Acts Bible Study

Acts: A prison officer becomes a Christian


v23 People whipped Paul and Silas very hard. Afterwards, they threw Paul and Silas into prison. They ordered the officer of the prison to guard Paul and Silas carefully. v24 When he received this order, the officer put Paul and Silas into the inner room. He put chains on their feet. And he tied their feet to heavy pieces of wood. v25 At about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying. And they were singing to praise God. The other prisoners were listening to them. v26 Then a powerful earthquake shook the strong base of the prison. Immediately, all the doors opened and the chains fell off the prisoners. v27 The prison officer woke up. He saw that the doors were open. So, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He took out his sword to kill himself. v28 But Paul shouted, ‘Do not hurt yourself! We are all here!’

v29 The officer of the prison asked someone to fetch a light. The officer rushed into the prison and he kneeled at Paul and Silas’s feet. His whole body was shaking. v30 He led them out. Then he asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to receive salvation?’ v31 They answered, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and trust in him. Then you will receive salvation. This is true for your family. And it is true for everyone who lives with you.’ v32 Then Paul and Silas preached the Lord’s message to the officer of the prison. And they preached it to everyone in his house. v33 It was still night. The officer took Paul and Silas to another place. He washed their cuts and bruises. At once, he received baptism and so did everyone in his house. v34 The officer of the prison brought Paul and Silas into his home. He gave a meal to them. He and his family were very happy because they believed in God now.

Verses 23-24 Luke now describes how a third person from Philippi became a Christian. This man was neither rich nor poor. He was from the middle class. He did his job well as an officer of the prison. He did not want Paul and Silas to escape. He wanted to prevent their escape. So, he did everything that he could do for that purpose. He did not seem to be a kind man. But then he changed. He changed because he believed in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Paul and Silas felt much pain because people had whipped them. But the officer tied their feet to heavy pieces of wood. This would cause even more pain.

Verse 25 Paul and Silas were very tired and they felt terrible pain. In their situation, most people would be angry and miserable. But Paul and Silas prayed and they praised God. They were very happy. This was not because of their circumstances. But it was because they knew Jesus. People who know Jesus are very happy. They are happy even when bad things happen to them.

The other prisoners listened. They were surprised when Paul and Silas praised God aloud. The other prisoners knew that these men were different. God was the reason that Paul and Silas were happy.

We must always praise God in difficult circumstances. In that way, we show something to people. We show to them that we are happy. We know that God is looking after us. That is why we are happy.

Verse 26 Earthquakes were common in Philippi. But this earthquake happened at exactly the right time. It was certainly very powerful. It shook the prison so that the doors opened. And the prisoners’ chains fell off.

Verse 27 The officer of the prison thought that the prisoners had escaped. So, he tried to kill himself. He wanted to die quickly. By Roman law, if any prisoner escaped, that prisoner would receive punishment. And the officer of the prison would receive that same punishment, even if the escape was not his fault. (Look at Acts 12:19; 27:42.)

Verses 28-30 But Paul saw the officer. Paul told him that all the prisoners were still there! The officer checked that this was true. Immediately he asked Paul and Silas how to receive salvation. Perhaps he had heard the slave girl when she was shouting about it (Acts 16:17). Perhaps he had heard Paul and Silas preach in Philippi. Or perhaps he had heard them in the prison when they were praising God. The earthquake proved to him that their message was true. He was afraid. The Holy Spirit had shown to him that he needed salvation. So, he asked Paul and Silas about this.

Verses 31-32 Paul and Silas told the officer what to do. He needed to have faith in Jesus. Then they explained what this meant. They told the good news about Jesus to him. And they told it to everyone in his house.

Verses 33-34 Everyone there believed the Lord’s message. They believed that Jesus was their Saviour and Lord. The officer of the prison showed kindness. He washed Paul and Silas’s injuries. Afterward, they baptized him and they baptized the people in his house. He continued to be kind. He invited them into his house and he gave food to them. Luke says that the officer and his family were ‘very happy’ (verse 34). So, it seems that they also received the Holy Spirit.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Girl with an Evil Spirit


v16 One day we were going to the place where people prayed. A girl who was a slave met us. She had an evil spirit in her. It gave to her the power to know the future. She told people what would happen to them in the future. So, she earned a lot of money for her owners. v17 She followed Paul and the rest of us. And she was shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to receive salvation.’ v18 She did this for several days. At last, Paul got very upset. So, he turned round and he spoke to the spirit. He said, ‘In Jesus Christ’s name, I order you to come out of her!’ Immediately, the evil spirit left her.

v19 The girl’s owners realized that she could not earn money for them in the future. So, they seized Paul and Silas. The girl’s owners dragged Paul and Silas into the market-place. There, the girl’s owners met the people who had authority. v20 Her owners brought Paul and Silas in front of the Roman officials. They said, ‘These men are Jews. They are making trouble in our city. v21 They are teaching customs that are against Roman law. We are Roman citizens and we cannot allow these customs.’

v22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes from the two men and they ordered people to whip Paul and Silas.

Verse 16 Luke chose to write about three people in Philippi. Their lives changed completely because of the gospel.

The first person was Lydia. She was a rich lady and she had her own business.

The second person was very different. She was a slave girl and she had a big problem. An evil spirit was controlling her. It gave to her the power to see a person’s future. Luke uses a special Greek word for this power. This word is not anywhere else in the New Testament. But it is in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. There, the writers use this word to describe false prophets. God does not allow us to use this kind of power. It is very wrong (Deuteronomy 18:10). It seems that the slave girl could really see into the future. Her owners earned money from her. But the power came from Satan, by an evil spirit.

