The Apostle Paul and the Earliest Churches (A Review)

The Apostle PaulI’ve never been to the places that the Apostle Paul traveled on his missionary journeys so I’m always interested in watching documentaries about his life. I’m especially interested in those that offer pictures, videos, and other key insight into the cities and regions that he visited. This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the Apostle Paul DVD. While it does have some pictures, video, and commentary about the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul it’s not really that entertaining. I did enjoy the the archeological insights.

Given the nature of the work the video would have functioned better with a host operating as a guide. The narration was slow, repetitive, and continued to drag on making a 45 minute film seem like it was even longer. The bright spots were the modern views of the historical cities. There wasn’t as much re-enactment as one might expect for this type of documentary.  I’m a huge fan of the scriptures and anything that makes them more clear, but this film will only help a select few deepen their knowledge or affection for the scriptures.

Though I don’t have much complementary to say about the Apostle Paul DVD, I was pleased to find out about fishflix.com which is a great place to get Christian DVDs. They are actually running a special right now where you can get a $5 coupon to fishflix.com just for joining their email list. Join by going to fishflix.com/5gift or by texting 5-GIFT to 44222.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from the distributer as part of their reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Acts 5: Your Sin isn’t Small

God kills Ananias and Sapphira. Before you start to get upset about that consider that He had every right. He’s God! We all owe him our breath. We all live at his pleasure. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that God doesn’t posses the same right over you… He’s your maker.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted recognition for selling property and giving their money to the church. No worries there, but they held back and lied about the gift. I don’t know what they were holding back for, maybe a 401K, a better car, or maybe to just pay off some debts. Either way, they held back. Not that they owed all the money to the church like a debt or obligation, but that they claimed that it was everything. They were faking generosity.

Faking generosity to the church is a mockery of the gospel. Consider that this offering was going to meet the needs of the poor (4:34-35). Consider that those who sold their property were giving all of it away and this enabled the apostles to boast even more about the resurrection of Jesus (4:32-35). This unity that the church experiences is a direct witness to the power of the gospel. It puts both the present condition of those who are destitute and suffering and the eternal condition of those who profess faith in Christ in the same light… If God would not withhold his son from me, so that I might be saved… Who am I to withhold earthly goods from those who have immediate need.

The problem came when Ananias and Sapphira held back. That’s not the gospel… it’s a feigned generosity. It’s a lie. It’s a false gospel. They are not mimicking the generosity of God.  They held back. They care only about having the appearance of piety and so they lie.

The lie costs them. It costs them their lives… by the way, that is what sin costs. It’s not small. It’s not trivial. It’s not as though the cross were a small thing. The love of God compelled Christ to die for our sin and this single act is the most generous thing that has ever happened in all of history. The early church was a testimony to that in the way that the hearts of the wealthy were moved to outrageous generosity… but when one couple held back they were reminded to never take the generosity of God for granted. Sin always costs.

Acts 4: The Cornerstone

The healing of a beggar in chapter three provoked a commotion and all the officials come to see what is going on. They demand to know by what power these things are being accomplished. The Apostles declare plainly through the power of the Holy Spirit that it was in the name of Jesus. (Notice that the Holy Spirit empowers them to testify about the resurrection of Jesus… Make no mistake the book of Acts is about Jesus.)

Peter presses in to the rulers that they are the ones who crucified Jesus. He references a teaching moment of Jesus just prior to his death, burial and resurrection (2 months before this event… You can find it in Matthew 21:33-46). Jesus tells a parable about wicked tenants who reject the owners right over a certain property and ultimately kill the owners son. He then goes on to quote Psalm 118:22-23 and says “the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” implicating the Pharisees rejection of Jesus (and by association murder).

Now Peter throws it out again, this time spelling it out just in case they didn’t get it. “Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the chief corner stone” (Acts 4:11, ESV). Any attempt to build a platform to reach up to Heaven must have the Risen Christ as the corner stone. These men in the temple not only rejected Jesus but among them were men who set in motion the false arrest, trial and murder of Jesus.

These are some wicked dudes and Peter lets them know. But here is where the real power of the gospel lies… The sovereign plan of God takes the most wicked sin imaginable (the murder of GOD – John 1:1-3) and uses that very same act to cause the greatest good man has ever known (redemption and the forgiveness of sins) through the resurrection… They meant it for evil… but God intended it for good.

What a glorious God we serve. Every attempt to trump the gospel is turned on its head and proves the gospel even more true: Injustice is transformed into lavish grace, where men pour out their hatred, the love of God is made manifest, where men fight to exercise control, God proves his sovereign plan.

Acts 3: The Generosity of God

The book of Acts is record of how the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The emphasis of the first three chapters is on the power of the Holy Spirit to complete that mission. In chapter one the apostles are told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (1:4). In chapter two the Holy Spirit comes in Power and three thousand souls are added to the church (2:41). Now in chapter three, through the power of the Holy Spirit a lame man is healed.

This story is really amazing because it testifies to the generosity of God! Here there is a man who was born lame is sitting as close to the temple as he can get (lame men weren’t permitted inside the temple). He has no source of income, no disability check, no food stamps. He simply depends on the generosity of others. He’s no fool. He sits by the temple at the time of prayer where people will be coming in and out. He’s also situated close to where the  money changers would be doing business and as a result strangers would have a few more lose coins than normal. He begs to survive… to get by. He doesn’t have a lot of money… He’s a beggar with no hope of ever improving his situation.

But then he sees Peter and John and they don’t have any money to give him. Instead they lock eyes with him and offer them what they do have… The generous power of God to heal a beggar! Do you get it? Do you see the irony. The Beggar doesn’t have any money. That’s why he begs. He’s poor. He’s destitute. He can’t even walk. All he can do is beg. All he can do is ask for help and on this day GOD answers.

The Apostles reach out their hands and command him “Get up.” Such a harsh command for a man who cannot respond on his own, no matter how much he wills it. His body broken from birth. But something happens… he is able! God has made him able! This man who had nothing to offer. This man who has nothing to give for the miracle… gets up and walks! And he walks, no… skips right into the temple (3:8). He’s praising God. Ten minutes before, he was a lame man, but now he walks with Apostles.

How great is God that he gives to those who cannot repay Him. He is generous beyond all measure. This man who was unable to enter the temple because of his deformity is now made able by the working of the Holy Spirit. If God can heal a lame man’s body, He is most certainly able to save us all from our own spiritual bankruptcy.

Acts 1: The Blessing of Obedience

The book of Acts or as it is often called, “The Acts of the Apostles” is actually all about the Lord Jesus Christ. We see here in the first chapter that The Lord has risen from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Before he leaves he gives the Apostles the charge to be witnesses (specifically of his resurrection) all over the world beginning in Jerusalem (See Acts 1:8).

This is where it gets interesting. The disciples aren’t from Jerusalem and Luke the author of Acts wants you to know that... Indeed two verses later (Acts 1:10) the angels address the Apostles as “Men of Galilee.” Then again just a few verses later the narrator (Luke) reminds the reader that the Apostles are not from Jerusalem because they went back to a room “where they were staying” (Acts 1:13).

I think this is important because Jesus has commanded them to wait there in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (Acts 1:4). It seems like the natural bent of the disciples would not have been to stay in Jerusalem but head somewhere else (perhaps Galilee… Home). But never the less at the Lord’s command they stay, waiting for the Holy Spirit.

This reminds me of Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus first calls some of his disciples. He tells them to push back out into the water and fish again. Their natural inclination is not to do it…. they want to clean their nets. But never the less, at the word of Jesus they press out and drop the nets and pull in the biggest catch they had ever seen… It is interesting to note that it is just at that point that Jesus tells them that one day they will be fishing for men.

Now here Jesus has told them again to push out of their comfort zone and stay in the city. He will give them the Holy Spirit and they will be his Witnesses starting in the place He told them to go.

Prayer: Father, You are amazing! When these men obeyed you in the small things like casting out a net or staying in the city, you rewarded them with a real relationship with You and you invited them to be your witnesses all over the world. Today I’m reminded to be obedient to you in even the seemingly small things. I want my priorities to be a true reflection of your will. I surrender to you. Today I’m seeking YOUR Kingdom, YOUR Will and I give YOU my obedience. Help me to not to put confidence in the flesh, but trust your wisdom.