Before we dive back into Acts, picking up where we left off in chapter 21, take a moment and get caught up to speed on the story so far:
In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised His disciples would receive POWER and be His WITNESSES. The Holy Spirit came to indwell all believers, and they began witnessing! The church grew as many came to believe in Christ. Religious leaders were constantly trying to stop the “Jesus talk”, culminating in the execution of Stephen. This scattered the church, but did not stop the religious leaders from pursuing, especially a man named Saul - who met Jesus while on the way to arrest Christians. Then God opened the door for Peter to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, changing the course of history. Even the king’s (Herod’s) attack on the church couldn’t stop the power of God. That’s Acts 1-12.
Starting in Acts 13, we find Paul (the aforementioned “Saul”), Barnabas, and Mark had left Antioch and went to Cyprus. We saw how the Holy Spirit was at work, empowering ministry, fighting spiritual battles, and saving souls. In Antioch of Pisidia, Paul delivered the longest recorded sermon we have from him to the Jews in the synagogue. The sermon’s point: history and salvation are all about Jesus, and you have a choice to make.
The missionaries get back in time for an attack on the church – people claiming you had to obey the Old Testament Law in order to be saved (Acts 15)! This was settled at the Jerusalem Council, where the verdict was “Salvation is by grace through faith. Jews: don’t trouble Gentiles with legalism. Gentiles, don’t trouble Jews with your freedom.”
Paul and Barnabas have a falling out over taking Mark on the next mission trip. So Barnabas takes Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul takes Silas to Syria and Cilicia, when they picked up Timothy and got the vision to go to Macedonia. In Philippi, the crew witnesses to a group of women. One woman, Lydia, receives Christ and invites the missionaries to stay with her. After driving an evil spirit out of a fortune telling slave girl, Paul and Silas are beaten and imprisoned, but God sends an earthquake to release them. The jailer attempts suicide, but is stopped by Paul and lead to Christ. Paul and Silas are asked to leave, and did after they get the magistrates to apologize.
Paul and co. go to Berea and find people eager to receive the Word, examining it daily. But the enemies of the Gospel from Thessalonica chase Paul out – so Paul is escorted all the way to Athens, where he sent a message back for Silas and Timothy to get there ASAP. While in Athens, Paul boldly confronts the idolatry by preaching that the “unknown god” they acknowledged is the God of Israel, Who: created all things, is the source of life, is not far from any of us, commands everyone to repent, and will ultimately judge the world by His appointed Man.
Paul then headed to Corinth, where he made tents with Aquila and Priscilla and preached the Gospel. Timothy and Silas finally catch up to him, and Paul stayed 18 months. After several more stops, Paul ends up in Ephesus. He preached the Gospel there for over 2 years, seeing radical repentance from occultists burning millions of dollars worth of books. But the unrepentant saw Paul as a threat to their business, so they started a riot that was quieted by the town clerk.
Paul's journey continues through Acts 20, where he ends up in Troas. There an especially long sermon sees one young lad fall asleep – and fall out the window to his death! This Eutychus is miraculously raised from the dead by Paul. In a hurry to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost, on the way Paul stops and sends for the elders of the church at Ephesus for some personal words to them. These words served as instruction, warning… and a final goodbye. Paul knew his mission was bringing him to a finish line...
-to be continued 10/8/2017!