Friday, 31 January 2014
Miracle Stories Involving Peter
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Compare Acts 9:32-43 to Luke 4:18-19, 38-39; 8:40-42, 51-56.  Why do you think it is important for us to know that Peter healed the sick and raised the dead (John 14:12-14)?  (That is, why does Luke keep telling us these miracle stories?)

Acts 9:32-43

32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 34 "Aeneas," Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat." Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!" 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Luke 4:18-19, 38-39

18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."… 38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

Luke 8:40-42, 51-56

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him…..51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep." 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

John 14:12-14

12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Luke had spent a lot of time with Paul who in turn had devoted a lot of his time proving that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah.  That was his orientation, his perspective.  Now Luke wants us to know that what Jesus had told His disciples would happen did in fact happen.  He constantly piles proof upon proof.  The witness goes on.  Everything that happens to Peter involves the power of the Lord, the power of Jesus.  It is really all about Jesus; He heals; He opens the eyes of the blind; He is the one who gives life and He is the one who provides salvation. What we see is Peter literally working out or should I say moment day by day and moment by moment, coming to understand the power and dimensions of what our Lord and Savior has provided.

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Posted on 01/31/2014 6:00 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 30 January 2014
Worshiping in Truth and Spirit
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How should we live if we are free Isaac, not slave Ishmael (Galatians 4:21, 28-31; 5:1-6, 13-26)?

Galatians 4:21, 28-31

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? …. 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Galatians 5:1-6, 13-26

1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. …. 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Walk by the Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

We are free from trying to reconcile ourselves to God on our own efforts.  We no longer entrust ourselves to our trying to obey an external law; but now we have an internal law.  As Isaac was born supernaturally, miraculously, so too have we when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  Believers are called to “walk by the Spirit” which means that we are to trust God and let ourselves be led by the Holy Spirit and God has promised us that He is the one who will make this happen. When we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit we are in fact worshipping God.  This is how we show that we love Him by obeying Him.  But we cannot obey Him or follow Him on our own efforts; it is God living in us, which is only possible if we accept the sacrifice that Jesus’ death provides for us.  Now how do we know that we are in fact being led by the Holy Spirit, how will we know that we are in reality “worshipping God in the Spirit”?  Well, we are told that our lives will be marked by the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  If we are led by the Holy Spirit, we will also find ourselves loving our neighbors as Jesus commanded us.  On our own we can’t do this, but with Him living in us and through us, this becomes a reality.  His righteousness becomes our righteousness as he lives in us.

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Posted on 01/30/2014 9:15 AM by Larry G
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Thursday, 30 January 2014
The Apostle Peter Moves Out
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The conversion of an Ethiopian Gentile (8:26-40) did not affect the policy of the Church because he returned immediately to his homeland and had no more contact with Jewish believers.  However, two almost simultaneous events confronted the Jewish church with the issue of the Gentiles’ place in their fellowship.  One was the evangelism of Hellenistic Christians in Antioch (11:19-30).  The other bore the authority of Peter himself, a leader of the Hebrew church in Jerusalem.  Read 9:32-11:18, trying to see the episodes from Peter’s point of view.

Acts 9:32-11:18

2 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed." And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, "Please come to us without delay."39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner......(chapter 10) 1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the dayhe saw clearly in a visionan angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius." 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea." 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Peter's Vision

9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him:"Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14 But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common." 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. 17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." 21And Peter went down to the men and said, "I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?" 22 And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say." 23 So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man."27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me." 30 And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.' 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."

Gentiles Hear the Good News

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 butin every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God aswitnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receivesforgiveness of sins through his name."

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.....(chapter 11) 1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' 8 But I said, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, 'What God has made clean, do not call common.' 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said,'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."

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Posted on 01/30/2014 5:47 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 29 January 2014
The Good News Spreads throughout the world
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Summarize what 8:4-40 contributes to the overall-all message of Acts.

