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ACTS 21-28

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.

5. Paul's prison journey (21-28)

(a) Following in the footsteps of Jesus (21:1-36)

(1) Paul, like Jesus, was willing to suffer (21:1-16)
"After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home. We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”' When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord’s will be done.' After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that Paul should or should not have gone to Jerusalem after being warned by a prophet he would be imprisoned when he got there?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo."  It can be seen on a map of Paul's third missionary journey that Paul took the shortest path to "Tyre."  "With a following wind they sailed straight to Cos (about 45 miles).  The next day brought them to Rhodes (about 70 miles), and the third day to Patara (about 70 miles) . . . At Patera they found a larger ship that sailed directly to Phoenicia, a distance of about 400 miles." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972." 

We can tell that Luke was with Paul at this time by the "we"s in these verses.  As a result, Luke is able to give us a detailed description of this journey he took with Paul. 

"Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home."  We were told about how the church at Phoenicia and Tyre began in ll:19:  "Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews." (Acts 11:19) See also 15:3

We will see that Paul is warned a number of times, on this journey, that he was going to suffer in Jerusalem.  Here, it says that this warning came "through the Spirit."  Did God want Paul to go to Jerusalem or did He not want him to go?  Was Paul stubbornly rejecting a warning from God and going to Jerusalem even though God warned him not to go?  Or did God want him to go, but wanted him to be prepared beforehand for the suffering he would experience there?  Was Paul going to Jerusalem out of God's will for him or in God's will for him?  We will work through this issue after we have covered all of the verses related to it.

"All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city,"  Robertson observes that this is the first mention of children in any of the churches.  Did Paul give any children's messages to them?  We do not know, but children were part of those who said "good-bye" to him as he left for Jerusalem.

"We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day."  "Ptolemais" was "about twenty-five miles south of Tyre." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  As we see here, there was also a church in "Ptolemais." The church universal was spreading as new local churches were being planted.  See 11:19 

"Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied."  In these verses, we are reunited with Philip who was one of the original seven deacons chosen in Acts six.  Later, he became a God-empowered evangelist in Samaria. See Acts 8:4-8  He also was used by God to lead an Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord. See 8:26-40  Apparently, he had remained at Caesarea for some twenty years.  We see in Acts 8 how he had arrived at Caesarea years before.  "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea." (Acts 8:39-40)

We learn from these verses about how the spiritual gifts were present and active in the early church.  "Philip" was an "evangelist."  This differentiated him from Paul who was an apostle. See Mk. 3:16-19  "Philip" was a good-news proclaimer.  His role was similar to our modern-day evangelist Billy Graham and our missionary church planters—his purpose was to reach the unreached.  Timothy was also an "evangelist."  "But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:5)

"He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied."  "Prophecy" is a gift of the Holy Spirit and "a prophet" is a gifted person.  It appears that Agabus, whom we will meet later, was a prophet, while Philip's "daughters" had the gift of prophecy.  Paul gives detained instructions about the gift of prophecy in I Corinthians11-14.  Women were to prophesy with their head covered—they were to do it in submission to the leadership in the church. See I Corinthians 11:2-10  Then, in I Corinthians 14, Paul emphasizes the importance of the gift of prophecy in the early church.  God used these "daughters" of Philip to communicate what He specifically wanted the church at Caesarea to know.  God used these women to communicate God's message to the church during a time when the Bible was not available to them as it is available to us today.

In Bible times, there were many women who were prophetesses of God. See Exod. 15:20; Judges 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Nehemiah 16:14; and Lk. 2:36

"and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven."  "What a joyful time Paul had in conversation with Philip.  He could learn much of value about the early days of the gospel in Jerusalem." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”'""Agabus" was one of the gifted men listed in Ephesians 4:11.  Prophets were men gifted by God to be His spokesmen.  They had God's truth revealed directly to them.  They also were used by God to predict the future.  In Acts 11:27-28, we are told that Agabus predicted a famine that was coming to the Roman Empire.  "During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)"  Here, he predicts that if Paul continued on to Jerusalem, he would be arrested and imprisoned there. See also Acts 13:1 and 15:32 where prophets are also mentioned.

This is the second time that Paul is warned by God's Spirit about what would happen to him if he went to Jerusalem.  This time, Agabus uses the symbolism of Paul's belt around his hands to dramatically and unmistakably predict that he would be arrested and imprisoned if went to Jerusalem. See also I Kings 11:29-31; Isa. 20:3-4; Jer. 13:1-11; Ezek. 4:1-8 for other examples of prophets using dramatic ways, as Agabus does here, to communicate their prophesies.

"When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord’s will be done.'"

So, now we need to ask the question, "Was it God's will for Paul to go to Jerusalem?  Or, did Paul stubbornly go to Jerusalem even though it was not God's will for him to go there?  As John Stott says, "Are we to blame Paul for his obstinacy or admire him for his unshakable resolve?" "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press." 

Some are quite strong in saying that Paul stubbornly went against God's will when he went to Jerusalem.  Gangel quotes one of them. "Barnhouse gets downright critical: 'By this time Paul was an opinionated, stubborn man and determined to have his own way.  It's a great, yet sad picture of what happens in the lives of far too many Christians.'" "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."  My first pastor as a new Christian, Ray Stedman, also believed that Paul was wrong to go to Jerusalem.  "As I have studied this passage and worked with it through the years, I have come to the very deep conviction that it was not necessary for Paul to have been a prisoner. . . . He had succumbed to what today we call a 'martyr complex.'  His words are brave and sincere and earnest.  He meant every word of them. . . . We can find no fault with the bravery and courage expressed in these words.  but it was not necessary for him to go, and the Spirit had told him not to go . . . Here we can see what can happen to a man when he is misled by an urgent hunger to accomplish a goal which God had not given him to do. " "Ray Stedman. org."

Barnhouse and Stedman were very respected Bible teachers, but the majority of commentators disagree with them.  LaSor makes this statement: "If Paul did not think it was contrary to the will of God for him to go to Jerusalem, who am I to say otherwise." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972." 

John Stott gives a good explanation of what took place.  First, he pointed out that Paul said at Miletus that he was going to Jerusalem, "compelled by the Spirit." (20:22)  But, then, in 21:4, the disciples at Tyre "through the Spirit" "urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem."  Can the Spirit compel Paul to go to Jerusalem and then urge him not to go?  Stott says, "Luke has too high a doctrine of the Holy Spirit to portray him as changing his mind . . . The better solution is to draw a distinction between a prediction and a prohibition.  Certainly Agabus only predicted that Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles (21:11); the pleadings with Paul which followed are not attributed to the Spirit and may have been the fallible (indeed mistaken) human deduction from the Spirit's prophecy.  For if Paul had heeded his friends' pleas, then Agabus' prophecy would not have been fulfilled." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

In Acts 16:6-7, Paul did not go where the Holy Spirit forbade him to go.  "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."

As Jesus headed toward Jerusalem, though it meant sure death, so Paul heads toward Jerusalem though it meant that he would be imprisoned there.  Paul is also compared to Martin Luther who was urged not to go to Worms by his friends.  "On April 14, 1521, Martin Luther was on his way to the Diet of Worms.  The emperor had forbidden the sale of all the reformer's books and ordered them to be seized.  Luther's life was in great danger . . . Luther comforted his fearful friends, saying, 'Though Hus was burned, the truth was not burned and Christ still lives.  'Then He sent Spalatin the now famous message, 'I shall go to Worms, though there were as many devils as tiles on the roofs.'" "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books. Hughes quotes Schaff."

"After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples."  Luke and the others could have told Paul, "If you want to go to Jerusalem against our urging, go ahead by yourself."  But, they joined him on his dangerous trek.

"Mnason" "a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples."  He may have been one the converts at Pentecost.  The distance from Jerusalem to Caesarea is about 60 miles.

(2) Paul was also willing to humble himself (21:17-26)
"When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.' The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them."

Thought Question:  What Christian principle does Paul apply here?

 

 

"When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry."  Paul's time in Jerusalem started out well.  He was "received warmly."  On the second day, he and the others with him (which included Luke), "went to see James."  Certainly, this is the time that he gave to the church at Jerusalem the offering that had been collected for them from various churches throughout the Christian world of the time.  "James" appears to have had a similar role in the church at Jerusalem to the role of the pastor in our modern-day churches. See Acts 12:17, 15:13-21; I Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:18-10, 2:9

"and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry."  It appears here that Paul was careful to give God the proper credit.  If we have any true success, it is because God enabled us to be successful.  "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'" (John 15:4-5)  Paul bore fruit because of his reliance on God to do the work.

"When they heard this, they praised God."  We are further convinced that Paul gave the credit to God, for when he had finished describing what God had done through him, they "praised God" and not him.

"Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do?'"  At the council of Jerusalem, it was determined that the Gentiles did not need to become Jews first before they became Christians. See 15:8-11, 19 But, the issue about whether or not Jews should continue the practices taught in the Old Testament was not settled—whether or not they should be circumcised, practice the Festivals, etc.  The thousands of Jewish Christians had heard that Paul was teaching Jewish Christians to cease to be Jews.  This was not true, for Paul himself continued the Jewish practices.  He observed the Passover Feast in Philippi. See Acts 20:6  He practiced the Nazirite vow. See 18:18  Also, Paul did not teach Jews not to be circumcised.  "Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised." (1 Corinthians 7:18)  Paul also had Timothy get circumcised, though he was a Jew only by his mother.  "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 16:3) See also I Cor. 9:19-20  So, in short, the accusations against Paul were false.

"'What shall we do?'"  "James" and "the elders" did not believe that these charges against Paul were true, but "thousands" did.  The "thousands" is probably a way of saying that an overwhelming number of Jewish Christians believed the lies.  The numbers accusing Paul were so great that "James" and the other leaders were powerless to change the perception about Paul that so many had.  So, now Paul faces the opposition that the Holy Spirit predicted that he would face.  As we move on, we will see that "James" and "the elders" have a possible solution.

"'They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.'" 

"The leaders saw a way in which Paul could guarantee the orthodoxy of his own conduct.  Four men were in the middle of observing the Nazirite vow.  This was a vow taken in gratitude for some special blessing from the hand of God.  It involved abstention from wine for thirty days, during which the hair had to be allowed to grow.  It seems that sometimes at least the last seven days had to be spent entirely in the Temple courts.  At the end certain offerings had to be brought—a year-old lamb for a sin offering, a ram for a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil and a meat offering and a drink offering.  Finally, the hair had to be shorn and burned on the altar with the sacrifice.  It is obvious that this was a costly business.  Work had to be given up and all the elements of the sacrifice had to be brought.  It was quite beyond the resources of many who would have wished to undertake it.  So it was considered an act of piety for some wealthier person to defray the expenses of someone taking the vow.  That was what Paul was asked to do in the case of these four men and he consented." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

Robertson suggests that Paul was also asked to join them by also taking the vow.  "The point is that Paul takes the vow with them." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Paul was willing to go the extra mile in an attempt to make it obvious that the charges against him were false.  As we will see, his willingness to go the extra mile was of no avail.

"'As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.'"  "James" and the others repeat the decision that was made at the Jerusalem council. See Acts 15:28-29  By asking Paul, as a Jewish Christian, to join in this vow, they were not changing anything regarding the status of Gentile Christians.

"The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them."  We see Paul's genuine humility here.  He was not a stubbornly arrogant man who went to Jerusalem obstinately refusing to listen to advice.  Instead, he took the false accusations against him head on.  He was humbly willing to take the advice of the Jewish Christians leaders in an attempt to correct the false accusations that were made about him. See also  Matt. Matt. 5:37-47 (turn the other cheek and go the extra mile); I Cor. 9:19-22

(3) Paul was also at the mercy of an angry mob (21:27-36)
"When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, 'Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.) The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, 'Away with him!'"

Thought Question: Are you aware of any times when false charges have been made about Christian leaders?  Describe briefly an example.

 

 

"When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, 'Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)" 

Sometimes, it is not what is true that prevails, but what people want to be believe is true.  These "Jews from the province of Asia" wanted to believe the worst about Paul.  In Acts 20:19, Paul stated that the Jews in Ephesus had been a problem for him.  "I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews."  Here, Jews from the province of Asia recognized Paul and saw that they had an opportunity, through the use of lies, to raise antagonism against him.  And they were successful.  The more successful we are in propagating the truth, the more we will antagonize the people that have become ardent followers of some form of lie.

