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Sep 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 25, 2016 – Acts 28

Miracles and Manacles

When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta.
The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. Acts 28:1-6

Intro: Have you ever felt like God has given you too much to handle?

Finally out of hurricane, Paul’s feet were on solid ground
– yes, it raining and cold, but a warm fire was burning nearby
• Paul picked up a few sticks to toss into the flames and felt a sudden sharp pain
• he looked, and a viper was hanging from his hand
◦ this had to feel like the last straw
– at that point, I would look up and say, “Really?!”
• I imagine Paul shaking his head
◦ then shaking the snake of his hand and into the flames
• in high school sports, whenever we took a hit or missed a play
◦ our coaches would shout, “Shake it off!”
◦ there would always be lots of bumps and bad calls
◦ but they wanted us to keep our head in the game

The last few chapters have been about Paul
– but what was Paul about? – this question leads us to the larger theme
– we already know what it is, but Luke wants it clearly spelled out

After the shipwreck, they learned they had washed up on the shores of Malta
– “natives” is misleading, but Greek even more so — barbarians
• anyone who spoke foreign language
(they sounded like they were saying “Bar-bar” or “Blah, blah, blah”)
◦ to us, the word barbarian sounds like savage
◦ but, in fact, it could refer to educated and cultured people
• we get a more accurate picture if think, “the locals”
– the snake bite is good illustration how popular opinion can turn on dime
• in a few minutes, Paul went from being perceived as a murderer to a god
• perhaps there was a purpose for this “last straw” with the snake

7-10 The beach was near the estate of the island’s magistrate

For three days Publius hosted Paul and his companions
– it’s likely, Publius’ intended guests were the centurion, captain and any othe VIPs on board
• but for some reason, Paul was included
• while there, they learned Publius’ father was ill
◦ Paul visited him, then prayed, then touched and healed him
◦ the next thing we know, Paul was taking patients from all over the island
– “divine healing” is for us a tricky and confusing issue

read more…

Sep 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 18, 2016 – Acts 27

“See? I Told You So!”

When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. Acts 27:1

Intro: There are storms in both the second chapter of Acts and the last chapter

The first storm was the Spirit of God descended on the apostles
– we read that he came with the a noise of a violent rushing wind (Acts 2:2)
– linking the two storms may prove enlightening
• but that’s not the direction we’re going today

Daniel Boorstin in The Image informed us that the “old English word ‘travel’ (in the sense of a journey) was originally the same word as ‘travail’ (meaning ‘trouble,’ ‘work,’ or ‘torment’).”

– until recent history, ships went down frequently
• there were nearly 100 notable shipwrecks in 19th century
• and most of them included hundreds of casualties
– Luke’s insertion of “we” tells us what we could have guessed anyway
• that what we have in this chapter is the firsthand report of an eyewitness
• since this is chapter is presented as a story, I will tell the story

1-3 The time came to set sail for Italy

Paul was transferred into custody of a centurion, Julius, for transport to Rome
– we know the home port of the ship they boarded, but not its name
• the ship’s destination was not Rome, but could get them halfway there
• so they sailed north from Caesarea, hugging the coastline
◦ after a day’s sailing they reached their first stop, which was Sidon
◦ Tyre and Sidon had always been a central trading hub (cf. Eze. chapter 27)
– Julius turned out to be a nice guy — he let Paul meet up with friends in Sidon
• travel, making and meeting with believers had been Paul’s life
• so this brief visit after a two year incarceration in Caesarea must have been refreshing

4-6 Sailing from Sidon they had their first encounter with bad weather

The ship was forced to change course and sail between Cyprus and the mainland
– typically the trade route Paul had sailed had been to the island’s southern side
• the way he went on first voyage out and returned on his second and third voyage
◦ this time, they had to use the island for protection from rough seas
◦ the reason given: the winds were contrary
• when were the winds not contrary to Paul?
◦ his entire ministry was a labor against resistance

I’ve had two miserable sea adventures, both on the same yacht
– the first instance was about this time of year–when lobster season opened
• on our way home, we got caught in a heavy storm
◦ crossing the channel between San Clemente Island and Catalina we were fully exposed

read more…

Sep 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 11, 2016 – Acts 26

Autobiography In Three Sentences

Agrippa sad to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” Acts 26:1-3

Intro: This chapter begins and ends with the words of King Agrippa

So we can surmise that he is at least a key player in the story
– it is in his power to influence the next turn in Paul’s situation
– here, at the beginning of the chapter, he gives Paul permission to speak

As a rule, defense lawyers don’t want their accused on the witness stand
– the average person too naive about the law
• and can be rattled by a skilled attorney
◦ this could result in them saying something that can be used against them
• having no one else, Paul testified in his own defense
◦ but what he gave was a dual witness – for himself and also for Jesus
◦ in the end, his defense rested on the probability that his message is the truth
– that Jesus has witnesses is a central theme, if not the main theme, in Acts
• beginning with Jesus’ statement in 1:8, then repeatedly throughout the book
◦ here in verses 16 and 22 (“testifying”)

Paul’s story could be titled “God gets his man”

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophetic call follows a basic pattern
– we come across several of these “type scenes” in scripture
• in the case of prophets, the type scene generally goes like this:

  1. God calls
  2. The person declines
    (Moses gives several excuses, Isaiah is impure, Jeremiah is too young, etc.)
  3. God insists
  4. The person undertakes his or her prophetic work

• the prophet was not given a choice – the call was not an offer, but an order
– in some ways, Paul’s experience follows this pattern
• he was able to identify three seasons of his life
◦ each season is characterized by a single line or sentence
• now, these happen to be lines I’ve always loved and found inspiring
◦ so I’ll refer to them as our three fantastic sentences

Paul’s story began with him growing up in Jerusalem (although not born there)
– his religious education led to him become a Pharisee
• a devout follower of Judaism, which he refers to as the strictest sect of our religion
• he was, in fact, so passionate that he took violent action against defectors (i.e., followers of Jesus)
◦ Paul provides quite a list of his actions against believers (cf. 2 Cor. 11:21-33) — he:

  • locked up many in prisons
  • cast his vote for the execution of some
  • punished others in synagogues
  • tried to force them to blaspheme
  • kept pursuing pursuing them even to foreign countries

• Paul summarizes these violent actions in verse 9:

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

– when you read “name” in scripture, think “person”
• a name was fused with a person’s identity

“. . . the name is regarded as to such an extent an expression of the individual character  of it’s owner that it can, in fact, stand for him, become a concept interchangeable with him.” Walther Eichrodt

◦ taking Yahweh’s name “in vain” was not so much about cussing as swearing an oath in his name falsely
◦ to say his name was to call him, to include him in your affairs and interactions
• the name was one of those forms by which its owner could be present (when physically absent)
◦ so God could say My Word is with you; My Spirit is with You; and My name is with You (cf. Mt. 18:20)
◦ listen to what Paul wrote the Corinthians:

In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus (1 Co. 5:4)

So the target of Paul’s rampage was not a name–like a label–but the person of Jesus Christ
• and his goal was to stamp out the influence of Jesus over Jewish lives
• that is why he was traveling to Damascus when he suddenly hit a wall
◦ he was confronted by Jesus himself
◦ so that Jesus’ question was personal, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?

This brings us to the first of our three fantastic sentences

V. 14, It is hard for you to kick against the goads

read more…

Sep 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 4, 2016 – Acts 25

The Controversial Dead Man

Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). Festus then answered that Pal was being kept in  custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave  shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.” Acts 25:1-5

Intro: If you haven’t attended our Wednesday or Thursday meetings,

Our purpose is not to study the Bible, although that is still important
– instead, we attempt to listen for God’s Spirit to speak to us through scripture
• so we read a passage prayerfully, noticing when something stands out
◦ that is, when a word, phrase, or idea lights up or draws our attention
• then we spend rest of our time seeing what God does with that word or phrase
– that is one way that the Spirit will communicate with us through simple sentences
• but there is another very different way he sometimes gets to us
◦ and that can happen any time, anywhere, through anyone
◦ reading a book, talking with a friend, listening to a sermon, watching a movie
• suddenly a few words are filled with divine energy or light
◦ I could share several examples, but there’s one I remember well

Summer camp, lights out, and all the guys were in their sleeping bags nodding off
– I heard a kid crying in the next bunk: I asked,
“You okay?”
“What’s wrong?”
• he told me the camp speaker had asked him a question that evening
◦ and now in the dark it was haunting him, because he didn’t know the answer
◦ all the speaker had asked him was, “Eddie, are you right with God?”
• I doubt anyone could have predicted the effect this question would have on him
◦ that he would be so eaten up by it
– I’ve sometimes wondered where that experience took Eddie
• later I learned, he didn’t live to see his twentieth birthday

There is a phrase in our passage that is potentially this forceful

A new Roman administrator arrived in Israel

Festus was typical soldier, but one with an aptitude for leadership
– he would need that skill
• after three days in Caesarea, he went to Jerusalem
◦ he no doubt needed to check in with the Roman officials and Jewish leaders there
• he was informed regarding Paul’s case and asked to move the trial to Jerusalem
◦ he agreed to hear the charges, but in Caesarea
– within two weeks he was back on the coast
• Paul was escorted into tribunal, where he was surrounded by his accusers
◦ it seems he responded calmly while denying all charges
• Festus asked if Paul was willingly to be tried in Jerusalem
◦ his motivation was not legal, but political, wishing to do the Jews a favor (v. 9)
• knowing the danger that awaited him in Jerusalem,
◦ Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen and made his appeal to Caesar
– so though he won a small victory, Paul was still in limbo

At this point, two celebrities showed up

King Agrippa–a descendant of Herod the great–received his appointment from Rome
– Bernice was his sister, whom he cared for
• Festus was relieved, because Agrippa was considered an expert in Jewish affairs
• Festus laid Paul’s case before him Agrippa:

Briefly: the Jews had asked Festus to render a death sentence against Paul. However, when he brought Paul to court, the charges not at all what he expected. So Festus gave Paul the option to be tried in Jerusalem and that is when he appealed to Caesar. But now Festus faced an embarrassing situation–he no definite charge against him when delivering Paul to Rome.

– learning this, Agrippa said he would like to hear Paul for himself
• Festus answered, Tomorrow you shall

read more…

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

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