Acts 1:8

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

These passages are a further elaboration of how God/Jesus accomplished what He said would happen.  He told his disciples that they would be His witnesses first in Jerusalem, then Judea, branch out into Samaria and finally to the entire world.  We can see this happening with Philip reaching out to the Samaritans and finally to the Ethiopian.  We also see that the gospel is intended for all and special emphasis is made to show that God intends this to everyone who ordinarily is considered an outsider, an outcast, an undesirable to the rest of the world.  He loves the whole world.

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Posted on 01/29/2014 2:09 PM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Hope for the hopeless
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Why do you think Luke makes a point of God’s guidance in having the eunuch evangelized (8:26, 29, 39) but no such guidance regarding the Samaritans?  Why is God’s guidance so important in the eunuch’s case?  (Consider Deuteronomy 23:1, Isaiah 56:3-5.)

Deuteronomy 23:1

No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.

Isaiah 56:3-5

3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.

Samaritans were at least physically and in a large respect religiously similar to the Jews.  But the Jewish distain for them was largely due to cultural differences.  But the law specifically kept the castrated eunuch from even being considered for inclusion with God’s people.  If Philip may have had some kind of discomfort with the Samaritans, he definitely would have been averse to having anything to do with such physically marked and ostracized individuals as eunuchs.  Philip was pushed all along the way to do something that at first he didn’t want to do.

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Posted on 01/28/2014 2:04 PM by Larry G
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Monday, 27 January 2014
Isaac -- A Type for All Christians
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How is Isaac a type for all Christians?

John 1:12-13

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 

Galatians 4:21-31

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband." 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Christians like Isaac are “children of promise.”  Just as the birth of Isaac was a miracle our spiritual rebirth is also miraculous.  When we were dead in our sins, not just a little dead, but totally dead and decaying, He came just like the scriptures said He would.  He was crucified buried; and three days later He rose again--just like the scriptures said He would.  And we live because of Him.  We can look at the changed lives of those around us and at our lives and realize what He has done and smile and laugh.  It is amazing what He has done; it is amazing that He smiles and laughs with us when He sees our joy.

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Posted on 01/27/2014 3:19 PM by Larry G
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Monday, 27 January 2014
The Significance of the Good News
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What good news (8:35) do you think Philip told the eunuch that made him want to be baptized?  Explain from earlier speeches in Acts and/or from Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

Acts 8:32-35

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness—15 so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

In the first speech at Pentecost, Peter tells the people that Jesus was handed over to them to be killed according to God’s plan and purpose and that God had accredited Him, Jesus to them by raising him from the dead.  When Peter and John address the crowd after healing the paralytic  they tell them that they killed the author of life and that they acted out of ignorance.  But what they did had actually fulfilled what the prophets had said would happen to the Messiah.  Peter and John also reiterate that in fulfillment of what God had promised through His prophets, Jesus had also been raised from the dead.  When both men are in front of the Sanhedrin, their message remains the same: He had been crucified as foretold and He had risen as foretold and there was salvation to all who believe or trust in this message.  The good news that Philip told the eunuch was that Jesus was the one spoken about by the prophet Isaiah; He was the one about whom the eunuch had been reading.  The prophecies about the Messiah had been brought about.  The thing or event that validated everything was that JESUS HAD RISEN.

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Posted on 01/27/2014 1:58 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 26 January 2014
The Joy of the Lord
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God chose the name Isaac (Genesis 17:19).  What does it show about His personality?

Genesis 17:19

God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

The name “Isaac” means laughter.  We might glean several things from this.  First, we might want to ask: “Who laughs?”  Well, we see later on that Sarah ends up laughing not in derision, but out of joy for what God has done in allowing her to miraculously conceive and bear her son.  She comes to realize that her reward for trusting God is--God himself.  What joy there is in knowing what God can do and realizing that He wants to do it. Second, we might also come to the conclusion that God, the Lord Almighty, Adonai, the Creator God has a sense of humor and he delights in delighting us; this makes Him laugh also.  It is interesting that God experiences joy when we experience joy in seeing and realizing what He is doing.  

