Welcome to Week 7 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 15-19 of the Book of Acts.
The apostles and elders meet to determine the requirements of Gentile believers. The Pharisees believe that they should be circumcised (following the requirements of Jewish law). Peter reminds them that God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit regardless of them being circumcised. They are saved just as they are. James speaks up, agreeing with Peter, claiming that they should not make it difficult for those turning to God. The church then sent a letter to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, Judas (Barsabbas), and Silas. The letter encouraged the Gentile believers there. Later, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over John Mark joining them so they parted ways. Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus while Paul took Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia.
Paul heads to Lystra where he meets Timothy and asks him to join him and Silas on their journeys. Paul asks Timothy to be circumcised as it will help him in their upcoming missions. Paul has a vision one night to head to Macedonia. He meets a Gentile woman there named Lydia who has her household baptized after talking with Paul. Each day he passes by a slave girl who makes money by telling fortunes. She constantly yells that they are servants of God. Paul orders the evil spirit to come out of her which does not make the slave owners happy – they were making money off of her fortune telling gift. Paul and Silas are thrown in prison.
An earthquake shakes the jail, opening all the cell doors and shaking the chains off the prisoners. When the jailer sees what happened, he draws his sword to kill himself, but Paul stops him telling him that they are still there. The jailer makes a decision to believe in Jesus and invites the men to their home. The next morning, the magistrate sends word to release Paul and Silas.
Paul and his companions arrived in Thessalonica where he preached in the synagogue, reasoning with them from the Scriptures. Some Jews, Greeks, and women became believers. But other Jews became jealous and stirred up a riot. The believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. They went again to the synagogue to preach the Scriptures. The Bereans received the Word with more eagerness and examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. As a result, many of them believed.
The Jews in Thessalonica heard Paul was preaching in Berea and they sent agitators there to stir up the crowd. The believers sent Paul to the coast. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. In Athens, Paul was distressed at the number of idols he saw and reasoned with the Jews and Greeks there. He talked about the God who made the world and everything in it. Some became believers.
Paul left Athens and traveled to Corinth where he met Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. Silas and Timothy joined him there and Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. When the Jews became abusive, Paul shook out his clothes in protest and proclaimed that he would now only speak to the Gentiles. Later, the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision telling him to not be afraid that no harm would come to him and to continue doing what he is doing. So Paul stayed in Corinth for another year and a half.
He left Corinth with Priscilla and Aquila and sailed for Ephesus. He stopped and preached in the synagogue but did not stay in Ephesus. He left Priscilla and Aquila there. Paul traveled back to Jerusalem and to Antioch and on to Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the churches there.
Meanwhile, Apollos arrived in Ephesus and began speaking boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him in their home and explained the Scriptures to him more adequately. Apollos then traveled on to Achaia with the blessing of the believers in Ephesus. He boldly debated his Jewish opponents, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.
Paul traveled back to Ephesus, speaking boldly in the synagogues for three months. But some became obstinate and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them.
One day, some Jewish exorcists are trying to cast out evil spirits in Jesus’ name. The evil spirit asks who they are – it knows Jesus and even Paul, but does not know them. The evil spirit attacks the exorcists, leaving them bloody. After this, many who practice magic repent of their evil ways and believe in Jesus.
Have a great week!
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?