THE BOOK OF ACTS
A BIBLE STUDY
The following Outline is for your reference:
1. Acts Chapter 1 Prelude to Power
2. Acts Chapter 2 The Dynamic Dimension
3. Acts Chapter 3 You can Liberate People
4. Acts Chapter 4 From Boredom and Blandness to Boldness
5. Acts Chapter 4:32-5:16 Body Life
6. Acts Chapter 5:17-42 A Life that Demands Explanation
7. Acts Chapter 6:1-8:3 Not for Sale at Any Price
8. Acts Chapter 8:4-25 While in Hollywood Don't Miss Samaria!
9. Acts Chapter 8:26-40 The Secret of an Exciting Life
10. Acts Chapter 9:1-31 Here's the Way!
11. Acts Chapter 9:32-11:18 Getting on the Lord's Agenda
12. Acts Chapter 11:19-30 How God Prepares us for What He has Prepared
13. Acts Chapter 12 When the Answer Keeps Knocking
14. Acts Chapter 13:1-47 How to Become a Free Person
15. Acts Chapter 13:48-14:7 Joy When You Don't Feel Like It
16. Acts Chapter 14:8-28 The Ultimate Manipulation.
17. Acts Chapter 15:1-16:5 No Strings
18. Acts Chapter 16:6-10 The Serendipitous Life.
19. Acts Chapter 16:11-17:34 Turning the World Right Side Up
20. Acts Chapter 18:1-23 A Reliable Guide for Confident Living.
21. Acts Chapter 18:24-19:7 Religion is Not Enough
22. Acts Chapter 19:8 -20:38 Not in the Stars but the Superstars.
23. Acts Chapter 21:1-16 Tender Toughness
24. Acts Chapter 21:17 -26:32 The Resiliency of the Resurrection.
25. Acts Chapter 27 Anchors in the Storm
26. Acts Chapter 28 The New Chapter on the Book of Acts.
Maps of Paul's Journeys
"THE BOOK OF ACTS "
."..one of the most important and influential books of all time" So says Dr. E..M. Blaiklock in his commentary on the Book of Acts which will be our guide along with a book written by Dr. Olgive, "Drumbeats of Love."
The book of Acts is the link between the four records of Christ's ministry as reported by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The narrative begins following the Resurrection of our Lord and traces the dynamic growth of the Apostolic Church. Moving rapidly from event to event we will see the vitality of the Apostolic Church as it feigned popularity and acceptance and diminished the prejudice and limitation imposed on it by the Roman government.
"It tells of men, who had known horizons little wider than those of Palestine, conceiving bold projects of world evangelism, and moving out in the strength of indomitable faith to reach the nations with their story." (Blaiklock)
Since the second century A.D. the Acts of the Apostles has been considered a work of Luke, our Lord's disciple. Ancient historians, like Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200) and Tertullian ( A.D. 160-200) credit Luke the Physician and disciple of Jesus as being the author.
In addition, there is "internal" evidence that points to the writer of the third gospel as the writer of the Acts of the Apostles.
Not conclusive, but probably in the early '60's A.D. This is supported since the work does not mention the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. which would have certainly been done due to the consequences that followed that historical event.
THE HISTORICAL SETTING:
The Roman Empire ruled the Mediterranean world. The three major cultures that composed the empire were Romans, Greeks, and Jews, each with their cultural heritage.
Paul of Tarsus looms as the key personality of the narrative. He was a ."..man of twin cultures, bilingual and cosmopolitan, the Roman citizen, interpreter of Christ to Jews and Greeks, disputer of the synagogue, orator of the philosopher's assembly, Old Testament scholar, and author of one-quarter of the New Testament." (Blailock, quoting another commentator).
I. Chapter 1 - PRELUDE TO POWER
1:1-2 The Prologue A sequel to the four Gospels; the papyrus rolls were about 35 feet in length which was a convenient size. Perhaps Luke planned a sequel to his sequel. This is speculation. Theophilos was a real person, however nothing is known of him. He informs his friends that Jesus had given orders to his Apostles following the Resurrection.
1:3-8 The 40 days of Jesus' post Resurrection ministry. According to verse 4, Jesus had told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem to wait for what His Heavenly Father had promised, namely the Holy Spirit. In verse 5, we come across the phrase "baptized by the Holy Spirit."
The Risen Savior had answered their question of verse 6 with a rebuke, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority!" The "widening geographical orbits" of verse 8 are an allusion to what Luke plans to tell about the work of Paul.
1:9-11 The Ascension of Jesus. An "astonishing and overwhelming experience" for the Apostolic band gathered on the Mount of Olives. The two men who appeared in white clothing tell them this same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come in just the same way as you have watched him go into heaven."
1:12-26 At Jerusalem. They return to the upper room where the Lord had celebrated The Passover with them and at which He instituted the Holy Communion. The names are given of those who were "of one accord." Also present were "the women, Mary the Mother of Jesus with his brothers." A simple narrative which indicates Mary had children. Evidently Joseph has died, although, no record of his death is found in the Scriptures.
Peter's speech in verses 15-22 appeals to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot. The requirement was that the successor had to be one who was an eyewitness of the Risen Lord. Two names are presented: Barsabbas also known as Justus and Matthias. After prayer, they drew lots and Matthias was chosen.
Note: It is this method that is used in our LCMS. When a vacancy occurs, a list of qualified candidates is presented to the church and the one receiving the majority of votes is elected to receive the call.
With their Apostolic band an even dozen again, the Apostles anticipate their destiny. "They had been called for a very special movement, and they expectantly awaited the power God was about to pour out."
II. Chapter 2 - THE DYNAMIC DIMENSION
The day chosen for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the Festival of Pentecost. It was a major festival prescribed in Leviticus 23:15-21 and marked the ingathering of the fall harvest. Many people went to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival in the Jerusalem Temple.
The narrative is simple...(verses 2-13). Peter's eloquent speech reminds the spectators of God's promise. (verses 14-36)
The response "They were pierced to the heart" and ask "What shall we do?" "Repent...be baptized." The result is astonishing. ."..and there were added that day about three thousand souls."
The remainder of the chapter details how the converts responded.
The last verse, verse 47, tells us of how God blessed the work of the dynamic and growing group. "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved!"
III. Chapter 3 - YOU CAN LIBERATE PEOPLE FR0M B0REDOM
3:1-11 A crippled man is healed by Peter and John. The people are amazed when they see this familiar faced beggar jumping up and down. How boring it must have been to sit daily from sun-up to sundown begging for alms.
3:12-26 Peter takes advantage of the opportunity. The sermon is very pointed and needs no interpretation.
IV. Chapter 4 - FROM BLANDNESS TO BOLDNESS
4:1-3 The large crowd attracts the attention of the religious leaders. They "lay hands on them" and have them put in the prison.
4:4 The result of Peter's preaching is noted. "about 5,000" is not an insignificant number. No wonder the authorities wanted to quiet the disciples of Jesus.
4:5-22 The next day Peter and John are brought before the "Elders, rulers, scribes and Saducees" - not an official legislative body but rather an ecclesiastical gathering. The Romans had no interest in Jewish religious disputes. The leaders constituted "The Sanhedrin." "By what power" is the main question. Peter, "filled with the Holy Ghost," tells them the power came from Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 118:22) about the stone which the builder rejected (verse 11) is followed by a bold statement-"There is no salvation in anyone else (than in Jesus) for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
The religious leaders are impressed by the boldness of Peter and John (verse 13), but don't find any cause to detain them. Peter and John are warned (verse 19) to cease and desist to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. The disciples indicate (verse 19) that no one had the right to stop them from speaking of what they had seen and heard.
4:22-30 Returning to the safety of their apostolic fellowship, Peter and John recount their confrontation with the religious leaders. What follows appears to be a verbatim recording of the responses of individuals.
4:31-37 The place where they are gathered is "shaken." "A token of the commotion which the Gospel was to make." (JFB) The unselfish attitude of the believers is exemplified by Joseph, also called Barnabus "son of encouragement." He was a Levite from Cypria, an island off the Mediterranean coast. Although the Levites did not inherit any land, individual families were permitted to buy land. Joseph sells his land and places the proceeds in the Apostolic Treasury.
NOTES - Chapter 3
1) The power of Pentecost is for people. What happened at Pentecost was for the paralysis of the world. (Ogilive pg. 35)
2) God's people in every generation since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on The Pentecost of Acts 2 are called to discover how to use the power of the Holy Spirit to heal the paralysis of the world around us.
3) The paralytic healed by Peter and John was not the only one healed in Jerusalem.
4) The drumbeat of chapter 3 is "Do you want to be healed?" "Do you want to be liberated from the boredom of spiritual paralysis?"
NOTES - Chapter 4
1) Chapter 4 gives us insights into two assemblies - The Sanhedrin and the fellowship of believers. Stark contrasts!
2) The Sanhedrin was composed of 70 leaders plus the high priest who served as president.
3) The Pharisees and Saducees.
4) See Deuteronomy 13:1-5 for the reason the Sanhedrin brought Peter and John to stand before them.
5) The drumbeat of Chapter 4 is the boldness of verse 12 - salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus Christ because there is no other way and no other name by which we can be saved!
V. Chapter 4:32 -5:16 BODY LIFE
4:32 "All the believers were one in heart and mind..." The sharing described is similar to that in a commune. It only worked for a little while.
4:33 "with great power..." "Much grace was upon them"
4:34-36 No one had need for all needs were supplied from the common treasury. Reference to Joseph, known as Barnabas, is an example of total commitment to the cause of Christ.
5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira A familiar story that illustrates the consequences of withholding what one promises to give. "Great fear seized the whole church."
5:12a "Many miraculous signs and wonders"
5:12b-14 "More and more men and women believed in the Lord..."
5:15-16 "All of them were healed" Again we remember that the Apostles were given this special power for a specific purpose. There is no indication that they were able to pass this power to successive generations.
1) In this section we call to mind the hymn verse, "mid toil and tribulation..."
2) The communal group prospered only for a short while. Persecution by the Pharisees and Saducees disburses the community. The money is either hastily distributed among the believers as they flee or becomes the booty of the persecutors.
3) In verse 11 we have the first use of the word "ecclesia" used to denote the body of believers. In classical Greek, the term referred to assembly that met to discuss the business of the state. Literally "the called ones" (CF Bruce pg.136)
4) Paul used the term "Body of Christ" to describe the church (1 Cor.12:12-13) "The term 'body life' refers to what Christians are and what they do as the called-out called together people of God." (Ogilive pg.60)
5) Body Life in the church is expressed in the way we care about each other.
6) Barnabas becomes known as the Son of Encouragement. We need more people like Barnabas to comfort those in our fellowship who are downtrodden.
7) Ephesians 4:25-32 is a good explanation of body life as its highest expression.
8) The dynamic fellowship of "one heart and mind" cannot be experienced easily in a large group. That is why small groups such as our class are so important!
VI. Chapter 5:17-42 A LIFE THAT DEMANDS EXPLANATION
5:17-20 The High Priest and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy. They arrest the Apostles and put them in jail. That night an angel opens the doors and told the Apostles to "tell the people the full message of this new life."
5:21-28 The full assembly - The Sanhedrin - find the Apostles preaching in the temple court. They send the captain of the guard to arrest them again but the soldiers are afraid that the crowd would stone them. The Apostles are taken to the Sanhedrin where they are told, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."
5:29-40 Peter's reply persuades the leaders to "back off." The Apostles are "flogged" and let go. They are told not to speak any more of Jesus.
5:41-42 Undaunted by the punishment and threat of the Sanhedrin, the Apostles rejoice they were found worthy of suffering for their Lord. They intensified their preaching and teaching - "proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ."
1) "Tell the people all about the new life" is the angel's message in 5:20. A drumbeat of God's love. The word life is used 36 times in the New Testament in reference to Christ and the dimension of living He revealed.
2) In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John1:4) See also 1 John 1:1-2. In Christ we see what God is like and what we are to become.
3) Jesus said of Himself:
a) "I am the bread of life" John 6:35
b) "I am the Resurrection and the Life" John 11:25
c) "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" John 14:6
d) "I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly!" John10:11
4) We are called to tell people all we know about life in Christ!
5) Before the Sanhedrin (5:29-40) the Apostles show courage, clarity and confidence.
6) The secret of the life in Christ is spiritual strength which flows from obedience to the inner voice of Christ's guidance.
7) The drumbeat of God's love in this section" There is life in Christ that gives those who follow Him spiritual strength."
VII. Chapter 6:1-8:3 NOT FOR SALE AT ANY PRICE!
6:1-7 The number of believers increases at a remarkable rate. The dispute which opens Chapter 6 is resolved by choosing seven men to tend to the widows needs. Note the qualification. Chosen are those named in verse 5. The number of believers" increased rapidly" in Jerusalem especially.
6:8-7:60 Stephen is arrested. He gives a complete review of Old Testament history from Abraham's call to Christ's crucifixion. In verses 51-53 he hurls a stinging rebuke at his captors. They are furious and shut their ears as Stephen utters his last words.
The reference in verse 58 to the soldiers laying their garments at Saul's feet simply is Luke's way oŁ introducing the man who will play a major role in the Apostolic Church. Saul was the person chosen to watch the garments oŁ the soldiers until they finished their dirty work of stoning Stephen to death.
1) Stephen could have denied Christ and gotten away with a flogging and warning to cease and desist. But Stephen took his faith seriously. He was willing to lay his life on the line for the sake of his Savior.
Luke describes Stephen as "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit." Next he tells us he was "full of grace and power."
Stephen has the capacity to communicate the Gospel "impellingly." As one of the first deacons of the Christian Church, Stephen goes to the Synagogue of the Hellenistic Jews. Luke's report "they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke."
Stephen humiliates the Jews in debate. Enraged, false charges are brought against him (Was Saul the leader of the Synagogue? We don't know but speculation points to him as the one who led the opposition.)
2) Stephen could not be bought at any price! He was not one to be put down by the Jews who opposed the disciples of Jesus. He would not compromise his faith at any price! He trusted Jesus completely!
3) As he is stoned to death, Luke reports Stephen's face was radiant like that of an angel. "Lord receive my spirit." "Lord forgive... don't hold this against them!"
4) Let us remember there are still Sauls watching. Let us pray, "Lord, help me be faithful and obedient to Your Word. Amen!"
VIII. Chapter 8:4-25 - WHILE IN HOLLYWOOD DON'T MISS SAMARIA!
8:4 Saul's vigorous persecution of the believers in Jerusalem caused the scattering of disciples to the far reaches of the Roman Empire. Wherever they went they preached the word of Life.
8:5-8 Philip, one of the deacons, goes to Samaria (see map). He gathers a large following as he does "signs and wonders." He casts out unclean spirits, crippled people are healed. The people are enthusiastic in their support of Philip.
8:9-13 Now comes Simon the Sorecerer, a local magician whose performances amazed the people. Simon listens to Philip, is converted and becomes a follower.
8:14-17 Word reaches Jerusalem about the acceptance of the Gospel in Samaria. When Peter and John arrive they pray the new believers might receive the Holy Spirit "because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them." This passage is at first glance seemingly not in harmony with our Lutheran understanding (Third Article meaning)
What we have here is an insight into the Apostolic Church's confirmation policy. Since Philip was not an ordained pastor, his baptisms of the Samaritans had to be confirmed by an ordained pastor.
Peter and John no doubt interviewed the new believers and by the laying on of hands confirmed them into the faith. With their faith confirmed the Samaritan believers now "received the Holy Spirit."
