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Lesson 9 August 25-31
Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 16, Rom. 3:28, Gal. 2:16, Acts 17, 1 Cor. 1:23, Acts 18:1-10.
Memory Text: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city”, (Acts 18:9, 10, NIV).
Back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas nurtured the church and engaged in further evangelistic work. This was seemingly the last time they worked together, as a sharp disagreement led to their separation. The reason for Paul and Barnabas’s disagreement was Mark, Barnabas’s cousin (Col. 4:10). When Paul invited Barnabas to return to the places they had evangelized in their previous journey, Barnabas wanted to take his cousin along, but Paul was against it because of Mark’s past failure (Acts 13:13). Paul and Barnabas’s separation, however, was turned into a blessing, because in dividing their efforts they could cover a wider area than they had first planned. Barnabas took Mark and returned to Cyprus, Barnabas’s homeland (Acts 4:36). Meanwhile, having invited Silas to join him, Paul went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. Before coming to Antioch the first time, Paul had spent several years in Tarsus (Acts 9:30; 11:25, 26). Now he had the opportunity to revisit the congregations he had established there. Nevertheless, God’s plan for him was much greater than Paul first conceived.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 1.
Sunday ↥ August 26
Luke’s selective choice of events brings Paul almost straight to Derbe and Lystra. About Syria and Cilicia, the only thing he says is that Paul went through those regions confirming the churches (Acts 15:41).
Read Acts 16:1-13. What does Paul’s action here teach us about how sensitive he was in seeking to reach others?
Though Timothy’s father was a Gentile, his mother was a Jewish Christian; her name was Eunice. Despite being uncircumcised, Timothy knew the Scriptures from childhood (2 Tim. 3:15), implying he was also a pious person. As a Christian, he had already earned the respect and the admiration of all the local believers.
Because the Jews reckoned Jewishness through the mother’s line rather than the father’s, Timothy was a Jew. He had not been circumcised on the eighth day after birth, perhaps because his father, a Greek, viewed circumcision as barbaric.
Wishing to have Timothy as a co-worker and knowing that, as an uncircumcised Jew, he would be forbidden to enter the Jewish synagogues under the charge of apostasy, Paul had him circumcised. Paul’s motivation for doing so, therefore, was entirely practical and should not be seen as a contradiction to the gospel he preached.
After revisiting the places that he had been in his first journey, Paul decided to go southwest, possibly to Ephesus, in the province of Asia, but the Holy Spirit prevented him from doing so. He then moved north, trying to go to Bithynia, but again in some undisclosed way the Spirit prevented him from going there. Because he was already passing through Mysia, Paul’s only option was to go westward to the seaport of Troas, from where he could sail in a number of directions.
In a night vision, however, God showed him he should sail across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia. When his companions learned about the vision, they concluded that God had indeed called them to share the gospel with the Macedonians.
Think about why Paul circumcised Timothy. What should this teach us about being willing to do certain things that we might not always agree with or deem necessary, but that will serve a greater cause?
Monday ↥ August 27
Once in Macedonia, Paul and his companions traveled to Philippi, where they established the first Christian congregation in Europe.
Read Acts 16:11-24. Where did the missionaries go on Sabbath and why? What ultimately happened to them there?
Whenever Paul arrived in a city, his practice was to visit the local synagogue on Sabbath in order to witness to the Jews (Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 17:1, 2; 18:4). That in Philippi he and his group went to a riverside to pray—together with some women, both Jewish and Gentile worshipers of God—probably means there was no synagogue in the city. The significance of this is that Paul did not go to Jewish synagogues on Sabbaths only for evangelistic purposes, but also because this was his day of worship.
Read Acts 16:25-34. Review the story of the jailer’s conversion. What did he need to do to be saved?
Paul and Silas’s answer to the jailer’s question is in full harmony with the gospel, since salvation is entirely through faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:28, Gal. 2:16). What we cannot conclude from the episode, however, is that belief in Jesus is all that is necessary for baptism, at the expense of the proper doctrinal and practical instruction.
What do we know about the jailer? Was he a Jew or a Jewish proselyte? In either case, what he needed was to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. What if he were a Gentile who already knew and worshiped God, such as Cornelius, Lydia (Acts 16:14), and several others in Acts? What if he had previously attended Paul’s evangelistic meetings in the city? Whatever the facts about him, the brevity of the account should not be used as an excuse for quick baptisms.
Read Acts 16:31-34. What does this teach us about just how complete and full Christ’s sacrifice was for us? How can you learn, day by day, to rest in the assurance of Christ’s righteousness covering you as your only hope of salvation?
Tuesday ↥ August 28
When Paul and Silas were released from prison, the missionaries departed from Philippi (Acts 16:35-40). From Philippi, Paul and his companions went straight to Thessalonica, the capital city of Macedonia.
Read Acts 17:1-9. How did the Thessalonian Jews react to Paul’s successful preaching among the Gentiles?
Once again we see Paul looking for the synagogue where he could share the gospel. Many devout Greeks and not a few prominent women were persuaded by Paul’s message. That these converts “joined Paul and Silas” (Acts 17:4, NKJV) seems to mean they formed a separate group and met apart from the synagogue, probably in Jason’s house.
Moved with jealousy, their opponents started a riot. Their intention was to bring Paul and Silas—Timothy is not mentioned—before the city’s assembly and accuse them. As they could not find the missionaries, Jason himself and a few other new believers were dragged to the local authorities under the charge of sheltering political agitators.
Read Acts 17:10-15. What was the response of the Berean Jews in comparison to that in Thessalonica?
The term eugenes (Acts 17:11) originally meant “well born” or “of noble birth” but came to denote more generally a “fair-minded” attitude, which is likely the case here. The Jews from Berea are praised not simply because they agreed with Paul and Silas but because of their willingness to examine the Scriptures by themselves and on a daily basis to see if what the missionaries were saying was correct. A merely emotional response to the gospel, without the necessary intellectual conviction, tends to be superficial and short-lived.
Before long, however, persecution interrupted Paul’s productive ministry in Berea, compelling him to move farther south, to Athens.
When was the last time you diligently searched the Scriptures in order to find out “whether these things [whatever they were] were so”?
Wednesday ↥ August 29
Athens, the intellectual center of ancient Greece, was literally given to idols. Marble statues of persons and gods were found everywhere, especially at the entrance of the agora (public square), which was the hub of urban life. Paul was so distressed about such dominant idolatry that he changed his usual practice of going first to the synagogue, and pursued a dual course of action: he disputed weekly in the synagogue with Jews and devout Gentiles, and daily in the public square with the Greeks. (See Acts 17:15-22.)
As the Athenians were always ready to hear something new, some philosophers took interest in Paul’s teaching and invited him to address the Areopagus, the high council of the city. In his speech, Paul did not quote from the Scriptures or recap the history of God’s dealings with Israel, as he did when speaking to a Jewish audience (compare with Acts 13:16-41); this approach would not make much sense with this audience. Instead, he presented some important biblical truths in a way that cultured pagans could understand.
Read Acts 17:22-31. In his Areopagus speech, what great truths about God and salvation and history and humanity did he preach to these people?
Most of Paul’s words sounded ridiculous to that sophisticated pagan audience, whose concepts about God and religion were greatly distorted. We do not know how Paul intended to end his message, for he seems to have been interrupted the very moment he referred to God’s judgment of the world (Acts 17:31). This belief collided head on with two Greek concepts: (1) that God is utterly transcendent, having no dealings whatsoever with the world or concern in human affairs, and (2) that when a person dies there can be no resurrection at all. This helps to explain why the gospel was foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23) and the number of converts in Athens was small.
Yet, among those who came to believe were some of the most influential people of Athenian society, such as Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, and Damaris, whose mention by name implies she was of some status, if not also a member of the council herself (Acts 17:34).
Paul’s different approach before the Areopagus shows his awareness of social and cultural differences. He even quoted a pagan poet (Acts 17:28) in order to make his point. What should this teach us about how we can use different methods to reach different people?
Thursday ↥ August 30
Acts 18:1-11 recounts Paul’s experience in Corinth, where he would stay for one and a half years. Aquila and Priscilla would become Paul’s lifelong friends (Rom. 16:3, 2 Tim. 4:19). The account implies they were already Christians when they came to Corinth, probably because of the deportation of Jews from Rome by the Emperor Claudius. Roman historian Suetonius seems to indicate that the deportation occurred due to disturbances in the Jewish community associated with the name of “Christ” (Claudius 25.4), which would perhaps be the result of the preaching of the gospel by local Jewish believers. Thus, it is possible that Aquila and Priscilla themselves had been involved in such activities. In any case, besides sharing the same faith and the same Jewish background, Paul and his new friends also shared the same trade.
Read Acts 18:4-17. What was the result of Paul’s missionary activities in Corinth?
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, they brought some financial support from the churches there (2 Cor. 11:8, 9), which allowed Paul to devote himself entirely to preaching. Paul’s policy was to live at his own expense during his ministry, though he also taught that “those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14, NKJV).
Despite the strong Jewish opposition to Paul’s message, some Jews did believe, as well as some Gentile worshipers of God. Among the converts were Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household. Many Corinthians also believed and were baptized. The situation among the Jews, however, was rather tense, as the following episode demonstrates (Acts 18:12-17), and Paul was possibly planning to leave Corinth soon, but in a night vision he received divine encouragement to stay on (Acts 18:9-11).
On his way back to Antioch, Paul took Aquila and Priscilla with him and left them in Ephesus, where he spent a few days before resuming his trip. While there, he had the opportunity to preach in the local Jewish synagogue, whose positive response made him promise that, God willing, he would come back (Acts 18:18-21). This happened right in his next journey.
Paul, frustrated by his reception, needed encouragement from the Lord in regard to the salvation of souls there. What do the Lord’s words to him (Acts 18:10) say to us when we might feel something similar to what Paul felt?
Friday ↥ August 31
Further Study: “Those who today teach unpopular truths need not be discouraged if at times they meet with no more favorable reception, even from those who claim to be Christians, than did Paul and his fellow workers from the people among whom they labored. The messengers of the cross must arm themselves with watchfulness and prayer, and move forward with faith and courage, working always in the name of Jesus.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 230.
“If, in the closing scenes of this earth’s history, those to whom testing truths are proclaimed would follow the example of the Bereans, searching the Scriptures daily, and comparing with God’s word the messages brought them, there would today be a large number loyal to the precepts of God’s law, where now there are comparatively few. . . .
“All will be judged according to the light that has been given. The Lord sends forth His ambassadors with a message of salvation, and those who hear He will hold responsible for the way in which they treat the words of His servants. Those who are sincerely seeking for truth will make a careful investigation, in the light of God’s word, of the doctrines presented to them.”—Page 232.
By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission
Chang dreamed of money and wealth in China.
He thought his backpack-producing factory would make him rich, so he felt perplexed when the business fell on hard times. An online friend offered some unusual advice: “Go to church.”
Chang was too busy for church until after his factory went bankrupt, but he was not impressed with what he saw on his first visit. Then someone told him that if he went to church, God would bless him.
“I wanted God to bless me with more money, so I went back a second time”, he said.
Around that time, Chang was hired to work as a restaurant cook in another city. Upon his arrival, he immediately began to look online for a church. “I wanted to find a church so I could earn more money”, he said.
He found the addresses of two churches - a large Sunday church and a small Seventh-day Adventist house-church. “I don’t know why, but I decided to go to the small church”, he said.
One day, a church member spoke with Chang about the Sabbath. “If you keep the Sabbath, you will get more blessings”, he said.
Chang wanted more money, so he asked the church to pray for him to keep the Sabbath. The next day, he told his manager that he wanted Sabbath off or he would quit.
“Don’t threaten to quit”, the manager said. “Just keep your Sabbath.”
When the restaurant owner heard about the arrangement, he angrily ordered Chang to work on Sabbath. Chang promptly quit. Remarkably, all the restaurant’s employees also quit in a show of solidarity.
Almost immediately, church members proposed that Chang take health courses at an Adventist sanatorium. Chang liked the idea. With a nutritionist certificate, he could land a high-paying job.
But he also had a growing desire to know God. He prayed for Bible training. The next day, two people from different churches called him separately to recommend that he attend an upcoming Bible training in another city. The training changed his heart. He lost his desire for money and became a Bible worker.
Chang, 34, said his life can be summed up by Isaiah 55:8, which says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord” (NKJV).
“I don’t feel rich now, but I don’t feel poor, either”, he said. “A preacher once told me that she lacks nothing. I didn’t believe her, and I said, ‘Really, you have so much money that you don’t lack anything?’ Now I can understand what she meant. I lack nothing.”
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