Friday, May 12, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday May 14, 2017

PAUL BEFORE THE HIGH COUNCIL
Acts 23:1-11

   The Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council of Israel, was made up of a group of seventy men, some were Pharisees, and some were of the group known as the Sadducees. These two groups, though they formed one governing body, were vehemently opposed to each other in certain doctrine. For example, in addition to embracing the Law of Moses, the Pharisees also believed in following their own “Oral Law”. The Sadducees, on the other hand, only accepted the written Law of Moses, which is the Ten Commandments, and the “Penteteuch”, the first five books of the bible.
    Like with the governing body here in the United States, the Congress (Democrats and Republicans), there were also other differences that kept these wayward Church leaders separated and opposed to each other. The Pharisees believed in “predestination”, while the Sadducees believed in the “free-will” of man. The Sadducees did not believe in spirits and angels, while the Pharisees did. However, the biggest disagreement between these two groups is that the Pharisees believed in the “Resurrection”, and the Sadducees said “No way!!
    Here in Acts 23, as Paul begins his defense of himself before the religious hierarchy of Israel, he exhibits a certain boldness and defiance, in his demeanor and speech that was probably not going to bode well for him during these proceedings. In verse 1 we see Paul looking these powerful Church leaders right in the eyes, and began to address them improperly by referring to them as if they were only his peers.
    Here, Paul opens up by referring to the council as his “Brothers”, instead of referring to them in the politically correct way in which they were accustomed to being addressed, which is “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel!” It would have the same negative impact of disrespect in today’s courts if we stood before the Judge and referred to him as “man” instead of “Your Honor”. That is why Ananias, the High Priest, ordered the person closest to Paul to “slap him in the mouth”.
    In this passage, verses 1-11, a quick thinking Paul exposes to the court, his knowledge of Jewish law, because, after all, Paul himself was a former practicing Pharisee (one of their peers). First of all, Paul tells the High Priest that “GOD will slap him!” reminding his honor of the Jewish law that states, “He who strikes the cheek of an Israelite, strikes, as it were, the glory of GOD”. Paul then further rebukes the head of the council by calling him, a “whitewashed wall”, which was a well known reference that referred to a priest who had rendered himself “ceremonially unclean” by his touching of the tomb of the dead.
    In those days, tombs that actually contained dead bodies were “whitewashed” in order to keep the priests from accidentally, or unwittingly touching them, and thereby, temporarily rendering themselves unfit for service in the temple. However, here Paul is actually telling Ananias, the High Priest that he is unfit to be a priest, because, by ignoring Jewish Law, he was not conducting himself in the way that a true leader of the Church of GOD should.
    In verse 4, we see that those standing next to Paul questioned him about the way he had spoken to Ananias. Paul then offers up what can only be considered as a half-hearted apology when he says, in verse 5, that, “I’m sorry, brothers, I didn’t realize he was the High Priest. For the Scriptures say, “Do not speak evil of anyone who rules over you”.
    In reality Paul knew exactly who Ananias was, and he also knew of his reputation of being a traitor, and a puppet for the Roman government. He was also well-known as being a glutton and a thief, who robbed from the poor among his people. Even the “Jewish Talmud”, a collection of books and commentaries on Scripture, compiled by Jewish Rabbis from around A.D. 250 to A.D. 500, ridicules Ananias for his greed, brutality, and deception. 
    Realizing that many members of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, Paul stakes his claim on the fact that he himself was once a Pharisee, as well as all of his ancestors, and he was a believer in the Resurrection. He knew full well that such a comment by him would likely set the council up for a fight amongst themselves, and it certainly did. In fact Paul’s statement divided the council, and they began to engage in their favorite argument, the question of whether or not there would be a resurrection of the dead.
    The Pharisees, of course, sided with Paul. In fact, at this point, they declared that they could see nothing wrong with Paul at all. The fighting grew more and more fierce and the men actually begin tugging at Paul from both sides. It became so intense that the Roman commander had to step in to keep Paul from being literally torn apart. The Roman soldiers secured Paul and rushed him back to the fortress for safe keeping. Over night the LORD came to Paul to encourage him, telling him that, “Just as you have told the people here in Jerusalem about ME, so you must do the same by preaching the Good News (The Gospel) in Rome”. 
      
