Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”

How could Paul make such a statement? Didn’t he formerly persecute and kill followers of Jesus? Yes, but apparently, he didn’t violate his conscience in doing those things.

And now Paul is released to speak to the Supreme Court of Israel and he is set to defend his recent action of creating students for Jesus. The very idea he formerly opposed!

Apparently, Paul could look back at the contradictory actions in his life and truthfully say he did everything in good conscience.

When he persecuted Christians, he thought it was God’s Will. After meeting Jesus, he worked to spread the Good News of Jesus. In both, he did what he thought to be right at the time.

That’s a good conscience! Doing what you think is right!

Sometimes preachers and commentators make much of the fact that conscience is not a good guide. The point is often made that only God’s Word – the Bible – can properly inform our consciences.

We can be conscientious, and be very wrong! After all, Paul was wrongly persecuting Christians with a clear conscience.

These are good observations. Our consciences alone are not an infallible guide for behavior. Doing something in good conscience doesn’t necessarily mean what we are doing is right. God’s Will must be the teacher of our conscience.

But there is another truth here and this is the importance of following our consciences! A good conscience is a mark of integrity. God gave us conscience to motivate us to proper behavior and create guilty feelings when we violate it.

Consider the possibility that Jesus appeared to Paul and chose him to be an apostle precisely because he was always lived with a good conscience!



Strange! Paul is in no hurry to get away from the mob that only seconds before was beating him to death.

Bruised and no doubt bleeding, Paul has only one thing on his mind. Convincing these people to become students of Jesus!

Even in pain, Paul has a one-track mind! He asks the commander of the soldiers who rescued him for permission to speak to the crowd.

This is an incredible example of dedication to the Teacher who said – Go and make students in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Paul reminds them of his former life as a persecutor of Christians. How he participated in the stoning of Stephen and of his efforts to kill other followers of Jesus!

Then he tells them how Jesus appeared to him and he became a student of Jesus. Commissioned to take the Good News to the Gentile nations!

He tells how Ananias taught him the necessity of being baptized into Christ - And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

He defends his mission efforts among the nations - Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'

The crowd listened quietly to Paul until he mentioned the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan. At this, they began again to call for his death and the soldiers carried him away.

Did Paul believe his testimony would change their minds? That they also would become students of Jesus? He must have hoped so.

In any case, he was doing what the Jesus asked of him. He was being a good student of the Teacher! And like Jesus, he loved them.

Saying someone has a one-track mind usually isn’t a compliment. But if it is a mind set on pleasing the Teacher it is high praise indeed!



Sometimes unpleasant circumstances seem to conspire against us. When in reality they bring us closer to our destiny. This is exactly what happened to Paul when he went to the temple.

Here Paul coincidentally meets some Jews from the province of Asia. No doubt from a city Paul had visited on one of his missionary journeys. They recognize him and are very upset to see him in the temple!

Perhaps they are some of the men who were in the mob who stoned him in Lystra or other irate men who unsuccessfully opposed him in Ephesus. Angry with Paul because of his success in teaching about Jesus in their synagogues!

They begin to shout to everyone - Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place.

Paul is a victim of circumstances. They bring a false accusation that he had defiled the temple by bringing Greeks there - They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.

The riot spreads through the city like wildfire. They drag Paul from the temple and begin to beat him to death. Only the intervention of a Roman troop saves his life!

Coincidence? Students of Jesus do not believe it. What seems to be accidental may be a part of God’s plan. Even unpleasant circumstances may be lead us to fulfill our destiny. God is sovereign!

When Jesus called Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles, He told him how he would suffer for his Name and be a witness before Kings.

Now, because of this incident Paul will be tried in several Roman Courts. As an attorney, Paul will make his own defense. And his message about Jesus will be heard by the Kings who sit in judgment over him.

Eventually Paul will be executed for his faith. But not before he fulfills the work Jesus gave him. And it’s no coincidence that these men who tried to kill Paul actually propel him along on the path of God’s Will.



Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Paul arrives in Jerusalem and meets with the Elders. He’s excited to share the results of his mission trips. When they heard this, they praised God.

God gave Paul incredible success in reaching out to the Gentile people. His reputation of establishing churches with large Gentile populations has preceded him to Jerusalem. But not all rumored about Paul’s work is true.

The elders inform Paul the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem have been told Paul teaches the Gentiles to reject the teaching of Moses. The elders are concerned that Paul’s presence will disturb the peace of the Jewish Christians there.

Of course Paul taught the truth, that following the teaching of Jesus is all-sufficient. However, he didn’t teach Gentile Christians to reject Moses, he only informed them they didn’t need to keep the customs of the Jews to be pleasing to God.

But, as we have already observed, some Jewish Christians do not yet understand this truth. They believe in Jesus for salvation, but erroneously believe everyone must also keep the teachings of Moses.

The elders have a plan to remove any doubt about Paul’s personal acceptance of Jewish customs. They ask Paul to take four men to the temple and pay for their purification rites.

Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you.

It is very informative that both the eldership and Paul know that these rites in the temple have nothing to do with salvation in Jesus. Yet, they are willing to participate in them for the purpose of unity with the Jewish Christians for whom these traditions are culturally relevant.

So Paul goes into a temple and makes an offering to priests who do not believe in Jesus. What does this say about our own willingness to become all things to all people that we may win them to Jesus? It's a Good Plan.



All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.

The University of Jesus is also the Family Universal. Every student of Jesus finds a brother or sister in every other student of Jesus! All believers everywhere in the world are children of God in the Heavenly Family!

Now Paul is on the final leg of his third missionary journey. He finds fellow Christians – Family - in every place he stops on his way to Jerusalem. In the cities of Tyre, Ptolemais and Caesarea!

Christian hospitality is extended. Food and lodging. But Paul finds much more than a meal and a roof over his head every time he meets fellow students of Jesus.

They pray and worship together. There is also genuine concern for one another.

A mutual love that seems strange to those who do not know Jesus!

How can you care so deeply for someone you met only today?

It is a love that can only be explained as the Love of God at home in the hearts of those who know Jesus. And it is this love that changes everything! For the love of God in our hearts causes us to love everyone, especially our friends in Christ.

Here we observe brothers and sisters genuinely concerned over Paul’s safety if he ventures into Jerusalem. A prophet named, Agabus, graphically predicts Paul’s imprisonment in Jerusalem.

When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem…Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."
This is what Family is all about!



It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Paul knows what Jesus says well enough to quote Him. Paul is a good student of the Teacher. He pays attention to what Jesus says and tries to pattern his life after Him.

And like Jesus, Paul is living the sacrificial and joyful life of a giver. Devoting his life to serving others!

Here, he charges the elders from the church in Ephesus to be faithful in their service as shepherds in the church.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

This is God’s plan for the church. Elders! Mature men who can serve others as examples of what it means to follow Jesus. And as teachers in the church!

As he says goodbye to these elders, he reminds them of his own lifestyle, the way he lived during the time he was with them.

He reminds them of the importance of preaching to others about the kingdom of God. He asks them to be on guard against those who might distort the truth of Jesus and lead people astray.

And Paul reminds of the importance of working in order to support their own families and to help others in need.

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak…

When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.



From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.

Now Paul says goodbye to the elders of the church in Ephesus. A final farewell to students of Jesus who have matured in the likeness of Jesus and become leaders in the church!

What dear thoughts must have arisen in his mind! Did he remember the first time he came to Ephesus? No doubt he thought about the first time he met these men and how they responded to his message and became followers of Jesus.

Paul would certainly miss their close fellowship, yet be at ease knowing he was leaving the church in their loving care.

He reminds them of how he conducted himself while with them every day for over two years. What he says to them reveals to us a great deal about Paul’s personality and manner of teaching.

We see into the very heart of Paul when he shares - You know how I lived the whole time I was with you…I served the Lord with great humility and with tears.

Paul was a man of emotion and compassion. He was not a cold dispenser of facts. He cared and they had seen his love in his tears!

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.

Sometimes Paul taught large assemblies. Often he would go to someone’s home and share the Good News with only a few.

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus…However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

What an example of how to be a good student of Jesus Paul was to them!



He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.

Ah, mission work… What a life Paul lived!

Always in unfamiliar surroundings and far from home. The rigors of travel, different cultures and strange food!

