Summary: An inductive message using biblical narratives to lead Christians to the conclusion that the church is changed as a result of individual lives being changed by God.
Purpose: to be the Holy Spirit’s second witness encouraging God’s people in my care to seek real change in their own lives and to watch God change the church as a result.
Response: As they receive communion, Christians will ask God to help them change and to become more like Jesus in attitudes and action.
“Whatever happened to so and so?” It’s a question we hear at all kinds of reunions. For those of us who wonder what happened to our high school classmates there’s a web page we can visit to find out.
I’d like to answer that question about some people mentioned in the book of Acts.
Whatever happened to Philip?
Philip was introduced to us in Acts 6. He was one of the six men “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” who were appointed to care for the widows. When Stephen the leader of these six men was executed for his faith, the disciples all left Jerusalem for safer places to live.
“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.” (Acts 8:5 NIV) Many men and women put their faith in Jesus because of his testimony.
Later an angel told Philip, "Go down to the desert road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza." On his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. The Ethiopian had been in Jerusalem to worship. He was reading from the Bible book of Isaiah. Philip helped him to understand that the prophet was writing about Jesus. Right then and there the Ethiopian received Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
God changed Philip from a servant to an evangelist and the church was changed. It started becoming a collection of differing ethnic groups sharing a commitment to Christ.
Whatever happened to Saul?
Saul was present at the execution of Stephen, and gave approval to his death. In fact, Saul became the leader of the persecution that chased Philip and the other disciples out of Jerusalem. The Bible reports that “Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:3).
When Saul figured out that Jesus’ followers had left Jerusalem, he obtained permission to go to the city of Damascus to arrest any disciples he could find there. But “as he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
After three days of praying and fasting, Saul was commissioned to be Jesus Christ’s special messenger to non-Jewish people.
God changed Saul from a church destroyer into church builder and the church has never bee the same since. More and more unique ethnic groups shared in a common commitment to Christ.
Whatever happened to Peter?
Peter, the one who preached on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, went to Joppa. One day “he went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry … and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat" “ (Acts 10:9-13).
He was appalled. Peter only ate kosher food. But God told him three times not to reject anything God had declared acceptable.
As soon as he awoke, messengers from a Roman army officer arrived at the house. They asked him to come with them. When he arrived at the soldier’s home, Peter began to tell them about Jesus. Right in the middle of his presentation, the Holy Spirit came and everyone in the house received Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Later when some Jewish friends asked him what he was thinking spending time with Gentiles, Peter smiled and said, “Who am I to argue with God?”
God changed Peter from a prejudiced preacher into a Jesus-for-everyone preacher and the church was changed. Became standard policy to tell everyone about Jesus regardless of his or her background.
Whatever happened to Barnabas?
“Now [some of] those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen … went to Antioch and began to speak to [both Jews and] Greeks … telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:19-26).