We are basically at the halfway point in our study into the Book of Acts. At this point, all of the groundwork for the new church has been laid. The church is firmly established, as Jesus directed, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and it has already begun in what is still spreading until this very day into the uttermost part of the earth. The rest of Acts is mostly taken up with the three missionary journeys of Paul and his various companions establishing churches in Greece, Asia, Macedonia, and finally, Rome.
Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’” Acts 13:46-47
To all the wonderful Jewish people in the world: Thank you.
Thank you for receiving the law and the prophets and keeping them for history.
Thank you for loving God and seeking to obey His commandments.
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
Opens prison doors sets the captives free
Peter was asleep when the angel came to free him from prison. Since he was obviously famous for miraculous jailbreaks (with supernatural assistance, of course), King Herod Agrippa assigned extra guards to him, making this escape all the more spectacular. Peter had been chained between two guards and if he somehow managed to get free of them, there were two guard posts to pass before reaching the large iron gate, too heavy for one to open, that led to the street. But the angel “struck him on the side to awaken him,” dropped the chains from off him, walked him past the two guard posts and when they got to the big iron gate, it opened automatically like the front door of Target.
When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Acts 12:14-15
The relative peace the church enjoyed while Saul was away learning from the Lord in the Arabian desert came to an abrupt halt when King Herod Agrippa decided to entertain the Jews by stepping up the persecution of the Christians, so he had the Apostle James run through with a sword, and since that pleased everybody so much, arrested Peter to stand on public trial. With the Jewish authorities being judge and jury, and Peter still making them responsible for the death of Jesus, Peter didn’t stand much of a chance, especially with a sword still bloody from James. Things were finally going to be set straight according to the Jewish leaders.
The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. Acts 9:31
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.
But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.
When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus. Galatians 1:11-17
The verse above from the book of Acts indicates a period of relative calm for the developing church in Jerusalem. It was also a time of steady growth, not only of people being added to the church but of individual growth of the believers. The verses from Galatians explain what was going on with Saul (later known as Paul) during this time. He spent a long time alone in an Arabian desert. It’s hard to nail down an accurate chronology of the book of Acts from the New Testament, but most scholars have this desert time lasting anywhere from three to ten years. My most trusted source has it at ten. Anyway you cut it, it’s a long time to be relatively inactive in a book of action.
We interrupt our study in Acts to spend a moment with Miss Jocelyn Anne Fischer who turned two yesterday, and whose birth was acknowledged and duly celebrated with a small family gathering in Brea, California at the home of Mr. Chuck E. Cheese. At two, we’re not sure how much of the events around her she is able to grasp, but that doesn’t matter, because Joci is one to take what she can make of pretty much any situation. To watch her is to watch someone walking matter-of-factly through a world of their own making. If she wants to acknowledge you, she will; if she doesn’t, she won’t. You have to not take it personally. It’s not a snub. She’s just has an agenda she isn’t telling anyone about.
A good time was had by all, including Chandler and his girlfriend, Morgan. The colorful lolly pop in these pictures was won valiantly by the strong efforts of Chandler and Morgan at various games in the arcade.
Being our first grandchild, it’s only right to acknowledge new feelings I haven’t had before — feelings of being somehow connected to something wonderful I had nothing to do with. It’s God’s miracle of life that never gets old, because each person born is a totally new creation mirroring something not yet seen or known of the image of God. It is no small thing to be such an important part of His universe, yet such a humble part as well, when we understand the vastness and breadth of His greatness and His wisdom.
When so much of normal decency and human respect seems to be unraveling in front of our eyes, it helps to recall how precious and important we all are and especially our children.
Happy Birthday Jocelyn.
Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. Acts 10:28
Peter is beginning to realize that Jesus coming to earth was the fulcrum of history. That for the entire Old Testament, God was primarily working with his chosen people, the Jews. This was because the savior of the world was coming through them and God had many things He wanted to teach and illustrate through the time recorded as the law and the prophets. But in the fulness of time, what all history was waiting for — the coming of the Messiah — came, and now everything has changed. God is no longer keeping Himself for one line of people and their descendants, He is now turning His attention to all people, all tribes and all nations. His Son is truly the Savior of the world. The new Jewish Christians are going to have to go through a major transformation in their thinking and their actions towards non-Jews, and it’s going to start with Peter.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
To whom will we be His witnesses? It’s a critical question, and one not always recognized.
We’ve been talking about how this is the key verse in the book of Acts. It reveals not only the main purpose for the new believers — spreading the news about Jesus — it outlines how they will go about it and to whom. How the church will start in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the surrounding region of Judea, then into Samaria and finally out to the ends of the earth (that would be as far as you could go). But there’s something else in this charge that escapes us because we are not that familiar with the culture at that time. Jesus is basically saying that beyond Judea, you will be my witnesses among the forbidden peoples. You will be my witnesses among those people against whom you and your Jewish friends would normally discriminate.