Partakers Christian Podcasts

Season 2


WISE - Faith

Friday Jul 11, 2008

Friday Jul 11, 2008

People always say that faith is blind!  However the Bible says that faith is a total confidence in God’s faithfulness, which leads to reliance, trust and total obedience to Him (Hebrews 11v6).  We see this faith in the Godly obedience of those around us and from the Bible and church history.
Faith in Salvation
For salvation, faith is a voluntary change of mind and heart in the sinner in which the person turns to God, relying on and accepting His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Mind - recognition of your need of salvation. Acknowledging Christ’s death on your behalf and your need of forgiveness.
Emotional (Heart) – your personal assent to the gospel.  You ask yourself, “What must I do to be saved?” and then you agree to make salvation a part of your life.
Will - Personal trust in Jesus Christ.
Now as a follower of Jesus, you are to continue having faith in Him.  Four things at least you are to have faith in Him for:
By faith - He is praying for you
Jesus Christ is making intercessions for His followers (Romans 8:34).  He knew the disciples troubles (Mark 6:48), just as He knows your troubles now.  He feels your cares and knows what you are going through (Hebrews 4:14-16).
By faith - He will come to you
Ever felt like God is far away? Well you aren’t alone!  King David often felt God was far away and unconcerned.  However he also knew God would ultimately rescue him.  Jesus always comes to you through difficult times, although He may not come in the time you think He should come, because He knows when you need Him most.
By faith - He will help you grow
When the disciples were in the storm and Jesus came to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33), the purpose of this incident was to show that Jesus would be leaving them soon, so they had to learn to trust in Him when He wasn’t physically present.  Peter wrote later on in his life, “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3v12).
By faith, He will see you through
At the same event, Jesus said “Come” and Peter went with Him.  This must have encouraged the other disciples, for upon seeing Jesus’ power they worshipped him.  Whatever troubles you are undergoing are temporary, and Jesus will see you through.
By faith, you have salvation. By faith Jesus is praying, will come to you, grow you and help you through troubles.  By being obedient to God, you are showing others your salvation and showing that faith, is not blind, but active!
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Tuesday Jun 07, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 1 of 22 - Preparation for Mission
by Roger Kirby
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:1–14)The person who wrote Luke’s Gospel also wrote this book with his account of the early apostolic church. Nearly everybody thinks the author of these scrolls was Luke, a doctor and a companion of Paul on his journeys (Colossians 4: 14), for two reasons. Firstly, early tradition all points to Luke as the author and there is no reason to doubt that. Secondly, Luke fits, as the Gospel writer shows good knowledge of medical conditions and he was with Paul in Acts at the right times. Without doubt he selected his material carefully. He did not record everything he could have done but selected his material to convey a message. In these studies we aim to work out what that message is and how it applies to us today. Download or listen to this study and learn more about how the Holy Spirit exploded onto the scene and empowered the church!!
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Wednesday Jun 08, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 2 of 22 - The Gift of the Holy Spirit
by Roger Kirby
Acts 1:14 – 2:13 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, ‘Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.’ (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) ‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘“May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” and, ‘“May another take his place of leadership.” Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’ So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 2 - The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’ Almost exactly 50 days after their great redemption from Egypt the ancient people of God met him at Sinai. In New Testament times the people of Israel celebrated that day in the feast of Weeks, which brought a great crowd to Jerusalem. We call that day ‘Pentecost’ which means the 50th day. Before we proceed perhaps we should say something about the Trinity. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had the personal name of YAHWEH, as Moses was told in Exodus 3. In most English Bibles this name is indicated by the word LORD, in capital letters, reflecting the fact that in Biblical times they did not say the name YAHWEH, but substituted their word for Lord. We will say ‘LORD God‘. The LORD God is referred to in many ways in the OT:
as Spirit (Is 63: 7, 10 where we read ‘I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us –
yes, the many good things he has done for Israel’ And then ‘Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.),
as Wisdom (Prov 1: 20, 29 where we have ‘Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,’ and then ‘they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.), • as Word (Is 55: 11 ‘my word goes out from my mouth: it will achieve the purpose for which I sent it),
as Law (Ps 19: 7 ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.). To a greater or lesser extent these were spoken of, or related to, almost as if they were the LORD himself.
