Monday, January 26, 2009

Acts Chapter 28

Paul Arrives on Malta and Then to Rome

After being shipwrecked on a unknown island, Paul and the crew came to recognize that they were shipwrecked on the island of Malta, a small island 60 miles south of Sicily. Malta had good harbors and was ideally located for trade. In two weeks the storm had carried them 600 miles west of Fair Havens, Crete. The term “Barbarous people” in verse 2 implies a Greek term used to refer to non-Greek speaking people. This does not mean the people were savages or uncultured, but that their civilization was not Greek oriented. They showed unusual kindness to Paul and the crew, building them a fire and welcoming them. As Paul was building a fire a viper (a poisonous snake) attached itself to the hand of Paul. Seeing that Paul was bitten by the snake the islanders concluded that indeed Paul was a murderer and he was getting due justice. But when Paul was unaffected by the snake bit, they decided that he was not a murderer, but a god.

The chief official of the island (Publius) in verse 7 welcomed the group into his home for 3 days. The father of the official became very ill, Paul prayed and laid hands upon him and he was healed. News spread quickly and all the sick of the island came to Paul and were healed. Paul and the crew were given much honor in many different ways and after 3 months the islanders furnished them with supplies when they were ready to depart via another ship. Since the crew and passengers left Crete in October or November (after the fast, 27:9) and were in the storm two weeks, their three months’ stay on Malta brought them through the winter to February or March. In that time they saw another ship docked at the island. Because it was a ship of Alexandrian origin, it too probably was a grain ship from Egypt that had spent the three months of winter, when it was to dangerous to sail at a seaport on Malta.

The twin gods Castor and Pollux on the ship’s figurehead were the heavenly twin sons of Zeus and Leda according to Greek mythology; supposedly they brought good fortune to mariners. It is at this point that Luke carefully traces Paul’s journey. They sailed north from the island of Malta to Syracuse, a Greek city on the southeast coast of the island of Sicily where they lodged for three days. They next sailed through the strait between Sicily and Italy at Rhegium, a seaport on the coast of southern Italy, across the strait of Messina from the island of Sicily. The next day a favorable wind came bringing them to Puteoli, a seaport on the western shore of southern Italy, 152 miles south of Rome and then on to Rome.

At Puteoli Paul and his companions found some brothers. This is very significant because it shows that the gospel had already spread from Rome to this Italian seaport. No doubt a church had been planted in Rome by Roman Jews who had gone to Pentecost in Jerusalem, heard Peter’s sermon, were saved, and returned home with the good news (Acts.2:10). Upon meeting these brothers Paul accepted the believers’ invitation to tarry with them for a week. The Christians at Rome soon heard of Paul’s coming so they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius (a market town about 43 miles from Rome) and the Three Taverns (33 miles from Rome, a place where that provided food and lodging for travelers), to meet him and his companions.

At the sight of these brothers Paul thanked God and was encouraged. At last God was bringing Paul to Rome and the welcome of fellow believers, whom he had never met, uplifted his spirit. Paul was delivered by Julius to the captain of the guard who took control of Paul and all the prisoners. Because Paul was a trusted prisoner he was allowed to live in a small rented house (vs.30) with one soldier to guard him. In accordance with his policy of witnessing to the Jews first, Paul sent an invitation to their religious leaders. When they came to his rented house he explained his case to them. He told them that although he had done nothing wrong against the Jewish people, or their customs, yet the Jews of Jerusalem had delivered him into the hands of the Romans for trial. The Gentile authorities could find no fault in him, and wanted to free him, but when the Jews cried out against it he was forced to appear before Caesar.

Paul stated that his appeal before Caesar was not to bring charges against the Jewish nation, rather it was to defend himself. It was because he was innocent of any crime against the Jewish people that he called the chief Roman Jews together. Actually it was because of the hope of Israel that he was in chains. The Jewish leaders professed to know nothing about Paul. They had not received any letters from Judea concerning him and none of their fellow Jews had brought reports to them against him. However, they did want to hear more from Paul. Some time later a great number of Jews came to Paul’s house to hear more from him.

Paul availed himself of the opportunity to testify to them concerning the kingdom of God and to persuade them concerning Jesus. In so doing he quoted to them from the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. Some believed the message of Paul and some disbelieved. When Paul saw that once again the gospel was being on the whole rejected by the Jewish nation, he quoted Isaiah 6:9 and 10, where Isaiah was commissioned by God to preach the word to a people whose hearts were dull, whose ears were deaf, and whose eyes were blinded. Paul again felt the heartbreak of preaching the good news to those who did not want to hear it.

