Acts 

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Acts

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Chapter 5: 3,4,5 

5:3-5: "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things."

This text considers two members of the church at Jerusalem Ananias and Sapphira, who gave the appearance of giving to God, but were actually holding back.

The Jewish community of biblical times followed two lines of thought with respect to property. The primary philosophy followed by most was that all things belonged to God. They considered themselves stewards of their personal possessions, cattle, crops or anything on the land. Their attitude toward the land was a different matter. They considered the land purely a business matter, not subject to the general idea of "belonging to God." For example, they accepted the idea of returning a tithe of the fruit of the land, but never entertained the idea of giving a tithe of the land itself. Land ownership was not negotiable. It was considered a permanent asset of the family.

This divided view of ownership had its origins in their history. They generally viewed the land as something that belonged to them by virtue of a promise from God in Genesis 12. When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they divided up the land promised to them for a permanent inheritance. After the division of the land among the twelve tribes, individual plots were given to family groups or clans. If the occasion demanded it, the land could be redivided later. Land sales and transfers were recorded by scribes on leather or papyrus scrolls, on clay tablets, or in the presence of witnesses with the symbolic removal of a sandal (Ruth 4:7) or the stepping onto the land by the new owner. Land passed from father to son but could be given to a daughter. The law of the kinsman-redeemer (Lev. 25:25) was developed to assure that land belonging to a particular clan did not pass out of its hands despite the death of an heirless husband. The next-of-kin was required to purchase the land and provide an heir to the name of the deceased. The impoverished widow would not be forced to sell her land to outsiders, thus diminishing the tribal area of the clan. It was obvious, land belonged to the family. It was not to be seized, sold or given to anyone outside of the family.

As Jews became converts to the Christian faith one of the first challenges to their new faith was their belief about the land. The early church required all members to sell their land and give the proceeds of the sale to the church. For many this was a difficult thing to do. They believed in giving the tithe, because they accepted that as returning to God something that was already his. However, selling the land was a matter of them giving up something that they rightfully believed was their own. Despite their reservations about this new belief, most of the early Christians did as required.

This text focuses on two individuals who had trouble parting with something they considered their own: Ananias and his wife Sapphira.

Ananias (an uh ni' uhs) is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Hananiah, which means "Yahweh has dealt graciously." In response to the demand to sell all their property and enter the communal relationship the two acted deceptively. First, they did not sell all of their property as required. Acts 5:1 says they sold "A" possession. This suggests that they owned other properties but only sold a part of what they owned. Secondly, they only gave a part of the proceeds from the sale of that possession, claiming it was the full price. Both were struck dead for having lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3,10)

The actions described in the text, suggests that they promised to give to God and lied to him in two ways: Not giving what was required, and then not even giving their rightful share of what they did acknowledge earning. Their punishment was death. They promised to act then went back on their promise. They were perhaps, the first Indian Givers.

Chapter 9: 3,4 

9:3-4 "and as he journeyed, he came near Damascus and suddenly there shined around about him a light from heaven and he fell to the earth and hear a voice saying unto him, Saul Saul, why persecutest thou me." Acts 9:3-4

This text first considers Paul as he is on his way to Damascus. The purpose of his journey was to persecute the Church. Being a believer in the scriptures and a defender of the old testament faith, Paul felt it was his duty to purge the Jewish nation of the growing presence of New Testament Christians.

He appeared before the religious leaders and requested and received letters of authority that would allow him to seek out and destroy, imprison and incarcerate those who identified themselves as Christians.

At this stage in his spiritual development Paul bore the name of "Saul." All of his actions before he met the Lord were done under the name of "Saul." But when he met the Lord, his name was changed from Saul to Paul.

This symbolic change of names seems to indicate that this former stage in his life was one of "informed darkness."

Paul was not an ignorant man, but yet he was in darkness.

He later described his condition as he saw it in others saying "they have a zeal but not according to knowledge."

He saw many things, but he did not see the light.

He saw the value of obedience to the law, but he did not see the light.

He saw the danger of false teachings corrupting the faith, but he did not see the light.

Seeing the light has its rewards, but failing to see the light has its dangers.

Because he failed to see the light he went around persecuting wrongfully, misdirecting energies and wasting valuable time.

There are many today that have an abundance of scholarship, mental agility and the secular skills to do many great things for the Lord but yet they are moving aimlessly and getting no where because they have not seen the light.\b

These are they who occasionally pause and lament the loss of so many good years of their lives as they move about vigorously but get nowhere.

Our text notes however that somewhere on the road to Damascus Saul moved from darkness to light.

Saul did not see just any light, but it was a light from heaven.

Good things can come to you when you can see the light from heaven.

When there is a light from heaven, we are able to see things that have been unseen before.

When there is a light from heaven, we are able to understand dark mysteries.

When there is a light from heaven, we see problems and difficult circumstances from a different perspective. In the dark situations take on ghostly and grotesque appearances, but under the light they lose their fearful characteristics.

Paul not only saw a light but he also heard a voice.

He heard a voice that was calling him from the upper realms of the celestial heights.

That voice was calling out to Saul who had persecuted the church in the name of Yaweh and Jehovah, Moses and old patriarchs.

