Bible Study

This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.

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Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bible Study - Second Nature (6) - Hannah: Trust-Filled Prayer - 1 Samuel 1:9-18; 2:1-3 - nOVEMBER 19, 2017



Bible Study – Second Nature (6) – Hannah: Trust-Filled Prayer- November 19, 2017

This is lesson six (6) in our series entitled “Second Nature.”

Our focus scripture is 1 Samuel 1:9-11, 17-18, 26-28; 2:1-3.

CHRIST-centered living chooses prayer, not helplessness.

What is prayer? Prayer is talking to GOD but first a person must believe that GOD exists. GOD revealed Himself to the Israelites. They chose the One True GOD, YAHWEH, Who revealed HIS name to Moses. HIS name means, as recorded in Exodus 3:14: 14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

GOD has always existed. HE has no beginning and no end.

GOD loves each of us regardless of what sin we may have committed in our lives. HE forgives when we ask HIM, cleanses and restores us.

GOD is love but also HE is the GOD of wrath.

Our lesson on Hannah reveals the heart of GOD toward Hannah. Hannah’s heart needed to be brought into sync with GOD’S plan.  

Our former pastor was also a counselor. He said the Chinese symbol (ideogram) for trouble is two women living under one roof. 

This was Hannah’s situation. Hannah was Elkanah’s first wife but he had a second wife. Her name was Peninnah and she was very fertile and produced children. Peninnah taunted Hannah because of Hannah’s inability to conceive and bare children. This was a serious source of emotional trauma for Hannah.
Hannah loved her husband and he loved her. Elkanah treated Hannah well and did not hold it against her for not being able to produce a child. But Elkanah’s love and care did not comfort her for not being able to conceive and birth a child. What was she to do? Where would she turn? To whom would she turn? Let’s explore!

Let’s read 1 Samuel 1:1-16:

Hannah's Vow

1 There was a man from Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.

2 He had two wives, the first named Hannah and the second Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.
Hannah was the first wife of Elkanah. Hannah was childless which likely led Elkanah to seek a second wife.

3 This man would go up from his town every year to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts at Shiloh, where Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the Lord's priests.

Shiloh was located about 30 miles from Jerusalem. It had become a primary site for worship because a tabernacle with an altar for offering sacrifices had been constructed there. There Elkanah would offer sacrifices each year. 

4 Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he always gave portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to each of her sons and daughters.

5 But he gave a double portion to Hannah, for he loved her even though the Lord had kept her from conceiving.

This practice expressed Elkanah’s love and respect for Hannah. This did not set well with wife number two, Peninnah as we learn as we read on ---

6 Her rival would taunt her severely just to provoke her, because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving.

7 Whenever she went up to the Lord's house, her rival taunted her in this way every year. Hannah wept and would not eat.

8 "Hannah, why are you crying?" her husband Elkanah asked. "Why won't you eat? Why are you troubled? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?"

Elkanah’s reassurance of his love and devotion to Hannah was not enough for Hannah to get beyond the fact that she had not conceived and birth a baby. 

Peninnah knew that she was getting to Hannah. What was Hannah to do? She was distraught. 

Keep in mind that Hannah’s husband loved her and she knew it. However, what was Hannah’s relationship with GOD? Was she bitter toward GOD because HE had not given her a child? There are times in our lives when we need to be honest with GOD.

9 Hannah got up after they ate and drank at Shiloh. Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lord's tabernacle.

10 Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears.

11 Making a vow, she pleaded, "Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant's affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut."

Notice, Hannah’s prayer was “If YOU will?”  It seems that Hannah was yielding to GOD. GOD, please pay attention to me. She was committing her life to GOD. She made her request. 

Often, we have to get to the end of our will and desire and place our faith and confidence in GOD. She referred to GOD as the “LORD OF Hosts,” which is evidence that she had placed her prayer into the hands of GOD WHO has the power to make her request come about. It also carries the idea of complete confidence and conviction that GOD hears and answers the earnest requests of those who love HIM. It is a reflection of her faith in GOD. She placed her request into GOD’S hands and would leave it there and trust HIM with the result.

That is exactly what GOD needed for Hannah to do. HE needed to bring Hannah to the point of her being willing to give HIM her first born because HE had a plan for him, Samuel. Samuel would anoint King David to succeed King Saul. GOD’S ways are not our ways. We get to see HIS hand working to prepare someone who will be used in the years to come. Hannah’s son, Samuel, would anoint the future of Israel, King David, who would be in the lineage of JESUS.

GOD has a plan for your life. DO NOT GIVE UP ON GOD BECAUSE HE HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON YOU! PRESS ON BECAUSE “JOY COMES IN THE MORNING.”

12 While she was praying in the Lord's presence, Eli watched her lips.

Eli the priest was observing her. Often, what we think or observe misses the mark of reality.

13 Hannah was speaking to herself, and although her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk

14 and scolded her, "How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!"

Priest Eli jumped to a conclusion which GOD used for the benefit of Hannah.
You talk about adding insult to injury, the priest thought poor, distraught Hannah was DRUNK! This false assumption by Eli may have been GOD’S way of getting Eli to take a personal interest in Hannah and listen to her explanation why she had a heavy and broken heart.

15 "No, my lord," Hannah replied. "I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven't had any wine or beer; I've been pouring out my heart before the Lord.

16 Don't think of me as a wicked woman; I've been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment."

Hannah poured out her heart to GOD. She acknowledged that she was angry and harbored resentment. Was she angry with GOD or Peninnah and/or others or all? The point is that she dug deep within herself and came at grips with the source of her situation. It wasn’t GOD, her husband, Peninnah or others. It was her and she was the only one who could do something about it with GOD’S help.

Let’s read 1 Samuel 1:17-18 and 26-28:

17 Eli responded, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you've requested from Him."

Eli did not know what her petition was but he knew that whatever it was, she was broken hearted and was seeking GOD for a solution. She apparently did not mention the promise she made to GOD, which was if she had a son, she would dedicate him to GOD. This is good because, this agreement was between Hannah and GOD. She could have backed out when the baby was born but we know she was sincere because we know the rest of the story.

How many times do we renege on a promise we have made to GOD if HE would help us out of a jam? We need to confess such times and seek HIS forgiveness. Doing so helps us build the right relationship with GOD.

18 "May your servant find favor with you," she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer appeared downcast.

In essence, it seems that Hannah was saying, “When GOD answers my prayers may you be pleased with the results.” When we pray and ask GOD and HE says “YES!” there is a peace and an assurance that HE has heard and there will be a result. Hannah left her place of worship with that sweet assurance that GOD had heard her and she would accept GOD’S answer. She had gone before GOD with an honest heart of faith and trusted HIM to answer her request.

Have you ever experienced that sweet precious assurance from GOD? GOD has heard you and something will take place and whatever it is you know it is GOD’S will for you. Your desire is to be obedient in your availability, trust and service to GOD. 

Let’s read 1 Samuel 1:19-28:
Samuel's Birth and Dedication

19 The next morning Elkanah and Hannah got up early to bow and to worship the Lord. Afterwards, they returned home to Ramah. Then Elkanah was intimate with his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her.

I imagine that Hannah had a spring in her step and a song in her heart as they returned home. She knew GOD had heard her.

20 After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because [she said], "I requested him from the Lord."

21 When Elkanah and all his household went up to make the annual sacrifice and his vow offering to the Lord,

22 Hannah did not go and explained to her husband, "After the child is weaned, I'll take him to appear in the Lord's presence and to stay there permanently."

A child in Biblical times was weaned between 4 and 6 years old.

23 Her husband Elkanah replied, "Do what you think is best, and stay here until you've weaned him. May the Lord confirm your word." So Hannah stayed there and nursed her son until she weaned him.

24 When she had weaned him, she took him with her to Shiloh, as well as a three-year-old bull, two and one-half gallons of flour, and a jar of wine. 

Though the boy was [still] young, she took him to the Lord's house at Shiloh.

25 Then they slaughtered the bull and brought the boy to Eli.

26 "Please, my lord," she said, "as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.

I can almost hear Eli think, “Oh, yea that is when I stuck my foot in my mouth.”

27 I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked Him for,

Hannah had a message for Eli, "Now, you know what I was praying about and GOD answered my prayer."

28 I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord." Then he bowed and worshiped the Lord there.

GOD answered Hannah’s prayer for a son. She named him Samuel and followed through with her vow by giving him to serve GOD. It is not clear who bowed, Samuel or Eli. But it was a time for giving thanks to GOD for answered prayer.
GOD blessed Hannah with three additional sons and two daughters.

Let’s read 1 Samuel 2:1-3:
Hannah's Triumphant Prayer

1 Hannah prayed: My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is lifted up by the Lord. My mouth boasts over my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

“My horn” is a reference to strength. Hannah’s strength and confidence in GOD had been renewed. She witnessed the hand of GOD and could rejoice with victory over her enemies. Answered prayer resulted in her rejoicing from being pulled from the miry clay of despair and the funk she had gotten into. GOD pulled her out and placed her feet upon the solid rock of faith and trust in GOD.   

2 There is no one holy like the Lord. There is no one besides You! And there is no rock like our God.

3 Do not boast so proudly, or let arrogant [words] come out of your mouth, for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and actions are weighed by Him.

We as humans cannot boast of what we can do compared to what GOD can do. 

GOD has full knowledge and the timetable when HE will take action on our requests. When we boast of our ability to take charge of matters, it reveals our attitude toward GOD. When we boast about our ability, we have the wrong attitude and relationship with GOD. That must change if we desire to have the right relationship with GOD. Hannah got it right. Trust GOD with the matters of life.

Hannah had to acknowledge that GOD was the One Who had the power to grant her request. She had to yield her will to GOD. When she did, GOD became the “rock” or solid foundation in her life.

Is JESUS your solid foundation? Are you still trying to run your life yourself? Trust JESUS to lead and guide your life. Blessings!!!


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Bible Study - Second Nature (5) - John the Baptist - John1:26-34; 3:26-30 - November 12, 2017



Bible Study – Second Nature (5) – John the Baptist – November 12, 2017

This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Second Nature.”

Our focus scripture is John 1:26-34; 3:26-30.

CHRIST-centered living chooses to exalt CHRIST, not self.

Let’s read Isaiah 40:3:
3 A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.

The prophet Isaiah wrote these prophet words which would be fulfilled some 700 years later. Let’s fast forward to about 29 A.D.

Let’s read Luke 1:5-25: (Background regarding John the Baptist’s Birth.)
Gabriel Predicts John's Birth
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah's division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 Both were righteous in God's sight, living without blame according to all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.
7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.
8 When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.
11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.
12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.
13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.
14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother's womb.
16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.
18 "How can I know this?" Zechariah asked the angel. "For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years."
19 The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.
20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless.
23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said,
25 "The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people."

Let’s skip to and continue to read in Luke 1:57-66:
The Birth and Naming of John
57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son.
58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her.
59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father.
60 But his mother responded, "No! He will be called John."
61 Then they said to her, "None of your relatives has that name."
62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called.
63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN And they were all amazed.
64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue [set free], and he began to speak, praising God.
65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.
66 All who heard about [him] took [it] to heart, saying, "What then will this child become?" For, indeed, the Lord's hand was with him.

Let’s read Luke 1:67-80:
Zechariah's Prophecy
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David,
70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times;
71 salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us.
72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant-
73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege,
74 since we have been rescued from our enemies' clutches, to serve Him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days.
76 And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God's merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us
79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

This leads us to John the Baptist’s public ministry.

We also need to remember that Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of JESUS were cousins. (Luke 1:36 - 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth-even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.)

Let’s read John 1:26-30:

26 "I baptize with water," John answered them. "Someone stands among you, but you don't know [Him].

John the Baptist message was a message of repentance. John the Baptist would “baptize with water.” But the yet to be identified person would offer more than repentance and physical water. What HE would offer is recorded in Matthew 3:11-12:

11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to take off His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

JESUS, THE MESSIAH, will cleanse and indwell all who will place their faith in HIM.

12 His winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn. But the chaff He will burn up with fire that never goes out."

John the Baptist was the forerunner or herald who announced the coming of the promised Messiah. When a king came to an area, village or town a herald or forerunner would go before the king to announce the coming of the king so the people would be prepared to come out and pay homage to and welcome the king.

JESUS’ public ministry had not begun but HIS ministry was on the threshold of beginning and it was John the Baptist who GOD had called to announce HIS coming and to baptize HIM for ministry. 

27 He is the One coming after me, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to untie."

John the Baptist made it very clear that he, John the Baptist, was not the promised Messiah. In fact, he was not worthy to untie this person’s sandal. The promised Messiah was JESUS.

28 All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

This Bethany is different from the village where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. John the Apostle referred to area as Bethabara. It is thought that the Apostle John made this distinction purposely.

The Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

30 This is the One I told you about: 'After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me.'

John the Baptist knew that JESUS had been sent by GOD from Heaven to live upon earth as a human, yet divine.

Let’s read John 1:31-34:

31 I didn't know Him, but I came baptizing with water so He might be revealed to Israel."

John the Baptist knew JESUS as a relative but not HIM as the Messiah until it was revealed to him.

32 And John testified, "I watched the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He rested on Him.

33 I didn't know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The One you see the Spirit descending and resting on-He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'

34 I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God!"

We need to keep in mind that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while inside his mother’s womb. (Look back to Luke 1:15) The Holy Spirit had revealed to John the Baptist vital information regarding what would identify the Messiah.

Let’s read John 1:35-36:
35 Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples.
36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look! The Lamb of God!"

This is John the Baptist’s confirmation to others that JESUS was the promised Messiah. The term “The Lamb of GOD” was very revealing because JESUS would be the perfect sacrifice necessary to redeem mankind from sin and its consequence eternal death. This would be accomplished by HIS sinless life and HIM willingly shedding HIS blood to pay, in full, for the sin of all who will place their faith in HIM.

The passion of JESUS reflected the Jewish sacrificial system. The sacrifice of a lamb without blemish by the shedding of its blood was an eternal placeholder until JESUS willingly gave HIS perfect, sinless life for all who will place their faith in HIM. That step of faith results in salvation from sin and its consequence eternal death.

Salvation is the beginning of building a loving, personal, intimate, dynamic relationship with GOD through faith in HIS Only Son JESUS. Building this relationship is the process of sanctification, to be made “Saint-like” or “being set aside to obediently be available to be used for HIS purpose.   

Let’s read John 3:25-30:

25 Then a dispute arose between John's disciples and a Jew about purification.

26 So they came to John and told him, "Rabbi, the One you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing-and everyone is flocking to Him."

27 John responded, "No one can receive a single thing unless it's given to him from heaven.

28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I've been sent ahead of Him.'

29 He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom's friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom's voice. So this joy of mine is complete.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease."

John the Baptist again confirmed JESUS as the promise Messiah.
Have you asked JESUS to forgive you for your sins and asked HIM to come into your heart? If not, now is that opportunity. As recorded in Romans 10:9-10:

9 if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.

What is referred to as the Roman road to salvation is found in: Romans 3:23 (All have sinned); Romans 6:23 (The penalty for our sin is eternal death); Romans 5:8 (JESUS died to pay the debt for sin, which opened direct access to GOD through faith in JESUS paying that debt.); Romans 10:9-10 is the expression of that faith.

The Holy Spirit confirms our salvation and is the guarantee of salvation in every person’s heart that he or she is GOD’S Son or Daughter through the miracle of rebirth in his or her spirit. If you have asked JESUS into your life and confess HIM as your Savior, welcome into the family of GOD and blessings as you obediently serve HIM. Blessings!!!


Saturday, November 04, 2017

Bible Study - Second Nature (4) - Barnabas: Ongoing Encouragement - Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-27; 11:19-26 - November 5, 2017



Bible Study – Second Nature (4) – Barnabas: Ongoing Encouragement – November 5, 2017

This is lesson four (4) in our series entitled “Second Nature.”

Our focus scripture is Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-27; 11:19-26

CHRIST-centered living chooses encouragement not criticism.

Who has been an encourager in your life? An old adage goes “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But many of us need encouragement when life gets tough. A good friend can be an encourager. Often, we need someone who will be honest with us and not be an enabler who sugar coats areas in our lives that need attention. At times in our lives we need someone who can offer us wise advice and direction or encourage us.

We studied wisdom two weeks ago. The key is that when we get wise counsel we need to put it into action.

Our study this week is about Barnabas whose name means? 

Let’s explore!

Let’s read Acts 4:36-37:

36 Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, whom the apostles named Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement,

37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

We read that the apostles named Joseph, a Levite, Barnabas.

A Levite is a descendant of Jacob and Leah’s third son, Levi.

There are three levels of priests – High Priest, Chief Priests and Priests. Each level had a specific function. The descendants of Levi were priests but only the descendants of Aaron could be high priests as ordained by GOD.

Joseph/Barnabas was a descendant of Levi and a priest by birth. We do not know whether or not he was ever a practicing priest but we do know that he exhibited characteristics such that the Apostles of JESUS gave him a new name, Barnabas which means “son of encouragement.” But it is interesting that his given name was Joseph in Aramaic is “nabas” which refers to a “prophet” or “inspired man.” This seems to reflect his life.

Since Barnabas was not a descendant of Aaron, if he served as a priest, he would have assisted other priests e.g. cleaning the temple, making sure things were in order or singing at morning or evening sacrifices.

We also know that Joseph/Barnabas was born in Cypress, a large Island in the Mediterranean Sea. We will see how this plays a role in ministry.

Apparently Barnabas had means/some form of wealth because he sold a field and gave the proceeds to the apostles. This reflects his heart toward JESUS, supporting the ministry of the Gospel and the followers of JESUS.
Our giving and support of our church, missionaries and Christian efforts are a reflection of our hearts and the need to spread the Gospel from where we live to the far reaches of the world.  

Let’s read Acts 9:26-27:

26 When he (Saul/Paul) arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.

Saul was Paul’s Hebrew name. After Saul’s acceptance of JESUS as his Savior, he referred to himself, later in ministry, as Paul, his Greek/Roman name. Although Paul was born a Jew in Tarsus, he had Roman citizenship.
Saul studied under the well known Jewish Rabbi Gamaliel. Saul was a Pharisee and as a dedicated Jew had a passion to prevent the Christian movement from developing because he believed the followers of JESUS were a threat to the Jewish religion. He guarded the clothes of the Jews who were stoning to death the first Christian martyr, Stephen.

Saul asked the High Priest to give him permission to go to Damascus to round up some of these followers of JESUS, who referred to themselves as “The Way.” Saul was en-route to Damascus with soldiers when JESUS encountered Saul. Saul/Paul’s testimony is recorded in Acts Chapter 26.

Saul/Paul accepted JESUS as his Savior and was baptized in Damascus by Ananias, a disciple (not one of the twelve) of JESUS.

Saul/Paul preached about JESUS in Damascus and the Jews wanted to kill him. Saul/Paul went from the hunter to being the hunted. Saul/Paul had to leave Damascus in secret because of the Jews poised to kill him. Saul/Paul went into the desert for 3 years and then he went to Jerusalem. (There is debate about the timing of Saul/Paul’s time in the desert. So what I have presented is what I think. Some think he went to Jerusalem and then went into the desert.)

Saul/Paul being a Christian wanted to meet the disciples of JESUS and he wanted to fellowship and serve along with them. But the Christian leaders in Jerusalem were afraid of Saul/Paul because of his past. They did not know his intentions. Did he want to appear to be a Christian just to find out the names of those who were following and serving JESUS so he could arrest them? So the Christian leaders in Jerusalem were skeptical of Saul/Paul. GOD always has a plan and purpose for each of us. A Christian named Barnabas came into the life of Saul/Paul. This brings us to verse 27. (We do not know when Barnabas became a Christian.)

Have you been used by GOD in another person’s life? Have others come into your life to help you or vouch for you?

27 Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how, on the road, Saul had seen the Lord, and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.

Barnabas vouched for Saul/Paul as having a genuine encounter with JESUS and was a Christian through faith in JESUS and had been born-again into the family of GOD through the miracle of rebirth. Saul/Paul could be trusted and welcomed into the Christian fellowship without fear.

GOD always has a plan to position us where HE needs us and HE uses many different ways to accomplish HIS purpose. We saw in last week’s study that GOD used the need for food to relocate Naomi and her family to Moab and in doing so it resulted in her daughter-in-law, Ruth, coming back to Bethlehem with her to be in the ancestral lineage of JESUS. 

Let’s read Acts 11:19-26:

19 Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews.

When Stephen was stoned to death the followers of JESUS became very concerned. The Christians in Jerusalem left and relocated to many other areas. This is referred to as the Diaspora or dispersion of Christians to other areas. 

This was GOD’S way of spreading the Gospel of JESUS to others throughout the area.

20 But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus.

Notice that GOD called Barnabas to go to Antioch to minister among those to whom he could relate. They could relate to him because he was born on the Island of Cypress. Most of us know the joy of meeting those who live where we have lived or grown up.  A trust and camaraderie factor is often established.

JESUS taught that all Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. When Christians are relocated, they take truth, JESUS, with them. Placing one’s faith in JESUS is the only way for a person to get to Heaven. (The words of JESUS are recorded in John 14:6 confirming that fact - 6 Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”)

These relocated Christians proclaimed the good news about “The LORD JESUS” to the Hellenists. The Hellenists were, in general, Jews who spoke Greek or the term could apply to non-Jews who spoke Greek thus Gentiles. So these Greek speaking Christians who relocated from Jerusalem or other areas told these Greek speaking Jews and non-Jews/Gentiles about JESUS and HIS passion. As a result -----

21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

These Hellenists placed their faith in JESUS and became CHRIST followers. Up to this time the term Christian had not been used.

22 Then the report about them reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch.

They, the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem, sent a man they trusted and could speak Greek to assess what was going on in Antioch. The Christian leaders in Jerusalem wanted to know if these CHRIST followers in Antioch were being told the truth regarding JESUS , HIS passion, salvation, the resurrection, walking upon earth for 40 days post resurrection, ascension, etc.

23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart-

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch he was excited to witness the hand of GOD at work through these fellow Christians. HE saw GOD’S grace extended to all who placed their faith in JESUS. Notice that he “encouraged” them.

The dilemma the Christian leaders in Jerusalem were pondering was, “did a non-Jew need to become a Jew before he or she could become a Christian?” 

Barnabas witnessed firsthand that the non-Jews/Gentiles, who placed their faith in JESUS, received GOD’S Grace by being born anew into GOD’S family through the miracle of rebirth and receiving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is GOD’S guarantee of salvation.

24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith-and large numbers of people were added to the Lord.

Barnabas had the gift of discernment and immediately knew that truth was being preached and lives were being changed by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He saw opportunity. He was led by the Holy Spirit to get help. Who did GOD want to relocate and activate?

25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul,

Saul/Paul had been put on a ship by the disciples in Jerusalem about 10 years earlier and shipped him to Tarsus, his hometown.

Saul/Paul had ruffled some feathers in Jerusalem among the Jews, so the Christian leaders sent him back to his hometown, Tarsus. Barnabas knew that. Barnabas needed someone he could trust. He needed someone who knew the truth to lead others to JESUS.  So the Holy Spirit led him to think of Saul/Paul. Then Barnabas had to make a decision to remain in Antioch or go find Saul/Paul?

Barnabas was a man of action. He could have thought, “Oh, I cannot leave this thriving ministry and go search for Saul/Paul.” Barnabas’ ego did not deter him from doing what he was prompted to do. He went to Tarsus to find Saul/Paul and as a result not only were the people of Paul’s time period blessed but all since have been blessed.

Who do we owe that to other than GOD? It is Barnabas who obediently responded to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Barnabas found Saul/Paul in Tarsus and Saul/Paul relocated to Antioch where they served together for a year. It was in Antioch that the followers of CHRIST were first called “Christians.” WOW! That is exciting. GOD relocates us to accomplish HIS will and purpose.

As Christians, are we willing to respond when the Holy Spirit calls us into service? Blessings!!!