Sunday, August 26, 2018


The third missionary journey began as Paul left Antioch and went through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia.  These are regions in the central plains of what was then called Asia and we now know as Turkey.


While Paul was gone, a man named Apollos came to Ephesus. Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt. He was a great speaker and knew the scriptures. He had come to believe in Jesus and was was a fervent speaker and teacher. He spoke in the synagogue in Ephesus, taking up where Paul left off, proclaiming Jesus from the Old Testament.

Apollos’s knowledge was incomplete, however: he only knew of John’s baptism. We do not know from whom Apollos heard the gospel, but he did not know of baptism in the name of Jesus as Peter proclaimed at Pentecost.

Priscilla and Aquila took him under their wing and explained Jesus to him more accurately. Luke did not elaborate on that by telling us exactly what Apollos did not know.

Apollos then left Ephesus, sailed across the Aegean Sea to visit Corinth in Achaia, the southern province of Greece. The believers in Ephesus wrote a letter of introduction to the church in Corinth so they would receive him.  He built up the church and refuted the Jews in public debates, arguing form the scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah, or Christ. Paul wrote that he planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Apollos was effective. When the Corinthians divided into followers of different people, Apollos was one who was followed, though there is no evidence he encouraged that. He was really a lot like Paul, traveling from town to town, preaching the gospel and showing that Jesus was the Messiah of the Old Testament prophecies.

Paul Comes to Ephesus

While Apollos worked in Corinth, Paul made his way through Asia to the port city of Ephesus. There Paul found some disciples, who had incomplete or defective knowledge. Paul discerned the defect: they did not know about the Holy Spirit and had on received the baptism of repentance of John the Baptist. John’s baptism was a baptism of preparation, demonstrating that one had repented and awaited the Messiah. Jesus’ baptism was one of fulfillment because the Messiah had come, died, and be raised from the dead.

Paul explained this to them. They believed and were baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they received the Holy Spirit, evidenced by their speaking in tongues and prophesying after Paul laid his hands on them. This may show another decisive moment in the growth of the church; Ephesus would become a new center for the Gentile mission, second only to Antioch.

Paul resumed his normal routine of entering the synagogue. He had told them on his earlier visit (18:19-20) that he would return to them if God allowed it. So he was able to preach Jesus to them for about three months. At that point, some of the Jews rebelled against Paul and began to speak badly of “the Way”, of salvation through faith in Jesus.

In response, Paul withdrew from the synagogue, taking the believers with him. He spoke daily in a lecture hall for two years. This was the longest stay for Paul in any city on his missionary journeys. He had stayed in Corinth for 18 months. But his total ministry in Ephesus was close to three years. It ended, therefore, in the summer of 55 A.D.

The result was that the gospel message spread out from Ephesus across Asia. Believers who heard the gospel from Paul and were saved proclaimed the gospel to other cities and towns as they believed.

The Sons of Sceva

In addition to blessing Paul’s preaching, God all empowered Paul to perform miracles. He healed and cast out demons. People would take cloths that Paul touched and carry them to the sick and they would be healed. God did this to authenticate Paul as his apostle and his message as the true word of God.

In the midst of this great work of God, some Jewish guys decided to get in on the action. There were Jews who traveled around claiming to practice magic. They had incantations that were supposed to cast out evil spirits.

The sons of Sceva did this also. They commanded some demons (evil spirits) to come out of a person in the name of the “Jesus whom Paul proclaims”. (13) That indicates these guys were not believers. The demon was not impressed, saying he knew Jesus and Paul but not these pretenders. Then the man who was possessed jumped the seven guys and beat them.

This event had a major effect on the people of Ephesus. They saw spiritual warfare up close. They saw the power of Jesus over the power of demons.

Believers realized they needed to give up their evil practices. Ephesus was known as a center for magic practice. Although they had converted, they had not given up all of the things they practiced before, including magic. They brought all their magic books out and burned them. They turned away from evil to follow the living God unreservedly.

There are a lot of things to day that Christians should avoid, but that some think are harmless. Astrology, numerology, and practices from eastern religions abound. Avoid them and practice what is taught in the Bible. When we open ourselves to evil, evil can come in and corrupt us.

Luke’s conclusion in verse 20 gives credit to the word of the Lord increasing and prevailing. It prevailed over magic words and pagan superstitions . It prevailed over ignorance. It increased by bringing more and more people into the kingdom.

It is important for us to believe in the power of God's word for salvation and holy living. We may take nothing from it or add anything to it. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Doxology

‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen’. 

(Romans 11: 33-36)

Sunday, August 19, 2018


Aquila and Priscilla

Paul traveled from Athens to Corinth. Corinth was a strategic town to evangelize. It was commercially vibrant, having two ports. It was a Roman city, redeveloped by Julius Caesar and serving as the capital of the province.

In Corinth, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jewish converts from the province of Pontus on the Black Sea. From there they had moved to Rome. They were in Corinth because Claudius had expelled all Jews from Rome.  This would be somewhere around 50 A.D.

Paul and Aquila were tent makers. Paul stayed with them and worked with them during the week. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said he had the right as a minister to support from them, but that he had not made use of this right so that he would not put an obstacle in the way of their receiving the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:8-12)

On the Sabbath, Paul went into the synagogue and spoke to the Jews and God-fearing Greeks about Jesus. (4) He was following his pattern of preaching first to the Jews, then the Greeks.

Ministry to the Gentiles

Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia. They had stayed behind in Berea when Paul was sent off to Athens to avoid an attack from the Jews and the crowds they stirred up. (17:14) They later joined Paul in Athens. But, Silas and Timothy must have returned to Thessalonica from Athens, after meeting Paul because because Paul later wrote “Therefore we we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no-one be moved by these afflictions.” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3)

Paul had worried that the Thessalonians might not hold up under persecution from the Jews. But, Timothy brought him good news of their faith and their fondness for Paul. (1 Thessalonians 3:6)

When Silas and Timothy arrived, they found Paul occupied with preaching Jesus to the Jews. He was never idle.

As time went on, though, opposition arose from the Jews. (6) Paul left them and went to minister strictly to the Gentiles. He told the Jews their blood was on their own heads, meaning they were responsible for their own fate, or judgment. This may be a reference to Ezekiel 33:1-7, where Ezekiel said if the watcher sounds the warning, but people ignore it, their blood is on their own heads. He also added a dramatic gesture: shaking out his robe. The idea was not not even a speck of their dust would go with him. Today, we might say “I wash my hands of you”.

Right next door to the synagogue, Paul started a church in the house of Titius Justus, a God-fearing Greek who had come to faith in Jesus. (7) He was joined by a converted Jew, Crispus the ruler of the synagogue, and his entire household, family and servants. (8) And the church began to grow as many Corinthians heard the gospel from Paul and believed.

 At this point, the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, or dream, to encourage him. (9) Paul must have been nervous about coming to Corinth. He wrote to the Corinthians that “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”. (1 Corinthians 2:3) ”The Lord told him to keep preaching and not be afraid because the Lord would protect him. Paul needed to keep preaching since the Lord had many in this city who are his people. (10)

Who were these people? They were those who would come to believe in Jesus. The Lord knew who they were and had sent Paul to reach them. So, he had to stay until he had done that. Paul obeyed, staying 18 months. The only place he ever stayed longer was Ephesus. Corinth and Ephesus became the centers of Paul’s work. Paul would later write that the Corinthians were the seal of his apostleship in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 9:2)

There was an attempt to stop him. The Jews brought Paul before the tribunal, but the ruler of the tribunal, Gallio, dismissed the whole thing as a theological argument about Judaism. He saw this as a disagreement between Jewish sects, whom he would consider to be pagans who did not worship the Roman gods. Gallio believed it was beneath him to get involved in such things.  In frustration, the Jews beat the former ruler of the synagogue, Sosthenes, in front of the tribunal, but Gallio ignored that also. (17) Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 1:1 says that Sosthenes was with Paul and sent his greetings.

Back to Antioch

Paul was able to stay for a good while after the attack, but finally left Corinth to return to Antioch, his home church. This was spring of 52 A.D. He took Priscilla and Aquila with him. He had evidently taken some kind of vow, like a Nazarite vow, and had let his hair grow long. He cut it, then went to Ephesus and preached in the synagogue. Like Corinth, Ephesus was an important city. It was the most important commercial city in northern Asia Minor, a port, and was a jumping off point for the journey to Rome by sea.

Ephesus was also the size of the great temple of Artemis. It must have been magnificent, for it was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. A large settlement of Jews was there also.

Paul evidently left Priscilla and Aquila there to build the church, promising to return if the Lord allowed him. He must have had great confidence in Priscilla and Aquila. He continued his journey to Antioch.

Paul’s next stop was Caesarea, the main port city of Palestine on the Mediterranean Sea. (22) When it says “he went up and greeted the church”, it does not mean the church in Caesarea, but the church in Jerusalem. It was well enough known that it could be referred to as “the church”. Also, it was at a higher elevation, so Paul could go up to it from the coast. This might also explain Paul’s apparent haste in leaving Ephesus. He may have been trying to get to Jerusalem for Passover, which would have been in April of that year.

