SESSION 21 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

A review of our sessions thus far can be found in my previous posts on my blog, fromdeathtolife.wordpress.com.

Now, Session 21 — Acts 12:1-25

If I were going to preach this, I’d call it, “Pray and Believe!”

Verse 1 —  King Herod Agrippa I was not Jewish by birth. His father was born in Edom, where many false gods were worshiped. But Herod was a diplomat who sought to please his Jewish subjects.

He considered Christians to be a threat to all of his kingdom, causing upheaval among his people. So he laid hands on some of them. That means he ordered his soldiers to forcibly fall upon them and capture and beat them. Herod captured them in order to mistreat (do evil to) them.

Verses 2-3 — And we see the evil that he did! Herod captured James, the brother of John, and ordered him to be beheaded with a sword. So he was martyred for his faith in Jesus. There was no greater honor, and James went to be with the Lord.

This execution pleased the Jews who hated Jesus Christ and His followers. Herod, took note of their pleasure, and arrested Peter, also. This happened during the days of Unleavened Bread, that is, the seven-day Feast of Passover.

Verse 4 — When Herod had seized Peter, he put him in prison and assigned four squads (there were four soldiers in a squad) to guard him. That’s 16 soldiers! Herod didn’t want Peter to escape! He planned to bring Peter out to present him to the people after the Passover, so he could judge him and condemn him to death by beheading, just as he had done with James.

Well, that was Herod’s plan. But the Lord had a different plan! Do you know that no one can thwart God’s plans? Watch!

Verse 5 — Peter was in prison, but the church was fervently praying to God, on his behalf. This, beloved, is “being the church.”

We pray for those who are persecuted because of their faith — for their release, for strength from the Lord, for Jesus to manifest Himself powerfully through them so that even their captors are saved!

Verse 6 — So on the very night Herod planned to bring Peter out, to judge and condemn him, Peter was in the following condition:

— Sleeping between two soldiers (note that he wasn’t fearful and wakeful, wringing his hands)

— Bound with two chains

— With guards in front of the door, watching

Again, do you know that no one can thwart God’s plans? And do you know that God hears the prayers of His intercessors in the church?

Verse 7 — Behold! Pay attention! God is about to do something! On the very night Herod planned to judge, condemn and execute Peter, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Peter. Oh, do you know this scripture is true, for all who faithfully follow Jesus and are “being the church?” Of the angels, the writer of Hebrews gladly says —

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all  ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will  inherit  salvation?

So, the angel suddenly appeared! A light shone in his cell. The angel then struck Peter’s side. He must have been sleeping soundly!

And the two guards on either side of him were supernaturally kept from seeing what God was doing — even though there was that light, and the angel’s appearance!

The angel then struck Peter’s side and instructed him to get up quickly. The moment those words were uttered, the two chains fell off Peter’s hands!

Do you know that chains fall off when the Lord speaks, even through a messenger, even through you and me?

Verse 8 — The angel then instructed him to get dressed, put on his sandals. Peter immediately obeyed.  And the angel told him to wrap his cloak (outer garment) around himself, “and follow me.”

Verse 9 — Peter went out with him, unchained, continuing to follow the angel. But he didn’t know that his rescue was real! He thought he was seeing a vision! NOTE: Peter’s experience reveals that a vision is very realistic!

Verse 10 — They passed the first and second guards and came to an iron gate that led to the city. God also supernaturally prevented these men from seeing Peter and the angel!

The gate opened for Peter and the angel by itself. It was the power of God! Can anything contain a Christian whom the Lord wants freed?

They continued out, along the street, and then the angel departed. His mission was accomplished!

Do you know nothing can keep an angel from accomplishing the mission on which the Lord has sent him? And do you know it is the same for you and me, when we are filled with His Spirit?

Verse 11 — Peter “came to himself.” He realized he was free! And he said, Now he knew for sure that his rescue was real! The Lord had sent His angel to rescue him from Herod’s hand (his power and authority), and from all that the Jews were expecting — Peter’s execution!

But do you know that Herod’s power and authority, nor that of anyone else,  does not exceed the Lord’s?

And do you know that He determines which of us will be martyred for His sake, and which have a further assignment? EVERYTHING is according to His plan, and is to further the growth of the church!

Verses 12-13 — So Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. He knew her house was a meeting place for Jewish believers.

He knocked on the door, and a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.

Verse 14 — She recognized Peter’s voice, but because of her joy, she forgot to let him in! She went to the others to tell them Peter was standing in front of the gate.

Verses 15-16 — But no one believed her. They told her she was out of her mind.

She kept insisting that Peter was at the door, though, and Peter continued knocking!

They thought she had seen the angel (Greek: angelos, messenger on their behalf) of Peter, because they thought he had been martyred. After all, this was the night Peter was to be brought out, judged, and executed. And though they had been fervently praying for seven days, Peter remained in prison.

Yes, they had fervently (intently) prayed when Peter was captured, but there had to be some unbelief mixed in. James had been martyred. Peter was next, it appeared. But they prayed, in spite of it all. There had to be a ray of hope, amidst their unbelief.

Beloved, never give up, if you are imprisoned for your faith and deliverance looks impossible, even if it is the eleventh hour! But know that if you are in prison for your sin, or want Jesus to deliver you out of the mess you have created, then do not claim these things for yourself, but repent and believe the gospel, and be forgiven for your past sins and then filled with the Spirit so you are set free from the power of sin! Glory to God!

When they finally opened the door, they saw him and were amazed (astounded, beside themselves)!

Verse 17 — He motioned with his hand, to quiet them, for all of them were beside themselves and surely were loudly rejoicing and praising the Lord!

Then Peter described how the Lord had led him out of the prison. So was this delivering angel the Lord Himself?

In Acts 9:10, Ananias had a vision of the Lord who ordered him to go to Saul/Paul. In Peter’s case, his deliverer was indeed the Lord, but He delivered Peter through the angel He sent.

