The gospel the apostles taught is preserved in Luke’s account. The Holy Spirit they relied on is with every believer. We should have the same confidence. How is the church going to grow? There are three scenes in this passage. We can have full confidence because God is building the church on the foundation of his word.
When Christians feel weak, open God’s word to strengthen one another (18:18-23)
Paul had already spent a year and a half in Corinth. It’s likely he felt weak as God spoke to him in a vision. He’s strengthened by the word that God speaks to him. Why does he take an unusual route? He points the church to God when they feel weak. He uses God’s word to preach the message of the gospel. The church is built as the word spreads widely (19:20). When we feel weak, let’s open God’s word.
When Christians disagree, explain God’s word more accurately to one another (18:24-28)
Apollos appears faultless. He’s mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:11-12. He speaks eloquently and is very persuasive. The Corinthian church had started to quarrel. Paul isn’t criticising him. It’s God’s word, not engaging speakers that advance the gospel. One godly Christian couple with a Bible have all they need. Who likes to be corrected? Apollos cares more about the gospel than about his own reputation. As we open God’s word with each other, we are participating in a great activity, as we grow as Christians.
When people are confused, teach God’s word until they are clear (19:1-7)
Paul teaches them until they are clear (19:4). He’s so committed to teaching the Ephesians that he remains with them for two years. As Christians we need to rediscover how to disagree well. It seems that the twelve men aren’t Christians when Paul meets them. On hearing the gospel they receive the Holy Spirit. Why does Luke seem to emphasise the gifts of tongues and prophecy? He wants to reassure his readers that they are Christians. The context of which tongues and prophecy happen needs to be understood in terms of 1 Corinthians 12-13. People may believe different things about prophecy. As we talk to each other, have the Bible open. Let’s listen and meet with the Lord about these things.
It’s God’s word, not our experiences that build churches.
It can be hard to keep speaking about Jesus. We can be too busy, or frightened. What if we say the wrong thing? What about hard questions? Life wasn’t so different in the early church. It’s strangely encouraging that even Paul needed God to intervene to encourage him to continue speaking.
Paul is in Corinth on his own and none of his companions are with him. It’s not that different from Athens. It’s a powerful Roman colony. They’re not interested in Paul. It’s a daunting place for Paul to be on his own.
Christianity is the fulfilment of all of God’s promises
Christianity is the continuation of the faith of all Jews everywhere. It’s the completion of the promises the Jewish people were looking forward to. Paul knows that Christianity is a hope for all Jewish people. He’s willing to do whatever is necessary in order to speak in any place about Jesus. God’s promised Messiah was going to be greater than a human king. This has been God’s plan since before the creation of the world. Doesn’t that give us confidence to speak? We have God’s hope for the world to share.
The Lord is the one gathering a people for himself
It’s not just down to Paul, or any person. If you’re a Christian, do you realise that’s a miracle? It should encourage us that it’s not completely up to us, but we need to keep speaking. Paul has proclaimed the gospel and despite opposition, people are becoming Christians. The ruler of the synagogue and his family became Christians. One new people under Jesus Christ. We need to have confidence in him.
The Lord commands us to speak, and promises to be with us
The Lord is faithful to his promises. He uses a Roman non-Christian to protect Paul from harm. Paul is able to stay there for a year and a half. How can we make disciples unless we speak? We should keep on speaking because the hope of Christianity has always been God’s plan.
We all hope for all kinds of things. Some are good, some aren’t so good. If we’re Christians, God calls us to a different hope. Our hopes are often about our own situations in our lives now. The book of 1 Peter has lots to say about the hope we are called to (1:3-4). Hope is central to this letter. It’s a future hope (v1, 4, 6, 10). The Christian life is one of a living hope, sharing in Jesus’ glory until he returns.
The Christian life can only be explained by this living hope
Live a good life now (2:12) even if it means being hated and accused of being wrong because Jesus is coming back. Our hope isn’t just for now but for the future promised by God. Why would a Christian slave keep working hard? Only if they’ve got a living hope for something more than this life. Why would you go out of your way to show kindness to someone who’s hated you? Only if you have a living hope. It’s a wonderful way of living but it’s still hard. When Jesus comes back he will remake the world as it should be. We don’t deserve to be part of that.