THE PLOT TO KILL PAUL
Acts 23:12-22

    The following morning a group of over forty antichrist Jews got together and bound themselves together in pledge with a “cherem”. They vowed that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul. When invoking a cherem, one is asking GOD to curse him if he fails to complete his vow. Here we can see that this “religiously confused” group of men believed that, by killing Paul, a man who preached CHRIST, they were actually doing GOD a favor. They now regarded Paul’s murder as “justifiable under GOD”, and they honestly felt that Paul was a danger to the GODly morals and principals of Israel.
     And so now the men, who were determined to exact justice in Israel, went to evoke the help of the Church (the leading priests), to assist them in completing their mission. They asked the high council to deceive the Roman commander by telling him to bring Paul back to them for further examination before the council, and while they are in route, they would siege Paul from them, and slay him.
    Fortunately, Paul’s nephew heard of their little scheme and went to the fortress and informed him of their planned ambush. Paul then told the officers on duty what the Jews were plotting, and he asked them to take the young man to speak with their commander. The commander listened to everything the young man had to say, and then began to set his own plan into motion. He told Paul’s nephew not to tell anyone else about what he had heard.

PAUL SENT TO CAESAREA
Acts 23:23-35


    Perhaps the strongest commitment that the Roman Empire had to its citizens was that, she would always vigorously protect them from the harm of outsiders. The commander took this threat against Paul very serious because Paul had already proven to him that he indeed was a Roman citizen. And so he was obligated by the law of the Roman Empire to protect Paul from hurt and harm at all costs. The commander quickly moved to get Paul to safety in Caesarea, which at that time was the capital of the province where Jerusalem was located.
    The fact that the commander assigned such a large number of soldiers to this detail (200 men), and, by their plan to depart for Caesarea at nine o’clock at night, speaks volumes about how determined he was to protect his Roman prisoner, Paul, from danger. And perhaps more importantly to him, he needed to protect his own self, and, his job as commander, which would both be in jeopardy if he let anything happened to a prisoner in his custody.
    When the detail left for Caesarea, the plan was for the foot soldiers to take Paul as far as Antipatris, which was the most dangerous part of the journey, and was about 35 miles from Jerusalem. The foot soldiers would then return to their fortress in Jerusalem, and the horse soldiers would take Paul the remaining 25 miles to Caesarea, where he would stand trial before the governor of Judea, Felix. When Paul arrived at Caesarea he met briefly with Felix, and then was placed in a holding cell in Herod’s headquarters until morning.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, April 14, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday April 16, 2017

PAUL DEFENDS HIMSELF AGAINST FALSE CHARGES
Acts 22:1-23

   In Acts 22 the Apostle Paul begins to defend himself against the slanderous charges that had been brought up against him by the anti-CHRIST Jews who had followed him from the province of Asia, to Jerusalem. Paul, had been communicating to the Roman commander of the cohort, who rescued him from peril, in the Greek language, but now, he turns and begins to speak and address the riotous crowd who tried to kill him, in the Aramaic tongue.
    Most of the crowd was Jewish, and the Jews in those days communicated mostly in the Aramaic tongue, which was a sort of blending of the Hebrew and Arabic languages. When they heard Paul speaking in their own language, a divine hush fell over the crowd, and they were all just as surprised as the Roman commander was when he heard Paul address him in Greek. Here Paul demonstrates more than anywhere else in Scripture, his ability to communicate in many languages (tongues), as he had once declared he could, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).
    He begins by sharing with the crowd, some of his pedigree. Here he tells them that he was Jewish like them, and was born into the tribe of Benjamin in the city of Tarsus, an important seaport in Cilicia at the mouth of the Cydnus River. Paul was raised and educated in Jerusalem under the most important teacher in Israel in those days, Gamaliel, who had taught at the famous School of Hillel, and had died just five years earlier. There, he learned how to follow the Laws of Moses, and all Jewish customs to the letter, and he was indeed, a Rabbi, and, a Pharisee.
    Paul goes on to share his history of being a persecutor of Christian Jews, hounding them, throwing them into jails and prisons, and even overseeing the murder of some (i.e. Stephen-Acts chapter 7). The High Priest and all the Council members (The Sanhedrin) could attest to this fact. For they often armed Paul with letters authorizing him to arrest and bring in Christians, so that they could be prosecuted by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem for treason and blaspheme.
    Paul then shared his famous “Damascus Road” experience with the crowd, and how he received his calling from CHRIST to deliver the message of salvation to the Gentiles. He tells of how he was blinded by intense light, and had to be led into Damascus by his companions. There he was confronted by a GODly man named Ananias, a prophet, who lived there in that ancient city.
    The prophet first restored Paul’s sight, and then, he informed him that GOD had chosen him, an enemy of the Christians, to deliver the Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles. He told Paul to get up, go be baptized and have your sins washed away, calling on the name of JESUS.
    When Paul returned to Jerusalem he said that he was instructed by JESUS to leave and go to the Gentiles in far-away lands, and it is at this point that the crowd, once again, turned on him shouting, “Kill him!”, and began throwing dust into the air, a gesture of insane anger that usually led to the death of the person who is the object of its dissatisfaction.
    Paul believed that GOD loves all mankind, but his audience mistakenly believed that GOD only loved the Jews. In fact, they even believed that it was blasphemous to teach otherwise. And so, in some sense Paul could identify with the angry crowd, however, in the divine sense of Christianity and the desires of GOD, he could not.       
    

