Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In Search Of Truth, "Acts Recap"

For those who have joined our little "Search For Truth" here in the last year or so, and for others who may have forgotten, we started out way back in 2007 by looking at the Gospel of John. After that, I thought it might be interesting to follow the continuing timeline of the early church by going through the book of Acts and stopping along the way to look at books written during that time-frame as they would fall in the chronology of Acts.

So far we've seen the Apostles start new communities of believers and equip them for growth. in chapters 1-7. In chapter 8 we were introduced to Saul, a zealous persecutor of the first Christians, who at the very least supported and enabled the deaths of multiple Christians, and probably even organized their capture and executions in a number of cases. But this same man was confronted by the resurrected Jesus in 35 AD and the experience changed him forever.

In Chapter 10 we witnessed Peter's vision, in which it was made clear to him that non-Jews should not be excluded from the amazing gifts of forgiveness, freedom and eternal purpose that God offers. God's Holy Spirit, who had already begun to do incredible things through Jewish believers, was now working powerfully through non-Jews as well, and continues doing so today.
In Chapter 12 we saw John's brother James killed by King Herod's order and Peter be freed from capture by an angel. Later, Herod's acceptance of those worshiping him resulted in his death at God's hands.

Then Saul left with Barnabas on his first missionary journey, beginning in Chapter 13. At this point, Acts begins referring to Saul(which means "desired") with what seems to be his preferred, humbler name,"Paul" (which means "little"). On his first missionary journey, Paul confronts a magician who was aiming to turn people away from Jesus.

In Chapter 14, we see Paul, in Antioch, summarize the grand story God has been telling throughout Jewish history and the climax it reaches in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Soon afterward he was driven out by some of the Jews there and so he and Barnabas continued their journey, seeing great success as many Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) listened and believed in what they were saying about Jesus. Their ministry was marked by both suffering and miracles and took them to many places, but they eventually returned to Antioch and stayed there for about a year or more.

In chapter 15, Paul returns to Jerusalem to settle an issue regarding whether or not Gentiles should be required to follow all of the Jewish laws once they become followers of Christ. It was determined that they should not be saddled with this requirement as even Jewish Christians were unable to fulfill God's law, which is why Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf to begin with.
Later, Paul wanted to go back and visit the various communities of believers that he had started on his first missionary journey, and invited Barnabas to accompany him, but they disagreed over who ought to come with them, and so parted ways (Paul now taking Silas with him) to continue serving God on separate missions.

In Chapter 16, a young believer named Timothy joined Paul and Silas. Around this time, it is believed that the author, Luke, joined Paul and the others, since he begins using the pronoun "we" at times instead of exclusively "they".

In Philippi, Paul and his team met Lydia, who sold luxury cloth to the wealthy. She became a believer and gave Paul and the others a place to stay. But soon, when Paul cast an evil spirit out of a slave woman, thus removing her fortune telling powers (a chief money maker for her owners), her owners made a fuss over what Paul was teaching and he and his team were beaten and put in jail.

God used this situation to reveal himself to the jailer, who nearly killed himself for fear of punishment from his superiors when an earthquake broke the locks and freed all the prisoners. But rather than use the chance to escape, Paul and his partners stayed in the prison and shared the truth about Jesus to the jailer, who became a believer that night. Soon after, Paul and the others were freed.

In chapter 17, after suffering more persecution which forced them to flee, they eventually came to Athens, where Paul delivered a now famous address to the philosophers there. Athens had altars to a multitude of gods, including an alter to "an unknown god" just to cover their bases. So Paul took the opportunity to tell them about the God they did not know, and shared the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done for all of humanity.

In Chapter 18, in Corinth, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish believers whom Paul lived and made tents with for awhile as he preached on the Sabbaths. He found great success there and stayed to teach in Corinth for a year and a half before continuing his journey, bringing Aquila and Priscilla with him. It was roughly during this time or in the time briefly following it, that Paul wrote the book of Romans, which we finished looking at before the holiday season.

In Ephesus, a believer named Apollo was very effectively teaching people about Jesus, though his knowledge on a few issues was incomplete. But Aquila and Priscilla were able to fill in the gaps of his understanding, which he was receptive to, making him all the more effective in teaching.

In chapter 19, Paul taught some believers about the Holy Spirit who had never heard of him, and a number of those practicing magic and attempting to use the name of Jesus as a "magic word" to do their work were overpowered by the demons they attempted to control.

In Ephesus, Paul's preaching was so effective that the metal-smiths who made statues of gods were afraid they would be put out of business and so started a riot against Paul and his partners. A Jewish man named Alexander was put before the crowd by the Jews, presumably to publicly disassociate Jews from Christians in this matter, but the revved up crowd wouldn't listen, until the city clerk quieted everyone down and finally brought reason to the environment.

Next- Acts Chapter 20. Sleeping Through Sermons Can Be Lethal!

Coffee House Question- So far in the book of Acts, there have been numerous inspiring examples of how believers should live. In what way would you especially like to be more like Paul or another believer described so far in this book?

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