A Nazirite Vow

In Your Bible Acts 21: 15-26

After more than three years in Asia Minor Paul, impelled by the Holy Spirit, returned to Jerusalem and was received with JOY. But resistance arose among the Jews. Paul took the Nazirite vow – it was more convincing than words he could say.

Joyous Welcome

The believers received Paul gladly. When he met with James and the elders of the church Jerusalem, he gave a detailed account of the things God accomplished among the Gentiles. Upon hearing this, everyone praised God. Even with this joyous testimony, some old accusations arose against Paul.

Nazirite Vow

Paul previously agreed to the guidance and a letter given by the Council (see Acts 15:24-28 NLT). New Gentile believers must adhere to only a few Jewish customs:

  • Abstain from eating food offered to idols
  • Abstain from consuming blood or meat of strangled animals
  • Abstain from sexual immorality

But again, some Jewish believers in Jerusalem complained that Paul still taught Gentile converts to ignore the laws of Moses. How could Paul show them differently?

The Council said . . .

Do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law (Acts 21:23,24 NASB).

He eagerly agreed to the purification ceremony also known as the Nazirite vow (see it in Numbers 6:13-21).

He knew these repeated accusations against him were false. Paul took the Nazirite vow – it was more convincing than words he could say.

Prayer: Father, thank for your guidance in the Bible and the Holy Spirit as I seek to do your will – not mine.

Questions: When you read about the Nazirite vow or purification ceremony, who is most memorable to you remember as a devout Nazarite? What displays of devotion or ritual do believers use today to show their commitment to God?

Emotional Send-Off

In Your Bible: Acts 20:16-38

After completing three years of ministry in Ephesus and three months in Macedonia, Paul asked the elders of the Church of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. Here he would bestow guidance, encouragement, and a warning. During this heartfelt time, God’s grace reigned as Paul blessed the elders of the church.

Protect the Flock

Paul insisted the elders heed this warning . . . “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.” (Acts 20:28 NLT). He then commended the elders into God’s care.

Departing in Love

Then Paul . . . Knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again (Acts 20:36-38a). During this heartfelt time, God’s grace reigned as Paul blessed the elders of the church.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the diligence Paul showed with these elders. Help me learn to encourage others to discover your will and your purpose in their lives.

Question: In Acts 20:28-32 Paul encourages and warns the elders of the church in Ephesus. How do both statements apply today?

God Raises the Dead – Just as Before

In Your Bible: Acts 20:1-11; 1 kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-36

As Paul traveled through towns he constantly encouraged believers with fresh hope and lifted their spirits. He spent three months in Greece preaching and again encouraging believers. God used Paul to raise the dead, just as he did with Elijah, Elisha and the Master – Jesus.

Faith in God to Meet a Need

The first day of the week was to be religiously observed by all the disciples, as a sign of their dedication to fellowship. This time – a meal followed by communion – was a solemn assembly. *

In Troas, Paul preached and taught. This session extended to midnight, whereupon a young lad fell asleep during Paul’s exhortation. He landed three stories below. He died. Paul went down and threw himself on him, and said, [to those standing around him], “Do not be troubled, because he is alive” (Acts 20:10 Amplified Bible).

Insight

In 1 Kings 17:17-24, the Prophet Elijah raised a widow’s son from death in Zarephath. Likewise in 2 Kings 4:18-36, the prophet Elisha came to the Shunammite woman, to heal her dead son. Elisha laid on the child and the flesh of the child became warm. God healed him through Elisha. We see here in Acts 20, that God used Paul to raise the dead boy. Amazing. Selah.

When Elisha reached the house [of the Shunammite woman], there the child was, dead and laid on the bed. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to Adonai. Then he got up on the bed and lay on top of the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands. As he stretched himself out on the child, its flesh began to grow warm. Then he went down, walked around in the house awhile, went back up and stretched himself out on the child again. The child sneezed seven times, then opened his eyes. Elisha called Geichazi [Gehazi]and said, “Call this Shunamit” [Shunammite]. So he called her; and when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son” (2 Kings 4: 32-36 Complete Jewish Bible).

Paul knew the history and work of the prophets. God used Paul to raise the dead, just as he did with Elijah and Elisha and the Master – Jesus.

Prayer: Father, thank you that even in the midst of daily trials, you are there – I need to keep calling on you for all of my needs.

Questions: In what other accounts does Paul chose God’s purpose rather than accepting the circumstances as seen by the crowd? Do you believe that God continues to raise the dead?

* Matthew Henry Bible Complete Commentary, Matthew Henry, Acts 20: online at christianity.com.

Holy Spirit at Work in Ephesus

In Your Bible: Acts 19:1-6 (NLT)

After Paul visited the churches in the interior region of Asia Minor he returned to Ephesus for two years, continuing to preach the Word. There the Holy Spirit gave new disciples power and authority to work.

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

Paul, with Timothy, Luke and others visited the churches in modern Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, and ended in Jerusalem. Again, he experienced persecution and suffering. While in Ephesus, Paul wrote several letters to other churches.

New Disciples Receive the Holy Spirit

On his way to Ephesus Paul encountered some (12) new disciples. He knew they were followers of Jesus by talking with them, but he also knew they lacked something—power!

Then Paul challenged them with a question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? No, they replied, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2 NLT).

Then Paul said, “If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.” As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God’s actions” (Acts 19:4-6 Message).

Some commentators * believe this encounter was designed to qualify these twelve men as elders committed the care of the church in Ephesus. There the Holy Spirit gave new disciples power and authority to work.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your gift the Holy Spirit to empower me and guide me into what you would have me do.

Questions: Why do you think repentance is necessary prior to baptism? How is this account in acts differ from the Great Commission Jesus gave in Mathew 19? Do you there think there is a difference, if you consider the word Master used in the Message in Acts 19:7?

* Matthew Henry’s Complete Bible Commentary Acts 19:1-7, online at christianity.com

Iron Sharpens Iron

In Your Bible: Acts 18:1-4:24-28 NLT

In Acts 18:1-4 we learn Paul stayed with Priscilla and Aquila for 18 months while he preached in the Synagogue. Later, Priscilla and Aquila helped Apollos, a scholar of Old Testament prophecies, find the Messiah. Apollos, empowered with the complete gospel, helped many receive the grace of God.

Eloquent Teacher

Apollos a learned Jew from Egypt who lived in Ephesus, knew Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism (Acts 18:25 New Living Translation).

In Ephesus he taught what he knew of repentance but didn’t understand the coming of the Holy Spirit. However, God helped him by sending two steadfast believers, Priscilla and Aquila, who had learned from Paul when he stayed with them for eighteen months in Corinth. *

Encouragement

When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preach boldly in the Synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately (Acts 18:26 NLT). They told about Christ, His crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit – things Paul had discussed with them.

This shows God’s overall purpose for mankind – repent and receive Jesus as Savior. Then serve Him. Learn and study Scripture, teach lovingly, and support those bringing the message of Jesus. Apollos, empowered with the complete gospel, helped many receive the grace of God.

Prayer: Father, show me ways to encourage and support those I meet with the gospel and Jesus’ love.

Questions: When was the last time you were nudged to help correct a person, but knew in your heart it’d best be done privately not publicly? What occasions in the Bible have you found that connect people to build up rather than criticize?

*The Daily Study Bible Series, Acts of the Apostles, William Barclay, St Andrews Press, Edinburg, Scotland, 1955, p. 146.

A Unique Way to Share Jesus

In Your Bible: Acts 17: 16-34

Paul was whisked away from Berea to Athens. There he saw idols everywhere in this great university city. However, the Athenians didn’t have a clue about the Most-High God. Paul told them of God’s purpose through Jesus.

Paul Reasoned with the Council

Paul’s spirit was deeply troubled when he saw Athens full of idols. That gave him a unique way to share Jesus with the Jews in the Synagogue, the God-fearing Gentiles, with those in the market-place, and now with the high council.

The high council of the city [the Areopagus in Greek] – a select group of about 30 members * was intrigued at what they heard from Paul. “Come tell us about this new teaching,” they said. “You are saying some rather strange things, and we must know what it’s all about” (Acts 17:19b,20 NLT).

He told them they were wise to honor an unknown god, but there was much more they were missing. This was Paul’s perfect opening to reason at length about what God did for mankind through Jesus. He commended them for being religious and showed them a better way.

God’s Purpose

Paul proclaimed that God, the Most-High God, made the world and everything in it – including man. God’s purpose was for nations to seek and find him – for he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. (Acts 17: 27b, 28a NLT).

When Paul explained about the resurrection of the dead [God raising Jesus from the dead], some laughed in contempt but others said, “We want to hear more about this later” (Acts 17:32 NLT). And some eagerly believed. Paul told them of God’s purpose through Jesus.

Prayer: Father, continue to give me unique ways to use circumstances to show the joy of knowing Jesus.

Questions: How does Paul’s mentioning of nations seeking after God and finding him, relate to individuals needing to seek after God for themselves? Has God given you unique or surprising ways to share Jesus?

* The Daily Bible Series, Acts of the Apostles, William Barclay, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1955, pp. 141, 142.

Opposition to the Gospel

In Your Bible: Acts 17: 1-15

Paul and Silas traveled to Thessalonica and Berea (Macedonia) where they shared in Synagogues for several weeks. As they preached about Jesus, but this stirred up anger from those who didn’t understand or believe. However, to those who did (and now do) receive the message, it is salvation and life. Opposition to the gospel continues today.

Thessalonica

The Roman road from the Adriatic Sea to the Middle East was called the Egnatian Way. The main street of Thessalonica was part of that road! If Christianity were firmly founded there, it could spread quickly in the Roman Empire.

Paul and Silas traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia (100 miles of walking) and came to Thessalonica. In the Synagogue Paul preached from the Scriptures. Paul told them bluntly, there were no other options, this Jesus is the Messiah. Many God-fearing Greeks, men and women from the aristocracy, joined them.

But some Jews became furious over the conversions and sought to capture Paul and Silas for insurrection! The said, “These men who have upset the world have come here also” (Acts 17:6b NASB). Wow, what an authentication of effective evangelism!

Berea

But the opposition to Paul and Silas was a real danger. In response to this, the brethren in Thessalonica immediately sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the Synagogue of the Jews to preach Jesus.

Now those who heard Paul and Silas, received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to validate what was preached. Again, many believed with a number of prominent Greeks, as happened in Thessalonica.

 

When the Jews of Thessalonica heard that the word of God had been proclaimed in Berea, they came there to stir up the crowds against the message Paul and Silas preached. The Berean believers immediately escorted Paul to Athens but Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. Opposition to the gospel continues today.

Prayer: Father, thank you for believers who listen to your Spirit and watch over fellow believers and respond to real needs. Selah.

Questions: How do you see opposition displayed in other cities Paul or other disciples preached? Compare opposition to the gospel message in Thessalonica and Berea to opposition to Christianity today.