PAUL REVEALS HIS ROMAN CITIZENSHIP
Acts 22:24-30

    As the angry crowd worked its way back up to a fever pitch, the commander, not knowing what Paul had said to them in Aramaic to rile them up again, took Paul inside the fortress and ordered him to be whipped, trying to force him to confess his alleged crime. As they were tying Paul down to lash him, he shouted to one of the officers standing there, “Isn’t it illegal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
    The officer walked over to the commander and said, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen! And so the commander went over to Paul and asked if it was true that he was a Roman citizen. Paul replied, “Yes! I certainly am! The commander, who had to buy his freedom replied, “I am too, and it cost me plenty!”
    Paul, who was born a citizen of Rome, did not have to purchase his freedom as the commander once had, and so the commander was terrified at the consequences he could face for his mistreatment of Paul, a natural born Roman. He quickly ordered his men to cease and desist, as he was concerned about what would happen to him for even ordering Paul to be bound and whipped in the first place, without a trial.
    The commander did, however, still hold Paul overnight, mostly for his own safety, and the next day he freed him from his chains and ordered the Jewish hierarchy, the Sanhedrin, into emergency session to try Paul, in order to determine his guilt or innocence. Knowing that his task was just beginning, Paul readied himself for the defense of the Gospel of CHRIST JESUS, his LORD and SAVIOR, for WHOM he was totally prepared to die for, when the time came.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website




     

Friday, March 17, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday March 19, 2017

PAUL’S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Acts 21:1-14

   In Acts 21, things begin to accelerate quickly, as the apostle Paul and his entourage press on towards Jerusalem. After saying goodbye to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, Paul and his company sail first to the island of Cos, and then subsequently to Rhodes and Patara. There, they boarded a cargo ship to the Syrian province of Phoenicia. They passed the island of Cyprus on the left, and landed at the port called Tyre. There they went ashore, found some believers, and abode with them for a week, while the ship they were sailing on unloaded its cargo.

    At the end of the week, they re-boarded the ship and sailed to Ptolemais, where they stayed for one day, fellowshipping with believers there. They then traveled on to Caesarea and abode in the home of Philip the evangelist, who had been one of the chosen seven that had been picked by the congregation at Jerusalem to administer the food program, prior to the death of Steven (Acts 6:1-6). It had now been 20 years since Philip had come to Caesarea, after his fateful encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch on the desert road to Gaza (Acts 8:26-40).