8:18-24 Simon the Sorcerer is amazed by the work of the Apostles. He offers to "buy" a right to perform confirmations. Peter sets him straight. "Your heart is not right before God." Simon gets the message but fails to repent. He no longer follows Philip and Samaritan believers. Legend says Simon returned to his magic and wizardry. Simon's faith was shallow. He failed to learn the way of holiness.
1) The Samaritan Church established by Philip had a lot of growing to do. The new found faith that stirred the hearts of those who believed Jesus was the Lord of Life needed nurture.
2) Too often churches outwardly appear to be prosperous but are dull and apathetic. They go through the Liturgy but really don't have their heart in it.
3) The proof is in the lifestyles of many church members. They belong but do not get involved!
4) Along comes a Simon. We see in Simon a reflection of all who want spiritual radiance but who fail to repent. They want the joy and hope of the Christian life but don't want to change their lifestyles.
IX. Chapter 8:26-40 THE SECRET OF AN EXCITING LIFE
8:26-38 The familiar story of Philip and the Ethiopian Church. He was on his way home following a visit to Jerusalem. Philip's encounter with him is by divine direction. (verse 26)
The Ethiopian is reading from Isaiah's prophecy which leads to conclusion he was probably a "prosolyte of the Jews" converted to Judaism by persuasion.
Phlilip explains the meaning of Isaiah's prophecy and as the two leisurely travel in the chariot they approach a body of water. The Ethiopian asks to be baptized and is. (verse 30)
8:38-40 When they come up out of the water Luke simply reports "the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away." This mystifies us. But to deny the miraculous nature of Philip's sudden disappearance is vain. Compare: 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16 also 2 Corinthians 12:2,4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
1) The important thing to remember about this episode is that the Ethiopian accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and went back home joyful. Tradition says he founded the church in Ethiopia.
2) Note Philip's method. First, he listens. Then he asks a question. He guides the discussion carefully to make sure the Ethiopian correctly understands.
3) Ogilive in "Drumbeats of Love" pp.119ff outlines what he calls the building blocks of an exciting life. They include:
a) receiving the Holy Spirit
b) trusting in the Holy Spirit
c) following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
d) The Holy Spirit changes lives. Think of people you know and admire because Christian faith is visible in their lives. They who have found the secret of an exciting life have learned to trust God and live under his Word. Open to the guiding of the Holy Spirit, we too can find excitement for the life we live by faith.
e) The secret isn't really secret! It's written all over across the pages of the book of Acts.
X. Chapter 9:1-31 HERE'S THE WAY
9:1-2 Saul is bent on persecuting the followers of The Way until they are no longer causing trouble.
9:3-6 The Damascus experience of Saul.
9:7-9 Saul's traveling companions are dumbfounded. They lead him to Damascus as the voice commanded. They heard it with their ears. A shattering experience.
9:10-19 At the home of Ananias Saul regains his sight. When he receives his sight he is immediately baptized.--in the home of Ananias not in the Jordan River--not be immersion. Another point for those who insist only immersion is a valid Baptism.
9:20-22 At Damascus Saul went to the Synagogue and preached that Jesus is the promised Messiah. His credibility is questioned. They think it is a trick to entrap them and take them prisoner. Saul grows more and more powerful and "baffles" the Jews by proving that Jesus is the Christ!
9:23-25 The conspiracy against Saul is uncovered. Saul's followers lower him over the city wall at night and he escapes.
9:26-27 His destination was Jerusalem. The disciples question his credibility but dear Barnabas, the son of Encouragement (4:34-36) convinces the disciples he is no longer a threat.
9:28 Saul is received and immediately begins a preaching tour of the various synagogues in Jerusalem.
9:29-31 A debate with the Grecian Jews ends in another escape trip. The "brothers take him to the port of Caesarea where they put him on a boat going to his hometown of Tarsus.
1) The man Saul From Tarsus in Cilicia. It was the provincial seat of the Governor when the Persians were in power. In the days of the Greek kings, Tarsus was the center of a lumbering and linen industry. During the century before Christ came, it was the home of a philosophical school-a university town where the intellectual atmosphere was clouded by Greek thought. (Blaiklock, pg.83)
Saul was a Jew, yet brought up in the Greek period and at the same time a full fledged Roman citizen. As a Pharisee he was taught to uphold the traditions of Judaism.
In the New Testament we learn Saul had a nephew (Acts 23:16-22); a sister (2 Cor.11:8-9, Philippians 3:8, 4:15, and 1 Thes.2:9) It is supposed Saul's parents disowned him when they learned of his conversion. (cf. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21)
XI. Chapter 9:32-11:18 - GETTING ON THE LORD'S AGENDA
Saul was conquered. He is given a new name Paul and a specific mission as the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was in his middle age. The task of evangelizing the world ahead of him. But God was not in a hurry. In Galatians 1:15-2:1 we learn Paul spent fourteen years preparing for his task.
9:32-35 Peter at Lydda heals a paralytic. "All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon...turned to the Lord."
9:36-43 Peter at Joppa raises Tabitha from death. The reference to Dorcas in verse 39. "Many people believed in the Lord." Peter remained at Joppa "for some time," a guest of Simon the tanner.
10:1-8 Cornelius, a centurion in the Italian Regiment. His vision is detailed. Caesarea. A delegation is sent to ask Peter to come.
10:9-23 Peter's vision. Details and symbols.
10:24-48 Peter's arrival at Caesarea. His stirring sermon, and the confirmation of the believers at Caesarea.
11:1-18 Peter at Jerusalem. He is challenged by the Jews but defends his actions in another sermon which recounts the events at Joppa and Caesarea.
1) In Chapters 10 & 11 we have three duplicate sermons in which Peter recounts Paul's conversion and the miracles at Joppa and Caesarea.
2) This section shows us the Lord's Agenda for converting the Gentile world. We ask, "How can we be included in this work?" The fact of the matter is we already are on the Lord's Agenda. He has said, "You shall be My witnesses..."
3) Too many churches fail to organize for action. They are more interested in maintaining the status quo than getting out into the neighborhoods giving witness of their faith.
4) Peter's vision was a turning point in his understanding of the will of God that all should be saved, including the Gentiles. The vision of the sheet containing all kinds of animals and reptiles. Peter was still a Jew and followed the dietary rules of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
5) Peter's emancipation from legalism takes him to Caesarea. Legalism is always an obstacle to look for. This often is manifested by "thou shalt nots." Legalism's roots are found in Pietism, also in the charismatic movement.
XII. Chapter 11:19-30 HOW GOD PREPARES US FOR WHAT HE HAS PREPARED
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul indicates he was at Tarsus for about 10 years. Another three of four years were spent traveling. We have no record of what Paul did during these long years.
It is apparent, however, that during this time God was reshaping this dynamic missionary and preparing him for service according to the time table God had set.
It perhaps is his introduction to the Ephesians Epistle that gives us the greatest insight of God preparing Paul for what He had prepared for the world. Read Ephesians 1:1-14
11:19-21 Very briefly Luke covers the period from Stephen's martyrdom to the time God had prepared for Paul's entrance into the life of the Church.
11:22-26 The church at Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch where he establishes his base. He goes to Tarsus and brings Paul back to Antioch and for one year they meet with the believers at Antioch - "great numbers." Here the followers of Jesus are given the name "Christian"
11:27-30 A delegation of prophets come from Jerusalem, among them Agabus. He predicts a severe famine. The church of Antioch decides to take up a collection for the believers in Judea.
1) All of us can relate to a time of preparation. We often wonder why we have certain experiences. Some times we discover why God has allowed us to go through certain trials. He was preparing us for what He has prepared.
2) When we are sent off to our Tarsus-wait, here we need to focus on Christ. He is all we need.
3) Between the time of preparation and participation, let us remember God is patient, He is never in a hurry. When He is finished reshaping us, He will send us to our Antioch.
4) The vitality of the Antioch congregation was rooted and grounded in Bible Study, prayer, and worship. As the believers went about their daily work, the enthusiasm they had for their Lord spilled out.