But Paul is a great student of Jesus. The Teacher promised that anyone who leaves the comforts of home and family for the sake of teaching the Gospel will be blessed. Reimbursed a hundred times for the sacrifice!

Jesus is always right! And now Paul knows from experience. He has hundreds of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. The people he has led to faith in Jesus!

Paul literally has a hundred homes open to him. Hundreds of gardens filled with produce are his. Thousands of hearts filled with love for him because of the message of hope he has shared.

And here we have the names of a few of Paul’s special friends. Those whose faith and devotion moved them to forsake their homes also. These traveling companions multiply his effectiveness in teaching.

But there is an additional burden for Paul. He is under almost constant threat of death, as the enemies of the Message of Jesus seek to destroy the man who leads so many to become students of Jesus.

Through these trials, his companions also serve as bodyguards. Paul is comforted and no doubt emboldened to have them at his side. He is not alone!

This is all highly reminiscent of the ministry of Jesus. Though constantly under verbal and physical threats, the Twelve traveled with Him. Believed in His mission and supported Him.

Bodyguards? Perhaps. A source of strength? Undoubtedly!



There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited…

Money and religion together can be a good thing. The first students of Jesus in Jerusalem sold land and houses and brought the money to the apostles. These charitable contributions fed the poor and needy.

On this third missionary journey, Paul is collecting money from the Gentile churches to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Jesus taught the value of giving money to help the poor.

Money is not inherently evil. But the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Especially when it gets in the way of following Jesus.

Here, the advance of Christianity is opposed by a silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines for the idol worship of Artemis. Paul’s teaching that man-made gods are not gods at all affects his business. He calls an emergency meeting of the silversmiths and other craftsmen who are losing money.

Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia.

These men created a riot and the whole city was in an uproar. The mob seized some of Paul’s company. Disaster was averted only when a city official managed to calm the crowd.

Religion and money are only compatible when money takes a subordinate role and is used for good and necessary purposes.

Students of Jesus are the most generous people in the world. Their contributions feed the hungry; clothe the poor, aid orphans and widows and support those who teach the Good News throughout the world.

But there is always danger when money becomes more important than Jesus.



Paul decided to go to Jerusalem…"After I have been there," he said, "I must visit Rome also."

Paul looks ahead. He plans to complete this third missionary journey with a trip to Jerusalem. Then on to Rome!

From other passages in the New Testament, we learn one of Paul’s reasons for wanting to go to Jerusalem. He desires to take a gift of money to the poor Christians there.

On this tour, he plans to collect contributions from the newly formed Gentile churches for this purpose.

In the meantime, Paul is able to live and teach in the city of Ephesus for two years with great success. He established daily classes in the school of Tyrannus - so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

As with most cities in the Roman Empire, Ephesus was home to idolatry and sorcery. Paul was able to lead people out of those superstitions into knowledge of the True and Living God and Jesus His Son.

Here we see a clash of ideas. On the one hand, reliance on superstition, soothsayers, fortune tellers, and the occult! On the other, the simple message of trust in Jesus for direction in life.

The Good News of Jesus finds great acceptance in Ephesus.

Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

Becoming a student of Jesus means relying on Him not only for direction in life, but also for a sense of security about the future! Followers of Jesus no longer seek to peer into the future through astrology and sorcery, but completely trust their tomorrows to Jesus.



After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Paul leaves Corinth and travels to Ephesus. He doesn’t stay long. His second missionary journey comes to a close. He returns for a Homecoming - to his home base - the Antioch Church.

His first journey took him to the Island and Cyprus and then to several cities in what is now central and eastern Turkey. On this second longer journey, he revisited the churches he established on his first journey and then traveled farther west, establishing churches in the cities of Greece.

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul embarks on his third missionary tour. His purpose? To strengthen the students of Jesus he enlisted on his first two journeys!

Paul has been paying close attention to the Teacher. Jesus said to go and make students and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But that isn’t all He said. Jesus continued by saying – Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded…

Who is responsible for nurturing new students? To show them how to become successful students? According to Jesus, it is the person who taught them and baptized them in the first place!

This is what makes Paul’s work such a model for students of Jesus today. He doesn’t go out and share the good news, make new students for Jesus, baptize them and then abandon them.

