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Aug 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 21, 2016 – Acts 23

Most Important

Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'” Acts 23:1-5

Intro: Imagine a little girl, ten or eleven years old

One day in school she reads a short essay regarding mothers
– how wonderful they are and about all the loving things they do
• there is also some exagerated statements in the essay
◦ like mothers have “eyes in back of their heads,” know what you’re thinking,
◦ their kisses are magic and can make a child’s pain go away
• suddenly the little girl thinks,

“I don’t have a mother! The who takes care of me is nice and kind, but she can’t work magic. So if that lady thinks she’s my mother, she must be a crazy person.”

– meanwhile, she is awakened each morn to soft voice and sweet smile
• clean clothes are set out for her and breakfast is on the table
◦ she continues to be rides to and from school and soccer practice
• all the while, waiting for the arrival of this other person
◦ who can read her mind, tell her future, and work magic

We’ve heard of “blind faith,” but there’s nothing so blind as unbelief
– each morning the atheist and agnostic wakes up to a world God has prepared
• it doesn’t occur to them to give thanks for health and energy to get out of bed
• they have an idea of what God should be if such a being existed
◦ since they don’t see that god, they conclude there is no god
– God lives eternal in the heavens
• but sometimes our concepts of God grow old and dies
◦ and I believe, at least sometimes, it is God who kills them
• now let’s see what this has to do with our scripture


The Roman commander was still trying to figure out Paul’s offense

So Paul now stands before the Sanhedrin, Israel’s Supreme Court
– without being asked, he offered opening statement
• it was a declaration of his innocence
◦ high priest ordered someone to strike him
◦ no doubt to teach Paul who was in charge of that hearing
• literally, Paul said, “Strike you, God will, you whitewashed wall!”
◦ whitewash was thin coat of paint used to disguise what was beneath
◦ it was clearly a metphor for shallowness and hypocrisy (Eze. 13:8-11; Mt. 23:27-28)
– someone nearby reprimanded Paul for scolding the high priest
• Paul immediately apologized
◦ and added the biblical precedent for not doing such a thing
◦ but he did not back down – he was still going to control the proceedings
• he reframed his version of his alleged offense
◦ he was a Pharisee who held to the hope and resurrection of the dead!

Luke provides the backstory for this statement

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all (v. 8)

– as a result, the courtroom was immediately divided
• the argument was so intense, Paul had to be rescued again by the Romans


The following night, Paul had a Visitor

the Lord stood at his side
– I have been waiting for this – we have been waiting for this
• first, there had been no word from God since the Spirit warned Paul of the problems he would have in Jerusalem
• the apostles made their own plan to improve Paul’s image — it backfired
◦ Paul had exploited a fissure between two religious sects — that backfired

read more…

Aug 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 14, 2016 – Acts 21:7-22:30

When Emotions Run Riot

“Brothers and fathers, hear my defense which now offer to you.” And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. Acts 22:1-3

Intro: The temple then standing in Jerusalem was built by Herod the Great

Adjacent to it, he built a Roman fortress
– the two structures shared a wall with a doorway between them
• the door opened above the temple’s outer court
• Roman solders had carried Paul up a flight of stairs to the door
◦ situated on the roof of the patio that surrounded the court
◦ there, Paul begged the commander to let him speak to the rioters below
– Paul managed to calm crowd–and then he reignited the riot

I’m guessing, most of us know the eventual outcome of this story
– but remember, at this moment Paul did not
• he did not have God’s answer for “Why is this happening?”
◦ “Why did those troublemakers have to lie about me? Why did the crowd have to riot? Why did I have to be arrested?”
• in our crises, God rarely gives answer to our “Why questions”
◦ we may never get the answers we want
◦ so it’s most likely that “Why?” is the wrong question
– anyway, Paul was not asking Why?
• instead, he was looking for an opportunity
• if Christians know their calling and are passionate for it,
◦ opportunities are everywhere
◦ even here, between God’s people and their Roman oppressors