5) Some believers suffer because of their Christian witness. They suffer for the sake of the Gospel.
6) Each believer needs to consider where they fit into the Body of Christ. Paul's use of the human body is easy to understand. Specific body parts for specific body functions.
7) The task of the church is to help people identify the talents God has given them. Everyone has a talent given by God.
8) As His people, under His orders, we go bearing the name Christian.
9) Antioch was known as one of the "eyes of Asia." Located 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, it was at the mouth of the Orentes River.
Third in prominence in ancient times (first was Rome, second was Alexandria), Antioch was known for its chariot racing, gambling, and debauchery. The pursuit of pleasure was linked to the worship of Daphne. Her temple was five miles outside the city. Temple prostitution was the main attraction!
To this sin city, Paul and Barnabus are called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What a team they were. It was at Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called "Christians." The term was a "label." It described those belonging to the party of Christ as opposed to those belonging to the party of Daphne.
XIII. Chapter 12 WHEN THE ANSWER KEEPS KNOCKING
12:2 James is executed.
12:3 Peter is in prison. Guards were assigned-four each three hour shift, a total of 16 guards.
12:4 Herod wanted to wait until after the Passover before bringing Peter to trial. This places the events about one year following the tragedy of Holy Week.
12:5 The church was in prayer for Peter in the home of John Mark where tradition tells us the Last Supper was instituted in the upper room of the house.
12:6-10 Peter's remarkable release from prison is effected by an angel.
12:11 The angels disappears, leaving Peter alone on the street.
12:12-17 Peter finds his way to the home of John Mark where he knows his friends would be waiting. Note Rhoda's reaction.
12:18-19A Herod has the 16 guards executed when Peter is not found after an extensive search.
12:19B-23 Herod dies suddenly when an angel strikes him. "He was eaten by worms and died" refers to a disease known as "Hybrus."
12:24 The church prospers and grows. Increase is both internal and external.
12:25 John Mark joins Paul and Barnabus.
1) "There is nothing which makes us love a man as praying for him!" (William Law)
2) When Rhoda goes to the door, she recognizes Peter's voice but is so flustered she runs back to the gathered disciples without opening the door! The disciples' reaction" "You're mad!" then, "it must be his angel!"
3) They were so engaged in prayer for Peter that they did not believe an answer was knocking at their very door!
4) Peter keeps knocking!
5) Too many people pray without believing. Prayers are too often limited to the careful confines of what we think God is able to do.
6) God hears and answers every prayer! Answers are: Yes, No, Not yet, You have got to be kidding!
7) Prayers are answered, think of some that have been answered in your own life and in the life of this parish!
8) Like disciples and Rhoda we fail to recognize answers to prayer. The unfolding of the answer(s) often waits for recognition and acceptance.
9) Peter must have been disappointed when the church found it difficult to accept his appearance as an answer to their prayers.
10) The secret is to first pray to know how to pray and then pray for the things the Lord is more ready to give then we are to ask!
11) Finally--what a comfort to know that Christ intercedes on our behalf!
12) Remember, Prayer and Praise go together!
-1 Corinthians 1:4
XIV. Chapter 13 How To Become A Free Person
13:1-2 At Antioch there were prophets and teachers. Cited are Simeon, called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod.
13:3-4 The elders at Antioch "laid hands on" Paul and Barnabus and sent them on their first mission-to Cyprus by way of Seleuchi.
13:5 John Mark is still with them.
13:6 At Paphos they encounter a sorcerer--a false prophet named Bar Jesus. His real name is Elymas.
13:7-8 Elymas opposes Paul and Barnabus. The procounsel Sergius Paulus shows interest in Christianity. Elymas attempts to turn Sergius from the faith.
13:9-11 Paul confronts Elymas. "You are a child of the devil..." Paul uses his power to blind Elymas.
13:12 Sergius believes and is amazed as Paul teaches about Christ.
13:13 From Paphos, Paul, Barnabus and John Mark sail to Perga in Pamphylla. A falling out takes place between John Mark and Paul. He departs for home - Jerusalem.
Note: It was at Perga where Paul got sick, speculation is that it was malaria which was endemic at about this time in the region. Also it is possible that John Mark couldn't take the stress.
13:14 Paul and Barnabus leave Perga to go to Pisidian Antioch which was 3,600 elevation in the Taurus Mountain Range.
13:15-41 Paul preaches at the Synagogue.
13:42-43 Paul and Barnabus are invited to return the next Sabbath.
13:44 When they return the whole town shows up!
13:45 The Jews are filled with jealousy.
13:46 Paul rebukes the Jews.
13:47 Paul reaffirms his call as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
1) The "bottom line" concept. The bottom line of the Gospel is freedom-
a) from the fear of death
b) from the fear of evil
c) from the fear of punishment
2) Too many folks are shackled by hurts of dead yesterdays and the anxieties of the unborn tomorrows. They simply cannot get and keep in touch with reality. What people worry about, 50 % of what we worry about is what has already happened in the past. Another 40% of what we worry about is what is in the future, that in most cases will not happen. That gives us only 10% of real worry which the Lord is able to take care of for us.
3) Insecurity and lack of acceptance of self (self-image) make it difficult to believe the God of the Bible is real since they doubt the truth of the Scriptures.
4) Paul's magnificent sermon in 13:15-41, especially verses 38-39. "Forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you...and to everyone who believes."
5) John 8:31-32: "If you continue in My Word then, you are My disciples indeed, and you will know the truth and THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE."
6) This is the bottom line of the Gospel for you and for me.
XV. Chapter 14:1-7 JOY WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT
14:1 "At Iconium" Rich in history and prosperous. Not a Roman colony, but was strongly romanized. Population included Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Many believed both Jews and Gentiles.
14:2 Unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles. Luke uses the phrase "poisoned their minds."
14:3 Paul and Barnabas do "Miraculous signs and wonder"' to convince the Gentiles. They "confirm the message of grace."
14:4 The effect of the "signs" is mixed. The people are divided.
14:5 Plots, conspiracies and stonings planned for the disciples.
14:6-7 Paul and Barnabas get the message and flee to Lystra. Lystra was a Roman colony about six hours southwest of Iconium. It was a "rustic" community much like Berea.
XVI. Chapter 14:8-28 THE ULTIMATE MANIPULATION
14:8-10 Paul heals a crippled man at Lystra.
14:11-18 The crowd's reaction is incredible! A legend recorded reports that Zeus and Hermes went to this region disguised as mortals. No one accepted them except one couple. A flood of judgment was sent in retaliation, and all were drowned except the couple, Philemon and Baucius. The couple were made guardians of the spectacular temple outside Lystra. When they died they were turned into great magnificant trees. Note also that Paul and Barnabas were not familiar with the language spoken.
14:19 Through further manipulation by the Inconium/Jews, the crowd at Lystra is won over to their opposing cause and they immediately stone Paul and drag him outside the city believing he was dead. (It was not like the Jewish stoning which was always fatal!)
14:20-21 Paul revives. The next day he and Barnabas take off for Derbe where they win a large following. From here they return to Antioch by way of Lystra and Iconium.
14:22 At Derbe.--The frontier of the Roman province. Nothing there today except a historical marker.
14:23 Paul and Barnabas appoint Elders in each church.
14:24-25 From Derbe they travel to Pamphylia with a brief mission at Perga. They pass through Cyprusand arrive at Syrian Antioch.
14:26-28 A meeting is called of all the Church leaders and a report is given. "Cod...has opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. They stayed a long time.
1) All of us have at least one year we would like to forget.
2) Yet, even in adversity, God's children have joy as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
3) The Gospel is always confronted by hostility. In Chapter 13:52 "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit!" In John 15:11 ."..that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full."
4) John 16:22-24 ."..your hearts will rejoice...ask and you will receive that your joy may be full."
5) The drumbeat of God's love is constant. "In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
6) "I couldn't have made it without you!"
7) We all need the joy of fellowship, especially when we undergo tribulation. To know we are loved, forgiven, and cherished. This is a joy that will not quit!
We have two grapple with the questions...
a) What shall we do with Jesus?
b) Pilate's question: "What shall we do with this man whom you call 'The King of the Jews'?" Mark 15:12
XVII. Chapter 15:1-16:5 NO STRINGS!
15:1 A delegation from Judea tells the Antioch Gentiles they must fulfill the Old Testament law and be circumcised in order to be saved.
15:2 Paul and Barnabas debate the issue with the men from Judea and decide to take the matter to Jerusalem and let the "Apostles and Elders" decide the issue.
15:3-4 Paul and Barnabas arrive in Jerusalen; by way of Phonecia and Samaria. (see map)
15:5 "Pharisees" say Gentiles must be circumcised and be required to obey the laws of Moses.
15:6-7 The Apostles confer. Peter states the conclusion reached by the Apostles and Elders.
15:7-11 Peter's logic is persuasive. (Last mention of Peter in Acts)
a) Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in the same measure as the Jews, making no
distinction. "He purified their hearts by faith."
b) Moses' law was of little effect among the people so why "yoke" the Gentiles with a requirement of Law.
c) "We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved!"
15:12-18 Paul and Barnabas recount the success of their ministry among the Gentiles. James quotes Amos 9:11-12. Use of plural indicates others agreed. (Isaiah 11:9-10; 42:4; 49:6; Jeremiah 12 :14-17)
15:19-21 James concludes by saying "we shouldn't make it difficult" for Gentiles who accept the Gospel.
Note: It is clear from this passage that James was the head of the Church at Jerusalem.
James tells Paul and Barnabas to tell the Gentiles:
1) not to eat food offered to idols
2) to abstain from immorality
3) not to eat raw meat since it was forbidden by Moses.
He infers such behavior would be inconsistent with the Christian lifestyle.
15:22-23a The Council decides to send a delegation back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Chosen are two men -Judas of whom we know nothing and Silvanus of Silas who accompanied Paul on the Second Missionary Journey. (see 15:40)
15:30-35 Paul and Barnabas remain in Antioch.
15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement over procedure. Paul wants to retrace his trip to check on the new churches he helped establish. Barnabas wanted John Mark to accompany them. Paul disagrees based on John's previous performance. A sharp disagreement follows. Barnabas departs for Cyprus with John Mark. Paul chooses Silas and goes through Syria and Cilicia encouraging the churches.
16:1-5 At Lystra Paul and Silas meet Timothy, a young man whose mother and grandmother were devout followers of the Way, but whose Father was a Greek who did not accept Jesus as Savior.
Paul is impressed with Timothy's interest and devotion. Since Paul's mandate was to begin each campaign in the local synagogue and since an uncircumcised Gentile was forbidden to enter, Paul performs the rite to establish Timothy's credibility in the forthcoming campaigns.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy travel throughout Phrygia and Galatia (see map). They were "prevented by the Holy Spirit" from going into Asia. Note: this is not the great continent but only the western coast of the peninsula, now called Asia Minor.
1) The role the believing Pharisees played in The Apostolic Church is very complex. Try to put yourself in their shoes and you will be able to understand their concerns.
2) The Pharisees' world was one of "neat" rules and regulations, it was a world full of different rites and rituals. When a Pharisee accepted Jesus as the Savior, he was ostracized by his family and the whole Jewish community.
3) The Pharisee believers banded together "to make sure no one slipped by Mount Sinai on the way to Calvary." (Ogilvie)
4) Unqualified love is not easy for any of us. That's probably why we often place qualifications on the love we express to others. It is not because we are cold, but because we are afraid of getting burned, or turned on, or used, or rejected.
5) Christ is God's love with "no strings" in a world of "only if" bartered affection, Jesus calls us to love regardless of our personal requirements--"I will love you if..."
6) Paul's dispute with Barnabas reminds us of how schisms can occur. Examples: Immanuel Lutheran Church, Rock Island, Illinois; a dispute over life insurance led to schism and the founding of the Church of Peace, today affiliated with The United Church of Christ. Trinity Lutheran Church, Lansing, Illinois; a dispute over the location of the church building led to the founding of St. John Lutheran Church, Lansing, Illinois. Zion, Friedheim, in a dispute over conversion led to pastor Knape establishing the Reformed congregation near Preble.
7) Paul's circumcision of Timothy created fuel for the Jews who claimed he was a hypocrite following the decree of the Jerusalem Council. Paul was motivated by wanting nothing to hinder the ministry among the Jews.
8) Our life and faith is one with no strings of law-only by grace, only through faith, only as God's Word speaks to our heart and we believe as the Holy Spirit enlightens us.
XVIII. Chapter 16:6-17:34 THE SERENDIPITOUS LIFE
16:6-10 "kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in province of Asia" verse6
16:7 At border of Mysia, they attempt to enter Bithnia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them.
This is not the first time the Holy Spirit would direct the course God's disciples would take. Not logical to Paul and Silas. Nor was it to Moses or Isaiah or to Jeremiah, but they heeded the word of direction given to them out of obedience. To the God of their salvation. (Psalm 23 ''He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.)
16:8-10 At Troas, Paul has a vision in which a man from Macedonia begs him "come over and help us!" Paul immediately prepares to go to Macedonia.
XIX. Chapter 16:11-17:34 TURNING THE WORLD RIGHT SIDE UP!
16:11-12 Samothrace to Neapolis to Philippi. It was a Roman colony.
16:13-15 Lydia is converted and becomes a zealous believer. She invites Paul and Silas to stay with her while in Philippi.
16:16-24 The fortune teller incident brings trouble. Paul and Silas are arrested and put in chains.
16:25-34 The conversion of the jailer of Philippi after the miraculous release of Paul and Silas.
16:35-40 When the magistrate discovers Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, he becomes "alarmed." He bids them leave the city quietly. The apostles return to Lydia's house and meet with the newly founded church that was in her house.
Note: The use of the "we" in this section indicates that the writer of this record, Luke, the beloved physician, has joined Paul and Silas. Speculation is that he was needed to help Paul overcome his physical problems.
17:1-4 At Thessalonica, Paul preaches in the synagogue on three consecutive sabbaths. "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ!" "Some" Jesus "a large number of Greeks" and "not a few" prominent women are persuaded.
17:5-9 From these verses we discover Paul, Silas and Timothy plus Luke were house guests at the home of Jason.
17:5-9 The jealous Jews stir up trouble and organize a "mob" to drive the Apostles out of the city. They go to Jason's house. The Apostles were not there. Jason and members of his family were brought before the local magistrate. The charge: "These men (Paul, etc.) have caused trouble all over the world!" "They are saying there is another king and that his name is Jesus!"
17:10-15 The Apostles wait until nightfall and go to Berea where they knew they would be welcomes. The Bereans had a reputation for hospitality. ~'e are told they received the message about Jesus "with great eagerness" and that they checked it out by examining the Scriptures.
Note: In this case the "Scriptures" is probably the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament.
The jealous Jews of Thessalonica follow the Apostles to Berea and again stir up trouble. Paul is escorted to the sea coast. Silas and Timothy remain at Berea and are told to join Paul in Athens as soon as possible.
17:16 Athens-under the leadership of Pericles, Athens had repelled the Persians 500 years previous to Paul's arrival. Some of the world's noblest art was produced at Athens. Of the world's four great tragic artists, Athens produced three. Aesophylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes. Also Thuerdidides, is considered to be a fine historian. Plato was an Athenian, also Socrates who never wrote, but who lives in Plato's works.
The vibrant life during the 5th. century B.C. lingered into the fourth and then began to decline. In the third century B.C., the rite of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophies brought cynicism and despair. The Athens Paul approaches is in the "Late afternoon" of her glory. (Blaiklock, EM. Pg. 132-133)
17:16-21 Paul begins as always in the synagogue, then goes to the market place. Since the principle pastime in Athens was sitting around discussing philosophy, the invitation is extended to Paul to make a presentation in the large outdoor gathering place known as the Aeropagus.
17:22-31 Paul's masterful appeal. He builds his case on logic and concludes that if all these things are true, that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
17:32-34 The reaction is mixed, but the majority want to hear more, especially about the resurrection. "A few men" become followers and believed. Cited are Dionysius a member of the Aeropagus Council and a woman, Damaris, plus a "number of others."
1) There are always surprises waiting for those who seek after the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
2) The word "serendipity" explains how in seeking for some specific thing we often discover in that seeking something of greater worth. (Example of a book lover who discards an old Bible because someone had written his name on the flyleaf.)
3) Paul, Silas, and Timothy set out to conquer new kingdoms for their Lord but are prevented by divine intervention. God knew best and quickly straightened out the Apostolic itinerary.
4) At times we feel blocked and certain directions seem to be wrong. We wish we would have clear directions - that God would write them down and deliver them to us by an angelic messenger.
5) By putting our trust in God and by following His leading we will never be disappointed.
6) In Acts 17:6 we have the key to the dynamic vitality of the Apostolic ministry "these people have turned the world upside down!"
7) Paul was not one to compromise in order to avoid confrontation. Paul never thought he was a radical, yet the controversy which arise wherever he went was simply an attempt to reform the distorted teachings and get to the root of man's need and God's gift of Jesus as Savior of the world.
8) What Paul was doing was in fact turning the world right side up! 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 is the radical drumbeat of love we need to proclaim!
XX. Chapter 18:1-23 A REL1ABLE GU1DE FOR CONFIDENT LIVING
18:1 Corinth--Capital of Roman Greece. The city was old. Destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. Corinth was relocated closer to the sea by Julius Caesar.
It was on a major trade route and was often crowded by traders and merchants. "It possessed, in consequence, all those vices which have ever haunted cosmopolitan ports." (Blaiklock, pg.147)
The presiding deity of Corinth was Poseidon, the god of the seas.
The city was notorious for its vices. A popular slang phrase of the day was "to play a Corinthian" described one who delighted in loose living.
"Here Paul confronted the world's glory and infamy with the proclamation of 'Jesus Christ and Him crucified,' confident that in the word of the cross lay a spell to subdue the pride of the Corinthian Church." (Findlay, quoted by Blaiklock, pg.147)
18:1-11 The Corinthian congregation is founded.
verse 2 Aquilla and Priscilla were Jews from Rome who had been exiled to Greece by Emperor Claudius who ordered all Jews to leave Rome.
verses 3-4 Paul visits them and invited to stay with Aquilla and Priscilla. Paul again begins his mission at the local synagogue.
verses 5-6 Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia. Evidently they took over some of the day to day work while Paul concentrated on preparing his weekly sermon. The Jews reject Paul's preaching and declares "from now on I will go to the Gentiles."
verses 7-8 With Titus Justus and Crispus on his side, a house church is founded.
verses 9-11 In a vision Paul is encouraged to "keep on speaking." The Lord tells Paul "I have many people in this city." (What about Decatur?) Paul stays at Corinth for 18 months.
18:12-17 Gallio The Proconsel
verses 12-13 The Jews take Paul to court and accuse him of ,"..persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the Law."
verses 14-17 Gallio hears the complaint and decides it is not a civil matter. He tells the Jews to settle the matter among themselves. The ruler of the synagogue is roughed up. This Sosthenes is not the same one as in 1 Cor.1:1
18:18-23 Paul's vow.
verses 18-21 After some time, Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla sail for Syria. The reference to cutting his hair relates to the Nazarene view, but nowhere do we learn he ever took the vow. Speculation is he let his hair grow to give impression to Jews that he was a Nazarene.
At Ephesus, Paul goes to the synagogue and is invited to come back again. Paul tells them he will return if it is God's will.verses 22-23 From Caeserea to Antioch to Jerusalem and then "from place to place" in Galatioa and Phrygia - "strengthening the disciples."
XXI. Chapter 18:24-19:7
Religion is Not Enough
18:24-28 Appollos -born at Alexandria, Egypt, he was an "eloquent" orator; also "Mighty in the Scriptures" (again the Septuagint) a Ph.D!
What brought him to Ephesus was unknown until in 1920 an archeological project in Egypt discovered in tact a long letter of Claudius in which a reference to "the Christian missionaries" in Egypt who were stirring up trouble. Dated 41 A.D. the letter forbids the Alexandrian Jews from inviting other Jews from Syria. It is supposed that Apollos sought a more receptive audience.
verse 26 At Ephesus, Apollos is the guest of Aquilla and Priscilla and begins a preaching campaign in the synagogue.
verse 27 Aquilla and Priscilla teach Apollos what Paul had taught them. Apollos has a desire to go to Achaia. A letter of introduction is prepared and the campaign at Achaia is a renowned success.
"Those who by grace had believed'' Apollos had the clear message of salvation by grace through faith.verse 28 With this he "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ-the Messiah.
verses 1-2 While Apollos is at Corinth, Paul takes the overland road to Ephesus. He finds some disciples.
verse 3-4 He asks the believers if they had received the Holy Spirit. They tell Paul "we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit" is better translated "we did not even hear if the Holy Spirit was given," namely at the time of their Baptism.
verse 5-6 The believers at Ephesus receive Baptism into Jesus Christ. Paul lays hands on them and they begin to "speak in tongues" and "to prophecy." This is not ecstatic mumbling but languages they did not know before. The prophesying "was not predicting the future but rather speaking the Word with boldness." (Cf. Acts 1:8 )
verse 7 And, we are told, there were twelve men in all. This indicates that Apollos' ministry wasn't effective with big numbers yet he was still faithful and God Himself converted these men.
Ephesus- An old city at the mouth of the Cayster River Valley. Began as a trading post on a trade route. As a Roman colony, Ephesus was proud of its individuality. It was one of about 230 such communities in Asia Minor during the Roman Empire.
Ephesus was the seat of the oriental cult of Artemis, as the Romans called her, Diana.
The commerce of Ephesus was closely tied to religion and superstition. Silversmithing was a specialized art form.
By the time Paul arrived, the once prosperous harbor city was on the decline, for the channel to the sea (20 miles away) had silted in and several attempts to correct the condition failed. Ephesus as Paul arrived was a dying city.
1) "There is no limit to the short range difficulties I can face" Dentist - Doctor - Tests - etc.
2) Paul's venture in Corinth was "in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling" according to 1 Cor. 2:3. He had been flogged at Philippi, driven out of Berea, threatened by an angry mob at Thessalonica, and put down by the smug complacency of the Athenians. A pall of depression hung over him. (Ogilvie pg.220)
3) Exhausted and depressed, Paul's worst worries about Corinth were soon confirmed "like a wounded boxer, he could not make himself get up for more punching" (Ogilvie, pg.221) Then the drumbeat: "Don't be afraid, keep on speaking. Don't be silent. I am with you. No one will attack you or harm you for I have many people in this city." Like Joshua and Elijah, a word of encouragement evaporates the fear and gives God's servants a clear vision of the opportunity ahead. "Love extinguishes the fires of fear" (Ogilvie pg. 223) 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is another encouragement.
4) Someone has defined a pessimist as a person who thinks that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming the other way! For a person in Christ, the light is the light of the world!
5) We need more people like Aquilla and Priscilla. We need more people like Apollos for whom "religion is not enough!"
XXII. Chapter 19:8-20:38 NOT IN THE STARS BUT IN THE "SUPERSTAR
19:8 The Synagogue "at Ephesus"
Ephesus was an old Greek city that had started out as a colony for traders. Many such colonies were located along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. These were often urban cities.
Ephesus was located at the intersection of one of the major highways of Asia Minor. As previously noted, by the time Paul arrived Ephesus was in a period of decline.
19:8-20 Signs and wonders. Ephesus was as Blaiklock calls it, "a hot bed of oriental magic and superstition." For two years and three months Paul conducts a continuing missionary campaign in and around Ephesus. During his stay here, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and Galatians and possibly visited the city of Corinth.
Ephesus gradually became the ecclesiastical center of the region.
19:8-11 Extraordinary miracles, casting out evil spirits was a specialty.
19:14-20 The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high priest, exorcises in the name of Jesus and Paul. The event recorded here has a dramatic effect. As a result (verse20) the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. (Sceva's name was Latin -no record if Hebrew the name is also unknown)
19:21-41 Demetrius the silversmith stirs up opposition to "The Way." The commerce of Ephesus was tied to idol worship and the silversmiths made replicas of the shrine of Artemis as souvenirs. A mob gathers and goes looking for the disciples. They find several (verse 29) but Paul is warned to avoid a confrontation (verse 30)
The townclerk intervenes (verse 35) and pleads with the guildmen to settle the matter in the civil court.
Chapter 20:1-6 - THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM
20:1-3 Paul leaves for Macedonia, spending three months in Greece. The purpose of the trip was to gather an offering for the Jerusalem congregation.
20:4-5 Paul's Companions...
-Sopater of Berea - (Romans 16:21)
-Aristarchus of Thessalonica - Delegate
-Secundus of Thessalonica - Delegate
-Gaius of Derbe - Delegate
20:6-7 At Troas, Paul and Luke join the delegation. On Sunday they gathered for worship and fellowship. Paul begins to preach and prolongs the sermon until late into the night.
20:8 Luke's attention to detail. The heat from the lamps evidently contributed to the drowsiness.
20:9 Eutychus, a young believer was sitting on a window sill. As he falls into a deep sleep he falls out of the third floor window and was presumed dead.
20:10-12 Paul revives Eutychus. He rejoins the delegation, has a midnight snack and then Paul continues to talk with them until the break of day. (And some might fuss if the preacher goes over 20 minutes!) Young Eutychus was alive and well and learned an important lesson.
20:13-16 On to Miletus-Luke joins the delegation and with them sets sail for Assos. Paul is determined to go overland on his own. Perhaps he wanted the solitude. Nevertheless, Paul rejoins the delegation at Assos and they set sail for Miletus by way of Chios and Samos. (See map)
20:17-35 At Miletus Paul sends a messenger to Ephesus to have the Elders meet with him. The sermon recorded in detail here is touching. It indicates Paul's serious doubts that he would get out of Jerusalem alive. He shares his concerns with the Ephesian Elders (verses28-30) commends the Ephesian Church of God (verse32)
1) In this section we are reminded of Paul's resolve to go up to Jerusalem. His apprehensions are many but he continually trusts God to see him through.
2) Who do we trust? In l931 it is estimated that in the U.S. 25 million people spent more than $200 million on personal horoscope material. What would be that number today?
3) "The Age of Aquarius" is a household word. Its promises are based on distant stars and planets. God's people live under the sign of the cross! We trust in Jesus Christ!
XXIII. Chapter 21: 1-16 - TENDER TOUGHNESS
21:1-9 A simple narrative needing little explanation. See notes below.
a) The route was a familiar one. From Miletus to Patera on the coast of Lycia. Patara was the regular departure point for the voyage to Palestine or Egypt. At this time we learn there were almost daily sailings. The 400 mile voyage probably took three to four days. The ship must have been of considerable size since we learn in verses 3 & 4 it took seven days to unload the cargo.
b) From Patara the voyage continues to Tyre and then to Ptolemais, then to Caesarea about 30 miles south. Here Paul stays with Philip the Evangelist (cf. Acts 6:5 and Ephesians 4:11)
21:10 At Caesarea the prophet named Agabus comes down from Judea. (cf. Acts 10:28)
21:11-12 Agabus uses an object lesson to warn Paul against going to Jerusalem at that time.
21:13-15 Paul's response is as we might suspect. His resolve to go to Jerusalem was strong. The warning of Agabus and his colleagues does not deter him.
21:16 Paul arrives at Jerusalem and goes to the home of Linason of Cyprus, "a disciple of long standing" (cf. Acts 4:16 and 15:7)
In these verses we see Paul at his tenderest and toughest. Leaving his friends along the way knowing what danger awaited him in Jerusalem, he shows his tenderness. His resolve and determination to follow his convictions shows his toughness.
The Greek in verse1 literally says "we tore ourselves away from them!"
The amazing love the people had for Paul was both a delight and a difficulty. Their tears and sentimental love expressed their reluctance to let Paul go even though they conclude "the will of the Lord be done."
Luther's "toughness"- his collegue Spalatin begged him not to go to Worms. Luther's response "though there be as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs, I will go!"
Tenderness without toughness is sloppy sentimentality" (Ogilvie, pg.258) |
XXIV. Chapter 21:17-26:32 THE RESILIENCY OF THE RESURRECTION
21-17-20a Paul was warmly received in Jerusalem. After a night's rest he goes to see James who was the head Pastor of the Jerusalem church. (cf. Acts 11:30 re: Elders)
Paul recounts his adventures getting to Jerusalem, and the progress of the congregations founded by Paul and the other missionaries.
21:20b-30 Paul helps resolve several problems concerning Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah but then turn on him!
21:31-40 The "chief captain" -the head of a military unit consisting of about 1,000 men. Paul is arrested and bound in chains. As he is marched toward the Fortress, an exchange takes place during which Paul is granted a chance to address the crowd from the stairs leading to the Fortress.
22:1-21 Paul's sermon is in a Hebrew dialect, probably Syro-Chaldaic. It speaks for itself.
22:22-25 Reaction #1 - "he should not be allowed to live!" The soldiers take Paul and tie him between two posts and "scourge" him. Paul reminds his captors he is a Roman citizen.
22:26-30 The commander of the garrison releases Paul because of his Roman citizenship. On the following day he is released and taken to the Sanhedrin Council.
23:1-l0a His defense kindles the animosity between the Pharisees and the Saducees. (Saducees did not believe in the physical resurrection of the body, so, they were sad, you see.)
23:l0b-11 Paul is taken back to the Fortress. During the night following the confrontation with the Sanhedrin, the Lord "stood at his side" and assures Paul he would yet see Rome.
23:12-15 The hate vented towards Paul was fueled by the Jews who considered him a traitor. A conspiracy is undertaken by 40 Jews.
23:16-24 Paul's nephew learns of the plot and gets to Paul. The commander listens intently. He orders that Paul be spirited away at about 9:00 PM and taken to Governor Felix at Caeserea.
23:25-30 The commander's letter. We discover his name.
23:31-35 Paul is held under house arrest in Herod's Practorium.
24:1-10 After five days a delegation arrives, included is a lawyer and according to some manuscripts, the commander from Jerusalem also came. Again Paul is given an opportunity to defend himself.
24:10b-21 Paul's brilliant defense. He reminds them he is on trial because he believed in the resurrection of the dead.
24:22-26 Paul is under house arrest at Caeserea. For two years, during this time Felix would call for Paul and have long talks with him. Felix permitted Paul's colleagues to minister to him. He delays judgment.
Felix is married to a Jewess named Drucilla. Through his marriage he became acquainted with the Hebrew religion and was familiar with "The Way" movement.
Felix is succeeded by Porcius Festus. In the transition, he had the right to release "political prisoners." Knowing the hate the Jews had for Paul, he decides to hold Paul.
25:1-3 Festus visits Jerusalem and meets with the Sanhedrin. He hears of the charges against Paul and their demand that Paul be brought to Jerusalem. Their real desire was to set an ambush and kill him before he reached Jerusalem.
25:4-6 Festus declines the demand but invites representatives from the Sanhedrin to return with him to Caeserea. He promises them he would let them bring their charges against Paul before the Tribunal - a court of law.
25:7-12 Paul again defends himself with brilliant logic. As a Roman citizen he appeals to Caesar. He request is granted.
25:13-21 A visit to Caeserea by King Agrippa and his wife Bernice. Festus brings him up to date about Paul. The king is curious and asks to see Paul.
25:22-27 Amid great pomp and ceremony Paul is brought before Agrippa. Festus introduces Paul.
26:1-12 Paul's defense before Agrippa is again a masterful presentation.
26:25-32 Festus interrupts Paul - "Paul, you're crazy! Your great learning is driving you mad!"
Agrippa is moved by Paul's sincerity and soberness. He utters the famous words, "I'm almost persuaded" to believe that Jesus is the Christ - the Promised Messiah! He tells the assembly that in his judgment Paul was not guilty and deserving of punishment.
Because Paul had appealed to Caesar, to Caesar Paul would go.
1) Remember, the reason Paul got in trouble with his belief in the resurrection. It was the center of his faith. To the Romans he said, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain (empty)."
2) In this long section Luke gives us a dramatic account of Paul's arrest, imprisonment and repeated trials. The resiliency of the resurrection sustained Paul through this very difficult period.
3) Paul's encounter with his Lord (23:11) gives his faith renewed courage. "Hang in there Paul; I am with you, this is neither the worst or the last of it! We're going to Rome together!" Paul could now endure anything. He was not alone. With the drumbeat of the Savior assuring him, he knows his destiny is to go to Rome to penetrate the center of political power and change the world!
XXV. Chapter 27 ANCHORS IN THE STORM
27:1-6 Paul and some other prisoners are put under the care of Julius, a centurion of the Agustun battalion. At the harbor of Caeserea they board a ship from Adramyttium. With them is Aristarchus, a member of the Church of Thessalonia.
Paul is treated with respect. His friends were permitted to talk with him.
As the ship nears Cyprus, the wind shifts and weather forces them to land at Lycia where they wait out the storm and transfer to an Alexandrion ship heading for Italy.
27:7-12 The voyage is rough. High winds cause a change in their route. Paul warns them of danger, but
Julius tells the captain to continue the voyage since the harbor at Cnidus was not suitable for handling a boat of that size. They head for Crete where the captain knew the harbor at Phoenix could handle the ship.
27:13-19 A wind from the south. Then a strong wind from the northeast. The voyage is again in danger as the ship heads away from Crete to the tiny island of Clauda.
Extraordinary means are used to prevent the ship from breaking up. A leak develops and all the cargo is jettisoned.
27:20-26 From bad to worse. Hope of survival is gradually abandoned. Knowing their despair, Paul gives them an incredible promise that they would be spared.
27:27-32 Fourteen days later the winds are still gusting. They are in the Adriatic Sea. At about midnight they take a sounding that tells them they are near land. Afraid of the unknown, some sailors attempt to jump overboard to their death.
Paul warns Julius that unless the men remain on the ship everyone would perish.
27:32-38 Paul's calmness encourages the captain and sailors. We learn in verse 37 that there were 276 persons on board.
27:39-44 At daybreak they see land but do not recognize it. They decide to head for a sandy beach but encounter a reef and the ship is pounded by the surf and waves. It begins to break up. The soldiers want to kill all the prisoners to prevent their escape; Julius prevents them and orders everyone to swim to shore. Those who couldn't swim used planks and barrels for flotation devices. Incredibly, not a passenger is lost!
1) A moving drama is portrayed by Luke The ship's captain is frozen with fear; the centurion Julius is immobilized by anxiety. Paul alone has the presence of mind to calm the crew the soldiers, and the other prisoners. "Paul is in command of the ship because he knows the Lord is the Captain of their fate." (Ogilvie, pg. 273)
2) The ship was 140 feet long, 36 feet wide and took a draught of over 33 feet, yet was out of control!
3) The winter winds in the Adriatic Seas were severe. The journey was difficult from the beginning. It began in late October when cloud cover was almost constant. Without a sextant or compass there was no reference point for navigation.
4) The fearful captain in verse 27 sets out four anchors. Paul had also set out four spiritual anchors.
a) Divine Intervention -The presence of the Lord. To know that Christ is always near - that He holds us secure with acceptance and forgiveness is a sublime truth in times of trouble!
b) Faith - "Be not afraid!" "Fear not!" Philippians 4:13. All of us know fear. It's part of living. (Psalms 107:28-31) The anchor of faith holds when the storm is the fiercest!
c) Destiny - to live in Christ, to be filled with Christ and to be used by Christ, to know the Lord-that is our destiny.
d) Peace - Through prayer. Pray for the dawn of light to dispel your darkness! (Hebrews 6:18-19)
5) We sometimes wonder if we will ever be relieved of certain anxieties. Three words to remember - it can't last! That is the drumbeat of God's love in Chapter 27 of Acts!
XXVI. Chapter 28 THE BEGINNING OF A NEW CHAPTER OF ACTS
28:1-2 The "mystery" island turns out to be Malta. Formerly a Carthegenian possession, the natives spoke the Phonecian language. The shipwrecked voyagers are greeted by them. A fire is built to warm the visitors and to show his willingness to help, Paul joins in the search for firewood.
28:3-6 A viper attaches itself to Paul's hand. Local tradition held that the viper's bite was for evil people, so if bit a person was guilty of some horrible crime.
Paul however shows no effect from the bite. He shakes the viper into the fire and the natives watch in amazement. Ordinarily the symptoms were quick to develop and were not pleasant to behold. When nothing happens the natives change their mind and consider that Paul is a god.
28:7-9 Paul heals a landowner's father. Others come to be healed.
28:10-14 The route to Rome. (see map) Paul and his captain guard and colleagues Luke, et. all were the guests of the Maltese for the three winter months. When Spring arrives, Paul is taken on his journey to stand before Caesar.
28:15 As the delegation nears their destination, they are met by a welcoming committee first at the Appi Forum which is about 43 miles from Rome and then at the Three Inns which is about 30 miles from Rome.
28:16-22 Remember, Paul was still under arrest and continually being guarded. When he arrives in Rome, Paul calls the Jewish leaders to meet with him. He explains his situation and the leaders assure him no complaints against him had been received by them.
28:23-29 A meeting is arranged for the following day. The meetings continue and Paul is able to convince some of the Jews of Jesus' Messiahship.
The Jews engage in dispute. Paul's parting word to them is a quotation from Isaiah and the Psalms.
28:30-31 Luke's account ends with the simple notation that Paul remained in Rome for two years under house arrest. He also mentions that Paul enjoyed freedom, living in rented quarters. Daily he taught and preached about Jesus "with openness and without further opposition."
1) All we know about what happened during the following two year imprisonment at "Rome" comes from the letters Paul wrote from Rome to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; to Philemon and to Timothy and Titus. For this reason we can safely say he kept in touch with other churches by means of letters, although they are not in the Bible. He probably sent the letters with Luke, Timothy, Tychicus, John Mark, Demas, Aristarcus, Epaphras, Onesimus, Justus, and Epaphroditus from references in the letters cited.
2) Paul suffered martyrdom under Nero. This is firmly established by contemporary historians who also indicate that during his two year confinement at Rome he had several opportunities to travel. This leads to the speculation that the original charges against him were dropped and that until new charges were trumped up, he was able to make a few trips.
3) The death of Paul in Rome is about 68 A.D. marked the end of the most rapid period of growth the Church of Jesus Christ would ever experience. Strongholds were established all over Europe and even on the coast of Africa and remained strong until Islam became popular and the strength of the followers of Mohammed drove the Christians out of many places and scattered the Christians by the dawn of the 12th. century A.D.
4) NOW, TODAY, you and I are writing new chapters to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. As we join together in the fellowship of a Christian congregation, we are continuing the work of the Apostles of the first Century A.D.
With Jesus Christ as our Head, we fight the fight of faith in a world that is hostile towards the Gospel. Yet, we persevere because we continue to hear the drumbeat of God's love and His precious promise that assure us we will have the final victory in Christ!
This ends our study of the Acts of the Apostles. It has been a pleasure to have you on our journey and I pray that you will continue as we study yet another book of the Bible.
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +