Welcome to Week 6 of the Higher Hope Church 2018 New Testament Reading Plan! If you haven’t already, go pick up your 5x5x5 Reading Plan and join our private Facebook group for daily interaction and discussion. In today’s post, I will share a brief recap of of our week where we dug into chapters ten through fourteen of the Book of Acts.
A Roman centurion named Cornelius, who is a Gentile observing Jewish customs and prayers, receives a directive from God to send for Peter in Joppa. Meanwhile, Peter is having a vision of a sheet being lowered with all kinds of animals running around on it. God tells him to kill one and eat it. Peter says he does not eat unclean animals. The voice tells him again that God has made it clean. Peter hears the message three times before it disappears. God then tells Peter to go with the men from Caesarea. Cornelius explains his vision from God and is ready to hear what Peter has to say. Peter says that God does not play favorites, that all are welcome in God’s kingdom. There is no Jew or Gentile. Peter tells the story of Jesus and the Holy Spirit falls upon the Gentile believers present. They are then baptized.
Word reaches to the apostles in Judea that Peter has been baptizing the Gentiles. When Peter returns, he explains to them what happened and how God wants to save everyone, both Jew and Gentile. Barnabas is sent to Antioch to check on the new Gentile converts. He then goes to Tarsus to retrieve Saul and they return to help the Gentiles plant the church in Antioch. This is the first time the believers were called “Christians”.
King Herod has one of the disciples, James, beheaded. Then he arrests Peter. All of the followers of Jesus begin to pray for Peter. An angel of the Lord releases Peter from his prison chains. He runs to Mary’s house and the believers are stunned to see him! The next morning, the guards and Herod are flabbergasted and confused, wondering how Peter escaped prison. Later, an angel of the Lord strikes Herod dead after his subjects were calling him a god, not just a man. Barnabas and Saul return to Jerusalem with John Mark.
Barnabas and Saul were set apart for special work from the Lord. They head to Cyprus where they preached the Word of God . They traveled from town to town until they reached Paphos where they meet a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him for her wanted to hear the word of God. But the false prophet interfered trying to prevent the governor from believing.
Saul also known as Paul from this point forward, rebuked the sorcerer and struck him blind. When the governor saw what happened, he became a believer “for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.” (v. 12)
Paul and Barnabas then traveled to Antioch of Pisidia (modern day Turkey). The officials there asked them to speak at the synagogue. Paul gives a speech on the history of the Jewish people and that Jesus comes from the line of King David. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything God has promised. The people begged them to come back again the next week to speak. The next week, almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach! But when some Jews saw the crowds, they became jealous and slandered Paul and argued against what he said. Paul explains that the word of God was preached to the Jews first but they rejected it and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, so they are now offering it to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were very glad to hear this, however the Jews incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. They shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.
The same thing happens in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some Jews, however, rejected God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnbas. But they remained steadfast and the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. A mob of Gentiles and Jews decided to attack and stone them, so Paul and Barnabas fled to Lycaonia.
In Lystra, Paul healed a man with crippled feet. When the crowd say what he has done, they thought they were gods in human form – Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and Paul was Hermes. The crowd was prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles. Paul and Barnabas ran out among the people shouting that they are merely human beings just like them. They explained that they have come to bring the Good News and to turn from the worthless things and toward the living God. But, Paul and Barnabas could not restrain the people. Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and left him for dead.
Paul and Barnabas headed for Derbe and preached the Good News and then returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia where they strengthened the believers there. They explained how they must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. Then they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria where their journey had begun. They called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Questions for Reflection
- What is the significance of the story of Cornelius?
- What does it mean to persevere in the faith?
- What step of faith will you take this week?