From there, he went down to Antioch, which had become his home church. Paul spent “some time” there, likely telling of the results of his second mission trip, as well as teaching. Then, he was off for his third mission trip.

So we see that Jesus was building his church as he promised. He has propelled his chosen servant, Paul, across the Mediterranean Sea, preaching and planting churches in Asia and Europe. The Holy Spirit has brought people to Christ by bringing them into contact with Paul and convicting them of the truth of the gospel and their need to be saved.

Jesus still builds his church today. If we will share the gospel, he will draw people to Jesus and they will be saved.

Friday, August 17, 2018

12 Ways To Pray For Yourself

Here is a good article about praying for yourself. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Paul’s Message to the Athenians

Paul seized the opportunity to preach. He addressed the philosophers in the context of their knowledge and practice, sounding like a Hellenist. But, that does not mean he did not give them scriptural truth. Though he did not quote the Hebrew scriptures as he did in the synagogue, the does refer to the ideas taught there.

Paul first acknowledged that the Athenians were very religious. In fact, he said, he had even seen an altar with an inscription “to the unknown god”. (23) Paul used this as a springboard to his sermon, saying I am going to tell you about this god you do not know. He proceeded to tell them about the one true God. The things he told them are all things set out in the Old Testament.

First, Paul said that God created the world and everything in it. (24) That is how the Old Testament begins: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. (Genesis 1:1) It goes on to describe how God created everything in heaven and on earth. This fact is repeated in several places in scripture. And, because God made everything, he is the Lord of creation, the “Lord of heaven and earth”. He made it, owns it, and rules it.

Paul would later write:

 “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although the knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became foolish, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:19-23)

That is a good description of the spiritual condition of the Athenians.

You can also see why the atheist must believe in an evolutionary beginning to the universe. If the universe came into being on its own, there is no God to whom we must give account. But, If God created it, he is Lord of it, and we must account to him.

Second, Paul said this creator God does not live in temples made by man and is not served by human hands. Since there were temples all over Athens, and priests who brought their gods sacrifices of food and drink, that was a startling statement for the Athenians. Even the Jews had to be reminded of this fact, as they revered the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah did that, saying in Isaiah 66:1-2:

Thus says the LORD:
Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me
and what is the place of my rest?

In fact, not only could men and women not meet any of God’s needs, God gave them all they had, including life and breath. (5) In Psalm 50:12, God said “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine”.

Certainly, some Greek philosophers had said similar things. Heracles wrote “God, if he be truly God, has need of nothing”. Plato said that the gods got no benefit from the things men gave them.

Third, Paul said God made every nation from one man, testifying to the historicity of Adam. (26) Additionally, he said he made them to live on all the face of the earth (26), alluding to God’s command to both Adam and Noah to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28; 9:1)

Fourth, he said God determined the places and times where nations would dwell. This reflects Deuteronomy 32:8, that says God fixed the boundaries of the peoples.

Paul anticipated a question: why did God do all these things? Paul said God did it that men and women would seek God in hope that they might find him. (27)

Since Paul was speaking to Greeks, he inserted quotes from two Greek poets. The first one said “in him we live and move and have our being” and the second said “for we are indeed his offspring”.

Those poems were talking about Zeus. Paul was not validating Zeus, or equating God (Yahweh)  with him. He was showing them their own poets had some recognition of the nature and character of God. And, because even the Greeks wrote that all people were created by God, all people owe God the honor and worship to which he is due. And that honor is not accomplished by making statues and buildings.

Tying in to his original statement pointing out the Greeks ignorance of God, as shown in the altar to the unknown God, Paul said that God, in his mercy, had previously passed over this ignorance. He had not judged them for their ignorance. (30); (Romans 3:25) But now (that Jesus had come), God called, and still calls, for repentance of this false perception of God. In other words, Paul was saying God demanded that the Greeks acknowledge that their gods were false and turn away from them.

The reason it is the time to repent, Paul said, is that God a fixed a day for judgment. (31) That judgment will be done in righteousness by the man he appointed, Jesus Christ. God showed them, and us, that this is true by raising Jesus from the dead. Yet again, we see that the resurrection was central to the presentation of the gospel. Later, Paul would write “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

As always, some believed and some mocked. Some wanted to hear more. (32)

You can follow Paul’s train of thought in his presentation of the gospel to the Romans. Although the audience was difference, the ideas are the same. Paul wrote that what can be known about God was plain to people, but they suppressed the truth. (1:19-20) There will be judgment for those who have abandoned God and made up their own rules. (2:1-2) Judgment is coming. (2:6) Salvation is through faith in Jesus. (3:21-22)

The message of salvation is the same for us today. “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

The only way to salvation is through Jesus. (John 14:6) You can have pardon for sin, relief from guilt, peace with God, and eternal life by faith. Believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sins and was raised to life by the Father. Confess him. Follow him. Be saved.

Sunday, August 05, 2018



Paul, Barnabas, & Timothy left Philippi, walking west on the Egnatian Way (Via Egnatia), a Roman Road. Luke apparently stayed behind. The narration shifts from the first person plural (we) to the third person (they). Luke shows up again in chapter 20, in Philippi, and the narration changes back to the first person plural.

Paul and his companions traveled down the road to Thessalonica. It was the principal city of Macedonia. It is still an important city. It is about 60 miles west of Philippi.

Paul followed his usual custom, going to the synagogue on the Sabbath and reasoning from the Old Testament that the Messiah must suffer and die, then be raised from the dead. He preached that Jesus is that Messiah. (3)

He got a good initial reception. He was allowed to speak on three different Sabbaths. Some Jews believed, but a great many God fearing Greeks believed, including many leading women of the city. (4)

It does not seem that it was Paul’s theology made the Jews mad, but his popularity, the huge response to his preaching. This made the Jews jealous, so they recruited a mob to attack them at the house of Jason, one of the Jewish converts.  Paul and Silas were gone, so they grabbed Jason and some other converts and took them to the city rulers. They accused them of causing disturbances, violating the law and even proclaiming another king in Jesus.

The city rulers here were disturbed, but more careful than those in Philippi. They made Jason post bond for Paul and Silas. This meant Jason was responsible for anything further that happened. It had the effect of making it necessary for Paul to leave town.


Paul and Silas left at night and went to Berea, about 40 miles away. Again they traveled west along the Egnatian Way, but then turned south to the town of Berea, which was off the main road . Again they went into the synagogue. They got a much better reception here, as the Bereans were eager to hear Paul and checked all he said against the Scriptures. Many were converted, again including women in the city who were important.

When the Thessalonian Jews heard that Paul was preaching in Berea, they came and stirred up opposition. The converts sent Paul off, but Silas and Timothy remained. Evidently Paul was the lightening rod for opposition, being the main preacher. The converts took Paul all the way to Athens.

Paul told them to send Silas and Timothy as soon as possible. This shows us that, as strong as Paul was, he did not want to be alone and felt the need for friends and co-workers.


While waiting for his co-workers, Paul toured the city. He saw that it was full of idols. Several ancient writes refer to the Athenians as the most religious people. There were temples and statutes of various Greek gods all over the city. Paul became distressed at all of the idols. So, he went to the synagogue and preached on the Sabbath. He was not idle while waiting for his co-workers.

But, he also went every day to the marketplace and spoke to whoever he found there. He was street preaching.

Athens was not only devoted to art and religion, but also to philosophy.  The two main schools of philosophy were the Stoics and the Epicureans.  The Stoics followed the teachings of Zeno. They believed in living in tune with nature, being individually self-sufficient, moral and dutiful.

The Epicureans followed the teachings of Epicurus, namely that pleasure is the chief end of life, the greatest pleasure is tranquility. They had a view of the gods as distant and uninterested in mankind.

Everyone has a philosophy, because everyone must deal with life, how it works, why things happen as they do, and what we can do about it. You can see from the descriptions of these two schools ideas that persist today. One way to witness is to discern, usually by asking, a person’s philosophy of life, and reacting to it with the gospel.

It was to these philosophers that Paul directed his preaching. (15) The philosophers were not impressed. They called him a babler. But, they recognized he was preaching about a god they did not know. That is because Paul was still preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus, even to philosophers.

The Athenians grabbed Paul and brought him to the Areopagus so that they could hear more. They loved hearing and discussing new things. This areas was on or near the Hill of Ares. Ares was the Greek god of war, the same as Mars in the Roman Pantheon. That is where the title “Mars Hill” came from in one man’s ministry in Seattle.

Everyone has a philosophy of life. That is because we all deal with life, why things happen, and what we do about it. A Christian sees life as beginning with God and centered upon him. We see the Bible as the theological history of the world and the revelation of God's nature to us.

But, not everyone sees it that way. Post-modernists challenge all "meta narratives", all of the big stories. That includes the Bible. They may not believe in any absolute truth. They will say "that's your truth". When you ask them questions about their values, though, you will likely find their belief inconsistent. Although debate may not be the best way to proceed in a friendly conversation, you can point out that values come from somewhere, and you believe they come from the God who created all things.

We will examine Paul's speech to the Athenians next week. But, remember, the most important thing is not to debate philosophies, but to share the gospel and let the Holy Spirit work.