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Posted on 01/26/2014 3:16 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 26 January 2014
Baptism in the Spirit
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Did the eunuch need the laying on of hands to receive the Spirit?  What evidence do we have (8:36-39)?

Acts 8:36-39

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

The Holy Spirit had been in control of the situation from the beginning.   He had directed Philip to approach the eunuch to begin with.  Philip was under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit throughout the event.  The Spirit is present throughout the entire episode.  After the eunuch is baptized the “Spirit of the Lord” takes Philip away and the eunuch who now doesn’t see Philip goes away rejoicing.  I think he’s rejoicing because he knows from the Holy Spirit dwelling within him that it was all real and he had been saved.

Just as baptism in water was the initiation rite symbolizing repentance and faith in Christ, entrance into the community of believers, and incorporation into Christ’s body, so “baptism in the Spirit” referred to that moment in which the Spirit first began to operate in believers’ lives. No particular style of the Spirit’s arrival is paradigmatic; he may come quietly and almost imperceptibly or dramatically and tangibly.

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Posted on 01/26/2014 1:55 PM by Larry G
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Saturday, 25 January 2014
Isaac -- He Laughs!
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Isaac’s name means “he laughs.”  Who was laughing (Genesis 17:15-19, 18:9-15, 21:1-7)?  Whose was the joke?

Genesis 17:15-19

15 And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her." 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" 18 And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!" 19 God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Genesis 18:9-15

 9 They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent." 10 The LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?" 13 The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." 15 But Sarah denied it,saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh." 

Genesis 21:1-7

1 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. 4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me." 7 And she said, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

Both Abraham and Sarah laugh when God tells them that Sarah will bear a son in her old age.  It appear that they laugh because they think that the whole idea is ridiculous; they don’t believe that the Lord can do this.  But later they laugh again, but this time out of joy over what the Lord has done.  It is good to trust the Lord.

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Posted on 01/25/2014 3:12 PM by Larry G
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Saturday, 25 January 2014
Deciding to come into Heaven's Door
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What convinced the Ethiopian Eunuch to be baptized (8:35)?

Acts 8:30-35

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Philip explained to him how Jesus was the one who the prophet was talking about and what the passage actually meant, how it foretold the gospel.

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Posted on 01/25/2014 1:48 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 24 January 2014
A Good Man is Hard to Find
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Why didn’t God just abandon Abraham and choose a more honorable father for the covenant nation?

First Abandoning Abraham would have meant that God lied when He instituted the covenant because we are led to believe that this covenant was all about what God would do, not God in response to what Abraham did.  Second, God heals those who are sick, those who are needy; He didn’t come to take care of the “perfect” folks.  His specialty is cleaning up and saving the “dead and dying”-- the absolutely “unclean.”  Finally, who is to say that there was somebody better than Abraham?

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Posted on 01/24/2014 3:09 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 24 January 2014
The Apostles -- Witnesses of God's Grace
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How was the Ethiopian eunuch’s conversion significant to the progress of the gospel (Psalm 68:31, Isaiah 56:3-5, Ephesians 2:11-18)?

Psalm 68:31—Envoys will come from Egypt; Cush will submit herself to God.

Isaiah 56:3-5

3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.

Ephesians 2:11-18

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

It showed that God’s promise that all families on the earth would be blessed would be kept.  Those who were previous without hope and excluded from God’s promises were now extended peace with God through the gospel.

What was the apostles’ role in taking the step to permit such a person into the church?  Why is this important?

They were to be Jesus’ first witnesses to the end of the earth and in Philip doing what he did; they became examples to others of the validity of the gospel for everyone.  Their credibility validated all future efforts to bring the gospel to the gentile world.

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Posted on 01/24/2014 1:40 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 23 January 2014
Our Sovereign Lord
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Observe how God responded even though this was the second time Abraham committed this sin, and even though it so closely followed the promise of Isaac (Genesis 20:3-7, 17-18).  What does God’s response tell you about…

Genesis 20:3-7, 17-18

3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, "Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife." 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, "Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this." 6 Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours." ….. 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

His Covenant -- Notice that God says that Abraham “is” a prophet, not that he “was a prophet."  In other words, Abraham didn’t lose his standing with God.  God still remembers his promise to Abraham

Abraham -- God is still working on Abraham, molding him, and strengthening his faith.  It is interesting that God makes Abraham pray for Abimelech.  He is broadening Abraham’s perspective and making him realize that what happens to others is important to God and it should be to Abraham.

