Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Jesus' Intentions for Saul of Tarsus
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For what three important things had God chosen Paul (22:14)?  To what extent have you been chosen for these?  How should you respond?

Acts 22:14

"Then he said: The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.

Paul was chosen to know God's will; to actually see Him and to actually hear Him speak.  Paul's situation was a ground breaking situation.  For us, it may be similar but not the same, at least initially.  Are we to know his will?  Absolutely!  That's the whole point of praying and studying His word, to come to know and understand Him and His will.  Somehow, I think we are meant to see and hear Him.  It can be said that ultimately we will see Him face to face.  But somehow, we can see Him now.  When we see the Church we see Him.  We may not understand that but it follows that the only time some people may see Jesus is through us, so it follows that we can see Him working by looking at the "Church".  Do we hear Him now? Yes.

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Posted on 03/11/2015 6:28 PM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Paul Defends Himself before the Jewish Leadership
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Paul called his speech a "defense" (Acts 22:1, Greek: apologia).  Summarize what he said to the Jews in Acts 22:1-21.

Acts 22:1-21

1 "Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense." 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 "About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?' 8 " Who are you, Lord?' I asked. " I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. 10 " What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. " Get up,' the Lord said, and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.' 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. 12 "A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14 "Then he said: The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.' 17 "When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking. Quick!' he said to me. Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.' 19 " Lord,' I replied, these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.' 21 "Then the Lord said to me, Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' "

 

I am a Jew, born and raised according to the Law.  I was trained in the Law by Gamaliel, a well-known teacher and was as zealous for the Law as any of you.  As a matter of fact, I was so zealous I even use to persecute the followers of Jesus.  Everyone knows this, just ask the chief priest and the members of the high council.  They can verify this.  I was even going to Damascus to arrest  the followers of Jesus.  But on the way there I personally saw and heard Jesus of Nazareth, who you know was crucified.  It was a miraculous event and I had companions who witnessed it.  I was told that God had chosen me to do assigned tasks.  I was to go into Damascus and there a well-known and respected man in the Jewish community whose name was Ananias would come to me.  He did and he lifted the blindness that I had as a result of the vision I had seen on the road into the city.  He told me that the GOD OF OUR FATHERS, had chosen me to KNOW HIS WILL, SEE JESUS THE RISEN MESSIAH, AND TO HEAR THE WORDS FROM HIS MOUTH.  I was then told that I would BE A WITNESS TO ALL MEN ABOUT WHAT I HAD SEEN AND HEARD.  I WAS TOLD TO GET UP, BE BAPTIZED AND HAVE MY SINS WASHED AWAY AND CALL ON HIS NAME. (GOSPEL)  I tried to return to Jerusalem then but my guilt over Stephen prevented me from witnessing to you then and then God told me that I was to leave and go to the gentiles.  

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Posted on 03/10/2015 6:22 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 8 March 2015
Why Persecution--The Heart of the Matter
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In 22:1-21, why do you suppose Paul didn't defend himself against the charge of defiling the temple (21:28)?  What was the real issue at stake?

Acts 22:10, 11-15

10 " What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. " Get up,' the Lord said, and go into Damascus. There   you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'….12 "A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14 "Then he said: The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.

Paul's task was not to defend himself but to be a witness for Jesus.  I guess the real issue at stake for the crowd was to accept what Paul had said about Messiah Jesus.  The real issue was again accepting Him as Messiah, as Savior, as God.  The issue was again the truth and their acceptance of it.  The continued rejection of Jesus as the Messiah is the bottom line.  He was supposed to be a witness for the Messiah, Jesus.  

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Posted on 03/08/2015 6:19 PM by Larry G
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Saturday, 7 March 2015
Comparing Paul and Stephen
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How were the accusations against Paul like and unlike those against Stephen (Acts 6:11-14, 21:27-28)?  Why is this significant?

Acts 6:11-14

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."

Acts 21:27-28

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, "Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place."

In both cases, the accusations were false.  In both cases the accusations were made by inciting mob violence.  In both cases they accused Stephen and Paul of speaking against the Law of Moses and the temple.  However, with Paul they accuse him of teaching people everywhere to oppose THEM.  With Stephen, the accusation was that he spoke against the Law and the temple.  Now the accusation is that Paul is opposing THEM.  In Stephen's case they accuse him of saying that Jesus would destroy the temple and change the Law of Moses.  In Paul's case they don't accuse him of this but of defiling the temple by bringing in Gentiles which was untrue.  But the reality is that Gentiles had been brought into the temple.  That is, because they had accepted the Messiah Jesus, they had been brought into Him; they had been brought into His body;  they or we are now the temple.  The accusation that Paul had brought a Gentile into the temple shows how exclusionary the Jews were in their vision or understanding of God.

