As we celebrate the ending of our study of the Acts of the Apostles, Adult Pastor Gavin Carrier leads us as several of our church family members share their stories of faith, service, ministry and grace.
We have reached the final verses of the Book of Acts. We have been anxiously anticipating a trial for Paul or perhaps martyrdom like Jesus, but the Book of Acts ends with a twist. There is a larger story going on here as the word of God keeps moving. Paul’s final recorded interaction with the Jewish leadership and the statements concerning his prison time in Rome leave the story of the progress of the Word wide open. So what is our response to those hard hearts around us who refuse Christ? And where do we fit into this larger story about God’s word?
Why does Luke include these 60 verses in his letter? If he simply wanted to communicate that Paul was going from Point A (Ceasarea) to Point B (Rome), he would have easily summarized that in one sentence. There is so much more that God wants to show us in this section of Scripture. This is no ordinary Boat Ride! On this journey we see Paul encounter 3 Obstacles: a Storm, some Soldiers, and a Snake. Is God big enough to see that Paul will make it to Rome? Is God big enough to help us face the obstacles that come our way? Who is in control of these things anyway? Who is driving this ship and can we trust Him? We also don’t want to miss the significance of the gospel making its way to Rome: the center of the universe for the Gentile-world. God’s plan of salvation truly is and always has been for all nations!
Paul meets the challenge of three more hearings before three different men as he continues to inch closer to Rome. Together these three meetings answer one question: How will the gospel that Paul preaches fare in the capital of the empire? In the details of the meetings we find that Truth is always timely. It is often attacked. And it is always best understood when it is spoken in my language. The big picture truth of these chapters is in the details
What is the power of a realized purpose? When we realize our purpose in Christ we experience the greatness of God’s power. Having confidence in his plan saves us from fear. Paul is a great example of this; we see how courageous he was through confidence in God’s plan. Paul’s experience in Jerusalem is much like Jesus’. The angry Sanhedrin sought his death through use of the Roman guard. However, it was not Paul’s time to die and his journey continues. God is just beginning his work with you, no matter your age; He has a purpose for your life.
What would you do if you we captured, beaten and carried off to a lynching? If given the opportunity to speak, what would you say? Would you offer a defense of your actions? Try to disassemble your oppressors’ argument? Paul did none of that. Given the chance to speak to a very angry mob, the apostle told the story of how God intervened and changed his life. He told his God-story, and like many of us, that story can be the most powerful story that we can tell.
We finish the third great missionary journey of Paul with a look into a very fearful situation. Paul has been called by God to Jerusalem and then to Rome but in every city he visits, believing friends warn him of the terrible dangers that lay ahead for him. What would you do? Would you pull a Jonah? Paul seems to battle through this fearful situation by clinging to a vision of God’s will, a truth that can always slay the monsters of fear.
In this sermon we move into the final section of the book of Acts – The final journey to Jerusalem and then afterwards, Rome. This is simultaneously the intention of Paul and the perfect will of God. The riot in the great theatre of Ephesus highlights a vivid fact: Paul is not so much the target of attack as is the Gospel that Paul preaches. This gospel liberates people from false truths and false gods, which in turn endangers the pagan religious system and all those who profit from it. And finally, as Dr. Luke, the author, joins the team again, the intriguing tale of Eutychus reads like a miraculous entry in a travel journal.
In this text we look at three episodes that have one thing in common: something critical is missing. Apollos’ teaching is accurate but incomplete. The twelve men Paul meets in Ephesus likely had never heard the full gospel and believed in Jesus. Finally, seven Jewish exorcist brothers simply “tack on” the name of Jesus in a ministry venture and get throttled for their inadequacy. All together, this narrative is a powerful witness to the importance of becoming and remaining teachable.
Today we examine a rather innocuous text at first glance. I records the end of the Second Great missionary journey of Paul, over 2800 miles of tough ministry. It centers on ministry in the city of Corinth, and even though we have only a brief account of Paul’s time there, he likely spent over two years preaching and discipling in Corinth. In the middle of the account we are confronted with an issue that has touched all of us: what happens when it appears like God doesn’t keep His promise? We focus on this question as we peer deeply into this text and the character of a Promise-making and Promise-keeping God.
