+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Opening (A Collect for Guidance – Thursday)
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: Guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Morning Reading – Luke 13:10-15:32 (NLT)
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”
But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”
“Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”
After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.
Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord!” he replied.
The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”
“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”
Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.
The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
Peter Heals Aeneas and Raises Dorcas
Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” And he was healed instantly. Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.
There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas. She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”
So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them. But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.
The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.
The church had peace… became stronger… and grew in numbers.
– Acts 9:31 –
Persecution scattered the believers throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. In Samaria, many people believed and were baptized through Philip’s preaching, teaching and healing. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, the apostles were surprised hear of the Samaritan’s conversion and sent Peter and John to verify what had happened. And sure enough, when Peter and John laid hands on the believing Samaritans they received the Holy Spirit much like the Jewish believers had on Pentecost in Jerusalem.Peter and John continued the missionary work that Philip had begun in Samaritan villages before returning to Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit then led Philip to intercept the caravan of the God-fearing treasurer of Ethiopia returning home from Jerusalem. Philip’s explanation of Jesus as Isaiah’s “suffering servant” led immediately to the Ethiopian’s belief and baptism. Then the Holy Spirit led Philip to preach the Good News in towns along along the coast north to Caesarea.
And the great wave persecution of believers continued under Saul who pursued those who had fled from Jerusalem to safety in Syria. Saul’s mission was to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. But God had other plans for him. His dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus when confronted by Jesus was a game changer for everyone involved. Once again the Holy Spirit intervened – leading Ananias to pray for him, baptize him, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Saul’s conversion was total and complete – And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” But not everyone was convinced; the believers in Jerusalem were afraid of him and redirected him down to Caesarea and then back to his hometown of Tarsus in south central Turkey. With Saul gone, everything began to quiet down and the church grew bigger and stronger.
Questions for consideration:
- Have you or someone you know experienced a dramatic conversion? Please explain.
- How did believers in the church respond to this conversion? Please explain.
- What was the effect of this conversion on unbelievers? Please explain.
- How would you verify that the same Spirit dwells within every professed believer? Please explain.
Morning Prayer – For missionaries
Lord Jesus, you commanded us to make disciples of all nations: Bless all those who work together for the spread of the Gospel; make them faithful and true witnesses to proclaim your glorious Name. Send down the grace of the Holy Spirit upon all your people, that we may give cheerfully of our substance for the evangelization of the world, and that the light of your truth may shine brightly in every place. Hear us, O merciful Savior, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, world without end. Amen.
O God, you desire that all people be saved and come to knowledge of the truth: Prosper all those who live, preach,
and teach the Gospel at home and in distant lands; protect them in all perils, support them in their loneliness, sustain them in the hour of trial; give them your abundant grace to bear faithful witness; and endue them with burning zeal and love, that they may turn many to righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Send the Light” – the Altar of Praise Chorale
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen