SERIES: Bible from 30,000 Feet, The
MESSAGE: Destination: Acts
SPEAKER: Skip Heitzig

It was right here that some key events from the book of Acts took place. For example this is where Paul the Apostle was hold captive prior to his appearance before King Agrippa; this harbor city was built by Harold to honor the empire and the magnificence rivaled anything of the ancient world.

Pastor Skip Heitzig: Now I want to begin tonight telling you a little insight about my wife who is sitting in the front row. She doesn't necessarily like it when movies are suspended. What I mean by that is, that when a show; let's say on television, it's a real good show, and the plot starts to unravel, the characters are introduced, and it's moving along, and you're at that climatic moment all of a sudden that dreaded sentence comes across, 'to be continued.' It's like, oh great! I got to wait now like a whole week to see how this ends? Am I right, okay?

Yeah, so, so the book of Luke is sort of like that. It brings us to a real climax, and leaves us hanging, like, well, now what happens? Jesus is crucified. He gets raised from the dead. He takes His disciples, it's all the last part of the Gospel of Luke chapter 24, takes His disciples outside to Bethany, outside of Jerusalem, and there as He puts His hands out, He is taken up into heaven, and it says the disciples went back to Jerusalem praising God in the temple, and it ends. And so, we're left hanging like, well what happens next? We want to find out what happens to these guys, since Jesus suddenly leaves them.

That's where the book of Acts comes in. Understand that Acts is this sequel, or as Paul Harvey would like to say, the rest of the story. It's the rest of the story. It's part two of a double volume work. Luke is part one, and the book of Acts is part two. So what he shows us is the origin of Christianity, you might say. The origin of the Christian faith, and then the development of it is in the book of Acts.

Now if you remember a couple of weeks back, Luke was a Gentile physician. He was a doctor who became a friend of Paul the Apostle. And eventually a traveling companion and he chronicles the life Paul, as well as what happens in the early church in Jerusalem.

Some even believe that Luke is the man in the vision that Paul sees the Troas, the vision of the man from Macedonia saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And the reason they think it might be Luke, is for this reason, Luke in writing this account, writes in the third person. he did this, she did that, they did this, they did that, and that goes on until chapter 16, Paul gets to Philippi after the vision of the man from Macedonia, and suddenly he writes in the first person. We did this; we did that, so obviously he joins the team at that spot.

So it could be, we don't know that he was the man in the vision from Macedonia. What's the point of Luke in writing the book of Acts? Luke wants to show you how the Gospel, the hope that was centered in Jerusalem, that was a Jewish hope for the Messiah, spread and went to the very center of the Roman Empire to the capital city Rome itself.

So the theme of the Book of Acts is this, from Jerusalem to Rome. That's the theme of this book. How the Gospel moved out of just a local colloquial Jewish setting, to the very heart of the empire, and from there it would spread over the whole world. So he begins the former account I made, that's the Gospel of Luke he is referring to.

The former account I made, O Theophilus there's his name again, like in Luke chapter 1; "of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day that He was taken up, after He, through the Holy Spirit had given commandment to the apostles whom He had chosen." Please notice the word 'began' in that verse, it's a key word.

It's one of the most important words in the book of Acts. It's what Jesus started to do in the Gospels and here's the point. The Gospel account of what Jesus did isn't the whole story. Jesus didn't stop working when He ascended into heaven. Jesus passes the baton to His apostles, what He began to do, Luke writes about in the Gospel of Luke, and here Luke says, Jesus will continue to do it, through yielded men and women who are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Now because that's true, and because the word begins with the word began, we know that the book of Acts is an unfinished book. Now hear me, it's an unfinished book. I know it has 28 Chapters and there's a period at the end of that last sentence, but the work that Jesus started when He was on earth, and continued through His apostles, He is still doing today, until He comes back for His church. That means, you and I are a part of it. And although there are no literal chapters of Acts being written, the Holy Spirit is very much alive, and Jesus is very much alive. So keep this in mind, there's a finished work of Jesus, as well as unfinished work of Jesus.

The finished work of Jesus is redemption, what He did on the cross, you can't add a thing to, it's done. When Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished." He meant you can't earn your salvation, you can't add to your salvation, you receive Christ, it's done. But though that's a finished work, there's an unfinished work of Jesus Christ, changing lives, spreading the gospel. The proclamation of truth and all of that continues even up to this point.

So Acts 1 when it opens up, Luke shows us in Acts 1, from the time Jesus is still alive. Even though Luke closes with Jesus ascending into heaven, Luke back tracks a little bit; Jesus is still alive when Acts opens. He's resurrected, He's instructing His apostles.

In Verse 6: "Therefore, when they had come together, [here's the apostles asking Jesus a question] they asked Him saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Wish I'd time to unpack the meaning of that, but I don't. He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his authority." "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witness to me in Jerusalem and all in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

What's Jesus saying, He's saying, disciples, apostles, don't worry about when, what you ask will happen. You just worry about what you should do until that happens. And a lot of times we get caught into charts, and timing and you think the Lord will come back by Feast of Tabernacles in 2009 or 2010, we do that every year. And Jesus would say, would you stop it, and just focus and concentrate on the task I have at hand for you to do, until, My Father in His own good time decides to wind this thing down.