Sarah -- God doesn’t let Abraham get rid of his wife.  God also protects the honor of this woman.

Abimelech -- God actually watches over this man; He knows what is going on inside this man and He cares for him.  He doesn’t want him to come to harm.

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Posted on 01/23/2014 3:02 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 23 January 2014
The Ethiopian Eunuch and the Gospel
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Who accepted the gospel in 8:26-40?

Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met AN ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

What status did a eunuch have with the Jews (Deuteronomy 23:1)?

Deuteronomy 23:1

No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.

To enter into the congregation of the Lord” means either admission to public honors and offices in the Church and State of Israel, or, in the case of foreigners, incorporation with that nation by marriage. The rule was that strangers and foreigners, for fear of friendship or marriage connections with them leading the people into idolatry, were not admissible till their conversion to the Jewish faith. But this passage describes certain limitations of the general rule. The following parties were excluded from the full rights and privileges of citizenship: (1) Eunuchs—It was a very ancient practice for parents in the East by various arts to mutilate their children, with a view to training them for service in the houses of the great….

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Posted on 01/23/2014 1:34 PM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Growing Faith from a Mustard Seed
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Recall the following Genesis passages: 12:10-20; 15:1, 6; 17:1, 23; 18:10; 19:29.  What does Genesis 20:1-2, 9-13 tell you about Abraham?

Genesis 12:10-20

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you." 14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, 'She is my sister'? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way." 20 So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.

Just prior to this passage, Abram/Abraham has just been instructed to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees to go to an unknown land that God will show him.  He leaves as God directs but we can see in the following passages that his faith or trust in God is incomplete; it is not perfect.  We also observe that at this point, Abram/Abraham is primarily concerned with himself, his own welfare, to the exclusion of others.  And even though God has told him that he is going to lead him, Abram/Abraham doesn’t believe that so he takes steps to protect himself.

Genesis 15:1, 6

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."…. 6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. 

Even though Abram/Abraham has failed, God doesn’t give up on him but comes to him in a vision and reassures him.  Somehow, Abram/Abraham makes a decision to trust God.  It is this decision to trust God that makes him “righteous.”  Abram/Abraham’s faith at this point is small.

Genesis 17:1, 23

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

God again appears to Abram/Abraham to reassure him and further instructs him as to how he is to trust Him-what his actions should be.  God continues to grow and nurture his faith.  It is also significant that God reminds Abraham that HE, is God; the ALMIGHTY GOD; THERE AIN'T NOBODY ELSE; THE ONE IN CHARGE.

Genesis 18:10

And He said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son." (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

God reappears to Abram/Abraham and also to his wife Sarai.  He reaffirms what He has promised Abram/Abraham and along with reaffirming his faith and trust, He begins to nurture the faith of Sarai/Sarah.  We will continue to see that the faith or trust of both Abraham and his wife Sarah is not perfect; but God continues to use events to increase and strengthen those kernals of faith residing in each.

Genesis 19:29

And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt. 

Here we see that God uses this event to further increase and strengthen Abraham’s trust in Him.  Here we see that God is trustworthy and faithful; He keeps His promises.  Up this point, we are still not led to believe that Abraham’s faith is absolutely perfect; he is still watching and observing what God is doing.

Genesis 20:1-2, 9-13

1 And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. 2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah…..  9 And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, "What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done." 10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, "What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?" 11 And Abraham said, "Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. 12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said to her, 'This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, "He is my brother." ' " 

Once again we see the imperfect faith of Abraham.  Actually, he is still pretty seedy and self-centered and we might be led to ask ourselves: What does God see in this guy?  But we must remember that God is working in the life of Abraham; He is molding him, refining him.  At this point, he still doesn’t trust God completely; but God remains faithful to him.  It’s interesting that he tells Abimelech that he was afraid because he didn’t think that the people in this land had the fear of God--apparently neither did Abraham at this point.  We would do well to remember Paul's words to the Philippians -- And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion atthe day of Jesus Christ.