    During their stay with Philip (about 3 days), a man named Agabus, the same prophet who had predicted the great famine in the Roman Empire at a meeting of the believers back in Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:28), arrived from Judea. During his visit, the prophet took Paul’s belt from his waist, and used it to bind his own hands and feet. He then declared, through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, that, “the owner of this belt will be tied and bound the same way by the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem, and then, he will be turned over to the Romans”.
    When Paul’s company heard this, they begged him not to go to Jerusalem. Paul then declared that, “Even though their weeping broke his heart, not only was he ready to go to jail for CHRIST, but he was also ready to die for HIM”. After it became clear that they were not going to be able to deter Paul from pressing on to Jerusalem, they ceased their pleading and weeping, and gave him their blessings.
    In this powerful passage, Luke clearly shows the parallel between CHRIST’, and Paul’s, unwavering commitment to do GOD’s will. In both cases their own Jewish people had become their worst enemies, and both, were handed over to the Gentiles and made to suffer. And while this story serves to highlight Paul’s heroic attitude, it also serves to remind us that we too, are called to follow the example of CHRIST JESUS, no matter where HE may lead us, and HE doesn’t always lead us into what we consider safe territory.
    There was an overwhelming determination in Paul to complete the mission that CHRIST had called him to do. It is a comforting thing to know that, everywhere we go, we can find waiting, a Christian community that will welcome us. We see here in this story of Paul’s final missionary journey, that it was no different for him either. It is also, an even more comforting thought to know that, a person who lives in the family of CHRIST, need not worry about pressing on into the unknown dangers of this world. The person, who lives in CHRIST, always has family to comfort them, wherever they go, anywhere in the world.

PAUL ARRIVES IN JERUSALEM
Acts 21:15-25

   After spending several days with Philip the Evangelist in Caesarea, Paul and his crew packed their things and headed on toward Jerusalem. Some of the believers who lived in Caesarea joined the crew and took them to the home of Mnason, in Jerusalem. Mnason, who was originally from Cyprus, Barnabas’ homeland, was one of the earliest disciples to convert to Christianity.
    After receiving a warm greeting from the brothers and sisters at Jerusalem, the following day Paul went to meet with James (the half-brother of JESUS), who was the head of the Mother Church at Jerusalem, and the other elders. At that meeting Paul gave the men a detailed account of everything GOD had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
    When the leaders heard Paul’s report, they praised GOD, not only for what HE had done among the Gentiles, but because those same wonderful things had also influenced many Jews to believe on CHRIST, and take the commandments of GOD more seriously. However, they told Paul that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had been told that he was teaching the Jews, who lived in Gentile areas, to turn their backs on the Law of Moses.           They even heard that he was teaching that the Jews did not have to obey the law of circumcision, or follow other Jewish customs. These accusations however were slanderous, as Paul had only taught that Gentiles did not have to abide by the Jewish customs and rites that GOD only intended for the Jews to adhere to.
     In order to appease the skeptical believers at Jerusalem, the elders thought it may be wise if Paul would engage himself in a public display of support for Jewish customs by taking part in a “Nazarite vow” that was about to get underway involving a group of local men in the temple courtyard.
    They suggested that Paul go over to temple and join the men as they were preparing to shave their heads, for the purification ceremonies. They also asked that Paul would pay for their haircuts too, and that way everyone will know that the rumors they heard about him were false, and that he really does observe Jewish laws and customs.
    The “Nazarite Vow” is a vow that is taken in gratitude for a special blessing, or special favor that one had received from GOD. It usually involved abstention from meat and wine for at least 30 days. During this time the heads of the men had to be shaven and allowed to grow back, and the last 7 days had to be spent entirely inside the temple courts.
    At the end of this 30-day period a 1-year old lamb for a sin offering, a ram for a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, a meat offering, and a drink offering, all had to be provided by each person involved. Then finally, the shaven hair of each person had to be burned on the altar with the sacrifices.
    And so, it can be seen that, in light of the fact that the person taking the vow also had to give up several days of work (in this case, at least the last seven), in addition to paying for all these items needed for sacrifice, what Paul was asked to do by the elders to prove himself, was no small matter.
    However, Paul agreed to the request of the elders, and the following day he himself went through the purification ritual with the other four men at the temple. He then publically announced the date when their vows would end, and the sacrifices would be offered up on the altar for each of them.