We have to, we have to think of that, because a lot of times people want to just sort of get lazy, well, the Lord is coming back anyway, so I might as well not like to go to college, I might as well get four car loans and a house loan, because I don't have to pay them off, if He's going to come real soon. Listen, Jesus Christ didn't give us truth, so that we could sit could on a hill, storm a guitar, eat birdseed, and wait. He wants us to do stuff. Doesn't he?

He said to His apostles, occupy until I come. Stay busy, stay at the task, hand to the plow, until I come. Now look at verse 8, verse 8, I will contend is structurally the most important verse of the entire book of Acts. It gives you the outline of the whole book of Acts. Now these are the words of Jesus. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you. You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Now that's the outline, and Luke follows what Jesus said as his outline. So look at it again. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, chapters 1 through 7, is all about the witness for Jesus in Jerusalem. Then He says, and in all Judea, chapters 8 and 9, are all about the witness for Jesus Christ in Judea, and Samaria. And then, and to the end of the earth, chapters 10 through 28 are all about the witness for Jesus Christ to the end of the earth, starting with Antioch moving to Galatia, and throughout Asia Minor, Greece, Corinth, and all the way to Rome.

So Luke says what Jesus says, and he follows that outline through the book, from Jerusalem to Rome, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the end of the earth. Now chapter 2, is all about the birth of the church, on the Jewish festival of Pentecost. Chapter 2 through 7, remember, what's the theme of those chapters? The witness of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.

So chapters 2 through 7, show us what is happening in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit comes upon God's people, in Acts 2. The apostles get noticed, and they get in trouble, they get arrested, they're preaching the gospel, and then persecution rises, that sort of sums up those chapters.

If you look in chapter 2 at verse 14; "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice, and said to them, [now I read this and I go; Peter did that? Peter stood up and raised his voice to a crowd?] Read on, and he said, ""Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed to my words," and he gives more words.

In verse 22; "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands have crucified and put to death," "Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held by it."

Go down the verse 36; "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and Brethren, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Okay, there is a noticeable difference in the apostles as we left them in the Gospels and the apostles here in the book of Acts, and just go back a little bit in your thinking. When we left them before, they were all huddled together in an upper room scared to death, now they are bold.

Before, they couldn't even talk, they were, they were shy, Peter was with a servant girl; remember in the garden of the High Priest? And now, he is like really articulate in words, uses words like, foreknowledge. He is a fisherman and he is bold and he is articulate. What happened? How is it that timid, obscure fishermen become these bold, articulate proclaimers of the Gospel? There are two reasons.

There is a new presence, and there is a new power; a new presence and a new power, and that is one of the sub-themes of the whole book of Acts. New presence; new power; new presence, Jesus Christ in the Gospels, when they were huddled together believed Jesus was dead, now He is alive.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ bodily from the dead did something to these disciples. You know before they were so despondent, I knew it, we gave our life in it, it's just a pipe dream, He is dead, and then He got up, and it's like, okay, well, you know what I just said? Forget what I just said, because that makes all the difference in the world. He conquered death. So there is a resurrected Christ, there is a new presence. They saw Him after He was risen, they watched Him ascended to heaven.

Number 2, there is a new power, and that is the Holy Spirit has come upon, and is filling this group of people; something Jesus promised would happen. He said, wait in Jerusalem until you be endowed with power from on high.

And then in verse 8 of chapter 1: "You will be my witnesses after the Holy Spirit comes upon you in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the outermost parts of the earth."

Okay, now this is very important, because 50 times, over 50 times in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is mentioned. He regenerates people, He baptizes people, He commissions people for missionary service, He directs the affairs of the church, He is mentioned all the time. Now remember Jesus said to His men when they knew that He was going away, because they had that inkling, and they started feeling very despondent, this is in the upper room. He said, it is to your advantage that I go away.

Okay, now if I was a disciple and I had heard that, I'd go, huh? What? Come on, you can't mean that. How is it to my advantage that You, the Messiah, God in human flesh, the One who changed my life, and all of the lives of these guys, You are healing people, You are raising people from the dead; now You are saying it's better for me if You go, uh huh? That's what I am saying.

Okay, so you want to know the rest of the story? Here is why? He says, if I don't go, I can't send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, but if I go, I am going to send the Holy Spirit. So now it's just not going to be the things that are going to happen wherever I am at, but things are going to happen wherever you are at, because the Holy Spirit is going to live in you, and enable this whole thing to multiply worldwide, from Jerusalem to Rome.

Now this is so prominent in the book of Acts that it would be a better title to call this book not the Acts of the Apostles, but the Acts of the Holy Spirit. He is the main character, He is using human instruments, men and women from different walks of live, but clearly He is doing the work.

Alright, chapter 4 and 5, these bold apostles get noticed, they get arrested by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Chapter 6, there is a crisis that develops in the women's ministry in Jerusalem. There is a group of widows who feel very put off and neglected at the daily distribution of food, and feel like the Hebrew women are being given special attention, and not the Grecian women.

Chapter 7 is a story of one of the deacons from chapter 6, named Stephen, who goes into a synagogue one day and starts witnessing; it cost him his life, they killed him. They put him to death after a very articulate apologetic and polemic defending the history of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament, and tells them to repent, and says, I see Jesus at the right-hand to the Father. They pick up stones and they kill him, and they laid their garments when they stoned Him at the feet of a young man by the name of Saul of Tarsus.

