Acts 16

Beaten up for Christ than asked by their torturers for forgiveness. This is the essence of Acts 16. Also, note the often used word “WE” in this chapter. This means that Luke was a part of this missionary journey of Paul and Silas as he uses the inclusive pronoun “WE.”dna

We also find and are introduced to the young Timothy in this chapter. He is the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father. Usually the Jews of Judaism would see him as a Samaritan; one of mixed blood; often detested by pure DNA Jews of Israel. The half breeds are the ones who basically made up the the Samaritans but this discussion is reserved for another article.

This picture is of the Samaritans of today dressed in their traditional garb. They are half Israeli and half something else. There is much to explain how this works even in today’s attitudes of Israelis, most Jews of Judea back then and perhaps those of Israel today.

We will revisit this at a later time…knowledge first then understanding.

Young Timothy was renown for his gentle attitude and firm belief in God. He was a believer in The Way of Jesus Christ. For some reason not explained that well, Paul knowing the issues between Samaritans and the full blood Jews took Timothy and circumcised him as a young adult. This is usually something that is done on the 8th day after birth. Remember that his father was Greek, not Israeli. It most likely had something to do with keeping the fundamental Jews off his back and eventual ministry.

Acts 16:4 explains that the letter to which we referred to in our previous article on Acts 15 was in Paul and Silas’ possession. It regarded the idea of requiring circumcision for salvation. This is what is referred to as a hmm-moment in scripture. Guesses are speculative.

The next verse in Acts 16 Paul shares this good news from the council in Jerusalem that “no circumcision required” for salvation. They were sanctified in their faith. Then Acts 16 (Luke is author) states that “they added to their numbers daily.” This is not a measure of those attending church services but of those who became followers of Christ. There is a significant difference. To simply add to the rolls of membership is to unequally yoke unbelievers with believers. This makes for compromise and political correctness therefore an additional reason even original church groups establish denominations and conditional (building) church worship.

Paul in verse 6 wished to go to the area of Galatia but for some reason the Holy Spirit refused him. Another bible hmm-moment. This too we will discuss in a later article. The same is true in verse 7. Paul wished to go to Bithynia but again the Holy Spirit refused them.

The following verse states that “Paul then had a vision to go to Macedonia.” How do we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Even though Paul wished to go to Galatia and then Bithynia he didn’t via the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Then in a vision the same Holy Spirit points him to Macedonia. On all three occasions the word “immediately” (v8) comes to mind. He and his colleagues didn’t sit back and debate the pros and cons. They didn’t question the Holy Spirit. They immediately responded to a “NOT” then to a “GO” (v8); no attempt to find excuses… [to not teach a SS class perhaps?]

In verse 12 we find Paul and company in Philippi, a city named by Alexander after his father, King Philip. This is about 400 years after this fact in history. What few recognize is this Philippi is a colony occupied mostly be retired Roman soldiers. The word for colony is kolōnia; i.e. Latin for “Roman colony for veterans.” Philippi was not a stronghold of Jews, priests, Pharisees, and dominated by a synagogue. It was a colony of retired Roman soldiers. This is why in the following verse Paul and his entourage sought a place to pray being that it was Sabbath and no synagogue.

They found a pleasant place by the river only to discover that a group of women also saw it as a pleasant place to gather. One of these women was Lydia, a dyer and seller of purple garments. This is the color of status in Roman culture. She was not from Philippi but Thyatira. Verse 15 tells us she had a house in the Philippi area. Today Thyatira is Akhisar, Turkey.

Lydia was a worshiper of the God of Israel but did not know or understand the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. She overheard Paul preaching or teaching, perhaps just sharing his testimony. She wanted to be baptized. She was and her “household” followed in this action. This suggests that in her household already existed God fearing believers.

Acts 16:16-18 we find that a fortunetelling slave-girl, without doubt demon influenced or possessed, loudly and persistently proclaimed that Paul and company were of “the most high God.” This went on for several days. Finally Paul turns to her and said to the evil spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” The evil spirit came out of her; no longer a fortuneteller. He owners were devastated as she was a profiteer for them.

Instead of being hauled before Jewish leaders in a Synagogue (as there was none in Philippi) her owners hauled Paul before the Roman magistrate. Verse 21 of Acts 16 has a deep message other than Paul being accused of doing good but not of Roman custom/tradition. We must add that verse 17 states that a crowd joined Paul’s accusers inaguringhim in front of the magistrate. Their fear of Rome was great so imagined and real violations may bring retribution upon them.

How often have we seen but do not recognize that when a church of today has become politically correct and fallen away from teaching depth bible studies, a voice such as Paul’s arouses some in their congregation. Others follow suite in attacking that voice spoken in truth? Then just as did the magistrates in this bible passage, church leaders show outrage over what? That someone stepped outside of their church/community service “customs and traditions.”

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison after being verbally and physically attacked. The jailer was ordered to “guard them with their lives.” Such was Roman conditions for guards. If they failed to guard their prisoners, they paid for it with their own lives. This is where we get the statement… GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE. That first night in prison and as Paul and Silas were singing praises to God and Jesus, an earthquake struck the area. Not just an earthquake but a “great earthquake.” The prison doors fell open and any prisoner could have walked out. As the jailor was about to take his own life knowing his consequence for a great escape would be death, Paul shouted out… “Do yourself no harm as we are all [hapas] here.”

This testimony of Paul and Silas now brought fruit for their labors. The jailer wanted what they had as they lead by example and continued praising God almighty. They didn’t try to flee through the open prison doors. The jailer pleaded on knees to Paul. Some may say his plea was out of gratitude for not escaping. Reading the text closely it was for spiritual reasons the guard appealed to Paul and Silas.

He washed their open wounds, fed them and accepted Jesus as his Savior, Lord and God, only then discovering that they were also Roman citizen by birth. The magistrate had violated Roman law. Again, fear of Rome came upon them. From this particular bible passage we can get the statement…”Do you know who we are?”

Paul did not let it rest as there are consequences. When the next morning the Roman leaders of Philippi determined no law was broken by Paul, Silas , Luke, etc, and that Paul was a Roman citizen, they order their immediate release. Paul refused to leave until the public also recognized their violation of human or Roman law. He required the accusers come, apologize and then escort them out of prison.

Rev Dr. Jstark

November, 2018

Acts 15

how when whyHow, when, or why did differing denominations enter the early Christian church of believers? We find in Acts 15 one of the reasons for this split be it conscious or consequential; but mostly due to tradition. We see this in the opening verse of Acts 15:

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”

…”except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses ye cannot be saved?” Paul and Barnabas took issue with this. The “men” who came from Judea are not even identified. This means the messengers themselves are of little value but their message needs to be addressed. Already in the early church we have man-added conditions for salvation. The beginnings of denominational differences.

THE CUSTOM OF MOSES??? Here is a hint of early denominational ism. The custom of Moses has nothing to do with the New Testament salvation message. Men, not one man, came from Judea and preached this “condition of salvation.” That means they were not alone in their thoughts but were something like an early type of missionary but with a wrong message; a condition of salvation added to the burden of wanna be believers. The bible gives but one condition for salvation; believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (to be and to live). No works or conditions other than the blood of Jesus Christ covering and washing clean our record; repent and believe.

Acts 15:2 tells us that Paul and Barnabas “had no small discussion with them” but took the issue to Jerusalem for counsel. They went directly to those who had spent a good deal of time alongside Jesus on earth. They sought their input. When they did they discovered some of the culprits. It was those who had been steeped in Judaism. Those converted to Christianity but were traditional Pharisees. They wanted to hang onto their traditional worship routine. We find this in verse 5. “…Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” Now from where did they get this condition? TRADITION JUDAISM!

