God works good out of bad

It can be difficult for Christians living in the 21st century to realise the intensity of the hatred of Jews against Christians in the 1st century. As we read through the book of Acts we find that the Jews were the ones who persecuted Christians. When Paul was preaching it was the Jews who stirred up opposition against him, to the point of pursuing Paul from town to town.

Perhaps it is ironic that one of the first persecutors was Paul himself, known as Saul of Tarsus. The persecutor became a proclaimer of what he had persecuted, and was then persecuted himself! The Jews wanted Paul dead. They had stoned him once and made plans to eliminate him several times. Perhaps they hated Paul intensely because, in their minds, he had switched sides and because they could not answer his arguments about Jesus from their own scriptures. Continue reading “God works good out of bad”

Opposition to the gospel

What is it about proclaiming Jesus that stirs up opposition? This isn’t unique to our times. As Paul and Barnabas were traveling on their first journey they were constantly encountering opposition. This came from the Jews. Initially they were curious and wanted to hear more. But as Paul began to attract large crowds the Jews became jealous. They were thrown out of Pisidia.

When they arrived in Iconium “the same thing happened” (Acts 14:1 NET). Here the Jews stirred up the Gentiles and wanted to stone Paul and Barnabas – they fled to Lystra.

“In Lystra sat a man who could not use his feet, lame from birth, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he was speaking. When Paul stared intently at him and saw he had faith to be healed, he said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And the man leaped up and began walking.” (Acts 14:8-10) Continue reading “Opposition to the gospel”

Living a godly life

What do you say to someone as your life comes to its close?

As Paul wrote the second letter we have to Timothy, what memories he must have had of this younger man. He had taken Timothy with him on his travels and Timothy had learned from Paul to the extent that Paul could leave him to get on with the work that needed done for the Lord.

Yet there is always something more to say, some advice that you think the other person might need once you are gone. Listen as we read some of what Paul wrote as he knew his life was almost over. Continue reading “Living a godly life”

What a great God we serve!

While Paul was in Athens waiting for his companions, it gave him a chance to look around the city. What he saw disturbed him! There were shrines to virtually any false god you could think of, complete with images that were supposed to represent them.

A friend recently visited ancient Athens and he said that you can see exactly what Paul was talking about, as the foundations for the shrines were packed tightly together along the side of the ancient street. They weren’t large, but they were everywhere! Continue reading “What a great God we serve!”

Telling others about Jesus

Barnabas and Saul were selected by the Holy Spirit for a particular work. Saul had now been a Christian for just over ten years and had proven himself to be useful. Barnabas had brought Saul to Antioch a few years earlier to help him teach others about Jesus.

When we look at the order of the names of those listed as prophets and teachers in Antioch (Acts 13:1) it might be surprising to us that Saul is listed last. Perhaps due to his background as one who persecuted Christians, he did not have the same respect as the other teachers. If this was the case, those in Antioch were probably surprised when it was Saul who was selected along with Barnabas for this particular work. Continue reading “Telling others about Jesus”

From persecutor to proclaimer

Can you imagine how earth-shattering the news was that Saul of Tarsus had become a Christian?

He had gone to Damascus from Jerusalem to arrest Christians. He had with him letters from the high priest giving him the authority to do this (Acts 9:1-2 – keep in mind that the only Christians at this time were those who were Jewish). He was willing to travel at least 140 miles (220 km), a journey that would have taken around a week. This was one man who was determined to see Jews who were now following Jesus eradicated. Continue reading “From persecutor to proclaimer”

Let all you do be done in love

As Paul concluded his letter to the Christians in Corinth, the one we call 1 Corinthians, he had a number of last minute concerns to mention to them as well as a number of people to comment on.

He began by talking about the special collection they were taking up to help in famine relief for the Christians in Judea. He was concerned that it would be ready on time. He hoped to visit them after he went through Macedonia and warned them that he might even spend the winter with them. Continue reading “Let all you do be done in love”

What happened next?

“Paul lived there two whole years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction” (Acts 28:30-31 NET).

When we get to the end of a very exciting, enthralling book, we often want to know what happened next. This is what makes book series so popular.

I don’t know about you, but when I get to the end of the book of Acts, I want to know what happened next. Did Paul have to appear before Caesar? If he did, what happened? Was he set free? Did he travel further?

Gareth Reese, in his commentary on Acts (New Testament History: Acts, Joplin, MO: College Press, 1976), suggested that the Greek verb tense of Acts 28:30 implies that when Luke wrote this, a change had occurred in Paul’s situation. According to Roman records, if the accusers did not show up to press charges within two years, the prisoner was freed. Notice that Luke recorded that “Paul lived there two whole years…” Continue reading “What happened next?”