YOU ARE INVITED TO WORSHIP GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON & GOD the HOLY SPIRIT the Methodist Way
WELLBORN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
A growing church filled with God's love in Jesus Christ for everyone

BIBLE STUDIES


A BIBLE STUDY FOR WOMEN
Based on a book with Study Guide  TWELV E EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN
       How God shaped Women of the Bible
       and What He Wants To Do With You
        by John MacArthur

MEET at 1:30 P.M. IN THE WUMC FELLOWSHIP HALL
Every Monday afternoon
 
 


 
THESE WOMEN FROM THE BIBLE STUDY GROUP ALSO ATTENDED A WOMENS RETREAT at LEESBURG
United Methodist Conference Center
 
L t0 R:  Linda Young, Carol Van Sise, Kathy Lyons, GoldieMarie Fralick, Mary Grover, Jan Parker, Jinny Wilson, Jennifer Campbell
 
 


 
 
CO-ED   BIBLE  STUDY
 
                                                                    Facilitator /Teacher Rev. Dr. Everett Parker
 
Seated: Kathy Lyons, Roy VanSise, Carol Van Sise, Shirley Carter, Mary Grover, Art Grover, Ted Fralick, GoldieMaire Fralick
Standing: Mary Austin. Linda Young, Jinny Wilson, Jan Parker, Cathy Allred, Leonard Young

7 P.M. in the fellowship hall
EVERY WEDNESDAY
 
                                                                (except the second Wednesday reserved for fellowship dinner and business meeting)
 

The Book of Acts
Rev. Dr.Everett Parker, Facilitator, Teacher
 
 
ACTS 1:1 
“Dear Theophilus, In my first book I told you about everything Jesus began to do and teach ... .” (NLT). In the KJV, “The former treatise have I made, O Theopolis, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach ... .”

What “former account” is being referred to above and who is “I”?
The “former account” is the Gospel of Luke, which was written by Luke to the same man, “Theophilus.” The Gospel of Luke starts, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” (Luke 1:1-5)

What significance is there in the address difference between “most excellent Theophilus” and “O Theopolis”?
  he fact that Luke addresses Theophilus formally as “most excellent Theophilus” in the Gospel of Luke but simply as “O Theophilus” in Acts implies that Theophilus was a government official with whom Luke had become better acquainted by the time he wrote the latter “account” that we call “Acts of the Apostles” or simply “Acts.”
 
Who was Luke?
The Apostle Paul mentions Luke at the end of this passage from Colossians 4: 10-14 (read). So Luke was a “physician” and one of Paul’s “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” And since his name is listed after Paul identified his Jewish (“of the circumcision”) collaborators, Luke was a gentile.

Where did Paul and Luke meet?
  ay close attention to the pronouns as you read the following passage from Acts 16:1-10. The first “he” refers to the Apostle Paul. “1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. 6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Paul and Timothy are referred to as “they” until their arrival in Troas in Acts 16:8, but the pronoun changes to “we” in Acts 16:10, indicating that Luke joined Paul and Timothy in Troas.
 
Where is Troas?
Troas is a port city near the northwestern corner of Turkey. Its ancient name is Troy.

How far did Luke accompany Paul?
  ll the way to Rome, where Paul wrote following words to Timothy: “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica - Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” (II Timothy 4:9-11)

Read Acts 1:2-5

What does “taken up” (Acts 1:2) refer to?
Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

How long did Jesus stay on earth between His resurrection and ascension?
Forty days (Acts 1:3).

How many people saw Him during those 40 days?
“Over five hundred” as indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.”

What else did Jesus do besides appear to them during those 40 days?
He taught them as mentioned in Acts 1:3 above, walked with them (see 24-35), ate in front of them (see Luke 24:36-43), as well as with them, and even cooked them breakfast (see John 21:1-14). So He wasn’t just some vision. He was with them physically.
 
Read Acts 1:6-11  
 
What do you think about their asking, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
 Even after Jesus’ resurrection, they still don’t grasp that He had come on a spiritual mission for the world, not to restore Israel politically. Despite Jesus’ patient reminder, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority,” this is a disappointing question based on what they should have known by now and what Jesus already had said on this particular issue: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:36-44)
 
What does this mean for the self-proclaimed prophets who have tried to predict the timing of Jesus’ return?
  ll of their predictions have proven to be false. And since false prophecies disqualify the prophet, all of them are false prophets. In fact, even just the attempt to time His return is a rebellion against Jesus, who said in clear terms, “But of that day and hour no one knows not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36-44). All we can say is that everything the Bible said will happen before Jesus returns has already happened or is happening, which means that He could return tomorrow or in 10,000 years. 
 
What is Acts 1:8 commonly called?
 The “Great Commission,” which applies to Christians today as it did to the Apostles 2,000 years ago.

Who were the “two men” mentioned in Acts 1:10?
Angels. The Greek word translated “white” in “white robed” also means, “radiant” or “brilliant.”

What finally opened the spiritual eyes of the Apostles? 
 The Holy Spirit coming upon them, for which Jesus told them “wait” in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4).

Read Acts 1:12-14 

Where is the “Mount of Olives”?
Mount of Olivet, also called, “Mount of Olives” is located directly east of Jerusalem.

Then why does Acts 1:12 say it is “a Sabbath day’s journey”?
  “Sabbath day’s journey” wasn’t the distance a person could cover by journeying for a day; it was just a unit of distance, equal to about 2/3 of a mile, that the Jewish leaders limited people to walk on the Sabbath, deeming walking any further to be “work.” Acts 1:12 isn’t saying that the Apostles respected this man-made law, but simply indicating the distance between Jerusalem and the mount called Olivet.

How many of the 11 remaining disciples were staying in the “upper room”?
All of them.
 
Who were the “women” in Acts 1:14?
 They most likely included the “women” identified in Mark 15:40-41: “There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.”

Who are “His brothers”?
 At least two of the four sons, named “James, Joseph, Simon and Judas” (Matthew 13:55) that Mary bore after Jesus, with Joseph.

Doesn’t John 7:5 say that Jesus’ “brother did not believe in Him”?
Yes, but that was before Jesus’ resurrection, after which “His brothers” may have been among the 500+ to whom Jesus appeared before His ascension. Later in Acts, we will learn that one of them, “James” became one of the Christian leaders in Jerusalem.

Read Acts 1:15-19 

How many disciples were there?
“About a hundred and twenty.”

How does Matthew 27:3-5 describe Judas’ death?
That he “hanged himself”: “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

How do we reconciled this accounts in Acts 1 and Matthew 27?
The fact that he fell “headlong” yet “burst open in the middle” indicates that his body was bloated when he fell, which means he was already dead. Most likely, Judas hung himself on a tree, and eventually the branch or the rope broke, causing the mess described in Acts 1.

Read Acts 1:20-26

Do you know how they “cast their lots”?
 The names of the two men were written on stones, put into a jar, which was shaken until one of the stones fell out. The one that fell out was considered the one chosen.

Whose name fell out?
“Matthias”

What role was he to perform?
“... become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
What would becoming this “witness” involve?
 Telling people who Jesus is, why He died, and what His resurrection proves.

Has that changed today?
Not really.


 ACTS 2
 
ACTS 2:1  1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
 
What is the “Day of Pentecost”?
Also called the “Feast of Harvest” or the “Day of First Fruits,” it was a feast during which the people brought as an offering the first fruits of their grain harvest to thank God, as well as to express their trust that He will bless the rest of the harvest. Along with Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, the Day of Pentecost was second of three major feasts that God commanded to be kept in the Old Testament.
 
Why was it called, “Day of Pentecost”?
Pentecost was celebrated 50 days after the Passover. The Greek word pentekostos means “50th.”
 
Read ACTS 2:2-13
 
What did they hear in Acts 2:2?
“Sound... of rushing mighty wind.”
 
Where did the sound come from?
“Heaven”
 
What was the sound of?
The Holy Spirit, as Jesus had promised: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
 
What did they see and feel, and how did they end up?
“Divided tongues, as of fire” that “sat upon each of them.” They ended up “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
 
What drew the “multitude”?
The disciples speaking in their “own language.”
 
What are the named places and people called today?
“Parthians and Medes and Elamites” are Iranians. “Mesopotamia” is Iraq. “Judea” is Israel, while “Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia” are all in Turkey. Egypt, Libya and Rome are the same today, “Cretans” are from Crete, the Greek island, and “Arabs” are Saudi Arabians.
 
To what did some of them attribute what they were witnessing?
The disciples being drunk: “They are full of new wine.”
 
What is the significance of the Holy Spirit coming on the Day of Pentecost?
As the day signaled the start of the grain harvest, He might have wished to signal the start of the harvesting of souls.
 
Read Acts 2:14-15 
 
What is “third hour of the day”?
Three hours from the start of the day, which was deemed to be 6 a.m. Peter was saying that it’s only 9 a.m., which is too early to start to drink, let alone be drunk.
 
Why did the eleven other Apostles stand up with Peter in Acts 2:14?
Perhaps so that the crowd can see with their own eyes that they weren’t drunk. Peter may have even pointed or gestured to them when he said, “these” are not drunk in Acts 2:15.
 
Read ACTS 2:16-21  
 
Why is Peter quoting from what the prophet Joel said in Joel 2:28-32?
To say that what they were witnessing wasn’t drunkenness but the fulfillment was Joel’s prophecy; now that the “last days” or the final phase of God’s plan for mankind had begun with the harvesting of souls, the Holy Spirit was being “poured out” on not just kings and prophets but “all flesh”, including “sons... daughters... young men... old men... menservants and on maidservants.”
 
What about the “wonders” mentioned in Acts 2:19-20?
They are things to happen “before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” - the Second coming of Jesus.
 
Read Acts 2:22-28
 
What did Peter do in Acts 2:22-24?
In one long sentence, he summarized to the crowd the message about Jesus, that they had illegally (“by lawless hands”) crucified Jesus, whose identity God had “attested... by miracles” and whom God had intended (“determined purpose and foreknowledge of God”) to be sacrificed and “raised up” from “death.”
 
And what does Peter tell the crowd in Acts 2:25-28?
That the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “Holy One,” was prophesied by none other than David, whom they revere, in Psalm 16:8-11 as quoted.
 
Read Acts 2:29-41  
 
Why does Peter bring up that David is “both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day?”
He is reminding the people that unlike David, who died and stayed dead, Jesus stayed neither dead nor buried, and His tomb is empty.
 
What does Peter also share in Acts 2:30-31?
David not only knew that Jesus would be resurrected, but also that He will ascend to “sit on his throne” in heaven.
 
Was Peter speaking to a crowd of disciples?
No, it was just a crowd that had gathered after hearing a strange sound, then people speaking in languages they had never learned.
 
Were they hearing pleasant things from Peter?
Not really. He was telling them that they had killed God.
 
So why did they keep quiet instead of objecting to or shouting down Peter?
They couldn’t deny the truth of what he was saying. The body had disappeared from a guarded tomb and over 500 people were running around the region testifying that they had seen the resurrected Jesus: “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6) Think about this for a second. Had there been any doubt about Jesus’ resurrection at the time, Peter would have been challenged, if not shouted down by this crowd, who would have dispersed, dismissing Jesus as just a rabbi who had done and said some nice things but eventually talked too much and gotten himself killed. But if Jesus was someone who is stronger than even death and not only rose from the dead but actually had prophesied that in advance, then everything else He said - including His declaration that He is God who came to die to save us from our sins - deserved at least a very careful consideration, if not immediate acceptance. If Jesus hadn’t proven His deity by conquering death, Christianity would never have made it past this crowd.
 
What ended up happening to them?
“They were cut to the heart” by the truth that couldn’t be challenged and “about three thousand”, an enormous number in those days, as well as today, dropped to their knees right then and there and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
 
What was Peter’s first word of advice to them?
“Repent.”
 
From what, and what does it mean?
From sins. The translated Greek word is metanoeo, which means to change one’s mind or attitude about, so repenting from sins means changing one’s mind or attitude away from sins.
 
What is Peter’s next word of advice?
“Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
 
Why?
Peter wasn’t saying the act of baptism, which involves being submerged in water for a moment (the translated Greek word is baptizo, which literally means to immerse or submerge in water) results in the remission - i.e., forgiveness - of sins (see earlier section on Baptism), but to be baptized as a symbol of believing “with all your heart” (Acts 8:37) that Jesus’ death on the cross resulted in that.
 
If Jesus’ death on the cross did that, why then do we need to “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”?
Because we’re human, we will not stopping sinning completely despite our best efforts. The Holy Spirit is the One who guides, teaches and admonishes us so that we sin less and less and become more and more the person that Jesus wants us to be. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
 
Are these gifts for all Christians?
Every Christian receives at least one spiritual gift.
 
What are we supposed to do with them?
Help each others and to bring glory to Jesus. Spiritual gifts are not to be used for selfish gains.
 
How many believers were in Jerusalem when Jesus ascended to heaven?
“About a hundred and twenty.” (Acts 1:15)
 
Read Acts 2:42-47  
 
How did the first Christians deal with their possessions?
They “had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
 
Surely, this isn’t how Christians are supposed to live today?
Actually it is, and this is how many Christians in the “developing” world still live, while the Christians in the “developed” world tend to hang onto their possessions.
 
But shouldn’t we keep back at least some possessions for our rainy days in the future?
Imagine you have savings of $100,000 and your sister needs $100,000 for a life saving surgery. Would you use that money to pay for her surgery or keep it for your future and let her die? In God’s eyes, a Christian half-way around the world whom we have never met is just as much our sister as a biological sister, and holding back possessions - all of which belong to God - while her needs go unmet is sin, as is not trusting that God will provide for our future rainy days if we used His possessions in our care to help those on whom the rain is falling today.
 
What special evangelistic programs increased the number of people being saved in the first church?
None, it is “the Lord” who “added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
 
Does this still apply today?
Absolutely. Our job is to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) Whom God saves and adds to the church is up to Him.
 

 ACTS 3
 
Read Acts 3:1-5
 
What time did Peter and John go up to the temple in Jerusalem?
“At the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour,” which is nine hours from sunrise at 6 a.m. or, 3 p.m.
 
Where were they about to go through?
“The gate... called Beautiful.” 
 
What was so beautiful about this gate, and why was it special?
Josephus, the Jewish historian, described this gate, which separated the inner court from the outer Court of the Gentiles on the east, as the gate that “greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold.” It was about 75 feet high and its huge double doors would have been opened wide at this hour to accommodate the foot traffic. Today a visitor can enter the Old City of Jerusalem by one of seven gates. Some gates were named by location. The Jaffa Gate faces west towards Tel Aviv and Joppa. The Damascus Gate is in the north wall where a traveler would enter if he had come from Galilee, the Golan Heights and Damascus. The Zion Gate is, logically, on Mt. Zion near the traditional Tomb of David and site of the Upper Room of the Last Supper. The Dung Gate faces South towards the Hinnom Valley where refuse from the city was dumped in former times into the Hinnom Valley. The Sheep Gate (or, St. Stephen’s Gate, or Lion’s Gate) is next to the sheep market, and so on.
 
The present walls around the Old City were built from 1537 to 1541 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent after the Ottoman conquest of Israel. At that time most of the ancient walls were reduced to rubble. Suleiman ordered that Jerusalem be fortified to protect its people against marauding Bedouins.
 
The walls were rebuilt upon the foundations of the walls constructed during the time of the Second Temple and the later Roman expansion. For the most part, the modern gates of the city are not closely related to the walls and gates that existence in Roman times or earlier. There is some debate about the correct location of some of the ancient gates and walls. 
 
Now, none of this is easy for historians or archaeologists. The ancient eastern gate to Jerusalem could be the one mentioned as the “Beautiful Gate” in Acts 3. The term Golden Gate may have been derived from the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible:  In the earliest Greek New Testament, the word for “beautiful” is oraia. When Jerome translated the New Testament into Latin in the fourth century, he changed the Greek oraia into the similar sounding Latin aurea, rather than to the Latin word for “beautiful.” So the Latin Vulgate text read “Golden Gate” instead of “Beautiful Gate.” The Golden Gate has long interested many Muslims, most Jews and Christians as the place of the Last Judgment. 
 
What was the lame man’s strategy?
Position himself to benefit from a strategic location, time and mindset of potential donors.
 
Read Acts 3:4-10
 
How did Peter heal the man?
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
 
Did Peter have any doubt that the man would be healed?
No. “Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up.”
 
How quickly was the man healed?
“And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened.”
 
What did he do next?
He walked into the temple with Peter and John “walking, leaping, and praising God.”
 
What was the reaction of the crowd?
Nobody seems to have asked for their money back: “... they were absolutely astounded.” The KJV says, “... and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.”
 
How did this healing serve God’s purpose?
It showed His mercy on a lame man, He received praise, and gathered an audience for Peter’s sermon to follow.
 
Read Acts 3:11-16
 
What was  “Solomon’s colonnade” (KJV: “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering”?
It was a double row of wood-roofed marble columns that lined the eastern wall of the temple’s outer court.
 
What does this imply about the timing?
They were now outside the temple, so it was after the afternoon prayer.
 
To whom did the crowd attribute the miracle?
Peter and John: “People of Israel... what is so astounding about this? And why look at us as if we had made this man walk by our own power and godliness?”
 
To whom does Peter attribute it?
“For it is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of all our ancestors who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.”
Is it true that Pilate had been “determined to let” Jesus go?
Yes: “Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release Him.” (John 19:6-12)
 
What “murderer” had they asked “to be granted to” them?
Barabbas: “And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” -- who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.” (Luke 23:18-19)
 
What is Peter doing?
He is leveraging the incident to preach a sermon to those gathered.
 
Read Acts 3:17-21
 
What had they done “in ignorance”?
Call for the crucifixion of Jesus.
 
Which “rulers” is Peter referring to in Acts 3:17?
Members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel that includes the chief priests and Pharisees.
 
Who “had foretold... that Christ would suffer”?
“All of His prophets,” including David, who described in precise detail 1,000 years in advance how Christ would suffer on the cross: “All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.” (Psalm 22:7-8, 14-17)
 
What is Peter saying about Jesus in Acts 3:20-21?
That He will be in “heaven” until His second coming.
 
 
Read Acts 3:22-26
 
What passage is Peter referring to in Acts 3:22-23?
Deuteronomy 18:15,19: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” It should be noted that many sects, cults and religions have claimed this passage as foretelling the arrival of their particular so-called prophets, all of whom made prophecies that didn’t come true. We only needs to read the rest of the passage to disqualify them: “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ -- when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
 
What does Peter mean by, “You are the children of the prophets” in verse 25?
Their ancestors included the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament.
 
What does “Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed” mean?
It’s what God had said to Abraham no fewer than five times 2,000 years prior in Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4 and 28:14 to tell him that the Messiah who will bless all nations on earth will be born a Jew.
 
Was Peter’s statement, “You denied the Holy One and the Just... and killed the Prince of life” at the start of this sermon directed at the entire crowd or just some people in the crowd?
The entire crowd.
 
What does that confirm once again?
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus had been such universally supported and recognized events in Jerusalem that 40 plus days later, Peter saw no need to exempt anyone from having called for His death or to talk about the evidences for His resurrection.
 
How applicable is this sermon today?
It is absolutely applicable. After all, it was our sins as well that “killed the Prince of life,” for which we must “turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins.” (Acts 3:19)


Acts 4

Read Acts 4:1-4  
 
Who are “they” (Acts 4:1) and where were they?
It’s Peter and John. Acts chapter 4 is the continuation from chapter 3, in which Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Jesus, and then preached the Gospel to the people who gathered at Solomon’s Porch or Colonnade, the wood-roofed, double columned area that runs along the eastern edge of the temple area.
 
Who are the “Sadducees” (Acts 4:1)?
Sadducees were another ruling religious sect in Israel. The chief priests were Sadducees, as were many members of the Sanhedrin. Sadducees were wealthy, powerful and collaborated with the Romans to retain their wealth and power. And unlike the Pharisees, Sadducees only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament, called in English the “Peneteuch,” from the Greek pentateuchos, also known as the “Torah.” They didn’t believe there was life after death. 
 
Why would they be “greatly disturbed” (Acts 4:2) with Peter’s message?
“Resurrection of the dead” would have been disturbing to those who denied life after death, and the rest of Peter’s message, preached in their temple precinct, wouldn’t have been any more pleasing to their ears.
 
What was the result of Peter’s message?
“Many of those who heard the word believed” (Acts 4:4). Acts chapter 2, verse 41 records the number who believed after Peter’s first sermon at 3,000. Now it was up to “about 5,000” (Acts 4:4), which means the total number of believers, including women and children could have been much higher.
 
What happened to Peter and John?
They were arrested and put “in custody until the next day” (Acts 4:3).
 
Read Acts 4:5-6  5 
 
Who had gathered “on the next day” (Acts 4:5)?
The Sanhedrin.
 
Wasn’t Caiaphas the high priest?
John 18 offers insight into who between Annas and Caiaphas was the real high priest. Verse 13: “First they took Him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest THAT YEAR.” 
 
So what does this mean?
Annas and Caiaphas are the two High Priests mentioned during Jesus’ ministry. Caiaphas was high priest during the ministry of Jesus. He was son-in-law to Annas who had previously been the High Priest. Caiaphas prophesied that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the nation. When Jesus was arrested He was led to Annas first, then Caiaphas. Caiaphas charged Jesus with blasphemy and sent Him away to Pilate. After Jesus’ death and resurrection Caiaphas persecuted Jesus’ disciples. Interestingly, it appears the bones of Caiaphas were found in Jerusalem in 1990. The small box contained the inscription “Joseph, son of Caiaphas,” but the ornate decoration of the box would indicate it had been the High Priest. If true, this would be the first physical remains ever discovered of a person who is mentioned in Scripture.
 
Who are “John and Alexander” (Acts 4:6)?
The name “John” was quite common in Bible times as now. The John named in this passage is most likely Annas’ son who succeeded Caiaphas as the “official” high priest in 37 AD. Not much is known about Alexander.
 
Read ACTS 4:7-12
 
What were they asking with, “By what power or in whose name have you done this (Acts 4:7)?”
They may have been asking by what power or authority they had taught the people or healed the lame man, or both.
 
Did Peter and John have cause for concern?
The last time these same people had gathered for something to do with Jesus, they had committed murder. We know that Peter and John lived on, but standing before the Sanhedrin at this moment, they could well have thought that they would be killed as well because of what Peter was about to tell them.
 
Does Peter mince words or try to sugarcoat his response?
No, he confronts them straight on, even mentioning, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.”
 
Can we be saved by someone other than Jesus?
No, verse 12 says, “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.”
 
Who really spoke here?
Since Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” as it says in verse 8, the Holy Spirit was speaking through Peter.
 
Could the Holy Spirit speak likewise today or is such speech confined to this case above?
He speaks likewise today as well: “And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:5-11)
 
What is meant by Acts 4:11?
Jesus, who “was rejected by you builders” is the “chief cornerstone,” which is the first stone placed on the ground to build the foundation for a building. The reference is to Psalm 118, verse 22: “The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone.”
 
How important is the chief cornerstone?
If the chief cornerstone is laid at even a slightly erroneous angle, the rest of the foundation and everything built on top of it ends up angled erroneously. Likewise, if the chief cornerstone of someone’s faith is something other than Jesus Christ, the Word of God, that person’s faith is angled erroneously at best.
 
Read Acts 4:13-22  
 
How did they know that Peter and John “had been with Jesus”?
The high priest already knew John: “Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest” (John 18:16), and Peter had followed John into the high priest’s house as well and made known by famously denying Jesus three times.
 
Who stood with Peter and John?
The lame “man who had been healed.”
 
Where had he spent the night?
Either he spent the night in custody with Peter and John, or he had gone home and returned to the temple precinct the next morning. Either way, he presented himself as a testimony of what God had done for him.
 
What example does he set?
When God does anything for us -- healing us, calling us to be part of his kingdom, etc. -- we shouldn’t walk away from God. Instead, we should stand up for God, even in harm’s way, to be used by Him.
 
What’s wrong with the Sanhedrin members’ statement in Acts 4:16-17?
If they “cannot deny it,” they should accept it and listen to Peter and John instead of trying to shut them up.
 
Read Acts 4:23-31
 
What do the companions of Peter and John acknowledge to open this prayer?
God as the divine Creator of “heaven and earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
 
What do they refer to next in Acts 4:25-26?
The prophetic words of King David from 1,000 years earlier and recorded in Psalm 2:1-2, which they quote.
 
And what do they indicate in Acts 4:27?
The fulfillment of that prophecy.
 
What is reaffirmed in Acts 4:28?
That Jesus sacrificed Himself according to God’s plan.
 
What don’t they ask for in Acts 4:29-30?
They don’t ask for the persecution -- “their threats” -- to decrease. Instead, they ask for God’s empowerment to increase so that “with all boldness they may speak Your word.”
 
How soon did God answer their prayer?
Pretty much right away, as indicated in Acts 4:31.
 
Read Acts 4:32-37  
How realistic is it for us to declare today that our possession aren’t our own?
It is the reality. Everything in the world, even our next breath, is God’s possession.
 
Are Christians really meant to share “all things in common”?
Jesus commanded, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Loving someone as yourself includes meeting their needs with what you have.
 
What is the result of disobeying this commandment?
Millions of Christians continue to live in poverty today, particularly in the developing world, and those who hold onto their wealth, particularly in the developed world, disqualify themselves as “disciples” of Jesus as He defined it above.
 
Where did they bring the proceeds from the sale of their possessions?
They “laid them at the apostles’ feet.”
 
Did the apostles use it to enrich themselves?
No, “They distributed to each as anyone had need,” and this is an example to be heeded today by anyone who wishes to qualify himself as a “disciple” of Jesus, let alone a Christian leader.

 

Read Acts 5:1-6  
 
What “possession” did Ananias and Sapphira sell?
Their “land” (Acts 5:3).
 
What did they do with the “proceeds”?
Ananias “kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
 
What was wrong with keeping back part of the proceeds?
There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Peter even told him he could have done whatever he wanted with it: “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?” (Acts 5:4)
 
Then what was Ananias guilty of?
Lying to God. Ananias had claimed that what he brought in was the entire proceeds from the sale. He thought he was lying to men, but Peter corrected him: “You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:4)
 
Why would Ananias make that claim?
He was probably jealous of and trying to copy Joseph, who had been named the “Son of Encouragement” by the Apostles and who had brought in the entire proceeds from the sale of his land as mentioned at the end of the previous chapter: “And Joseph, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36-37). Note that the KJV names him “Joses,” and translates “Barnabas” as “son of consolation.”
 
What would have happened if Ananias had simply brought in some money for the needs of others?
He would have been fine and probably praised. But Ananias had wanted more, to be known as someone who had at least matched Joseph’s devotion. His motivation wasn’t to please God and help people, at least not purely, but (also) to glorify himself, while being led by greed to hold back some money, and by Satan to lie. 
 
What does this passage say about the Holy Spirit?
By telling Ananias, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit... You have not lied to men but to God,” Peter testified that Holy Spirit is God.
 
Read Acts 5:7-11  
 
Did Peter trap Sapphira with his question, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”
No, he “answered” her with that question, which means that Sapphira first asked him a question or said something that led him to respond with this question.
 
Why do Peter and Sapphira converse in terms of “so much”?
Both of them most likely could visualize the money that Ananias had brought in and were conversing while looking at and/or pointing to it.
 
What does Peter learn from her answer?
Sapphira had been party to the lie: “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?” (Acts 5:9)
 
Did Peter kill Sapphira?
No, he prophesied that she would end up like her husband.
 
What effect did this incident have on the church?
“Great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” (Acts 5:11)
 
How can the offerings of Joseph, Ananias and Sapphira be compared?
We don’t know the values of the land sold by Joseph and Ananias and Sapphira. It’s possible that Ananias and Sapphira’s land was much larger and they had brought in more money than the entire proceeds from the sale of Joseph’s land. But the amount isn’t what God is cares about, since everything in the universe is His, and He just wants to see how we treat and what we do with what He has entrusted to our care. Joses brought in God’s money to God out of a true desire to serve Him and fellow Christians, and was praised. Ananias and Sapphira brought in “their” money to be praised by men, out of pride, and were struck dead.
 
Read Acts 5:12-16
 
Why did they keep gathering at “Solomon’s Porch”?
Most likely because it was centrally located and the only public place in Jerusalem that was large enough to accommodate the crowd.
 
How can “believers” be “increasingly added” when “none of the rest dared join them”?
The key phrase is “the rest”, which could be referring to the other hypocrites like Ananias and Sapphira who “dared” not “join them” lest they be struck dead as well. In addition or alternatively, since Acts 5:13 contrasts “the rest” against “the people,” it could be referring to the priests and the others who ruled over the people and who were inside the temple just next to the Solomon’s Porch.
 
Read Acts 5:17-26 
 
Why were the high priest and the Sadducees “filled with indignation”?
For one, “a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem” (Acts 5:16) not to come to them but to go to the apostles, so they were envious. For another, Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection and didn’t appreciate the apostles preaching about Jesus’ resurrection.
 
Whom did they arrest, and why?
Acts 5:29 indicates that they arrested least three of the apostles, but they may arrested all of them. They wanted to convene the Sanhedrin and try them the next day.
 
Did the angel open the prison doors to let the apostles escape?
No, since he told them to go and preach “in the temple” instead of just outside of it as they had been preaching thus far. The Lord likely wanted the apostles to confront the Sanhedrin, but first wanted to demonstrate His power, which was appreciated by at least one alert member of the Sanhedrin, as we will read below.
 
Who were the “officers” and how did they bring the apostles “without violence”?
They were the temple guards, not the Roman soldiers, and they most likely just asked the apostles to come with them.
 
Read Acts 5:27-28
 
What might have been the high priest’s demeanor?
Having convened the Sanhedrin, he had ordered the prisoners to be brought, and been told that the men he put in jail are teaching in the temple. So he was probably flustered after having been embarrassed in front of the crowd he should have impressed.
 
What is he admitting to the apostles in Acts 5:28?
We can’t control you, and you’re beating us.
 
What does he mean by, “you... intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
He’s accusing the apostles of trying to make them guilty of killing Jesus.
 
Who already answered that question?
The high priest himself: “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matt 27:24-25)
 
Do the apostles intend to bring Jesus’ blood on them?
Spiritually, they should hope so since only by the blood of Jesus could their sins be forgiven.
 
Read Acts 5:29-32 
 
Do the apostles try to defend their actions?
No, they sound more like prosecutors, telling them, “you murdered” Jesus “by hanging on a tree,” and obeying their prior order “not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18) would have been in disobedience to God, and also implying that the high priest isn’t among “those who obey Him.”
 
Why might the apostles have been particularly emboldened?
An angel of the Lord had just led them out of prison, right past guards who couldn’t see them. They knew God was with them.
 
Read Acts 5:33-42 
 
Who is “Gamaliel” and what did he do?
“A Pharisee... a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people” and the “alert” member of the Sanhedrin. He warned them and prophesied, “if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it.”
 
How much do his words apply to today?
As much as they did back then. If any “plan or... work is of men, it will come to nothing,” as Jesus had said: “for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). But “if it is of God,” nobody can “overthrow it.”
 
What is peculiar about Acts 5:40?
Since “they agreed with” Gamaliel, they should have just let the apostles go instead of beating them and commanding them “that they should not speak in the name of Jesus.”
 
How did the disciples take the beating and their command?
“They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
 
Was being beaten something that the apostles should really be “rejoicing” over?
Very much so, according to Jesus: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)
 
What examples do the apostles set for us?
When we are persecuted for Christ, we should also “rejoice” for having been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And when religious or other authorities try to stop us from sharing the Lord, we should share with them Peter’s words, “We ought to obey God rather than men” and “not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

Read Acts 6:1  
 
Who are the Hebrews and the Hellenists?
As referred to in this verse, “the Hebrews” are the Christian converts among the Jews born and raised in Israel, while “the Hellenists” are the converts among the Jews who had returned to Judea after having lived abroad in the Greek world, and still spoke Greek and had adopted Greek cultural elements.
 
What is meant by “their widows were neglected in the daily ministration” (RSV) or “daily distribution of food.” (NLT)
Because in those days women didn’t inherit property, their livelihood depended on what their father, husband and/or son(s) brought home. If none of them existed, widows could “glean” and pick up the leftovers after others’ fields had been harvested. This wasn’t considered stealing or begging, since it was a God-ordained way to provide for those who couldn’t provide for themselves: “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21) And when widows were too old to glean, her other relatives were to provide for her. Here, the family of Christ was providing “daily” for the widows among them, but apparently the widows among the Hellenists had been neglected.
 
Why were they being neglected?
Acts 2:47 reads, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” but by this time the number of the disciples were “multiplying,” so the church was going through some growing pains of trying to keep up with everyone in the midst of rapid growth.
 
Read Acts 6:2-7
 
Why wasn’t it desirable for the twelve Apostles to “leave the word of God and serve tables,” as it says in the KJV?
With only 12 Apostles to tell the tens of thousands of new and multiplying Christians about Jesus, the most pressing need was “the ministry of the word.” The Apostles weren’t saying that manual labor was somehow below them, but that telling people about Jesus couldn’t be held up while they perform roles that others could perform. 
 
In fact, in this context to “serve tables” didn’t even mean to serve food on tables, but to tend to the “business,” which tended to be conducted on tables in those days, of church management. Each Christian is given gift(s) and our main focus should be on using them to glorify God: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:4-8)
 
Which of these roles deserves particular esteem?
Actually, all of them: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
 
Should teachers only teach?
Not necessarily. Teaching should remain the focus of those truly called by God to teach, but they aren’t precluded from “serving tables” in church or even working to provide for themselves. After all, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, and the Apostle Paul continued to work as a tent maker during his ministry: Acts 18: 3-4 records it thus:“So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” 
 
Who chose the seven men?
The Apostles had “called the multitude,” meaning the church, and had told them to “seek out from among you,” so the choice was made by the congregation.
 
What were the criteria for these first seven deacons?
They were to be “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.”
 
Why “seven”?
The local councils of Jewish communities usually consisted of seven men, usually known as the “The seven of the town.”
 
What is peculiar about the seven names?
“Stephen... Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas” are all Hellenist names. The Hellenist widows had been neglected during the rapid growth of the church, so the church, which was predominantly Hebrews during this early growth phase, chose seven Hellenists to manage the church. No doubt the Hellenists appreciated this trust, and tended to both Hebrew and Hellenist widows with equal care.
 
What happened thereafter?
“Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.”
 
What is meant by “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (KJV)?
Unlike the chief priest and his immediate family, the majority of the thousands of the regular priests in Jerusalem had regular jobs and served their priestly duties when their turn arrived, like Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist (Read: Luke 1:5-9). Apparently, a great number of these regular priests were among the new converts.
 
Read Acts 6:8-15
 
Was Stephen’s only gift church management?
No, he was also “full of faith and power” and “did great wonders and signs among the people.”
 
What is “the Synagogue of the Freedmen” (KJV)?
Jerusalem had one temple, the place of sacrifice, but many synagogues. This particular one had North African (Cyrene and Alexandria are in Libya and Egypt, respectively) and modern-day Turkish (“Cilicia and Asia”) Jews who had once been slaves or prisoners of Rome, and who had settled in Jerusalem after being freed, as well as their children.
 
Where did they take Stephen?
“The council,” meaning the Sanhedrin inside the temple precinct. Interestly, only the Phillips Bible refers to it as the Sanhedrin.
 
What accusations did they bring against Stephen?
“We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered us.” KJV
 
Did Jesus say He will destroy the temple?
No, He said that it will be destroyed, not that He will destroy it: Read Mark 13: 1-2. Jesus also referred to His body being the temple, which the Jews would destroy (John 2: 18-21): “So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” Jesus didn’t say that He will destroy the Jerusalem temple, and neither did Stephen.
 