Acts 15:6 is an example of what Isaiah 1:18 tells us. Acts 15:6 states (ESV) The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. Isaiah 1:18 states (ESV) “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Two things glare at us from the passage in Isaiah. First: the Lord states that reasoning is a good thing to settle differences. The second point, there is no condition of circumcision included in what the Lord states per Isaiah.

butting heads.jpgActs 15:7, depending upon the translation one uses, this verse can read like this “discussion was nothing short of an argument. The word used in some translations is disputing or arguing. The Greek is best stated in the ERV or KJV…”to consider…” (eidō). The elders and Apostles reasoned together, not one side arguing their point; a point that planted the seed of denominational positions or differences.

Beginning in Acts 15:7 Peter takes the floor and explains it all in something like a summary judgment or conclusion. Many Jews still thought that salvation was just for them; not for the Gentiles. We discussed this in an earlier Acts article in this website. This was the Roman Centurion Cornelius and Peter encounter found in Acts 10. Peter points out to the gathering in Jerusalem that any additional inclusion or practice outside of the blood of Jesus Christ and one giving his or her life to follow Jesus would be an “added yoke.” In fact, Peter offers a significant warning in Acts 15:10…”WHY ARE YOU PUTTING GOD TO THE TEST?” A small but significant insight is also found in this same verse. Peter calls ALL BELIEVERS “disciples.” Since the word disciple (mathētēs) simply means learner or student, we can now conclude that as believers we are to be students of the Word of God; i.e. Bible disciples.

Something too often overlooked by many including theologians is found in Acts 15:14…

Simeon (not Simon Peter) relates how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.”

to take from them…” In other words, Simeon points out that there is really no spiritual DNA difference between the Jews (12 Tribes of Israelis) and Gentiles. God took from [within] the Gentiles a people and made them special. He called them Israelis through Abraham, Isaac and who God renamed Jacob ISRAEL Simeon points out that there is no spiritual DNA difference among all men but (v20) point out a way of living that is honoring to God. All come from Adam and Eve; Noah.

Acts 15:22 finds agreement among the council and they send out preachers and teachers to all mankind. The council writes a letter of explanation to be take to the Gentile believers.

Act 15:25 We have heard that some men have come to you from our group. What they said troubled and upset you. But we did not tell them to do this.

Act 15:25 We have all agreed to choose some men and send them to you. They will be with our dear friends, Barnabas and Paul.

Act 15:26 Barnabas and Paul have given their lives to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

Act 15:27 So we have sent Judas and Silas with them. They will tell you the same things.

Act 15:28 We agree with the Holy Spirit that you should have no more burdens, except for these necessary things:

Act 15:29 Don’t eat food that has been given to idols. Don’t eat meat from animals that have been strangled or any meat that still has the blood in it. Don’t be involved in sexual sin. If you stay away from these, you will do well. We say goodbye now.

All is not as it might seem between Paul and Barnabas now in Antioch with the Gentiles and group of new believers. Paul suggests he and Barnabas return to the cities where they had built a body of believers to check on them. Barnabas wished to take John Mark along; the one who had left their group early in the first missionary trip. Paul did not want him (John Mark) to come along probably believing he would be an anchor of sorts only to leave them once again to return home. Acts 15:39 does point out that the issue of whether to bring or not to bring John Mark along became contentious. This divided the two into four men. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark (the Mark of the Book of Mark) both going back to visit the established churches but in a reverse direction. Barnabas and Mark begin in Cyprus. Paul and Silas begin in Syria; i.e. Paul’s second missionary journey and another different opinion in the church.

Rev. Dr. Jstark – November 2018

Acts 14b

Acts Chapter 14b (personal postscript confession to the original C14 article from last week)

An opening note that may upset some with how it will contradict our routines and traditional praying in church and at home: (also see my confession at the end of this article)

In Lystra, Paul healed a man crippled (Acts 14:8) from birth; similar to Peter, cf. 3:1-10.

By itself most who read this article will question how such a short statement quoted directly from the bible might somehow violate his or her predispositions or bible understanding. Well…. find where it states or suggests they performed a “faith healing” and but hid behind the qualifier often used in today’s prayers and churches, “If it be thy will oh God.” Look hard; NOT THERE.

Silver and gold have I not but what I do have I give to thee. Stand up and walk (paraphrased). Paul gives a sweeping summary statement in Ephesians 1:11, “In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” This verse alone may not clear up this above comment “in thy will”, but think about how shallow is our faith; i.e. the faith of a mustard seed as in Matthew 17:20!!!! We should not pray in hope of but in anticipation of God’s will but pray we MUST. It is “predestined according to the purpose of him who WORKS ALL THINGS according to the counsel of [his] will.”

antucuoation So, why do we add this “if it is thy will” statement in our prayers? Here is where it will upset some who read this article. We hide behind that statement because our faith is so weak. We try to qualify and prepare ourselves and others for a letdown; no healing . We don’t want to believe a negative answer somehow reflects our prayer and closeness to God demonstrating our lack of faith. But it takes more. Keep reading.

More discussion on this at the end of this article but for now, give it consideration. Yes, it is in the “Lord’s Prayer” but there it is talking about God’s will already being done in heaven and in anticipation of WHEN it will be the same on earth. “We have not because we ask not; then when we do ask, we ask with the wrong motives.” [James 4:2-3, 6]

The opening of Acts 14 is a repeat of almost all of Paul’s travels. He heads for the synagogue to speak. Back during this time the synagogues were often used as platforms of speech-making. The offer for someone to speak while in attendance at a synagogue was usually prefaced by, “Do you have something of the Lord to share with us today?” Yes, Paul and Barnabas always had something but not what the leadership and people in attendance expected. We might think Paul to have been a captivating speaker. In his own words he was not.

I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.” [2 Corinthians 11:6; NIV]

According to Bible Tools website per Acts 14:

  1. At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so …
  2. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against …
  3. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed …
  4. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.

The oddity of this time in Iconium is the gentiles of this city were either siding with the Jews in the synagogue or with Paul and Barnabas. Acts 14:5 tells us once again they are run out of or fled from a planned stoning designed for one purpose…to *silence them. This may not be the first additional thought to come to mind in reading this passage, but it is very reflective of End Time when Satan tries to silence any witness (example: of the two witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation 7 years, Revelation 11) or *cause a great war that will take the lives of millions of unbelievers which means Satan also takes them to hell with him; one war during and at the end of the Tribulation and at the end of the Millennial Reign of “God and the Lamb”; he leaped to his feet.

*Satan keeps every soul from heaven when anyone dies without Christ.

When they fled “Dodge” (Iconium) they ended up in neighboring cities, towns, and villages. In Lystra they come upon a cripple from birth beggar who overhears Paul and Barnabas sharing the faith. All in the city KNEW he had NEVER WALKED. Examine Acts 14:9 & 10 closely. We will better understand the point made in the opening of this article.

He (the cripple from birth) listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, (v10) said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.

Several points to be made by perceiving what verses 9 & 10 actually state when read in context. Crippled from birth; heard the Word (testimony); Paul perceived the “faith” of the cripple who was not yet healed; Paul commanded in a loud voice demonstrating no hesitancy, “Stand up on your feet” (ESV).

Two major factors…the cripple believed he WOULD (not could) be healed and Paul was not hiding his command to be healed in a subtle voice hidden behind jumpthe statement, “If it be they will oh God.” The man did not stand or even struggle to stand. The word JUMPED in Greek is hallomai. It means to leap, spring up or gush as in a fountain springing forth from the ground.

