Acts 1-28 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight ACT01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, soaring through the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Acts? 28 chapters are before us to fly over the book of Acts. God willing, we'll make it out of chapter 1 and into chapter 28.
Whenever a movie comes out that's a hit, it seems like the producing executives start seeing dollar signs and they think, if we make a sequel to this, it'll do really well. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, right?
So I remember back to that movie called The Mask. Do you remember that movie? I thought it was an entertaining movie. I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good idea. It was funny. But then there was a sequel called The Son of The Mask-- total flop. They should have just stopped at number one.
Then years before that, there was a movie, when I was younger, called Grease with John Travolta. And I don't know-- I never enjoyed the movie, but it was a big hit. A lot of people loved it. But then Grease 2 was a total flop.
Now, there are some movies that sequels do really well with. Star Wars is one of them, with the Empire Strikes Back and the 5,000 other renditions of it afterwards. Toy Story 1 and 2, there were-- these are good. There are several that have done well as a sequel.
The book of Acts is a sequel to the book of Luke-- both written by the same author, two volumes of a single work. In fact, up until the second century, it was a document of one big volume. It was the writing of Luke.
It included the Gospel of Luke. It included the book of Acts. Around the second century idea was divided into the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, and that's how it is presented in our Bible. But both of them were written by Luke. One is a follow-up to the first story, or the first narrative.
Luke was a medical doctor, a Gentile medical doctor. He became a friend of the apostle Paul and became a traveler with the apostle Paul. And so in the book of Acts, you start seeing where the author becomes the traveler. And you actually see it in the pronouns that are presented in the book.
So when you go through the book of Acts for 16 chapters, you have the author, Luke-- Dr. Luke-- writing about different events, using pronouns like he and him, and they and them, until you get to chapter 16 verse 10. Then there's a change, where he says we and us.
And it's evident that in Troas in chapter 16, after Paul got the vision of the man from Macedonia-- some even think it was Luke-- that after that vision, and Paul saw it, it says we concluded that the Lord was sending us to Macedonia. So he becomes then someone who travels with Paul throughout the remainder of the book, probably even all the way to Rome.
Now, there are places where he changes the pronouns once again-- goes from within us to they and them-- and so it would seem like Paul has removed him from being part of that team at that place, but was waiting up to be rejoined later on. And then he does rejoin, and those pronouns come back.
So you can follow along with Luke that way because he is, as a medical researcher, very precise in this. And you can follow the pronouns and get to it. The theme of this book-- since we have 28 chapters, we have to just sort of jump right in-- the theme of this book-- I've always called it From Jerusalem to Rome-- from Jerusalem to Rome.
But let me explain that. It's how the hope that revitalized a generation centered at Jerusalem-- the hope of the gospel-- made it from Jerusalem all the way to the very heart of the empire, and that is Rome. And so the author is very selective. Luke is very selective in his storytelling.
He doesn't tell us everywhere the gospel went, just certain places, because he wants to show you how the message of the Messiah, a Jewish story, did not stay in Israel, did not get confined to Jerusalem, but actually made it to the very heart of the world at that time. And that is Rome. And that's why it spread everywhere-- because it first went to Rome, and then from Rome, spread around the world.
So in chapter 1 verse 1, it begins, "The former account I made, O Theophilus"-- there's that name again. We saw it in chapter 1 of Luke-- "of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen."
Notice the word began. It's a key word. It's a key to the book. Jesus started something. He began something. And so he starts the book with this idea-- do you remember what Jesus started? Let me tell you how what Jesus started is now continuing.
You see, the gospel record is an incomplete record. Jesus started something. He did it while he was on the Earth, but then He infused the message and the power to preach that message by the Holy Spirit into His followers. They take up the baton. They have the mantle. They continue that work through the Holy Spirit.
So Jesus began it. I wrote about that in my-- in volume 1 of Luke. Now here, in volume 2, O Theophilus, I want you to know that Jesus is still working. His work of redemption is done on the cross, but His work of mediation for his followers, His work of proclamation-- by sending the Holy Spirit to infuse people-- that is still going on.
And by the time we get to the book of Acts's ending-- I hope you'll see it-- God willing, we will-- the book of Acts itself is an incomplete book. Hold that thought. Just hold that until we get to chapter 28. Go down to verse 6. And we're going to be skimming. I'm going to be turning to a lot of different places here.
Verse 6-- "Therefore, when they had come together"-- that is His followers, His disciples-- "they asked Him"-- that is Jesus-- this is right before the ascension-- "saying, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?
And He said to them, it is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority, but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth."