To what extent was Jesus’ prophecy in Mark 13:1-2 fulfilled?
In 70 AD, the Roman general Titus sacked Jerusalem and razed the temple. Today, the lack of the remnant of this temple is so complete -- “not one stone” is “left on another” -- that the Wailing Wall -- a facade for the foundation for this temple -- serves as Judaism’s most revered site.
 
And did Jesus say that He will “change the customs which Moses delivered to” the Jews?
Read Matthew 5: 17-18: Jesus did destroy their “customs,” but they weren’t from Moses; they had made those up on their own.
 
What really happened in this passage?
This group of Jews couldn’t “resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which” Stephen spoke, so they “stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council” so that Jesus could once again be preached to Israel’s leaders as in the next chapter.
 

Read Acts 7:1-4
 
Who asked, “Are these things so?” in verse 1?
The “high priest” (Acts 7:1), who was either Caiaphas, still the official high priest, or Annas, his father-in-law who had been removed as the high priest by the Romans.
 
Who is the responder and to whom does he address his response?
It’s Stephen, and his response is addressed to “Men, brethren and fathers (older men).” Instead of defending himself or seeking to appease the high priest, Stephen is starting to give a sermon to the Sanhedrin and to the others who were gathered.
 
Where is “Mesopotamia” (Acts 7:2)?
Mesopotamia is a Greek word that literally means, “Meso” or “between” “Potamia” or “rivers”, and refers the land between the two rivers of Tigris and Euphrates about 500 miles east of Israel.
 
What does this mean about the ethnic origin of Abraham and the Jews of the Old Testament?
It traces back to the modern day Iraq.
 
Where is “Haran”? (Acts 7:4)
Haran is an ancient city about 300 miles northeast of Israel in the modern Turkey. Today, it is no more than a ruin next to a small village. But during the times of Abraham, it was a major city strategically positioned on a major road connecting even larger cities.
 
Who are the “Chaldeans”? (Acts 7:4)
Chaldeans were the people who inhabited Chaldea, the southern province of the ancient Mesopotamia. It’s capital was Ur, which was near the modern city of Nasiriya in southern Iraq.
 
So what is Stephen claiming?
Abraham is originally from Chaldea of Mesopotamia (southern Iraq). On God’s command, he moved northwest to Haran, and when his father died, moved southwest to Canaan, the promised land, which is Israel today.
 
Is he right?
Look back at Genesis 11:31-12:5
 
What is the “it” that Stephen is referring to in Acts 7:5?
The “land” (Acts 7:4) that God promised to Abraham: “Then He said to him, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’”
 
To what “foreign country” (Acts 7:6) and “nation to whom they will be in bondage” (Acts 7:7) is he referring?
Egypt, where Abraham’s descendants will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years before being delivered.
 
When did God tell Abraham about the bondage of his descendants and His deliverance?
Read Exodus 4: 22-23:
 
Read Acts 7:8-10
 
When did God give Abraham “the covenant of circumcision”?
Genesis 17: 10-11: “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”
 
If Abraham “begot” Isaac, Isaac “begot” Jacob, and Jacob “begot” the 12 patriarchs, does John 3:16’s reference of Jesus being the “only begotten” son of God mean that He came after God the Father or that God the Father sired Jesus as Abraham sired Isaac, Isaac sired Jacob, etc.?
The original Greek word translated, “begot” in Acts 7:8 above is gennaio. The original Greek expression translated, “only begotten” in John 3:16 isn’t two words that mean “only” and “begotten” but a single, different word -- monogenes -- that as used means, “unparalleled” or “incomparable.”
 
Who are the “twelve patriarchs” mentioned in Acts 7:8?
Jacob’s 12 sons from whom came the 12 tribes of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin (see Genesis 29:31-30:24).
 
From what kinds of “anguish” (NLT) or “afflictions” (KJV) in verse 10 did God deliver Joseph?
God had Joseph sold to Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, Potiphar, who noticed God’s blessings through Joseph and made him the overseer of his house. When Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape and he ended up in prison, God prospered him even in prison (see Genesis 39:1-23).
 
Why did Pharaoh make Joseph “governor over Egypt” (Acts 7:10)?
God gave Pharaoh two troubling dreams and Joseph the ability to interpret those dreams, which foretold Egypt’s forthcoming famine, and pointed to Joseph’s God-given wisdom to manage it (see Genesis 41:1-45).
 
Read Act 7:11-16  
 
Who are the “fathers” (Acts 7:12) that Jacob sent to Egypt first, and eventually followed?
The patriarchs named above, excluding Joseph (see Genesis 42:1-47:12).
How many relatives did Joseph receive in Egypt?
“Seventy-five” (Acts 7:14).
 
What is written in Genesis?
Genesis 46:26-27: “All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.”
 
What is written in Exodus?
“All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already).” (Exodus 1:5)
 
What is written in Deuteronomy?
“Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.” (Deuteronomy 10:22)
 
How is “64” reconciled with what is written in Genesis 46:26-27?
Jacob also had a daughter named Dinah (Genesis 46:15), who is a sister of the 12 Patriarchs, and Asher had a daughter named Serah (Genesis 46:17), so indeed, “All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all.” And Jacob himself, as well as Joseph and his two sons, Mannaseh and Ephraim in Egypt counted for four more, so “All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.”
 
How about Exodus 1:5, which states that the “descendant” of Jacob were 70?
The same Hebrew word -- yarek -- is translated in English as “descendants” in Exodus 1:5 and “came from his body” in Genesis 46:26. Yarek literally means “loins, thigh, the area of genitals, the area of procreative power,” hence the above translations.
 
How about the “seventy-five people” in Acts 7:14?
Acts 7:14 states that “all his relatives” were 75 people, and “relatives” includes Joseph’s surviving sisters-in-law.
 
What is Stephen referring to in Acts 7:16?
The fact that the bones of Joseph were carried out from Egypt and eventually buried in the Samaritan city of Shechem (called “Nablus” today), after the Jews conquered the promised land: Joshua 24:32: “The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.” 
 
Who bought the place where the bones were buried - Abraham or Jacob?
Acts 7:16 says, “And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem,” while Joshua 24:32 says, “they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver.” 
  o which account is correct? Actually, they are both correct. Notice that Acts 7:16 states, “tomb”, while Joshua 24:32 states, “plot of ground.” Hamor and his sons were contemporaries of both Jacob and Abraham, who lived to be 175 years old and died when Jacob, his grandson, was 15 years old. Apparently, when Jacob returned to Canaan after years of servitude to his uncle, Laban (see Genesis 29:1-33:20), he bought the “plot of ground” around the “tomb” that belonged to his grandfather. A common error is to confuse Abraham’s ownership of this tomb in Shechem with the tomb that he bought in Hebron when his wife Sarah died and he had no place to bury her (see Genesis 23:1-20) and where he, as well as his son Isaac, were later buried (Genesis 49:29-32). These are two different tombs, since Hebron is south of Jerusalem, while Shechem is well north of it.
 
Read Acts 7:17-21
 
How can the later king not have known that Joseph was the one who saved his ancestor’s reign?
During the four centuries that the Hebrews spent in Egypt, the country went through two political upheavals. In the 17th century BC, all but the southern part of Egypt was conquered by the Hyksos, a Semitic people who came from the Middle East. There is dispute on whether this conquest was military, enabled by superior weaponry (e.g., possible introduction of the chariot, sharper arrow tips and stronger bows made of composite materials) or a more gradual migration lasting decades (less likely), but there is no dispute over the fact that the Hyksos reigned for just over a century until 1570 BC when Ahmose led the Egyptians in the south to kick the Hyksos out of Egypt and established the 18th Egyptian dynasty with himself as the new Pharaoh. So the “another king” wasn’t a descendant of the Pharaoh whose neck Joseph had saved, but was the descendent of Ahmose and therefore truly “another” king.
 
Why did the later “king” deal “treacherously” with the Hebrews in Egypt?
The Hebrew population had grown so fast that they outnumbered the Egyptians, and Pharaoh began to fear their uprising, especially if Egypt were to be attacked by another country. Read Exodus 1:6-14.
 
How did the king make the Hebrews “abandon their newborn babies so they would die”?
He tried to have the Hebrew midwives kill all newborn boys. When that didn’t work, he commanded that the newborn boys be thrown into the river, as recorded in Exodus 1:15-22:
 “Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them. So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.” 
 
How did the Pharaoh’s daughter take away Moses to bring up as her own?
Exodus 2: 1-10: When Moses’ mother could no longer hide him, she floated him down the river in a covered basket, watched by Moses’ older sister. When Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket and Moses, his sister offered to find a nurse for Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her mother -- i.e., Moses’ mother -- whom Pharaoh’s daughter offered to pay to nurse Moses for her. So Moses’ mother ended up getting paid to nurse her own son.
 
Read Acts 7:22-29 
 
What was Moses like at 40 years of age?
“Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22)
 
Why did Moses flee at the Hebrew’s words?
He had killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand, thinking that nobody had witnessed his murder. When he learned that his crime was known, he fled to escape being arrested and executed by Pharaoh. (see Exodus 2:11-15)
 
Read Acts 7:30-36
 
How did Moses react when God told him that He would send him to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews?
At first, he resisted: “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” (Exodus 4:10)
 
Since Acts 7:22 says that he was “mighty in words,” was Moses lying to God about being “slow of speech and slow of tongue”?
No, the Moses who was “mighty in words” had become “slow of speech and slow of tongue” after 40 years of being a shepherd, and this wasn’t by accident. Relying on the “wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22) and his own words and deeds, Moses had “supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand.” (Acts 7:25) The result was failure, murder and self-exile. God may have intended for the 40 years to be a period during which to cleanse Moses of the “wisdom” of Egypt, as well as his self-reliance, pride and human abilities, so that there would be no mistake that Israel was delivered “by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush,” not Moses’ hand.
 
What kinds of “wonders and signs” were shown in Egypt, Red Sea and the wilderness?
Egypt was hit by 10 plagues. The Red Sea was parted. And God led, fed and gave them water for 40 years in the wilderness (see Exodus 5:1-17:7).
 
Read Acts7:37-41
 
When did Moses say “The Lord your God will raise up a Prophet like me from among your own people.”?
In Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”
 
How do we respond to the cults and religions that refer to this verse to legitimize their leader?
Keep reading in Deuteronomy 18:19-22: “And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ -- when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” 
 
Notice that a prophecy coming true does not automatically qualify the person as a prophet of God, since those possessed by Satan can also foretell the future to a limited extent through demonic -- not Godly -- powers, hence the proliferation of fortune tellers. But a prophecy that does not come true, as is the case for those uttered by the leaders of cults and the other religions, disqualifies the person as a prophet of God.
 
In verse 38, what “lively oracle” did Moses receive to give to Israel?
The instructions that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, including the Ten Commandments.
 
What is the First Commandment?
“You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)
 
What qualifies as such “gods”?
Anything that you put “before” God.
 
Such as?
It could be something distant and remote as a Hindu god or something close like your work, wealth, house, car, favorite TV show or sport and even family or friends. It is everything and everyone that you “end up” prioritizing or that get in your way of obeying, worshipping and glorifying God.
What is the Second Commandment?
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”
 
Why did God limit this Commandment to just “carved” images instead of including “all” images?
There were no oil paintings on canvas in those days. To those who received this Commandment, “carved” images were “all” images, as to us today. God knows our visual nature (He made us) and our inclination to worship what we can see and/or touch, and gave us this Commandment to specifically prohibit it.
 
Can we at least hang and worship images of Jesus?
No. For one, we don’t know what He looked like, other than that He wasn’t handsome: “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:2) More importantly, God’s interdiction above includes even His own image (“in heaven above”). God is far too great to be portrayed visually, and He wants us to worship Him directly in spirit, not through images of any kind.
 
When did Israelites turn their hearts back to Egypt and make and offer sacrifices to a golden calf?
They made and sacrificed to a golden calf when Moses was with God on Mount Sinai and didn’t descend for a while (see Exodus 32:1-35). As for turning their hearts back to Egypt, it was a constant, recurring affair. At the Red Sea, in the desert, at Mount Sinai and even in the Promised Land, whenever things became a bit uncomfortable, the Israelites complained and talked of how good things had been in Egypt, which was untrue.
 
Read Acts 7:42-43
 
Where in the book of the Prophets is this written?
In the book of the prophet Amos 5: 25-27: “’Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,’ says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.” 
 
Who are “Sikkuth,” “Chiun,” “Moloch,” and “Remphan”?
“Moloch” was an ox-headed idol to whom the pagans used to sacrifice their children. “Remphan” was a celestial body, supposedly the planet Saturn, that the Egyptians used to worship. Both are Greek names (Stephen, who was speaking, was a Hellenist). “Sikkuth” and “Chiun” are the Hebrew names, respectively, of these idols. Not having heeded God’s command to drive out all pagans from the Promised Land, the Hebrews were constantly dabbling in and ensnarled by their pagan idolatry, even to the extent of worshipping distant stars and planets from their days in Egyptian captivity. The result was a return to painful captivity, so that they can once again turn to God and cry out to Him in repentance for deliverance. Sound familiar?
 
Why does Acts 7:43 and Amos 5:27 respectively say, “beyond Babylon” and “beyond Damascus”?
When the Jews were conquered and exiled to the far corners of Babylonia, they passed Damascus, the current capital of Syria, on their way.
 
Read Acts 7:44-50
 
What “tabernacle” is Stephen talking about above?
See Exodus 25:1-27:21: It was an elaborate, large mobile tent where the ark of the covenant that contained the stone tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments were housed, incense to God burnt, and in the courtyard of which burnt animal sacrifices were presented to God while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and until their conquest of the Promised Land ended. 
 
What house did Solomon build for God?
Stephen is talking about the first temple of Jerusalem, and is quick to point out that God, the divine Creator for whom the earth is merely a footstool, doesn’t actually live in temples made with human hands.
 
Why does he say that?
Stephen wasn’t giving a history lecture to those who already knew it. They had accused him of blaspheming against Moses, the law and the temple in Jerusalem. Stephen had been preaching to point out that Moses and the temple weren’t to be worshipped. Moses was a murderer who couldn’t even speak properly, and the temple wasn’t holy. God doesn’t live in it and it doesn’t even house the bones of the ancestors whom they revere. Those bones are up in the land of the Samaritans whom the Jews despised as unclean half-breeds. As for the law, while God was giving it to Moses, their forefathers had been busy making and worshipping idols. Stephen is clearing off the table his audience’s idols, and continues below.
 
Read Acts 7:51-53
 
Is it true that the Jews persecuted the prophets?
Throughout the Old Testament, God used prophets to correct Israel when the people sinned against God. But the people didn’t want to listen and kept persecuting the prophets. Even Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)
 
Who else is Stephen saying that they betrayed and murdered?
Jesus, the “Just One” who had been foretold by the prophets. This is the climax of Stephen’s sermon. After tearing into their idolatry of Moses, their laws, their ancestry, their land and their temple, Stephen concludes by pointing out that the only one who deserved their worship -- Jesus Christ -- was the one they betrayed and killed. Calling members of the revered Sanhedrin, “uncircumcised” in any shape or form was a stinging rebuke. What is commonly known as the longest sermon given by a disciple of Christ in the entire New Testament is also arguably the hardest hitting, and the vessel wasn’t even one of the twelve Apostles.
 
Read Acts 7:51-56
 
What was the Sanhedrin’s response?
They were so incensed that “they gnashed at him with their teeth.”
 
What was Jesus’ response?
He was so pleased with Stephen that He opened the heavens and let Stephen see Him in His glory in heaven, and perhaps to invite him up right then and there.
 
Read Acts 7:57-60
 
What didn’t the Sanhedrin do?
They were so angry with Stephen that they just killed him without even bothering to take him to the Romans to have him crucified.
 
Why did they lay down “their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58)?
Stoning typically involved immobilizing the victim by binding his or her hands and feet, pushing him or her over a short cliff if one is available, and then picking up and throwing down sizeable rocks to crush the victim below (The cliff was typically high enough to give the dropped rocks velocity and perhaps for the fall to break the legs of the victim but not high enough for the fall itself to kill the victim). Layers of clothes that would impede picking up and heaving rocks were apparently left with a “young man named Saul” who most likely was too young to participate in the execution but old and eager enough to play the role of cloakroom attendant for the executioners.
 
What became of Saul?
He became one of the greatest persecutors of Christians until God turned him into one of His greatest apostles and the pen with which to write two-thirds of the New Testament.
 
How did Stephen die?
Forgiving his murderers and asking Jesus to receive his spirit, like Jesus asked the Father while on the cross. Stephen didn’t have a long ministry. He didn’t spend decades taking the Gospel to distant lands like Saul would later do. He died after giving one sermon in front of the Sanhedrin, but what a sermon it was. The God-inspired and pleasing courage with which he -- a nobody in the eyes of the world -- presented the Truth to the most powerful men of his day should inspire all present and future nobodies in the eyes of the world.
 
ACTS 8
 
Read Acts 8:1-4
 
Who died and why?
Stephen, one of the seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem, was stoned to death after delivering a riveting and stinging sermon to the Sanhedrin, thereby becoming the first Christian martyr.
 
Why would “devout men” lament over Stephen? Shouldn’t they have rejoiced at his stellar sermon and courage? And why might Luke have noted that “great lamentation” was made over Stephen?
Jewish law prohibited public mourning of any kind for a condemned criminal. By making “great lamentation” over Stephen’s death, these devout men were publicly celebrating him, conveying that he was not a criminal but as righteous man, and also in effect protesting against those who killed him.
 
Who was Saul and how was he “consenting to his death”? (Read excursus)
Saul was the “young man” who looked after the clothes of the mob while they stoned Stephen and thereafter “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”
 
What is meant by “every house”?
It could mean literally every single house that exists in Jerusalem, or it could mean every house that Saul suspected of having Christians or was even able to locate, or it could mean “every” in the figurative sense of him having been very vigorous in his endeavors, like saying a basketball player was “everywhere” on the basketball court during a game.
 
What do you think happened to these Christians in prison?
Read Acts 26:10: “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” So many of them were killed. Saul (Paul) had blood on his hands. He was a murderer of Christians.
 
