Jul. 20. Further Instructions for Righteous Living

I Thes. 4:1-12

Up to this point in Paul’s letter, he had reviewed his previous relationship with the Thessalonians. He exhorted them to remain faithful in their walk with God.

Since Paul was in Corinth when he wrote this letter, he was constantly reminded of the grossly immoral behavior of the non-Christians of that day. He warned the Thessalonians that it was God’s will that after becoming Christians, they would turn from those sins and keep their bodies under control and avoid the sexual immorality that had been a part of so many of their lives.

Paul further admonished the church to continue to increase in their love for one another and to, “Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”

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Jul. 19. Encouraging Words to A Persecuted Church

I Thes. 2:1-3:13

As he continued, Paul reminded the Thessalonians of his beaten condition when he had arrived from Philippi and first preached to them. The beating he and Silas had received did not keep them from boldly preaching the gospel to the Thessalonians. They did not claim authority from anyone but God and were as firm as a father, but gentle as a mother in their presentation of it.

Paul pointed out to the Thessalonians that they did not preach for earthly gain, but had worked in order to earn their own support. They had worked equally hard to present God’s plan of salvation to those who were willing to hear it and obey.

Words that Paul and Silas had taught the Thessalonians were not the words of man, but the word of God. Paul complimented them for their determination to obey it even in the face of severe persecution.

The church at Thessalonica was like the churches in Judea who had suffered persecution at the hands of the Jews. Those Jews had killed the Lord and their own prophets and had persecuted the apostles. They had tried, but without success to prevent Paul from preaching to the Gentiles.

Paul expressed his desire to visit the Thessalonians in person to encourage them, and how Satan had prevented this from happening. He said that this would change at the coming of the Lord.

Since Paul had been unable to personally visit the Thessalonians, he had sent Timothy from Athens to learn of their state, encourage and strengthen them. He had feared that the young church probably only six months old had possibly given up their faith because of their persecution. Paul’s fears here illustrate the fact that one can be lost even after becoming a Christian. Note that he had called them the elect.

Paul expressed his joy and comfort at hearing Timothy’s report of their faith and love. A great burden of concern had been lifted from his shoulders. He had received a positive answer to his many prayers on behalf of the Thessalonians.

A brief prayer was written along with Paul’s message to the church. In it, he asked that he would be allowed to come their way. He also prayed that they would continue to increase in love for one another and that they would be blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Jul. 18. Paul Writes First Letter to Thessalonica from Corinth

I Thes. 1:1-10

During the one and one-half years that Paul and his team preached in Corinth, he wrote two letters to the church in Thessalonica. The first epistle was written shortly after Timothy had rejoined Paul in Corinth.

Paul had left Thessalonica under a great persecution. It was only about a month since he had established this church. After his departure, the Jews had continued to persecute the young church. He had sent Timothy to encourage and strengthen them. Timothy returned with the news that they were enduring the persecution and continuing to flourish.

The letter began with Paul, [along with Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy] stating how thankful he was to God for their work of faith and love, their patience of hope and their election by God. They were elected by God in the same manner as all who obey His commands in becoming Christians.

Paul observed how well the Thessalonians had received his teachings—not just as words, but as the power of the Holy Spirit had guided him. They had followed him even as he had followed the Lord.

After Rome had overtaken Greece, the country was divided into two parts—Macedonia to the north and Achaia to the south. Because of its location, the Thessalonian church had a large influence in both areas.

This church that was only a few months old was able to endure much affliction from the Jews and to overcome the presence of a vast number of idol worshippers. Paul complimented them because their examples of faithful living were spreading throughout all of Greece.

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Jul. 17. Second Journey Continues Through Various Cities

Acts 17:1-18:11

Paul and Silas traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica about one hundred miles from Philippi. Thessalonica was an important commercial city on the southern coast of Macedonia. There was a synagogue in this city and Paul preached there three Sabbaths.