Their question is a question of when. Jesus's answer is a question of what, or an issue of what. And so often, our question is, when? When is Jesus coming back? When is this thing going to happen? When, when, when?
The issue is never when-- it's always what. What ought you to be doing until He comes back? What is the mission He has called us to-- in this time, in this place, our little blip on the radar-- as you heard in the video-- what are we to do? So forget about the when, disciples, and think about the what. And the what is you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
I remember being saved a long time ago in an era out on the west coast known as the Jesus movement. And we were all about when Jesus was coming back. By the way, I don't think He's far away. I think He's soon to return. I believe that. I really do believe that.
But it made a lot of people in my generation want to check out from the reality of life. Oh, Jesus is coming so soon. We might as well quit our jobs and get a lot of debt, because we won't have to pay it off anyway. We'll be in Heaven.
And just this idea of irresponsibility-- Jesus doesn't call you to sit on a hillside strumming a guitar eating birdseed. He wants you to get your hand to the plow and get to work. He's got a job for us to do. And what is the job? Witnesses unto Me-- Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the uttermost or ends of the Earth.
I say uttermost, because that's old King James. That's where my mind naturally goes, because the first time I read the book of Acts was in that version, so it's stuck-- uttermost parts-- ends of the Earth. In this verse, we have an outline for the whole book of Acts. I love it when books provide their own outlines.
The book of Revelation provides an outline. The things that you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things-- that's the outline of the book in chapter 1. Here in Acts chapter 1, Luke provides us an outline of what his narrative is going to be like in the rest of the book-- Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, end of the Earth chapters.
Chapters 1 through 7, it's all about Jerusalem-- the gospel witness in and around Jerusalem, that main city. Chapters 8 and 9 tell us how the gospel witness goes from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria-- chapters 10 to 28, how the gospel witness, primarily through a converted Jewish rabbi named Saul of Tarsus, goes to Gentile countries and the ends of the Earth.
Make sense? The outline's right here. And that's the outline Luke is going to follow in the rest of the book. Now, in chapters 2 through 7-- and I'm going to be skimming and skipping-- we have the birth of the church. If volume 1, or the Gospel of Luke, is all about the origins of the gospel-- and it is-- Jesus-- then the book of Acts-- Luke volume 2-- is about the development of the church.
So chapter 2 is the day of Pentecost, the birth of the church, followed by how the Holy Spirit comes upon His followers, how they preach the gospel message in and around Jerusalem. And because they are faithful to preach the message, they get into trouble. They get persecuted.
If you preach, will get persecuted. If you're faithful to the gospel message, people won't like you. If you're a person who loves to be loved all the time by everyone, it's very hard for you to witness. And short of the Holy Spirit filling you up, you're a lost cause.
But the good news is the Holy Spirit's there to fill you, and empower you, and make you bold. My hardest thing to do was to give a witness for Jesus Christ, as a young believer. I thought, I could never speak to an individual, let alone a group, the gospel.
So when I say you'd be a lost cause, you would be, but the good news is we have the power of the Holy Spirit. And we're going to see that. So we go to chapter 2 now and we dip in at around verse 14, where we're in Jerusalem. The gospel is going out.
And the guy to give the gospel is one of Jesus's closest followers-- Jesus is in Heaven Peter takes up the mantle. "But Peter"-- chapter 2 verse 14-- "standing up with the 11, raised his voice and said to them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words."
Now, a healing has just taken place. When Peter and John were going into the temple, there was a man lame from birth. They picked him up and he was healed. It created an uproar. The two apostles used it as an opportunity to preach.
So he says, "Heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose"-- excuse me, I got my stories mixed up-- that's chapter 3-- chapter 2, the Holy Spirit fills the church on the day of Pentecost. People don't know what that's all about. They're wondering what it means. Peter is announcing what it means.
Got ahead of myself. "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day." Look, it's 9 o'clock in the morning, guys. The bars aren't even open in Jerusalem. These men are not drunk, as you think they are. It's early still.
"But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel." In verse 17, he quotes Joel chapter 2. Pick it up at verse 22, Peter's still preaching. It's still Jerusalem. "Men of Israel, hear these words." Now, as you listen to Peter's message-- or part of it, because we're only skimming it-- I hope you're going to notice, man, this sounds like a different Peter.
I know it says Peter's preaching it, but this is not the Peter I remember. "Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
Him being delivered by the determined purpose and knowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it."
This is getting good. He's getting fiery. Let's go to his close, the close of his sermon. Go down to verse 36. He's still preaching. That means he's coming to an end. "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now, when they heard this, they were cut to the heart." That means they were deeply convicted. "And said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them"-- now this is Peter-- "Peter said to them, 'repent'"-- this is his public sermon.