He also does the much more time-consuming work of getting involved in their lives, answering their questions and helping them through problems.

That’s why He goes back to the same places again and again. And why, when he can’t see them face to face, he writes personal letters, many of which are preserved in the New Testament. In all of this, Paul is a conscientious student of Jesus.



Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.

Here God tells Paul not to worry for his personal safety. He will not be harmed in Corinth. What a relief this must have been to Paul.

He has been stoned and left for dead in Lystra and beaten and imprisoned in Philippi! Numerous death threats and often chased from town to town. Yet still managing to establish churches on the run.

Now Paul will have a time of relative peace and great success. God tells him many in this city will turn to Jesus. For a year and a half, Paul will teach the message of Jesus to the people of Corinth.

As with any new church planting, the fellowship in Corinth will experience growing pains. But Paul will lay a firm foundation of faith before he leaves the city. Later, he will write two letters of the New Testament addressing some of the problems that will develop in the church.

Paul attached himself to Aquila and Priscilla. He lived with this couple and worked side by side with them in the business of tent making. For the most part, Paul worked with his own hands to support his mission work.

At first, as his custom was, Paul reasoned with the Jews and Greeks in the synagogue. When forces of opposition grew, he devoted himself to teaching the Gentile population of Corinth exclusively.

The arrival of Silas and Timothy freed Paul from the demands of tent making and he devoted himself exclusively to preaching with great success.

And many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

This is the same pattern of responding to the message of Jesus that we have observed in each case of conversion recorded in the Book of Acts.



In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

Athens may be an elite city, a place of education and philosophy, nevertheless, in one respect the people are no different from people everywhere. They too must repent!

In fact, Athenian preoccupation with man-made philosophy and mythical religion has left them without any real connection with the True and Living God.

That’s why Paul’s message is the same. They must believe in Jesus and change their lives.

John the Baptizer preached the same message when he prepared the people for Jesus’ coming. Jesus also taught the necessity of repentance. The message is universal because the need is universal.

Athens certainly was no exception – Paul...was greatly distressed to see the city was full of idols.

A city filled with images and temples to various Gods! Paul noticed one altar with the inscription - TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

Seizing the opportunity, Paul announces his intention to tell them about the God they do not know. He informs them this God cannot be contained in an image, an idol or a temple.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

He challenges their misguided religious pursuits –In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

They must repent, give up their superstitions and believe in Jesus. For Jesus will one day judge the world.
Today, for modern man, the message is The Same!



Now the Bereans…were of more noble character…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

The Bereans listened to Paul’s message about Jesus. But they did much more. They investigated the claims he was making.

If they had blindly accepted the Good News, they would have been - Irresponsible. If they had rejected the Message out of hand because it was new, they could be called - Prejudiced. Because they searched the Scriptures to see if it was true, God calls them - Noble.

The Bereans opened the Old Testament prophecies to see if Paul’s message about Jesus was true. Did Jesus life, death and resurrection measure up to the predictions found there about the Savior who was to come?

Their conclusion after thorough investigation:

Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

The citizen’s of Berea serve as a classic example for students of Jesus everywhere. For them, God’s written Word was the source of authority for direction in life. For this reason, they searched the Scriptures.

The text also says they searched the Scriptures with eagerness! Their receptivity to the message is understandable. Who wouldn't be hopeful about forgiveness of sin and a future resurrection from the dead?

And while they no doubt lived very busy lives – as everyone does – they set aside some time to read and study God’s Word. It was excitement about knowing Jesus' new way for their lives that motivated them to re-arrange their priorities to make time for Bible study.

Scripture was for them both authoritative and exciting. So much so, that it is recorded - they examined the Scriptures every day!

It was a long time ago, but their attitudes and actions still describe every serious student of Jesus today. Daily Reading!



As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures

Paul is a great student of Jesus. He knows that some habits are good. And he learned this from the Teacher!

Jesus also had a custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath to read Scripture and teach the people!

Paul does what successful students of Jesus do. He pays attention to the Teacher. Not only what the Teacher says, but also what He does.

He learns that good habits are as strong and lasting as bad ones.

Often we think of habits as bad things – weakness, addiction, indulgence, sin! Perhaps everyone could name a few bad habits standing between them and a better way of living.