PAUL IS ARRESTED
Acts 21:26-36

   The final seven days of the Nazarite Vow were almost over, when a group of anti-CHRIST Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple and quickly instigated a mob of people against him. They incited the crowd to violence by telling them that Paul had been traveling around the whole Roman Empire preaching against their Jewish laws and customs.
    The Jews from Asia also accused Paul of bringing Gentiles into restricted parts of the temple. They had seen Paul with his Gentile friend, Trophimus, earlier in the day, and they assumed that he had taken him into the temple with him as he completed his vow. Being a Gentile, Trophimus would have been restricted from going into the temple areas beyond the outer court, which was known as the “Court of the Gentiles”. It was the outermost part of the temple, and it was separated by a barrier from the next court in, which was the “Women’s Court”, where JESUS made HIS, now famous proclamation, “I AM the LIGHT of the world” (John 8:12).
    This restriction was held so seriously that the Jews were actually allowed by the Roman government to apply the death penalty to any person who violated it, without prior consent from Caesar.  In fact, it was the only crime that the Jews could apply the death penalty for, without consent from Rome. And so now we see, that, Paul’s compromise with the elders, had turned into a potential disaster, for himself.
    The whole city was rocked by the accusations that these Asian Jews made against Paul, and they dragged him out of temple and closed the gates behind them. As they were trying to kill Paul, word quickly reached the commander of the Roman cohort (1000 men) that had been assigned by Caesar to keep the peace during the Pentecost Festival, which was just getting underway.
    A riot, or any civil disturbance, within the Roman Empire was something that was not tolerated by the government. Not only were the inciters of such incidents subject to the death penalty, but also the persons put in charge by Rome at the time, were in danger of suffering the same fate. And so the commander moved quickly to quell the situation.
    When the mob saw the soldiers coming, they stopped beating Paul, and the commander placed Paul under arrest for his own safety. They bound Paul with two chains and then asked the crowd, “Who was he? And, “What did he do? Some shouted one thing, and some shouted another, and so, being unable to discern the truth, the commander ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress and held. The crowd’s violent behavior continued, and the soldiers had to lift Paul over their heads to protect him from the ensuing mob, who continued to shout, “Kill him! Kill him!”
   
PAUL SPEAKS TO THE CROWD
Acts 21:37-40

   The great Jewish historian and general, Josephus, writes in his chronicles of a revolutionary Egyptian imposter who also claimed to be a prophet. He had garnered a large following of several thousand men. In around A.D. 54, less than 30 years after the crucifixion of CHRIST, this man came to the Mount of Olives and promised his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would come down at his command. Instead, the Romans army marched on the man and his followers, killing many of them and taking many into custody before executing them. However, the Egyptian imposter escaped with a few of his followers and was never seen again.
    The commander of the cohort had suspected that Paul might be this man, and now, he could finally be brought to justice. However, as they climbed the stairs to their barracks at the fortress, with the mob in hot pursuit, Paul spoke to the commander in the Greek tongue and asked, “May I have a word with you?
    The stunned commander looked at Paul and replied, “Do you speak Greek? Aren’t you the Egyptian who led the rebellion some time ago and took four thousand members of assassins out into the desert? “No”, Paul replied, “I’m a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please let me talk to these people” (NLT). Realizing he was wrong about who he thought Paul was, for he certainly was no thug, the commander allowed Paul to speak as they stood on the stairs. And seeming with the power of GOD, Paul raised his hands and motioned for the crowd to be quiet, and a deep hush fell over them all. Then Paul began to address the now silent crowd, now speaking in the Aramaic tongue, which was language most commonly spoken by the Palestinian Jews in those days.    

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website




Friday, February 24, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday February 26, 2017

PAUL GOES TO MACEDONIA, GREECE AND TROAS
Acts 20:1-12

   In Acts 20 Luke rejoins the journey after being left at Philippi for a while. Here, following the riots at Ephesus, Paul sent for all the believers and encouraged them to stay strong in the LORD JESUS. He then bade them farewell and left for Macedonia. Along the way Paul and his entourage stopped to encourage many other believers, whom, they were perhaps seeing for the final time.
    Now headed for Jerusalem, still being compelled by the HOLY SPIRIT, Paul and his crew travel down to Greece where they would abide for three months. After hearing of a plot by anti-CHRIST Jews to kill him, Paul made the decision to return back to Macedonia, instead of following his original plan to sail back through Syria.
    Several men who were traveling with Paul, namely Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius, Paul’s close friend from Derby, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus, from the Roman province of Asia, all went ahead to Troas to wait on the rest of the crew, until the Passover season had ended. As soon as the Passover season ended, Paul and the rest of the crew boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia, and made the 150-mile voyage, arriving in Troas, five days later. They remained there in Troas for seven days (Vs.1-6).
    In verse 7 of this chapter of Acts, we see the first clear reference in Scripture of Sunday (the “first day of the week”) being used as a Christian day of worship. Here we see the believers engaging in the observance of “the LORD’s Supper” (Holy Communion). On that occasion Paul preached a long sermon that lasted until midnight. In fact, it was so long that a young man named Eutychus, who was sitting on the window sill, fell asleep, and then, fell three stories to his death from the window.
    Seeing what had just happened, Paul stopped preaching and ran down stairs, bent over the young man’s body, and then took him up in his arms, before replying, “Don’t worry, he’s alive”. Paul then, without the crowd knowing it, miraculously revived the young man and sent him home alive and without injury. The rest of the people were relieved that the young man was OK, and they followed Paul back upstairs, where they continued their Communion Services, and Paul continued his sermon.  