Continuing on in Paul and Silas’ second journey, we come to the cities of Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. In each of these cities we see Paul conduct the same plan of ministry yet it is met with wildly different responses. Where the first city is angered by the challenge of the message, the second is prepared by their devotion to God’s Word and the third is blinded by pride. The application is big for us: We are to be obedient to God’s call with passion, vision and wisdom AND…then we are to trust God for the response. We cannot control people’s hearts. We cannot save souls. Only God can. In fact, when we try to control the things that we cannot control, it is called manipulation. We follow God’s call. He does what only He can do…and He’s really good at it.
Now we begin Paul and Barnabas’ second missionary journey. But it starts with a problem: conflict. Is the overall big-picture ministry the top priority? Or are the individual people involved in the ministry the top priority? Yes. Despite the separation we know from later New Testament passages that Paul reconciled and collaborated with both Barnabas and John Mark. The journey into Europe and Philippi was a both a tremendous sacrifice and a tremendous success, all prompted by the intimate leading of the Holy Spirit, a vision from God and man’s obedience.
In this passage we come to the theological center of the book of Acts. It is not the most important chapter in regard to characters or narrative, but it forms the gravitational pull of theology and doctrine for the entire book. The rise of the Christian church and the influx of Gentile Christians has highlighted a problem: do Gentiles have to become like Jews before they can be saved Christians? The apostles and leaders gather in Jerusalem over several days to discuss, study, pray and listen to God. Paying close attention to the testimony of God as Gentiles have been saved, they decide that legalism is not the answer. More rules and conditions is not what God intends. There is one condition to salvation: faith in Christ. Nothing else. And to maintain clear and healthy channels of evangelism and encouragement, the church should be wise in its conduct towards Jews and Gentiles.
Now we are jumping into the first organized and commissioned missionary journey of Paul in Acts. He is sent out from Antioch with Barnabas and John Mark and they have quite the adventure in the great plan of God. As we read their story, we see clearly how God has planned out a gorgeous groove for each of us. He has called us to a specific life, with specific gifts designed for specific service. It is in this groove that we find the life that God has created us for. And because of His calling and grace, we can fully trust Him to see us through it, just like Paul.
Yeah, I know, the title for this sermon includes big words…crazy words. The first one – omnipotent – is a real word that means “all powerful.” The second one – omnirelevant – we invented to communicate the idea “meaningful in every situation.” When we come to this passage in Acts, we see our main character, God, overcoming several major obstacles in the life of His church and His leaders. These obstacles include persecution, famine, need, murder, prison and a bad king. Even in similar obstacles in our life today, we see that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. That is because He is all powerful. That is because His Word is meaningful in every situation. We see these two truths come alive in this marvelous passage.
At seventy-eight verses, this episode is the longest single episode in the book of Acts. It is second in importance only to Acts 2, the Day of Pentecost. Everything changes in this section. Back in Acts 8 we see the gospel received by a Gentile, the Ethiopian eunuch, but Dr. Luke does not treat this as a critical opening to the Gentiles as a whole. That comes here in this section with Peter’s work northwest of Jerusalem in Caesarea with a Roman centurion named Cornelius. But first Peter must be taught by a revelation from God. What happens is nothing less than a Gentile Pentecost, the Holy Spirit falling on them “just as they did on us [the Jews] in the beginning [Acts 2].”
Rejoining our ongoing study of Acts, we come once again to the person of Saul of Tarsus. Last time we were introduced to him he was smiling approvingly at Stephen’s stoning. Since then he has continued in his murderous threats and chasings of the young church. But God has a magnificent plan to show His magnificent grace. The hunter soon becomes the hunted. The persecutor becomes the persecuted. He who chased members of The Way to lands outside of Israel must be lowered through a hole in a city wall to escape with his life.