Bad habits are hard to break. But so are good habits!

Our Teacher doesn’t want us to do good haphazardly. He shows us how to make disciplined acts of goodness habitual, until we do them because it is who we are becoming. Until they become habit!

The Teacher shows us the way to a fuller life – the best life – is changing our habits. What is customary of us!

Here Paul reaps the positive rewards of his good habit.

Some…were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

By consciously disciplining ourselves to follow the example and teaching of Jesus, gradually we actually become more like Him.

Then it may be said of us – They followed Jesus as their custom was.



Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

This is the most important question anyone can ask. It is the thought on the mind of the Philippian jailer when he understands Paul and Silas are sent by God.

And it is the reason why Paul and his company have left their homes. To take the message of rescue to the world!

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”

The answer to the question is Jesus! It is He who came to earth and died for the sins of the world. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, opening the way to live with God forever.

The jailer believed in Jesus power to save him. He took Paul and Silas out of the prison and washed their wounds - then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

We see once again the coupling of faith and baptism. Immersion in water for the remission of sins – as Peter first preached in Jerusalem –is what faith leads a student of Jesus to do.

In fact, baptism is so closely linked to faith that in the Book of Acts nobody who came to faith in Jesus delayed their baptism once they were told of its necessity.

Here it says the jailer and his household were baptized immediately!

Baptism is God’s preordained response of faith in Jesus. In baptism one demonstrates his trust in Jesus’ sacrifice. It is being born again as the Teacher said, “You must be born of water and the Spirit.”

Faith that leads to the obedience of baptism brings forgiveness of sins, entrance into the Church of Christ and the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

What must I do to be saved? This is The Question!



About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Paul and Silas are beaten severely and imprisoned. Doubtless without proper medical care! Their reaction is surprising. They sing!

Surely, the other prisoners must have thought them mad. But their pain is not all they feel this night. Their spirits are buoyed by the fact they have not suffered in vain, rather in loving service to the Cause of Jesus.

Jesus warned that those who follow Him would suffer as He did. As the good purposes of Jesus advance in the hearts of men and women, forces of opposition inflict physical or emotional pain and suffering.

Why is there suffering in the world? Why, if God is loving and powerful?

The usual answer is that humans cannot enjoy both free will and a world free from the suffering that wrong choices bring. This rings true. Sometimes we suffer because of the sin of others or even our own.

In a fallen world, the impulse to avoid personal suffering leads man to inflict pain on others. Shortages of food may lead to theft or even murder. Inevitably, some suffer loss of property or even their lives.

Nations war against each other over land disputes or even national honor. To avoid economic pain or loss of pride, more hurt ensues.

But choosing not to believe in God because of suffering in the world does not remove suffering. It only removes the truth that makes suffering bearable.

Jesus came to show how to deal with suffering that naturally comes in a world where hurting one another seems to offer the quickest way to avoid pain ourselves. He answered hostility and suffering with love.

Knowing they will suffer, students of Jesus like Paul and Silas, choose to redeem their suffering through love. A love that extends even to their jailer who was about to kill himself for fear his prisoners had escaped - Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"



From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia.

Here the Good News comes to Europe! To Philippi! A Roman city named for the father of Alexander the Great - Phillip of Macedon - the leader who united Greece.

Paul’s ability to travel freely through different countries and his ability to speak to different cultures in a common language is no accident of history. God has prepared the world for this possibility.

First by the spread of Greek culture through the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greek language has become the second language of people throughout the world. This allows Paul – also schooled in Greek – to teach in every culture without learning their unique language.

Then, the rise of the Roman Empire has brought law and order to the known world. The Pax Romano – Roman Peace - has supressed hostile nations under Roman Law. A law enforced by Rome-appointed rulers and a strong military presence in every country.

Rome also built an elaborate system of roads and established a reliable postal system. These combined to enable safety in travel and extensive communication all over the vast Roman Empire.

By God’s providence, the world was readied for the coming of Jesus. Near perfect conditions for students of Jesus to go and make students in all nations!

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.

Perhaps the first convert in Europe was a woman named Lydia. Lydia and her household were baptized.
Exactly what we have observed in every case of conversion to Jesus thus far in the Book of Acts! In Jerusalem and Samaria, in Antioch and Caesarea! Paul, Cornelius, an Ethiopian, and now Lydia! Students of Jesus are baptized.



Jesus invites every student to follow Him. If students of Jesus are expected to follow Jesus, then He must be leading, right? But how?

As our Teacher, Jesus is leading us when we follow His example. We seek to pattern our lives to His attitudes, actions and teachings. Gradually we become more like Him as the Holy Spirit works to change us into His likeness.

Although becoming more like the Teacher is not easy, at least the process seems to be straightforward. We study and meditate on the life of Jesus for direction in transformation of heart and character.

However, for day-to-day direction there is more ambiguity. We often struggle with indecision and pray about what course of action would most please Jesus. This way or that?

Here we find Paul and his companions facing exactly that kind of situation. They wonder where Jesus wants them to go next in their missionary journey.

When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

We are not told how Jesus prevented them from going into Bithynia. It could have been by direct communication. However, it may have been through circumstances that created obstacles which they rightly interpreted as Jesus’ desire to lead in another direction. But which way?

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."

Was this just a dream? Under the circumstances Paul interpreted it as Jesus’ leading. The text says that Paul came to a conclusion that God was calling him into Macedonia. If so, then the leading of Jesus sometimes involves our own best conclusions based on all the circumstances.

Now the Good News will go into Europe for the first time! And all because these students of Jesus were focused on the leading of Jesus!



Churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

It’s no coincidence the churches Paul started are growing. Nor should it surprise us that Paul is an enthusiastic and effective recruiter of students for Jesus.

Paul was formerly a fervent and proficient persecutor of the church. He scattered over 20,000 Christians from the city of Jerusalem and was going to Damascus for the same purpose when Jesus called Him to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

Now, Paul’s education, zeal and resourcefulness combine with the leading of the Holy Spirit to make him a Master Builder of churches!

But Paul’s success did not originate within himself, but rather in following the example of The Teacher. Everything we learn from Paul we see first in the teaching ministry of Jesus, because Paul’s attitudes and methods were learned from Him.

Here, Paul chooses Timothy as an apprentice. One of more than fifteen others we know by name that Paul selected to help him in ministry! Where did Paul get this idea, if not from Jesus who chose and trained and commissioned the Twelve and sent out the Seventy?

There is more here than first meets the eye. Most of the Book of Acts is a record of Paul’s efforts to share the message of Jesus. And half of the New Testament books are written by Paul!

God preserved for all future generations an inspired model of how students of Jesus can effectively share the gospel as they follow Jesus.

If we study the mission strategies of Paul, we have the best practical example of what it means for a human being to successfully fulfill the last command of our Lord to - go and make students in all nations.

Obviously, God wants us to become a companion of Paul in his journeys and take note of his methods. Like Paul, the closer we intentionally copy the ways of Jesus, the more capable and effective students of Jesus we will become. And more will become His students!



They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.

It’s reality. Sometimes even faithful students of Jesus disagree. Even sharply!

Here the disagreement arises between the apostle Paul and Barnabas over whether John Mark should be allowed to go with them on their second missionary journey.

As with most such troubles between students of Jesus, the issue is not over absolute right and wrong. In those cases, believers can often find common ground by consulting and discussing the relevant Scriptures on the issue.

Yet sometimes, divisions are created by differing interpretations of the Scriptures. Many of the different kinds of Christian churches in the world today are the result of honest differences of opinion about God’s Word.

Here, however - as is usually the case - the problem arises over different ideas about how to do something both Paul and Barnabas agree ought to be done. Taking the Message of Jesus to those who haven't heart it!

And as is also very often true, both Paul and Barnabas probably have good solid reasons for their differing opinions about taking John Mark this time.

It’s easy to see why Paul wouldn’t want him along again. After all, he deserted them the first time, turned back and left them high and dry.

It’s also understandable why Barnabas would want to give the young man a second chance to serve.

Both right! Both unwilling to compromise! That’s a recipe for a division of some degree.

Yet, since both were men of good will, God uses the split to create a more effective plan. Barnabas takes John Mark and Paul takes Silas. The result is two missionary journeys instead of one!
It Happens! But such disagreements usually do no lasting harm.



The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.

The original copy of the letter sent from Jerusalem to the Antioch church has been lost to history. Nevertheless, this document is reliably reproduced here in its entirety by Luke, the author of the Book of Acts.

One can easily imagine the anxiety in the hearts of the Gentile members of the Antioch fellowship. An unease created by an unauthorized group of Jerusalem Christians who earlier visited the Antioch believers with a troubling idea – Now that you have accepted the Message of Jesus, you must keep the Jewish traditions also.

Now comes a most Welcomed Letter from the council recently concluded in Jerusalem. Gentile Christians are not required to be circumcised or keep any of the traditions of Moses!

The letter is straightforward and to the point:

First an explanation - some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.

Then the conclusion of the apostles and elders - It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:

You will do well to avoid these things.

1. You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols,
2. from blood,
3. from the meat of strangled animals and
4. from sexual immorality.

Though the Gentile Christians are not required to keep the Jewish traditions, they must be careful not to remain involved in the traditions of Gentile culture either! All of these restrictions are specifically designed to keep Gentile believers from the pitfalls of the practices associated with the worship of idols.

The letter closes simply, Farewell. Indeed! They will fare very well now!



Here we observe a critical moment for the progress of faith in the world. A council meeting convened in Jerusalem to consider a potentially corrosive issue!

At first, the issue may seem insignificant, even trivial. But in fact it is life or death for the future of Christianity!

The question brought before the apostles and elders is this: Must Gentile converts to Jesus be required to keep the Law of Moses and be circumcised?

Present at the meeting were some Jewish Christians who thought the traditions of their unique culture should be binding on every new Gentile Christian anywhere in the world.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

How this question is decided will either burden the Message of Jesus with the traditions of Judaism and so inhibit its spread throughout the world or free the Good News to be more easily assimilated into divergent cultures.

Paul’s work to plant new Gentile fellowships hangs in the balance, but Peter - who baptized the first Gentile convert - is the first to speak.

God…accepted them (Gentiles) by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them…No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

Paul and Barnabas tell of their success among the Gentiles. James offers the definitive argument from an Old Testament prophecy about the future inclusion of the Gentiles and then makes the final pronouncement - It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

In a Pivotal Moment, the crisis is averted. The future secured! Today, students of Jesus in cultures throughout the world live in this freedom.



They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples (students).

Paul and Barnabas continue on their missionary journey with great success. They are engaged in exactly the mission Jesus gave to His followers before He ascended to heaven – Go and make students of all nations…

What do they tell these new students to expect as they begin to follow Jesus? They tell them it will not be easy - “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.

That’s strange...something is wrong here! Why don't they tell them all their problems are over now? Why didn’t Paul instruct them to give money for his mission work and then God would resolve whatever troubles them?

Someone should tell Paul he just doesn’t understand how following Jesus really works! Obviously, Paul didn’t share the message of modern-day preachers, who in their churches and via radio and television, preach a message of prosperity!

Instead of hardship, many today teach that when you become a follower of Jesus your problems are over. Your debts will be paid, your children won’t get into trouble anymore, and your wayward spouses will come home.

Of course, Jesus has the power to bless us in many of these ways. And in the course of time, with the changes Jesus makes in our hearts, good things can and will happen through our improved example and by persistent prayer.

But there is a problem with this Bed or Roses theory of Christianity. The difficulty is this: God does not force others to do what we would have them to do simply because we wish it.

God gives everyone in the world freedom to choose their own course in life. And unfortunately some will not choose the good way.

Even Jesus says that some in our own household may become our enemies because we choose to follow Him. Following Jesus isn’t always a Bed of Roses! Sometimes we must endure hardship and be true to the faith…



They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.

Here we see part of what Jesus meant when He called Paul to be His messenger to the Gentiles. Remember? Jesus told Paul He would show him everything he would suffer for His name.

Paul, who had persecuted Christians, now suffers the ancient execution method of stoning. Then he is dragged outside of the city and left for dead!

Why was Paul stoned? Because he was successful!

Paul and Barnabas…spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.
Paul's success in winning new students for Jesus stirred opposition in the same way Jesus' success in teaching the people roused the jealousy and anger of those who opposed Him.