After speaking, Peter soon left for another place. He ordered them to let James (the brother of Jesus) and the rest of the brethren know that the Lord had miraculously delivered him from certain death!

Verses 18-19 — Morning came, and when the soldiers discovered the heavily guarded Peter was gone, there was a great disturbance — a  great tumult, that is, a loud, confused noise! How did Peter escape? Where could Peter be? Losing a prisoner meant execution!

Herod searched for him and did not find him. And after examining the 16 guards, he ordered that they be executed. Then he went from Judea to Caesarea.

But God had a different plan for Herod. Do you know God’s plan will ALWAYS end with the destruction of His enemies, including the devil himself?

Verses 20-21 — Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. They came to him in Caesarea, having argued their case with the king’s chamberlain (an officer who oversaw Herod’s household).

What were they seeking? To make peace with Herod, because their country was fed by Galilee, which was under his control. Remember, Herod reigned at the time of Claudius, during the great worldwide famine prophesied by Agabus in Acts 11:28.

So Herod appeared in his royal apparel, on an agreed upon day. He sat on a rostrum (a judgment seat or throne). And he began speaking to them.

Verse 22 — The people continually cried out, “The voice of a god and not a man!”

Verse 23 — Herod did not say, “I am only a man; do not worship me. Worship God!” And so, an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God glory for the position he held, nor redirect their worship to God.

So he was eaten with worms and died.  It was God’s judgment of Herod because he did not glorify God. I believe it was instantaneous, the moment he was struck by the angel. Otherwise, people could have assumed he ate something contaminated and later died.

Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, wisely glorified God, when he exalted himself before God. If you remember, God caused him to lose his reason. When he repented, God restored his reason to him, and THEN he gave God glory —

Daniel 4:37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of  heaven, for  all His works are  true and His ways  just, and He is able to humble those who  walk in pride.”

Verses 24-25 — But the word of the Lord was unstoppable. HALLELUJAH!

It continued to abound!

Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch from Jerusalem, after delivering the financial aid from the church at Antioch (see Acts 11:30). They brought John Mark with them.

So, how is it with you? Are you “Being the Church?” Is your church “Being the Church?”

Do you know that no one can thwart God’s plans?

Do you pray fervently for the persecuted church? Do you know He hears the prayers of His intercessors?

Do you know that chains fall off when the Lord speaks, even through a messenger, even through you and me?

Do you know nothing can keep an angel from accomplishing the mission on which the Lord has sent him? And do you know it is the same for you and me, when we are filled with His Spirit?

Do you know that Herod’s power and authority, nor that of anyone else,  does not exceed the Lord’s?

And do you know that He determines which of us will be martyred for His sake, and which have a further assignment? EVERYTHING is according to His plan, and is to further the growth of the church!

Do you know God’s plan will end with the destruction of His enemies, including the devil himself?

Do you know that the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable? It surely is! Amen and amen!

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D.L. Moody’s Baptism in the Holy Spirit

I referred to this in my last message, “Jesus — Do you love Me?”

One evening, at the close of one of D.L. Moody’s messages, two women approached him and told him that they were praying for him. This occurred on several of the evenings that followed, and finally he became a little perturbed about it. “Why do you pray for me? Why don’t you pray for these unsaved?” he asked.

They told him that they were praying for him to receive power. He didn’t know what they meant, but those words kept bothering him, so finally, he went back to them and asked what they were talking about. They told him that he needed the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” After they explained what they were talking about, he said he wanted to pray with them rather than have them just praying for him. He prayed fervently for this baptism and power. He continue to pray for it on his own.

Not long after that, he was walking the streets of New York and his prayer was answered. In the midst of all the hurried flurry of the city street, he felt the power of God coming upon him. He rushed to a friend’s house nearby and asked to have a room to himself. He stayed in that room for hours and the Holy Spirit came, “filling my soul with such joy that at last I had to ask God to withhold His hand, lest I die on the spot from very joy.”

D.L. Moody then went on to be a more effective evangelist who no longer “struggled on” in his own strength. He preached to crowds of tens of thousands and led many more to Christ, without the striving of his earlier days. In his own words, “The sermons were no different, and I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not be placed back where I was before that blessed experience.”

Jesus — “Do you love Me?”

[SW297] 09/22/2017 message notes by

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2017

Jesus — “Do You Love Me?”

Text: John 21:15-17, etc.

After the empty tomb

After Mary and then the Eleven had seen the risen Christ

After Peter and the others went fishing and caught nothing, and Jesus gave them another miraculous catch of fish

And after He fed them breakfast

He said, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

Simon . . . do you agapeo Me?

(Agape is more than a friendship like Peter had for his fellow disciples.)

And Peter said to Him, Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.

Lord, you know that I phileo You.

(Peter couldn’t respond to Jesus with agape, because it wasn’t in him yet.)

Again, Jesus said, Simon, son of John, do you love Me?

Simon . . . do you agapeo Me?

And Peter again said to Him, Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.

Lord, you know that I phileo You.

And the third time, Jesus said, Simon, son of John, do you love Me?

Simon . . . do you phileo Me? (It is enough, for now.)

And Peter said to Him, You know all things. You know that I love you.

You know I phileo You.

Agape defined by Jesus:

John 17:26 “and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that  the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

It is the love with which God the Father loves God the Son. Jesus prays for the Father’s actual love, that same love He has for the Son, to be literally inside of us.

Phileo defined:

To be a friend, to be fond of, i.e. to have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling)

Some say the difference in the Greek words means nothing here. But why, then, were they used? Why wasn’t it just phileo? Or just agapeo?

Some say this passage refers to Peter’s restoration to leadership. But that was done when Jesus came to them in the upper room, and blew on them all, and said, “Receive (lambano, a measure of) the Holy Spirit.”

When Jesus asks these questions three times, some say He asks three times because of the three times Peter denied Jesus when Jesus was taken prisoner.

