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Isaiah 43:1-7
1 But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

shstampsBackground

Chapter 43 of Isaiah is about: God’s unchangeable love for his people. (1-7) Apostates and idolaters addressed. (8-13) The deliverance from Babylon, and the conversion of the Gentiles. (14-21) Admonition to repent of sin. (22-28)

Biblical Truth

God’s favor and good-will to his people can be seen to give abundant comfort to all who believer. The new person we become when we have a relationship with God is of God’s own forming and not our good works. All who are “redeemed” are done so through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and through the shedding of His blood. This has set us apart for God’s purpose. Those that have God for them do need to fear anyone or anything. Who can be against them?

Isaiah tells the Israelites, “What are Egypt and Ethiopia, all their lives and treasures, compared with the blood of a Savior? True believers are precious in God’s sight, His delight is in them. God holds them above any other people. Isaiah reminds them that they went through fire and water, yet, while they had God with them, they did not need to fear evil. They should create the next generation and they will brought out, saved together. This is to be encouragement for all the faithful. All God’s people will be assembled from everywhere they have been scattered. And with this pleasing message, Isaiah again dissuades the people from any anxious fears.

Items for Discussion

  • What examples can you think of when it comes to redeeming things?
  • What is it that God wanted from us (our stamps)?
  • What were we to get as our reward?
  • How does our God plan to accomplish this massive and collective redemption?

 

Acts 4:32-5:11
4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

Background

The book of Acts was written by Luke between 62 and 70 A.D. It provides a detailed, orderly, eyewitness account of the birth and growth of the early church and the spread of the gospel immediately after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luke’s writing of Acts supplies a bridge connecting the life and ministry of Jesus to the life of the church and the witness of the earliest believers. Because the book ends quite abruptly, some scholars suggest that Luke may have planned to write a third book to continue his story.

Luke was a Greek and the only Gentile Christian writer of the New Testament. He was an educated man, and we learn in Colossians 4:14 that he was a physician. Luke was not one of the 12 disciples. We know that Luke was a faithful friend and travel companion of Paul.

Acts is written to Theophilus, meaning “the one who loves God.” Historians are not sure who this Theophilus (mentioned in Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) was, although most likely, Theophilus was a Roman with an intense interest in the newly forming Christian faith. Luke may also have been writing in general to all those who loved God. The book is written to Gentiles as well, and all people everywhere.

Biblical Truth

The disciples loved one another. This was the blessed fruit of Christ’s dying command to his disciples, and his dying prayer for them. Thus it was then, and it will be so again, when the Holy Spirit is poured upon us from on high. The doctrine preached was the resurrection of Christ; a matter of fact, which being duly explained, was a summary of all the duties, privileges, and comforts of Christians. There were evident fruits of Christ’s grace in all they said and did. They were dead to this world. This was a great evidence of the grace of God in them. They did not take away others’ property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for belonging to him.

It is not so surprising then that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply. The money was laid at the apostles’ feet. Great care ought to be taken in the distribution of public charity, that it be given to such as have need, such as are not able to procure a maintenance for themselves; those who are reduced to want for well-doing, and for the testimony of a good conscience, ought to be provided for. Here is one in particular mentioned, remarkable for this generous charity; it was Barnabas. As one designed to be a preacher of the gospel, he disentangled himself from the affairs of this life. When such dispositions prevail, and are exercised according to the circumstances of the times, the testimony will have very great power upon others.

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was, that they were ambitious of being thought of as special disciples (standing out for their charity). However, they were not true disciples. Hypocrites may deny themselves, may forego their worldly advantage in one instance, with a prospect of finding their profits or gain in something else. They were covetous of the wealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence. They thought they might serve both God and man. They thought to deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discerned the principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias. But whatever Satan might suggest, he could not have filled the heart of Ananias with this wickedness had he not been consenting. The falsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who so manifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananias was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavoring to impose upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a vain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to swindle God, we put a fatal deception on our own souls. How sad to see those relations who should gown in the desire to help one another to that which is good, hardening one another in that which is evil! And this punishment was in reality mercy to vast numbers. It would cause strict self-examination, prayer, and dread of hypocrisy, covetousness, and vain-glory, and it should still do so. It would prevent the increase of false apostles, those in pursuit of worldly gains. Let us learn how hateful falsehood is to the God of truth, and not only shun a direct lie, but all advantages from the use of crafty expressions, and double meaning in our speech.

Items for Discussion

  • If we do not give all of our physical wealth to the Church, does this story mean we will die?
  • What motives might you have found in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira that were displeasing to God?
  • On a more generic note, what kinds of things do we withhold from God?
  • If we withhold something, anything from God, what benefit is it for us?
  • Is the impact on others ever bad when someone is deceitful in their motives about the Gospel’s Message?

Discussion Challenge

  • What were the attributes of the early Christians in Acts that made their church, their congregation, so special?
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