This prepares us for the NT where first Jesus, then the Holy Spirit, are referred to in ways that indicate they are the LORD: the same LORD God but a different person. There is one God but three persons. God the Father is in heaven. Jesus God is with him after effecting our salvation through his death on the Cross, Spirit God is with us in the everyday, mediating the things of God and Jesus to us. The passage we are about to look at today tells us how the presence of the Holy Spirit was signalled to the early disciples. It sets the tone for how we are to understand his presence.
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Thursday Jun 09, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 3 of 22 - Peter explains and challenges
by Roger Kirby
TThen Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:‘“In the last days, God says,I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.Even on my servants, both men and women,I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.I will show wonders in the heavens aboveand signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to bloodbefore the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”‘‘Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:‘“I saw the Lord always before me.Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;my body also will rest in hope,because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,you will not let your holy one see decay.You have made known to me the paths of life;you will fill me with joy in your presence.”‘Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,‘“The Lord said to my Lord:‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:14 – 2:31)This is a great speech by Peter, or rather two speeches. The first argues convincingly about the meaning of what has happened. The second details the best response to the first one. Luke is only giving us an outline of them, as he says ‘with many other words he warned them’; as we have them they only take about 3 minutes to read right through. The first sets the scene for the whole book and is very cleverly constructed. It starts off defensively, explaining what has happened and what the crowd are seeing by using a quotation from the book of Joel in the OT. Then it switches to the attack explaining why these things have happened with 4 quotations from the book of Psalms.We read the first speech verses 14 – 37. We shall read Messiah, as in the NIV footnote, at verses 31 and 36. We tend to hear “Christ” as a name but here it is a title or a status and Messiah gives that impression better. The argument of that speech goes like this:The apparent drunkenness of the disciples is the result of the gift of the Spirit given by the Lord that is by the LORD God of the OT that Joel prophesied about. The crucifixion clearly points to Jesus being the one talked about in Psalm 18 ‘the cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me’ and Psalm 16 refers to the resurrection ‘you will not abandon me to the grave’. Psalm 132 identifies this one as being a descendant of David saying to David ‘one of your own descendants I will place on your throne’. Then Psalm 110 speaks of this descendant as being the Lord. Thus from ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ we have linked through to ‘this Jesus, whom you crucified, is both Lord and Messiah’, from the Lord of the Old Testament to Jesus as Lord. However difficult it may be to have a human being equated with the LORD God that is what has been done and it did not cause any problem amongst those strongly monotheistic people. Question 1: What explanation is there for how Peter was able to give such a coherent and compelling response to a difficult situation without prior notice when he had so often got it wrong while Jesus was on earth. How far is this an example for us?This can only have been a product of the 40 days of intensive instruction the disciples received from Jesus between his resurrection and his ascension. We are told not to worry in times of stress because the Holy Spirit will speak for us but it is doubtful whether that will always apply and it is much better to follow the example here with much study of the story and the teachings of the Bible. We should note that Peter talked about Jesus being raised to life only 7 weeks after the resurrection.Question 2: What was the obvious thing for the Roman and Jewish leaders to have done if they wanted to stop this new movement before it had even started? Why didn’t they? So what?Producing the body of Jesus would have stopped the new movement. But they didn’t, obviously because they couldn’t! They could have produced a well decayed body and claimed it was Jesus but they didn’t, so the fact of the resurrection must have been well accepted on the streets of Jerusalem. Thus immediately we see that the resurrection of Jesus is the fundamental foundation of all the Christian faith.Peter made two additions to his quotation from Joel. Joel said ‘I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth’, but Peter said ‘I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below’.Question 3: Why did he do that?He wanted to emphasise that his hearers had just seen some of the wonders. Perhaps, too, he wanted to suggest that Jesus was in heaven and that was a wonder.Peter changed one phrase too. Joel spoke of ‘the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord’ but Peter changed that to the ‘glorious day of the Lord’.Question 4: Why did he do that?Joel had thought that the day of the Lord would be the great final day of this earth as was common Jewish thinking, but Peter realised that that day was happening ahead of the time that everyone had expected.Question 5: What are the 3 main points that Peter made in this first speech? To give you some clues: a gift, a recent event and a range. What do they mean for us?Of course you may argue with me saying there are exactly 3 main points! I see them as:
That the Spirit was a gift. Promised long before but now given to every follower of Jesus – including you and me!
