This series of posts pertains to the life of the Apostle Paul and the way Jesus Christ lived in him. Since God has no favorites, his life in Christ is a pattern for Christ's life in you.
Paul completes his second missionary journey (Day 12)
We now proceed back to Paul’s travel on his second missionary journey:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women… The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men... Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there… And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? …So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
Acts 17:1-4, 10-12, 16-17, 19, 22-25 ESV
“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks… Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them… After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus. When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.”
Acts 18:1-4, 8-11, 18-22 ESV
“...they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…”
It was Paul’s custom when he came to a new city to speak openly in the synagogue. Both Jews and Greeks, men and women would come to hear him there. Many were persuaded that Jesus is the Christ there, including “not a few of the leading women.” Paul built the church at Thessalonica, to whom he would soon write two letters which became part of the Bible. His method of outreach was reason and persuasion, as he would later write,
'For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, '
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
As a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3), Paul waged war for hearts and minds.
“...Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men…”
At Berea, those who became believers were seen as more noble because of their eagerness to receive the word of God and to examine the Scriptures. They were people of peace (Luke 10:6). Paul would later encourage the church in Thessalonica to be more like the believers he found in Berea:
'Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. '
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
Paul encouraged all believers to examine the Scriptures and to consider what was true. When one is made alive in Christ through faith, the Spirit of God shows truth to them, according to Jesus’ promise (John 16:13, 1 John 2:27). The believers included many women as well, who were clearly valued by the church as children of God. In Christ, they are co-heirs of Christ just as men are; there is no difference in God’s eyes.
“...Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue…”
The Spirit of God inside of Paul gave him dissatisfaction in Athens: things were not right there. The people there worshiped idols when they could know the true God and the way to Him through Christ Jesus.
“...he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
Paul sought to right this wrong through speaking about the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). It is clear in this account how Paul’s soul had been affected by His life in Christ: Paul thought the way God thinks (mind), felt the way He feels (emotions), and was determined to pursue these people out of love (will). So he spoke to them of God, who is life itself. The Spirit of God gives life (zoe) in every way.
“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth…”
At Corinth, Paul met a married couple named Aquila and Priscilla who would become co-laborers with him for the gospel. He also shared the same trade with them—Paul supported himself as a tent maker. The man responsible for evangelizing much of the Gentile world and writing much of the Bible, worked for a living too. Busy as he kept himself at all times, his rest was found in Christ and he stayed free of distraction. The life of Christ in us makes it possible to be very busy and yet undistracted, for distraction is a device of the devil.
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath..”
While Paul worked at Corinth, he reasoned in the synagogue at least every Sabbath, working to build the church there. He appealed to hearts and minds, trying to convince them to yield their will to Jesus as the Christ. As a result, many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized. Encouraged by Jesus in a vision one night, Paul stayed a year and a half to disciple those in the Corinthian church during this visit.
“After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila...”
From Corinth (which is still called Corinth in Greece), Paul decided to head back by ship to his sending church in Antioch, Syria. He took with him Priscilla and Aquila, stopping at Ephesus, which was located across the Aegean Sea around what is now Kusadasi, Turkey. He stayed long enough to reason in the synagogue there before leaving for Syria, while Priscilla and Aquila stayed to build up the church at Ephesus. Paul clearly operated on directions from the Spirit of God regarding where he was supposed to go next, taking it one day at a time.
Prayer: Lord, I am fully Yours, spirit, soul and body. I desire to be part of Your work to bring life through changing hearts and minds to know You and love You. Thank You for allowing me to give as You give. Thank You also for the fellowship of my brothers and sisters in the church, Your own beloved family. Spirit of God, keep me free from distraction.
Paul exhorted the church to live by the Spirit (Day 11)
Here are some excerpts from the latter part of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love… For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” …But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Galatians 5:1, 6, 13-14, 16-26 ESV
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Galatians 6:7-8 ESV
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…”
By our profession of faith in Jesus Christ, God makes us new creations in our spirits, now eternally alive (Romans 10:8-10, John 3:6, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Connected to God (1 Corinthians 6:17), we have the righteousness of Jesus Christ and we are set free from sin and all of its effects, if we know the fullness of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ and expect that it applies to us (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8:1-2).