21:37-22:2 Paul’s first conversation with the commander

The commander was surprised when Paul spoke to him in fluent Greek
– he had assumed Paul was an Egyptian who attempted a revolt
• according to Josephus, Roman soldiers squelched the rebellion
◦ the Egyptian leader, however, escaped into desert
• the commander had quickly formed this explanation for the fracas
– in Acts, Roman soldiers are usually stereotypes
• pragmatic, simple, at ease with violence and fiercely loyal to Rome
• the ones who stand out distinguish themselves by breaking the stereotype
◦ e.g., Cornelius and Sergius Paulus

Given permission to speak, Paul gestured to get the mob’s attention
– the crowd became silent, probably curious about what he would say
• they became even quieter when heard him speak in their own dialect
– Paul was clearly making a point with his opening statements:

read more…

Aug 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 7, 2016 – Acts 21:1-36

Perfectly Imperfect Saints

After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again. Acts 21:4-6

Intro: We are going to swim against the stream this morning

At least, I am swimming upstream–and I’m taking you with me
– most commentators want to justify the apostles’ actions
• I will be trying to do my best to follow the text
• and it appears to me, the apostles made mistakes
– there are two movements in this chapter
• both sections wrestle with the same complication:
◦ the threat to Paul’s life from his own countrymen
• we will see, first, how Paul responded to the threat
◦ then we will see how the Christian leaders in Jerusalem responded to it


1-16 Paul’s sea voyage to Caesarea, and travel by land to Jerusalem

We read how believers in Tyre

kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem

– they were listening to God’s Spirit
• as they understood the message, Paul should not complete his trip
• how did Paul understand what the Spirit was saying?
◦ we read last week that Paul had been informed by the Spirit that

in every city . . . bonds and afflictions await me (Acts 20:23)

◦ so I imagine him telling the believers in Tyre,
“Thanks for the heads up,” and then ignoring their warning
– but the warnings did not end there

When Paul & company arrived in Caesarea they lingered for several days
– they stayed with Philip (Acts 6:5; 8:5 & 40)
• Luke adds a foot note about Philip’s four daughters who were prophetesses
◦ nothing more is said about their words of prophecy or the context of their ministry
◦ it’s an intriguing bit of information, but leaves us with many questions
◦ why did Luke even mention this fact?
• I think it serves to plant a seed in the reader’s mind
◦ we’re reminded that God speaks and there are people gifted to hear him
– so while they were there, the prophet Agabus visited them  (cf. Acts 11:28)
• he dramatized his prophecy (“performance art”) not unlike an Old Testament prophet

read more…

Aug 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 31, 2016 – Acts 20

 

From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Acts 20:17-21

Intro: We have all been hurt by someone we loved

A parent, a friend, a teacher, a mentor
– someone we trusted, someone we assumed had our back
• I’m not saying we’ve been let down or disappointed by others
◦ but, in some way we have been injured
• sadly, it’s not rare that a person’s worst injury came from a Christian leader
◦ a Sunday school teacher, a youth pastor, a trusted counselor

Our emphasis at Reflexion is our spiritual journey
– as we go on, we seek to make progress in wholeness (salvation)
• this means healing from past wounds, self-inflicted or otherwise
– but it also means trying to avoid sustaining new injuries
• this is what I hope we get from today’s scripture


1-16, More of Paul’s travelogue — and notes from Luke’s journal

This includes notes from Luke’s journal (notice us and we in vv. 5 & 6)

Forgive me for skipping the details of their road trip and sea voyage
– but jumping into the middle of it, we come to a short story
• it was Paul’s last night in Troas and he wanted to make the most of it
◦ the scene is a third story room of someone’s home
• because it was nighttime, they were burning many lamps
◦ we get the picture: lamp flames and BTUs of human bodies
◦ the room was very warm
– a young man could not resist sinking into a deep sleep
• this meeting came at the end of a workday for most of them
◦ the young man moved to a window and sat on the ledge
◦ as Paul kept on talking, the boy fell out window
• the boy had a common name: Eutychus –a compound of good and fortune
◦ I’m surprised few commentators point out the irony:
◦ the name of the boy who fell to his death was “Lucky”

