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Are you Filtering God Out? (Hearing God’s Voice 2)

May 15, 2020

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Bible Gemz 1507 - Looking back at Chapter Eight in Panorama (Acts 8:1-40)

February 7, 2019

Act 5:1  But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 

Act 5:2  and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. 

Act 5:3  But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 

Act 5:4  "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 

Act 5:5  And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 

Act 5:6  The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. 

Act 5:7  Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 

Act 5:8  And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price." 

Act 5:9  Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well." 

Act 5:10  And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 

Act 5:11  And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. 

Act 5:12  At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. 

Act 5:13  But none of the rest dared to associate 2;;with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 

Act 5:14  And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 

Act 5:15  to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 

Act 5:16  Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. 

Act 5:17  But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 

Act 5:18  They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 

Act 5:19  But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 

Act 5:20  "Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." 

Act 5:21  Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. 

Act 5:22  But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, 

Act 5:23  saying, "We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside." 

Act 5:24  Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 

Act 5:25  But someone came and reported to them, "The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" 

Act 5:26  Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). 

Act 5:27  When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 

Act 5:28  saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." 

Act 5:29  But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. 

Act 5:30  "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 

Act 5:31  "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 

Act 5:32  "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." 

Act 5:33  But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 

Act 5:34  But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 

Act 5:35  And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 

Act 5:36  "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 

Act 5:37  "After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 

Act 5:38  "So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 

Act 5:39  but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God." 

Act 5:40  They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 

Act 5:41  So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 

Act 5:42  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. 

 

 

Act 6:1  Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 

Act 6:2  So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 

Act 6:3  "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 

Act 6:4  "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 

Act 6:5  The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 

Act 6:6  And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. 

Act 6:7  The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. 

Act 6:8  And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 

Act 6:9  But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 

Act 6:10  But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 

Act 6:11  Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." 

Act 6:12  And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. 

Act 6:13  They put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; 

Act 6:14  for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us." 

Act 6:15  And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel. 

 

 

Act 7:1  The high priest said, "Are these things so?" 

Act 7:2  And he said, "Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 

Act 7:3  and said to him, 'LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.' 

Act 7:4  "Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. 

Act 7:5  "But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM. 

Act 7:6  "But God spoke to this effect, that his DESCENDANTS WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. 

Act 7:7  " 'AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY WILL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,' said God, 'AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.’ . . .  

 

. . . Stephen’s Speech and Martyrdom (Acts 7:2-53)  . . . ( I am sure you are grateful that I have not given you the whole speech here) 

 

Act 7:54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. 

 

 

Act 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand. 

Act 7:56 And he told them, "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!" 

 

 

Act 7:57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 

Act 7:58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. 

 

 

Act 7:59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 

Act 7:60 He fell to his knees, shouting, "Lord, don't charge them with this sin!" And with that, he died.

 

Our First Introduction to Saul of Tarsus and beginnings of Persecution . . . (Acts 7:58, 8:1-4) [5 verses]

Act 8:1 Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. 

Act 7:58 His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. 

 

Act 8:1 A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. 8:1

Act 8:2 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) 

Act 8:3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. 

Act 8:4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. 

 

Phillip in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8) [4 verses]

Act 8:5 Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. 

Act 8:6 Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. 

Act 8:7 Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. 

Act 8:8 So there was great joy in that city. 

 

Simon’s Example (Acts 8:9-24) [16 verses]

Act 8:9 A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. 

Act 8:10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as "the Great One—the Power of God." 

Act 8:11 They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic. 

Act 8:12 But now the people believed Philip's message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. 

Act 8:13 Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed. 

Act 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God's message, they sent Peter and John there. 

Act 8:15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 

Act 8:16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 

Act 8:17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. 

Act 8:18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 

Act 8:19 "Let me have this power, too," he exclaimed, "so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!" 

Act 8:20 But Peter replied, "May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God's gift can be bought! 

Act 8:21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 

Act 8:22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive your evil thoughts, 

Act 8:23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin." 

Act 8:24 "Pray to the Lord for me," Simon exclaimed, "that these terrible things you've said won't happen to me!” 

 

Phillip in Gaza with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:25-40) [16 verses]

Act 8:25 After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News. 

Act 8:26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, "Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza." 

Act 8:27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 

Act 8:28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. 

Act 8:29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and walk along beside the carriage." 

Act 8:30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 

Act 8:31 The man replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. 

Act 8:32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. 

Act 8:33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth." 

Act 8:34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?" 

Act 8:35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. 

Act 8:36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "Look! There's some water! Why can't I be baptized?" 

Act 8:37 ["You can," Philip answered, "if you believe with all your heart." And the eunuch replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."] 

Act 8:38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 

Act 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 

Act 8:40 Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.

 

. . . Picking up on Saul Again . . . (Acts 9:1 ff) [31 verses]

 

Act 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. 

Act 9:2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women —

 

back to Jerusalem in chains . . . 

 

Two of you have wondered why I have gone back to referring to the Ethiopian as the eunuch rather than the Treasurer. As I inferred it is for a purpose. Ah but what purpose? What is the thrust of this text before us. What is important and what is not so important. My Greek professor would tell us it is all important. A person like Paul or Luke doesn’tuse words for no purpose. So why did Luke describe the Ethiopian as a treasurer of the court of royalty and in the same breath a eunuch? Now that is a good question. Luke, who is methodical, detailed, ordered and writing with a purpose, doesn’t use throw-away-words. Could it be that both words or descriptions are important? Ponder that one!

 

Now lets return to the text before us, but in this case the big picture and not the word-for-word-details. Two of you in weeks passed asked higher level questions about Chapter Eight. Both indicated they were seemingly lost with what has been served up by Luke in Chapter Eight. Kev, if I remember rightly, described it as a bit of a fruit salad. In other words Luke just seems to throw everything together without rhyme or reason. Have we got a series of unconnected thoughts or pericope here or is there something behind it all which links it together? That is the question we are faced with. I can’t believe that Luke has just simply throw together some unrelated things into this chapter without purpose. That is not the Luke I have come to know. The Luke I know, not in person but through his writings. That is also the question which the Deeper Biblers faced last night as they looked at some tricky portions of Scripture in an attempt to find the sense units. Frankly sometimes our learning gets in the way of our understanding. Sometimes we can get too intellectual for our own good. Prof Brown always told us "to let the text do the talking". Find out what the text itself is saying before you go consulting other sources. Just spend time with the text in reading it over and over. How many times do we have to read it Prof? He would always say, “To understand any book from the Bible you have to read it in one sitting, at least seven times.” As far as I recall, He never made that statement without smiling. Why. He was not saying, read it seven times and then stop. As if seven was a magical number of times, after which came enlightenment. What he was doing was using the symbolism of seven in Scripture which represents perfection to say keep reading it until you get it – until your understanding is perfected. That’s the issue. Don’t go off reading other books seeking the answers to what Luke or Paul or John wrote. Simply keep reading what they wrote until the light dawns on you.   

 

In Gemz 1334 I wrote the following: 

 

There is yet another pattern in this book to note as we move through the details before us. Take note of the following verses:

 

Act 6:7 So God's message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Act 9:31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. 

Act 12:24 Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. 

Act 16:5So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.

Act 19:20So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.

 

Do you notice something about these verses? We will look at the significance of this in the next Gemz, after you have had some time to ponder it. Whatever else you do, keep these things in mind as we progress through the rest of the Acts. The above features will help us to get a handle on Luke’s second book and enable us to work out what his purpose was. After all that is the paramount task in hand. Why was the Book of Acts written as it was and what is its message to us?

 

Keep tuned into this station and keep your thinking caps on.

 

 

In Gemz 1335 I wrote:

 

There is yet another pattern in this book to note as we move through the details before us. Take note of the following verses:

 

Act 6:7  So God's message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. 

Act 9:31  The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers

Act 12:24  Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers

Act 16:5  So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day

Act 19:20  So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect. 

 

You will see I have highlighted the repetitive refrain in these verses. There is a pattern to these verses. And it appears that these summary verses are used to close sections in the book of Acts, much like repetitive refrains are used to delineate large sections in the Book of Psalms. If we assume that is going on then we end up with six sections in Acts each determining a particular region or cultural group in focus. 

 

Jews in Jerusalem (1:1 – 6:7)

Hellenists and Samaritans (the despised) (6:8 – 9:31)

Gentiles in Antioch  (9:32 – 12:24)

Asia Minor (12:25 – 16:5)

Europe 16:6 – 19:20)

Rome (19:21 – 28:31)

Where each of the verses quoted above closes the section outlined. 

 

 

So 6:8 and 9:31 mark for us a long segment in Luke’s writing between his two uses of this formula above. Notice that we have a very short bridging chapter in Chapter Six (discussed already) which also introduces seven new players. After which Luke gives us the following:

  • The opposition of the Synagogue of Freedmen who make accusations against Stephen

  • Stephen’s speech which counters those accusations

  • Stephen’s martyrdom

  • Paul is introduced as the main antagonist to Christianity

  • Philip’s ministry in Samaria

  • The focus on Simon and his motivation

  • Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian

  • Then back to Saul / Paul again

What is it that holds all this together? Clearly this pattern in the Book of Acts Is important, relating to how the Church or the number of believers is increasing. So too is the geographic location of the action or the spread according to the pattern of Acts 1:8. Luke is helping us to see the factors which were involved. But there is also another factor involved which links the Acts 8 portion together with its surroundings and which adds another dimension. It is that factor which makes Luke’s description of the Ethiopian as both a Court Treasurer and a eunuch important. 

 

Time for me to leave you for a day or so.

 

 

The greatest loss isn't dying, rather its what dies inside you while you're still alive! Rick Godwin

 

Don't let your BUDGET determine your VISION. when God gives a VISION, He makes PROVISION.

 

If you study God’s teachings, you will be reminded that God’s reality is the ultimate reality. A R Bernard

 

Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.

 

“I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned.“ (Dan 4:3) This is where understanding comes from. Looking there is where it starts. John Piper

 

 

 

 

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