It leads us into chapter 8; chapter 8, before I get to Saul, Philip, also one of the deacons of the church of Jerusalem, decides, I am going up to Samaria and see if this will work up there, and he goes preaches the gospel, and it works, it happens; people response so much so that the church in Jerusalem sends two heavy-duty bigwigs, John and Peter apostles, up to Samaria to see what's happening. So Philip has a ministry to Samaria, Gaza and Caesarea in chapter 8.

Now go to chapter 8 verse 1; "Now "Saul, {that's Saul of Tarsus, Rabbi Saul we would call him], was consenting on to his death, [Stephen's death]. At that time there was a great persecution arouse against the church which was at Jerusalem; [now follow this geographically] and they were all scattered throughout the regions [of where?] Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles." Okay, this is really interesting, because Jesus had given them a commission; take the Gospel, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the ends of the earth; for seven chapters, nobody is budging. They are staying in Jerusalem, why would you want to go anywhere else? That's the center of action; I mean this is the place to be. This is where all the Christians are, there are miracles happening.

Signs and wonders, okay, there is persecution, but like this is electric, nobody wants to budge. So God wants them to budge, so he uses a very important tool to do it, called persecution. And persecution was to the church what the wind is to a bunch of seeds, it scatters them. And as they get scattered, they get planted in different places, and they grow up, and fruit comes because of it. So we see the persecution, and the persecution was the tool that God used to get the church motivated to leave Jerusalem and go to Judea, Samaria.

Now this is so fundamental a principle that you can see it in virtually all of church history. One striking example is the nation of China. For a couple of hundred years, missionary activity from the west in China yielded 800,000 conversions, 800,000 conversions, as a result of western missionary work in China for a couple of hundred years, that's a lot. But in the 1940s when something called the Cultural Revolution spread throughout that country, there was great persecution, the church was driven underground, they met in homes and secretively, and we in the west thought, oh no, what will they do without us, they need us. And so the work of God must be shutting down. So when we finally were able to peek beyond the curtain and find out what the state of the church was like in China, we were shocked to find not 800,000 converts, but between 50 to 100 million Christians that developed during the time of great persecution, isn't that interesting?

So we discovered that persecution historically never really hurts the church, in fact, every observation we have at the church in persecuted lands, it actually helps the church. I know you are probably thinking, that didn't sound real promising to me. Well, I am just telling you from a historical vantage point. Looking at history and looking today, if persecution comes to the church in the next several years, and I believe we are already starting to see it. I think we are seeing it in some of the language in this election, some of the language on the news, some of the books and films that are coming out, and it's just starting. But trust me, the churches are going to get a whole lot stronger, it's going to multiply, some of us may get arrested, it might mean death, but again where are we going, we have been studying it for four months on Sunday, that's right the reward is coming.

So here's a church that God allowed persecution to come to, and drove them to these outlying areas. So chapters 1 through 7 is the witness in Jerusalem; chapters 8 and 9 is the witness for Jesus Christ throughout Judea, that's southern part of the land and Samaria, moving up toward the middle part of the land, and toward the north.

So 8 and 9 is the witness of Jesus Christ before him in Judea and Samaria. As the Gospel is moving and spreading, it catches the attention of a very notable Rabbi, we have already met him, named Saul of Tarsus. Chapter 9 is the pivotal point in his life, and one of the most significant pivotal points in all of the church, the conversion or the salvation of Saul of Tarsus. Why? Well, Saul of Tarsus, well, I will give it to you in his own language. He says in Philippians chapter 3, he describes his spiritual profile. He says, "I was circumcised on the eighth day of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. A Hebrew of the Hebrews concerning the law, a Pharisee, concerning zeal, I persecuted the church, concerning righteousness which comes from the law, I was blameless."

So we have a guy by his own testimony. Very devoted to the law of Moses, very devoted to righteousness, very devoted to Judaism, very against any movement of Messianic Judaism, i.e., Christianity. He hated it. He was the chief antagonist for the early church. He hated him so much, he would walk into their homes, grab them, haul them to jail, press charges, whatever he needed to, to get him locked up. Then he took his little persecution bandwagon on the road, and decided I am going up to Damascus, because a lot of them were running away from this. So he went up to Damascus. On the way something happened.

Chapter 9 verse 1; "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, [that's what the church was called then], whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus" You know, I have been on this road toward Damascus, and there is a little hill called Mount Bental, that every time we take a tour, we stand up there, and we look often to Syrian, and you can see that road going off into the distances, it winds its way, and goes into the haze toward Damascus, and somewhere along that road, this happened.

"As he journeyed near Damascus, suddenly a light shone around him from heaven, and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Boy! He didn't expect this question. This shows us a couple of things. First of all, somebody is talking to me right now, and I can't see who it is. This is disturbing. Now he finds out it's Jesus in just a minute, but by the very question itself, it shows us how identified Jesus is to His people.

As if to say, you know what, if you mess with my people, you are messing with Me. You are persecuting them, that means you are persecuting Me. You are after them, that means you are after Me. I love this about Jesus. It shows us how the body -- you know the term the body of Christ, I want you to think of it as a body. Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer, really hard, accidentally of course, you wouldn't do it on purpose? Unless you are like really an idiot. But let's just say, you miss the nail and you hit your thumb really hard, where do you hurt? Everywhere. It's like the pain goes boom boom, right up into your head, boom boom boom. It just goes everywhere. It's not like, yes, I have a localized little pain right here. You are just, a-a-ah! It affects everything.