What does Paul say about that later on?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:9: “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
 
Who among the Christians stayed in Jerusalem?
“The apostles.”
 
Why were the other Christians in Jerusalem “scattered”?
Saul might have thought at the time that they scattered to avoid persecution and some of the Christians who scattered might have thought that as well. But the spiritual reason is that they scattered for the Godly purpose of “preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4) In fact, the original Greek word for “scattered” is diaspeiro, from which we get the English word, diaspora, and means “to sow throughout,” or “to disperse.” So this is “scattering” as in scattering seed, not running away. Whenever a truly Christians church grows, Satan attacks, but God uses that persecution for His purposes, to spread the gospel to other parts of the world, as happened again when the later persecution in Europe spread the Gospel to North America. Satan trying to extinguish Jesus’ work is like trying to extinguish an oil fire by throwing water on it -- all it does is to spread the fire and make it bigger.
 
To what extent did Jesus foresee this scattering?
Read Acts 1:8. He didn’t just foresee it; He commanded it.
 
Read Acts 8:5-8
 
Who is this Philip?
Read Acts 6:5: Like Stephen, he is one of the seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem.
 
Where is “Samaria”?
Samaria is the capital city of the province by the same name in the middle of Israel and where the Samaritans lived.
 
Where did Samaritans come from?
Read the Samaritan history in II Kings 17:1-41
 
How much love was lost between the Samaritans and the Jews?
Very little, if any. The Jews despised the Samaritan ancestry, which stemmed from the pagan immigrants from Assyria intermarrying with the low-class Jews who had been left behind by Sargon II of Assyria who succeeded Shalmaneser during the three year siege of Samaria (the upper-class Jews were exiled as above). The Jews rejected the Samaritans as an unclean race, and the Samaritans in turn rejected the Jews. By the time of Acts, the Samaritans claimed God of Abraham and Jacob as theirs, but rejected the Hebrew Tanakh except for the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) [also Torah] and worshipped in their own temple built on Mount Gerizim. Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, Nebi’im and Ketuvim (Law, Prophets and Writings).
 
What changed when the Gospel began to be shared in Samaria?
The love of Jesus flowed, healed and smothered racial differences. Even today, the love of Jesus still conquers even the strongest racial animosities (e.g., between Jewish and Arab Christians).
 
Read Acts 8:9-12 
 
To whom did the Samaritans attribute Simon’s powers?
“God.” (Acts 8:10)
 
Were they right?
No, he “practiced sorcery” (Acts 8:9), so his powers were demonic.
 
Why did they “heed” Simon? Why did they “believe” Philip and what does it affirm?
They had “heeded” Simon because he “astonished” them with supernatural signs, but they “believed” Philip for his message, “as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 8:12). And their belief affirms that the Gospel and the name of Jesus Christ overpowers even long-held demonic strongholds.
 
Could demonic powers be mistaken as Godly powers today?
Jesus warned in Matthew 24:24: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
 
How can demonic “signs” be distinguished from Godly signs?
While both signs are supernatural, they can be distinguished by what they point to. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve and glorify Jesus are Godly. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve or glorify anything or anyone else are not. Would we think some televangelists here?
 
Read Acts 8:13-25  
 
What objectives were achieved by Peter and John coming to Samaria?
At least four: (1) they prayed for the new converts to receive the Holy Spirit; (2) they rebuked Simon and kept him out of the ministry; (3) they preached “the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans” on their way back to Jerusalem; and (4) as the leaders among even the apostles, they returned with first-hand evidences with which to address any skepticism from Jewish Christian about God’s grace being extended to the Samaritans, whom they despised.
 
How does Acts 8:16 compare with Acts 2:38: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”? In Acts 8:16 above, the new believers had been “baptized in the name of Jesus” but had yet to “receive the Holy Spirit” while in Acts 2:38, being “baptized in the name of Jesus” appears to have been followed by the “gift of the Holy Spirit.” 
First, a subtle distinction should be made regarding the word translated “in” in these two verses. The original Greek word in Acts 2:38 is epi, which means “on” or “upon,” but in Acts 8:16 is eis, which means “to” or “into” in the sense of “indicating the point reached.” So the phrase, “baptized in the name of Jesus” in Acts 2:38 indicates “how” to be baptized (“in the name of Jesus”), while the phrase in Acts 8:16 indicates that the new believers had reached the point of being baptized.
 
When are the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit given in relation to when we become Christian?
Since we cannot even be drawn to God without the Holy Spirit working on us, His presence “on” us actually precedes our conversion. He takes up residence “in” us at the moment of conversion, and the giving of the “gift”(s) of the Holy Spirit, which both Acts 2:38 and Acts 8:16 (see Acts 8:20) deal with, can take place at any point thereafter.
 
But don’t Acts 8:15 and 18 state that the people had yet to receive the Holy Spirit even though they already “believed” (Acts 8:12)?
If we read just those passages, it leads to that conclusion, but the passage should be read to its end. Peter specifies in Acts 8:20 that what Simon wanted was the “gift of God.” Since the Holy Spirit is the triune God, this phrase could also read, “gift of the Holy Spirit.” Moreover, Acts 8:18 states that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was visible to the eye, which isn’t the case for the conversion of the human heart upon the entrance of the Holy Spirit.
 
But wasn’t the Holy Spirit visible as a dove when He descended on Jesus upon His baptism?
Yes, but it was for the unique purpose of identifying Jesus as the Son of God to John the Baptist: “And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34).
 
Why might the Lord have delayed the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans until Peter and John’s arrival?
To have them return to Jerusalem and share with the skeptics the “proof” that God had planted a church even among the despised Samaritans.
 
Was Simon a believer?
Acts 8:13 says, he “believed” and that he was even baptized, but the rest of the above passage qualifies his belief.
 
What are some of those “qualifications” to his belief?
Peter told Simon to “perish” (Acts 8:20), that Simon had “wickedness” (Acts 8:22) but “neither part nor portion” with them (Acts 8:21), that his heart is “not right” with God (Acts 8:21) but “poisoned by bitterness and bound by inequity” (Acts 8:23). This is not the description of someone who had been born again through Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Someone who is bound by “inequity,” which means “sin,” isn’t someone whose sins have been wiped clean by the blood of Jesus, so Simon was not a believer in the true sense. According to historians, Simon later became an enemy of the church and died as one.
 
What English word did Simon give us?
“Simony,” which means the buying or selling of church office or privileges.
 
Then why does Acts 8:13 state that Simon “believed”?
For the same reason that James sarcastically chastises in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!” The Greek word translated “believed” is pisteuo, which can mean “to think to be true” or “to trust” or “to have Christian faith.” Both Simon and the demons thought it true that God is God, but they didn’t have Christian faith -- Jesus wasn’t their personal Lord and Savior.
 
What did Simon want?
The “power” (Acts 8:19) that he saw. Wanting the power of God or anything else “of God” but not Him is “wickedness.”
 
What prerequisite to properly serving the Lord is mentioned in the above passage?
Read Acts 8:21: heart that is “right in the sight of God.”
 
What does this mean?
Heart that is focused on glorifying God, not oneself or anyone else or anything else.
 
Read Acts 8:26-31
 
In which direction did Philip travel?
Samaria, where he was, is north of Jerusalem, while Gaza is southwest of Jerusalem, so he travelled in a south-southwesterly direction.
 
Where was “Ethiopia”?
The Greek word translated “Ethiopia” is Aithiops, which referred not to the modern nation of Ethiopia but to the ancient kingdom of Nubia, which stretched from the southern edge of modern Egypt to central Sudan (today). Therefore this Ethiopia was located in northern Sudan and to the northwest of the modern nation of Ethiopia.
 
Who was “Candace”?
“Candace” wasn’t a person’s name but the title given to the mother of the king, not unlike the “Pharaoh” for the Egyptian ruler. In Nubia/ancient Ethiopia, the job of managing the nation was given to the mother of the king, as it was considered too low a task for the king, who was thought to be the son of the sun.
 
Who was the “eunuch”?
In order to protect the king’s harem in early royal courts, as well as to deter assassination of the king aimed at eventually benefitting the children of the assasin, men who served the king inside the palace were required to be emasculated. Over time, “eunuch” became synonymous with a high government official -- the Treasury Secretary or Finance Minister in this case -- so it is unclear if this political eunuch was also one biologically. But given that “he had come to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27) and the Law stated, “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1) it is likely that the gentleman was still happily intact.
 
Was he a Jew?
No, he was a gentile, so either a “God-fearer” or more likely a “proselyte.” God-fearers were gentiles who believed in and feared the Hebrew God, sat and listened in synagogues but could not participate. Proselytes were former God-fearers who had been circumcised and bound themselves to keeping the Mosaic laws, and therefore could participate in the Passover and other Jewish celebrations.
 
Who told Philip to catch up to the eunuch?
The Holy Spirit.
 
How was Philip able to hear what the eunuch was reading?
In those days, all reading was customarily done aloud, even when alone.
 
Read Acts 8:32-40
 
Where in Isaiah was he reading?
Isaiah 53:7-8.
 
What is the Biblical criteria for being baptized?
“If you believe with all your heart” (Acts 8:37) what the Bible teaches about Jesus, and as is evident from the phrase “with all your heart,” the “belief” here means “to have Christian faith,” not simply “to think to be true” as discussed above.
 
What might the eunuch have concluded about Philip?
Given the way he disappeared from his sight, possibly an angel.
 
What happened to Philip after Caesarea?
Read Acts 21:7-9 which is from about 20 years later: “And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.”
 
What happened to this eunuch?
According to Irenaeus, a second century church writer, he returned to his country and shared the Gospel. By the Fourth Century, Christianity became the country’s official religion.
 

 
Read Acts 9:1-2  
 
Why sort of “letters” do you think Paul sought from the high priest?
Arrest warrants authorizing him to arrest Christians in Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem.
 
Why did he want to go and arrest Christians in Damascus?
Go back to Acts 8:3-4: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” He had already made havoc of the church in Jerusalem and scattered the Christians. He now wished to chase after, arrest and bring them back to the Jerusalem as prisoners.
 
What is the name of the high priest?
Given that he would have issued an official letter to introduce Saul, it would have been Caiaphas, the official high priest, rather than Annas, his father-in-law and former high priest who had been pushed out by the Roman but who still wielded power behind the scenes.
 
What do you think the high priest thought of Saul?
He most likely couldn’t say enough nice things about Saul.
 
Read Acts 9:3-8 
 
Have you ever wondered whether Saul had been walking or riding a horse?
Some have argued that he must have been riding a horse, reasoning that since Damascus is about 150 miles from Jerusalem, he would have wanted to ride a horse to get there faster. But such reasoning is not substantiated. The verses above simply state that “he fell to the ground” (Acts 9:4), not that he fell off a horse. Also, the men who journeyed with Saul “stood” (Acts 9:7) speechless, which means that they were on foot; since a group can travel only as fast as its slowest member. Having had companions on foot refutes the notion that Saul would have been on horseback because he wanted to get to Damascus faster. And had there been a horse among them, it also would have been easier to put the blinded Saul on it and then lead the horse, which can see, by its rein, as opposed to leading a blinded man “by the hand.” (Acts 9:8).
 
Why didn’t “the men who journeyed with” (Acts 9:7) Saul fall to the ground as well?
They did fall: “... I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice ...” (Acts 26:13-14), but apparently had gotten up and “stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.” (Acts 9:7)
 
Who was speaking to Saul?
Jesus: “I am Jesus.” (Acts 9:5)
 
Since Jesus ascended to heaven, did He come back for a visit before his second coming?
No, a “light shone... from heaven” (Acts 9:3) just as Saul heard Jesus, who had earlier declared Himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), so the Lord was speaking from heaven.
 
Is it accurate to say that Saul persecuted Jesus?
Since Christians are the “Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), when Saul persecuted Christians, he was persecuting Jesus.
 
How is this different today?
It isn’t. Anyone who persecutes a Christian is persecuting Jesus.
 
What are “goads” (Acts 9:6)?
A goad is a long rod with a sharp end that is used to prick an animal to move or to move in a different direction.
 
What is Jesus saying by it being hard for Saul to “kick against the goads”?
Kicking against the goads is what a stubborn animal does, thereby further hurting and infuriating itself. Jesus was saying that in the process of persecuting Christians, Saul was hurting and infuriating himself. Since he wasn’t hurting himself physically, the Lord is most likely referring to the impact on Saul’s conscience.
 
How would persecuting Christians hurt Saul’s conscience?
Instead of behaving like criminals, the Christians he was arresting, imprisoning and killing most likely exuded grace, confidence and forgiveness. Stephen’s words and demeanor as he was martyred may also have stayed with him. Saul may have even tried to overcome the effect on his conscience by persecuting more vehemently, with aggravating effect.
 
Did Saul’s travel companions hear Jesus as well?
According to Acts 9:7, “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.” But according to Acts 22:9, “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.”
 
Which account is correct?
The root Greek word translated “hearing” in Acts 9:7 and “hear” in Acts 22:9 is akouo, which means “to hear” in the audible sense but also “to hear” in the sense of comprehending or understanding. Saul’s travel companions audibly heard a voice (Acts 9:7) but did not comprehend it (Acts 22:9), so both accounts are correct.
 
Why did Saul call Jesus “Lord” in Acts 9:5 if he didn’t know who Jesus was?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “Lord” is the unpronounceable Yhvh, a name which specifically refers to the God of the Bible (to make it pronounceable, Yhvh is referred to as Yahweh, Yahovah or even Jehovah after the addition of vowels). Since there is no equivalent in Greek, kyrios, the Greek word which means “master” or “lord” is used in the New Testament to refer to the God of the Bible. In Acts 9:5, however, Saul is using kyrios in its general sense.
 
What didn’t Saul do during his first three days in Damascus?
He “neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:9)
 
How do you think he felt and what do you think he did during those three days?
Saul had thought he was doing his best to serve God by arresting and killing Christians. Upon realizing that he in fact had been persecuting God and murdering innocent true followers, he was most likely deep in prayer of repentance.
 
Read Acts 9:10-12
 
To whom did the Lord communicate “in a vision”?
To both Ananias (Acts 9:10) and Saul (Acts 9:12)
 
What is remarkable about the Lord’s directions to Ananias?
The Creator of the universe specifically indicating the name of a street and the house.
 
Why do you think the street was named “Straight”?
The “Straight Street” or Via Recta in Latin, was a straight east-west thoroughfare through Damascus built by the Greeks after the city came under Alexander the Great’s rule. During the subsequent Roman rule, the Straight Street was widened and colonnades added to it.
 
What happened to the Straight Street since then?
It’s still there and you can still see the evidence of the colonnades.
 
Read Acts 9:13-18 
 
What is wrong with Ananias’s response to the Lord?
He is trying to inform God of what’s going on.
 
Did Saul’s many sufferings during his ministry for Jesus’ name come as a surprise to him?
No, God showed him, “how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16) even before his ministry began.
 
How can this message of suffering in Jesus’ name in Christian ministry be reconciled with the health, wealth and prosperity that many modern preachers promise for those who follow Jesus?
The two messages cannot be reconciled. One is the truth from God Himself, and the other is a dangerous and deceitful half-truth from people interested in expanding, as well as justifying, their wealth and power.
 
What else did Jesus explain to Ananias?
That He had already appeared to Saul “on the road” (Acts 9:17) and that Saul was to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17)
 
Read Acts 9:19-25
 
How might the disciples have felt meeting and spending time with Saul?
While rejoicing and marveling at the grace and the power of God to convert, it probably also felt a bit surreal to fellowship with the man who until days earlier had been their chief persecutor.
 
Who might have felt even more surreal?
The Jews who gave Saul the floor at the synagogue, expecting to hear him condemn the Christians, only to be “amazed” (Acts 9:21) and “confounded” (Acts 9:22) to have the table turned on them.
 
When did Saul began to preach and what did he share?
“Immediately” (Acts 9:20) and he shared as much as he knew by then -- that Jesus “is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). No more and no less is required of Christians today as we grow in the knowledge of Jesus.
 
How many days were the “many days” after which the Jews plotted to kill him?
The Greek word translated “many” is hikanos, which also means “enough,” “adequate” or “sufficient,” so Acts 9:23 is expressing that the Jews plotted to kill Saul after enough time had passed, which was actually three years as recounted in Galatians 1:13-18 (read)
 
Where did Saul spend those “three years”?
If by “then” in Acts 9:18 Saul is referencing his return to Damascus, then he spent it in Damascus. But if he is referencing his conversion, then at least some and probably most of it was spent in “Arabia” (Galatians 1:17), presumably to be trained and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the ministry that lay ahead. Three elements tip the scale in favor of the latter scenario. Firstly, the Greek word translated “then” is epeita, which also means simply “later” or “afterwards.” Secondly, it is doubtful that the Jews in Damascus would have put up with Saul’s betrayal of their cause and let him preach for three years under their noses. Thirdly, the thrust of Saul’s point in Galatians 1:16-18 is that he didn’t go to see Peter in Jerusalem right away.
Where is “Arabia”?
During Saul’s time, “Arabia” (Galatians 1:17) referred to the kingdom of the Nabatean Arabs that stretched from Damascus to the Red Sea, covering parts of modern Syria, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It was much smaller compared to modern Saudi Arabia.
 
Who were the “Jews” who “plotted to kill” Saul in Damascus as per Acts 9:23?
II Corinthians 11:32-33 states that it wasn’t just the Jews in Damascus, who apparently had the local governor and his garrison on their side: “In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”

Read Acts 9:26-31
 
Why didn’t the disciples believe Saul to be a disciple?
The last time they saw him, he was arresting and killing Christians, and having escaped from Damascus in a “basket” (Acts 9:25) most likely on his own, he had come without a witness who could substantiate his claim of conversion.
 
Why isn’t it surprising that “Barnabas” (Acts 9:27) was the one courageous one?
The name of this man of action literally meant, “Son of Encouragement.” “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36-37)
 
How long did Saul stay in Jerusalem?
“Fifteen days” (Galatians 1:18)
 
What did he do during those 15 days?
“So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists” (Acts 9:28-29), meaning the Hellenist Jews against whom Stephen, the first Christian martyr, had disputed.
 
