in Isaiah but I needed to look it up again so I thought I’d review it here.  Most of this is summarized from my Bible Dictionary (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney) found under justification.

When Jesus died, he absolved all of man from sin.  If man believes in Jesus through faith then man is declared righteous in God’s eyes.  Being righteous means we have a right relationship with God (basically we can once again stand in His presence because sin had always separated us from the perfectness of God.  Here sin is washed away, we are righteous, we are right in God’s eyes, so we can be with Him again).

Paul’s last words are trying to convey the key point:  if you don’t have faith, you won’t be justified nor saved and you will perish.  One must have faith to have justification.  The sinner (us) must accept the work of Christ and his death on the cross.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 13:1-14a

Summary of passage:  Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul were teaching in Antioch.  Then the Holy Spirit told Barnabas and Paul to leave on a journey.  So they went to Salamis and Cyprus with John Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) as a helper.  At Paphos in Cyprus they met a false prophet named Bar-Jesus who worked for Sergius Paulus.  Sergius wanted to hear what Barnabas and Saul had to say but Bar-Jesus (otherwise known as Elymas) opposed them.

Saul cursed Elymas, saying he was a child of the devil and temporarily blinded him.  Naturally, Sergius believed in Jesus after witnessing this.

From here, Paul sailed to Perga in Pamphylia where John left.  Then they went on to Pisidian Antioch.

Questions:

5a)  The Holy Spirit told them what to do and who was to do it

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Just what the early church members did:  pray and worship and let the Holy Spirit guide me in all facets of my life including church work.

6a)  Barnabas and Saul were the leaders in Acts 13:7.  BSF may say it was just Barnabas but every time in Acts 13 I see them mentioned together (13:2, 7) and the pronoun they is used repeatedly.  In 13:13, it switches to “Paul and his companions” so here I would say Paul since he is singled out by himself.

b)  Paul was the one who called Elymas out and blinded him.  God gave Paul this power and His authority, not Barnabas, and we can assume other incidents occurred to mark Paul as God’s chosen leader.

7a) At Pamphylia

b)  Probably a disagreement or a quarrel.  Why do most people leave?  “Irreconcilable differences”

c)  Paul’s trust

d)  Jerusalem

e)  Yes and no.  Barnabas and Paul fought over it (never good), ultimately resulting in them going their separate ways (Acts 15:36-40).  But this could be a good thing as well because with Paul and Barnabas split, they touched more people that way and spread the word faster.  However, eventually Mark and Paul reconciled as we see from the passages listed.  My study bible says Mark is thought to have accompanied Peter to Rome where Mark and Peter wrote the Book of Mark.  Fascinating stuff to see how one starts out and then grows to write part of a best-seller!  All with God’s help!

f)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Maybe.  If you consider this blog a Christian work and some in the past have accused me of changing BSF’s spirit.  But here it still is.  Hopefully helping others.

8 )  I like this map:  http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/Article/Bible/NT/Acts/Acts_Map_1-2_Journeys.gif

The colors are bold and the route traced.  Just google “Paul’s First Missionary Journey” for many, many more maps.

I’ll leave the scale work to you all.  We all know travel was not easy back then.  It was dangerous and hard work and took a long time, especially by foot.

Conclusions:  Finally, map work not as an End Note!  Yeah!!!

Here, we see God’s plan unfolding before our eyes as He hand picks His chosen men to do His work.  We also see how human differences can serve God’s purposes as a quarrel leads to more and more people coming to Jesus.

Everything in life serves God’s purposes and He can use the bad and turn it into good.