Love for the Church – 1 Thessalonians 3

Read the Passage: 1 Thessalonians 3

Concern of Paul (3:1–5)

In 1 Thess. 2:17–20 Paul had mentioned his desire to see the Thessalonian believers. Recall that after his three-week ministry in Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:1–9), Paul was forced to leave the city and to flee, which landed him in Berea (cf. Acts 17:10–15). Continue reading Love for the Church – 1 Thessalonians 3

The Woman, Dragon, and Child – Revelation 12

Read the Passage: Revelation 12

Reminder: The book of Revelation is structured around seven parallel sections, each describing the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. These sections can be delineated into chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.

The Woman (12:1–6)

Revelation 12–14 constitutes John’s fourth telling of the unfolding of the story of history, from Jesus’ first coming to His second advent. Continue reading The Woman, Dragon, and Child – Revelation 12

The Scroll and Seals – Revelation 6

Read the Passage: Revelation 6

Reminder: The book of Revelation is structured around seven parallel sections, each describing the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. These sections can be delineated into chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.

Seals One and Two (6:1–4)

In Rev. 5 we saw an account of Jesus’ coronation as Lord of the universe (cf. Dan. 7:13–14; Matt. 28:18). Continue reading The Scroll and Seals – Revelation 6

David’s Flight – 1 Samuel 21–22

Read the Passage: 1 Samuel 21-22

David Flees from Saul (21:1–9)

Upon learning from Jonathan that, indeed, it was Saul’s intent to kill him, David fled from the royal court in Gibeah and came to Nob, which was a city where many priests dwelt (cf. 1 Sam. 22:19). Apparently David discerned that the wisest course of action, and the best stewardship of his life, was to leave Saul’s presence. Continue reading David’s Flight – 1 Samuel 21–22

Toward Jerusalem – Acts 20

Read the Passage: Acts 20

Travels in Greece (20:1–12)

In Acts 19 we studied Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus, which filled up most of the time on Paul’s third missions journey, which lasted from AD 53–57. Toward the end of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, before the civil riot that is recorded in Acts 19:23–41, Luke reported that “Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem” (Acts 19:21). Paul had even sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia to prepare the churches there (i.e. Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth) for a relief offering for the churches in Palestine. Acts 20:1–6 records that Paul spent three months traveling and ministering in Macedonia, before eventually having to depart on account of his knowledge of planned persecution by the Jews. Note that seven of Paul’s traveling companions are listed in this passage, which included Luke, who had likely been ministering in Philippi.

Continuing to show parallels with the ministry of Peter, who had raised Dorcas to life (cf. Acts 9:36–43), in Acts 20:7–12 Luke reports that God used Paul to bring about the raising of a young man named Eutychus who had tragically died during one of Paul’s messages. Early churches met in homes. Apparently Eutychus had fallen asleep due to fumes from multiple oil lamps, Paul’s lengthy message, and the late hour of his teaching. While this was an extraordinary event, this passage contains two other important pieces of information—namely, (1) that believers were worshiping “on the first day of the week” and (2) that believers were together “breaking bread” (Acts 20:7). Note this is the first mention of Christian worship on a Sunday (cf. 1 Cor. 16:2; Heb. 4:9–10; Rev. 1:10) and the first mention of Gentile believers observing the Lord’s Supper (cf. Acts 2:42, 46).

Ministry in Asia (20:13–16)

Acts 20:13–16 records Paul’s stops in Galatia on his way to Jerusalem, as he ministered in several coastal towns on the way to Jerusalem. Recall that when in Philippi in Macedonia Paul had intended to travel straight to Jerusalem in Syria, probably in order to be there for the Passover; yet, because of the Jews’ plot against his life, a longer route through Galatia was a more practical and wiser course. Paul, however, still wanted “to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16). Therefore, Paul passed by Ephesus, knowing that a stop there would have necessitated a lengthy stay and further delay his reaching Jerusalem. However, Paul was compelled to minister to the believers in Ephesus. Thus, Acts 20:17 reports that Paul disembarked in Miletus, a city roughly 30 miles south of Ephesus, and summoned the elders of the church to briefly meet with him.

Exhorting the Ephesians (20:17–38)

Paul summoned and met with “the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17) of Ephesus, who are later referred to as “overseers” (Acts 20:28) who shepherd the church. Clearly, these men whom Paul met with in Miletus were pastors of the church in Ephesus. In Acts 20:17–24, Paul’s message to the elders touched upon two main themes. First, by way of encouraging the church leaders in right conduct, Paul reviewed his own example in Ephesus, as he reminded them that he served God with humility, faced trials and persecution, and proclaimed the gospel publicly and privately (cf. Acts 20:18–21). Second, Paul told the elders of his plans to travel to Jerusalem and informed them that he knew that persecution awaited him. Yet, Paul stated he was “compelled by Spirit” (Acts 20:22) and went to discharge “the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).

As he continued instructing the Ephesian elders, in Acts 20:25–38 Paul reminded the church leaders of his general ministerial example. Paul’s rationale here was not to give a personal self-defense, but to encourage the elders to imitate him. Paul reminded them that he had faithfully preached the gospel (cf. Acts 20:25–26), that he had taught the Bible (cf. Acts 20:27), that he had warned believers and unbelievers alike (cf. Acts 20:31), that he had not coveted money (cf. Acts 20:33), and that he had labored for his own support and for the care of others (cf. Acts 20:34–35). Further, in concluding his teaching, Paul told the Ephesian elders that he would not see them again (cf. Acts 20:25, 38), exhorted the leaders to faithfully shepherd the church (cf. Acts 20:28), and warned them that false teachers would arise within the church to attack believers (cf. Acts 20:29–30).

Application Questions:

  1. Why did Paul face persecution in every city in which he ministered? What is it about the gospel message that provokes a hostile response from some people?
  2. Why was Paul so desirous to repeatedly re-visit the cities in which he had earlier ministered? Given the constant persecution he faced, was this a wise practice?
  3. Given the infinite possibilities for ministry, and the finite availability of resources, how do we decided when, where, and to whom we should minister?
  4. Why do you think Paul was determined to visit Jerusalem, since, as he told the Ephesian elders, he knew that persecution awaited him there?
  5. How could Paul be sure that false teachers would both attack the church, and arise from within the church? Is this still happening today?

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey – Acts 16

Read the Passage: Acts 16

Galatia (16:1–10)

In Acts 13–14 we studied Paul’s first missionary journey, which occurred in AD 46–48. Paul’s second missionary journey, which occurred in AD 50–52, is recorded in Acts 16–18. In Acts 15:36–41, after delivering the news from the Jerusalem council, Paul and Barnabas planned to embark upon a second missionary journey, in order to strengthen the churches they had planted earlier. Continue reading Paul’s Second Missionary Journey – Acts 16

Perils of Ministry – Acts 14

Read the Passage: Acts 14

Opposition (14:1–7)

Acts 13 records the beginnings of Paul’s first missionary journey, which occurred in 48 AD. This journey took Paul and Barnabas first to Crete and then to Pisidian Antioch. While Paul had ministerial success in these locations, Acts 13:42–52 records the first significant conflict Paul faced during his missionary work, as certain Jews grew envious of Paul’s success and opposed his message. Continue reading Perils of Ministry – Acts 14

Gospel Progress – Acts 5:12–42

Read the Passage: Acts 5:12-42

Ministry and Arrest (5:12–21)

Acts 5:12–16 records that God was pleased to facilitate many signs and wonders among the people during the early days of the church. One of these signs, albeit an unfortunate one, was the death of Ananias and Sapphira. This occurred at the word of Peter, as was recorded in Acts 5:1–11. In Acts 5:13–14 we are told that the effect of these signs and wonders was twofold: many unbelievers esteemed the apostles, while many new believers joined the church. Continue reading Gospel Progress – Acts 5:12–42

Disciples Arrested – Acts 4:1–31

Read the Passage: Acts 4:1-31

Arrest (4:1–12)

Acts chapter four contains a record of the first public persecution faced by the church. The text reports that the leaders, including the Sadducees who did not believe in the idea of physical resurrection (cf. Luke 20:27), “came upon them [i.e., Peter and John], being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Continue reading Disciples Arrested – Acts 4:1–31