Had they learned from their murderous error?
Apparently not, since they “attempted to kill” (Acts 9:29) Saul as well.
 
What did the church do about it?
“They brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:30)
 
Why Caesarea and Tarsus?
Tarsus is Saul’s home town - “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:39) -- so Saul probably had family in Tarsus with whom he could stay, away from the murderous plot on his life in Jerusalem, and also because Tarsus, as apparent later, was where the Lord wanted him to start his ministry. And Caesarea is the main port of Israel where they would have put Saul on a ship to Tarsus, some 250 miles to the north.
 
Is there a need to reconcile Acts 9:27 with Galatians 1:18-19?
Acts 9:27 states that Saul spoke to “apostles,” while Galatians 1:18-19 states, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” Since Peter and James comprise “apostles” on their own, there is no need to reconcile the two passages.
 
Why did the churches across the country have peace all of a sudden?
For one, God had turned the chief prosecutor of Christians into the chief missionary to the gentiles. For another, the Jewish rulers were busy dealing with Caligula, who had become the Roman Emperor upon Tiberius’ death and was trying to erect a statue to himself in the Jerusalem temple.
 
Read Acts 9:32-35  
 
Where is Lydda and Sharon?
Lydda is a town about 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem and in the fertile plain of Sharon.
 
Why was Aeneas healed?
To restore his health, but also to make everyone in the region -- “all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon” (Acts 9:35) -- turn towards the Lord.
 
Read Acts 9:36-39  
 
Where is Joppa?
It’s on the Mediterranean Sea about 15 miles northwest of Lydda. Also called “Yafo” or “Jaffa” in Hebrew, Joppa is the nearest port to Jerusalem, about 40 miles to the southeast.
 
Who lay dead?
A woman “disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas” (Acts 9:36). Tabitha (Aramaic) and Dorcas, its Greek translation both mean “Gazelle”.
 
What were some of her “charitable deeds”?
She made “tunics and garments” (Acts 9:39), which the widows most likely showed to Peter because she had given them to other people.
 
Read Acts 9:40-43
 
Of what is Peter raising Tabitha reminiscent?
Jesus raising Talitha in Mark 5:38-42: “Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement.”
 
What is the main difference between the two incidents?
Jesus raised the dead in His own power. Peter “prayed” (Acts 9:40) to the Lord to raise Tabitha. As such, both raisings were more similar than different: both dead people were raised by Jesus.
 
And what was the repercussion of raising Tabitha?
“Many believed on the Lord.” (Acts 9:42)
 
With whom did Peter stay in Joppa?
“with Simon, a tanner.” (Acts 9:43)
 
Why is that poignant and significant?
Peter would not have been predisposed to stay with a tanner, whom the Jewish law deemed unclean. Leviticus 11: 26-28 says: “The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean. And whatever goes on its paws, among all kinds of animals that go on all fours, those are unclean to you. Whoever touches any such carcass shall be unclean until evening. Whoever carries any such carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. It is unclean to you.” The Jews already considered gentiles to be unclean. By drawing Peter into the home of the dirtiest of the dirty, the Lord was breaking down barriers and preparing Peter as a vessel to pour out His blessing to the gentiles.
 

 
 
Read Acts 9:1-2  
 
Why sort of “letters” do you think Paul sought from the high priest?
Arrest warrants authorizing him to arrest Christians in Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem.
 
Why did he want to go and arrest Christians in Damascus?
Go back to Acts 8:3-4: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” He had already made havoc of the church in Jerusalem and scattered the Christians. He now wished to chase after, arrest and bring them back to the Jerusalem as prisoners.
 
What is the name of the high priest?
Given that he would have issued an official letter to introduce Saul, it would have been Caiaphas, the official high priest, rather than Annas, his father-in-law and former high priest who had been pushed out by the Roman but who still wielded power behind the scenes.
 
What do you think the high priest thought of Saul?
He most likely couldn’t say enough nice things about Saul.
 
Read Acts 9:3-8 
 
Have you ever wondered whether Saul had been walking or riding a horse?
Some have argued that he must have been riding a horse, reasoning that since Damascus is about 150 miles from Jerusalem, he would have wanted to ride a horse to get there faster. But such reasoning is not substantiated. The verses above simply state that “he fell to the ground” (Acts 9:4), not that he fell off a horse. Also, the men who journeyed with Saul “stood” (Acts 9:7) speechless, which means that they were on foot; since a group can travel only as fast as its slowest member. Having had companions on foot refutes the notion that Saul would have been on horseback because he wanted to get to Damascus faster. And had there been a horse among them, it also would have been easier to put the blinded Saul on it and then lead the horse, which can see, by its rein, as opposed to leading a blinded man “by the hand.” (Acts 9:8).
 
Why didn’t “the men who journeyed with” (Acts 9:7) Saul fall to the ground as well?
They did fall: “... I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice ...” (Acts 26:13-14), but apparently had gotten up and “stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.” (Acts 9:7)
 
Who was speaking to Saul?
Jesus: “I am Jesus.” (Acts 9:5)
 
Since Jesus ascended to heaven, did He come back for a visit before his second coming?
No, a “light shone... from heaven” (Acts 9:3) just as Saul heard Jesus, who had earlier declared Himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), so the Lord was speaking from heaven.
 
Is it accurate to say that Saul persecuted Jesus?
Since Christians are the “Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), when Saul persecuted Christians, he was persecuting Jesus.
 
How is this different today?
It isn’t. Anyone who persecutes a Christian is persecuting Jesus.
 
What are “goads” (Acts 9:6)?
A goad is a long rod with a sharp end that is used to prick an animal to move or to move in a different direction.
 
What is Jesus saying by it being hard for Saul to “kick against the goads”?
Kicking against the goads is what a stubborn animal does, thereby further hurting and infuriating itself. Jesus was saying that in the process of persecuting Christians, Saul was hurting and infuriating himself. Since he wasn’t hurting himself physically, the Lord is most likely referring to the impact on Saul’s conscience.
 
How would persecuting Christians hurt Saul’s conscience?
Instead of behaving like criminals, the Christians he was arresting, imprisoning and killing most likely exuded grace, confidence and forgiveness. Stephen’s words and demeanor as he was martyred may also have stayed with him. Saul may have even tried to overcome the effect on his conscience by persecuting more vehemently, with aggravating effect.
 
Did Saul’s travel companions hear Jesus as well?
According to Acts 9:7, “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.” But according to Acts 22:9, “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.”
 
Which account is correct?
The root Greek word translated “hearing” in Acts 9:7 and “hear” in Acts 22:9 is akouo, which means “to hear” in the audible sense but also “to hear” in the sense of comprehending or understanding. Saul’s travel companions audibly heard a voice (Acts 9:7) but did not comprehend it (Acts 22:9), so both accounts are correct.
 
Why did Saul call Jesus “Lord” in Acts 9:5 if he didn’t know who Jesus was?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “Lord” is the unpronounceable Yhvh, a name which specifically refers to the God of the Bible (to make it pronounceable, Yhvh is referred to as Yahweh, Yahovah or even Jehovah after the addition of vowels). Since there is no equivalent in Greek, kyrios, the Greek word which means “master” or “lord” is used in the New Testament to refer to the God of the Bible. In Acts 9:5, however, Saul is using kyrios in its general sense.
 
What didn’t Saul do during his first three days in Damascus?
He “neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:9)
 
How do you think he felt and what do you think he did during those three days?
Saul had thought he was doing his best to serve God by arresting and killing Christians. Upon realizing that he in fact had been persecuting God and murdering innocent true followers, he was most likely deep in prayer of repentance.
 
Read Acts 9:10-12
 
To whom did the Lord communicate “in a vision”?
To both Ananias (Acts 9:10) and Saul (Acts 9:12)
 
What is remarkable about the Lord’s directions to Ananias?
The Creator of the universe specifically indicating the name of a street and the house.
 
Why do you think the street was named “Straight”?
The “Straight Street” or Via Recta in Latin, was a straight east-west thoroughfare through Damascus built by the Greeks after the city came under Alexander the Great’s rule. During the subsequent Roman rule, the Straight Street was widened and colonnades added to it.
 
What happened to the Straight Street since then?
It’s still there and you can still see the evidence of the colonnades.
 
Read Acts 9:13-18 
 
What is wrong with Ananias’s response to the Lord?
He is trying to inform God of what’s going on.
 
Did Saul’s many sufferings during his ministry for Jesus’ name come as a surprise to him?
No, God showed him, “how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16) even before his ministry began.
 
How can this message of suffering in Jesus’ name in Christian ministry be reconciled with the health, wealth and prosperity that many modern preachers promise for those who follow Jesus?
The two messages cannot be reconciled. One is the truth from God Himself, and the other is a dangerous and deceitful half-truth from people interested in expanding, as well as justifying, their wealth and power.
 
What else did Jesus explain to Ananias?
That He had already appeared to Saul “on the road” (Acts 9:17) and that Saul was to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17)
 
Read Acts 9:19-25
 
How might the disciples have felt meeting and spending time with Saul?
While rejoicing and marveling at the grace and the power of God to convert, it probably also felt a bit surreal to fellowship with the man who until days earlier had been their chief persecutor.
 
Who might have felt even more surreal?
The Jews who gave Saul the floor at the synagogue, expecting to hear him condemn the Christians, only to be “amazed” (Acts 9:21) and “confounded” (Acts 9:22) to have the table turned on them.
 
When did Saul began to preach and what did he share?
“Immediately” (Acts 9:20) and he shared as much as he knew by then -- that Jesus “is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). No more and no less is required of Christians today as we grow in the knowledge of Jesus.
 
How many days were the “many days” after which the Jews plotted to kill him?
The Greek word translated “many” is hikanos, which also means “enough,” “adequate” or “sufficient,” so Acts 9:23 is expressing that the Jews plotted to kill Saul after enough time had passed, which was actually three years as recounted in Galatians 1:13-18 (read)
 
Where did Saul spend those “three years”?
If by “then” in Acts 9:18 Saul is referencing his return to Damascus, then he spent it in Damascus. But if he is referencing his conversion, then at least some and probably most of it was spent in “Arabia” (Galatians 1:17), presumably to be trained and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the ministry that lay ahead. Three elements tip the scale in favor of the latter scenario. Firstly, the Greek word translated “then” is epeita, which also means simply “later” or “afterwards.” Secondly, it is doubtful that the Jews in Damascus would have put up with Saul’s betrayal of their cause and let him preach for three years under their noses. Thirdly, the thrust of Saul’s point in Galatians 1:16-18 is that he didn’t go to see Peter in Jerusalem right away.
Where is “Arabia”?
During Saul’s time, “Arabia” (Galatians 1:17) referred to the kingdom of the Nabatean Arabs that stretched from Damascus to the Red Sea, covering parts of modern Syria, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It was much smaller compared to modern Saudi Arabia.
 
Who were the “Jews” who “plotted to kill” Saul in Damascus as per Acts 9:23?
II Corinthians 11:32-33 states that it wasn’t just the Jews in Damascus, who apparently had the local governor and his garrison on their side: “In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”
 
Read Acts 9:26-31
 
Why didn’t the disciples believe Saul to be a disciple?
The last time they saw him, he was arresting and killing Christians, and having escaped from Damascus in a “basket” (Acts 9:25) most likely on his own, he had come without a witness who could substantiate his claim of conversion.
 
Why isn’t it surprising that “Barnabas” (Acts 9:27) was the one courageous one?
The name of this man of action literally meant, “Son of Encouragement.” “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36-37)
 
How long did Saul stay in Jerusalem?
“Fifteen days” (Galatians 1:18)
 
What did he do during those 15 days?
“So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists” (Acts 9:28-29), meaning the Hellenist Jews against whom Stephen, the first Christian martyr, had disputed.
 
Had they learned from their murderous error?
Apparently not, since they “attempted to kill” (Acts 9:29) Saul as well.
 
What did the church do about it?
“They brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:30)
 
Why Caesarea and Tarsus?
Tarsus is Saul’s home town - “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:39) -- so Saul probably had family in Tarsus with whom he could stay, away from the murderous plot on his life in Jerusalem, and also because Tarsus, as apparent later, was where the Lord wanted him to start his ministry. And Caesarea is the main port of Israel where they would have put Saul on a ship to Tarsus, some 250 miles to the north.
 
Is there a need to reconcile Acts 9:27 with Galatians 1:18-19?
Acts 9:27 states that Saul spoke to “apostles,” while Galatians 1:18-19 states, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” Since Peter and James comprise “apostles” on their own, there is no need to reconcile the two passages.
 
Why did the churches across the country have peace all of a sudden?
For one, God had turned the chief prosecutor of Christians into the chief missionary to the gentiles. For another, the Jewish rulers were busy dealing with Caligula, who had become the Roman Emperor upon Tiberius’ death and was trying to erect a statue to himself in the Jerusalem temple.
 
Read Acts 9:32-35  
 
Where is Lydda and Sharon?
Lydda is a town about 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem and in the fertile plain of Sharon.
 
Why was Aeneas healed?
To restore his health, but also to make everyone in the region -- “all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon” (Acts 9:35) -- turn towards the Lord.
 
Read Acts 9:36-39  
 
Where is Joppa?
It’s on the Mediterranean Sea about 15 miles northwest of Lydda. Also called “Yafo” or “Jaffa” in Hebrew, Joppa is the nearest port to Jerusalem, about 40 miles to the southeast.
 
Who lay dead?
A woman “disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas” (Acts 9:36). Tabitha (Aramaic) and Dorcas, its Greek translation both mean “Gazelle”.
 
What were some of her “charitable deeds”?
She made “tunics and garments” (Acts 9:39), which the widows most likely showed to Peter because she had given them to other people.
 
Read Acts 9:40-43
 
Of what is Peter raising Tabitha reminiscent?
Jesus raising Talitha in Mark 5:38-42: “Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement.”
 
What is the main difference between the two incidents?
Jesus raised the dead in His own power. Peter “prayed” (Acts 9:40) to the Lord to raise Tabitha. As such, both raisings were more similar than different: both dead people were raised by Jesus.
 
And what was the repercussion of raising Tabitha?
“Many believed on the Lord.” (Acts 9:42)
 
With whom did Peter stay in Joppa?
“with Simon, a tanner.” (Acts 9:43)
 
Why is that poignant and significant?
Peter would not have been predisposed to stay with a tanner, whom the Jewish law deemed unclean. Leviticus 11: 26-28 says: “The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean. And whatever goes on its paws, among all kinds of animals that go on all fours, those are unclean to you. Whoever touches any such carcass shall be unclean until evening. Whoever carries any such carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. It is unclean to you.” The Jews already considered gentiles to be unclean. By drawing Peter into the home of the dirtiest of the dirty, the Lord was breaking down barriers and preparing Peter as a vessel to pour out His blessing to the gentiles.
 
Acts 10
 
Read Acts 10:1-2  1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
 
What is “the Italian Regiment” (Acts 10:1)?
The Roman army drew regiments from throughout its empire. The Italian Regiment was one drawn from Italy.
 
What was this regiment doing in Caesarea?
Caesarea, the region’s largest and the most strategic port city, was the capital of the Roman province of Judea, and therefore the home of the Roman governor and the home base of his military garrison.
 
What is a “centurion” (Acts 10:1)?
At full force, the Italian Regiment (or any other Roman regiment) would have been 6,000 soldiers, organized into 10 “cohorts” of 600 soldiers each. Each cohort was in turn organized into six “centuries” of 100 soldiers, comparable to a “company” (typically 120 soldiers) in the modern army. A centurion was the officer in charge of a century of soldiers and therefore comparable to the commanding officer of a company in today’s army.
 
What else is known about Cornelius?
He was generous to the people and prayed to God of the Jews constantly, but was a gentile who had not been circumcised. He and “All his household” were God-fearers.
 
What time did the angel come to Cornelius?
The hours were counted from sunrise, deemed to be 6 a.m., so the ninth hour was 3 p.m.
 
Did God know about Cornelius’ prayers and generosity?
He knew and remembered them: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God.” (Acts 10:4)
 
Had the angel come to answer Cornelius’ prayers?
The angel came to tell Cornelius to send men to fetch Peter, whom God will use to deal with his prayers: “Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” (Acts 10:5-6)
 
Who were Cornelius’ emissaries to Peter?
“Two of his household servants” and a soldier who was close to him (“who waited on him continually”) and who also believed in God (“devout”) (Acts 10:7)
 
Did Cornelius simply order them to go and get Peter?
He “explained all these things to them” (Acts 10:8)
 
Why would Cornelius explain everything to them instead of just issuing a simply order?
The emissaries needed to explain to Peter why they had come for him, but also, Cornelius most likely wanted to share the news of the angel’s visit with them. Imagine an angel appearing to you and speaking to you about your prayers. Wouldn’t you be excited to share the news with a believer close to you?
 
Read Acts 10:9-15
 
How far is Joppa from Caesarea?
Joppa is about 30 miles south of Caesarea along the Mediterranean coast.
 
When did Cornelius’ emissaries leave Caesarea and arrive in Joppa?
They left Caesarea some time after 3 p.m. and “drew near” Joppa “the next day... about the sixth hour” (Acts 10:9), which is noon.
 
Where did Peter go to pray?
He went on the roof: “housetop” (Acts 10:9). Roofs in the Middle East are not sloped but flat and used as terraces. They are accessed by steps and usually have a low wall so that those on it can look around without falling off. While the house “made ready” (Acts 10:10) for lunch downstairs, Peter probably looked for and found a quiet place to pray.
 
What happened to Peter?
“He was hungry” (NLT) “became very hungry” (KJV) (Acts 10:10), “fell into a trance” (Acts 10:10) “and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.” (Acts 10:11)
 
How big was the sheet from heaven that Peter saw?
It was big enough to contain “all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.” (Acts 10:12) In the rooftop setting, God showed Peter a “great sheet” (Acts 10:12) with its four corners tied overhead: “bound at the four corners” (Acts 10:12).
 
What is wrong with Peter’s response to God in Acts 10:14?
Saying “Not so, Lord!” (Acts 10:14) to a direct command from God is never a good idea.
 