In view of their rejection of the good news, Paul announced that he was taking the gospel to the Gentiles and he expressed the assurance that they would hear it. The unbelieving Jews departed arguing among themselves. Paul’s quoting a prophecy against them irritated the ungodly element who rejected the Messiah. It whipped them into a fury against those Jews who accepted him (the Messiah). Paul remained in Rome under house arrest for two years continuing to minister to a steady line of visitors. He enjoyed a considerable measure of liberty, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.


1. In verse 8 what does the words “bloody flux means?

The Greek word is “Dysenterion” it comes from the word “Enteron” intestines, which implies disease of the intestines.

2. In verse 27 what does it mean to “wax gross”?
The words “Waxed gross” is the Greek word “Pachyno” which comes from the adjective “Pachys” which means “thick”, grow fat. Here in verse 27 it is used metaphorically of the spiritual heart and so it implies the heart has become calloused and dull.

Note: It is here while imprisoned in Rome that Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. These letters are sometimes referred to as the “Prison Letters”. The word “Epistles” is used also which means “letters.”

It is my pray and hope that this Bible study on the Book of Acts has been a blessing for you as it was for me. Please feel free to leave comments or questions and I will do my best to respond to all comments and questions in a timely manner.

May the Lord add a blessing to this study!

In Christ,

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Acts Chapter 27

Paul’s Voyage to Rome

This chapter presents the thrilling saga of Paul’s voyage from Caesarea to Malta, en route to Rome. If Paul had not been on this trip, we would never have heard of the trip, or the shipwreck. It is apparent from Luke’s use of the word “we” that Luke was with Paul on this journey. The journey began at Caesarea. Paul was placed in the custody of an officer named Julius. This centurion was attached to the Augustan Regiment, a distinguished legion of the Roman Army. There were other prisoners on board who, like Paul, were being taken to Rome for trial. This Aristarchus of Macedonia, in verse 2, was the same man who was dragged into the amphitheater at the beginning of the riot in Ephesus (19:29; 20:4; Philemon 1:24). The ship on which they embarked was from Adramyttium, a city of Mysia in the northwest corner of Asia Minor. It was scheduled to sail north and west, making stops at ports along the coasts of Proconsular Asia, the western province of Asia Minor.

The ship sailed north along the coast of Palestine, coming in a Sidon, seventy miles from Caesarea. Julius, the centurion kindly permitted Paul to go ashore and visit friends and to refresh himself. From Sidon, the route cut across the northeast corner of the Mediterranean, passing Cyprus on the left and thus taking advantage of the side of the island sheltered from the wind. In spite of the winds being contrary, the ship crossed over to the southern coast of Asia Minor, then sailed westward past Cilicia and Pamphylia until it arrived at Myra, a port city of Lycia. At Lycia, Julius transferred his prisoners to another ship since the first one would not take them any closer to Italy; it would rather sail up the western coast of Asia Minor to its home port. The second ship was from Alexandria, on the northern coast of Africa. It carried 276 people, both crew and passengers, and cargo of wheat.

For many days travel was slow, due to the adverse wind conditions. It was with difficulty that the crew brought the ship over against the harbor of Cnidus, a port on the extreme southwest corner of Asia Minor. Since the wind was against them, they headed south and sailed along the sheltered east side of the island of Crete. Rounding cape Salmone, they turned westward and bucked heavy winds until they came to Fair Havens, a harbor near the city of Lasea, on the south central coast of Crete. By now considerable time had been lost due to the bad sailing conditions. The approach of the winter weather made traveling much more dangerous. It must have been late September or early October, since the Fast (the Day of Atonement) was already over. Paul warned the crew that navigation was unsafe and that if this voyage were continued, there would be the danger of losing the cargo, the ship, and even the lives of some on board.
However, the helmsman and the owner of the ship wanted to proceed, and over ruled Paul’s warning. Julius accepted their judgment and most of the others agreed with them too. It was felt that the harbor was not as suitable as Phenice would be as a place to spend the winter. Phenice was located forty miles west of fair haven, at the southwest tip of Crete. Its harbor opened toward the southwest and northwest.