The people saw this miracle and were in awe thinking Paul and Barnabas, probably included Luke, were gods’ i.e. Barnabas as Zeus (Jupitar) and Paul as Mercurius (Hermes). CAUTION: This is a subtle but good example of what happens when someone is healed by the command of another man. S/he is perceived as a god in and of him or herself. Paul and Barnabas immediately tried to put a stop to this huge incongruity, but the locals persisted. This is also what James 4 (above quote) is warning of when he states, “…we ask with the wrong motives.” Won’t we be great among men if we could perform miracles? Sometimes it is the heart of the one praying for healing that is the chink in the full armor of God.

Confession Time: This article’s author has taught bible studies for years and sometimes with a strong following. At times it tends to make him feel a bit “swelled of head and heart” to know it is through him so much learning is occurring. Today, while writing this about our relationship in full faith, prayer, then giving credit to the source, not the tool (me), in translating words from the Greek or Hebrew to help us better understand scripture, I literally stumbled upon what Martin Luther wrote in German in 1545…  “Zuletzt, meine Brüder, seid stark in dem HERRN und in der Macht seiner Stärke.” This verse from Ephesians uses my last name twice and was not just a little subtle in reminding me of my source; God; NOT ME. The above German means: “Finally my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS strength.” Interpretation as a message to me…God has blessed me with knowledge but only after giving credit to him to pursue that knowledge seeking understanding with prayer, then sharing it in HIS STRENGTH.

Rev Dr. Jstark
October, 2018

Acts 14a

And it came to pass that they spoke so well in Iconium and in the Spirit that a great number of Jews and Greeks came to Christ that day.” Paul and Barnabas, probably including Luke, were in southern Turkey of today and anointed in the Spirit. They were drawing large crowds of “wanna learn” people in this melting pot territory. Yes, the venue was again the synagogue. These people were hungry for actuality, not someone’s personal reality or perception of actuality.

melting pot

The Melting Pot

 

At our Bible School, Cadillac Community Bible School, a junior college for bible studies, we have a motto take from Romans 10:14…

How can one call upon the Lord if not aware of God? How can they learn unless someone will teach? How can one understand that which s/he does not know?

We Teach – You Decide

This is the purpose of missionary work be it in one’s own backyard or across the great seas. Recall in an earlier Acts study article of Barnabas and Paul were set aside by the Holy Spirit even though at that time they were not bible school graduates; never attended a seminary. This raises a question MOST who say or claim to be Christian do not wish to address. Why do we sometimes invite a person to church to get the message of Christ when that is supposed to be our own nature?

The Acts 14 the synagogue leaders couldn’t stand idly by and watch their financial sources move away from Judaism to Christianity (The Way). It was more than just tithers they were losing, but power over them. So what do they do? These Jewish leaders within the synagogue did what is one of Satan’s more powerful tools of deception…planting doubt in the minds of the new believers who were still ignorant of their new found faith. So many in the past and present have tried to find faith but are left up to their own initiatives to become learned, remaining milk of the word believers.

This takes us back to the Pyramid of Learning once again. Skip a step and the nose of the “iceberg” sinks lower into the water. Let’s explain for those who have not or are not familiar with this learning principle.LEARNKNG

This same principle is the basis of Romans 14:10 which already is mentioned in this article. Let’s put it in today’s terminology. How can one be aware of anything unless someone tells him or her? How can one gain knowledge or begin to take root, unless someone teaches then nurtures and feeds them? How can one gain understanding without knowledge of the subject? How weak must be one’s (faith) without these key steps: awareness, knowledge, and understanding? Removing each step in this learning pyramid simply drops the level above the water line of confidence and evidence.

This is what the synagogue leaders knew well. Strike quickly or plant questions in the minds of those who have little knowledge and even less understanding of their new found faith. Satan planted a question of assurance in the minds of Eve, Adam, Judas, Cain, Peter, the kings of the Kingdom of Israel (northern ten tribes), and so on.

This was quick to happen. In verse 5 of Acts 14 the rogue unbelieving Jews and Gentiles designed to stone Barnabas and Paul but verse 2 tells us it was already in their mind. They had to flee for their lives. They ended up in Lycaonia, a district in the Roman province of Galatia. Lystra was about 18 miles from Lycaonia, and was the home of Lois, Eunice and Timothy (16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5).

JIV NOTE: Keep in mind that but one chapter back (Acts 13:50) Paul and company had been ruthlessly kicked out of Antioch, *Pisidian. *This is in what we today call Turkey. This is not the Antioch just north of Jerusalem.

So what do Paul and Barnabas do after fleeing a place for the second time? They go right back into the den of opposition at the local synagogues in Galatia and Lycaonia.

NOTE: William Ramsay demonstrated that Lystra and Derbe were indeed together in the Roman province of Lycaonia, but only between A.D. 37 and 72, the exact period these events in Acts took place. This kind of accuracy persuaded Ramsay that the Biblical account was true, especially in an age when they were all thought to be fables and made-up stories.

In 1852, age 5, William Ramsey began his education at Mr. Stark’s Preparatory School in Glasgow, Scotland. In about 1863, age 10, William began attending Glasgow Academy. William entered the University of Glasgow in October 1866, age 14. One might say, he had a great mind and became known as a top scientist and researcher in his lifetime.

Please note: Mr. Stark’s Preparatory School is not Dr. Jstark; but a distant family member who lived in Scotland. One of mine and Mr. Stark’s relative was the Admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet when Japan attacked Hawaii. It was a group of Israeli Tribe of Gad family that went to the British Isles. 

In Acts we find Paul and a man who was known by the entire community as crippled from birth; a beggar of alms. He overheard when Paul and Barnabas shared their testimonies and gospel message. We find this episode in Acts 14:8 – 10. However, the crowd calls out that they must be gods; Zeus (Paul) and Hermes (Barnabas). They had to stop them from offering sacrifices to them.

We can easily overlook what Acts 14:16 is telling us about man’s free will. ”In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.” “He,” meaning God; “all nations” meaning mankind. Paul and Barnabas tried diligently to persuade them that they were not Zeus and Hermes. What did the trick? The evil doers from Antioch and Iconium who followed them. They did the same thing as was done in Antioch and Iconium. They planted doubt in their ignorant minds of limited knowledge. Recall that earlier these evil doers (most likely Jews) wanted to stone them. They still had this on their minds after catching up with Paul and Barnabas. This time they did stone Paul after dragging him out of the city.

Probably thinking their evil mission accomplished, these bad guys left the city and returned home because in v19 we read they supposed Paul to be dead. Some of the disciples (learners) gathered around Paul’s body probably to bury him. But, he gets up, walks back into the city where he was just stoned and continues his mission.

Rev. Dr. Jstark
October, 2018

PS; “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.” This was very likely the very first Missionary Conference in Christendom history.

 

Acts 13

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

What a mix of persons who are believers in one location; Antioch, Syria (not Turkey). This is the continental divide of Acts; a time when Luke switches discussion from Peter to Saul/Paul. In a sense the water shed of Luke’s focus in the Book of Acts. Peter was to the Jews (Acts 1 – 12) what Paul became to the Greeks/Gentiles (Acts 13 to 28).  If this was quiz time as in a bible school, college or university, here is a set of Questions very likely to appear as an Acts 13 student challenge sometimes called a quiz or a test.

quiz time

Who separated Barnabus and Saul for the work of God’s ministry?
Acts 13:1-4.

How should we get involved in the ministry today? (essay question)

Is an academic qualification essential for ministry? (essay question)

Would you say Paul’s judgement on the sorcerer was harsh?
Acts 13:6-12

Do you think Paul’s own experience influenced his action in Acts 13:11?