That the central fact on which all else depends is the Resurrection of Jesus. As Paul said later ‘if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile ... we are to be pitied more than all men’. This is the solid ground of our faith.
That the gift of salvation and the Spirit was to ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord’. The promise is to ‘all who are far off’. The range is the whole wide world. That includes you and me! Hooray!
Question 6: Why were Peter’s hearers so upset – ‘cut to the heart’?Very probably many of those who heard Peter were in the crowd which had cried ‘crucify him!’ not so long before. They would be feeling very guilty.Now we read the second speech verses 38 – 41.Question 7: What two things did Peter want his hearers to do? How do we do these two things?He wanted them to repent and to be baptized. To repent is to change the whole direction and purpose of one’s life. That is not an easy thing to do, but it is within the power of every one of us, particularly with the help of the Holy Spirit. To be baptized may be difficult, particularly if you have already been baptized as a child. Baptism is the sign and seal of the new life beginning. As we shall see as we read on through Acts this usually, but not always, followed repentance and was closely associated with the gift of the Spirit.Question 8: What two things, one visible and one invisible, will always happen as a consequence of our repentance and beginning of the new life? We shall receive the gift of the Spirit, which should be clearly evident to those around us, and we shall receive forgiveness of sins, which cannot be seen but will also always happen.The 3000 people who responded positively to what Peter said that day each began a personal and communal journey. The rest of the book of Acts tells us about that journey, telling us mainly about that of the whole community but hinting at the personal journeys too: the exciting bits, the difficult bits, the nearly impossible bits, the fun bits. That is the way journeys are if they are worth making. If they are just boring they are not worth making. Also – they need a goal. This journey has the greatest of all goals – the immediate presence of our Lord and Saviour.I hope you are on this best of all journeys – following Jesus.
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Friday Jun 10, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 4 of 22 - Healing and challengingby Roger Kirby
(Acts 2:41 – 4:4) Luke inserts several summaries of the developing situation into his account of which 2:41 is the first. He then continues his account of those early days of the church in Jerusalem, reinforcing by repetition the points he wants to make. It is not possible (unless you are very rich!) to live in the way described in these verses for any length of time. Sooner or later the money will run out. Somebody has to work and provide a steady flow of income as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “if a man will not work, he shall not eat”. Question 1: Why did Luke tell us about this necessarily limited period in the life of the infant church? What positive things is he stressing by doing so? His purpose must be his interest in telling us about the positively good things that were being done in that early church. There was clearly a deep concern to learn about the meaning of their new found Christian faith and to live a life worthy of the Lord. It is hard for those of us in the calmer parts of the world to think just how different and difficult that will have been in the world of those days. He is stressing the togetherness of the early church with the richer folk looking after the poorer people amongst them. The clear picture at the end of chapter 2 repeated at the end of chapter 4 is of a close-knit community sharing their worldly possessions and ensuring that there are no great inequalities of wealth among them. It seems that the natural economic forces of globalism lead inevitably to greater and greater inequalities of wealth distribution. The poor stay poor; the rich get ever richer. Question 2: What can you do to resist this trend? Probably not a lot! But each one of us must try to help those who are poor, particularly when it is no fault of theirs. The second thing he is stressing is how much the early Christians were doing together. They were taught by the apostles what it was all about, together. They worshipped together, including the breaking of bread, or, as we call it the taking of communion. They ate together in each other’s houses. And much of it they did in the temple courts together so everybody in Jerusalem could see and hear what was going on. That must have been a powerful way to attract other people to follow Jesus. True Christian fellowship is not a rushing together for an hour or so every Sunday morning but a much more consistent activity spreading through the week. Think about how you meet and fellowship with other Christians and how you could do so more often and more consistently, to your mutual benefit. Read 3:1 – 10. Question 3: You, like Peter, may be short of silver and gold! Peter was able to give healing to the lame man. What can you give to the lame, the lonely, the lost or the lacking? Notice that I carefully said ‘or’ in my list. Very few of us will ever be able to cover more than one of the list of shortcomings with any effectiveness. What is important is to identify our sphere of competence and to work within it with all a Holy Spirit’s energies. If it is the lame you will likely be a medic; if the lonely you will be active in visiting; if the lost you will be an evangelist; if