Learning from Acts 9-14
9:1-43 - Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul’s missionary journeys (13:1-28:31), we may be tempted to think, ‘What a great man Paul must have been’. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that ‘nothing good dwells within’ him. Paul never forgot his ‘past’: ‘I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him’. Paul describes himself as ‘the worst of sinners’. Paul gives his testimony: ‘The grace of God was poured on me abundantly’ (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God’s true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, ‘The Lord Jesus… has sent me…’(17). Saul ‘preached boldly in the Name of Jesus’ (27). Peter said, ‘Jesus Christ heals you…’ (34).
10:1-11:18 - ‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you… you will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth’ (1:8). This great advance of the Gospel – Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (10:45; 11:1,18) – is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’ (Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save… Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise, 128). ‘Go forth and tell!’ (Mission Praise, 178).
11:19-12:25 - Barnabas ‘was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord’ (11:24). Let’s be like Barnabas, giving ourselves to the Lord and asking Him to make us more useful in His service. Great things can happen when ‘earnest prayer’ is ‘made to God by the church’ – God ‘is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Give all the glory to the Lord. Herod ‘did not give God the glory’. He accepted the praise of the people – ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man’. Herod’s sudden death – ‘an angel of the Lord struck him down’ – is a warning (12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1). ‘Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap’. ‘Walk humbly with your God’ (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).
13:1-43 - ‘Set apart’ by ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘sent out by the Holy Spirit’, ‘filled by the Holy Spirit’ (2,4,9): In the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In their teaching, we have ‘the teaching of the Lord’ (12). This is what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. What is God saying to us as we listen to His Word? – ‘Continue in the grace of God’ (43). How are we to continue in the grace of God? – Keep looking away from the human servant to the divine Saviour: ‘After me One is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am unworthy to untie’ (25).
13:44-14:28 - When God is working powerfully through His servants, there is always the tendency to attach too much importance to the servants. We must resist this temptation. The glory belongs to God alone. We must never forget: ‘We too are only men, human like you’. God has called us to ‘bring Good News’ to sinners, the Good News of salvation. As we proclaim this Good News – ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ – , we must never forget this: We are ‘unworthy servants’, ‘the worst of sinners’ (14:28; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; Luke 17:10). Look beyond the preacher, the evangelist, the teacher of God’s Word. Look to the Saviour. Give all the glory to Him. He is the Gospel. He is our salvation. He is the living Word. The Gospel is preached. There is blessing. We say, ‘God has done this!’ (52,8,27).