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Posted on 03/07/2015 6:16 PM by Larry G
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Friday, 6 March 2015
Acceptable Participation in different cultural practices.
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What ethnic or religious customs (Jewish, Catholic, American, African, etc.) may a believer practice and what customs may he not practice?  (Think of some specific examples that are important to you.)  How do you decide?

It seems to me that most national holidays are events that can be celebrated.  Celebration of certain personal days, i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, etc also seem to be okay.  I think some ethnic groups like certain foods that might seem strange but eating them would not be wrong.  Actually participating in some a Catholic, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, or even Jewish ceremony wouldn't necessarily be wrong.  However, participating in spirit worship or an Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist worship would not be right.  I think the criteria for deciding to do this rests in Jesus.  Does the activity or event honor God, Jesus or does it cause a person to bend the knee to another entity.  Next we must consider whether or not  the activity builds people up or tears them down.  

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Posted on 03/06/2015 6:12 PM by Larry G
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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Dealing with Differences within the Church
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What can Acts 21:17-26 teach us about dealing with differences within the Church today?

We have to watch out for each other.  Our concern needs to be on building each other up in the Lord.  We aren't to argue about insignificant nothing.  I think Paul points out that the Messiah Jesus saved us, not what we eat or drink, where we go to church, how we dress, etc.  The Kingdom of God isn't about eating or drinking or following rules; it's about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; it's about unity.  He makes an interesting comment or observation that we do not live alone or die alone.  We are not in isolation but actually our lives exist in the context of other lives; and all of our lives are dependent or in the greater context of Jesus.  Synergy.  Paul then writes that whatever we do should lead to peace and "mutual edification".   It's not about the individual winning; it's about "us" winning; it's about the Body of Christ winning and being built up.  That's the major thing, the only thing.

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Posted on 03/05/2015 6:09 PM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Evidence that God is working in History
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What reasons do we have to believe that God does or does not work in history now as He did in Joseph's day?  Support your answer from scripture.

  • The Gospel says: That Christ died for our sins, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.  He died and three days later, rose again ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.  The bottom line here is that Jesus, the Messiah, came in the same circumstances and prescribed by the prophets; He died in the same manner as predicted in the scriptures and three days later, He resurrected-Just like God said He would. 
  • Tyre and other nations are destroyed as predicted
  • Israel is brought back into the land; Israel is gathered from the nations from which they were scattered and they become a nation in May 1948.  All of this was prophesied in Ezekiel 35.
  • It was prophesied that nations from the far north, Russia, along with Turkey and the Islamic nations of Persia, Libya among others would be brought against Israel in the end times.  Today Israel is back in the land and they are surrounded by these same nations mentioned 2,500 years ago by the prophets.  These nations today are also diligently working to destroy Israel, just as stated in the scriptures by He would declares the end from the beginning.
  • Islam and Russia are allied; both of whom hate God.  They will create the conditions which will result in the persecution of believers, i.e. mass beheadings, as described in the book of Revelation.
  • China, India and other Asian nations have become economic and military powers; in effect, setting the stage for the "Kings of the east" as described in Revelation. 
  • We see events and people coming together to create the scenario described by Jesus signaling his return.  See Matthew, chapter 24.
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Posted on 03/04/2015 7:48 AM by Larry G
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Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Going the Extra mile for your Brother
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What might have been some of Paul's reasons for doing as these believers asked?  Do 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and Romans 14:13-15:3 shed light on his possible motives?

Romans 14:15-17

15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit….19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification….22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

Romans 15:1-3

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."

I think Paul realized how fragile the church in Jerusalem was.  He realized how weak the faith of many was.  This was a solid man who really was focused on the gospel.  The welfare of others was his primary concern.  He did not allow their judgment of him force his judgment of them.  He wasn't going to let himself become a stumbling block to the Jewish believers.

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Posted on 03/04/2015 6:07 PM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 3 March 2015
Thinking about the Total Picture
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Did Joseph know God's reasons for what he endured while he was enduring it?  (How do you know?)  How might this fact affect an individual's response to trials?

