Acts 19:11 God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles.
As a whole 21st Century Christians are missing this in their everyday lives. Miracles were a common occurrence in the early church and many times miracles were happening anywhere, not just in church, because they knew there were the church. Jesus did not save a building. He came to save people so the presence of the Lord could live within us. When He lives in us, He will live through us, demonstrating His will and purpose for fallen humanity.
I want you to know right now that YOU are chosen and destined to do great things in the kingdom of Father God. He saved you to save others, He healed you so you can heal others, He brought you through so you help bring others through and He freed you so you can free others. The catch is this, when we are not busy doing what He desires us to do, we begin to grow cold and complacent. Soon luke-warmness sets it and a critical spirit wraps its destructive grip around us and we are not praising like we once did, not praying like we once did, not witnessing like we once did and it begins a downward spiral.
Father God wants us to live a supernatural lifestyle where miracles, signs and wonders are not uncommon but common. We serve a Father God who loves to do great things for and through His people.
It wasn’t Paul but rather the power of God, the anointing of the Holy Spirit who was performing the usual miracles but God needs clean vessels to use. Vessels that are willing to sell out completely for the sake of the gospel, vessels that will say no to sin and yes to the will of God day by day.
We are saved by the powerful blood of Jesus Christ but that same blood also has the power to help us say no to sin and to live lives that will allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us. Paul, who was Sau,l was transformed on the Road to Damascus but the power that transformed him also kept him as he yielded his will daily.
I need to say this: we, as Christians, have a responsibility to live for Jesus daily and not just to be super Sunday saints. I love grace, I need grace, I preach grace but I also know that we have to learn to say no to sin and yes to His will daily. We can’t live impure, immoral lives and expect His anointing to dwell and work in our lives. Too many people are trying to live like the world, talk like the world, act like the world, be like the world all week and then transform into someone else on Sunday but the Kingdom of God does not operate that way. Yes, we need grace because we are human but we do not live a life of intentional sin.
Lifestyle is what we are talking about, not missing the mark! When we were born again we began a new relationship with Father God and our hearts now want to please Him. It’s not about what I can or can’t do, it’s about I love Him so much because of what He did for me, I want to please Him. It’s not about rules and regulations it’s about RELATIONSHIP and I want to honor Him with my lifestyle. He loved me and proved His love for me and while I was a sinner, Jesus died for me. Before I ever made a mess He loved me despite my mess so I, in return, want to die (to myself) for Him. He died for us, may we die for Him.
2 Timothy 2: 21If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
Let’s strive to keep our vessel clean, set apart and purge ourselves of ourselves. Back to Acts;
12 When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.
What an anointing Paul carried that even cloth, when it touched his skin, had enough power to cast out devils and heal people of their diseases. I remember reading how Smith Wigglesworth had stayed with a family for a few nights (sleeping in the master bedroom) and the husband was unsaved. He told the wife, when I leave don’t wash the sheets. That night when the husband laid down, he felt so convicted, it was like he was burning, till he got on his knees and gave his heart to Jesus. That is the anointing we need to walk under in these last days.
Prayer Points: Father help me to rid myself of me; less of me and more of you. Let me decrease so you can increase. By the power of the Holy Spirit teach me to control my flesh and walk daily in the Spirit in Jesus Name!
This week we jump into Acts 19 which talks about Paul’s third missionary journey.
Acts 19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. 2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Never doubt this truth, Father God has believers all over this world. As I’m writing this, one of our very own is in Burma, another in Mexico sharing the good news of Jesus and making believers. God’s plan for man will come to pass! These believers who believed in Jesus had not been taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
3 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
John’s teaching pointed to the Messiah but Paul was saying there is so much more than just being baptized in water. The One John said would come, has come and has died and has been resurrected and has ascended to heaven and now the Holy Spirit has come to endue us with power.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.” 5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
Don’t you love it? After Paul spoke, the Holy Spirit was just waiting to fill them and all He needed was a hungry heart. Notice Paul laid his hands on them and immediately they were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in tongues, even some prophesied. There was twelve men which is a number of authority. Without a doubt these twelve brought revival to their region.
In these next verses we see Paul still ministering in Ephesus. 8 Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God.
The greatest opposition to the Kingdom of God is religion (religious spirits). Notice Paul had to preach boldly in the synagogue (church) for three months strongly teaching Kingdom truths about Jesus coming, dying and resurrecting and those stuck in religion did not want to change their traditional way of thinking. Most do not realize how powerful religious tradition is but let’s read about it.
Mark 7:13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others." NLT
Mark 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. KJV
A religious spirit destroys, condemns, tries to control and complains because it is in rebellion to the Kingdom of Father God. We must never major on the minors and minor on the majors. Religious people in the days of Jesus would fuss over Him healing on a Sabbath, more worried over custom than a person. Even Pentecostal churches have many religious traditions which can be contrary to what Father God wants to do.
9 But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.
A religious spirit is a stubborn spirit which rejects any truth or any message other than their own. You can spot a stubborn religious spirit by how they speak out against things, especially change. Finally, Paul had enough and left the synagogue and took the believers with them and had church in a lecture hall for the next 2 years and revival broke out among all the people, Jews and Gentiles all over the region.
Prayer Points: Father God search my heart for any spirit that not of The Holy Spirit so my heart can be clean before you and so you can flow in me and through me to touch others in Jesus Name!
Acts 16 has been exciting to break down over the past few weeks and today we will bring it to a conclusion so we can continue our study in the book of Acts.
Acts 16:35 The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, "Let those men go!" 36 So the jailer told Paul, "The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace."
I love it when Father God shows out and it changes the mindsets of people. The leaders who had Paul and Silas beaten and cast into prison now sent word to let them go, but go in peace. Just no more earthquakes, not even any more supernatural signs just go in peace.
37 But Paul replied, "They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!"
This verse shows us that there are times when we need to not only walk in heavenly citizenship but also our earthly citizenship. Paul said, wait one minute, they did this to us publically without a cause and we are Romans citizens so they will release us publically.
America is falling because too many Christians do nothing as citizens of the United States. Some were born with the ability to lead our nation, our state, our county or our town and we must fulfill that call upon our lives but we all are called to have a voice in our region religiously and politically. Separation of church and state was meant to keep the government out of the church not the church out of the government. Every Christian has two duties as we represent the Father’s Kingdom in the kingdom we live in and that is to pray for our country and leaders and secondly vote to voice our belief system. I firmly believe if you do not vote in the elections you should never fuss over the outcome. I love our country and let’s do what we can to turn it back into “One Nation Under God” and “In God We Trust”.
38 When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city. 40 When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.
Because Paul stood up and said, I’m not only a child of Father God but I’m a Romans citizen and I don’t deserve to be treated like this, the name of the Lord was lifted up. Christians have rights not only as Christians but also as a natural citizen. When I got saved, I did not forfeit my right as a citizen of the United States, I actually became a better citizen of the United States. The truth is this; we have dual citizenship, Glory to God! We have rights as a child of Father God and we have rights as a natural born citizen.
The City offices not only came and personally released Paul and Silas but apologized to them and then begged them to leave the city. So Paul and Silas left the prison and went and had a home meeting at Lydia’s house to encourage them again and then they left the town on their own free will.
I think we see Psalms 23 taking place at the end of this story.
Ps 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. NLT
Even when Father God did not rescue Paul and Silas from the prison, He was still all they needed and they have supernatural peace and strength. He took them on this path to bring honor and glory to His name. Their story would have not been so powerful if God had not let them go through the beating and through the jail. It’s what we go through that becomes our testimony to lead someone else out from the prison they are in. Then we see Father God preparing a table for them in front of those who had beat them.
Prayer Points: Father God help me be willing to go through what you know I’m able to bear for you to get the glory and see your Kingdom expand in Jesus Name!
The greatest miracle of all miracles is when a person or a family gives their lives to Jesus, making Him Savior and Lord. Paul and Silas went through a lot to be in the position to lead this jailer to Christ but soon every stripe, every bruise, every pain from the mistreatment in their bodies would be forgotten as they lead this family to Jesus.
Remember the jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” To which Paul and Silas gladly replied.
Acts 16:31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household."
Believe is the key word in the reply from Paul and Silas.
Believe: GREEK>pisteu/w, to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ): KJV - believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
One of the definitions is to commit. Friends, if you really believe Jesus is the Messiah and that He truly is the only way to eternal life then you will commit yourself to live by His Word with the power of the Holy Spirit helping you. Jesus plainly tells us that if we love Him we obey Him and His Word. Too many people claiming to get saved but have no commitment to the things of God, the body of Christ (church), or the Word of God. Friend, when we truly get born again something changes, our lives are changed.
We are living in a day where the harvest is white and we as Christians must know how to lead people to Father God. Always start with Romans 3:23 which reminds us, that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is very important to the one you are witnessing to, to know that you do not think you are better than them so this verse will take the tension out. Then use Romans 6:23 which tells the good news that the wages of sin is death (Jesus died in our place) but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Explain how death is the eternal separation from Father God’s presence forever and forever. Eternal separation from everything that is good. Sin separates, God’s love unites. Sin destroys but God restores. Stress the goodness of Father God who gave His only Son so we could be sons and daughters of Father God.
After sharing Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23 then begin to share
Romans 10:9, 10, 13 which allows them to be saved right where they are standing. We confess with our mouth, believe in our heart which allows us to become children of Father God. Verse 13 declares that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Friends, there is nothing that compares to leading someone personally to Jesus. We are called to Go and Grow!
Then we read: 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.
It’s so important that we know the Bible so we can share His Word with those we are witnessing to. You don’t have to be a bible scholar and yes your personal testimony is powerful but we must be students of the Word so we can give them a firm foundation to stand on. Remember it’s probably around 1 to 2 AM and they are sharing the good news; they are tired but still sharing, they are bloodied but still sharing and then we read after they shared the word with him and his family that the jailer cared for them by washing their wounds. Then everyone in the household was baptized early that morning.
34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.
It could have been around 4 to 5 AM and they had been up all night but they took time to cook a meal and eat rejoicing over what had just happened to their family. There is nothing like a whole family getting saved which creates real joy, real excitement, and real celebration.
Heaven is real, but so is hell and both are eternal and people are making choices daily on where they will spend their eternity. When a person wakes up in eternity, it’s too late to change their choice. Father God has entrusted us to help people make a good choice and we must make His mission a priority in our lives.
Prayer Points: Father God help me to become eternity conscious. Help me to see those in my mission field the way you view them and give me a Godly compassion for those who are lost in Jesus Name!
We pick up the story concerning Paul and Silas as an earthquake has shattered the prison foundation and left all the prison doors open as Paul and Silas prayed and sung praises in their midnight hour. Now we read; Acts 16:27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, "Stop! Don't kill yourself! We are all here!"
Every jailor was made responsible for his prisoner, under the same penalty to which the prisoner himself was exposed. The jailor, awaking, and finding the prison-doors open, taking it for granted that all the prisoners had made their escape, and that he must lose his life on the account, chose rather to die by his own hand than by that of others. For it was customary among the pagans, when they found death inevitable, to take away their own lives. This custom was applauded by their philosophers, and sanctioned by some of their greatest men. (from Adam Clarke's Commentary)
First of all notice the jailer was asleep because the earthquake woke him up. It never pays to sleep on the job. Suddenly awakened and seeing all the prison doors open, his quick evaluation of the scene led him to kill himself but Paul screamed, “Don’t kill yourself, we are ALL HERE”!
I need to ask a very important question right here: could it have been Paul and Silas went through what they had to endure because a jailer and his family needed salvation? It wasn’t just about the demonic fortune telling young lady being delivered, but it was also about a prison full of prisoners and a jailer receiving the wonderful news of the power of the Gospel. Paul and Silas suffered a lot because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and so will we when we truly fulfill what Father God has destined us to do.
What is the price of a soul? Is it worth us shining for Jesus and what we believe in the Midnight Hour? We show the glory of Father God brighter in our midnight hours than any other time in our lives! Are we really willing to do what it takes to bring the glory of God in dark places? No, it wasn’t fair what Paul and Silas went through, being falsely accused, beaten, and thrown into an inner prison but it had a purpose. We need to remember that as children of Father God, nothing is wasted in our lives, not even one hardship. Father God is never surprised about where we are and what is going on, but rather He has already gone into our future, causing everything to work together for our good if we don’t give up too soon.
I’m so thankful for the mercy, grace and love of Father God who is not willing for any to perish but desires everyone to come to repentance. Just like he did not forget the woman at the well but went out of His way to lead her to repentance and restoration, He did not forget the prison guard and his family.
29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
As a result of the sufferings of Paul and Silas, we see a man, without hope about to commit suicide, get a life change. His first objective after hearing hope from Paul’s voice was to shine light in the darkness. Those who are lost, unsaved and don’t know Jesus have a darkness problem and they need a voice (your voice, my voice) in their darkness. You never know how powerful your voice is until you yield it to the Lord. As you go (Mark 16) then you will grow.
Then all of a sudden the once hopeless man asked the most important question of all time, “Tell me how I can be saved”. I want to emphasize the importance of being a light and being a voice in the lives of those around us even when we are walking in a midnight hour of our lives.
Our actions and reactions in our midnight hour are more effective than any words we would ever say when we are on a mountain top experience with Father God. People know that God is good when everything is fine, but when they find out God is still good during our midnight season by our words and actions; it brings glory to Father God. Our light should shine the brightest in the midnight, not easy but as we mature in the Word we know ALL THINGS DO WORK OUT FOR OUR GOOD!
Prayer Points: Father God help me not be so self centered during the midnight times of my life that others can’t see your light shining through me and want to serve you. Help me to Reach One More!
In the last two week’s devotion we have read where Paul casts the devil out of the girl in Acts 16 and instead of causing a great revival it caused a religious riot. Never forget a real revival brings lost people to Jesus and hungry people more into His Presence but at the same time it also causes religious people to get mad. Religious people crucified Jesus! As I watched the Passion of the Christ, it caused me to remember the hatred, the jealously, and the anger that the religious leaders of that day had for Jesus. It was vicious and as we grow closer to Jesus our attack with come from the same source.
While we know the attack is coming, we also know that Father God has already made plans to turn the attack into an opportunity for Him to demonstrate His Power! He is waiting to show off on our behalf! Never forget your Father in heaven is never intimidated by the enemy in any form of the word, He is greater and knows it!
Paul and Silas have been arrested, beaten, and thrown into the inner prison and now we read: Acts 16:25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
This is preaching ground for any preacher! It’s at the midnight times of our lives when people really know if we have what we claim to have in our relationship with Jesus. People do not pay much attention to our words when things are going our way but they always pay attention to our actions during the storms in our lives. We sing that the God on the mountain is still God in the valley but people want to hear more than words, they want to see the reality of Father God in our lives. Remember your greatest pulpit is during your greatest midnight because that is when people are listening to you the most.
At midnight, when it’s the darkest, the loneliest, the hardest is when we must demonstrate our faith. Paul and Silas, beaten, blooded, tired, in stocks, in the inner prison (no fault of their own) could have quit, could have thrown in the towel but instead we read that they prayed and praised. Notice this, their prayers and their praises were so loud that the other prisoners heard them. They were not afraid if they offended the prisoners. They began to pray and praise so loud everyone heard them. Once again your prayers and praise will not offend sinners just the religious so go ahead and verbalize your prayers and praise.
It’s important for your praise and prayers to be audible! I know there is a time to pray and praise quietly but friends, Father God loves it when you praise and pray so others hear you. It demonstrates that you are not ashamed of Him in your life. Many times we are commanded to shout out loud, to clap out
loud, to cry aloud, because it pleases Father God. Personally I would have thought this would have been a good time to pray and praise quietly but they would have missed their miracle if they had.
Not only did the other prisoners hear them but their prayers and praise infiltrated the throne room of Father God. Their praise was so powerful, not because of the perfect pitch or perfect vocal tones, but because it came from their hearts in a midnight hour. I believe Father God inhabited their praise and tapped his foot on the prison floor (just my imagination) and we read: Acts 16:26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!
Suddenly, what a word! Suddenly what held them bound, what held them captive was broken off of them. The doors which held them in now became an exit. I need to prophesy to someone that your suddenly is coming as you learn to pray and praise in your midnight hour. It may seem dark, it may seem too late, it may seem hopeless but Father God will show up on time every time if we will not allow midnight to steal our prayers and praise. Midnight will change you or you will change your midnight by your prayers and praise.
As long as you pout and murmur about the darkness, about the mistreatment, about the injustice midnight will dominate but as you pray and praise then midnight will dissipate.
I love the part of the verse where it says the foundation was shaken which means the prison could not be used again. As we pray and praise in our midnight hour, what use to hold us, to bind us, God will destroy its foundation to never hold us captive again.
Prayer Thoughts: Father God, help me to learn that people are listening and watching me in my midnight hour. Help me to have the wisdom, knowledge & maturity to praise you when things look dark instead of murmuring and complaining in Jesus Name!
Acts 16:19 Her masters' hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace.
Paul had just cast the devil out of a young lady who was being used in divination and witchcraft and now the war started. When this interfered with her master’s way of making a living they grabbed Paul and Silas and took them to the leaders of the city. It’s amazing what greed can do to you; they rather have money from divination than have the young girl set free from demonic activity. Greed is an awful thing because it will turn your heart away from Father God so quickly. Now we see what could have sparked a revival causing a riot but if it takes a riot to have revival the price is still worth it. We will learn the riot allowed Paul and Silas to touch hundreds of lives in a prison.
20 "The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!" they shouted to the city officials. 21 "They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice."
Notice the lies:
1. Whole city is in an uproar. This was not true, only those who lost their source of income were upset. I’ve learned a long time ago that when someone comes to me and says the whole area, the whole church, the whole organization is upset that usually it is them and their little band of followers which is usually family that is upset. I know Father God has to just giggle when things like this are spoken. Pastor the whole church is upset and find out it’s the person speaking and their mama, help me preach somebody. Friends, never let a personal opinion allow you to cause division in the house of the Lord; there is a high price to pay because division will keep people from being saved and others from growing into their spiritual destiny and their blood will be on their hands.
2. Teaching customs illegal for them to keep. This was also another lie because Paul was only teaching the Kingdom of God which was for every culture and every person on planet earth. The truth was they were mad because their source of income was depleted. I’ve seen others get mad when truth was spoken and their power or influence was diminished. Never forget, Greed and Power (influence) can become a god to many people. I’ve learned this; I don’t really know someone until they are given a little authority. The test of real
servant-hood Christianity is this, can you stay humble while serving in leadership? Can you still keep a towel mentality with a leadership title? The sad part is this, many can’t.
Their title becomes their identity instead of the love of God being their identity. Over 50 years of being in church I’ve seen this happen too often; people getting a title and it going to their head. Friends, I never need a title to serve with a towel and if I have a title, the title must never become more important than the towel. Just because we might have a title doesn’t make us God. No my friend, to whom much is given much is required. When you are a leader, Father God will test not only your works but even the motives of your heart. The bigger test is when you are done wrong God checks your fruits because a leader must know how to still bear fruit when being done wrong. They have to be able to pray Father forgive them as they nail you to a cross.
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn't escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
I wonder if Paul and Silas knew this was going to happen for just having revival and casting out a devil. There is always a price to pay for real revival and to walk in real power. Notice that because a few got upset a mob was formed and within a short period of time Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten with wooden rods. I know how we sing and rejoice when a demon is cast out, but can we still walk Godly when we are being lied about and beaten down with false accusations?
Soon Paul and Silas found themselves in the inner prison, the dirtiest and most awful part of the prisons of those days. It was dark, it stunk, and it was dirty and they were not even allowed to walk around but rather their feet were put in stocks, like they were murderers. Next week we will see how they overcame this time of testing!
Prayer Points: Father help us to keep a servant’s attitude in your Kingdom and a son’s attitude in your Family. Keep us Hungry and Humble in Jesus Name.
Acts 15:4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. 5 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, "The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses."
I love true religion which is described in the New Testament but I hate this type of religious mentality where everyone has to adhere to my personal standard of Christian conduct/dress especially when it comes to the outward appearance. I’ve been talked about for wearing a suit, for wearing jeans, for not wearing a tie, for not wearing a suit for not wearing jeans because of personal preferences. Body of Christ, we need to be more concerned about the heart than we are the outward appearance. When the heart gets right, the Holy Spirit will direct everything else. If we were to go back to the biblical dress code, I would not be in a suit or jeans preaching but rather a robe of some sort. Never let personal preferences keep you from loving others and rejoicing with others.
Paul was talking about all those who had got saved and filled with the Holy Spirit and how revival had broken out, miracles were happening and the religious stood up immediately and said, “They have to be circumcised like us”. They wanted to steal the spiritual freedom the new born Christians had just found. They wanted to make them live by the law instead of grace!
I remember back years ago when we had a school at the church and one of the teenagers came up to me shrewdly and said in essence, “Pastor you are going to hell”, to which I responded “Why”? He proceeded to tell me, “You can’t go to heaven with a beard”. I said to him, “Really”? He said, “Yes, you can’t be saved and have a beard”! I said, “That’s sad because I was trying to cover my ugly and look more like Jesus” and he immediately showed his lack of knowledge by saying, “Jesus didn’t have a beard”. I replied, “The Bible says they plucked His beard”. He said, “It does?” and I said, “It sure does, it was prophesied they would pluck his beard” and he walked off speechless.
Religion loves to condemn while Christians celebrate the victories of others. They should have been so happy about the conversions but rather they couldn’t wait to say their religious two cents worth.
They had always lived by the law because that’s all they had been taught and was not receptive to the truth that Jesus had fulfilled the law once and for all. Now people could be saved by grace through faith and not by works.
Let’s read the conclusion of this debate because Paul says it better than I could:
6 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. 7 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: "Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. 8 God knows people's hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus." 12 Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.13 When they had finished, James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord, including the Gentiles—all those I have called to be mine. The Lord has spoken—18 he who made these things known so long ago.' 19 "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. 21 For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations."
Prayer Points: Father God, never let me get caught up in religion that condemns and never let me be deceived by false doctrine of any kind. Keep my heart and motives pure in your sight, Amen!
15:37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.
Paul and Barnabas, who were representatives from the main church in Jerusalem,
had decided to go check on and encourage all the churches that had been
established. As we read the verse above we see that Barnabas (nicknamed Son of Encouragement) decided that he wanted to take along John Mark, his cousin to which Paul would object.
Let me give you some history about Barnabas. A noticeable trait of Barnabas, a prominent early church leader fondly nicknamed Son of Encouragement
(Acts 4:37), is that he seeks out and assists others. The Biblical text highlights
this twice with Saul/Paul (9:26-28; 11:25-26), once concerning the vibrant
church in Antioch, Syria (11:19-30) and once in connection with his younger
kinsman, John Mark (15:36-41). Often these other individuals and groups are
believers in Jesus who, for whatever reason, run a bit against the grain of
mainstream thought and action. Instead of ostracizing them, Barnabas not only
deliberately encounters them, but also listens to them and welcomes them
First, Barnabas befriends Saul. Acts introduces Saul as a persecutor of believers in
what was then known as the Way (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:2). Saul then gets
transformed on road to Damascus. Saul’s sudden change of character and bold
preaching lead the Jews to conspire to kill him. Saul travels to Jerusalem after
being lowered from the walls of Damascus in a basket to escape the city by night
(Acts 9:21-26). The disciples in Jerusalem fearfully avoid him, not believing he
really is a believer (Acts 9:26). Luke writes: “But Barnabas took him, brought
him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the
Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the
name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27).
Sometime later, the Jerusalem Council sends Barnabas to Antioch, Syria, to investigate
something new: believing Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) worship Jesus together!
Believing Jews had been scattered as a result of persecution, with some settling
in their new exiled homes (Acts 11:19-30). These scattered believers evidently
talked to their neighbors, many of them Greeks, telling them news of the risen
Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Luke writes that “the hand of the Lord was with them,
and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Notice
how persecution actually caused growth in the
Luke portrays Barnabas’s mission as fact-finding rather than as hostile. When Barnabas arrives in Antioch, he displays the same characteristics he exhibited in earlier
stories: he acts openly, listens and makes ethical decisions. The text says that
when he “saw the grace of God, he rejoiced” (Acts 11:23). Typical of a man of
honorable character, Barnabas’s mind looks at the facts: these people – some of
them uncircumcised Gentiles! – Really are new converts! Barnabas sees that they,
like him and other Jewish converts, believed in this radical new faith; he sees
this as evidence of the work and grace of God. He tells the Antioch believers
“to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion” (Acts 11:23).
Barnabas pastors the church but its demands are too many for one. So he seeks out Saul –
yet again – and journeys to Tarsus to find him (Acts 11:25-26). Barnabas’s action shows his humility and discernment. The text indicates that Barnabas’s overriding concerns were the needs of the people and the furtherance of the gospel. Yet he must have realized that Saul’s skill in debate and Saul’s incredible mind might overshadow his own qualities. Luke, however, gives no indication of jealousy on Barnabas’s part, only an indication of his desire to promote the name of the Lord Jesus.
Barnabas offers the younger man a job: co-pastoring the dynamic Antioch believers. Saul
accepts. The young church grows even more under their joint leadership (Acts 11:26). It must have been a glorious and fruitful time for both congregation and teachers. Most likely, this time shaped much of Saul/Paul’s theology. When the Antioch church fasts and prays, the Holy Spirit tells the church to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This becomes what scholars term Paul’s first missionary journey. We talked about this last week.
I’m taking the time to give you history so when we read next week’s devotion, you can
understand that Paul and Barnabas have a lot of history in ministry together. Even with that being said, conflict would soon arise that would separate their ministries but Father God still had a plan.
Prayer Points: Father help me to realize that conflicts will arise in our lives, even at times with our brothers and sisters in Christ but help me remember You always have a plan
Acts 16:11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. "If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my home." And she urged us until we agreed.
I want to look at the life of Lydia in our devotion today. Lydia without a doubt had to be an amazing lady especially to be a successful business woman during that time period and culture.
We are not sure if Lydia was actually her name or if she was just from Lydia. Many writers think Lydia means “The Lydian,” seeing Thyatira was a city of Lydia, and that her personal name is unknown. I just wanted to give you that little history lesson.
We do not have any information concerning her family connections. Scripture does not supply us with any information regarding Lydia’s background apart from the fact that she lived in Thyatira which was one of the Macedonian colonies. We do know the city was the melting pot of many nations, and that the chief object of worship was Apollo, who was worshiped as the sun-god under the name of Tyrinnus. There was also a strong Jewish element in the city maintaining faith in Jehovah.
She was a business woman: As I studied about Lydia I found that the water of the area was so well-adapted for dyeing, that no other place could produce the scarlet cloth as brilliantly and so permanently dyed. This unique purple dye brought the city universal renown. Lydia was a well-known seller of this product and typifies a successful business woman in a prosperous city. She undoubtedly had ability, enthusiasm, and singleness of purpose and mental insight which caused her to prosper.
She was a devout woman: We are not sure if she was of Jewish descent but we know “She worshipped God”. Often business people are so engrossed in their affairs that they have no time for religion. But Lydia, in spite of all her secular obligations, found time to worship according to the Jewish faith. Many times she made her way to the riverside to join in the prayer meeting. Now notice this, even though she was religious it is evident she had not encountered Jesus as her Savior but when Paul began to speak, her heart was quickened and she accepted the good news of Jesus being her personal Messiah. Then to prove her conversion to Christ, she was publically baptized with her household. Lydia had the honor of being Paul’s first European convert. Becoming a Christian did not make her less of a successful business woman. Now she had Christ as her Senior Partner and with Him we can imagine that trade remained good and that much of her profit was used to assist His servants in the work of the Gospel. Lydia’s transformation of life was evidenced by her eagerness to give missionaries the hospitality of her fine home. Lydia always had “open house” for the saints of God and her home became a center of Christian fellowship in Philippi with perhaps the first Christian church being formed therein. Lydia not only sold her dyes—she served her Savior. She stayed in business that she might have the money to help God’s servants in their ministry. How her generous care of Paul and Silas, and of many others, must have cheered their hearts. Lydia put Jesus first but she was still a successful business woman who continued to sell her purple dyes for the glory of God. When we reach heaven, we shall find this “seller of purple” wearing more superior garments, robes not stained even with the notable dye of Thyatira, but “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The main truth I need you to see in her conversion is that she was already a worshipper and prayer but she still did not know Jesus as her Savior. There are so many in this region who are just like Lydia and they need you, they need me to tell them about Jesus, about the cross, about His resurrection and what He has done for us.
Prayer Points: Father Give me the boldness and wisdom I need to be the Christian you desire who consistently shares their faith with the Lydias of this world.