Week of August 12 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: 2 Timothy 2:3-10

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 

Reflect: Of the examples of endurance Paul mentioned, which can you relate to most and why?

Consider: Paul’s appeal shows the importance of developing an ability to distinguish between doing good things and doing the best things. Servants of Christ are not merely to be well-rounded dabblers in all types of trivial pursuits. They are tough-minded devotees of Christ who constantly choose the right priorities from a list of potential selections. Paul prohibited the loss of single-mindedness and the longing for an easy life.1

Respond: What do Paul’s suffering, imprisonment, and execution for the sake of the gospel—not to mention his continued determination to share the gospel—teach us about sharing the gospel? Why is our endurance in the faith important for future generations? Evaluate your passion for those who do not know Jesus. What are you willing to do for the sake of their salvation? What steps can be taken to endure hardship for their sake?

 

 

1 Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 203.

 

Week of August 12 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: 2 Timothy 2:1

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus

Day 1 Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-2

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

Reflect: What advice did Paul give Timothy? What does it mean to “be strong in the grace” of Christ Jesus?

Consider: The Greek word for “child” or “son” is teknon which is a strong term of endearment and affection. Paul considered Timothy as his own son.

Respond: If you’ve been mentored, what was that relationship like? If you haven’t had a mentor, who has been a spiritual leader or example in your life? How are you carrying on their legacy of upholding and sharing the gospel?

Week of August 5 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Zephaniah 3:14-20       

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. 19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says  the Lord. 

Reflect: In what ways does God save His people? What does God promise to do for His people?

Consider:  The next phrase pictures the effect of the Lord’s presence with his people in terms of battle: he is a warrior who gives victory. In verse 15 the description of the Lord as a king spoke of how he would defend his people. Here the picture is one of attack rather than defense. The word translated warrior is used of human warriors, such as David’s “mighty men” (2 Sam 23:8), and is also used elsewhere to describe the Lord’s help to his people (Isa 42:13; Jer 20:11).5

Respond: What are some promises God has already fulfilled in Scripture? What are some promises He has fulfilled in your own life?

 

 

5 David J. Clark and Howard A. Hatton, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Zephaniah, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 200.

 

Week of August 5 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Zephaniah 3:9-13

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. 10 From beyond the rivers of  Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. 11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. 12 But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, 13 those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”

Reflect: What actions will God take in restoring His creation? Who will benefit from God’s restoration?

Consider: Yahweh’s anger and love go together. On the day of Yahweh’s anger, he will “purify the lips” of the peoples (3:9–11). This image is an expression of restoration. Zephaniah portrays the restoration as an era in which all languages are pure. The division of languages and cultural and religious differences will be over. The tower of Babel will no more be a symbol of human autonomy because the nations will serve one God. Scattered peoples will come to worship the Lord together and to present him offerings appropriate to the salvation they have experienced.4

Respond: How has God restored you? How has that benefited you? To whom have you shared this part of your story of faith? Who needs to hear it?

 

 

4 Willem A. VanGemeren, “Zephaniah,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 680–681.

 

Week of August 5 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Zephaniah 3:6-8

“I have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins; I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them; their cities have been made desolate, without a man, without an inhabitant.
7 I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.’ But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt. 8 “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.

Reflect: What effect should God’s judgment on the nations have on God’s people? What should people expect from God when they defy His instructions and ignore His correction?

Consider: God has not allowed instruction and warning to be wanting, to avert the judgment of destruction from Judah; but the people have been getting worse and worse, so that now He is obliged to make His justice acknowledged on earth by means of judgments.3

Respond: How can we foster community that encourages loving correction and humble repentance? What steps are you taking to ensure you are a person whom people can trust and rely on to share deep spiritual needs?

 

 

3 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 10 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 455.

 

Week of August 5 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Zephaniah 3:1-5

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! 2 She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God. 3 Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. 4 Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law. 5 The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame. 

Reflect: How was Jerusalem displaying a prideful spirit against God and others? What were Jerusalem’s leaders supposed to do with their authority and position?

Consider: Nahum identified Nineveh as the “city of blood” (Nah 3:1). Zephaniah’s assessment of Jerusalem was not much different. Jerusalem was a “city of oppressors.” The opening verse is all encompassing “addressing their relationship to God, to self, and to other people.” In fact, the messages of the two prophets concerning the cities could be reversed without missing the point of the prophets. Nineveh was a city built on bloodshed, filled with lies and the spoils of warfare against oppressed peoples (Nah 3:1). On the other hand, Jerusalem, the city where God had chosen to have his name dwell, was a city filled with oppressors. In different ways, both cities took advantage of the weak. God’s judgment would come against Jerusalem as surely as it would against Nineveh.2

Respond: How do you display a prideful spirit against God and others? What are some ways you can combat pride in your life so that you can live in humility before God?

 

 

2  Kenneth L. Barker, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, vol. 20, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 472–473.

 

 

Week of August 5 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Zephaniah 3:9

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
    to a pure speech,
that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord
    and serve him with one accord.

Day 1 Read: Zephaniah 2:4-15

For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashdod's people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted. 5 Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast, you nation of the Cherethites! The word of the Lord is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left. 6 And you, O seacoast, shall be pastures, with meadows for shepherds and folds for flocks. 7 The seacoast shall become the possession of the remnant of the house of Judah, on which they shall graze, and in the houses of Ashkelon they shall lie down at evening. For the Lord their God will be mindful of them and restore their fortunes. 8 “I have heard the taunts of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites, how they have taunted my people and made boasts against their  territory. 9 Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever. The remnant of my people shall plunder them, and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.” 10 This shall be their lot in return for their pride, because they taunted and boasted against the people of the Lord of hosts. 11 The Lord will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations. 12 You also, O Cushites, shall be slain by my sword. 13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert. 14 Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold; for her cedar work will be laid bare. 15 This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist.

Reflect: Why was the Lord going to judge the nations surrounding Judah, His people?

Consider: 2:12. The Cushites or Ethiopians are descendants of Cush, a son of Ham (Gen. 10:6; 1 Chron. 1:8). These people, residing in the upper Nile region (today’s southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia), were the southernmost people known to Judah. Zephaniah’s words concerning them were few and one wonders if his choice of them, rather than, say, the troublesome Edomites, was simply to stretch the points of the compass to the known extremes. Cushite kings dominated Egypt until their defeat by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon in 670 b.c.1

Respond: What implications can we draw from this word of the Lord against these nations? How does this prophecy of judgment against God’s enemies encourage God’s people to hold on to hope?

 

 

1 John D. Hannah, “Zephaniah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1530–1531.

 

Week of July 29 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Acts 28:23-31

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27 For this people's heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Reflect: How was Paul’s message received? What do these verses teach about sharing your faith?

 Consider: Dr. Luke ended his book before Paul’s case had been heard, so he could not give us the results of the trial. We have every reason to believe that Paul was indeed released and that he resumed his ministry, probably traveling as far as Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28). During this period (a.d. 63–66/67), he wrote letters to Timothy and Titus. He left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:5), Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20), and Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). He planned to meet some of his helpers at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12–13) after he had visited some of the churches he had established. Wherever he went, he sought to bring Jews and Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ.5

Respond: What are the implications of verse 29 for you as a messenger of the gospel? What deliberate efforts could you take to show hospitality to your nonbelieving friends and neighbors? How might doing so provide us with opportunities for evangelism?

 

 

5 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 511–512.

 

Week of July 29 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Acts 28:16-22

And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. 17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

Reflect: Who did Paul reach out to? What is the significance of his meeting with this group only three days after his arrival in Rome? 

Consider: Right up to the last, Paul never surrendered the pattern—first the synagogue, then the streets. Now he had considerably more “clout” and, rather than slipping into a synagogue as a guest, called the Jewish leaders of Rome together. He presented his case with special focus on the reason for his imprisonment found at the end of verse 20: “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain” (23:6; 24:21; 26:6–8). Note, too, that Paul was under house arrest and, therefore, unable to meet with the Jews in some place of their choosing.[1]

Respond: How might we regularly remind ourselves of what we have received in Christ? How might doing so help us be more active in sharing Christ with others? How does your sense of urgency compare with Paul’s? What initiative do you take to create witnessing opportunities?

 

[1] Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 466.

Week of July 29 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Acts 28:1-9

After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. 7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.

Reflect: How did the manner in which Paul healed Publius’ father demonstrate the source of Paul’s power (v. 8)?  How did the people of Malta respond to witnessing this healing (v. 9)? How might this have provided Paul opportunities to share the gospel?

Consider: Melita, which means “honey,” is the island of Malta. It was even then a prominent place for navigation where many vessels wintered. Luke calls the inhabitants Barbarians, a term used by the Greeks for all peoples who did not speak their language. The wrecked company was not plundered by the people of the island, but instead received much kindness and were made comfortable in the cold rain which fell.[1]

Respond: How do you see God’s hand guiding Paul in these verses? How have you experienced God’s hand of guidance in your own life through challenging times? How can you use this as a part of your testimony?

 

[1]  Arno C. Gaebelein, The Acts of the Apostles: An Exposition (New York: “Our Hope” Publication Office, 1912), 421.

Week of July 29 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Acts 27:27-44

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship's boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go. 33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.)38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. 39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

Reflect: Compare verse 31 with verse 11. How did the centurion’s feelings about Paul change? About the God Paul served?

Consider: In short, the eucharistic language of the meal on the ship may not be so much an indication that they celebrated the Lord’s Supper there as that Paul and the other Christians were reminded of how Jesus broke bread with his disciples and continues to do so, continues to be present in the lives of his people. The meal thus had a meaning for them it could not have had for the pagans—their Lord continued to be present with them. He was present in that time of particular need. For them the meal was more than needed sustenance—it reassured them of their Lord’s presence to deliver them.[1]

Respond: How did Paul’s words and his example serve to encourage the others? How have you been encouraged by other people’s trust in God’s promises while facing difficulties? What are some ways you can encourage people around you who face difficult times?

 

[1]  John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 527–528.

 

Week of July 29 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Acts 27:25

So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

Day 1 Read: Acts 27:13-26

13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship's boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”

Reflect: Describe the dire situation the people on the ship found themselves in. Read Acts 27:10. What had Paul predicted would happen if they sailed at that time? What did Paul mean by his statement in verse 21? On what basis did Paul encourage the men to keep up their courage (vv. 22-26)? How would you have felt as a sailor on board?

Consider: Once caught by a sudden Northeaster, a hurricane-like wind, they could not remain in the protection of Crete and were driven helplessly into the open sea. Cauda, a small island 25 miles south of Crete, provided a brief respite from the teeth of the wind. While they were south of the island they hauled in the lifeboat which was normally pulled in tow but now was probably full of water.[1]

Respond:  What are practical ways we can maintain our courage when facing difficulties? How can such situations be seen as Paul saw them—as opportunities to share the gospel?

 

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 427.

Week of July 22 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Acts 20:1-38

After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Reflect: What character traits did Paul indicate he had modeled for the Ephesians (vv. 18-19)? Why do you think those two traits were important to Paul’s ministry? Identify ways in which Paul demonstrated generosity (vv. 32-35).

Consider: The second reference to “breaking bread” seems to take that phrase beyond the Lord’s Supper and describes what could well be called a midnight snack. The excitement of the fall, the resurrection, and the nourishment of the snack rejuvenated both preacher and audience, so Paul preached on until daylight.5

Respond: How can humility and perseverance be helpful to believers today? What are some other character traits of one who is setting a Christian example for others? Identify ways in which Paul demonstrated generosity (vv. 32-35). What are some other ways we can demonstrate generosity? What does giving reveal about our faith?

 

 

5 Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 340.

 

Week of July 22 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Acts 19:21-41

Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

Reflect: What are Demetrius’s main concerns in verse 27? How does he get the attention and support of his peers?

Consider: The Artemis who was worshiped at Ephesus is not to be identified with Diana of the Roman pantheon. This goddess is closer to Cybele, the mother goddess. This religious practice had much in common with the fertility cults of Canaan.4

Respond: What most angers people today about believers who are effective witnesses? In what ways can we best prepare for possible adversity in ministry? In what ways can we draw strength from Paul’s example?

 

 

4 Robert James Utley, Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts, vol. Volume 3B, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2003), 226.

 

Week of July 22 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Acts 19:8-20

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Reflect: According to verses 8-10, how long did Paul stay in the region of Ephesus? What occurred causing Paul to change his venue?

Consider: The group that made it were seven in number and are described as the sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva (v. 14). The reference to Sceva’s high priesthood creates a problem. Josephus lists all the names of the Jewish high priests up to the fall of the temple, and none is named Sceva. Evidently the scribes of the Western text were the first to note this, for they altered the text to simply read “priest,” not “high priest.” More recent scholars have taken other routes to solve the problem, such as arguing that Sceva was not a Jewish but a pagan high priest.3

Respond: How do you respond to rejection? How do you respond when your message isn’t well-received? What changes to your witnessing strategy need to change in order to withstand future difficulties and rejection?

 

 

3 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 403–404.

 

Week of July 22 - Day 2

Day 2 Read: Acts 19:1-7

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Reflect: What did Paul discover upon arriving in Ephesus? Why was the experience of the believers at Ephesus not enough?

Consider: At Ephesus Paul encounters twelve disciples. Luke’s use of the term disciples implies that Paul recognized them somehow as believers in Jesus Christ, perhaps in a similar state of knowledge about Pentecost as Apollos (vv. 2–4). This is also implied by the rather specific nature of Paul’s question about whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed (v. 2), the kind of question one would ask to clarify a matter after preliminary discussion. During this period of church history, it was evidently possible for people who had believed in Jesus Christ to be ignorant of Pentecost and not to have been baptized in the Spirit.2

Respond: In what ways do we “shortchange” the gospel? What do you need to correct in your vocabulary when talking to unbelievers in order to present them with an accurate understanding of the gospel?

 

 

2 William H. Baker, “Acts,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 913.

 

Week of July 22 - Day 1

Scripture to Memorize: Acts 18:26

 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Day 1 Read: Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Reflect: What do we learn about Apollos from verses 24-25? If Apollos’s understanding of God’s work was limited to John the Baptist’s teaching, what was missing from his knowledge of Jesus and Christianity?

Consider: What took place in verses 24–28 occurred after Paul left Ephesus (v. 21) and before he returned (19:1). During this interval, a church had been started, probably under the influence of Aquila and Priscilla. To this church came the gifted Apollos from Alexandria in northern Africa. As a Jew, he knew the Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament, well. His doctrine regarding Jesus was accurate but deficient. Probably this means Apollos did not know about the Holy Spirit’s baptism. John’s baptism symbolized cleansing by God because of repentance toward God. But Christian baptism pictures union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection by means of Spirit baptism.1

Respond: What lessons can we learn from Priscilla and Aquila’s investment in Apollos’s life? What key truths about Jesus would’ve been included in their teaching? Who in your life is most curious about Christianity? Why might it be challenging to listen to them attentively and engage them in conversations about faith?

 

 

1 Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 408–409.

 

Week of July 15 - Day 5

Day 5 Read: Acts 17:22-34

 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Reflect:  What truths did Paul communicate about the character of God (vv. 24-31)?

Consider: “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead” The Greeks, except the Epicureans, believed in the immortality of the soul, but not of the body. The resurrection was the major stumbling block for the Greeks.5

Respond: Which of Paul’s descriptions of God is most important? Why? What pattern did Paul set for us as we share the gospel?

 

 

5 Robert James Utley, Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts, vol. Volume 3B, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2003), 209.

 

Week of July 15 - Day 4

Day 4 Read: Acts 17:16-21

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Reflect: Why was Paul’s heart disturbed by the cultural climate of Athens (v. 16)?

Consider: The Areopagus was a rocky eminence, ascended by a flight of stone steps cut in the solid rock, on the summit of which were seats in the open air, where the judges, called Areopagites, held court for the trial of criminals, and of grave religious questions. The informal character of the proceedings on this occasion shows that it was not this court which had summoned Paul, but that those who were interested in hearing him selected this as a suitable place for the purpose. This is further evident from the note of explanation here appended by Luke, that the Athenians and strangers dwelling there, spent their time in nothing else than telling and hearing something new. It was more from curiosity, therefore, that they desired to hear him, than because they really expected to be benefited by what they would hear.4

Respond: What kind of “gods” are there in our culture? What gods do you have in your life? Identify them and confess them to God and ask for his strength to remove them from your life.

 

 

4 John William McGarvey, A Commentary on Acts of Apostles (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co., 1872), 219.

 

Week of July 15 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Acts 17:1-15

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Reflect: What was Paul’s custom when arriving to a new city? What was the content of his discussions?

Consider: The journey from Philippi to Thessalonica was about 100 miles with Amphipolis and Apollonia at approximately 30-mile intervals on the Via Egnatia. Evidently there were no Jewish synagogues in the two towns where Paul did not stop. A synagogue provided an excellent point of contact for the gospel (cf. v. 10) so Paul remained at Thessalonica, modern Saloniki, to preach.3

Respond: How can you be more intentional in preparing yourself to share the gospel? How do you need to change your mindset in order to make room for such conversations?

 

 

3 Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor John William McGarvey, A Commentary on Acts of Apostles (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co., 1872), 219.Books, 1985), 401.