But those who say those things miss the point that Jesus and the Spirit-inspired Apostle John are making. In this passage, John shows Peter (and us) a life-changing truth that is the pinnacle, the culmination of the Christian life.

You see, in all three of Simon Peter’s responses, he could only phileo. It is all a natural heart can do. And that was Jesus’ point, in asking.

Beloved, those believers with a natural heart will really be fond of Jesus. They will say they are a friend of Jesus. They will say they have feelings for Him and are attached to Him.

But Jesus’ prayer to His Father was so that you and I would be able to immediately and gladly and joyously say, Yes, Lord, I agapeo You!

And that happens when the Father and Son come to dwell in us, when the Spirit fills us. That is the context of John Chapters 14-17.

That is what happened to Peter in Acts 2. And then! And then! And then Peter became what the Father and the Son command all of us to be — filled with God’s actual love!

After Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fed Jesus’ sheep and shepherded them, with words like these:

1Peter 1:8 and  though you have not seen Him, you  love (agapeo) Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and  full of glory . . .

Surely, when His Spirit fills you, and you suddenly know that He is in you,

and you know that you love in this way, you will GREATLY rejoice, you will rejoice in a way that you cannot find words to express!

(D. L. Moody’s testimony of being filled with the Holy Spirit.)

1Peter 1:22   Since you have  in obedience to the truth  purified your souls for a   sincere love of the brethren (philadelphia), fervently love (agapeo) one another from  the heart . . .

Many Christians sincerely phileo their brethren as friends. But Jesus commands us to go higher, and prays it to His Father. That Your love may be in them, Father!

1Peter 4:8 Above all,  keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (agapeo and agape).

2Peter 1:4  He has granted to us His precious and magnificent  promises, so that by them you may become partakers (sharers) of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith  supply moral  excellence, and in your moral excellence,  knowledge, 6 and in knowledge,  self-control, and in self-control,  perseverance, and in your perseverance,  godliness, 7 and in godliness, brotherly kindness (philadelphia), and in brotherly kindness, love (agape).

It is the pinnacle, the culmination, beloved! Do you see that Peter differentiates brotherly kindness and God’s actual love?

I tell you, there are many sincere Christians whom I love with God’s love, who do not know this truth!

Why? Because whoever is teaching them has not experienced it. I know that, as a teacher and pastor and evangelist, it would not be possible for me to teach it, unless He had done it in me!

This is the life-changing and powerful truth  — that He will give us this very love, if we stay (Luke 24:49) and wait (Acts 1:4-5), if we obey Jesus’ commands.

In 2:Peter 1:8 and 10, Peter continues, If  you do these things, you will neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge (intimate knowledge in view) of our Lord Jesus Christ AND if you do these things, you will never stumble (trip, err, sin, fail of salvation).

And you will do these things when you become a partaker (sharer) of the divine nature!
Paul prays this for the believers in the church at Ephesus  —

Ephesians 3:14   For this reason (see Ephesians 2:10), I  bow my knees before the Father . . . 6 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be  strengthened with power (empowered) through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and  grounded (stabilized and settled) in love (agape), 18 may be able to comprehend with  all the  saints what is  the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and (so to know (intimacy) the love (agape) of Christ which surpasses (natural) knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

He prays to the Father that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit! They are already believers. They are already saved. Then why does he pray this prayer for them? They are in need!

—  So that they may be empowered through His Spirit (they are not yet empowered)

— So that Christ may dwell in their hearts, just as Jesus spoke in John 14:23 (He is not yet fully dwelling in them)

— So they will thus be stabilized and settled in agape (they do not yet have agape in them)

— So that they (and you) may intimately know and experience the actual love (agape) of Christ which surpasses human knowledge (they have not yet experienced it)

They will intimately know when they are baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, for God’s actual love will enter and fill their hearts.

Peter had denied Jesus three times, though He surely did phileo Jesus. He needed something He didn’t have.

I used to deny Jesus, though I did phileo Him. I denied Him every time I sinned against Him. I denied Him every time I strayed, every time I despised someone or something, every time I thought myself better than someone else. I needed something I didn’t have, nor even know existed.

Beloved, no matter how far you have strayed, He will gladly come and ask you if you love Him. And you will answer that you love Him in the only way you know how. And He will say that was enough to begin with, but then He will command you to stay and wait for what you need.

If the whole church obeys Jesus and stays and waits, there will be no evidence of the fruit of the flesh because it will have been crucified (Galatians 5:24), but only of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:17-23).

And the church will ALL become witnesses that Jesus Christ is real, and He is exactly who He says He is! And the church will boldly speak of what they have seen and heard, without any prompting or pleading from their pastors. And the pastors will fall down before the Lord to receive what they themselves need.

And Jesus will continue to take all of us on, from one degree of Christlikeness to the next —

2Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the  glory of the Lord, are being  transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from  the Lord, the Spirit.

Oh, the mercy of our Lord, that He commands us to be filled with His love, with His nature, with His Spirit. He knows what you need. Now, stay, wait, and pray. He will answer!

SESSION 20 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

A thumbnail review of our sessions thus far is in previous posts on my blog, fromdeathtolife.wordpress.com.

Now, Session 20 — Acts 11:1-30

So, if I was going to preach this one, I would say, “Never oppose God!”

Verses 1-3 — In Judea, the apostles and the rest of the believers  heard the news about Cornelius and his house. Like Peter, some of the apostles did not see that the gospel is for EVERYONE, Jew and Gentile (non-Jew) alike! They thought it was just for the Jews, though the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, prophesied of the Gentiles being received by God —

Isaiah 49:6  He says, “It is too  small a thing that You should be My Servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the  preserved ones of Israel;

I will also make You a  light  of the nations (goy/goyim, Gentiles)

So that My salvation may  reach to the  end of the earth.”

So even though SOME of the brethren and all of the apostles were Spirit-filled, they did not YET see the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18). And they did not know the Word of God very well!

