"Studies of the Spirit in the New Testament Book of Acts"
ZADOK PUBLICATIONS - Dr. C. R. OLIVER
September 01, 2020
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Paul: From Prison with Love
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Paul: From Prison with Love, is a basic commentary of the writings generated from Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. He had already written the book of Galatians in 49 AD, followed by First and Second Thessalonians in 5l AD. Trailing these volumes were First and Second Corinthians (56 AD) and Romans (56,57 AD).
Knowing these books were in circulation prior to the four prison letters is important chronological information. It means the books of James (44-45 AD) and Matthew (40 AD) were available to the early church, and their influence, no doubt, was impactful. However, Paul's revelation was certainly dynamic during those early days, as well.
This commentary seeks to draw on these facts and present a cascading treatise seeking to grasp understanding about their interaction. When Ephesians was born in 60 AD, did Colossians (61AD) expand upon Ephesians or is it a separate entity?
Each book of this foursome is in the chronological order of their issuance. As each unfolds their separate message, the commentator will seek to point the way to less obvious subjects that apply to the reader-regardless in what century they are read.
Unfolding revelation is beautiful to behold, and the excitement grows as one reaches into the promises of God found in each epistle. Each book is quartered into four parts in order for small groups to study as four lessons per month (except Philemon).
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ZADOK PUBLICATIONS MONTHLY NEWSLETTER
September 1, 2020
"Studies of the Spirit in the New Testament Book of Acts"
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In our study of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, it is interesting to note how the resurrected Jesus spoke to His church through the Spirit. The method of communicating His will to His disciples would now change from an earthly presence to a Spirit presence.
1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant was complete. How necessary it is today to emphasize the importance of listening to the Spirit. As the end-time comes ever closer, His voice must be heard over the clamor of the world, including pulsating religion.
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
The forerunner, John the Baptist, said the day would come when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire. Little did the disciples know how powerful their witness would be when
they received this gift from God. Evangelism cannot take place apart from the baptism of the Spirit. The purpose of this baptism is to empower witness.
Notice please the bold print section of verse 8. Where is this witness to be directed?
Now, in this next passage, we see the Spirit fulfilling prophecy given through David. The Spirit will always bring to mind the Word. Peter quoted from Psalms.
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 "Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas…
"For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
'Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it';
'Let another take his office.'
Even the casting of lots to fill the vacancy caused by Judas was directed by the Spirit. The church and the will of the Spirit are never to be separated.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The responsive church was in one place and in one accord and dwelling in prayer and supplication when the mighty wind started to fill the house. Divided tongues of fire sat on each person and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This baptism was for everybody. The resulting speaking in tongues was for everybody and it still is! Notice, they were speaking in tongues IN the upper room. These were all Jews, having no language barrier. Those denominations who say this was "a foreign language" fail to see that their heavenly language was in the upper room. It is true those on the outside heard the upper room witnesses in their own language, which means the Spirit took their witness and caused a hearing miracle. The reversal of Babel for that moment.
(I have preached under the Spirit anointing where the audience did not speak English, but received the message from the Lord without a translator.)
Simon's sermon began with Scripture. Notice, he was standing with the eleven others, but the Spirit moved him. He did not fear the consequences of denouncing the religious community.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.'
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words…"
Simon's message was pregnant with meaning. He called attention to the "pouring out of the Spirit" as prophesied. Who were the recipients to be and what was to be the result? The receivers were to be "all flesh," which included their sons and daughters, young men and old men, menservants and maidservants. What was to be the result of this outpouring? Prophecy, dreams, visions, signs in the earth (blood, fire and vapor of smoke) and wonders in the heavenlies (a darkened sun, a moon turned to blood) would be evidence of the Day of the Lord.
Notice please this rounded out the passage quoted in Luke 4, where Jesus described His ministry but did not include the entire passage used in His quote from Isaiah 61:2. He did not include, "and the day of vengeance of our God."
Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
Simon hurried from these truths to a place of invitation where thousands responded.
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Little did he know at this time the invitation would include Gentiles, but his words went in power and permeates history to this very hour!