This is Peter-- "repent, and let every one of you will be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
One of the most noticeable things about Peter's sermon is how different this is from Peter few chapters back in the gospel narratives. That Peter was scared. This Peter is bold. That Peter denied Jesus. This Peter is preaching Jesus. That Peter ran away and wept in bitterness. This Peter's standing up tall.
What happened to Peter? Those people who know him say, give me Peter back, the one I know. My friend Peter, where'd he go? Same guy. What made the difference? Two things-- a new presence, a new power.
The Holy Spirit, that's the new power. But the new presence, Jesus Christ, his master, has risen from the dead, and he saw Him alive. He saw Him alive. He spent time with Him. He then ascended into Heaven. So it's a whole new resurrected presence of his Lord.
What Jesus predicted happened. That's the new presence, the new power-- the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples. They didn't believe it, when He said it. I'm sure they were scratching their beards going, yeah right.
When He told them, I'm going away, I'm going to be killed, but I'll be raised up on the third day-- but it is expedient for you. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, I can't send the Holy Spirit.
But if I go away, I'm going to send the Holy Spirit. He's going to be with you. He's going to be in you. He's going to direct you, guide you into all truth. This is really good for you guys for Me to go, because I'm going to send someone who's going to empower you to do what you cannot do on your own.
So it's the same guy, but a new presence. Jesus resurrected a new power, the Holy Spirit living in Him, and preaching really, as it were, through Him. 50 times, the book of Acts mentions the Holy Spirit.
I know it says-- at least at the top of my Bible, and probably yours-- it says, at the very beginning at chapter 1, the Acts of the Apostles. If you don't feel it is blasphemous to do what I am suggesting that you do, if you have the freedom to write in your Bible, you may want to cross out apostles.
Or don't cross it out. Put a carrot between the and apostles, and put the Acts of the-- carrot-- Holy Spirit through-- and then the Apostles. That's really what the book is about. This is the acts of the Holy Spirit moving through people-- apostles, disciples, anyone who will say yes to Jesus.
It's what Jesus began to do and to teach, and is continuing to do and to teach, because of a new presence and a new power. That means you. I'm eyeballing you. I've got you on my radar.
Book of Acts. Oh, I know there are 28 chapters, but there are more chapters being written, and I'm looking at some of the very ones he's writing it through-- you. Get a sense of the resurrected powerful Christ. Be filled with the Holy Spirit, and let God work through you.
So we'll see the Holy Spirit active in the book of Acts. He regenerates people. He baptized his people. He sends people out. He directs their mission endeavors. Now, chapter 3 is the story of that lame man who was healed at the Gate Beautiful-- and after he's healed, the preaching of Peter and John.
Chapter 4 and 5 is the response to the preaching. Because of the lame man who was healed, they get into trouble. They get persecuted. So persecution is chapter 4 and 5, after they get arrested. In chapter 6 of the book of Acts, we get a little insight, as we go deeper into the church and we find a crisis that happens in the early church.
There's one in chapter 5 too with Ananias and Sapphira but there's an organizational crisis in chapter 6. I'm not impugning. I'm just stating the fact-- it happened in the women's ministry. It was about the daily distribution of the women. They started complaining.
So the apostles got together to fix it and chose seven deacons filled with the Holy Spirit, full of good report, while they would themselves pray and study the word of God. That's chapter 6.
Chapter 7, all still in Jerusalem-- happening in Jerusalem. Remember, that's the focus-- the gospel witness in Jerusalem. One of those deacons, by the name of Stephen, goes to the synagogue for a worship service. The synagogue he attended was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen.
And he shares an incredibly historical powerful message. It's one of my favorite messages, because it is-- appeals to the mind. It appeals to history. It's very logical. He basically presents Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic history in prophecy.
And they don't want to hear it. They kill him. They stone him. They lay his clothing at the feet of a young man by the name of Saul of Tarsus. That's where we get introduced to Him. In chapter 8, after the Stephen stoning, after the persecution, we get into the second part of the book of Acts.
Remember, chapter 1 through 7, the gospel witness at Jerusalem-- chapter 8 and 9, the gospel witness in Judea and Samaria. So in chapter 8, we have another one of those deacons in that crisis of chapter 6 by the name of Philip, who shares the gospel in Samaria. So the gospel goes from Judea into Samaria.
He preaches it in Samaria in Gaza down south, and then back up to Caesarea. So we have the gospel going from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria. But turn to chapter 8, before we go much further than that, and see how chapter 8 opens, as we are introduced to a character named Saul of Tarsus. Because the rest of the book will be highly selective, as we follow him.