I say only “some” of the brethren were filled because of the actions of some of the Jewish believers Acts 15, and because of some of the actions of those that follow behind Paul on his missionary journeys, teaching false doctrines (the Judaizers).

So, when Peter traveled to Jerusalem, the apostles and brethren took issue with him. “Took issue” means they separated thoroughly from him on this matter,  opposing him and contending with him. They accused him, saying that he had violated Jewish law by entering the house of Gentiles and eating with them.

Verses 4-12 — I will summarize these verses briefly, having taught on Peter’s experience in Session 19. Peter spoke of the entire experience, in the order in which it happened, beginning with the vision God gave him, and then his rejection of common or unclean things.

In Verse 9, Peter spoke to them of the voice that told him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy”  — you do not make common, in the original Greek.

Beloved, when God declares something holy, it is holy in His eyes, and we have no right to call it unholy. Only He has the authority and power to make something or someone holy.

And in Verse 12 Peter emphasizes that the Holy Spirit told him to go to Cornelius with no misgivings. This was all God’s work!

Verses 13-14 — Peter next gives the details of Cornelius’ angelic visitation, as I taught in Session 19. Peter said that Cornelius reported that the angel OF GOD stood in his house, and told him to send for Peter. Again, this is all God!

It was God who sent an angelic messenger and gave instructions to Cornelius to send the men to fetch Peter. It was essential that the Judean believers understand that this event was a work of God, to quell their objections.

What is more, the angel sent by the Lord told Cornelius that Peter would speak words to them, “by which you will be saved, you and your whole household.” Indeed, his whole household was seeking God.

So the angel’s words confirmed that it was God’s plan to save Gentiles, too.

Again, remember that Cornelius, though he was devout and prayed to God and gave alms to the Jews, was not saved. But God took note of him, that he was seeking God with all his heart. So God answered his prayers, sending him the angel.

Verse 15 — And Peter told his fellow Jewish believers that as he began to speak the gospel to Cornelius and his household, they had the same experience as the 120 in the upper room in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit fell on them! Again, how did Peter know? They spoke in tongues, exalting God!

Verse 16 — And, to further quell the Judean believers’ objections, Peter spoke of remembering the Lord Jesus Christ’s words to them in Acts 1:4-5 —

Acts 1:4  Gathering them together, He commanded them  not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for  John baptized with water, but you will be baptized  with the Holy Spirit   not many days from now.”

Verse 17 — Peter concluded his defense by saying that if God gave Gentiles the same gift as He gave the Jews, who was Peter to stand in God’s way? Peter would not oppose God!

Verse 18 — When the Jewish believers heard that final statement, their objections ended. They didn’t want to find themselves opposing God!

They became silent and then glorified God. How? By praising Him for what had happened, thereby submitting to His will. They agreed with God, that He had granted to the Gentiles also, “the repentance that leads to life.”

Repentance! You see, Cornelius and his household had repented. They were seeking God, and therefore eagerly received Peter’s words when he began to speak to them.

Beloved, I can’t overemphasize this truth: No one can be saved if they do not repent (turn) to the Lord and ask Him to forgive their sins. No one can be filled with the Holy Spirit unless they understand the condition of their hearts and seek to be completely purified inwardly.

Again, Peter’s defense in Acts 15:9 —

Acts 15:9 and  He made no distinction between us and them,  cleansing (original Greek, “purifying”) their hearts by faith.

Verse 19 — The churches at Antioch, Phoenicia, and Cyprus were birthed by Jewish believers who had been scattered during the persecution that followed Stephen’s stoning (Acts 8:1). BUT they had spoken (preached) the word (the gospel of Jesus Christ) only to Jews.

“So then!” Peter’s words had an effect far beyond Jerusalem. When the believers at Antioch and the rest heard what Peter had said, they saw that salvation through Jesus Christ is for EVERYONE who repents and believes.

Verse 20 — Therefore, some of the scattered church — men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch — began speaking not only to Jews but also to the Greeks (Gentiles), preaching the Lord Jesus!

Verse 21 — And the results confirmed God’s will! The Lord’s hand (Greek: power) was with those preaching this great gospel. So, a large (Greek: abundant, great) number who believed their message turned to the Lord  — they repented and believed into Jesus Christ! That’s what happens when the church is being the church!

Verses 22-24 — The news of the salvation of these Gentile believers came to Jerusalem, where the Jews had already yielded to God’s will in the matter, because of Peter’s testimony to them.

So they sent Barnabas, whom we first met in Acts 4:36-37, to confirm the work. Why did they choose Barnabas? He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith! Never send anyone out from your church unless they are filled!

When Barnabas arrived and saw the grace of God upon the Gentiles (again, charis, the divine influence on the heart and the reflection in the life), he rejoiced! He was glad!

I am sure he rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Amen!

So with a resolute heart — that is with a heart that understood God’s purpose — he exhorted and implored them to remain true to the Lord.

I like the King James Version here — he urged them to cleave to the Lord, to cling to Him, to remain with Him!

Why did Barnabas say that? Surely, these Gentiles would be greatly persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ!

And because of Barnabas’ words, a considerable number (Greek: a multitude) were brought to (Greek: placed in) the Lord. They stepped through the Door, Jesus Christ, and entered into life in Him!

That multitude was in addition to all the Gentiles who had already come! It was another indicator that this move was according to God’s will!

Verses 25-26 — Why did Barnabas go to look for Saul? He surely was led by the Spirit, and knew that Saul was Spirit-filled. He also knew Paul was a powerful teacher who could bridge the gap between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers  —

Acts 9:21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem  destroyed those who  called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the  Christ.

Barnabas brought Saul/Paul to Antioch, and for a year, they met with (Greek: led together) the church there. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (Greek: followers of Christ). Saul/Paul and Barnabas were being the church!

