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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

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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

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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

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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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Jun 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 12, 2016 – Acts 16:1-10

Discerning “No,” When Prepared for “Go”

They passed through the Phyrgian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
 Acts 16:6-10

Intro: Brian and Lorena Wood live in Mozambique

They started and now run and organization — “Transforming Lives Ministry”
– they are not theorizing about transforming lives, they’re doing it
• when Brian was in seminary, he gave me a book by Roland Allen,
Missionary Methods: Saint Paul’s Or Ours?
• it was a serious challenge to Christian thinking and attitudes regarding cross-cultural ministry

R. Allen, “Our missions are in different countries amongst people of the most diverse characteristics, but all [missionary endeavors and in-country organizations] bear a most astonishing resemblance to one another.”

– what was Paul’s “method”? He spelled it out in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

  1. First, even though Paul found freedom in Jesus to be himself, he made himself a slave to others in order to “win more”
  2. So he stepped into their world rather than attempt to drag them into his
  3. Among Jews, he drew upon his own Jewishness to connect with them
  4. Among those who carefully observed the Law given to Moses, Paul carefully observed the Law to connect with them
  5. With people who were not bound by religious scruples, Paul lived free of religious scruples to connect with them
    ◦ he did this, never forgetting who he was or betraying his relationship with God
    To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel . . . (1 Cor. 9:22-23)

This answers a question immediately raised in chapter 16

When Paul met Timothy in Derbe, he wanted to add him to his team
– the Jewish population there knew Timothy’s father was a Gentile
• so Paul arranged for him to be circumcised
◦ on the surface, this decision is baffling
• Paul had recently (at least in narrative time) engaged in intense debate
◦ and it was over this very issue! (see ch. 15:1 & 5)
◦ he had lobbied against circumcising Gentile Christians
◦ he was, in fact, at this time publishing the decrees of the apostles (v. 4)
◦ so what was he thinking?!
– the motive behind Timothy’s surgery was not religious, theological or spiritual, but cultural
• it was important to win the acceptance of the Jewish community
◦ he did not submit his team to the Jewish custom to make them better Christians
◦ but to improve communication
• Paul’s spiritual logic went something like this:
◦ Jesus became like us to win us and we become like others to win them
◦ what Luke provides is real-life examples of Paul’s cultural accommodation

The trip went well for awhile and then suddenly stalled

Their path was not blocked by an avalanche, fire, or army, but by the Holy Spirit
– two items draw our attention:
• first, they received direction from God’s Spirit
• and, secondly, the Spirit told them, “No”
– let’s see what we can learn from this temporary setback

read more…

Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 5, 2016 – Acts 15:36-41

An Argument of Apostolic Proportions

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Acts 15:36

Intro: This chapter began with great dissension and debate

Now it ends with sharp disagreement and separation
– I believe the first instance was justified, even necessary
• I am not convinced that this other instance was called for
– we’re not given specific details of their debate
• and no one quotes scripture to support his contention
◦ so it would seem they were divided over a matter of principle
• but I’m getting ahead of myself

V. 36, The scene opens with a congenial proposal

Paul’s suggestion made good sense
– he was saying, in effect, “Let’s continue what proved a successful partnership”
• they have already told many people about their successful adventures
– the people in those cities who had come to faith may have been in need of spiritual guidance
• so the purpose of this journey was to see how they are
◦ the Greek word translated “visit” is the rook of Episcopal – a bishop or supervisor (cf. Php. 1:1)
• no doubt Paul envisioned opportunities for further ministry

Vv. 37-38, Something triggered a falling out

Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphlia and had not gone with them to the work.

Their conflict was not over theology, methodology or travel plans
– but Mark, who quit on them but had now reenlisted
• so now we see why Luke has continued to insert footnotes about Mark
• he was at the heart of this conflict

Luke does not explore what it was that upset Paul
– maybe he merely considered Mark unreliable
• or could have been hurt by desertion, betrayed
◦ Paul experienced a lot of that

I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, . . . dangers among false brothers (2 Cor. 11:26)

– all of us have our sensitivities
• internal wounds that have been festering for years
• the lightest touch triggers pain, shame, defensiveness, etc.
◦ and often times we respond with an automatic overreaction

As a rule, I’m against psychological analyses of biblical characters
– we’re too far away from their circumstances
• and know too little about their inner experience
• of course, some characters describe their mental state; Job, Jeremiah, the Psalms
– but I think there’s good reason to interpret Paul’s position as overreaction
• my primary reason is because it was Barnabas that gave him a second chance
◦ Barnabas championed Paul when he reconciled him to the church in Jerusalem

. . . they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27)

◦ I think of Barnabas as the patron saint of second chances

read more…

Jun 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 29, 2016 – Acts 15:1-35

Culture Conversion or Christian Conversion?

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. Acts 15:1-2

Intro: The events reported here are extremely serious

So big, it may be the primary reason Luke wrote the Book of Acts
– a crucial decision was reached and a radical breakthrough occurred
– the central problem addressed here recurs in Paul’s letter
• this is a cause he never stopped fighting to resolve
• the crisis at the heart of this chapter appears immediately (v. 1)

Vv. 1-5, The epicenter of the dispute was Antioch

The agitators who set it off were from Jerusalem
– they are not identified other than “some men”
• they came to Antioch without authorization
◦ they had taken this mission to “fix” the church there upon themselves
◦ in their minds, Gentiles were converts to Judaism
• the issue is no less important than salvation, upon which they placed a condition on Gentiles
◦ their thinking was, “If you believe in the God of Abraham, then the rules of Moses also apply to you”
◦ no other Christian leader in Antioch had seen the need for issuing this sort of requirement
– salvation is not only escaping punishment and getting into heaven
• it means to rescue, but also to protect protect (to be kept safe and sound), heal and restore
◦ salvation begins in this life, when we surrender ourselves to Jesus
• God puts our broken lives back together — he makes us whole
◦ for now, our salvation is ongoing, and completed in heaven
◦ but the agitator’s message was, one must become a Jew to become a Christian

Paul and Barnabas adamantly opposed this teaching
– they had spent a couple years among Gentiles, leading them to God
• the people who responded to them had met God through Jesus–apart from Judaism
• it was not only a theological mistake to require something else, it was wrong
– the conflict was so intense that it had to be taken to Jerusalem
• and this is fortunate for us, because of what they resolved
• we don’t have climb over ethnic or religious walls to get to Jesus

It can be shocking to learn of Pharisees who had become believers in Jesus (v. 5)

read more…

May 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Handout for Acts 14

Apologies for how clumsy this was done, but if you find it really frustrating but you are intensely interested in the material, you can find this book on There Is A Season, by chuck smith, jr and published by WaterBrook.

Season 1

Click twice on page to enlarge

Season 3

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Season 2

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Season 4

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May 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 22, 2016 – Acts 14

Effective Communication, Effective Lifestyle

At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk.
When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.  
Acts 14:8-18

Intro: Two times in this chapter people are trying to influence the souls of others

The Greek words that appear in both instances are tas psuchas tōn, “the souls of the”

  1. The first scene: (opponents of the apostles) stirred up the souls of the Gentiles to poison them against the brothers
  2. Near the end: (the apostles were) strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them

– two different ways that religion is used to affect the souls of others:
• to stir up and poison people or to strengthen and encourage people
◦ encounters with one kind of religious person will embitter people
◦ encounters with another kind of person will encourage people
– sadly, both types can be found within Christianity

Paul effectively communicated God’s message
• in so doing, he provided us with an excellent model
• but at the heart of his effectiveness was love

Vv. 1-7, A sequence of events we have come to expect

Paul started in synagogue, conflict ensued, he enlarged his target audience, he was chased out of town
– of interest here is God’s extraordinary support:

. . . the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands (v. 3)

• in John 5, Jesus explained:

If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony He gives about Me is true. (Jn. 5:31-32)

• he then lists his witnesses: John the Baptist, his works, the Father and the Scriptures
– this seems like an awesome way to advance the gospel, but miracles don’t do what we expect
• they do not convince everyone
• the effect of a miracle can wear off without effecting a transformed life

Vv. 8-18, Paul breaks his ministry pattern

There is no mention of a synagogue in this story
– the message he gave was to a Gentile audience
• the events that led up to his brief “emergency sermon”

Reading this story, two slogans come to mind:
– “A case of mistaken identity” and “Lost in translation”

read more…