Paul was among the people who rushed downstairs
– perhaps he was thinking of two instances in the Scriptures
• two boys had been brought back to life by two prophets (1 Ki. 17:17-22; 2 Ki. 4:32-37)
• Paul performed the same actions that Elijah and Elisha had performed
◦ soon he looked up and announced to the bystanders, “His life has returned!”
– after this, they returned upstairs, shared meal and observed Communion
• then Paul went back to preaching and continued until dawn

Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved. (NLT)


The remainder of the chapter: A workshop on leadership

Paul sent for the leaders of the church at Ephesus
– this would be his last encounter with them
• he wanted to make certain they were prepared to carry on
• that in his absence, the church would continue to thrive

So far, all of Paul’s speeches in Acts have been positive
– namely, through Jesus Christ, God pours out his grace on us
• but Paul’s message to these leaders has a darker tone

read more…

Jul 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 24, 2016 – Acts 19:21-41

An Out-of-Control Mob

About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. Acts 19:23

Intro: Barb and I were once treated to a cruise — “In the Footsteps of Paul”

One of the sites on the itinerary was the ruins of ancient Ephesus
– what remains of Ephesus is still impressive today
• we walked wide marble streets lined with public buildings and businesses
• we sat in an outdoor theater, originally built for plays
◦ later it became an arena for gladitorial combat
• though the library was built after the time of Paul,
◦ it represented the city’s prestige, being the third largest in the Roman Empire
• we did not get to see the temple of Artemis — the draw back of sea cruises
◦ but in its day it was the largest building made of solid marble
◦ 127 marble pillars, 60′ tall held up a tile roof
◦ 36 pillars were sculpted and overlaid with gold (ancient coins depict its architectural details)
– archaeological excavations have unearthed:
• inscriptions on coins and the base of statue, delcaring Ephesus role as a neokoros
◦ that is, a guardian city of the goddess Artemis and her image
◦ cities would fight for the privilege of neokoros (important cities were denied)
• small terra cotta replicas of the temple and image have also been found


Ephesus had an ancient and colorful history

There were two different goddesses associated with Artemis

  1. The most ancient was Artemis Ephesia
    – she was the “mother of all living things”
    – according to legend, her idol in the temple had fallen from the sky
    • a grotesque caricature of mother hood
    • sculpted not with two breasts, but several rows of breasts
    ◦ as Bruce Larson observed, “She is too ridiculous to be obscene”
  2. The Artemis of Greek mythology
    – a hunter, usually depicted with a bow and arrow, dogs and two white stags
    • according to Greek legend, Ephesus was founded by the Amazons–warrior women
    • the Greek Artemis stood for chastity
    ◦ married women were not allowed to enter her temple
    ◦ she protected virgins and watched over mothers during childbirth
    – eventually the two Artemis traditions were fused
    • these myths shaped the daily lives of Ephesians in ways Christians could not avoid
    ◦ in an annual (or seasonal) procession, Artimis’ image was carried around the city
    ◦ the route they took was the via sacra and included several stops to offer oblations
    ◦ women who clothed the idol for the parade won the title “adorners of the goddess”
    • when Paul brought the word of the Lord to Ephesus, he awakened a sleeping monster

Now to the story: Paul was preparing to move on

He was determined to go to Jerursalem and compelled to reach Rome
– but something made him linger in Ephesus — he explains to the Corinthians:

But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Cor. 16:8-9)

• last week we saw the open door and this week we’ll see his adversaries

There was an artisan in Ephesus named Demetrius – a silversmith
– he made replicas of Artemis’ temple and image
• these souvenirs brought him and other union members a healthy income
• when we hear what happened next, we want to remember,
◦ this came hard on heels of the previous scene (Acts 19:18-19)
◦ Ephesian believers had turned from their cults and destroyed their magic parchments
◦ is it possible that they also got rid of the little shrines that these artisans had made?
– Demetrius began pulling people together
• he reminded them, “Our prosperity is from this trade”
◦ then he struck a note of fear:

You’ve seen for yourselves and heard that not only here in Ephesus, but all over Asia, this Paul has convinced and turned away a considerable number of people, claiming that man-made gods are not gods at all.