How are we as Christians to discern the time to call for God’s judgement and the time for his mercy? (essay question)

When is Saul referred to as Paul? (essay question; see end of this article)

Was any reason given for John Mark’s departure? Acts 13:5, Acts 13:13, Acts 15:36-38

Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:13-41 shows his understanding and knowledge of the scriptures. Is the Old Testament still relevant to us today? (essay question)

What was the outcome of Paul’s preaching?- Acts 13:42-52

Back to this article: The above questions are offered for one purpose…to stimulate thinking. One aside note that may be of interest per political correctness is the one mentioned as either a prophet or teacher in Act 13:1 and in perspective of today’s social norms would be (ASV) “…Symeon that was called Niger,…” [many Bible translation spell Symion as Simeon]. It is almost too obvious. Niger means black. Simeon is not the same Simon mentioned often in the bible. He also may have been the one who carried the cross of Jesus when Jesus no longer had the strength to carry it up Calvary’s Hill of the Skull.

Some commentaries want to make a point that a black man in this gathering for prayer must have been from Africa. How shallow is this thinking! Back when God created Adam and Eve, we have no clue what skin color was given to both or either of them. In Middle East culture, race has little to do with society at-large. As Malcom X discovered when he went to the Middle East to pursue his Muslim learning, he discovered that race was not an issue. Why? Because the DNA can appear in anyone and the original man and woman carried all of the DNA components of the “races” we see today.

Another very interesting component of Acts 13:1 is a man named Manaen…”the fosterHerod the Great brother” of Herod the Tetrarch. This is one of four Herods mentioned in scripture. We know this guy as Herod Antipas. To help us understand, see the chart to the right.

This Herod was partly responsible for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus; it was Augustus Caesar who appointed him ruler over one-fourth of his father, Herod the Great’s kingdom; he was the one who had John the Baptizer’s head removed; he feared the powers of the Jewish Sanhedrin leaders. Again see the above chart. To keep the time line of bible events in order… “When Jesus hears that John has been killed, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place,” (Matthew 14:13).

This is the chapter where Barnabas and Saul (Paul) are separated out as missionaries; going synagogue to synagogue. It would be remiss to not mention that Mark (John Mark), a young man at the time, accompanied them for a short while but eventually returned home. Saul (Paul) saw this as desertion on behalf of John Mark, later refusing to take him along again. This all changed when Paul ended up in Rome to be tried and executed.

When Paul and Barnabas traveled through the island of Paphos, they met Sergius Paulas, Island Proconsul appointed by Rome. He was a devout man of great intellect. Elymas the sorcerer who had the attention of Sergius tried to keep Paul and Barnabas apart from him. Why? Elymas had the attention and possibly the support of Serguis and KNEW (yadda) the Spirit in Paul and Barnabas. Paul calls him the “son of the devil” (ASV) which suggests he was magical with the support of Satan; i.e. possessed. Paul calls upon the Spirit to blind Elymas “for a season.”stone

JIV NOTE: Do these names align with secular history? The above stone marker was found with the Greek name of Sesguis Paulas inscribed on it.

In verse 15, they find themselves in Antioch of Pisidia (Turkey). They again go directly to the Synagogue where they find their usual audience of worshipers. Verse 15 tells us that they are called upon to speak of any word of exhortation if they have one. That is all Paul needed. He stands and delivers the message of his calling and of Jesus Christ. Paul addresses them in a two-fold manner… “Men of Israel and those that fear God.” He distinguishes between those who attend the Synagogue out of routine and those who respect and worship God (Judaism style).

JIV NOTE: Paul says “MEN OF ISRAEL.” This means he is talking to a mixed crowd of Israelis that were dispersed from their Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians hundreds of years earlier (720 B.C.). Essentially he said: “Men of Israel” which is all inclusive and “those of the same heritage” who still followed God plus Gentile proselytes.

Paul proceeds to discuss the lineage and history of those called “God’s People.” He goes from Egypt, through the Wilderness experience, time of the Judges (400 + years), setting up of Kings beginning with King Saul, John the Baptizer of repentance, the birth of Jesus in the line of Judah (David), the prophets, and the calling for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ BY THE JEWS OF JERUSALEM, his resurrection, all from the Old Testament teachings as this was before the written New Testament was even committed to a scroll or parchment. It was also a book with which his audience was familiar.

The fascinating but often missed portion of Acts 13 is the how Paul began his audience transition from the Jews to the Gentiles…the Jews left the Synagogue (v42) but the “nations” (people of Gentile background) remained asking to hear more. The next Sabbath almost the entire city (v44) showed up at the Synagogue to hear more of this one time Christian killer. This chapter ends with those of “devout” Judaism forcing Paul and Barnabas to leave the city. They shook off the dust of their feet leaving the unbelievers to their eternal destiny.

JIV: Saul is a Jewish name; Paul is a Gentile name. Some historians suggest that Saul took the last name of Lucius Sergius Paulis as his own Greek name: Paul. This is probably little more than speculation but We Teach – You Decide.

we teach

Rev. Dr. Jstark
October 2018

Acts 12

one way

THE WAY

King Herod Agrippa of Judah turns on the church. He needs to find favor with the Jews. By turning his vial temper and disposition toward The Way (early Christians) he saw that it pleased the Jewish leadership. Why he did this other than to gain favor with his half-relatives, the Jews, history does not say. Herod Agripps was the grandson of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was an Idumean; i.e. descendant in the line of Esau…brother of Jacob. He married a daughter of Ishmael (his uncle) making his offspring half Israeli and half Arab. In order to legitimize his hold on the Judean throne he married a Hasmonaean Princes. Hasmonaeans were a long line of Jewish Priests.

Herod the Great is also of Bethlehem fame. He met the Maji of Persia and tried to have this “future king of the Jews” slain.

Herod Agrippa in Acts 12 had the Apostle James killed then had Peter arrested with the intent of the same fate as James. This is about 11 years after the stoning of Stephen. Acts 12:4 tells us that Peter was arrested and confined to prison by alternating Roman centurion soldiers. There were four groups of four centurions guarding him; two chained to him and two at the prison door.

JIV: We should note a small but important word in Acts 12:1. Depending on the translation used, Agrippa intended to “put his hands on CERTAIN or SOME” of the Christians. This does not suggest he declared all-out war on The Way.

Since it was the time of Jewish Feast of the Passover (unleavened bread and what we identify as Easter today) Herod knew it was against Jewish custom and law to “cause a death” during this feast. This is why Peter was not sent to the head chopping block. Instead he was put under very heavy guard.

We do not know if Peter was in prison under guard for one day or through the 7 day celebration of unleavened bread. What we do know is what happened to him JUST BEFORE he was to be brought before Herod and sentenced to the same fate as was James. This had to be a time or Prayer meetings above all other Prayer meetings. The believers had gathered together and prayed “earnestly” (NLV); “without ceasing” (KJV); “fervently” (YLT). No,…they did not get together to say the Lord’s Prayer. They prayed from the heart like Daniel did multiple times while a captive in Babylon.

Acts 12:7 states in the KJV that an angel (small “a”) of the Lord appeared and “smote PETER ON THE SIDE.” There is no other record in scripture where an angel is sent to strike a person then give him a message of release. This reminds me of the times God had to figuratively strike me between the eyes or along the side of my head to simply, as the angel did to Peter, get his or my attention.

Now I return to something I have stated so many times I have no count. All promises in the bible have the premise of “if you ____, then I _____.” Peter is told to stand up. When he did the bondage chains fell off. The guards at the other ends of these chains slept through it all. “Get dressed” said the angel and follow me. A pastor friend of mine once said in a message, this is the first electric doors because the locked gates opened before them as they proceeded to leave the cell block. Of course he was joking but the point is well made. If we move forward with our mission for Christ, the doors will open but only as we walk toward them J.I.T. (a marketing term for Just In Time delivery).

