Menubar.JPG (11057 bytes)


 

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF ACTS

 

L E S S O N  O N E

(1:1-26)

 

 

The Church in Jerusalem 1:1 - 7:60

Introduction - Acts 1:1-5

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, 5 for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

The Introduction above pointed out that this book from Luke’s hand continued his effort in behalf of a certain most excellent Theophilus, the effort designed to help Theophilus to know the truth about that which he had heard. We then study the book from the perspective: here is "truth" that we can use to establish our faith more firmly. It will open our eyes to many things, such as the fulfillment of God’s plans which were made before the foundation of the world, especially in regard to the establishment of a church which was founded upon his son, Jesus. Every one who accepted the good news proclaimed became a member of the body of Christ identified as the "church," Acts 2:47. We may accept Jesus in the same way and receive the same results, since the account of the various conversions is clear, and remains the same for us as for them. Too, we can watch as the apostles carry out the commands of Jesus, and fulfill his plans, as expressed in such places as Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23. It will be most instructive to watch the divine interference in the various places that tells us that what was done was God’s doing through the instrumentality of men. We may then rest easy in the knowledge that the church was no accident in history nor produced by men, but rather that it was the culmination of God’s will at the end of the ages. Of course, since such is true, the events leading up to it were of the same nature, such as Jesus’ entrance into the human arena, etc. Luke - Acts was a tremendous production. May we enjoy Luke’s efforts to the fullest.

1:1 - book - The Gospel included important events about Jesus. Acts revealed what Jesus continued through those commissioned to complete the task for which he came to earth. He came to provide a ransom for sinners, and also to provide a basis for the church, his body, a society of redeemed sinners.

to do and to teach - The present tense infinitives in Greek indicate that these things were characteristic of Jesus’ life. Peter remarked in Acts 10:38 that Jesus "went about doing good." Jesus described himself as one who came to do God’s will, Hebrews 10:7, and to give his life for a ransom for many, Mark 10:45. More than once it is said of God that he was pleased in his Son, Matthew 17:5; Luke 3:22; Cf. II Peter 1:17.

V. 2 - until the day - About ten days prior to Pentecost.

commandment -Jesus’ teaching did not end in the upper room, but was continued during the period between his bodily resurrection and bodily ascension.

Holy Spirit - The teaching mentioned above was done both personally and through the agency of the personality known as the Holy Spirit. The exact relationships of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not explained to us. The text in John 16 perhaps best shows what the work of the Holy Spirit was to carry on what Jesus did in person. The Acts account is quite helpful in showing how this was done. We can be grateful that God was always in control through the Holy Spirit. If we then do as the apostles directed in regard to becoming Christians, we can rest assured that God accepts us.

V. 3 - passion- Normally descriptive of physical suffering, but inclusive here of Jesus’ death.

 

proofs - The Gospels tell of eleven resurrection appearances, but quite clearly others took place which are not recorded. The Greek term carries the force of showing, convincingly. They were to be Jesus’ witnesses (Luke 24:48), and he left the apostles with a clear-cut testimony to preach.

It is most important to establish the group with whom Jesus worked (in preparation for the beginning of the Church). The apostles are specifically highlighted as those who were chosen and sent by Jesus.

the kingdom of God - Much instruction was given about this matter, and though they still misunderstood (v. 6), yet the book of Acts and the epistles are best considered as their presentation of the kingdom , as explained by Jesus, and directed by the Holy Spirit. It is then equal to the church and composed of the same people.

 

the promise of the Father - Best taken as a promise from God, rather than about God. Read Luke 24:49, where the Holy Spirit is in mind, though not explicitly stated, as is true in Acts 1:5.

V. 5 - John - John’s disciples had included at least Peter, Andrew, James and John. Philip and Nathaniel may have been, as well as others in Jesus’ group.

Holy Spirit - The fulfillment of Joel 2:27-31, as recorded in Acts 2:1ff. Note how long God had been promising this event, and now it is about to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What period of time did Luke’s first treatise cover?

 

 

 

2. To whom did Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, give commands?

 

3. How long did Jesus appear to the apostles?

4. Of what did Jesus speak to the apostles?

 

 

 

 

5. Why were they commanded to wait in Jerusalem?

 

 

 

 

 

On the Mount of Olivet, 1:6-11

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." 9 And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

V. 6 - do you restore - The book shows how their narrow nationalism is finally eliminated, and the truth of the commission in Matthew 28 impressed upon them: everyone is included in the plan of God.

The struggle to understand the nature of the kingdom/church was difficult; conversion was needed. The Old Testament was a dispensation, the basic demand being that of faith, to be expressed through the Mosaic law. Now - the same command is given (believe), but in relationship to Jesus, and to be expressed and understood through what we know as the Church. We may see so much better than they, that we wonder about their blindness.

If the Old Testament dispensation was but the shadow, however, of things to come, how unclear was the reality, the Church? If we only had the Old Testament, how much of the "Church" would we have figured out?

V. 7 - It is not for you to know - Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and understanding which would naturally come, revealed most of the facts later. They needed something else far more important: power from God.

authority - The Greek term’s use can be seen in Matthew 28:18; Mark 1:22; Luke 7:8; 20:20; John 1:12; Acts 5:4; 8:19; Romans 9:21; 13:1,2,3; II Thess. 3:9; Rev. 13:5; 17:12. It has the basic concept of freedom or right to act, do something; perhaps because such is inherent (as with God) or given, as to men.

V. 8 - power - Paul describes the Gospel as God’s power. It is interesting that Acts 2 shows the apostles preached the Gospel: God’s power. However, the power meant here is exactly equal to the Holy Spirit, v. 5.

witnesses - The Greek word is also translated "martyr." In 1:22, this point is made as they select Matthias to replace Judas.

 

The men, once forbidden to enter Samaria, or areas of Gentiles, were now enjoined to go there. It would take some doing for them to realize what was meant, and to allow their Hebrew identity to be swallowed up in a larger fellowship.

end of the earth - Acts may be somewhat outlined here, but we may miss a more important point: how Christianity overcame provincial ideas and selfish concerns to envelop the whole world. Moreover, though Acts is somewhat history, it barely skims the surface of the means by which the Gospel was spread. Acts does tell clearly, the nature of the Church.

V. 9 - Read Luke 24:51, which records the same event, and shows Jesus blessing the apostles.

a cloud - Paul says "in glory," I Tim. 3:16. For the apostles, the relationship of a cloud with God and the things of God would surely come to mind.

It is to be noted that the apostles were promised by Jesus that he would be with them until the end of the age, Matthew 18:20; 28:20. Jesus’ ascension would permit him to be glorified in power, Acts 2:36, and return in glory at his Second Coming, Mark 13:26; Matthew 25:31, etc. He was to be glorified in them, John 17:10. His presence was to be theirs by means of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

V. 11 - men of Galilee - This helps us to see the exact group of men to whom Jesus gave the final commission, and who received the promise in 2:1-4.

 

QUESTIONS

 

6. Who has time and season in his power?

7. What were the apostles to receive? For what purpose?

 

 

8. Did they understand how many people the commission included?

 

9. How is Jesus to come back?

 

 

 

 

10. Do you suppose it was human to stand gazing after Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

In the Upper Room, 1:12-26

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away; 13 and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 "Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. 18 (Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akeldama, that it, Field of Blood.) 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms,

‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us - one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place." 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.

V. 12 - a Sabbath day’s journey - Here is the only place in the Bible where the exact distance is mentioned. Exodus 16:29 apparently was considered to be limited by Numbers 35:5, though not explicitly stated.

We might also note that Olivet is said to be a Sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem, not that the apostles were. Luke 24:50 says they were in the vicinity of Bethany.

Between the ascension of Jesus and Pentecost, Acts 2:1, is a period of ten days, Luke 24:52-53 and Acts 1:12-14 give general descriptions of the apostles’ activities during this time. Verses 15-26 relate one important event of the period.

V. 14 - The apostles, minus Judas, along with other believers, and part of Jesus’ own family, are said to be together at this time. We have no idea where the upper room was. Since Jerusalem was flattened in AD 70, we cannot point out this place today.

V. 15 - about 120 - Note "about." Consider also that Paul mentioned over 500 believers in Galilee, perhaps in addition to these. Peter generally is the prominent personage in the first twelve chapters, Paul in chapters 13-28. In any group, someone will generally be the leader. However, the Scriptures do not state or imply that Peter was considered "first among equals" by either the Lord or the apostles.

V. 16 - brethren - A term used both specifically and generally. The LXX used the term to designate a member of the same 1) family, 2) community, or 3) a neighbor. The N.T. uses it for a member of the same family, either physical or spiritual. See, for example, such texts as Matthew 1:2; 4:18; 5:22; 7:3-5; 12:46, 48; 18:15, 21, 35; 22:24-25; 23:8; 28:10; Mark 6:3; Luke 3:19; John 7:3; 11:2; Acts 7:2; 11:1; 13:15; 15:1; Romans 1:13; I Cor. 1:1; and many others like these.

scripture...Holy Spirit...David - We need to pay close attention to this verse and to what it tells us about 1) nature of Scripture and 2) the method (how) of inspiration. Peter’s usage of the term "scripture" is typical of those recorded in the N.T., including Jesus. Similar expressions are "it is written" and "Scripture says."

Invariably the term is applied to what now constitutes our Bible, excluding the apocryphal books which are printed in most Catholic editions. These books were considered authoritative since they were from God. Hence, whenever anyone quoted from an O.T. text, the quote was considered the final word on the subject. For an extensive study on this subject, see Clark Pinnock’s Biblical Revelation from Moody Press. See also New Testament Evidences from College Press.

V. 17 - he was numbered - Judas was chosen by Jesus as an apostle, but became a traitor of his own choosing.

share - The Greek word is seen in 1:26, in Luke 1:9; John 19:24. was allotted - This translates a verb meaning to obtain by lot or to determine by casting lots. It is found in Luke 1:9 and John 19:24. The word was used of choices made, whether divine (as with Judas and Matthias) or human.

ministry - The Greek word looks like deaconship; but it meant service in such a broad sense that it includes apostleship here and in 1:25, as also in Acts 20:24; 21:19; Rom. 11:13; II Cor. 4:1; 6:3 and others. We should realize that the apostasy of Judas created a vacancy that needed to be filled at this time. The death of James in Ch. 12 did not create a vacancy that then had to be filled. The apostleship was not something that could be transferred. Paul’s choice was in addition to these twelve men.

 

V. 18,19 - Apparently a parenthesis by Luke. See Matthew 27:1ff for the parallel account. Each account can be understood to be truthful even if they describe the whole event somewhat differently. They can be harmonized if desired, eliminating what some see as a contradiction.

The text as it stands seems to be an explanation by Luke to Theophilus of some events which took place but were not too clear at the time of the writing. Luke pointed out the extra items not mentioned by Peter, since those who were listening to Peter knew about Judas and would not have needed an explanation.

V. 20 - Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 are quoted. Doubtless Peter had never associated these Psalms with Judas or Jesus, and is expressing facts only now understandable. Of importance is the idea that the apostles were to be guided into truth (John 16), and this is some of that guidance.

habitation - Generally, a dwelling place, a home; but here a place within a group.

office - The Greek term and its various forms means overseer, or as found in I Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7; I Peter 2:12, 25. In the case of the apostles, they were the initial group in reference to the whole church. Men to oversee the individual assemblies were to be chosen to care for the local groups, but such did not and do not have only the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The N.T. was/is their guide.

V. 21 - one of the men - Whose qualifications are 1) accompanied Jesus, beginning with John’s immersion, 2) witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, and 3) chosen by the Lord. There was no need of other than those who knew the facts.

V. 22 - resurrection - They never preached other than a crucified and resurrected Christ, the salvation of those believing, the stone of stumbling to those who did not, Rom. 9:33; I Cor. 1:18. Of course, I Cor. 15 develops this subject extensively.

V. 24 - Lord, who knowest the hearts - How well the apostles could testify to this fact! Jesus may be meant, since he had just been mentioned in v. 21, and also had selected the twelve originally, etc.

of all men - Just what the men meant by this prayer is uncertain. Did they feel unable to discern their own desires as well as the worth of the two men, about which they could only guess? Likewise, their method of selection is of interest, since we do not know why they chose the particular method they did. However, such questions are futile and we desist.

V. 25 - place - The men were careful to not designate where this is, though Jesus did in John 17:12 (which prayer they heard), nor to speak evil of Judas, though they must surely have felt strongly about that which he did.

ministry and apostleship - the two terms are not identical, but do overlap.

V. 26 - apostles - Though the twelve are explicitly identified in this chapter, others are also called apostles in the New Testament, such as Paul; James (Galatians 1:19); Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14; Andronicus and Junias (Rom. 16:7). See also Philippians 2:25 and II Cor. 8:23. Yet none of these ever claimed to be among the 12 nor to have their prerogatives, except Paul.

The testimony of the twelve was considered normative by the early church since God was directing them. This same fact was true about Paul. Therefore, the measure of any message preached or written was that which was considered to be from these men, and from these men alone, or those who had associated with them, as Mark or Luke.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

11. Why did Luke specifically identify in v. 13 who had watched Jesus ascend?

 

 

12. How long was it between the ascension and Pentecost?

13. What did the apostles do in this period?

 

 

 

 

14. Why did the Scripture have to be fulfilled? How was it (what the Holy Spirit spoke through David) fulfilled?

 

 

 

 

15. What specific qualities did the apostles indicate must be present in the man replacing Judas? Why?

 

 

 

 

16. Just exactly what qualifications did the apostles have that others did not have?

 

 

L E S S O N T W O

(2:1-36)

 

 

In An Apartment of the Temple 2:1-36

 

2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Lybia belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine."

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And in the last days it shall be, God

declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

18 yea, and on my manservants and my

maidservants in those days I will pour

out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show wonders in the heaven

above and signs on the earth beneath,

blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20 the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day.

21 And it shall be that whoever calls on the

name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know, 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope. 27 For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.’

29 "Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, an his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all were witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

The News has come! The twelve were commanded to stay in Jerusalem, which they did, and are now prepared to receive the power from on high (Luke 24:49), the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Luke 24:53 shows the apostles, the "witnesses of these things," in the temple, continually in praise to God.

Without doubt, God chose the time of Pentecost because many Jews would be in Jerusalem and present to hear the Gospel proclamation. Likewise, Jerusalem was chosen as the place of presentation, not only because of the above fact, but also because the facts of the Gospel were known to most (remember that Jesus was crucified at Passover time) and any unfounded claims (such as the resurrection) could easily be checked.

V. 1 - Pentecost - Normally occurred 50 days after Passover. See Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12.

they - The nearest grammatical antecedent is "apostles" in 1:26. This does not prove "they" to have been the apostles. The remainder of the chapter treats the apostles, however, and not any others who were with them. The ministry of Jesus to the apostles, the events in chapter one, the subsequent events in Acts which show the unique place the apostles held in the church: all combine to argue for the apostles and against any others. Those who hold that the "120" are the group which received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 do so without any basis in fact, rather upon poor exegesis and wishful thinking. Such a position makes it possible for everyone to be "baptized" in the Holy Spirit as the apostles were, a strictly non-scriptural point of view.

V. 2 - sound - The Greek word means noise, or echo. "Sound" is a good word. The idea to be conveyed is this: the sound heard is not simply a wind, but like a rushing mighty wind, as of a tornado. The significance for the apostles may have been varied, depending upon their state of mind.

The promise of Jesus of a mighty power to come upon the apostles was described by the term "Holy Spirit". We do not, as a rule, connect the Holy Spirit with wind, or wind with God. However, for the men sitting in the house, the situation was different. The Greek term (if they spoke it); the Aramaic term (which probably they spoke): the Hebrew term (the language in which most of their Bible was), all had the varied meanings of wind, breath, etc.; then spirit, mind, attitude/disposition, and God. The O.T. used the Hebrew term in all these ways. Here are some examples: as wind, Genesis 8:1, "and God made a wind blow"; as breath, Job 27:3, "as long as my breath is in me"; as one’s disposition/attitude ("spirit"), Numbers 5:14, "and if the spirit of jealousy"; as that part of man from God which returns to God at separation of spirit and body, Isaiah 57:16 "from me (God) proceeds the spirit, and I have made the breath of life"; (Note the idea in Eccles. 3:21; 8:8; James 2:26) and of God, Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4, "the spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (It is thus often a phrase which equals God, as in Psalms 33:6; Isaiah 30:33). These ideas could be multiplied but this will suffice to help us see that the sound like that of a rushing mighty wind would have created in the minds of the "twelve" the concept of God in their presence, a God of power, might, ability.

house - Can refer to the temple, as in 7:47.

 

V. 3 - tongues - Symbolized like a flame of fire (though not actually fire).

Both the wind and the fire were O.T. symbols of God, as in II Sam. 5:24; I Kings 19:11,12; Psalms 104:3; Ezekiel 37:9; Exodus 3:2; Deuteronomy 5:4; Hebrews 12:29.

Recall John 1:32, when the Spirit descended as a dove upon Jesus, "abiding upon him." The Spirit of God lives in Christians, II Cor. 1:22. Hence, the Spirit may take different forms in relationship to man.

As we consider the Holy Spirit coming upon these men, it will be instructive to compare Luke’s Gospel with Luke’s history. Consider Luke 1:15, 35, 41, 67; 2:25; 3:22; 4:1; etc. Then Acts ch. 2, 7:55; 8:17, 29; 10:19; etc. Luke shows the coming of the Spirit in both sound and sight to direct the lives of these twelve men, upon whose shoulders the proclamation of an everlasting Gospel rested.

 

It has been pointed out that though this day of Pentecost seems of great importance, it is not found to be so in early church writings (including the N.T.); the day of Christ’s resurrection is the day of prominence.

V. 4 - tongues - Identified as a language, spoken and understood. Note the expressions which show the identification of tongue with language in verses 6, 8, 11. I Cor. 14:21 makes a positive equation of "tongue" with language. There is nothing in the N.T. to cause any other interpretation than this: tongue = language. Those who make "tongue" equal to something else, do it in opposition to the evident usage, and not because of any usage.

V. 5 - Luke identified various groups (v. 9-11) who were hearing and seeing the heavenly event, as the apostles spoke "the mighty works of God." The people were characterized as devout (cf. Luke 2:25), and dwellers in Jerusalem. It may be that they dwelt there permanently, or were temporary dwellers from Passover to Pentecost. The point is made that all were Jews, in sympathy if not by birth.

One can think of the tower of Babel where God brought confusion by mixing languages. Now He unites through the same medium. It is important to note that no Scripture can be cited that shows such a gift was used to "evangelize" or used other than in a meeting of brethren.

V. 6 - they were bewildered - Though all "dwelt" in Jerusalem (and perhaps all understood a common language like Aramaic) various language groups were represented among them. The sound drew them together, but the bewilderment came when the realization came that all were hearing in their own particular language despite the fact that the twelve apostles (the ones who were speaking) were Galileans (and not, therefore, capable of speaking so many different languages). As a matter of interest, notice how widely Jews were dispersed in the world. Peter’s epistles were addressed to the "dispersed," I Peter 1:1ff.

