From Athens To Corinth

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Paul concluded his testimony before the Athenian city council (303).  Some in the audience didn’t believe in resurrection from the dead, so they made fun of Paul.  But others said, “We want to hear you speak about this again.”

When Paul left the meeting, some people joined him & believed; among them were Dionysius (a member of the city council), a woman named Damaris, and some other people.

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Before leaving Athens, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonika, to see how the new church there was holding up in the face of persecution from unbelieving Jews.

Then Paul left Athens and went on to the Greek city of Corinth. Living there was a Jew named Aquila; he was originally from Pontus in northeastern Turkey, but he had later lived in Italy.  When the Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome, Aquila had moved to Corinth with his wife, Priscilla.

Upon his arrival in Corinth, Paul lived with Aquila & Priscilla; he also worked with them, since they all earned their living by making tents.

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Every Sabbath, Paul held discussions in the local synagogue, trying to convince both Jews & Greeks to follow Jesus.

When Silas & Timothy arrived in Corinth from Macedonia, the Holy Spirit led Paul to begin preaching the message full-time, testifying to the local Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.

Some of these Jews opposed Paul & said evil things about him.  Paul protested by shaking the dust from his clothes & saying to them, “If you are lost, you yourselves must take the blame for it; I’m not responsible. From now on I will minister to the Gentiles here in Corinth.”

So Paul then began teaching next door in the house of Titius Justus, a Gentile who had been converted to the worship of God.

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Many people in Corinth heard the message, believed & were baptized – including Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, together with all his family.

LORD, please help us to love serving You, wherever You send us.

(303) Acts 17:32-18:8

Jason: A Thessalonian Friend

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The Holy Spirit led Paul & Silas to travel from Philippi to the Greek city of Thessalonika (300).

For three Sabbaths, Paul taught in the local synagogue, explaining the inspired scriptures in the light of Jesus.  He proved from the scriptures that the Messiah had to be killed & rise from death.  Paul insisted that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Some of the Thessalonians were convinced and joined Paul & Silas; so did many of the leading women of the city & many other Greeks who had become believing Jews.

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But the unbelieving Jews were jealous & offended by Paul’s ministry.  They recruited some worthless loafers from the streets & formed a mob to protest against the witnesses for Jesus.  Almost immediately, the whole city was set in an uproar!

This mob broke into the home of a friend of Paul & Silas, a man named Jason.  Their aim was to punish Paul & Silas, but when they couldn’t find them, they dragged Jason & some other believers before the city authorities.

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“These outsiders have caused trouble everywhere! Now they have come to our city, and Jason has harbored them in his house,” they shouted. “They are all breaking the laws of the Emperor, saying that there is another king, whose name is Jesus!”

The Thessalonian city authorities could not ignore these charges; they had to do something to quiet the crowd.  They ordered Jason & his companions to pay a fine, but then they released them from custody!

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LORD, please help us to love being friends to Your servants.

(300) Acts 17:1-9

Jesus Came For All People

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As Paul & Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the Jewish people of Turkish Antioch invited them to come back the next Sabbath & tell them more about Jesus (285).

Many Jews, along with many Gentiles who had become Jews, followed Paul & Barnabas all the next week.  The two witnesses encouraged the people to keep on living in the grace of God.  The next Sabbath nearly everyone in town came to the synagogue to hear the word of God.

But some Jews would not accept Jesus as the Messiah.  When they saw the crowds, they were jealous; they began disputing what Paul was saying & insulting him.

Yet Paul & Barnabas stood strong: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to the Jews. But since you reject it & do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we will leave you & minister to the Gentiles. God has commanded us to do this, saying: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, so that the entire world may be saved.'”

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When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad & praised God for this message.   Those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers, and the word of God spread from Turkish Antioch throughout the Pisidian region.

However, the unbelieving Jews gradually stirred up the leading men of the city, along with certain socialites who had become Jews.

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These unbelievers started a campaign of persecution against Paul & Barnabas.  Eventually, they had the local government expel them from that region.

So the two witnesses shook the dust off their feet in protest against the unbelievers, and traveled  southeast to the city of Iconium. But despite this persecution of Paul & Barnabas, the believers in Turkish Antioch remained filled with joy from God’s Holy Spirit.

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LORD, please help us to love all different kinds of people, as You do.

(285) Acts 13:42-52

Jesus Came From God

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Paul & Barnabas sailed from Cyprus to southern Turkey — to Perga, a city in the region of Pamphylia (283).  From there, Mark left them & returned to Jerusalem.

Paul & Barnabas went on to the Turkish city of Antioch, in the Pisidian region of southern Turkey.  On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.  After the reading from the law of Moses & from the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue invited them to speak: “Brothers, please give a message of encouragement.”

Paul then began to speak: “Fellow Israelites & you Gentiles who worship God: God chose our ancestors & made them a great nation during the time they lived as foreigners in Egypt.

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“Then God brought them out of Egypt by his great power & for 40 years he led them through the desert.

“Then God destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan & gave that land to his people, as he promised.  All this took place during a period of about 450 years.

“After this, God gave our people judges — until the time of the prophet Samuel. And when they asked for a king, God gave them Saul, son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for 40 years. After removing Saul as king, God made David their king.  God said of him, ‘David loves me so much that he will do everything I want him to do.’

“It was Jesus, a descendant of David, whom God eventually sent as savior of the people of Israel, as he had promised.

“Before Jesus began his work, John the Baptizer preached to all the people of Israel.  John told them that they should stop sinning & then be baptized — to show that they were going to serve Jesus from then on.

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“John said to the people, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not the Messiah you’ve been waiting for. But he is coming after me, and I’m not good enough even to take his sandals off his feet.'”

