Sermons on Acts

Sermons on Acts

Why is Coming Home So Difficult?

Acts 21:1-26 In our text this week, Paul makes his historic return to Jerusalem. Historic because he has representatives from all the churches he has planted traveling with him, along with a significant amount of money collected from each church for the poor in Jerusalem. The gifts are the first fruits of his ministry among the Gentiles and symbolize the unity of the church. Like a college graduate returning home, not just with a degree, but with money to pay his parent’s back for his or her education, one would think the homecoming would be one of unadulterated joy. But there are disturbing warnings in every port that serious trouble awaits him, but Paul refuses to be deterred. The text addresses some key questions: How do we discern God’s will when both parties believe the Spirit is guiding them? And why is “coming home” often so difficult?

Strengthening Shepherds for Sacrificial Service

Acts 20:17-38 After the riot in Ephesus and return visits to Macedonia and Corinth, Paul was eager to get back to Jerusalem with the offering he had collected from the Gentile churches before the day of Pentecost. On the way he summons the elders in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, for his farewell speech, where he commissions them to follow his example in life and ministry as the new leaders of the Ephesus church. This text not only sets a high bar for church leaders, it also sets forth what all followers of Jesus should aspire to.

Why Do the Nations Rage?

Acts 19:21-41 Last week we observed how Paul’s tireless preaching unleashed the power of the Spirit bringing life and healing throughout the city of Ephesus and the wider community. The most striking example was public confession and renunciation of former magicians demonstrated by the public burning of their costly magic books worth 50,000 pieces of silver. In our text this week we learn what happens when the gospel begins to have a financial impact on a community and threatens the profits of the powerful. The enemy does not go down without a fight.

Not By Might, Nor By Power

Acts 19:8-20 In our previous study in Acts, we celebrated the gift of the Spirit poured out afresh on twelve disciples, as Paul began his ministry in Ephesus. This week we will witness the power of God’s Spirit as it is unleashed and confronts the magical, political and religious powers that made Ephesus the greatest commercial center west of the Taurus Mountains. This will be the climax of Paul’s public ministry and his most productive time, as he proclaims the gospel in Ephesus for almost three years. Looking back on those days, Luke says, “The word grew and was strong in accordance with the power of the Lord.”

One Spirit, One Baptism

Acts 18:18 – 19:7 This week as we resume our studies in the book of Acts, Luke gives us two incidents where deficient faith is addressed and corrected. The text addresses the questions—What truly defines a “Christian?” Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit a second blessing after conversion? What is the difference between being “baptized” by the Spirit and being “filled” with the Spirit? And more importantly, “how” do we correct others when their faith is deficient?

The Greatest Testimony Ever Told

Acts 26:1-32 This Easter we will have a dramatic presentation of the Apostle Paul’s testimony of the risen Christ before the Roman Procurator Festus and King Agrippa. This is Paul’s fifth and most elaborate defense speech. It is a masterpiece of rhetoric, designed to not only acquit him of the false charges against him, but also to present the living Christ before his hearers in a rational, yet persuasive way. At the conclusion even Agrippa is unable to refute his claims and responds, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” To which Paul responds, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Now that we have heard, we too can no longer remain neutral. How will you respond to his testimony? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

When Our Suffering Is Too Much

Acts 18:1-22 Have you ever felt like you were doing what God had called you to do, but could not understand why it was so hard? When Paul arrived in Corinth, he tells the Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and fear, and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3). Though he was directed by a vision to minister in Macedonia, it was more difficult than expected. He was severely beaten in Philippi and forced to flee Thessalonica and Berea before raging mobs. Though he achieved a hearing before the Areopagus in Athens, he was politely dismissed with contempt. Now he arrives in Corinth, dejected and alone in a city whose pride and immorality were doubly intimidating. What happens next is a miracle greater than Corinth’s patron god, Poseidon.

Paul Among the Philosophers

Acts 17:16-34 Athens was not originally part of Paul’s agenda for mission, but God had other plans and placed Paul right in the cultural and philosophical center of the world. As N. T. Wright observes, “This demands a different game plan, a different strategy… Athens is a major showdown between the new young faith and the old, established, tried and tested philosophies of the Western world, which still, in various modern guises, dominate people’s thinking.” Paul’s remarkable speech to the Athenians is an example of how we need to think creatively to engage our intellectual world with the gospel.

Bonds of Love Born in Affliction

Acts 17:1-15 After Paul and Silas are forced to leave Philippi after the shock of public beating and imprisonment, they arrive in Thessalonica only to have their troubles follow them with even more intensity, resulting in an official ban from ever returning to the city. How surpising it must have been that out of these afflictions, the strongest bonds of unaffected love and support were formed by people they had only just met. Is this what Paul meant when he later wrote, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?”

The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail

Acts 16:25-40 The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail Last week we examined the question, How do we make inroads with the gospel living in a foreign culture? We began to see how Paul and Silas made Jesus known by submitting to unjust suffering. In our text this week we will see how God vindicates his servants through prayer and praise. As Peter later wrote, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10-11). God never abandons his servants!

Prayer, Prison and Praise in Philippi

Acts 16:16-25 After a surprisingly great beginning for the gospel in a predominantly pagan city with the conversion of Lydia and her household, evil strikes back with force. Paul and his friends are confronted first by strange spiritual forces, then attacked by businessmen enraged by greed, and finally religious and political prejudices add fuel to the fire, creating a riot that lands Paul and Silas in prison. What do we do when evil is allowed to play every card in its hand with impunity? Is God still in control?

Closed Doors, New Horizons

Acts 16:6-15 In our text this Sunday, Paul, Silas and Timothy launch out into new territory to advance the gospel, but with no real sense of direction. Whichever way they turn the road is blocked for more than 200 miles. Given that Paul had a clear and proven strategy plus an exceptional team, it seems strange that the only divine direction they get is negative. They seem caught in a liminal space, the space in-between the “tried and true” and a new beginning. It is an uncomfortable place to be with no clear direction, but from a Biblical perspective these times are essential for our spiritual formation. If we embrace them, they deepen and matures us in ways our that our fervent activities cannot and lead us to new thresholds of opportunity.