When the south wind blew softly, the seamen thought they could make the extra distance to Phenice. They weighted anchor, and sailed westward, hugging the shore. Then a violent northeaster (Euroclydon) beat down upon them from the cliffs along the coast. Unable to steer the desired course, the crew was forced to let the ship be driven by the gale. They were driven southwest to a small island called Clauda, twenty to thirty miles from Crete. While they were south of the island they hauled in the lifeboat which was normally pulled in tow but now was probably full of water. When they reached the protected side of the island, they had difficulty securing the life boat which they had been towing. But finally they were able to hoist it on board. Then they tied cables around the hull of the ship to keep it from being torn apart by the sea and the storm. What they feared the most was that they would be driven south of Syrtis, (shallow sandbar) a gulf on the coast of Africa noted for its dangerous quicksand. To prevent this they lowered their (navigation) gear (sails and rigging) and were driven away from the direction of the sandbars.

After a day of drifting at the mercy of the storm, they began to throw cargo overboard to lighten the ship. On the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. Doubtless the ship had taken a lot of water and it was therefore necessary to lighten its load to prevent the ship from sinking. For many days they were tossed about helplessly without sight of sun or stars, and thus without the ability to make their bearings and find out where they were. They began to lose hope. Despair was becoming more prominent by hunger. The men had not eaten for many days. Most of their time was spent working to save the ship and bailing out water. Perhaps there were no cooking facilities. Sickness, fear, and discouragement robbed them of their appetite. There was no shortage of food, but neither was there an eagerness to eat.

Despite all hard work and fear that overcame them, Paul stood in the midst of them with a message of hope. First Paul reminded them that they should not have sailed from Crete. Then he assured them that though the ship would be lost, there would be no loss of life. Paul knew of such facts, because an angel of the Lord appeared to him that night, assuring him that he would yet stand before Caesar in Rome. God had assured Paul all those who sailed with him, in the sense that they, too would be preserved. Therefore, they should cheer up. The Apostle believed that all would be well, even though they would be shipwrecked on a certain island.

Fourteen days had elapsed since they left Fair Havens. They were drifting helplessly in a part of the Mediterranean known as the Ionian, the sea between Greece, Italy, and Africa. About midnight the crew sensed that they were drawing near some land. When they first measured the depth they found it to be twenty fathoms (120 feet), then a little further it was fifteen fathoms (90 feet). To prevent running the ship aground, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. The crew wanted to escape and leave the passengers to drown. Fearing such, the crew plotted to get ashore in the life boat. They were in the process of lowering the lifeboat from the bow of the ship by pretending they were putting out more anchors when Paul reported their plot to Julius the centurion.

Paul warned that unless the sailors remained on board the rest would not be saved. Then the soldiers cut away the ropes attached to the boat and let it fall off. The sailors were now compelled to try and save their own lives on board ship, as well as the lives of the other people. Shortly before daybreak, Paul encouraged the people to eat, reminding them that they had gone two weeks without food. The time had come for them to eat, their health depended on it. Paul assured them no one would lose a single hair on their head. Paul set an example for them by taking bread, giving thanks to God publicly and eating. By being encouraged by Paul’s action they took food themselves. There were 276 people on the ship. After eating they lighten the ship by throwing wheat overboard. Land was nearby, but they could not recognize it. The decision was made to beach the ship, as far on shore as possible. They let go the anchors, leaving them in the sea. Then they untied the rudders that had previously been raised and lowered them into position. Hoisting the mainsail, they made for shore and drove the ship aground at a place where two seas met—probably in a channel between two islands. The bow stuck fast in the sand, but the stern soon began to break apart by the violence of the waves.

The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners to prevent escape, but Julius wanting to save Paul, overruled the soldiers. He ordered all who could swim to make for shore. The rest were told to float in on boards or other parts of the ship. In this way, every one of the crew and passengers escaped safely to land.

1- What is a Euroclydon?

A fierce tempestuous wind often experienced by navigators especially in the spring in the Eastern Mediterranean sometimes of a hurricane or typhoon force.

2- Does the city Phenice have another name?
Yes in the King James Version it is also known as Phoenix

Note: God provided for the non-swimmers, too, fulfilling his promise of verses 22-24.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Acts Chapter 26

Paul’s Defense Before Agrippa/Festus

Paul had already made his defense to Festus (25:6-12), so now he will address Agrippa. Furthermore the purpose of the speech was for Agrippa information. When given the cue by Agrippa Paul stretched out his hands and began a recital of his Christian experience. First, he expressed gratitude that he was permitted to present his case before one who, being a Jew was conversant with the customs and questions which prevailed among the Jewish people. In his early life, Paul was an exemplary Jew. The Jews would have to admit, if only they were willing to testify, that Paul had followed a pathway of the strictest orthodoxy being a consistence Pharisee. Now he was on trial for no greater crime than the fact that he clung to the hope of the promise made by God to the Jewish fathers in the Old Testament.

The flow of Paul’s argument here seems to be as follows: in the Old Testament God made various covenants with the leaders of Israel, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon. The principle covenant had to do with the promise of the Messiah, his coming to deliver the nation of Israel and to reign over the earth. The Patriarchs of the Old Testament died without seeing the fulfillment of this promise. Does this mean that God would not carry out the terms of the covenants? He would assuredly do so! But how could He do it when the fathers are already dead? The answer is “by raising them from the dead.” thus , in a very direct way, Paul links the promises made to the Old Testament saints with the resurrection of the dead.

Paul pictured the twelve tribes of Israel as earnestly and ceaselessly serving God, hoping to see the promises fulfilled. This reference to the twelve tribes is important in view of the current teaching that ten of the tribes of Israel have been lost since the captivity. Though they were scattered among the Gentile nations, Paul saw them as a distinct people, serving God and looking for the promised deliverer. This was Paul’s crime! He believed that God would fulfill his promise to the fathers by raising them from the dead. What was so incredible about this? Paul asked Agrippa and all those who were with him.

Reverting to the story of his life, Paul recounted the savage and committed campaign he waged against the followers of the Christian faith. With all his strength he opposed the name of Jesus of Nazareth. With authority from the chief priest, he imprisoned many of the Christians in Jerusalem. When they stood before the Sanhedrin, he gladly cast a vote against them. Over and over again he arranged punishment for those whom he found in every Synagogue, and he did all he could to force them to deny their Lord. (When it says that he compelled them to “blaspheme” it does not mean he was successful, but he tried to do it). Paul’s hate campaign against the Christians had overflowed from Jerusalem and Judea to foreign cities.

Paul once again recounts his conversion. It was while he was on one of these foreign expeditions that a transforming experience occurred in his life. He was en route to Damascus, equipped with official papers authorizing him to arrest the Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. At midday he was overcome by a vision of glory. A light from heaven shone upon him, brighter than the midday sun. After he had fallen from his beast, and to the ground, he heard a voice asking him this probing question: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (ox goads). These were sharp pointed instruments used to force stubborn animals to move along. Paul was kicking against the goads of his own conscience, but even more important, against the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit. He was fighting against God himself. Paul asked, “Who art thou Lord?” The voice answered. “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Jesus? How could that be? Hadn’t Jesus been crucified and buried? The truth quickly dawned on Paul’s soul. Jesus had indeed been buried, but He had risen from the dead! He had ascended back to heaven, from where He was now speaking to Paul.

Next Paul gives a condensed summary of the commission which was given to him by the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He was told to rise and stand on his feet. He had this special revelation of Christ in glory because he was appointed to be a servant of the Lord and a witness of all he had seen that day and all of the great truths of the Christian faith which would be made known to him. The promise that Paul would be delivered from the Jewish people and the Gentiles must be understood as meaning deliverance in general until his work was done.

Paul would be sent especially to the Gentiles to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Through faith in the Lord Jesus they would receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who are sanctified. Having been thus commissioned, Paul explains to Agrippa that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Both in Damascus and in Jerusalem, throughout all of Judea and then to the Gentiles Paul preached to men that they should repent and turn to God, doing works that prove the reality of their repentance.

Paul states that this is what he was doing when the Jews seized him in the temple and tried to kill him. But God had given him protection and help, and he continued to testify to all with whom he came in contact, preaching the message which the Prophets and Moses preached in the Old Testament. The message was that the Messiah would suffer, that he would be the first to rise from the dead, and that he would show light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.

Being a Gentile, Festus failed completely to understand any of Paul’s argument. He accused Paul of being mad (crazy) as a result of too much learning. With no trace of irritation or temper, Paul simply and quietly denied the charge and emphasized that his words were those of truth and reason. Paul expressed confidence that the king knew the truth of what he had been saying. Paul’s life and testimony had not been a secret. The Jews knew all about it, and doubtless the report had reached Agrippa.

Addressing the king directly, Paul asked “king Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? Then Paul answered his own question, “I know that thou believest.” The force of the argument is unmistakable. Paul was saying in effect, I believe all that the prophets said in the Old Testament. You too believe their testimony, don’t you, Agrippa? How then can the Jews accuse me of a crime deserving of death? Or how could you condemn me for believing what you yourself believe?

That Agrippa felt the force of Paul’s words is indicated by his sarcastic remark “almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”. Whether Agrippa was speaking in sincerity or in jest, Paul answered with deadly earnestness. He expressed the fervent wish that whether with little persuasion or with much, both Agrippa and all others present might enter into the joys and blessings of the Christian life, that they might share all Paul’s privileges, that they might become like him except for the chains. After conferring together they were all forced to admit that Paul had done nothing deserving of death or chains. Perhaps with a little tinge of regret, Agrippa said to Festus, if Paul had not appealed to Caesar he might have been set free. At this point we naturally wonder why the appeal to Caesar could not be cancelled. Whether or not such an appeal was unalterable, we do know that it was God’s purpose that the Apostle to the Gentiles should go to Rome for the trial before Caesar.

Who were the ten lost tribes of Israel?

After the death of Solomon the kingdom spilt into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom consisted of Judah and Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob. The northern kingdom was comprised the other ten tribes which was centered around Samaria and Israel. Because of their sins the Assyrians in 722 B.C. took them into captivity. Historians have debated as to what happened to the ten lost tribes down through history with no right or wrong conclusion (See II kings chapter 17).

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Acts Chapter 25

Paul Appears Before Festus

This selection (verses 1-12) is crucial because in it Paul appealed to Caesar. It sets the direction for the remainder of the book and shows how Paul reached Rome. Although two years have passed, the Jewish leaders were still looking to kill Paul. One item heavy on the minds of the religious authorities was a trial for Paul. They knew their case was so weak that the only way they could rid themselves of him was by ambush while Paul was being transferred from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Evidently Festus felt their request to send Paul back to Jerusalem was unreasonable so he promised to reopen the case in Caesarea. Paul was already there and Festus was returning there.

After a stay of more than ten days in Jerusalem, Festus returned to Caesarea and convened the court the next day. The Jews hastened to the attack, bringing many serious charges against Paul, but failing to prove any one of them. Paul sensing the weakness of their case contented himself with simply denial of any charges against the law, against the temple, or Caesar. Early the charges were simply that he was a trouble maker, leader of a sect, and he desecrated the temple. Now they added charges against Caesar. If they could prove Paul wanted to overthrow Caesar, this would bring Roman law into place, thus bring about the death penalty. This too failed.

For a moment it seemed as if Festus was willing to accede to the request of the Jews that Paul be sent back to Jerusalem for trial before the Sanhedrin. However, he would not do this without Paul’s permission. Paul obviously realized that if he agreed he would never reach Jerusalem alive. He refused by stating that the court in Caesarea was the proper place for a trial. If he had committed a crime against the Roman Empire he was not unwilling to die for it. But if he was not guilty of such a crime, then on what legal grounds could he be handed over to them? Taking full advantage of his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul then uttered the memorable words, “I appeal to Caesar”. After Festus conferred with his legal advisors he determined that Paul must be sent to Caesar.

The king Agrippa referred to here was Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I (12:1) and a great-grandson of Herod the great (Matt 2:1). At this time he was a young man of about 30 years of age and the ruler of territories northeast of Palestine with the title of king. Because he was a friend of the Roman imperial family he was awarded the privilege of appointing the Jewish high priest and also had been made the custodian of the temple treasury. His background made him qualified to hear Paul; he was well acquainted with the Jews’ religion.

Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, came to Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Though Bernice had a tendency to support the Jews she lived a recklessly and wasteful life. She had an incestuous relationship with her brother Agrippa II. Festus reviewed Paul’s case which had been left by Felix. Festus frankly confessed he was incapable of handing the case (v 20). In particular he did not understand Paul’s insistence on the resurrection of Christ (v 19). Speaking with Agrippa had its desired effect on him. The Herodian (Herod) family was useful to Rome for their knowledge of Jewish affairs and Agrippa’s insights would be helpful to Festus. The next day a formal hearing was arranged. Agrippa and Bernice arrived with great pomp. They were accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city. Then Paul was brought in. Once again, Festus set forth the history of the case—the insistent demands of the Jews for Paul’s death, the inability of Festus to find Paul guilty of any crime deserving of death, and then Paul’s appeal to Caesar. Festus dilemma was this: he was forced by Paul’s appeal to send him to Caesar (Nero), yet there were no legal basis for a trial. Festus plainly stated that he hoped Agrippa would be able to help him; after all it did seem rather unreasonable to send a prisoner to Rome and not specify the charges against him. These proceedings were more of a hearing than a trial. The Jews were not present to accuse Paul, and Agrippa was not expected to render a binding decision. Paul will again be permitted to speak for himself.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Acts Chapter 24

Paul Appears Before Felix

The accusers arrived—Ananias the high priest; Tertullus, the lawyer and several of the Jewish elders of the Sanhedrin came down to Caesarea to give their false accusations against Paul. Their murder plot had failed, but they persisted in trying to kill him. Tertullus who was hired by the Sanhedrin would present the case before Felix. Tertullus spent almost as much time on his introduction as he did on the specific charges against Paul. His description of Felix was obviously to flatter Felix. The accusations were three fold: (1) Paul was a worldwide trouble maker starting riots where ever he went, (2) He was a leader of the Nazarene sect, and (3) He attempted to desecrate the temple. The religious leaders were hoping that these accusations would persuade Felix to execute Paul in order to keep peace in Jerusalem.

The first charge had a political overtone because Rome desired to maintain order throughout the empire. The second charge was also concerned with the government because Tertullus made it appear that Christianity was divorced from the Jewish religion. Rome permitted Judaism as a legal religion, but would not tolerate any new religions. By describing Christianity as a “sect” of the Nazarenes, the lawyer made Paul’s faith appear to be cultic and bizarre. Desecrating the temple also had political overtones because the Romans had given permission to the Jews to execute any Gentile who went inside the inner court of the temple. Paul earlier had been accused of bringing a Gentile into the inner court (21:28), here he is said to have attempted to desecrated the temple. After the Jews had agreed to the truth of their prosecuting attorney’s charges, Paul was given an opportunity to respond.

Paul’s introduction was much shorter and truthful. He implied Felix knew the situation in Judea well enough to make an accurate decision. Paul gave several points in his own defense. First, he had not been in Jerusalem long enough to instigate a riot. In fact one of his purposes for being in Jerusalem was to worship, to observe the feast of Pentecost (20:16). Next he denied the charge that he incited the Jews to rebel. At no time, either in the temple....the synagogues or in the city, had he disputed with the people or attempted to stir them up. These were facts, and no one could disprove them. Third, he worshiped the God of Israel in full conformity with the law and the Prophets. Furthermore his faith was not in some sect but in Christianity, which was known as the way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). His hope in the resurrection was the same as that of his accusers. Further, Paul always sought to keep his conscience clear.

Far from stirring the Jews up to insurrection, Paul had come to Jerusalem to bring alms (money) to the Jewish people. He was referring to the collection from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia, ear-marked for the needy in Jerusalem. Finally, Paul said his genuine accusers were not present, the Jews from the province of Asia who made the original false charges and incited the riot in the temple. Since the Sanhedrin had not found him guilty (23:1-9) Tertullus’ speech did not really contain any legitimate charges. When Felix heard the case he was faced with a serious dilemma. He knew enough about the Christian faith to realize who was right. Paul was obviously innocent of any crimes against Roman law. Yet if he were to acquit Paul, he would incur the wrath of the Jewish people. From a political standpoint, it was important to curry their favor. So he adopted the expedient of continuing the case. He said he would wait until Lysias the commander could come to Caesarea. This was just a delay tactic. There is no record that the commander ever did come to Caesarea. In concluding the case, Felix commanded that although Paul should remain in custody, he should be permitted limited liberty and that his friends be allowed to visit and supply him with food and clothing. With such liberty Paul could not be deemed a violent criminal. Some days after the public trial Felix and his wife Drusilla arranged a private meeting with Paul in order that they might hear more concerning the Christian faith. Without fear, Paul reasoned with Felix and his adulterous wife about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. Felix seemed to be more moved than his wife. Although he was afraid, he did not trust the Savior. He deferred making a decision for Christ with the words “go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee”.

Sadly enough this convenient season never came, as far as the bible record is concerned. Yet this was not Paul’s last visit before Felix. The governor called him repeatedly during the next two years while a prisoner in Caesarea. Felix was hoping that Paul or his friends would pay him a nice bribe in order to have Paul released. After two years, in A.D. 60 Porcius Festus replaced Felix. Felix wanting to do the Jews a favor left Paul in Caesarea in chains.


Who was Drusilla, the wife of Felix

She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I by his wife Cypros. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, she was Jewess who married Auxesis, king of Emesa, who then converted to Judaism. Because of her great beauty, Felix desired her for his wife. She left Azizus and married the Gentile Felix in defiance of Jewish law.

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Acts Chapter 23

Paul Appears Before The Sanhedrin

The setting for this brief trial is given here. Paul begins his defense before the Sanhedrin by simply stating that he had acted in good conscience before God, not only in this matter which he now stand accused, but throughout his ministry. Ananias the high priest ordered Paul struck in the mouth. Paul’s outburst was triggered by Ananias illegal command. How could the priest violate the law while sitting as judge over one who supposedly had transgressed the law? Jewish law presumed the accused to be innocent until proven guilty. Like a whitewashed wall, Ananias looked all right on the outside but was weak and rotten on the inside (Matt.23:27). Jesus too in His trials was struck on the mouth and challenged the legality of it (John.18:20-23). Paul did not recognize the high priest probably because he had not had any contact with the Sanhedrin for many years and the high priesthood changed hand frequently. At any rate, Paul recognized the position of the high priest even if he did not respect the priest as a person.

In such a scene justice was impossible. Recognizing this, Paul changed his tactics and stated his hope in the resurrection of the dead was in line with the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection as the Sadducees did not. This was a clever move, because an argument broke out among the two factions. Amazingly the Pharisees defended Paul, a fellow Pharisee. Paul was in more danger in the midst of the Jews than in a Roman prison. So again the commander had him removed from the Sanhedrin and brought back to the barracks at the Antonia fortress.

The following night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. The importance of this vision was not only in its comfort and encouragement, but also in the confirmation it gave of Paul’s plans to go to Rome. The gospel of Christ would literally go from Jerusalem to Rome by means of Paul. This was the fourth vision the Lord gave Paul (9:4-6; 16:9; 18:9-10). When the two factions’ controversy died down, the religious leaders refocused their attention on Paul. To these leaders, politics and position had become more important than God. So great was their hatred for Paul, forty fanatical Jews plotted to kill him under an oath.

This is the only biblical reference to Paul’s family. Paul unnamed nephew somehow heard of the plot to kill his uncle. He was able to report to Paul and the commander of such plot. After learning of the plot the commander advised the young man to be quiet of what he heard. The commander decided to get Paul away from Jerusalem as quickly as possible. First, he sent Paul in the company of more than 470 men–two...centurions...200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen. Second, they began their travel under the cover of darkness at 9 P.M. In addition, Caesarea would be a far more secure place, not subject to riot like in Jerusalem. Paul would appear before the governor Felix. When a prisoner was forwarded to a superior, the subordinate officer was required to accompany the prisoner with a written statement of the case.

The journey to Antipatris from Jerusalem was more than 35 miles. This must have been a forced march, because they arrived the next day. Once the entourage was in Antipatris the soldiers were no longer needed. The remaining 27 miles to Caesarea could be traveled with less danger. When the cavalry and Paul arrived, Felix held a minor preliminary interrogation. After Felix learned that Paul was from Cilicia he determined to hear Paul’s case.

Who was Felix?

Felix was the procurator (governor) of Judea about A.D. 52-58. He is one of the three Roman procurator mentioned in the New Testament. The others are Pontius Pilate (A.D. 26-36) and Porcius Festus (A.D. 58-62). Felix married Drusilla (24:24), a sister of Herod Agrippa II, the Agrippa in (25:13-26:32).

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Acts Chapter 22

Paul Addresses the Crowd

At the end of our last study (chapter 21), Paul’s audience wanted to kill him thinking that he had profaned the temple by taking a gentile into the inner court of the temple. Once Paul was in Roman custody and requesting permission to speak, he spoke in Aramaic rather than Greek. As soon as they heard their native tongue they were surprised and their shouts ceased, at least for the time being. Paul would defend himself in three parts: (a) his conduct before his conversion, (b) his conversion, and (c) his commission to minister. The vocatives Men, Brethren, and fathers with which Paul began his speech are those Stephen used (7:2). Paul began with his roots as a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia; his education was at the feet of the great rabbi (teacher) Gamaliel, and his instructions in Judaism. He gave special emphasis to his zeal as a Jew. Paul related how he had persecuted the Christian faith (this way), filling the prisons with those who believed in Jesus.

The high priest and the Sanhedrin could bear witness to the thoroughness of his methods. It was from them that he received letters authorizing him to go to Damascus and bring back Christians from there to Jerusalem to be punished. Up to this point in Paul’s message the Jews could understand perfectly, and if they were honest, they would have to agree that what had been said was true. Now Paul will tell them of an event that changed his life forever. As Paul neared the end of his journey to Damascus he was confronted with a great light from heaven. The fact that it happened about noon, here recorded for the first time, indicates that the light was more brilliant and glorious than the sun itself. Struck to the ground by the intensity of the light, the persecutor heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”? Upon asking “who art thou” he learned that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was speaking to him from heaven.

The men traveling with Paul saw the light and heard the sound of the voice (9:7), but they did not hear the actual words that were spoken to Paul. In other words they were conscious of noise, but not articulate speech. Having had this private audience with the Lord of glory, Paul made a complete commitment of his spirit, soul, and body to the Lord. This is indicated by his question “what shall I do Lord”. The Lord directed Paul to go into Damascus and there he would receive his instructions. Blinded by the light, he was led by the hand into the city.

In Damascus Paul was visited by one named Ananias. Paul describes him to his Jewish audience as a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there in Damascus. Ananias testimony as a respected member of the Damascus Jewish community would carry a lot of weight with the hostile audience. Ananias after addressing Paul as brother demanded that he receive his sight. It was then Paul first looked upon Ananias face. In verses 14-16 we learn for the first time what Ananias said to Paul. He informed Paul of several key points. First, he stated that it was God the Father who had ordered the events on the Damascus road. The reference to “that just one” is a reference to Jesus Christ, a title used by Stephen in Acts 7:52 also. This is important because it qualified Paul as an Apostle.

Second, the men to whom Paul was to present the gospel included Gentiles, kings and Jews (9:15). Finally, Paul was told to arise and be baptized, and wash away his sins. Now, for the first time, we learn of an experience Paul had toward the close of his first visit to Jerusalem after conversion. While praying in the temple, he fell into a trance and heard the Lord commanding him to leave Jerusalem quickly because the Jews would not receive his testimony concerning Christ. It seem incredible to Paul that his own people would refuse to listen to him. After all they knew what a zealous Jew he had been, how he had imprisoned and beaten the disciples of Jesus, and how he had even been an accomplice to the murder of Stephen. But the Lord repeated his command for Paul to depart quickly because now he will send him far from Jerusalem to the Gentiles.

Up to this point the Jews had been listening to Paul quietly but when his mention of going to the Gentiles with the gospel, this was too much for the crowd. Filled with rage and jealously they cried out for Paul’s life. The people in the mob threw off their cloaks and flung dust in the air an expression of intense anger. The commander who could not understand Aramaic was confused by everything that had just happened. He was determined to get to the bottom of this event even if it meant scourging Paul. As the preparations for the scourging were moving ahead, Paul quietly asked the centurion if it was legal to scourge a Roman citizen when he had not be found guilty of a crime. As a matter of fact, it was unlawful to even to tie up a Roman citizen before his quilt was proven.

The centurion quickly went and told the commander to be very careful of how they treated Paul, because he was a roman citizen. This brought the commander quickly to Paul side. On inquiry he learned that Paul indeed was a Roman citizen. There were three ways a person could become a Roman citizen. First, citizenship was sometimes granted by imperial decree as a reward for services rendered. Second, it was possible to become a citizen by birth, this was the case with Paul; he was born in Tarsus, a free Roman city and his father was a Roman citizen. Finally, it was possible to purchase citizenship often at a very high price. The commander explained that he brought his citizenship with a large sum of money. Paul stated he was born free.

The commander was obviously nervous for bounding Paul which was unlawful. Anxious to know for certain why the Jews wanted Paul dead, the commander decided to carry out the proceedings in a legal and orderly manner. Therefore on the day after the mob scene in Jerusalem, he had Paul taken out of prison and brought before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin.

Why was Paul baptized?

First, it is evident that Paul was thoroughly converted on the road to Damascus, yet at that time water baptism was still required for salvation (Mark 16:16) thus he was called upon to “wash away his sins” by water baptism, not that water in itself could wash away sins, but an expression of faith. When God said water baptism was necessary to salvation, faith would respond by being baptized (Acts 2:38). Water baptism is a natural symbol for washing or cleansing as this passage and many others indicate (Mark 7:1-5 where baptizo is twice rendered wash and where it is used alternately with nipto, another word for wash; also Heb. 9:10 where the original word is baptismos ). It should be observed here that Paul relates what took place at the time of his conversion. He was converted under the economy of the kingdom gospel where water baptism was required. When Ananias in chapter 9 came to Paul, why didn’t he tell Paul to believe, repent, and be baptized? Paul had talked with Jesus (9:1-19), he believed. Paul had three days to think about all that he had done (9:9), he was repentant. Ananias came and baptized Paul.

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