April 9, 2021

To Face Your Fears, Fear God

Acts 9–12

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The Conversion of Saul

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found...

The Conversion of Saul

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews1 plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,2 lowering him in a basket.

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.3 But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

The Healing of Aeneas

32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Dorcas Restored to Life

36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas.4 She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics5 and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Peter and Cornelius

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day6 he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour7 to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation,8 for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour,9 and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Gentiles Hear the Good News

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Peter Reports to the Church

Now the apostles and the brothers10 who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party11 criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

The Church in Antioch

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists12 also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers13 living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Peter Is Rescued

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.”14 Then he departed and went to another place.

18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

The Death of Herod

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,15 they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from16 Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Footnotes

[1] 9:23 The Greek word Ioudaioi refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time
[2] 9:25 Greek through the wall
[3] 9:29 That is, Greek-speaking Jews
[4] 9:36 The Aramaic name Tabitha and the Greek name Dorcas both mean gazelle
[5] 9:39 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
[6] 10:3 That is, 3 p.m.
[7] 10:9 That is, noon
[8] 10:20 Or accompany them, making no distinction
[9] 10:30 That is, 3 p.m.
[10] 11:1 Or brothers and sisters
[11] 11:2 Or Jerusalem, those of the circumcision
[12] 11:20 Or Greeks (that is, Greek-speaking non-Jews)
[13] 11:29 Or brothers and sisters
[14] 12:17 Or brothers and sisters
[15] 12:20 That is, trusted personal attendant
[16] 12:25 Some manuscripts to

To Face Your Fears, Fear God



Key Verse | Acts 10:1-2

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.

Bio | Nicole Sims

I am the wife of Chris and the mom of four children, who are gifts from God. God has a sense of humor in giving two boys to a mom who fears lizards in her face and frogs in the house for show-and-tell (both have occurred in our home). Thankfully, I stay away from living creatures of the slimy variety when I care for preschoolers on Wednesday mornings while their moms, grandmothers, and care-givers attend Watermark's Women's Bible Study.

Central Truth

When we properly fear the Lord, we can trust that He will help us to do the good works that He has prepared in advance for us.

Devotional | Acts 9–12

In these exciting chapters, Saul became Paul, believers of different cultures united, multiple miracles occurred (including resurrection and a prison break), and "the word of God increased and...

In these exciting chapters, Saul became Paul, believers of different cultures united, multiple miracles occurred (including resurrection and a prison break), and "the word of God increased and multiplied" (Acts 12:24). 

One theme I notice is fear. 

  • Saul feared the rise of The Way and its followers. However, God removed something like scales from his eyes, gave him a right understanding of Jesus, and called him to follow. (Acts 9:1-9, 17-22)
  • Ananias feared Saul, the persecutor, but trusted God and overcame that fear to bring the good news of Jesus to a terrorist (Acts 9:10-19).
  • The disciples feared that Saul's conversion was dangerously inauthentic, but Barnabas boldly testified about Paul's changed life so that they could work together to advance the gospel of Jesus (Acts 9:26-31).
  • Cornelius, "a devout man who feared God" (Acts 10:2), did not hesitate to break cultural barriers to contact Peter with God's message of non-partiality (Acts 10:1-8, 17-33).
  • Peter feared cultural differences between Jews and Gentiles, but he trusted the Lord's revealed truth that the gospel is available to all people (Acts 10:9-48).
  • The apostles feared sharing the gospel with the Gentiles, but they respected God's plan as authenticated by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18).
  • Herod feared the rise of the church, but God freed Peter from Herod's prison, and the Lord struck Herod down (Acts 12:1-23).

Our fears should draw us closer to the Lord, and He wants us to fear Him only. Fear means having a right understanding of the Lord.

Cornelius feared the Lord and was used for a great purpose. Saul, Ananias, Peter, and the apostles initially feared the wrong things. But as they drew near to God, they recognized that fearing God is more important and acted in ways that brought glory to God. On my list above, only Herod failed to ultimately fear the Lord. He took the glory due to God for himself and paid for it with his life.

When we fear the Lord, we can trust Him to help us as we do the good works that He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).

See Comments

Discussion Questions

1. Some people fear those that God has made different in appearance or culture. Acts 10 and 11 show this was a division in the early church. "God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34-35). Is there any person you think is not created in the image of God and not worth sharing the gospel with?

2. When we began the adoption process to legally add our daughter into our family forever, there were many fears. Some people asked if we feared we wouldn't be able to love a non-biological child, but we knew that if God can change the heart of persecutor Saul into apostle Paul, then He can change the hearts of parents to love children. (Watermark's Foster Care and Adoption Intro Class can help if either of these options is something you want to explore.) What fear is keeping you from whatever great adventure God has planned for you?

3. Prison, death, persecution, and doing something new are all understandable fears in these chapters, but a right understanding of God's plan helped these believers to follow God anyway. What verses do you recall and pray when you face fear?

4. What was/is your strangest fear? In our house, one child was afraid to flush the toilet, and another was so afraid of ants that screaming began at the sight of even one.

9 Comments available

Michael Scaman 7 days ago

Jesus revealed to Paul here how much Saul/Paul would suffer for Jesus name. By itself that’s turning Saul/Paul’s world upside down. What he used to oppose he would advance at all costs even hardships and suffering

Not here, but in a later retelling, Saul/Paul said which standing blind he was being sent to the gentiles ‘to open blind eyes’, clearly impossible apart from God.

Linda Green 7 days ago

Thanks, Nicole, for sharing your story and highlighting the fear theme through these chapters. Loved in question #2 “ What fear is keeping you from whatever great adventure God has planned for you?”

So often, fear keeps me from good things. Fear (awe and wonder) of God helps to keep me from the bad that my heart is drawn to. And gives me courage.

Another paradox of the Christian life.

michael mcgowen 7 days ago

Thank god it’s Friday I sure hope I can get some rest in and god if you are reading this maybe you can encourage my wife to go to church, thanks

Greg Jones 8 days ago

3/3 Self criticism and a need for sanctification are built into, and come out of, Judaism and Jewish thought. Written and heard outside of Jewish thought/culture, for a Jew, Jewish criticism and a need for Jewish sanctification is seen and felt as an outside attack on Jews and the law. Luke attempts to bridge that divide.

Greg Jones 8 days ago

2/2

Ananias, name associated with priest, comes to see Paul in the house of Judas, Acts9 Paul’s conversion.

Acts10, Peter is in the house of Simon the tanner. Tanner a Jewish representation of a person, and their place of work,unclean, in need of purification before engaging the presence of God.

Acts10:19-3represenitives of Cornelius are at Peter’s gate. Galatians2:1-Paul,Barnabas&Titus go to Jerusalem to see Peter concerning a vision.

Acts10:20-Do not [hesitate to go with] them…v23 then Peter [invited the men into] [the house] [to be his guest.] Galatians2:9-…the right hand of fellowship…I need brackets to help me “read” Jewish thoughts and their correlations. 1st century Jews needed Jewish thought written as or by a Gentile to [bracket] gentile thought for them.

Greg Jones 8 days ago

1/1

Great bio. 2-boy dad too, they’re grown now. Q4-was afraid of toilet in the bathroom my boys shared. Screaming began at the sight of it.

Galatians2-Plainly in language, and how I think, Paul is critical of Peter, & critical of the “circumcision group”(Galatians2:12). Paul’s words to non Jews (Gentiles) are his letters, part of his gospel to Gentiles. Luke’s words to Jews (non Gentiles) are his gospel Luke, and Acts of the apostles. The Gentile gospel written in “Jewish thought”.

Paul uses a term “circumcision group” and names names. Luke talks about houses and infers to people through names.

Sue Bohlin 8 days ago

Super devo, Nicole!

I just love laughing out loud, especially when it’s from God’s word! The NLT has Peter saying in Acts 10:14, “No, Lord!” Um . . . those two words don’t go together!! But it wasn’t the first time, this was the third time Peter pushed back.

Dr. Constable points out, “He had either not understood or not remembered Jesus’ teaching in which He had declared all foods clean (Mark 7:14-19).”

What an encouragement to see evidence that sanctification is a process, not an event, as Peter still had some growing to do in terms of saying no to God!

Hugh Stephenson 8 days ago

2 of 2

But God…

Knocked him down, gave him a humble entrance noted by no one, showed him he was blinded by pride, turned him from a persecutor of Christians to a defender of them, brought him to great humility and gave him a meek and covert exit from the city.

We plan. God laughs.

Hugh Stephenson 8 days ago

1 of 2

GM Nicole. Love your focus on “fear” in the good and bad understanding of it. My strangest fear is also my greatest desire; being fully known.

The Damascus road. About a six-day journey by foot from Jerusalem.

What might Paul have been thinking along the way?

I am guessing he was filled up with pride. His birth, Romans citizenship, Jewish heritage, Pharisee, student of Gamaliel and his credentials as a terrorist.

Bearing letters of authority from the High Priest, I imagine he was looking forward to a notable welcome into the Damascus synagogue(s), recognition by the prominent leaders, a successful campaign and a triumphal return to the Temple with a long line of captives in tow.

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