Peter proceeded with boldness and preached Jesus to the religious hierarchy who became incensed by the multitudes of believers who were being converted, but when he and John
healed the lame man - that was the occasion for their incarceration. Not the least bit dampened
by their imprisonment, they turned up the volume and accused those leaders of crucifying the Son of God.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
One of the traits of being filled with the Holy Spirit is holy boldness to testify of Jesus. It is at this point Simon provided posterity with one of the great passages for soul winning, Acts 4:12.
When Simon and John were released from custody and told never to speak of Jesus again on threat of further punishment, they assembled the church to pray for greater boldness.
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Their desire for more boldness was to speak the Word of God! With the answered prayer came a sign in the earth - the place of shaken. Later on, Paul would experience a Holy Shaking - in the prison at Philippi. (In the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, following a prayer session, the barn where they were praying was shaken as a sign of the ushering in of a mighty spiritual awakening.)
Extraordinary events accompany the fullness of the Holy Ghost. Acts records the plot of Ananias and Sapphira and the revelation of their secret to Peter and the church.
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
Some might say that the early church was so saturated with the Spirit that such a plot played out in their presence was the same as lying to the Holy Spirit. ( Could it be the modern church should exhibit the same?) Nonetheless, the result was great fear both in the body and outside the church.
Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.
So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Godly fear did not reach into the darkened hearts of the religious hierarchy who arraigned Peter and John and the other disciples following the supernatural release of Peter from the prison. They used intimidation and threats to coerce them, but it didn't work. These disciples knew the Spirit
would give them what to say before magistrates. After accusing them of murder, they offered this appeal.
And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."
Notice the last part of the above Scripture "to those who obey Him." In our rush to see people baptized in the Spirit perhaps we need to emphasize this word.
It wasn't long before the sweet spirit of the early church was challenged by its members. The Greek widows complained about not being treated fairly. This turned into a verbal assault and prompted the need for deacons. Again, as in the case of choosing a replacement for Judas, the Spirit led in this pursuit.
Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
Stephen's deaconship was unlike many of those chosen by churches today. Many times, that office is based on popularity or "monetary" considerations. But, alas, Stephen's faith cost him his life.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
After delivering one the most powerful doctrinal treaties in the New Testament, on the history of God's dealing with Israel, the authorities of Judaism stoned him to death when he applied error to them.
"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it."
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
Why is it that such a reaction has often been re-enacted throughout history? The Roman Catholic church persecuted, raped, pillaged, executed and burned the Reformers and their books.
Stephen's accusers transformed themselves into animals. What Stephen preached tore at their hearts and they raised their lips like angry dogs and gnashed at him with their teeth.
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
Not only did martyrdom become a reality through Stephen, but was the beginning of church persecution in general. However, the early church continued their witness to Jews as they branched out with the Gospel message to Gentiles and Jewish castaways.
Attention to the conduct of the Apostles caused Simon, the sorcerer, to seek their favor. He requested to have hands laid on him and through that transfer he would energize others.
14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
Peter lambasted Simon when he offered money, saying "if perhaps," thus indicating there may be a possibility of the Lord not forgiving him. The call for repentance from wicked hearts must be strong in the church.
Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."
Tolerance of sin and error was not afforded by the early believers, neither was indolence.
Next, we see the good deacon Philip, presiding over a mighty revival in Samaria, after which he encountered an angel visit. Angelic messengers were not uncommon in those days, so Philip responded quickly and chased down the Ethiopian Eunuch. (Philip gave a good example of what it means to follow the prompting of the Spirit. He wasted no time with normal travel preparation, but went immediately to the task set before him.
Notice how the Spirit fine tuned his assignment.
Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot."
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
The Holy Spirit has the right to fine tune our tasks. The Spirit talked to Philip. Does He talk to people today? Yes!
I don't know if Philip was ready for what happened next or not. He was supernaturally transported from the Eunuch to Azotus. It did not slow him down, for he preached the Gospel at this new location and all the way home.
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.
Cases of supernatural transfer have been documented throughout history (John Lake had such an experience when he traveled by the Spirit from South Africa to Wales and back). No method of man's ingenuity has approximated such travel to this day.
Because Acts was written later than the Gospel writers, it includes the ministry of Paul, as well as the early Apostles. The next sequence shows the conversion of Paul and the obedience of Ananias.
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
Ananias' use of the word "Brother" is remarkable, in light of his earlier skepticism. The Holy Spirit does not send someone to do a work without His assurance.
With Saul's conversion there came a time of peace for the church to grow. The Holy Spirit brought comfort and peace to them.
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
Next, comes a familiar passage about Simon Peter's open vision concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles into the body of believers. Although his vision was about being told to eat unclean and forbidden creatures, the application was an opening for the Spirit.
17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.
19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them."
21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, "Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?"
22 And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you." 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them.
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
Does the Spirit speak to you? Do angels instruct you? Is there such a thing as Divine appointment prepared by the Lord? What items would be on the sheet if it was lowered to you? What fears and phobias must you overcome in order to be an instrument of the Spirit? Simon obeyed the Spirit and opened the door for the nations of the world to come freely to Christ Jesus.
When Simon arrived at Cornelius' home, he found a waiting audience who eagerly sought his words. I believe the Spirit must prepare the hearts of the those hearing the Word before they receive it.
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ - He is Lord of all - 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, 47 "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
This event capsulized every aspect of the gospel. Peter's opening statement was an explosive truth. Inclusion of the Gentiles was a huge leap for what was primarily a Jewish church. Acts 10:38 is perhaps one of the most quoted passages in the book. The ministry of Jesus is proclaimed here in two verses. Following close behind was the bold testimony of Peter and his brethren addressing their responsibility as witnesses. They saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. They heard His last instructions.
Imagine the charged atmosphere on this occasion, as they saw the Holy Spirit fall on the assembly while Peter was speaking. He witnessed the same spectacular baptism of the Holy Spirit fall on the Gentiles as fell on the Disciples in the upper room. They spoke in tongues and magnified the Lord. All this was before they were baptized.
Talk about being able to fellowship in the Spirit, the astonished Jews welcomed their Gentile brothers into their bosom. This, of course, would become "a bone of contention' when Peter and those who were with him arrived in Jerusalem.
Once again, Peter attested the vision from God and the voice of the Spirit.
Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover, these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house.
By obeying the Spirit without trepidation, he testified about the Spirit falling on the Gentiles including a Roman Centurion.
If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"
(Thank God for the inclusion in many Anglo churches of Hispanic ministries. It was not always this way. Huge resistance initially greeted those who wished to evangelize migrants, including some of the leaders in large denominations. But God!)
Because of Peter's testimony, the gospel spread like wildfire among the Gentiles. Acts gives glimpses into these forays, specifically revealing the work of those individuals like Barnabas,
who traveled with Paul. His credentials were "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (11:24)."
Prophets arose among the believers giving direction to the early church. Agabus, by the Spirit, prophesied a great famine would take the land. Offerings were taken to relieve those of faith in Jerusalem. (If only the church today could realize that all the needs of the brethren, worldwide, could be met by listening to the Spirit. What a wonderful time that would be.)
And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Sending assistance to Jerusalem by Barnabus and Saul was not by happenstance. In Acts 13, we see these two are chosen by the Spirit to do the work of the ministry. While they were away, a great persecution broke out by the hand of Herod, who sealed his death by the hand of the Lord. Herod killed James by the sword and retained Peter in prison. The angel of the Lord freed Peter and God killed his oppressor. "Touch not My anointed nor do My prophets harm."
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.
There is power in this kind of anointing; a power not achieved through any other method. Credentialism today would have blocked this sort of move by the church. When the Holy Spirit does the separation and determines who and what kind of ministry will take place---there is an unction which can be arrived at through no other source. Those chosen persons change the atmosphere wherever they land. Their steps are ordered by the Lord and their witness is unparalleled.
As Paul (Saul) ventured in the Spirit to Seleucia, Cyprus and eventually to Paphos, great numbers responded and the Spirit overshadowed their path. Because a government official summoned the evangelists, in order to learn from them, a sorcerer, a Jew (Elymus) sought to intervene. Paul, through the Spirit, spoke these words to him.
Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, "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? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Several things are of note in these Scriptures. First, ask how it is a Jew could be a sorcerer? Did synagogues allow such characters to operate in their midst? Second, Paul is speaking only what the Spirit says. It is a scathing accusation. Third, the proconsul believed, based on what he observed. (Do modern churches have the equivalent of Elymus's today? Do anointed people still speak only by the Spirit today? What would the Spirit say about some who are in the church today? What would occur if government officials witnessed such power?)