• he pointed out what this meant:
◦ their trade was placed in jeopardy
◦ in time, people would lose respect for the temple of Artemis
◦ Artemis herself would become nothing
– “great goddess” was a commonly used title for Artemis
– she who was worshiped the world over, would be dethroned

read more…

Jul 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 17, 2016 – Acts 19:1-20

Miracles and Magic

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did your receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were your baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:1-7

Intro: If you didn’t know this already, God isn’t picky when adopting children

God does not look for perfection–or even good “potential”
– Paul told the Corinthian Christians (in effect),
“Look around. Not many of you are geniuses; not many are influential; not many are wealthy or cultured”
• in today’s text we meet some unusual believers and candidates for faith
– verses 1-20 divides neatly into two parts
• first part resolves in verse 10 and the second resolves in verse 20


Paul had just returned to Ephesus

In the previous chapter, Paul was in Ephesus for a brief visit
– they had asked him to stay and this time he does – for three years (Acts 20:31)
• right away, on his return, he found some disciples
• I imagine them hanging out, talking about God, scripture, faith, etc.
◦ but something Paul observed prompted him to ask a question
– Paul had not asked anyone else if they had received the Holy Spirit
• so why did he do it here?
• usually we assume that he noticed a deficiency in their faith
◦ perhaps an obvious missing piece of theology
◦ or a shallowness to their conversation
◦ or maybe it was simply something Paul discerned

He asked, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
They answered, No – we haven’t even heard about the Spirit

O course they had heard of the Spirit
– the verb that appears here is the same as in John 9:39

. . . for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

• the disciples Paul met had not heard that the Spirit had been given
◦ this led to Paul’s question about baptism
◦ it was not a mere ritual, but had important associations and meaning
• the problem became clear to Paul when they answered, Into John’s baptism
– remember last week? Apollos was in Ephesus
• and he was also acquainted only with the baptism of John
◦ his teaching was accurate, but not adequate
• perhaps – a popular movement had grown around John in Ephesus
◦ their baptism gave Paul an opportunity to explain the difference
◦ and he did this from John’s own mouth (v. 4 and cf. Mk. 1:8)
◦ it was the difference between a promise given and a promise fulfilled

To be immersed in water is a religious ritual
– to be immersed in the Spirit is to come alive in God (Ro. 6:4)
• it is possible that Paul discerned these disciples were one-dimensional
◦ it is good to know theology, but a deficiency to know only theology
◦ it is good to observe religious rituals, but a deficiency to only observe rituals
◦ the same is true of hospitality, philanthropy, and so on (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
• we can have all this and still Jesus will tell us, You must be born again
– the gift of Jesus is the spiritual dimension of our lives


Their deficiency was immediately remedied

. . . they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus
– this doesn’t look like much on paper

read more…

Jul 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 10, 2016 – Acts 18

Little Reminders

After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogues every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:1-6

Intro: This chapter is full of people – characters who are named

So, though there are lots of interesting facts about Corinth,
– the emphasis in chapter is social, not geographical
– the hub of all these social interactions is reported in verses 9-10
• so we’ll go there first and see to whom the spokes of the wheel take us


Paul had already abandoned the synagogue in Corinth

And he did not go away quietly, but dramatically
– he shook his robe, as if to remove dust — it was a symbolic gesture
• he was shaking off their blasphemies
◦ or perhaps his responsibility for them, Your blood be upon your own heads!
• Paul then moved his headquarters into a Gentile’s home
– it’s possible he was already making plans to leave Corinth
• that is when he had his nighttime encounter

The Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision . . .
Why do you think Jesus chose to come at night?