It begins, chapter 8 verse 1, "Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem." This is the pivot point. "And they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and"-- where?
Samaria. So we're following our outline. From Jerusalem, they're scattered to Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. OK, stop there. I want what you and I just read to sink in. Jesus promised in chapter 1 verse 8, you will be My witnesses. You'll be filled with the Holy Spirit. You'll be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the Earth.
That's what he promised them. They're probably thinking, good. Awesome. Can't wait. Question is, how is that going to happen? What is the vehicle whereby those believers in Jerusalem are going to be exported, pumped out into the Gentile world and Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the Earth?
Here's the answer-- this is not what they wanted to hear-- persecution. In fact, let me give you a little formula that I came up with just by reading the Book of Acts. If you practice Acts 1:8, you will experience Acts 8:1. If you are filled with the Spirit and you want to take the gospel from where you are and export it to others in the family, at work, around the block, across the world, expect persecution to break out.
So persecution brought the propagation of the Gospel. Persecution of the believer is like wind to seed. When a farmer sows, he sometimes uses the wind as sort of a fuel or an engine to push the seed down into the furrow a little bit further. It gets scattered that way.
As believers, we are to be scattered. That doesn't mean we're to go and have our own little fellowship on a rock up in the Sandia Mountains with a pine tree. It means we gather together and we get taught, and fed, and inspired, and instructed, but then we disseminate. We scatter.
And some of us will move to different places, or we'll lose our job here, or a disease will cause us to send our loved one to another city and we'll have to join them, and we wonder why. And now, we have to move there. A number of things can move us, but God wants us to be on the move with His gospel.
And I'm sure they're going, Lord, how could a God of love allow us to be persecuted like this? We're sharing faithfully in Jerusalem your message, and now we're scattered. Because He wants the gospel not to stay in Jerusalem. He loves the people of Samaria and Judea, and he wants you out there.
He knows we get comfortable. Who wants to leave Jerusalem? There's a revival breaking out there. That's the most exciting place to be in the world. The early church just got born there. I'm sticking around. No, you're not. I'm going to make things hard for you. You're going to want to leave.
"And devout men"-- verse 2-- "carried Stephen to his burial, and make great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." This is Saul of Tarsus. We'll see more of him in chapter 9.
Before we move on and I summarize a great deal and go on to the next section, let me give you a more modern-day example of this persecution thing. For hundreds of years, Western missionaries went to China, country of a billion people-- now much more than that.
The gospel penetrated into China, although it was very, very difficult. And the result of Western mission activity and church planning for hundreds of years in China yielded about 800,000 believers. Well, that's significant-- 800,000-- not quite 1 million believers-- with hundreds of years of mission work.
But in the 1940s, China experienced what's called a cultural revolution. Missionaries were forced out of the countries. Christians were persecuted intensely. The church went underground. They met secretly. In some cases, they still do, in some places.
Mission experts around the world, especially in the West, were scratching their heads thinking, man, this is the end of the church in that part of the world. It's over. We were surprised, when we got the first peek behind that bamboo curtain to find out how many believers existed after all that cultural revolution, and the church going underground, and the persecution.
They didn't get squashed. They actually grew larger. At the end, we discovered not 800,000. We discovered between 50 and 100 million believers in Jesus Christ. It was a horrible process to get there, but God had something greater in mind through that very, very difficult time.
So chapter 1 through 7, gospel witness in Jerusalem. Chapters 8 and 9, gospel witness in Judea and Samaria. Now, in chapter 9, we get the conversion. We have one of the most pivotal moments in church history, and that is why it comes up in the Gospel of Luke-- or in the book of Acts. In Luke's gospel volume 2, I should call it.
It is such a pivotal moment for this rabbi of Tarsus that his conversion is highlighted-- is written about three times in the book of Acts. Chapter 9 verse 1, it says, "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so if he found any who were of the Way"-- that's what Christians were called then-- "whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from Heaven. Then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'" Saul of Tarsus was a rabbi. If you want his personal testimony-- not now-- but go read it in Philippians chapter 3.
He tells it to you-- tells you who he was, tells you his background. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He was a Pharisee. We know he studied under the great teacher Gamaliel, a very notable stature in Jerusalem. So he was tutored well, trained well.
He was a Roman citizen, as well as somebody very familiar with Greek customs, culture, and language. He knew Hebrew. He knew rabbinical tradition. He was an interesting mix from Judaism, Greek culture, and Roman culture all mixed into one person-- highly intellectual.
I marvel at his arguments. I don't even understand his arguments. I teach the book of Romans on Sunday morning. I have a hard time understanding the book of Romans, and that's his Magna Carta. You know the same feeling. Peter was right, when he said Paul wrote a lot of things hard to understand. I'm so glad he wrote that.
I thought, I'm glad he said that, because I thought I was the only one. But this is his conversion. And notice verse 4. He fell to the ground. He heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Now, he didn't even know who this is yet. He's going to find out It's Jesus.
And it's like, what do you mean persecuting You? I'm after people. I'm after these people who follow You? The point in verse 4 is, if you mess with God's people, you mess with God. You touch Christians, you touch Christ. The body of Christ is connected to the head of the church inextricably.
So when people are out to get you, God takes it personally. So why not-- if they're attacking you for the right reason, like the gospel-- move aside and let God at them? Sic 'em, Holy Spirit. He'll do a much better job, like He did with Saul of Tarsus.
Why are you persecuting Me? So he said, "Who are You?" It's a good, fair question. I hear a voice. Who are you, Lord? "'The Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do you want me to do?'
The Lord said to him, 'Arise, go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'" Saul of Tarsus ask two questions-- two questions that I think every one of us should ask and answer. Most of us have asked and had answered the very first question. Not all of us have asked nor have we had answered the second question.
The first question is, who are you, Lord? That's basic. People go to church for years and they never get an answer to that question. I grew up in church. I was an altar boy in the Catholic church. I went to mass sometimes daily-- very, very devout family.
I did not know Jesus. I did not know the Lord. I went for years not having answered, who are you, Lord? But when I did, everything changed. It was a life-changer for me. I was 18 when it happened. But then, there's a second question we must ask and have answered-- Lord, what do you want me to do?
Some people have the first question answered, but they lived their whole life, but it's an unproductive life, because they never find out why God put them on this Earth. The two greatest days of your life are the day you were born, and the second is the day you figured out what you were born for.
When you find out why God put you on this Earth, and you take up that mantle of service to Him, it's a great and glorious day. Lord, what do you want me to do? Well, he goes into the city, goes into Damascus. He becomes a basket case-- literally. They let him over the wall in a basket.
OK, let's go to verse 22. Sorry. Don't clap for that. I detract it from God's holy word, even though it was fun. Verse 22, it says, "But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ." Now, watch this very next verse, verse 23.
"Now after"-- what-- "many days"-- it's an important phrase, because-- let me explain this. It says, "After many days were passed, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, let him down through the wall in a large basket"-- so a basket case, right? That's how he escaped.
However, between verse 22 and 23 is a period of three years. Many days is many days, like 1,000 plus days. It's only when we put the other testimony of Saul of Tarsus in this book along with his testimony in Galatians 1 that we figured out-- he gets saved, goes to Damascus.
After he gets saved and he's in Damascus, he leaves Damascus, goes to Arabia for three years-- after that, comes back to Damascus, stirs things up. They let him over the wall in a basket. He then goes to Jerusalem. Then he's too hot to handle in Jerusalem. They ship him back home to Tarsus, where he's from.
Before he ever gets a call-- and he gets the call from Barnabas-- not a call, not a text, but-- Barnabas brings him to Antioch and his ministry starts. But here's what I want you to know-- Saul of Tarsus, AKA now Paul the Apostle, does not start his ministry for years, maybe even up to seven to nine years, some figure-- several years.
Why three years in Arabia? Maybe he went back to Mount Sinai. He was a Jew. He followed the law. Maybe under the shadow of Mount Sinai for years, maybe in seclusion, maybe with a few other Jewish scholars, he wrestled with the Old Testament scriptures.
One thing we know-- when he came out of that silence and he started preaching, he was an unstoppable force, a brilliant unstoppable force. He had reasoned through the Old Testament scriptures. He knew what to say in the synagogues, in the temple. He knew how to preach to Greeks, Romans, the whole lot.
Three years in Arabia, then years in Tarsus-- all of that to say, don't be mad at God if He doesn't use you next week. I've been saved a whole week. What's up, God? How come I don't have a worldwide ministry like Billy Graham did? It's been a month.
First of all, you may never have that. Second of all, never despise the day of small beginnings, the prophet said. Saul of Tarsus never would have made it to Rome, did he not go to Arabia and then Tarsus. Preparation is necessary for fruitfulness.
Gets down, over a basket, goes to Jerusalem, goes to Tarsus-- chapters 10 through 28-- it's the third section of the book-- the gospel goes to the ends of the Earth, the Gentiles. Chapter 10, Cornelius the Gentile is reached. Chapter 11 takes this to a northern city in Syria called Antioch.
And I just want to underscore this. Luke is now very, very selective. He's just basically going to say, yeah, Peter, whatever-- John, whatever. Thomas, the rest of you guys, whatever. I'm following Paul and I'm going to write about him. That's what he is-- very selective.
So Luke does not tell us how the gospel gets down to Egypt. And it did, by the way, in very powerful means. History or tradition says the apostle-- the gospel writer Mark-- John Mark-- went down to Egypt and planted the gospel. And it grew powerfully. It became a bastion of learning, and scholarship, and church planting.
And Mark took it down there. And then the gospel went to North Africa. He didn't follow that. He doesn't talk about how Thomas went to India and shared the gospel. He's all about how the gospel goes from Jerusalem, goes north, and then goes west and ends up in Rome.
That's his story line. That's his narrative-- from Jerusalem to Rome. He wants you to know how the gospel got there. So I take you over to chapter 13, where we get the first leg of that gospel to the ends of the Earth.
Chapter 13, it says, "Now the church that was in Antioch"-- notice how the chapter opens up. You can't go to Antioch today because it's in Syria. You know it's happening in Syria. But 2,000 years ago, Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire.
It was massive. It was not Jewish. It was polycultural-- very multicultural-- perfect place for Paul. So Barnabas gets sent to Antioch because he hears, man the holy spirit's moving to Antioch. Let's send Barnabas.
Barnabas goes up there, and when he looks around the city and sees the makeup of the city he goes, I know just the dude who would be perfect here. And so he tracks down Paul, brings Paul from Tarsus, his hometown. And this is where Paul's ministry begins, because there was a guy named Barnabas who believed in him-- brings him to this city.
"Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and-- teachers Barnabas Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch-- as they ministered to the Lord"-- they were having a worship services-- "they worshipped God and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
Then, having fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them and sent them away." Antioch now becomes the base-- not Jerusalem-- for Paul. He's the apostle to the Gentiles. His base of operations becomes a Gentile city, headquarters of Gentile multiculturalism. That's his base.
So he's in Antioch. They hear this word from God, they fast, and they lay hands on them. That's sort of a formal way of saying, we identify with you and we confer upon you what we believe God has already confirmed. When I lay hands on somebody for ministry, it's only because I believe the Holy Spirit has already laid hands on that person.
Lay hands on no man suddenly. Now, you know, in the Bible, it speaks of the laying on of hands in a good way and in a bad way. In a bad way, when somebody lays hands on you, it's like they're grabbing you to beat you up. If you lay hands on somebody in a good way, it's because you identify with them, and you see something in them, and you pray over them-- whether it's healing them-- or praying for their healing if they're sick, or you believe God laid His hand on a man who's going to be a pastor or somebody who's going to be in ministry.
So they laid hands on them. They had this formal association. So verse 4-- and I love this-- they sent him away. But watch this-- acts of the Holy Spirit. "So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus."
That's an island out there in the Mediterranean, off the coast. "They arrived in Salamis"-- that's the big city there-- "and preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant." OK, this is the first missionary journey. Paul has three-- three missionary journeys.
Paul has three missionary journeys and a fourth journey, which really is a missionary journey, but it's-- he's going to jail. He's imprisoned, and he's on a prison ship-- his journey to Rome. On the first journey, the first missionary journey, he goes through Cyprus. Then he goes up into Asia Minor into the area of Galatia.
And he goes to the provinces there of Galatia. His journey ends in chapter 14 verse 26. So now, we get the end of that journey, where it says, "From there"-- verse 26 of chapter 14-- "they sail to Antioch"-- that's where they started-- Antioch of Syria-- "where they had been commanded to the grace of God for the work which they had completed."
That was chapter 13-- laid hands on them. That's what the reference is. "Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done." Hey, Paul, we heard about you. We heard how great you were. And Barney, you were awesome too-- none of that.
Let me tell you what God did. Let me tell you what we saw God do-- "and that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles so they stayed there a long time with the disciples." This was the first mission conference in history. They gather together back in Antioch, the place that sent them.
They tell stories about what God did. They said, let me tell you what happened in Lysra, in Derbe, in Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia-- a different Antioch. That's why the book of Acts confuses some people. Antioch? They left Antioch. What are they doing in Antioch with-- it's a different Antioch.
So anyway, now they're back. They have this conference. One of the things Paul was able to tell them-- and we didn't cover it, but it's in chapter 14 around verse 19-- when Paul is in Lystra, he gets stoned. Let me rephrase that.
When Paul is in Lystra, they throw rocks at him, and they all think he's dead.
So it wasn't-- Paul wasn't smoking hooch in the back. It was somebody took a disliking to him preaching the gospel, threw rocks at him. And they thought he was dead, so they carried him out like they were going to bury him. And he gets up, dusts himself off, and goes back.