What is Peter’s protest?
Apparently, he saw in the sheet some of the things that God had forbidden as food in Deuteronomy 14:3-20: “3 You shall not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals. 7 Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. 8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses. 9 These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. 11 All clean birds you may eat. 12 But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 13 the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds; 14 every raven after its kind; 15 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after their kinds; 16 the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, 17 the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl, 18 the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19 Also every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 You may eat all clean birds.”
 
What common traits distinguish the things that God allowed and disallowed as food?
The things that God allowed are lower in the food chain; they are herbivores or those that feed on fresh non-plants (e.g., scaled fish and some birds). The things that God forbid are higher up the food chain and can eat their prey after their death (e.g., eagle and hawk) or are scavengers that only eat the dead and decomposing (e.g., vultures and lobsters).
 
What about the “hare,” which is a herbivore?
The hare is a herbivore but its diet is rich in cellulose, which is hard for it to digest. The hare resolves this by passing two types of feces: hard droppings, which it leaves, and soft, black droppings, which it immediately eats again for a second chance at digesting the cellulose. So the hare eats its own feces, much like the swine. When God says something is “unclean,” it is.
 
Then why is God telling Peter to now eat everything?
That’s what Peter “wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant” (Acts 10:17). But there are at least a couple of reasons. Firstly, God told Peter, “God has cleansed” (Acts 10:15) them, so God did something to cleanse the unclean animals and make them fine for consumption. Secondly, the dietary law had become one of the main cultural barriers between Jews and gentiles, which God was about to use Peter to tear down.
 
Is it certain that the aforementioned animals can now be eaten?
In Mark 7: 15-19, Jesus said, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 
 
The only things forbidden are blood and food used in idol worship: “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 21:25)
 
Read Acts 10:16-23
 
Why did God speak to Peter “three times” (Acts 10:16)?
Possibly to emphasize it to Peter since he was having a hard time deciphering “what this vision which he had seen meant” (Acts 10:17) and/or to have it coincide with the number of men sent to take him, thereby helping him understand that their mission is of God.
 
What had the three emissaries done while Peter was in his trance?
They had made it to the house “and stood before the gate.” (Acts 10:17)
 
Who really had sent the emissaries?
The Holy Spirit, who told Peter, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” (Acts 10:19-20)
 
Who is in control of the impending meeting between Peter and Cornelius?
The Holy Spirit, who sent the angel to Cornelius, and who had prepared Peter by having him lodge with a gentile whom Peter would have considered unclean, whose trade -- taking the skin off dead animals -- Peter would have considered unclean, showing Peter food that he considered unclean, and then telling Peter, with precision timing, that the men who would lead him to enter the house of a gentile were now downstairs.
 
Read Acts 10:24-33
 
How much time had elapsed between the angel’s appearance to Cornelius and Peter arrival at Cornelius’ house?
Since the angel appeared to Cornelius at about 3 p.m. on the first day, and Cornelius told Peter, “I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour...” (Acts 10:30), it was before 3 p.m. on the third day, so less than 72 hours had elapsed between the angel’s appearance and Peter’s arrival.
 
Then was Cornelius wrong to say that he saw the angel “four days ago” (Acts 10:30)?
Since any part of a day was counted as one day, Cornelius was correct. He sent his emissaries on the first day. They arrived in Joppa at around noon the second day and stayed over. On the third day, they started to journey back with Peter and his “brethren from Joppa” (Acts 10:23), and arrived on the fourth day.
 
When did Cornelius prepare to share the Gospel?
Evidently even before hearing it himself: “Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.” (Acts 10:24)
 
What did Peter mean by telling Cornelius, “Stand up: I myself am also a man.” (Acts 10:26)?
One possibility is that he was correcting Cornelius’ misperception that he wasn’t a man; i.e., that Cornelius was mistaking him for an angel. But this is unlikely since Peter had already learned about Cornelius from his  emissaries and knew that Cornelius knew that humans don’t need to be dispatched to inform and escort angels. It is more likely that Peter was telling Cornelius not to fall down and worship another human being, only God is worthy of worship.
 
Which human being today claims to be a descendent of Peter?
The Roman Catholic pope.
 
What else had Peter figured out by this time?
The timing of the vision he saw about unclean food was intended to change his attitude toward gentiles: “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28)
 
Read Acts 10:34-35
 
How much more does God favor an affluent Christian in a “developed” Western nation compared to a poor one in a “developing” nation?
“God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34) and accepts Christians from “every nation” (Acts 10:35). An affluent person who considers himself to be Christian in fact has more cause for caution than a poor person with the same belief: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)
 
What is meant by “whoever fears” (Acts 10:35) God?
A “God-fearer” was a gentile who believed in the God of the Jews but who had not been circumcised, and this belief in God is what Peter is referring to. However, the reason such people were called God-fearers was because believers are to fear God.
 
Are we to fear God when He called us His friend and children?
Imagine the President of your country showing up at your doorsteps and calling you his friend. Will you then slap him on his back, put your arm around his neck and start to play around? Or will you humble yourself and pay even greater respect to the head of your nation for his generosity of calling you his friend? 
 
When the Creator of the universe calls us his friends, as in John 15:14-15: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  And He calls us His children, as in John 1:11-12 - “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” We should humble ourselves even more and heed His command to “do whatever” He commands and to “believe in His name.” So while God is someone for us to love, respect, honor, lean on, glorify and confide in, He is also someone for us to fear, which the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
 
Is Peter saying that to be “accepted by” God, a gentile must be one who “works righteousness”?
Not only a gentile but everyone must work righteousness, but “righteousness” as defined by the Bible, which is believing in God: “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)
 
What is exceptional about the statement quoted in Acts 10:34-35?
It was made about the gentiles by someone who until just hours earlier had considered them to be unclean. The Holy Spirit had done a quick work on Peter’s racism and nationalism.
 
Read Acts 10:36-44
 
What is “the word” (Acts 10:36)?
It’s Jesus, whom “God anointed... with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38), whom the Bible identifies as God in the flesh: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 &14) and the Prince of Peace: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
 
To how many did Jesus appear after His resurrection?
Over 500: “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6)
 
Were they over 500 random people?
No, they were “not to all people, but to witnesses chosen before by God” (Acts 10:41)
 
Is it true that they even “ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Acts 10:41)?
“Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:12-14)
 
What is remarkable about Peter’s sermon above?
How brief and condensed it is. Instead of taking days to teach them from the beginning as Jesus so often did to Peter and the other disciples for three years, Peter almost sounds like he is summarizing what they already knew.
 
How did Peter and the Holy Spirit coordinate when the Holy Spirit would fall upon them?
They didn’t. Peter had his mouth open and “was still speaking these words” (Acts 10:44) when “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” (Acts 10:44) And this should be a lesson for any preacher today who thinks he can command the Holy Spirit to do anything, especially on his cue. The Holy Spirit is God and He does what He wills to whomever He wants when He wants. I Corinthians 12: 4-11 says: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 
 
What was Peter in the midst of saying when the Holy Spirit fell on his audience?
“Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
 
Why might the Holy Spirit have chosen that moment to fall upon Cornelius and his company?
Perhaps because after meandering a bit, Peter had finally hit the Gospel message on its head.
 
Read Acts 10:45-48
 
Who were “those of the circumcision” (Acts 10:45)?
They were the Jewish Christian “brethren from Joppa” (Acts 10:23) who “came with Peter.” (Acts 10:45)
 
Why were they “astonished” (Acts 10:45)?
Peter had been prepared in a vision for the breaching of the wall between Jews and gentiles. The Jewish believers who accompanied him had not been so prepared. In that context, they (1) enter the house of a gentile, probably for the first time in their lives; (2) hear Peter declare that God accepts people from “every nation” (Acts 10:35); and then (3) witness “the gift of the Holy Spirit” being poured out on the gentiles, who “speak with tongues and magnify God.” (Acts 10:47)
 
Does Peter take the time to explain things and calm their astonishment?
Instead, he tells them to fetch water and help their new brethren express their belief through water baptism.
 
What did they do thereafter?
They stayed and fellowshipped for “a few days” (Acts 10:48). The love of God is the only thing that can rip down generations-old animosity and prejudice, especially in such short order.
 
ACTS 11
 
Read Acts 11:1-3:  1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
 
Did Peter head back to Jerusalem right after meeting Cornelius (Acts 10)?
If he had done that, the news wouldn’t have beaten him to Jerusalem. Peter stayed with Cornelius in Caesarea “a few days” (Acts 10:48) as they asked him to.
 
Who were “those of the circumcision” (Acts 11:3)?
The Jewish Christians -- “brethren” (Acts 11:1) - and may have even included one or more of the other “apostles” (Acts 11:1) in Jerusalem.
 
How happy were they to hear “that the Gentiles had also received the word of God” (Acts 11:1)?
They weren’t: their statement, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” (Acts 11:3) wasn’t a questions but an accusation to Peter, with whom they “contended” (Acts 11:2).
 
What did Acts 8:1 and 4 say about persecution and the spread of the Gospel?
“...At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles... Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”
 
Then why was hearing “that the Gentiles had also received the word of God” even news to them?
“Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4) but they had gone “preaching the word to no one but the Jews only” (Acts 11:19 below); until now, they had skipped over all of the Gentiles.
 
Why would they do that and why weren’t they happy to hear that the Gentiles had also received the word of God?
As discussed, Jewish Christians still held to the long-held Jewish belief that Gentiles were unclean.
 
Read Acts 11:4-18 
4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” 18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Given the content - Peter is recounting what happened in Acts chapter 10.)
 
Had God taken Peter to Cornelius to teach Cornelius?
Surely Peter taught Cornelius, but if teaching been the main objective, the Lord probably would have waited until Peter had finished teaching to fall upon them. Moreover, instead of bringing Peter all the way from Jerusalem, He probably would have used Philip (see Acts chapter 8) who was already living in “Caesarea” (Acts 8:40 and 21:8) and therefore could teach him for more than just “a few days” (Acts 10:48).
 
Then, had God taken Peter to Cornelius because Peter had a role to play in affecting the Holy Spirit falling upon Cornelius’ household?
Again, had that been the case, the Holy Spirit would have fallen upon then on Peter’s cue. As it happened, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them” (Acts 11:15) as Peter was only beginning to speak.
 
Then to do what had God taken Peter to Cornelius?
God took Peter to Cornelius not because He needed Peter to do something to help him, but for Peter to watch God in action, and for what he witnessed to overcome the prejudice in Peter’s heart, as well as the hearts of the other Jewish Christians.
 
What lent credibility to Peter’s testimony?
It was backed by the “six brethren” (Acts 11:12) -- Jewish Christians -- who had accompanied Peter “from Joppa” (Acts 10:23) to Cornelius’ house.
 
Did God’s plan work?
Of course. What is remarkable is that God spent days preparing with Peter, having him lodge with someone who works with unclean, dead animals, showing him visions, and talking to him. God let the six Jewish Christians at least witness the Holy Spirit falling upon Cornelius’ household. But God turned the hearts of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem so fast that they went from “contending” with Peter for dealing with Gentiles one moment to glorifying God for it the next. Prejudices deeply-ingrained over many centuries had been neutralized during a single conversation about the love of God being poured out on the lost.
Read Acts 11:19-21  19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
 
Where is “Phoenicia”? 
Phoenicia was the coastal province located north of Galilee. It is roughly the modern nation of Lebanon, to the north of Israel.
 
Where is “Cyprus”?
Cyprus is an island, still called “Cyprus,” off the coast of Lebanon in the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Where is “Antioch”?
Antioch was a fairly common name for a city in the ancient world, which had over a dozen cities named Antioch, not unlike many cities with nice views (or even without nice views) being named “Fairview” today. The Antioch referred to above was founded in the 4th century BC by Seleucus, one of Alexander the Great’s five officers who divided his kingdom after his death. It was named after Seleucus’ father and located north of Phoenicia on the Orontes River about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Why had this Antioch drawn those “preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20)?
There were at least a couple of reasons. For one, it had a large Jewish population where the Jewish Christians, including those born in “Cyprus and Cyrene” (Acts 11:20), a city in North Africa, who had left Jerusalem could both resettle among and target fellow Jews, albeit those who grew up in the Greek world - -“Hellenist” (Acts 11:20) -- to evangelize. For another, this particular Antioch had by this time grown to be a particularly wicked city. Third largest in the Roman world after only Rome itself and Alexandria in North Africa, this port had a population of half-million, including the Syrian (Roman) legion, and was mired in temple prostitution and other pagan abominations related to various Roman, Greek and other idols. Christians were invading Satan’s stronghold as Jesus had commanded, and as Christians should continue to do today.
 
Did the Lord’s invasion work?
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21)
 
Read Acts 11:22-26 
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
 
How “far” (Acts 11:22) was Antioch from Jerusalem?
About 300 miles directly north.
 
Why did the church in Jerusalem this time send Barnabas instead of Peter to check up on things?
There are at least four reasons. Firstly, the cultural wall between Jews and gentiles had already been breached, so Barnabas wasn’t being sent on a controversial mission that required apostolic leadership credibility. Secondly, Barnabas was a Greek Jew from “Cyprus” (Acts 4:36) and therefore would interact easily with fellow Greek Jews, including the “men from Cyprus” (Acts 11:20) who were “preaching” (Acts 11:19). Thirdly, Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36) will have put his gifts to good use in having “encouraged them” (Acts 11:23). Fourthly and most importantly, the leaders in Jerusalem knew Barnabas “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24).
 
What did Barnabas see in Antioch that made him “glad” (Acts 11:23)?
Barnabas undoubtedly saw much Christian activity -- Christians praying, giving, evangelizing, holding meetings and activities, etc. -- but he saw them not as the enabler but the manifestation of the enabling “grace of God” (Acts 11:23), which is what made him “glad.”
 
Did Barnabas advise them to keep up their good work -- their events, activities and evangelistic outreach programs?
No, he simply told them to “continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23). God was at work, and they were to remain true to the Lord, who was manifesting Himself through them and their activities, as He continues to do today through Christians and the activities of Christians who remain true to Him and His Word.
 
To whom were the new Christians added?
“A great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24) The enabler was “the grace of God,” the one they were to continue with was “the Lord,” and the one to whom the people were being added was “the Lord.” True Christian work is always of, by, for and to the Lord, who can do everything without us, but takes pleasure in choosing, cleaning, and then using us as His instruments.
 
Read Acts 11:25-26 
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
 
Where is “Tarsus”?
Tarsus was another port city that served as the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, located in modern Turkey’s southern Mediterranean shores. Tarsus was about 80 miles northwest of Antioch.
 
Why did Barnabas surmise that Saul would be in Tarsus?
Saul/Paul was “born in Tarsus” (Acts 22:3) and had been sent “out to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30) by the church in Jerusalem after “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:27) and they “found out” (Acts 9:30) about a plot to “kill him” (Acts 9:29).
 
What was Saul like when he first left Tarsus?
He was a model Jewish boy and such a promising student that he was chosen to study in Jerusalem under “Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), the greatest teacher of Judaism at the time: “...If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6):
 
How might his family and friends have felt about Saul when he persecuted the church?
They most likely took great pride in him. After all, he had grown up to hobnob with the high priest, who liked his work so much that he even wrote personal “letters” (Acts 9:2) on his behalf.
 
When did Saul return to Tarsus, and how did his family and friends receive him?
Saul returned to Tarsus as a hunted man and an enemy of Judaism. While he never talks directly about his family’s reception, if “all things” in the following quote includes his family and friends, they most likely disowned him: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) Note that he calls “all things” “rubbish” not in the absolute sense, but relative to “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”
 
Is such a reception the exception or the norm?
When a member of a non-Christian family or group of friends turns to Christ, rejection and even persecution by the family and friends is more the norm than the rejection. Even Jesus Himself was rejected by His family during his earthly ministry, and declared, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” (Mark 6:4) Non-Christian friends of a new Christian almost always drift away. The only way to keep them is to tell them about Jesus and turn them into siblings in Christ.
 
What had Saul been doing in Tarsus since his return?
While he doesn’t state it, given the fact that he risked his life to “boldly” preach the Gospel in both Damascus and Jerusalem, it is hard to imagine him not dedicating at least part and probably a significant amount of his time in Tarsus to evangelism.
 
Why did “Barnabas depart for Tarsus to seek Saul” (Acts 11:25)?
When Saul told the apostles and Barnabas in Jerusalem “how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27), he most likely included the Lord’s declaration to Ananias, who baptized Saul that he was, “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles” (Acts 9:15). It was time for the chosen vessel of the Lord to be put to full use, starting with a “whole year” (Acts 11:26) of teaching “a great many” (Acts 11:26) new Gentile believers in Antioch.
 
Why weren’t the disciples called “Christians” before Antioch?
Until the gentiles began to believe in the Lord in large numbers in Antioch, the disciples were almost exclusively Jews and therefore could be identified as a segment of the Jews - simply as Jews “who were of the Way” (Acts 9:2). When the church began to include significant numbers of gentiles, the uniform trait shifted from Jewish heritage to belief in Christ. The original Greek word, Christianos, literally meant someone who belongs to Christ, and was intended as a derision. Being called someone who belongs to Christ is a tremendously honorable label. The fact that some are now shying away from this label and claiming that it has lost its significance is a sad testament of the failure of those who wear this label to live up to it.
 
Read Acts11:27-30 
27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwellingin Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
 
Why would the “brethren dwelling in Judea” (Acts 11:29) need more help during a famine than the brethren in Antioch?
At this time, the persecution of the church was primarily by the Jewish authorities against those within their reach in Judea, who most likely lost their fields, property and homes before being imprisoned. The Roman persecution of Christians didn’t start until 66 AD, so the church in Antioch at this time had more resources to share with their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ in Judea.
 
Where are the churches of Judea and Antioch today?
More Christians in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have been martyred in the last 100 years than during the previous 1,900 years combined, and continue to suffer persecution and poverty. 80 percent of the world’s Protestant wealth is in North America and most of it is spent on church buildings and social activities in Antioch instead of flowing to the starving and homeless brethren in Judea. The right hand of the body of Christ continues to apply pedicure to the right foot while the left hand and foot remain bludgeoned and bleeding.
 