PAUL MEETS WITH THE EPHESIAN ELDERS
Act 20:13-38

   In Acts, chapter 20, verses 13-38, Luke gives us a very vivid description, in the person of the Apostle Paul, of a man who is truly satisfied at how his ministry was coming to a close. Here, he lets us in on Paul’s farewell address to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus. They had come down to meet him at his request, in the port city of Miletus (30 miles from Ephesus), near the end of his third missionary journey. It is here, in this book of Acts, that we find Paul’s only recorded address to the Church.
    In verses 18-21, Paul speaks of his past with great satisfaction and contentment, as he reminds the Elders of the consistency in his message to all people, urging them to turn from sin, turn to GOD, and to maintain their faith in our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
    In verses 21-32, Paul speaks of his fearless confidence in the future, despite warnings from the HOLY SPIRIT, in city after city, that only jail and suffering lies ahead for him. And finally, in verses 33-35, Paul speaks of his lack of envy toward others, and how he has always worked to earn his own way, and, how he has always supplied the needs of others who were with him. He goes on to quote the words of JESUS, when HE said, “It is more blessed to give, than to receive”.
    This particular passage (Acts 20:17-38) serves to remind us, once again, what Christianity, or, the inviting of CHRIST into our lives, has to offer to us. It offers us “freedom”, in the purest sense of the word, because it frees us from the four things that most separate us from a right relationship with GOD;

·         First, it frees us from “Self”. We become our own worst enemy when we try to do things within our own strength, apart from GOD.
·         Secondly, it frees us from “Other People”. The worldly person imprisons himself by being envious of what others have, and is overly concerned about what others will think and say about them from a worldly, materialistic, or physical standpoint.
·         Thirdly, when we receive CHRIST, HE frees us from “the dominion of Sin”.
           When we choose GOD’s salvation through CHRIST, we no longer have to let sin   
             dominate our lives. We then have additional power to overcome the gravitational
             pull of this world, through the help of the HOLY SPIRIT, WHO will abide in us.
·         And finally, we become free from “fear”. We no longer have to be afraid, because we are then, no longer walking alone, but rather, we are walking with GOD.

    “The Christian Hope”, has, throughout the history of the Church, served as motivation to make life on earth conform more fully with the Word of GOD, just as it was presented to us by JESUS CHRIST, during HIS three-year earthly ministry. And it is a life-changing thing, when we get to know, and, become accustomed to practicing GOD’s “Holy Directives”.
    Every time another human being chooses to go the way of CHRIST, there’s a great “cheering section” in Heaven comprised of all the angels, and all the great men and women of Faith who are mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. They are all looking down on us, eagerly watching and waiting to see how we fare in this great “Christian Race” that is personified in our own personal “Christian Walk”.
    They’ve already handed off their batons to our ancestors, and they in turn, have handed them off to us. We should take care as not to drop these life-changing batons, and if you do, we must pick them up quickly, and then, continue on your way. We must continue to stay faced in the right direction, as you press on by faith, into the unknown, where JESUS is.
    It is the person who is willing to travel into the unknown, armed only with their faith in CHRIST, who will, in the end, see GOD. And always remember to encourage other believers along the way, and also, remember that every time we drop off a piece of the baggage, that is our sin, our race becomes just that much easier to run.
    When Paul finished speaking to the Elders of Ephesus in nearby Miletus that day, he knelt down and prayed with them. They all wept aloud and embraced Paul farewell, and they were an emotional bunch, sad most of all, because Paul had expressed to them the probability that they would never see him again, on this side of Heaven. And they continued to weep as they accompanied Paul back down to a waiting ship.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