It's like, yeah, but I didn't finish that last point in my sermon. And he goes back and he shares the gospel again. This guy is an unstoppable force. How do you stop somebody like that? You don't. So they're telling all that God had did. That's the first journey.
Chapter 15, they go down to Jerusalem, because Jerusalem hears that non-Jews have received the gospel of our messiah. And they're a little bit miffed at this. So this is, in chapter 15, the first doctrinal conference-- council. There were people in Jerusalem who were believers in Jesus, but they had Judaistic tendencies-- legalistic tendencies-- believed that you have to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses in order to be a Christian.
This is a very seminal argument. Oh, it says that in verse 1. I should have just kept reading. "Certain men came from Judea and taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you can't be saved.' Therefore, when Paul and Barney-- Barnabas-- had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
So being sent on their way by the church, they pass through Phoenicia, Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles, and they caused great joy to all the brethren." So they hashed it out in Jerusalem, had this big conference. The danger is this-- I understand where the Judaizers were coming from. They're traditionalists.
Some of us are traditionalists. I love you, but you can be weird-- especially if you start wanting to mix the law and grace, and you want to take the new wine of the gospel and stuff it in the old wine skin of Judaism. You want to take the veil of the temple that has been ripped in two by God, and you go, I think we can so that back up again-- make it nice.
No, leave it ripped. It's a whole new work that He wants to do. So there's that dispute. At the same time, I do want to say something that you may have never heard me say. I am thankful for those legalists and traditionalists. I'm glad they had an argument with Paul about legalism and keeping the law, you know why?
If they didn't, we wouldn't have books like Galatians, Romans, the book of Hebrews. It's because of those early debates that we have this doctrine of grace unfolded in all of its New Testament glory in those book. So for that reason, I'm glad.
Verse 6-- "Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter Rose up and said, 'Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose us that-- God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe."
OK, something we need to cross-reference-- Jesus said to Peter, when He was with all the disciples, to you I give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Now, I know, being raised Roman Catholic, how that church interprets it.
Peter's the first pope. He's given the keys to the kingdom. That is not what he is speaking about. Keys open doors. And it was Peter who opened the door of faith to the Jews, when he preached on Pentecost. It was Peter who opened the door to the Samaritans' salvation in chapter 8.
A revival is happening in Samaria. When Philip was there, they sent Peter to observe it. And he was able to open the door and say, this is God's work. He also opened the door to the Gentiles in chapter 10 with Cornelius. So yeah, he was given keys to the kingdom-- to unlock the doors for Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles.
So he says, I'm speaking from experience. You all know that, that God used me to open the first door of faith to the Gentiles. But go down to verse 10-- and we won't spend much time on this incredible sermon he gives-- but we won't. Verse 10-- "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"
Now, Peter frames the traditionalists in the light that they need to be framed with. He is saying, the law that you espouse has become too burdensome. It's now like a yoke on the neck of people. It'll break their neck. It'll break their spirit. The law of Moses won't free you. It'll bind you. It'll break your neck.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, you bind burdens too heavy for men to bear. Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites. Now, a couple of centuries after this-- second century AD in church history-- all of those traditions that he's referring to became codified into commandments under a rabbi that became very famous, name Rabbi Shammai.
Rabbi Shammai is second century AD-- follow? He codified all of the traditional Commandments into 613 commandments. So if you ask the Jews how many Commandments-- they won't say, we keep the 10 Commandments. They will tell you, I keep the 613 commandments.
And there are knots that they wear on their prayer shawl to indicate those 613 knots and commandments. But get this-- of all those 613 commandments, 365 of them are negative commandments. 248 are positive commandments. There's more don't do that, than do this, in that burden that breaks their back.
Enter Jesus, enter the gospel of grace. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. You've kept the whole law-- liberation, freedom. So Peter said, why are you trying to put that yoke back on people, that Jesus busted? I love Peter.
Can't wait to tell him that. Go to verse 28. "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things." Now, this is a letter they write to the Gentiles who have been saved. We're not going to lay that heavy burden on your neck.
"That you abstain from things-- from idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality." There's a whole bunch of cultural reasons for that-- don't have time to explain now. You can look it up on our tape library. "If you keep yourselves from these, you do well. Farewell."
Now, chapter 16, 17, and 18 takes us to the second missionary journey. They revisit some of the same places they did on the first one-- see how people are doing. And then they go to some new places, like Philippi, and Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, where he spends about a year and a half-- almost two years.
Then we go to the third missionary journey. He revisits some of those places, but goes back to-- or goes to a new place called Ephesus. So I'm going to take you to chapter 20 verse 22. I'm trying. I'm working my way through. So third missionary journey, he goes to Ephesus.
I bring that up why? Because Ephesus is where he spends three years-- spent the longest time in Ephesus than anywhere else. Boy, I wish I had more time, and I don't. OK, I'm goingn to take you chapter 23.
I'm going to have to say a lot of things really quick. He's in Ephesus. He goes back to Ephesus after being there three years, leaving, coming back, because he wants to go to Jerusalem one last time. Everywhere he goes on the way to Jerusalem, prophets, signs, and wonders saying, don't go to Jerusalem, dude. They're going to arrest you.
He gathers them all together and says, "the Holy Spirit testifies in every city"-- this is chapter 20-- in every city-- the chains and tribulations await me, when I go to Jerusalem. But listen, but none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry given to me by the Holy Spirit.
So bye-- he goes-- goes to Jerusalem. You know what happens? He gets arrested. He gets thrown in jail for two years. He gets taken to Rome, which have caused people throughout church history, from his day until now, to say, Paul was not in the will of God for wanting to go to Jerusalem.
Holy Spirit tried to warn him-- don't go-- but he was stubborn, and he went. Well, Paul would tell you something very different from a prison cell that he was put into in Rome. In Rome, in a prison cell, he wrote the book of Ephesians. Thank you for that prison cell, Lord-- and for Philippians-- thank you for that prison cell, Lord-- and Colossians-- thank you for that prison cell, Lord-- and the book of Philemon-- thank you for that prison cell, God, for those letters.
He writes to the Philippians-- he goes, I just want you guys to know that the things that have happened to me-- imprisonment-- have happened for the furtherance of the gospel. The gospel is being furthered. By the way, I happen to be chained to people 24 hours a day. And because of that people and Caesar's household-- Philippians chapter 4-- are saved.
Can you imagine being chained to Paul 24 hours a day-- or for a few hours? Talk about a captive audience. This guy's like-- he's going ah. He's not seeing this as, I'm chained to you. It's like, you're chained to me. And he gave him an earful, and many of them responded because of him.
He gets arrested in Jerusalem. He gets taken to Caesarea, where he goes through three trials in two years, with two governors and one king-- first governor, Antonius Felix-- second governor, Porcius Festus-- the king, Herod Agrippa II, and his sister Berenice.
So I'm skipping here. He, in chapter 25, is giving his second defense at his second trial. In chapter 25 verse 8, while he answered for himself, he said, "'Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended anything at all.'
But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, 'Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judge before me concerning these things?'" He just came from Jerusalem in a trial. So he says, "'I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged.
To the Jews, I have done no wrong, as you well know. For I am not an offender, nor have I committed anything deserving of death. I do not object to dying, but if there is anything in these things of which"-- I'm not going to keep reading it. He knows he'll never get justice among the Jews, so he looks forward among the Romans.
He had the right, under the Roman law, as a Roman citizen, the right of A Palatio, the right of appeal. As a Roman citizen, you could appeal to the Supreme Court, to Caesar himself. He does that. They take him on a voyage in chapters 27, and he goes to Rome.
We now go to chapter 28. Paul now gets what he always wanted-- sort of. He's one he always wanted to be-- kind of. He's in Rome-- always wanted to go there. He didn't think he'd go there as a prisoner.
Can I just say, I think that God is interested in economy, and he likes twofers. You get two for the price of one. So if I make you a prisoner, the Roman government will send you, at their expense, all the way to Rome, and you'll be able to actually speak to Caesar Nero at their dime.
So he gets what he always wanted, but by the wisdom of God, as a prisoner. And he is taken to Rome. Chapter 28 verse 16-- "Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him."
From there, he writes those prison letters that I mentioned. Verse 30-- we'll close the book-- "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching the things which concerned the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him"-- period.
The book ends abruptly. It does. It's a weird ending, as far as the book is concerned. It ends abruptly. It ends inappropriately. It ends with the main character just sort of-- well, he was there, and he preached, and that's it.
But what I'm here to tell you, in closing, Paul isn't the main character. The reason it seems odd and inappropriate is because the main character is the Holy Spirit, and therefore, it keeps getting chapters added to it. And I'm just wondering, as I close, what chapter you're going to be writing, what you're going to be doing, what the Lord's going to be doing to you, what Jesus will continue to do and work through your life, as the Book of Acts continues to be written.
I actually had much more to say. Can you believe it? I'm way over time. I wanted to actually close with Paul's last words-- which are not here-- but we don't have time. But we will at some other time. Father, thank you for our time together-- in Jesus's name, amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible From 30,000 Feet.