The Acts of the Apostles
Introduction – As we complete Acts Chapter 9, we come to end of the season of the first persecution of believers with Saul being converted and moving on to Jerusalem from Damascus and then to Tarsus. At this time, we see the Lord beginning a process of maturing Saul that will span 10 years and will re-launch Saul on his first missionary journey with Barnabas.
In this session we will also see Barnabas moving as a prophetic encourager to Saul, and modeling essence of the prophetic ministry to us. Barnabas teaches us how to contend for the destinies of one another, as he contends for Saul and stands in the gap for him by vouching for his conversion and introducing him to the Apostles in Jerusalem.
As we end Chapter 9, we see Peter modeling the highest level of kingdom power and authority that we have seen thus far in the book of Acts. We will receive from Peter tonight keys in declaration, confidence in Jesus, and kingdom authority. My hope for us in this session is to gain a greater appetite for the supernatural and a renewed perspective regarding the gospel of the kingdom.
a) Saul had such a radical conversion but with no history being a disciple, the disciples in Jerusalem did not believe that his conversion was real. The text says Saul tried to join the disciples, but he was held in suspicion by them.
b) The disciples were afraid of Saul because of his tremendously violent history of persecuting the Church in Jerusalem and all around Judea. Saul’s intimate knowledge and connection with the Sanhedrin, and the High Priest, Annas were barriers for Saul’s acceptance. The last fact that the Church in Jerusalem knew concerning Saul was his letter from Annas to persecute believers in Damascus and his approval of Stephen’s martyrdom.
c) Perseverance proves a disciple. James 1:4 – Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – There is a season of consistency in regards to our walk with Jesus that confirms our faith in Jesus Christ to others. Saul was on the front end of this season.
a) Barnabas – Son of Prophecy/Exhortation. (Hebrew root NABIY) – Barnabas was the cousin of John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. He was from Cyprus, which had a large contingency of Jews living there in the First Century. Barnabas came alongside Paul/Saul early in his walk with Christ and advocated for him. Paul and Barnabas also had a sharp disagreement which separated them from fellowship, that was eventually mended. Barnabas related to people through the eyes of destiny and we see him interacting on the behalf of another to bring about God’s highest purpose for that person. Barnabas was a Levite, which adds to the proof that many priests became obedient to the Gospel. See Acts 6:7
b) Barnabas is an example of those who come alongside and disciple, encourage and contend for the destinies of others. Barnabas introduces Saul/Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem and gives Saul a good report. These apostles were most likely, James (Jesus’ Half-Brother), John, and Peter. We all need people like Barnabas who will accept us and walk us with through long seasons of friendship and loving commitment. Barnabas was concerned about Saul/Paul for 10 years before their first missionary journey in 44AD. It was approximately AD 34-35 at this time.
c) Saul/Paul is accepted by the Community and Saul continues his bold presentations of Jesus being Messiah. It is important to note that Saul is not credited with salvations or power ministry at this time. The internal evidence in the text shows us that Saul had an intellectual grasp on the Person of Jesus, but was not moving in the works of love and power that prove the message of the gospel. That will come later in Paul’s ministry as he matures. Right now, he a great apologist for Jesus, but will eventually mature to be an amazing apostle. It is unfortunate that many in the Christian faith today have nothing more than the argumentative intellectual assent to the truth of Jesus Christ, but lack the ability or even the faith to attempt to do His works.
a) Saul approaches the same group that brought heresy charges against Stephen. The Hellenized Jews were the ones who in Acts 6:9 brought Stephen to trial in the Sanhedrin. Saul seeks them out because he knows them and is indebted to Stephen because he presided over his death.
b) These people responded to Saul the same way they responded to Stephen. They plotted to kill him! This same satanic spirit of persecution and the spirit of religion was operating at a shockingly high level in those who rejected Jesus.
c) John 12:37-50 – Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn— and I would heal them.”
d) The disciples send Saul to Tarsus, located in modern day Turkey today. Barnabas and Saul re-unite when Barnabas goes to look for Saul in Tarsus some 10 years later. See Acts 11:25. Saul was born in Tarsus, but raised in Jerusalem. Saul probably had family in Tarsus and many scholars believe that there was a small contingent of Christians there who would accepted Saul. This transition begins a silent period in Saul’s life, but he alludes to this time period of his life in Galatians Chapter 1. We do know that during this time Saul was is a season of encountering the Lord, receiving the revelation of the essential Christian doctrine and maturing in Jesus.
a) The initial persecution that began with the martyrdom of Stephen had subsided and now the Church in that region began to experience a time of rest. The Church had overcome by their testimony and the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 12:11 – “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” The Church overcame the vicious satanic attack from the spirit of persecution and the spirit of religion by not wavering in the persecution. There would be more persecutions to come in the future as we study Acts, but for now they experience a season of rest and triumph over the enemy.
b) We see specific ministries of the Holy Spirit in regards to the Church collective. The Holy Spirit strengthened the Church by bringing the revelation of Jesus, the truth of Jesus and the distribution of gifts and power encounters to the Church. The Greek word for “strengthened/built up” is OIKODOMEŌ and means to build up a structure from a foundation, i.e. build a structure, a metaphor for being built into a spiritual house. 1 Peter 2:5 tells us we are “living stones, being built into a spiritual house/temple”.
c) The Holy Spirit comforted the Church. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Helper in John 14. The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to help us, counsel us, to show us truth, and remind us of the things Jesus said. See John 14 and 16. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be with us and in us.
d) An evidence that the Holy Spirit is active in a Community of believers is as follows: church growth and the reverence of God (fear of the Lord/worship). The fear of the Lord is an indicator of spiritual health and spiritual power.
a) Peter travels to Lydda. This city is located near modern day Tel Aviv, Israel. Peter is continuing to minister to the Jews and is becoming the Apostle to the Jews, while Saul/Paul is becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles. See Galatians 2:7-8. Peter travels there to strengthen the Church in Lydda.
b) This is an amazing miracle. Aeneas means “laudable/praiseworthy”. Aeneas has been paralyzed for 8 years. 8 in Scripture is number for new beginnings, and sign of the Covenant. In the eighth year of his condition Aeneas gets a new beginning from the Lord Jesus.
c) Let’s look at the following movements in Aeneas’ healing. Peter declares in the authority of Jesus and does not pray or petition the Lord for the healing. Peter declares from a place of confidence and from the center of the will of the Lord. Peter was fully convinced Jesus wanted to heal Aeneas. Peter gives Aeneas a directive and a faith agreement opportunity to respond to the healing Jesus desires to give Aeneas by telling him to “get up and take care of your mat”.
d) Aeneas agrees in faith by proving it with acting on Peter’s declaration and is healed.
e) Healings, signs and wonders are for the express purpose of turning people to Jesus Christ. Power ministry proves our message and proves the love of God for people.
a) Tabitha/Dorcas/Gazelle models the ministry of mercy and helps (1 Corinthians 12:28) and her death grieves the Community in Joppa. Joppa is a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa was considered the “port of Jerusalem” and was an important center of commerce in that region.
b) The Church has the faith that Tabitha can be raised from the dead and asks Peter to come. The healing miracle of Aeneas had encouraged this Community to believe for this resurrection. Building on the power of testimony, brings greater testimonies because faith is being increased. See Hebrews 11:33-35.
c) Notice the Jewish burial customs in regards to Tabitha’s body.
a) It is apparent that Tabitha was loved by the Community at Joppa because of their grief over her death. Death is an injustice and a judgment originating from our Fall in Eden. Satan the original murderer, murdered the whole of humanity when Adam and Eve agreed with his lies. John 8:44 – “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades and this resurrection miracle is about to prove that true.
a) Notice the parallels between Peter’s actions in this encounter and Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5:40-42. Peter follows the example of the Lord in this dead raising encounter.
b) Peter declares life to Tabitha’s dead body. Peter does not pray but moves in Kingdom authority by declaring “on earth as it is in heaven”. Peter demonstrates to us trust in Jesus’ words, kingdom authority, and the power of the gospel in this encounter. Peter heard Jesus say (Matthew 10:8) “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give”.
c) What we are beginning to see as we travel through the book of Acts, is a clear of what the gospel of the kingdom looks like in fullness. Again we see signs and wonders bearing fruit for the Kingdom, as many in Joppa believe in Jesus through this amazing display of spiritual power and the love God in raising Tabitha from the dead.