It’s only possible to lead a church in the way Peter describes if you have this living hope. He was one of Jesus’ closest followers. What’s the motivation to be a humble serving church leader? Verse 4. Isn’t it just easier to want an easy life? Peter says to be submissive to church leaders. Humble service is only possible if you have this living hope.
The Christian life is shaped by this living hope
Living a missional life is about remembering that the whole Christian life is lived for the glory of God. That’s what helps us share the good news of Christianity with others. It’s hard (v7). It’s okay to be anxious if we’re taking our anxieties to God because he cares for us. Be self-controlled and alert (v8). The devil wants the pain of suffering to stop people from being Christians. He wants you to keep the fact you’re a Christian secret. The best way to resist him is to meet Christians in local churches. We are to support and challenge each other. We need to be reminded that we’re not alone when we suffer.
Are your choices shaped more and more by your living hope for Jesus’ return in glory, even knowing that this might mean suffering for you? How do you use your time, money and home? Seeing a Christian living with this hope speaks volumes.
Christians can live distinctively because of the living hope that we have. We live distinctively in order to point others to Jesus. Living distinctively, especially in tough times, is what allows Christians to share the hope that we have.
Noah is an example of a distinctive life. It’s a story of God’s judgement on the world. Noah is far from a perfect person but was the best of a bad lot. He listened to God and built the ark. He was ignored by others. Only eight were saved. Through Jesus’ death, God declares throughout history the justice of his rescue. Jesus rules over all. In one sense, the ark saved Noah, but it was simply the evidence of his faith in God. Baptism is a symbol of us dying and being risen to new life. We don’t think of it as being distinctive. For Peter’s first hearers that might have meant death. Peter says it’s worth it to be distinctive. It’s a way of saying that we’re not good enough.
Imagine living in a country with a corrupt government. The world says to get out of that situation. Start a resistance. We think it makes sense to get even. Peter says to submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake (2:13). It’s not easy to submit to injustice. Why? It’s distinctive. It gives Christians the opportunity to tell others about Jesus. What does our culture say? Fight back. It’s controversial to submit yourselves to your masters (2:18). Peter says even when they’re beating you, stay, because it’s a way of being distinctive. What does our culture say? Get out.
Peter says to be distinctive from the world. He says to repay evil with blessing (3:9). This isn’t a call to stay in harm’s way. We should encourage people to move away from abusive partners. Don’t take vengeance into your own hands. We’re called to follow Jesus’ example (2:21). We know that Jesus suffered unjustly. He lived the only perfect life (2:22-23). We point people to Jesus as we inherit a blessing (3:9). Peter quotes Psalm 34 in 3:10-12. We are called to live distinctively in every area of our lives.
Are you ready to give a reason for the hope that you have (3:15)? When we live distinctive lives for Jesus, people will ask us why. That gives us the chance to give a reason for the hope that we have. We have this hope because Jesus has rescued us.
Are there things that we find easy to talk to others about? There are also things that we find hard to talk about. Do we find it hard to talk about Jesus? We are commanded to do so. We know that everyone needs Jesus yet we find it harder to talk about him than about football. Christians are to offer sacrifices acceptable to God (v5) and declare his praises (v9).
The problem is that we all find evangelism difficult. If a building was on fire we wouldn’t sneak out, we’d tell others to get out. So why do we find evangelism hard? We’re lazy. It’s easy to keep our heads down. There’s a spiritual battle as well. The devil doesn’t want people to become Christians. It can be hard to be rejected. Sometimes we’d rather not know what people think. Another problem is that we don’t know what to say.
Peter knows that telling others about Jesus is hard. He was so frightened of a little girl that he wouldn’t admit he was a follower of Jesus. Yet God used him to tell lots of others about Jesus. Part of being a Christian is that this world is no longer our home. We’re aliens and strangers in the world. People will think we’re strange. Even if you live a good life people will accuse you of doing wrong, because that’s easier than accepting the message of Jesus. What do we do?
We are to keep seeing who we are together because of Jesus. He is the living stone, the one that shapes what the building will look like. The cornerstone of a building always needs to be right; it’s the key stone for the whole building. Jesus shapes the building that Christianity is. Yet this cornerstone was rejected (v4). The same thing happens today. People reject him as King. Christianity says we are not good enough for God. It causes people to stumble. Jesus is precious to God as he’s his own son and is precious to us as he rescues us. The more we look at Jesus the more we will see who we are because of him.
