Paul went from town to town and from house to house declaring Jesus. He even stated:
“…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,” Acts 20:20 ESV
Paul did not hesitate to preach anything that he thought would be helpful to the believers he knew. Especially the importance of faith in Jesus:
“testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21 ESV
That is how we need to live our lives. There is only one answer to the circumstances of life that we find ourselves in. There is only one truth! May we declare this to those we know. It is the only thing helpful in a world that is confusing and full of hurt!
“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,” Acts 19:11 ESV
People were being healed, demons were being cast out, lives were being changed. People who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls they used to do so and burned them. They were turning wholeheartedly to God!
“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” Acts 19:20 ESV
This disturbed Demetrius, a silversmith who made idols. It cut into his profits he made by selling his gals gods. So he accused Paul of discrediting the ways of the Ephesians who worshipped their “great goddess.” He stirred up a riot.
Satan is not creative in his techniques. What he did in Ephesus of Paul’s time he will do today in ours. He does not want us to get close to God. He doesn’t want miracles to occur in our lives or the lives of those we are around. He most definitely does not want God’s word to increase or prevail! He will do all he can to stop the goodness of God. But he cannot prevail!
The “great goddess Artemis” is an idol of history. She was never alive, temple in ruins, and mostly forgotten. The name of Jesus is still going strong! The Holy Spirit is still working in our lives! Our God is still victor!
Paul went to Ephesus on his missionary journey. When he arrived there he found disciples there who had believed. They had not heard of the Holy Spirit and had only been baptized with John’s baptism of repentance. Paul explained:
“John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”” Acts 19:4 ESV
They were baptized and then Paul placed his hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. Once again the Holy Spirit filled the people as He did on Pentecost:
“And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” Acts 19:6 ESV
God had not changed. He filled the believers in Ephesus with the same promised power and presence of the Holy Spirit. God has not changed still today! We are a part of the promise:
“For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” Acts 2:39 ESV
Paul frequently went to the synagogues to reason with the Jews explaining that Jesus was the Messiah. He testified of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles. Several times he was rejected, even to the point of hostility.
One night Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision.
“And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,” Acts 18:9 ESV
The world will reject knowing Jesus. There will be opposition from those who have hardened their hearts. But we are to not be afraid to speak of Jesus to those around us. Because the Holy Spirit can soften the most hardened of hearts.
We are to follow Jesus’s directive as well! “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,”
Paul and his companions continued on their missionary journey spending time in various gathering places declaring the gospel of Jesus. Some received the message others did not and would try to incite the crowds against him. Each time Paul would move on but continue to share Jesus.
Paul ended up in Athens, Greece. He was greatly distressed to see the number of idols that were in the city. He noted that the people there were very religious. They were searching for God, the one true God. They even had an idol erected in honor of the “Unknown God.” That very God they were looking for did not want to be unknown in their lives. He had been speaking to them all along.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:24-27 ESV
We are not that different than the people of Athens. We erect all kind of things we worship instead of the true and living God. We run after our ways, our thoughts, and our own ideas instead of following His word. But our God wants us to KNOW Him. This is why He sent Jesus and this is why He longs to fill us to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. He wants us to seek Him and find Him.
Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for doing a good thing, casting a demon out of a slave girl. Not only were they thrown into prison they were beaten with many blows of rods. Then they had their feet put in stocks and were kept in the inner prison so they could not escape.
Their reaction was to pray and to praise God out loud. Loud enough the other prisoners heard them. Then an earthquake happened and all the bonds fell off the prisoners and the doors were all opened. But they did not run away instead they stopped the jailer from killing himself in fear. That jailer then wanted to know Jesus. He took Paul and Silas home, washed their wounds and listened to them. He and his entire household were saved and baptized.
I love this story. What seemed like defeat and helplessness turned into a great victory as the Holy Spirit enabled Paul and Silas to be witnesses to the one who held them in jail. What could have been time for a pity party and defeat was a midnight revival- prayer meeting and worship time! God took what was evil and made it an opportunity to show His love, power, and salvation!