Guided by the Spirit, Paul went to Antioch and preached in the synagogue a powerful message incorporating Biblical history and glorifying the Lord Jesus. For this, they ostracized him and actually caused him to turn from established synagogues.
Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold 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. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:
'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
One must ask, at this point, why does the established religious culture often oppose the work of the Spirit? What should be the attitude of those filled with the Spirit in similar situations? Are there situations today where God gives a message to be heard in an area and no pulpit will open?
This next set of verses takes place in Jerusalem on occasion of determining whether the Gentiles would be recognized as true believers. Peter testified how he was chosen to open the first door for their entrance. Strong debate took place and finally James drew the string on the issue with comments followed by further testimony from Paul and Barnabas.
6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, "Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
16 'After! this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.'
18 "Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."
This is "The Jerusalem Decree."
The Jerusalem council did not put circumcision, keeping the feasts or adhering to traditions of the Jews. Although there are some movements today which attempt to require adherence to Judaism.
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
Notice: The final judgment was approval by the Spirit. What if all church decisions were made by whether the Spirit approved them or not? What about all life decisions?
Notice: the litmus test for the inclusion of the nations was based on the baptism of the Holy Spirit as experienced in the upper room. What if that was the case today?
Next, we learn the Spirit has the right to determine one's steps. Paul and his associates were forbidden to preach in some destinations, while directing them to other places of ministry. It seemed to Paul the logical next step for evangelization should be Asia. Why did the Spirit wall off this vast domain? Even when Paul turned away from Asia and traveled to Mysia and ultimately Bithynia, he encountered the spiritual wall raised by the Spirit and could not enter.
Ultimately, he was herded to Macedonia and then to Philippi.
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
In chapter 15:18, these words explain it all: "Known to God from eternity are all His works."
How very important it is for the church to missionize where the Spirit directs. Many are the fruits of labor in the Spirit-directed fields; tragic are the failures when persons go without sanction.
Man's logic and determinations must always be subject to Spirit approval.
This next passage reveals the hand of the Spirit operating through Paul and his willingness to trust that leadership.
When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Notice: Paul was compelled by the Spirit. Oh, the wonderful results that come from such compelling! Paul preached and he thought he wasted his breath, for the Jews blasphemed.
Even after shaking his garments and vowing to go to the Gentiles---the ruler of the synagogue
believed and was baptized.
Comfort came to Paul in a night vision just as he was about to call it quits. The Holy Spirit is our comforter and guide. Little did Paul know how many saints the Lord had in that region. (Similar to Elijah and the 7000 who had not bowed the knee-evidently, bowing the knee was a sign of rebellion and still is.)
Asia had to hear the gospel in a certain manner, which is seen in this next passage.
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
So, they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?"
So, they said, "Into John's baptism."
4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all.
8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
Take notice of the litmus test, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" Paul preached Jesus to them as the Messiah and they believed and were baptized, but they received the Holy Spirit only after Paul laid hands on them. The result was they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Why is this not the case today? (Those denominations who teach the automatic reception of the Spirit upon belief might have a problem with this verse.)
This is the second mention of "The Way," in defining the church (Acts 9:2 revealed Saul searching out those of "The Way.") However, in the book of Acts from this point on, the
believers were defined as those of "The Way (Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14,22)."
Once again, we learn how Paul governed his life by the Spirit. "Purposing in the Spirit" is a hedge against doubt and unbelief, not even a prophet's proclamation could dissuade him.
21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.
When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. 4 And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.
7 And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. 8 On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"
Nothing daunted Paul's determination to give witness in Rome. The matter was sealed and not even direct contradiction of those speaking through the Holy Spirit could persuade him otherwise, perhaps remembering the Rechabites of old.
In finality of the Spirit passages in Acts, we must double back to another set of Scriptures
found in the closing chapters of the book.
25 "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
32 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."
These two final passages reflect the heart and soul of the Apostle Paul. The passage in Acts 20 is a tender farewell. The passage in Acts 28 contains his ending of life pursuits.
First, in the above passage one must note three very distinct statements. Paul's innocence of the blood of no man shows what he knew about the grace and mercy of God. He was wiped clean in the stoning of Stephen and the awful and tragic treatment of believers while on assignment for the Jews.
Second, in verse 28, he spells out the ordain-er of overseers and shepherds of the Church is the Holy Spirit. (Oh! This is the credential lacking in the vast majority of congregations.) He cautions them to be vigilant against opposing forces.
Third, he imparted to them his commendation in verse 32 to the "word of His grace." Two facets rise out of this endowment: they would be built up and they would receive an inheritance among those who are sanctified (made holy). Shades of Paul's epistles are in these words.
Paul said in:
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Jude said it also:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Then, in this next passage is pictured his final days in Rome. Many Jews came to visit him in his incarceration seeking his wisdom.
"But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere."
23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying,
'Go to this people and say:
'Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them."'
28 "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!" 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.
30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
Thus, ends our study of the capitalized passages referring to the Spirit in the book of Acts. Truly, this volume is better named, "The Acts of the Spirit in the early church."
Until next month,
Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.
From Pastor Samuel Karunanithi and Anusuya; International Missionaries:
Our vision is to reach the nations, feed the poor, build churches, train and support native missionaries, and distribute the Bible in different languages. In 1982, we founded Living Word International Outreach Inc. and Living Word Church. We have two orphanages in India, and support sixty-four native missionaries in India, and France.
"Oliver Evangelistic Asociation supplies initial need to assist starving pastors."
During a recent visit by Dr. Sam Karunanithi, we asked what needs are most pressing through your work?
His reply included an estimate of $2000 for the pastors and families due to the pandemic. Immediately, O.E.A. wrote a check for that amount. Working through local ministries, a need was discovered in Punjab (a territory normally out of range for our endeavors). Since there is a language barrier between Northern India and the South, it was necessary to find someone who could go and estimate the need.
The following show a small glimpse of some of the food supplies provided by that gift:
"This is from Dr. Sam Karunanithi requesting assistance for a murdered pastor. O.E.A will assist as God provides."
We are reaching out to help the family of Pastor Balwinder Bagicha of Punjab, India, who was murdered on 27th of July 2020. Balwinder family was poor and lived in a one bedroom house. His wife Nisha Balwinder and 5 children are
Abhishek age 14, Anmol 11, Avinash 8, Ranveer 6, and Veera 5. Late Pastor Balwinder was the only breadwinner in the house. Let us pray and help them.
The family is praying and continuing the ministry in surrounding villages. The pastor left two debts which amount to $1400. Their monthly expenses are $250. They have walls around a small area and no roof. This is their future church. Our goal is to provide the funds to complete the roof so they can worship in a dry room. The family is thankful for contacting them and praying for them. The late pastor was 37 and his wife is 33.
This just in, a Houston contributor has just supplied monies to pay the $1400 debt! Praise the Lord!
This picture is of Dr. Sam's pastor friend who served as interpreter and the family of the late missonary.
They are living in a one room house. The area where they meet, shown below is without a roof. Their goal is to finish the roof and use the structure as a church.
From: Ghiorghi Cazacu - Gospel Ministries International, Inc.
Gospel Ministries International, Inc.
PO Box 661
Belleville, IL 62222
Telephone: (618) 239-0215
Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ from
Dearest friends and partners, in spite of all the difficulties
in the different parts of the world, just as you face in the
US and us here in Eastern Europe, we continue working
here with God's help and your continued prayer, love and
support to help other people to receive the Lord Jesus
Christ and be baptized. We are honored to be able to
share these opportunities with you.
We recently had the opportunity to minister in the town
of Darmanesti, Romania where 32 gypsy people, 12
couples, young people and husbands and wives received
the Lord Jesus
Christ as their
Lord and Savior
and were baptized
together. What a
joy and what a
blessing to see
these people who
neglected, that now they are the ones who are rejoicing,
receiving the Lord Jesus and being baptized. We did
these baptisms as John the Baptist was doing in the river
Jordan. You can see in the picture that we were in the
river and these precious people came, confessing their
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been a great joy for
us to be able to baptize them for the glory of the Lord and
we thank Him. As we were among the gypsies, one of
the most important things we can share is that you can
see that they have many children. They will continue to
survive generation to generation as so many others kill
their children and unborn. We have shared with them the
importance of continuing to raise their very beautiful
children in a Godly way. Please pray along with us that
the Lord would help us to continue to be involved in the
lives of these precious children, for them to be educated
in the Gospel, to be trained and equipped to truly be a blessing for the future. Children are the hope
for this ethnic group and a blessing for them to continue
as a people. We thank God for the opportunity to be able
to continue to minister among them. What a great
blessing to see these little children coming with many
people making a great dedication of the Lord and we pray
that God would continue to bless them. As Jesus said in
Matthew 19:14, "Let the little children come to me, and
do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs
to such as these."
We were requested to pray
for a little girl who had a
problem with her vision.
She was scheduled to go
and have surgery on her eye
to improve her eyesight.
The parents brought her to
us, we prayed for her and
the Lord touched her and
healed her completely!
When she went back to the
doctor prior to her having
surgery, he checked her
eyes again and she had
20/20 vision! He told them
she would not need surgery
and that she would not need to return for another year.
This was a great testimony after we prayed and the
pastor announced that the mother and father went to the
hospital for her to be checked on. Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday, today and forever! Glory to our Lord
and Savior who never changes even in a time like this.
It was a great blessing and encouragement for this
community to see the power of God healing the little girl
and we thank Him; may He be glorified through all of this!
What a privilege that Cristina and our two sons were able
to travel along with me, including brother Banu who
ministers among the gypsies. It has been a great honor
to see Cristina's heart for the gypsy women and children
and continue to be a great blessing to them. She was
able to minister to the children and we thank God for that opportunity. Please
keep us in prayer as
we travel together as
a family and that the
Lord would help us to
make a greater
impact as never
before among these
precious people and
During this same time, Cristina was able to buy ice cream
for the children after the meeting.
You can see in the picture as she was blessing them with
this special treat, her heart is to make a difference,
teaching, singing and loving on the children. What a
blessing to reach and touch the lives of the children in
these oppressed areas. If you reach a child, you will
change the future. What a privilege it is to minister
together along-side with all of our partners and friends as
we affect the nations in a greater way!
We had the opportunity to go and minister in the town of
Cont. You can see there are many children, where
Cristina had the opportunity to share a message with
them regarding the end times and preparing them for the
second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We take this
very serious, to look at our lives that they will be pleasing
to the Lord before He returns. I pray that we can all be
faithful and fruitful for the glory of God. Dear friends,
there are a great many needs throughout the gypsy
communities that we minister in regularly including a
great need to plant churches as they open their hearts to
the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray and it is our hearts desire
to be able to help and
be involved in this area
as the Lord provides.
Also, the community of
Ciurea is very large
with a growing need for
a church to be built,
which they have started and needs to be finished. We look forward with
God's help that we may all help in some way to provide
the funds needed for this gypsy church.
It was an honor to
recently baptize sister
Geta who was
recommended to us by
an old friend brother
Ilie Popa who is now a
missionary himself and
ministering in Vienna,
Austria. This sister
came to us and had
terminal cancer, the doctor telling her she had no hope
to live. We baptized her, anointed her with oil and prayed
for her in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and as she
came out of the water, a wonderful thing happened, she
received her healing! She was so joyful and now she
feels stronger every day as we speak to her and
encourage her. We have good news that Jesus is alive
and well and healing and delivering people of all kinds
of things. Alongside me was brother Radu, the young
man who came from Belgium to be a missionary with us
here in Romania. Please continue to pray for us that we
will continue to be able to minister for the Glory of God.
We have another great
opportunity before us to help
a young brother named
Orlando whose wife left him
with three children, ages 10,
8 and 6, leaving to work in
another country and never
returned. He has no home
and no place to stay. We
have a great opportunity to
purchase a home for him. We
appreciate any help that
would go towards the
remodeling which will cost
approximately $10,000 for
them to have good
conditions in which to live. It also comes with almost 2
acres of land where they could have livestock as he is
very hard working. Please pray along with us that the
Lord would provide the funds to help this young man
and his children to have a new life.
While the needs are great in Eastern Europe as in so
many places around the world, we are so very honored
that you have a heart for the ministry here and continue
to pray and support the work when there are so many
other ministries. Even as so many in the states are
struggling with their own needs because of the ongoing
situation with the virus. The Lord Jesus Christ is
victorious! He is still on the throne and we pray that He
will continue to provide for all of us, give us all peace and
joy and help us to remain faithful and fruitful until He
Love and prayers in Christ.
Ghiorghi, Cristina, Daniel and Timotei Cazacu
Gospel Ministries International, Inc.
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