midweek-ministries

Acts 26

Today we’re reading Acts 26.

Our reading from chapter 25 ended yesterday just as Paul, in prison in Caesarea, was about to speak to Festus, a Roman governor, and Agrippa, a Jewish governor / client king over the same area as Festus). Here in Acts 26 we read what Paul said to these men and their responses. Paul followed the same pattern that we’ve seen before in this speech. He simply recounted his personal testimony of salvation in Christ (vv. 1-21), then tied his experience to Old Testament prophesies (vv. 22-23) and applied all this truth to his listeners (vv. 25-29). After Paul’s speech, Festus and Agrippa agreed that Paul was being held and charged unjustly (v. 31) and could have been released (v. 32).

Verse 18 of our text today contains one of the most concise descriptions of the Christian gospel and of our mission once we become Christians: “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Let’s unpack this powerful verse; remember that Jesus is the one speaking these words (v. 15).

  1. Paul was sent “to open their eyes.” This refers, of course, to spiritual vision. It is a way of describing one who understands the truthfulness of the gospel. This is a reference to the doctrine we call “regeneration” -- giving spiritual life to the spiritually dead. It is the only way anyone ever becomes a Christian. Unbelievers may understand the facts of the gospel but until God “opens their eyes” they will not and cannot believe it. Becoming a Christian is--first and foremost--a spiritual act that God unilaterally does for a sinner he has chosen.

  2. After a person has his or her eyes open they turn “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” This “turning” is the doctrine of repentance. Repentance isn’t about being sorry for sin (although some sorrow usually accompanies repentance). Repentance is about a change of mind. Once God opens a person’s eyes, that person chooses to think differently about everything spiritual--God, himself, his sin, etc. At that moment, the unbeliever is extracted “from the power of Satan” by God himself. This makes a person want to follow God and to begin following him instead of living obediently to Satan’s wicked ways.

  3. The result (“so that”) of the spiritual transformation described in verse 18a is “that they may receive forgiveness of sins.” This is the point at which the blood of Christ--his sacrifice as our substitute--is applied to the believer by God. God credits the person who believes the gospel message with the perfect obedience of Christ and he treats us as if we were actually perfectly obedient.

  4. In addition to receiving “the forgiveness of sins” Jesus gave the person described in this verse, “a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” The word “sanctified” means “set apart.” Once we receive all of this spiritual work and transformation, we then have “a place.” This refers to our new state of belonging to God and waiting for his kingdom to arrive.

  5. And how does a person become “sanctified?” Verse 18 says, “by faith in me.” Faith in God’s word about salvation “sets us apart” for Christ. Now we now belong to him and to his mission.

This is how a person becomes a Christian. It seems unlikely, but it is possible that someone reading this devotional today isn’t even a Christian . Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Have you received his free gift of eternal life? That’s a vital question, one every person needs to believe.

Bible Study Material for April 2-15, 2015

You can download a pdf of the entire week's small group Bible study guide here. We will no longer be posting the content each day because very few people are accessing those pages. If you want to share a question or comment on any of the Bible studies in this unit, you can do that on this page.

Note that due to Spring Break there will be no Midweek Ministries on April 8. This material will give you daily Bible study exercises for the next two weeks.

Day 7: Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 again.

Think: 

  • What words or phrases in this passage would you like to understand better? If you have time and a good commentary available, consider looking up those words and phrases and jotting down a summary of what you learn.
     
  • Go back and look at the Big Idea you wrote on Thursday. Is it on the target or is it a bull’s eye? If not, how does your study of these verses help you refine it into a bull’s eye?
     
  • This passage was written to encourage the first readers of Hebrews and us not to “grow weary and lose heart”. This is another reference to the temptation to renounce Christ. What kinds of things cause people to “grow weary and lose heart”? Make a list, then circle the one(s) on your list that affect you sometimes:



     
  • How does considering Jesus help you keep your faith?

Day 6: Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 again

Think:

  • According to verse 2, what motivated Jesus when he “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
     
  • Specifically, what do you think this “joy” was that motivated him?
     
  • Verse 3 commands us to “consider him,” which is a restatement of verse 2’s “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. What are we to “consider” about Jesus?
     
  • According to the end of verse 3, why should we “consider” Jesus?

Day 5: Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 again.

Think: 

  • What does verse 2 tell us to do while we “run with perseverance”?


 

  • Jesus is described in two ways in verse 2. What are they and what do they mean in your own words?
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  • The end of verse 2 describes the accomplishments of Christ in three phrases. What are they and what do you think each means?
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Day 4: Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 again.

Think:

  • Verse 1c contains the second exhortation which is, “let us run with perseverance”. What, according to verse 1c are we to “run with perseverance”?
     
  • What does “the race marked out for us” mean, in your own words?
     
  • Taking the whole second exhortation together, what, in your own words, did the author of Hebrews mean when he exhorted the first readers to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”?

Day 3: Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 again.

Think: 

  • Of the two exhortations in verse 1, the first one has two parts: “let us (1) throw off everything that hinders and (2) the sin that so easily entangles.” Think about the first readers of the book of Hebrews and the repeated warnings we’ve seen in this book. What specifically, in your own words, do you think the word “hinders” meant to those first readers?

     
  • What would be some specific things that might have “hindered” them?

     
  • The second part of the first exhortation is “and the sin that so easily entangles”. What do you think this might have meant to the first readers of Hebrews?

Day 2: Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 again.

Think: 

  • Verse 1 begins with the word “therefore”. What does this word indicate about the relationship between this paragraph and Hebrews 11?
     
  • Verse 1 also begins with the word “since” which provides the motivation for the rest of the verse. What is that motivation according to verse 1a?
     
  • Who do you think are the “great cloud of witnesses” described in verse 1?
     
  • Verse 1 contains two exhortations (“let us”) to us. If you remember, what is an exhortation and how does it differ from a command?
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  • What are the two exhortations in verse 1?
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Day 7: Hebrews 11:22-40

Read: Hebrews 11:22-40 again.

Think: 

  • What words or phrases in this passage would you like to understand better? If you have time and a good commentary available, consider looking up those words and phrases and jotting down a summary of what you learn.
     
  • Go back and look at the Big Idea you wrote on Thursday. Is it on the target or is it a bull’s  eye? If not, how does your study of these verses help you refine it into a bull’s eye?

     
  • Verse 40 says that God held back the fulfillment of his promise “so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” What do you think the phrase “would they be made perfect” means?

     
  • According to verse 40 what is God’s great plan for all who live by faith? What is God accomplishing by calling us to live in faith regardless of the results we get in this life?

Day 6: Hebrews 11:22-40

Read: Hebrews 11:22-40 again

Think:

  • Verse 39 says that the people described in Hebrews 11 “were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” What do you think the phrase “what had been promised” is referring to?

     
  • In other words, is “what had been promised” the same thing for everyone in this chapter or is it different for each person named in this chapter? Explain your answer.



     
  • According to verse 40, why is it that “none of them received what had been promised”?

Day 5: Hebrews 11:22-40

Read: Hebrews 11:22-40 again.

Think: 

  • Verses 32-38 gives us a summary of the actions of others in the Old Testament who lived by faith. Verses 32-35a describes one type of result that came by faith. What, in your own words, summarizes the result as described in verses 32-35a received by those who lived by faith?
     
  • Verses 35b-38 describes a second type of result received by those who lived by faith. What, in your own words, summarizes the result as described in verses 35b-38 received by those who lived by faith?

     
  • Do people who live by faith always have powerful, victorious outcomes in this life? Why or why not?

Day 4: Hebrews 11:22-40

Read: Hebrews 11:22-40 again.

Think:

  • According to verse 27, what gave Moses the faith to leave Egypt without fearing the anger of Pharoah?
     
  • According to verse 28, what was the result of keeping the Passover by faith?
     
  • According to verses 29-30, what two miracles did faith allow the Israelites to experience? 
     
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  • According to verse 31, what action did Rahab take by faith?

     
  • According to verse 31b, what was the result of her faith?

Day 3: Hebrews 11:22-40

Read: Hebrews 11:22-40 again.

Think: 

  • Verses 24-25 describe how Moses acted “by faith”. In verse 24 he by faith made a negative choice and in verse 25 he made a positive choice by faith. Describe each of these choices in your own words:
     
    • Verse 24, negatively, Moses chose what?
       
    • Verse 25, positively, Moses chose what?
       
  • According to verse 26, what caused Moses to make the choices described in verses 24-25?
     
  • According to verse 26b, why did he value disgrace for Christ to be worth more than Egypt’s riches?

Day 2: Hebrews 11:22-40

Read: Hebrews 11:22-40 again.

Think: 

  • According to verse 22, Joseph prophesied that Israel would leave Egypt and return to the land of Canaan. When they left, the people of Israel were to take Jospeh’s bones with him according to verse 22b and Genesis 50:24-25. How is Joseph’s instruction about his bones an act of faith?
     
  • According to verse 23a, what did Moses’ parents do “by faith”?
     
  • According to verse 23b, what two motivations caused Moses’ parents to act this way in faith?
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