"And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)"  "Trophimus" was a Gentile believer from Ephesus.  The very fact that these "Jews" had seen Paul with "Trophimus" meant to them that Paul must have brought him into the part of the temple courts where Gentiles were forbidden to go.  Again, it is what they wanted to be true.  Their goal was to convict Paul, so they came up with an accusation that they wanted to be true.  Resentment breeds false accusations like these false accusations against Paul.  Love, on the other hand, wants to believe the best of others, not the worst.

Barclay describes the fate of a Greek or Gentile, at that time, who went beyond the court of the Gentiles and into the temple court.  "Trophimus was a Gentile and for a Gentile to enter the Temple was a terrible thing.  Gentiles could enter the Court of the Gentiles, but between that court and Court of the Women there was a barrier and into that barrier there were inset tablets with this inscription—'No man of alien race is to enter within the balustrade and fence that goes around the Temple, and if anyone is taken in the act, let him know that he has himself to blame for the penalty of death that follows."  Even the Romans took this so seriously that they allowed the Jews to carry out the death penalty for this crime." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut."  Gangel observes that this is "The sixth riot initiated by Paul's behavior and preaching (Lystra, 14:19; Philippi, 16:22; Thessalonica, 17;5; Berea, 17;13; Ephesus, 19:29)." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."  It is amazing, that with all the trouble the gospel message provoked in opposition to Paul, that he continued on, never backing down from proclaiming God's message to the world of his time.

"and immediately the gates were shut."  Robertson give this explanation for why "the gates were shut" so quickly.  "They did not want to defile the holy place with blood." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Stott observes that it also symbolizes the Jewish rejection of Paul, his message, and his teaching about Jesus Christ.  The Jews were a closed door to Paul!

"While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul." 

The "commander.  Greek chilarch, a commander of 1,000 (a regiment), Claudius Lysias by name (23:26) who was stationed at the Fortress Antonia."  "The Fortress of Antonia was connected to the northern end of the temple area by two flights of steps.  The tower overlooked the temple area."  "NIV Study Bible notes on 21:31, 37."

He brought centurions (plural).  The NIV says "officers."  But the KJV and the ESV translate it "centurions" or rulers of a hundred.  So, the fact centurions came, meant that Claudius Lysias brought a large number of soldiers.  When the mob saw them, "they stopped beating Paul."  Paul must have thought that this crowd was going to take his life.

" The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, 'Away with him!'"  Why did the command arrest Paul?  He was the one being beaten and he was the one who was almost killed.  The problem was that Lysias could not arrest the whole mob, so he arrested Paul.  He may have thought that Paul had broken some sacred religious practice of the Jews.  When he tried to determine what Paul had done that was so horrible, he could not get anything from the crowd that made sense to him.  He knew that the crowd was mad, but he could not determine what they were mad about.

"and ordered him to be bound with two chains."  So, what Agabus predicted would happen to Paul in Jerusalem did happen to him.  "After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”'" (Acts 21:10-11)

"'Away with him!'"   They likely meant, "Kill him!  Kill him!"  It is reminiscent of the words that were screamed at Jesus: "But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!' 'Shall I crucify your king?' Pilate asked. 'We have no king but Caesar,' the chief priests answered." (John 19:15)

If this Roman "commander" had not intervened, Paul would have died that day.  In fact, Roman soldiers had to carry Paul away or the angry crowd would have killed Paul even after they came.

Why was the crowd so angry at an innocent man?  The same can be asked today when mobs form and are united in anger against a perceived enemy.  Clearly, it was not God ruling in their hearts that caused the Jews to be furiously angry at Jesus and Paul.  Any of us can build up anger inside of us that can then be directed at someone.  Angry people need someone to direct their anger toward.  On that day in Jerusalem, the Jews' anger was directed toward Paul.

b. The art of defending ourselves (21:37-26:32)

(1) Paul's defense before the Jews (21:37-22:29)

(a) When should we defend ourselves (21:37-40)
"As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, 'May I say something to you?' 'Do you speak Greek?' he replied. 'Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the desert some time ago?' Paul answered, 'I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.' Having received the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that this Roman officer allowed Paul to speak to this mob?

 

 

"As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, 'May I say something to you?' 'Do you speak Greek?' he replied. 'Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the desert some time ago?'"  The Roman "commander," due to the strong reaction of the Jews, thought Paul was a famous man on Rome's most wanted list.  Stott describes him as follows:  "The revolutionary to whom Lysias was referring was described by Josephus as 'an Egyptian false prophet' who, about three years previously, had got together 30,000 men (Josephus was prone to exaggeration!), led them to the Mount of Olives, and promised them that when the walls of Jerusalem fell flat at his command, they would be able to break into the city and overpower the Romans.  But the procurator Felix and his troops intervened, and the sikarioi (dagger men, i.e. fanatical nationalist assassins) were killed, capture or scattered.  But the Egyptian disappeared and the commander at first thought he had now come to light again." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"'Do you speak Greek?'"  The "commander" was caught by surprise when he heard Paul speaking in Greek.

"led four thousand terrorists"  The ESV translates the Greek word tou sikarion as "assassins."  The Egyptian's "followers had been Dagger-bearers, violent nationalists who were deliberate assassins.  They concealed daggers in their cloaks, mixed with the mob and struck as they could." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"Paul answered, 'I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.' Having received the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:"  "Being defensive" is seen as a weakness, but Paul, in the remaining chapters of Acts, defends himself five times.  Also, many of the New Testament letters of Paul contain Paul's defense of himself and his teachings.  Built into our court systems is an opportunity for the accused to have a fair and equal opportunity to defend himself or herself.  When is it right to defend ourself and our ministry, and when is it not right?

In our society, there is an attack on Christianity and the Christian message from many directions.  Hollywood, universities, the news media, and others misrepresent Christians and describe Christianity in the worst way.  As Christians, our whole goal in life is to glorify God—to correct misrepresentations about God with the truth about Him.  False charges can also be made of us as they were made of Paul.  Some of these attacks are instigated due to the evil in men's hearts—as happened to Paul here.  Here, Paul will defend himself by stating the truth.  Then, what men do with that is their responsibility.  Here, many in the mob did not even know what started the violence.  They did, though, grow silent so they could hear what Paul had to say about himself.

(b) How do we defend ourselves? (22:1-20)
"'Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.' When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 'I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished."

Thought Question:  Give examples of the Christian restraint that Paul uses in his defense of the false charges made against him.

 

 

Paul does all that he can do to speak to his audience with gentleness and respect, even though they had just tried to murder him.  He calls them "brothers and fathers."  Then, he answers their primary charge against him—that he was teaching "all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place." (21:28)  He makes it very clear that he was a completely dedicated Jew who had, as a result of his dedication, been a persecutor of Christians.

"When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet."  "They would have understood Paul's Koine Greek [common people's Greek], but they much preferred the Aramaic.  It was a masterstroke." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"'listen now to my defense.'"  The Greek word translated "defense" is the word from which we get our word "apologize."  But, "it is not our use of the word for apologizing for an offense . . . It is an old word from apologeomai, to talk one self off a charge, to make defense.  It occurs also in Acts 25:16 and then also in I Cor. 9:3; II Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1:7, 16; II Tim. 4;16; I Peter 3:15.  Paul uses it again in Acts 25:16 as here about his defense against the charges made by the Jews from Asia." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  As can be seen by the verses that Robertson cites, defending the Christian message and our Christian ministry will always be necessary due to the false charges that will always be made against them.  There is a difference between taking the charges personally—and then trying to prove that we are not so bad after all, and defending our message and ministry for the sake of others' best.  Paul did not at all believe that the charges against him were accurate.  He was defending His ministry and message so that the truth might continue to be boldly proclaimed.  A match lit in a dark cavern still can be seen, no matter how small it may be.  Paul's message was the truth, whether or not people saw it as the truth. See Isaiah 6:9-12, Ezek. 3:11

"Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers"  "The most eminent teacher of that time and the leader of the school of Hillel." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death,"  "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them." (Acts 26:9-10)

"'About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” I asked. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. “What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.'"

Thought Question:  How does Paul's defense here provide us with a way that we can also explain why we believe in Christ?

 

 

We learn in this account that Jesus' appearance to Paul happened at noon.  So, the light that Paul and the others saw was brighter than the noon-day sun.  "About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions." (Acts 26:13)  Also, in 9:7, we are told, "they heard the sound, but did not see anyone."  Here, "My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me."  Both accounts are true, "they heard the sound, but "did not understand" the words that were spoken to Paul.

Paul tells this angry mob of his unusual conversion from a Jesus-hater to a Jesus follower.  Would they respond and also become Jesus' followers?  We will see the effect of Paul's testimony on the crowd in the following verses.

"'A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very moment I was able to see him. Then he said: “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'"

Thought Question:  When do you believe Paul became a Christian (before he was baptized or when he was baptized)?

 

 



"'A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.'"  Paul continues to make every effort to show that he was not disrespecting Jewish law.  "Ananias," the man who led Paul to become a follower of Jesus also "was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews" of Damascus.

"'He stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very moment I was able to see him.'"  The first sight the blind man of John 9 saw was the face of Jesus.  So, the first face that Paul saw after he was blinded by Jesus was the face of a follower of Jesus.

"'Then he said: “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.”'"  Paul was chosen by God to be His apostle to the Gentiles.  One of the qualifications to be an apostle was to have seen the risen Lord.  "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?" (I Corinthians 9:1)  "But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'" (Acts 9:15-16) See also Rom. 1:5; Gal. 1:15-17; Eph. 3:7-9

"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'"  When did Paul become a Christian?  Had he already expressed saving faith and his baptism symbolized that he had been forgiven of his sins and had received new life in Christ?  Or, was he saved when he was baptized?  The Bible is clear that salvation comes when we believe in Jesus.  Certainly, Paul had already believed in Jesus.  Paul says in 22:10, "''“What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.”'"  Paul writes these words in Roman 10:9-10: "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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."  Paul confessed with his mouth Jesus as his Lord before he was baptized, so he also had become a Christian before he was baptized.  His baptism dramatically symbolized the washing away of his sins. See Rom. 6:1-5

"'When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. “Quick!” he said to me. “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” “Lord,” I replied, “these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Paul included this vision of Jesus in his defense before this angry crowd?

 

 

"'When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. “Quick!” he said to me. “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.”'"  Here, Paul clearly points out that the reason he went to the Gentiles is because Israel would not accept the message about Jesus.  It was not a message that Israel wanted to hear, but God often leads His spokespersons to say truths that people do not want to hear. See 7:51-53; Matt. 23

Luke does not mention this vision in Acts 9, where he records this visit of Paul to Jerusalem.  But, Luke does record that Paul left Jerusalem because there was an attempt to kill him. See Acts 9:26-30

"'“Lord,” I replied, “these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”'"  Paul argues with Jesus that his complete turn around from hating and persecuting Christians would surely give him a hearing.  Paul, though, did not understand the hardness of heart of the Jews as Jesus did.  Listen to Jesus' description of the Jews in Jerusalem:  "'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.'" (Matthew 23:37) See also Zech. 7:12

"'“Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”'"  Paul went "to the Gentiles" because of Israel's rejection of their Messiah, and because the Messiah instructed him to go "to the Gentiles."  As we will see, this is not what this angry mob wanted to hear.

(b) The mob's response to Paul's defense (22:21-29)
"'Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”' The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, 'Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!' As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, 'Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?' When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. 'What are you going to do?' he asked. 'This man is a Roman citizen.' The commander went to Paul and asked, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' 'Yes, I am,' he answered. Then the commander said, 'I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.' 'But I was born a citizen,' Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains."

Thought Question#1:  Why do you believe that the Jews got so angry when Paul said that Jesus sent him to the Gentiles?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you think that Paul did the right thing when he announced to the Romans that he was a Roman citizen?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"'Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”' The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, 'Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!'"  This is not the type of response a pastor expects to receive after a Sunday morning message.  It is not even the response that an evangelist hopes to get after speaking to a crowd of people.  It appears that his words did not make things better, but his words made things worse.  What were they so angry about?  It was their self-righteous belief that they were superior to the Gentiles—they believed that God had chosen them because they were superior to the Gentiles.  Paul was saying, to their minds, that the Gentiles were superior to them.  For Jesus told Paul to go to the Gentiles.  So, that meant to them that He rejected them.  The truth, though, is that they first rejected Jesus.  Also, the truth is that God did not choose them because they were superior to the other nations.  "The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)  "After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, 'The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.' No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people." (Deuteronomy 9:4-6)

"As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, 'Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?' When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. 'What are you going to do?' he asked. 'This man is a Roman citizen.' The commander went to Paul and asked, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' 'Yes, I am,' he answered. Then the commander said, 'I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.' 'But I was born a citizen,' Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains."

The crowd was in an uproar, the "commander" wanted to know why.  The standard method of extracting information at that time was much worse than water-boarding.  They tried to beat it out of him.  The scourge used by Roman soldiers at that time was made of strips of leather with pieces of metal or pieces of bone attached to it.  There was no limit to how many times Paul could be beaten (the Jews had a limit).  But, before he was beaten, Paul informs the soldier with the whip that they were about to "flog a Roman citizen" who had not been found guilty. 

Roman "citizenship tended to be either by right (for those of high status or office) or by reward (for those who had served the Empire well).  It was passed on from father to son (which was the case with Paul); it could also be bought, not with a fee but with a bribe to some corrupt official . . .which was the case with Claudius Lysias." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press." 

(2) Paul's defense before the Sanhedrin (22:30-23:11)

(b) What not to do (22:30-23:5)
"The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them. Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, 'My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.' At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, 'God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!' Those who were standing near Paul said, 'You dare to insult God’s high priest?' Paul replied, 'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”'"

Thought Question 1:  Should Paul have called the High Priest a "whitewashed wall"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Paul did not recognize that "Ananias" was the "high priest"?

 

 

"The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them."  This Roman "commander" tried a similar tactic to what Pilate used with Jesus.  Both Pilate and this "commander" could not find a legitimate basis for killing or imprisoning Jesus and Paul.  Pilate brought Jesus before Herod, hoping that Herod would find Him guilty.  This "commander" takes Paul before "the Sanhedrin" hoping that they will be able to find him guilty of something. See 4:8-22, 5:21-41, 6:12-15 for other times members of the early church came before the Sanhedrin.

"A chiliarch [commander of a thousand] would have had no authority in a civil case; it was therefore necessary for Claudius Lysias to send the Roman citizen Paul to the procurator (or governor).  Along with the prisoner he had to send a written statement giving the details of the case.  At the moment, however, the chiliarch had nothing to write." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972." 

"Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, 'My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.' At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, 'God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!'"

Paul begins his words before the "Sanhedrin," that he was once a part of, quite boldly.  He addresses them as equals, and then he asserts to them that he has always acted toward them in "good conscience." See Acts 24:16; Rom. 9:1; I Cor. 4:1-5; II Cor. 1:12; I Tim. 1:18-20; II Tim 1:3  Paul was saying to them that by becoming a Christian and by preaching to both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus is the Messiah, he had not gone against his conscience before God. 

The high priest had no patience at all with Paul's words—to the high priest, Jesus was not the Messiah and Paul was a hardened heretic!  He had Paul struck in the face.

"the high priest Ananias"  "High priest A.D. 47-49, son of Nebedaeus.  He is not to be confused with the high priest Annas (A.D. 6-15 . . . )  Ananias was noted for cruelty and violence." NIV Study Bible note."

Paul does not follow Jesus' instruction in Matthew 5.  "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39)  Nor does he follow the pattern of Jesus described in I Pet. 2:23:  "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."  Instead, Paul returned the high priest's attack with an insult and a threat.  He appears to quote Jesus' description of the Pharisees given in Matt. 23:27: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean."  Jesus described the Pharisees as being like graves that were whitewashed at festivals so that everyone would recognize them as graves—so they not be defiled by accidently touching them.  Jesus said that these religious leaders were white on the outside but were unclean on the inside, just as the graves were clean on the outside but had dead man's bones inside of them.  The Pharisees looked clean on the outside, but Jesus was not fooled and saw that they were foul and dead on the inside.  But though Jesus' statement was true, it was said in compassion and not said in an emotional reaction; for His true spirit toward these Pharisees is shown by the way he closes his words to them:  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)

Although some have argued that Paul was correct in his strong words to "Ananias," we see that Paul himself admits that he was wrong.  Paul did what David describes in Ps. 39:1-3: "I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.' But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.  My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue."  Paul spoke what was true; but he said it in out-of-control anger.

"Those who were standing near Paul said, 'You dare to insult God’s high priest?' Paul replied, 'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”'"  "Realizing his error, Paul immediately recanted—a credit to his character.  He was human, he made mistakes, and he was the first to admit so." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

Another possibility is that Paul did not know that it was the high priest who had spoken.  Then, he would not have said it if he had known it was the high priest.  Why, then, would Paul not have realized that the man who was speaking to him was the "high priest"?  He may not have been dressed at that moment like the "high priest."   Also, since Paul had been away from Jerusalem for some time, he may not have known by sight who the "high priest" was.  Also, Paul's eyesight may not have been good. See Gal. 6:11, where Paul's letters were large, possibly due to poor eyesight.  Still another possibility is that he did not know, with so many talking, who it was that spoke.

But it is still most likely that Paul knew that it was the "high priest" who spoke, but out of disrespect for him spoke rashly.  Then, in a cooler moment, he realized that he was wrong.

"'for it is written: “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”'"  We are instructed throughout the Bible to be respectful of those who are in position of leadership.  Here, Paul quotes Exodus 22:28.  See also Rom. 13:1-7; I Tim. 5:17-20; I Pet. 2:13-14, 3:1, 5:5

The Bible transparently records people's successes and failures.  We know of Abraham's sins, Moses' sins, and David's sins.  Here, we have recorded Paul's sin of losing his temper.  Though, on the whole, we have been reading of Paul's obedience to God and faith in God in the midst of tremendous opposition.  But, nevertheless, he also had times of weakness and failure.  Here, he confesses his failure, trusted in God's forgiveness, and, as we will see in the coming chapters, he moved on.  We all as Christians fail, but we can, like Paul, confess our wrong, believe in God's forgiveness, and move on.  David's confession of his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah are found in Psalm 51.  He was able to continue serving God even after committing these sins.  "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you." (Psalm 51:12-13)

(b) What we are to do (23:6-11)
"Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, 'My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.' When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.) There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. 'We find nothing wrong with this man,' they said. 'What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?' The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"

Thought Question #1:  Do your believe that Paul did the right thing when he introduced the resurrection, which immediately divided his audience into those who believed in the supernatural and those who did not?  Please give the reason for your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Jesus appeared to Paul to encourage him.  When have you been discouraged and God used someone or something to encourage you?

 

 

"Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, 'My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.' When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)"  There is at least two issues raised by Paul's words here.  First, was it right for Paul to call himself a Pharisee when he was now a Christian preacher of the gospel?  Paul, when he went into the synagogues, was treated as a Pharisee.  It was because he was a Pharisee that he was given an opportunity to speak.  It appears that Paul had retained his status as a Pharisee.  "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) See also Phil. 3:5

Secondly, was it right for him to purposely say that which he knew would divide the Sanhedrin?  As Luke says in explaining this to the Gentile Theophilus (see 1:1), "the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection."  The "Sadducees" were like those today who call themselves Christians but are so liberal in their beliefs that they do not believe in the supernatural.  The issue of the resurrection was a strong dividing point between the "Pharisees" and the "Sadducees."  Paul knew that the "Pharisees" would agree with his belief in the "resurrection."  It was a clever move, but was it an acceptable Christian strategy that could be used today?  It appears that what Paul was doing was changing the trial from a personal attack on him to making it about an issue that was an important one—whether or not Jesus resurrected from the dead.  The "Sadducees" denied this on principle—they did not believe in the supernatural.  A central issue on college campuses with Christianity is that secular educators usually reject the supernatural as even being a consideration as they express their educated outlook on life.  So, the view of the "Sadducees" is nothing new.  The "Pharisees," on the other hand, believed in the supernatural.  There was, then, some common ground between Paul and his fellow "Pharisees."

In evangelism, we can get bogged down on minor issues and lose sight of what is most important.  Those who are not Christians can bring up issues that may be no more than smokescreens to protect them from facing the real issue of where they stand before God.  For example, they can ask questions such as the following:  "Why are there so many Bible translations?"  "Who did Adam's sons marry?"  "What about the dinosaurs?"  "What about those who never hear the gospel?"  But, we need to avoid such rabbit trails and get back to the important issues as Paul did here.  And certainly, one of the main issues is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul had been sidetracked on whether or not Ananias the high priest was a "whitewashed wall."  By bringing up the dividing issue between the "Pharisees" and the "Sadducees" he got it back on track.

"There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. 'We find nothing wrong with this man,' they said. 'What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?' The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks."

Paul was successful in showing the "Pharisees" that there was nothing contrary to their beliefs about his belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ nor in his testimony that Jesus had appeared to him.  Both of these accounts were consistent with the beliefs of the "Pharisees."  So, they came to Paul's defense.  What he was not able to do, though, was to create a peaceful atmosphere.  The opposition to him from the non-Pharisees became even stronger and the "commander" had to "take him away" before Paul was "torn to pieces" by the crowd.

"The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"   It was certainly a dark hour for Paul.  He was in the hands of the Romans; the Jews of Jerusalem hated him, and the future did not look good.  At another dark time Jesus had appeared to him.  "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.'" (Acts 18:9-10)

There are times when each of us needs encouragement.  That encouragement comes in many ways.  Paul was encouraged at one time by the good news from his friend Titus.  "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." (II Corinthians 7:5-7)  Jesus often encouraged His followers. see Matt. 9:2, 22, 14:27; Mk. 10:49; Jn. 14;1, 27, 16:33  Paul himself sought to encourage his disciples. II Cor. 4:1, 16-18  Isaiah records the following words of encouragement to us from God.  "But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:1-2)

Jesus, here, appeared to Paul and encouraged him that his ministry would not end in Jerusalem, but he would have opportunity to present the gospel in Rome.  How this must have encouraged the beleaguered Paul.  Jesus encouraged him at just the right time.  Just as He also encourages us at just the right time. See 16:9, 18:9-10, 22:17-21 and 23:23-24 for other visions of Jesus Christ described in Acts.  See also II Cor. 12:1-4

(3) A time to run (23:12-35)

(a) The plot to kill Paul (23:12-15)
"The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, 'We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.'"

Thought Question:  How would you respond if you heard there was this type of plot against you? (There are these types of plots against Christians in many countries today!)

 

 

"The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, 'We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.'"

Paul had been the focus of murderous plots before.  "After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall." (Acts 9:23-25) See also 20:2-3, 20:19  These "more than forty men" were determined to rid the world of the hated Paul.  Somewhere, as Paul was on the way to appear before the "Sanhedrin," they would step up to him, quickly kill him, and then they would escape just as quickly.

(b) The plot is exposed (23:16-22)
"But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, 'Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.' So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, 'Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.' The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, 'What is it you want to tell me?' He said: 'The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.' The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, 'Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.'"

Thought Question: Give an example of a time when someone took a stand for a servant of Christ when a false accusation and/or attack was made on him or her.

 

 

"But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, 'Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.' So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, 'Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.'"

This is the only mention of "Paul's sister" and her "son" in the Bible.  We know nothing more about them, except that God used them so that Paul's ministry was not brought to an end by this group of men who had vowed to bring his life to an end.  This young man was to able to gain access to Paul and to warn him of a "plot" to kill him.  He had somehow heard about the murderous plot from his contacts in the city.

"The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, 'What is it you want to tell me?' He said: 'The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.' The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, 'Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.'"

This brave "young man" put his own life on the line by telling the "commander."  Also, by urging the "commander," "don't give in to them," he took a risk by telling this Roman officer what he should do.  The "commander" accepts his impassioned plea and warns the "young man" not to "tell anyone that" he had "reported this to" him.

(c) Paul is sent to Caesarea (23:23-35)
"Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, 'Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.' He wrote a letter as follows: Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.  So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, 'I will hear your case when your accusers get here.' Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace."

Thought Question: Why do you think that the Roman commander sent such a large number of soldiers with Paul?

 

 

"Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, 'Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.'"  The "commander" appears to have seen this plot against Paul as a real threat to peace in the region.  As a precaution, he sends Paul off with a very large detachment of soldiers.  They left under the cover of night.

"Caesarea" was the Roman capital of the region of Judea.  "Felix," the "Governor' of Judea resided there.

"He wrote a letter as follows: Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.  So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him."

"It was 60 miles from Jerusalem to Caesarea and Antipatris was 25 miles from Caesarea.  Up to Antipatris the country was dangerous and inhabited by Jews; after that the country was open and flat, quite unsuited for ambush and largely inhabited by Gentiles.  So at Antipatris the main body of the troops went back and left the cavalry alone as a sufficient escort." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, 'I will hear your case when your accusers get here.' Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace."  Barclay gives us the following summary information about "Governor Felix":  "For five years he had governed Judea and for two years before he had been stationed in Samaria; he had still two years to go before being dismissed from his post.  He had begun life as a slave.  His brother, Pallas, was the favourite of Nero.  Through the influence of Pallas, Felix had risen first to be a freedman and then to be a governor.  He was the first slave in history ever to become the governor of a Roman province.  Tacitus, the Roman historian, said of him.  'He exercised the prerogatives of a king with the spirit of a slave . . . He was completely unscrupulous and was capable of hiring thugs to murder his own closest supporters.  It was to face a man like that that Paul went to Caesarea." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, 'I will hear your case . . . ."  "Cilica" and Judea were under Felix's jurisdiction, so it was appropriate for him to hear Paul's case.

It had been during Paul's stay at Caesarea previously that the prophet Agabus predicted he would become a prisoner of the Gentiles. See 21:10-11  In fulfillment of this prophecy, Paul is "under guard in Herod’s palace."

(4) Paul's defense before Felix (24:1-27)

(a) The Jews' attack (24:1-9)
"Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: 'We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.' The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true."

Thought Question:  How would you have felt if you had been Paul and were hearing these charges against you?

 

 

"Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: 'We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly."

"Five days" after Paul arrived, the "high priest" arrives.  The high priest's "lawyer" "Tertullus" begins by trying to sway Felix to their side by flattering him on how well he has been ruling the countries under his authority.  Gangel describes what was really true during Felix's reign:  "During Felix's rule insurrections and anarchy had increased throughout Palestine.  His brutal attempts to put down popular uprising had only further inflamed the people.  Most Jews living at that time would have been horrified to hear what the high priest's mouthpiece had to say to Governor Felix." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

This "Tertullus" was probably a Roman lawyer who was familiar with the legal procedures of the Romans.  "The employment of a Roman lawyer (Latin orator) was necessary since the Jews were not familiar with Roman legal procedure and it was the custom in the provinces (Cicero pro Cael. 30)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Flattering Felix as a keeper of the "peace" fit right in with the charge against Paul that he was a disturber of the peace.  Felix as a keeper of the "peace" would, of course, see that Paul needed to be imprisoned or killed to continue the "peace" that Felix was so good at keeping.

Then, "Tertullus" promises Felix that he would be brief in presenting his charges against Paul.  Selfish men like Felix have little patience in matters that do not benefit them. 

"We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.' The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true."

Three charges were brought against Paul.  (1) He is "a troublemaker" who stirs "up riots among the Jews all over the world."  Disciples Literal New Testament and the ESV translates "troublemaker" as "plague."  The Greek word is loimon.  "An old word for pest, plague, pestilence, Paul the pest." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." Paul, thus, is classed with those who had started uprisings under Felix's rule.  In other words, if you release Paul, you will have another uprising on your hands—one started by Paul.

(2) The second charge is that he is the "ringleader" of a heresy—"the Nazarene sect."  This is the only place in the Bible where Christians are called followers of the "Nazarene."  Peter  spoke of Jesus' hometown when he spoke at Pentecost.  "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22)

"Sect" is the translation of the Greek word hairesis, from which we get our word "heresy."  "It had not yet come to mean 'heresy', although its use in this chapter    (5, 14) and its recurrence in 28:22 'incline toward' the rendering 'heretical sect' (BAGD)." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

(3) The third charge is that he "even tried to desecrate the temple."  This goes back to the charge that he brought the Gentile Trophimus into the temple area forbidden to Gentiles. See 21:29  This was a serious charge, for the Romans gave the Jews the power to execute Gentiles who broke this rule.

"so we seized him."  Actually, a mob tried to beat Paul to death. See 21:30-32

The NIV has the following note:  "Some manuscripts him and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7But the commander, Lysias, came and with the use of much force snatched him from our hands 8and ordered his accusers come before you.  By"

"The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true."  Luke does not give the details of what they said, but they all agreed to the charges against Paul and probably added details and personal observations to strengthen the case against Paul

(b) Paul's defense (24:10-23)
"When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: 'I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.”' Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. 'When Lysias the commander comes,' he said, 'I will decide your case.' He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs."

Thought Question:  What do you believe is the strongest part of Paul's defense?

 

 

"When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: 'I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.'"  Paul, like Tertullus begins with a compliment; but this time what he says is both true and brief.  Felix had "for a number of years been a judge" over Israel.  So, Paul did feel that he was qualified to understand the Jewish people and their beliefs.  Felix's knowledge of the Jews qualified him to settle a quarrel between Jews.  For this reason, Paul could "gladly make" his "defense" before him.  "Gladly" translates the Greek word "(entumos) . . . from enthumos (en and thumos, good spirit.)" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  It is similar to our word "enthusiastically." 

"'You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.'"  Paul spent five days of the "twelve days" in Caesarea. See 24:1  "He had spent five days in Caesarea and nearly seven in Jerusalem." "NIV Study Bible note."  So, Paul did not have time to stir up a serious uprising.  Also, he had not spent his brief time in Jerusalem doing the types of things that would stir up an uprising.  Furthermore, his "accusers" did not have any evidence "to prove" that he had been doing anything that had provoked a riot. 

"'However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect.'"  He fully admits to being a Christian, but he does not believe it is a "sect" or a heresy.  He goes on to show why it is not a deviation from what the Old Testament taught, but rather it is a continuation and a fulfillment of what is taught in the Jewish Old Testament.

"'I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.'"  Paul asserts here that he had more in common with his Jewish accusers than he had in disagreement with them.  Then, he also asserts that any differences he had with them came because he was obedient to his conscience.  Many who have been persecuted by religious people have been those who were conscientiously concerned because they believed that the religious people of their time had drifted away from what the Bible teaches into some type of human thinking and practice.  As Roman Catholicism moved away from the Bible, it persecuted those who stubbornly held on to what the Bible teaches (people like John Hus, William Tyndale, and many others.)  

"'After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance.'"  As has been mentioned before, Paul went to Jerusalem with an offering from churches in the Gentile world to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. See Rom. 15:25-27; I Cor. 16:1-4; II Cor. 8-9  So, Paul came to Jerusalem to help the poor and he was very strict in all that was necessary to be ceremonially pure before he entered the temple area.  There was no problem until some Jews from Asia stirred up a riot.

"'But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me.'"  What Paul points out here is that the ones who actually made these accusations against him were not present.  Years ago, I was chosen to be a member of a jury.  But, then, the accuser chose not to be a witness at the trial.  The case, then, was dismissed and there never was a trial.  Paul's accusers were not there to state their accusations nor to state what they had seen.  The case, then, should have been dismissed.  The case against Paul became, in the end, that he upset some people.  And these people were not even present at the trial.  They probably did not feel comfortable coming before an impartial judge, where the weaknesses of their case would become obvious.

"'Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'"  Paul's time before the Sanhedrin had not produced any provable charges against him, unless it was that he believed in the resurrection of the dead.  This reduces Paul's offense to being part of theological dispute among the Jews.  The Romans avoided getting in the middle of religious issues that divided people.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ, though, was the real issue.  Paul declared it to be true.  Since the Jews and the Romans were equally guilty of killing Jesus, His resurrection from the dead was no small issue.  Paul knew that boldly proclaiming that it was true was going to get him in trouble.  Yet, nevertheless, he boldly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus.  Here, even before the Roman Governor Felix, he proclaimed that he "shouted" it before the "Sanhedrin."

"Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. 'When Lysias the commander comes,' he said, 'I will decide your case.' He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs."  How had Felix become "well acquainted with the Way"?  The fact that Philip the evangelist lived in Caesarea, and likely had lived there for some time, was probably the reason.  "Felix" and "Philip" may even have talked to each other.  At least, he had heard of Philip's teachings about Jesus. The Christian teachings of Philip and others were certainly an issue in Caesarea.

"The Romans had different degrees of imprisonment.  Because Paul was a Roman citizen, who had not been convicted of any offense, Felix issued instructions that he should be given custodia libera in which, although he was never left unguarded, his friends enjoyed free access to him.  We may guess that Luke visited him and Philip the evangelist with four daughters who lived in Caesarea (21:8-9), together with others who were members of the local church." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

Why did Felix not drop the charges on Paul and free him?  We will learn later that he did it to gain "favor" with "the Jews." (24:27) 

"'When Lysias the commander comes,' he said, 'I will decide your case.'"  This appears to be a stalling technique by Felix.  There is no evidence that "Lysias" ever came.  Also Lysias' letter (23:25-30) contained what "Lysias" had concluded—that Paul was innocent.

(c) Paul remains in prison for two years (24:24-27)
"Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.' At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison."

Thought Question:  Why do you think "Felix was afraid"?

 

 

"Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'"

"Drusilla was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, whose opposition and death Luke described earlier (12:1-23).  She was, therefore, the sister of King Agrippa II and Bernice, to whom Luke will introduce us to in the next chapters (25:13, 23, 26:30).  He had a reputation for ravishing youthful beauty, on account of which Felix, with the aid of a Cypriot magician, had seduced her from her rightful husband and secured her for himself.  She was, in fact, his third wife.  The lax morals of Felix and Drusilla help to explain the topics on which Paul spoke to them." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come,"  Robertson puts it as follows:  "Concerning 'righteousness' (dikaionsunes) which they did not possess, 'self-control' or temperance (egkrateias) which they did not exhibit, and 'the judgment to come' (tou krinatos tou mellontos) which was certain to overtake them." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  We can tell why "Felix was afraid," and why he brought their time to a quick close.

"Felix and Drusilla" heard the gospel powerfully preached by Paul.  But it was more than they wanted to hear—they were sinners doomed to God's judgment unless they repented and believed in Jesus as their Savior and their Lord.  "This is not a good time; maybe some other time."  This reply was my reply once.  Thank God, I had another opportunity to believe.  There is no evidence that Felix and Drusilla took advantage of having Paul with them.  Paul can be seen as the one experiencing a sad time, but the real sadness was what "Felix" and "Drusilla" experienced—for they now know the consequences of rejecting Jesus.

"At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison."  "Felix" kept getting together with Paul, but not to learn more about Jesus Christ, but in hope that Paul would give him "a bribe" to gain his freedom.  "Josephus [the Jewish historian] (Ant. XX, 8, 9) represents Felix as greedy for money." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "Felix" did not repent.  He continued to live for money and not for God.  "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24)

"When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus,"  Barclay describes why Felix's rule came to an end.  "Felix went too far once too often and was recalled.  There was a longstanding argument as to whether Caesarea was a Jewish or a Greek city and Jews and Greeks were at daggers drawn.  There was an outbreak of mob violence in which the Jews came out best.  Felix despatched his troops to aid the Gentiles.  Thousands of Jews were killed and the troops, with Felix's consent and encouragement, sacked and looted the houses of the wealthiest in the city." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison."  Both "Felix" and "Festus," his successor, put pleasing the Jews above doing what was right.  They both should have released Paul for lack of evidence, but Paul languished in prison for two years because these two men chose to do what was politically best for them and not what was just and fair for Paul.  We know nothing with certainty about whether or not any ministry took place or any letters were written by Paul during this time.

(5) Paul's defense before Festus (25:1-12)
"Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, 'Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.' After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Then Paul made his defense: 'I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.' Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, 'Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?' Paul answered: 'I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!' After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: 'You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think "Festus" did not transfer Paul to Jerusalem?

 

 

"Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way."

"Felix was recalled to Rome in A.D. 59/60 to answer for disturbances and irregularities in his rule, such as his handling of riots between Jewish and Syrian inhabitants.  Festus is not mentioned in existing historical records before his arrival in Palestine.  He died in office after two years, but his record for the time shows wisdom and honesty superior to both his predecessors." NIV Study Bible note."