What will the Lord say to the right hand and foot in Matthew 25:31-46?
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
 
 
ACTS 12

Read Acts 12:1-2  1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

Who or what was “Herod” (Acts 12:1)?
The Herods were the Edomite family that ruled Israel during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the first Christian church. The Jewish ruling council, called Sanhedrin, was under the authority of the Herods, who were in turn under the authority of the Roman emperor.

Who were the “Edomites”?
Edomites occupied the land south of the Dead Sea. Edomites were the descendents of Esau, the older twin brother of Jacob, whom God later renamed “Israel” and whose 12 sons became the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel:. This is from Genesis 36: 1-9: “Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth. Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel. And Aholibamah bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. These were the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan. Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom. And this is the genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir.” 

How did Edomites come to rule over the Jews?
In 47 BC, Julius Caesar appointed Antipater, the son of the Edomite governor of Edom, to be the governor of Judea, and Herod was one of Antipater’s two sons. In 40 BC, Parthians (Iranians today) attacked the Roman empire’s eastern fringes and briefly conquered Judea. Herod escaped to Rome, where the Roman Senate named him “King of the Jews” and commissioned him to retake Judea, which he did in 37 BC.

Is this the same Herod as the one named in Acts 12:1?
No, the first Herod was called, “Herod the Great,” mainly because he built great monuments, including the second temple of Jerusalem. He is the Herod who killed all boys under two years of age in Bethlehem after Jesus was born there (Matthew 2: 1-20). After the death of Herod the Great, his territory was split into three, one for each of his three sons. Herod Antipas was one of them and is the one who tried Jesus. The Herod named above is Herod Agrippa I, who is the nephew of Herod Antipas. By endearing himself to successive Roman emperors, Herod Agrippa I received the three territories upon the deaths of his father and two uncles, thereby reunited the territory of his grandfather, albeit still under the rule of Rome.

When was “that time” (Acts 12:1) and why did he kill James?
It was the time of the Jewish persecution of the first church, during which time a famine (see Acts 11:27-30) broke out. Seeing persecution of Christians become a popular agenda for his subjects, the shrewd politician most likely wanted “to harass” (Acts 12:1) the church to strengthen the Jews’ acceptance, if not loyalty, of his rule.

Who was James?
He was the “brother of John” (Acts 12:2), who wrote the Gospel of John, and therefore was the first of Jesus’ Apostles to be martyred.

Read Acts 12:3-5  3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

Why did Herod Agrippa I proceed to “seize Peter also” (Acts 12:3)?
Seeing that killing one of Jesus’ Apostles “pleased the Jews” (Acts 12:3), he was going to murder the top leader of the budding Church and really be feted by the Jews.

Why didn’t he kill Peter upon his arrest?
Executing anyone during “the Days of Unleavened Bread” (Acts 12:3), another name for “Passover” (Acts 12:4) -- unleavened bread is the bread that God commanded the Jews to eat during the night when the Lord passed over Egypt -- would have violated Jewish law and therefore displeased the Jews.

What is meant by “four squads of soldiers” (Acts 12:4)?
The maximum security arrangement at the time, this meant there were four squads of four soldiers guarding Peter around the clock in shifts of three hours during the night and six hours during the day. During each shift, two soldiers were inside the cell actually chained to the prisoner and two were outside the cell.

Why did Herod do that?
Peter had a habit of disappearing from prisons. Remember Acts 5: 17-20? “Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

Did the church try to storm the prison to rescue Peter?
No, “but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5)

Read Acts 12:6-11  6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”

How many obstacles stood between Peter and freedom?
At least 10: “two chains” (Acts 12:6) on “his hands” (Acts 12:7), the “two soldiers” (Acts 12:6) at the other end of those chains, “the door” (Acts 12:6) of his prison cell, the “guards” (Acts 12:6) on the other side of that door, “the first and the second guard posts” (Acts 12:10) and “the iron gate” (Acts 12:10).

How stealthy was the “angel of the Lord” (Acts 12:7)?
He wasn’t. Upon arrival, he lit up the prison -- “light shone in the prison” (Acts 12:7). He “struck” (Acts 12:7) Peter, talked to him, and since Peter had been “raised... up” (Acts 12:7), “his chains” (Acts 12:7) probably made more noise when they “fell off his hands” (Acts 12:7).
Then why didn’t the soldiers guarding Peter wake up?
They weren’t asleep. They “were keeping the prison” (Acts 12:6) as they were supposed to, but the angel of the Lord had made them see and hear nothing.

How rushed was this prison break?
It wasn’t. The angel even told and waited for Peter to get dressed properly: “Then the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and tie on your sandals’ and so he did. And he said to him, ‘Put on your garment and follow me.’” (Acts 12:8)

When did Peter think was happening to him?
Since he had been sleeping and “did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision” (Acts 12:9) until after the fact, he probably thought he was enjoying a good dream.

Read Acts 12:12-17  12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. 13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.” 16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.

What must have been the demeanor of those who were “praying” (Acts 12:12) in this house?
James already had been murdered, and since “Herod was about to bring Peter out” (Acts 12:6), this was the night before Peter’s anticipated execution, so they most likely had been praying their hearts out. The Lord doesn’t always let us see His answers to our prayers so readily. When He does, it’s quite spectacular, as it must have been on this occasion. Yet the Bible without fanfare simply states matter-of-factly that they were “astonished.” (Acts 12:16)

What four errors did the occupants of the house make?
Rhoda should have opened the gate “when she recognized Peter’s voice” (Acts 12:14). An “angel” (Acts 12:15) would go right through a gate, not knock on it to ask humans to let him inside. And if an angel did choose to knock on your gate, you should still let him inside, not just verbalize “It is his angel.” (Acts 12:15) But the most serious error -- a sin -- was their unbelief. They undoubtedly had been praying fervently for the Lord to save Peter. When Rhoda “announced that Peter stood before the gate” (Acts 12:14), the faithful reaction would have been jubilation at the Lord’s answer to their prayers. Instead, they accused her, “You are beside yourself!” (Acts 12:15), and then surmised that she had heard Peter’s angel, which means that they thought the Lord had not answered their prayers, that Peter was already dead and in spirit form. To her credit, Rhoda, most likely a lowly servant girl, was the one who had the faith to attribute Peter’s voice to an answered prayer.

Why would Peter say, “Go, tell these things to James...” (Acts 12:17)?
This wasn’t the James who had been killed by Herod. This James was the half-brother of Jesus. See Mark 6: 3-4: “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” This James had come to believe in Christ after His resurrection and who had since become one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.

Why would God save Peter but let James get murdered?
For those who truly believe in heaven, the question is re-phrased, “Why did God promote James to heaven but not Peter?” Every God-ordained Christian martyrdom is a fast-track promotion to heaven.
Read Acts 12:18-19  18 Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.

When did the Lord open the eyes of the “soldiers” (Acts 12:18) to His miracle, and why?
The next “day” (Acts 12:18), most likely to delay Herod’s manhunt until Peter had safely reached the “another place”. (Acts 12:17)

Why did Herod have the guards “put to death” (Acts 12:19)?
If the guards were truthful, they would have told Herod that they have no idea how Peter disappeared, which would have been incredible to Herod, who would have surmised that the guards either had colluded with Peter to let him escape or had fallen asleep while on duty. In addition, Herod most likely was angry and wished to take it out on someone. After all, he had awoken with the intent to kill.

Why did Herod then go “down from Judea to Caesarea” (Acts 12:19) and stay there?
By killing Peter, he would have demonstrated his power and won accolades from the Jewish rulers, who would have feted him for helping them crush the local church. By arresting and then losing Peter, he had instead demonstrated his impotence against and emboldened the local church, much to the displeasure of the Jewish rulers, who most likely gave him the cold shoulder for making matters worse for them. What better place for Herod to go and lick his wounds than Caesarea, the home of the local legion and the governor of his Roman overlords? Josephus, the Jewish historian from the era also adds that an opportune feast in Caesar’s honor was being held at Caesarea at the time.

Read Acts 12:20-23  20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country. 21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

Where are Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20)?
They are coastal cities in today’s Lebanon, which is north of Caesarea.

Why did the people from Tyre and Sidon shout, “The voice of a god and not of a man” (Acts 12:22)?
“Having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend” (Acts 12:20), they might have been tipped by their friend that a little bit of ego boost then may be particularly appreciated by Herod.

Who struck Herod and why?
“An angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God.” (Acts 12:23) This passage should encourage all Christians to take a moment to ponder if they have or are receiving glory due God.

Is the strike what killed Herod?
No, “he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23)

Given that this happened to a king, isn’t there any corroboration from extra-Biblical sources?
There is. Josephus, the Jewish historian, recorded that on this occasion, the people hailed Herod as a god, and confirmed, “Upon this, the king did neither rebuke them nor reject their impious flattery... A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner... He was carried into the palace... and when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 19, Chapter 8).
Read Acts 12:24-25  24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.

What was the result of the persecution of the church?
“The word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12:23)

What was Barnabas and Saul’s ministry in Jerusalem, and to where did they return?
They brought the “relief” from Antioch, where they “returned” (Acts 12:25): “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:27-30)

Who did Barnabas and Saul/Paul take with them from Jerusalem?
“John whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:25) who was “the cousin of Barnabas” (Colossians 4:10) and the son of “Mary” (Acts 12:12) on whose gate Peter had knocked after his escape. If Paul and Barnabas had been among those praying at the house of Barnabas’ aunt, Peter’s escape and visit would have been a valuable lesson in faith orchestrated by the Lord, who was about to send them out on their exciting but dangerous missionary journeys.
 

 
Acts 13
 
Read Acts 13:1  1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
 
What roles do “prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1) respectively perform?
Prophets prophesy -- foretell an event in the future as inspired by God -- while teachers teach.
 
Can prophets teach and teachers prophesy?
Yes, the Old Testament has many examples of prophets teaching, and in the New Testament, Paul, for example, prophesied the demise of the ship carrying him to Rome: “... Paul advised them, saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster with much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, ...” (Acts 27:9-10) The two roles are not mutually exclusive, but neither do they necessitate one another. They are simply two of the roles to be performed as appointed by Jesus: “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:10-12)
 
Are “prophets” and “teachers” also titles to be used to call certain people in the church?
No, Jesus explicitly warned us against it: “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:8-10) According to Jesus, any Christian being called “Teacher” or “Father,” is usurping titles reserved for God.
 
How many prophets and teachers were “in the church that was at Antioch” (Acts 13:1)?
Five: Barnabas, Simeon/Niger, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul/Paul.
 
What is meant by “Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch” (Acts 13:1)?
Manaen is mentioned only once in the Bible. But Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote about Manaen, deemed to be the father or the uncle of the Manaen mentioned above. When Herod the Great, the father of Herod the tetrarch, was young, the elder Manaen prophesied to him that he would one day rule Judea. When that prophecy came true, Herod the Great became close with Manaen, so it is reasonable that their sons -- the younger Manaen and Herod the tetrarch -- would be “brought up” as close playmates. Like Saul/Paul, Manaen would have been highly educated, although older than Saul/Paul.
 
Read Acts 13:2-3  2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
What is meant by their having “ministered to the Lord” (Acts 13:2)?
The original Greek word for “ministered” is leitourgeo, which means “to serve” or “to serve at one’s own cost” or “to discharge official duties at one’s own cost.”
 
And how did they do that “to the Lord” (Acts 13:2)?
Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 25: 34-40: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” So, by serving (at their own cost) the “brethren” -- fellow Christians -- the prophets and teachers ministered “to the Lord.”
 
Who said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)?
The “Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:2), once again proving His personhood.
 
What was the work to which He had called Barnabas and Saul?
To go “away” (Acts 13:3) to proclaim the Gospel and plant churches.
 
Read Acts 13:4-5  4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.
 
Where are “Seleucia” (Acts 13:4), “Cyprus” (Acts 13:4) and “Salamis” (Acts 13:5)?
Seleucia was the port city 15 miles down the Orontes river from Antioch, where the river emptied into the Mediterranean Sea. Cyprus is the island in eastern Mediterranean Sea that is about 100 miles southwest of Seleucia, and Salamis was a city on the east coast (facing Seleucia) of Cyprus.
 
Why did they preach “in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:5)?
Synagogues were where theology was discussed, and since the Jews already knew the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, they should have understood and received Jesus, a Jew, as the promised Messiah easier and quicker than the gentiles.
 
Who was Barnabas and Saul/Paul’s “assistant” (Acts 13:5)?
“John” (Acts 13:5) “whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:25), who was “the cousin of Barnabas” (Colossians 4:10) and who had accompanied Barnabas and Saul/Paul from Jerusalem.
 
Read Acts 13:6-12  6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
 
Where is “Paphos” (Acts 13:6)?
During the Roman era, Paphos, situated on the southeastern coast of Cyprus, served as the island’s capital. So, Paul, Barnabas and John Mark had traversed Cyprus from the northeast coast to the southwest coast.
 
Who called for Barnabas and Saul, “who is also called Paul” (Acts 13:9) and why?
“The proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man... called for  Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.” (Acts 13:7)
 
Who was with the proconsul?
A “sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus” (Acts 13:6), translated “Elymas” (Acts 13:8) who was “full of all deceit and all fraud” (Acts 13:10) and was the “son of the devil” (Acts 13:10) and the “enemy of all righteousness” (Acts 13:10) kept on “perverting the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10) and “withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.” (Acts 13:8).
 
Was he made permanently blind?
No, only “for a time” (Acts 13:11), but long enough to shut him up, for the proconsul to be converted.
 
What astonished the proconsul?
He was “astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12), which the display of the Lord’s power validated.
 
Read Acts 13:13-14  13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.
Where are “Perga in Pamphylia” (Acts 13:13) and “Antioch in Pisidia” (Acts 13:14)?
Perga was the capital of the Roman province of Pamphylia, which is today’s southern coastal province of Antalya in Turkey. Pisidia was the mountainous province to the north Pamphylia, and Antioch (not to be confused with the Antioch in Syria where Paul, Barnabas and John Mark began their missionary journey) was its capital, located 3,600 feet above the sea level.
 
Why did John Mark leave Barnabas and Paul to return to Jerusalem?
The Bible doesn’t state the reason, but it was one that Paul didn’t consider to be legitimate: “Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.’ Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.” (Acts 15:36-38) Perhaps John Mark had left Jerusalem with Barnabas, his cousin, and Paul with the intent of going to Antioch only, and the missionary journey was more than he had bargained for. John Mark returned “to the work” later and was even with Paul in Rome when he was in prison: “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him).” (Colossians 4:10)
 
Read Acts 13:15-16  15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” 16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:
 
How big was this synagogue?
Big enough for its rulers to have invited Paul and Barnabas to speak by having someone “sent to them” (Acts 13:15) with the invitation.
 
Who were in the audience?
Both Jews -- “Men of Israel” (Acts 13:16) and gentiles “who fear God” (Acts 13:16), which means gentiles who believed in the God of Judaism but had not been circumcised.
 
What had just taken place?
Readings from “the Law” (Acts 13:15), which means the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) [also called “the Torah”] and “the Prophets” (Acts 13:15), which means the Old Testament books of Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel I Kings, II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
 
Read Acts 13:17  17 “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it.”
 
What does Paul mean by, “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers” (Acts 13:17)?
That God chose Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons to be the “fathers” (Acts 13:17) of a nation that God appointed to be “His” people.
 
What was so special about them that made God choose them from all of the people on the earth?
Abraham was a wimp who instead of protecting his wife, disavowed their marriage and let another man take her to sleep with her in the hope of saving his own neck. Read Genesis 20: 1-11; Genesis 26: 6-11 for full story. 
 
So why would God choose to mold His nation out of a such messed up bunch of people?
The same reason he chooses to mold into His image Christians today: to demonstrate his love, grace and mercy, He chooses people who deserve absolutely none of His love, grace or mercy.
 
How was it that God “exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt” (Acts 13:17)?
God grew them into a mighty nation: Exodus 1: 6-9 says: “And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.” 
 
Why does Paul say that “with an uplifted arm (God) brought them out of” Egypt? (Acts 13: 7)
He is referring to God’s miracles that forced Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave Egypt, the majority of which were performed with Moses’ or Aaron’s arms uplifted. For example, Exodus 10: 21-22 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.” Exodus 8: 5-6 says, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.” 
  nd of course God parted the Red Sea when Moses’ arms were uplifted: “And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
Read Acts 13:18  18 Now for a time of about 40 years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.
 
Why does Paul say God “put up with” (Acts 13:18) the ways of the Hebrews in the wilderness for “about 40 years” (Acts 13:18)?
During the 40 years that the Hebrews spent in the wilderness after leaving Egypt and prior to entering the Promised Land, God constantly “put up” with their betrayal, complaining and doubting.
 
How did the Hebrews betray God?
When Moses stayed on Mount Sinai a little longer than they expected (he was busy receiving the Ten Commandments from God), the Hebrews made and worshipped a golden calf. From Exodus 32: 1-4: “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” 
 
When did the Jews complain?
Constantly. For example, they complained when they were hungry, even exaggerating how well their Egyptian taskmasters had fed them during their slavery: “... the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you...” (Exodus 16:2-4) And when they wanted more than just the bread -- “manna” -- they complained again, this time even weeping in their exaggeration about their slavery in Egypt: “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-6)
 
When did the Hebrews doubt God?
After witnessing God methodically and utterly destroy the mighty but idolatrous nation of Egypt before the defeated Pharaoh let the Hebrews depart, the Hebrews should have trusted God will likewise protect them and destroy any other idolatrous nation that stood in their path. Yet, when 10 of the 12 men who had checked out the Promised Land spoke about the strength of its inhabitants, the Hebrews wept and tried to pick a new leader to take them back to Egypt: The story is told in Numbers 13:27-14:34. Had the Hebrew adults believed God instead of doubting Him, they would have reached the Promised Land instead of dying in the wilderness over the ensuing 40 years.
 
Read Acts 13:19  19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.
 