Many of the Gentiles and leading women and some of the Jews were receptive to Paul’s preaching. Their obedience to the gospel led to the establishment of a congregation of the Lord’s church in Thessalonica.

Paul and Silas met the same kind of opposition in Thessalonica as they had experienced in the other places they had preached. The unbelieving Jews went into the marketplace and gathered a group of unruly men and incited a riot.

The Jews charged that Paul and Silas had turned the world upside down and that they were saying there was another king instead of Caesar—Jesus. Their anger was so strong against Paul and Silas, that they also attacked the house of Jason because he had provided lodging for them.

Paul and Silas were able to remain in Thessalonica for only a short time. They were sent away by night because of the danger of being seen during the day.

Berea, a city west of Thessalonica was the next stop for the traveling preachers. Again, they went to the synagogue to teach the people. They found a receptive attitude that was different from the other places they had preached. The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things Paul was teaching were so. One should not take the word of another person without studying the Bible for himself. That person may be sincere, but also be sincerely mistaken.

Things were going well for Paul and Silas. Many of the Jews, Gentiles and prominent women believed and obeyed the gospel. Timothy had also rejoined them.

Again, opposition from unbelieving Jews became an obstacle. Word that they were preaching in Berea had reached the Jews in Thessalonica. These Jews came and stirred the crowds to the extent that Paul again was forced to leave a fertile field.

Paul left Berea to go as far as the sea, but with a change in plans, he traveled as far as Athens in Achaia. (Ancient Greece) Silas and Timothy had remained in Berea, but since his plans had changed, he sent word for them to join him immediately.

While Paul waited for the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he preached in the synagogues and marketplaces. The people of Athens were inquisitive regarding anything new and spent much of their time telling and learning about new things. They worshipped many gods and Paul seemed to be introducing them to a new god, “Because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.”

A group of philosophers took Paul to the Areopagus (A hill known as Mars’ Hill) to hear him speak. His sermon on Mars’ Hill was different from most of his lessons. The people of Athens were so corrupt in their worship of heathen idols, that they did not know the true God whom they worshipped in their synagogue.

Paul began by observing that they were a very religious people. They had erected idols to all of the gods they knew and in fear of omitting one, they had an altar inscribed: “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” He then introduced them to their unknown “God, who made the world and everything in it.”

As Paul continued his presentation of the true God, he pointed out the contrasts between God and the gods whom they worshipped. He stated that God had previously overlooked this ignorance, but then He was bringing it to their attention and that they must repent of their past ways of living. In overlooking their ignorance, God had not excused it. He had only ignored it.

Paul also informed the Athenians of the judgment and the Man (Christ) who would be the Judge—A Man whom God had ordained and raised from the dead.

Some of the people interrupted Paul’s sermon and began to mock him when he mentioned the resurrection of the dead. Others said that they would hear him again.

With the conclusion of his sermon disrupted, Paul left and went away. Even with the sudden end of his teaching, there were some influential individuals who believed and the church was established in Athens. It is likely that after Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Athens, that he sent them to Thessalonica to encourage the young church there. Possibly, Silas had remained in Berea and Timothy had gone alone.

After being somewhat disappointed by his reception in Athens, Paul traveled a short distance to the west to Corinth. This was an important commercial city on the Mediterranean coast, but like other places he visited, he found very low morals among the people.

There were many Jews in Corinth because of the city’s business opportunities and also because Claudius Caesar had expelled all of the Jews from Rome. Among those from Italy was a Jew named Aquila with his wife, Priscilla.

It was a financial necessity at times for Paul to work at his trade of making tents. Aquila and Priscilla were also tentmakers and Paul stayed for a time in their home. He related later in a letter back to the Corinthian church that this had been a difficult period during his ministry. Even though he made tents during the week, he continued to preach in the synagogue every Sabbath and many Jews and Gentiles were converted.

After several weeks, Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth. With their arrival, he had a renewed vigor in his preaching—so much that the Jews increased their opposition to his message. He then said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Even after this declaration, some prominent Jews along with many Gentiles believed and were baptized.

