We continue our examination of Acts to discover as many relevant and important facts and get to the depth of truth found inside this amazing historical account of the early church. Today we tackle chapters 8-14.
Historical Facts: The first time the early church went outside the borders of Judea to spread the gospel (1-5). This was the result of severe persecutions from Saul and others.
Character Facts: Phillip was one of the seven young men who was selected in Acts 6. Samaria was a region adjacent to Judea and the inhabitants were considered lesser than regular Jews. As Phillip had already worked with Hellenistic Jews, people who also were judged as lesser than native Jews, he was qualified to bring the gospel to these people. He later went to a eunuch, a class that was also looked on as inferior (26-27).
Scriptural Facts: When Simon the Sorcerer tried to buy the Holy Ghost, Peter commanded him to repent of his wickedness. He then noted that the wickedness came from gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. This is the first reference to discernment coming from the Holy Ghost empowering someone and showed that evil intentions come from self-destructive tendencies.
Spiritual Truth: God will send those out who are both willing and qualified to do the work of the Lord. We are qualified by our relationship with Christ but also our involvement in the least things. It’s from those things that we are developed and then entrusted by God. Phillip had the ability to baptize but was not called to pray that people would receive the Holy Ghost (14-16). He didn’t overstep his role.
Historical Facts: The opening of this chapter reveals that the commission against the early church had been expanded beyond the borders of Judea to as far as Damascus. Saul was the head of this persecution and was allowed to bring Christians across borders to be judged in Jerusalem (1-2)
Character Facts: While resembling a bounty hunter and displaying merciless wrath, Saul recognized that the light that knocked him off his horse was in fact the power of God (3-5). Saul is depicted throughout this chapter as a man who both recognizes God and is passionate about His ways. He immediately obeys God’s commands (6-9), is baptized and receives the Holy Ghost (17-19), and began immediately to get involved in the church (20).
Scriptural Facts: Peter uses his experiences with Christ to encourage himself in two instances. First, he tells a man to take up his bed and walk (Acts 9:34, Matthew 9:6) and also when he prayed for Dorcas to be raised from the dead (Acts 9:41, Luke 7:12-15, Luke 8:51-56).
Spiritual Facts: When God reveals himself to us, will be able to understand that it is He? Will we obey what He says, even when it cuts us deeply and may cause us inconvenience. Finally, are we watching when God moves around us and believing that we can do the same as He does because we have Him in us?
Historical Facts: This is the first time the gospel is preached to a Gentile. Much like with the Samaritans, who were a mixed race people, the mantle fell to Peter to be the first to preach to these people (10:1-5, 21). He would go on to preach Jesus Christ to Cornelius, the Holy Ghost would fall on Cornelius house and they all would be baptized (34-48)
Character Facts: Cornelius was a centurion stationed in Caesarea. He may have been around during the ministry of Christ. He respected God, gave to those in need, prayed and fasted (2, 30). He was a man who was preparing to receive God even before God showed up.
Scriptural Facts: Peter was concerned about eating the animals that descended from heaven because they were unclean in the eyes of the Law and he and the early church were very careful to not break the Law of Moses while teaching the fulfillment of the Law, which is Christ. (Acts 10:14, Leviticus 11:1-17). Peter’s attempt to rationalize God’s message nearly cost him the opportunity to spread God’s message.
Spiritual Truth: When God gives us a command, sometimes it will cause us to rationally question the command. However, having known the voice of God, we must accept what God speaks and believe that the purpose is for His Kingdom. If we do, God will open us up to give/receive all that He has for us.
Historical Facts: The first specific mention of a prophecy is given (27). It foretold of a great famine throughout the world (28). The church responded by providing humanitarian aid (29-30).
Character Facts: Barnabas was a disciple maker (22-24). He had a spiritual calling to encourage and teach new saints in the ways of the Lord and to establish churches to become sustainable. He also was notable for his belief in those that others rejected, such as Saul (25).
Scriptural Facts: This is the first major discrepancy in the church. Many did not want to allow Gentiles to receive the promise Christ had given. However, upon hearing Peter’s testimony, it was decided that this was a good thing and the first major missions trips were planned and begun (1-26)
Spiritual Truth: As a church, we cannot shun people because they are different than us. We must embrace the calling of God gladly and take it as far as God will allow us to go. Along the way, situations will arise where we are able to meet needs from both a spiritual and practical level.
Historical Facts: James the brother of John and an Apostle is murdered (1-3). This was around Passover. Peter was also imprisoned for the 3rd time, but escaped again with the help of an angel (3-10) King Herod later dies of a plague of intestinal worms (20-23) as punishment from God.
Character Facts: Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark, is mentioned for the first time (12). He and his family are seen as a safe place for Peter to retreat to. Mark’s faithfulness and trustworthiness are rewarded with the opportunity to join Barnabas and Saul on the mission field (25).
Scriptural Facts: The church prayed for Peter without ceasing while he was imprisoned (5). This is both an application of Jesus teaching (Matthew 18:9, Luke 18:1) and the sayings of Isaiah (Isaiah 62:6-7).
Spiritual Truth: When things don’t go our way, it’s not time for us to throw in the towel. Instead, we must increase our prayer and that will increase our faith. Note, though, we must receive the answered prayer when it comes. The people praying for Peter did not at first (14-16).
Historical Facts: While not their first mission, this is the first detailed mission that Barnabas and Saul went on. This is also around the time Saul began going by Paul (9). This is also the first opportunity for Mark (also known as John or John-Mark) to minister (5). Mark also departs from them to return home (13)
Character Facts: This is the first time that God allows one of his witnesses to curse a person (9-11). This allowed the people who needed to receive God to do so (12). This mission also saw the first major rejection of the message of Christ by the Jews while also seeing widespread acceptance by the Gentiles (42, 48, 52).
Scriptural Facts: Paul used multiple Psalms to witness to people (Psalms 2:7), as well as quoting from Psalms 16, 49 and 89 to confirm that Christ, while being from the lineage of David, was above David and should be revered as such.
Spiritual Truth: When we go forth to be used by God, we may see opposition. It is okay to rebuke a false witness for the sake of the true witness inside of us. However, our rebuke is not sustaining unto death (11). We also cannot be discouraged when the people we are trying to reach reject Christ’s message. God will allow it to be received because we put forth the due diligence to spread the gospel.
Historical Facts: This is the first time that a city is truly seen as divided about the message of God (4). The first time a city was truly divided about the message of Christ (4). Later, Paul and Barnabas dealt with false interpretations of their actions for Christ (8-18). Also the first mention of a set order in a church plant (23).
Character Facts: Paul, despite being stoned for preaching the gospel, is raised up and reenters the same city from where he was stoned (19-20). This underlies that continued and passionate commitment he had to spread God’s word, even when facing death and being misrepresented.
Scriptural Facts: In an attempt to dissuade the people from sacrificing to false gods, Paul and Barnabas used relatable qualities of God to the people. They attributed the tangible things that people could see and on which they relied to God (17, Leviticus 26:4, Deuteronomy 11:24, Job 38:26-28).
Spiritual Truth: We cannot dictate people’s response to our efforts to witness to them. Some will receive it correctly, others will misinterpret it and still others will seek to defame or harm us for it. Regardless, our response must be to point them back to God.