BSF Acts: Bible Lesson 8 – Acts 14: Lecture

Aim: A relationship with Christ requires commitment.  Commitment means not quitting when things get hard.

Introduction:  Have you ever ridden on a roller coaster?  When you decide to do it, you step into the car, snap the safety belt and the train leaves the station.  You are committed all the way through, there isn’t anywhere to get off or turn back.  When Paul and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit in Antioch to go on this mission trip, they prayed about it, the church prayed and fasted, they knew this is what they were supposed to do.  They got onboard and strapped in.  No matter the ups and downs, no matter how scary, they were going all the way. That’s commitment.

Last week we saw Paul and Barnabas shaking the dust from their feet as they left Pisidian Antioch, wanting to leave the negative things behind them.  This week we see that the negative people followed them anyway, but some truly amazing things happen in spite of the opposition.

 

1st Division: Acts 14: 1-7 Paul and Barnabas speak effectively and boldly and many believe, but division occurs.

Principle: The power of the spirit raises the notice of the opposition

Illustration: Picture this: In a football game, a player is fumbling the ball, missing catches, doing bad passes or hand-offs and you are the coach of the other team.  How many of your players are you going to devote to covering this person?  Probably none.  It is like they are on your team already.  But what about the player who is doing everything well and scoring lots of points for their team.  You might double or even triple team that player.  We see this with Paul and Barnabas, but we also see it with our christian leaders today.  When you are actively spreading the word and being bold and effective, evil powers will be sent to put pressure on you, to get in your way and to try to prevent you from winning.  Thankfully, God has the master game plan!

Application:  Are you asking for the ball?  Are you practicing to be a better player on God’s team?  Would satan worry about getting in your way?

 

2nd Division: Acts 14: 8-18 Paul and Barnabas show the power and majesty of the Creator, but the people of Lystra give credit to the created.

Principle: Only those who truly listen receive the miracle of faith

Illustration: When my wife was a child her parents saved up for months to buy her and her sister a kitchen set for Christmas.  After opening the gift, the 2 kids spent much of the rest of the day playing with the box, ignoring the actual gift.  This is how people can be.  The healing of the lame man was only the outer wrapping of the actual healing that was occurring in his soul.  The ability to walk on this earth was very short compared to his ability to walk the streets of heaven.

Application:  Where are you being blinded by the wrappings instead focusing on the real gift?  Where do you need to listen first so that you may be blessed?

 

3rd Division: Acts 14: 19-28 The Jews arrive, Paul is stoned, Paul is revived and continues in strength

Illustration: Life is full of peeks, valleys and plains.  When we are a committed christian we will face opposition and persecution, and while we may not be stronger and we may be afraid and beaten down to our very last breath, God is stronger.  God doesn’t ask us to go on alone.  He doesn’t promise a smooth path, just the opposite, but he does promise to yolk us together with Him and with others.  Often we gain our greatest encouragement and strength from those we teach.  This is what Paul and Barnabas experienced as they finished their roller coaster ride back to its starting point in Antioch.

Application: Are you committed?  Do you desire a flat trail – if so that might only be achieved once you flatline?  Who are you encouraging and teaching so that you might be strengthened?

 

Conclusion: Lynn Anderson may have summed it up best – “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.  Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometimes.”

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BSF Acts: Week 7, Day 6 – Acts 14:20b–28

Acts 14:20b–28.

15. I think Paul and Barnabas strengthened and united the disciples through teaching, leadership, helping them establish organization and leadership, through prayer, through a pattern of worship and through hands-on-blessings?

16. Faith is like a muscle, to be strengthened it must be exercised which can be difficult.  I want to encourage others to persevere and to establish a “faith exercise routine.” (something I need to do far more of myself)

BSF Acts: Week 7, Day 5, Acts 14:20b-28

Acts 14:20b–28.

Summary: A stop at Derbe (another shepherds town in the plain), more disciples and more preaching.  Then, believe it or not, Paul and Barnabas travel right back through all the towns they just visited.  Not quietly.  Not in hiding.  But boldly proclaiming the gospel and continuing to win souls. They appoint elders as they go. They return to their home church and stay “for a long time.”

Questions:

13. a. Gaius and Timothy

b. The first difference is that they did not get run out of town.  Maybe the Jews thought Paul was dead and went back home.  Secondly, they picked up companions who would travel with them.

c. The question about how God shows grace implies that we are promised breaks in our suffering.  I may just be a contrarian, but I do not think that is really what the scripture says (see more in conclusions below).  I think the main area of grace that is shown in the city of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Pisidia is that God allowed Paul and Barnabas to be strengthened by seeing the harvest begin to come in.