Surely, being stoned does not feel very much like success! Neither did Jesus’ death of the cross measure up to any of the usual standards of earthly achievement. Yet, we know the cross was the epitome of accomplishment!

Success in overcoming sin and providing a sacrifice that creates the possibility for God to forgive our sins. And more success when He rose from the dead! Opening the way for everyone who believes in Jesus to experience their own personal resurrection in the future!

There is another similarity between what happened to Paul and what happened to Jesus. At first the people were so receptive to Paul and Barnabas they actually wanted to worship them. This is reminiscent of how the people worshiped Jesus when He came into the city of Jerusalem, only to turn on Him with shouts of Crucify Him, Crucify Him!

Paul shows us that being a good student of Jesus isn’t a guarantee that we will receive all the blessings usually associated with success. But following in Jesus’ steps brings blessings that outweigh any losses. In this we are most successful!



Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Why should Paul’s audience believe what he is telling them about Jesus? Does he expect them to simply take his word for it?

On the contrary, Paul appeals to the evidence of prophecy from the Old Testament. Prophecies made hundreds of years before the time of Jesus. All of which came true in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Books of the Old Testament were the final authority for the Jewish people. Every Sabbath Day these Scriptures were read in synagogues everywhere in the world. These prophecies are well-known to them and to Paul.

Paul uses some of the same prophecies that Peter used in his first sermon about Jesus.

You are my Son; today I have become your Father... I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David… You will not let your Holy One see decay.

In this prophecy, God promises someone – His Son – that he will not see decay. Who could this be, since everyone dies and their body returns to the dust?

Paul points out the obvious. The prophecy could not have referred to David - For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.

But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay!

Jesus is the one who did not remain in the tomb. He arose, just as the prophecy foretold.

Those with a proper respect and knowledge of God’s Word believed Paul’s message about Jesus - The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.
Today it is still the people who look to God's Word as the final authority that find out the truth about Jesus and how to become His students and change their lives!



Paul was perhaps the most successful missionary who ever lived. Here, in what is today the country of Turkey, we observe him in action and learn how he led people to become students of Jesus.

First, he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day. He knows he will find a ready audience of people who are acquainted with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Savior. And who have a sincere desire to please God.

Next, we observe how – as a total stranger - he establishes rapport and trust with the people by accurately recounting the history of Israel which is well-known to them all.

Paul begins with the time of Israel’s slavery under the pharaohs in Egypt through to the time when God leads them to the Land of Canaan.

He mentions the time of judges which lasted until the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. And finally comes to King David, about whom he says - From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.

Jesus is the Messiah long-anticipated by the people of Israel! But Paul also includes Gentiles - Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.

Paul’s sermon reaches its climax when he shares the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath….they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead…

As we shall see, Paul’s sermon will continue with references to Old Testament prophecies that prove Jesus is who he claims to be. The Son of God and the promised Savior of the world!



So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

As the believers in Antioch are worshiping and fasting, the Holy Spirit answers with a plan of action - Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.

The Antioch group demonstrates a burning desire to carry the Good News of Jesus to places beyond their borders. They are striving to obey the command of their Teacher to go and make other students in all nations. Heaven approves!

Even today, their zeal for missions provides an admirable example for every other congregation of believers.

For more than a year Paul has been living and working in the church at Antioch. During his time in this fellowship – which includes both Jews and Gentiles – Paul has gained a practical model for creating new congregations in the places he will travel.

Here begins the first of several of Paul’s mission trips chronicled in the Book of Acts. Missionary journeys that mark a real beginning of the advance of Christianity throughout the world!

Paul and Barnabas set sail for the island of Cyprus. There they begin by preaching in the synagogues. A strategy that makes perfect sense.

In the synagogues, they will find those already familiar with the Scriptures. Paul will be able to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of over 300 prophecies contained in the Old Testament. The Messiah they have been expecting!

Paul will be able to plant new churches by first recruiting students from among those who already know the Scriptures. These will form a solid core of believers to which can be added the less informed Gentile converts, just as it was done so effectively in Antioch.

Using the Antioch Model, Paul will establish scores of new congregations. These too will include both Jews and Gentiles. And also like the Antioch church, these new groups will be charitable and mission-minded as well.