I want you to think for a moment Jesus as the head of the Church and we are His body. He is reacting like the head of any body. "Why are you persecuting Me?" and he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Interesting; I don't know how he said that. It's like, who are you? Lord? And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It's hard for you to kick against the goads". These are those things that you make animals go forward with those sharp sticks, and speaking of the conviction that he felt. "So he trembling and astonished said, "Lord, what do You want me to do? The Lord said, "Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

Okay, there are two questions in this little interview. It's a two questions I think all of us have either asked or must ask. Question number 1, "Who are You Lord?" You know, I find a lot of church goers, don't really even know who the Lord is, and it would do well for a lot of church going people, to pause and go, okay, I need to discover who the Lord of the New Testament is, as He reveals Himself; because there is enough of this nonsense. Well, you know, I sort of picture God as, and they go off in some, who cares, what you picture God as? Because just because you picture somebody as something, doesn't mean that's what he is. We need to discover who he is from his word.

Number 2, second question, "Lord, what do You want me to do? What do You want me to do?" There are some Christians; they live very unproductive lives, because they have answered the first question. I know who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. He's God the Son, second person in the Trinity. He's coming again, they know all that stuff, but they have never asked, Lord, what do you want me to do on this earth the rest of my life with my time and energy, treasure and talent?" And that's why a lot of people live very frustrated lives, because they don't come into the plan of what God has for them, which comes by yielding to Him.

So Saul of Tarsus gets saved. He goes to Damascus. He can't see for a few days. Once he can see, he starts spreading the gospel message around the city, and by the end of this chapter it becomes a basket case. I mean, literally they put him in a basket, and they take him over a wall to get him out of town, like, get rid of him, and they put him in a garbage basket. Get rid of him. And he escapes and he goes to Jerusalem. Sorry about that little basket case thing. These are the ways I can gauge if you are awake.

Okay so now Saul of Tarsus goes to Damascus. Now he is in Jerusalem. He's still a firecracker, because everybody in Jerusalem what, knows him. He has got the reputation. He is the Rabbi, he is the chief antagonist. Now he is like into this message. What's happened to him? They seek to kill him. Finally the church ships him back to his hometown of Tarsus, where he stays for many, many years in relative obscurity and isolation, until he gets to Antioch, which we will get to in a minute.

Now the third section of the book of Acts, chapters 10 through 28; I am going to go through the missionary journeys of Paul quite rapidly. This is the third section. This is the witness to the ends of the earth. Now we are going to see this message as God intended going to Gentiles. A guy named Cornelius in chapter 10, the city of Antioch up in Syria, in chapter 11.

Meanwhile, as the gospel starts to spread northward, heavy persecution is going on down in Jerusalem. Saul's gone, but James, one of the apostles, the brother of John, this fisher guys, gets killed, they behead him. The king cuts his head off, and seeing that that really pleased the Jews, he has Peter arrested, put in prison. They are going to chop his head off. He gets led out of prison, sprung really by an angel, and goes back to the church there in chapter 12.

Okay now follow me here. Luke, who is writing this, is very selective. Okay he's not giving us church history in its totality from this period onward. He is only giving us selective church history. He is following the Gospel to where? Rome. Somebody got it right. You get an 'A'. you get 5 stars tonight. He is following what the Gospel does from Jerusalem through Antioch, through Asia Minor Galatia, though Greece, all the way to Rome itself.

He is not going to tell us how the Gospel gets down to Egypt, how the Gospel goes down into Africa. He is not going to follow what happens to Thomas, as he takes it to northern Syria, and over to India. He is not going to give us all the exploits of the apostles. He is only showing us how the Gospel gets to Rome. That's the theme of his writing. Because if the Gospel stays in one little section of the world, it's not going to have the impact God designed for it. The fact that it goes to Rome and from Rome will spread literally around the world. It shows the impact of that message, and what God originally intended.

So chapter 13, verse 2. They are in Antioch now, okay? Not in Jerusalem, not in Damascus. They are up north in modern day Syria and it's called Antioch of Syria.

"As they ministered to the Lord, [here is the church gathering in Antioch, they ministered, they are worshiping the Lord] and they fasted, the Holy Spirit said,[ probably through prophecy, a prophet, the gift of prophecy.] Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." "Then having fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them, and they sent them away." Now what's the deal, like we did tonight of laying hands on? The Bible says, lay hands on the sick, lay hands on those who are commissioned into service. It's simply a formal sign of appointment. That's what this is all about. It simply indicates a link or an association. I put my hand and you were linked together. We are part of this together. We are part of one another.

Now Antioch, Antioch Why Antioch? Antioch is the third largest city in the Roman Empire at that time. It's one of the most important cities in the world; very urbanized, multi-cultural, multi-racial; people from all over the world, going to places all over the world. It becomes the base for Paul; Saul of Tarsus becomes Paul the apostle. It becomes home base. They are sending church, because he leaves Tarsus goes, to Antioch, becomes one of the guys on the pastoral staff, and he gets sent out on three missionary journeys from Antioch.

So verse 4; "Being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, from there they sailed to Cyprus." Okay this is the first missionary journey. This is what he does. Goes down to Cyprus, then he goes up through Galatia, the province of Galatia, modern day Turkey, southern Turkey.

Now look at chapter 14, verse 26. This is the end of those journeys. End of the first missionary journey.

From there they sailed to Antioch, after going through Galatia, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, Atalia. "They sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed."

"Now when they had come and gathered the church together, [this is the church at Antioch after the missionary journey], they reported all that God had done with them." Please notice that. It didn't say, and they reported all that they had done for God. Again, this is the Acts of the Holy Spirit, all that God had done with them, through them. "And that He opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples."

So this is perhaps the first missionary conference in history. They went out on a mission, they came back, mission accomplished, let us tell you what happened. Now it wasn't all good. Everywhere Paul went, he got into trouble. You got to know that about Paul. He was a big mouth for Jesus. He didn't care what people thought of him, he didn't care if he was offensive, he wanted to get the message out and he got it out.

Well, as he is reposting what happened in Lystra, Derbe, Iconium and all these places, he had to tell them what happened in Lystra. He got stoned. I mean they stoned him. He didn't smoke anything, he didn't -- it wasn't Paula and Barnabas going, dude -- because he preached the Gospel, they threw stones at him, and they thought he was dead. They drugged him out of the city to bury him. He wakes up. He wakes up. You know what he does? We would say, "Get me out of here." He gets up, brushed himself up, goes back into the city that stoned him, and he preaches again.

Guys, people like that are unstoppable.; okay Paul is unstoppable. He goes right back. Now what does he do that I have a hunch? It's my belief that in Lystra, when those stones hit his head, and he collapsed, and he fell into that trance or near death, then at that moment he was translated into heaven.

Second Corinthians 12; I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago -- he is caught up into the third heaven, and he saw things so cool -- I am paraphrasing, he didn't use cool. So cool, I can't even tell you how cool it was. So I think he probably saw that then. No wonder he wanted to go back into the city where he almost died.

It was like -- look at, I just saw heaven, now I am back on earth, I am going back, it might take this time, I might die and go really to heaven. That's my belief.

Chapter 15, there is a problem and the problem isn't in Antioch, it's in Jerusalem, and the problem is with a few well meaning legalistic believers. They hear that these Gospel is going into Gentile areas, they are little disturbed, because they feel like -- you got to tell them about the laws of Moses, so look at it. This is the first doctrinal counsel, I am very glad for it, however, the whole issue is how is a person saved.

Verse 1; "And certain men which came down from Judaea, [that's Jerusalem area], and taught the brethren, [this is that they taught them in, up in Antioch], unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you can't be saved." Well that's disturbing, especially to any adult; right. I just believe in Jesus, not, you got to be, what? No, oh no, uh huh, can't go to heaven without it. You can see it, it would create a real painful debate.

"Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension; [that's a diminutive term in the Bible for they had a huge dissension], and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question, so being sent on their way by the church they pass through Phoenecia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles, and it caused great joy to all the brethren."

Now, in Jerusalem were a group of Judiasers. Have you ever heard that term, Judiasers? These are legalist. Okay they are saved, they are believers, but they have legalistic tendencies. They feel like you have to keep 'The Law of Moses' in order to be saved.

Now honestly I am thankful for them. You now, why? Unless they would have piped up with their false notions of legalism, perhaps the book of Romans, the book of Galatians, and the book of Hebrews would not have been written. It's because of people like them that those books needed to be written to underscore the importance of salvation through faith alone, and Christ alone. And those are written for that purpose. Now what were these legalists actually doing? Why were they so dangerous? Well, they are trying mixed the law and grace; they are trying to pour new wine into old wineskins. They are trying to sew up the veil that was torn. Jesus says when He died on the Cross, the veil in the temple was ripped, and it indicated there is access for anybody to come right directly into the Holy presence of God. They want to sew it back up.

The wall that separated Jew and Gentile, they wanted to build it back up, Jesus broke it down. So they are trying to mix the law and grace. In effect, they are saying, you must become a Jew first, in order to become a real Christian.

Now with all due respect to Jewish brothers and sisters and Messianic Judaism, you know, I have great love for them. I have a great love for Israel; I have a great love for Jewish believers. I do notice a tendency in Gentile believers who become wannabe Jewish people. They go to Israel for the first time, they start reading a few books, and suddenly they want to talk in Hebrew, wear a prayer shawl, blow the Shofer, and wear weird clothes, and they think everybody's got to do that, because these are the real Christians, who really get in touch with their roots. You are saved through Christ alone by faith, not of any works, not of any dress, not of Shofer, nothing. Well, that kind of tendency was very prevalent in that part of the church.

Verse 7; "When there had been much dispute, Peter rose up, [Peter is just the guy who really], Peter rose up, and said to them, Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentile should hear the word of the Gospel and believe." Think of who is saying this? It's Peter, right? Peter was among the disciples when Jesus said, I am giving you guys the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, it's plural by the way, it's not Peter. Pope Peter gets the keys, the disciples get the keys, the apostles get the keys, and Peter helped unlock the door of faith with those keys to the Jews in Jerusalem; Acts chapter 2. He helped unlock the door for the Samaritans, when Stephen went up there and preached. He went up afterwards and helped that door get open. He took the keys of the kingdom and opened the door to Cornelius, that Gentile believer, in Acts chapter 10. So he is speaking from one who has authority. God used him to open those doors.

