Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies- 24th May 2022

Canvey Methodist Church Bible Study. 24th May 2022

Acts 16:16-34.   New International Version

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Comment:

Paul and Silas were singled out not only because they were the leaders of the evangelistic group, but also, by their appearance, they were the most obviously Jewish. This is indicated by how they began their accusation: "These men, being Jews."  Paul and Silas looked Jewish, and "Anti-Jewish sentiment lay very near the surface in pagan antiquity." (Bruce)

Question? What would this kind of attitude be referred to today? Can you think of any examples of similar ways of thinking

The charges the local authorities brought against Paul and Silas were vague, simply accusing Paul and Silas of being troublemakers. But those vague charges were enough, because both the angry crowd and the local magistrates were biased against Paul and Silas because of their Jewish appearance, and because they assumed Paul and Silas were not Roman citizens

How it was then:

In the Roman Empire, there were two very different laws: one for citizens of the Roman Empire, and one for those who were not citizens. Roman citizens had specific civil rights which were zealously guarded. Non-citizens had no civil rights, and were subject to the whims of both the multitude and the magistrates.

 

Since it was assumed that Paul and Silas were not Roman citizens, the magistrates were offended that these obviously Jewish men would harass Roman citizens with their strange religion of a crucified Saviour. Such people, they thought, “had to be taught to know their proper place and not trouble their betters." (Bruce)

 

Question? Who might society today consider as being the “betters” and who as the “outsiders”?

After their appalling treatment, “Paul and Silas” were, even in prison, “filled with joy, and singing praises to God”. Anyone can be happy in pleasant circumstances, but real joy comes only from within, and is a gift available to Christians at all times.

Question: What will it take to make us stop praising God?

When the earthquake came, the doors sprang open, but amazingly everyone stayed where they were. Had they all escaped, then the Jailor would have been held accountable for their collective “crimes” and would have been executed?

It would have been easy for Paul and Silas to escape thinking God had instigated another miraculous jailbreak. But, could it be that, to them, the lives of others were more important than their own personal freedom and comfort.

By not escaping, they showed tremendous discernment. The circumstances said, "escape." But love said, "Stay for the sake of this one soul." They were not guided merely by circumstances, but by what love compelled. As a consequence of their actions, this hardened keeper of the prison fell down trembling. This is as dramatic as it sounds. This man was more affected by the love and grace in the lives of Paul and Silas than in the earthquake. This may even have even been the same guard who beat them a few hours earlier!

Question: How might our lives be similarly attractive, to draw people to God

Thus, this same jailer who had been punishing them was now ministering to Paul and Silas, caring for their wounds and he set food before them. This shows how repentant he was and how he followed the example of love shown by Paul and Silas. The result; “And immediately he and all his family were baptized”

The jailer and his family saw no reason to delay baptism; they were baptized that very night, and all this began around midnight (Acts 16:25).

A remarkable change of circumstances and emotions. This man had gone from displaying suicidal fear to abounding joy in just a few minutes. All of it flowed from Paul and Silas' courageous praise to God in terrible adversity.

Question: How might Psalm 97 influence the way we respond to times when unexpected or adverse circumstances present themselves in our lives?

Psalm 97 

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;

    let the distant shores rejoice.

2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him;

    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3 Fire goes before him

    and consumes his foes on every side.

4 His lightning lights up the world;

    the earth sees and trembles.

5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,

    before the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,

    and all peoples see his glory.

7 All who worship images are put to shame,

    those who boast in idols—

    worship him, all you gods!

8 Zion hears and rejoices

    and the villages of Judah are glad

    because of your judgments, Lord.

9 For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;

    you are exalted far above all gods.

10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil,

    for he guards the lives of his faithful ones

    and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light shines[a] on the righteous

    and joy on the upright in heart.

12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,

    and praise his holy name.

Footnotes

a Psalm 97:11 One Hebrew manuscript and ancient versions (see also 112:4); most Hebrew manuscripts Light is sow

 

John 17:20-26.    New International Version

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you [a. Your name] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (see John 17: 39)

Footnotes

a. John 17:26 Greek your name

John 7:37-39.   New International Version

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Footnotes

a. John 7:38 Or me. And let anyone drink 38 who believes in me.” As Scripture has said, “Out of him (or them) will flow rivers of living water.

Comment

On his last night with the disciples, Jesus shares a meal with them, washes their feet, gives them a new commandment, and answers question after question concerning the fact that he is about to leave them (John 13-16).

After all that, Jesus begins to pray.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when Jesus prays before his arrest, he is in Gethsemane, and he prays alone. Even his most trusted disciples are some distance from him, and rather than listening, praying, or keeping watch, they fall asleep (cf. Mark 14:32-42 and parallels).

In the gospel of John, the scene is different. Jesus and the disciples have not yet travelled to the garden where Jesus will be met by Judas and betrayed. In John, when Jesus prays, the disciples are within earshot. Throughout the earlier part of the evening Jesus had given them as much information as he could about what was about to happen and how he would provide for them in the future. Now Jesus turns from offering information to them and begins to offer intercession for them.

These last hours that Jesus had with his disciples before he went to the cross then, ended in a prayer meeting. The one who was praying here was Jesus of Nazareth himself, unquestionably the one who understands more about the nature and the possibilities of prayer than anyone who has ever lived.

Some have said that we ought to think of this prayer as the Lord's Prayer rather than the one that begins “Our Father,” because it is the prayer in which Jesus poured out his heart. The one beginning “Our Father” might perhaps better be called The Model Prayer or The Disciple’s Prayer, because it is a prayer that Jesus gives us to pray.

However, in the prayer before us we find that it is Jesus doing the praying, and not us. Moreover, at the heart of the prayer is that the whole world would be reached by the oneness and love of those who believe in him.

Verse 21 "...so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,"

and again in the latter part of Verse 23, "...so that the world may know that thou hast sent me."

Amazingly, God's whole redemptive plan is aimed at one target: the world, coming to know him through the unity and love of his followers. It is through loving action, to introduce people to Jesus. Someone has defined this goal as follows:

"World Evangelism is the attempt to give every person an opportunity to make an intelligent choice of whether to receive or reject Jesus Christ."

Whilst it is true that Christians experience blessing and joy in each other’s company, the church exists in order to reach the world.

God's strategy to achieve this is highlighted by John, “"...that they may all he one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21 RSV)

and again, “I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me ..." (John 17:23a RSV)

Satan works to divide us. Christ works to unite us.

All Christians are one, joined by the Holy Spirit. This is not about union of different denominations, but rather about unity in Jesus Christ. There is a difference. Union is an outward agreement, an alliance, formed by the submerging of differences for sake of merging. Unity is something different.

 When John writes, "That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee," (John 17:21a RSV), he is speaking of how unity is about the sharing of life together with the Holy Spirit amongst us. What speaks to those outside the church the most is how its members love and care for each other.

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 (RSV))

https://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/prayer/the-prayer-for-unity

Question:

How do you feel when someone prays out loud for you? (comforted, vulnerable, grateful, honored, humbled, awkward but appreciative, like someone really cares).

Is unity a problem for believers now? Why? What are some of the splitting points?

How do we balance keeping strong doctrine and being unified with other believers?

In what cases should we not be unified with others?

How should we treat those with whom we disagree?

What core character quality do we need to have in order to be unified with others?

Maybe one of the reasons it is so easy to turn John 17 into a “to do” list for the church is that such a list is easier to manage than such an experience as intimate as being the subject of another’s prayer. We are so obviously not in control as we listen to people pray for us. They, not we, are the ones doing the asking, and God, not we, is the one answering the prayer.

God the Father is the one who brings unity amongst us as we all look to Him through Jesus Christ.

Refs:

https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/new-testament-john-1720-26/

https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/seventh-sunday-of-easter-3/commentary-on-john-1720-26

https://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/prayer/the-prayer-for-unity

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Act/Act_16.cfm

 

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21;  New International Version

Epilogue: Invitation and Warning

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you [a. The Greek is plural] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.