– perhaps our waking minds are too active, preoccupied, too full
• when God tries to reach us during the day, he gets a busy signal
• this is why we practice contemplative prayer
◦ to quiet our minds enough to hear God’s gentle whisper
◦ to train ourselves to be focused, open, receptive, responsive
– let’s look at what Jesus said to Paul line by line

Do not be afraid – fear counteracts faith
– fear distracts our minds, creates roadblocks
go on speaking [and he reiterates] do not be silent
– was Paul considering this option? To just keep his mouth shut?
for I am with you – this is all the reason Paul needs
– this is frequently God’s word to his people

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (
Is. 41:10)
So David could pray:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me . . . (Ps. 23:4)
Paul understood this clearly enough
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Ro. 8:31)

no man will attack you in order to harm you
– a promise – Jesus did not say it would be easy or painless
• or even that Paul would not be attacked
• but he would not be harmed so as to stop his work
for I have many people in this city
– this is intriguing – what did Jesus mean?
• “many people here belong to Me”? or “many here will belong to Me”?
• maybe, “many that I can use to keep you safe”
◦ we will soon see an example of this

Paul’s encounter with Jesus was meant to keep him going

read more…

Jul 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 3, 2016 – Acts 17:16-34

Making Gods In Our Own Image

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. Acts 17:16-17

Intro: I think these introductory verses are a beautiful piece of narrative

Beginning with the setting — the intellectual center of the western world
– we follow the apostle as he explores streets of Athens,
• a city glutted with idols and shrines of Greek and Roman gods
• he is up to his neck in Athenian culture
– we’re told how all of this affected Paul
• his spirit, that deepest part of his inner life, was distressed
◦ his agitation was growing, like a fire burning within him
◦ until finally he could not hold back
• on Sabbaths in the synagogue he argued his case with Jews
◦ every other day he was in the market place, talking to anyone who would listen

This is Luke’s introduction to a historic moment
– when the message of Jesus was carried into home of philosophers
• it was never recorded in Roman history, but it is significant for us
• our faith proclaimed in the city where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle taught
– how did Paul respond to this opportunity?


18-21, Paul got a once-in-a-lifetime invitation

Epicurean and Stoic philosophies had been around for about 300 years
– my guess is that they held a special appeal for the pragmatic Romans
• Paul’s public debates came to their attention
• they began to speculate regarding his philosophy
babbler – someone who plagiarized scraps of other teachers’ ideas
strange deities – that is, odd and foreign gods
– they decided they had to hear him for themselves

They brought Paul to the famous Areopagus and let him give his spiel
– v. 21 is an important footnote

Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing some new thing.

• this gives us insight into a particular form of idolatry
• these addicts of the avant-garde were not real philosophers
◦ their devotion was not a lifetime of philosophical discipline
◦ rather, it was living up to an image
– it may be our culture’s most common form of idolatry
• the idolatry of our public image and mistaking it for reality


22-28, Paul’s Message: The quest for the Creator God

read more…

Jun 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 26, 2016 – Acts 17:1-15

The Spiritual Benefit of Integrated Circuits

Now . . . they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the whole world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. Acts 17:1-9

Intro: It may be a miracle that Paul never developed Social Anxiety Disorder

People were always sending him away
– from the start, he was sent from Damascus and then Jerusalem (9:25, 30)
• in this chapter he is sent from

Thessalonica: The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night . . . (v. 10)
Berea, Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea . . . (v. 14)

• even praying in temple, Paul got this same treatment from the Lord Jesus

Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles (22:21)

– why was Paul considered such a trouble-maker?
• first, his message was revolutionary, truly life-changing
• secondly, because so many people were drawn to it
◦ there would have been no problem if Paul affirmed the status quo
◦ or if he was ignored — like most streetcorner preachers

Let’s get out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at this story


Paul designed his message to counter objections

You may have learned in a highschool or college speech classe
– there are different types of speeches–e.g., to inform, entertain, persuade
– Paul delivered a persuasive speech in the synagogue
• this is indicated by four words that appear here

  1. Reasoned – his topic was about an overlooked biblical insight
    • the Christ (Messiah) had to suffer, die and rise from dead
    • he had to prove this was a reasonable interpretation of scripture
  2. Explaining – same word translated ‘open’ of scripture and hearts (Lk. 24:32 & 45)
    • help them see it and understand it
  3. Giving evidence – lay it out for them to see
    • he quoted and explored with them various biblical passages
  4. Persuaded (v. 4)
    • Paul’s message made sense or seemed clear and they were convinced

Why was it important that Paul took this particular approach?
– the concept of a suffering Messiah was not an established belief
• it certainly was not orthodox among Jewish scribes and rabbis
• it had never occurred to most religious Jews, but just the opposite
◦ Peter’s initial reaction to it was typical (Mt. 16:21-23)

. . . we preach Christ [Messiah] crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23)

– Jesus’ life, teaching and miracles in themselves could have a strong appeal to many people
• but as soon as death came up, especially on a cross, he would be rejected as Messiah
• this was an obstacle Paul had to overcome, so he started there

Once Paul laid out his premise, he demonstrated that Jesus met the criteria
– Jesus’ crucifixion was not something that just happened

read more…

Jun 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 19, 2016 – Acts 16:11-40

Change Agents

So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. Acts 16:11-15

Intro: Some people who travel a lot take along photographs of family members
– they set them on their hotel desk or night stand
• or pull them up on their cell phone or computer
• it is a way of keeping them close to one’s heart and shaking off loneliness
– I imagine Paul having a mental photo album (cf. the list of names in Romans 16)
• settling into a new place, he was able to bring them to mind and hold them in prayer
• here are photos of a business woman, a young female slave, a prison warden
◦ each one is a story and each story warms his heart

These are three of the many lives changed by Paul’s ministry and message
– let’s look again at his message

Jesus Christ came to us (humankind in general, and us, his disciples, in particular) from the one true and living God. His mission was to lead us home to our heavenly Father, by bringing our Father to us in his own person (cf. Jn. 14:8-11). Now, in Jesus Christ we meet the infinite, invisible God (Col. 1:15; 2:9-10). In Jesus we discover that God is love, goodness, forgiveness, and so on. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus resolved every roadblock that could prevent people from coming to God as his children and knowing him as their Father in heaven.

– this is what the three people in today’s stories discovered for themselves


In verses 11-15 we meet the woman in the first photograph

Responding to the vision that sent Paul to Macedonia, his first stop was Philippi
– Luke mentions that Philippi was a Roman colony
• this will play large in his story – those who lived there were proud of its status
• it was populated by retired Roman soldiers and run by former officers
◦ similar to the unconditional pride of our friends who pronounce America ‘Merica!
(always witht the exclamation mark)
– scholars usually assumed there was no synagogue
• which explains why Paul & Co looked for a place of prayer next to a river
• notice how they identified the location by giving it a name
◦ those were there were drawn by a sincere desire for God
◦ they were the most likely to be responsive to Paul’s message

Lydia’s résumé: a seller and a worshiper
– as she listened intently, three things were interacting:
• Paul’s speech – her heart – and the Lord
• her invitation meant that Paul would be staying in the home of a Gentile
◦ she must have been good at selling, because she prevailed upon us
◦ prevailed translates a Greek word that means to force over against (objections)


In verses 16-18 we move on to the girl in the second photograph

Paul encountered her one day on his way to the place of prayer — now identifiable as such
(wherever we’ve met God or had a significant encounter with him becomes sacred to us)
– the girl had been following them for many days
• Luke says she possessed (or was possessed by) the spirit of Python
◦ Python was a snake that guarded entrance to Delphi
◦ people came to this famous site to receive divine oracles
• I think Luke has intentionally, if subtly, created this contrast
◦ in verse 7 he used the unusual phrase, Spirit of Jesus, now here, spirit of Python
◦ not to suggest a competition, but illustrate conflicting objectives
– unlike Lydia, the slave girl did not benefit from her “skill”
• her masters were the ones to profit from her fortune telling

It seems that Paul could not walk down a street without her trailing behind, crying out,

These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.

– in scripture, “Most High God” is not always, but frequently used in reference to Gentiles
• notice how it occurs in another famous incident recorded in Luke’s gospel:

(A man possessed with demons,) Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Lk. 8:28)

◦ you can imagine Paul’s annoyance as she did this every time he went outdoors
• Paul spoke to the spirit, not with his own authority, but in the name of Jesus Christ
◦ he addressed the spirit to free the person
◦ people who work in recovery have often reminded me that some of the horrible things that addicts say is “the disease talking”
– why was Paul unwilling to accept this free publicity?

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