When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers in Genesis, chapter 45, he tells them not to be distressed for what they did because he, Joseph, now realizes everything that happened in his life, occurred so that the end result was to save lives.  Not only Jacob and his family saved but the Egyptians and others in the surrounding countries.  Apparently Joseph was not aware of why things were happening as they did until the end when he was able to see the total picture. 

Hebrews 11 also mentions Joseph as an example of faith.  But bear in mind, that this is done only after the writer of Hebrews defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Joseph knew God was watching over him but he did not know the ultimate purpose of his life until the end, when he was able to connect all of the dots.

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Posted on 03/03/2015 7:45 AM by Larry G
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Tuesday, 3 March 2015
Serving the Gospel
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Why did the leaders of the Jerusalem church want Paul to participate in the vow (21:20-25)?  In their eyes, how would this act serve the gospel?

Acts 21:20-25

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."

I think the leaders of the Jerusalem church were concerned that there would be disunity within the Jewish church because of Paul.  I think they may have also been concerned for Paul's safety.  The situation might have been that here were all of these believing Jews who apparently felt that Paul was advocating an abandonment of the Law.  But actually the gospel about Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law.  They would see that Paul rather than abandoning the Law was actually obedient to it.  The gospel and the Law were tied together and Paul's behavior would show the connection.

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Posted on 03/03/2015 6:04 PM by Larry G
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Monday, 2 March 2015
All Things work together for Good
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How does Joseph's life exemplify Romans 8:28-29?

Romans 8:28-29

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

God arranged or used events in the lives of Joseph and his family to ultimately save them.  Ultimately Joseph trusted God.  It would seem that he always remembered that it was God who was in control.  He, Joseph, always was mindful of pleasing God; he trusted that God would work things out.  He trusted even when he could not see what was next.  But in the end Joseph was able to connect all of the dots.

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Posted on 03/02/2015 7:42 AM by Larry G
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Monday, 2 March 2015
Being all things to all People for the sake of the Gospel
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Was Paul right or wrong to participate in the purification and the Nazarite vows?  What scriptural principles determine your opinion?

In some respects I think he was wrong to do this.  He was already purified and dedicated to the Lord through Christ.  So in this respect going through these vows may have been an empty exercise.  But this whole incident shows that Paul is always going the extra mile for the Gospel.  However, what he does seems to be an attempt to create or foster unity. In this respect he is actually fulfilling the commandments and the law as spelled out by Jesus in Matthew 22.  He prepares to accommodate and then heads into the storm.  He does what would be considered right and then is persecuted anyway. Here is a Jew who is actually doing what he is suppose to do and he winds up being beaten and persecuted but the end result is that the Gospel goes to Rome.

Matthew 22:36-40

36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

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Posted on 03/02/2015 6:01 PM by Larry G
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Sunday, 1 March 2015
God Chastens the sons of Jacob
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Finally, God wanted to raise up a holy people through the sons of Jacob, but they were jealous, deceptive, vengeful men (Genesis 34:1-34, 37:4, 11, 19-20, 26-27, 31-32).  How did God chasten them (Genesis 42:21, 44:16)?

Genesis 42:21

21 Then they said to each other, "It is plain that we are being punished for what we did to our brother. We saw his deep distress when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this trouble has come to us."

Genesis 44:16

16 "What can we say to my lord?" Judah replied. "How can we plead? How can we justify ourselves? God has exposed your servants' iniquity. We are now my lord's slaves-both we and the one in whose possession the cup was found."

They feel guilt for what they had done to their brother, for their lack of compassion.  They think that is why pharaoh's official is giving them a hard time.  God also creates a situation where they are forced to admit their guilt.

 

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Posted on 03/01/2015 7:40 AM by Larry G
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Sunday, 1 March 2015
Can a Jewish Believer follow the Torah
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By joining in Jewish rites, do you think Paul was undermining his teaching to the Gentiles in Galatians 2:11-5:15?  Was he being like Peter in Galatians 2:11-14?  Why or why not?  (You might look at Romans 15:1-2, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.)

Romans 15:1-2

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul doesn't disassociate himself from the Gentiles because he is with the Jews, like Peter had done in Antioch.  Rather he chooses to honor those whom he is with.  He respects everyone.  He is very good at loving his neighbor and doing what he would have others do to him.  When we come into another's house we are to honor and respect them and their customs.  Paul doesn't say that these things are unimportant; they are definitely important to the people who believe them.  Paul shows sacrifice, patience, respect and self-control and above all, he shows love for his fellow Jews.

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Posted on 03/01/2015 5:58 PM by Larry G
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