the lacking you will be a teacher of faith. Which is it for you? Read 3:11 - 4:4 Peter carefully said “it was not by their own power or godliness we made this man walk”. Question 4: What does that warn us about? Too many people preaching round the world are quick to claim that it was their super strong faith or special fullness of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to heal people. It is amazing how much influence those with enough self-confidence can wield on other people. Be careful to look for signs of humility and the giving of all praise to God and the glory of Jesus, as Peter did, in those who would try to impress you – and, indeed, in yourself! Question 5: Peter called for repentance, stating that it would have past, present and future effects when he said “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out (past), that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (present), and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus (future). Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Which of those aspects:past, present or future, is most attractive to people in your world? How can we ensure that we understand and benefit from all three aspects? In our world most people are not the least bit interested in repentance because they have no vision of sin as being a serious affront to a Holy God. Any exceptions to that statement are probably only interested in the present anyway. Once we come to a knowledge of Jesus and what he has done for us our interest in the past fades for he has promised to forget our sins – why should we remember them if he does not? We should, however, delight in the promise of a time of refreshing and look ahead in confident assurance that we will eventually be with him in the renewed world to come. Question 6: What was Peter calling for repentance from? Where does this rank in the list of terrible sins? What, then, can we conclude about the availability of forgiveness from really bad sins? Peter has just been accusing his hearers of “handing Jesus over to be killed” and “you killed the author of life”. It is hard to think of worse sins than that! We may conclude that no sin is so bad we cannot seek forgiveness from it by exercising true repentance. Amazing. There is a great promise in what Peter said of “a prophet like Moses”. This prophet will be from “your own people”; he was to be a source of miracle signs like Moses; he was to be listened to. Jesus fitted that prophecy perfectly. Many claims have been made since that somebody or other is this great prophet, but none have been remotely like Jesus or Moses. Do not follow anyone else!
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Saturday Jun 11, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 5 of 22 - First Signs Of Opposition(Acts 4:5-31)
by Roger Kirby
Luke now records the beginnings of opposition from the authorities. He probably wrote Acts sometime in the late AD 70s or early AD 80s, that is after the first wave of persecution of the early church under emperor Nero in the AD 60s. Theophilus may have been concerned about the legality of the Christian witness and about the levels of opposition it had aroused. So Luke is intent on showing that these problems had arisen unfairly and how they were handled by the early church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The most important part of this passage is Peter’s speech to the court of the Sanhedrin. Luke has a habit of emphasising a particular event by giving 3 accounts of it. So he tells us about Paul’s conversion 3 times in chapters 9, 22 and 26. He tells us about the dream of Peter that led to the admission of Gentiles into the church 3 times in chapters 10 and 11. Here he records 3 very similar speeches of Peter’s, of which this is the third. We ask these questions in this study:
Question 1: What things has Luke emphasised by recording them 3 times in these speeches?
Question 2: By many modern standards that is an incredibly wrong thing to say, suggesting that there is no other way to salvation and heaven. How can we justify what they said?
Question 3: How and why were they able to be so effective? What can we learn from the answers to that question?
Question 4: Think about where and why that has been done in your situation. Obviously I cannot provide any help on the answers to this question.
Question 5: Why did they pray for boldness of speech and not for the opposition to stop?
Question 6: Does this arise from what are probably the sharp differences between their prayer and the sort of prayers we probably usually pray, or what?
Download the mp3 and listen to discover more!
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Sunday Jun 12, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 6 of 22 - And now for the not-so-good news(Acts 4:32 – 5:42)by Roger Kirby
The infant church begins to struggle with both internal problems and external ones. It is rather amazing that Luke tells us about some of the more difficult events. He clearly had a purpose in doing so. We will think about that in a few minutes. We have already commented on the problems of this sort of living. Barnabas, who is going to figure prominently in the expansion of the church, is mentioned with clear approval of what he did. There were huge differences of wealth between the landowners and the working people in those days and this is clearly a comment about how those differences should be overcome within the fellowship of the church. It also highlights the problem that we read about  in Acts 5:1–11. In this podcast we ask the following questions. To learn more, download the mp3 and listen!
