Thursday, October 20, 2011

Acts 9:31-12:25

(Acts 9:31-43)
Peter Heals the Paralytic and Tabitha
Verse 31 characterized the growing church as a time of peace.  It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.  It grew and lived in fear (wisdom) of the Lord. 

What would it take for the church today to look like the 1st century church?
Is your church at peace and growing? 
Do you complain about trivial things and cause dissention and agreements in the church?

As Peter traveled and spread the good news and healed many.  He healed a paralytic who had been bedridden for 8 years.  A disciple named Tabitha was sick and died.  Peter prayed and she lived again.  Many believed as result of these miracles. 
Two miracles of physical healing tell us at least 2 things:
1.   Only through faith in Jesus can the apostles heal and only through faith in Jesus can we be healed (Mark10:52, Luke 7:50, 18:42).
2.   Just as Jesus can bring us comfort by physical healing here on earth, He can bring spiritual healing.  Without Him all are spiritually dead.

(Acts 10:1 - 11:18)
Cornelius (the Gentile)
Cornelius was a Greek and good and religious man.  He was highly respect by the Jewish people.  He and his whole family worshiped God.  He was constantly praying and helping the poor.  One day he had a vision and an angel of God told him to send men to Joppa and bring back Peter.

Meanwhile, Peter was praying and had a vision.  Heaven opened and it looked like a large sheet coming down to earth filled with all kinds of animals.  A voice said, “Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat.”  Peter thought these were unclean since Old Testament law taught not to eat unclean animals and birds (Lev. 11, 17:10-14, 20:25) and forbade Jews to eat food with non-jews, but now God said nothing He made was impure or unclean.  This happened 3 times and Peter wondered what this meant.  Then the men sent by Cornelius ask Peter to go back with them as Cornelius had asked.

Jesus’ death changed the Old Testament law.  Peter now realized that God does not show favoritism and accepts men from every nation (Acts 10:35) - Jew or Gentile.  Does this mean that God accepts people from every nation in His family without belief in Christ?  No.  He is saying everyone is eligible.  (John 14:6) - Jesus said He is the only way. (Acts 4:12 ) – Salvation is found in no other.

Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house where his friends and family were waiting.  They expected something exciting to happen and it did.  Peter’s shared the gospel with them telling he and the other disciples were witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  While he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on them.  They were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles.  “For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:44)  This was like a confirmation of the Holy Spirit which was important in that day and time. Also note, the Holy Spirit came prior to baptism confirming baptism does not save, but is an outward sign of the beginning of a new life.

How available are you to the Holy Spirit?
Do you understand why you find it hard to get alone to do Bible study? (The enemy, Satan doesn’t want you to.)
What do you need to change in your life to be available to Jesus Christ?

(Acts 11:19-30)
Peter Criticized
The well-meaning church criticized Peter for what he had done for the Gentiles, but Peter said who am I to go against the Lord (Acts 11:16-17).  Then there was no further objections.

Antioch was the capitol of Syria.  It was a city of sin.  It was corrupt with pagan influences and desperately needed the cleansing power of Jesus.

There are 4 events in the early history of this important church at Antioch:
1.      They told the Greeks (Gentiles) about Jesus
2.     Barnabas and Saul taught great numbers of people.
3.     Disciples were called Christian for the first time.
4.     Prophets came to Antioch and prophesied

The Lord’s hand was on them because a great number of people turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).  The news reached Jerusalem and the church sent Barnabas who had the biggest heart in the church.  He believed in Saul and wasn’t afraid when others were.  We all need a Barnabas in our lives.  He wouldn’t care what background we came from or if we shown up on Sunday at church wearing holey jeans.   He wouldn’t look at the external, but the internal.  The name Barnabas means son of encouragement.   Do you have a Barnabas or are you a Barnabas?

Barnabas brought Saul to help teach in Antioch.  When they arrived in Antioch, there was evidence of God’s grace (Acts 11:23-24).  Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and faith.  Great numbers of people were brought to the Lord.  More and More people were converted.

(Acts 12)
Peter Miraculous Escape
Herod began arresting some of the Christians intending on persecuting them.  He killed James and arrested Peter.  The church was earnestly praying for Peter.  While Peter was sleeping, his chains fell off and the gates where opened and Peter escaped.  Peter sleeping at such a time demonstrates the power of prayer, peace and trust in the Lord. 

Why are we so surprised when God answers our prayers?

Prayer is usually for petition, but it’s much more. 
When praying, you should include the A. C. T. S.
A – Adoration of God
C – Confession of sin
T – Thanksgiving
S – Supplification

Does it make a difference, if we pray?  The Scriptures say we should pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17) and to pray for your enemies. (Matt. 5:44)
How are you earnestly praying for your church?
Are you praying for other believers?

Prayer is a vehicle for God to change us.  When we get away in a quiet place to be with God in prayer, it changes our thought and desires.

There are great lessons in chapter 12:
1.   Prayer works – the church constantly prayed for Peter when he was in prison.  God sent his angels and miracles happened.  His chains fell off and he was freed.
2.   We need to remember this example and have faith that God will answer our prayers.
3.   God answers prayer.

Principles:
1.   Because God shows no favoritism anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is welcome into His church family.
2.   Encouraging believers to remain obedient to the Lord brings strength to the church.
3.   God acts with power to bring change through people’s prayers.


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