Now on the Damascus road, Saul now heard a voice that was calling him from the invisible deminsion between time and eternity.

This voice was an unusual voice. They heard the words but they could not see the speaker.

This voice was the same voice that Moses heard on Mount Sinai when he heard God say "Moses, Moses take off your shoes from the Ground upon which you stand is holy ground."

This voice was the same voice that the people declared was too powerful to hear themselves for the mountain roared and the earth shook when it spoke.

This voice was the same voice that Elijah heard when he stood in front of a cave one day listening for the voice of God.

This voice was the same voice that came to the Jordan river one day while John was Baptizing and said "This is my beloved son, in whom I'm well pleased."

This voice called out to Saul saying "Saul why persecutest thou me."

Saul represents all things that are against the nature of God.

Saul represents all people who oppose the handiwork of God.

I hear a voice from heaven saying "Saul" why are you fighting me so hard?

The voice of God is speaking today. To those who do not know him the voice of God has an invitational tone saying come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.

To those who know him the voice is that of the Good Shephard and Jesus says "my sheep, know my voice." 

Chapter 17: 23 

17:23"For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."

    In the Acts text, Paul was in Athens observing the worship and beliefs of the Greeks. He noticed that they had a statue erected to the "Unknown god" among the other gods that they worshipped. Paul took the opportunity to tell them about Jesus, the unknown God that they never knew.

   The Greeks had many gods, many of which were altered to fit their circumstances. There was ZEUS who was the Lord of the earth and sky. He controlled the destinies of men and their political fortunes. ATHENA was second in command. She was the protector of the cities. Her statues usually depicted her in full battle armor. POSEIDON was the god or protector of the waters. The fishermen and mariners prayed to him for calm waters. HERMES was a god of the Shepherds and was associated with wealth and prosperity. APOLLOS was the god of agriculture. Those who were farmers prayed to him for protection against insects and plagues. He was also the god of youth and strength. ARTEMIS was the god of wildness of nature. The lakes, rivers and wild animals as well as the wild spirit of all life were her domain. APHRODITE was the god of fertility, sex, charm, beauty.

   As the Greek empire spread throughout the world its mythology had a way of absorbing the gods of conquered people and giving them a subsidiary place among the Greek gods that had a similar functions. It is said that before Paul arrived in Athens that the city had endured a series of violent storms and the Greeks prayed first from one of their gods to another: from Zeus to Athena to Poseidon but the storms did not cease. Thinking they may have missed a god that was important they erected a statue to the "unknown God" and the storms cease. The statue remained thereafter.

   Paul took advantage of the occasion to help them to know the God they referred to as "the unknown God."

Chapter 22: 14, 15

22:14-15 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard." Acts 22:14-15

   This text focuses on the Apostle Paul as he details the events that caused him to become one of the greatest representatives of Jesus Christ.
   Paul was a frequent subject of controversy among the Jews. For most of his life his name represented "persecution." He made it a life pursuit at one point to jail and imprison as many Christians as he could. When Stephen was killed he held the coats of those that did the actual stoning. Whenever persecutions occurred, it seemed Paul, under his former name "Saul" was close by. Pretty soon his name began to represent persecution, trouble and evil.
   While on a journey to Damascus, encountered Christ himself. It was a spell binding experience that that left him blind for three days. He was alone and an introvert. He studied, prayed and asked God to restore him. God restored both his sight and life with a new direction and meaning. He changed his name from Saul to Paul and began to represent the cause of Christ.
    Immediately his actions were suspect. Wherever he went he was pointed out for that which he was known and persecuted. Often he was falsely accused by those who hated what he represented and false charges were brought against him.
    That is the case of the 22nd chapter of Acts. Paul is being falsely accused of disrespecting the faith. The charge is purely is false It is purely circumstantial, cooked up out of false evidence. He is charged with being anti-Judaistic, i.e., against the religion of Judaism. And further, they invented the accusation that he had defiled the temple by bringing Gentiles into it. They were upset at the very idea. Their outcry results in Paul's arrest.
    Given a chance to speak, Paul tells the crowd his story of first representing the enemies of the cross,then seeing Christ for himself and then becoming a witness to the goodness of God.
   Though it occurred thirty years before, he had never forgotten a single detail. He recalls it all as vividly as if it had happened yesterday.
    His experience pushed him to understand that he was chosen to know the will of God. Knowing the will of God, he chose to represent that perfect will rather than the evil presence he had formerly represented. There on the Damascus Road, Paul said, he learned he had to make a choice of whom to represent. Though his history would never be changed, his present and future had unalterably been changed. He would never be the same again. Regardless to what was done to him, he felt compelled to represent and witness for the cause of Christ.
   This explains his motivation. It identifies the drive with which he pursued his calling. It pushed him ceaselessly, out into the far regions of the earth, performing his apostolic ministry.
   Though crowds were filled with bitterness against him, he stood for Jesus.
   Though he was sometimes jailed and often persecuted, he stood for Jesus.
   It was if he was compelled and driven by an unseen hand. No matter what came against him, Paul never missed an opportunity to witness for Jesus. He stood firm. He stood determined to do the will of God and to witness for him.
 

This page last updated 2/22/98

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