Now look at verse 10; "Now therefore, why do you test God, by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were ever able to bear?" So you got to keep the law, you got to keep the law, and Peter tells, let me tell you something, nobody has ever kept the law. You can't do it. He describes the laws as heavy yoke that nobody really totally kept, that's why you have had animal sacrifices everyday, every year, that's why the Old Testament anticipated the new, and now Jesus is fulfillment of that.

Now I think what Peter is referring to, isn't the directives necessarily that God gave, but all of the stuff man added since God gave them. Third century, there was a guy named Rabbi Shammai, third century BC, who said that God has given 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments, you got to know what those are. No wonder Jesus talked about binding heavy burdens and laying them on men shoulders, which neither, they would even attempt to lift, or have in the past. So they have this dispute, they deliberate.

Look at verse 28, a letter was written from James. This is James, the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, James of Nazareth, who is the head of the church in Jerusalem. Did you hear what I said? I didn't say Peter was the head of the church in Jerusalem, he never was. Peter is taking orders from James; James is clearly the guy in-charge. That's important for church History.

He says in verse 28, "For it seems good to us, [he writes to the Gentile believers] it seems good to us, or seems good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things; that you should abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled, from sexual immorality: if you keep yourselves from these, you do well. Farewell."

Hey, these Jewish people, we don't want to offend them, don't eat all the weird stuff you Gentiles eat, we've got Jewish people around, so just abstain from fornication, from things strangled, from blood, if you do that God will bless you. That's all you got to do; interesting little list of directives.

Okay, chapter 16 through 18 is the second missionary journey, here is how it goes. All the churches they went to on the first trip, they say, let's go back and revisit them again, and they did that, and they took on a few new places as well. They are going to hit Phillippi, they are going to hit Thessalonica, they are going to hit Berea, they are going to hit Corinth, they are going to hit Athens, and eventually end up at Ephesus.

Chapter 15 is the team selection, at the end of chapter 15. John Mark, who was on the first trip, and he chickened out somewhere along the way in Perga, Pamphylia, he left and ran back to mom's house in Jerusalem. Barnabas who is his uncle said, "Hey, let's take Barnabas again. I mean let's take John Mark again." Paul goes u-huh, he abandoned us, he is not going, he is not suitable for the ministry and a dispute arose between them, and so Paul and Barnabas break up at this point.

Now chapter 16 is pivotal. Are you still with me? Still with me tonight? I know, I know I'm going fast. Chapter 16 is pivotal. Okay, this is what's happened.

Paul's on a second trip, he is moving westward, westward, westward, westward. Then the text says, he went through the area of Galatia, and Phrygia and the Holy Spirit forbade him to preach the word of the Lord in Asia. So he comes to a stop. So then he went to Mysia and try to go to Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit wouldn't let him.

Okay, so let me just paint what's happening. He is moving west, tries to go east, he gets stopped, or tries to go southeast, gets stopped, tries to go toward the north, get stopped. Then he goes to Troas. He is just sitting around Troas going, man, I tried to go all these places, and doors are all shut, now what do I do? Falls asleep, gets a vision that night from a man from Macedonia going, "hey, come on over to Macedonia and help us." He wakes up the next day and he goes, "Hey, you know what, I kind of think God wants us to go to Macedonia." "Oh really, why do you figure that?" "I got this vision from a man of Macedonia, who said, come over to Macedonia, and help us." So they concluded, it's got to be the Lord, every door is shut, they move from Troas, and now they go toward Macedonia. First city they reach is Philippi, and they work their way down south from there.

Chapter 17, he hits up Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, beautiful, chapter 17 in Athens, chapter 18 is in Corinth. He is there about year-and-half almost two years, then back to Antioch, that ends the second missionary journey.

So look at chapter 18, verse 22, you guys are doing really good, we are already at the end of the second missionary journey.

Chaper18 verse 22; "When he had landed at Caesarea, and had gone up, and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch." So he goes back to Antioch of Syria, this is the end of the second missionary journey. He spends some time there, regroups, get some rest, now he takes his third missionary journey. That's right; one, two, three. That's what he is going to do.

Chapter 18 through chapter 19 is the third missionary journey. Now he is going to revisit all the places, there lot of the places, the key places. He went on number one and number two. He is going to go through Galatia, and as he goes through the churches of Galatia, he is going to go a little bit south and stop in Ephesus, and spend about three years in Ephesus.

Longest time he spends at any of the churches. While he is in Ephesus, a riot breaks out. Gee! That's news to us, right? Every where he goes, a riot breaks out, isn't that true? He goes to Ephesus, a riot breaks out. You know the story in the amphitheater, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians! The city gets split. But he spends three years in this city. And you know, in all of Paul's travels, it might have been just easier if every city he would enter into, he would just go right to the magistrate, and say, excuse me, my name is Paul. I am an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, don't worry, I will tell you about Him in a minute, but would you just tell me where the city jail is? Because I would like to know where I am eventually going spend the night, and where I am going to be in the next few days, because invariably after a riot broke out, they hauled him to jail. It happened time and time again. Well that's his third missionary journey.

Now he is in Ephesus. In Ephesus something gets into his heart. He goes, "You know, I want to go back to Jerusalem one more time, and he really feels God wants him to go back to Jerusalem. Everybody around him feels, not a great plan Paul, not a good idea. In fact, every place he goes on the way back to Jerusalem, same message, if you go to Jerusalem, you are going to be arrested, you are going to be thrown in prison, you are going to get beaten.

So look at chapter 20, verse 22, he says this to the church at Ephesus on the shores of Miletus.

He says, "See now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying the chains and tribulations await me, but none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to my myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry, which I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify of the gospel of the grace of God."

Can you see in that language? Can you hear how Paul feels it's God will for him to go Jerusalem? And can you also hear how other people, and there are many different text that show this, they feel like this isn't a good thing, because he says, everywhere I go, people are telling me not to go.

In fact, do you know that some people have even said, Paul was out of the will of God? Not listening to the voice of God, everybody in the spirit was telling him not to go. He should have listened to them, it wasn't God's will for him to go there, because when he went there, he gets arrested, then he gets taken to Caeserea two years, and he gets put in prison in Rome, and that's it.

You know what, I am very confident that Paul the Apostle would disagree with that, if anybody has said that to him. He would say, "What do you mean out of the will of the God? Do you know that me being chained to guards in Rome, allowed me to lead some of them to Christ so that a revival was happening in the Royal Court of Rome and Caesar himself. That's why, from Rome, after all this mess happens, he writes to the Philippians and goes, "I just want you guys to know that the things that have happened to me has actually happened for the furtherance of the gospel.

Now they know my chains are in Christ, and some of these are even coming to Christ." What a testimony. I am convicted by this man.

Okay he gets to Jerusalem, and guess what happens when he gets to Jerusalem? Like everybody told him, that's right, he gets arrested in the temple, false charges are brought against him, they move him from Jerusalem to a city called Patara, and then all the way to Caesarea, which is on the seacoast of Israel.

He spends two years in Caesarea, look at chapter 23, verse 11, while he is in Caesarea -- by the way this will end the argument that says Paul was out of the will of God, listen to what Jesus says to him.

"And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul" Imagine saying that when you are in jail? You have lost everything, you have nothing to your name, you are now a prisoner, false charges, and Jesus comes and says, cheer up. Well, you should cheer up, because you are about to get His dream come true. "Because you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bare witness at Rome." it's sort of a attaboy, a pat on the back. You are in good hands, you are doing the right thing, don't worry about this.

Okay, chapters 22 onwards show us how he gets to Rome, that's what he always wanted; he is going to get to Rome. Now chapter 22 through 26, covers a two year period, there is a lot of chapters in there; two year period. During these two years, Paul as a prisoner in Caesarea, during these two years, and it's recorded here that he goes through three trials, three court appearances before two governors and one king.

Well, first of all Governor Antonius Felix, second, Porcius Festus, and the third is King Herod Agrippa II. Those three people he gets brought and this trial happens, all over again, three separate times. Also you should know that for one of the trials, members of the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem came, because they wanted to be part of the trial as well, and that's why many scholars believe, Paul maybe have been a member one time of this Sanhedrin, and they thought we don't want to lose our reputation, and have one of our own believe that Jesus is a Messiah.

Chapter 25, verse 9 takes us to one of the trials with Porcius Festus, now watch this:

"But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul, and said, are you willing go up to Jerusalem, and be judged there before me concerning these things?" Now what you didn't read is there has already been a trial before, and the people from Jerusalem came to Caesarea to go through a trial. So Paul is going, been here, done that already. So Paul said this, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, if I have committed anything deserving of death, I do not to object to dying: but if there nothing in these things of which these men can accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar." Then Festus, "When he had conferred with the council, he answered, "You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go!"

Paul knew that he is not going to get any justice from the Jewish council in Jerusalem. So he decides, I am not going to do that. He is hoping that he is going to get more justice from the Roman government than from the Jewish magistrates.

So he decides to pull the last feather out of his cap that he can, he is a Roman citizen and the law stated that you can appeal the decision of any magistrate under the laws known as Provocation and Appellatio, that's what they call them. I can provoke and appeal to the higher power, and go to Caesar myself.

So look at chapter 26, verse 32, Agrippa, this is now King Agrippa, third trial.

Says to Festus, [the guy that did the second trial], "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." Now do you think when Paul heard that he went, oh, should have waited. I could have been free. I don't think so.

That's what they are going to do to Paul; they are going to put him on a grain ship, a cargo ship filled with grain from Egypt. It's also a ship where they put prisoners on it, they would lock them in a special section, it's a floating jail, and they are going to sail him across the Mediterranean, and then once they get it to hit Italy, they are going to walk him to Rome. He is on that ship as a prisoner, and that's what I want you to know. Paul is getting what he always wanted, sort of. Paul is going to have what he always dreamed of, kind of.

See, he always wanted to go Rome, which is his goal, he wrote to the Romans, I am coming, I am coming, I am coming, I am going to go to Spain and I am going to Rome, I will be there. It's his heart desire.