Verses 27-28 — The spiritual gifts were active in the early church. Christian prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, and one in particular — Agabus — prophesied by the Holy Spirit regarding a coming great famine all over the world.

It was a warning for the church to prepare. Sure enough, the famine took place during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54). The prophets were being the church!

Verses 29-30 — And according to the financial ability of each disciple, they sent money for the relief of their brothers and sisters in Christ who lived in Judea. They already suffered persecution, and the famine intensified their suffering.

So, Barnabas and Saul brought the offerings from the churches to Jerusalem. This is also what it is to be the church!

Even today, there are Christian organizations whose mission is to assist persecuted Christians in other countries.

How does this compare with what you believe? Let me put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.

Do you know that Gentiles are grafted in, and that the temporary blindness of unbelieving Jews will be removed so they may also turn to Jesus Christ and be saved? What? Even the Jews?

Paul explains it in Romans 11, and you would be wise to go there and learn God’s will, so you do not find yourself opposing Him!

Are the spiritual gifts received and accepted at your church? If not, then pray! These are given by the Lord through the Holy Spirit, for the common good (1Corinthians 12:7), as we have seen with the prophets who warned the church to prepare for a coming famine.

Next time, we will look at Peter’s imprisonment and rescue. Just as Jesus promised, He is with us, even to the end of the age!

SESSION 19 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

Here is a thumbnail review of our most recent sessions (the whole review up to this point is on previous session notes):

From Acts 8 —

— Saul begins his efforts to destroy the church, causing most of the believers to be scattered. The Apostles remain in Jerusalem. Simon the magician tries to buy the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is publicly rebuked by Peter, who is able to discern Simon’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit who has filled Peter.

— We see two works of the Spirit that we have not seen before in the Book of Acts: 1) hearing directly from the Spirit, and 2) being snatched away from Point A to Point B. The Spirit speaks to the Spirit-filled Philip, who has worked in many gifts, giving him a special and very specific assignment to go to a place where the Lord has a eunuch on his way back home from Jerusalem. Salvation, baptism and the Spirit are in God’s plan, and then Philip is snatched away to Azotus.

And from Acts 9 —

— Saul (whose Roman name is Paul), a Pharisee hunting down believers, is blinded, converted spectacularly, and then regains his sight and is filled with the Holy Spirit three days later. This is the Apostle Paul, who later writes 1/3 of the New Testament! He immediately begins proclaiming Jesus, and receives several death threats.

— Peter heals a man paralyzed and bedridden for eight years, and the man is immediately able to stand and to make his bed! And then he raises Tabitha/Dorcas from the dead. Many come to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of these signs and wonders!

Now, Session 19 — Acts 10:1-48

If I was going to preach this as a sermon, the title would be, “Everyone! Everyone!” Stick with me, and you’ll see why!

Verse 1-2 — We meet Cornelius, a Gentile (non-Jew) who is a centurion in charge of 600 Roman soldiers. Romans worshiped Caesar and other gods, but Cornelius was searching. How do I know that? By his actions.

He was devout (religious) and feared (was in awe of) God, with all his household (his servants and family). And he gave alms to help the Jews.

He even prayed to God continually, in his own way. Why? He had a deep reverence and respect for this God of the Jews. He sought God, and soon he would find that this verse is more true than He could possibly think or imagine —

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

But Cornelius was not saved, per Peter’s account in Acts 11 —

Acts 11:13 “And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’

Acts 11:17 “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

So Cornelius, despite the fact that he was devout and religious and even gave money to help the Jews, was not saved.

Do you know that it is possible to be devout and religious and give money to the people of the church, and not be saved? But if you do these things with a heart that seeks God, your prayers will be found acceptable before God. And He will answer EVERYONE, EVERYONE, who seeks Him!

PRAISE BREAK!

Salvation from God’s wrath comes through believing into Jesus Christ, and no other way. His is the only name by which we MUST be saved (Acts 4:12). If you are watching or listening today, I pray you will hear Jesus calling you out of your darkness and into His marvelous light!

PRAISE BREAK!

Verses 3-6 — About 3 p.m. (a Jewish time of prayer that coincided with the evening sacrifice), Cornelius CLEARLY (openly and plainly) saw in a vision an angel of God who had just entered the place where Cornelius was praying. The angel spoke his name, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at the angel, and was afraid. He said, “What is it, Lord?” The angel was not the Lord Himself, but His messenger to Cornelius. But he called the angel “Lord” in reverence and awe.

“What is it, Lord?” said Cornelius.

The angel answered precisely!

— Cornelius’ prayers and alms were remembered by God.

— Therefore,  he was to send men to Joppa to bring Simon (also called Peter), who was staying with Simon the tanner, who lived by the sea.

In Peter’s account in Acts 11:14, the angel also said to Cornelius, “He will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.”

Verses 7-8 — As soon as the angel left, Cornelius did exactly as the angel had directed. He explained everything to two of his servants and a devout soldier, who were some of his personal attendants, and thereby, his most trusted ones. Then he sent them to retrieve Peter.

Verses 9-17a — God knew the Spirit-filled Peter did not yet understand that salvation through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit was for EVERYONE, EVERYONE, and not just the Jews.

But as Paul says —

Romans 15:8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (Jews) on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,

9  AND for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,

“Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles,

And I will sing to Your name.”

10  Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”

11  And again,

“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,

And let all the peoples praise Him.”

12  Again Isaiah says,

“There shall come the root of Jesse,

And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,

in Him shall the Gentiles hope.”

The Lord was about to show Peter that God calls EVERYONE, EVERYONE! Those who are not Jewish are just as welcome in His kingdom, if they repent and believe into Jesus Christ who calls EVERYONE, EVERYONE, out of their darkness and into His marvelous light (1Peter 2:9)!

PRAISE BREAK!

How did He show Peter? He gave Peter a vision, as the men sent by Cornelius neared Joppa. Peter had gone up on the housetop at the sixth hour (noon) to pray, but he became hungry. He must have sent word, because a meal was then being prepared.