We are a spiritual house and a holy priesthood. We are now God’s priesthood (v9). That’s why he uses Christians to call others to follow him. We are royal because we are children of the King. We are a chosen people. Once we weren’t a people (v10) but now we have received mercy because Jesus died to rescue us. One person doesn’t make a nation. This is what Christians are called to be together. It’s who we are so that we live good lives among the pagans (v12). This is how God calls Christians to live for him, to live distinctively because of who we are in Jesus. This gives us opportunities to declare his praises so that others follow him.
Sometimes we can either not live distinctively or hide away and not spend time in this world. When others become Christians you can see the change in their lives. People see when Christians live distinctively. It’s only possible to do this together, when we love and support each other when times are tough. People will see this and will be drawn into the community of the church.
Related Bible Studies:
When it’s tough being a Christian the temptation is to live like everyone else. These people had similar struggles. It’s hard to live distinctively as a Christian when times are tough.
Christians live distinctively because we have a living hope
Leviticus is quoted, which is all about how God’s people are to live differently from those around them, but not be separated from them. They are to shine as a light for all to see. It’s tough to live distinctively. Not joining in gossip. Not speaking out about issues from a Christian viewpoint. Thankfully it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus has done.
So why live distinctively? If we are Christians this is who we are. Living distinctively shows the truth of who we are. We have been purified, born again. If we are a Christian we are a child of God and so we show the family likeness. Whether we’re close to our families or not, we still pick up things from them. It’s no different being a Christian. We don’t conform to the evil desires we used to have. We are to live as our Father expects us to. We are to live in reverent fear.
We’ve been redeemed (v18). We’ve been bought back. We’ve been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus (v19). His life for our life. His death for our death. Jesus was willing to come and pay that cost so that we could be redeemed, freed. If you’ve been a hostage and are then rescued, you are free from that life so you can live differently. We’ve been purified (v22), washed clean. Why would we go back to where we were?
The way that we purify ourselves is by obeying the truth. It’s not about our actions, it’s about putting our trust in Jesus. Peter reminds us about needing to be born again of the Spirit. Our bodies don’t last. We’re all born once but through Jesus we are born again. We are born imperishable, lasting forever because God’s word lasts forever. Once you’ve tasted this truth (2:3), of course you’ll live in light of it. Nothing compares. We long for it even if life can be hard.
In light of this
We are to be prepared for action. We are to fix our eyes on the prize. The hope of Christianity is not for today (fully). It’s nothing compared to every day in heaven. We are to love one another. Christians are a family. We are to live our lives distinctively together. We are to get rid of destructive qualities (2:1). They’re things that are part of the world rather than part of God’s people. We are to be supported by other Christians who aren’t jealous, but honest about the difficulties. We spur one another on and help each other live distinctive lives. It can be hard but it’s who we are. We are called to live this way as we wait for Jesus’ return.
What is God doing in this world? He is gathering a people for himself. Christians are called to show and tell what God is like. One of the big ideas in 1 Peter is that being a Christian can be tough. A tough life is normal for Christians. That’s good news as you don’t need to despair that you’re doing something wrong. It should be normal to not feel at home in this world, to an extent. The trials Peter refers to are persecution and even death. It’s the normal reality for lots of Christians.
The challenge is that Christians rejoice even when times are tough (v6). They’re not rejoicing in the trials, but rejoicing despite the trials. How can we rejoice when what’s in front of us is so difficult? The secret is that Christians have a living hope. It’s a hope that’s for the future – life forever. We shouldn’t expect to be at ease in this world. An inheritance is something we have to wait for (v5). If we are Christians we are saved but are waiting for Jesus to come back to restore the world to the way it should be. The aim of our salvation is eternal life with Jesus.
Our hope is rooted in the past. It’s certain (v3). It has already been won. It was through Jesus’ death that this future has been won. We have nothing to fear for the future. Jesus has come and rescued us and died the death that we deserve. This is what the Old Testament prophets were longing for. Jesus is what the Bible is all about. This hope is wholly dependent on God. He is the one who has chosen us and is the one who will keep us. Peter reminds us we are shielded by God’s power. Doesn’t that mean we can rejoice when things are tough? It is worth keeping going.