In our freedom, we must stand firm in faith, knowing the truth of Christ’s finished work for us. Each of us are spirit, soul and body. Cooperating with the work of the Spirit of God, we must choose to put off the old self (Ephesians 4:22-23), including all remnants of carnality (wherein we allow our own desires to drive us) and soulishness (wherein we choose our own way apart from God’s way or allow our intellect or emotions to drive us). When we allow ourselves to be driven in these ways, we submit again to slavery and death, resisting the leadership of the Spirit of God. Paul names the fruits of such choices wherein our impure thoughts lead to words and other actions, including: sexual immortality, idolatry, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, divisions, envy, and drunkenness.
“...Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption…”
If these sins are the fruits of our lives, we are not rooted in Christ by faith. We have not been made alive by identification with Christ. Instead, we sow death and bondage, and that is what we reap.
As Jesus taught, a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45). He also compared believers to branches connected to Himself, the true vine (John 15:1-11). Jesus said His Father is the vinedresser; every branch in Christ that does not bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. If anyone does not abide in Christ he is thrown away like a branch and withers.
“...But I say, walk by the Spirit…”
If we choose to belong to Jesus Christ by faith, we stand firm as new creations, cooperating with the Spirit of God to allow His resurrection life to flow into us and to flow through us to others. This is abiding in Christ. The Spirit of God lives in us,
thinking in us,
changing our thought patterns,
changing our habits,
changing what we care about,
changing our desires and emotions,
talking through us,
walking in us,
doing good through us,
Our contribution is to continue in steadfast faith, to cooperate with the work of the Spirit of God as a lifestyle. By faith, we come to think in a new way, with renewed minds. By faith, we see God as He is, One who seeks to do good and make things right, driven by His generous, merciful love for all men and women. By faith, we see what the redemption of Jesus Christ has made possible for ourselves and for others. By faith, we understand that which brings freedom and life, and we continually choose it, always turning away from sin, which leads only to bondage and death, first as a toehold, then a foothold, then a stronghold. By faith, we are empowered in Christ by His own righteousness that dwells in our spirits. His righteousness is victorious in every situation. Choosing to be led by the Spirit, we put on Christ.
“...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
The fruit of putting on Christ is to exhibit the attributes of God’s nature, as perfectly shown in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is His love (agape), the love of God, having good will toward all.
It is His joy, the joy of the Holy Spirit stemming from our spirit, which emanates from a Spirit-led life. It does not depend upon circumstances.
It is His peace (shalom), a peace that passes understanding, also not dependent on circumstance. Shalom also suggests wholeness, as only the consciousness of being united to God can make one whole.
It is His patience and longsuffering, a love that is not easily angered. It waits, hopes, forgives.
It is His loving kindness. Jesus showed He is a friend of sinners. Sinners knew His love for them.
It is His goodness. We will to do good to all people just as Jesus’ set about to do good and to bring freedom (Acts 10:34).
It is His faith and His faithfulness (pistis). We make take on Christ’s faith (Galatians 2:20). Our love is steadfast like that of the covenant-keeping, merciful Creator.
It is His gentleness. God showed the beautiful tenderness of His love in the person of Jesus.
It is self-control or temperance. It is careful to do right rather than giving in to any carnal passion, desiring to please God and to choose life and freedom over death and bondage. It loves the Giver exceedingly more than any of His good gifts.
Having put on Christ, we are able to sow good and reap the good works that God has prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). In Christ, this makes us a channel of God’s blessing to those we encounter in the world, which will result in praise, thanksgiving and glory given to God (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Prayer: Father, I thank You for freedom through Jesus Christ! Holy Spirit, I honor You. Thank You for living in me, bringing me peace and joy, conforming me to the beautiful image of Christ. I submit myself to Your lead, desiring Your fullness for myself and for others.
- Based on today’s passages
Crucified with Christ (Day 10)
It is thought that Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian churches (in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch at Pisidia) after his time in Philippi, as early as c. 47-48 AD.