Question 1: What exactly did Ananias and Sapphira do wrong? Why was the punishment so harsh? Christians probably do worse things these days. Why are similar punishments not visited upon the offenders?
Question 2: Sapphira chose solidarity with her husband over solidarity with the Lord and his people. What are the rights and wrongs in what she did?
Question 3: What was Luke’s motive in including this account 40 years after the events recorded when he could so easily have chosen to highlight other more positive events?
Question 4: Acts5:13 “no one dared join them” and the next verse “more men and women were added to their number” seem to be saying two contradictory things. What can they mean?
Question 5: Apart from a record of the facts what does Luke want us to understand as the significance of what happened?
Question 6: Where should we follow what we read here; where the teaching of the verses from Romans?
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Monday Jun 13, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 7 of 22 - The Martyrdom of Stephen(Acts 6:1 – 8:3)
by Roger Kirby
Luke, probably guided by Paul’s memories of what happened, sees the teaching and death of Stephen as a major turning point in the progress of the Gospel. To this point opposition has come from the ruling classes in Jerusalem; the common people had approved of what was happening. From here on the believers lost the support of everybody. Consequently the focus of the Gospel is about to move outside Jerusalem. First: the background in Acts6:1–7.The “Grecian Jews” of the NIV probably means Greek speaking Jews who had retired to Jerusalem mainly in order to die there; “Hebraic Jews” probably means long term Aramaic speaking residents of the city. Each would have worshipped in a synagogue where their most familiar language was spoken. When some of each became Christian tensions arose.The seven chosen men are often called deacons but only because the Greek word for “waiting on tables” is diakonia. Their responsibilities do not match those described in the later NT letters. However we can learn useful lessons from them.Question 1: What were the criteria for choosing the seven? Can we relate these to our situation? All seven names are Greek. What does that tell us about the principles used in the fellowship?They were chosen purely on the basis of their spiritual depth. I don’t know what happens where you are but all too often men and women are chosen for positions in the church on the basis of their practical qualifications. Their spirituality is the least of the attributes considered. That all of them were Greek speaking suggests that great care was taken to resolve the problems as quickly as possible.In Acts 6:8 – 7:1, which outline the nature of the problem, Stephen faced.The troubles started in one particularly radical synagogue, the Synagogue of the Freedmen. This included some from Cilicia, which is where Paul came from so he was probably a member of this meeting. Now we come to the long speech of Stephen, the longest in the book of Acts. It is not at all easy to see how what he said related to the charges against him, and what upset them so much and caused him to be lynched, so I will interrupt my wife’s reading of the speech as we go along to try and explain it.Stephen starts his speech by referring back to God’s promise to Abraham. What he says is standard Jewish thinking and quite unobjectionable, but he is starting to emphasise the way that Abraham had no firm roots in any place.Read Acts 7:2 – 8.Isaac and Jacob were uninteresting to Stephen because they had secure roots in Israel.So he moves on to Joseph who did not have secure roots. He also points out that Joseph was rejected by those who should have supported him, his brothers.Read Acts 7:9 – 19.Next comes Moses, again a wanderer on the face of the earth, as Stephen is careful to emphasise. He also emphasises that Moses too suffered rejection by his own people on more than one occasion.Read Acts7:20 – 43.He continues to trace the history of his people beginning to emphasise the tabernacle as the place where God dwelt. Although David enjoyed God’s favour he did not get building the temple.Read Acts 7:44 – 47.He has now set the scene for what he wants to say. He has also by his strong emphasis on Moses effectively rebutted the charge that Jesus was going to change the customs of the law. Remembering how the apostles had been treated by these people he probably had decided he was likely to die anyway and he was not going to do so without making his points. So he continues by making two points:1) the temple was not as important as they thought it was as all these great men had lived without it, being prepared to meet and worship God anywhere they happened to be. Even if Jesus had said he would destroy the temple (as he hadn’t) it would not have mattered;2) many of these true prophets of old had been rejected by the people, as Jesus was. They, his hearers, had acted wrongly, but that was nothing new.
Read Acts 7:48 – 53.He was not exactly diplomatic in the way he put it! The reaction was overwhelming. The veiled argument behind the history is that God is not limited to any one place, in particular the temple. He is therefore not under the control of the Sanhedrin. Their power is finished. The true next step in the purposes of God is with Jesus and his people.
Read Acts 7:54 – 8: 1a.Question 2: What are the practical implications today of there being no particular place where the Lord is to be worshipped? In what ways do people wrongly contradict that fact?Cathedrals, and the like, can be wonderful places but they don’t really fit into the scene Stephen paints. The idea that the temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt, as advocated by some people, also falls before Stephen’s argument. It doesn’t matter where we gather and worship. The important things are gathering and worshiping.Question 3: Stephen was obviously a vigorous personality who was not prepared to keep quiet, even if he was also full of the Holy Spirit! Such people are not always comfortable to live with. What place should such people have in the present day church?There ought to be room for every personality type in every fellowship. It is important that the leadership of every group uses to the full the best attributes of everyone while curbing their less useful attributes, whether that be making too much noise or too little!Probably it was when Stephen said that he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God that his fate was sealed. Jesus said something similar when he said that the Son of Man would be seated at the right hand of God and that was the point at which they decided to kill him. Both were referring to Daniel 7 where one like a Son of Man approached the Ancient of Days and was given authority, glory and sovereign power.Question 4: Why were these statements taken so amiss?These were the clearest possible statements that Jesus was the Messiah and that he would be given the authority and power they (the members of the Sanhedrin) so much enjoyed. Beware the love of power!Read Acts 8: 1 – 3And so the purposes of God were fulfilled in the persecution and scattering of the church.
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Tuesday Jun 14, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 8 of 22 - Spirit and Word(Acts 8:4-40)
by Roger Kirby
This chapter gives examples of outreach to the outer fringes of Judaism before the start of the main effort towards the truly pagan Gentiles with the conversion and commissioning of Paul. To the north the Samaritans practiced a variant form of Judaism, using only the first five books of the OT, and so were regarded as heretics by the strict Judaists. To the south Ethiopia was a major kingdom in modern Sudan, the nearest black peoples, and the only ones they would know about. Hence it was the “end of the world” to them. So these two episodes are carefully chosen to demonstrate the spread of the good news to “Samaria and the ends of the earth”, as it was put in chapter 1 and at the same time to explain two important aspects of what that news was (and is!) In this episode we ask questions such as:Question 1: What was the difference between Simon’s magic and what Philip did? (Modern magic where the speed of the hand deceives the eye will mainly be a third category.)
Question 2: What should we conclude from that variety of situations?
Question 3: How do we recognise when and if the Spirit is given?
Question 4: The “power” of modern day ministry is attractive to certain personality types. To what extent can they fall under the condemnation leveled at Simon?
Question 5: Identify the two main actors in the conversion of the Ethiopian. Which is the dominant one? Which was dominant in the story about the conversion of the Samaritans? What should we conclude from this?
Question 6: What is Luke telling us through this?
Question 7: Why would the Ethiopian have found this passage particularly appealing to him?
Question 8: In what ways is that true?  
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Wednesday Jun 15, 2022

The Spirit Explodes Part 9 of 22 - The Conversion of Paul(Acts 9:1-31)
by Roger Kirby
This story is usually called ‘the conversion of Paul’ but, as we shall see, it was a very unusual conversion. The word ‘conversion’ means a complete change of mind and actions. Paul (we will call him that although for the next four and a half chapters, until a name change is noted, he is actually called Saul) made a complete change in his actions but not in his mind. He considered his decision to follow Jesus a natural, if forced, development from his Jewish belief in God.
Question 1: Paul changed his mind about Jesus. But what exactly was it about Jesus that forced him to change his mind?
Question 2.: Which Old Testament image or images will Paul have instantly related the lights and the voice to?
Question 3: Which was it for Paul?
Question 4: Which was it for you?
Question 5: Are you confident the Lord has seized hold of you?
Question 6: What one word best describes what he did?
Question 7: Paul hit the church like a whirlwind. Apart from his natural ability and energy levels, which were clearly very high, what was it about him that enabled him to make such an impact?
Question 8: What does that imply for us?
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