Verse 9 tells us how incredible this was to Peter. As they walked out of the prison and away from the four duty guards, Peter thought he was having a dream (vision). It was so smooth and without bumps Peter could not jolt his senses enough to realize the actuality. Verse 10 states that the “Iron Gates” simply opened in front of them. Why did my pastor friend call these iron gates electronic gates? Simple! The word used in this passage to “open” is “automatos;” automatic in English.

Acts 12:11 says that it took this long before Peter came to his senses realizing he was free and without taking evasive actions. He immediately heads to the house of where the prayer meeting of all prayer meetings was on going; the house  of Mary the mother of John (John Mark).

attention

What gets your Attention?

Sometimes when we pray we actually don’t believe it will be answered. Doubt, uncertainty, Satan feeding us deceptive thoughts… This is what happened when Peter gets to the gates of the house of Mary. A woman named Rhoda goes to the gate where Peter is standing and knocking. She is so shocked and thinking it probably a ghost or spirit of Peter, she runs back to the prayer meeting. Even those in the prayer meeting thought her “to be mad” [KJV] as in nuts. /even though they were praying assumedly for Peter they couldn’t bring themselves to accept the answer had come from God.

JIV: This reminds me of a man who once asked for prayer per an issue in his life. As we prayed he suddenly stopped the praying and said, “Never mind praying anymore. I just had a thought and figured it out myself.” He obviously did not acknowledge the “thought’ came from prayer and God.

This is similar to what happened in Acts 12. Even though praying they could not justify in their own hearts that it had been answered BY GOD.

In 12:18, 19 we find the shock and awe of Herod and the 12 guards responsible for Peter. Verse 18 states that “there was no small stir among the soldiers” and certainly with Herod. He ordered the guards executed then “got out of Dodge” by immediately going to Caesarea. He went there to take his anger out on his subjects in Tyre and Sidon. These people who were in total subject to Agrippa realized his anger, brutality, and merciless attitude. They listen to a speech from him and flatter him with “this is not the voice of a man but a voice of a god” (12:22). It was not because of what the people said but because Herod accepted their “voice of a god” as literal that the angel IMMEDIATELY struck him with consuming worms and he died.

thanks always

This too is why we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18… continually give thanks to God. Do you????? Does the so-called church???? Do we????

Rev. Dr. Jstark

Acts 11

Chapter 11 – Book of Acts

A quick read through chapter 11 concludes that it is a narrated version of what actually happened in chapter 10.  We began our previous article per chapter 10 noting that there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian band.

narrow way

TAKE THE NARROW WAY

Cornelius is the first Gentile recorded or mentioned by name in the bible to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was already a devout man of God but did not know about Jesus. Chapter 11 begins by “some of the circumcised believers [of The Way] challenged

Peter because he met with and socialized via his witness and teachings with a Gentile. A major part of the issue and prejudice here is that the Israelites, especially those of the Tribe of Judah and living in Jerusalem at this time, felt themselves as the only ones in God’s chosen. They are His chosen but not his only people. The confused and ignorant Jewish Christians that confronted Peter as soon as he returned to Jerusalem after teaching Cornelius and his family about Jesus still had arrogance to deal with per Christ taking the sin of the world to the cross; not just that of Israel.

More than the traditional Judaism issues in conflict with Peter’s witnessing to Gentiles but it was a violation of traditional Jewish customs. We still see that today in cross-denominationalism. People want to bring their “customs” into play if and when they get a new pastor or they go to another church. This is the very essence of chapter 11. Traditional customs have nothing to do with any of the salvation passages in the entire Bible. They are not part of faith, grace, believing, accepting Christ, or salvation.

Peter goes back to his Joppa incident and the animals he called unclean in chapter 10. He got the point that Christ is not just for the Jews who wish to accept him as the true Messiah. He came “that all may be saved” (I Timothy 2:4). He recaps the entire incident to those now in Jerusalem. Peter points out to his critics…

Acts 11:17 “Forasmuch then as God gave them the [Holy Spirit] as [He did] unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”

Acts 11:18 is a good conclusion to his issue with those who confronted him upon his return to Jerusalem:

Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying; Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

RENPENTANCEWe might equate this with modern times, if it is even possible today, for believers to understand the building they attend worship and praise services is NOT THE CHURCH. There is nothing sacred about the building or the artifacts, utensils, and carpeting inside the building that is sacred. To think so takes us back to the Judeans hiding behind their temple.

Dr. J. Stark

October, 2018

Acts 10 – an Italian Band?

Acts 10 – an Italian Band?

Act 10:1  “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,…” (KJV)

This most likely is not the band that comes to mind when we read this verse. Cornelius was the (Greek) hekatontarchēs or captain of a hundred so in a sense he was the “band” director.

He was a devout or eusebēs man; one who took his responsibilities seriously. He was also a strong follower and believer in God (the Father), as in the God of Judaism even though he was Greek. He gave alms; prayed often but had not heard about The Way or Jesus. Now he needs to learn that Jesus is the “resurrection and the life” so God gave him a vision and an angel to explain his need for instruction per salvation.

Cornelius’ everyday living in respect of God were about to be rewarded by God.

Acts 10:4 (ERV) “God has heard your prayers and has seen your gifts to the poor. He remembers you and all you have done…”

There is a two-fold scenario or situation in chapter 10. We have the Greek-Roman-Italian centurion and a skeptical Peter who needs a better understanding of Jesus who came into this world in hopes that ALL may be saved; not just the Jews. Recall from previous articles that Paul welcomed the Greek (non-Jew) but Peter seemed to think Judaism practices juxtaposed with the New Testament salvation message. This is how both scenarios play out then become one.

Centurion: He was a faith-believer. He practiced his belief in God daily. He did not yet know about Jesus and the salvation message as he was still old school. This comes later in chapter 10 and the reason Peter gets involved. But first, God needs to deal with Peter’s prejudices and narrow sightedness of for just whom did Jesus come to redeem.

The centurion has a close household and apparently some faithful troops under his command. We read this later on in chapter 10. His Godliness is not hidden from either his family or his troops. In verses 5 – 8 Cornelius encounters an angel. What a moment that must have been for him; an angel in front of him and seemingly out of nowhere. No wonder he trembled.

Peter: Beginning with verse 9b, Peter now enters this chapter commentary. As those sent from Cornelius neared the city of Joppa where Simon Peter is lodging, Peter is going up on the roof top to pray. It is amazing. Many times in life people have begun to pray about something and the answer is just around the corner; i.e. already on the way. The danger is thankfulness or the lack of it; the answer brushed off as simply a welcomed coincidence. This chapter is a great one for dealing with things we too often chalk off as chance. This is also why scripture tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”. Peter is about to learn a big lesson and it is about to knock at the gate of where he is then residing.

Peter is hungry. He is praying and focusing on the God above. He personally knew Jesus but was a traitor of sorts at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. We might call this moment Peter’s prayer closet on the roof of a house. Does he feel closer to God up on the roof or might it be the lack of distractions? Whatever it is, this is where we find him.

He falls into a concentration level called a trance in scripture. The word trance is ekstasis in the Greek. It means “a throwing of the mind out of its normal state.”  This could be daydreaming or a total blanking out of one’s immediate surroundings. All of one’s five senses are overridden and open to some internal or external stimuli. It is when one turns within him or herself to concentrate deeply on but one thing. In Peter’s (prayer) situation, he is open to the guidance and voice of the Holy Spirit. So should we when praying.

This Peter-moment in Acts 10 takes us back to Exodus 3 and Moses confronting the fiery bush that did not burn up. It did not burn but was on fire. It probably did not produce heat either. We aren’t told but it was God’s fire; not the type we sense around a fireplace, camp fire or forest fire. Moses was totally involved with this mystery when God tells him to remove his shoes for not only is this Holy Ground, but a Holy Moment. Peter is in a similar situation in Acts 10:11.

JIV NOTE: When hungry one cannot think much about other issues in life. Peter being hungry was looking internally to his physical needs. God was about to help him look within himself and his real spiritual need to understand how the cross and resurrection made a change in the culture of Judaism and any other worship of God.

A sheet (vessel in some translations) of four legged animals, crawling, flying, and wild beasts descended from heaven…three different times. God told Peter to kill and eat. He refused each time as his traditional/customary practice of rejecting certain foods per the Law of Moses trumped his hunger. Some of the creatures of food he saw were what had traditionally been called unclean. We cannot question Peter’s devotion but we can question his traditional practice of a man-made law through Moses, even though at that time it was ordained of God.

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AHA MOMENT

Simple aha moment asks, can God change his mind? Obviously it is yes. What was once ordained of him per unclean foods is no longer the point. The real issue was Peter’s attitude about keeping Jewish customs a part of The Way since the cross of Calvary. In Hebrew tradtion, since Peter was one, it is a matter of Minhag versus Halacha; i.e. customs versus law. The rejection of unclean foods was more of a MINHAG (Jewish custom) versus HALACHA (God’s law). We could go into the Apostolic Age and the Council in Jerusalem around 50 A.D. per this discussion but his would be a distraction…for nowJ

Peter is told by a voice out of heaven to kill, prepare and eat of this food; any of the creatures within the sheet that descended from heaven. It is a challenge to his devotion to customs versus a new standard. In short, God is teaching Peter that there is no difference between Jewish souls and Gentile souls when it comes to faith, worship, group participation and/or customs once applicable to only the Israelites. This very same Jesus that Peter professes and teaches about is nonpartisan. This is in preparation for what he was about to be commanded to do when he shortly meets with Captain Cornelius; a gentile believer.

keyOne of the key and insightful verses is Acts 10:17

Peter wondered what this vision meant. (at the same time) The men Cornelius sent had found Simon’s house. They were standing at the door (seeking Peter).

While Peter was still trying to figure out what had just happened, coincidently (doubtful) or by the hand of God the men sent by Captain Cornelius arrive at the house where Peter is staying. Then the Spirit (capital “S”) tells Peter that there are three men there looking for him. Do as they request.

It is a bit odd that the voice from above that told him to eat of the animals in the vessel/sheet from heaven and while Peter is still without food and without explanation of his vision, the voice from heaven tells him to go with the three visitors without question. He does.

Acts 10:24 is another key verse. When this entourage from Joppa, the three sent by Cornelius, Peter and a few other believers from Joppa arrived at the home of Cornelius, not only is he there waiting but so is his family and others. Peter almost immediately points out that it is against Jewish Judaism custom and law to go into the home of a non-Jew.

It is then that he states why the vision he had on the roof top of what was customarily considered as unclean or common foods not fit for the Jews to eat but its implication and message was to Jew and Gentile. Cornelius explains why he sent for Peter and now wants to hear the message God deemed necessary for him to gain knowledge and understand.

In Acts 10:35 through the end of the chapter, Peter finally gets it and expresses that fact. Jesus came for all and is not exclusive to some and not others. This should address some of today’s “Christian denominations” who think exclusivity of being the elect is to them and not all mankind. Cornelius gets the entire salvation message through Peter from crucifixion to resurrection.

Acts 10:42 and 43 explains something else per the end time. Peter tells Cornelius that this very same Jesus will one time judge both the living and the dead; i.e. the Bema Seat Judgment of believers and the Great White Throne Judgment of nonbelievers. This is the living and the dead; no exceptions.

The final instruction of Peter to this group in Caesarea but given to those disciples who accompanied Peter out of Joppa:

V48: Peter told them to baptize Cornelius and his relatives and friends in the name of Jesus Christ.

cropped-minijim1Dr.JStark

September, 2018

Acts 8

Why???? Why did the Jews persecute just the church? There is no record of them doing the same thing to other religious, in their minds, demagogues? Even more significant, why did the Roman government allow this sect of people to operate a government and court system within the Romans established? Was not the Roman authority there to govern the people?

At this time in history Christianity in the eyes of the Romans came out of Judaism. Jesus was a Jew. The disciples were Jews. Jerusalem was predominantly Jews. Christianity mistakenly was viewed by Rome as a sect of Judaism. The Jews were allowed a certain amount of autonomy in keeping their own people in line making it easier for the Roman authorities, so they believed. We must recall though, the crucifixion of Jesus required the blessing or permission of the Roman authorities. The Romans saw Christianity (first to the Jew) as a sect or subdivision of Judaism. The first Christians were all Jews. The entire Bible is written by someone who was an Israeli (mistakenly called Jews). We do have instances where even in the life of Paul Jews might hold Roman citizenship. It was a crime for Sanhedrin authorities to judge or criminally punish those of Roman citizenry (Acts 25:10).

Saul witnessed the execution of Stephen in Acts 7. He was a Jew, a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee of the most stringent group, well-educated under Gamaliel, adherent to the “Law of Yahweh.” Saul (Paul) was so dedicated to his persecution and arresting of Christians, Acts 8:3 the (ERV) “all believers but the Apostles LEFT JERUSALEM for other parts of Judea and Samaria.” The Jews of Germany tried to flee their country prior to WWII for the same reasons of persecution by another Saul (Hitler); same fervor; same dedication; same goal.

Acts 8:4 states that where ever these Christians fled they took the good news of Christ with them and shared it with fellow Jews. We get a very odd introduction to Phillip, one of the seven chosen to “wait tables.” Luke simply tells us in verse 5 that “Phillip goes to Samaria.” We can probably safely assume it was Paul’s persecution that chased even Phillip out of town. For better understanding and since verse 3 states that all but the Apostles (the 12) fled Jerusalem, we must understand that there are two prominent “Phillips” in the Bible. One is Phillip the Apostle. The other is Phillip the Evangelist; waiter of tables. This Phillip in Acts is the evangelist, not the Phillip the Apostle. No contradiction of scripture!!!! Two different men.

Phillip is an example of a message spread, thanks to Saul who chased Christians like Phillip out of Jerusalem in the first place. People in Samaria witnessed the works of Phillip ((table waiter) and believed in his Messiah. Evil spirits were driven out; cripples were healed; as verse 8 puts it in the ERV…”What a happy day this was for that city.”  The King James says there was great joy in the city. This is the same city Jesus healed the ten lepers. It was the second capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and eventually its name became synonymous with the Ten Tribe Kingdom of Israel. Sargon II of Assyrian conquered and renamed it Samerina. Today it is the West Bank but still a former territory of Israel B.C.

Phillip the evangelist encounters a well-known local sorcerer named Simon. According to the ERV he bewitched the people of Samaria with his magic. Verse 11 says he had been a practicing sorcery for a long time in this area. Amazingly or perhaps half-heartedly, Simon heard the message of Phillip and his cohorts and claimed to be a believer.

JIV: this part of scripture gets sticky but facts are facts. We teach – You Decide

Simon was truly impressed with the miracles of Phillip and his associates in Samaria. SO much so he claimed to become a believer. The theological question raised here; did Simon believe in the God of these miracles or did he believe these miracles to be a new kind of magic? Which belief was it? He believed in God and Jesus or the obvious miracle magic of Phillip.

The answer is alluded to when Simon witnesses Phillip’s laying on of hands for baptism of the Holy Spirit in new believers (Acts 8:18-24). He didn’t ask for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asked for the skill and power to do this thing he saw as a great magic. He was willing to pay for it. Phillip in verse 23 tells him to REPENT. This is our insight to the heart of Simon. He wanted the power but by not seeking to be baptized in the Holy Spirit he did not want to “live” as a Christian. His motive for asking was for himself. It had nothing to do with living a life in Christ.

JIV NOTE: This is still true today. People claim belief in Christ but often as fire insurance instead of eternal assurance. I want to be, one thinks in his or her heart, but not conform and live as a believer. Our churches, pulpits, and pew dwellers are full of these people. No action or desire beyond hiring a preacher to do it for them.

In verse 24 Simon begs Phillip to “pray for me so that these bad things you just said (verse 22) won’t happen.” Here is a classic example of wondering about someone requesting prayer but no willing to humble him or herself to the point of seeking forgiveness directly instead of through a third person. 1 John 1:9 reads if“if you confess your sin” leaves no room to ask someone else to do it for you. It should shed light on what it actually means to pray for someone but it certainly does not mean to pray as a substitute. Simon KNEW (YADDA) what he was told by Phillip to personally do! Acts 8:22 …PRAY & REPENT!

JIV: This passage in scripture is why at times when someone asks for prayer I assure them that I will but after s/he seeks God him or herself first. I can pray for your understanding of scripture but I cannot pray, as no one else can, in absentee. 1 Timothy 2:3, 4 is specific. Even Jesus can’t do it unless we first seek him. He wants all to be saved but cannot make that free-will decision for anyone. He paid the price but we must seek its rewards.

At this point in Acts 8, Luke immediately changes topics. Phillip does not tell the man to quote the Lord’s Prayer or that they put hands on him to pray for him. It all abruptly stops at verse 24. Verse 25 finds them witnessing on their way back to Jerusalem.

What follows is one of those amazing facts that one is unlikely to hear from any other source. The information is there but seldom seen or put together. 1,000 years earlier in the Old Testament we find King Solomon on the throne of Israel. His wisdom is widely known. Many  many seek counsel with him.

In the Bible we are introduced to an unnamed queen from the land of Sheba who travels to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon (see 1 Kings 10; 2 Chronicles 9). Accompanied by many attendants and camels, the Queen of Sheba brings a large quantity of spices, gold and precious stones with her. She is drawn to Jerusalem because of Solomon’s fame, and she tests the king with hard questions. Solomon is able to answer them all. In return King Solomon gives the Queen of Sheba gifts and “every desire that she expressed” (1 Kings 10:13). After receiving these gifts, the queen returns to the land of Sheba with her retinue.ark.jpg

Is this the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? Many Ethiopians believe that the Ark of the Covenant resides within the “Chapel of the Tablet” next to the Church of Maryam Tsion in Aksum, Ethiopia. They believe that the Ark traveled with Solomon’s firstborn son, Menelik, from Jerusalem to the land of Sheba. Where is the land of Sheba? According to the *Kebra Nagast, it is ancient Ethiopia.

* The Kebra Nagast is a 14th-century account written in Ge’ez, an ancient South Semitic language that originated in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Need more understanding as to the question “is it possible Menelik was the son of Sheba and Solomon? His name means “son of the wise king.” Ethiopians claim the Queen of Sheba as part of their heritage, and through her union with King Solomon, Ethiopians today claim a connection between their kings and the Davidic monarchy of Israel. Judaism was for centuries the dominant religion of the Kingdom of Ethiopia. It spanned the Horn of Africa and across the Red Sea to Yemen territories of today. Haile Selassie (1930 to 1974) claimed to be a descendant of Sheba and Solomon. Emperor Menelik to Haile Selassie is 225 generations of continual rule in Ethiopia.

Now for the 1,000 year connection between Old Testament  King Solomon, Queen Makeda of Sheba, New Testament Phillip and the Ethiopian leaving Jerusalem on the “desert road” with Judaism scrolls he did not understand (Acts 8:30-34). After the Queen Makeda returned to Ethiopia Judaism became their national religion. See the previous page picture of “Chapel of the Tablet” in Ethiopia. Genesis 49:10 states the scepter will not depart from the lineage of Judah.

JIV NOTE: The Bible never states the scepter won’t leave the Land of Judah. It says that it will not leave the lineage of Judah until Christ, himself a descendent of the Tribe of Judah, returns to earth with the New Jerusalem and His Millennial Reign.

The Ethiopian Eunuch, a royal member of the Ethiopian kingdom, was in Jerusalem seeking scrolls of Judaism scripture. Phillip was told of God to take the Desert Road out of Jerusalem but not told why (Acts 8:26). This is the same road the Ethiopian was taking to return to Ethiopia. Here Phillip and the Ethiopian cross paths. Phillip climbs into the royal chariot and explains the scripture to him about how the savior was “lead to the slaughter like a lamb.” Then Phillip introduces the Ethiopian to Christ the promised Messiah. He becomes a believer, is baptized and returns to Ethiopia to bring this good news to his people.epthopia

Fact: Today Ethiopia is one of two African nations where Christianity is still the dominant religion. Ethiopia is surrounded by nations that are over 95% Muslim yet it remains Christian. Judaism played a dominant role in Ethiopia since 950 B.C. In the 1st century A.D. Christianity became their dominant religion. All because of King Solomon, Queen of Sheba and a 1,000 years later, the “table waiter” Phillip and an Ethiopian dignitary. These are the facts. What do they add up to? A direct connection between the Queen of Sheba giving birth to Solomon’s first son (Menelik) who was the first Emperor of Ethiopia and his lineage continuing until 1974; almost 3,000 years.

PS; The name Haile Selassie means: The Trinity. 

This is the Imperial standard of Ethiopia up to the recent past. Note the Lion of the Tribe of Judah as its center piece. 

cropped-minijim1Rev. Dr. Jstark
August, 2018

 

Acts Chapter 7

He knew it would be his death speech! Although this is somewhat speculation, it is what came of it. Stephen, one of the 7 selected to “wait tables” discussed in Acts 6 (first few verses) was doing a lot more than WAITING TABLES to be dragged before the Sanhedrin Council. A problem we sometimes run into in reading scripture is that all languages do not have direct translations of many original manuscript words or wording meaning. Sometimes we don’t even have a word into which to translate a word or two from scripture. In a sense, this is one of those times. To “wait tables” takes most of us to a restaurant scenario where the host or hostess waits on our table. This is NOT what Luke means per “wait tables” (Acts 6:2) (see end of article comment).

Stephen, one of the seven selected to “wait tables” was not brought before the Sanhedrim for being a bad waiter. His role in “waiting tables” included his testimony and street ministry seeking the lost with the message of the cross. He begins his message to the Sanhedrin in Acts 6:8-10. In short the wise guys in the Jewish sect of Judaism could not argue or dispute his rebuttals to all of their charges. This more than disturbed them…it perturbed them. Stephen was “waiting their tables” with ‘servings of’ truth and actuality they could not defend against.

The setting and charges against Stephen is found it Acts 6:13, 14…

“This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”

Holy place? Their Hebrew Law of Moses? Destroy this place? Change the customs or traditions of their way? It is obvious that even these religious leaders of Judaism could not find a charge against Stephen and his views of God. The closest they come to anything set in worshiping is when they say “this Holy place.” We experience this too much today. We have tried to make the church building or sanctuary by creating rules for its use; no coffee or beverages allowed, no running in the sanctuary, take you chatter outside, etc. We have heard these claims but where does the purpose of worship fit into the mix? Far too many so-called church denominations are bent on bible compromise leaving the Holy Spirit outside knocking on a window hoping HE might come in during their worship(?) service.