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Posted on 01/22/2014 9:59 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Repentance and Forgiveness
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According to 8:18-24, is it possible for a baptized person to sin seriously and be forgiven?  Why or why not?

Acts 8:18-24

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19 and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." 24 Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me."

According to verse 22, it does appear that a baptized person can be forgiven if he seriously sins, if he will repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness.

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Posted on 01/22/2014 1:27 PM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 21 January 2014
The Imperfect Faith of Abraham
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Knowing that God has promised an heir through Sarah within the year, what does Abraham do (Genesis 20:1-2)?

Genesis 20:1-2

1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 

He travels into the land of the Philistines and while there he lets king Abimelech take his wife, Sarah, who Abraham says, is his sister.  He is afraid for his life and essentially throws his wife to the dogs to save his carcass.  No trusting God here.

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Posted on 01/21/2014 9:53 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Simon the Magician --Coming to Jesus for all the Wrong Reasons
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What was so terrible about Simon’s request in 8:18-19?

Acts 8:18-19

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said,Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

He wanted to be God.  He thought that this was something that a person could buy; godliness was something that could be bought.  He also saw the receiving of the Holy Spirit as another magic trick or a means to an end.  Maybe he saw it as a re-sellable commodity that he could profit by.

Why do you think Luke recorded the episode with Simon?  What does it add to the story of Acts?

Acts 8:1-25

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19 and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." 24 Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me." 25 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages

Here was a man who was captivating people with tricks, with supposed magic, maybe with using drugs to make them feel good.  People were impressed with this individual, the rich and poor, high and low.  He was essentially an arrogant man who wanted adulation and in a sense, worship.  He also apparently made money off of what he did.  But the people when they heard Philip’s message of the Gospel and Jesus, were easily turned away from Simon.  Luke relates how this man faked that he was a believer; he allowed himself to become a groupie, so to speak, to attach himself to the movement.  He could be the type that Paul alludes to when he wrote that some think that “godliness” is a means to acquiring wealth.  In any event, he sees Jesus and the Holy Spirit as a means to an end, as a way to improve on his act.  He also thinks in terms of money being the means to acquire anything.  But his attitude and actions outrage and actually horrify Peter and John.  They realize that he is actually someone who is actually caught up in his sins, his lusts, his ambitions, a “bitter root” that would poison whatever it touches.  In strongly advising him to repent and to seek God’s forgiveness they are also telling him that he’s in a perilous situation.  But they also may be telling or showing us that there is hope for such wicked people, if they turn to the Lord.  Luke may have included this account of Simon to show something about how vultures are attracted to the dying to feed off of them and maybe to show that these types are constantly trying to infiltrate the body of believers.

Do people ever try to buy spiritual authority today? 

I think that they do.  That may be one reason why people even give things.  Maybe they think it makes them into something bigger.  People also go to seminars, retreats, etc. as a means to increase their “spirituality”. 

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Posted on 01/21/2014 1:20 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 19 January 2014
The Good News is for Everyone!
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Why do you think it was important for God to use the apostles to demonstrate officially that Samaritans were true participants in the Church (John 4:9, 21-24)?  Why wasn’t Philip’s confirmation enough in this case?

John 4:9, 21-24

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )……. 21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The disciples were the witnesses of what Jesus had said to the Samaritan woman at the well.  Maybe this was further verification for the apostles regarding what Jesus had said.  It may have been necessary to prepare them for what was coming.  It also showed them that worshipping God was definitely not to be limited to the temple in Jerusalem or to any other place for that matter.  Philip’s confirmation would not have been enough for the apostles or the other Jewish believers.  They had to see it with their own eyes.

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Posted on 01/19/2014 1:14 PM by Larry G
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