Who were the “destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan” (Acts 13:19)?
From north to south, they were the Hivites (north of the Sea of Galilee), Girgashites (Galilee region), Canaanites (western plains), Amorites (eastern mountains), Jebusites (including Jerusalem), Perizzites (southwest, near Gaza), and Hittites (near the Dead Sea): “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, ...”  (Deuteronomy 7:1)
 
Is it accurate to say that God - “He” (Acts 13:19) - destroyed those seven nations?
Yes, God won the battles, which He let the Hebrew army then mop up. For example, in the battle for Jericho, God miraculously blew out the city’s protective wall, which ended the battle before it began. See Joshua 6: 1-20. 
 
Read Acts 13:20-21 20 “After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
 
Who were the “judges” (Acts 13:20) whom God gave to the Hebrews?
For about 450 years after Joshua, whom God used to lead the Hebrews into the land of Canaan, God raised up and used men to convey His instructions to the people, to lead Israel into battle against their neighbors, as well as to serve as judges to settle disputes. And when Israel was so lacking in manly men that even the commander of its army was a wimp, God even used a woman judge: “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?” And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” (Judges 4:4-8)
 
Why did Israel ask for a king after those 450 years?
Their pretext was the corruption of Samuel’s sons, but their real reason was their rejection of God’s direct rule and their desire for a human ruler whom they could see, hear and touch, like their neighbors’: “Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (I Samuel 8:1-7).
 
Read Acts 13:22: 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’
 
When did God decide to remove Saul as King and raise up David in his place?
When Saul sinned by making a sacrifice to God that wasn’t his to make. The story is in I Samuel 13: 5-14.
 
Read ACTS 13:23-25:  23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior - Jesus - 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’
 
According to what promise did God promise that Jesus would be from David’s seed?
According to the one conveyed by the prophet Isaiah - “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) - as well as by the archangel Gabriel: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33)
 
How did God keep His promise?
Through the lineage as established in Luke 3: 23-31.
 
Why does Paul emphasize that “John had first preached, before His coming” (Acts 13:24)?
John “preached... the baptism of repentance” (Acts 13:24) -- the need for people to recognize their sinfulness and to seek God’s help to turn away from and seek a solution to their sins. The recognition of the problem -- sin -- had to precede its solution, Jesus Christ - back then, and it must precede the solution today. 
 
Read Acts 13:26-29  26 “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
 
Who had “fulfilled” (Acts 13:27) what “voices of the Prophets” (Acts 13:27)?
Voices of prophets like Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be oppressed, afflicted and slaughtered: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5-7) 
 
Read Acts 13: 30-41  30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings - that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ 36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: 41 ‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.’ ”
 
Who are “those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:31)?
Jesus’ disciples, who are “His witnesses” (Acts 13:31)
What “glad tidings” (Acts 13:32) is Paul declaring to them?
That the story doesn’t end with the slaughter of the Messiah, that God the Father “has raised up Jesus... from the dead” (Acts 13:33-34)
 
Why should that matter to them?
It proves that He is God and validates what He “preached” (Acts 13:38), that “by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39) - i.e., “the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38)
 
What “corruption” (Acts 13:36) is Paul talking about?
The Greek word is diaphthora, which in the physical sense indicates destruction, decay or decomposition. To the Jews waiting for a David-like Messiah to arise and re-establish the political Kingdom of Israel, Paul is declaring the incomparable supremacy of Jesus. Their revered David died and remained dead, becoming food for dandelions. By contrast, Jesus defeated death and rose in His un-decomposed body to prove His deity, just as the Old Testament had prophesied, that God the Father will not “allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:4 & Acts 13:35)
 
What does Paul warn them to “beware” of (Acts 13:40)?
Unbelief. Paul was there to “declare” (Acts 13:41) to them the “work” (Acts 13:41) of God, which if they did not “believe” (Acts 13:41), they will “perish.” (Acts 13:41) Paul was warning them not to end up being the ones that the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk warned about in Habakkuk 1:5 as quoted in Acts 13:41 above.
 
Read Acts 13:42-43  42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
 
When Paul finished speaking, which group left the synagogue?
“The Jews went out of the synagogue.” (Acts 13:42)
 
Which group stayed in the Jewish synagogue?
“The Gentiles,” who “begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42)
 
Did all of the Jews leave Paul and Barnabas?
No, “many of the Jews” (Acts 13:43) followed them.
 
Read Acts 13:44  44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.
 
What happened the next Sabbath?
“Almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” (Acts 13:44) After hearing just one sermon, the hearers had invited their neighbors to come and hear the Word as well! How many sermons have you heard, and how many neighbors have you invited to the Word of God?
 
Read Acts 13:45  45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
 
How did the Jews oppose “the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45), and why?
The supposed people of God engaged in contradictions and blasphemy, which is against God, out of “envy” (Acts 13:45).
 
Why was it “necessary that the word of God should be spoken to” (Acts 13:46) the Jews first?
The good news about the long-awaited Messiah was first offered to those who had been waiting for Him.
 
Did Paul and Barnabas plead to reconcile with them?
No, they declared that the opposing Jews’ rejection of the “word of God” (Acts 13:46) judged them to be “unworthy of everlasting life” (Acts 13:46) and that they would now “turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
 
Was it their place to pronounce judgment on anyone?
It wasn’t, and that isn’t what they did. Their declaration was an observation of the judgment that Jews’ own rejection of the Gospel had on their eternity.
 
How does that apply to us today?
Only God knows whom He will save before they die, so Christians cannot tell anyone that they will or will not go to heaven. However, when asked where people who die without believing in Jesus end up, Christians have a biblical duty to inform them that they go not to “everlasting life” (Acts 13:46) in heaven.
 
Read Acts 13:48-52  48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
 
Who “believed” (Acts 13:48)?
“As many as had been appointed to eternal life.” (Acts 13:48).
 
Appointed by whom?
Since the verb is “appointed” and not “self-appointed,” it is God who appoints those who believe in Him.
 
How did the Jews raise up “persecution against Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:50)?
They went after the city’s political elite: “The Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city.” (Acts 13:50)
 
How did Paul and Barnabas react?
They “shook off the dust from their feet against them.” (Acts 13:51)
 
What does that mean and why would they do it?
To obey Jesus: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:11)
 
Why were “the disciples ... filled with joy” (Acts 13:52)?
Apparently, Paul and Barnabas had stayed long enough that “the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region.” (Acts 13:49)
 
So why did God let them be “expelled” (Acts 13:50)?
To have them spread the Gospel as well in “Iconium” (Acts 13:51), about 80 miles to the east.
 
Acts 14
 
Read Acts 14:1:  1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.
 
Where is “Iconium” (Acts 14:1) and who are the “they” (Acts 14:1)?
They are Paul and Barnabas, and they came to Iconium in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) after having preached the Gospel in Antioch, about 80 miles to the west.
 
Why did they go to the “synagogue of the Jews” (Acts 14:1)?
Since the Jews knew the Old Testament prophecies about and had been awaiting the promised Messiah, they in theory should have received the news of His arrival most easily and readily.
 
Didn’t Paul declare to the Jews in Antioch that he and Barnabas will turn to the Gentiles?
Yes: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
 
Then why did Paul and Barnabas again go to the synagogue of the Jews?
There are at least three reasons. First, the immediate subject of Paul’s declaration is the people of Antioch. since the Jews of Antioch had “rejected” the Gospel, they were turning to the Gentiles of Antioch, which is what they did. Secondly, the Gentiles who knew the Old Testament and was also awaiting the promised Messiah were in the synagogue of the Jews, both as “proselytes” (who had been circumcised) and “God-fearers” (who believed in the God of the Old Testament but hadn’t yet been circumcised). Thirdly, while the thrust of Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles as appointed by God. Read Galatians 2: 7-8: “On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.”  Paul, of course, wasn’t prohibited from preaching the Gospel to the Jews. After all, Jesus had commanded evangelizing all nations: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,...” (Matthew 28:19)
 
What was one of the results of Paul and Barnabas’ preaching in the Jewish synagogue of Iconium?
“A great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1)
 
Why does the Bible say “Greeks” instead of “Gentiles”?
The language and the culture of the Roman Empire was Greek. As used above, “Greek” is synonymous with “Gentiles”.
 
Read Acts 14:2-3:  2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
 
What was the other result of Paul and Barnabas preaching in the Jewish synagogue of Iconium?
“... the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.” (Acts 14:2)
 
Why did Paul and Barnabas stay there “a long time” (Acts 14:3)?
A spiritual war of words broke out between the apostles and the unbelieving Jews, plus the Gentiles they stirred up, with the Lord confirming the apostles’ words with miracles: “the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” (Acts 14:3)
 
Read Acts 14:4-7: 4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the gospel there.
 
What happened to the people of Antioch in the end?
The Gospel polarized them: “The multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.” (Acts 14:4) - -as it tends to do today between those being saved and those not (yet).
 
Why did they make a “violent attempt ... to abuse and stone” Paul and Barnabas?
Unable to win the spiritual war of words, they resorted to violence.
 
And why would God allow this “violent attempt”?
To have Paul and Barnabas preach “the gospel” (Acts 14:7) also in “Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.” (Acts 14:6)
 
Where are Lystra and Derbe?
They are cities just to the south (Lystra) and southeast (Derbe) of Iconium.
 
Read Acts 14:8-10: 8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.
 
How did God open Paul’s ministry in Lystra?
With a miracle pretty much from the start.
 
Who had the faith to be healed?
The crippled man “had faith to be healed.” (Acts 14:9)
 
How did he get that faith?
By hearing the Gospel: “This man heard Paul speaking.” (Acts 14:9)
 
So does a person need to have faith in Jesus to be healed by Him?
Not necessarily. Sometimes the faith to heal rests with the one being used by Christ to affect the healing. Consider the case of another man with bum legs as recorded in Acts 3: 1-8: “Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them - walking, leaping, and praising God.”\
 
So, then, does a healing miracle requires either the one healed or the one being used to heal to have faith?
Again, not necessarily. Nobody had “faith” that Jesus would heal another lame man when He healed him, as recorded in John 5: 2-9: “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.” 
 
What then can we say about the Lord’s miraculous healings?
He can give the faith to be healed to the one being healed, or to the healer, or to neither. The bottom line is that God heals whomever He wants to heal. This doesn’t mean that we should stop praying for those who are sick or have infirmities, for God could very well intend for you to pray for that person so that His healing can be in answer to your prayers. But such prayers should trust both His power and choice to heal. And the cases of God not healing terminally-ill Christians shouldn’t be seen as His failure to heal or ignorance of our prayers, but recognized as early promotions to heaven.
 
Read Acts 14:11-13:  11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.
 
To whom were they “intending to sacrifice” (Acts 14:12)?
To Paul and Barnabas, whom they mistook for their idols.
 
Why did they call Paul, Hermes and Barnabas, Zeus, and not vice versa?
In their idolatry, Hermes was the messenger for Zeus, the top idol. Since Paul was the “chief speaker” (Acts 14:11), they gave the messenger’s title to Paul, and the other title to Barnabas.
 
Read Acts 14:14-18:  14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.
 
What is the first thing that Paul and Barnabas did in response?
They “tore their clothes.” (Acts 14:14).
 
Why did they tear their clothes?
Back then, it was the way to express extreme outrage and anguish. Paul and Barnabas were outraged and anguished that they were being called gods and that a miracle of God was being credited to them.
 
What is Paul’s message to them?
We’re “men” (Acts 14:15). Your gods are “useless” (Acts 14:15) idols. The real God is “living” (Acts 14:15), the Creator of “the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them” (Acts 14:15) and the one who has been providing for you with “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17) Since the Lycaonians were unfamiliar with the Old Testament, Paul declared the Lord to them using realities which they were familiar.
 
Did the Lycaonians listen to Paul?
Enough not to sacrifice to them, but only barely: “they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.” (Acts 14:18)
 
Read Acts 14:19-22  19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
 
Who chased after Paul and Barnabas?
The Jews from both “Antioch and Iconium.” (Acts 14:19)
 
Was Paul killed and then resurrected?
He was beaten badly enough and so immobile that they “supposed him to be dead.” (Acts 14:19)
 
What did God then do to Paul?
He healed Paul so quickly that he was able to travel the very “next day.” (Acts 14:20)
 
Why did God let Paul be beaten so badly?
To grant another edifying miracle to Paul and the disciples who “gathered around” (Acts 14:20) his beaten body and witnessed it being restored, but also to grant Paul and Barnabas some time free from the pestering Jews, now departed, as the two planted the church in “Derbe” (Acts 14:20), and then revisited the churches just planted in “Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.” 
 
Through what did the Apostles say we “must... enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22)?
“Many tribulations.” (Acts 14:22)
 
Why is this?
Christians fight for Christ against the devil, Ephesians 6: 10-12 says: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” And as a Christian is used by and bear fruit for the Lord, he or she draws enemy fire, the lack of which should be cause for serious concern and self-examination. If you’ve never been challenged, perhaps your faith is not as strong as it could be.
 
Read Acts 14:23: So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
 
What are “elders” (Acts 14:23)?
According to 1 Timothy 3:2-7, Elders, also called “Overseers” (Acts 20:28) or “Bishops” (Philippians 1:1) are Christian men who teach and lead churches under the authority of Jesus, who gave specific instructions on who may and may not serve in this leadership role: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” 
 
Why do many elders in churches today fail to meet the qualifications detailed above?
Since they fail to meet the above qualifications, they are not elders in the eyes of the Lord.
 
Read Acts 14:24-28:  24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
 
Where are “Pisidia” and “Pamphylia” (Acts 14:24), and “Perga” (Acts 14:25)?
Pisidia was the Roman province in which Antioch is located. Pamphylia was the province on the southern shore of modern day Turkey that was immediately south of Pisidia and where the two coastal city of Perga was located.
 
Hadn’t they already preached the word in Perga on their way inland to Antioch?
No, they had gone straight to Antioch as we recently learned in Acts 13: 13-14: “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia ... .” (Acts 13:13-14)
 
Where is “Attalia” (Acts 14:25)?
It’s the port city located immediately west of Perga and where Paul and Barnabas “sailed to Antioch” (Acts 14:26) of Syria to complete what for Paul would be the first of his four missionary journeys.
 
 

 
Acts 15
 
Read Acts 15:1-2:  1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
 
Why are they said to have come “down” (Acts 15:1) from Judea when it is south of Antioch in Syria?
They came down from the higher elevation of Judea to Antioch, located near the Mediterranean coast.
 
Who were these “certain men” (Acts 15:1) from Judea?
Had they been unbelieving Jews, Paul and Barnabas most likely would have just kept them out of the church until they came around. The fact that they had heated dispute(s) -- “no small dissension and dispute” (Acts 15:2) -- against these men indicates that they were most likely Jews who professed faith in Jesus but with a seriously flawed theology.
 
What was their flaw?
In effect, that becoming a Jew -- “circumcised according to the custom of Moses” (Acts 15:1) -- is a prerequisite to salvation.
 
Why didn’t the church in Antioch simply reject their flawed message?
Acts 11: 19-21 tells us the church in Antioch wasn’t founded by Paul and Barnabas: “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Barnabas, who recruited Paul, was a missionary to the young church in Antioch from the established church in Jerusalem. This is confirmed in Acts 11: 22-26: “Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Since another group of self-declared Christians from Judea were preaching a different message, at least some of the hearers in the Antioch church would have been unsure which side to believe.
 
How did they decide to settle the dispute?
“They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” (Acts 15:2)
 
Read Acts 15:3-4:  3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
 
Why did they pass through “Phoenicia and Samaria” (Acts 15:3)?
Travelling south from Syria, where Antioch was located, they would pass through Phoenicia (Lebanon today) and Samaria (central Israel today) to get to Jerusalem.
 
What did they do en route?
Acts 15: 3 says they told the churches en route about the conversion of the Gentiles, causing “great joy to all the brethren.” 
 
Upon arrival, did they report all that they had done to “the apostles and the elders” (v 4)? 
No, they reported “all things that God had done with them.” (Acts 15:4). Scalpels should never take credit for the surgeon’s work.
 
Read Acts 15:5:  5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
 
Who were “Pharisees” (Acts 15:5)?
The Pharisees were one of the leading sects within Judaism who took pride in trying to adhere not only to the laws in the Old Testament, but a dizzying array of man-made laws as well. They were respected by the other Jews and enjoyed social, religious and political power in the community, comprised a large proportion of Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, and were the chief persecutors of Jesus during His earthly ministry.
 
Why would they rise up in protest?
Given the similarity in the key message of the “certain men” (Acts 15:1)  in Antioch who were from Judea but apparently had not been sent by the apostles, and the Pharisees’ protest (compare Acts 15:1 with Acts 15:5), these Pharisees may well have been the ones who sent those “certain men” to Antioch.
 
Were these Pharisees Christians?
Since they are described as having “believed” (Acts 15:5), they most probably did believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but evidently retained element(s) from their flawed tradition.
 
What was the result of that retention?
They ended up trying, hopefully unintentionally, to inject a heresy into the church, confusing the young believers in Antioch, consuming their teachers’ time, and causing strife within the Body of Christ.
Read Acts 15:6-7: 6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
 
What did they “dispute” (Acts 15:7) about so “much” (Acts 15:7)?
Most likely what they thought and felt.
 
What did Peter tell them?
What God did.
 
When did God choose the Gentiles to hear the gospel through Peter’s “mouth” (15:7)?
When He had Peter preach to the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household in Caesarea as recorded in Acts 10: 30-43.
 
Read Acts 15:8-12:  8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” 12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.
 
When did God give “the Holy Spirit” (Acts 15:8) to the Gentiles?
While Peter was speaking to Cornelius and his household: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” (Acts 10:44)
 
What is Peter saying?
This dispute about the Gentiles is nothing new. It was settled “a good while ago” (Acts 15:7). Purification of the heart is achieved not by circumcision but “by faith” (Acts 15:9) and God makes “no distinction between us and them” (Acts 15:9).
 
What “yoke” (Acts 15:10) is Peter referring to?
Salvation through works - obeying a set of rules, “which neither our father nor we were able to bear.” (Acts 15:10).