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ACTS 15-20

TRACING THE CHURCH'S WITNESS TO THE WORLD

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
ACTS

 

ACTS 1:8

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS IN JERUSALEM (1-7)

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA (8) (the first barrier broken—between Jewish and Samaritan Christians)

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (9-28)
(the second barrier broken—between Jewish and Gentile Christians)

1. The Preparation Period (9-12)

2. The First Missionary Journey (13:1-15:35)

3. The Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)

4. The Third Missionary Journey (18:23-20:38)

5. Paul's Prison Journey and Imprisonment (21-28)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of
Acts

The author:  The author is not mentioned in the book.  We know from the book that the author traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and was with Paul in person from "we" being used in Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-21, 21:1-18, and 27:1-28:16.  Early church writings tell us that Luke was the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.  "The earliest of the external testimonies appears in the Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 170), where the explicit statement is made that Luke was the author of both the third Gospel and the 'Acts of All the Apostles.' Eusebius (c. 325) lists information from numerous sources to identify the author of these books as Luke (Ecclesiastes History, 3.4)" "NIV Study Bible Introduction."

Luke is mentioned in only three verses in the Bible.  But from these verses we learn much about him:  "Our dear friend Luke, the doctor . . . ." (Colossians 4:14a)  From this verse, we learn that he was a doctor and a good friend of Paul's.  We also learn of his loyalty to Paul, for he was with Paul while he was in prison.  Furthermore, we learn that he was a Gentile, for in 4:11 Paul said that those he just mentioned were "the only Jews among" his "fellow workers."  Then, in 4:14, he speaks of Luke.  So, he was not a Jew but a Gentile.  He was, therefore, the only Gentile author of the books of the New Testament.

"And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers." (Philemon 24)  Paul, here, describes Luke as one of his "fellow workers."  Luke, on these journeys was not someone like a news reporter who came along on these journeys with Paul, but he was one of the "workers" in the ministry—he was involved in the work of sharing the gospel and making disciples.

"Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Timothy 4:11)  Luke was with Paul at his second imprisonment and he was probably with him there in Rome when he was killed—tradition tells us Paul was killed by Nero.

We learn of Luke's method of gathering information from Luke 1:1-4.  "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."  In these verses, we find four steps in how what Luke wrote came to us and was recorded:  1) Jesus' life fulfilled prophesies made about Him ("that have been fulfilled among us").  2) The accounts "were handed down" from "eyewitnesses."  Although Luke was not an eyewitness, what he recorded was passed on to him from "eyewitnesses."  3) Luke "carefully investigated" what was passed on to him.  4) Luke wrote it down.  Then, Luke sums it up saying, "that you may know the certainty" that what is recorded in the Gospel of Luke is accurate.

The book of Acts takes off right where the Gospel of Luke leaves off, by reviewing the last words of Luke in more detail, and continuing on from there.  "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."  (Acts 1:1-3) 

Who was this "Theophilus"?  We are not told anywhere.  "Theophilus"  means "God lover."  It may refer to all Christians, but it is most likely he was some Gentile official.  "Most excellent" was an appropriate way to speak to an official of some type.  Luke may have written these two accounts to some official as a defense against charges that were made against Christianity, Jesus, and Paul.

The historical accuracy of Luke's account in the book of Acts was challenged by the skeptic William Ramsay.  John Stott described what Ramsay's personal pursuit of truth led to:  "Sir William Ramsay . . . who at first had been an admiring student of the radical critic F. C. Baur, was later led by his own researches to change his mind.  He tells us in his St Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen (1895) that he began his investigation 'without any prejudice in favour of the conclusion' which he later reached, but 'on the contrary . . . with his mind unfavorable to it.'  Yet he was able to give reasons 'for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank.'" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

 

THE MESSAGE OF ACTS

In Acts 1:8, Jesus gives the church its mission.  "'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'"    The book of Acts describes how that mission was carried out.  Also, the book of Acts describes how the church developed from a small band of Jesus' followers to the worldwide movement that it became.  We see in the book of Acts the power of Jesus Christ and the strategy used by His followers to penetrate a pagan society and transform people's lives from Jerusalem and beyond.

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA (8) (The first barrier broken—the Samaritans became part of the church.)

1. The persecution scatters the church into Samaria (8:1-3) (Stephen got the fire burning and Saul, the anti-Christian and future apostle, spreads the fire)
"And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church.

THE CHURCH'S WITNESS TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (9-28)
(the second barrier broken—between Jewish and Gentile Christians)

2. The First Missionary Journey (13:1-15:35)

b. Why they kept going (13:4-15:35)

(9) They let the Lord make their decisions (15:1-35)

(a) The church is threatened with division (15:1-5)
"Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'"

Thought Question:  Was whether or not Gentile Christians need to be circumcised to be saved an important issue?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.'"  In this chapter, we are going to see how decisions about critical issues within the church should be made.  Would this issue divide the church or would it unify it?  The ultimate agreement on this issue by the church in Jerusalem and by the church as a whole produced unity within the church, and made it possible for there to be a united continuance in the basic teachings of Jesus Christ by both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.

What was the issue?  Here, we see that the issue erupted when some Jewish Christians began to teach that a Gentile needed to become a Jew by being "circumcised," before he could "be saved."  Paul and Barnabas, on the other hand were teaching that a Gentile could be saved simply by believing the simple gospel message that Jesus died for our sin and then rose from the dead. See Acts 13:26-29  These "men" "from Judea" were arguing that the way Gentiles are saved has not changed from the way it had been for generations—Gentiles are saved by becoming Jews.

The group known as the "Judaizers" probably heard of the message Paul and Barnabas were preaching and came to Antioch to straighten them out.  Their strong disagreement with Paul and Barnabas created a very serious problem in the early church.

Sharp disagreements happen in the church.  They occur when those with strong convictions on both sides of an issue will not back down.  Sometimes the strong disagreements are about trivial issues, but sometimes they are about crucial issues.  Here, the issue was crucial—it was over how we are saved.  The decision that would be made by the church on this very important issue would determine how the church would present the gospel.  If the church could not have come to agreement, the church would have been divided over how the gospel was to be presented to Gentiles from that time on.  They may have divided into the circumcised church and the uncircumcised church from that point on.

How would they make this decision?  Will a leader or the leaders make the decision for the church?  Will the church vote on it?  I believe that what you will see is that they pursued God's will together—with the leader's providing guidance as they together sought God's will.

"This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question."  Should there ever be sharp disputes and debates in the church?  The answer is, "Yes."  There have always been these types of disputes and debates in the church.  Some of the issues are the following: the deity of Jesus, salvation by grace, the inspiration of the Bible, racial equality and more.  These very important issues cannot be compromised.  When someone challenges one of the essential beliefs, they must not be allowed to have their way.

"So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question."  Does this mean that there should be ecclesiastical church leaders outside the local church that should make decisions for local churches?  The situation at this time was unique.  The Twelve apostles were still alive, and the church at Antioch desired that the church be united on the decision about how Gentiles come to salvation.  Today, we have the Bible which is God's final word on every subject that is crucial to the church.  Ecclesiastical leaders outside of the local church, sadly, have been making decisions that are in disagreement with the Bible for hundreds of years.  Martin Luther stood against the mighty Roman Catholic Church of his time, because its teaching were in many ways contrary to what is found clearly taught in the Bible.  Jesus' teachings and teachings of the Bible are to rule in the church—and not any group of men.  In this case, in Acts 15, men chose together voluntarily to do what God wanted them to do.

"The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad."  This trip was about 250 miles and took some time.  We can see that they were not all intimidated by the Judaizers.  So, they continued to report that Gentiles were being saved—saved without the requirement that they be "circumcised."    The Christians in "Phoenicia and Samaria," mostly non-Jews, would not have been supportive, anyway, of the Judaizers' view that they and other Gentiles had to become Jews before they could be saved.

"When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them."  This was the first meeting at the church in Jerusalem by Paul and Barnabas after their first missionary journey where mostly Gentiles were saved.  Notice that they were "welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders."

"Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'"  If Galatians 2:1-10 describes this visit to Jerusalem by Paul, which I believe it does, Paul took Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile, along with him.  Was this "party of the Pharisees" saying that you must be "circumcised" to be saved or that once a Gentile is saved, he must be circumcised?  They were probably continuing what was said at Antioch.  "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.'" (Acts 15:1)

It is my observation that men continually seek to rely on human tradition rather than depending on the Bible.  They say here that what must be obeyed is the "law of Moses."  But, "the Pharisees" had added much to 'the law of Moses."  Plus, they also did not understand that "the law of Moses" pointed to their need for the blood of the Lamb of God to gain forgiveness for our disobedience of God's law.  And they understood the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.

Paul, in the book of Romans and Galatians explains the place of "the law" in the Christian life.  The author of Hebrews, as well, explains that the Old Testament teachings were meant to lead us to the New Testament teachings about Jesus.  The "Pharisees" were not receptive to the new and up-dated New Covenant that had begun with Jesus' death for us.  Why not?  They were not inclined to rely on God's grace, but they were, in their pride, inclined toward relying on their works for salvation.  " You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" (Galatians 3:1-5) See also Romans 9:30-10:4

(b) Stage #1: A small group leaders' meeting (15:6)
"The apostles and elders met to consider this question."  This meeting was probably the meeting that Paul describes in Galatians 2:1-10.  "Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." (Galatians 2:1-4)  "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." (Galatians 2:9)

The issue needed to be brought before the smaller group of Elders where it could be more easily discussed.  But, as we will see later, they were not discussing it so that they could make the decision and then tell the church what they had decided.  Rather, they discussed it so they could seek out what God would have them to do, and so that they could guide the church toward doing what was wise and right.

We cannot be sure if this was an open meeting where anyone could listen in or if it was a closed meeting that only the leaders attended.  The argument for it being a closed meeting is that it would have cut down on dissension and confusion.  The argument for it being an open meeting is that there was "much discussion." (15:7)

(c) Stage #2: A large group meeting where leaders give their conclusions (15:7-21)
"After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.' The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up: 'Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” that have been known for ages. It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.'"

Thought Question #1:  On what basis was Peter convinced that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to be saved? (For example, was he free to make any decision that he wanted to make?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you learn from these verses about how a church should make decisions as a church?

 

 

"After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.'"

"After much discussion,"  It is not clear whether this "much discussion" took place at the small leader's meeting, in the larger group, or in both.  But, whatever was the case, both sides appear to have had an opportunity to fully air their case.  This issue was not rushed to a decision by the leaders.  This made it more likely that they would be heard when they expressed their conclusion.

"Peter," here, does not say what he believes, but what God had done to make it clear to him that the "Gentiles" were full-fledged children of His when they put their faith in Jesus.  God did not require that they be circumcised and, then give them the "Holy Spirit."  If God did not require circumcision for the "Gentiles" to receive the "Holy Spirit," they obviously should not make it a requirement.

Peter was referring to what happened at the house of Cornelius.  "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. . . " (Acts 10:44-46a)

"God, who knows the heart,"  Calvinists argue that if God's election had anything to do with our choice or our character, then we would be saved on the basis of some merit in us.  But, here, it is clear that it was what God saw in the hearts of these first Gentile believers that made their decisions authentic decisions.  "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7)

"Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?"  The Jewish religious system was "a yoke" that far overburdened the Jews.  Jesus described the Jewish religious system developed over the years by the Jewish religious leaders in this way: "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:4)  Paul said the same in Galatians 5:1: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)  Jesus offered another "yoke" that men can bear: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

"Now then, why do you try to test God"  If they challenged Paul's and Barnabas' message, they would be saying that God made a mistake this time by saving Cornelius and the other "Gentiles" without requiring them to be circumcised.   Peter's conclusion is that they are, therefore, not challenging what Paul and Barnabas are doing, but challenging what God initiated with Cornelius and the other "Gentiles."  Peter's conclusion is found in 15:11: "No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."  Even Jews are saved by grace alone through faith.  Paul makes the same truth clear in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

"The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them."  Notice that "Barnabas" is listed before "Paul" here.  It is likely that "Barnabas," since he was the most well-known of the two at the Jerusalem church, played the more prominent role in sharing about what "God had done" "through them."  And, so, the church of Jerusalem heard what we have read in Acts 13-14.  Since Luke's account is not complete, they probably heard more than we have read.  For example, they must have been given details on the miracles described in Acts 14:3: "So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders."

"When they finished, James spoke up: 'Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” that have been known for ages. It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.'" 

"James" the brother of Jesus had become an important leader in the church at Jerusalem.  He is the next leader after "Peter" to stand up and give his conclusion.

First of all, he agrees with "Peter" that God had shown them that He was "taking from the Gentiles a people for himself."  God had taken a people for Himself when He took the Jews as "a people for himself."  Now, God is "taking from the Gentiles a people for himself."

Then, he shows that this conclusion is in agreement with what the prophet Amos predicted in Amos 9:11-12.  In Amos, God predicts that there will be judgment on proud Israel.  But, after that judgment, God predicts that He will "restore" Israel.  And, at that time, the "Gentiles" will seek God.  James quotes from the Greek translation—the Septuagint.  The Hebrew text says "Edom" and not "Gentiles."  "Edom," though, symbolizes Israel's non-Jewish enemies.

"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God."  God desires these "Gentiles" turn to Him;  God predicted that they would turn to Him; and "James" says that they "should not make it difficult for" them to turn to God.

"Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.'"  "James," here, is not offering a compromise with the Judaizers, but he is asking the Gentile Christians to be sensitive to that which Jewish Christians abhorred.  "To the Jew the blood was the life and life belonged to God alone.  They so argued because when the blood flowed away, life ebbed away too.  Therefore all Jewish meat was killed and treated in such a way that the blood was drained off.  The heathen practice of not draining the blood from a slaughtered animal was obnoxious to the strict Jews.  So was the method of killing by strangulation.  So the Gentile is ordered to eat only meat prepared in the Jewish way." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press." 

"It is my judgment" in the NIV captures the meaning of the Greek word krino that is translated here.  He was offering "his judgment" of what would be wise and prudent.  But, the fact that it was coming from the leader of the church at Jerusalem meant that his "judgment" carried much more weight with the church of that time than it being merely his opinion.  "So we need a word stronger than 'opinion' and weaker than 'decree.'" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols,"  In I Corinthians 8 and 10:14-22, Paul gives instructions on meat offered to idols.  It was an issue for the Jews living in the Gentile world.  "James" recommends abstention "from food polluted by idols."  Paul gives a more detailed description of how Christians are to deal with it in the chapters in I Corinthians.  James offers that abstaining "from food polluted by idols" would help the Gentile Christians not to offend the sensibilities of the Jewish Christians.

"from sexual immorality," Although "sexual immorality" was wrong both to Jewish and Gentile Christians, it was brazenly present in the Gentile world with their temple priestesses who were prostitutes.  Gentiles were to "flee sexual immorality." (I Corinthians 6:18) See II Timothy 2:2

(d) A letter describing their decision is sent out (15:22-29)
"Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell."

Thought Question:  What do you learn from these verses, about proper decision-making within the church?

 

 

"Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers."  How are vital decisions to be made in the church?  We see some guidelines for important church decisions in Acts 15.  The whole church was aware of the issue.  The leaders discussed the issue among themselves.  Two leaders expressed their conclusions.  Their conclusions were based on God's actions and God's word.  "Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church" came to agreement.  We can be confident that the Judaizers were still not in agreement, but "the whole church" with the exception of these few were agreed as to what God wanted them to do.

Then, they chose to write a letter to the church at Antioch, and to send some faithful men along to explain the meaning of the letter.  " They chose Judas (called Barsabbas)."  "Barsabbas," the family name was used for two early Jewish Christians.  "The two may have been brothers." "NIV Study Bible note."  The other "Barsabbas" was Joseph, one of the two considered to replace Judas as one of the Twelve apostles. See 1:21-26

"Silas"  He later accompanied Paul on the second missionary journey. See Acts 15:40, II Corinthians 1:19; I Thessalonians 1:1; I Peter 5:12

There are three primary forms of church government practiced in churches: (1) Episcopalian—the church is governed by a leadership hierarchy outside of the local church; (2) Presbyterian—a board of elders from the church makes decisions for the church; and (3) Congregational—final decisions are made by the whole church.  The pattern at the Jerusalem council was for the leaders to lead as the whole church sought God's guidance.  Jesus is the Head of the church.  The church leaders are to guide the church in seeking after God's wisdom and direction.  It is not who makes the decisions that is important, but that we make the right and wisest decisions in obedience to Jesus Christ.  All of us are serving Jesus, and that service includes seeking His guidance for the church.  Notice that in the letter that follows, the Holy Spirit is given credit for guiding them. "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:" (Acts 15:28)"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (John 16:13)

"With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  This letter not only refutes the false teachers, but it also strongly affirms the ministry of "Barnabas and Paul."  Notice the high regard the Jerusalem church had for "Barnabas" by putting his name first. See 15:12; Galatians 2:9

(e) The letter is presented to the church at Antioch (15:30-35)
"The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord."

Thought Question: When have you experienced a time of mutual encouragement like this, when you along with others were encouraged and built up by someone's ministry? (Please briefly describe this time.)

 

 

"The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers."  "Prophets" were spokesmen for God.  "Judas and Silas" became spokesmen for God to the church at "Antioch."  What an encouraging and strengthening time this church experienced.  After being troubled by the Judaizers, this time with "Judas and Silas" was very much needed and appreciated.

"After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord."

You may notice that there is no verse 34 in the NIV.  The note in the NIV gives this explanation: "Some manuscripts them, but Silas decided to remain there." Robertson gives the following explanation for it being added and present in some manuscripts.  "It is clearly an addition to help explain the fact that Silas is back in Antioch in verse 40." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

3. The second missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)

a. Principles of ministry (15:36-16:40)

(1) Spirit-filled Christians can disagree (15:36-41)
"Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.' Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."

Thought Question:  What was Barnabas' side of the issue?  What was Paul's side of the issue?  Why do you believe that they were unable to resolve their differences?

 

 

"Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.' Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work."

"Some time later" may be referring to them staying where they were until after the winter—when they could not travel over the mountain passes—and waiting until the springtime.  Paul, though, is eager to find out how the new churches are doing—those churches that were begun in the first missionary journey described in Acts 13 and 14.  But Barnabas the encourager and Paul the apostle differ over whether or not to take "Mark" who Paul felt had "deserted them" during the first missionary journey.  Probably, Barnabas was concerned with encouraging "Mark" who was his cousin by giving him a second chance.  See Colossians 4:10  Paul was probably concerned about whether "Mark" would be a deterrent rather than an asset "in the work."  One was probably more concerned about the person, and the other was probably more concerned about the work.  Who was right?

"They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."  It was one of those types of decisions where there was no way to compromise and no way to reach some middle ground.  They either took Mark or they did not take him.  Both Paul and Barnabas were passionate about their side of the disagreement.  Barnabas was passionate in his concern for Mark and Paul was passionate in his concern for "the work." 

The result was what verse 39 translates as "a sharp disagreement."  "The Greek word,  paraxusmos, is the word from which we derive our word English word paroxysm, which denotes violent action or emotion.  This was not a mild gentlemen's disagreement but an intense and passionate conflict." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Who was right?  In one sense, they were both right, as I will point out later.  But, in another sense, they were both wrong.  What they ended up doing was both good for Mark and was good for Paul's ministry.  It would have been better, though, if they had come to an agreed-upon conclusion and parted with each other's blessing.

Hughes quotes G. Campbell Morgan as follows:  "'I am greatly comforted when I read this . . . If I had never read that . . . Paul and Barnabas had a contention, I should have been afraid.'  They were not angels—they were men!'" "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"they parted company."  This is the last we hear of Barnabas from Luke.  When Barnabas left, Paul lost the companionship of a man he owed more to than any other human being.  Barnabas had fearlessly reached out to Paul the persecutor of Christians when other Christians suspiciously avoided him. "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." (Acts 9:26-27)  It was Barnabas who brought Paul to Antioch.  "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (Acts 11:25-26)  And it was Barnabas who had accompanied Paul through the rigors, great difficulties, and persecutions of the first missionary journey.  Paul, though, does mention Barnabas in a favorable way in I Corinthians 9:6:  "Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?"

"Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,"  We know that Barnabas' belief in "Mark" was correct and his discipling of "Mark" was fruitful from what we read about him in the New Testament.  Paul, himself, mentions him in Colossians 4:10 and in II Timothy 4:11:  "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)" (Colossians 4:10)  "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Timothy 4:11)  Peter mentions him in I Peter 5:13: "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark."  And, then, God chose him to write the Gospel of Mark.

So, it went well with Paul's ministry and it went well with Barnabas' ministry with Mark.  Does this mean that sharp disagreements resulting in division is God's will?  John Stott gives this answer to this question:  "God certainly overruled 'this melancholy disagreement', since as a result of it 'out of one pair two were made', as Bengel commented.  But this example of God's providence may not be used as an excuse for Christian quarrelling." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  God can use two churches split off from each other.  These two churches could both grow, but would this be what God desired most of all for that church that become two churches?  God used Paul's and Barnabas' separate ministries, but we do not hear that God led them by the Holy Spirit to be separated from each other.

"but Paul chose Silas"  All we know of "Silas" previous to Paul choosing him is that he was chosen by the church at Jerusalem to accompany their letter to Antioch and that he was a prophet.  " Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers." (Acts 15:22)  "Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers." (Acts 15:32)

"commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."  Because the church at Antioch "commended" Paul's and Silas' ministry, Robertson came to the conclusion that they sided with Paul in the division with Barnabas.  He gives as a possible reason for their taking Paul's side that Barnabas sided with Peter in the incident described in Galatians 2:11-14.  "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'" (Galatians 2:11-14)

It is possible, though, that they saw both sides of the issue and were for both Paul and Barnabas who both had been servants to them.  Luke, earlier, said the following about Barnabas: "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord." (Acts 11:24)  He wrote this after the dispute with Paul.

"He [Paul] went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."  "Syria" was where Antioch was located, and "Cilicia" was in the region of Tarsus, Paul's home town.  Paul may have begun the church in "Cilicia" during his extended time in Tarsus at the beginning of his ministry.  "When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus." (Acts 9:30)  "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul," (Acts 11:25) See Galatians 1:21

(2) Choose men and women to be with you (16:1-5)
"He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers."

Thought Question:  Who do you know that is young in the faith, but is also like Timothy? (Is anyone coming alongside of this young person to encourage him or her in the faith?  Could you be the one to do it?)

 

 

"He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him."  "The journey from Syrian Antioch to 'Syria and Cilicia' probably took the missioners across the Amanus by the pass known as the Syrian gates. . . . The part of the journey, to the cities of Galatia, would be much more difficult.  First they had to cross the Taurus mountains, doubtless by the ancient pass know as the Cilician Gates." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."  As we can see on the maps that picture the missionary journeys of Paul, this time Paul approached "Derbe" and "Lystra" from the east rather than from the south.

"Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer,"  Paul gives a fuller description of Timothy's upbringing in the faith in II Timothy.  "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5)  "and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15)

"Timothy" was what some have called a F.A.T. person—Faithful, Available, and Teachable.  At the end of Paul's life, he says these words to Timothy: "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Timothy 2:2)  Timothy was to find other "reliable men" like himself to pass on what he had learned from being with Paul.  Through the centuries, a chain of "reliable men" have passed the message of the early church on to our generation.  And we still need men and women like Timothy, so that the message will be passed on yet to the next generation.

"Timothy" became a prominent person in Paul's ministry.  Paul wrote I and II Timothy to him.  In other letters "Timothy" is mentioned.  "Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives." (Romans 16:21)  "For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Corinthians 4:17)  "If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am." (1 Corinthians 16:10) See also II Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1.  "Timothy" was Paul's right-hand man throughout his ministry.

"The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him."  He apparently was an eager follower of Jesus and had shown obvious growth in his relationship with God.  Over the years I have been blessed to work with young men who have had this hunger for God, and they, as well, have had an eagerness for ministry.  Also, there was a young lady who as a new Christian eagerly attended and participated in the Sunday school classes I taught.  We have maintained our friendship for 35 years.  I also officiated at her wedding 30 years ago.

"Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek."  These words probably surprise us.  Had not Paul just fought a battle against the Judaizers' belief that Gentiles needed to be "circumcised" to be saved?  Since Timothy's "father was a Greek," why should he have needed to be "circumcised"?  Actually, since "Timothy," was half-Jew, he was considered to be a Jew by the Jews. 

We find the answer to what Paul did in I Corinthians 9:19-20: "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." (1 Corinthians 9:19-20)  "Timothy" was circumcised not so he could be saved, but so that it would make Timothy's ministry to the Jews easier.  If he had not been "circumcised," it would have created a problem, for example, when he spoke in Jewish Synagogues.

"Paul wanted to take him along on the journey,"  Jesus chose twelve disciples to be "with him." (Mark 3:14)  Paul also chose "Timothy" to be "with him."  In Coleman's book, The Masterplan of Evangelism, he describes Jesus' strategy.  Christian leaders need to follow Jesus' pattern and Paul's pattern, and find Timothys to be "with them."  Then, when they are gone, their Timothy or Timothys will carry on for them.

"As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers."  As Christians, we can still be depending on our own thinking and on our own abilities.   If that is the case, our weakness will show when the persecution comes.  We need to be "strengthened in the faith."  Then, when the trials come, we will have our lives built on rock.  "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)

The churches in the Galatian region were growing "in faith" and "in numbers."  Churches where God's word is taught and faithfully applied in lives will grow "in faith" and "in numbers." See also 14:22

(3) If we move out, God will open and close doors (16:6-10)
"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."

Thought Question:  Has there been a time in your life when God closed one door and opened another door for you?  If there was a time like that, please describe it.

 

 

"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to."  It appears that it was Paul's plan to reach out to all of Galatia, and then go on to Ephesus, but God's Spirit prevented him from doing it.  Paul and the others were thinking of expanding the territory they had reached in the southern region by going into the northern Galatian region.  "Mysia" and "Bythynia" are to the north of the churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  Somehow, the "Spirit of Jesus" closed that door to them.  God's plan was for them to reach out to other regions.  Primarily, it was God's plan to extend the church to what we now call Europe.  Though we do not know how God led them, we do know that God led them in such a way that they knew the door to the north was closed to them.  I believe that God has led me by giving me a desire to minister in some specific way.  I do not believe that God always leads in this way, but He does lead in this way at times.  For example, God's Spirit sent Paul and Barnabas out as missionaries, but we are not told that He directed them where to go.  Here, God, by His Spirit, prevented them from going where they wanted to go, so they would go where He wanted them to go.

How did the "Holy Spirit" keep them from "preaching the word in the province of Asia" and how did "the Spirit of Jesus" "not allow them to" "enter Bithynia"?  As has already been mentioned, we cannot know for sure.  But, it may be that Paul was so dependent on God's Spirit to be effective in preaching that when God's Spirit was not enabling him to be effective, he knew that God was closing that door.  Others suggest that he lost a sense of peace when he started going in a direction contrary to God's plans.  Another possible answer is that God closed the doors by using circumstances such as a sickness to prevent them from going in a different way than He desired them to go.  We cannot be sure, for we are not told.

"kept by the Holy Spirit" "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them"  "The "Holy Spirit" and the "Spirit of Jesus" are used interchangeably." "NIV Study Bible note."  Here, we have the mystery of the Trinity expressed.  The "Holy Spirit" and the "Spirit of Jesus" are two personalities, but are the expression of one God.  We see the same in Romans 8:9-11.  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."  We see here the mystery of the Trinity—God is three personalities, but one essence. 

"So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."  Paul and the others were heading west with no clear goal in sight.  They "passed by Mysia" which is on the western side of Asia Minor.  They finally reached "Troas" which is at the western tip of Asia Minor.  If they had gone farther, they would been in the Aegean Sea.  What should they do next?  God led them this far, and then He clearly gives them directions for where to go from there by giving Paul "a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'" 

Sometimes we feel that God has led us part of the way, but we are now waiting for the rest of the directions.  God does not always lead us in such a dramatic way as He led Paul by giving him this vision.  But in His time and His way, He will lead us the rest of the way in His plans for us.

Notice that Luke changes from "they passed by Mysia" in verse 8 to "we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia.Apparently, it was at this time that Luke joined Paul.  The fact that Luke was a doctor, may have been the reason.  There are a number of references in the New Testament that tell us that Paul had some type of health problem.  "As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you." (Galatians 4:13)  "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." (2 Corinthians 12:7) See 20:5-21, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16  for other "we" sections.

And, so, Paul and the others, in accordance with God's leading, leave Asia and cross the sea to Europe.  Most of the letters to churches in the New Testament were written to churches in Europe.

(4) Go out and preach the word, God will open hearts (16:11-15)
"From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.  When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us."

Thought Question:  This prayer meeting was an open door for Paul, a Jewish Pharisee, to share about Jesus the Jewish Messiah.  What are some open doors where your background, experience, and gifting provide you with a unique opportunity to share about Jesus?

 

 

"From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days."  "When the apostle Paul and his small company crossed the Dardenelles, moving from Asia to Europe, they changed the whole course of western civilization.  Perhaps no single event since the cross of Christ has so affected the world as Paul's seemingly insignificant decision to cross a narrow neck of water." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."

They traveled from "Troas" to "Samothrace."  "Samothrace, a rocky island whose peak rises to 5,000 feet, where they probably made an overnight stop, and Neapolis, the modern port of Kavalla, where the next day they landed (11).  They must have enjoyed a favourable wind to complete their 150-mile journey in only two days, since it took them five days on their return (20:6).  From Neopolis they had a ten-mile walk inland to Philippi and the Via Egnatia, which ran right across the Greek peninsula from the Aegean to the Adriatic.  Its massive paving stones can still be seen, worn down by the traffic of centuries." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"Philippi" was named after Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great.  It was at "Philippi" "where the armies of Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius [murderers of Julius Caesar] . . .It was from this event that Philippi derived its character in Paul's day because for its part of the battle it was awarded the status of a Roman colony that answered  directly to the Roman emperor." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there."  It appears that there were not enough Jewish men in "Philippi" to form a Jewish synagogue.  Ten married men were required to start a synagogue.  Since, it was Paul's pattern to begin his ministry in a city by going to the Jewish synagogue, what was Paul to do?  He "expected to find a place of prayer" by "the river."  "It was customary for such places of prayer to be located outside of town by running water." "NIV Study Bible note."  This custom made it possible for traveling Jews to find these meetings.

"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God."  "Lydia" "was a worshiper of God."  She was, then, a Gentile who had become a follower of the God of Israel.

"Thyatira" is a city where one of the churches that Jesus addresses in Revelation two and three would be located—it was a city in central Asia Minor. See Revelation 2:18-29

"a dealer in purple cloth"  The "purple" dye for this "cloth" was very expensive.  "The purple dye had to be gathered drop by drop from a certain shell-fish and was so costly that to dye a pound of wool with it would take the equivalent of" 150 pounds in English money. "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press." (Today, one pound equals more than 1 ½ dollars.)  "During the Roman Period, laws restricted who could wear clothes dyed purple because it was the most precious of all colors.  Thus Lydia undoubtedly dealt with an exclusive and affluent clientele." "Dr. Constable's notes."

"The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message."  We see here the mysterious combination of our choosing God and His working in us, enabling us to choose Him.  Her coming to this prayer meeting preceded God opening "her heart to respond to Paul's message."  Calvinists say that we have no desire for God until we are born again.  Is "the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" another way of saying that God gave her the new birth?  Or did God open "her heart to respond to Paul's message" previous to her being born again? Then, after she responded, she was born again.  (Or, still another possibility, was she already born again and that is why she came to the prayer meeting?)  It seems like a small difference, but it is what distinguishes the belief of the strict Calvinist from many other Christians.  They believe that God selects us by irresistibly regenerating us (giving us the new birth), and then we believe.  Those who believe that we also have a part in choosing God, believe that God draws us to Himself so that we can choose or not choose Him.  If the last point of view is true, then, the Lord opening "her heart to respond to Paul's message" was part of God drawing her to Himself so that she could choose Him and be born again.

The fact that God draws people to Himself and opens peoples' hearts to respond to the gospel message gives me confidence when I share the gospel.  This week, I shared the gospel message in the local jail from Ephesians 4:17-4:32.  Ephesians 4:17-19 describes how we move away from God and Ephesians 4:20-32 describes how we move toward God.  A young man indicated that he was ready to move toward God.  I asked him if there was any reason why he could not pray and tell that to God right then.  He said that he wanted to do that.  Another fellow said that he wanted to do that as well, so, I led them in that prayer.  It appeared that God had opened their hearts "to respond" to my message.

"When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us."  Was "Lydia" genuinely converted?  True faith will be expressed by actions based on that faith.  Lydia's actions indicate that her faith was real.  Her immediate response to the gospel was to be "baptized" and to invite Paul and the others to "stay at" her "house." 

"When she and the members of her household were baptized,"  It appears that they were all with her at this meeting and all also believed.  Then, they were also all "baptized" in the river next to the prayer meeting.

(5) Persevere in adversity, God will bring you out the other side (16:16-40)

(a) Paul and Silas are arrested and put in jail (16:16-24)
"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.' She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, 'These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.' The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks."

Thought Question:  List the attacks by Satan that Paul and Silas encountered and endured there in Philippi.

 

 

"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.' She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her."

What would we do if we were missionaries in a foreign land, and a women followed us screaming, "'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved'"?  She would be telling the truth.  We could think that she is drawing peoples' attention to us and affirming our gospel mission.

"a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future."  The Greek words are pneuma puthona of "python spirit."  "Python was the name given to the serpent that kept guard at Delphi, slain by Apollo, who was called Puthios Apollo and the prophetess at Delphi was termed Pythia . . . Plutarch (A.D. 50-100) says that the term puthones was applied to ventriloquists." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling."  These men were exploiting her enslavement to "a spirit" for their own financial benefit.  It reminds us of a circus owner having a sideshow where he benefits from people gawking at poor people who have some extreme handicaps or conditions.

"Finally Paul became so troubled"  Paul did not need or want Satan's help.  He did not want the message of Jesus Christ to be associated with a fortune teller.

"that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her."  Some today want to do what Paul did here.  It is easy to say the words that Paul said.  Then, if you get some type of response, you can feel that you did what Paul did.  But, Paul was an apostle who was enabled by God to work miracles.  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)  Jesus sent people out with this same authority.  "The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'" (Luke 10:17)  We would like to have this authority.  Some do believe that we can do it today.  It is my conclusion that we are equipped to be victorious in the spiritual war, but we do not have the miracle-working gifts of Jesus and the apostles. See II Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18  That will change as the days get closer to the end. See Revelation 11:1-13  Today, many are like the men who owned the slave girl and become rich by giving the impression
that they are working great miracles—both inside and outside of the church.  We are to carefully test those who make these claims. "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:10)  "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders," (2 Thessalonians 2:9)

"When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, 'These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.'"

The "owners of the slave girl" were mad and resentful toward Paul and Silas because they had lost their source of income, so they brought false charges against Paul and Silas "before the magistrates."  The religious leaders of Jesus' time wanted to eliminate Him because he was a threat to their place of religious prestige; but they knew that He had done nothing illegal, so they had to bring false charges against Him.  The same was true with Paul.  Paul and Silas had delivered a poor "slave girl" from demonization.  Jesus healed a blind man (see John 9); and Peter healed a lame man (see Acts 3:1-4:22).  Their miracles of healing were all good, yet each healing led to the healer being arrested.  It was because in each case, it affected the prominence, power, and lifestyle of evil men.  The "owners of the slave girl" appealed to racial bigotry—"'These men are Jews." See also Acts 18:2  And they appealed to prideful traditionalism—"advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.'"

"The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks."  That will teach them to be a threat to Satan's kingdom!  These "magistrates" did not give Paul and Silas any opportunity to defend themselves.  They were tried, convicted, beaten, and thrown in jail on the testimony of these embittered and Satan-empowered slave-owners.

"they had been severely flogged,"  "The Romans used a whip made up of several strips of leather into which were embedded (near the ends) pieces of bone and lead.  The Jews limited the number of strips to a maximum of 40 . . . but no such limitation was recognized by the Romans." "NIV Study Bible note on Mark 15:15" 

Paul and Silas, based on false charges, were beaten until bloody.  They were thrown into the darkest part of the jail.  And, then, put into "stocks."  Their backs were in pain; yet, they could not move because of the "stocks" to somehow help each other to ease the pain. See II Corinthians 11:23,25

"It may be that not only their feet but their hands and their necks also were held in the stocks." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  What comes next is surprising, and it is the opposite of what men do when their condition is like Paul's and Silas' were here.

(b) God opens the jail doors (16:25-28)
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, 'Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!'"

Thought Question:  Give a time when God has rescued you from an attack on you by Satan.

 

 

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them."  Paul, here, applies what he will later teach the church at "Philippi" to do, (he wrote these words to the Philippians some years later while he was in prison in Rome): "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)  A fellow in last week's jail service, that I lead, admitted that there was a lot of grumbling and bitterness taking place among those in the jail.  He included himself among those who were bitter.  Certainly, that was also the pattern in that jail in "Philippi."  The sound of praises was the very opposite of what they were used to hearing there.  Paul also explains in the book of Philippians why they were able to praise God, even while they were suffering.  "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him," (Philippians 1:29)

"and the other prisoners were listening to them."  Paul and Silas took full advantage of an opportunity to share the gospel.  It may be that some of those prisoners later became part of the church at Philippi.  It may be true, also, that some of them had been jailed unjustly as Paul and Silas had been.

Why were they able to sing?  The normal attitude would have been to focus on the injustice.  In the Psalms there are many Psalms where the Psalmist begins with a focus on his circumstances—which brings him the very opposite of joy.  But, later, the Psalmist begins to focus on such things as God's grace, God's power, God's sovereignty, and God's love.  His human circumstances do not change, but the focus of his heart does change.  Paul and Silas were not praising God when there was no reason to praise God.  They, in faith, believed in the God who had sent them to Macedonia.  They were convinced that he was greater than their very difficult circumstances.  For some, reason, this time of suffering was part of God's purpose for them.  For this reason, they truly had a reason to praise God.

"Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped."

Was this a miraculous event or was it a natural "earthquake" that came at an opportune time?  An "earthquake" may cause "prison doors to open," but an "earthquake" would not have caused all their "chains" to come "loose."  It was clearly God's miraculous intervention that freed Paul and Silas as they were praising Him.  He had sent them on a mission to reach Europe with the gospel message about His Son.  Their mission would not end in a dingy jail in "Philippi."

The "jailer" thought that this "prison" break was the end of his life, for he would be executed for allowing the prisoners to escape. See 12:19  So, he decided to kill himself rather than face certain execution.  But before he could slay himself with his sword, Paul called out to him.  "'Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!'"

(c) God opens the hearts of the jailer and his family (16:29-34)
"The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family."

Thought Question:  When has God opened a door for you to share the gospel message? (God is still opening doors for us today.)

 

 

"The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas."  The fact that the other prisoners did not take advantage of the open doors after being freed from their "chains" is another miracle.  Somehow, they all remained in the jail.

"He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."  What did this jailer want to be saved from?  Did he want only to be saved from the punishment that might come if the prisoners escaped?  No, he was already saved from that, for his prisoners were still there and he saw that they were there when the jail was lighted.  He had somehow heard that Paul and Silas were offering a way to be "saved."  It may have come from their songs of praise or even from what the woman with the spirit had said.  "This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.'" (Acts 16:17)  He wanted to be "saved" from God's judgment.

Gospel missions used to have a sign outside their buildings that said, "Jesus saves."  It is only when we see a great need to be "saved" that these words draw us and appeal to us.

"'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved'"  Peter gave the same message at Cornelius' home: "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:43)  Putting our faith in Jesus is the opposite of putting our faith in ourselves.  Why am I forgiven and have eternal life?  Some would say, "I have tried to live the best life I can."  That is trusting in ourselves.  The correct answer is, "I have put my faith in Jesus' death for me on the cross.  There He paid the penalty for my sins."

"'Believe in the Lord Jesus,"  Are to we believe in Jesus as our Savior and then at some later time believe in Him as our "Lord"?  The answer is given here:
"'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."  Paul says the same in Romans 10:9:  "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

"you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."  Was this jailer's whole family saved when he believed "in the Lord Jesus"?  That is not taught in the Bible; though some may take what is written here to say that.  Instead, they were saved when they also believed "in the Lord Jesus."  Here we have Paul and Silas teaching "the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."  They were all saved because they also all believed.

"At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized."  We can see that their faith resulted in a change of actions.  First of all, this man went from being the heartless "jailer" who put them in stocks after they had been beaten until they were bloody, to being the one who "washed their wounds."  Then, he and his family showed their new identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by being "baptized." See Romans 6:3-10

"The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family."  Can you imagine a "jailer" taking his prisoners out of the prison, taking them into his home, and then serving them a meal in the middle of the night.  It was a surreal night for that jailer and his family.  What was the result?   "He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family."  

(d) The next morning (16:35-40)
"When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: 'Release those men.' The jailer told Paul, 'The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.' But Paul said to the officers:' They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.' The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Paul and Silas declared that they were Roman citizens at this time?  They had already been released from jail.

 

 

"When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: 'Release those men.' The jailer told Paul, 'The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.' But Paul said to the officers:'They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.'"  Why didn't Paul and Silas assert that they were Roman citizens when the they first came before the "magistrates"?  Ray Stedman suggested that they did it at this later time to help the church at "Philippi."  Before he asserted that they were Roman citizens, the new church would have been considered to be followers of a Jewish cult leader who had just been justly beaten and jailed.  Now, they became followers of Roman citizens who had been unjustly beaten and jailed.  Also, the "magistrates" feared them now, for they could have been tried themselves for beating Roman citizens—which Roman law prohibited them from doing.  Furthermore, certainly the word got out about the earthquake and what had happened at the jail after they were falsely arrested.  The "magistrates" may have been afraid of both Rome and afraid of the God of Paul and Silas.

"The Lex Valeria B.C. 509 and the Lex Pocia B.C. 248 make it a crime to inflict blows on a Roman citizen.  Cicero says, 'To fetter a Roman citizen was a crime, to scourge him a scandal, to slay him—parricide [like murdering a close family member].'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city."  "Philippi" was very proud of their status as a Roman colony.  The "magistrates" knew they were in trouble for beating and falsely imprisoning two Roman citizens.  They hoped that Paul and Silas would quietly leave "Philippi," so that they could maintain their status and safety.  "The colonists in Philippi would turn against the praetors [the "magistrates"] if they learned the facts, proud as they were of being citizens." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left."  We are not told when all of these new believers were reached with the gospel message and became "the brothers."  There may have been relatives of Lydia and the other women who met at the river to pray who believed and became part of the growing church at Philippi.  There may also have been those who believed when Paul and Silas were preaching before they were imprisoned.  Still others may have believed who were in the prison or were related somehow to the "jailer."  But, whoever they were, the church had been established in "Philippi."  One of the letters in the New Testament was written to this church—the book of Philippians.  Paul and Silas "met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left." 

b. Principles for ministering to different types of people (17:1-9)

(1) Principles for ministering to those with a Bible background (17:1-9)
"When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: 'These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.' When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go."

Thought Question:  Give a modern-day example of people uniting against a Christian ministry (like what  took place in Act 17).

 

 

"When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women."

"Amphipolis and Apollonia" are two cities on the way to "Thessalonica."  It appears that Paul continued until he came to a city with a "synagogue."  They traveled about 100 miles from Philippi to "Thessalonica."  Paul's pattern was to begin with the Jews.  This was a completely appropriate pattern.  The Jewish Messiah had come.  It was completely appropriate for him to first tell the Jews that their Messiah had come.  If he had started with the Gentiles, certainly they would have wondered, "Why are you telling us about the Jewish Messiah?  You should be telling the Jews that their Messiah has come."

Three words stand out as we look at Paul's ministry in this "synagogue": (1) "reasoned," (2) "explaining," and (3) "proving."  First of all, he "reasoned with them from the Scriptures."  He taught them "in the Socratic method ('dialectic') method of question and answer." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  He did not lecture to them, but he interacted with them.  He sought to persuade them by reasoning with them.

The second word is "explaining."  Jesus used this word in Luke 24:32 and 24:45.  The word translated "explaining" is translated "opened" in these verses. "They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:32)  "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." (Luke 24:45)  It is also used by Luke in Acts 16:14 of Lydia.  "One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message." (Acts 16:14)  Paul was seeking to open their minds so that they would understand and see from the Bible that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  The Greek word is diagnoigon (like our diagnosis).

The third word is "proving."  Paul was seeking to use the Scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.  We might do what Paul was doing when we place the Old Testament predictions alongside the New Testament verses that fulfill the Old Testament predictions.  The Greek word is paratihemenos.  It "means literally to 'place beside.'" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"explaining and proving that the Christ [the Messiah] had to suffer and rise from the dead."  The prevalent view about the Messiah among the Jews was that He would come as a conquering general, not that He would suffer, die, and rise from the dead.  Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, in particular, describe His suffering and death.  His resurrection is predicted in Psalm 16:10 and Isaiah 53:10-11:  "because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay." (Psalm 16:10)   "Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:10-11) See also Acts 2:26-28, 13:35-36

In short, Paul appealed to their reasoning—to their minds.  There is a place for reasoning in sharing the gospel message.  In my case, I had many questions that I needed answers for.  The Campus Crusade for Christ staff member I talked with patiently answered my questions, and the Holy Spirit opened my mind to receive what he explained to me.  So, in the same way, some of those at this "synagogue" were also "persuaded."

"Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks"   As it turned out, the Thessalonian church that came about from Paul's ministry was mostly Gentile.  "For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God," (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

"and not a few prominent women."  Paul's message reached the poor (see
I Thessalonians 4:11)
as well as those in high positions in their society.

"But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: 'These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.' When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go." 

The "Jews" who hated Paul and his message about Jesus used tactics that have been repeated many times, in their attempts to rid "Thessalonica" of these hated Christ-followers: (1) they used the town bullies to form a mob; (2) they incited the mob to anger; and (3) they attempted to turn the mob's anger on Paul and Silas.  I saw this method being used at San Jose State College in the late 1960s.  An angry screamer had somehow been able to form a mob.  This man was screaming about the injustice of the Viet Nam war; and, finally, they rushed the administration building and the man who had been screaming threw a rock covered with a burning American flag through the class doors of that building.  Hitler used thugs and Storm Troopers to further his Nazi cause.  So, the angry "Jews" used the same method against Paul, Silas, and their followers.  Since they were unable to find Paul and Silas, they captured "Jason" in whose home the Christians were meeting. 

We notice that they used false charges to legitimize their complaints: (1) "these men who have caused trouble all over the world"; and (2) "they are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus."  Anyone who has endured false charges as a result of serving Jesus has some idea of how Paul, Silas, and the new Christians were feeling.  You are outnumbered and the charges made against you are clearly false.  Yet, it appears that there is nothing you can do.  But, you are not helpless, for God is on your side. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? . . . As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:32, 36-37

"The charges against Paul and Silas are very interesting.  There is a germ of truth in them, but as a whole they are obviously false." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."  The "germ of truth" in the first charge is somewhat true—they were causing "trouble all over the world"; or as it says in the KJV, they had "turned the world upside down."  It needed, though, to be "turned upside down" so that it would be right side up.

The second charge was they were "saying that there is another king, one called Jesus."  Again, this was true, but the "king" that they were speaking of, created them and died to pay the penalty for their sin.  That "king," though, is the One who established Caesar's kingship and Caesar was a "king" under His Kingship. See Romans 13:1-7; Matthew 22:21; Luke 23:2-3

"Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go."  "Jason was forced to guarantee a peaceful, quiet community, or he would face the confiscation of his properties and perhaps even death." "NIV Study Bible note."  If this is what is meant by "posted bond," it may explain why Paul and Silas did not return there.  And it also may explain what Paul said in I Thessalonians 2:17-18.  "But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us."

Even though Satan had some success in preventing Paul and Silas from freely ministering to the church in Thessalonica, nevertheless, it thrived.  " But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 3:6-8)

"the city officials"  The Greek word is politarchas.  "This word does not occur in Greek literature and used to be cited as an example of one of Luke's blunders.  But now it is found in an inscription on an arch in the modern city preserved in the British museum.  It is also found in seventeen inscriptions (five from Thessalonica) where the word or the verb politarcheo occurs.  It is a fine illustration of the historical accuracy of Luke in matters of detail." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

(2) Principles for ministering to those who are self-starters and have a Bible-background (17:10-15)
"As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible."

Thought Question:  Describe a person that you have known who is or was like these Bereans.

 

 

"As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue."  If we step back from our familiarity with the book of Acts and try to put ourselves in Paul's and Silas' shoes, we can be amazed that they kept on going to synagogues and kept on preaching the gospel in them.  If we went to a foreign country and were beaten and then jailed in one city and then chased out of the next city by a mob, wouldn't we consider that it might be time to take a couple of years off until everything blows over.  Now, are we not amazed that these two men kept on preaching the gospel?  We find, though, that they were pleasantly surprised at the kind of reception that they received at "Berea."

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men."  "Berea" is about sixty miles from Thessalonica.  As Paul and Silas began their ministry at the "synagogue" in "Berea," they learned that the "Bereans" were very eager and receptive to what they had to share.  Also, they did not just accept what they said.  They eagerly checked it out by comparing it with what is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures to see if it was true.  Sometimes, we can sit in our churches and accept all that our pastors and Bible teachers teach without comparing them to what the Bible teaches.  We can be like baby birds receiving pre-digested food from the mother bird.
Over the years, I have taught many Bible classes, preached many sermons, and discipled many individuals.  It is delightful when there are those that I am teaching that are like these "Bereans."  When I have been before a large group, I have been able to find those who are eagerly seeking to know God better.  In these "Bereans," we find the type of Christians that please God.  "George Muller read the Bible over 200 times, and that certainly is a primary reason he was such a man of faith.  All of us should be constantly reading, digging, cross-referencing, comparing—rushing with eagerness to feed on the Word of the Lord! . . . No one has ever had a silver tongue who did not have a golden ear." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians,"  Luke implies that there was a difference in these "Bereans" from the Thessalonians."  Is there, then, a difference that makes some more "noble" than others?  Those who hold the Calvinist view put all people in the same category—they are all spiritually dead.  In their minds, if some are more eager to learn God's ways, they have somehow merited their salvation.  Yet, Luke says these "Bereans were of more noble character" because they were eager to know God and were not gullible and easily led astray.  They tested all that Paul and Silas said to see if what they said truly matched up with what they Bible taught.  Today, false teachers flourish if people do not carefully examine their teachings to see if they are truly teaching what the Bible teaches.  As you read my words, feel free to carefully examine them in accordance with "the Scriptures" to see if what I write is "true." 

"When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea."  These "Jews" had been successful in chasing Paul and Silas out of "Thessalonica."  So, now they are seeking to use the same methods to chase Paul out of "Berea."  But, they are too late—the message has already been heard.  "Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men."  The church had already begun.

"The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea."  "Silas and Timothy" "stayed" in order to disciple the new Christians.  Apparently, Paul's prominence as the leader of the new Christian movement caused him to be seen as the main threat.  "Silas and Timothy" were able to keep a low profile and stay in "Berea."  It also appears that "Timothy" joins Paul in Athens and then returns to "Thessalonica."  "The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible." (Acts 17:15)  "We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith," (1 Thessalonians 3:2)  "Silas and Timothy" returned from "Thessalonica" when Paul was in Corinth.  "When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ." (Acts 18:5) See also Acts 20:4, where we learn that a Christian from Berea accompanied Paul after he later visited this region again.

The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens.  Paul and the others probably went "by sea, a voyage of more than 300 miles." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

(3) Principles for ministering to those without a Bible background—to the intellectuals (17:16-34)

(a) Paul's experiences in Athens (17:16-21)
"While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, 'What is this babbler trying to say?' Others remarked, 'He seems to be advocating foreign gods.' They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.' (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)"

Thought Question:  Where in our society would it be like ministering as Paul did in the market place in Athens? (Have you ever ministered in this type of setting?  Describe briefly what it was like.)

 

 

"While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him."

"he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols."  Robertson gives the following description of how "full of idols" "Athens" was in the time of Paul.  "Pausanius says that Athens had more images than all the rest of Greece put together.  Pliny states that in the time of Nero Athens had 30,000 public statues besides countless private ones in the homes.  Petronius sneers that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens.  Every gateway or porch had its protecting god.  They had lined the street from the Piraeus and caught the eye at every place of prominence on wall in the agora [marketplace]." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Stott adds that thought "most English versions render it 'full of idols', the idea conveyed seems to be that the city was 'under' them.  We might say that it was 'smothered with idols' or 'swamped' by them." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"greatly distressed"  There is much in our society today that should also cause us to be "greatly distressed." 

Paul did not allow the disturbing idolatry to dissuade him from his task, so he reached out to the Jews in the "synagogue" in his normal fashion,  He also reached out there "as well as in the marketplace day by day."  He did this even though he was without Silas and Timothy at the time.

Paul being "greatly distressed" led him to become greatly concerned about the people's need to know about the true God and His salvation message.  What disturbs us about our world should also lead us to be greatly concerned for those who are lost in a sea of postmodernism, relativism, materialism, and self-indulgence.

"the marketplace'  We can wonder how Paul could have so easily begun to speak in "the marketplace."  LaSor answers that question for us. Besides being a place for buying and selling, "the agora was given over to peripatetic teachers, schools of philosophers, sleight of hand artists and others with various means of catching and holding the attention of passers-by." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

"A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him."  Who were the "Epicurean and Stoic philosophers"?  Stott does a good job of summarizing them.  "The Epicureans, or 'philosophers of the garden', founded by Epicurus (died 270 BC), considered the gods to be so remote as to take no interest in and have no influence on, human affairs.  The world was due to chance . . . and there would be no survival after death, and no judgment.  So human beings should pursue pleasure, especially the serene enjoyment of a life detachment from pain, passion and fear.  The Stoics, however, or 'philosophers of the porch' (the stoa or painted colonnade next to agora where they taught), founded by Zeno (died 265 BC), acknowledged the supreme god but in a pantheistic way, confusing him with the 'world soul'.  The world was determined by fate, and human beings must pursue their duty, resigning themselves to live in harmony with nature and reason, however painful this might be, and develop their own self-sufficiency.  To oversimplify, it was the characteristic of the Epicureans to emphasize chance, escape, and enjoyment of pleasure, and of the Stoics to emphasize fatalism and the endurance of pain." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  Seneca and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius were "Stoic philosophers."

These two philosophies can be seen in our time in those who do not believe in God, but are seeking to live the happiest life before they die and are no more—the  "Epicureans"—and in those who bear the troubles in a fatalistic way, controlling their emotions—the "Stoics."  Some follow these patterns of life.  Most follow these patterns of life without having thought it through much.  Philosophers, however, base their lifestyle on a systematic perspective and way of thinking on life.  Paul's Christian perspective was in direct conflict with those philosophers' systems of thinking.  We see how he handled this challenge in the speech that he will soon make before them.  If a Christian evangelist seeks to reach out with the gospel message on the college campus today, he will encounter the godless philosophies and philosophers of our time.  The issue, though, is—are they genuine truth seekers or do they just enjoy defending their personal philosophies against all other viewpoints?  Certainly, in Paul's time there were also genuine truth-seekers and there were also those who were closed to viewpoints other than their own.

"Some of them asked, 'What is this babbler trying to say?' Others remarked, 'He seems to be advocating foreign gods.' They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection."  "Babbler" is the Greek word spermologos or "seed-picker."  They saw Paul as no more than a little bird hopping around picking up little seeds.  They saw him as someone who was sharing pieces of truth he had picked up here and there, but they did not see him as someone who had anything to offer their superior intellects.  Others saw him as a foreigner who had come to tell them about his strange "foreign gods"—very similar to how people in Asia or the South Seas can see Christian missionaries.  Nevertheless, Paul stuck to the simple gospel message.  He did not get into philosophical debates with them.  He did the same later in Corinth.  "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

"Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.' (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)" 

The Greek word "Areopagus" combines the Greek words for "Mars" and "hill"—"Mars Hill."  The meeting of the "Areopagus" was like the supreme court of Athens.  Scholars differ as to whether Paul was brought to the  hill called "Mars Hill" or to the court which met in that location in the marketplace.  Stott believed that it referred to the court.  "Various answers are given, but surely the expressions that he stood 'in the midst' (22, literally) [NIV-"stood up in the meeting"] and later went out 'from their midst' (33, literally) [NIV-"left the council"] would more naturally refer to people than to a place." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

The "Areopagus" appears to be different than the magistrates that Paul and Silas were brought before in Philippi (see 16:20-21)  In "Athens," the court was not only a legal court, they were also concerned about the philosophical ideas that were being propagated in "Athens."  For, "the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas."  It appears that Paul needed to have this court clear his new message before he could freely present his teachings in "Athens."

(3) Paul's message to the Athenians – the introduction (17:22-23)
"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.'"

Thought Question:  What do you see in Paul's opening lines that gives you insight on how to start an evangelistic message to an intellectual-type group of people.

 

 

"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.'"  This is not a message given to those who are responsive to the gospel message, but a defense by Paul that his message is an appropriate message to share in "Athens."

How is the Christian message to be presented in a thoroughly pagan atmosphere?  The way that Paul introduces himself gives us some guidelines on how it can be done.  First, he was "religious" and they were "religious."  No matter who we speak to, we have more in common with them than not in common with them.  These people in "Athens" were looking for answers that come from outside of themselves and even outside of the idols that they were worshipping.  Their "altar" "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" was evidence that these people were searching for answers to the ultimate questions about life, and that they had not found them yet.

Our universities can be intimidating with their evolution, postmodernism, existentialism, and people from all different races and religions.  But, the people there are still empty on the inside until they have a personal relationship with the true God.  I was reached with the gospel while I was on the university campus.  I was confused with all of the philosophies that surrounded me.  Inside, I was empty and searching.  There are many who are as I was on the university campuses throughout our world. 

Secondly, he treats them with respect.  Because he was so "greatly distressed" at their idolatry, he could have begun attacking their idolatry.  He, with God's strength, controlled his revulsion at their idolatry and treated them with love and respect.

"UNKNOWN GOD" is the Greek word agnosto.  It is the word from which we get our word "agnostic"—those who do not know whether or not there is a God.  True agnostics are those who are truth seekers.  Others who do not want there to be a God, use agnosticism as a smokescreen to cover up their disinterest about the things of God.

"you are very religious."  The Greek word translated here as "religious" can either be translated in a negative way—very superstitious—or in a positive way—"very religious."  Paul clearly meant it as a compliment.  Although he was a Jew and abhorred their idolatry, these people were at least devoted to worshipping someone outside of themselves.

Thirdly, Paul used this "altar" "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" to capture their attention.  Certainly, his listeners were eager to hear about this "UNKNOWN GOD" that Paul is about to reveal to them.  Good speakers use the first part of their messages to capture the interest of their listeners.  Paul, in a few words, masterfully captured the interest of what could have been a very unreceptive crowd.

There may also be another attention-getter in Paul's use of "very religious."  Stedman makes this observation: "The word he chose for 'god' was rather unusual.  Instead of the common word, theos, which means God in his greatness, he chose the word daimon, demon, by which he implied that the gods they worshipped were lesser concepts than the great idea of God." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."  Paul possibly piqued their interest by implying that the "UNKNOWN GOD" was greater than the gods they worshiped.

Does history back up Luke's account of Paul's statement that there was an "altar" to "AN UNKNOWN GOD" in "Athens"?  "References to such altars, inscribed to an unknown god, have been found in ancient literature. Pausanias, for example, who travelled extensively in about AD 175 and wrote of . . . 'altars of the gods named Unknown.'" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press." 

(c) Paul's message to the Athenians—the message (17:24-28)
"'The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”'"

Thought Question:  What new information about God do you gain from Paul's words?

 

 

"'The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.'"  Paul introduces them to the true God—a God whom they did not make; but a God who made them.  Just as Genesis 1:1 denies the beliefs of most people in the world, so Paul begins by denying the philosophies of "Athens" and the idolatry of "Athens."  Genesis 1:1 states: " In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  This verse denies atheism, materialism—the universe is eternal, polytheism, and pantheism—all is god.  Paul immediately denies the philosophers who were atheists and pantheists, and he denied the polytheism of the idolaters.

"And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."  The idols were needy.  They needed to be offered sacrifices and the priests and priestesses needed to be sustained by those who worshipped the idols.  God, on the other hand, is completely without a need.  In fact, quite the opposite is true, for we constantly need Him.  Though the true God gave them life and sustained them, they worshiped gods that they made and gods who were very needy.  Who, then, should receive their adoration and appreciation?

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."  Paul now summarizes God's part in the history of man.  First of all, all mankind came "from one man."  From this "one man" came all the peoples of the world.  Then, Paul says that God has "determined" what has taken place on earth, what is presently taking place, and what will take place.  Though men make real decisions, God is still in complete control of what is taking place.  In Daniel 11, God predicts what would happen in Syria, Israel, and Egypt after his death.  People in these regions (like Anthony and Cleopatra) made real decisions, yet God was in complete control and His purposes were accomplished.  "He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning." (Daniel 2:21)  "The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." (Proverbs 21:1)

What Paul teaches here is the opposite of the Deism that teaches that God created the earth and man and then has been passively uninvolved since then.  Paul teaches here that God has a plan and is actively involved in pursuing the goals in that plan.

"the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."  Today, our world is divided into nations; our nation is divided into many states; and our states are divided into many cities.  Here, we are told that God has not just been an observer of all of this, but He has actively "determined" all these boundaries.  Also, He has "determined" "the exact places where" we "should live."  This is the exact opposite of God being an absentee God; He is, instead, very involved with our lives.

Then, we see that "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him."  "The events of human history have all served the one great purpose that men might be motivated to search for God . . . In Jeremiah 29:13, 14 we read 'When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you.'  God is urging men to seek him.  That is why catastrophes come, those tremendously difficult events—in order to show men that they are not independent." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."

We are told in Romans 3:11 that "no one seeks God."  The jailer in Acts 16 was not seeking God, but then when the earthquake occurred and the prison doors were opened, he sought God and said, "What must I do to be saved?"  God orders all things so that we will seek Him.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  Years ago, I taught an adult Sunday school class in Southern California.  In that class was a lady who freely admitted that she sought God and became a Christian due to the first of the two great earthquakes in Los Angeles.  God uses many means to bring us to a place where we will seek Him.

"so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,"  "Here it pictures the blind groping of the darkened heathen mind after God to 'find him' . . . One knows what it in a darkened room to feel along the walls for the door. (Deut. 28:29; Job 5:14; 12:25; Isa. 59:10)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"'though he is not far from each one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”'"  Though God is beyond His creation—He transcends His creation; yet, He is also "in" all things—He is omnipresent (present everywhere).  Here Paul quotes two of their Greek poets.  "For in him we live and move and have our being" is a quote from the Cretan poet Epimenides.  "We are his offspring" is a quote from Aratas. See also I Corinthians 15:33 and Titus 1:12  "Paul, of course, knew that the words were written of Zeus (Jupiter), not Jehovah, but he applies the idea in them to his point just made that all men are the offspring of God." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

We can feel that God is way off somewhere in the infinite universe and is not paying close attention to what is happening down here with us.  But, as Paul clearly states here, He could not be closer to us than He is.  Also, He desires that we reach out to Him.  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Paul's quotes from heathen poets demonstrate that non-believers in God can discover that which is God's truth.  Truth is true no matter where it comes from.  Nevertheless, it is only truth if it is the same truth that is already taught in the Bible.

(d) Paul's message to the Athenians—the conclusion (17:29-31)
"'Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.'"

Thought Question:  How does Paul's words, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance" help you to understand better how God dealt with people in the Old Testament?

 

 

"'Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill."  We were made by His "design and skill."  He was not "made by" our "design and skill."  It is our human tendency to want a god who is accountable to us and controlled by us. See Isaiah 44:9-23

"'In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.'"  Paul began by complimenting them for being "very religious." (17:22)  But here he calls their belief in idols "ignorance." He has also shown that idolatry makes no sense—we cannot make the One who made us.  Then, they learn that the God Paul speaks of is going to "judge" them through a man whom God raised "from the dead."  "Mankind is not moving toward extinction (as the Epicureans thought), nor toward absorption in the cosmos (as the Stoics supposed).  But mankind is moving toward divine
judgment." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Paul boldly told them the truth, even though he knew that it would not please them to hear it.  The gospel message is not ear-tickling—what we want to hear; it is, instead, painful truth—what we all need to hear.

"'In the past God overlooked such ignorance,'"  What is this "time of ignorance," as some translations put it?  There is clearly a difference between 21rst century America and the pre-Christian world.  God has not put the same level of responsibility on all men of all times.  God allowed polygamous marriages in Jacob's time.  Was that His plan?  It is obvious that God's plan is for there to be one-man-and-one-woman marriages.  God allowed divorce in Moses' time. See Matthew 19:1-9  But, since Jesus' life, death and resurrection, we are no longer in the times of "ignorance."  God has clearly revealed to us what He is like through His Son becoming a man.  As a result, these Athenians needed to repent of their idolatry and turn to the true God for forgiveness.

We are surprised that Paul did not quote a single Bible verse and did not explain to them about how Jesus paid for their sins.  We ask, "Why?"  Just as God has progressively revealed Himself to the world, so Paul needed to progressively reveal God to these people.  Sometimes, we expect that a younger Christian can learn in a short time what it has taken us years to learn.  We need to be careful, for example, with new Christians to teach them what they are able to understand.  Paul would certainly have liked to teach them more, but they were not yet ready to digest more.

(e) The Athenian response to Paul's message (17:32-34)
"When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.' At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that Paul felt he had been successful in his short ministry before the "Areopagus"?  Please explain your answer.  

 

 

"When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.'"  Again, we see that Paul's message polarized his listeners into two groups.  "Some of them sneered" when he told them about "the resurrection of the dead."  The Epicureans believed that life ended at the grave.  They certainly would have "sneered" when he asserted that Jesus was raised "from the dead."  But, most with a philosophical mindset reject the miraculous.  Many today sneer at the miraculous. "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom." (1 Corinthians 1:18, 22)

"but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.'"  Some commentators believe that these words describe a delaying tactic.  But most staff in a Christian college ministry would welcome these words—they would see it as much better than having a door being slammed in their faces.  Evangelism is usually a process rather than an event.  Can we expect most people to go from paganism to being Christians in one talk?

"At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others."  It is exciting that "a member of the Areopagus" became a believer as a result of Paul's message before the "Areopagus."  "That of itself was no small victory.  He was one of the college of twelve judges who helped to make Athens famous.  Eusebius says that he became afterwards bishop of the Church at Athens and died a martyr." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Stott believed, though, that Eusebius based this account on "insufficient evidence." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others."  Some conclude that Paul's ministry in "Athens" was a failure.  Today, though, if a campus minister gave a gospel presentation in a college dorm and a "number" became believers, including two well-known leaders, he or she would be delighted.  Paul's ministry in "Athens" was not a failure.  There are those now in heaven who believed in Christ at that time who would agree with me about this.

(4) To those without a Bible background—the sensual (18:1-17)

(a) Paul begins his ministry in Corinth at the synagogue (18:1-6)
"After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'"

Thought Question:  Who has been supportive of your ministry like "Aquila" and "Priscilla" were supportive of Paul's ministry?

 

 

"After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them."

"Corinth" was fifty miles from Athens and was one of the most morally depraved cities of that time.  It, in fact, had come to be the standard by which immorality was measured.  Its location was on an isthmus that connected the Peloponnesus with mainland Greece.  In Paul's time, it was the center of commercialized pleasure for those who were traveling across the isthmus or for sailors whose ships were ported on either side of the land bridge between these two land masses of Greece.  Also, the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was located there with its one thousand temple prostitutes.  We will see in 18:9 that it was a difficult place for Paul to preach a message about God's holiness. See I Corinthians 2:1-5

"Aquila" and "Priscilla" were important companions of Paul from this time forward.  They would be key leaders in the churches at Ephesus (see Acts 18:18-19, 24-26; I Corinthians 16:19; II Timothy 4:19) and at Rome (see Romans 16:19).  We do not know if "Aquila" and "Priscilla" were Christians in Rome or if Paul led them to the Lord here at "Corinth."  We do know, though, that they were Jews who were forced to "leave Rome" when "Claudius," the Roman Emperor "ordered all the Jews to leave Rome" in A.D. 49.

"because he was a tentmaker as they were,"  Paul probably learned this trade as a child.  Also, "he was a rabbi and according to Jewish practice every rabbi must have a trade." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  Because of this trade, Paul was able to make a living for himself.  Also, because of this source of income, he was not dependent on young Christians and new churches for his financial support. See I Corinthians 9:1-15; II Corinthians 11:7-9; I Thessalonians 2:9; II Thessalonians 3:8  Today, we describe those who are in the ministry and who also support themselves as being "tentmakers."  This designation, obviously, came from Paul's pattern of working as a "tentmaker," while he was also working fulltime in the ministry. 

"because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them."  Paul, "Aquila," and "Priscilla" had a bond through their common trade.  Bonds are formed in a similar way today through our trade unions.

"he stayed and worked with them."  "Aquila" and "Priscilla" were known for their hospitality.  "Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia." (Romans 16:5)  "The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house." (1 Corinthians 16:19)  The church through the ages has been blessed and strengthened by those who have opened their homes to serve God's church.

"Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks."  Like many who have "tentmaker ministries," Paul probably worked all week at tent making and ministered on the weekends.  Again, his first priority was the Jews—to seek "to persuade" them that Jesus is the Messiah.  The companionship of "Aquila" and "Priscilla" undoubtedly meant a great deal to him, since other members of his ministry team were ministering in other cities.

"When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ."  It appears that Paul received one of the financial gifts from Philippi at this time.  "I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so." (2 Corinthians 11:8-9)  "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only." (Philippians 4:15)

As a result, Paul was able to devote "himself exclusively to preaching."  Also, it was probably at this time that Paul wrote I Thessalonians—he sent it back with Timothy. See I Thessalonians 1:1, 3:6  See also II Corinthians 1:19

"But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'"  These "Jews" coldly rejected Paul and his message.  They had hardened themselves to his words.  It was not that they could not understand, but that they would not listen to him.  There comes a place when our words only result in hearts becoming more hardened.  At that point, it is no longer our responsibility, but fully the responsibility of those who have strongly chosen to resist our words.  At this point, it is necessary to do what Paul did here—move on.

Paul makes it very clear that their rejection of the gospel was on their shoulders and not his.  "He shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility.'"  Jesus taught that there was a time to do what Paul did here.  "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town." (Matthew 10:14-15)  Ezekiel gave the same message: "The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: “When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.” Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, “O wicked man, you will surely die,” and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.'" (Ezekiel 33:1-9) See also Ezekiel 3:17-19; Acts 5:28, 13:46, 51; Matthew 27:25

(b) Paul leaves the synagogue and goes next door (18:7-8)
"Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized."

Thought Question:  Paul's bad experience of being rejected by the Jews led to the good experience of having his ministry welcomed into the home of "Titius Justus."  When has God turned a bad experience into something good in your life?

 

 

"Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized."  We are introduced by name to some of the new Christians in "Corinth."    First, there is "Titius Justice."  He opened his house to the new church, and it was right "next door" to "the synagogue."  Each Sabbath, those who came to "the synagogue" could also choose to go "next door" and hear Paul teach.  "Titius Justice" may be the Gaius of Romans 16:23a: "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings."  Romans was written from Corinth.  Also, the description of the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-32 may have been what Paul saw taking place in Corinth.

"Crispus, the synagogue ruler," also believed and Jesus was his Messiah.  We learn in I Corinthians that Paul personally baptized Gaius and him.  "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius," (1 Corinthians 1:14)

(c) Paul sees a vision from the Lord and is encouraged to stay in Corinth (18:9-11)
"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.' So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God."

Thought Question:  Why do you think Paul needed this vision from Jesus Christ at this moment?

 

 

"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.'"  All of us who have been in the ministry have had times when we feel that the odds are against us.  We feel weak and helpless before those who strongly oppose us.  Or we may just realize how helpless we are to do God's work without God's strength and help.  At those times, we can wonder if He is going to keep helping us.  For some reason, Paul had reached that place.  He was like Elijah in I Kings.  "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'" (1 Kings 19:3-4)  ". . . Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' He replied, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.'" (1 Kings 19:13-14)  He was like Moses in Numbers 11: "I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me." (Numbers 11:14)  He was like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 15: "Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?" (Jeremiah 15:18)  At Paul's point of weakness, God appears and encourages him to "keep on speaking, do not be silent."

"'Do not be afraid;'" "Literally, 'stop being afraid.'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

When  Paul wrote II Thessalonians from Corinth, he expresses at least part of the trial he was facing.  " Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
(II Thessalonians 3:1-3)

"because I have many people in this city."  We are reminded also of God's words to Elijah.  "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18)

"For I am with you,"  God promised us also that He is with us.  "'and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:20) " . . . God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5) See Romans 8:31-39 See also 23:11 and 27:23 for other times the Lord personally encouraged Paul.  See also Acts 22:17-21

Who were these people in "Corinth" who were the "many people" that God had "in this city"?  Hughes gives a good answer to this question:  "Some of the Corinthians were tired of Tinsel Town.  The fleshly pleasures had lost their attraction.  Some were suffering deep guilt and an awful emptiness of soul.  They were ready to receive Christ." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God."  When the time before his vision is added to the "year and a half," Paul may have stayed in "Corinth" for two years.  Other churches probably were started in Greece during Paul's ministry in Corinth. See II Corinthians 1:1, 11:10; Romans 16:1  "Cenchrea. A port located six miles east of Corinth." "NIV Study Bible note on Romans 16:1"

(d) Paul taken to court (18:12-17)
"While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. 'This man,' they charged, 'is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.' Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, 'If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.' So he had them ejected from the court. Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about what kind of man Gallio was?

 

 

"While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. 'This man,' they charged, 'is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.' Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, 'If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.' So he had them ejected from the court."

Barclay informs us that "Gallio" was a known as a kind man.  "Gallio was famous for his kindness.  Seneca, his brother, said of him, 'Even those who love my brother Gallio to the utmost of their power do not love him enough,' and also, 'No man was ever as sweet to one as Gallio is to all.'" "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  It appears that "the Jews" were attempting to take advantage of a kind man, but he saw through their plot and "ejected" them from his "court."   

"A whitish grey limestone inscription from the Hagios Elias quarries near Delphi . . . has been found which definitely names Gallio as proconsul of Achaia." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"Then they all turned on Sosthenes the synagogue ruler and beat him in front of the court. But Gallio showed no concern whatever."  Who were "the all" who "turned on Sosthenes"?  It could have been the Gentiles who were observing the Jews' outrageous behavior.  Then, it would have been an anti-semitic attack on "the Jews."  It probably, though, was "the Jews" attacking their leader because of his failed attempt to successfully charge Paul.  This "Sosthenes" may have later become a believer and may be the "Sosthenes" Paul mentions in I Corinthians 1:1: " Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes."

"But Gallio showed no concern whatever."  "These words have been often misunderstood as a description of Gallio's lack of interest in Christianity, a religious indifferentist.  But that is quite beside the mark.  Gallio looked the other way with a blind eye while Sosthenes got the beating he richly deserved." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

(5) The journey home (18:18-22)
"Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, 'I will come back if it is God’s will.' Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch."

Thought Question: Why do you think that Paul participated in the Jewish practice of making a "vow"?

 

 

"Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila."  After spending extended time In "Corinth," Paul begins his trip back to Antioch in Syria—thus ending his second missionary journey.

"Priscilla and Aquila."  Barclay observes in his commentary on Romans 16 "that in four out of the six mentions of the pair in the New Testament Prisca ["Priscilla"] is named before her husband." "Taken from Letters to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  She may have been a woman of high status in Roman society who married a poor tentmaker.  Another possibility is that she was more well-known for her significant role in the ministry than her husband was.

"Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken."  This "vow' raises a number of questions.  (1) What is the "vow he had taken" and what did cutting "his hair off" have to do with the "vow"?  The fact that at the end of the "vow," he had "his hair cut off," determines that Paul had made the Nazirite vow described in Numbers 6:1-21.  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the Lord as a Nazirite, he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the Lord is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long. Throughout the period of his separation to the Lord he must not go near a dead body. Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the Lord.”'" (Numbers 6:1-8)  Paul, for some reason that we are not told, Paul chose to express his devotion to God by making a Nazirite vow.  Nazirite has nothing to do with Nazareth, Jesus' hometown.

(2) The second question we ask is why did Paul participate in this Old Testament ritual.  It may have been his way of showing that he was still a Jew and was not antagonistic to the Judaism that continued to be practiced in Israel.  Paul had Timothy circumcised because he was half Jewish.  "He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." (Acts 16:1-3)

In I Corinthians, we learn that though Paul did not need to continue to participate in ceremonies of the Jews that pointed to Jesus, he continued to do so in his attempt to not unnecessarily alienate the Jews.  "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." (1 Corinthians 9:20)

Paul probably kept the hair that was "cut off" to present it at the temple. See Numbers 6:13-20

"Cenchrea" was a port town near "Corinth." See Romans 16:1-2

"They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews."  "Ephesus" was the central city in Asia Minor.  Acts 19 describes Paul's extended ministry there.  For now, he spends only a short time in this city; following his pattern of seeking to persuade "the Jews" and God-fearing Gentiles in "the synagogue" that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

"where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila."  As we will see, they had a significant ministry after Paul left.

"When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, 'I will come back if it is God’s will.'"  Paul had tried to go to "Ephesus" earlier in this second missionary journey, but the Holy Spirit had prevented him from doing so.  "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia." (Acts 16:6)  If Paul had his way and had gone to "the province of Asia," he would certainly have gone to "Ephesus," the central city of Asia. 

Here, he show his acknowledgment that he will "come back" to minister in "Ephesus," only "if it is God's will." 

"When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch."  He appears to have "landed at Caesarea," but then went to the church at Jerusalem about 60 miles away.  "greeted the church.  Could refer to a congregation in Caesarea, but the explanation that 'he went up' makes it more likely that it was the church in Jerusalem, some 2,500 feet above sea level." "NIV Study Bible note."  Then, they returned to "Antioch."  Paul's second missionary journey was completed.  We are not told anything about Timothy and Silas.  They may have remained in Corinth.

4. The third missionary journey (18:23-20:38)

a. A lesson in humility (18:23-28)
"After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Apollos, who knew the Bible so well and was so eloquent, was also teachable?

 

 

"After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples."  He probably, as in the second missionary journey, traveled from the east through the Cilician Gates over the Taurus mountains.  Luke describes Paul's travels for the people of his time who were familiar with what traveling was like in those days.  We, though, are not aware as they were of how far and difficult those travels were.  Once more, he returns to the Galatian churches to strengthen and encourage them in their relationship with God.  Older Christians should be as concerned as Paul was with strengthening younger Christians—those younger in age and in spiritual maturity.  We are not told who accompanied Paul on this trip—the beginning of Paul's third missionary journey.

"Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue." 

Luke introduces us for the first time to "Apollos."  First of all, we learn he was from "Alexandria."  "Apollos came from Alexandria where there were about one million Jews . . .Alexandria [in Egypt] was the city of scholars." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  "Alexandria," next to Rome, was the most important city in the Roman Empire.

Then, Luke tells us that "he was a learned man."  This is not surprising, for he came from a city that championed learning and scholarship.  "The greatest library in the world was in Alexandria." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

The Greek word translated "learned" in the NIV can also be translated "eloquent."  "A learned man (aner logios).  Or eloquent, as the word can mean either a man of word (like 'wordy,' verbose) or a man of ideas, since logos was used either for reason or speech." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Next, Luke tells us that he had "a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures."  The KJV says "mighty in the scriptures."  The ESV says "competent in the Scriptures."  The Disciples Literal New Testament has "powerful in the Scriptures."  The NASB has "mighty in the Scriptures."  The Greek word translated "mighty," "powerful," "competent," and "a thorough knowledge" is dunatos.  It is the word from which we get our words "dynamic," "dynamo," and "dynamite."  It appears that "powerful" and "mighty" are closer to the meaning of the Greek word.  He was a "learned,"  eloquent, and dynamic man who knew the Scriptures so well that he could powerfully speak on them.

But "Apollos" still had a major weakness.  "He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John."  "Apollos" knew about Jesus—"the way of the Lord" is used throughout Acts to describe Christianity. See Acts 9:2, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14, 22  And he was able to teach "about Jesus accurately."  But, he knew only the "baptism of John."  "John" the Baptist's teachings about Jesus were accurate, but there was much about Jesus that occurred after "John" the Baptist's death.  So, "Apollos" was eloquent about "John" the Baptist's teachings and about the Old Testament, but he was weak in depth about Jesus and the New Covenant.

Years ago, I met a young man who would very eloquently share what he had heard that day on Christian radio with anyone who would listen.  Some of us saw the potential that was there if he ever gained a greater understanding of the Bible.  He followed our advice and attended Multnomah Bible College and Dallas Theological Seminary.  He is now the head of a worldwide missions' agency.  He is still eloquent, but now he is also very learned in the Scriptures.

"He began to speak boldly in the synagogue"  "He spoke with great fervor" (18:25) and "he began to speak boldly."  "Great fervor" is a translation of the Greek word from which we get our word "zealous." See Romans 12:11  "Speak boldly"—he fearlessly told it like it is about Jesus, just as Paul did; though he did not understand much, yet, about Jesus.

"When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately."  "Apollos" was teachable.  Though he was certainly more eloquent than "Priscilla and Aquila" and probably knew the Old Testament better than they did, yet he had a great deal to learn from them about Jesus Christ and His teachings.  And he was humbly willing to be taught by them.

"Apollos" gives us all an example to follow.  However much we know, we can still learn and benefit from what others know.  Each week, I get together with a young man who is very teachable.  But, I also have learned much from him.  He has a degree in psychology, and I enjoy listening to the insights that he has gained from his college experience.  For example, he introduced me to what he learned in a class that emphasized the importance in our lives on our "perceptions."   If we are teachable, we will also enjoy learning from what others can teach us; as "Apollos" benefitted from his time with "Priscilla and Aquila." 

"When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."  Paul's ministry to "Priscilla and Aquila" had led to them training "Apollos."  The result was another dynamic Christian who was able to go into the "synagogue" and dynamically persuade the Jews there "that Jesus was the Christ." See I Corinthians 1:12, 3:5-9, 21-22, 4:6

"When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia [Greece and Corinth], the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him."  "Apollos" needed a letter of recommendation, but Paul did not. "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?" (2 Corinthians 3:1)

Who were "the brothers"?  Since Paul had not remained long in Ephesus, it is surprising that there was already a group of Christians in Ephesus.  Nevertheless, there were Christians in Ephesus besides "Priscilla and Aquila."  Possibly, Paul's visit there had created interest and "Priscilla and Aquila" also helped.  Apollo's ministry certainly helped as well.  Then, there is the likelihood that there were Christians from other regions who had migrated there.

b. A lesson on the Holy Spirit (19:1-7)
"While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' 'John’s baptism,' they replied. Paul said, 'John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all."

Thought Question #1:  Do these verses teach that every Christian should have two experiences—(1) being born again of the Spirit and, (2) being baptized in the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why did Paul re-baptize these followers of "John" the Baptist? (Hadn't they already been baptized by "John" the Baptist?)

 

 

"While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' 'John’s baptism,' they replied. Paul said, 'John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him,'"

These disciples of "John" the Baptist did not know what had transpired since "John" the Baptist's ministry—they did not know about Jesus' life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.  For them, time had stopped after "John" the Baptist died.  They had received forgiveness of sins as a result of their obedience to "John" the Baptist's message and his "baptism of repentance," but they had not received the "Holy Spirit."  In short, they were still Old Testament believers.  They were pre-Pentecost believers.  Paul was able to provide the opportunity for them to become post-Pentecost Christians indwelt by the "Holy Spirit."

"On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all."  As God's Spirit filled them, they "spoke in tongues."  These former followers of "John" the Baptist "experienced a mini-Pentecost." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

Do these verses teach that all Christians should first become believers and, then at a later time, receive the "Holy Spirit" through speaking in tongues?  Obviously, this was an unusual time—a time of transition from the Old Testament ending with "John" the Baptist and beginning with the Christian era after Jesus' ascension and Pentecost.  What happened during this transition time is not to be taken as the norm for today—we are no longer in this transition period.  For example, the "Holy Spirit" came on the first Gentiles as Peter was preaching. See Acts 10:44  Here, these followers "were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus" and, then, "the Holy Spirit came on them" as "Paul placed his hands on them."  So, which is the norm?  The only norm in the book of Acts for receiving the "Holy Spirit" is that there was no norm, but there were different experiences for different groups of people  For example, there were different experiences for the Samaritans, the Gentiles, and the followers of John the Baptist. See Acts 2:1-3, 2:38-40, 8: 14-17, 9:1-19, 10:44-48, and here in 19:6

Why did Paul re-baptize these men who had already been baptized by "John" the Baptist?  It appears that they we re-baptized because they did not understand the meaning of Christian baptism—it symbolized Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.

"and prophesied."  They undoubtedly spoke of their new faith In Jesus Christ—Paul had no doubt, after they "spoke in tongues and prophesied," that these followers of "John" the Baptist had become full-fledged Christians.

"There were about twelve men in all."  This was a small group.  They appeared to have been isolated from what was happening in the church.  They may even have been followers of "John" the Baptist who had not actually heard "John" speak, but had become followers of him through being taught by his followers.  That would explain their ignorance of the "Holy Spirit."  "John" did teach on the "Holy Spirit."  "'I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'" (Matthew 3:11)

c. A lesson in diligence (19:8-10)
"Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."

Thought Question:  How, do you believe, Paul was able to keep talking with "the disciples" "for two years"? (What did they talk about?  Was it like a classroom or more like an on-going discussion?)

 

 

"Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them."  It was not that Paul's message was rejected by the Jews in the "synagogue" because it was not true; for, we are told here that Paul was "arguing persuasively."  Paul's message was true and well-presented.  The problem was that they obstinately "refused" to hear what he had to say.  It was not that they could not understand Paul's message, it was that they would not believe his message.  See John 12:37; II Thessalonians 2:9-12; Romans 1:18-23, 28

"and publicly maligned the Way."  They not only would not believe what Paul taught them about Jesus, but they became public opponents of Paul and his message.  They called good evil.

There comes a time when it does no good to continue to present the truth, for those you are speaking to will only continue to stubbornly resist what you are saying, no matter how well and how clearly you say it.  That was the case for Paul in the "synagogue" in "Ephesus," "so Paul left them."

"He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."

"One Greek manuscript adds that Paul did his instruction from 11: A.M. to 4:00 P.M.." "NIV Study Bible note."  If this addition is accurate, it probably means that this lecture hall was vacant during the hottest parts of the day and occupied during the cooler times.  So, those who came to these Christian discussion times came during the hottest times of the day.  And, it "went on for two years."

Paul may have worked as a tent-maker during the cooler times and taught in the hottest parts of the day.  Those who were taught by Paul may, then, have followed the same pattern.  "The work day began at 7, broke at 11, and continued from 4 until about 9:30 at night." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

According to Acts 20:31, the total time Paul stayed in "Ephesus" was closer to 3 years.  "So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:31)  That would include the three months that he spent speaking in the "synagogue." 

"so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."  Although Paul did not start churches in other parts of Asia, we know from Revelation two and three that there were churches in Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  Furthermore, though Paul did not start the church in Colossae in Asia, he did personally know a main leader there named Epaphras.  "You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf," (Colossians 1:7) See also Colossians 4:12-13

While Paul was in "Ephesus," he heard of the troubles in the church at Corinth.  His letters to Corinth were written at this time. See I Corinthians 1:11, 5:9

d. A lesson in authority (19:11-16)
"God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding."

Thought Question:  What was the reason Paul was successful in "driving out evil spirits" and the "seven sons of Sceva" were so unsuccessful? (How does this apply to us today?)

 

 

"God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them."  All miracles are "extraordinary miracles."  These miracles were even more "extraordinary" because Paul was not even present when they occurred.  "Handkerchiefs and aprons" that had "touched" Paul healed people "and the evil spirits left them."  Supposed modern-day healers have mailed healing cloths in response to contributions sent to them.  Paul did not sell these cloth sweatbands.

These miracles that occurred from cloth items that "had touched him" were signs that Paul was an apostle accredited by God.  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)

 The "handkerchiefs and aprons" were probably the sweatbands and "aprons" Paul used when he worked the long hours in tent-making.

"Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding."

These "Jews" probably traveled about, like the gypsies of more recent years, making money by trying to get people to believe in their magical abilities.  They saw "the name of Jesus" as words that could be used as a magical oath or a magic formula to accomplish miracles.  They thought that they could use the words as Paul used them and get the same results.  As we read here, that was the opposite of what happened when they used these words.

"Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest,"  We know nothing more about this "chief priest."  But, we do know that his sons made money in "Ephesus" by pretending to perform magical acts."

"One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?'"  Most often those who operate in the magical arts do not really believe that there are demonic spirits.  We do not know if that was the case with these "seven sons of Sceva."  But, I believe they were shocked when "the evil spirit" began speaking to them.  And they were even more shocked at what he said.  But the greatest shock came from what he did—he beat up all "seven" of them.  "He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding." 

What was the difference between Paul and the "seven sons of Sceva"?  The plain difference is found in verse eleven: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul."  It had nothing to do with Paul's abilities or magical incantations.  Instead, Paul was able to do "miracles" completely because God chose to do them through him.  God chose to authenticate Paul's ministry as being from Him by doing miracles through him.  God chose not to work miracles through the "seven sons of Sceva," because he had the opposite purpose for them—He wanted all to see they were not from Him and they were not His spokesmen.  God accomplished that goal very convincingly there in "Ephesus."

e. A lesson in revival (19:17-20)
"When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power."

Thought Question: What do these verses teach about what will happen in a real revival?   

 

 

"When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor."  "Ephesus was one of Satan's strongholds.  Paul was given the power to work extraordinary miracles in order to demonstrate that the Jesus whom he proclaimed was greater than the prince of the powers of darkness.  Against this background, many of the statements in Paul's letters to the Ephesians take on a new clarity (for example, 1:19-23; 3:20, 5;11, 12, 6:11, 12)." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972."

"Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power."  Satan had worked his way into the lives of the people in Ephesus (as he has worked his way into the lives of people of our culture).  Even the Christians had been lulled to sleep by what had become normal in their culture.  The demonic attack on the "seven sons of Sceva" and the "extraordinary miracles" God worked through Paul were used by God to wake up many new Christians to the reality of the powers of darkness.  "for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: 'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:14)  Suddenly, they saw, in God's light, the evil of their involvement with black magic.  As a result, "many" "came and openly confessed their evil deeds."  Also, they brought their magic "scrolls" and "burned them publicly."  The "value of the scrolls" came to about "fifty thousand drachmas."  A drachma was "worth about a day's wage." "NIV note."  So, they were worth about 50,000 days' wages.  This was a real revival!  True revivals will result in real life changes, even if those changes are personally costly.  This is what occurred at Ephesus.  The Christians' walk with God resulted in them choosing to leave black magic behind—at great cost to them.

Today, there are many ways that black magic can infiltrate the church—horoscopes, yoga, Hindu-based movies, Ouija boards, fortune telling, and more.  These practices enter into the church as it sleeps.  They come in through Trojan Horses like teachings on natural medicine, mysticism, physical exercise, entertainment, meditation, and more.   But all these practices come from the evil one and are specifically and clearly condemned by God.  "When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you." (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)  "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:31)  "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn." (Isaiah 8:19-20)

We also need to wake up to any ways that these forbidden practices have subtly become part of our lives.  For these Ephesian Christians, the lights had been turned on and they saw clearly how God disapproved of their culture of black magic.

True revivals occur when people and Christians recognize sin for what it is and publicly turn from it.  The trend in our country has been to move into greater and greater darkness, as more of what the Bible calls sin has become acceptable behavior.  Christians can follow right behind, not being as bad as the world, but steadily moving away from God's holy standards.  Revival occurs when people move in the very opposite direction.  They see that what the Bible calls sin is horribly wrong, and they turn from it.

f. A lesson on God's help (19:21-41)

(1) Satan creates chaos (19:21-34)
"After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. 'After I have been there,' he said, 'I must visit Rome also.' He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer. About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: 'Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.' When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'"

Thought Question:  The greater our success in bringing our culture into the light, the more those in darkness see us as a threat.  When have you become such a threat to non-Christians that they have turned on you? (Note: We are not to purposely turn people against us.  "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you . . . . " 1 Thessalonians 4:11)

 

 

"After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. 'After I have been there,' he said, 'I must visit Rome also.' He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer." 

What we learn in I and II Corinthians is that Paul was very concerned about the church there.  "My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you." (1 Corinthians 1:11)  Paul was going to return to Corinth, but first he sends "Timothy and Erastus" there.  "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Corinthians 4:15-17)  We learn more about "Erastus" in Romans 16:23: "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works . . . . " (Romans 16:23) See also II Timothy 4:20

In I Corinthians 16:8, Paul explains why he stayed at Ephesus for a while.  "But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost."

Also, we know that Paul was going to pick up offerings to take to the poor and needy in the church at Jerusalem. See Romans 15:23-29; I Corinthians 16:1-8; II Corinthians 8-9  Paul describes later his trip to Jerusalem with the offerings from the churches from other regions.  "After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings." (Acts 24:17)

These verses describe the calm before the storm.  Paul, after a time of spiritual success in Ephesus was planning to make return visits to churches in other regions, and then return to "Jerusalem."  Beyond that he was hoping to visit "Rome."  It does not appear that he was ready for the tumult that was about to occur.

You may have also had a time like this (as I have had), where you were feeling good about your life and ministry.  Paul and we had no idea what was about to take place.

"'I must visit Rome also.'"  "Dr. G. Campbell Morgan says, 'that's not the “must” of the tourist; that's the “must” of the missionary.'" "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."  He wanted to minister to the church in this central city in the Empire.  Paul explains that he would not go directly to "Rome."  He needed to first take the offering from the other churches to the needy church in "Jerusalem." See Romans 15:23-29  We know that Paul does get to "Rome," but he gets there as a prisoner.

"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: 'Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.'"  Ephesus, one of the key cities in the world during Paul's time, was known for its temple of "Artemis" or Diana—the goddess of fertility.  The temple was "425 feet long and 220 feet wide." "NIV Study Bible note."

The "silver shrines" were an important part of the worship of Diana or "Artemis." And the selling of  these "silver shrines" was a lucrative source of income for the silversmiths in Ephesus.  The "silver shrines" were "either miniature models of the temple or statuettes of the goddess." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  "Demetrius" may have been a union leader for the silversmiths.  The spread of Christianity had become a significant threat to those in his trade.

Sometimes, charges against Paul were false; but Demetrius made a very accurate charge against Paul.  "He says that man-made gods are no gods at all."  Certainly, that is exactly what Paul was saying.  Also, it is an absolute truth. See 17:29; Isaiah 44:9-19   Furthermore, this statement of truth would have completely eliminated the worship of "Artemis" by everyone who believed it to be true.  "Demetrius" rightly saw it as a direct threat to his idol-making business.

"He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades,"  "Shrines" were also made of materials other than "silver."  Not everyone could afford to buy a "silver" shrine. 

The truth of Christianity is always a threat to a society that has a belief system and a culture that is different from what's taught in the Bible.  The Christian truth that there is a God who has revealed Himself to us through the Bible and through Jesus Christ is a threat to the atheistic scientist who believes that we evolved into existence without a need for a God.  Christian truth is a threat in Islamic countries, Hindu countries, and godless countries.  If we are effective, as the church, in presenting the truth as it is taught in the Bible, we will begin to be a real threat to those who are like "Demetrius" in our country.

"'There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will b robbed of her divine majesty.'"  Again, what "Demetrius" said was true.  If Paul was successful , the "temple" of "Artemis" would have become a monstrosity to people rather than the tourist attraction that it was—where many "shrines" were sold.  But, "Demetrius" was able to disguise his financially-based motives "under the cloak of religious zeal." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press. He quotes Neal." 

"Demetrius" was able to provoke the crowd to anger, probably not because of their zeal for "Artemis" but because he was able to gather a group of people who were also financially threatened by Paul's message.  Paul become the enemy of them all.

"When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater."  Through the years, most have witnessed a divisive issue erupting into a screaming mob.   I lived in Southern California during the Watts' riots.  I regularly watched it unfold on television.  At another time, while I attended San Jose State College in the late 1960s, I personally witnessed mobs form to protest the war in Viet Nam.  I even saw it take place at a Navy base in Japan as mobs of people protested against the nuclear submarine that was docked at our naval base.  Here, in Acts, Christianity's threat to idolatrous worship in Ephesus erupted into a screaming mob.

Just as what typically happens when people react as a mob, they began a chant that captures the fury of the mob—"'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'"  It spread throughout the very large city of Ephesus.  "Soon the whole city was in an uproar."  We see a whole city get emotionally charged up when that city's professional ball team wins a major national championship.  Here, emotions were stirred up primarily against one man, his followers, and his teaching—they were all angry at Paul!

"The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus,"  We learn in 20:4 that "Gaius" was from Derbe.  So, he was a convert from the Galatian region.  "Aristarchus" was with Paul here in Ephesus, but we also learn that he was with Paul when he left and went to Macedonia and Greece (see 20:4).  He will also be with Paul again on a ship when Paul, as a prisoner, will be taken to Rome.  In Colossians 4:10, he is called by Paul "my fellow prisoner." See also Philemon 24  He was Paul's companion through some very tough times; even though he was one of the two who was taken captive by this very angry mob in Ephesus.

"and rushed as one man into the theater."  The people in the mob lost their individual identities and had one goal.  At Explo 72 in Dallas, Texas, an event organized by Campus Crusade for Christ, I saw a large crowd become focused on one thought—"One way!"  There, though, the focus was on love for God and not anger against God.  Here, the people of Ephesus united in anger against God and that led to "Gaius and Aristarchus" being pushed into "the theater" in Ephesus.  The crowd hated them and everything they stood for.

"into the theater."  "The theatre itself, still in a fine state of preservation, nestling at the foot of Mount Pion and nearly 500 feet in diameter, could accommodate at least 25,000 people." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  It is similar in size to our modern football stadiums.

"Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater."  Although Paul thought it was a good idea to go before the mob, his "friends" thought it was a bad idea.  There are open doors and there are closed doors.  This was a closed door.  Paul's "friends" saw that speaking before this mob would be playing right into their hands—they wanted an enemy to whom they could direct their great anger.  Paul would have provided them that enemy.  His "friends" saw this and prevented him from going in front of them.

We do see, though, Paul's complete fearlessness.  Paul may be expressing how difficult all of this was for him in II Corinthians 1:8-10 and in I Corinthians 15:32.  "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us," (II Corinthians 1:8-10)  "If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained . . . . " (I Corinthians 15:32)

"Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater."  "Officials" is a translation of the Greek word "Asiarchon, members of a council of men of wealth and influence elected to promote the worship of the emperor.  Paul had friends in this highest circle." "NIV Study Bible note."  The church's influence in Asia had reached into the highest levels of Ephesian society, and Paul had friends among these leaders.  They begged him not to go "into the theater."  They certainly saw that if Paul went in front of this mob, it would have led to his death.

"The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there."  It appears that many people were drawn into the thronging crowd who did not even know why everyone was so upset.  Sometimes crowds and mob leaders can tap into the latent anger in people that is there as a result of the hardships they have experienced—an indwelling bitterness that remains unresolved.  They will join a movement motivated by anger, even if they do not know why everyone is so angry.  In the time I am writing these words, there have been mass protests in our country against Wall Street and people on the other side of the political spectrum whose anger has led to the Tea Part movement.  Not everyone in these movements clearly understands why everyone is so angry.  The Watts riots were also like this.  Not everyone who rioted clearly understood the issues.  But it did tap into an anger that was there in that part of Los Angeles as a result of the hard times that they were experiencing.  The crowd at that "theater" was angry, but most did not know what had led to the initial anger that had led to the formation of this mob, and most did not know why it ended up in that "theater."  They just knew that they were angry!

"The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'"  "The Jews" appeared to want to explain that they were not associated with the Christians and with Paul.  Instead, when the Ephesians recognized that their spokesman "Alexander" "was a Jew," they shouted him down by screaming, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"  They "shouted" it "for about two hours." This is possible for hometown football fans can shout for three hours.  It must have been intimidating for "Alexander" and the other "Jews" to hear the Ephesians' hatred for them and their beliefs.

This "Alexander" could be the "Alexander" that Paul mentions in I Timothy 1:19-20 and II Timothy 4:14-15.  "holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:19-20)  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message." (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

(2) God brings order (19:35-41)
"The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: 'Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.' After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly."

Thought Question:  What can we learn from this "city clerk" about how to calm things down when a group is out of control?

 

 

"The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: 'Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?"  "The city clerk" allows them to shout and scream for two hours and, then, after they had tired themselves out, he assures them that if "Artemis" were truly "great," she did not need them to defend her.

"City clerk" "Inscriptions at Ephesus give frequently this very title for their chief officer and the papyri have it also." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  The people probably thought this "city clerk" was going to take some type of action against Paul and the Christians.  Instead, they were rebuked by him.

"doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?"  "The city clerk" told them that their fears were not based on reality, for their high reputation in the world was not threatened—the Christians had not changed the belief of the world about Ephesus and "Artemis" at all.  "The recorder soothed the vanity (Rackham) of the crowd by appeal to the world-wide fame of . . . her heaven-fallen image." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

"which fell from heaven?"  "The image which fell from heaven scholars generally identify as a meteorite since such a stone formed the center of worship at one of the other sites of Artemis worship (Roman world contained thirty-three)." Taken from Holman New Testament Commentary by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Holman Reference."

"Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly."  This "city clerk" insists that this be handled in the normal legal manner.  As far as he could tell nothing had been done by Paul and the Christians that warranted this mob reaction.  Like a judge crying, "order in the court!" this "city clerk" is demanding that there be order in the city.

We may have forgotten "Gaius and Aristarchus" in all of the commotion.  This "city clerk" could not find that they had done anything that warranted this lynch mob.

"As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.' After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly."  In the end, this "city clerk" turned the whole incident around.  The focus was taken off Paul, "Gaius and Aristarchus," and put on "Demetrius" who was in the wrong.  Demetrius' actions had threatened the order, freedom, and legal system in Ephesus.  He was a vigilante who tried to take the law into his own hands.  This "city clerk" restored order in Ephesus.

Yet, it was God's work, for He is the one who sets up governments and leaders. See Romans 13:1-5

g. A lesson on the early church (20:1-12)

(1) Paul's travels and those who accompanied him (20:1-6)
"When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Paul traveled with all the people that are mentioned here?

 

 

"When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months."  Paul was the apostle to all the Gentiles.  And, so, it was time to move on to other regions and reconnect with other churches, after the long stay of over two years in Ephesus.  Before embarking, he gave final "words of encouragement to the" Christians in Ephesus.  Then, he traveled to "Greece."

II Corinthians appears to fill in some additional events that occurred as he traveled to "Greece."  He had sent I Corinthians to Corinth from Ephesus, probably by Timothy. See I Corinthians 4:17, 16:10-11  Paul learned that some false apostles were trying to take over the church at Corinth and lead it away from the truth. See II Corinthians 11:3-5  He sent a very strong letter by Titus.  Then, on the way to "Macedonia," he was so troubled about how the church at Corinth would receive his strong letter that he was unable to preach at Troas—though he had a wide open door there.  "Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia." (2 Corinthians 2:12-13)  When he arrived at "Macedonia" on the way to "Greece," he received good news from Titus who met him there.  "For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever." (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)  He, then, explained to them why he had sent them the strong letter.  "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us." (2 Corinthians 7:8-9)  It appears that II Corinthians was written from "Macedonia" while he was on his way to "Greece."

"and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people,"  He went back to the churches at Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.  This may have been the time when he reached out to Illyricum. See Romans 15:19 "For it will fit no other place in Paul's life prior to the writing of Romans." "Taken from Church Alive by LaSor.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  Illyricum is where modern-day Albania and Yugoslavia are located. 

"and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months."  This certainly was an important time to be in Corinth, for he had heard that there were many problems in Corinth, and he had just written three letters to them seeking to correct the problems—I Corinthians, the strong letter, and II Corinthians.

It was during this stay in Corinth that Paul wrote the book of Romans, for this book was written after Priscilla and Aquila were no longer in Corinth or Ephesus, but had returned to Rome.  In the letter to the Romans, Paul sends his greetings to them there in Rome. See Romans 16:3

 "Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia."  Robertson believed that it was "the Jews" who had tried to bring a charge against Paul at Corinth but were rebuffed by Gallio, that made this plot against Paul. See Acts 18:5-6, 12-17  It appears that these "Jews" "had heard of Paul 's plans to sail for Syria and intended in the hurly burley either to kill him at the docks in Cenchreae or to push him overboard from the crowded pilgrim ship bound for the passover.  Fortunately Paul learned of their plot and so eluded them by going through Macedonia." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Since Paul was carrying an offering for the poor church in Jerusalem, "the Jews" may also have intended to rob him as well.  "Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem." (Romans 15:25-26) See also Romans 15:27; I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8-9

"He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas."  Although Luke does not include his name as one of the travelers with Paul, notice that he says, "waited for us."  In the next verse, he also says, "We sailed from Philippi."

Ray Stedman called this group a "traveling seminary." "Taken from Growth of the Body by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 Vision House Publishers."  Here, Luke lists Paul's disciples.  Class was always in session for these students.  In this list are some key individuals from different churches who were constantly being trained by Paul.  Jesus also chose men to "be with him." (Mark 3:14)  This should also be taking place in the church today.  Church leaders should have a group of future leaders who are "with them" and being discipled by them.  Can we improve on the method of Jesus and Paul?  I was trained in this way and have sought to follow this pattern for forty plus years.  It began way back as a new Christian  under the ministry of Ray Stedman and Dave Roper.  A number of young men from the college and career group included me in their Christian activities and in their lives in other ways.  Later, at seminary, a teacher there named Don Orvis took me under his wing.  He would take me out on the Denver University campus. 

Who were these young men who were with Paul?  "Sopater" may be the "Sopater" of Romans 16:21.  We know nothing more about him.  We have already spoken of "Aristarchus" and "Gaius" who were grabbed by the mob in Ephesus. See 19:21-34  "Secundus" was probably a slave, as his name means "second"—or second slave.  Slaves were numbered rather than given a name.  "Tychicus" was someone whom Paul describes as a man after his own heart.  "Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you." (Ephesians 6:21-22)  "Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts." (Colossians 4:7-8)  "Tychicus" was with Paul here when he was forced to leave Ephesus; he was with Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome (as we will see in the following verses); he was with Paul after he was released from prison (see Titus 3:12); and he was with Paul in his final imprisonment.  "I sent Tychicus to Ephesus." (2 Timothy 4:12)

"and Trophimus from the province of Asia."  He is mentioned also in 21:29 when Paul was arrested in Jerusalem.  "They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area." (Acts 21:29)  Since he was not allowed in the temple area, he was a Gentile. See also II Timothy 4:20

"Timothy"  I and II Timothy were written to him.  He was a key member of Paul's team since he began being with Paul in Lystra. See 16:1-2 See also Philippians 2:19-23

"These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days."  Paul, though he was a Christian Jew, continued to celebrate the Festivals of Israel.  "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." (1 Corinthians 9:19-20)

"The Feast of Unleavened Bread" occurred in the spring time.  "And five days later joined the others at Troas."  Paul had made the same trip in two days going the other way. See 16:11  They probably had poorer traveling weather this time.

(2) A Sunday gathering of Christians (20:7-12)
"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. 'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'He’s alive!' Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted."

Thought Question: What do you believe would have been different if that young man named "Eutychus" had died that day and had not been raised from the dead?

 

 

"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead."

Since Luke says, "We came together," Luke was there and witnessed for himself this unusual day in Paul's ministry.  Since Paul was leaving the next day and because the people in "Troas" were hungry to understand God's word, he preached "until midnight."  We are not told when the meeting started, but it may have been an evening gathering.

"A young man named Eutychus" was "seated in a window."  "The windows were not made of glass.  They were either lattice or solid wood and opened like doors." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press." 

It appears that the meeting was on the third floor.  "There were many lamps in the upstairs room."  This resulted in a smoky atmosphere.  "Eutychus" was probably sitting in the "window," so he could breathe in the fresh outdoor air.  He may have been tired from a hard day's work.  As "Paul talked on and on," he began to drowse off.  "When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead." See II Kings 1:2

Paul speaking "on and on" does not mean that he was lecturing.  Paul could have been leading a discussion or he could have been answering questions.  "Not that we are to envisage Paul's preaching as purely monologue, since Luke uses the verb dialegomai [like our word dialogue] twice (7, 9) which implies discussion, perhaps in the form of questions and answers." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  But it did last hours and went beyond Eutychus' ability to stay awake.  As a result, he fell from the window and died.

"Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. 'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'He’s alive!'"  Paul's message and long service could have ended in a very tragic way; for each time they thought of Paul, they would have thought of poor "Eutychus"!  God dramatically changed that, for from that day on, when they thought of Paul, they would remember how Paul raised "Eutychus" from the dead.

Paul did what Elijah did with a widow's son. "Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, 'What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?' 'Give me your son,' Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?' Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!' The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, 'Look, your son is alive!'" (1 Kings 17:17-23)  Elisha followed the same pattern with a Shunammite's son.  See II Kings 4:8-36  "Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes." (2 Kings 4:34-35)

Some question whether or not the "young man" was dead.  They conclude that Paul is only proclaiming that "Eutychus" survived the fall and is not dead.  But Luke the doctor states in verse 9 that he was "dead."  Also, since Paul followed the pattern of Elijah and Elisha, we can concluded that Paul was used by God to raise "Eutychus" from the "dead." 

"Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted." We learn in 20:7 that they came together "and broke bread."  It appears that the preaching service preceded the breaking of the "bread."  This breaking of the "bread" may have combined the Lord's Supper and a meal.  When they finished, the hunger of the people for the word of God had been satisfied.  They had also experienced the resurrection of "Eutychus."  Certainly, it was a day they would never forget! 

Paul went on "talking until daylight."  "The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted."  After someone almost dies, we have a whole new appreciation of them.  From that day on, "Eutychus" would remind the people of this church of that remarkable Sunday service.

h. A lesson on the ministry from Paul's example (20:13-38)  From Miletus, a city near Ephesus, Paul sends for the elders of the church at Ephesus and asks them to meet with him in Miletus.  He first reminds them of how he had ministered to them; then, he encouraged them to follow his example.

(1) From Troas to Miletus (20:13-18)
"We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: 'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe it was so important for Paul to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost?

 

 

"We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene."  Paul crossed the peninsula—about 20 miles—and the rest traveled by boat around the peninsula—about 40 miles.  Luke does not tell us why Paul chose to walk.  Perhaps, he wanted some time alone to sort things out and to pray.

"The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus."  Luke gives accurate details of their trip from "Assos," (where Paul met the boat) to "Miletus."  "Miletus" is about 30 miles from Ephesus.

"Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost."  Paul knew that if he went to Ephesus, because of his many friendships there, it would not have been easy for them to leave in time to reach Jerusalem by "Pentecost".  Also, it could have stirred up problems—like the riot that occurred earlier. See 19:23-41

Robertson gives a possible reason that Paul was in a hurry.  "Paul clearly felt (Rom. 15) [15:25-27] that the presentation of this collection at Pentecost to the Jewish Christians [the offering Paul was collecting from the churches for the church in Jerusalem] would have a wholesome influence as it had one once before (Acts 11:30)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

j. Paul's pattern of ministry (20:17-38) Why was Paul's ministry so successful?  We can gain insight into the pattern of Paul's ministry from Paul himself, as he summarizes his ministry at Ephesus.  Clearly he wanted the elders at Ephesus to follow his pattern of ministry.

(1) Paul's humility and compassion (20:17-19a)
"From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: 'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears,'"

Thought Question #1:  How do you believe Paul revealed his humility to them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe caused Paul to come to tears?

 

 

"From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: 'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears,'"  Paul spent more time in ministering to the Ephesians  than to any other group of Christians.  They knew him better than any other church.  What did they see?  They saw "great humility" and compassion.  What does he mean by "great humility"?  Humility is a realization that everything comes from God.  Pride comes when we take credit for what God has done.  Paul recognized that he was the "the worst of sinners," but God had been gracious to him.  "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

He realized that his ability to minister effectively came from God.  "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)  I Corinthians was written while Paul was in Ephesus. See I Corinthians 16:8-9

Paul realized that his efforts in the past to elevate himself had produced rubbish.    " . . . . though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Philippians 3:4-9)  Paul realized that if he humbled himself, God would lift him up.  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10)

"and with tears,"  Paul mentions "tears" two more times in this exhortation to the Ephesian elders.  "So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:31)  It was said of D. L. Moody that he was qualified to preach on hell because he could not do it without "tears."  We get to know someone by what brings them to "tears."  Sometimes, someone is tearful at an inappropriate time or in an inappropriate way.  That person may be trying to use artificial emotions to motivate others.  But, sometimes, a pastor fights back tears because of his great concern for others.  I find myself being moved by what moves a Christian speaker, when I sense that his emotions are real.  Paul was that type of Christian leader.  He was the very opposite of a cold-hearted, manipulative, and success-focused pastor.  It is a pastor who deeply cares for the sheep who is genuinely moved to emotions due to his concern for them.  Again, Paul was that type of pastor.  And his followers sensed it.  "They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him." (Acts 20:37)

"'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you,'"  This "great humility" and compassion were present in Paul all the "time" he was "with" them.  Paul made the same claim in his letter to the Thessalonians.  "You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." (1 Thessalonians 2:5-12)

(2) Paul's persevering ministry (20:19b)
"although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews."  Opposition to Paul's ministry by the Jews was a regular occurrence throughout Paul's ministry. See 13:44-45, 14:19-20, 17:5, 13, 18:12-13, 20:2-3  At any of these times of persecution by the Jews, he could have said, "Enough is enough!"  But, he continued on with the same message and the same ministry that had stirred up opposition against him.  Do we also persevere in spite of strong opposition?  Is the opposition we face, though, due to our correct message and ministry, or is it due to our misbehavior?

(3) Paul's bold ministry (20:20-21)
"'You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.'"

Thought Question: What do you learn about what the ministry should be like from Paul's example?

 

 

"'You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.'"  The opposite of Paul's proclamation here is what occurs when we are careful to tell people only what they want to hear.  Paul was persecuted because he told people what they needed to hear, even if it was not what they wanted to hear.  Stephen told the Jewish religious leaders what they needed to hear, even though they definitely did not want to hear it.  "'You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.'" (Acts 7:51-53)  We know what happened next. See Acts 7:54-60

Paul actually witnessed the stoning of Stephen.  "And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." (Acts 8:1)

"'I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.'"  That is our message also.  We need to proclaim to people that they "must turn to God in repentance."  "Repentance" requires a change of thinking about our sins.  Someone told me yesterday that the pattern of liberalism is to teach that less and less is wrong.  If this is true, less and less is put in the category of being sinful—then, also, we are not sinning or breaking the law if we do them.  That is the opposite of the Christian message.  What God's word declares to be sin, is sin.  Repentance means that we also call it sin and choose to turn from it as we "turn to God."  That, though, is not a message our world welcomes: but it is the Christian message.

(4) A personal ministry (20:20)
" . . . have taught you publicly and from house to house."

Paul did not only teach to large groups, but he also taught in people's homes.  His goal was not to gain public admiration, but that individuals would grow closer to God.  Years ago, I benefitted from some who took a personal interest in me and my spiritual growth.  Paul's pattern was to build disciples, not to build attendance.

(5) Paul's sacrificial ministry (20:22-24)
"'And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.'"

Thought Question:  There is disagreement over whether or not it was God's will for Paul to go to Jerusalem.  According to these verses, was it God's will that he go to Jerusalem?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"'And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.'"  Someone has said that if we do not have anything worth dying for, we do not have anything worth living for.  Paul knew that what God had called him to do was worth dying for.  "A commitment to Christ that superseded self-interest had been the pattern of his life ever since his Damascus conversion when Christ told Ananias, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.' (9:16)." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Jim Elliot, a missionary to the Auca Indians in South America who died in his attempts to reach them, said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

"'not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.'"  Paul did not know whether or not he would die at Jerusalem, but he did know that it would result in his imprisonment.  And he did know that he was heading for some type of hardship.

Any Christian, who has been a Christian for some time and who has sought to follow Paul's pattern of obedience to Christ even if it leads to persecution, has experienced hard times.  But, I personally have found that God's loving expression of blessings has outweighed the hard times.  Recently, a book I have been reading encouraged me to list the expressions of love that I have experienced.  I listed God's expressions of love next to a list of the hard times.  The expressions of love were much greater than the hard times.

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.'"  Paul did run "the race" until the end.  He did "complete the task the Lord Jesus" had "given" to him.  In the last letter of his in the Bible, he said these words:  "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

He also, at that time, gave credit to God for standing at his side and making it possible.  "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

"I consider my life worth nothing to me,"  C. T. Studd said what is very true: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."  Paul had this perspective of reality clearly in mind.  It is equally true today.  " "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)  "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?'" (Matthew 16:24-26)

(6) A completed ministry (20:25-27)
"Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.'"

Thought Question:  What will make us "innocent of the blood of all men"?

 

 

"Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again."  At this time, Paul was convinced he would never see them "again."  So, these words were what he believed were his last words to them.  We know, though, after he was imprisoned, he believed that he would be freed from prison.  "And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon." (Philippians 2:24) See also Philemon 22  And he did, after being released from prison return to Timothy in Ephesus.  "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer" (1 Timothy 1:3)  "Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that . . . . " (1 Timothy 3:14)  "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (1 Timothy 4:13)  He did return to Miletus.  "Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus." (2 Timothy 4:20)  So, we can assume that he did at least see these elders once more at Miletus; and he may have also returned to Ephesus.  But at the time that he said these words, he believed that he would not see them again. The book of Ephesus was written to this church during the time that Paul was in prison.

"Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.'"  In Ezekiel 33, God speaks to Ezekiel and tells him that if he warns Israel of His coming judgment on them, then Ezekiel has done his job; even if they do not repent.  Ezekiel did warn Israel of God's coming judgment on them.  They were responsible, then, for they heard the warning but refused to respond to it.  If he had not warned them, though, he would have been responsible.  Paul, here, declares that he had faithfully proclaimed all that God wanted him to proclaim to the Christians in Ephesus.  He had not held back out of fear, but had told them "the whole will of God."  As a result, he was "innocent of the blood of all men." See also Acts 18:6

Paul had completed all that God had directed him to do in Ephesus.  He left them with the confidence that he had fully done his job.  May we also complete the task that God has given us to do.

(7) Paul's productive ministry (20:28-31)
"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul was so confident that there would be false shepherds that would come from inside the church at Ephesus, who would "draw away" disciples after them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Could the same thing happen within our churches?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."  Over the years, I have become convinced that what Paul states here is one of the often forgotten truths about the church.  Years ago, a pastor told me that the people of the church thought it was their church, but he said that we knew that it was his church.  Both the people and he were very wrong, It is, as Paul says here, "the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."  If we could remember that simple fact, a lot of the power struggles in the church would cease.  We are not to fight over whose church it is; we are to fight together so that our real enemy does not take over the church.

The elders' role is to "watch over . . . the flock."  Elders are to protect "the flock" from our relentless enemy.  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)  "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat." (Luke 22:31)

"Keep watch over yourselves"  In chemical dependency treatment, family members of alcoholics are often told that they can go down with the alcoholic family member if they are not careful to first take care of themselves. An example that is given is that a parent needs to make sure when an airline's pilot instructs passengers to take oxygen, that they do not give all the oxygen to a tiny child.  For, then, they would lose consciousness and would not be there to care for the child.  So, church leaders need to first of all make sure that they are not led astray by Satan.  For, then, the church would be without a leader or without leaders.

Three terms are used interchangeably in 20:17-28 here.  In 20:17, these leaders are described as "elders"presbuterous is the Greek word (the name of the Presbyterian denomination comes from this Greek word).  Here in verse 28, these church leaders are called "overseers" or bishops.  The Greek word is episcopous (the name of the church denomination Episcopal comes from this Greek word).  According to these verses, these leaders are also "shepherds of the church of God."  The Greek word is poimainein"Elders" describes their qualification for leadership—they are mature in Christian character.  "Overseers" describes their authority to lead the church.  And "shepherds" describes their work of shepherding the flock—feeding, caring for, and protecting God's church.

"the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."  Since it was Jesus' "blood," He is here called God.

" I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."

In Paul's time and our time, we can be sure that there will be false shepherds who will try to win over and draw away Christ's sheep.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees who crucified Jesus were false shepherds.  Jesus exposed their black hearts in Matthew 23.  Jesus predicted that there would be false teachers in Matthew 7:15:  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."  Many of the New Testament letters were written to combat false teaching and false teachers.  Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus when Paul wrote these words to him.  "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer" (1 Timothy 1:3)  "nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm." (1 Timothy 1:4-7)  "Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:18-20) See also Revelation 2:2  See the following verses for other examples of false teaching—II Corinthians 11:1-6, 13-15; Galatians 1:6-9; Colossians 2:8, 18-19; Jude; I John 2:18-26; Revelation 2:14-16, 20-25

What about today?  Are there false teachers today who desire to secretly invade churches?  "savage wolves will come in among you"  Are there today those who will "even" come from our "own number" who will "distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them"?  Jesus predicted that there would be false teachers and that they would increase in number in the last days.  "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." (Matthew 24:10-11)  Before our time and during our time, many false teachings have infected the church.  Here are some examples:  Roman Catholicism, liberalism, cults of many types, prosperity teachers, post-modernism's effect on the church, as well as individuals who have developed some aberrant teaching.

Why was Paul convinced it would happen in Ephesus?  It can only be because Satan is always relentlessly attempting to replace the truth with his lies—his distortions of the truth.  Also, there are always people whose hearts are receptive to his perversions of the truth.  Paul was so concerned about false teachings and false teachers infiltrating the church that he "never stopped warning each of" them "night and day with tears."  Do we have this type of concern and passion today?  Because our enemy is relentless, we also need to be relentless, and we also need to be ever vigilant in defending the faith.  "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3) See also the rest of the short book of Jude.

(8) Paul's giving ministry (20:32-35)
"'Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”'" 

Thought Question: What is there in Paul's words here that is an encouragement to you?

 

 

"'Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.'"  Paul tells them that though he will no longer be with them, "God" and His "word of" "grace" will continue to be with them.  And Paul tells them that "God" and His "word of grace" will have two good effects on them:  (1) They will build them up.  Being built up is a common theme in Paul's writings. See I Corinthians 3:9-13; Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:11-16  We as Christians are not to stay where we are.  We are, through God's word, to be built up.  Paul clearly had that goal for the Christians in Ephesus—that they be built up.

(2) They were to gain "an inheritance."  Each Christian will receive "an inheritance."  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."       (1 Peter 1:3-5)  What we receive in that "inheritance" will be gained by what our service is like here on earth.  "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

"among all those who are sanctified."  The "sanctified" are all of us who are Christians—we have been justified and are holy through faith in Jesus' death for our sins.  "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:" (1 Corinthians 1:2)  "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11)  Paul was commissioned by Jesus to preach the gospel so that those who believed would believe  would " . . . receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified. . . . " (Acts 26:18)

Sanctification also describes the process of spiritual growth.  "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)  "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Paul is not with us today, but "God" and His "word of grace" are with us.  So, we also can be built up and gain an "inheritance." 

"'I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”'" 

If we are not already amazed at Paul, we certainly are now.  For two to three years, Paul was not financially supported by the Ephesian Christians.  He must have worked when the people of Ephesus worked and taught during the hot part of the day when most of the people of Ephesus were resting.  And what was his conclusion?  He agreed with Jesus' words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  In short, through it all, he was a "blessed" and happy man.

It is clear that Paul did not serve people out of some selfish motive.  It was for them that he worked to exhaustion.  It was for them that he served them during the time that he was with them.  Through the years, the church of God has grown and has been built up by those who have labored to exhaustion in the service of the God who sacrificed so much for them. 

These words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," are not found in the Gospels.  We would not have known these words of Jesus had Paul not shared them with us here. 

Anyone who has lived a life of service has also learned that it is better "to give than to receive."  It is told of John D. Rockefeller that he was heading toward an early death until he started giving out of his wealth to the needy.  Then, he lived to an old age.  This was described in None of These Diseases by S.I. McMillan by Spire Books.

(9) Paul's close relationship with his flock (20:36-38)
"When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship."

Thought Question: When have you seen this type of closeness between a church leader and those that he or she led?

 

 

"When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed."  Their close bond with each other came from their common bond with God.  So, it was very appropriate for them to end their time together in prayer. 

"They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.  What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship."  Paul thought that he was heading for imprisonment and possibly death.  There was a high probability that they would never see his face again.  As was mentioned earlier, it is likely that they did see him again.  But, they parted believing it was their last time with Paul.

In these verses, we get a small glimpse of the deep closeness among Paul and these church elders.  They were more than acquaintances, more than friends, and even more than family.  Here, we see the closeness that comes from the deepest emotional and spiritual intimacy.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Acts