Verse 17 Paul and his companions often went to the place where people prayed. The slave girl continued to follow them. The evil spirit in her recognized that they were God’s servants.

Luke writes about two similar situations in his Gospel. Both times, the evil spirits recognized who Jesus is (Luke 4:33-34, 41; 8:27-28).

Verse 18 The girl followed them for several days. The Greek word that Luke uses for ‘very upset’ is ‘diaponeomai’. It also means ‘angry’ and ‘sad’. The girl’s words were true. But Paul did not want people to link God’s message with an evil spirit. Also, he was sad and angry that the girl was suffering. But her owners did not care about it.

In the end, Paul had to do something. He ordered the evil spirit to leave. It left immediately. Paul did this ‘in Jesus Christ’s name’. That means that he did it with Jesus’ power and authority. (Look also at Acts 3:6, 9, 10.)

Verse 19 The girl’s owners were very angry with Paul and Silas. This was because the evil spirit had gone. This meant that the girl did not have the power to see into the future any longer. The owners’ way to make money had gone too! They blamed Paul and Silas for that. Here Luke does not mention himself, nor does he mention Timothy. The first passage where Luke uses the word ‘we’ has ended already, at verse 17. So, perhaps Luke and Timothy were not there now.

The girl’s owners dragged Paul and Silas into the market-place. This was not only a place where people sold things. In a Roman colony, it was the center of public life. Everything important happened there, for everyone to see.

Verses 20-21 A Roman colony had two officials who were like judges. They decided whether a person was guilty of a crime. The girl’s owners did not tell the officials why they were angry. Instead, they said that Paul and Silas had not obeyed Roman law. They said that the missionaries had caused trouble. The missionaries had introduced a new religion that was not legal. These were serious crimes against Roman law.

Also, many Romans did not like the Jews. The girl’s owners reminded the officials that they (the owners) were Roman citizens (verse 21). People in a Roman colony were proud of that. The girl’s owners said that Paul and Silas had done bad things. They wanted the officials to hate Paul and Silas, because Paul and Silas were Jews.

Verse 22 The people in the crowd were angry with Paul and Silas. This was because the people did not like foreigners. The officials ordered people to punish Paul and Silas. People whipped the missionaries. Roman whips caused a lot of pain and injuries.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Woman in Phillippi

A woman in Philippi becomes a believer, 16:11-15

v11 We sailed from Troas straight to Samothrace. The next day, we came to Neapolis. v12 From there, we went to Philippi. Philippi is a Roman colony. It is a city in the first district in Macedonia. We stayed there for several days. v13 On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate. And we went to a place by the river. We thought that the Jews met there for prayer. Some women came. We sat down and we talked to them. v14 One of those women was Lydia. She was from the city called Thyatira. And she sold expensive purple cloth. She worshipped God. The Lord opened her spirit so that she believed Paul’s message. v15 She and all the people in her house received baptism. Afterwards, she invited us into her home. ‘You may think that I really have faith in the Lord. If you do think so, then come. And stay at my house’, she said. So, she persuaded us to accept her invitation.

Verse 11 The wind was blowing in the right direction for the travelers. So, they sailed quickly across the North Aegean Sea and they finished the voyage in two days. Later, on the way back, it took 5 days (Acts 20:6).

Samothrace was an island with mountains. They did not stay there. They sailed on to Neapolis in Macedonia. Neapolis was the port for Philippi. Philippi was 16 kilometers (10 miles) away from the coast.

Luke kept a careful record of how far they traveled each day.

Verse 12 The Romans had divided Macedonia into 4 districts with different rulers. Philippi was ‘a city in the first district in Macedonia’. It was an important city, but it was not the capital. Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia. Philippi was on a long road called the Egnatian Way. This road linked Asia with the West.

Luke writes that Philippi was a Roman colony. A Roman colony used Roman law. The Romans governed it. It is important to understand that. We need to remember it because later something difficult happened to Paul in Philippi. And what happened had a connection with Roman law.

Verse 13 There did not seem to be a synagogue in Philippi.

To set up a synagogue, there had to be 10 men or more. This was a Jewish rule. But in Philippi, only women met together. They could not set up a synagogue, so they met by the river. It was probably so that they could wash. This was one of God’s commands in the Jewish Law.

Paul sat down with the women and he taught them. This was very unusual because the Jews did not usually teach women. They thought that men were more clever and important.

In his gospel, Luke tells how Jesus often spoke to women. Jesus cared about women as much as he cared about men. In ancient times, people did not consider women as important. But Luke shows that women are very important to God.

Verse 14 Lydia had her own business. She traded in purple cloth. Purple was a very expensive colour because it was difficult to make. Purple cloth was a luxury. Only rich people could afford it. So, Lydia was probably wealthy too.

‘She worshiped God’ means that she was a God-fearer.

‘The Lord opened her spirit’ means that the Holy Spirit was working in her. When a person believes the gospel, the Holy Spirit makes that happen.

We must tell to people the good news about Jesus. We may be able to do this very well. Or we may think that it is difficult to do. But we must remember this: Paul said that the gospel comes ‘not only with words. But it also comes with power. And it comes with the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Verse 15 ‘She and all the people in her house’ means her family. And it also means the people who worked for her. She probably had a large house. So, she invited the missionaries to stay in her home. That is how the church in Philippi began. It began with just one woman, who accepted Christ as her Saviour. It grew and it became a large church (Philippians 1:1). And its members were generous (Philippians 4:15-16).