Peter is writing to churches scattered throughout the world. We need to listen to each other and encourage each other. It’s our responsibility to point each other to this hope that will never fade or perish. We need to live in such a way that people will ask us the reason for the hope that we have. We need to pray that we will live our lives in light of that hope, even when times are tough.
Jokes take something that’s familiar and changes it. It breaks patterns. There is no area that’s not affected when the gospel is proclaimed. It changes everything. Here we see the planting of the Philippian church. What makes them distinct?
This becomes the first church in Europe. Whenever Paul and his team go to a city they preach the gospel in a synagogue. Here they find a group of women. Purple was a colour of royalty, extravagance. Lydia was a worshipper or God. She’s a successful business person but she can’t save herself. The Spirit opens her heart. She’s the first European Christian that we know of. She goes from praying on the outskirts of town to offering hospitality. When the gospel is proclaimed it breaks up all of our religious pretence so that it can take root.
The demon in the slave girl was trying to hinder Paul’s mission. The gospel means how you make money matters. It has cultural consequences. It can mean upsetting unjust systems. Do we act ethically? Paul and Silas could’ve escaped prison after the earthquake but they didn’t. The jailer asks what everyone wanted to know. What must you do to be saved? Let go of everything and believe in Jesus. The gospel affects both the body and the soul.
Paul knew that the magistrates had acted illegally. What pattern in your life needs to be upended by the gospel? Let go of your hurt or pride and believe in the one who is raised and has defeated death. The gospel changes everything. It takes root in our hearts and grows into joy.
This passage seems like random incidents. In first century terms we are the ends of the earth. They ask us a serious question – what are you prepared to do for the sake of the gospel? It’s all about faith. Have we put our faith in Jesus so that God declares us righteous? It’s all about teamwork. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he always sent them out in pairs. This was carried out by the apostles. Occasionally you get someone who goes out by themselves (Philip).
Paul had a good model of encouraging others to keep going. Barnabas modelled this too. They agreed on visiting people who they’d met to see how they were doing. They fell out about the little details. That can happen quite often. The text doesn’t pass judgement on Barnabas. He seems to disappear after this. Paul takes a different view. Mark grew sufficiently in his love for Jesus (Paul refers to him in Philemon). Don’t write off struggling disciples. The disagreement is described as sharp. It seems that from what happens that God’s intention was that there should be two missionary teams. They didn’t divide the church over it. They were strengthening the churches.
Team building (15:40-16:5)
Paul chose Silas who was recognised by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and a prophet. Timothy was clearly a convert from the missionary journey. Paul is desperate to make sure no one has a barrier to understanding the gospel. The Holy Spirit moves when people are committed.
Team direction (16:6-10)
All scripture is God breathed. As we absorb the word of God we start to agree with God and approve of what he wants to do in our lives. How does God guide this team? Paul and his companions were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching in certain areas. The Holy Spirit was guiding them as to where and when to preach. We are not the only ones doing the job. You can only be in one place at one time. Are we listening to his voice? Make sure you’re part of an active team for the gospel.
This isn’t normal (getting up and walking having never been able to). The crowds were ready to believe that a miracle had happened. What matters to you more than anything? We are all prone to false worship.
Stop worshipping worthless things (v14-18)
Is Jesus what matters most to you? How much more should we worship God who has revealed his love in sending Jesus? The crowd didn’t want to stop.
Don’t be surprised if you suffer (v19-22)
Paul was stoned because the people refused to believe the good news of Jesus. Paul shows that following Jesus is costly. We should have a desire to share the gospel with others but there will always be people who reject him and persecute Christians, making them suffer. Paul and Barnabas didn’t stay out of sight. We’re not facing threats but we need to be prepared for rejections.
Celebrate what God is doing (v23-28)
Acts points us to God’s work. The purpose of Paul’s work is God’s work. The work of God establishing churches isn’t just for Israel, but for the whole world. God’s concern is for the advance of the gospel (Acts 1:8). Are we celebrating what God is doing? His good news is for all people. Do we give God thanks for what he is doing among us? Is what matters to you what matters to God?