NOTE: Please do not be deceived. Christians are not to leave human beings in darkness, but we are to share the great Good News of Jesus Christ. It is not “intolerant” or “prejudiced” to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is life from the dead, and it is a command from Jesus Christ, who said then and says now —

Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So, the Lord sent Peter a vision. Peter fell into a trance, a time of wonderment, and was shown a vision. He saw heaven opened, and something like a sheet came down, lowered by four corners to the ground. In the sheet were unclean things which Peter was not to eat, according to Jewish law! But a voice from heaven said, “Get up, Peter! Kill and eat.”

Peter was repulsed, because these were unholy and unclean things, and said, “By no means, Lord.” He thought that was the right response.

But the voice from heaven said, “No longer consider unholy that which God has cleansed (purified).”

This vision was repeated three times, and then the sheet was taken up to heaven.

Peter was greatly perplexed, not understanding the meaning.

Do you see it? Devout and religious people of other faiths are not reconciled to God, nor are their hearts purified. But He will save EVERYONE, EVERYONE who comes to Jesus Christ, and then fill them with His Holy Spirit, so their hearts are made clean (pure)! EVERYONE, EVERYONE may be cleansed and filled and made holy!

PRAISE BREAK!

Verses 17b-20 — And just after the vision, BEHOLD (pay attention!), the men sent by Cornelius appeared at the gate. God’s plan was in motion, and the men appeared at just the right time. He is an “on time” God! The men called out to see if Peter was staying there.

Peter was still on the rooftop, reflecting on the vision. What could it mean? Then the Spirit said to him (again, very precisely), “Behold (pay attention!), three men are looking for you. Get up, go down, and go with them, with NO MISGIVINGS. (without hesitation or doubt), for I have sent them Myself.”

Do you see it? Cornelius ordered them to find and bring Peter, but it was God Himself who sent that angel to Cornelius for HIS purpose! And what is His purpose? Salvation and sanctification (heart cleansing) for EVERYONE, EVERYONE!

Verses 21-23  — Peter went down, said he was the one they were looking for, and asked why they had come. They explained that Cornelius had been divinely directed by a holy angel to send for Peter, so they could hear words from Peter. This is in line with Acts 11:14!

Peter started to understand, because he readily invited these he had considered to be “unclean” into the house, and they stayed with him that night. The next day, he and some of the believers at Joppa got up and went with them. They would be witnesses of what the Lord was about to do!

Verses 24-27 — The next day, he entered Caesarea. Cornelius was waiting for them and called together his relatives and close friends.

Cornelius met Peter and fell down at Peter’s feet and worshiped him. Why? He was Roman, and Romans worshiped Caesar, a mere man, as a god. So, despite his reverence for the God of the Jews, he did what seemed right to him.

But Peter raised him up and said, “Stand up — I am just a man.” No human is worthy of worship, but the One who made us? He is worthy!

So as Peter talked to Cornelius, they entered the place where a large crowd was assembled.

Verses 28-29— Now Peter understood the vision! He told them it was unlawful for him to be with them, “And yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean (that is, any man whom the Lord has cleansed).” And the Lord was about to cleanse (purify the hearts of) these Gentiles! EVERYONE! EVERYONE!

That’s why he came without objections. And Peter asked for the reason Cornelius sent for him.

Verses 30-33 — Cornelius recounted the angelic visit, which happened at the very same hour (3 p.m.) as Peter now stood before them all.

He thanked Peter for his kindness (his moral rightness) to come. Then he invited Peter to speak whatever the Lord had commanded him to say.

Verses 34-35 — The Spirit-filled Peter opened his mouth. Again, this means God is about to speak through him. Now he fully understands.

Even today, God shows no partiality, but in EVERY nation, if you fear (revere) God and do what is right, and if you seek Him as Cornelius did, you are acceptable to Him. That is, He will hear your prayer, just as He did the prayers of Cornelius.

And He will answer by sending someone to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ to you, just as He answered Cornelius. Then, He will save you and surely, He will fill you with His Spirit.

PRAISE BREAK!

Verses 36-43 — Peter began to deliver the gospel to Cornelius and his house:

— Peace with God comes through belief into Jesus Christ.

— Cornelius and his house knew what had happened throughout Judea, starting from Galilee, after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

— Jesus Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good (God things!) and healing those who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.

— Peter and the rest are witnesses of what He did. They (the Jews and the Romans) put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross, and that God raised Him up on the third day, and He was visible to them who had eaten and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

— Jesus Christ ordered them to preach to the people, and to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

— The prophets prophesied of Jesus Christ, that through His name, through belief into Him, everyone who believes into Him receives forgiveness of sins.

PRAISE BREAK! Everyone! Everyone!

Verses 44-46a  — But before Peter could continue, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening, and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit! The Jewish believers were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles. But God was saying, This is My heart — EVERYONE! EVERYONE!

How did they know the Gentiles were being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit? It was because they heard them speaking with tongues and exalting God, at the moment they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, just as the 120 had done, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

And their hearts were purified, just as with the 120 in the upper room in Acts 2. Here is Peter’s testimony —

Acts 15:9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

Verses 45b-48 — Then Peter said, Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized in water, who have received the Holy Spirit! It did not happen in the order Peter had expected. But it was good and right in God’s sight, as Jesus said to John the Baptist when John said, You should be baptizing me!

Matthew 3:15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he  permitted Him.

 

It was the same for Jeff and me. But afterwards, we, too, were baptized in water. It was good and right in God’s sight!

Peter understood that water baptism was the outward act of confirmation of salvation. These had not only been saved, but filled! So, because it was good and right before God, he ordered them all to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Afterwards, they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.

So, do you see that Christianity is not exclusive? Do you see that Christ came to bring the gifts of salvation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit not only to the Jews but also to ones like me, a Gentile who worshiped other gods, but had a heart that was seeking? EVERYONE! EVERYONE!