Friday, February 3, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday February 5, 2017

PAUL’S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY
(Paul ministers in Ephesus)
Acts 19:1-20

   Acts chapter 19 marks the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey. Here in this chapter, Luke chronicles the start of that mission, which was earmarked to raise money for the Mother Church at Jerusalem, that had fallen on hard times due to the famine that had been foretold by the prophet Agabus a few years earlier (Acts 11:27-28). This, prophesy, has now suddenly come to pass and Paul was calling upon the Christian network of believers to pitch in and do their part in the relief effort.
    Paul sets out on this mission with a visit to the difficult cult city of Ephesus, a stronghold for the worshipers of the idol god “Artemis”, whose headquarters was there. Artemis, or, “Diana” as she was sometimes called, was housed in a temple so large, that it was considered to be one of the seven great wonders of the ancient world. A large part of Ephesus’ wealth came from the sightseers and worshipers who came from all over the world to see this magnificent and very imposing edifice. 
    Upon arriving in town, Paul comes across a group of twelve men, who were believers, or “Adherents of the Way”. Like Apollos, these men were believers of CHRIST who had not yet received, or even heard of, the HOLY SPIRIT. They were, up until this point, as many of us are, even today, “incomplete Christians”. They had accepted the ideology of CHRIST, and even confessed with their lips, but like Apollos before them, they knew only of John’s baptism with water, and knew not of CHRIST’s baptism with the HOLY SPIRIT. They had accepted CHRIST in principle, but not in spirit, and therefore, they were not yet “saved”.
    After becoming acquainted with these men, Paul must have sensed something was lacking in their behavior. This prompted him to ask if they had received the HOLY SPIRIT when they believed. And again, like Apollos, before them, once they heard the “Way” of GOD explained more clearly by Paul, immediately, they accepted CHRIST in their hearts, and were baptized in the HOLY SPIRIT.
    In order to encourage, and give witness to some of the idol worshipping populace of Ephesus, who must have witnessed this event, GOD caused these men to prophesy and, to speak in tongues (various languages) to the foreigners who had come to the city to see and worship Artemis, so that they too might also believe and turn to CHRIST JESUS for salvation.
    This passage of Scripture should serve as a reminder to us, that everyone we see in church, who claim to be Christians, may very well, not be saved, even those who may believe themselves that they are saved. Remember Apollos was in the synagogue preaching CHRIST boldly, “before” Priscilla and Aquila, brought him to salvation in CHRIST (Acts 18:24-26).
    GOD gave mankind the ability to know when we love something or someone. When we love, we are willing to do anything and everything for that love, and still, feel as though we haven’t done enough. When you have truly received salvation, you are willing to do anything and everything to please GOD.
    No distance is too great, no amount is too much, and no labor is too taxing, in our service to GOD. We feel   unconditional, unlimited love for the SAVIOR, and that, my fellow Christians, is how you know that you are truly saved, and are indeed, “a complete Christian”.
    When we don’t put a limit on our love for CHRIST and each other, as CHRIST, through HIS suffering, never put a limit on HIS love for us, we are then showing, through our behavior, that we are really “saved” and are operating according to GOD’s perspective of salvation, not man’s. And by JESUS not coming down from the cross, HE demonstrated that HIS love for us has no limit, and that HE too was dedicated to operating under GOD’s perspective also.
    Paul continued to minister in Ephesus and he went to the synagogue and preached and taught boldly for the next three months. He argued persuasively within the Jewish temple and convinced many to convert their thinking to the doctrine of Christology. However, some still continued to reject his message and publically spoke against CHRIST to the masses.
    And so Paul took the believers with him and begin to teach at the lecture hall of a man named Tyrannus, who was most likely a Jewish Rabbi, for the next two years. There Paul enlightened people throughout the province of Asia, both Jews and Gentiles, about the Gospel of CHRIST. GOD even gave him power to do unusual miracles among the people, even to the point where handkerchiefs and clothe that had touched his skin were being used to heal the sick and remove evil spirits from those who were demon possessed.
    Now there was a group of Jews who were traveling from town to town, supposedly casting out evil spirits by using witchcraft and incantations. However, it is a well-known fact that satan will not cast out his own help, and so we know that these men were not of GOD, but were of the evil forces of the devil. They were trying to offset Paul’s wonderful work, by deceiving the believers and new Christian converts who had began to follow Paul’s teachings about CHRIST.
    These seven sons of a priest named Sceva, tried to endear themselves to the Christian Church movement by appearing to work with Paul, even using the name of JESUS in their chants. In fact, they made up an incantation that went like this; “I command you by JESUS, whom Paul preaches, to come out!”
    However, when they tried to use this incantation on a man who was possessed by an evil spirit, GOD caused their trickery to backfire on them, as HE caused the evil spirit to speak to the seven men saying, “I know JESUS, and I know Paul. But who are you?” Suddenly the demon leaped from the possessed man and attacked the sons of Sceva with such force that they fled from the house naked and badly injured (vs.16).
    The news of what happened to the sons of Sceva spread quickly throughout all of Ephesus. The whole city shook in fear, Jews and Gentiles, and many confessed their evil practices of witchcraft and incantations, and they actually burned all of the self-help books that they had bought seeking to learn of ways, other than the Word of GOD, to solve their problems. The value of the books burned totaled in the millions of dollars by today’s standards, and the Word of GOD spread everywhere in Ephesus, and had a powerful effect on its citizens (Vs.17-20).
   
THE RIOT IN EPHESUS
Acts 19:21-41

    Later on Paul was compelled by the HOLY SPIRIT to leave Ephesus and go over to Macedonia and Achaia before returning back to Jerusalem, and after that, to Rome. He sent Timothy and Erastus on ahead to Macedonia and he lingered a little while longer in the province of Asia, perhaps wrapping up some unfinished business there.
    I mentioned earlier in this study, the name of the Greek goddess, Artemus, who was extremely popular in first century Ephesus. Now, about this time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus surrounding this idol god who had a huge impact on the economy of the city. The impact of Paul’s preaching and teaching had cut deeply into the income that the city and certain of its people generated from the sales of Artemis-related books and paraphernalia.
    One person, who made a very good living by manufacturing hand-made small replicas of the statue of Artemis and her shrine, was a man named Demetrius, a leading silversmith in Ephesus. Demetrius called an emergency meeting of all the craftsmen and others who were employed in related trades of Artemis paraphernalia, and addressed them with his concerns (Vs.25-27).

“Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business.  But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!” (NLT)

    This statement by Demetrius riled up the group, who were themselves, deeply under the influence of the demon who resided in the shrine of Artemis, and they begin to chant her praise of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”. After they worked themselves up into a frenzy, they stormed down to the amphitheater, dragging two of Paul’s friends, Gaius and Aristarchus with them. Paul tried to go in behind them but a group of believers held him back, fearing for his safety.
    There was so much confusion inside the amphitheater that many people didn’t really know why they were there. Some were shouting one thing and some another, but they were all, in reality under the influence of the demon in Artemis. A man named Alexander was pushed forward by some of the Jews to try to explain what was going on, but when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they again started chanting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
    This passage (Vs.23-41) is important, not only because of what it says, but also because of what it implies. The implications here suggest the power and influence of the satanic demons in Ephesus, and how the shrine of Artemis was, quite literally, the heart of this Luciferic stronghold.
    Finally the mayor of Ephesus entered and quieted the crowd. When he begins to speak he gives us, the reader, a better insight into idol god Artemis and her origins in the religious culture of Ephesus. In fact, in verses 35-41, the mayor not only educates us on the origins of Artemis, but he also gives us insight into the Roman government’s deep distain for civil disturbances within the Roman Empire. Here’s what the mayor had to say;

 “Citizens of Ephesus, Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven.  Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.
If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges.  And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly.  I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.” (NLT)

    Even though the mayor himself is also under the influence of Artemis, he is also equally under the fear of his superiors who govern the Roman Empire (Caesar). He was able to disperse the angry crowd and send them away, and for now, the city was quiet, and the Christian Church movement was again, sailing along, full speed ahead, as the power of GOD (the HOLY SPIRIT), WHO is sovereign over all, kept it moving.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander