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.

Prayer, Salvation and Hospitality

In Your Bible: Acts 16: 11-40

Paul and Silas reached the city of Philippi, a major city of Macedonia,
and stayed for several days. The many events there reveal God’s grace on them. The Spirit softened people’s hearts to receive Christ as Savior. . . and hospitality resulted.

Lydia

In Philippi, there were no synagogues, so Jews often used the riverside as a place to gather for prayer. Paul and Silas went to the riverside on the Sabbath to meet people and join in prayer. There they met Lydia, a God-fearing woman and a merchant of purple cloth. Paul spoke to her about Jesus.

She listened with carefully to what Paul said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed! After that, she was baptized as well as everyone in her household. Lydia immediately extended hospitality to Paul and Silas.

The Jailer

Again, when Paul and Silas went to a prayer meeting by the riverside, they met a demon possessed slave girl and cast the demon out of her. This made her owners very angry. . . due to their loss of income. Under false charges, Paul and Silas were brought before a judge who had them beaten, stripped, and taken to prison.

The jailer put them in stocks and chains. Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose (Acts 16:25,26 Message).

The jailer saw doors open, chains loosed and assumed all the prisoners escaped. But none left the prison. Badly shaken by this and he went to Paul and Silas and led them out of jail!

He exclaimed, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included” (Acts 16:30,31 Message).

Paul and Silas told the Gospel story to the jailer’s family. He dressed their wounds and extended hospitality to them. His entire family:

  • Put their trust in God
  • Was baptized
  • Celebrated with a festive meal

The Spirit softened people’s hearts to receive Christ as Savior. . . and hospitality resulted.

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life through Jesus.

Questions: How does Paul’s approach in Macedonia differ from their speaking in the synagogues? How important is hospitality in giving thanks to God?

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

In Your Bible: Acts 15:36 to 16:13

Paul and Silas decided to leave Jerusalem and make a visit to believers in cities where Paul had proclaimed the word of the Lord. They found that God’s actions fulfilled his promises in Joel 2:20. New converts accepted joyfully Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The number of believers increased dramatically.

A New Assistant for Paul

In Lystra, Paul met Timothy – a Jew and a follower of Jesus. Paul treated him as a son and discipled this righteous young man. However, because his father was Greek, Timothy had not been circumcised – a covenant sign with God for the Jews. Paul circumcised Timothy to fulfill this covenant concerning all male Jews (see Genesis 17:7-14).

The Spirit Guides Paul

They passed through the territory of Phrygia and Galatia, after being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in [the west coast province of] Asia [Minor]; and after they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them (Acts 16: 6,7 AMP).

Note: If this seems confusing, see Romans 8:9-17 where Paul writes about the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ [Jesus], and the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead (the Spirit of God).

Next, God used a vision of a man in Macedonia who begged Paul to come to Philippi, a leading city of the district of Macedonia. Paul knew he had the call to Macedonia. He did indeed.

During Paul’s exciting second missionary journey he planted many new churches. The number of believers increased dramatically.

Prayer: Father, thank you for guiding me by your Holy Spirit in personal decisions daily. Selah.

Question: Why does Timothy’s need for circumcision seem to conflict with what Paul argued for at the Council in Jerusalem?

Circumcision of the Heart

In Your Bible: Acts 15: 1-35

Paul and Barnabas traveled through Asia Minor spreading the Gospel of Jesus. As Gentiles became believers, then the question arose, “Must they be circumcised?” The Council at Jerusalem challenged Paul and Barnabas concerning this. Gentile believers require circumcision of the heart – a new heart for God.

Establishing Churches

In Iconium Paul and Barnabas taught on the grace of God and miracles happened. In Lystra when Paul preached the Good News, he recognized a crippled man had faith to be healed yes, God healed this manIn Derbe they preached the Good News and made many disciples. In Antioch they encountered teachers from Judea who taught Gentile believers must be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas vigorously argued with these teachers from Judea

The Council in Jerusalem

The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to settle this conflict.
As Paul and Barnabas came before the Council, they told them everything the Lord had done through them by the Holy Spirit for the Gentiles in Asia Minor. The Council listened quietly and respectfully. Then the Pharisees on the Council disagreed and asserted . . . “Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses (Acts 15: 5b NLT).

But James affirmed the Paul and Barnabas with this advice: Don’t make it difficult for Gentiles who turn to God. They need not be circumcised, but must abide by the following:

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

James continued, “For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations” (Acts 15:21 NLT). The Council agreed with James and sent a letter with these instructions to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor.

New believers require circumcision of the heart – a new heart for God.

Prayer: Father, thank you for circumcising my heart. What a JOY to have a heart for you.

Questions: Paul writes that Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called (1 Cor 7:19,20 NIV). How does this resonate with what Peter, Paul, and Barnabas argued with the Council in Jerusalem? How does it reinforce the commandments rather than tradition?