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Timothy Works with Paul and Silas

Acts 16:1-5

v1 Paul went to Derbe and then he went to Lystra. A Christian called Timothy lived there. Timothy’s mother was a Jewish Christian. But his father was Greek. v2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium said many good things about Timothy. v3 Paul wanted Timothy to travel with him. So, he circumcised Timothy. He did this because of the attitude that the Jews had there. They all knew that Timothy’s father was Greek. v4 Paul and his helpers went through the towns. And they told the believers what the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem had decided. They told them to obey those rules. v5 So, the Christians became stronger in the faith and more people joined the churches daily.

Verses 1-3 Luke introduces Timothy. Timothy became a chief helper of Paul. We know that Timothy’s mother was called Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). She probably became a believer when Paul came to Lystra before. That was two or three years earlier. Timothy was young (1 Timothy 4:12). But the believers saw that he had a good character. His father was a Gentile. So, Timothy had received a Greek education. But he had also learned the Jewish scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15). It was easy for him to mix with both Jews and Gentiles. He could mix with both because he understood both their cultures. This would be very useful later when he preached in different places.

We may want to know why Paul circumcised Timothy. When a Jew married a pagan, their children were Jewish. That is what the Jews said. So, the Jews considered that Timothy was a Jew. That was because he had a Jewish mother. He should have received circumcision when he was a baby. Perhaps his father stopped this. Paul realised that Timothy would be an excellent helper. But Paul did not want to upset the other Jewish Christians. He circumcised Timothy so that they would accept him (Timothy). This did not mean that Paul wanted Gentile Christians to receive circumcision. He opposed this (Galatians 2:3-5). But Timothy was a special case because he had a Jewish mother.

Verses 4-5 Paul and his helpers told many more Christians about the four rules. He taught them in a way that made their faith stronger.

Luke’s report about how the gospel spread has 6 parts. The 4th part ends here in verse 5. The next part is about how Paul and his helpers took the good news into Europe.

Paul’s vision about a man from Macedonia, 16:6-10

v6 Paul and his companions went through Phrygia and Galatia. But the Holy Spirit would not let them preach the message in Asia. v7 They came to the border of Mysia. Then they tried to enter Bithynia. But the Spirit of Jesus would not let them do that. v8 So, they travelled through (or by) Mysia. And they went on to Troas. v9 That night, Paul had a vision. In the vision, he saw a man from Macedonia. The man was standing there. ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us!’ said the man. v10 After Paul had this vision, we got ready. We left for Macedonia immediately. We decided that God had called us to preach the gospel there.

Verses 6-8 These verses show that Paul was always listening to the Holy Spirit. He planned missionary journeys carefully. But he was willing to change his plans, if God told him to do it. Paul probably wanted to continue west to Ephesus city. But the Holy Spirit stopped them. We do not know how he stopped them. It may have been by means of a vision. Or it may have been by means of a prophet’s words in Lystra.

So, Paul traveled north instead. In the province called Bithynia, there were Greek cities and Jewish towns. But the Spirit of Jesus would not let them go there. The ‘Spirit of Jesus’ is another name for the Holy Spirit. Paul and Silas were both prophets. Perhaps Jesus himself had spoken by means of them about this. Perhaps that is why Luke calls the Holy Spirit ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ here.

So, ‘they traveled through (or by) Mysia’ (verse 8). The Greek word here can mean either through or by. So, this might mean that they went round Mysia. But they probably entered it in order to reach Troas. Perhaps they passed through Mysia but they did not preach there.

Verses 9-10 Troas was an important port. People went there when they traveled between Asia and Macedonia. The man in the vision asked for help. He wanted spiritual help. Paul knew that this message was from God. So, he prepared to go where God had said. It was not Paul’s plan to go to Macedonia. But it was God’s plan.

In verse 10, Luke says that ‘we’ did things, instead of ‘he’ or ‘they’. This is the first passage where Luke does that in Acts. So, Luke is now writing about events that he saw himself. So, we know that Luke went with Paul on this journey. Perhaps Luke wrote a diary about it. He may have used this diary when he wrote the passages with ‘we’.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Men Go to Antioch


v30 They sent the men off on their journey and the men went to Antioch. They gathered the members of the church there together. Then, they gave the letter to the members. v31 The people read it. And they were happy because the message encouraged them. v32 Judas and Silas were prophets. And they said many things that encouraged the believers. What they said made the believers’ faith strong. v33 Judas and Silas stayed in Antioch for some time. Then the believers there sent the men off on their journey in peace. They blessed the men. The men intended to return to the people who had sent them. v34 [But Silas decided to stay in Antioch.] v35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. There, they and many other men taught the Lord’s message and they preached it.

Verses 30-33 The members of the church in Antioch were very happy. They were happy because they did not have to become Jews. And this meant that they did not need to receive circumcision. They accepted the 4 rules. They did not argue about them. Perhaps already they were not doing those things that they should not do.

Judas and Silas also encouraged the believers. That is what real prophets do for the church. They speak words from God that make the believers stronger in faith.

When Judas and Silas left, the believers prayed for them. The believers prayed that Judas and Silas would have peace. (Peace means freedom from mental or spiritual troubles.) So, then Judas and Silas would have a safe journey.

Verse 34 may not have been in the original account. Perhaps someone added it later. In verse 40, we can see that Silas was in Antioch. Verse 34 shows why he was still there.

Verse 35 However, Paul and Barnabas stayed and they taught the believers. They continued to tell the good news to people who did not yet believe.

Paul and Barnabas separate, 15:36-41

v36 Sometime later, Paul said this to Barnabas: ‘Let us return to those towns where we preached the Lord’s message. We could visit the believers there. And we could see how they are. We could see what they are doing.’ v37 Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. v38 But John Mark had left them in Pamphylia. He had not stayed with them until they finished their work. So, Paul did not want to take him. v39 Paul and Barnabas argued. Then they separated. Barnabas took Mark and they sailed to Cyprus. v40 But Paul chose Silas. The believers placed them in God’s care. Then Paul left, with Silas. v41 Paul traveled through Syria and Cilicia. He encouraged the Christians and he made them stronger in faith.

Verses 36-38 ‘Sometime later’ probably means several months later. Perhaps when spring came, Paul and Barnabas could travel again. Paul suggested that they should visit the churches that they had started. They had started those churches on their first journey as missionaries. Barnabas agreed with that.

But then there was a problem. Barnabas wanted his cousin, John Mark (also called Mark), to come with them. So, then Mark could help them again. Perhaps Barnabas wanted to give him a second chance because, on their first journey, John Mark had left them. He had given up and they had to finish the work without him (Acts 13:13). But Paul did not trust John Mark. He thought that Mark might do the same thing again. Paul would not give him a second chance.

Verses 39-41 Paul and Barnabas could not agree about John Mark. So, Paul and Barnabas decided to part. And they went in different directions. Barnabas took Mark with him and they went to Cyprus. That was the country where Barnabas was born. Paul chose Silas to help him.

We know that Paul and Barnabas became friends again later. In two letters, Paul wrote good things about Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:6 and Colossians 4:10). Paul also became friends with John Mark again. Later, he wrote that Mark had helped him (2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 24). Also, when Paul’s life was ending, he wanted Mark to be near him (2 Timothy 4:11).

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Meeting in Jerusalem

Acts 15:1-21

v1 Some men came from Judea to Antioch. They were teaching the believers like this. ‘You must receive circumcision, as Moses taught. Otherwise, you cannot receive salvation.’ v2 Paul and Barnabas argued a lot with those men about this. So, the people decided to send Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to Jerusalem. These people would go to talk about that problem. They would talk about it with the apostles and leaders. v3 The people sent them on their journey. They traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria. On the way, they told how the Gentiles had decided to trust God. All the believers were very happy about this. v4 Paul, Barnabas, and the other men arrived in Jerusalem. Then the members of the church, the apostles, and the leaders welcomed them. Paul and his companions reported everything that God had helped them to do. v5 Some Pharisees had become believers. They stood up and they said this: ‘Gentiles who believe in the Lord must receive circumcision. We must tell them to obey Moses’ Law.’

v6 The apostles and leaders met. And they discussed that problem with the Gentiles. v7 They talked for a long time. Afterward, Peter stood up. He said, ‘Brothers! You know that God chose me from among you. He did it a long time ago. He chose me to preach the good news to the Gentiles. He did it so that they could hear the good news. And then they could believe it. v8 God knows everyone’s thoughts. He gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. In this way, he showed that he accepted them. It was the same as when he gave the Holy Spirit to us. v9 God made no distinction between them and us. They put their faith in him. So, he forgave their sins.

v10 Therefore, do not make God angry. Moses’ Law is like a heavy load. You will make God angry if you put this heavy load on these believers. The Law was too hard for us. And it was too hard for our ancestors! v11 But we believe that we receive salvation by means of the Lord Jesus’ grace. It is the same for the Gentiles.’

Verses 1-2 This chapter describes a decision. This is among the most important decisions that the church ever made. The church had a difficult problem. Some Gentiles had become believers, although they had not become Jews. So, the church had to decide whether to accept them. If a Gentile wanted to become a Jew, he had to receive circumcision. Also, he had to obey Moses’ Law. Peter had already struggled with this problem. God had given the answer to him by means of Cornelius (Acts 10). But the Jews from Judea did not like this answer. They wanted Gentiles to become Jews. The Jews believed that Gentiles must become Jews first. Only then, they thought, could they become Christians. Paul and Barnabas argued with the Jews about this.

Salvation is a free gift from God. We should obey rules. But we cannot earn salvation in that way, even if those rules are good. We should do good things. But we cannot earn salvation in that way. We can receive salvation by means of Jesus only. We must believe in him and we must have faith in him. God gives us salvation because of his own grace. It is not because of what we do.

So, the Christians in Antioch decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. That was because those Christians wanted them to discuss the problem with the apostles and leaders of the first church. And the first church was in Jerusalem.

Verse 3 ‘The people sent them on their journey.’ This means that some members of the church began the journey with them. Those members came for part of the journey. There had been a disagreement. But the people in the church showed that they cared about Paul and Barnabas.

Christians may not agree about some things. But we must always show that we love each other.

The journey was 300 miles long. On their way, Paul and Barnabas visited the churches in Phoenicia and Samaria. The Jews who spoke Greek had left Jerusalem. These churches had started after that. (Look at Acts 8:1-4.) These Jews were happy that the Gentiles believed. For these Jews, the fact that the Gentiles did not receive circumcision was not a problem.