One night during Paul’s ministry in Corinth, he saw the Lord in a vision. This came at a time when he really needed encouragement. The Lord said, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”

Armed with this declaration and the encouraging news from Timothy regarding the church in Thessalonica, Paul, Silas and Timothy remained for another year and one-half preaching and teaching the people of Corinth.

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Jul. 16. Philippian Jailer Converted

Acts 16:16-40

One day as Paul and his company went to prayer, they were met by a young slave woman who was demon possessed. She followed them many days declaring, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”

The demon had given the woman the power to tell fortunes and her masters had been realizing great profits from her ability. After Paul had removed this demon, the source of their profit was gone. Paul could have allowed the demon to remain in the woman, but this would have given the impression that the preaching of the gospel was in cooperation with demons. This could not happen.

The woman’s masters grabbed Paul and Silas and brought them before the Roman authorities. Instead of stating the real reason for their anger, the men said that Paul and Silas were teaching customs that were not lawful for the Romans to receive or observe.

After a severe beating, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison to be kept securely. Secure they were—in the inner prison with their feet fastened in stocks. Or were they secure?

Paul and Silas were happy that they were worthy to suffer for Christ. They were praying and praising God in song, even at midnight, loud enough that the other prisoners heard them. God also heard them!

A great earthquake shook the foundations of the building, opened the doors of the jail and released the chains from all of the prisoners. The jailer woke up from his sleep and when he saw the doors open, he supposed that all of the prisoners had escaped.

To allow a prison break of that magnitude meant sure death to the person in charge of security. With that in mind, the jailer drew his sword to kill himself in order to avoid the disgrace of execution.

When Paul realized what the jailer was about to do, he called out, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

The jailer was both relieved and terrified. He was relieved that the prisoners were all in their places, but terrified because he realized that the men whom he had unmercifully mistreated were indeed preaching salvation. With this in mind, he fell at the feet of his prisoners, Paul and Silas and called them Sirs. He said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The jailer was told to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Paul and Silas proceeded to explain to the jailer the obedience that was involved in believing. After they had spoken the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house, he took his prisoners to a place where there was water.

In an act of repentance, the jailer washed the stripes of Paul and Silas. “And immediately he and all his family were baptized.”

To further demonstrate his repentance, the jailer set food before his teachers. There was great rejoicing in his household because they had believed in God and found salvation. Note that the jailer rejoiced after his baptism instead of before.

Paul and Silas returned to prison as if nothing had happened. The next morning, the magistrates sent to have them released. Paul had something to say about their treatment.

It was unlawful to beat a Roman citizen and because of their citizenship, this law had been broken. Paul demanded that the magistrates themselves release them.

Upon releasing Paul and Silas, the magistrates pleaded with them and asked them to leave the city. They went to Lydia’s house, encouraged the brethren and left Philippi. Luke and Timothy probably stayed behind to further edify the church.

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Jul. 15. Timothy and Luke Join Paul and Silas

Acts 16:1-15

While Paul and Silas were in Lystra, Timothy, a young man who would serve a great role in the later life of Paul joined the team. It is not known just when he was baptized, but it is possible that Timothy, as a new Christian was involved in the rescue of Paul when he was so savagely stoned in that city.

Timothy’s father was a Greek (Gentile) and his mother was a Jew. Paul commended his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice years later for their role in Timothy’s spiritual development. We see in Timothy how wholesome examples impart a positive influence on the lives of others.

Paul had refused to allow Titus to be circumcised while they were at the conference in Jerusalem because he was a Greek. Circumcision would have yielded to the demands of the Jews that circumcision of Gentiles was necessary for their salvation. Timothy however was a Jew who had never been circumcised. Paul did many things to gain the trust of those whom he taught. Since he reasoned that it would be easier to influence the Jews, he circumcised Timothy.

Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled throughout Cilicia, Galatia and Phrygia strengthening the churches and baptizing new believers. They also shared the Jerusalem letter. As they left Phrygia and approached Mysia, the Spirit prevented them from going into Asia and the area of Bithynia. Instead, they were directed to Troas.

Troas was a seaport city beside a large bay area of the Mediterranean Sea. While in Troas, Paul had a vision in which a man of Macedonia called for them to, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Immediately, Paul and his company sailed northwest toward Macedonia to preach the gospel to the residents of that area.

By then, another man who would be important to Paul had joined the team. Luke was a physician and soon became very active in teaching and as a historian recording the events that occurred during Paul’s journeys.

Paul and his companions arrived at Macedonia and went to Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony populated by pagans who did not care about God.

Some days later on the Sabbath, Paul’s team went outside the city to a riverside where a group of women were worshipping. After hearing the gospel, Lydia, a prominent merchant of Thyatira and her household were baptized. They accepted her invitation and stayed in her house for a period of time.

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Jul. 14. Second Missionary Journey Begun

Acts 15:36-41

After some days following the report of the Jerusalem conference, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they should, “Go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”

Barnabas agreed that this was a good idea, but he wanted to take John Mark with them again. Since John had turned back from the work during the first journey, Paul insisted that he should not be included on this trip. Their disagreement became so sharp that they separated.

Barnabas took John Mark with him and they sailed to Cyprus and Paul selected Silas to go with him. He and Silas went in a north-westerly direction, starting in Syria and Cilicia visiting churches Paul had established several years earlier after returning to Tarsus from Jerusalem and before he had joined Barnabas in Antioch.

Paul and Silas advanced in their journey to Derbe and Lystra. It was in Lystra during his first missionary journey, that the residents tried to worship him and Barnabas as gods and then later stoned him.

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Jul. 13. Conference in Jerusalem

Acts 15:1-35

Some of the Jewish Christians had been concerned about accepting the Gentiles, even from the conversion of Cornelius and his household. They felt that the Gentiles were obligated to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses to be saved.

Even after the passage of several years since the first Gentiles became Christians, there were those of the Jerusalem area who went to Antioch to bring those Christians under their rules. Paul and Barnabas tried to teach against this practice, but were met with much opposition. The church decided to send them and certain others to visit with the apostles and elders in the Jerusalem church regarding this question and to completely settle it.

Paul had received divine revelation soon after his conversion and should have been accepted as a final authority of such spiritual matters. Since he was not one of the original apostles, the church probably doubted his qualifications. He stated later that he had gone to Jerusalem by revelation.

After traveling through Phoenicia and Samaria reporting on the conversion of the Gentiles, Paul and his companions reached Jerusalem. There, they continued their report on the things that God had done with them.

Some of the Pharisees had been converted, but were still holding on to the traditions of the Law of Moses. When Paul and his company met with James (the brother of Jesus), Peter, John and the elders, there was much discussion with these false teachers.

After this discussion, Peter addressed the group. He related how he had been chosen by God to preach to the Gentiles and that they had received the Holy Spirit just as the Jews had received Him on Pentecost.

Peter pointed out how the yoke of the Law of Moses was one they were unable to bear and how absurd it was to expect the Gentiles to bear it. He stated that God makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles and that everyone’s heart is purified by faith.

After Barnabas and Paul had reported on the miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles, James began to speak. He repeated Peter’s declaration that God had included the Gentiles in His plan. James further declared how the prophets had pointed out the same thing. He referred to a prophecy of Amos to make this point.

James, through the Holy Spirit concluded his remarks by stating that the Gentiles abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled and from blood.

Titus, a Gentile, was a part of the group with Paul and Barnabas. The fact that he was not subjected to circumcision was unifying evidence that this act was not a requirement for salvation.

