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.
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?
God is gathering a people for himself (Revelation 7:9-10). Jesus says we need saving. If we think we can be saved in any other way, we’re saying Jesus’ death is a waste. Christians are called to join in with God’s mission (Acts 1:8).
The local church sends missionaries (12:25-13:3)
This is a group of people gifted by the Holy Spirit to speak God’s word to others. Worship is giving glory to God. It’s communal and focused on Jesus. Fasting is done to remind ourselves that we depend on God. It’s wise to test what the Holy Spirit is saying. We should take time to listen to the Holy Spirit; the primary way is through the Bible. When churches gather together, this is a bit of what we’re trying to do. Are you there expecting to hear from the Holy Spirit?
Missionaries do the things that Christians do (13:4-12)
This opportunity comes with opposition. Saul stands against opposition to the gospel. If someone tries to stop us, we should stand against that. They’re not opposing just us, they’re opposing God. The teaching causes them to believe. We should send people to every area of the world and support them. Are we willing to send our very best? We need to join in with God’s mission where we are, too. Do we see the opportunities around us and speak up? We are to gently and firmly tell people the truth.
Who is Herod? He slaughtered the babies in order to try to kill baby Jesus. This Herod is his grandson. He had been brought up in Rome. He was popular with the Jewish people as he was Jewish. He used his influence on behalf of those people. The one in between had John the Baptist’s head chopped off.
This Herod made a political calculation and is using his power to do what he wants. Sometimes we wonder why politicians make the decisions that they do. Jesus said there will be trouble. Herod was popular and so Peter was kept in prison. Release was humanly impossible.
How should the church respond to this? They’ve lost James, now the leader is in prison. They were earnestly praying to God. What might the church have prayed for Peter? Jesus showed to Peter that when he was old he would be executed. God intervenes because it was impossible for Peter to escape. He doesn’t float out. He was given things to do. The angel did for Peter only what he couldn’t do.
How did the church respond to answered prayer? They are still praying. What does the church look like? Where are they doing it? In homes, through the night, sustained over days. It’s easy to say the same things. Do we believe God is going to answer our prayers? We must take none of the credit. Listen to what God has done in answering prayers.
Herod ignores the possibility of divine intervention, but it was normal if guards lost a prisoner. God always has the last word. Who’s in charge? The word of God continued to spread.
Why are Christians different? Church should be a community of people who have been changed to live differently. There was something different about these guys (v26). They needed a new name.
Tell others the hope that we have. We need to speak, otherwise how will others know? We need to do it sensitively and appropriately but we still need to speak. Lots of Jewish background Christians thought you had to become a Jew first. We need to be careful as it’s easier to spot errors in other cultures but not our own. Are there people we don’t consider speaking to?
See God’s grace in the lives of others. Keep on. Remain true to the Lord. These guys had been running away from persecution. They probably didn’t feel successful. Sometimes we need someone else to encourage us. We are called to remain true to Jesus.
Help each other see how to respond to what God teaches us in the Bible. Christian teaching should never be just about information. It should always call us to respond.
Look for practical ways to help others. A whole church that looks to the interests of others is attractive. They want to serve. If you’re a Christian you’re called to live a distinctive life, but you’re not on your own. You’re part of a church. As we do that more and more, the world will see we are Jesus’ disciples.
All of us can be welcomed into God’s family because of his rescue. In Acts 8 the apostles are there to give testimony. Acts is all about Jesus who completely transforms lives.
Jesus grows his church (v31-32) and Jesus uses Peter to heal and to save (v33-35)
Miracles aren’t everyday occurrences. This is similar to what Jesus has done (paralysed man). Luke wants us to see the similarities. Jesus speaks with his own authority by forgiving sins. Peter’s authority comes from Jesus. Miracles are signs pointing to the truth of Christianity. This is a glimpse of Jesus’ power. He’s going to make the world as it should be.
Jesus uses Peter to raise and save (v36-42)
Tabitha was always doing good and helping the poor. Those things aren’t optional. A Christian should always be doing those things. It’s not too late to change and begin to live a life honouring Jesus. Jesus has his own authority. He’s the one through whom the universe was made. Jesus gave authority to his apostles. The NT is a record of all that they said and did. He is bringing about his great plan. We rarely get to see things from God’s perspective. We can when we look back.
We can be confident that Jesus is always working his good plans behind the scenes. He does wonderful things through normal Christians living normal lives trying to honour him. Christianity is about putting Jesus first and others second.
Philip had to escape to avoid persecution and went north to Samaria. He sees people who need Jesus and tells them about him. It was a new opportunity. Philip goes because he trusts God is in control and the Holy Spirit told him to leave. He’s left a big city for the middle of nowhere. Along comes a luxurious chariot with a eunuch reading Isaiah. Philip jumped on board to explain it. He explains the hope of Christianity. We know we’re not good enough. Jesus pays for our sin instead of us. Philip tells the man to put his trust in Jesus and he does. Philip then goes. We don’t hear from the Ethiopian again.
Listen to the Spirit’s leading
Philip listens to God. The Spirit told Philip where to go. We should listen too. The way it happens with Philip feels supernatural. We’re not told how the Spirit’s voice spoke but we should listen to the voice of the Lord. When we are listening to the Spirit’s leading, we should be trying to listen in all kinds of ways. We need to be willing and ready to listen to him. The problem we have is that none of us are very good listeners. We ignore what the Spirit says, or we project our own wants. Be aware of our own weaknesses and know we can get things wrong.
Share the hope of Christianity with all kinds of people
The question for Philip and for us is will Christianity be the same? It’s fundamentally different to Judaism as everyone is welcome. Who are the kinds of people treated as outsiders? Prostitutes, drug addicts. There are a lot of people making unalterable changes to their bodies. Does that exclude them from being part of God’s people? By simply avoiding the places they might be, are we unconsciously excluding them? Everyone can be welcome and forgiven by Jesus.
See that the Bible is all about Jesus
It’s not just passages like Isaiah 53 that are about Jesus. He says it’s all about him. Whenever we look at the Bible we should expect to see something about God’s rescue and be pointed to Jesus.
Believe and be baptised
The right response is to follow Jesus. A belief that shapes the choices you make. Verse 37 isn’t in the earliest manuscripts. Christianity isn’t about pretending things are in the Bible when they’re not. It’s not what God wanted to be there. Becoming a Christian isn’t about saying words. It’s about choosing to live your life for Jesus. Don’t put off acting as a Christian in every situation.