Though Paul had not done anything wrong before God that deserved his being in prison, yet he nevertheless had been held in prison for two years.  It would seem that the Jewish leadership would have been satisfied with the punishment that he had already received.  But their resentment would only be satisfied when he was dead.  Ephesians 4:26-27 and Hebrews 12:15 explain why their hatred toward Paul burned so strongly after two years.  "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27)  "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12:15)

As they held on to their bitterness, Satan gained control of their hearts.  Instead of expressing the grace of God toward Paul, they expressed the hatred of Satan toward him.  They did not want justice, they wanted bloody revenge against the one who would not submit to them.

Shortly after "Festus" came into office, he tried to resolve the problem of "Paul versus the Jews."  He somehow sniffed out that sending Paul to Jerusalem was not a good suggestion.  When I first started working in a state boy's home, one of the old and experienced counselors told me, "If you feel like there is something strange happening, then there is something strange happening."  "Festus" probably sensed that there was something wrong with what these religious leaders wanted him to do.

"Festus answered, 'Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.'"  "Festus" probably thought that he needed to go by the book.  If he started to do what these religious leaders wanted him to do, it would not be long before they would be in charge and not him—they needed to come to his capital city, rather than he and Paul going to their capital city.

"After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove." 

Sometimes, when someone is hated, there is an attempt to throw as much mud on the wall as possible, hoping that some of it will stick.  Here, these Jewish leaders made many serious charges "against" Paul, but they had no proof of any of them.  Over the years, I have witnessed this type of thing many times.  Presently, someone just elected to a governmental office is being smeared regularly in the letters to the editor.  It is obvious to me that the attacks are motivated by the fact that this newly elected government official has entirely different political views than the attackers. Most, I believe, recognize what motivates the attacks.  Festus probably also recognized what motivated the attacks against Paul.

"Then Paul made his defense: 'I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.'"  It appears that the charges against Paul were the same as those originally made against him.  First, they charged that he had broken their religious law.  Paul stated, however, before Felix and his accusers that he "was ceremonially clean when they found" him "in the temple courts"—he was meticulous about keeping their religious law so much that he "was ceremonially clean." (24:18)

The second charge was that he had defiled the temple by bringing a Gentile by the name of Trophimus into the area forbidden to Gentiles. See 21:28-29, 24:6  The final charge was that he had started an insurrection against the Romans.  "'We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect'" (Acts 24:5)

"Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, 'Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?'"  "Festus" was a deft politician.  If Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem, then he would be both doing what Paul wanted and what the Jewish leaders wanted.

"Festus" realized that it was dangerous to get the Jews angry with him.  Their pattern since the Maccabeans was to revolt against Gentile rulers.  He would much prefer to have them feeling favorable toward him then having them seeing him as their enemy.

"Festus" gave Paul an opportunity to stand trial in Jerusalem.  Before, he had been warned not to go to Jerusalem.  What would he choose to do this time?

"Paul answered: 'I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!'

Because Paul was a Roman citizen, "Festus" could not hand him over to a Jewish trial without his permission: "no one has the right to hand me over to them."  Paul had appealed "to Caesar".  At this point, Festus' hands were tied.  Paul had given up hope that he would find justice in Caesarea.  At least, Rome would be farther away from Jerusalem and the Jews' empty and malicious charges.  Also, it had been his desire for some time to go to Rome. See Rom. 15:24, 28-29  Furthermore, Jesus Himself had told Paul that he would minister in Rome.  "The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'" (Acts 23:11)

"After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: 'You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!'"  After conferring with a group of men that served as his counselors in difficult matters, "Festus" concludes that he has no choice but to grant Paul his desire: "To Caesar you will go!" 

Was Paul correct in appealing "to Caesar"?  Hughes quotes John Calvin in answer to this question:  "'God who appoints courts of law, also gives people liberty to use them lawfully.'" "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books. Hughes quotes Calvin."

(6) Paul's defense before Agrippa (25:13-26:32)

(a) Festus explains Paul's case to Agrippa (25:13-22)
"A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: 'There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.' Then Agrippa said to Festus, 'I would like to hear this man myself.' He replied, 'Tomorrow you will hear him.'"

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about the difference between justice and politics?

 

 

"A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: 'There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.'" 

"Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I of Acts 12 and the great grandson of Herod the Great.  Bernice was his sister, and rumors were rife that their relationship was incestuous.  Because he had been only seventeen years old when his father died, he was considered too young to assume the kingdom of Judea, which therefore reverted to rule by procurator.  Instead, he was given a tiny and insignificant northern kingdom within what is now called Lebanon, and this was later augmented by territory in Galilee.  He was nevertheless influential in Jewry because the Emperor Claudius had committed to him both the care of the temple and appointment of the high priest." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  "Bernice" was also the sister of "Drusilla." See 24:24 

"Festus" decides to discuss Paul's case with "Agrippa."  "Festus" probably hoped that that "Agrippa" would be able to help, due to the fact that he selected the high priest and that he was familiar with the ways of the Jews. See 26:3

"I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.'"

"Festus" repeats to "Agrippa" the events surrounding Paul since he had begun his term of office.  We see here very clearly that "Festus" did not believe that Paul had committed a crime.  His accusers merely had a different point of view on some religious matters.  One of the religious matters was over whether or not Jesus was dead or alive.

"Then Agrippa said to Festus, 'I would like to hear this man myself.' He replied, 'Tomorrow you will hear him.'"  Possibly, this accomplished a goal of "Festus."  He hoped that "Agrippa" would be able to discover what it was that Paul had been doing wrong.  It would make him look better if a real charge against Paul was found.  Then, he would have a legitimate reason to send him to Rome. See 25:26-27

(b) Paul's defense before Agrippa (25:23-26:23)
"The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. Festus said: 'King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome.'"

Thought Question:  How would you have felt if you were Paul and you were on trial before this "great pomp"?

 

 

Jesus was also brought before a King Herod by the Roman governor. See Lk. 23:6-12  As the rest of chapter 25 and 26 unfold, remember that everything was done in front of a display of royalty—where everyone was dressed in their most impressive display of wealth, power, and governmental authority.  And there was Paul, an unimpressive figure probably dressed in the same clothes he had worn in prison—the very opposite of all that surrounded him.  As "Festus" said, he was a man that the Jews so despised that they wanted him dead.  Was Paul able to remember at this time that he was the true royalty in the room—a child of the King of the universe!  We will be able to tell by the way he speaks to them.

"'But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. For I think it is unreasonable to send on a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.'"

Thought Question:  What is wrong with what "Festus" is doing here?

 

 

"Festus" had a dilemma: the Jews wanted Paul dead; Paul had appealed to Caesar; and "Festus" had no reason to send him to Caesar, for he had found no charges against Paul.  "Help!"  He cries out to those gathered, especially "Agrippa"; "Give me some charges against Paul so that I can write them out and send them along with Paul.  Otherwise, I am going to look foolish."  He does look foolish, as did all those who rejected Paul's message; for they rejected the One who created the world, died for them, rose from the dead, and is coming again.  Today, those in high offices in countries around the world also foolishly reject Paul's message and our message.

What "Festus" is doing here is totally wrong.  He can find no charges against Paul, so he is asking them to help him come up with some charges so that he will not look foolish by sending an innocent man to the Caesar.  If there were no legitimate charges against Paul, what should he have done?  A man who has no legitimate charges against him should be set free!

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You have permission to speak for yourself.' So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 'King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Paul continued to defend himself, even though he had been so unsuccessful in persuading anyone up to this point?

 

 

John Stott sums up who Paul was standing before when he stood before "Agrippa":  "The Herods who for generation after generation had set themselves in opposition to the truth and righteousness.  'Their founder, Herod the Great,' wrote R. B. Rackham, 'had tried to destroy the infant Jesus.  His son Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, beheaded John the Baptist and won from the Lord the title of “fox”.  His grandson Agrippa I slew James the son of Zebedee with the sword.  Now we see Paul brought before Agrippa's son." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  Certainly, Paul and "Agrippa" were familiar with this history.  Yet, Paul spoke boldly on that day.  Paul's testimony provides a model that we can use for sharing our Christian testimony.

Paul begins by describing his life before his belief in Christ as His Savior—he was an ardent Pharisee (26:4-11).  Then, he describes how he became a Christian (26:19-23).  Finally, he describes how God changed his life. (26:19-23).  So, first, he shares what his life was like before he became a Christian.

"'The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.'"

Thought Question:  Briefly describe what your life was like before you met Jesus Christ.

 

 

"'The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee."  Paul was well-known in his pre-Christian days.  He had not been a person that was rebellious against the religion of the Jews; on the contrary, he was known for being a very zealous leader of the Jewish religion.  He had been a leader in "strictest sect" of their "religion."  He lived "as a Pharisee."  "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians 1:14) See also Phil. 3:4-6

"'And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?'"  Paul argues that "hope" of the Jewish people for a Messiah who would rise from the dead had occurred; and it was because of his belief that this "hope" had been fulfilled that he was on trial.  Paul does not describe here what this hope of the "twelve tribes" of  Israel is, but he does describe this "hope" later. "'But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 26:22-23)

"'Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?'"  Paul, at this point turns his focus from "Agrippa" to the whole crowd of Jews and Gentiles, and with this rhetorical question challenges them to deny that an Almighty God could raise someone from the dead.  This, as we will see later, was the crux of the issue for Paul.  If this life ends forever at the grave, we should live for now.  But, if we will be raised from the dead, we should live for that which will most affect eternity.  Paul lived for eternity.  The people in that room lived for the moment.  Both Paul and those in that room know now who was right, for they are all, right now, on the other side of the grave.  Some believed Paul and are, right now, with him in God's presence.  Some did not believe and are now experiencing the eternal consequences.

"'I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.'"

Could God have come up with a more credible witness to Jesus Christ than Paul?  He had been one who had hated, imprisoned, and executed Christians.  Now, he is imprisoned and the Jews want him to be executed for believing and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  An obvious question is provoked:  "Paul why did you change so radically from a Christian-hater to one who is hated because you are a Christian?"

"and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them."  Gangel comments that this is the first we hear in the book of Acts of Paul participating in the execution of Christians.  "Surely Stephen must be included, but who were the others." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."  This indicates that Paul may have been part of the Sanhedrin that voted on the execution of Christians, or he may have been part of some smaller court.

"I tried to force them to blaspheme."  He had participated in trying to force Christians to turn from their belief in Christ through the use of torture.  He says, he "tried," indicating that he was not successful in forcing them to denounce their faith in Jesus.

Next, Paul explains how he came to faith in Jesus Christ.  In sharing our testimony, we also can share with someone how we came to believe in Jesus.  For, we also had a period of time when we did not know Christ and then, in some way, we came to meet Christ and to believe in Him.  Although I know that there are those who cannot remember a time when they did not know Christ, most can remember the time when they turned to Jesus in faith.  Paul, here, explains what it was like when he first met Jesus Christ and came to believe in Him.

"'On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”'"

Thought Question:  Briefly describe how and when you met Jesus and put your faith in Him.

 

 

"'On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”'"

We read of Paul's encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 9:1-19 and 22:6-16.  Here, we receive some new information that was not found in the previous accounts.  First of all, we learn that the "light from heaven" was 'brighter than the sun."  It was "about noon," but the light that they saw was even "brighter."  Jesus' glory is "brighter" than the sun.

Next, we learn that they all fell to the ground.  In 9:4, it says "he fell to the ground."  Acts 22:7 says the same: "I fell to the ground."  In Acts 9 and 22, Paul describes his own experience.  But, it was also true that those who were with him also "fell to the ground." 

Next, here alone, Paul tells us that Jesus spoke to him "in Aramaic."  The ESV translates it "in the Hebrew language," but has a note below on the page that says: "Or the Hebrew dialect (that is, Aramaic)."  The conversational language of the people of Israel was "Aramaic"; whereas, the language of the Old Testament was Hebrew. 

"About noon,"  "Paul was pressing on with his journey at midday.  Unless a traveler was in a real desperate hurry he rested during the midday heat.  So we see how Paul was driving himself on his mission of persecution." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"'“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”'"  The goad was a long stick with a spike on it.  When the oxen was uncooperative and kicked, it would get spiked until it gave up and did the task of pulling the plough.  Paul was experiencing a prodding by God.  Eventually, he would quit kicking.  In fact, this appearance and rebuke by Jesus was the last time he was painfully goaded by God's spike, leading to his conversion.  Up to this time, he had tried to ignore the fact that he was going away from God and not toward Him.  The death of Stephen and other Christians should have revealed to him that they, and not he, were God's followers.  The law of God that he was unable to obey was also a goad. See Rom. 7:7-23

"Note the plural here (goads) and laktizein is present active infinitive so that the idea is to keep on kicking against goads." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Thought Question:  What are some painful goads that God used in your life to lead you to Christ?

 

 

"'Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”'"

Paul is told to "stand" up so that he can receive his official appointment by Jesus to be His "servant" and "witness."  We are reminded of God's appointing of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  See Isa. 6:8-13; Jer. 1:4-10; and Ezek. 2:1-9

He will be "a witness of what" he has "seen" of Jesus and of "what" Jesus will "show" him.  What does this mean?  It appears to mean that Jesus was going to give him special revelations of truth about Himself.  Then, Paul was to share with both the Jews and Gentiles what Jesus had showed him.  In Galatians, we learn that Paul did not get his teachings from the original apostles, but he got them directly from Jesus Christ.  "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus." (Galatians 1:15-17)

Jesus directly prepared Paul for ministry, just as Jesus spoke directly to the earliest apostles.  We are not given specific information about how Paul was instructed by Jesus other than what we are told in II Cor. 12:1-4: " I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (II Corinthians 12:1-4)

"I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles."  Paul was assured by Jesus that opposition from the Jews and Gentiles would not be able to prevent him from completing the task Jesus had given to him.  This explains Paul's confidence and boldness in the face of danger and violent opposition to his message and his ministry.  The Lord who appeared to him on the road to Damascus said that He would "rescue" him so that he would be able to complete the task given to him.  At the end of his life, when his task was completed, he remembered how Jesus had rescued him.  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 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." (II Timothy 4:16-18)  It was not Paul against the world; it was Jesus Christ and Paul against the world.  Thus, Paul was victorious against all opposition.  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14)

"to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins"  These words of Jesus describe how Paul was able to win battles for the kingdom of God and gain people for God's kingdom from Satan's kingdom.  As each person believed in Jesus and received "forgiveness of sins," they were rescued from Satan's kingdom."

The Christians at Colossae and Thessalonica were some of those that Paul's message rescued from Satan's kingdom: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)  "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 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, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." (1 Thessalonians 1:4-10)

"'“and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”'"  "Sanctified" means that these people who would believe Jesus through Paul's words would become judicially freed from condemnation before God —they would be justified—because of their belief that Jesus' death paid the penalty for their sins and they would also be set apart by God to fulfill His holy purpose for them—they would be "sanctified."

As Barclay aptly summarizes, "Paul began his journey as the apostle of the Sanhedrin and ended it as the apostle of Christ." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."  A light "brighter than the sun" had transformed him from an apostle of darkness to an apostle of light.

Next, we have Paul's testimony of how God changed him.

"'So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'"

Thought Question:  Briefly describe how God has changed you since you became a Christian?

 

 

"'So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me." 

Here, Paul summarized both the location of his ministry, the goal of his ministry, and the results of his ministry.  His ministry, first of all, took place in Damascus shortly after he believed in Jesus Christ.  Then, his ministry followed the pattern of Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: "'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.'"  He went from "Jerusalem," then to "Judea," and finally to the "Gentiles" throughout the world.

Next, Paul summarizes the goal of his ministry:  "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."  Mankind's problem and our problem is that we all began by choosing to turn from God and chose, instead, to do life our way.  Jesus Christ's death on the cross and the Holy Spirit's empowerment provides everyone with the possibility of turning to God so that we can live His type of life.  Paul went everywhere urging people to turn to God.

"Repent" means to change our thinking.  We used to believe that our self-indulgent lifestyle was not wrong; now we see it as putrid, wrong, and foolish.  Once we did not see Jesus as being God's Son who died for our sins; now we see that He is God's Son and that He died for our sins.  We have repented—we have radically changed our mind about what is sin and who Jesus is.

Finally, Paul describes what happened to him as a result of his ministry:  "That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me."  Throughout Paul's writings, he explains that through the gospel message Gentiles could come to God by grace—without earning Jewish approval through submitting to their system of works.  This angered the Jews.

I heard a simple presentation of the gospel that highlights the difference between Paul's message given to him by Jesus and the requirements of the Jewish religious system.  Religion teaches what we must DO to get right with God and the Christian message teaches us that all that is needed for us to get right with God has already been DONE by God.  The Jews wanted to silence Paul for preaching that all people could come to God because Jesus had DONE all that was needed for them to get right with God. See Rom. 2:17-3:3, 9:20-10:4; Gal. 3;1-14

This is also the message that Christianity offers to those in Islam.  Islam emphasizes what people must DO to get right with God.  Christianity emphasizes that God has already DONE through Jesus all that is needed for them to be right with God and to receive eternal life.  They merely need to receive His gift of forgiveness and turn to Him as their gracious Lord.  "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)

"'But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'" 

Thought Question:  Where in the Old Testament does it say that the Messiah would suffer?

 

 

"But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike."  There had been many attempts to kill Paul and many plots to kill him; nevertheless, there he stood in front of the leaders of the Jewish world.  Paul was confident that it was God who had opened this door and gave him the opportunity, at Agrippa's request, to tell his story.  His story was his Christian testimony.  Maybe, it was not in the best of circumstances, but it was an opportunity to share the gospel.

"to small and great alike." See Rev. 11:18; Acts 8:9-10; Hebr. 8:11

" I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'"  Paul was confident that all that he taught was not some new strange teaching, but it was what had been taught in the Old Testament—in "the prophets and Moses."  First of all, the Old Testament had taught that the Messiah would suffer.  "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken." (Isaiah 53:3-8) Psalm 22 also describes a suffering Messiah

That was not a part of the teaching on the Messiah that the proud Jewish religious leaders emphasized.  There was recognition by some Jewish Rabbis, though, that Isaiah 53 referred to the Messiah.  For the most part, the Jewish religious leaders saw the Messiah as a future leader who would be victorious over their enemies.

I recently saw on someone's facebook descriptions of different versions of success using single lines.  The first version of success was a line climbing straight up with an arrow at the top.  This was used to describe how we tend to think people gain success.  The second line looked more like a ball of yarn going up and down, back and forth, and all over and around itself.  This is how success actually takes place.  The religious Jews wanted their Messiah to be like the "American dream"—ever upward until He was triumphant.  They saw Isaiah 53 as describing the Jewish people rather than describing the Messiah.  So, Paul's message of a suffering Messiah, though Biblical, was repugnant to them.  Nevertheless, since it was the truth, Paul did not back down from teaching it.

"as the first to rise from the dead,"  "Others had been raised from the dead, but Christ is the first (protos) who arose from the dead and no longer dies (Rom. 6:19)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Jesus rose from the dead to begin a whole new race of man.  "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) See also Col. 1:18 

Jesus is the first-fruits, predicting a harvest of born-again people who will rise from the dead and join Him.  This subject of the resurrection was a controversial issue in Israel, as it is a controversial issue today. See 23:6-10

"would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'"  When Paul mentioned that the gospel message was not just for them—for Israel—but was also for the Gentiles, that is when they became furious with him. See 22:21-24

(c) Festus' and Agrippa's response to Paul's words (26:24-32)
"At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. 'You are out of your mind, Paul!' he shouted. 'Your great learning is driving you insane.' 'I am not insane, most excellent Festus,' Paul replied. 'What I am saying is true and reasonable.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Festus saw Paul as out of his mind?

 

 

Here is the way the world sees Christians.  Years ago, when we came to the little town in the state of Washington where we now live, there was an issue over the content of some textbooks that were being used in a local school.  In an open session of the school board that I attended, it was obvious that it was the Christians in the community that were behind the opposition to the questionable content of the textbooks.  I could tell that at least one school board member concluded that these zealous Christians were out of touch with the new reality—their great study of the Bible had caused them to be unable to talk sanely about modern educational matters.  "Festus" concluded that Paul's great knowledge of the Bible had driven him insane.  Paul, on the other hand, responded by saying that what he had testified to was both "true and reasonable."  Notice that though "Festus" rudely interrupted Paul, Paul kept his composure.

Who was right?  Was Paul being "reasonable" or was he "insane"?  Paul answered this question in I Corinthians 1:22-23, 2:6-8, 14:  "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles," (1 Corinthians 1:22-23)  "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)  "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

"'The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.'"

Thought Question:  How did Paul turn the tables so that the focus was not on himself and his sanity but on "King Agrippa"?

 

 

Paul radically changed the focus off of whether or not he was insane to whether or not "Agrippa" believed in the prophets.  And he changed the focus with a simple question.  This a wise strategy for us as well.  Unbelievers and those opposed to us want us to be on trial.  A simple question at the right time can take the focus off us and put it onto those who are seeking to intimidate us and to put us on trial.

Christianity was not a secret religion limiting its teaching only to those who been initiated into its deep secrets, Quite the opposite, Christianity began with a very public proclamation by Peter. See Acts 2  Then, the Christian message was spoken by the apostles "in the temple courts." (Acts 2:46)  Even though the priests commanded them to stop, the early Christians taught about Jesus in public. See 3;11-4:31, 5;12-42

So, Paul concluded, "King Agrippa" was well aware of the Christians' teachings.  Paul, then, asks "Agrippa" if he believed "the prophets."  Then, he states, "I know you do."  Paul had turned the tables, and now it was "Agrippa" who was on trial.  Did he believe "the prophets"?  Would he deal with the issue of whether or not Jesus was the Messiah promised by "the prophets"?

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?' Paul replied, 'Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that Paul did not react to Agrippa's sarcasm, but was able to, instead, to graciously invite them to believe in Jesus Christ?

 

 

"Agrippa" appears to be saying, "Paul do you think that in one short message by you on one day is all that it takes to "persuade" me to become "a Christian"?  There was obviously not the humility present in "Agrippa" for him to recognize his need nor for him to recognize the gravity of what rejecting Jesus meant for him eternally.

Paul responds by politely saying that he wished, whatever effort it took or however long it took, that everyone listening to him might turn to God and receive His forgiveness as he had.  But, then, he is quick to add, he would like them to become like him, "except for" his "chains.'"  Paul nimbly uses Agrippa's sarcasm as an opportunity to invite everyone in the room to believe in Christ and receive God's forgiveness.  Even though Paul had been imprisoned for two years, he saw himself as better off than anyone in that room—though he was certainly the least impressively dressed person in the room.  Also, he was the only person who was a chained-up prisoner. See Eph. 3:1-13 where Paul explains his perspective on himself, though he was in chains also at that time.  See also Eph. 6:20  Remember, once again, the difference between the audience at this event who are all dressed in their richest attire and Paul who is dressed in prison attire; plus, he is the only who is chained.  He did not want to be like them, but he wanted them to be like him—"except for" his "chains."

Paul shows here what a gracious man he was.  They were contemptuous toward him—"Festus" called him mad and "Agrippa" made it clear that it was beneath him to be persuaded by anything Paul said.  Nevertheless, Paul graciously expresses his concern for them.  Paul was heading toward an eternity as a member of God's family; those listening were heading toward eternal judgment if they did not repent.  They thought they were better off than Paul; Paul saw that he was infinitely better off than they were.

Paul shows here that though he was imprisoned and the majority there wanted him dead, he did not just focus on himself, but focused on their need of salvation.  It is similar to Jesus on the cross being concerned about His mother and the thief on the cross. See Jn. 19:26-27; Lk. 23:40-43

These words of Paul provide us with a model to follow in evangelism.  Paul wanted everyone to be like him.  That is quite different than wanting everyone to like him.  Paul's message is not one that everyone likes.  "He wanted the king's salvation, not his favour." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  Our goal, then, is not to have everyone like us but to have everyone be like us—also forgiven by God and heading toward an eternity with God.  Paul was willing to be thought a fool if it would lead people to Christ. See I Cor. 3:18

"The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. They left the room, and while talking with one another, they said, 'This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.' Agrippa said to Festus, 'This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.'"

Thought Question #1:  Do you think that Paul made a mistake when he appealed to Caesar?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you think that Agrippa believed that Paul was not deserving of imprisonment or death?

 

 

Paul actually was successful that day, for he did persuade them that he did not deserve the death penalty or imprisonment.  Why were the secular authorities ready to release him and the religious authorities intent on his death?  His message did not threaten the civil authorities.  Jesus also was not a threat to Pilate; but He was a threat to the religious authorities.  Paul was not guilty of any crime, but he was guilty of charging the religious authorities with committing the greatest of crime of all—crucifying their own Messiah.

Did Paul make a mistake when he "appealed to Caesar"?  At the time, "Festus" was trying to get him to go to Jerusalem.  Paul knew how that would end, so he did what he could do to prevent himself from being taken back to Jerusalem. See 25:9-12

c. Victory over circumstances (27)

(1) God's love in the midst of a trial (27:1-12)
"When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 'Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.' But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest."

Thought Question:  Describe a time when you or someone offered others wise advice, but he, she, or they refused it as they refused Paul's wise advice here.

 

 

"When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea."

Notice that Luke says, "We boarded a ship."  Luke accompanied Paul on this trip and gave us a very detailed description of it.  They started out on a coastal ship that did not venture far out in the open sea.  We are told that the ship's home port was "Adramyttium."  It was "on the north-east shore of the Aegean  Sea, not far south of Troas." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press." 

Paul was the responsibility of "Julius," a Roman "centurion."  "He is said to have belonged the Augustan Cohort. ["Imperial Regiment"] That may have been a special corps acting as liaison officers between the Emperor and the provinces.  If so, Julius must have been a man of long experience and with an excellent military record.  It may well be that when Paul and Julius stood face to face, one brave man recognized another." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

"other prisoners"  They may have been prisoners that had already been sentenced and were going to Rome to be forced to participate in the punishment handed out in the Roman arenas.

"Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us."  "Aristarchus" was with Paul in Ephesus when the riot broke out.  He was even one of the two that the mob grabbed.  "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." (Acts 19:29) See also 20:4  He shared Paul's struggles and imprisonment.  Paul later calls him "my fellow prisoner Aristarchus." (Colossians 4:10a)  Luke and "Aristarchus" accompanied Paul as his friends or possibly as his servants.  Luke may have been allowed to come because he was Paul's doctor.

"The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia." 

First, they traveled north along the coast from Caesarea to "Sidon"—about 70 miles.  "Julius," out of respect and "kindness" allows Paul to contact "friends" in "Sidon" who helped him by giving him supplies for the trip. See 27:422 and 28:16 for other examples of Julius' kindness to Paul. 

Then, they traveled west along the coast, going south of "Cilicia and Pamphylia" near where Paul and Barnabas had traveled on his first missionary journey. See 13:13-44  Then, they "landed at Myra in Lycia."  This port was a place where larger ships were located, ships that could transport them across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome.

"There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea."

They were able to get an Egyptian ship.  It was a grain ship. See 27:38  The winds did not cooperate and so it was a difficult trip and took them "many days" to travel the short distance from "Myra" to "Cnidus"—a distance of about "a hundred and thirty miles." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Because of the difficult winds, they went south from "Cnidus" until they were south of "Crete."  "Salmone" is on the eastern part of "Crete."  They finally arrived at "Fair Havens," on the middle southern shore of "Crete." 

"Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 'Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.' But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest."

We learn here what time of the year it was when all of this took place—"it was after the Fast."  "The Fast" was the Day of Atonement that took place in September or October.  Traveling by sea after this time was not recommended.  Paul warned them that sailing on would be "dangerous" and would even result in "loss" of lives.  But, Paul was outvoted, and so they sailed on to the port of "Phoenix." "Phoenix" was west of "Fair Havens," but still on the island of "Crete."  It appears that "Phoenix" was a more appealing place to spend the winter.  "Phoenix" had a better harbor and was a larger town.  They ignored Paul to go to a place that had more appeal to the ship's crew.

(2) Peace in a storm (27:13-44)

(a) Trial #1: the storm (27:13-20)
"When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the 'northeaster,' swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved."

Thought Question:  Describe a time in your life when it was like being in a storm and things seemed out of control, even though God was still in control.

 

 

"When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the 'northeaster,' swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard."

Those who have been out at sea during a storm, know how helpless you feel.  These sailors, including Luke, did all they could to survive the surprise "hurricane."  The Greek word tuphonicos, from which we get our word "typhoon," is translated here as "hurricane." 

They were drawn off-course and south by the northeasterly winds of the "hurricane" until they were south of the island of "Cauda."  It was "about 23 miles from Crete." "NIV Study Bible note."  Since the island stood between them and the storm, it gave them some protection from the full force of the wind.  So, they were able to pull in the "lifeboat" which was floating behind the "ship," tied to the "ship" by a rope.  Luke says "we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure" (indicating that he had been one of those who had been part of the difficult task). 

"they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together."  "They 'frapped' the vessel either by passing cables under her hull to hold her timbers together, or by lashing her stern and bow together above deck to prevent her from having her back broken." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."  Robertson adds that this "'frapping' was more necessary for ancient vessels because of the heavy mast." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

"Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along."  "The sandbars of Syrtis" were many miles south on the coast of Libya in North Africa, but if the wind had its full power over them, it would have driven them there.  And they would have become one of the many ships trapped on these "sandbars."  So, "they lowered the sea anchor" so that the "hurricane" winds would be prevented from having their full way with them. 

"sea anchor"  The meaning of the Greek word is not clear here, and it may mean that they lowered the mainsail.  "The Greek skeuros could be translated 'equipment,' a possible reference to any kind of rigging." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

"they began to throw the cargo overboard."  They got rid of what was not essential to lighten the load, so that they would ride higher in the water and not take on water from the high waves.

"On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved."  The storm raged on with no hope of an end to it.  The mood was as dark as the complete darkness of the storm.  They were going to die and there was nothing more that they could do about it.

(c) But God is greater than the storm (27:21-26)
"After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: 'Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.'"

Thought Question:  Describe a time when God has rescued you, a friend, or a family member from a storm-like time.

 

 

"After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: 'Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”'"

Paul had been the one who had warned them not to sail to Phoenix.  They had not listened to him and now, in the clutches of a mighty storm, they were experiencing both physical and emotional darkness as they were near to giving up hope.  Then, Paul had something to say to them.  Certainly, they were now ready to listen to him.

"'Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete;'"  "Not an 'I told you so' attitude, but a word of caution against dismissing his advice again." "Taken from Church Alive by William LaSor.  Copyright 1972." 

"'Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar;”'"  Paul had been promised by Jesus earlier that he would "testify" in Rome.  "The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'" (Acts 23:11)

Often in the Bible, God makes promises to those He has chosen to accomplish some important work for Him.  But, then their faith is tested when some trial appears to be preventing that work from being accomplished.  Jesus promised Paul that he would "testify" in Rome; but then this storm appeared to be preventing him from accomplishing what Jesus had promised to him would happen.  In the midst of a hopeless storm, God repeats His promise to Paul through an "angel." 

"'and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'"  Being with Paul resulted in God's grace extending to all who had sailed with him.

"the God whose I am and whom I serve"  This "God" is not just any one of the many gods that were part of the world at that time.  Certainly, the men on board that ship had cried out to many gods to rescue them.  Paul is testifying that it is the God that he had been teaching about throughout his ministry.  Certainly, they were familiar with the God he served and believed in.

"the God whose I am"  When we, in faith, turn to God through Jesus Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we belong to Jesus Christ.  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

"'So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.'"  Discouragement is the opposite of "courage."  Hughes tells this about the Bible teacher, Dr. Barnhouse:  "Dr. Barnhouse and his wife used to have the perfect squelch for each other when one or the other displayed a lack of faith over some problem.  One would say to the other, 'Well, we think that all things work together for good.'  At that the other would be brought up short and would say, 'For we know that all things work together for good." "Taken from Acts by R. Kent Hughes.  Copyright 1996 by Crossway Books."

"'Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.'"  Our idea of what God should do does not include running "aground on some island."  But, it is true that God includes trials in our lives for our good.  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)  "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)

(d) Paul keeps his head while everyone else is losing theirs. (27:27-44)
"'Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.' On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.' So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe it was important that everyone stay with the ship?

 

 

The ship continued to be "driven across the Adriatic Sea" for fourteen days.  Today, we call the sea that they were on the Mediterranean Sea.  Stott explains why Luke calls it the "Adriatic Sea":  "A word ["Adriatic"] which popular ancient usage covered the whole of the east central section of the Mediterranean." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press." 

The "sailors" discovered that land was near.  They anchored the rear of the ship, so that the ship's bow would turn toward the land.  Then, the sailors pretended to be putting down more anchors in the front of the boat—that was turned toward the shore.  But they were actually seeking to escape alone using the lifeboat, leaving the rest of those on ship at the mercy of the storm as it crashed the ship on the rocks.

The sailors were the only ones on board with the skills to guide and land the ship.  Paul figured out what the "sailors" were doing and he told "the centurion and the soldiers."  "So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away." 

Why did all the people on the ship need to stay on the ship for all to be saved?  We cannot be sure.  Certainly, from a human perspective, they needed the "sailors."  But, it is more likely that Paul wanted them all to trust in God's prediction.  There are times when we feel that our life is out of control.  At those times, we can resort to panic or we can trust God.  The sailors resorted to panic and left the passengers to fend for themselves—without their sailing skills.  Paul wanted them all to trust God.

"Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. 'For the last fourteen days,' he said, 'you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.' After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea."

Thought Question:  Describe a time when you were overwhelmed by some situation and a good meal or a good rest helped you to get through it?

 

 

Someone has observed how much easier it is to be spiritual after you have had sufficient rest.  The people in that ship had been experiencing constant fear, seasickness, tumult, and confusion.  To make it worse, they had not been strengthened by eating for some time.  Paul recognized that they were too weak to rescue themselves when the ship crashed into land.  He took leadership and instructed them to get something to eat.  Paul repeated God's promise to save everyone of them.  This kept God's promise in front of them, and would bring Him glory when they all were saved.  Then, he "took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all."  "After they had "eaten as much as they wanted," they were strengthened and their heads cleared.  Then, "they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea."

"Altogether there were 276 of us on board."  The confusion and stress was increased by the fact that there was such a large number of people on the ship.  Furthermore, the fact that such a large number of people listened to Paul during such a fearful time also tells us about the type of leadership ability that was given to him by God.  Paul wrote these words later while he was in prison.  "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:28-29)

We see in these verses that trusting God is not passive.  Paul took practical steps to help the people on the ship to survive the upcoming shipwreck.  Trusting God to provide for us does not mean that we stop working and only trust.  We are to continue to work to earn wages; and if we do not have a job, we are to actively seek employment.  We are to work hard at doing the right thing and we are also to trust God.

"When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf."

Thought Question #1:  Describe what you would have felt if you had been there on that ship on the sandbar. (Hint: You had Paul's promise, the shore was visible, but the ship was being torn up by the waves.)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Describe a situation in your life where you have God's promise, but the storm is not over.

 

 

Here, we see the importance of Paul preventing the sailors from leaving the ship.  It was they who did what was necessary to turn the ship toward the "sandy beach." 

But, before the ship came to shore, it hit a "a sandbar."  The fact that "the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf," tells us that the storm was still powerfully raging.  As Paul had warned back in Fair Havens, it was not a time to go to sea. see 27:8-12

The location where Paul and the ship wrecked that day may be a place on the beach that is now called "St. Paul's Bay."  "Tourists today can visit St. Paul's Bay on the northeast coast of Malta, though not everyone agrees it is the designated spot where Paul's ship actually ran aground." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers." 

"The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety."

Thought Question:  When has God used a governmental authority to intervene for you?

 

 

Why did the "soldiers" plan to "kill" all of the "prisoners"?  It was because if any of them escaped, they each would have lost their lives.  Again, a Roman leader intervened and saved Paul's life. See 18:12-16, 21:27-36, 23:12-24  See also 19:35-41  God used governmental authorities to protect Paul on many occasions.

And not only was Paul's life saved, but all of the lives of the 276 people on board were saved.  God's grace to Paul extended to all who were with him.

d. The signs of an apostle (28:1-10)
"Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, 'This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.' But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that Paul's recovery from the snake bite was a miracle?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Although the sea had been cold and unkindly to those on the ship, they were warmly received by "the islanders" on "Malta."  The Greek word translated "islander" is actually barbaroi, which the KJV translates as "barbarous people."  The Greeks saw everyone who did not speak Greek as someone who said "bar-bar."  That was their way of saying his or her words are nothing more than "bar-bar" to us.  So, calling the people on that island "islanders" is a nicer translation than calling them "barbarous people."   But, "islanders" still is an accurate description of those Luke was speaking of.

The native people from that island showed compassion for those who came from the sea and ended up helpless and needy on their homeland.  Their kindness showed that they were not barbarians.  They built a fire to thaw out these cold and freezing travelers the sea had suddenly coughed up on their land.

Paul was busy with those who were gathering brush, but "when" he put the wood on the fire, "a viper driven out by the heat," grabbed onto "his hand."  Apparently, the people of the island saw that it was a deadly poisonous snake.  They expected that Paul would soon die.  They also interpreted that he would die because it was what he deserved.

Some object that there were not vipers or even wood on the island.  Robertson responds well to these charges.  "It is objected that there is little wood in the island today and no vipers, though Lewin as late as 1853 believes that he saw a viper near St. Paul's Bay.  But the island now has 1,200 people to the square mile and snakes of any kind have a poor chance." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Also, during this long storm, there could have been driftwood spread all over the beach; as anyone who has seen a beach after a storm knows.

"'“Justice has not allowed him to live.”'"  The Greek word translated "justice" is dike.  They saw "Justice" as a being that dealt out to people what they deserve to get.  They thought that Paul was going to die by snake bite due to "Justice" determining that he deserved to die.

Was Paul's recovery from the snake bite a miracle.  We can be sure that the "islanders" expected him to die from the bite of this type of "viper."  They saw it as a miracle that he recovered and did not die.

So stunning was his recovery from the snake bite, that the "islanders" concluded that "he was a god."  There is no question that they concluded that they had seen a miracle.  If we saw someone bitten by a rattlesnake and there was no "no ill effects," we would also, like these "islanders," believe that we had witnessed a miracle.  As we will see in the next verses, the miracles continued.

"There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed."

Thought Question:  We cannot out-give God.  These "islanders" were kind to Paul and the others, but God was even kinder to them.  Describe a time when you have helped someone, but God has helped you even more.

 

 

Paul and the others from the ship were warmly received on this island both by the people and by their leader—a man named "Publius."  Luke says "Publius" "welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably."  Who was the "us"?  Was it all 276 people from the ship?  More likely, it was a smaller group which included Paul and Luke.

Then, we are told that Paul healed this leader's father of "fever and dysentery."  The Greek word translated "fever" here is actually in the plural and should read "fevers."  "Dysentery" is the Greek word dusenterioi."  "Our very word dysentery.  Another medical term of which Luke uses so many." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

"When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured."  "Dr. Longnecker tentatively diagnoses as 'Malta Fever', which he adds, 'was long common in Malta, Gibraltar and other Mediterranean locales'.  The microorganism, which causes it, was apparently identified in 1887 and traced to the milk of Maltese goats.  Although a vaccine has been developed, the fever lasts on average for four months and sometimes persists even for two or three years." "Taken from The Spirit the Church and the World by John Stott.  Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press."

"They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed."  God showed His mercy to these "islanders" through Paul.  They responded appropriately by generously providing the travelers with supplies for their trip.
e. Paul is encouraged by the welcome he receives at Rome (28:11-16)
"After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him."

Thought Question: Describe a time when you were greatly encouraged by Christian friends or by a Christian friend.

 

 

"After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli." 

Paul and the others spent three winter months in Malta.  Then, when the weather warmed and the seas calmed down, they were able to travel again. 

"the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux."  "Castor and Pollux were the patron saints of sailors, the Gemini, twin sons of Zeus.  Ancient mariners considered seeing the Gemini constellation during a storm a good omen for the journey." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

First, they traveled to "Syracuse"—a distance of about 90 miles.  Then, they traveled to "Rhegium," on the very toe of boot-shaped Italy—about 70 miles from "Syracuse."  Their last stop by sea was "Puteoli" near the center of Italy on its western coast—about 200 more miles.  They now were about 130 miles from Rome.

"There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them."  For some reason, Julius allowed Paul to fellowship with Christians at "Puteoli" for seven days.  Probably, by this time, Julius was aware that Paul was no ordinary prisoner; so he was respectful of his wishes.

"And so we came to Rome."  The long journey to "Rome" was completed.  Paul had envisioned traveling to "Rome."  He had stated this desire clearly in the book of Romans that was addressed to the Christians at "Rome."  "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles." (Romans 1:11-13)  "But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 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. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ." (Romans 15:23-29)  Now, Paul is in "Rome"—though, he did not plan to come as a prisoner of "Rome."

"The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged."  "Apii forum is 43 miles from Rome and Three Taverns, 33.  They were on the great Apian Way which led from Rome to the coast." "Taken from The Acts of the Apostles by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by Westminster Press."

The Christians in Rome had heard that Paul was coming and some traveled 43 miles to meet him.  Paul was being welcomed into Rome as a conquering king was welcomed.  Paul was greatly encouraged by this welcoming party.  Paul's life mirrors the life of service of many Christian servants.  At times, we can feel as though we are a complete failure.  When Paul was forced out of Ephesus and it looked like his long ministry in Corinth was being shanghaied by false teachers—he was very low.  "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." (II Corinthians 1:8-9)

Since Paul had been in Jerusalem, he had been vilified and imprisoned for more than two years.  He had endured a horrible storm at sea.  Yet, here, he is given a hero's welcome.  The words Paul said in II Corinthians 2:4 are true: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14)

"When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him."  Paul was a prisoner, but he lived under good circumstances for his ministry.  Actually, having a Roman soldier guarding him also meant that Rome was protecting him from the Jews who were trying to kill him.  It also gave him, as we will see, an open door to preach the gospel message to the Jews while being protected by the Roman government from retaliation by the Jewish religious leaders.  The prediction by Jesus that he would testify about Him in Rome was about to happen.  "The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'" (Acts 23:11)  Also, Paul would have an opportunity to share the gospel with the soldiers that guarded him.  It has been called a "chain reaction."  "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ." (Philippians 1:13)  "All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household." (Philippians 4:22)

f. Back to work (28:17-31)

(1) Back to work defending himself before the Jews (27:17-22)
"Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: 'My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—not that I had any charge to bring against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.'"

Thought Question:  What do you believe was Paul's purpose in talking to the "leaders of the Jews"?

 

 

Paul followed his normal pattern in Rome—he begins his gospel ministry with the Jews.  (1) He claims to have not done anything against the Jews or their "customs."  (2) He claims that the Romans could find nothing to charge him with. See 23:28-29, 26:31-32  (3) It was because of the Jews that he "was compelled to appeal to Caesar." 

"not that I had any charge to bring against my own people."  He was not a hater of the Jews.  Rather, he loved them, as he states clearly in his letter to the Romans.  " I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race," (Romans 9:1-3)  But he also saw their arrogance clearly. See Rom 2:17-24  Nevertheless, Paul had no legal "charge against them."  The solution was not for them to go to jail, but for them to believe the gospel.

"'It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.'"  He was in chains simply because of his belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and because he was willing to boldly proclaim this truth.  Jesus had promised that those who believe in Him would be hated.  "'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.'" (John 15:18-21)  "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God." (John 16:2)

"They replied, 'We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that they had not learned "anything bad" about Paul? (Although people were "talking against" Christians "everywhere.")

 

 

The mild response of the Jewish leaders to Paul in Rome may have been due to their shaky status there.  Remember, it had not been too long before this time that the Jews had been forced to leave Rome.  "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," (Acts 18:2)  They had only recently been allowed to return to Rome.  "We need to remember that the Jews had been expelled from Rome approximately ten years earlier (A.D. 50) and only begun returning about A.D. 54." "Taken from Acts by Kenneth Gangel.  Copyright 1998 by Broadman & Holman Publishers."

The Jews did not have the same political power in Rome that they had in Jerusalem.  Also, there is some historical evidence that they were banished from Rome due to uprisings over Jesus Christ.  "Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Crestus, he [Claudius] expelled them
from the city."  "Suetonius is quoted in Dr. Constable's notes."  "It was commonly supposed that Suetonius was referring to riots in the Jewish community over the preaching of Christ, but that he has misspelled the name and has perhaps erroneously thought that Christ was actually a rebel leader in Rome (Suetonius was born in A.D. 69, and wrote considerably after the event)." "Dr. Constable's notes, he quotes Kent."

(2) Back to work proclaiming the gospel (28:23-31)
"They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: 'The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: “Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’ For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!' For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question:  Share a time when you had an open door to share the gospel?

 

 

"They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe."  This time may have the most productive of Paul's evangelical efforts.  Jews came to his home "in even larger numbers."  A Bible study in his home continued "from morning till evening."  Paul had become an expert on the teaching of the Messiah in the Old Testament.  His teaching was completely persuasive—Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament.  Those who were not persuaded, were not persuaded because they "would not believe." 

"They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: 'The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: “Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’ For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”'"

These words from Isaiah 6 are quoted in many places in the New Testament. See Matt. 13:14-15; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; and Jn. 12:39-40  These verses can be summarized as follows:  There will always be those who will hear the words of about Jesus, but will choose not to allow those words to impact their lives.  They "will be ever hearing but never understanding."  As a result, their hearts will "become calloused."  But, if at any time, they were willing to hear and "turn" to God from their sin, God "would heal them."  The Bible is clear that choosing to reject God's truth results in a judicial hardening of hearts by God. "'But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.'" (Zechariah 7:11-12)  "'You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!'" (Acts 7:51)  "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, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)

God gives those who reject Him and His truth over to the consequences of their choice.  "'Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!'"  Part of the consequences of the Jews' rejection of the Messiah is that it led to Paul and other Christians reaching out "to the Gentiles."  The message "to the Gentiles" was that the Messiah promised to the Jews in the Law and the Prophets—the Old Testament—has come.  If you believe in Him and His death for you, you will be saved. See 13:46, 18:6, and 19:8-9 for other times when Paul turned to the Gentiles, after the Jews rejected their Messiah.
"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."  This two-year imprisonment was obviously a fruitful period in Paul's life.  It was also during this imprisonment that Paul wrote the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.  He led Philemon's slave Onesimus to the Lord and many others.  Luke may have written this book of Acts while Paul was in prison.  Many of Paul's closest companions were with Paul in Rome—based on him referring to them in his prison letters: Timothy (Phil. 1:1; Philemon 1), Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7), Mark (Col. 4:10; Philemon 24), Aristarchus (Col. 4:10; Philemon 24), and Luke (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24)
Should Paul have gone to Jerusalem?  Bible teachers differ on this.  My first pastor as a new Christian, Ray Stedman, strongly believed that Paul was bull-headed and went Jerusalem even when it was revealed to him that he should not go.  Whatever the answer to this question is, Paul's two-year ministry in Rome, where he was able to freely and "boldly" preach the gospel message and was protected from the Jews by the Romans, was a very good result of it all.  Either (1) God overcame Paul's bad decision or (2) God desired Him to go to Jerusalem even though it would lead to his imprisonment.  But what is certain is that God enabled him to be fruitful in spite of his imprisonment.  God who enabled Paul to go forward in triumph certainly deserves the glory in all that happened.  Though Paul was in chains, the gospel message was unchained.  Certainly, many believed through his two year imprisonment in Rome.
We can tell from Paul's first letter to Timothy and his letter to Titus that Paul was released and continued his missionary travels. See also Phil. 1:21-26, 2:24  He was later rearrested and imprisoned.  II Timothy was written during his second imprisonment.  Tradition tells us that he was beheaded by Nero in about A.D. 64-68.  The promise of the angel that he "must stand trial before Caesar" did take place. (27:23-24)  Altogether, Paul was in prison about five years in his first imprisonment.

And, so, we close our travels through the book of Acts.  We are left with God's enabling of these early Christians to grow His church throughout the western world, though they faced strong opposition.  Actually, the book of Acts continues today.  May we also, with God's enabling power, grow His church against the strong opposition that we face today.  May we please God today as Peter, Phillip, Stephen, Paul, and the others did in the beginning years of the church!`

 

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