Praise His holy name!

Glory to God, the gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant for all time to everyone who lives on the planet!

If they will seek Him, they will find Him —

Acts 17:26 “ . . . and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 (so) that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children [offspring].’ 29 “Being then the children [offspring] of God [because He created us], we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

This is the gospel we must proclaim, beloved, and none other!

JESUS, THE FINISHER

[SW296] 09/07/2017 message notes by

Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2017

“Jesus, the Finisher”

Jesus is the Finisher! When He says, “It is finished,” it surely is! But what is finished?

Text: John 19:30

After being sent by His Father

After John the Baptist announced that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

After the witnesses of John the Baptist, of the works, of the Father, ad of the Scriptures that spoke of His coming

After telling us:

— I AM the Bread of Life (6:39, 48, 51)

— I AM the Light of the world (8:12)

— I AM the Door (10:7, 9)

— I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)

— I AM the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)

— I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6)

— I AM the True Vine (15:1)

After showing all of us the Father

After enduring persecution from the Jewish leaders throughout His ministry

After performing many signs and wonders that only God could do

After 600 soldiers and the chief priests and Pharisees arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane

After He was illegally tried before Annas and then Caiaphus and delivered to Pilate for judgment

After Pilate told the Jews three times, I find no guilt in Him (18:38, 19:4 & 6)

After He was scourged with whips with sharp object in their tips, so as to tear His flesh away to the point where He could count all His bones (Psalm 22:17)

After the people, incited by the chief priests and officers, cried, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him”

After He was nailed to a cross . . .

He cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

What was finished?

THE PROMISE KEPT

Genesis 22:8, 14 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together . . . Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided” (literally, “it shall be seen”).

Ezekiel 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a  new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the  heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will  put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

THE DEBT PAID

Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

John 1:29  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Romans 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . .

SATAN CONQUERED

Genesis 3:15 [God said to the serpent] “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He (the Messiah, the Christ) shall bruise you on the head (break, a fatal wound) and you shall bruise (snap at is in view here, not a fatal wound) Him on the heel.”

Hebrews 2:14-15 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (NIV)

SIN NATURE CONQUERED!

Romans 6:1    What shall we say then? Are we to  continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2  May it never be! How shall we who  died to sin still live in it?

Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

John 8:34, 36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin . . . so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

2Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

DEATH CONQUERED!

1Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

ALL ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES!

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

1 Corinthians 2:9 (God’s wisdom) the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

“things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,

and which have not entered the heart of man,

all that God has prepared for those who love him.” (Isaiah 64:4, 65:17)

OUR RESPONSE

2 Corinthians 5:15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

SESSION 18 — “Being the Church,” a Bible study of the Book of Acts

I am excited to offer you a video Bible study of the Book of Acts, and I invite you to watch the video of “Being the Church” on Youtube OR Vimeo . . . for Vimeo, see the link in the Blogroll in the right column on my blog screen. Just as with my sermons, I’ll post notes to accompany each Bible study video.

Review of the study thus far:

— Jesus’ briefing on the Holy Spirit in John 14-17

— The promise for which they were to wait

— Fulfilled in Acts 2

— Peter’s sermon, boldly speaking their sin and Christ’s resurrection, and 3,000 come to Christ

— The beggar born lame is healed, Peter speaks again of Christ’s resurrection and their sin, and 5,000 come to Christ

— Peter, John and the beggar are brought before the Sanhedrin

— Do not speak this name or do anything in this name

— Should we obey God or you? You be the judge!

—We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard

— The bond-servants of the Lord ask for greater boldness to speak,

and God answers their prayer!

— Contrast between Barnabas, who gives all, and Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about their offering, and the consequences.

— The apostles are arrested. The angel who frees them delivers this message: Go! Stand! Speak all the words of this Life! And they did, and were arrested again!

— Sanhedrin cut to the quick, Gamaliel’s advice to let them be, for if it is of God, they may find themselves fighting against God! The Apostles, flogged and released, rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer as Jesus did.

— Spirit-filled believers are required for even the most menial tasks in the church. Filled with the Spirit, full of God’s wisdom, full of faith, full of grace and power! Stephen persecuted for what he speaks and does. As his accusers gaze intently at him, they see his face like the face of an angel — he is radiant!

— Stephen boldly speaks of Israel’s history and how they continually reject and repudiate their God and His servants. He is stoned to death, but as he is dying, he asks the Lord not to hold this sin against those who are stoning him. We see the first mention of Saul, whose Roman name is Paul.

— Saul begins his efforts to destroy the church, causing most of the believers to be scattered. The Apostles remain in Jerusalem. Simon the magician tries to buy the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is publicly rebuked by Peter, who is able to discern Simon’s heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit who has filled him.

— We see two works of the Spirit that we have not seen before in the Book of Acts: 1) hearing directly from the Spirit, and 2) being snatched away from Point A to Point B. The Spirit speaks to the Spirit-filled Philip, who has worked in many gifts, giving him a special and very specific assignment to go to a place where the Lord has a eunuch on his way back home from Jerusalem. Salvation, baptism and the Spirit are in God’s plan, and then Philip is snatched away to Azotus.

— Saul (whose Roman name is Paul), a Pharisee hunting down believers, is blinded, converted spectacularly, and regains his sight and is filled with the Holy Spirit three days later. This is the Apostle Paul, who later writes 1/3 of the New Testament! He immediately begins proclaiming Jesus, and receives several death threats.

Now, Session 18 — Acts 9:31-43

Verse 31 — I’m repeating this verse from Session 17, to emphasize that the church was growing rapidly and experiencing peace, amidst persecution and scattering, in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria (northern Israel). These were those that had been scattered away from Jerusalem during the great persecution of the church in Acts 8:2.
How could they be at peace? The peace of Christ is in view here, as He promised in  John 14:27 —

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

It made no difference how far they were scattered, or how much they were persecuted, the church had Jesus’ peace, not natural peace, not human peace, but Jesus’ peace literally within them, and they continued to grow!

And they continued on in the fear of the Lord, worshiping Him, revering Him, and serving Him alone.

Is it that way with you? With your church? Or are you, or is your church afraid to speak out, for fear some may be offended and turn away? Do you or does your church water down the gospel, so the congregation and community will accept and love you? That is contrary to what we see here!

Verse 32 — In Peter’s travels throughout those regions, he came to the saints (believers in Jesus Christ) who lived at Lydda. I am sure his purpose was to encourage those who had been scattered.

Lydda was at the intersection of caravan routes from Egypt to Babylon, and the road from Joppa to Jerusalem. The scattering had resulted in these believers being in an extremely strategic location for the further spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ (even to the Gentiles, as Peter would soon find out)!!

The Lord causes all things, even persecution, to work together for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)! Do you see how the persecution of the church caused the church to grow, thrive, and have His peace in every circumstance? That’s what Paul prayed for the greatly persecuted church at Thessalonica, in 2Thessalonians 3:16 —

2Thessalonians 3:16   Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

Verses 33-34 — In Lydda, Peter found (saw) a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and thus, had been bedridden for eight years.

Peter once again shows us what it is to be the church! Led by the Holy Spirit, Peter told Aeneas to get up and make his bed! Immediately, Aeneas did so!

Some commentators say Peter simply remembered what Jesus Christ had said, when He healed the paralytic in Matthew 9:6, and imitated Jesus.

They completely miss it, I am sorry to say! Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit shows Spirit-filled believers what to do, for whom, and when. It was the Holy Spirit who led Peter to do and say what he did and said, and it was the power of God that healed Aeneas!

And medically speaking, since Aeneas had been paralyzed for eight years, his muscles would have atrophied. It was the same, with a fellow MS Society acquaintance of mine with whom I took advocacy training. His lower body was atrophied because he had been paralyzed by MS for some time, and used a wheelchair. Three days after someone spoke a word to him at his church, he was healed of paralysis from MS! While sitting in his shower that morning, he felt a strange sensation. It was water splashing on his toes! The very next Sunday, he walked up the center aisle of his church under his own power!

So, as with my acquaintance, Aeneas’ atrophied muscles had to be immediately recreated! And what’s more, he would not have had a sense of balance, being bedridden for so long. Therefore, that also had to be immediately recreated!

What an amazing miracle! I tell you, with God, all things are possible to him who believes (Mark 9:23)!

Verse 35 —  ALL who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas healed, and as a result of this display of the power of God, ALL of them turned to the Lord Jesus Christ! And with Lydda at that vital intersection, the news traveled far and wide!

Oh, if the church would ask for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would work His wonders through them and ALL who saw would turn to Jesus!

Verses 36-37 — Now we hear of Joppa, which today is an annex of Tel Aviv. It is located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, but near Lydda.  There are believers there, too — disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ!

One was named Tabitha (Dorcas in the Greek). Both names mean “gazelle.” And just as a gazelle is graceful in movement, Tabitha was full of the charis of the Lord. His divine influence on her heart was surely reflected in her life! Thus, she was filled and well supplied with and continually did good things and showed compassion and tender mercy.

And it happened that she died, and her body was washed, according to Jewish tradition, and laid in an upper room. She had not been anointed with oils, which was the final step before burial.

Verse 38 — The disciples at Joppa had heard that Peter was in nearby Lydda, so two men were sent to him, imploring him (beseeching him), “Do not delay in coming to us.”

Why were they so intense? They didn’t even ask him, really. They just said, Do not delay! Certainly, a Jew was to be buried before sundown on the day they died. But I believe they already had faith that Peter would be used of the Lord, in Tabitha’s situation. They had heard the remarkable miraculous healing of Aeneas that the Lord worked through Peter at Lydda — everyone had heard!

Verse 39 — Peter didn’t ask them who they thought they were, telling him, an Apostle what to do. He arose, and went with them. I am sure he saw the Spirit’s hand in their call for him to come quickly.

When he arrived they brought him to where Tabitha was laid. But he found the place was rife with unbelief. Before him stood all of the widows whom Tabitha had  helped. They wept as they showed him all the clothing she used to make for them.

Verse 40 — So Peter sent them all out! Then he knelt down, and prayed. He needed the Lord to work through him in an especially powerful way, for the glory of Christ and the Father. Then he turned to her body, just according to the Spirit’s direction, and said, “Tabitha, arise,” just according to the Spirit’s direction.

And she opened her eyes and when she saw Peter, she sat up! She saw Jesus, beloved! Glory to God! It was just as with young David’s grandmother, who when I asked her to lay her hands on top of mine, saw Jesus and came to faith in Him!

I tell you, we who have His life in us are able to give life even to the dead! Do you believe?

Many commentators say that Peter was just remembering what Jesus did, in Mark 5:41, when he raised the dead child to life. They say he simply imitated what Jesus did and said.

But they miss it! The power by which Jesus raised the child is the same power that is in every Spirit-filled believer!

And I further challenge the church, that every disciple, even before they are filled with the Spirit, is called to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons, just like those Jesus sent out (see Matthew 10:8)! Amen!

Verses 41-42 — Peter gave Tabitha his hand, and raised her up out of the place she had been laid. Then he called the saints and widows, and presented her to them ALIVE!

Needless to say, word got out! And as a result, many believed in the Lord.

That is His ultimate purpose. I tell you, His purpose cannot be fulfilled unless the church is filled full, so the church can BE the church! Signs and wonders that accompany the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ will lead to the salvation of many!

O Lord Jesus, help your church to see her need and to cry out to be filled with Your Holy Spirit, just as you commanded her!

Verse 43 — Peter stayed with a tanner in Joppa for many days. This is a segue into the amazing story of the conversion and baptism in the Spirit of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. It’s coming right up, in Acts 10!