LORD, please help us to love telling people about Jesus.

(283) Acts 13:13-25

Witnesses On Cyprus

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Despite Herod’s persecutions, the word of God continued to spread & the body of Christ continued to grow (282). Barnabas & Saul finished their relief mission in Jerusalem & returned to Syrian Antioch, taking young Mark with them.  Paul was about 40 years old by this time.

In the church in Syrian Antioch there were several men who served as prophets & teachers: Barnabas, Simeon (called the Black), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (who had actually been brought up with Herod), and Saul.  Once, while they were serving God & fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas & Saul, to do the work to which I have called them!”

So the church leaders continued to fast & they prayed for confirmation of this word from God.  When God answered that prayer, the church leaders prayed & laid hands on Barnabas & Saul and sent them off, accompanied by Mark, to follow the Spirit’s leading.

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The Spirit first led them to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where they preached the good news of Jesus as Messiah in the synagogues of the city of Salamis.

Then they went across the island to the city of Paphos, where they met a magician named Bar-Jesus, a Jew who claimed to be a prophet. Bar-Jesus was a friend of the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man.

Because he wanted to hear the word of God, the governor called Barnabas & Saul before him.  But a magician, named Elymas, interrupted & tried to turn the governor away from the faith!

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In response, Saul (who now was known also as Paul) was emboldened by the Holy Spirit.  Looking straight at Elymas he declared, “You son of Satan! You’re the enemy of everything that is good. You’re full of evil tricks, and you always keep trying to turn God’s truth into lies.  Now God’s hand will strike you & make you blind for a while!”

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At once, a dark mist covered the eyes of Elymas, and he needed someone to lead him by the hand!

When the governor saw this, he believed; he was greatly amazed by the power of God, as well as by Paul’s teaching about God.

LORD, please help us to love Your power.

(282) Acts 12:24-13:12

An Unexpected Witness

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Saul began preaching in Jewish synagogues that Jesus is the Messiah promised by God (273).  People who knew Saul’s past hatred of Christians were amazed when they heard these messages!

After his ministry had continued for some time, jealous Jews plotted to kill Saul!  They kept watch day & night, looking for their chance.  But when their plot was revealed to Saul, believing brothers helped him escape Damascus at night, letting him down over the city wall in a large basket!

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(According to his testimony in a later letter to friends in the Galatian region of Turkey, Saul spent some time in Arabia after leaving Damascus.  Perhaps he was re-thinking the books of Moses, in light of his encounter with Jesus.  Eventually, Saul returned to Damascus, before going to Jerusalem for the first time as a Christian.)

When Saul finally got to Jerusalem, he tried to join the Christians there.  But they were all afraid of him & didn’t believe that he himself had really become a Christian.  Barnabas stepped in & brought Saul before the 12 witnesses.  Barnabas told them how Jesus had arrested Saul on the road to Damascus.  Barnabas also reported that Saul had preached the gospel boldly at Damascus.

Saul was then welcomed into fellowship with the believers at Jerusalem.  While there, he continued to speak boldly in the name of Jesus.  But he was opposed by Jews who followed certain Greek cultural traditions; they thought Saul was now the pagan, because he didn’t understand God exactly as they did.

Eventually, these Greek Jews actually plotted to kill Saul!  When the believers uncovered that plot, they took Paul away to the port city of Caesarea, and from there they sent him safely home to Tarsus.

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For a time after that, the churches throughout all Israel –Judea, Galilee & Samaria — had peace, and the members of the body grew closer & closer to God.  They honored God in their daily lives, and they were comforted by the Holy Spirit.  As a result, the churches continued to grow.

LORD, please help us to love learning of You from unexpected witnesses.

(273) Acts 9:20-31

The Spirit Works In Samaria

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Philip went to a large city in Samaria & preached to the people there that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God (269).    God used Philip to bring healing to many paralyzed & lame people, and to expel evil spirits from many other people. So there was great joy in that city.  And when they saw the miracles that were done, crowds of people began paying closer attention to what Philip said.

A man named Simon lived there; for a long time he had astounded the Samaritans with his magic tricks. He claimed that he was someone great, and everyone in the city, from every class of society, had been paying close attention to him.  “Simon has the great power of God,” they had said.

But when Philip came, many people believed his message about the good news of God’s kingdom & about Jesus Christ.  Many men & women were baptized to show their allegiance to Jesus.

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Even Simon the magician was baptized.  From then on, Simon stayed close to Philip; he was astounded when he saw the great wonders & miracles done by God through Philip.

The witnesses in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had received the word of God, so they sent Peter & John to them.  When they arrived, they found that the new believers in Samaria had been baptized with water for the forgiveness of their sins, but they had not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit.  So Peter & John laid hands on them & prayed that they would receive the Holy Spirit.

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And as they prayed, so it happened; God’s Spirit invaded & took over the lives of the new Samaritan believers!

Simon the magician saw that the believers had received the Holy Spirit when John & Peter placed their hands on them.   So he offered money to Peter & John, saying, “Give this power to me, too, so that anyone I place my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit.”

But Peter rebuked Simon: “You are in danger of going to hell, for thinking that you can buy God’s gift with money!  You can have no part in our work, as long as your heart is not right with God. Your sinful envy is obvious.  You need to repent & pray that God will forgive you for even thinking of such an evil plan.”

Then Simon said to Peter & John, “Please pray to God for me, so that I may not go to hell.”

After they had shared their testimony and proclaimed God’s message, Peter & John went back to Jerusalem. On their way they preached the good news about Jesus in many villages of Samaria.

Holy Spirit, please help us to love Your unexpected invasions of our lives.

(269) Acts 8:5-25