As we die to ourselves and live in the power of the Holy Spirit, God will be glorified in every situation! His goodness will always prevail!
Paul and Barnabas continued on their missionary journey. God bore witness to His grace by “enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” When they went to Lystra, Paul prayed for healing of a man who was lame from birth. He was healed, “jumping up and walking.” The crowds were convinced that Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes, gods, come down to them in human form. They proceeded to try to worship them. Paul tells them this:
““Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”” Acts 14:15-17 ESV
The people of Lystra followed idols, “vain things.” We also follow “vain things” in our time. We may not bow down to a golden calf or believe in all the Greek gods of ancient times. But we worship our own way over God’s way. This is what the people of the town were doing. God showed His kindness to them so they could find Him, but they could not see Him. Because they were intent on “going their own way.” We do the same.
This is why Jesus came. This is why He sent the Holy Spirit to enable the believers to be witnesses of Him. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to turn from our worthless ways to the living God, who created us and desires for us to know Him intimately. Let us not be as the town of Lystra. They heard what Paul said and turned on him, stoning him and dragging him outside the city. We have the opportunity to accept the truth and let it change us. May we listen to the Spirit of Truth! Come Holy Spirit!
The church in Antioch had prophets and teachers. They were worshipping the Lord and fasting when the Holy Spirit spoke to the to set apart Barnabas and Saul/ Paul for a work to which He had called them. They fasted and prayed and then sent them off. The rest of the chapter tells the accounts of two of the places Barnabas and Paul stopped on their missionary journey.
Both of the places they stopped had opposition from the enemy/ Satan. But they were not deterred from proclaiming the Good News of Jesus! And in both places people believed! The chapter ends with this statement:
“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52 ESV
The Holy Spirit has a work for us to do as well. We are to proclaim the mighty deeds that God has done on our behalf. We will face opposition! The enemy does not want us to lift up Jesus so those around us can see. We can take courage! We can be filled with the Holy Spirit and joy! God’s Word will continue to spread and He wants to use us and set us apart as He did Barnabas and Paul! We can be a witness as they were through the power of the Holy Spirit!
I love this account of God’s power as He delivered Peter from jail. What God did was so amazing it was hard for Peter to understand and for the disciples gathered praying for Him to believe. It was mind blowing!
As the angel appears, Peter’s chains fell off and gates were opened, Peter thought he was seeing a vision. When Peter went to where the disciples were the servant Rhoda answered. The disciples thought she was “out of her mind.”
What struck me was these very disciples were praying for Peter! God loves to work amazing miracles in our lives and the lives of others! He loves to perform the kind of miracles that leave us speechless and scratching our heads. He loves to display His power and His glory!
The disciples saw what was an impossible situation and they were faithful in prayer. They could not and did not imagine the miraculous that God did to answer their prayers. God came through! Peter was freed. In the end, the one who put Peter in jail in the first place died because he failed to give glory to God. And “the word of God increased and multiplied.” (Verse 24)
God’s plan goes on! The work of the Holy Spirit through His people that was started on Pentecost continued on and it continues on today! Be faithful to pray and be assured we serve a God of mind blowing miracles!
The Good News of Jesus keeps spreading! Especially among the non Jews/ Gentiles. The Lord’s hand was on the ones spreading the news. He was working in the hearts of the people. As it says in verse 23, the grace of God had done” it! The grace is defined in Webster 1828 Dictionary as the “Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin.” The Holy Spirit was influencing the people. He was drawing them to Himself, to have their hearts changed so they could know Him in the deepest part of themselves.
If we listen and open ourselves to Him, the Holy Spirit is always extending God’s favor towards us. He is always leaning towards us desiring to give Himself to us! The presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives is evidence that God WANTS us to know Him intimately! Not just a surface, Sunday Church only relationship. 24/7. Every day all day!
May we be as the early believers in Antioch who believed in God and turned to the Lord! May we be full of the Holy Spirit and Faith!