14. How does each of the following verses show Paul’s love and care for those he led to Christ?

a. Acts 14:21–23 First: The fact that he came back!  We must face many hardships

b. 2 Corinthians 7:3 Paul is willing to live or die for the disciples

c. Galatians 4:19 Paul thought of new believers as his own infant children (still in pains of childbirth)

d. 1 Thessalonians 2:7–11 Disciples are like family.  Shared the gospel and life, working day and night to care for them (like a parent).

e. 1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 Believers are Paul’s Joy, Crown, Glory in heaven

f. 1 Thessalonians 3:8 Believers standing firm in the Lord is the very meaning of Paul’s life

Conclusion:  First, please do not miss the utterly amazing fact that Paul and Barnabas go right back through these places where there were direct and imminent threats on their lives.  Talk about a walk of faith.  In Rotary Club we talk about putting “service above self”, but we see that magnified in this death defying bravery.

Second (soapbox time):  All too often misquotes of scripture end up in our common language and become elements that believers think are actually in the bible.  One of these common misquotes is that “God will not give us more than we can bear.”  That isn’t actually what it says.  The verse this refers to is 1 Cor 10: 13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Notice that this refers specifically to temptation, not every day life and hardships.

Why am I so preachy on this?  I am concerned that it is implied in question 13c.  Clearly Stephen received more than he could humanly stand.  James did as well.  It is important because I think sometimes, when we don’t understand what this is really saying and we grasp to the misquotation, we struggle in our faith.  When we feel utterly broken, when we experience senseless death and violence, when we suffer from the loss or betrayal of a loved one – we can feel that, in fact, God has given us more than we can bear and therefore the scriptures must be a lie. But that is not what it says!

God does not promise us 2 hard days followed by an easy day.  What he does promise is that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand up under.  In other words, He will not lose us to sin ever again.  We are His and neither sin nor temptation can ever steal us away from Him.

But, in regard to hardship, pain and sadness he promises something different.  He promises to be yoked to us, to share our burden and carry us through it.  He promises hope and eternity.  He promises us His love and the willingness to lay down His son’s life for us.

If you are experiencing depression, pain, loss, fear, sadness, all more than you can bear – please do not fall to misquoted bumper stickers.  It may, in fact, be more than you can humanly bear – but it is not more than God can take and bear for you.  Pray.  Allow others to pray for you, but know that you are not abandoned and the real scriptures do not lie.

End of sermon (sorry!)

Acts: Week 7, Day 4

Acts 14:19–20a and 2 Timothy 3:10–17.

Summary:  The wolves arrive in Wolf Land!  Out of town Jews travel over 100 miles to “win the crowd”.  They take stone Paul and take him out of the city, but after they leave him for dead he got up and went back into town.

10. How quickly things can turn and how dangerous crowds (mobs) can become.  But, seriously, after being left for dead by stoning Paul gets up and “went back into town”!?!?!  I cannot see myself ever stepping foot back in the gates!

11. From Acts 16:1–3; Philippians 2:19–21; and 2 Timothy 1:2–5:

a. Timothy

b. I’m assuming this question refers to Gal 5:22-23 the fruits of the spirit (especially since that was the children’s memory verse this week!) Paul, in Timothy, found love, joy, kindness, goodness and faithfulness

c. God provides, through trials and persecution come blessings, the spirit blesses us through those we help teach and lead

12. (Challenge) I think this question is asking if Paul died at Lystra and then came back from the dead.  Did he have an experience such as described in modern books such as Heaven is for Real or The boy who came back from heaven (both great reads, BTW)?  Reading verse 5 of 2 Corinthians 12, I don’t think so.  I think, in these verses he is talking about John.  Paul may have died and been revived and he may have had a vision of heaven and the writing of this second letter to the Corinthians may have been 14 years later, but I think this passage refers to the Revelation to John – Rev 1:9-10, Rev 4:1

Conclusion: This verse and a half are the patron verses (is there such a thing?) of anyone who has worked in senior management, particularly at a large corporation.  One day you can do no wrong.  The people think you are a god.  The next, a new consultant/author/leader comes on the scene.  Next thing you know, you are being dragged outside the city walls and people are hurling stones at you!

Matthew Henry once said, “popular breath turns like the wind.”  In our culture being liked, being popular, fitting in, particularly in youth but, frankly in all of us, can become an obsession.  We can count and compare how many “friends” we have on Facebook.  We can turn the television on to any number of shows based on judges criticizing (lambasting for sport) contestants.  Paul learned a very important lesson in Lystra that he never forgot.  It is never about Paul’s ministry, it is always about Jesus Christ.

Finally – is anyone else having a Sergeant Peppers album flashback???  Paul is dead.  I buried Paul.  (sorry, another one of those generational moments I have!)

Acts: Week 7, Day 3

Read Acts 14:8–18; Psalm 19:1–6; and Romans 1:18–32.

Summary:  P&B move out of Iconium to Lystra and Derbe, smaller towns in the Lycaonians region.  They preach and do miracles, but face a new challenge, the people want to worship them as gods rather than worship the true God of their message.  P&B mourn, tearing their clothes, and attempt to set the people straight.

Questions

6. a. Preach first.

b. He listened and had faith to be healed

7. They were the messengers.  They could not be confused with the master.  The people wanted to accredit worship to them, which was the same as denying the only true on worthy of worship, God.