After the conference had concluded, the apostles, elders and other Jerusalem Christians wrote a letter to the Gentile churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. They disassociated themselves in that letter from the ones who had tried to bind the Law of Moses upon the Gentile churches. The letter also stated the instructions that the Holy Spirit had guided James to present. They commended Judas (Barsabas) and Silas, leading men of the church, whom they had sent with Paul and Barnabas to report the same things by word of mouth.

When the letter was read to the church at Antioch, they were very pleased with its encouragement. Judas and Silas preached to the brethren for a time. Afterwards, Judas returned to Jerusalem, but Silas remained. Paul and Barnabas also remained and taught and preached the word.

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Jul. 12. Jews Cause Trouble; Stone Paul; Mission Successful

Acts 14:1-28

Even though the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the area around Antioch, the Jews inflicted so much persecution on the teachers; they shook the dust from their feet. This was a warning of the wrath of God. They then left and traveled about seventy-five miles east to Iconium.

After reaching Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went to their synagogue and began preaching to the people. A great multitude of the Jews and Gentiles believed.

Once again, the unbelievers began contradicting Paul and Barnabas. The whole city was divided—some with the Jews and the others with the apostles. They stayed in Iconium longer than at the other places they visited.

When word reached Paul and Barnabas that they were about to be stoned, they escaped to Lystra a few miles south of Iconium and began preaching the gospel there.

On one of the occasions when Paul was speaking at Lystra, he observed a man, who had been cripple all of his life. This man was listening so intently that Paul said to him loudly, “Stand up straight on your feet!” When he leaped and walked, the people shouted and said, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”

The people called Barnabas Zeus and because he was the chief speaker, they called Paul Hermes. Even the priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to offer sacrifices to them.

The apostles refused to allow these people to worship them. They said, “We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God who made the heaven, the earth, the sea and all things that are in them.”

As Paul and Barnabas continued to protest to these heathen people, they described the workings of God more fully to them. Even then, they still tried to offer sacrifices to the apostles.

Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and soon Paul and Barnabas changed in the eyes of the people from gods to bad men. They stoned Paul and thinking that he was dead, they dragged his body, as a carcass outside the city. Having revived, he and Barnabas went into Derbe the next day.

After preaching in Derbe for a while and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas began to revisit the churches they had established and appointed elders in every church. They returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch encouraging the disciples to continue in the faith, even when persecuted.

When the apostles had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia and stopped in Perga. After preaching in Perga, they continued to Attalia and then bypassing Cyprus, they returned to Antioch of Syria about three or four years after they had begun their journey.

The church at Antioch was anxious to learn of the travels of Paul and Barnabas and they were anxious to make that report. Upon hearing how the door of faith had been opened to the Gentiles, this Gentile church then knew that all were indeed included in the gospel.

Paul and Barnabas then remained in Antioch with the disciples for several months.

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Jul. 11. Jews Reject Gospel; Paul Turns to the Gentiles

Acts 13:44-52

Word about Paul and Barnabas spread throughout the city that week and by the next Sabbath, almost all the whole city came to hear them speak. The people had a desire to hear the word of God. Being filled with envy, the Jewish leadership however viewed the missionaries as a threat to their positions and traditions.

When the apostles recognized the attitude of the Jews, they spoke directly to them and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”

Paul then quoted from Isaiah 49:6, “I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were pleased that they were included in God’s plan to hear the gospel and they glorified God. God has appointed that those who are willing to accept His word should be saved. Those Gentiles did accept the teachings of Paul and did believe.

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Jul. 10. Paul and Barnabas Continue Mission

Acts 13:13-43

Paul, Barnabas and John Mark concluded their work in Paphos and sailed to Perga in Pamphylia. For some unknown reason, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.

After a brief time in Perga, the apostles continued to Antioch of Pisidia. They went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue invited them to speak.

Paul stood up, motioned with his hand and began teaching. He introduced his message by pointing out the common bonds between himself and his hearers. He began with the Children of Israel in Egyptian slavery and related the history of the Jewish nation up to the life and death of Christ. His speech included the promise of a Savior that God had made to their fathers and how that it was fulfilled by the resurrection of Jesus.