Verse 4 In Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas told the people in the church what had happened. The people wanted to hear all about it. So, they listened to Paul and Barnabas’s report. But that did not mean that the people were happy about it all.

Verse 5 ‘Some Pharisees had become believers’ means that they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah. But they had believed that he was the Messiah for Jews only. He was the king of Israel. The Pharisees were Jews. In the Jews opinion, Gentiles had to become Jews first, by means of circumcision. Otherwise, the Jews believed that Gentiles could not enter the Messiah’s kingdom.

Paul was a Pharisee too. So, he understood what they believed. The Law was very important to them. They tried to obey it about everything. They also made up many more little rules. But Paul had changed. He had met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He knew that although we should obey rules, we cannot please God in that way. But when we have a friendship with God, we want to obey him. We want to obey him because we love him. He gives us the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit helps us to obey God. We do not do this by ourselves.

Verse 6 We do not know how many apostles still lived in Jerusalem. But, together with the leaders, they made important decisions. This was a very important decision. It might have divided the church. But nothing should divide the church.

Verses 7-9 Peter was a very famous apostle. He remembered what had happened to Cornelius and his family. He knew that God accepted the Gentiles. He had seen the Holy Spirit come down onto them. This had happened while they were listening to Peter. They had not yet said that they believed. But God knows what people are thinking. He knew that these Gentiles had faith. He had accepted them immediately. He had not made them become Jews first. Therefore the Jewish Christians must accept them too.

Verses 10-11 Peter said that the Law was like ‘a heavy load’. The Jews thought that it was difficult to obey the Law. That is why Peter said that. In verse 11, Peter tells what the good news is all about. It is all about grace! This is what makes the Christian faith different from all other religions. We cannot save ourselves from the results of our sin. To obey rules cannot bring us close to God. There is only one way to receive salvation. That is by means of the Lord Jesus’ grace.

v12 Everyone was silent. They listened. Barnabas and Paul told them what God had done for the Gentiles. Barnabas and Paul told the people how God did miracles and wonderful things by means of them (Barnabas and Paul). v13 After they had finished speaking, James said this: ‘Listen, brothers. v14 Simon Peter has told us this. He told us that God first showed that he cared about the Gentiles in this way. He took some Gentiles to be his own people. v15 This is the same as what the prophets wrote. They wrote this:

v16 “The Lord says: After this, I will return.

I will build David’s house again, the house that fell.

I will repair it. I will build it up and I will make it strong again.

v17 Then all the other nations will decide to worship me.

That is, all the Gentiles that I have chosen to be mine.

v18 I say this. I am the Lord.

I promised it long ago.” ’

v19 James continued to speak. ‘This is what I think. We should not cause trouble for the Gentiles who are deciding to trust God. v20 Instead, we should write a letter to them. We should tell them these things. They must not eat any food that people have offered to idols. They must not eat animals that people have strangled. They must not eat meat that has blood in it. They must not sin in sexual ways. (If something is ‘sexual’, it has a connection with sex.) v21 Every Sabbath, people read Moses’ Law in the synagogues. People have preached his words in every city. This has continued for very many years.’

Verse 12 There was a disagreement about the Gentiles. But Christians from both sides showed that they respected each other. They listened to what Barnabas and Paul said. They did not interrupt. When there is a disagreement in the church today, we should do the same. We must never forget that we are brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Here, Luke puts Barnabas’s name first. This is probably because people in Jerusalem knew Barnabas better. They knew him better than they knew Paul.

Verse 13 This James was a brother of Jesus. (Look at Mark 6:3.) He wrote another letter that is in the New Testament. In it, he emphasised the connection between our faith and our actions. He also talked about wisdom from heaven. Among other things, he called this wisdom ‘kind’ and ‘genuine’ (James 3:17). Here in Acts, he showed that he had this wisdom from heaven. He listened to the Pharisees. He listened to Peter, Paul and Barnabas. Then he suggested a solution to the problem.

Verses 14-18 James reminded them about what Peter had said. James did not mention Paul and Barnabas’s report. Peter’s words would have more authority in Jerusalem because he was a leader there.

‘He took some Gentiles to be his own people’ (verse 14). In the Old Testament, ‘God’s own people’ meant Israel. So, now James was saying that the Christian Gentiles now also belonged to God’s own people.

He provided proof from the scriptures. He needed to do this. In its important decisions, the church must agree with the scriptures. This is true today too. James spoke words from the book that Amos wrote (Amos 9:11-12). Christians understand that verse 16 is a prophecy about Christ’s resurrection. It is also a prophecy about the growth of his church.

God will include people from all nations in his future kingdom (verse 17).

Verses 19-20 James offered his opinions. Faith was enough for Gentiles who were deciding to trust God. The Jews should not make it difficult for them. The Gentiles did not have to become Jews and therefore they did not have to receive circumcision. But they did have to respect the Jews. So, they should not do things that would offend Jews very much.

James asked those Gentiles not to do these four things.

1.         They should not eat food that people had offered to idols. So, if some people worshiped idols, those Gentiles should not have any connection with that. (Look at 1 Corinthians 8:10.)

2.         They should not eat animals that people had strangled.

3.         They should not eat meat with blood in it.

4.         They should not do wicked things that have a connection with sex. This often happened when people worshiped idols and false gods. The Law only allowed Jews to have sex with their wives or husbands. This is what God wants (Genesis 2:24).

James did not suggest these rules because they were necessary for salvation. He suggested them so that Jews could mix with Gentiles. Some Jewish Christians would always want to obey all parts of the Law. Those 4 rules meant that they could eat with Gentiles. And they could be friends with Gentiles. Although the Law could not give salvation, it was very important to Jews. It was part of Jewish history and tradition. So, Gentiles must respect this.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Paul and Barnabas go to Syria

Acts 14:14-20

v14 The apostles heard about what had happened. They tore their clothes and they ran out into the crowd. They shouted, v15 ‘Men, you must not do this. We are human, like you. We are here to tell you the good news. Do not give attention to these foolish things any longer! Start to trust the God who is alive. He is the God who made the sky, the earth and the sea. And he made everything that is in them. v16 In the past, God allowed all nations to do things in their own way. v17 But he did good things. In this way, he showed that he was there. God gives to you rain from heaven. Your crops grow at the right time. He gives to you plenty of food. He makes you very happy.’ v18 However, the people still wanted to offer a sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. It was difficult for Paul and Barnabas to stop them. v19 But some Jewish leaders came from Antioch and Iconium. And they persuaded the crowds to oppose Paul. The Jews threw rocks at him. Then they dragged him out of the city. They thought that he was dead. v20 But when the disciples had gathered round him, he stood up. And he went back into the city. The next day, Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe.

Verse 14 The people thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods. Before, Paul and Barnabas had not realized that the people thought this. Paul and Barnabas had not understood the Lycaonian language. But now, they did realize what was happening! It seems that the people had brought animals for sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. (Look at verse 13.)

Paul and Barnabas were very upset. They tore their clothes. Jews usually did this to show disgust. They did it when people insulted God. Now, these people were insulting God. They were worshipping Paul and Barnabas as idols.

Verses 15-18 Paul and Barnabas quickly explained that they were not gods. They were human. But they had a special message from God.

Then Paul started to preach. His audience were all pagans. They did not know anything about the prophets in the Old Testament. So, Paul did not talk about the prophets. Instead, he spoke about the real God, who had made everything.

Paul told them not to worship false gods (‘these foolish things’) any longer (verse 15). God had let people choose to do things in their own way. But God always cared about them. He showed that he was there. He provided everything that they needed for their lives. He gave to them happiness, too.

It is still the same today. God allows people to reject him. He allows them not to believe in him. But he still shows that he cares about them. He provides food for them. He is the reason that they are happy. There is so much proof that God is there! But even then, they do not know it. They do not believe that God does those things.

The people wanted to offer a sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas managed to stop them. But it was not easy. Paul’s message was very new to them.

Verse 19 Perhaps some time had passed when the Jewish leaders arrived. The Jewish leaders may have followed Paul and Barnabas. They may have planned to stop them. Or they may have come to buy corn for their cities. Much corn grew round Lystra.

The Jewish leaders would have been very angry that Paul continued to preach there. They persuaded the crowd to oppose him. The Jews threw rocks at him. Then they were afraid. They thought that he was dead. They could get into trouble for murder. So, they dragged his body out of Lystra.

Verse 20 Paul was very brave. When he recovered, he did not leave the region. Instead, he went straight back to Lystra! When Christians suffer because of their faith, God gives them great courage. Often, people ask why Christians are so brave. They want to know more about God because of this.

Paul stayed in Lystra for one night. Then, he went to Derbe with Barnabas. Derbe was 70 miles away. Paul had a very strong body. He also had a very strong mind. He wanted to tell as many people as possible about Jesus. Nothing could stop him.

Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch in Syria, 14:21-28

v21 Paul and Barnabas preached the good news in Derbe. They persuaded many people to believe. And those people became disciples. Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra. Then, they went back to Iconium and they went on to Pisidian Antioch. v22 They encouraged believers. And they urged the believers to stay true to the faith. They told the believers, ‘We must suffer a lot before we can enter God’s kingdom.’ v23 Paul and Barnabas chose leaders in each church. Paul and Barnabas fasted and they prayed. They trusted the Lord. They prayed that he would look after those leaders. v24 Paul and Barnabas traveled through Pisidia to Pamphylia. v25 There, they preached in the town called Perga. Then, they went to Attalia. v26 And they sailed to Antioch in Syria. There, the believers had put Paul and Barnabas into God’s care for this work. Now, Paul and Barnabas had finished work. v27 When they arrived in Antioch, they called the church together. They told the people everything that God had helped them to do. They told the people how God had made it possible for the Gentiles to believe. v28 They stayed there with the believers for a long time.

Verses 21-23 Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra again. Not everyone there opposed them. A church had started there. Churches had also started in Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. So, Paul and Barnabas went back to encourage the new Christians.

The new Christians needed to learn more about the gospel. Then they would recognize when false teachers came. Then the people in those churches would only believe what was true. They also needed good leaders to guide them.

Paul and Barnabas also warned them that they must expect to suffer. The Jews who had opposed Paul were probably persecuting them.

When we follow Jesus Christ, we too must expect to suffer in some way. People may insult us or they may laugh at us. They may hurt us or they may even kill us. But God gives to us his grace by means of the Holy Spirit. His grace helps us. We are not alone. Jesus is with us always. He promised that (Matthew 28:20). After we have suffered, we will enter God’s kingdom. This is worth more than anything!

Verses 24-26 Luke gives a very short report about the journey back. Paul and Barnabas preached wherever they went. They went from the region called Phrygia into Pisidia. Then they went into Pamphylia. They returned to Perga. (Look at Acts 13:13.) Then they went to Attalia, which was the chief port in Pamphylia.

Finally, they sailed to Syria and they returned to Antioch there. They had made a circular journey.

Verses 27-28 The members of their own church wanted to hear all about their trip. Paul and Barnabas told exciting news to them. The Gentiles were becoming Christians! It was God who had made all this possible. It was not Paul and Barnabas. They ‘stayed there with the believers for a long time’ (verse 28). They needed to rest after their journey, which had been dangerous and difficult.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Paul and Barnabas in Iconium and Lystra


v1 What happened in Pisidian Antioch also happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue. Because of the manner in which they spoke, they persuaded many Jews and Gentile believers. v2 But the Jews who did not believe made the other Gentiles get angry. They persuaded those Gentiles to oppose the brothers. v3 Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a long time. And they spoke bravely about the Lord. The Lord gave to them power to do miracles and wonderful things. By that means, he proved that their message about his grace was true. v4 But the people in the city divided themselves into two groups. One group was on the Jews’ side. The other group was on the apostles’ side. v5 Then some Gentiles and Jews, with their leaders, decided to cause trouble. They wanted to throw rocks at Paul and Barnabas. They wanted to kill Paul and Barnabas in that way. v6 The apostles heard about that and they got away. They went to the cities called Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia. They also went to the region around these cities. v7 And they continued to preach the good news.

Verses 1-3 Again, Paul and Barnabas preached in the synagogue first. Many Jews became believers. So, did many Gentiles. But again, some Jews were jealous and they opposed Paul and Barnabas. Luke calls Paul and Barnabas ‘the brothers’ here because believers are like one big family. So, Paul and Barnabas were like brothers in that family. Some Gentiles did not believe. The Jews said bad things about Paul and Barnabas to those Gentiles. But Paul and Barnabas did not run away. They stayed and they continued to preach. Miracles proved that their message was true. When people preach God’s message with faith, miracles can happen today, too. God cures sick people. Evil spirits leave people.

Verses 4-7 This time, Paul and Barnabas’s enemies planned to kill them. Jews usually punished people who blasphemed. (To blaspheme means to insult God.) Jews threw rocks at such people until the people died. They had killed Stephen like that (Acts 7:58-60). The Jews said that he had blasphemed. He had said that Jesus had the same authority as God. And they thought that he should not have said that. (Look at the note about Acts 7:57.) They organized a trial for Stephen. But they did not organize a trial for Paul and Barnabas. Instead, they tried to make the crowd murder the missionaries. Paul and Barnabas knew that they could not stay there any longer. So, they went to Lystra and Derbe. Lystra was about 29 kilometers (18 miles) south-west from Iconium.

A miracle happens in Lystra, 14:8-13

v8 In Lystra, a man was sitting in his usual place. When he was born, there was something wrong with his feet. He had never been able to walk. v9 He sat. And he listened as Paul spoke. Paul looked straight at him. Paul saw that the man had faith. So, God could cure him. v10 Paul shouted, ‘Stand up!’ The man jumped up and he started to walk about. v11 The crowds saw what Paul had done. So, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have become human. They have come down to us!’ v12 They gave Barnabas the name ‘Zeus’. And they gave Paul the name ‘Hermes’. This was because Paul was the chief speaker. v13 Zeus’s temple was very near to the city. Zeus’s priest brought bulls (male cows) to the gates of the city. And he brought flowers there. He and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas.

Verses 8-10 Lystra was a Roman city. Paul was a Roman citizen. Perhaps Paul thought that he would be safe there. But the people there were simple people from the country. There were not many Jews. It seems that there was no synagogue. So, Paul preached in the street. He saw a man who could not walk. Luke, who was a doctor, describes this well. What happened next astonished the crowd. Paul saw that the man had faith. He told him to stand up. The man stood up.

Verses 11-12 But Paul and Barnabas did not expect what happened next. The crowd saw that a miracle had happened. The miracle had been powerful. But the crowd thought that the power came from Paul and Barnabas. The crowd thought that these missionaries were gods. The people understood Greek, the language that Paul and Barnabas spoke. But the people were so excited that they shouted in their own language. They called Barnabas ‘Zeus’. This was the chief Greek god. They called Paul ‘Hermes’. Hermes was Zeus’s son. He was the god who brought messages. But Paul and Barnabas did not understand the people’s language. So, at this time, they did not understand what the people were saying.

Verse 13 Zeus and Hermes were important gods to the people in Lystra. The people told a story about them. In this story, Zeus and Hermes once visited the region. Those gods pretended to be human. They wanted a place to stay. But the people would not invite them into their homes. There was an old man who was poor. He and his wife had a small cottage. At last, that man and his wife let the gods stay in that cottage. The gods gave a reward to them. But the gods destroyed the other peoples’ homes.

That is why the people in Lystra were so excited. They thought that Zeus and Hermes had come back to visit them again. This time, they wanted to welcome them. They wanted to give sacrifices to them. They did not want Zeus and Hermes to destroy their homes!

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Opossition of Paul and Barnabas

Acts 13:42-52

New International Version

42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Verses 42-43 Jews and ‘devout converts’ wanted to hear more about the good news. It seems that some already believed. Luke writes that Paul and Barnabas ‘urged them to continue to live in God’s grace’ (verse 43). This is good advice for every believer. When we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour, God’s grace helps us to live for him. God’s grace is a gift. But we must accept this gift and we must use it. We must not trust in our own strength. We must obey God and we must serve him. God will give us all that we need for that.

Verses 44-48 The people who heard Paul and Barnabas’s message probably told many other people about it. So, ‘nearly everyone in the city came to hear God’s message’ (verse 44).

But the Jews were jealous. Perhaps it was because the missionaries were so popular. More probably, the Jews did not like the missionaries’ message. The Jews were God’s special people. Paul and Barnabas’s message was about God’s grace. And that grace was for everyone who believes in Jesus (verse 39). Many Gentiles had come to the synagogue to hear about this. Perhaps the Jews did not like them to come. The Jews did not believe that God accepts Gentiles. They did not want Gentiles to be equal with Jews in front of God. So, the Jews insulted Paul and they opposed his message.

Paul and Barnabas were not afraid to answer the Jews. They agreed that the Jews should hear God’s message first. When the Jews rejected it, they were making themselves guilty. This was because they had rejected everlasting life. So, they could not enter God’s kingdom.

Then Paul and Barnabas would preach the message to the Gentiles. This was what God wanted. Paul proved this with words from Isaiah 49:6. Wherever they went, Paul and the other missionaries preached to the Jews first. Then they went to the Gentiles. (Look at Romans 1:16.)

The Gentiles did not reject the message. They believed it. And it made them happy. People are very happy after they accept Jesus as their Saviour. Even if that causes trouble for them, they still have joy.

Verse 49-50 The Jews could not stop the good news about Jesus. So, they made it difficult for Paul and Barnabas to stay. They persuaded the leaders of the city to oppose the missionaries.

In many Roman cities, people did wicked things. Some women sold their bodies to men for sex. Men had sex with women who were not their wives. As a result, many women suffered. Their families also suffered. Many Gentile women wanted to live in the right way. So, some Gentile women followed Judaism, because it had rules about sex. The Jewish Law taught also that people should not steal. They should not lie, nor should they do other bad things.

Some such Gentile women in Pisidian Antioch were married to important men. The Jews persuaded them to make their husbands oppose Paul and Barnabas. The Jews forced the missionaries to leave.

Verses 51-52 ‘Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from that place off their feet’ (verse 51). Jesus told his disciples to do this in places where people did not welcome them (Luke 9:5; 10:11). Paul and Barnabas travelled to Iconium. This ancient city was 129 kilometres (80 miles) away to the south-east. The believers in Pisidian Antioch were not worried, nor were they upset. They were still happy. They had the Holy Spirit to help them. When Christians are full of the Holy Spirit, their circumstances do not matter. Bad things may happen to them. But the Holy Spirit gives joy inside them. It is joy that nobody can take away.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Jesus, Savior

26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:

“‘You are my son;
    today I have become your father.’[a]

34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,

“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’[b]

35 So it is also stated elsewhere:

“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’[c]

36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
    wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
    that you would never believe,
    even if someone told you.’[d]

Verse 26 The second part of Paul’s speech is all about Jesus. It is similar to Peter’s speeches in Acts chapters 2 and 4. But Paul was not talking to Jews only. He said, ‘this message about salvation is for us all’. That meant the ‘sons of Abraham’ (the Jews) and the Gentiles.

Verse 27 Like Peter, Paul blamed the Jews for Jesus’ death. Paul said that they did not know what they were doing. This, too, was like what Peter said. (Look also at Acts 3:17.) The most important fact was that the prophecies about Jesus became true. The Jewish leaders and teachers knew the scriptures very well. But they did not understand the real meaning.

Verses 28-29 Paul described Jesus’ death. He also said that people put Jesus’ body in a grave. He wanted his audience to know that Jesus had really died. So, then they would know that his resurrection was real. They would know that something really surprising and wonderful had happened.

Verses 30-31 Paul showed how people had condemned Jesus. But God had proved that they were wrong. The resurrection was a real miracle. Jesus appeared in front of his disciples after God had raised him from death. Jesus did this for 40 days (Acts 1:3).

Verses 32-33 Paul used words from the scriptures. In this way, he showed what God had done. Paul said that God had ‘raised Jesus up’ (verse 33). This meant that God had given Jesus to be his Messiah. Paul said words from Psalm 2:7. This is a psalm about the king that God chooses. It reminds us of God’s promise to David. Someone from among David’s family would be the Savior.

Verses 34-37 David died and his body went bad. But Jesus died and his body did not go bad. This was because God raised him from death. Paul spoke those words from Psalm 16:10. Peter had also spoken to them in Acts 2:27. But Paul linked them with Isaiah 55:3, where we read about God’s blessings. God’s blessings are certain because Jesus is alive! His resurrection means that God’s kingdom is here.

Verses 38-39 Again, Paul called his audience ‘brothers’. He means that they are Jews like himself. Now he gave to them the main part of his message. Jesus forgives sins! Sin is like a prison. There is only one way out of that prison. Jesus is the way. People can try to do the right things. They can obey the Law. But that will not make them free. Paul said that ‘people can believe in Jesus and they can trust in him. Everyone who does those things is free.’

Verses 40-41 Paul had spoken about those people who believe. Then he warned those who would not believe. He used words that the prophet Habakkuk had written (Habakkuk 1:5). Habakkuk said that God was doing something special at the time when he lived. But he said that the people did not recognise what God was doing then. At the time when Paul lived, the Jews were in a similar situation. They, too, needed to recognise what God was doing. God controls what happens to people at different times.