8. a. They worshiped “worthless things”.  They had been allowed to go their own way.

b. Turn / No Longer — Worthless / Futile

9. a. There is no “ignorance” defense for not believing.  God’s power and divine nature are evident in all creation and His work and blessings have been ongoing: rain, crops, food, abundance.

b. From all creation.  From the bible.  From Believers.  From a thorough examination: it is the explanation with the least “leap of faith”.

c. It stands in opposition to their gods and belief system.  Zeus is a child of Uranus and Earth.  Hermes is a messenger  These are man made gods as opposed to the one true God who created all.

Conclusion: The area that Paul and Barnabas are now in is a very large elevated plain.  See this photo of the area.  The area was ideal for raising sheep and the King of Galatia is said to have had as many as 300 flock of sheep of his own (anywhere from 12,000 to over 100,000 head of sheep) in this area, not counting those privately owned.  Sadly, the people of the area appear, at least at this time, to be much more comfortable being sheep than shepherds.  Interesting to note that the greek word, Lycaonia, literally means Wolf Land!

They speak a very different dialect and appear to have a difficult time seeing the depth and power of Paul’s message.  They see the miracle, but like so many today, they can not see the bigger picture and try to process the miracle within their jaded mindset.

I recently read the formal report of a cardiologist who went to Joplin.  He saw first hand the miracles that happened.  People huddles in a closet who survive only to find the only walls in their house still standing is this one closet, or those lying in a bathtub who open their eyes to find their entire driveway and house ripped away, but their bathtub untouched.  Through it, he first had heard the stories of the winged ladies who sheltered and protected these people.  He knew it to be true enough that he wrote of it in his official newsletter to all patients and partners.  But felt compelled to add the line “people have to believe in something.”

Acts: Week 7, Day 2

Acts 14:1–7

Summary: Paul and Barnabas preached “as usual”, effectively and boldy, in Iconium.  God confirms His message of grace through miracles.  The city is divided into two camps, Apostles and Jews.  P&B learn of a plot to stone them so they leave for the outlying towns.

Questions

3. a. Effectively and boldly

b. Because I have learned to rely on the words of the bible and not my own, my witnessing is effective.  However, I find that I am mostly bold in situations which probably do not require much boldness.

4. The word was spoken, many are saved, miracles are performed, but opposition was organized against the truth.

5. They rejected the message as being the truth and, as a result, fought it with the same fervor that Saul did before he saw the light.  This is not a surprising reaction, although it is wrong.

Conclusion: Iconium, modern Konya, is on a roadway southeast of Pisidian Antioch by approximately 100 miles.  According to last week’s notes, we learned that Romans considered a good day travel in this region to be about 16 miles so it would have taken the better part of a full week of travel to get here  As you can see from maps of the area, Iconium is on a direct pathway, and roadway of that day, from Pisidian Antioch to Tarsus (Paul’s home town).  The city, which was the capital of the area of Lycaonia, sits on the western edge of a great plain at 3600 feet elevation (more on this on Week 7, Day 3 Questions).

As the apostles head in the direction of Tarsus, they begin experiencing more of the fervor that Saul brought to the scene in his previous life.  The Jews who stand in opposition to the truth, particularly now that “their God” is being co-opted into a God who is available to gentiles without them becoming jewish, is hitting a little too close to the core of what they hold as “theirs alone.”  As a result, the passion against the truth is rising.  Even with the authorities in Jerusalem, in opposition to Peter, we saw them mostly imprison, scold, and beat the Apostles.  But, here, now, we see the people move quickly from treating them as guests invited to speak in the temple to something less that human that you would kill without trial by a mob throwing stones at it.

We will see Paul return to each of these places where seeds have been planted in future chapters of Acts and in the epistles.  However, we also know that he felt the hatred of those who stood in opposition not only of him but of the grace of God.  In 2 Tim 3:14 he recounts the persecution that he faced in this area.

Acts: Week 7, Day 1

2.  There were three things that I found very interesting in this week’s notes. 

The first was that Paul’s three missionary trips, the heart of his ministry, in total lasted only 10-13 years.  What an amazing impact he made in such a short period of time.  I have worked at jobs for more than 10 years and accomplished far, far less!

The second was the distance and terrain that Paul and his various companions travelled.  In this first mission trip of 3 years, they spend almost 10 percent of their total time travelling from place to place, over treaturous seas and snow covered mountains on rickety bridges..  In each new town they have to find lodging and work (they supported themselves along the way so as not to be a burden or lead anyone astray.) 

Third was the realization that the only reason that we have the writings of Paul is because God allowed him to be imprisoned.  Had it not been for his forced solitude, it is clear that he would be in the field saving souls, not locked in a cell with someone documenting the notes, information and faith. 

We are so richly blessed by the way that the Holy Spirit worked through this one man’s life.  But, to me, the biggest realization is that the power of the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to work to that level again, today, in any devoted christian.  Who knows what an amazing story our generation of believers may leave to childrena dn grand-children.