In this sermon we again dive into the rich and beautiful saga of the early church’s attempt to come to grips with the relevance of their new life in Christ and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. In this text we learn a few things. First, our contemporary experiences with the Holy Spirit, if Biblical, are valid, legitimate and life-changing. God still works in believers in magnificent ways. Secondly we learn that when understood holistically throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit baptizes those who put their faith in Christ at the moment of belief, granting the fullness of the Holy Spirit as the seal of His redemption, and yet He is pleased afterward to supernaturally “fill” believers at any time, for special reasons and in life-changing ways. This colorful narrative of Philip in Samaria and on the southern desert road again has as its hero God himself, who is involved with His church, leading them in truth, validating their wise decisions and perhaps most importantly, protecting them from unforeseen danger, division and deception.
As the first of the seven servants mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, the narrative of Acts now focuses in on Stephen, a man described as being “full of grace and power.” His speech is the longest in the book (fully one third of the book is contained in speeches), but what is his point? In this study we find Stephen speaking directly to his accusers and drawing illustrations from Israel’s history and theology. He says, “just like your fathers disowned Joseph and Moses, yet God saved the nation through them, you have disowned your Messiah.” Stephen’s trial and execution are also cast in the shadow of Jesus’ trial and execution. Finally, the Son of Man stands to receive him.
This week we experienced some significant technical difficulties in the sermon recording. This is the reason for the delay in the post. We sincerely apologize.
With this sermon, Teaching Pastor Scot takes us from opposition to the twelve apostles as a group to the appointment of seven “servants” in the church. As in every episode in Acts, we see clearly that God is the main character, active and involved, showing his favor and his providing power through His Spirit.
Sometimes you just run out of it! That’s what happened to Teaching Pastor Scot Pollok as he discussed the two episodes in this passage. What we find is that the story of Ananias and Sapphira is really about God and His chosen ambassadors, the apostles. The next episode is linked as God continues to intervene for the sake of the apostles, even as they are jailed and flogged. We should be careful not to abuse this principle with “untouchable” modern-day “apostles,” as some have taught. That’s not what it meant then, and it doesn’t mean that now. We should, most importantly, spend time meditating on our truthfulness, our promotion of the truth, our suffering for the sake of the gospel and our trust in the Father’s care.
Today, Teaching Pastor Scot Pollok takes us through the long episode of the healing of a lame man and the outcome of this miracle. In the previous chapter we see the church enjoying “favor with all the people,” as they go to the temple day by day and see the signs and wonders at the hands of the apostles. We see all of these specific things in this next episode except the young church no longer enjoys “favor with all the people.” Religious leaders rise up against Peter and John and command that they no longer speak “in the name of Jesus.” They cannot agree and pray to God for boldness. God validates the entire scene by visiting them with another filling of the Holy Spirit and an answer to their prayer for boldness and courage.
A century ago in England, weavers spoke of the fabric in their loom as the warp and woof. We use the phrase today to speak of the foundation of something, its basic essence or cornerstone. Teaching Pastor Scot Pollok resumes our study of Acts today by looking at Acts 2:42-47, which describes the warp and woof of the first church in Jerusalem. The four devotions and eight results in this passage are as beautiful as they are indicting.
With this sermon our study of Acts brings us to one of the most important single chapters in all of our New Testament. In Acts 2 we see the birth of the church. Jesus had instructed his followers to wait for the promise of the Father, and in this chapter the Father delivers. This promised gift is His Holy Spirit. He comes on this group of over 100 believers with a great noise, visible fire and miraculous languages. A crowd gathers and the church is born and grows. This promise of power fueled the testimony of these followers of Christ, and the Holy Spirit continues to do the same thing with us today.
Today we began our study of the Acts of the Apostles with a look at Acts 1:1-12. This unique and critical book is actually a “part 2″ written by Dr. Luke after he penned the Gospel of Luke. It begins in the same way the Gospel was and picks up where it left off. In this first episode we see Jesus’ instruction to his eleven best friends. While they were preoccupied with some misplaced curiosities about their errant emphasis on timing, Jesus resets their course with a focus on MISSION. Our application puts this all together: mission is the cure for misplaced curiosities.