Here are some selected passages from this first letter of his to the churches:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20 KJV
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Galatians 3:25-29 ESV
“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Galatians 4:1-7 ESV
“I have been crucified with Christ…”
In faith, God spoke words that created the world and everyone who has lived in it. When God speaks, He creates, He gives Life, and His words come to pass (Romans 4:17). By faith, you spoke to identify yourself with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10). By faith, you believed that God made you a new creation (born again of His Spirit) at this confession, eternally His by way of a sacrificial act that Jesus accomplished 2000 years ago.
The great evangelist Charles Spurgeon encouraged Jesus’ followers to “be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.” Jesus was ever teaching His disciples to stir up their faith in God. Being born again was just the beginning; it was just a foundation to build upon.
As His disciples, our faith in God is everything. Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). The entire Bible is about lessons in faith, showing how God responds to faithfulness or faithlessness. Faith is the channel to the abundant goodness of God; so seek to open it wide! Faith activates God’s Spirit within us.
The Apostle Paul said that when by faith He was crucified with Christ, the Spirit of Christ came to live in him and through him. He had died, and so he lived by the faith of the Son of God. Connected to God in Christ, Paul was able to draw upon Christ’s own faith. This brought heaven to his soul and to the non-Jewish world.
Insofar as we hold onto our own lives, we cannot be conformed into the beautiful image of Christ, led by God’s Spirit. If you have been born again of the Spirit, Jesus Christ is in your spirit, waiting to be let out. It is God’s will to conform you to the image of the Son of God as sons and daughters of His (Romans 8:29).
According to Jesus, having steadfast faith in God moves great obstacles (He called them mountains) and causes our prayers to be answered (Mark 11:22-24). This is the faith Christ has; He is in us and we are in Him. In living by the faith of the Son of God, we come to will what God wills, seeking to make things right—the way He wants to make them right (Matthew 6:10). We seek to turn every situation into glory to God. This is the way Paul lived.
“in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…”
In living by the faith of the Son of God, we take up our identity as sons and daughters of God (kings) and loving servants of mankind (priests). We abandon our passions, dreams, and stories to pursue God’s passions, dreams, and story. This is what it means to follow Christ. This is the adventure that we seek and the only way we can find satisfaction. We pursue the life of God, the liberty of God, and to make Him happy, knowing it’s not about us at all.
The term sons was used in Scripture, because, at that time, the sons were the heirs. At the time of this writing, the radical thing about the description of the family of God, as presented here, is that all were considered as equals in Christ – Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free. In Christ, we have not only all the blessings of the Old Testament promised to the Jewish people, but we also have the promises of God in the New Testament, according to His Word, which cannot be broken.
“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything…”
Slave is the Greek word doulos, also translated as bond servant. Paul used this term many times in his letters. It suggests that he willingly became a servant of all of mankind on behalf of Jesus, just as Jesus did and taught his disciples to do during His ministry. In salvation, we are crucified with Christ. In choosing to make Jesus Lord, we choose to put off our old selves, which were dead and enslaved to sin, to become servants of mankind and heirs. Made eternally alive in Christ, we enter an intimate covenant relationship with God the Father, as Jesus did when He was a man by means of the Spirit of God in Him. In this intimate covenant relationship, it is even appropriate for us to affectionately call Him “Abba” or Daddy. He is a good, good Father, loving us and expecting love to be at our center, and so, living in Christ, we can be comfortable with this type of familiarity.
In Christ, everything changes, starting with our thoughts. Our willingness opens the door from the spirit to the soul; this door is our heart. Once we were enslaved to the elementary principles of this world, thinking like men and women who were carnal, living lives to please ourselves; and soulish, thinking about how to take advantage for ourselves and our families. We did not intrinsically have value, so we thought we needed to create value by some means. In Christ, the Son of God, we have the value of children of God—sons and daughters— made in God’s image and likeness, designed to be conformed to Christ, the perfect image of God (Romans 8:29). In Christ, we have the Spirit of God that has made our spirits new creations, willing to cooperate with us to make us fully new. We can choose to be transformed into the image of Christ, as Paul did. When we choose to put on Christ, as Paul taught (Ephesians 4:22-23), we begin to think in new ways. We choose to think differently about our identity, believing what the word of God says about us. We choose to think differently about who God is, believing what the word of God says about Him. We choose to think differently about what God wants us to do with our days, believing what the word of God says about our purpose and mission. We choose to think differently about the people we encounter on a daily basis, believing what the word of God says about the way God sees them. God sees what redemption has made possible for each one. Christ in you changes everything, as He did in Paul.
If that weren’t good enough, we are made heirs “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). The Spirit we have been given— Christ in us— and all that He can unfold through His Spirit in this life, with our cooperation by faith, is simply a foretaste of the goodness of God we can expect to experience later.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for your provision for me in Christ Jesus to make me fully new, righteous before You and united with You. I am complete in Jesus. Life in Christ has brought me peace and joy. By Your Spirit, I put off what is left of my old self, and I live by the faith of the Son of God. Abba, thank You for pursuing me in Your great love and making me both a servant of mankind and an heir.
- Based on Romans 14:17, Galatians 2:20, 3:26-27 (today’s passages)
God frees Paul and Silas from prison in Phillipi (Day 9)
'Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek... And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days... As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. '
In this passage, it is explained how Paul met Timothy in Galatia, which is in modern day Turkey. In order not to hinder their message in these times, Paul saw to it that Timothy was circumcised, for he was half Greek. One may wonder whether he gave a similar argument to Timothy about this matter compared to what he later said to the Corinthian church:
'For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. '
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
In this case, Timothy took one for the team, so to speak.
“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.”
The Holy Spirit communicated with the evangelists, forbidding them to speak the word of God in Asia (or western Turkey in the modern day), as that was not God’s plan for them at this specific time. It’s not clear how God spoke to the believers here, but we know from Jesus’ teaching that as sheep (those in the church), we should hear God’s voice (John 10:29). It could have been intuition from the Spirit of God to their spirit, or it could have been a vision, a dream, or a thought that they knew was from God. As Paul communicated to the Corinthian church, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
When they traveled up toward the region of Bithynia near the Marmara sea (where modern day Istanbul is located), the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go in, so they headed West. Perhaps this was through a vision, or perhaps this is just another name used for the Holy Spirit, Christ in us, which connects us through our spirit to God. So they made their way westward toward Troas, which borders the Aegean Sea. It was there that God gave them a vision of a man of Macedonia asking for help. Obedient to God, they sailed in Macedonia in modern-day Greece.
Of note from Paul’s many writings, most often (or perhaps exclusively) when he speaks of doing things if God wills it, he’s talking about whether he will visit certain believers and churches in person in the future. This is likely because as an evangelist cooperating with God on mission, he was quite literally directed by the Spirit of God regarding where he would go. Regarding many things that pertain to living as a Christ follower, Paul knew what God’s good will was, so he just did it with confidence, boldness, and determination. If God has already given us instructions about what to do as believers, such as obeying the great commission where we are now or doing other things that Jesus commanded His followers to do, He just wants us to be doers of His word (James 1:22). God’s will is good! Jesus came to do good (Acts 10:38). Is there anything good you wanted to do, where you had wondered if it was God’s will, that you should just do?
‘Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.’
While God can give words of wisdom to His people that show His future purpose, there are evil spirits that tell the future to some as well. (King Saul consulted such a medium in 1 Samuel 28, for example.) Paul ran into such a person during his ministry, and he had the gift of discernment to know that a spirit was behind her behavior, causing interference in his ministry of the gospel. Using the instruction (Mark 11:22-25) and repeated example of Jesus to His disciples, Paul used the faith of the Son of God that was in him (Galatians 2:20, KJV) to command the spirit to come out of her, and it did. We should also notice that Paul and Jesus did not make a big deal about evil, because Jesus had it defeated. Note also that Paul didn’t seek to find out whether it was God’s will to free this woman; he knew it was God’s will to bring freedom to her (Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, 2 Corinthians 3:17).
“The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
As a result of their ministry of the gospel, Paul and Silas suffered persecution, including severe beating and imprisonment. God’s words to Ananias continued to be fulfilled (Day 2). This was part of the cost of following Jesus for these faithful believers.
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
In the face of adversity, Paul and Silas rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus, just as the apostles did in Jerusalem (Acts 5:41). They stirred up the Spirit of God within them, igniting the Spirit by their faith by boldly singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19) in the presence of the other prisoners. The move of the Spirit in response to the faith and boldness of these believers was enough to cause an earthquake, similar to the earlier event recorded in Acts 4:31. This was a powerful testimony, to say the least. God would not allow His work to be hindered, and so the prison doors were opened and everyone’s bonds were unfastened, nearly just as it happened for the Apostle Peter (see Acts 12:6-10). The power of God quite literally set them free. The Spirit of God is about bringing freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Further, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that those who are persecuted and reviled for Jesus and for righteousness’ sake are blessed. When this happens, we should rejoice and be glad, as Paul and Silas were, because our reward for this is great in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12). The response of those joined to the kingdom of God (and the Spirit of God) is upside down; it is completely counter cultural.
‘Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.'
The faith of Paul and Timothy stirred the Holy Spirit to act, and the power of God brought the jailer to a point of crisis in his life. Everything changed for him because that’s what Jesus does when we see Him as He is: Jesus changes everything! So this man and his whole household submitted to Christ as Lord, demonstrating their profession of faith through immediate baptism. For Paul and Silas, this was the power of the Lord working with them, confirming their message by accompanying signs (Mark 16:20). This is God’s way of advancing His kingdom.
Prayer: Spirit of God, I praise You for setting me free. I submit myself to You for Your work, Lord, willing to become as others are in order to win them over to Your love. I will listen for Your leading, Spirit of God, and, meanwhile, I will do Your word. Thank You for giving me Your faith, Jesus, as I abide in You. God, you and Your Word are always victorious. I will rejoice and praise You in all circumstances, especially in any persecution that comes my way for following You. Be glorified. I seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness.
June 15th (Day 8)
Paul reports on his first missionary journey then leaves for his second
“But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them… And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles... Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas… They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, …men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
Acts 15:1-4, 12, 22, 26, 35-41 ESV
At the time of Paul’s ministry, God was doing a completely new thing in His new covenant. It’s not surprising that the Jews tried to hold onto the traditions of the old covenant. The church still gets very focused on its own traditions, and some are still quite focused on God’s ways under the old covenant. In His ministry, Jesus spoke out quite harshly against such legalistic focus on the traditions of men: “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:9)
It was this very issue that brought Paul and Barnabus down to Jerusalem. On their way, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling the churches there about their missionary journey where many Gentiles came to faith in Jesus. When they arrived to meet the church in Jerusalem, they continued to tell of all God had done with them. While the church debated about tradition, they could not help from speaking about what God had done. Their testimonies included the signs and wonders God had done among them (see Days 5, 6 and 7), as they were impressed about the ways in which God had confirmed their message (Mark 16:20).
Following their testimonies, the church at Jerusalem thought it appropriate to send two mission-minded leaders, Barsabbas and Silas, along with them for their upcoming journeys. They had already risked their lives for the sake of the gospel, so they were seen as mature in the faith and well suited to join Paul and Barnabus. After spending some more time in Antioch, Syria, their sending church, Paul and Barnabus decided to head back to the cities where they had started churches.
Paul thought Mark should not travel with them this time because he had abandoned them early in their first missionary journey, leaving them at Perga to head to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Barnabus disagreed and took Mark with him by boat on his own missionary journey, while Paul left with Silas toward Cilicia to strengthen the churches he had started with Barnabus.
Prayer: Thank You for Your work in the church, Lord. I praise You for the way You choose to work with us, confirming our preaching and teaching about Your kingdom and Your ways by the work of Your Holy Spirit. I choose to set my mind on things that are above and on the people that You love, rather than on traditions of men.
- Based on Mark 16:20, Colossians 3:1-3
Paul's words on following Christ from Romans (Selah)
The Apostle Paul wrote the following about the human problem:
“…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, …”
Romans 3:10, 23 ESV
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23 ESV
Righteousness is right standing with God. Since all have broken God’s law, none is righteous and all are deserving of condemnation and death. Yet, God made a way for us to abundant life (zoe) with Him through belief in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Paul also wrote the following about humanity’s hope in Christ:
“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 ESV
God’s provision was motivated by His great love for us. He loved us enough to restore us to Himself through the sacrifice and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote the following about what the response of each sinner should be:
“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” …So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Romans 10:9-10, 13, 17 ESV
If you have faith in God to believe that the promise of God in Jesus Christ is for you—that you can be identified with the death and resurrection of Jesus to be born of the Spirit of God—and you are willing to commit to make Him the Lord over your life in an enduring, covenant relationship, you can confess a prayer like the following one (out loud):
Heavenly Father, I come to You admitting that I am a sinner. Right now, I choose to turn away from sin, and I ask You to cleanse me of all unrighteousness. I believe that Your Son, Jesus, died on the cross to take away my sins. I also believe that He rose again from the dead so that I would be forgiven of my sins and made righteous through faith in Him. I call upon the name of Jesus Christ to be the Savior and Lord of my life. Jesus, I choose to follow You and ask that You fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit. I declare that right now I am a child of God. I am free from sin and full of the righteousness of God. I am saved in Jesus' name. Amen. (Prayer by HC)
This confession leads to the full salvation of God including eternal life. Your spirit is changed from dead to alive, and you are joined to God.
Paul wrote the following about the results of God’s full salvation:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:1-2 ESV
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:6,11 ESV
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death… But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Romans 8:1-2, 10-11, 28-29, 37 ESV
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”
Romans 7:4 ESV
Because of salvation, an act of God’s grace in response to your confession in faith, you are now no longer under condemnation. Instead, you have been crucified with Christ, set free from sin and all of its effects, including death. You are righteous to God as Christ is righteous, free from sin.
Hidden in Christ, you are connected to God as Jesus is connected to Him, and so You now have access to approach God.
Not only is Your spirit made alive, connected to the Holy Spirit, but you can also let that resurrection life (zoe) of the Spirit of God flow into your mind and into Your body, setting you free from any effect of sin and death. You can know and experience the abundant life in Jesus Christ as the Apostle Paul did.
When you choose to die to yourself and your old life and put on Christ, choosing to cooperate with God’s Spirit to renew your mind by trusting in God’s word as truth, you will be filled with peace and hope.
As you learn to steadfastly love God and do His will, He will work all things together for your good. This does not mean life will be easy; but it will be good. God is in you, with you, and for you. Believe the best about Him.
As you cooperate with God’s work in your life, God will conform you into the image of His Son, causing you to overflow out of the life God has filled you with. This Christlikeness and fruitfulness brings glory to God. It will also bring you joy.
In Christ, you will become victorious—more than a conqueror. You will become motivated to do what brings God glory and learn to work with God and to persist until God is glorified. God is not defeated by evil; Christ has conquered it.
There is a cost to this new life in Christ, a cost to following Him. The old you is dead, and you will never be the same. It is time to stop pursuing what brings death, instead embracing the new, which leads to life and blessing.
Prayer: God, thank You for new life in Christ as a gift from you. Thank You for Your mercy and Your love. I give all of myself for all of You, desiring to know You and Your goodness in fullness. I let go of my old life and habits that brought death and defeat, seeking to become more like You day by day and to bring Your glory by doing all of Your will.
Paul's resurrection and determination (Day 7)
' But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.'
The violent crowd from the places Paul was building the church followed Paul to Lystra, and they persuaded the crowds that Paul was an enemy deserving death.
God had said about Paul at the time of his conversion (see Day 2), “...he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
At Lystra, this prophecy began to come to pass. Even as Stephen was dragged from Jerusalem and stoned for being a follower of Jesus, Paul helping to lead the charge, the same was done to him at Lystra by his enemies.
There should be little doubt that Paul died a brutal death when he was stoned by the angry mob brought together by the enemy of Jesus Christ, the accuser of men. But when Barnabus and the other disciples gathered around Paul, the Spirit of Life and the faith of the Son of God within them, Paul was resurrected by this Spirit, of which he later wrote,
'But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. '
The same Spirit that raised up Jesus also raised Paul and healed him completely. God wasn’t nearly done with Paul yet.
Paul didn’t flee this time in the face of persecution, fearing suffering or death. Determined to finish His mission, led by the Spirit of God, he went right back into Lystra that night. Then he preached the gospel in the local area of Galatia, and he returned to all the places his murderers had come from, building up the church there! (Galatia included Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.) Following the command of Christ (Matthew 5:43-48), he loved and blessed his enemies in practice. The Spirit of God was making him perfect in sanctification, even as the heavenly Father is perfect. The fear left Paul, and it was replaced by the love of God.
Through Paul’s witness, the church in Galatia learned what it was to love unselfishly and to suffer for their faith. The enemies of the church there learned that they were unable to defeat Paul and his God; not even killing Paul would stop him.
After Paul finished the ministry in Galatia and Pamphylia (including the cities of Perga and Attalia), he sailed back across the Mediterranean to his sending church in Antioch, Syria.
At Antioch, the missionaries gave testimonies of the great work the Lord had done. (Can you imagine being present for those testimonies?) They stayed there for some time for fellowship with the saints.
Prayer: Spirit of God, resurrection life is in you. I thank You that You are alive in me. I invite You into all of my life. I am fully Yours. Father, Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the face of any opposition, You make me bold. Be glorified.
- Based on John 14:6, Matthew 6:10
Paul is mistaken for a god after he heals a crippled man (Day 6)
'Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel. Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. '
“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.”
In modern-day Turkey, Paul and Barnabus preached and taught in the Jewish synagogue to both Jews and Greeks. In this, he was following in Jesus’ steps, who said, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret” (John 18:20).
“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.”
The Spirit of God spoke through them, and so a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. As the real battle is for hearts and minds, which are closely related, the unbelievers sought to poison the minds against the gospel message. Paul and Barnabus were determined to carry out his mission there though, and so they made themselves available and spoke with boldness.
“So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands…”
Paul and Barnabus were doing God’s will as God’s fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9), and God confirmed Paul’s message with signs and wonders done by their hands. We can expect that this included physical healing, miracles, and other characteristic works of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:4-11,KJV), the Helper of Christ’s apostles (John 14:26). Paul demonstrated in Iconium that God’s power had been given to the church. Signs like healing open the doors to people’s hearts, leading them to seek salvation. They are among Jesus’ weapons to carry out His mission, as He described in Mark 16:15-20.
In this battle, the disciples felt it necessary eventually to flee to the area of Lycaonia to avoid physical harm from the mob of opposition they were facing at Iconium. The prevalence of real threats of violence are consistent also with the ministry of Jesus, who said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). Jesus’ warfare against the violence was preaching, teaching, and signs and wonders to demonstrate the victory of God’s kingdom, as he showed after John the Baptist was imprisoning and after he was murdered. This was Jesus’ battle for hearts and minds, taking away territory from His enemy, the Righteous One making things right. As such, Paul and the disciples continued to preach the gospel where they went.
“Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet…”
At Lystra, Paul noticed a man crippled from birth who was listening intently to him as he preached the gospel message. By knowledge from the Spirit of God, Christ in him, Paul knew that the man had saving faith. Paul knew that this salvation (sozo), the work finished by Christ (as described in Isaiah 53), should include physical healing, so he looked intently at him and spoke loudly to him, “Stand upright on your feet!” In a way very reminiscent of Peter’s first recorded miracle after he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:4-6), the crippled man sprang up and began walking. The Spirit of God had immediately healed him at the moment Paul spoke to that mountain, telling it to be removed, and believed it would be done for God’s glory (Mark 11:22-24, John 14:13, John 15:16). Paul believed God’s word and acted on it.
Considering the audience, worshippers of the Greek gods, this amazing miracle wrought by Paul had an unintended effect. They decided that Barnabus and Paul were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes, walking and doing the miraculous among them! In response, the people prepared to offer a sacrifice to the gods at the gates of Lystra!
Hearing of the plans, Paul and Barnabus ran to the city gates to plead with the people. Rushing into the crowd, they made a scene, tearing their garments in outrage, and spoke against what was unfolding. They exclaimed, “We are also men, or like nature as you!” And they pleaded with the crowd to turn from idolatry to the living God, the Creator and source of all good. It was a small victory, enough to prevent the sacrifice.
Prayer: Thank You for choosing me as one of Your ambassadors, God, in Christ’s stead. Thank You for the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to me. The confidence You have in me and Your church gives me boldness. I praise You for Your ways which are higher than mine. I abide in You, desiring to bring You glory. I praise You that Your word does not return to You empty, instead accomplishing its purpose. At Your work, Creator God, the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
- Based on 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, Isaiah 55:8-12, John 15:7
Paul stops the interference of a false prophet in Cyprus (Day 5)
“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”
Acts 13:4-12 ESV
When Saul was sent out on his missionary journey, Luke, the author of Acts, started referring to him as Paul. Luke said that Paul is what he was also called. It was not uncommon for those who had been made new through faith in God to change their names. Paul is derived from the Latin adjective paulus, small. Perhaps this name referred to his humble position as a bondservant (doulos) of the Lord. The Mosaic law allowed an indentured servant to become a bondservant voluntarily (Exodus 21:5-6), and so Paul had done this with the Lord.
In Cyprus, Barnabus and Paul were summoned by Sergius Paulus, who wanted to hear the word of the Lord from them. A son of peace (Luke 10:6), he was open to the gospel message. While speaking with Sergius Paulus, a governor for Rome, they were opposed by one called Bar-Jesus, a magician, who spoke against their message.
Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at Bar-Jesus, discerning him as sent by the enemy. He spoke, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”
Paul would see that the Righteous One would be victorious in this situation, so he continued, “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.”
Immediately mist and darkness fell upon Bar-Jesus, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
Seeing this sign that confirmed the gospel message, Sergius Paulus believed, astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Paul, who had been blinded by Jesus because of his opposition to the gospel, had, in turn, caused blindness to another that opposed the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit in him.
Paul, after asking, “will you not stop…?” then stopped the opposition. This could also be the cause of Paul’s name change at this time, for the Greek verb pauo means to stop. Further, the Hebrew verb palal means to discern, which Paul did, showing he was extraordinary (which is pala’ in Hebrew).
Paul was extraordinary in his ability to propagate a call for support (Hebrew verb pa’a) for the gospel from mind to mind. There are many possible reasons that Paul’s new name took hold; it very well could have been associated with this first recorded supernatural act of God through Paul, which became known among the disciples, including Luke.
This act is somewhat reminiscent of Peter’s first recorded miraculous act after his infilling by the Holy Spirit: “And Peter directed his gaze at [a lame man], as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!””
Acts 3:4-6 ESV
They looked intently at those put on their hearts by the Spirit and spoke a command in faith by the faith of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20, KJV). The Lord worked with these apostles and confirmed the message by accompanying signs (Mark 16:20).
As previously mentioned, Paul had spent a solid 15 days with Peter, and he also traveled with John. In turn, Peter and John had the in-person example of Jesus, and they had learned to do as He did (e.g., Luke 9:1-12,37-43, Luke 10:1-24), first having the Holy Spirit with them as Helper. Then the Holy Spirit was in them (John 14:16-17), as the Spirit was also in Paul.
After his time in Cyprus, Paul preached and taught in the synagogue at Antioch. He taught them that in Jesus everyone who believes is freed from everything from which they could not be freed by the law of Moses (Acts 13:39). Led by the Spirit, Paul drew quite a crowd (Acts 13:44). When he was rejected by teachers of the law, he preached to the Gentiles, and many believed (Acts 13:48). More opposition arose, which resulted in joy and further filling with the Holy Spirit among the disciples (Acts 13:52).
Paul had become to God like David, “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22), and so he was able to recognize it in David.
Prayer: God, let me be a person after Your heart, who will do all Your will. Slay what is left of me by the cross of Christ. Identified fully with You, Jesus, I seek to take on Your faith. Lead me to join You in building Your church where You send me. In Christ, I will be victorious.
- Based on Acts 13:22, Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 14:12, 2 Corinthians 2:14
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