Monday, April 25, 2016


For the week beginning Sunday April 24, 2016

Acts 5:1-11

   Failure in our honesty, talent, and diligence amounts to sin against GOD. It was the great violinmaker Antonio Stradivari who said, “If my hands slacked, I would rob GOD”. In Acts chapter 5, verses 1-10, Luke gives us a vivid example of a couple who “failed in their honesty”, because “they were driven by their jealousy” of the respect that had been won by Barnabas and others when they sold their possessions to make contributions to the poor (Acts 4:32-37).
    Scripture tells us that there was a man named Ananias, who, along with his wife Sapphira, sold some of their property, with the intention of giving the proceeds to the needy in the church. However, after selling the property they decided that they would keep some of the proceeds for themselves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this type of action, because the money was theirs to do with as they wished. The problem came when they decided to deceive the church into thinking that they were giving the Apostles all of the proceeds they had received from the sale of their property.
    In this particular passage, we see just one of the many ways we, as professed Christians, grieve the HOLY SPIRIT. Here we see, even by the New Testament standard of “grace”, just how our sins toward one another, as harmless as they may seem to us, will not be taken lightly by GOD. After we accept CHRIST and receive the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT from our FATHER GOD, each time we contemplate sin thereafter, we grieve the HOLY SPIRIT within us, as well as offend CHRIST JESUS WHO died for us, and we also show a lack of reverence for GOD THE FATHER, WHO created us.
    Ananias and Sapphira weren’t condemned because they failed to give all, but rather, they were condemned because their deceit re-introduced the hypocrisy that had corrupted so many in the church that operated under the banner of Judaism. Christianity, the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind, was intended to be “that faith which reflected GOD’s image more clearly to man”, here on earth.
    This new Christian doctrine was to instill new hope in the hearts and minds of GOD’s greatest creation, man. It would be a hope that would forever serve as motivation to make life on earth conform more fully with HIS Word, just as it was presented to us by JESUS CHRIST, during HIS lifetime here on earth.
    In Acts 5:3-4 Peter says to Ananias, “…why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (NLT).
    As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell dead. Three hours later, his wife Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened to her husband. When Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land? She replied, “Yes, that was the price”. Peter then rebuked her, and she, as well, fell dead.
    The LORD’s response to this situation was intended to put fear in the hearts of those who might attempt to deceive HIS Church through “the spirit of hypocrisy”, both then, and, in the future (Acts 5:13). This passage serves to show us that GOD will not hold blameless, those who attempt to deceive the Church for personal financial gain, or reasons, nor, will HE hold blameless, those who use the Church for self-promotion, especially when it is brought on by jealousy, as Ananias and Sapphira attempted to do.
    GOD never intended for HIS Church to look like, or conform to the World, but rather, HE intended for the World to transform itself to look like HIS Church, which is, by the way, supposed to reflect the image of CHRIST JESUS. And when we try to do it any way, other than GOD’s way, we will always grieve the HOLY SPIRIT in the process.

Acts 5:12-16

   At the hands of GOD’s “special messengers” (the apostles), many signs and wonders were performed among the people of the assembly of CHRIST JESUS in Jerusalem. They were, perhaps, for the only time in Church history, truly united in one mind and spirit, and they worshiped and praised GOD daily under the covered walk of the temple known as “Solomon’s Porch”.
    After seeing what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, no one else (“ton loipon oudeis” – which means, in the Greek “none of the rest”) tried to enter the church under false pretenses. Only those who were absolutely sincere about the LORD dared tried to join the established Christian Church assembly now operating in Jerusalem under the watchful eye of the apostles and the ever-present HOLY SPIRIT.
    Over time, more and more men and women, who were sincere about their belief in CHRIST JESUS, were added to the body of CHRIST, and served with all of their minds, bodies, and, strength. Many sick, diseased, and demonically possessed people were brought out into the streets from various towns and hamlets around Jerusalem on beds and mats so that even Peter’s shadow might fall across them as he passed by, and scripture tells us that, they were all healed.

Acts 5:17-42

   Taking up at verse 17 we see how more of the problems of “violent jealousy” begin to rise up in the Church, this time, coming from the ranks of the high priest and his friends, the Sadducees. Jealous of the popularity of the apostles in the Church, they decided to arrest them, and throw them in jail. However, an angel of the LORD came down that same night and miraculously released the men from their incarceration, opening the gates, without alarming the guards, and then leading them away from the jail.
    The guards remained unaware that the apostles were even gone until it was discovered the next morning. In verse 20 we see that, instead of directing the apostles to go and hide themselves somewhere, the angel directed them to go to the temple and teach GOD’s message to the people concerning the doctrine of eternal life through CHRIST JESUS (Vs. 19-20).
    The apostles went into the temple around daybreak and begin to preach the message that had been taught to them by JESUS during HIS life personal time with them here on earth. Soon the Church hierarchy (the Sanhedrin) arrived and called their council together, and sent summons that the guards bring the apostles over to them from their prison cell for a hearing.
    When the guards arrived at the jail they saw no signs of the apostles, and were perplexed as to how they could have escaped with the doors to their cells still being securely locked, and two guards still standing watch just outside the doors. Just then someone came up and told the captain of the guards that the apostles were over at the temple teaching the people.   
    When the captain of the guards received word that the apostles were over in the temple teaching, he and his men went over and non-violently re-arrested them and brought them before the council of the high priest and elders of Israel for trial. During the trial, the apostles defiance toward the council, and their continued preaching and bold testimony about CHRIST, even in their presence, infuriated and offended the council greatly.
    Peter and the other apostles were very bold in their defense of JESUS, even while under threat and duress from the religious hierarchy. They boldly stated to the council that, “We must obey GOD rather than human authority. The GOD of our ancestors raised JESUS from the dead after you killed HIM by crucifying HIM. Then GOD put HIM in the place of honor at HIS right hand as PRINCE and SAVIOR. HE did this to give the people of Israel an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to GOD so their sins would be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the HOLY SPIRIT, WHO is given by GOD to those who obey HIM” (Vs.29-32).
    It is at this point, that the council was ready to make a decision to kill all of the apostles; however, in verse 34, we are introduced to a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a very popular teacher of religious law in Israel in those days. In fact, Gamaliel was the mentor of Saul (otherwise known as the “Apostle Paul”), while he attended seminary training at the School of Hillel, where Gamaliel served as an instructor.  Gamaliel’s words of wisdom (Vs.35-39) calmed the angry council down, and they received his advice to them, not kill the apostles, but rather, let their actions play out, and let GOD decide whether they are HIS legit representatives or not (Vs. 35-39).
    Even still, the angry council ordered the men to be flogged, and gave them another stern warning not to speak in the powerful name of JESUS anymore (v. 40). The apostles, nevertheless, left the trial rejoicing that GOD had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor by taking a beating for the name of JESUS. And every day forward, in the temple, and in their homes, they continued to preach this message: “The MESSIAH you are looking for is JESUS” (Vs. 41-42). Amen.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, April 8, 2016


For the week beginning Sunday April 10, 2016

Acts 4:1-22

In Acts chapter 4, while Peter and John were still addressing the crowd, “the Sagan” (the Temple guards), along with the leading priests, and a few Sadducees, approached the pair to arrest them. They were quite disturbed that the two apostles were claiming authority through JESUS CHRIST, and were testifying of the truth of HIS resurrection from the dead. About 5000 men, not including the women and children, now were believers of their message about CHRIST (Vs.1-4).
They arrested both men and jailed them until morning, because, by law, judgments involving decisions of life and death had to begin and end in the same day. It had obviously become their goal to kill Peter and John, just as they had killed JESUS, and now, since it was so late in the day (Temple gates traditionally closed at 4 o’clock P.M.), they wouldn’t have time to complete the legal process unless they got an early start the following day. This confirms the fact of the religious hierarchy’s intentions, and how they fully planned in advance to unjustly sentence the men to death for their public stance in defense of JESUS, being the SON of GOD, and thereby, being worthy to be praised as GOD.
The next day Peter and John stood before, and addressed the 70-member Temple Council (the Sanhedrin). Filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, they spoke boldly to the teachers of religious law (Vs.8-12). The Council was amazed at their boldness, because they could see that Peter and John were ordinary men with no special training. They also knew that they couldn’t deny the miracle that the men had performed on the lame man, who had been crippled for forty years, and was now standing right there beside them for all to see.
In light of all the facts, the Council decided to release the pair, giving them a warning not to preach in the name of JESUS anymore. But Peter and John even responded boldly to their order by saying, “Do you think GOD wants us to obey you rather than HIM? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard”.
What a wonderful model Peter and John set that day, which all Christian can do well by following. Their proclamation in verses 19-20 is one that all Christians should be able to stand by. In fact, if our fear of man is stronger than our fear of GOD, then, we are well on our way to securing a place in Hell. Such an attitude shows that we have not accepted CHRIST in our hearts, where HE has to dwell.
Remember, Peter was an ordinary man, who, in fact had already denied knowing CHRIST three times. However, JESUS did not forsake him, and indeed, eagerly accepted his earnest repent of the heart, and then, forgave him, and was willing to use him for greater things for the remainder of his life here on earth. And Peter went on to become “the rock” upon which CHRIST built HIS Church, just as JESUS had promised him.

Acts 4:23-31

In Acts 4, verses 23-31, we see that no sooner than Peter and John had been released by the Sanhedrin, they begin to show the heart and character that made them special and acceptable to the HOLY SPIRIT. First, in verse 23 we see that they went to find other believers, and after informing the other believers about their trials, and the threats that the Council had made to them, they all lifted up their voices in unison in a prayer to GOD for continued courage.
One of the first life-style changes that a Christian has to make, after they have accepted CHRIST, is to stop hanging out with the old crowd, and start studying, socializing, and fellowshipping with other believers. We do not need to go back and tempt ourselves with the old lifestyle, not even to try and convert others, until we ourselves have become rooted and grounded in the Word of GOD. We need to know how to defend the Gospel before worldly people, just as Peter and John were able to boldly do here in this chapter, and like them, oftentimes, we will have to defend the Gospel, even in, and especially in, the Church.
Secondly, we see in verse 24 that they used the power of prayer to seek strength and courage from GOD, and they always gave GOD HIS proper place at the head of their lives. All Christians need to have a strong prayer life and communication with GOD. Our relationship with GOD must become an experiential and personal one if we are to expect the “special favor” and benefits that set us apart from just the “general blessings” that GOD almost automatically affords all of HIS human creation i.e. rain, sunshine, wills that are free, sharing HIS nature, etc.
In verses 24-30 Peter, John, and all the other believers came together in unison and prayed this powerfully earnest, and humbling prayer for courage and boldness in their application and carrying out of the work of CHRIST;

“O Sovereign LORD, CREATOR of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— (25) you spoke long ago by the HOLY SPIRIT through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,
‘Why were the nations so angry?
    Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
(26) The kings of the earth prepared for battle;
    the rulers gathered together
against the LORD
    and against his Messiah.
(27) “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against JESUS, your holy servant, whom you anointed.
(28) But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will.
(29) And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.
(30) Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (NLT)

Finally, in this passage, in verse 29, we see that they all recognized from WHOM their strength came, and they asked for courage and boldness to continue to preach the Gospel to a world that was totally adverse to all that JESUS stood for. After this prayer the building they were in shook, and they were all filled with the HOLY SPIRIT. And they indeed did preach the Word of GOD with boldness from that day forward.

Acts 4:32-37

In Acts chapter 4, verses 32-37, Luke presents to us a vivid description of how the Christian believers had become of one heart and mind, and they all shared in the belief that, the possessions with which GOD had blessed them with, were not their own, but rather, they only held those possessions in stewardship to GOD. They seemed to grasp quite clearly that the true Christian only desires more, so that they may have more to give away. They fully understood the concept of GOD that teaches us, when we give according to GOD, we actually take the “spiritual curse” off of that portion which we keep.
This attitude allowed the Christian community of the first century to share their possessions unconditionally with each other in, both, a social, and, neighborly capacity. The work of the HOLY SPIRIT in each individual made them more sensitive to identifying with those, who were in a state of desperate need, and as a result, there was no poverty among them. They were freely willing to sell all of their possessions, if necessary, in order to come to the aid of their fellowman.
In this passage, Luke also introduces us to a man named Joseph, who was also called “Barnabas”, which by interpretation means “son of encouragement”. He earned the name “Barnabas” by way of his special ability to encourage others through his positive GODly words, actions, and deeds. He was from the tribe of Levi, but came from Cyprus, an island located in the northeastern Mediterranean Sea, about sixty miles off the coast of Syria.
Barnabas is the person who first introduced the Apostle Paul to the Christian Church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28), and then later to the Church at Antioch of Syria, in Acts chapter 11 (v.25). In fact, he even traveled for a year with Paul, during his first missionary journey, but then later, fell out with him over differences involving John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, and also the eventual author of “the Book of Mark”.
However, despite Barnabas’ falling out with Paul, he clearly continued to reflect JESUS’ image of encouragement throughout his lifetime. His presence, leadership, and encouragement to those in the early Church were instrumental in its development and survival. He became a very necessary ingredient in the “Body of CHRIST” in its infancy stage, as it struggled to mature into a viable representative of the ideology of GOD here on earth.
In this passage (v.37), Luke tells us that he sold a field that he owned back on the Island of Cyrus, and gave the entire proceeds to the Church to distribute to those in need. He did this, in order that he might encourage and inspire others in the Church to the spirit of “sacrificial giving” in the Christian community.
Every Christian has the same potential and opportunity as Barnabas had to become active, effective, earnest workers in the Christian community. And just like in the early days, we too, must work to build and add to GOD’s great undertaking, the Church, using all of our GOD-given assets in order to get the job done. And the only way to be successful in our endeavors, is to follow those Christian examples that have already been set before us, starting with CHRIST JESUS, and trickling down to those early Church workers such as Peter, Paul, Barnabas and the like, who faithfully served HIM, with their whole heart.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website