Lesson 15 - History of the Church I
The origin of Christianity was referenced in the Old Testament. Christ then came to fulfil this promise of God. Jesus, His Apostles, disciples, and followers, then presented God's doctrine and established the early Christian churches. The early Christians suffered many persecutions under the various emperors and leaders during these formative times of the Church. Under Constantine, which became the emperor of Rome in about 306AD, the Christian Church was able to become officially recognized and sanctioned. It was because of this situation that Otto I was able to form the Church State Alliance about 955AD. Most of the church doctrine directions were established during the reformation period and have not been drastically changed since that area of time.
Lesson 16 - History of the Church II
The Church had already been established by the time Paul had arrived upon the scene. Even with his background of persecutions of Christians, he was selected as "a chosen vessel" (Acts 10) and as an Apostle by Jesus (Acts 9:15). He was then presented to the apostles by Barnabas in Acts 9:27. Barnabas was very instrumental in the instruction and training of the Apostle Paul. It is well noted that Paul was a small man, with physical handicaps and spiritual weakness, as well as his sordid past. However, once chosen and anointed to deliver God's Word, he was forgiven of his past and given the strength necessary to carry out his tasks. In doing this, his writings compose most of the books in the New Testament of the Bible. This is a prime example of what God can do for anyone chosen to serve Him.
There are Godly people who come into our lives that help us see God's purpose in our own lives. For Paul, first known as Saul of Tarsus, that person was Ananias of Damascus. Ananias was an unsung hero. God spoke to Ananias in a vision. In that vision, he wanted Ananias to find Saul and to heal him. Because of this healing two people were converted, Saul and the Roman Proconsul of Damascus. Being a man of God, Ananias heard God and answered, "Here I am".
This is the first time I've heard of Ananias of Damascus. I'm thankful that Ananias took on this task even though he was afraid of Saul because of Saul's reputation and he was willing to heal him because God asked him to. It shows me that going forward on my path that God does have a purpose for my life and that purpose may be to be more like Ananias. To not be the one who is well known by others, but the one who is quiet and unconsuming, who helps God by bringing others closer to God through healing.
Most people are looking for a distinct communication with God like Ananias had with God. The problem may be that most people aren't listening for the right answers. They are listening for the answers to their prayers, what they want in their lives, not what God wants them to be, do, have, or say. Most of us will never actually hear God's voice in our ears but through prayer, The Scripture, and events God puts forth in our lives, we are a little closer to hearing his voice.
Lesson 17 - History of the Church III
Why did John Mark leave Barnabas and Paul at Perga?
Maybe it was because Paul became the leader. John Mark had joined the party under Barnabas' leadership but then Paul took control of the mission. Perhaps it was because the mission's location changed. John Mark wanted to go to Cyprus. He had relatives there and may have visited the island before. It was somewhat familiar territory to him. The untamed mountains of Asia Minor were a different story. Maybe it was just because there was a personality clash between John Mark and Paul. John Mark may not have liked Paul's tactics and didn't feel safe. Paul took risks and upset people.
John Mark was wrong to give up so soon. He didn't witness the blessings of the Holy Spirit that occurred in Asia Minor. I'm sure this conflict hampered their ability to spread the word of God and Jesus.
Chapters 13 and 14 in the book of Acts give the early travels of the Apostle Paul. They also reflect the determination of Paul to carry out the responsibilities which were given to him by God. It shows the great communications gifts given him to preach to both Jews and Gentiles. Even in adversity and persecutions, he continued his ministry as God had directed him. God chose Paul and therefore gave him the strength and abilities to perform this ministry.
Lesson 18 -- History of the Church IV
When the crowd witnessed the healing of the lame man, they thought Paul and Barnabas were gods. They shouted in their own language, "The gods have come down in human form". They did not realize that God was the One who healed the man, that Paul and Barnabas were only the tools of God's healing.
It is understandable that the crowd who witnessed the event would believe that Paul and Barnabas were gods. They witnessed a miracle; something that only a god would have the power to perform. Being ignorant of Paul and Barnabas association with Jesus Christ, they praised the only Gods they knew. At least the crowd recognized that the man was healed and didn't automatically view the feat as a rouse, a form of manipulation, or a scam to acquire money. They only mistrusted and doubted Paul and Barnabas' abilities and motives after being manipulated by the Jews from Antioch and Iconium. There have been many times in history when we have seen this happen. Miracles from God occur only to be downplayed as coincidence or deception by those who would have the proof of God's love kept silent.