Now he is getting his heart's desire, but the way he got there, probably not what he had on mind, right? He is going to go; he is going to go as a prisoner. The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, the Bible says. I don't want to add to the Bible, but I have also learned that the stops of a righteous man are also ordered by the Lord. And sometimes God will change our plans, and we go, this can't be of God, how could God allow me to be arrested, and then go through trial after trial, a miss trial, and then put on a ship and then get shipwrecked, and then go to Rome and be imprisoned and never get out?

Paul believed it was the will of God. It was the will of God. I do think also that God is interested in economy. Now to get enough money from the church is to put him on a boat, to get him to Rome, to pay for food, to pay for fare, several months of travel would be a sizable donation. He gets to go free now.

The Roman government is going to pay for his evangelism, and his prison epistles, all expense at the Roman government. You know, I remember as a young Christian, I needed the car. I was brand new believer, I was 18 years old. I had a bicycle. My motorcycle got burned at an evangelist event, that's another story. I think maybe we have even shared it. So I had no wheels, so I prayed for a car, God you know I need a car, and I start thinking of the kind of car, because God is so big, and God owns a cattle on a thousand hills, and if God is going to give me a car, what that car must look like? So I started naming a few things, options that I loved to have in his car.

I ended up buying a 1967 Plymouth from my brother, at an exuberant rate of 37 dollars. That's what he had into it. He bought it for 20, and put a little bit into it, that was bondoed in primary gray, it was missing second gear; it had no muffler on it. And I am driving that around for the glory of God. That's got to tell you something, it was pathetic as a car, but it was very economical, 37 dollars. I got what I wanted, I got what I needed, and I got around.

Chapter 28, verse 16, it's where they come to Rome.

"And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with a soldier who guarded him." Now he was chained to a guard, is what it means, all the time. Here is Paul, chained to a guard. Guard is to stay there six hours, when that's done, another guard comes sometimes, they guarded either side, but at least one if not two, around the clock, every six hours, every six hours, every six hours, every six hours, Paul had a captive audience. And you know that Paul would be sitting around going, hey, yeah, so tell me a little about your life. I think he was going for gusto, that's why I said what has happened has happened for the furtherance of the gospel and souls were coming to Christ.

Verse 30; "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no one forbidding him."

Now that's how the book ends. It ends very abruptly, I would even say, perhaps inappropriately, as if it ends here, but there is more to come. Because Luke, they didn't tell us what happens to the hero of the story, the main agent of the story. You know why? Because Paul isn't the main character of the story. The Holy Spirit is the main character of the story, and when Jesus began to do, and continued through Paul, and stop there, you don't need to know the rest Luke would say. It is going to be picked up and continued by us, in Acts 29 and Acts 30 and Acts 31, and as the generations go down, you are part of the story.

So what happened to Paul? Well, after two years it says he was there, according to best sources that we have, Clement of Rome who lived in the 80s A.D. an Irenaeus of Caesarea, says that Paul was released from prison. He probably joined Timothy according to the records, and later on he was arrested in Troas, and he was brought back to Rome. He was the second time put in a prison called the Mamertine prison. Some of us have visited that prison. You can see it today; it's at the base of the Capitoline Hill, there in Rome, a very dark dank prison; at that time a single -- no windows, a single hole on top where food was let down.

That's where Paul stayed. He spent his final hours there, and there in the Mamertine prison, is where we believed he penned the last letter of his life, Second Timothy, to his prodigy, young Timothy, "I fought the good fight Timothy, I finished the race. Now there is laid for me a crown which the righteous Lord will give to me on that day. I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand."

Those are the last words he writes. Paul was then taken to the Basilica Julia, a place built by Julius Caesar where he was able to hear his death sentence leveled in a courtroom. He was taken out and he was killed, and I close with this, I am borrowing now from A.T. Robertson, and another writer.

The crowds flowed into town and out of town. Some were going out; Paul was only a criminal, going to be beheaded. Few, if any, of the crowds would even know or care anything about him. At a good place on the road some miles out of the city, the executioner stopped. The block was laid down; the executioner stood ready ax in hand. The man stripped Paul, tied him, kneeling upright to a low pillar which exposed his back and neck. The electors beat him with rods for the last time, he groaned, and bleed from his nose and mouth and then without a hint of hesitation, the executioner frowned as he swung the blade down swiftly hitting its mark with a dull thud. The head of the greatest preacher of all the ages rolled out upon the ground. It makes me I want to cry.

Think about that, in that brutal moment Paul the Apostle, left the Imperial City, and took residence in the Eternal City.

In that moment the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ was set free. He was absent from the body, present with the Lord, and enjoying his reward. Now here is a question for you. During all of the years of Paul getting beat, arrested, misunderstood, yelled out, there may have been sometimes where he is thinking, I don't know if this is so good idea for me to be so bold, that's why Jesus had to come to me and say, you are on the right track, keep going.

Do you think he regretted it however? When his head fell off his body and he was instantly before God, do you think he had ever said, yeah you know, I think I was a little too spiritual.

Now you know what, I just want you to think about your life, because sometimes we get so busy with stuff. We put God off, we put quiet time off, we put service off, we put supporting God's work off, we put evangelizing off, and we put it off. You will never regret living a life 100 percent for Jesus Christ, the moment your life ends on this earth. All the rewards come, all the rewards come.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the study, thank you for this time, in Jesus name. Amen!


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