Read Acts 15: 30-35
· V. 31 – The effect of the Word of God – even as it contains restrictions, “thou shalt nots” – is invariably encouraging. Reading Scripture staves off moroseness.
· V. 32 – How can you tell that Christianity hadn’t yet made much of a dent in the society? - - you could still find guys named “Judas.”
· V. 32 – “With many words” – Teaching requires “many words,” that is, lots of explanation. It’s not intuitive! As much as the grim, tight-lipped Clint Eastwood persona might appeal to you, teachers and mentors of the Word cannot afford to adopt it. We need to be willing to be the kind of people who could be accused of talkative.
Read Acts 15: 36-41
· V. 36 – At several times in this book, you’ll see the practice of following-up on converts. Leading people to call on the name of the Lord for salvation is just the beginning. Then…”many [more] words.”
· V. 37-38 – Is your character or personality bent more in line with Barnabas – compassionate, giving people a few chances – or Paul – we can’t afford to get jilted again? I don’t know that one’s superior to the other, and the Church stands in need of both voices.
· V. 39 – “Sharp disagreement” – it’s a little said, but not the end of the world when Christians filled with the Spirit fall on two side of an issue. Indeed, God can use it (perhaps even be behind it) for multiplying ministry.
· V. 41 – “Strengthening churches” – How do you think Paul strengthened the churches? What can you do this week to strengthen the church? Prayer is always the place to start.
Read Acts 16: 1-10
· V. 1 – Here we meet Timothy for the first time. Was this Paul’s first time to meet him? We know (14:19ff) that Paul had been in the area before so perhaps not. Whatever the case, we know that Paul and Timothy had years ahead of fruitful partnership in the gospel. Take a few minutes to recall your first time meeting various brothers and sisters in Christ. Who could have anticipated all the memories in the Lord with them that have stacked up since then!
· V. 3 – Very, very interesting. We know from Galatians and Colossians that Paul was vehemently against Gentile believers being circumcised as part of a whole program to be justified before God. Yet Paul has Timothy circumcised here in order to effectively minister to Jewish people. What a tightrope of ideas a Christian must sometime walk.
· V. 7 – “The Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” I wonder what form this Spiritual blockade took? I like to think that it WASN’T that they didn’t have “inner peace.” I’d like to think that it was something more objective than that.
· V. 9 – God in Heaven, would you lead us to persons or people who need our help?
Read Acts 16:11-15
· VV. 11,12a – Don’t bore us with the travelogue….we want spiritual truths! But in the work of the incarnated Son of God, the travel and the food and the bathroom breaks and all the logistics - it all has to be taken into account. Don’t despise the mundane and small things.
· V. 14 – If we had another daughter (Tonia?), I’d want to call her Lydia. We have only a snapshot of her in these few verses, but what an admirable character she presents. She was already a “worshiper of God” – something akin to “God-fearing” Cornelius – but this wasn’t enough. The Gospel is enough. Do you know people like this, who respect God and want to worship Him but don’t know him through Jesus?
· V. 14 – Sometimes while we pray we’re looking for a phrase describing what we want God to do for our unbelieving friend. How about “open her heart to pay attention to what was said”?
· V. 15 - “She prevailed upon us.” I know what this feels like. I remember when we were in Newton visiting an older couple named Jimmy and Pat, in order to drop off something. At the front door, I said to Pat, I just want to drop this off. And Pat shook her head, a flinty look came into her eyes, she opened the door wider. I really enjoyed my visit. There’s nothing wrong with insisting.
Read Acts 16: 16-25
· V. 17 – She’s saying all the right things. But when the wrong people are saying the right things, the wrongness buries the rightness.
· V. 19 – Despite the superficial yet Important sounding accusations (vv. 20,21), how much of the opposition to Christianity actually has this at its heart. To put that another way: sometimes people choose money rather than Jesus.
· V. 22 – it’s unclear why the crowd took the side of the fortune tellers. It’s also a mystery why something similar happens so many times through the history of God’s people. Why do crowds so often go bad? Wouldn’t you suppose the crowds would usually be neutral? There’s a guy named Rene Girard who has studied this type of stuff, if you want to look into it.
· V. 23 – Following Christ could be painful and dangerous and confining, and still be following Christ.
Read Acts 16: 25-34
· V. 25 – I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to point out that the imprisoned person can be freer than those outside. Right now, are you able and willing to pray and sing hymns to God? If not, how free are you?
· V. 28 – I could see Paul and Silas taking the high ground and staying put (if that is truly the high ground), but how to explain the other prisoners not bolting?
· V. 30 – Interesting question. What makes him ask it? Earlier that night, had Paul and Silas already proclaimed the coming wrath and the possibility of salvation? Or did his question emerge from something less direct? Perhaps the jailer had observed the joy and freedom and faith of these men, and in light of these sensed his own trouble? To be people through whom the Spirit convicts the unbelieving world of judgment!
· What a beautiful night this became. What did repentance look like for this jailer? Notice the mention of food… and recall Lydia…and then remember how often hospitality is presented as a clear sign of regeneration and the presence of God.
Read Acts 16: 35-40
· V. 35, 36 – It appears that Paul and Silas had left the jail to go to the jailer’s house, and then returned. Are Christians masochists, or do they want to appear as martyrs? No. Christians have fled jail if possible (see earlier in Acts!) But this returning to jail was all for the sake of the jailer.
· V. 36ff – The magistrates are themselves under law, and Paul holds them to account. Paul ignores the “lesser magistrate” and appeals to the code of law. What was he trying to achieve with this? Was he attempting to achieve something particularly Christian? These are big questions, and I see them as relevant to our time.
· V. 40 – Another instance of Luke (the author) taking the trouble to record the seemingly banal situation of Christians being encouraged. But being encouraged is not unimportant. What can you do to encourage a brother or sister today?