Pastors Ray Viola and Ben Hiwale go through the Bible line-by-line, precept-by-precept in a series of in-depth teachings. Our prayer for this podcast series is that you would KNOW CHRIST, GROW IN CHRIST, PROCLAIM CHRIST, and bring GLORY TO GOD.
After the apostle Paul left the city of Athens, his next stop was the city of Corinth. Paul wrote two letters to the church at Corinth. We read that he stayed there for a year and a half teaching and preaching the Word of God.
It was in Corinth that he tells us that he met a couple by the names of Aquila and Priscilla. They had come to the saving faith in Christ in the city of Rome, and came to Corinth because Claudius had deported all Jews from Rome. Because they, like Paul, were tent makers by trade, they not only worked with Paul, but they also took Paul into their home and family. Scripture indicates that this hardworking, hospitable couple was sold out for Jesus Christ. They were tremendous helpers to Paul in the ministry of the gospel.
In Romans 16:3,4, Paul writes, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles”. In addition to making tents as a means of income by trade, this husband and wife also put their life on the line to assist Paul in his ministry of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 16:19 Paul writes, “Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house”. They were a couple that had an “open heart, open door” policy who knew the importance of opening their home for fellowship with other saints.
Years later, Paul writes from “death row” in 2 Timothy 4:19, “Salute Priscilla and Aquila”. The fact that Paul mentions them while he was on “death row” near end of his life reveals Paul never forgot the hospitality, help and love that they showed him over the years. They were not fair weather saints who bailed out when the going gets tough.
Its couples like this in the local church that make the ministry a pure joy and delight. Its couples who have an open door of hospitality and are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of others in the body of Christ that will receive those crowns of reward at the Bema Seat of Christ.
I am so thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ for the multitude of sold out couples who have served the Lord and have been a great help to me and others in ministry here at Koinonia during the past four decades. Thank you for putting Jesus first in your lives and for choosing to live for Him and His glory. Your labors in the Lord and neither in vain, nor are they unnoticed not only to me and others, but to the One who loved us and died for us. Selah
Creation, Redemption and the Living God
When the apostle Paul was in the city of Athens, his spirit was grieved because he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Paul wasn’t snapping photos like a typical tourist, he was grieved when the image bearers of God were doing such things. As he is looking at the various temples and shrines that were places and objects of “worship” and devotion, he writes “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23).
It is at this point that Paul begins to unpack the biblical revelation of the Living God as our Creator, and His Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, whom He raised from the dead. Paul refutes the notion of an unknown God with the biblical revelation of God as Creator, Lord of heaven and earth. Scripture clearly reveals in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth”.
Contrary to the multitude of evolutionary theories or the plethora of superstitious myths that seek to “explain” the origin of the universe, Scripture declares from Genesis to Revelation, that the universe and everything in it was created in the beginning by an All-Wise, All-Powerful and loving God. The universe or the existence of mankind on planet earth is not left to chance or to some impersonal fate. That is why the scientific and philosophical views of this fallen world system regarding the origin of creation are constantly attacking and seeking to dismantle the biblical doctrine of Creator and creation. Why? Because the Bible teaches that man was created in the image of God, and being created in the image of God, man was created to worship God. But Adam sinned when he believed the lie of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and from that time, man has given the worship that belongs to God alone to idols.
Athens-like idolatry is thriving in America. Whether it’s the god of wealth, fame, power, or pleasure. Whether it is the gods or goddesses who are athletes, entertainers, or politicians, America today is filled with idols. These idols are “counterfeit gods” or “substitute gods”, because an idol is essentially anything or anyone that takes God’s rightful place in a person’s life. But the clock of human history is one day coming to an end. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31).
Once again we see that every question regarding the origin of life and why mankind exists on planet earth must ultimately lead to the question of who Jesus Christ and the gospel that bears His name was. Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead is the heart of God’s plan for history. It is only when we “see” by the Spirit of God that Jesus Christ is both the Creator of Man and also our Redeemer, that we know why we were born and are set free from the emptiness of seeking to fill that God shaped hole in our soul with idols. SELAH
Change the World
We are transitioning into the 2nd part of the book of Acts, which is filled with descriptions that picture salvation. We will notice that the Gospel is on the move and God is on a mission. There is a pattern of proclamation, persuasion and persecution. God is in the business of saving souls.
In today's passage, Paul, Silas and Timothy have made the 100 mile journey from Philippi to Thessalonica. As was his pattern, Paul went to the synagogue first, where he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.
Paul proclaimed, examined and proved to them Christ from the pages of the Old Testament. I think this is really important for us to see right now in our time and culture. Paul did not preach himself. He did not preach his ideas. He did not preach emotionally touching stories or tell jokes. He did not preach what everyone wanted to hear. He did not talk about the Roman Empire and all of its problems. He did not preach the politics of the day, whether they should be zealots against the empire or workers for the empire. Paul followed the example of Jesus, taking the scriptures and explaining them and reasoning them to others.
This is a timely text to remind us how to navigate current culture of division and toxicity. We are not in the business of reasoning politics, the problems with the country, or trying to win people to our ideas about how we think the world should be. We need to reason the Scriptures. There is lack of knowledge of Scriptures and certainly lack of experience with God. People may know of the Bible but they do not know the Bible or the God of the Bible. We have heard what other people have said about the Scriptures. But so many have not seen the Scriptures for themselves.
The apostle Paul demonstrated that faith does not come through politics or arguments, Faith only comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Paul told people what God said from the Scriptures. This led to two responses. We are told in verse 4 that some of the Jews and Greeks were persuaded, including women. At the same time there was persecution. They were dragged before the city council (vs. 6-7).
What is this Scripture trying to get us to see? The truth that God’s Word needs to be the priority in our lives. We must approach people with what God says, not our opinions, values, perspective, politics, or anything else. The world needs the Word because it is only through the Word that people will come to faith.
We also need to know the Scriptures ourselves. We will be considered virtuous and noble if we desire God’s word and examine them daily. If you do not desire to know the Scriptures and spend time listening to God’s word, ask yourself, why? What happened?
Jesus said in his parable that weeds can choke out the power of the Word in your life. What weeds are covering over your spiritual roots so that you do not desire God and his Word? Would you pull out those weeds in your heart? Would you start that today? There are 168 hours in a week. How many hours is God getting from you? The character God wants for us are lives that are guided by God’s word.
The Bereans were in the Word every day. What is blocking you from being in the Word? Do we need less entertainment? Do we need less technology? Do we need less time on our devices? What is blocking you from enjoying Jesus?
Sin is an offense to God, and divine justice must be satisfied. The penalty for sin is death. The suffering and righteousness of none but Christ could have been sufficient and satisfactory. He paid all that justice demanded, and God is well pleased with his sacrifice. And that is the reason salvation is found in no other name under heaven but Christ.
Forgiveness: Is It Unlimited?
This topic is as old as it gets and maybe gets under our skin because it has become so casual and generic in Christian conversations. The reality is that we as believers are constantly faced with this issue as individuals and as a body together. So as we prepare for worship, how essential is forgiveness? How eager should we be to forgive ourselves and others? What are the consequences if we are reluctant to show mercy to someone else? Does unforgiveness lead to bitterness, anger and resentment? Does the Bible teach forgiveness without limits?
As we live our lives, we accumulate lists. Many of us have running lists of people that have hurt, abandoned or wronged us in the past or the present. What is the purpose of these lists and how are they helpful? When Jesus says, rip your lists away, don’t track them, and don’t accumulate, does this seem that it is asking way too much of us? We all know how difficult it is to forgive. Forgiveness is not natural; what is natural is to get even. At times we hold our hurts, anger or resentment in a tight embrace thinking it will shield us for further pain, but it cuts at our well-being weakens us and if not dealt with, it becomes very destructive.
Forgiveness is divine because it is not natural, thus causing difficulty in doing so. But it is critical that we first receive forgiveness. You will never be able to forgive someone until you have deeply experienced forgiveness yourself. Generally people wait for others to make the first step. Today you may want to reconsider your position and be the first one to change the embrace of hurt into an embrace of forgiveness. Much of the life we live, we do not have control over, but this is something that is within our power to do. You embracing forgiveness could be the healing touch you need at this time.
Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. In the story, you will notice the word “wicked.” It refers to the depravity working in our evil nature. This wicked behavior of unforgiving man is revealed in his unregenerate heart. Do we really want to face the consequences of our wickedness like the man in the story was forced to? We see mercy replaced with wrath.
Saints, an unforgiving spirit reveals an unregenerate heart and an unregenerate heart eventually lands a person in the place of torment. This is why this parable was shared with Jesus to his disciples. We need to repent, seek forgiveness and live in the freedom of what has been forgiven us, because the weight of what we could not repay will always outweigh what we would need to forgive.
Singing at Midnight
In our study today, Paul and Silas are in a maximum security prison. They have been brutally beaten as a result of the crime of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. No doubt they are bruised, bloody, chained hand and foot in the stocks, and unable to sleep. We read in Acts 16:25, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them”.
Now set aside the fact that they are no doubt in much pain as a result of the beating they were given. A beating that was intended to “teach them the lesson”, do not preach Jesus Christ around here or this is what will happen to you. A lesson that they never learned as you read the rest of the book of Acts. Set all that aside for a moment. Ask yourself a question, when was the last time that you or I rolled out of bed to sing praises to our King at midnight?
They sang praises and it says that the prisoners heard them. But lest we forget, Paul and Silas were prisoners as well. But they weren’t prisoners of the Roman government; they were prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Zechariah 9:12 speaks of “prisoners of hope”. As people who are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, we too are prisoners. We too are transplants of heaven who have been redeemed to be ambassadors of hope here on this planet that lies in the hands of the devil. In our journey with the Lord Jesus, we too find ourselves is all kinds of prisons. Relational prisons. Financial prisons. Prisons of the flesh. Prisons of health. Prisons of persecution. These kinds of prisons are unavoidable.
Like Paul and Silas, one of the most powerful ways to confront those various prisons is by singing praises to our God. Praise “invites” the atmosphere of heaven in the room, so to speak. God inhabits the praises of His people. Think about that for a moment. Talk about a “pick me up!!” Praising God is more energizing than those 5 minute energizer drinks and it will only “cost you” a few minutes of redirecting your attention. “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:62).
Prophetically, we are living in the last days. The Lord is at hand. Our redemption draws near. The Lord Jesus told us in the parable of the ten virgins “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6). Singing praises at midnight. Rising at midnight to praise and thank God for His righteous judgments. Ready at midnight to hear, “The Bridegroom is coming, go out and meet Him”.
Yes, in this world we do suffer tribulation. There is sorrow and sadness all around us. But when we choose the “uplook” of praise over the “outlook” of prisons, it changes things. Beloved, determine to be a person who sings at midnight. In the morning. At noon. Like Paul and Silas, you never know how many fellow prisoners may hear and turn to Jesus. SELAH
The Name of Jesus
In our study today, a demonic spirit is causing a distraction when Paul and the others are preaching salvation in the name of Jesus. Dr. Luke tells us, “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17,18). It is then read, “but Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:18).
Beloved, demonic spirits are real. The apostle Paul confirms this with the words, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Who are the “we” that wrestle not against flesh and blood? It’s the church of Jesus Christ. These demonic spirits are as alive and well today as they were in the book of Acts. But praise be unto God that there is power and authority for the child of God over those demons in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the account of the 70 disciples mentioned in the gospel of Luke we read in verses 17&19, “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven”. Satan and demons are not mythological characters; they are real entities who are wreaking the same chaos, confusion as they always have. They feed fears and phobias. They lie, masquerade and distort the truth of God, and often as angels of light. Demonic possession cannot be cast out with medication, therapy rehabs. There is only one name that is powerful enough to cast out demons just as true as there is only one name under heaven whereby we must be saved, and that name is Jesus Christ.
“Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:13) There is a full blown war for souls on planet earth today beloved, and even demons know the difference between a sheep and a wolf. There are demonic entities who oppose the work of God and the people of God. Many are religious counterfeits. Others are pseudo spiritual who seek to control your minds. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
Praise God that there is salvation, deliverance and healing in the name of Jesus today just as much as it was in our study this morning. “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:23). “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11). Reader, do you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior? Call upon His name in times of darkness. Resist the devil and he will flee. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. SELAH