Various quotations from the Psalms were given by Paul to substantiate the story of Jesus. He referred to the fact that David had died, was buried and that his body had decayed. Christ however had died, but His body was raised by God and did not decay.

Paul ended his lesson by pointing out that through this Man, forgiveness of sins is possible and that those who believe can be justified. He contrasted justification by faith in Christ with the Law of Moses, which could not justify a person.

Many of the Jews, proselytes and Gentiles begged Paul and Barnabas to return the next Sabbath and continue preaching.

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Jul. 9. First Missionary Journey Begins; Saul Becomes Known as Paul

Acts 13:1-12

The church in Antioch became a center or home base for the Gentile Christians as Jerusalem had been for the Jewish believers. The original apostles continued to remain in and around Jerusalem.

As the church at Antioch was fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

After fasting, praying and laying hands on Barnabas and Saul, the church sent them on their way. John Mark also went along as their assistant.

The apostles (Apostle means one sent.) went about fifteen miles southwest of Antioch to Seleucia and boarded a ship and sailed to the island of Cyprus. After spending some time in the city of Salamis preaching in the synagogues of the Jews, they moved on to Paphos on the west end of the island.

Sergius Paulus, the proconsul (governor) of the area called for Barnabas and Saul wanting to hear the word of God. A sorcerer named Bar-Jesus or Elymas attempted to turn the governor away from hearing them.

While in Paphos, Saul, who had been known by his Jewish name, began to use his Latin name, Paul. Saul had been in a lesser position until that time. Paul became the dominant member of the missionary team and became their chief spokesman and teacher.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul said to Elymas, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” Immediately, a dark mist fell on him and he was blind.

When the governor saw what had happened to the sorcerer, he was astonished at what he had seen and heard. He believed the teaching of Paul and became a Christian.

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Jul. 8. Renewed Persecution in Jerusalem

Acts 12:1-25

During the lifetime of Jesus and during the growth of the early church, the Herods ruled the areas in and around Jerusalem. Herod the Great killed the male children after the birth of Jesus. His son, Herod Antipas ruled during the ministry of Jesus and examined Him during His trial in Jerusalem.

Herod Agrippa I came into power about AD 41 and during his reign, he began to persecute the church. He killed James, the brother of John with the sword. When he saw that the Jews were pleased with his actions, he arrested Peter and put him in prison.

Since it was time for the Passover, Herod delayed any action with Peter until later. He placed four squads of guards over him to make sure he did not escape as he and the other apostles had done before.

During the time that Peter was in prison, the church was in constant prayer for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him out, Peter thought that he was having a vision. While he was sleeping bound by two chains between two guards, two other guards were at the door keeping their prisoner secure. A bright light and an angel appeared, woke him up and instructed him to get up quickly, get dressed and to follow him.

With his hands free of the chains, Peter did as he was told. The doors and gates opened on their own accord and as they left the main prison gate, they went down one street and the angel disappeared. He realized at this point that he was not seeing a vision, but that these things were real and that God had delivered him from a certain death.

After considering what had just taken place, Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark where they were praying for him. When he knocked on the door, a young lady named Rhoda went to the door and recognizing His voice, she ran back to tell them that Peter was at the door.

As Peter continued knocking, Rhoda managed to get the others to go to the door. They had seen miracles performed, but were surprised to see him.

Peter related the details of his release and instructed the people to notify James and the other brethren. He then left for another location.

The next morning when the guards woke up, there was a great uproar about what had become of Peter. Herod should have known that God had released him, as had happened earlier with Peter and John and then all twelve of the apostles. Instead of using logic, his anger caused him to have all of the sixteen guards put to death.

Herod then returned to Caesarea. After relations between himself and the people of Tyre and Sidon had been mended, He gave a great oration to them.

Herod made such an impression on the people, that they elevated him to the level of a god. This pleased his ego after having been defeated by God in Jerusalem. They continued to shout, “The voice of a god and not of a man!”

God was so displeased because of Herod’s arrogance and pride that he caused worms to invade his body and eat him until he died.

After the death of Herod, the church enjoyed another period of relative calm and continued to grow and multiply.

Barnabas and Saul had completed their relief mission to Jerusalem and returned to Antioch. John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas went with them.

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Jul. 7. Jewish Christians Begin to Accept Gentile Converts

Acts 11:1-30

News of the conversion of Cornelius soon reached Jerusalem. When Peter returned, he was confronted with this news that he had eaten with uncircumcised men. The Jewish brethren condemned Peter instead of rejoicing that salvation had come to the Gentiles.

Peter explained the events that had occurred in those days. He related the visions that Cornelius and he had leading up to the baptism of the Gentiles. When the Jews had heard Peter’s report, they glorified God because salvation had been brought to the Gentiles.

The church was continuing to grow in areas great distances from Jerusalem. Those who were scattered after the death of Stephen went to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. Saul and others were also preaching in far-off regions.

When news came back to Jerusalem that Gentiles were being converted, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to encourage these new believers. After a short while there, he left and went to Tarsus to bring Saul back to help him.

Barnabas and Saul worked together in Antioch for a year teaching and strengthening the church. “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” That fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a new name. (Is. 62:2)

Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem came and prophesied that a great famine was soon to occur throughout the entire world. Because of the great poverty in Jerusalem, the church in Antioch (Gentiles) sent relief to them (Jews). This was sent to the elders and carried by Barnabas and Saul.

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Jul. 6. Gospel Preached to the Gentiles

Acts 10:1-48

While Peter was in Joppa, Cornelius, a Gentile centurion in the Italian Regiment of the Roman Army, was fasting and praying at his home in Caesarea about thirty miles north up the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Before that time, Gentiles had not been included in the preaching of Christ. Cornelius was a good moral devout man, who was living according to the Jewish customs, which he had acquired while being a soldier in their land, even praying at their hour of prayer; but he was lost.

The Gentiles were included in God’s promise to save the world. God was reminded of this promise by the prayer of Cornelius. He sent an angel to tell Cornelius to call for Peter to come from Joppa and he would tell him what he must do. Notice that God did not directly save either the eunuch, Saul or Cornelius, but arranged for preachers/teachers to tell them what they must do. Immediately, Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa.

At noon the next day, Peter went up on the housetop to pray and had a most unusual experience. He, too, had a vision and in this vision, he saw a sheet, which contained all kinds of animal life lowered from heaven.

A voice commanded Peter to rise, kill and eat. He replied, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

The voice said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

While Peter was trying to determine the meaning of this encounter, the men from Cornelius arrived. The Holy Spirit informed him that three men were looking for him and that he would go with them without any doubts.

Peter took six brethren with him and went to Caesarea with the three men from Cornelius. When they arrived, they found that Cornelius was prepared to hear the things commanded by God. He had gathered together his relatives and close friends to hear Peter.

“As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up: I myself am also a man.’” There are many today, who kneel and bow down before “holy” men in their churches. It was wrong to worship Peter then and it is wrong to worship a man now.

This was a momentous occasion. Before then, Jews did not accept Gentiles as religious or social equals. Peter explained that God had shown him that he should call no man common or unclean and that God shows no partiality. He also pointed out that people in every nation who fear and obey God are accepted by Him.

Peter then preached Christ to those who were assembled. He discussed the life of Jesus and how the Jews had rejected and crucified Him. God had raised Him up on the third day and the chosen ones (apostles) had eaten and drunk with Him after the resurrection. These apostles had been commanded to preach that whoever believes in Him would receive remission of sins.

While Peter was teaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and the other hearers. The only time this had ever happened before was on Pentecost, the day when the church was established. This outpouring of the Spirit was to show that the Gentiles were truly equal to the Jews in their relationship to God. Peter then commanded these Gentiles to be baptized.

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