A church sanctuary as we identify it is not a Holy Place; now and it never was. The only place God identified as a Holy Place was the inner workings of the Temple (Tabernacle during the Wilderness experience) called the Holy of holies (Habakkuk 1; Hebrews 9; Matthew 27:50-51). It is the body of believers that is to be holy, not the building. When someone is more concerned about the carpet in the building than the soul next to him/her or the person carrying a bottle of water either into the building or walking the streets, are we like them or unequally yoked with semi-believers or religious nonbelievers in a less than worship attitude?

pointingStephen was up against this when his accusers were defending the building, their traditions, customs, and their man made laws, not the spiritual concerns of individuals and the former nation of Israel’s relationship with their one true God. God’s purpose for creating man never enters Stephen’s appearance before the Sanhedrin. (JIV NOTE: Neither is God mentioned by Jewish leadership when any of the Apostles were dragged before this “holier than thou” bunch of priests, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other related individuals).

Acts 7 is Stephen’s defense (witness) to the charges against him and in actuality, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In Acts 7:1 the High Priest asks Stephen, “Are these things (charges) so?” In verse 2 Stephen immediately takes them back to the historical root of their problem. It begins with God speaking to Abraham some 2000 years earlier. Stephen takes those who were judging him from the beginning of their Israeli identity to their point in time.

Before we give you the short version and sequential history of Israel, as did Stephen before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:2-53, let’s pause at one line in Acts 7:43. It reads:

You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

I will send you into exile BEYOND Babylon. At this point in Stephen’s reciting of their history they hadn’t yet entered the Promised Land. Here is a now fulfilled prophecy hidden within Stephen’s review of their history as a people; a house of Israel. The Sanhedrin members, as did all of Israel, knew that by now, 800 years later, they were dispersed amongst other nations; no longer a nation themselves. In essence, Stephen was pointing out that their authority was limited by proximity, not national domain. He pointed out that they were stuck in the past and no longer were in touch or reality with their modern times under Roman authority. This is very similar to many church groups today. They fight to defend their customs and traditions but haven’t a clue how to lead someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Acts 7:49… Stephen points out that God is no longer in their Temple as it was made by hands of man. Heaven is HIS throne. Earth itself is but a foot stool of God. What kind of “house” can one build for a God of this nature? Their sanctuary meant nothing to God anymore. The veil had been rent or torn in two.  Their temple then, as are our churches today are man-made.

Acts 7:50… Did your hands create any or even a part of creation? This verse is ripe for the picking and could be a message or article in and of itself…but not here. (sorry)

Acts 7:51… Why do you always (yes, always! ἀεί) resist the Holy Spirit as did your fathers in the past? ἀεί means to resist change or accept anything that suggests change. What in actuality Stephen is pointing out the Sanhedrin’s inability to recognize the Holy Spirit. They had a god, mostly of their making by this time, and refused to be influence by HIM. They are “stiff-necked and uncircumcised.” A stiff-necked person refuses to look left or right staying focused on the trail they have chosen, not one God has chosen for them. Their heart is uncircumcised meaning covered over… a form of remaining in the dark rather than exposed to the light of day.

In Acts 7:53 Stephen hits hard. His judges and (false) accusers want to judge by the Law (of Moses) but only selectively living by it. This does it. They rush upon him dragging him out of the city to be stoned. Enter stage left…Saul, soon to be known as the Apostle Paul.

As said earlier on in this article per chapter 7, who was actually on trial here; Stephen or the Sanhedrin?

Review of Stephen’s history of Israel.

  1. Abraham told by God to leave his country.
  2. Abraham sojourns to the “future” Promised Land of Israel
  3. God did not give any of this land to Abraham (Lot) but promised it to a future generation
  4. Abraham told his future GREAT-grand kids would live and multiply in a “different” land (Egypt)
  5. This future generation will be mistreated in Egypt living there for 400 years.
  6. A deliverer will be sent to retrieve these people from Egypt. In this Promised Land they will worship me. A prophecyof the New Jerusalem as would be their dispersion after Babylon.
  7. Circumcision becomes a symbol of Israeli descendants. (Ishmael at 13; Isaac at 8 days old)
  8. The jealousy of 11 brothers against Joseph and sold to those in a caravan heading to Egypt
  9. Joseph finds great favor in the eyes of Egypt and he is made 2nd in command of this land.
  10. A great famine comes over Egypt, Canaan and surrounding lands in the westerly Middle East
  11. Jacob with his 75 member household hear that there is grain to be purchased in Egypt
  12. The brothers minus Benjamin are sent to Egypt to purchase grain.
  13. A second time they are sent to Egypt for grain and Joseph finally reveals to them who he is.
  14. Pharaoh meets Joseph’s father and ‘some’ of his brothers. Gad is not introduced by Joseph.
  15. 75 of Joseph’s (Jacob’s) clan move to prime land in Egypt as shepherds in Goshen.
  16. Jacob dies in Egypt but is buried in Shechem where Abraham had purchased land years earlier
  17. The descendants of Jacob multiple greatly in Goshen, Egypt to a point of outnumbering locals
  18. A NEW PHARAOH who knew not about Joseph takes the throne of Egypt; a foreign ruler
  19. He subjects the Israelis to hard labor lest they overthrow him due to their population numbers
  20. Moses is born when the new Pharaoh fears this large number of Israelites inside his kingdom
  21. Babies of Israeli DNA are slaughtered but Moses is saved and raised in Pharaoh’s household
  22. 40 years Moses is instructed in the cultural ways of the Egyptians and warfare
  23. At 40 years of age he decides to visit his Israeli brethren unannounced.
  24. Moses sees one of his brethren being abused by an Egyptian slave master and kills the Egyptian
  25. Moses assumed his brethren would accept him as their redeemer/rescuer. NOT!
  26. Moses visits his people finding them quarreling. He steps in to act as a facilitator, ruler, judge
  27. The fight turns against Moses and he is told he is a murderer. If they know, so does Pharaoh
  28. Moses flees Egypt to Media for 40 years for fear of the wrath of the Pharaoh
  29. He has two sons (not mentioned here but they are Gershon and Eliezer – Exodus 18:3,4
  30. Mt Sinai, angel, voice of God, burning bush, ordered to return to Egypt and rescue his people
  31. Moses is to rescue the very same people who rejected him 40 years earlier (He is 80 years old)
  32. Moses redeems his own DNA and the Red Sea incident in history
  33. 40 more years he spends ruling and judging the people of Israel in the Wilderness
  34. Moses receives the oracles (10 commandments) on Mt. Sinai
  35. Israelis’ turn against Moses and God and in their hearts wish to return to the old world Egypt
  36. Aaron make an image of gold for Moses has seemingly vanished; they are now leaderless
  37. God condemns these people for they turned to god’s made by man
  38. God warns them of a far distant future when they will be dispersed as a people first by the Assyrians, 720 B.C. then by the Babylonians in 597, 587, and again in 582 B.C.
  39. Stephen’s Sanhedrin judges and accusers are reminded of the Wilderness Tabernacle designed by God and how Israel took this architecture with them into the Promised Land
  40. The Tent Tabernacle exists until the time of King David. King Solomon builds the first Temple
  41. The Most High God does not live in houses built by human hands” (Acts 7:49)
  42. Stephen accuses the Jewish leaders of being self-righteous refusing to give hearts to the God
  43. “You are always against what the Holy Spirit wants you to do. That’s how your ancestors were, and you are just like them!” (Acts 7:51b)
  44. The prophets they rejected in their past. Now they reject the answer to this promised Messiah
  45. They received God’s Law through Moses but personally reject it in their personal daily living; in a real sense, they use it to their advantage, not as a way of life.steven stoned.jpg

It is at this point the Sanhedrin falls into a great rage dragging Stephen from the court room to stone him. Stephen see heaven open with “the Son of man” seated next to the God creator of all things.

cropped-minijim1Rev. Dr. Jstark
August 2018

PS; Yes, Stephen was appointed to “wait tables.” He knew exactly what the Sanhedrin bunch needed for their lunch and he delivered it to them. A large portion of truth!