V. 11 - our own tongues - The usage of the Greek term is the same in verse 4.

 

mighty works - We are not told what these things were, so it is useless to speculate.

V. 12 - all were amazed - The exact results intended by the "wind" and languages. The signs were not the message, but to get attention for the message. The phenomena were, however, a partial fulfillment of God’s prophetic statements through his prophet Joel, as Peter will say. God had been preparing for this event since before the foundation of the world. It is now the fullness of time and the mystery, long hidden, is to be revealed, a mystery that concerned Jesus and the unique role he filled in man’s history, being the actual basis for man’s redemption, and forming the foundation of the church (=the kingdom of God, which also was/is Christ’s body), within hours of being a historical reality.

V. 13 - new wine - The Greek word means a wine that is sweet. Since the time was spring, no "new" grape juice had been made from "sweet" grapes and preserved by one of several methods. If the skeptics’ remarks are taken at face value, "new wine" could produce inebriation.

mocking - Some were predisposed to explain the phenomena in terms contrary to the truth. Such had always been so, and would continue to be. Consider the parable of Jesus in Luke 8, the comment and quote of an O.T. text from Isaiah in Matthew 13:14-15; and Paul’s use of a like text from Habakkuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41; and use of the Isaiah text in Acts 28:26-28. (The basic Greek term was used in ch. 17:32 to describe what some did when Paul preached about the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.) They jeered at the signs and perhaps also those who were minded to accept said signs as from God. Peter had a ready response to the amazement of some, the skepticism of others.

V. 14 - Peter - He will now begin a sermon, not only intended to allay the charge of some (v. 13) but to show that the Jews should have been prepared for what had happened to Jesus, and what was now beginning to happen in the "church age."

The first major task of the apostles was to show the Jews the cross as it related to God’s plan for the Messiah. Their problem was manifold, but basically involved seeing Jesus as both God and man, and both a Messiah and a suffering servant.

the eleven - As with another term, "the twelve," those who accompanied Jesus were meant, and excludes the "120" as remarked above.

 

men of Judea - He addressed the crowd, though we know not if all understood, or if some did, because we know not if the crowd could all understand a common language, or if only some did (hence the need to have other languages spoken by the apostles). As obvious, but not able to be settled, we don’t know if, in addition to the miracle of sound, sight, speech, there was also a miracle of hearing.

V. 15 - These are not drunk - Whether or not the scoffers really meant what they said is anybody’s guess. They may have suggested it to avoid praise (cf. v.11) or because they did not understand the phenomenon, or because they understood, but did not wish to believe, etc. As Peter stated, drunkenness was unlikely, and offered a more reasonable interpretation of the manifestation.

V. 16 - this is what - Peter asserts that God had planned just such an event to usher in a new era, the last days, in which the pouring out of the Spirit would be one event. Turn it around, and Peter said: what was spoken by the prophet Joel is fulfilled in what you are hearing, seeing, etc. Peter said, in effect, that everything he quoted from Joel was then being fulfilled. Many try to take the prophecy apart, and asserts each piece must be more or less literally fulfilled. Peter seems to assert the opposite. The gist of Joel was the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. The subsequent events were results of this cause. It is then unnecessary to look for or expect any fulfillment of Joel beyond the apostles.

As a general conclusion in consideration of N.T. quotes from O.T. texts, one should not assert what the N.T. does not assert. Contrariwise, if the N.T. asserts a fulfillment, then the safest and best course is to accept it. As illustrations, see Matthew 1:23; 2:15, 17; 4:15-16; Acts 13:33-41; 15:15-17; etc. Peter certainly interprets Joel by that which he said, and the interpretation was inspired. That is hard to argue with.

V. 17 - pour out my spirit - As with 2:38, the question is: was the Spirit Himself given (poured out) or gifts from the Spirit? The O.T. Hebrew text says "poured out" but that doesn’t settle the matter. It seems from various texts that either position could be true insofar as the apostles were concerned. Certainly if the person of the Holy Spirit is meant, it can only be in a manner of speaking, as best we know, since we can’t conceive of one distinct person being in twelve different bodies at the same time. However, since God is not limited as we are, such is quite possible. See John 14:23; Rom. 5:59; Eph. 1:13; I Cor. 6:19; II Cor. 1:21,22; I Thess. 4:8. The end result was what was important, and we can see that for ourselves.

V. 20 - day of the Lord - Normally used in the N.T. epistles to mean the Second Coming, as in I Cor. 1:8; II Cor. 1:14, Phil. 1:10; I Thess. 5:2; II Thess. 2:8; I Tim. 6:14. Of course, there may have been more than one "day of the Lord," with one yet to come when the epistles were written. It may also be true that Joel’s expression included all the time in the "last days," so that his prophecy included the Second Coming. Again, as remarked about, the gist of Joel’s prophecy was what was occurring that day to the twelve.

V. 21 - whoever calls - Paul has the same statement in Romans 10:13. It apparently means that any person, regardless of who it is, may receive salvation if said person turns to the Lord for salvation. Of course, this idea of universal salvation was foreign to Jewish concepts, in the main, and definitely not understood by Peter, the speaker, the other apostles, or those listening. The whole Acts account gives various struggles of the early Christians to overcome their provincial thinking, and see the truth of the statement in Romans 3, that God is "the God of the Gentiles also."

name of the Lord - This expression equals the person of the Lord. Many times "name" means the person, as in Acts 3:16; etc. We might notice that this is one of several times when the texts referring to God in the Old Testament are applied to Jesus in the N.T. Consider Isaiah 45:23 and Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11; Psalms 34:8 and I Peter 2:3; Isaiah 8:13 and I Peter 3:15.

V. 22 - Jesus of Nazareth - This phrase identifies who is the subject of Peter’s remarks. Many were called "Jesus." We need to remember that the real issue is this: do you and I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God? Peter affirmed this proposition in Matthew 16:16, as did the other apostles.

Peter proclaimed that the events were part of God’s plan; the above fact (including explicit details about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection) that was prophesied by Joel to happen in the "last days" - all was taking place just as God had intended.

mighty works, wonders and signs - Three aspects of any miracle, viewed from what it took to do it (mighty work), the response it caused in the viewer (wonder), and that it (sign) pointed to something beyond itself.

you yourselves know - The Gospels are replete with miracles no one could deny. The case is much like that in Acts 4:16. Many of those in the audience had knowledge of Jesus’ works, or were themselves among the blessed. It was as Nicodemus said in John 3, "We know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, except God be with him."

V. 23 - this Jesus...delivered up - Further evidence that God had planned to redeem man, and counted the cost to do so. Consider what light this sheds on the "scandal of the cross": it was God’s plan! For God, the events of the cross were the means of the reconciliation of the world. It was only to the minds of men out of tune with God that the cross was a scandal.

 

lawless men - Probably the Romans, but could well mean men with no restraints, such as the Jewish leaders or Pilate; whose only restraint was what worked for them personally. Jesus’ death was not a matter of helplessness: God foreknew it; but men were still guilty of it, because they, with power of personal judgment willed it to be so. The crowds shouted to Pilate, "Crucify him (Jesus)." They accepted blame for his blood, Matthew 27:25.

V. 24 - God raised him up - Note how clear and bold Peter is, within a city where the facts he preached could be easily checked. Only an abundance of evidence could have changed the apostles into such forthright witnesses. Consider also how much Peter’s ideas about Jesus’ death and resurrection had changed since he first heard about it.

pangs of death - Probably best understood as referring to that which held Jesus (i.e., death), which is likened to the trap or snare that held whatever it caught. In Jesus’ case, God planned that death would not triumph over Him who is Life. As Peter said, "It was not possible" for death to hold Jesus. Obviously the resurrection provided the best perspective from which to view the crucifixion, then or now.

V. 25 - This is one of the interesting usages of prophecy Peter makes, through the leading of the Holy Spirit. The text (from Psalms 16), as Peter explained in verses 29-31, could not refer to David, and to no one else but the Messiah. In it, the Messiah had expressed the confidence that a resurrection (in his case) would occur, since he, being raised, would enjoy the presence of God after the resurrection from the state of the dead.

In this connection, consider how often Jesus spoke of his resurrection. The epistles show what the resurrection means to us as they elaborate upon the meaning and application of Jesus’ death in our behalf.

V. 27 - Hades (Hebrew "sheol") - The term really describes, not so much the actual grave, or the decay of the flesh, but rather the dead in total, all those who have died, regardless of their actual state. The meaning, then, is that the one David is quoting expected to be restored to life again, not remain among the dead. Of course, the apostles were witnesses of this fact, additionally substantiated by Peter’s argument in verses 29-31, that David could not have been speaking of himself, the facts being contrary to it. The Psalmist was then shown to have been speaking of the Messiah who was to come, and now identified to be Jesus. For us as Christians, knowing that Jesus existed before the time of the Psalmist (since Jesus is eternal in nature), we can understand that Jesus through the Psalmist foretold his own death, resurrection, etc.

The Greek word for Hades occurs ten times in the N.T: Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14 and our text. It is equal to the O.T. "Sheol". The Greek word for hell occurs in the following places: Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. It is important to note that we should not read hell in our text, since that gives a misunderstanding of the actual events. Jesus did not go to hell as we think of it, but rather to Hades which is simply the place of the dead, inclusive of all the dead.

corruption - To be understood in parallel with Hades, and meant the state/place of the dead, rather than referring to the physical body, per se.

V. 28 - thy presence - The Greek says "with your face" meaning God’s actual presence. The Greek term "face" often meant the person or the person’s presence.

V. 29 - David’s tomb was within the city walls, as seems evident from Nehemiah 3:16. Solomon was apparently also buried there. (The "tombs of the kings" now extant are apparently not the ones Peter had in mind, since they date only from the Roman period.) This the Jews listening all knew. Hence, the Psalm could only refer to the Messiah, who was being preached to them as Jesus of Nazareth.

V. 30 - God had sworn - The text Peter has in mind is II Sam. 7:12-16; and Psalms 132:11-12. Note Luke’s record of Gabriel’s remarks to Mary, Luke 1:32-33. Since the Messiah’s resurrection was a matter of prophecy, thus truth, the Jews could not argue the point. All Peter needed to do was show that Jesus was the subject of that prophecy.

V. 32 - we are witnesses - The proof positive of the resurrection of Jesus was in the twelve apostles who were eyewitnesses of the matter.

V. 33 - Being exalted - The promise to David had been fulfilled at last, since Jesus was the fulfillment. The greatest era in the Jews’ history, known as the "last days," had come. Paul remarked as much in I Cor. 10:11. The thing that was different, however, was that Jesus was exalted in heaven at God’s right hand, while the Jewish people, as a nation, had supposed that the Messiah would sit upon a throne in the (earthly) city of Jerusalem, and establish an earthly kingdom. Of course, they were sadly and badly mistaken. The kingdom to be brought into existence by the Messiah was to be spiritual in nature, not material, and its king was to reign from heaven not upon earth. This point about "Jerusalem" was enlarged and clarified by Paul in Galatians 4:21-31. The kingdom of which the Messiah was to be king was/is the Church, the body of Christ. In this way, Jesus sat upon the throne of his father David, ruling over a kingdom that, by its very nature, could have and would have no end (since the kingdom was not material in nature, but spiritual. Material things, all of them, have an end, I John 2:15-17).

the promise (of the Father) - See Luke 24:49. It is noteworthy that God is said to do this in Joel, and Acts 2:17; while here Jesus is said to "pour out" the Holy Spirit, or at least gifts of the Holy Spirit, accounting for what they saw and heard. Hence, Jesus and God are said to have done the same things; another item which shows Jesus’ deity.

V. 34 - David did not ascend - Peter again appeals to Scripture to establish his case, using the same Scripture Jesus had used earlier to show the misunderstanding of the Jews (see Matt. 22:41-45). It was Jesus who ascended into the heavens to begin to reign, not David. We do not think that Peter affirmed anything about what David did at death, bur rather stated what happened to Jesus as the subject of prophecy.

V. 36 - Let...Israel know - By virtue of the prophecies, the testimonies and the empirical evidence, the fact was clear: Jesus of Nazareth was Lord and Messiah, the person the Jews had crucified. (Note John 17:5, 24-26; I Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:20-23; etc.). Observe also how David’s "Lord" and Peter’s "Lord" are declared to be one and the same, and that "Lord" and "Messiah" were equated, all in reference to Jesus.

Now, as we begin study of 2:38, we must recognize the following: The basics are to be considered in this text, and 2:42. It must be recognized that good and honest men have labored long over this whole section and yet have differed over what is therein said. It will not do, therefore, to argue that the Bible "says" it (whatever), and suppose that statement will end the discussion. The question to be resolved is: what does the Bible "say," here or elsewhere? May we then approach the text within that sphere of thought, and do our best to understand exactly what God did say to us. It may further be added that even if we, or anyone else, is able to discern the exact import of these verses, that gives no reason for pride, nor does it mean that practice will be equal to understanding. God may well save because of faith and despite some/much misunderstanding (with the resultant disobedience or lack of obedience). Stated differently, grace may be greatened to some/many as God so desires. Be that as it may, no one is hereby relieved from knowing and doing as well as possible. Neither are we privileged to offer salvation other than as God directed.

 

QUESTIONS

 

17. Did God plan for the Pentecost event to happen?

18. How many of the Jews were to be in Jerusalem for this feast? (See Ex. 23:14-17; Lev. 23:15-21; Deut. 16:9-12).

19. With whom did Peter stand up? To whom did the crowd address their questions?

20. How many things did God plan or perform in regard to Jesus, according to Peter’s sermon?

 

 

 

21. What was the point about David’s tomb?

 

22. Peter said the Jews had done what to Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T H R E E

(2:37-47)

 

 

Receiving God’s Word Acts 2:37-47

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." 40 And he testified with, many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.

43 And fear came upon every soul; and wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

V. 37 - cut to the heart - The verb means to sting or to cut or to pierce. It conveys the idea that Peter’s words stunned them, not only because what he said was recognized as being true, but also because of the enormity of the truths presented.

to Peter and the rest - Though Peter had preached, and answers their question, the other eleven may also have been speaking. The twelve were recognized as those who would know the answers, on the basis of what had been seen and heard, and so they were asked. This is but another indication that only the twelve were recipients of Joel’s prophecy, and properly the subjects being described in 2:1ff.

what shall we do - Not a rhetorical question, but one for information. They had accepted as true what Peter had said. They now believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, and that they were guilty of sin in respect to His crucifixion.

V. 38 - repent - The Greek word means: change your mind (and thus your life). It is a prominent N.T. theme, involved in the initial response to the gospel facts, and in subsequent Christian life. One never gets through repenting, since (like Paul in Phil. 3:13-14) one must always "press forward" in better living, higher goals, following in Jesus’ footsteps.

It is a basic premise behind the N.T. epistles that those to whom they were written will conform to the stipulations therein. Hence, repentance is presumed on the part of the recipients. Stated differently, to have the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is going to demand constant mind-changing, seen in life-changing. Nothing else will suffice.

The doctrine of repentance is much more forward looking than being concerned with the past. The Christian must live in the future, not the past. We do people a disservice with our "faith", repentance, etc.," if we leave an impression that repentance is only necessary to becoming a Christian, rather than essential to remaining a Christian.

 

be baptized - The second of the two commands, the results being stated next. This is the first outward action commanded, and actually the effect of faith and repentance. We are active in believing and changing our mind, and express our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, in a way that all can see, by our obedience to the command to be immersed. By these three: faith, repentance, immersion, we are in Christ, Galatians 3:27. (See comments on 8:36 please).

forgiveness of sins - A promise to be received by faith. We cannot prove that such has been done. We accept the fact that our sins have been forgiven because of our faith in God’s character. We do what Jesus commands, and believe that God will keep His promise(s). John’s immersion was for the forgiveness of sins, but like the sacrifices of the Old covenant, depended upon the blood of Jesus (Cf. Mark 1:4), Hebrews 9:15-17.

gift of the Holy Spirit - There is so much controversy over this point (as well as the preceding ones!). The argument over the nature of the Holy Spirit, the relationship of the Holy Spirit to one’s conversion, then the subsequent effects upon that (converted) person, whether the gift is the Holy Spirit Himself, or a gift from Him - all these are at issue here. We think it is best to take the text as meaning the person of the Holy Spirit, as presented in Romans 8:9-11. So then, the person of Jesus gave his life for all our sins, the person of the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee of our eternal inheritance, II Cor. 5:5.

V. 39 - the promise - Some consider this to be the same promise as in 1:4; some think it refers to the prophecy of Joel, especially that in v. 21, but not excluding the other parts of the prophecy relating to items individuals were to receive. Some also hold that the "promise" was only to the Jews, not to Gentiles, and Acts 2:38 should not be cited by anyone as applicable to this present age, considering that the "everyone" means only Jews, and that Gentiles were/are to be treated differently.

We think the "promise" means Jesus and all that he means, and is for everyone, anytime, anywhere. The rest of the N.T. never indicates anything else, or any other message. If God had intended to have another Gospel, etc., he surely did not indicate it anywhere.

It is also pertinent to remark that Peter (and the other apostles) surely said more than they understood. The term "you and ...your children, and ...all that are far off" was not thought to include Gentiles, only Jews. Hence, the experience in Peter’s life in Acts 10 was necessary to make him (and the rest of the Jews) understand that everyone was meant, not Jews only. As Peter stated, "I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him," Acts 10:34-35. Paul, the Jew, was specifically told that he would be sent "far away to the Gentiles," Acts 22:21. Inspiration did not extend to understanding of the revelation which the apostles received. It was with them as it was with the men of old, I Peter 1:10-12. They were as we are: God’s revelation is one thing; our understanding of God’s revelation another thing. We do well to keep this in mind as we study, that we are attempting to understand God’s revelation. All men are equal in this respect. It is not that God’s revelation cannot be understood (and obeyed), because it can be. The point is, however, that we are humans who are trying to know what is divine. The task is great and often life’s experiences are needed to understand some things in God’s Word. Others may have perceived better than we, and so what others say about God’s revelation might need to be considered. All need to study and keep the mind open while studying.

Looking ahead to v. 42, because of the importance of the verse, an extended study is given. The reader should remember that probably the essentials of church life are stated. Even though many of the things written in the epistles may not have been known by those first Christians, they were still Christians, no more and no less. We do well to remember that when we get into discussions with others about what is essential to the Christian life, what characteristics must one have, names worn, etc.

V.40 - save yourselves - This command is passive: "be saved." However, it amounts to this: those listening were to avail themselves of the salvation offered by obeying the immediately preceding commands given. We would understand these instructions from the apostles as being the first fulfillment of Matthew 16:18-19; John 20:23; etc., in that the apostles were the human instruments God used to reveal his new covenant for all people, Jews and Gentiles. The apostles’ word was then law in the sense that it was what God had decreed.

crooked - The opposite of straight. Philippians 2:15 has the same idea. Many different terms are used to describe people of that day: evil, adulterous, perverse; all various ways to describe sinners. The exhortation was, then, to save themselves from the state of being classed as sinners to being classed with the "saved."

V. 41 - those who received - Note here Hebrews 4:2, and the children of Israel of whom it speaks. Consider also the significance of the idea: "those who received." It is stated as if they had choice, rather than "had been chosen" or "were made to do so," etc.

The apostles made up the initial body to which the 3,000 were added consequent upon their immersion "into Christ" as Galatians 3:27 states. We are persuaded that no one is saved (= being in Christ) apart from believing in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of God, changing one’s mind to conform to that fact, issuing in immersion of the person in water.

V. 42 - devoted - The Greek term is in a present participle form, indicating a habit of life, what was normally done or practiced, although the verb itself has that sort of idea too (it can be seen in the following contexts: Mark 3:9; Acts 1:14; 2:46; 6:4; 8:13; 10:7; Rom. 12:12; 13:6; Eph. 6:18 and Col. 4:2), indicating a perseverance in something, characterized by perseverance, loyalty, constancy, etc.

apostles’ teaching - The apostles continued what "Jesus began...to teach," Acts 1:1 and by the authority he had given to them, Matt. 28: 19,20.

We can see that others taught or had a teaching in the New Testament, (I Cor. 14:6, 26; Col. 3:16; II Tim. 2:2; 4:2; Heb. 5:12, etc.) but it is also quite plain that the apostles’ teaching was considered normative and authoritative, not only by themselves, but by the early Christians. (Hence, others such as the 120 were not considered by Luke in his history of the church as important enough to even mention in this respect.)

We need to think about this concept from the perspective of what the apostles taught. These first Christians adhered to the doctrine of the apostles, so that what is meant by our text is that they kept listening and wanting to be taught so that they might practice correctly. The sum total of the apostles’ doctrine included many things not listed in v. 42. The epistles represent their doctrine, as well as the next three items in v. 42, namely, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

The aim and intent of any study needs to be that of understanding exactly what the apostles taught, so that we might obey it. Any claim to be a New Testament Christian necessitates such procedure. Such attempt has the distinct plus of appealing to the Bible as an objective standard. We must disclaim any other than the Bible as an authoritative guide, while believing what Jesus himself taught or through his chosen apostles as our sole guide.

However, the ideal is not so easy to accomplish as to say. Many people accuse others of having unwritten creeds plus the written one.

Consider two things as illustrations: inferences, and systems of thought or doctrine. Inferences are, by nature, not stated. Any statement would have one inference, or more. We have to be careful about how firmly we insist on inferences. If others cannot honestly see the inference we see, we should not insist they do so before we accept them. (An example might be the kind of bread to be used in the Lord’s Supper, or the use of musical instruments.) If we do so, we make human wisdom and reasoning the test of brotherhood. We have no right to do that. Faith must be based upon God’s revelation, not man’s inferences from it.

The second point is this: deciding what is considered the doctrine of the apostles, and, upon that decision, how it is applied. The inspiration of the N.T. can be asserted with good reason. However, no one can claim inspiration for our understanding of said books, nor the particular way one visualizes their relationships. For instance, we struggle with the concept of law versus grace, and decide that grace is the system that saves us. But we still tend, for various reasons, to make the grace system a law system. There are so many areas where God has not spoken that we sometimes feel uncomfortable. We want to have a "thus saith the Lord" for any and all practices. Hence, we may be prone to see an inference where there is none, or not that which we wish to see. (Illustration: fruit of vine prohibits orange juice.) Moreover, we argue for liberty in opinions, and justly so. But liberty must be just that, not another law system, whether written or unwritten. If God had only 1) clearly revealed what of the teaching of the apostles was for "Christians only," or 2) what system to use to put things together, how much easier it would have been! Alas! we say: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where they are silent, we are silent." It is just as true, and maybe more needed, to say, "Where the Scriptures speak, we are silent; where the Scriptures are silent, only there may we speak." But if so, may we respect the source, and consider it as human, not divine.

fellowship - It is all too common to consider fellowship as that which we do at meals, or at a party, etc., and not also (and more correctly) what we have in Christ. We need to stress the second, that the first may be more meaningful.

 

Any first discussion of this subject, however, even if the above is granted immediately brings up the issue: who is in Christ, or, God is father of what person? Though it is true that everyone who is in Christ is also in fellowship with everyone else, we individually decide those whom we consider to be in Christ. By this action, we thus choose with whom we have fellowship.

One of the questions that may be asked about our text specifically is this: if fellowship is "automatic", why did Luke state that they "continued" in it, much as they continued in the other things? It seems that continuing in teaching, etc., would automatically maintain the fellowship. Hence, the term may have been used merely to state what was true, rather than to indicate something the Christians did.

Christians share in the grace of God, and in the lives we live by His grace and His Spirit being in us. God commands us all to take care of one another in love, which is everyday fellowship.

 

A study of the words in the N.T. related to fellowship yields an idea of commonness, hence of mutual relationships, then the results from the relationship. The opposite concept would be attention to that which is one’s own, or concerns on an individual level rather than a collective level.

The definition of fellowship is having things in common, being partners or sharing interests and efforts toward a common goal, in some way or degree belonging to one another. Christian fellowship is the partnership of duties, interests and of destiny which is peculiar to the church of God, which is the brotherhood of those who are in the family of God by new birth in Christ. See Acts 2:42; Gal. 2:9; Phil. 1:5; 2:1; I Cor. 1:9.

We see some practical outworkings of the recognition of commonness in Acts 4:32-37. This was not an example of a planned economy, nor of a legal requirement, but rather brotherly love expressed. Jesus and his disciples had a common treasury, but Judas was greedy/covetous, the opposite of the right attitude. Jesus taught that we must deny self, and make the way of the cross our desire. In so doing, we participate with him, and have fellowship with others of like mind.

A Christian is not to share in things of the world, but separate self from those, that he/she may share in all things of God. Hence, the "holy" and the "common" are yet facts of life of the Christian, though the terms have changed somewhat from O.T. usage.

For the Christian, the concept of fellowship will be sometimes expressed by the Greek preposition that means "with." See here Rom. 6:4, 6; 8:17; Phil. 3:10; Col. 2:12, 13; Philemon v. 1,2, where the ideas of fellowship are expressed.

breaking of bread - Many things the apostles taught are interesting, but none are more so than our subject, nor none more controversial. Many positive things can be said which would include the following:

1) Jesus instructed it

2) To be done by Christians in remembrance of Him

3) Until He comes again

4) It is to commemorate his death (i.e., his body, given for us; his blood, shed for remission of sins).

5) It has been practiced as an integral part of Christian worship even from the beginning (steadfast continuance at the start).

6) It is identified as "breaking of bread" and "Lord’s Supper."

7) It should correctly be observed, lest we condemn ourselves.

8) Jesus used simple symbols, bread and fruit of vine, to begin it. (The same symbols have been continually used, showing the general consensus of understanding within the Church. Doubtless, simple and common things were used to help us get our minds off of them, and on Him to whom they pointed).

9) Each was to partake of it, individually, yet as a collective body. That it is a memorial, a proclamation, a fellowship and a covenant seems clear.

There are some things not so clear, however, and require consideration, since many are divided over one or more of the following:

1) How often is "often"?

2) How does the Lord’s supper relate to worship (not to worship services, but to worship)?

3) What about the elements? Must they be identical to, or similar to, those used by Jesus?

4) Is the "breaking of bread" in our text actually equal to the Lord’s supper?

5) How necessary is it for the individual Christian to participate?

6) How does one correctly observe it?

7) If one correctly observes the Supper, what benefits accrue if any?

8) Who may officiate at the table?

9) Who may participate?

Christians have never been united on these matters, maybe because the Scriptures are not clear or for other reasons. No discussion of these points can be done without a reflection of one’s theology. Stated another way, one’s religious background will determine one’s answers on individual religious matters. Any answer, therefore, simply must be taken with these things in mind. Additionally, as mentioned above, we must take care that God’s system of grace is not transformed into a system of law. Because of the limitations of space, only the first item will be discussed, but similar discussions are possible on the other items.

The texts that seem to bear most heavily on the frequency of observance are Acts 2:42; 20:7; and I Cor. 11.

Some would also include the type in the Old Covenant, the bread of the presence ("shewbread"), arguing that as it was to be changed and eaten each week, so must this antitype the Lord’s Supper. It seems to be true from 2:46 that the early Christians observed the Supper daily - why not? Acts 20:7 simply presents the practice of one congregation at Troas. We don’t know if all congregations did so or not, or if the Apostle Paul approved or not (silence proves little). The evidence is that one congregation did so - that is all we have. We may suppose that they were instructed by an apostle (perhaps Paul) but that is not explicitly said. There is little argument about the practice - the argument is: does one conclude that all did because some did? I Cor. 11 does not state how "often" is often. If one attempts to cite early church history, a reasonably good case can be presented for a weekly observance. What about type and antitype? The Hebrew epistle does not say how much the "copy" and the "copied" were to resemble each other. Any student of types knows that, except Scripture precisely states what is typified, anything can be (and has been) argued. In our case, one might well ask about having at communion time twelve unleavened loaves, or a type with no liquid attached to it being a type of something with a liquid as major factor. There are significant differences between the two things, and no Scripture states just exactly what the type foreshadowed. It is then a matter of opinion on most things.

If God’s Word has said: do this weekly, on Sunday, using only grape juice and unleavened pieces of baked dough, we might have something more substantial than we do. It does not so say. We are then in the position of arguing the most of our position from inference. Let us be careful how we draw our lines.

prayer - This is a concept that is like the last three. All were and are but facets of the doctrine the apostles taught. Prayer is taught in the O.T. and a privilege for every Christian. We are not told how God hears any and all prayers, or answers them, or a dozen other things we would like to know. We are told to pray, believing, always. Those things are clear and all God saw fit to reveal to us.

V. 43 - fear came - The state of mind described as fear probably varied from person to person, since it may run the gamut from a state of terror to that of great respect. The last is the healthy and desirable frame of mind in reference to God, the first, what should not be true. God wants everyone to honor him as God, but view him as our loving gracious Father.

many wonders and signs - This will be a recurring idea in Acts, since God worked often and mightily through the apostles.

V. 44 - This verse, and v. 45, illustrate a part of the fellowship in which the first Christians continued. See the same idea in II Cor. 8 and 9.

V. 45 - This will happen again as seen in chapter 4. No one was commanded to do so, or even encouraged to do so. Possessions were shared as the need or desire arose, quite in contrast to a forced compliance, as by a ruler or state.

V. 46 - attending the temple - The temple area was the common area for the church to meet, since it was easily accessible, and provided both shelter and a rich mine for evangelism.

breaking bread - More than likely the Lord’s Supper. There would be little point in remarking about what went on everywhere by everybody, Christian or not. The last part of our verse and the opening phrases of v. 47 probably were written to show in what attitude of mind the early Christians lived.

V. 47 - God added - This text again highlighted the way that God was connected with the Church, that it might be more clearly perceived by all. The text stated this fact: God, not man, adds to the Church, because the church is divine, not human in origin. Many other scriptures bear on the same general point, and are listed with comment.

1. Jeremiah 31:31-34, quoted in Heb. 8:8-13. The text in Jeremiah comes from the midst of a revelation by the prophet, which concerned God’s future plans for Israel. He promised to restore them to their land, and bring good times back to them. One of the blessings of restoration was the promise about a new kind of covenant relationship between God and his people. Jeremiah’s text as quoted in Heb. 8 is in the middle of a discussion about the old and new covenants revealing that Christians were the intended recipients of the new relationship God had promised by Jeremiah. Hence, the privilege of covenant relationship as enjoyed by Christians was a direct result of God, who brought the new covenant into existence. As Paul said in I Cor. 2:9: the covenant was not of man - it was of God, a mystery hidden for the ages (Rom. 16:25-27) but revealed in the last days through the apostles. Cf. Eph. 3:3-6.

2. I Chron. 17:7-14, in Luke 1:30-33. The text in I Chron. is from a revelation to Nathan by God, as God unfolded his future plans. Among the things promised were:

a) a "name" for David to be fulfilled in his offspring (note that the Messiah was to be the "Son of David," and the many times Jesus accepted that expression; and that opening verse of Matthew pinpoints the relationship God had promised.)

b) that God would bring about a new place for his people Israel (tie in with Daniel 2:44-45, and Hebrews 12:18-28)

c) a house and throne for David that would never end. The text in Luke 1 directly states that Mary’s son was the fulfillment of that promise.

3. Ephesians 1:3-14, 22-23 is replete with the idea that God had always intended for Christ to come, that redemption might be provided for everyone, and that Jesus was the head of the Church. Colossians 1:15-20 has the same basic ideas.

4. Ephesians 2:19-22 underscores the new relationship of those whom God has saved by grace through faith, since they are fellow citizens (note the fellowship) and parts of the holy temple of God. The text of I Peter 2:9-10 is pertinent to this text.

5. Ephesians 4:11-16 again helps us to see the active planning of God for the Church, and includes the basic provisions for all its members, said provisions to bring each one to maturity in Jesus, which is God’s ordained design.

6. Matthew 16:13-19 covers the ground from Jesus’ own understanding, in that the knowledge of his divinity, upon which fact the Church was to be built, was of God, not of man (i.e., God originated the plan for the Church). The text also reveals Jesus’ place in the establishment of the Church, and that death (representing any or all enemies) would not end the existence of the Church. Romans 16:25-27 ties in at this point.

7. I Cor. 3:10-17 emphasizes, among other things, the place of the apostles in revealing the character of the Church, which was to be built upon Christ; and that the Church is a holy temple of God, under his protective care.

8. I Tim. 3:14-16 brings in the idea of "household" as being one way to view the ekklesia (church/assembly) of the living God. This text also brings before us several important ideas about Jesus (in whom we dwell/live, and who dwells/lives in us, John 15:5-16). Hebrews 3:1-6 can be used in this regard (i.e., God built the "house").

9. Titus 2:11-14 can profitably be used to show the ownership of those in the Church. The text in I Peter 2:9-10 makes the membership belong to God, thus showing the unity of God and Christ in regard to the Church. (John 17:20ff. shows this also.)

10. Hebrews 9:11-28 has much to offer along these lines of thought. For instance, that God instituted a new will/covenant at the death of Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. The eternal nature of the sacrifice of Christ as it related to sin’s forgiveness is shown, at the end of the age (of the Old Covenant age and beginning of the New Covenant age).

11. I Peter 1:3-12 nicely reveals what things God has done for those who are living stones in the Church, through whom God promised those things, and what he does continuously for those about whom he planned. (The remaining verses of the chapter are likewise valuable, emphasizing the eternally-destined sacrifice of Jesus for sin.)

12. Revelation 19:1-9 text reveals the ultimate end of the Church as God has planned it. It will help us live better because we, as part of that Church, await our hope which is founded in Christ Jesus. Note the text of I John 3:1-3 here.

Many other scriptures might be given, but these present clearly the fact that God planned to send Jesus in the fullness of time, to die for the sins of the whole world, and to establish the Church which is to continue until the second coming, at which time the present earth will be destroyed and a new heaven and earth begin, II Peter 3; Revelation 21-22.

 

QUESTIONS

 

23. What two things did Peter tell people to do? What results did they get?

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. Do you do what the early Christians did?

 

 

25. Why did Luke tell us that God added people to the church? Do you know any Scriptures that tell about men adding to the church?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AT THIS TIME, PLEASE REFER TO PAGE 79 FOR A SPECIAL STUDY ON BAPTISM!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N F O U R

(3:1 - 4:31)

 

 

At the Gate Beautiful, 3:1-10

3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." 5 And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what happened to him.

 

V. 1 - the ninth hour - morning, about 9:00 a.m. if Roman time, afternoon, about 3:00 p.m. if Jewish time. See 4:3. Apparently many of the Christian Jews kept the customs of their culture (perhaps even some regulations, as in ch. 21) through habit, if not through duty. As is evident elsewhere, many had trouble discerning clearly where the two covenants parted company (including the apostles, as ch. 10 shows).

We note in passing that no hour of prayer was commanded in the law. However, the early Church seemingly had this custom. However, some of the Christians may have gone to the temple for the purpose of evangelism, as well as to pray.

 

Ch. 2:43 had mentioned wonders and signs being done by the apostles. Luke brings one of these into the spotlight for our attention.

V. 2 - Beautiful gate - It may have been the Nicanor gate on the east side, facing the Kidron valley, as many think. If so, Peter and John were coming into Jerusalem and the temple from outside the city wall.

alms - The Greek word is a derivative of the word for mercy. See Acts 9:36; where Dorcas did such, and 10:2 with Cornelius. Jesus talked about this subject in Matthew 6:2-4.

V. 5 - Peter had looked intently upon the man, and the man responded to Peter’s command by fixing his attention upon the two men.

V. 6 - what I have - For the man, what Peter had was far more significant than money. What was true about the lame man we know not, but it is somewhat sobering to think that most people in the world’s history would have been more interested in material things than spiritual things because they did not know better. Even for Christians there is a constant tendency to be so wrapped up in the temporal that the eternal is overlooked.

in the name - The common idiom for the Jewish people by which was meant the person represented by the name (see Acts 1:15), and the power/authority of said person. Luke 9:49; 10:17; Acts 4:7; have this idea. Jesus had worked miracles in his own name’s authority; but the apostles did not do anything in their name. Some thought the name of Jesus could be used to work miracles, but it did not work, Acts 19:13ff.

 

V. 7 - he took him by the right hand - Peter gave a physical impetus to the command in v. 6 to walk. The lame man may have had no reason to obey Peter (he may not have known abut Peter like we know of Peter).

V. 8 - walking, leaping - Clearly healed, especially since he had never walked, being lame from birth. This is a typical healing by the apostles, quite unlike the pseudo-attempts of our day. The man was immediately (as in Matt. 21:19; Luke 1:64; Acts 13:11) and completely cured. It would be hard to imagine the man’s feelings, wouldn’t it?

praising God - Whether he remembered or considered what Peter had said to him is unknown. He just praised God. It may be of interest that Luke’s Gospel has more about praise and glorification in it than any other Gospel.

V. 10 - they were filled - Those who saw the man and recognized him perceived immediately a great miracle had occurred (4:16): the man had received something more important than alms!

wonder - This was the reaction of the synagogue crowd in Luke 4:31-37 when Jesus healed a demonized man and of Peter in Luke 5 at the catch of fishes.

amazement - When Jesus raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:35-43), the onlookers reacted this way.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

26. Does the text specifically say why the two apostles were going to the temple?

 

 

27. What did Jesus teach about giving of alms?

 

 

 

 

28. Do you think that the apostles did not want to give things of a material nature, or had to substitute, or what?

29. For what reason did Luke describe the man’s actions after the miracle?

 

 

 

 

30. Do you suppose that the apostles were offended when the man praised God rather than Jesus or them?

 

 

 

 

 

On Solomon’s Porch, 3:11-26

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,

21 whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken; from Samuel and those who came afterwards, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness."

V. 11 - while he clung - The man was unwilling to let the apostles go, probably because he was appreciative of their kindness.

Solomon’s porch/portico - Along the temple courtyard’s east side accessible to all, Jew or Gentile. It was a large area, covered over and provided an excellent location for meetings of the church.

V. 12 - Peter addressed - Their amazement was obvious, as was their question about how the miracle was performed.

our own power or piety - This was a disclaimer of any personal possession of power by the apostles. Here is a good point to view the text of Hebrews 2:4; and to recognize the direct part God played in the working of miracles through the lives of the apostles. It is also worthy of note that the miracle did what miracles of God were basically intended to do: get attention so that something more important than the miracle could be given them, and given with the clear knowledge that God was the giver of it.

V. 13 - The God - A direct connection of their deity with the deity of the new covenant was an important correlation to make. It was exceedingly difficult for the Jews to get that basic idea. Check the argument in Rom. 3:27-31.

his servant Jesus - The Greek term translated servant is that for child or boy, Luke 2:43. However, see its usage in Luke 1:54, 69; Acts 4:25; then Matthew 8:6, 8, 13.

Note how much Peter develops the nature of the Messiah: holy, righteous, greater than Moses, fulfillment of Abrahamic covenant; all of which were important concepts to tie together.

he had decided - The Greek term is the term for judge, as in Matthew 7:1. Pilate, having considered the prisoner, and the people who had brought him concluded it was only for envy that they had brought charges against Jesus, and decided to release Jesus. The point is then quite clear: the Jews were guilty of Jesus’ death.

V. 14 - you denied - Note how Peter indicts both nation and rulers for murders. The demoniacs referred to Jesus as the "holy one of God" in Mark 1:24. Ananias referred to Jesus as the "just one" in Acts 22:14; but the Jews said: We will not accept this man Jesus as our Messiah, so kill him.

V. 15 - Consider the antithesis: the author or life being killed! The word translated "author" appears in Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2; also in reference to Jesus. Of course, Bible students know that Jesus was with God in the beginning when life was first given; that Jesus has life in himself, John 5:26; that no one could actually take Jesus’ life from him except he would allow it, John 10:18; that in Jesus all "hold together" or consist, Colossians 1:17, and that he upholds the universe by his "word of power," Hebrews 1:3. Yet notice that it was God who raised Jesus. The point needed to be made to the Jews that their own personal God had caused Jesus’ resurrection, and so was inextricably involved with the doctrine based upon that resurrection.

we are witnesses - As Jesus commanded in Luke 24:48 and Acts 1:8. The Greek word is commonly transliterated as martyr. The term meant a witness, one who testifies, but came to include dying for one’s faith.

V. 16 - The source of the miracle was not the lame man’s faith, but the apostle’s faith in Jesus, who was primarily the power behind the miracle. Consider what this implied about Jesus’ character: he could do what mortal men could not do.

perfect health - A complete renewal, in their presence. It was evidently miracles like this that convinced the apostles of the deity of Jesus, and that also helped people see that God was with them in their work.

V. 17 - you acted...as did your rulers: in ignorance! - Again the guilt is laid at the feet of the Israelites. It wasn’t that they had not had opportunity to know; contrariwise, they had every chance to know of Jesus, and consider his claims. As Jesus said in John 15:22, they had no defense for their sin.

V. 18 - God foretold - Jesus often pointed this fact out, though it was not believed (as in Matt. 16:21ff.) that he was destined to be crucified. Of course, to the Jews, this was an enigma and paradox: so great a problem that they often pondered it (as did the disciples) for understanding. The inability and unwillingness to resolve the matter made it a matter of sin (stumbling) to them, Romans 9:33. It was not until after Jesus had explained to the two men on the Emmaus road from their scriptures about the true nature of the Messiah, that of suffering and crucifixion, that they put the pieces all together. Once the fact was accepted that the Messiah was destined to die for the sins of man, things fell into place. As Paul the converted Jew said in II Cor. 3:12-17, when one turned to Jesus, one saw clearly.

all the prophets - This very plain fact could only have escaped the notice of the Jews because they were unwilling to accept it. See Rom. 3:21. (Don’t miss the value of citing fulfilled prophecies -Jesus and the apostles made extensive use of this great apologetic point.)

V. 19 - repent - change your mind, renew it, and be then transformed in life.

It is somewhat of a pity that the Greek term got stuck with the English word "repentance" which often has been colored with the Roman Catholic idea of penitence (i.e., "doing penance" as in works, etc.). It is not being sorry and attempting to undo what has been done, or even being sorry (i.e. grieving, mourning, etc.). It is, in fact, simply and only a change of mind, that may/may not be produced by sorrow. Moreover, it has to do with changing one’s future (ref. Luke 3:8-14) rather than the past (the past is history and can’t be retraced), and therefore looks forward much more than backward. The future may well be, and should be, in contrast to the past; but it is the future with which repentance is concerned - all the future. The repentant mind is to be a constant for the Christian. It should be noted that (godly) sorrow, II Cor. 7, is not repentance, however good the sorrow might otherwise be. The command in the N.T. is not "be sorrowful" but rather "change your mind." Consider the same idea in Rom. 12:1-2.

Repentance is the means by which we receive the grace of God for our sins, and by which we maintain that relationship. We must see that it is necessary to do more than just get earthly relationships right. We must get right with God.

turn - Their conduct was to become new, following or resulting from their change of mind. The past life of sin was essentially guilty of murder. Such sin must be forgiven, and redemption brought about.

blotted out - Note Colossians 2:14. The verb means to erase, or smear, or rub off. The purpose for which the Messiah came was this: to bring salvation from sin, to blot out completely the old life (even murder!) and bring about a completely new being, restored to a right relationship with God, heavenward bound!

 

time of refreshing - This phrase is descriptive of the new life in Christ, the new age of redemption in and through Christ, which all could find by accepting Jesus as Savior, Messiah, and Lord.

V. 20 - he may send the Christ (Messiah) - i.e., that Jesus (Christ) may come and dwell with them , as in John 14:23; etc. This is equal to, a corollary to, seasons of refreshing, v. 19, the express time in which they were then living. They needed to join up. Jesus was to come from the presence (= face) of the Lord (=God). Consider then that Jesus is also identified as "Lord" and "God".

V. 21 - Jesus was in heaven, to remain there until his second coming. There is little, if anything, in the O.T., that we know, that directly talks of Jesus second coming. The verse is better understood as referring to the establishment of the church, etc., prophesied by the O.T. spokesmen. We must consider, in addition to the blessings now available for every Christian, that there is yet a salvation to be revealed, I Peter 1:4-5, for every Christian.

V. 22 - you shall listen to him - Peter now points out the biggest reason why the people needed to act: because of the nature of Jesus, of whom their own Moses had spoken. Of course, if Moses had prophesied such a time to come then he had also necessarily prophesied about the end of his law, and the necessity to honor the word of the one succeeding him, even Jesus, the prophet that God had raised up, replacing Moses.

V. 23 - The consequences of failure to repent are here spelled out.

every soul - The whole man/person, as in Acts 1:14.

shall be destroyed - Note this same idea in Exodus 30:33; 31:14; Numbers 15:31. The basic Greek word is in I Cor. 5:5; I Thess. 5:3; II Thess. 1:9; I Tim. 6:9. It bespeaks a total loss of everything rightfully belonging to every person, and a punishment in hell received that could have been avoided, since God did not intend that any should go to hell.

V. 24 - these days - The days of repentance to God and faith in Jesus (Acts 20:21), the times of refreshing. How often the message had been given to them! However, God himself described the nation as both wicked and contrary, Rom. 10:21.

V. 25 - sons of the prophets - Followers of what the prophets had prophesied, and sharers in the promises to Abraham, which were the blessings of God; further described in v. 26 as God’s provision to turn everyone from wickedness unto righteousness.

V. 26 - The blessings of God were theirs if they turned from their sinful ways. Peter had commanded them to repent, because of their sins, which would bring forgiveness and further blessing. Jesus came to save his people from their sins, Matt. 1:21, but he could only do so if they were willing to receive him. John wrote in 1:11 that the nation of the Messiah had not, as a nation, received him. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because he had often extended an invitation to them but they were unwilling, Luke 19:41-44.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

31. How did the apostles utilize the miracle?

 

 

 

 

32. Who was given credit by Peter for the power to work the miracle?

33. Of what sort of "life" was Jesus the author?

34. How many people were ignorant? Did ignorance release them from being charged with murder?

35. If the Jews were not guilty (as some say), why the command to change their mind and have their sins blotted out?

36. How many years had God been telling Israel about the events then happening?

37. What was the reason that God sent Jesus to the Jews?

 

 

In the Prison, 4:1-4

4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the morrow, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

V. 1 - as they were speaking - Apparently Peter and John were interrupted. The preaching following the miracle, brought about the conversion of at least 2,000 almost as many as in chapter 2.

Sadducees - This group was a "mixed bag." They held to the literal word of God (especially the Pentateuch), rejecting all the Jewish rabbinical literature, which the Pharisees held. However, they also disbelieved in life after death, and other matters as seen in chapter 23. This is an interesting turn of events from the Gospels, where the Pharisees and scribes were especially prominent. However, most of the priests were Sadducees, and much involved in the affairs of the temple, and the political life of the nation.

V. 2- teaching...preaching...resurrection - Of course, the message not only caused some to be converted, but some contradicted as in John 11 (where Caiaphas and company were concerned about the influence of Jesus among the people). We should pay attention to this fact: the apostles never got in trouble for preaching immortality nor for speaking about a so-called "spiritual" resurrection; but rather for proclaiming the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the tomb.

V. 3 - Note here that Jewish regulations of jurisprudence were kept, in that no trial was to be held at night. This is the reason for the "official" trial of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 23, after the un-official trial before Annas had been held prior to daybreak.

already evening -The men had gone to the temple at the ninth hour (3:1). Since it seems unlikely that the events following the miracle would last all day, it is more likely that the time was about 3:00 p.m., and evening would soon occur.

V. 4 - of men - The Jewish custom was to number only the men in any census, since the man was, in God’s order, considered the head of the household. This primary order was not changed in the New Testament revelation of God, as I Cor. 11 clearly shows. This is not to say that women were unimportant, just affirming what God plainly revealed to the church for its members.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

38. Into what gate and at what hour did the two apostles go to the temple?

39. What explicit point did the apostles make about Jesus?

 

 

 

 

40. Was the temple area large enough to accommodate a large number of people? At least how many?

 

Before the Sanhedrin, 4:5-22

5 On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, 10 be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, "What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name." 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

V. 5 - rulers, elders, scribes - Some suggest that the Jewish Sanhedrin was composed of 22 scribes, 24 priests/rulers, 24 elders. In Jewish literature, and in N.T. usage, this group was variously called: the elders, the senate/council, great law-court, great court, and court of the seventy. Its actual origin is unknown, but seems probably to have arisen after the return from Babylon. The Greek word for "elders" is the same term as was applied to the men who were chosen to lead local congregations, as in Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2; etc.

V. 6 - Annas - He was actually high priest from the Jewish point of view, but Caiaphas, his son-in-law, was the officially appointed high priest by the Romans. Annas had been deposed from the position (which he was to hold for life by Jewish law), but through sons and relatives who were appointed high priest, still was the power behind the position.

V. 7 - Their questioning may have been an attempt to follow Deuteronomy 13:1ff.

power...name - These terms were about synonymous, and referred to the source of the apostles ability.

V. 8 - filled with the Holy Spirit - Several different people are said in the N.T. to have been filled with the Holy Spirit such as John the Immerser, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Jesus, the apostles, Peter, Stephen, Paul, Barnabas, the disciple in Antioch of Pisidia. It was a major factor in the selection of the seven in Acts 6. Evidently, from this list, the "filling" did not result in the same effects always.

Jesus had promised guidance to the apostles for such situation: Matthew 10:17ff, and his promise to them was kept.

V. 9 - examined - The Greek word is that used for questioning or interrogation, as in a law court. Note 12:19; 24:8; 25:26; 28:18 for other uses of the word.

good deed - Not a bad work, but a deed done by a benefactor. Peter’s implication: Why are we being tried for a good deed?

a cripple - The Greek term is descriptive of one weak/sickly, and is often used figuratively.

V. 10 - The actual intended use of the miracle by God was to provide an audience to which the apostles could proclaim facts about Jesus. This miracle, or any miracle, is meaningless apart from a revelation as to its basic purpose. All miracles had some purpose (even if unknown to us), since they were not performed indiscriminately.

Peter and the rest will pray for (continued) boldness, v. 29, but it was plain to his auditors that he and John were bold (already).

by the name -The very person, Jesus of Nazareth, whom they thought had been crucified, now arises to haunt them.

you crucified...God raised - Peter was unequivocal, allowing the chips to fall where they may. The die was cast!

this man is...well - Complete and well. As the council observed, v. 16, the facts were all too clear.

V. 11 - This stone...rejected - Jesus had quoted this text from Psalms 118:22 some weeks earlier in speaking to Jews in the temple. See Matthew 21:33-46; Rom. 9:33. The same old problem was yet present: the divine/human personage named Jesus, and the inability of the Jews to accept him as such.

V. 12 - salvation - As the man had been "saved" in the physical realm through Jesus’ power, so it was necessarily in the spiritual realm: only in Jesus could wholeness be found. Of course, the Jews expected salvation by the Messiah (Christ), so he was saying nothing but what Moses and the prophets said (as Paul in Acts 23:6; 26:22-23). The difficulty lay in just what salvation included. It is always important to recognize just how exclusive Christianity claims to be, and this verse states it plainly.

V. 13 - they saw - Actually, the tables are turned, and the council is on trial.

boldness - Originally, the word meant freedom of speech, then freedom to act, confidence to act, etc. Peter used it in Acts 2:29, and Paul asked for prayer that he might speak in such a way, Ephesians 6:19. Other places of interest are John 16:29; Acts 28:31; II Cor. 3:12; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 1:20; Colossians 2:15; I Tim. 3:13 Hebrews 3:6; 4:16; 10:19; I John 2:28; 3:21; 5:14.

uneducated - No rabbinical training was meant, no education at the feet of the Jewish teachers, etc.

 

common- The Greek word means something not in office, not skilled in some matter (here, in religious matters), so a commoner.

with Jesus - No halo or shining face was meant, but rather two men who were part of a movement they had earlier sought to destroy. Hence they took note of this evidence from the lips of Peter, given in response to their question in v. 7. Their preaching and defense was done upon the basis that they committed their lives to the service of Jesus as their Lord.

V. 14 - The physical evidence of the one-time cripple made the case open and shut, since the people had obviously accepted the apostles and what they stood for (v. 21), because it was undeniable (v. 16), which led many of those who were willing to honestly consider the evidence to become Christians.

V. 15 - they conferred - The matter was of great importance in many ways, and needed careful thought. However, the Lord brought all their planning to naught, as chapter 5, for instance, shows.

V. 16 - notable sign - From our perspective in time, we wonder how they could have missed so greatly. However, in Jewish history, many had worked miracles but had not been received. Moreover, their whole way of life was at stake, and that was not easy to give up. They had been at this point in John 11 over the resurrection of Lazarus, and may also have been those who, seeing Jesus’ miracles accused him of being in league with the devil, Matt. 12:22-45. They were quite unable to deny it and have any effect on the people who had seen it. So, the only thing left was to silence the apostles.

 

V. 17 - it may spread - The Greek term means to distribute, or scatter among.

let us warn - Threaten, intimidate, so that they will be silent. See v. 18, where they are emphatic and specific.

V. 18 - charged them - Ordered them to quit doing what they were doing, speaking and teaching about Jesus. The issue was made clear: stop at once! We should notice that the issue really was not preaching, per se, working miracles, per se, but doing these things in the name of and for the sake of Jesus. If the apostles had preached Judaism, etc., no problem would have arisen.

V. 20 - In consideration of the well-known (and oft-quoted) reply by the apostles, it is interesting to meditate upon I Peter 2:13ff. We never find Jesus disobeying the laws, or Paul doing so. Conversely, both taught obedience to the government and those in authority, as Jesus in what belonged Caesar, or Paul in Rom. 13. One’s understanding of what constitutes acceptable obedience to God is a very individual matter. How we may justify our right to disobey man’s laws that God through inspiration commanded us to keep is unclear, and impossible to decide for anyone but one’s self. Stated differently, we will urge obedience to the laws of the land, and punishment for offenders; but as soon as a law is made that seems to oppose God’s laws, we cite this text and justify our disobedience. It may be right to do so, but the matter is most difficult to settle.

It should be noted here that Peter and John’s response is put in a sort of question form: "What would you men do? Here is all we (i.e., Peter and John) can do, be it judged correct or incorrect."

V. 21 - further threatened - The same root term as in v. 17. The apostles’ response did not move the men at all. It may have its effect later, however, as some of the Jewish leaders became converted.

to punish - The word in Greek is of interest, because it relates to the concept some hold of annihilation. Here is evidently meant some form of punishment, and did not mean a cessation of existence. Hence, those who teach that to destroy means to bring to extinction incorrectly hold that this word (and related terms) means only and always annihilation. The usage in I John 4:18 argues clearly against such doctrine, as does the text in II Peter 2:9. The Scripture simply does not teach the doctrine at all, though it does teach punishment for non-believers after judgment.

praising God - Apparently the council saw that their case was lost, since the people were holding the contrary view. Such was the case of their leaders and John, then Jesus and now the apostles of Jesus: the multitudes (often) heard gladly, and responded in great numbers to God’s messengers. No wonder the rulers were upset.

V. 22 - As with the man in John 5, the woman in Luke 13:10ff, and the man in John 9, the miracle was of such nature that it could not rightly be denied. So, one either accepted it, or irrationally opposed it.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

41. Who came to arrest the apostles? Why these and not the Romans?

 

 

 

 

 

42. What "word" did the 2,000 believe?

 

 

43. Was it right to inquire of the apostles how the miracle was done?

 

 

44. Did Peter "give" more than was expected?

 

 

45. How did the Sanhedrin find out the origin of the apostles?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

46. How do you decide when to disobey the authority of the land in order to obey the authority of God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Upper Room, 4:23 - 5:11

23 When they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, 30 while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant, Jesus." 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

V. 23 - The chief priests would include Annas and Caiaphas (perhaps John and Alexander). The elders probably includes all the rest of those gathered in the meeting.

V. 24 - Sovereign Lord - NIV and RSV. The Greek word is the word transliterated as "despot" and occurs in the following texts: Luke 2:29; I Tim. 6:1,2; II Tim. 2:21; Titus 2:9; I Peter 2:18 II Peter 2:1; Jude v. 4; Rev. 6:10. They used "slave" as a contrasting term in v. 29. Note carefully their understanding of God as creator. Paul thought likewise in ch. 17:22ff.

The same mindedness (they lifted their voices together) of their prayer reflects the fellowship they shared. The Greek term used occurs ten times in Acts 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57; 8:6; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12; 19:29; once in Romans 15:6. It indicates a commonness of mind. To some extent, our word amen should mean that the (uttered) prayer we heard by someone also expressed our sentiments, and we express our agreement by saying "amen."

V. 25 - by the mouth...by the Holy Spirit - This is just one of various ways that the method of inspiration is "spelled out" in the N.T. It is important to note that what the Holy Spirit said, through the mouth of a human, David, is also what God said. What was said in Psalms 2 was predictive, and to be understood as fulfilled by the treatment accorded Jesus in his trials and crucifixion, even though it seems to us to be more general in nature. This was the same point in the comments on Acts 2:17-20: the prophecy was fulfilled, even if we do not perceive exactly how it was fulfilled.

The intriguing point: how do the facts, which include what is in verses 27, 28 relate to their prayer and need?

imagine - The Greek term has the idea of meditation, thinking, purposing.

vain - Meaning empty or foolish; useless, thoughtless. Examples of it would be in Luke 1:53; I Cor. 15:10, 14; Gal. 2:2; Eph. 5:6; Phil. 2:16; Col. 2:8; I Thess. 3:5; James 2:20.

V. 26 - As the prayer indicates, the thought of those who were praying was this: God had predicted the sufferings of the Messiah (which was indicative of his greatness). Since they were serving in behalf of the Messiah, would God also protect and/or give them words of boldness to speak about the Messiah? They reasoned that if God’s will was accomplished in the life of Jesus, despite what men might do, they only needed help of God to prevail over men.

This particular Psalm is quoted often in the N.T., always with reference to Jesus, the Messiah. See 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5.

V. 27 - Herod’s part in Jesus’ trial is mentioned by Luke. Here is an interesting example of their understanding of the fulfillment of the prophecy from the Psalmist.

 

holy servant - Matthew used the term in 17:18; John used it in John 4:51; Peter in Acts 3:26.

anoint - This term is to be understood figuratively, in the sense that God set Jesus apart for a particular task, even as priests, prophets and kings were set apart for their special tasks. The noun form is translated Christ (= Messiah).

V. 28 - predestined - The Greek term means planned or prophesied to take place. The same basic idea is presented in Acts 2:23; 10:42; I Peter 1:2, 10-12, 20; 2:4-6. Paul mentions the same idea in Eph. 1:3ff. God had foreknown the future and could plan to send Jesus on that basis, while allowing men to make their own choices in regard to Jesus, and bear their guilt for any wrong choices.

V. 29 - their threats - The apostles often present God as aware of their lives and the problems therein, whether great or small. We may not be apostles, but God is nevertheless interested in us as individuals.

with boldness - The Greek term originally meant freedom to speak, then of speech. It was not the privilege of a slave to so speak, but Christian slaves were not necessarily like other slaves: freedom was a hallmark of Christianity. The Hebrew writer urges all Christians to be bold in going to God, 4:14ff.

thy word - A characteristic description by Luke and Paul of the Gospel message. Note v. 31; 6:7; 8:4, 14, 25; 10:36, 44; 11:1; etc. It also was applied to Jesus in John 1:1.

V. 30 - Note that they did not pray to be relieved of their problems necessarily, but to be able to handle it adequately. Their prayer, excluding the various extras was this: God, grant us boldness (the opportunities are many, men’s threats are real, and we need divine help).

From an O.T. perspective, the hand or arm of God (=God and his power) was often evident, as in Exodus 3:20; 7:5; Deuteronomy 2:15; Ruth 1:13; or the arm of the Lord, as in Exodus 6:6; II Kings 17:36; Job 40:9; Psalms 77:15.

signs and wonders - As the record reveals, God answered their prayer. People glorified God (as in v. 21), and became followers of the way, 5:12-13.

 

V. 31 - when they had prayed - At the conclusion of this united prayer request, God visibly answered. The place was shaken (the Greek term describes a powerful occurrence, as in Matt. 11:7; Acts 16:26; Heb. 12:26), and they spoke the word with boldness.

 

QUESTIONS

 

47. How many ways did the apostles and company use to describe their deity (=God)?

 

 

48. What was the gist of their prayer?

 

 

 

 

49. What does this text tell us about the subject of inspiration?

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N F I V E

(4:32 - 5:11)

 

 

Fellowship in the Church

32 Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands of houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

5 But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." 9 But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.

V. 32 - The disciples continued to share in many things as mentioned above, not just material things. The material sharing was just one way they had things in common.

As chapter 5 will show, a forced sharing was in direct antithesis to the concept they had of sharing. Their sharing was free-will in nature, and done because the need was evident.

The sharing was strictly voluntary on the part of everyone (as is seen in II Cor. 8-9), and private ownership of property continued. It was not a joint ownership of land, or production, but only a common sharing with others as motivated or needed. To have made any sharing compulsory would have been in direct contrast to the principle in Christianity.

common - The term is in antithesis to one’s own. It was the term used by Peter in Acts 10 in reference to what he had shared or not shared with Gentiles. Here, the Christians in Jerusalem held things common among themselves.

V. 33 - great power - The Greek term was often used to describe a miracle, as in 2:22; or of the nature of the gospel, Romans 1:16. Of course, their power was being utilized to do what the council had forbidden them to do (v. 17-18): give testimony (Greek word is for martyr) to the gospel.

 

 

great grace - The word grace often appears in the N.T., and in some very interesting ways, as in 6:8; Luke 2:52; II Cor. 9:14; Titus 2:11; II Peter 3:18; etc. God evidently blessed them mightily to have a heart of generous goodness.

V. 34 - These verses present an interesting item for consideration, in that (as mentioned above), none were required to act as they were doing. Moreover, years later, a famine in Judea will put them all in the state of want, for which need Paul took up an offering among the Gentiles (II Cor. 8-9). God apparently did not always keep them economically rich, nor even provide basic needs in life, necessarily. Sometimes he allowed the faithful to endure many things for their faith, even to death in some cases.

V. 36 - Joseph - Barnabas, which meant "a son of encouragement or exhortation." Here we see one of the uses of the term "son" which could mean one of a group, or a likeness to someone else, a son in physical nature.

a Levite - Actually, the Levitical portion of inheritance was initially not material things, but God (see Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 10:9). Yet by inheritance or by purchase they could own land. The examples of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and Josephus in the N.T. times are examples of this fact. Apparently some of the early Christians were not poor, but rather possessors of material goods, though most were not, I Cor. 1. Many of the Old Testament faithful were rich, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Solomon, etc.

5:1 - Since the ownership of the land remained with the individual, and not the Church, the initiative to sell or not to sell also remained with the individual. The reader should disregard the chapter divisions, and read 4:32 - 5:11 as a integral unit.

As for this incident, we note that 1) the early Christians were subject to the same temptations as we are; 2) Luke did not hesitate to record both the good deed of Barnabas and the contrasting deed of Ananias and Sapphira (we see a real Church, not an ideal one); 3) God sees and hears (and sometimes shows his displeasure for sin immediately rather than later or instead of showing mercy); and 4) any good thing will have its counterfeit.

V. 2 - Achan’s sin was somewhat like that of Ananias: each had a love for money or material goods, subsumed under covetousness, which was a root of all kinds of evil. The apostles were the leaders in the Jerusalem congregation, elders not yet having been chosen.

V. 3 - why has Satan...? - As with Judas, who also loved money, Satan filled the mind with a desire that was not resisted, but welcomed.

to lie - So much is taught in the N.T. about a basic honesty that ought to be characteristic of the Christian, that we need but mention the point John makes: no lie is of the truth, I John 2:21. To become like God, we must hate lying and love truth, for God never lies (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Christians are not to lie to one another; Col. 3:9; remembering that one can exchange the truth of God for a lie, Romans 1:25.

to the Holy Spirit - Identified as a person to whom one can lie, and also possessing the quality of deity, v. 4.

V. 4 - your disposal - The Greek word behind "disposal" is often translated power (as in John 1:12 or Matt. 28:18) or authority. It carries the basic idea of freedom to act, thus the right to act. Ananias and Sapphira had the right to do with their possessions as they wished. They should not have lied about the matter, however.

you have lied - Probably to be understood that Ananias had lied to men (at least in the presence of men, and speaking to such), but as well to God. Note how Joseph views himself in Genesis 39:9. the fact is that all sin is ultimately against God, whose forgiveness we must receive. Sin may also involve others, but it certainly involves God. This fact must be kept in our minds at all times: we are always responsible to God even though our lives are normally involved with men.

V. 5 - When Ananias heard - The Greek term indicates that perhaps while Peter was still speaking, he fell down and died.

died - The Greek term is seen only here, in v. 10 and 12:23. It means something akin to the life went out. The term is from soul or life and out of or from.

V. 6 - the young men - Contrasting these with the older men in the congregation. It seems a bit difficult to believe that both Ananias and Sapphira died simply from the shock at being discovered and informed about their guilt. Many were made guilty at Pentecost, even cut to the quick but no physical death resulted. It is more likely that the people saw here what was also seen in Nadab and Abihu, etc. Peter’s remark in v. 9 seems to indicate the idea that God killed them for their sin, an eye-opening incident for everyone, which resulted in fear, v. 11, honor, v. 13, believers, v. 14, etc.

V. 7 - Were the people so far in fear that they did not tell Sapphira about the matter? Perhaps it was but coincidental that she did not hear, or maybe they were instructed to remain silent.

V. 8 - Yes - She was as committed to the lie and hypocrisy as Ananias.

V. 9 - Note, in addition to the ascription of personality and deity to the Holy Spirit in v. 2-4, Peter speaks as if the Holy Spirit can be tested/tempted. The point Jesus mentioned in Matt. 4:7, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16 gives the issue: God was/is not to be tested, in the bad sense of the term.

agreed together - The basic Greek term is used in II Cor. 6:15, accord, or agreement.

V. 11 - The paradoxes in the Scripture are always interesting. We so often quote I John 4:18 about perfect love and fear that we forget the many scriptures enjoining us to fear God...or else! See Exodus 20:20; Deut. 31:12-13; Rom. 3:18; II Cor. 7:1; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 4:1; I Peter 2:17; Jude v. 23; etc. We should become afraid for ourselves when we cease fearing God (compare Rom. 3:18).

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

50. Why were Barnabas and Ananias contrasted?

 

 

 

 

51. How is the Holy Spirit characterized?

 

 

 

 

 

 

52. Is any and all sin involved with God as the one with whom we have to do? (Ref. Heb. 4:12-13).

(This question has been omitted from the study.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N S I X

(5:12-42)

 

 

On Solomon’s Porch, 5:12-16

12 Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

V. 12 - Notice the emphasis that is placed upon the apostles, yet consider that we know very little about most of them and their work. Most of what we do know about early church history concerns only two of the apostles, Peter (with John) and Paul. We may assume that God used the others in the same general ways as he did Peter and Paul.

The early Church, without any buildings large enough to house them all, used God’s house of prayer (Matt. 21:13), set aside for the use of his people, as their meeting place. It surely was appropriate, since God had planned to produce the church through the Jewish nation. Note again the oneness of the believers.

V. 13 - A verse well-known for its problem: who are the "rest" who would not join themselves to "them?"

The "rest" have been identified as 1) other believers who feared the apostles, 2) non-believers, including "the people," or 3) non-believers, other than the people, such as rulers, scribes, etc. There seems to be no easy solution, even though the general import is clear. We prefer #1.

join - The Greek term has the idea of a close union, as of marriage, Matt. 19:5; or work for, Luke 15:15; or associate with, Acts 17:34.

V. 14 - In connection with 2:47, the ones being saved were added by God to the church. Now we have believers added to the Lord, which is the same thing, since the church equals the body of the Lord, Eph. 1:21-23. Note that "women" are mentioned. Christianity is surely God’s greatest gift to women as a race, bringing her a status unlike any other system in the world. Today’s women’s lib doesn’t compare in any respect with what God has for the Christian woman.

V. 15 - As is evident, the apostles had the same general power to heal as Jesus, and did so, as God gave them power (ch. 3), Heb. 2:4. Whether any were healed by Peter’s shadow is not stated. Later, Paul’s abilities were extended beyond his physical presence, Acts 19:11ff.

sick - The Greek word means sick or weak as in Matthew 8:17; Romans 14:1; etc.

 

V. 16 - the sick - To this description Luke added "those afflicted" (K.J. "vexed"). This last group is described by a word meaning to trouble or to disturb. The root word is found in Luke 6:18, where, in a similar situation, Jesus was healing people who were "vexed" with unclean spirits. Luke used the term "unclean spirit" to describe a demon, Luke 4:33, 35.

 

QUESTIONS

 

53. Who did Luke say did the "signs and wonders"?

54. Where was the evangelism of the early church taking place?

55. How many people did the apostles attempt to heal but failed to heal?

 

 

 

 

In the Prison, 5:17-20

17 But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, 20 "Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life."

V. 17 - This text may well indicate that the high priest (Caiaphas) and his party, the Sadducees, had enough power within the Sanhedrin to effect the arrest of the apostles, quite apart from the Pharisees (who may also have agreed to the move, though not mentioned by Luke).

party - Translates the Greek term which is often transliterated into English by heresy. See its occurrences in Acts 15:5; 24:5, 14; 26:5; 28:22; I Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20; Titus 3:10; II Peter 2:1. In its basic form, it simply meant to choose something or someone or between two things. The noun form as in our text indicates the result of a choice. The term is not necessarily, in itself, bad, though sometimes it got that way.

jealousy - Is not necessarily bad itself, since the O.T. taught that God was a jealous God over Israel. See also Rom. 10:2; 13:13; II Cor. 12:20; Philippians 3:6. It obviously is a problem emotion, and difficult to handle for anyone. It often results in evil being done.

V. 18 - The activities of the whole number of the apostles brought about this action. They had all prayed to speak the word boldly and had evidently done so. The results were much too much for the Jewish religious leaders to be able to bear.

V. 19 - As in chapter 12, God intervenes and brings them freedom so that they may continue practicing that for which they were imprisoned. Angels played an important part in the Bible, and evidently were an important part of God’s team to help mankind. See Hebrews 1:14.

V. 20 - Go - The same verb form is found in Matthew 10:6. Stand - The second command, in a participle form, which like an infinitive, could be used as an imperative. Speak - the third command, to be obeyed when they had obeyed the first two commands. The Sanhedrin had forbidden this very thing - speaking (i.e., preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus). in the temple - A public place. One cannot help but marvel at this miracle, but the record does not inform us about it, except in the most brief way. The important thing was the message and its proclamation: all the words of life - the message which they had been forbidden to speak, but which alone had life.

 

QUESTIONS

 

56. What do you know about the sect of the Sadducees?

 

 

 

 

 

 

57. Did the high priest have the right to have the apostles arrested?

 

 

 

 

58. At what time of the day did the apostles start teaching? Where?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Solomon’s Porch, 15:21a

21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and taught.

V. 21 - The men were released at night, and began their obedience as soon as possible. Perhaps this was customary, to utilize the cooler times of day. Too, early morning sacrifices were offered, along with prayer times - hence, many people would be around the area.

 

 

 

 

Before the Sanhedrin, 5:21b-41

Now the high priest came and those who were with him and called together the council and all the senate of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, and they returned and reported, 23 "We found the prison door securely locked and the sentries standing by the doors, but when we opened it we found no one inside." 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And some one came and told them, "The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us." 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

33 When they heard this they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, held in honor by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a while. 35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!"

40 So they took his advice and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

V. 21 - council and...senate - The Jewish Sanhedrin plus elders (apparently) of the people. An important matter was before them!

officers - The word for a servant, or helper, one who assists. It could mean a guard as in Matt. 5:25; Mark 14:54, 65; John 7:32, 45ff.; 18:18; or an attendant, as in Luke 4:20; or one who serves another, as in Luke 1:2; John 18:36; Acts 13:5; 26:16; I Cor. 4:1.

V. 23 - The text does not admit of any interpretation except that of a miracle. Moreover, God replaced everything so that the apostles’ absence would not be noticed until such time as they would be sent for.

V. 24 - The council had every cause to wonder what was happening - but they finally ignored all the evidence and evil triumphed again in their lives. Their actions only put into greater relief the actions of the apostles. The mustard seed (of the church) was growing and would soon, despite intense opposition, become a large tree!

V. 25 - The word had gotten around quickly about the apostles being in the temple, and many were not in sympathy with them.

V. 26 - The people were much divided over the apostles and their message, but enough were favorable to make the soldiers fearful when the arrests were made. This was also true with both John and Jesus: each had followers, despite the general opposition from the hierarchy. As Mark 12:37 puts in, "The common people heard him (Jesus) gladly." This was also true in a great measure for the apostles.

V. 28 - Caiaphas summed up well the basic facts. The apostles had been enjoined to cease, but rather had continued to proclaim their message which included an indictment of the Jewish leaders for murder (mentioned again in v. 30). The priest and leaders had taken the blood of Christ upon them, Matt. 27:25. However, the message preached was, even for murderers, redemption of their sin, and a new life in Christ. Notice that the apostles were "teaching" the message, as well as preaching it.

V. 29 - to obey - From a verb "to persuade" which turns into persuaded and thus obedient. See Acts 27:21; Titus 3:1.

As one attempts to obey God’s will in conjunction with man’s will, the time may well arise when, whether actually so or not, said wills are seemingly in conflict. The only choice a Christian can make on such occasions is to obey God, trusting that God will honor his faith and forgive any misunderstanding. The apostles thought the faith and forgiveness issue was clear, and answered accordingly. That is all anyone can do.

V. 30 - The God of our fathers - The apostles and others never for a moment let themselves or others think that what they were preaching was anything but what their God had always planned. Their appeal was to the Old Testament, which everyone accepted as from God. We may also find good usage of the O.T. that will strengthen our case for Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah of God.

V. 31 - at his right hand - As in 2:34. This was the position of power. Leader - Sometimes translated prince, author, or pioneer as in Hebrews 2:10; 12:2. Savior - The problem that continually plagued the Jews was their concept of their Messiah and what sort of savior the Messiah was to be.

repentance...forgiveness - Jesus had commanded the apostles in Luke 24. The basic command to both Jews and Greeks involved a change of mind, which would change the future way of life, and at the same time bring forgiveness of sin for the past life, as the change of mind was effected through obedience to Christ. It was a great gift from God to have the privilege of changing our minds about sin. See Acts 11:18.

V. 32 - The Holy Spirit was not a well-known concept to the Jewish people, if the O.T. be our guide. Perhaps some concepts were not recorded or the idea may have been taught but not recorded for our information. Hence, what the Sanhedrin understood by Peter’s remark about the Holy Spirit is not clear. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is only given to those obeying God. No text tells us what to do to obey better than Acts 2:38.

See also John 14:23.

 

V. 33 - enraged - The Greek term has the idea cut or sawn in two, both here and 7:54, the only times it occurs. The apostles’ response verily tore the listeners apart. The effects of the apostles’ words were so great that the council members were minded to take more lives rather than being minded to change their minds. Paul found the same situation in ch. 23, as well as in Acts 13:45-47; 18:6ff.

V. 35 - do - The form of the Greek term indicates a way of doing.

Gamaliel’s advice has been viewed differently. Some take it as a "cop-out" in that evidence available was ignored, and his response was negative. Some see it as the best possible position to take considering the make-up of the council. We remember a famous student of Gamaliel, Saul of Tarsus, who finally was convinced of the evidence about Jesus. He may have been present in these proceedings.

V. 36-37 - Gamaliel reasoned that both Theudas and Judas were not of God, and they came to nothing without any opposition necessary. He thus reasons that if God had been backing these two men, they would have rather prospered. He suggested the same course of action would be prudent in the case before them.

Perhaps of interest is the fact that Gamaliel was a grandson of Hillel, and later became president of the Sanhedrin.

The enrollment he mentioned is the same sort of event as in Luke 2, and occurred every 14 years.

V. 37 - were scattered - The prodigal son did this with his money, Luke 15:13. Jesus used this term when he quoted Zechariah 13:7 in Mark 14:27. God’s children were scattered, John 11:52, and Jesus’ death would unite them, John 10:16.

V. 38 - keep away, divorce yourselves from them is Gamaliel’s advice, because if it is only of men, the work will not stand.

V. 39 - He continued to reason that if it were of God, not men, no possibility existed of vanquishing it. It seems to me that he reasoned rightly, and gave good advice to the council.

 

opposing God - The Greek term means God fighters no less!

V. 40 - The council was persuaded (i.e., to obey) and allowed the apostles to leave after having beaten (the term occurs in such texts as Luke 22:63; Acts 22:19 and I Cor. 9:26; II Cor. 11:20) them. They were never to speak again in or for Jesus.

V. 41 - The men thought the cause for which they were beaten was worthy of the beating. Some have over the year accused the apostles of lying about the empty tomb and a resurrected Jesus. It seems rather dumb to even state such a thing. Men will suffer and die for what they believe is the truth, whether it be so or not. No man or group of men in their right minds would suffer so or die for what they knew was false. The apostles’ reaction had been reflected many times before (as in Heb. 10:32 - 11:40) in the O.T. times, and afterward, as Christians throughout the ages have likewise endured, and for the same reason, unshakable faith in God.

 

The Spread of the Word, 5:42

42 And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

V. 42 - Feeling honored by being dishonored, the apostles continued as obedient witnesses for Jesus, both in public and private. Paul did likewise, Acts 21.

We honor, even so far removed in time, their faith and zeal. They were totally committed to the ministry of Jesus. As we consider the statement of Jesus in 1:8, it seems evident that the apostles did not think their present distress was reason to leave Jerusalem for Judea, etc. The church would soon be scattered, however, by persecution and would take the message everywhere, even if the apostles remained.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

56. When we consider how wrong the Jewish leaders were, even in the face of much evidence, we only need to read such texts as John 7:49 ("This crowd, who knows not the law, are accursed") to understand the leaders better. Were the Jewish leaders biased, ignorant, or what?

 

 

 

 

57. In what ways were the apostles bringing the blood of Jesus upon the heads of the Jewish leaders?

 

 

 

 

58. What had God done with Jesus?

 

 

 

 

59. Were (at least) two witnesses required by Jewish law to establish anything?

60. Why did Gamaliel give the advice he did?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N S E V E N

(6:1-12)

 

 

On Solomon’s Porch, 6:1-6

6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.

 

 

V. 1 - Whether intentional or otherwise, racial problems begin to appear among the disciples. Probably those widows who were Christian were excluded from the temple support (if such there was) and had only the help of their Christian friends. Perhaps the Grecian widows were more needy than the others, or lived in a hard-to-reach spot, etc. The text doesn’t say that the widows murmured, only that some were murmuring about the neglect of them.

(daily) distribution - Translates the Greek term regularly used for ministry deaconship, or service. The church had concern for those in need, and was attempting to alleviate the problems as best they could; but humans, few or many, may lack wisdom and planning sufficient for the needs of all.

V. 2 - It is not right - The 12 saw their specific task as being too demanding to permit this work/service (same Greek word as mentioned above in v. 1 and in v. 3, ministry of the word). They did not object to serving/ministering, per se. The service was worthy, and needed, but others who were not charged with the tasks of the apostleship could serve in said areas as well as they.

V. 3 - pick out - the verb means to select, or be concerned with, look after, an active participation, etc. It is the same root as is transliterated "Episcopal" and/or translated as in 20:28 (guardian) or I Tim. 3:1 (bishop). The disciples were to do the selecting, not the apostles.

good repute - From a word which means of a good witness. Certainly the task was important, the men above reproach were needed. We would do well to learn from this!

we may appoint - The apostles laid down the qualifications for these men, and then were to set to work the men chosen. The Greet term is seen in Matt. 24:45, 47; Luke 12:14; Acts 7:10, 27; 17:15; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 5:1; James 4:4; and carries the idea of put in a place of service. (Paul gave Titus the charge to appoint elders in Crete, not to select them but to assign them to work.) There is no reason to suppose the men could only do the task for which they were chosen, or that they necessarily served beyond the duration of the existing need.

V. 4 - The apostles proposed that they would continue steadfastly and specifically in prayer and ministering of the word. For those interested, the Greek term is used in this verse to refer to the Gospel message, etc., and in verse 5 in reference to what the apostles instructed the people to do. The Greek term had a wide usage. Note now v. 7.

V. 5 - It may be of interest that all seven names are non-Jewish, whether the men were so or not. We hear of Philip, Acts 8 and 21. Certainly, if Stephen and Philip are any examples, the seven later did more than minister at the work for which they were specifically chosen.

V. 6 - The laying on of hands was a common practice in the early Church (Acts 8:17; 13:3; 19:6; I Tim. 4:14; 5:22; II Tim. 1:6; Hebrews 6:2) as well as Jewish life, Leviticus 3:2; 16:21; Numbers 27:18; Deut. 34:9. It evidently was a meaningful custom to them, and signified assignment of responsibility or imparting of power.

 

QUESTIONS

 

61. The Hellenists were Jews whose language was Greek; probably so because of their parentage (many Jews were in other lands than Palestine). Would this be a reason for the neglect (i.e., inability to communicate)?

 

 

62. Had the apostles been given a specific place to fill (i.e., a deaconship of their own) for God?

 

 

63. The apostles, directed of God (we assume) laid down the rules for the occasion, while the congregation, using these guidelines, did the actual selection. Is this a good example for church policy today?

 

 

 

 

64. Could men today be chosen as "deacons" for a specific task, and when the task was completed, cease being "deacons"?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Increase of the Word of God, 6:7,8

7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

V. 7 - The Word of God increased - The Greek text indicates continually. The same idea is emphasized about the priests; there were continual conversions. Many Jews were doubtless like Simeon and Joseph of Arimathea, Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-40 with dispositions to believe the compelling evidences.

were obedient - Greek word imperfect tense: kept becoming obedient. the faith - as used in Acts 14:22; Galatians 1:23; Jude v. 3. An objective system to be accepted as true and reliable.

V. 8 - In the midst of all the apostles and the work they were doing, Stephen is magnified. We actually know more of his work, and that of Philip, than of almost all the apostles. He kept doing the miraculous things, evidently while doing the specific tasks for which he had been chosen and appointed.

 

At the Synagogue of the Freedmen,

6:9-12

9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council.

V. 9 - Libertines/Freedmen - Former Jewish slaves of Rome, or (apparently) descendants of such; now free men. Saul of Tarsus may well have had his first direct confrontation with a Christian in this exchange with Stephen.

The Greek word translated "disputed" means to question or to exchange questions, sometimes with rancor or evil intent in the questioning. See Mark 1:27; 8:11; 9:14, 16; 12:28; Luke 22:23.

V. 10 - God, we believe, enabled Stephen to answer effectively all their questions, so that they were never able to have any advantage over him. Paul later was like this in Acts 17. Naturally, having lost face in public, the Jews, rather than admit defeat, stooped to worldly ways.

V. 11 - Because truth was too evident in Stephen’s answers, the men resorted (as did the Jewish leaders with Jesus) to underhanded tactics. (A good lesson for us: face the truth squarely, and if proved wrong, accept it and repent. It is also pertinent that we not be like those Jewish men: equate our understanding of God’s Word as being equal to it; thus holding that any disagreement with us is tantamount to disagreement with God. It might not be so! We, as Christians, should be willing to accept truth wherever we find it, knowing that God’s truth is not undermined by any other truth. Of course, the charge of blasphemy, if true, was serious. The truth was, however, they were the ones who were blaspheming Moses and God. Ref. 3:22.

 

QUESTIONS

 

65. Stephen was said to be "full of grace." What did that expression mean?

 

 

 

 

 

 

66. From what sections of the world did (some of) the Libertines come?

 

67. Why would they "secretly" conspire against Stephen? Would this indicate good motives?

 

 

 

 

68. Was Stephen actually preaching about the destruction of the temple, or was the temple’s demise to be one of the effects of Christianity?

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N E I G H T

(6:13 - 7:60)

 

 

Stephen Before the Sanhedrin, 6:13-7:57

13 And set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

7 And the high priest said, "Is this so?" 2 And Stephen said: "Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.’ 4 Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living; 5 yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him in possession and to his posterity after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect, that his posterity would be aliens in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and ill-treat them four hundered years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation which they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

9 "And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him governor over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food.

12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time,

13 And at the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and called to him Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five souls; 15 and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17 "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt 18 till there arose over Egypt another king who had not known Joseph. 19 He dealt craftily with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, that they might not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born, and was beautiful before God. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house; 21 and then he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

23 "When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brethren understood that God was giving them deliverance by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and would have reconciled them, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ At this retort Moses fled, and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

30 "Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it he wondered at the sight; and as he drew near to look, the voice of the Lord came, 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 And the Lord said to him, Take off the shoes from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the ill-treatment of my people that are in Egypt and heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

35 "This Moses whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ God sent as both a ruler and deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.’ 38 This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and rejoiced in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you offer to me slain beasts and sacrifices, forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 42 And you took up the tent of Moloch, and the star of the god Rephan, the figures which you made to worship: and I will remove you beyond Babylon.’

44 "Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, even as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations which God thrust out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked leave to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says,

49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hands make all these things?’

51 "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him.

As we begin this discussion of this section, we must consider the charges against Stephen, 6:13-14, and the meaning of these charges, as the Jews understood them, and as Stephen understood them. Each group saw the charges as they understood the O.T. Scriptures. Stephen’s apology in ch. 7 (the word then meant "defense of," not "excuse for") was designed to show how the O.T. record, understood rightly, would exonerate him, and correct the matter against him. (Chapter 7 is a perfect example of the point made in 6:10 that Stephen’s arguments were not answerable.) Stephen had perceived the true nature of the O.T. law (and all its related things): it was all type and shadow, predicting the true and the real. It was to be realized and completed in Jesus and that which Jesus established; the Church. As the speech showed, God was not limited to one holy place, because many places were holy: Egypt, Arabia; and his promises were not exclusively limited to or involved with Jewish people and culture. Something international and cross-cultural in scope was indicated (note Rom. 3:27-31). Hence, an unbiased look at their history, not colored by national pride and racial bigotry, would show that God’s field was the world, that the children of promise rather than children of flesh were reckoned as seed, Rom. 9:6-8.

Any candid perusal of Jewish history would show that, by and large, "A wicked and adulterous nation" was all too descriptive of the people of that history. As Moses said of the people of his generation, "You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you" (Deut. 9:24). Paul, quoting Isaiah 65:2, depicted God stretching forth his hand "all day long" to a "disobedient and rebellious people" (Rom. 10:21). As Stephen pointed out to the council members, the patriarchs were jealous and wicked; their descendants refused Moses; the prophets were ill-treated (note Matt. 21:33-45 here), and the prophet like unto Moses, Jesus of Nazareth, they themselves had rejected and crucified; all of which painted the picture of a people decidedly against the Holy Spirit.

This speech is one of the great bits of history recorded for our admonition and learning. It helps us to clarify in our minds the real differences between Judaism and Christianity. Here are the struggles of the early church (as seen in Acts 10-11; 15; 22-23; 28; and in Galatians to realize the vast difference in the two institutions); and the majestic lessons in the Hebrew epistle. All are backdrops of what Stephen proclaimed in the face of those who would take his life for His proclamation. May we see as perceptively as Stephen the true nature of that which we have espoused, and be ever diligent that we do not confuse God’s truth with our understanding of it, but rather make every attempt to remove ourselves from among those "ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth." May we hold fast to that which is eternal, and be found in Christ, in whom "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

V. 13 - Stephen evidently saw clearly the nature of Christianity, and presented the same truth as Jesus in Matthew 5:17, etc.

false witness - The charges these men brought were perversion, for Stephen’s witness was not really as they made it out to be. Jesus was accused of the same things at his trial.

never ceases - Stephen never rested in his presentation of Christianity as the ultimate and intended effect of the whole Jewish system. For those opposed, who thought the Jewish system was to continue, his work was quite clearly of a blasphemous nature, since he opposed what they thought was true.

V. 14 - As Jesus said in John 4, the time had come when men would worship God in many places, not just Jerusalem. Christianity was going to be new wine in new wineskins! While remarking as we did in v. 13, the acceptance of Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism would bring about the end of the temple and the law. In this sense, the accusations against Stephen were true.

 

V. 15 - What is meant by the description of Stephen’s face may well be this: it was an obvious testimony from God to him (as also with Moses and the shining face he had when coming from the presence of God). Whatever may have been God’s intention, it had no visible effect on the council, at least at that moment.

 

7:1- The high priest asks: guilty or not guilty? He evidently ignored the appearance of Stephen’s face, or did not realize the implications thereof.

 

V. 2 - God of glory - Often a characterization of God in the O.T. God used many things to represent his presence (like the Shekinah, Exodus 13:21-22; the burning bush, Exodus 3:1-6; the Ark, Numbers 10:35-36), helping faith become sight.

 

in Mesopotamia (land between the rivers) - The lesson: God had faithful people apart from Palestine, yea, even before there was a Palestine in the sense they knew it. Moreover, even at that time, God had a plan: to honor those who had faith.

 

 

in Haran - Genesis 12 picks up the story in Haran, but as seen in Genesis 15:7 and Nehemiah 9:7, God brought Abraham out of Ur of Chaldees, from among idol worshipers, Joshua 24:2.

 

V. 3 - That Abraham followed God by faith is the lesson they were to get, a faith that trusted God, even to the forsaking of the understood for the not understood (that is, he trusted God enough to give up what was then his to go where God wanted to take him).

 

V. 4 - Haran, the name of Abraham’s older brother, and also the name of the city in which Abraham lived before going on to Palestine. Though Terah was not faithful to God as was his son and the call was not to him, yet he went with his son - probably because of the close family ties.

 

V. 5 - Point: Abraham never realized the promise of God about possession of land, since he died a sojourner (Heb. 11:8-10), only possessing what he purchased: a burial place (Gen. 23:9-17). Hence, the promise was realized only in faith. The issue was about temporal versus eternal things, not just a piece of earth and a building somewhere. One of the problems of the Jews was their attachment to material things and places, and failure to look for a city whose builder and maker was God.

 

V. 6 - Further indication that God’s people lived by faith, not by sight: they were but sojourners in a strange land. 400 years - Stephen quotes Genesis 15:13. Exodus 12:40-41 shows the exact total was 430 years.

V. 7 - Only after hundreds of years did God choose a holy place. He had had a holy place long before such, a most important point and He finally led them to a land he had set aside for them.

 

V. 8 - As this verse shows, outward signs were only given after hundreds of years. As Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-23 show, God’s faithful were such, quite apart from things that the Jews greatly emphasized. No outward sign, or combination of them, could suffice if faith was not present.

 

Isaac - The first of many promises God kept to Abraham, because he was faithful to God.

 

V. 9 - The character of the twelve patriarchs is stated. (It was because of jealousy that Jesus was killed). Foolish pride (i.e., jealousy) will cause Stephen’s death, just as it brought the brothers to sell Joseph.

 

V. 10 - Point: God was not to be thwarted by the jealousy of some unbelieving men because he had greater things in store.

Pharaoh - The word was a title like president and was applied to many different rulers of Egypt. Sometimes the Bible referred to the pharaoh as king.

V. 11 - God had prepared Egypt for the famine by his revelations to Joseph, and his blessing upon the land itself. Canaan (i.e., Palestine) had not been so blessed.

V. 12-16 - The beginnings of the Jewish nation, but in a foreign land and soon in bondage. Joseph and Jacob, and the patriarchs will die in a strange land, not possessing one part of the land of promise. Only Jacob and Joseph would be buried in Palestine; Jacob in a tomb purchased by Abraham at Hebron (Gen. 23:1-20; 50:4-14), and Joseph in a parcel of land bought by Jacob at Shechem (Joshua 24:32).

 

This compression of the two in Acts 7:16 could be caused by an accidental omission of a line or two of Acts in a very early copy.

V. 17 - Now, and only now, is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham mentioned as near to being kept, though he had been with them all the time. One of the things that Stephen is showing is the way God keeps His word.

 

God had granted - The Greek word is normally translated "confess." God’s promise was assured to Abraham.

 

V. 18 - We do not really know who the Pharaoh was who started the oppression. About 1700 B.C., the Hyksos peoples invaded Egypt, and ruled awhile, though finally were overthrown. The XVIII dynasty kings (about 1550 B.C.) continued the oppression, if they did not begin it. The XIX dynasty had several kings with the name Rameses, one of whom (maybe Rameses II) built cities. About 1486 B.C., Thutmose III took over the land, and probably was the Pharaoh when Moses left Egypt. The step-mother, and also mother-in-law of Thutmose, Hatshepsut, queen of Egypt prior to Thutmose, is probably the one who found a baby in the Nile, put there to be found, and there because the parents of Aaron, Miriam and Moses (Amram and Jochebed) had disobeyed the Pharaoh’s orders (Ex. ch. 1).

We can not help but marvel at the influence Joseph had, evidently for a long time after his death.

When Moses returned to Egypt after 40 years, at the age of 80, it was probably Amenhotep II; the time of the Exodus (the going out) was 1445 B.C.

Moses was instructed - The Greek term is of wide meaning, involving all the things that go into rearing a child. It includes teaching, Acts 22:3, caring, discipline (Heb. 12:5, etc.), and even scourging, Luke 23:22.

V. 23 - The mother of Moses had instructed him well in respect to his heritage!

V. 24 - being wronged - The Greek term is to do wrong to, to treat unjustly, injure, as in v. 26; Matt. 20:13; Acts 25:11; Gal. 4:12; Col. 3:25; Rev. 22:11.

V. 25 - he supposed - As with Joseph earlier, and the prophets later, Moses assumed that God’s people would recognize God’s deliverer, but not so (see John 1:11). It is evident that Jochebed taught her son who he was, and who he was not.

deliverance - The Greek word is generally translated as salvation since the term was applied to any kind of rescue, restoration, etc.

V. 26 - would have reconciled - The Greek says: would have changed them unto peace (i.e., a whole relationship). Moses made the point that they were brethren, and asked for what purpose they were fighting each other.

V. 27 - One, at least, of the Israelites did not accept Moses’ leadership, and rather forcefully rejected him, in action and word (v. 28), which let Moses know that his attempt to deliver his people by killing an Egyptian was known, but not appreciated.

V. 29 - Read Hebrews 11:23-28 here, which points up the faith of Moses vs. the unbelief of this people, plus the fact that God was with him though he was rejected by Israel.

an exile - The same Greek term as in v. 6 (about Abraham’s seed), Eph. 2:19, and I Peter 2:11, concerning Christians, whose citizenship is in heaven, Phil. 3:20-21. Note also that Moses lived in a strange land, married a strange woman, worked for a strange man, and had two sons, but all were blessings from God. V. 30 will continue this idea of God at work and blessing people who were outside the holy land but faithful to God.

V. 30 - a holy place - A burning bush, a thing and place not made with the hands of men. Sometimes it seems as if the expression "angel of the Lord" equaled the Lord, Exodus 3:1-6. Angels played an important part in God’s dealing with his people, as in Genesis 19:1; Numbers 22:22; II Sam. 24:16; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 1:14; 12:22.

V. 32 - Note in passing, God said: I am (not was), which Jesus pointed out in Luke 20:37-38 meant not only that God always "is" (some 600 years elapsed between Abraham and Moses), but also that the dead live after death (a point for the Sadducees listening to Stephen).

V. 33 - The Lord said - Moses was instructed to remove his shoes; evidently the priests did not wear shoes in the temple either, since no instructions were given about footwear.

V. 34 - God was always aware of the afflictions upon his people, but in his wisdom, he did not always respond. Faith in God was a requisite then, and now, since he doesn’t always answer when we call.

I will send - The noun form is transliterated "apostle." God had "seen" and "heard" and at the right time had decided to act.

V. 35 - Moses...refused - The same point was made in Acts 3:14 about Jesus. Note that God chose what Israel refused, a repeated refrain throughout this history.

deliverer - The word carries the idea of redeemer, as was Jesus. See Luke 1:68; 2:38; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:12.

V. 36 - God used Moses in a mighty way, despite the protests and unbelief of Israel. Numbers, the history of a people gone bad, records for our learning the general disposition of the Israelites. Some of them were faithful in some ways, but most were fickle.

V. 37 - The prediction and the fulfillment are seen in Acts 3:22-26, where Peter elaborated the same basic theme. Implied is the fact that as Moses was treated by God’s people, so was Jesus; though both were sent by God.

V. 38 - congregation - Translates the term rendered church or assembly. As with the first
church, the church which Jesus leads is a pilgrim one, a people of God, holy to him, wherever they are, destined to be purified with him in the age to come.

living oracles - The Greek means living sayings, especially used of messages from God. See Romans 3:2; Hebrews 4:12; I Peter 1:23.

V. 39 - Moses was God’s spokesman, Exodus 33:11; Gal. 3:19, and to disobey Moses was to disobey God. See Numbers 12:1ff. It was correct to equate Moses (i.e., the words of Moses with the words of God) as in 6:11. So it was with the words of the apostles to the church. They are equal in force to God’s words.

V. 40 - Note: They completely ignored God’s part in their redemption from Egypt, blaming Moses for it all. Their unbelief was never manifested more clearly, a point Stephen wanted to make. The Psalmist in ch. 115:3-8 and ch. 135:15-18 went to some lengths to describe the stupidity of people who worshipped their own handiwork. See also Habakkuk 2:18-20; Rom. 1:18ff.

V. 41 - Read here Exodus 32:1ff. The people of Israel ended up drinking water upon which Moses had thrown the ground-up bits of golden calf - a belly-full of idolatry! The account shows that Aaron was carried away with the crowd.

V. 42 - host of heaven - Apparently God let them reap the wages of their sin. Certainly the Israelites worshipped idols after they entered the land of promise. See Deut. 17:3; II Kings 17:16; 21:3; II Chron. 33:3, 5; Jeremiah 8:2; 19:13; etc. The quote is from Amos 5:25-27.

book of the prophets - This is the typical usage of O.T. prophecy, in that the quote is from a prophet who lived long after the wilderness wanderings, but whose words were applicable to the subject at hand.

V. 44 - All the preceding was true, yet God still was willing to forgive and continue the revelation through Moses to them. So, a tent of testimony/witness was made, the type of that which was to come, Heb. 9:1ff. It is true to say that there is considerable disagreement about the type-antitype among brethren yet today. Of course, the Jews had missed the point badly in their day.

V. 45 - Joshua - In Greek, the word is the same as that for Jesus. Joshua was only able to do what he did as God directed him. The land of promise, after some 700 years, was finally inhabited by the children of Israel, descendants of Abraham by the son of promise, Isaac. As pointed out earlier, not all of the Israelites were reckoned as children of Promise, but only those who lived by faith (see Gal. 3:25-29). Their fleshly lineage counted for nothing unless they had faith.

David - It was not until David’s time that the land promised by God to Abraham (see Gen. 15:18-20 and Numbers 34:1-15, where the details are) was conquered and controlled. But see Joshua 1:4-6 and the fulfillment cited by Joshua in 23:14. Finally, read the specific statement in I Kings 3:8, that Solomon ruled the land God had promised to Abraham. Note also in I Kings 3:9 that the people were so numerous that Solomon describes them as uncontrollable. All this is to help us see that God made a specific promise to Abraham and God fulfilled that promise, just as he did the other promises he made to Abraham.

V. 46 - A place to dwell was not too important to God, as David thought, or as the council might have thought. V. 48 makes this exact point.

V. 47 - Solomon was chosen because of David’s past life, I Chron. 28:3.

V. 48 - Point: God can’t be contained in brick and mortar houses (nor by the thinking of men, either, it is implied). Remember that one of the charges against Stephen was about the holy place, 6:13. The quote is Isaiah 66:1ff.

 

V. 49 - The continuing theme: God can’t be limited, and is not limited to one little place - He is God of the universe, and his dominion is over the universe. The ideas of Jesus in John 4 are relevant here: God had always sought those to worship him, wherever they were, who would do so according to his will, and especially in the age that began with Pentecost and the church.

V. 50 - The Bible, over and over, presents God as the sole creator of the universe. Only men who disbelieve could miss the point.

V. 51 - Israel’s history was marred with just such descriptive terms, as in Exodus 33:3,5; 34:9, Deut. 9:6; 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; 6:10. Now read Rom. 2:25-29.

Stephen’s declaration about the Holy Spirit brings out what was really true in the O.T. times, though not very openly seen, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people even before N.T. times. The text in Genesis 6:3 is a good example. To be so described by Stephen would indicate that they were really not God’s people as they thought themselves to be.

 

V. 52 - They had likewise been so accused by Jesus in Matthew 23:33-37; Luke 11:47; and Peter in Acts 3. See Romans 10:2-4. Though they gloried in the law, they did not keep it, as Paul mentions in Rom. 2:17-24. The important keeping of the law would have been to accept him to whom it pointed, Gal. 3:24ff.

V. 53 - There is no specific mention in Exodus of angels, but that does not mean that none were involved in the giving of the law.

V. 54 - As in 5:33, they were "cut in two" by Stephen’s remarks. It was a terrifying accusation by Stephen, and created a violent reaction in the men of the council.

V. 55 - Christ is depicted as being at God’s right hand, the position of power, both sitting and standing. Scripture nowhere explains where heaven is; but rather just teaches that there is such a place, that God is there, that Jesus is there, etc. God didn’t try to answer all the questions we might ask about things such as heaven. He wants us to trust in Christ and leave the matters we can not understand up to him.

gazed - The Greek word means to look intently, to fix one’s eyes upon, as in Luke 4:20; Acts 13:9; II Cor. 3:7, 13.

V. 57 - A hard-hearted response, certainly. One wonders if Joseph or Nicodemus or Gamaliel were there. Stephen was right!

 

QUESTIONS

 

69. In what sense do you think Stephen spoke against the law and the temple? Could one preach the Gospel and not do that?

 

 

 

 

 

70. What does the apology (= defense) of Stephen attempt to do?

 

 

 

 

71. What characterized Abraham as opposed to those in his day? (Read Romans 4:1-22.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

72. Why bring up Joseph?

 

 

73. How did Moses fit into the discussion?

 

 

 

 

 

74. Stephen discussed the tabernacle and God’s relationship to it. Why?

 

75. Would the description in Romans 10:21 be applicable to the Jewish leaders, as Stephen saw them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the City Wall, 7: 58-60

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

V. 58 - young man - The term was commonly applied to young men between the approximate ages of 24-40. The witnesses would probably be those who falsely testified against Stephen, and were to take the lead in such action, Leviticus 24:14; Deut. 17:7.

V. 59 - Here is the prayer directed at Jesus as Lord, though this is not a normal thing that is taught in the N.T. Of course, being stoned to death is not normal either. We are expected to address our prayers to God, and recognize that Jesus is the mediator between us and God, especially in respect to our sins.

V. 60 - At least Stephen died with the right attitude of forgiveness, as should every Christian, Rom. 12:19-21. Stephen certainly followed in Jesus’ footsteps at his death, both in his prayer for himself and request in behalf of others.

fell asleep - The term is equal to death as in John 11:11-14; I Cor. 11:30; 15:18; but is also used in the sense we use it, as asleep at night, etc. Jesus was asleep, Matt. 8:24; Peter also, Acts 12:6.

 

QUESTIONS

 

76. Was Stephen’s appraisal of his auditors verified?

 

 

 

77. Where was Jesus in Stephen’s vision of heaven? Do other scriptures verify the same fact about Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N N I N E

(8:1-40)

 

 

The Church in Judea and Samaria, 8:1 - 12: 25

The Dispersion, 8:1-4

8 And Saul was consenting to his death.

And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul laid waste the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

V. 1 - Saul was consenting - The Greek term implies complete approval by Saul. One of the interesting facets of Saul is this: his schooling was under Gamaliel, who was a part of the "liberal" wing of the Pharisees, Hillel being its most illustrious rabbi. Yet such liberalism could not tolerate any disagreement over the fundamental tenets of their religion.

scattered - The term is seen in 11:19; also in John 7:35; James 1:1; I Peter 1:1. They were scattered like seed from a sower.

except the apostles - Luke may mean that the apostles did not leave, even though persecuted.

V. 2 - great lamentation - Mourning (beating the breast and weeping) was customary among Jewish people, but this may have taken on different meaning since devout men were involved in it. Simeon (Luke 2) and Ananias (Acts 22) and men in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5) were described by the term "devout."

V. 3 - laid waste - The Greek term was used to describe what armies did to the countries that they invaded, or what an angry king might do, such as having others scourged, etc., or what disease might do to someone having it. Christians were forced into prison by Saul. The persecution went on and on, evidently.

V. 4 - Saints were scattered as seed was scattered by someone broadcasting it; and they evangelized as they went, spreading the good news everywhere.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

78. Saul was so sure that what he was doing was correct, and that he was obedient to God. Do you think that others might be like him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

79. Do you think the apostles failed to perceive that Jesus meant them in Acts 1:8?

 

 

80. Do you think that only men preached (though both men and women were scattered abroad)?

 

 

The Work of Philip, 8:5-13

5 Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. 7 For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city. 9 But there was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is that power of God which is called Great." 11 And they gave heed to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

V. 5 - Philip, one of the seven in Acts 6, was apparently forced to move also, and went to Samaria, where he still was abiding years later, Acts 21. He too kept proclaiming the message of Christ. Part of his success is recorded for us.

V. 6 - The Samaritans continued to hear and heed what Philip was proclaiming to them, as is evidenced by the belief of many, v. 12, and the healing of some, v. 7. Jesus had preached previously at Sychar (John 4), and those who responded said at that time that Jesus was the Savior of the world.

V. 7 - The Gospel writers show that demon-possession was not necessarily equal to disease, though sometimes those demonized were also afflicted with disease. What was certainly recognized was the fact of demons, that people were possessed by them, and that demons could be cast out by powers stronger than they were (Matt. 12 is an example). Philip evidently continued in the activity begun by Jesus and the twelve.

V. 8 - city - The text indicates that Philip was in the capital city of Samaria, called Samaria. The city was first established by Omri in the 8th century B.C., and named Samaria. It was built on a hill, located on the main route from points north to Jerusalem, some 42 miles south of it. The place is still the worship center for the Samaritan Jews of today.

V. 9 - Simon was a common name, but he seemed uncommon to many, because of his activities. He is described as one who used magic with which he amazed people. The term from which "magic" comes means to practice sorcery or magic, etc. A term related to it is in Matthew 2, describing the wise men.

V. 10 - Simon was like Elymas in Acts 13. From the account in Acts 19, many were either practitioners or followers of such people as these two men. Simon had a national following according to Luke. His conversion doubtless was a major victory for the Gospel message.

V. 11 - That people can be deceived is patently obvious from history and experience. What is not plain is that which Simon did for the Samaritans, other than the "miracles" he did. Perhaps he had no message - just miracles.

V. 12 - Philip’s preaching was about the kingdom of God (=the church) in its relationship to Jesus as its king and Savior. This being believed by those listening, immersion was forthcoming as a natural response to their faith. Simon recognized that he could not do what Philip was doing, and so accepted the Gospel message, being immersed in obedience to Jesus’ command, Matthew 28:19.

Simon believed - The Greek text uses the same term to describe his conversion as it does for all others. There is no reason to disbelieve Luke’s statement on the matter. Some have decided that because his life was not letter-perfect after conversion that he did not believe, contrary to Luke’s statement. If conversion to Christ means that one never sins again, then Simon was not converted. If, however, one can sin even though a Christian, then Simon was like everybody else in this way. He had some growing up to do after his conversion.

he was amazed - The shoe was on the other foot!

 

QUESTIONS

 

81. Who had preached in the area of Samaria before Philip?

82. Many were healed by Philip. Did they automatically become believers when they were healed?

83. To what did the Samaritans give heed, v. 11?

84. Did Simon become a Christian?

 

 

The Work of Peter and John, 8:14-25

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter said to him, "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." 24 And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

V. 14 - This verse is interesting in the connection with the relative greatness of the apostles. It has been pointed out that Peter and John were sent by the apostles, indicating that he was not first among equals as some hold. The point is well made.

V. 15 - This verse raises the issue of the Holy Spirit in relationship to the apostles, and to believers and in several ways. Some argue that the Holy Spirit as an indwelling factor was given by several different ways, as here, Acts 2, 19, etc. Others argue that differing manifestations of the Holy Spirit were (are) given, with every believer receiving the indwelling presence, while anything special comes by God’s intervention and only through the apostles’ hands, etc. The issue is settled according to the understanding of various passages, some choosing one text, others another. Doubtless, people will always differ.

V. 16 - This verse seems to assert that the Samaritans had duplicated the Jews actions in Acts 2, and had accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, being then immersed, and receiving the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in identical fashion. If so, then Peter and John were sent to pray for a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon them, even as Philip had manifested. This position is considered most likely.

V. 17 - One of the issues here is this: if the apostles could "give" special things to others by the power resident in themselves, why the prayers in v. 15? Their ability to impart such gifts may have been only possible as God permitted. Additionally, if that which the apostles were giving was all that the believers would receive (having received nothing earlier), then it is obvious that one can be Christian apart from any relationship to the Holy Spirit. Since this seems untrue, we hold as stated above in v. 16.

As nearly as we know from the N.T., the apostles were the only ones who could pass on special gifts through their imposition of hands. Such texts as this one seem to confirm that idea.

V. 19 - Simon obviously did not adequately comprehend the nature of the gift itself, or of the apostles to Christianity, or of Christianity itself. Perhaps we, if we knew him better, would have thought that his requests were rather natural for him, even if Christian. As stated above on v. 16,17, the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit, such as the apostles had, is what Simon saw and wanted for himself.

V. 20 - Peter’s response was rather clear and immediate. However, v. 22 is just as clear. There was time and opportunity to change from such thinking (i.e., repentance could be forthcoming) and he should do it.

V. 21 - The issue here: 1) Could Simon have actually had "part and lot" in the matter about which he inquired? or 2) If his heart (mind) was right with God, would it have precluded any such offer? Stated another way; "Simon, if you understood the nature of Christianity and the unique position of the apostles to it, you would not be asking for what you are" was the gist of Peter’s statement.

V. 22 - The expression of Peter, in proper order, is this: (Simon) "If the thought of your heart is to be forgiven, repent and ask God for forgiveness." Peter gave the command(s) first, the conditional clause (the "if" clause) last.

If we consider that Simon’s request was non-Christian, we might do well to consider what prayer requests we have made, or what deeds we have done of such nature even though being Christian. Stated differently, some of the things Christians ask for and attempt to do are like those of Simon. He, like every Christian, had some maturing to do. (Cf. James 4:4)

V. 23 - Simon’s state in v. 20 was described as taking him to destruction. Now it is more explicitly revealed as being in bondage and bitterness. Whether Peter meant that he was no longer Christian, or just "un-Christian" in this respect is a moot question.

V. 25- The apostles, having completed the task for which they were sent, started back to Jerusalem (from which many had been driven by persecution), and utilized the opportunities presented to evangelize along the way. They undoubtedly had never imagined that they would have any dealings with Samaritans. Yet it is true that they would do this and yet not suppose that Gentiles were also in God’s plan - so Acts 10 is necessary for them.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

85. What do you make of the apostles sending Peter and John?

 

86. Do you take the Acts 2 text as normative for every Christian anytime? If so, how do you understand v. 15-17?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

87. Peter described Simon in several ways - did he describe a person who never had been a believer, or a person who had believed and then quit believing, or a person who was a believer but imperfect in understanding?

 

 

88. Was Simon in error to ask Peter to pray for him? (Have you ever asked anyone to pray for you?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Later Work of Philip, 8:26-40

26 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert road. 27 And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot." 30 So Philip ran to

him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture he read was this:

"As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb,

so he opens not his mouth.

33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth."

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. 36 And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the Gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea.

V. 26 - This text presents an interesting facet of God’s dealing with Philip - an angel was used to direct Philip, but so was the Holy Spirit. Both are presented as actual personalities, distinct, and with abilities.

The road mentioned is perhaps the one leading to Gaza through Bethlehem and Hebron.

the south - The Greek term normally means "midday" as in Acts 22:6; so also in the LXX, except in Daniel 8:4,9, where the direction south is meant.

This is a desert road - Some think the reference is to the city of Gaza rather than the road leading there. The city of the O.T. had been destroyed in 93 B.C., and rebuilt some 2 1/2 miles south and near the sea. We must remember that "desert" in the Bible included places where no one lived, as well as what we call desert today.

V. 27 - Philip was not allowed to remain in Samaria for long, although he did much good work there. He apparently remained in Caesarea a long time (v. 40), since he is there in Acts 21:8, many years after this time.

Ethiopia was the general area south of Egypt known to us today as the general area of the Sudan. Most of the early history concerned Egypt, from which Ethiopia broke away about 1000 B.C. Sometimes the area was known as Nubia.

Eunuchs were common in the royal courts of the day. They could become proselytes to the Jewish religion. Doubtless in keeping with Luke’s purpose, this account served as an illustration of how the Gospel spread to far-off regions of the world. (Candace was probably a title, like king or pharaoh.)

to worship - The fact that a person of such political stature and so far away came to Jerusalem shows the influence of the Jewish religion. It seems probable that some Jewish feast had been the occasion of his visit to the "city of peace."

V. 28 - chariot - Few people would be able to afford such a means of locomotion; hence, he was a person of importance. We will see later that Paul would be a bearer of good news to kings and those in high places, Acts 9:15.

 

was reading - Aloud, which was a common practice in those days. Another point of interest: few would be able to afford a scroll of a Bible book. (As a bit of information, one of the Bible books found in the Dead Sea area dating c. 100 B.C., was a scroll of Isaiah. It is, with but small differences, exactly like the Hebrew text from which we get our O.T.)

V. 29 - "The Spirit" - See other instances of the work of the Spirit in the lives of people, such as 10:19; 13:2; etc. The angel had directed Philip to the area, now the Holy Spirit does the directing.

V. 30 - Philip’s question in Greek indicates some doubt as to what, if anything, the treasurer understood about the text he was reading.

V. 31 - The man, by his response to Philip, indicates much doubt concerning his potential comprehension of the text. Hence, he sought Philip to come up and help him.

 

guides - See Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39; John 16:13; then Matthew 23:16, 24; Acts 1:16; Rom. 2:19.

V. 32 - This quotation is from the Greek (LXX) version of the O.T., and differs from the Hebrew, though not in general sense.

The Hebrew reads as follows:

53:7b He was being brought as a lamb to slaughter; silent as a sheep before its shearer, he was not opening his mouth.

53:8a Oppressed he was taken from justice, and who of his generation was considering that he was being cut off from the land of the living?

This section is from a context that views the Messiah from various perspectives. This particular section pictured him somewhat as to be pitied because of the tragic things that were to happen to him.

V. 34 - The question of the treasurer is still pertinent today. It is answered in various ways as meaning Jesus, or Israel, etc.

V. 35 - The identification of this text with Jesus is certainly the emphasis of the N.T., as is apparent in the answer Philip gave. He spoke of Jesus and how a person was to procure the salvation offered through Jesus.

V. 36 - Certainly the man asked the proper question, rather than 1,001 other questions possible (which is often the case). If the Gospel of Jesus is preached correctly, and people believe it, they should ask the same question as the treasurer. They should then be immersed, even as he was, if the Bible plan is followed.

These added remarks need to be made. Insisting that baptism is by immersion only is simply following the original meaning of the Greek term which still means the same thing today. Any deviation is not biblical, nor is it necessary. A second point: insisting that immersion is the consummating act that brings one into Christ does not denigrate initial faith or initial repentance, nor does it teach that one believes in water regeneration. The people who believe in water regeneration are people like the Roman Catholics, who baptize (sprinkle) a baby at birth to make sure, if the baby dies at that time, that said baby will go to heaven rather than elsewhere. Most people who throw up the term "water regeneration" do so through ignorance of the matter, or because they have labeled immersion as a work. The Scripture does not do so. If anything could be labeled "work" it would be faith, since Jesus so spoke in John 6:28-29. Now, this writer does not think that Jesus meant that faith is a work (Rom. 4:16 affirms it is not) in the sense that term is commonly used (i.e., as something done to merit salvation), but it is simply and only what is to be done to receive the salvation God gave by grace, which salvation (=grace) no one merits. In the same way, to argue that changing one’s mind (repentance) and immersion are necessary to appropriate God’s free gift of Christ is not arguing any more for these than it is for faith. All three are God’s ordained responses to obtain what he gives in Christ, freely, to all. This writer believes that it is impossible to be saved by anything one does, in the sense that we, by "doing" (i.e. working) can earn/deserve it. We simply do what God requires to receive what he freely gives. See Rom. 4:1-5 where Paul expresses our "belief" in this matter. If God had not provided redemption through Christ, anything or all things we could do would not avail. We believe that our willingness to accept Jesus as the Messiah, to change our minds (= repent) and to be immersed into Christ (Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27) are the human responses through which God grants salvation in Christ. So then we believe we are saved only and solely through God’s grace, apart from anything we do. In this sense, salvation is of God and not of man. Our willed response to God’s grace by His stipulated acts of obedience (faith, repentance, immersion) is simply receiving Christ for our sole and whole salvation. Anything else other than this position makes Christianity a law system by which we merit (earn) our salvation. The problem with any law system is this: we cannot keep it, and thus become sinners. The wages we get (= earn) is death, Rom. 6:23. We choose rather to trust in Christ through the faith system, by which we can stand justified, uncondemned, and at peace with God, Rom. 5:1; 8:1.

V. 37 - This verse is one of the few in Acts with textual problems. There is little internal evidence in the book itself for it - though many early commentators show that they knew about the problem. There is little or no reason why it would be left out by anyone copying the book - so it is doubtful if we should quote it as Scripture. However, the point of doctrine is the same: the one considering immersion must first have faith in Jesus, or the act of immersion is foolish. We judge that someone wrote in the margin of some copy of Acts what the early practice of the church was, and someone else incorporated the marginal reading in the text itself.

V. 38 - This verse teaches rather clearly the "mode" of baptism - which, of course, no one in N.T. times had difficulty with. Only those of later years have problems with immersion; some insisting, rather ludicrously, that one can immerse by sprinkling or pouring.

V. 39 - Just how Philip was "caught up" is not said - only that the two men were separated at that point in time, one beginning a new life, the other laboring in another place.

V. 40 - Azotus was known in the O.T. as Ashdod, one of the five Philistine cities. It was about 20 miles north of Gaza, halfway between Gaza and Joppa, along the seacoast. Caesarea was about 30 miles north of Joppa, and an important city, since it served as the main port of entry of Judea, as well as being the city where the Roman officials normally stayed while in Judea.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

89. Have you considered how many different ways the Holy Spirit is presented as a personality?

 

90. Was the Jewish religion widespread?

91. Do those of us who possess the books of the new covenant have an advantage in interpretation of the books of the old covenant? Why?

 

92. Why would the treasurer ask about immersion and not about faith or repentance?

93. Do the N.T. authors ever argue that baptism is immersion or that Christians ought to be immersed?

 

 

94. After the treasurer was immersed and had started on his way, of what church do you think he was a member?

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T E N

(9:1-31)

 

 

The Conversion and Early Labors of Saul,

9:1-30

At Jerusalem, 9:1,2

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

V. 1 - As Acts 26:11 shows, Saul was exceeding mad against the Christians. It is worth contemplating this man, zealous for the things of God, who was quite ungodly in his attitude, violating command #6 (one of the "top ten!") about murder. It needs to be impressed upon our own consciousness that we may often do things ungodly (i.e., un-Christian) because of our ignorance of what God really wants of us.

 

but Saul - resuming the story from Acts 8:3.

still - His whole life was, at that time, characterized by threatening and murder. Jacob had said of Benjamin, that he would be a ravening wolf. One of Benjamin’s sons was surely that.

V. 2 - Damascus - An ancient city, on the main route that led from Africa to the Orient, prominent in world history. Some 150 miles north-east of Jerusalem, it was well-known in Abraham’s day (Gen. 14:15; 15:2). It played an important part in later times (as with Elisha and Naaman, who thought the Abana and the Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all those in Israel). Rezin of Damascus joined with Pekah of Israel to war against Judah. Under the Roman rule, Damascus became the center of the Nabatean (Arab) kingdom in 85 B.C. When Saul went there, Aretas IV ruled.

the Way - This concept of one’s life vocation is common to many religions. The O.T. has this idea, as in Psalm 1:6, Isaiah 40:3. Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22 have it also.

men or women - This helps us to see that Christianity was widespread and inclusive of both sexes.

 

On the Road to Damascus, 9:3-8a

3 Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. 4 And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 5 And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; 6 but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing;

V. 3 - a light from heaven - This singular event in Saul’s life is, without a doubt, one that revolutionized, not only his life, but the whole world forever. Yet the simple but profound truth is this: Saul had to know the facts about Jesus, accept those facts, through his obedience, in order to become Christian. While his conversion may be unique in some aspects, it is but par for the course in its basic framework. This is also mentioned in I Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:16ff.

V. 4 - The account seems to say that Saul saw the light (as did those with him, who likewise heard the sound of a voice), but only Saul heard the Lord speak so as to understand. However, 9:27 shows that Saul saw Jesus, as well as heard his voice. The question posed to Saul shows the relationship of Jesus to the Church, his body, to which Saul was doing harm inasmuch as he was persecuting people who made up the body.

V. 5 - Saul’s question may well indicate that he knew God had appeared, though the question does show that he didn’t perceive how he was a persecutor of the Lord.

 

V. 6 - We will do well to point out the human agency in Saul’s conversion, as well as the instructions for the future activities of Saul. God does his work through people. Actually, Saul’s conversion began here but was not completed until Ananias helped him obey God’s explicit commands. Another factor to consider: Saul’s being chosen by God was made manifest at this time (26:15-18) and that aspect of his life was announced by Ananias, 22:14-15, and also in Jerusalem, 22:21.

 

V. 7 - The men did hear the sound and see the light, but did not understand what was said or who was speaking.

 

 

QUESTIONS

95. Damascus was in what country?

96. How did Saul persecute Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

97. What was Saul told by Jesus?

 

 

 

 

98. What was the purpose of the appearance of Jesus to Saul?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Damascus, 9:8b-22

so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11 And the Lord said to him, "Rise, and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." 13 But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name." 15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, 19 and took food and was strengthened.

For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus saying, "He is the Son of God." 21 And all who heard him were amazed, and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on this name? And he has come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests." 22 but Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

V. 9 - Some think Saul fasted, while others believe that the lack of eating, etc., was merely from the shock and state of affairs. He did pray, v. 11. He had been told that further instructions would be forthcoming, but not from whom or at what time. As far as anyone knew, Saul was still Saul, unconverted. However, as v. 12 shows, God was dealing with him.

V. 10 - Whether Ananias was from Jerusalem, or became a disciple in Damascus (or elsewhere) we know not.

vision - The same term as in 11:5.

V. 11 - The "straight" street ran east-west, and still is used today.

rise and go - The Greek construction is like that in Luke 19:5 (make haste and come down) or in Matthew 28:19 (Go...) in that a participle is used (rise) and an imperative (go) in a way that makes both to be commands. Tarsus - The capital city of Cilicia, and a free city (all born therein were Roman citizens). It had a university which included a medical department and a prominent department of philosophy. The Stoic philosophy was taught in various places by at least six different teachers from Tarsus.

V. 12 - Saul, though not doing some other things, was having a vision from God, indicating what he might forthwith expect.

V. 13 - Note Ananias described Christians as "saints."

V. 14 - authority - The Greek word means the freedom to act, thus the right to act. It is in Matt. 28:18; John 1:12; etc. It seems to be evident that the Sanhedrin could act as the account indicates, and that Rome would back them up; even outside the geographical area of Palestine.

call upon your name - The connotation is that of giving allegiance to, under authority of, etc. See the same ideas in v. 15, 16.

Perhaps Ananias is a good example for us: how often Christians fail to see God’s plan, and refuse his direction, pitting our wisdom against his wisdom. Samuel was like this in I Sam. 16:1-2.

V. 15 - Saul’s own comments on his selection by God can be seen in Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:15. His special assignment was to Gentiles, though all people were included, Rom. 1:14-15.

V. 16 - Saul would soon feel the sufferings which Jesus promised, as a part of the body which others would persecute (as he did) in all good conscience. As he would write in Rom. 8:17-18, to suffer with Christ would result in reigning with Christ; and that sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory yet to be revealed. Part of the suffering came because he, as a Jew, would have nothing to do with Gentiles, Acts 22:21ff. Doubtless, many prejudices he had from his own background and training had to go.

V. 17 - Ananias stated two reasons for his visit: Saul’s sight and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Since nothing more is explained, we can suppose that he received the same gifts as the other apostles. The remainder of his life seems to indicate that he could do what other apostles could do.

Note that Ananias and Saul apply the word "Lord" to Jesus, indicating their understanding of who Jesus was in relationship to God and to them.

V. 18 - The substance falling from Saul’s eyes is described by Luke as being like flakes/scales. It may be supposed that the reason why Saul was sightless was these (so-called) scales. Comparison with Acts 22 will show that Saul received his sight and the filling of the Holy Spirit from Ananias, but yet had to be immersed to receive from the Lord remission of sins. This makes an instructive case study. Saul had seen Jesus, fasted and prayed after having spoken to Jesus, and yet was still in his sins (22:16).

V. 20 - This verse shows that Saul immediately preached a new message, a good example of a converted life.

 

 

V. 21 - made havoc - Saul thus describes himself in Galatians 1:13,23. The verb means "to lay waste" or "to destroy."

V. 22 - Jesus promised power (1:8) for his chosen witnesses, and Saul was a recipient of it along with the twelve. With it, he attempted to prove, by placing O.T. prophecies alongside Jesus’ life, that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course, it was only proof to those who would accept it as such. To those who would not do so, a plot was begun against Saul’s life, much as against Stephen in Acts 6.

 

confounded - Greek has the idea of confusing, bewildering or stirring up, as in 2:6; 19:32; 21:27, 31. The paradox of Saul’s conversion at first amazed the hearers, but amazement soon wore off, and a different reaction set in, to follow Saul wherever he went.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

99. Was Saul in a saved or lost condition during the three days of v. 9?

100. What was Saul doing in this three day interval?

 

101. Have you ever refused to obey God’s direct commands? Why?

 

 

102. Have you read Acts 22 and 26 to get the total picture of this incident in Saul’s life?

103. What did Ananias tell Saul?

 

 

 

 

104. Did Saul have any choice at all in doing that for which God had selected him? (Cf. Acts 26:19)

 

105. Did Saul preach that a person named Jesus of Nazareth actually existed? Or what did he preach about him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

106. How do you think Saul, before his conversion, could have been so sure of himself in regard to his relationship to God and yet so wrong?

 

In Arabia, 9:23a

23 When many days had passed,

V. 23 - Some put the incident of Galatians 1:15 here, as our outline shows.

 

 

 

Back in Damascus, 9:23b-25

the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night, to kill him; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket.

V. 23b - The continued proclamation by Saul in the city finally provoked Jewish opposition of such nature that his Christian friends intervened in his behalf, sending him away for his physical safety.

V. 24 - The Jews never gave up on attempting to get Saul, the turncoat, as is evidenced by the rest of Acts, and in the epistles. Many Jews (besides Saul of Tarsus) were zealous for the ways of Israel, and thought they ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth (26:9), even as he once did.

V. 25 - This escapade in Saul’s life was prominent in his memory, II Cor. 11:30-33, perhaps because it was not his way of doing things. He tended to run toward the crowd and trouble, not away from it. The Greek term for basket was the same term used to describe the baskets in the feeding of the 4,000, Matthew 15:37.

 

In Jerusalem, 9:26-29

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, 29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him.

V. 26 - Why Saul thought that Jerusalem would be any more safe than Damascus is of interest - it soon proved to be also unsafe. Perhaps he was constrained to return to his former center of activity to preach what he once denounced.

When Saul arrived, Luke says he attempted to join the disciples there. The Greek word has the idea of uniting, fellowship, or binding together, as in marriage.

Galatians 1:18ff. may fit here (though Paul may have another visit in mind than what Luke records). If so, then only Peter and James were seen by him.

V. 27 - Barnabas - How he knew about Saul’s conversion is unknown. That he accepted him and helped other disciples to do so is evident, regardless of how he came to his information. Note that he was aware that Saul spoke boldly in Damascus, as now he did in Jerusalem.

V. 29 - As is fairly clear, Saul was a Greek-speaking Jew, as was Stephen. Hence, he naturally gravitated to the synagogues of the Hellenists, as did Stephen in Acts 6, speaking and questioning/discussing/arguing/disputing (see this word in Mark 1:27; 8;11; 9:14; Acts 6:9; I Cor. 1;20) with them. He may well have been part of this group prior to conversion. They, probably because of inability to argue Saul down, resorted to the same general action as took place in Acts 6, by deciding to lay hands upon Saul to murder him. We note that Saul’s witness in Damascus was very strong because of all the evidence he could present to his auditors that was personal in nature. In Jerusalem, the case was much the same; both in regard to his witness and the opposition to it.

 

At Caesarea, 9:30a

30 And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea,

V. 30a - Luke’s record has Saul’s brethren sending him to Tarsus. Saul recounted in Acts 22:17ff. that he was directed by God to leave the city, even though he protested. Caesarea was the seaport for Judea.

 

In Tarsus, 9:30b

and sent him off to Tarsus.

V. 30b - Saul will remain at Tarsus until Barnabas goes to get him in Acts 11:25.

 

The Work of Peter, The Establishment of the Church in Antioch,

The Early Labors of Barnabas and Saul

9:31 - 12:25

 

 

The Work of Peter, 9:31 - 11:18,

At Jerusalem

31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied.

V. 31 - It is interesting that though the Christians were in various places throughout the area, yet the word "church" is singular. Paul will refer to the "churches of Christ in Judea" (Gal. 1:22), thus showing that one may appropriately use either designation.

was built up - the Greek term means "being built up" (i.e., edified, etc.), a term often used by Paul in his epistles. No agent is stated for the "building up" process. Perhaps the fact that they were able to maintain a state of peace, being free from outward turmoil, harassment, etc. brought about such growth. The Greek word meaning "build up" occurs in such passages as Acts 20:32; Rom. 15:20; I Cor. 8:1; 10:23; Gal. 2:18; Eph. 4:12, 16; I Thess. 5:11.

it was multiplied - Perhaps a reason for the growth of the Church (other than the effect of being built up) in edification and numbers was the fact that "fear the Lord’ and "encouragement by the Holy Spirit" were apparent among the Church members. Here is a good example for us to follow.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

107. Have you read II Cor. 11 for Saul’s (Paul) account of his escape?

108. Does the Bible tell us how Barnabas knew about the events in Saul’s conversion?

109. Who were the Hellenists?

110. Why did Saul leave Jerusalem according to our text? The text of Acts 22:17ff? Can these two records be harmonized?

 

 

 

 

 

 

111. Do we know for sure how long Saul stayed in Tarsus or what he did there?

 

 

112. Can the word "church" be either singular or plural in meaning, though the form remains unchanged? How do you know?

 

 

113. Do you walk in the "fear of the Lord" and the "comfort of the Holy Spirit" as did the early Christians?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N E L E V E N

(9:32 - 10:48)

 

 

In Lydda, 9:32-35

32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed." And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and they turned to the Lord.

V. 32 - Lydda - This city, the O.T. Lod (I Chron. 8:12; Ezra 2:33) was in the center of Jewish influence in N.T. times, and more so after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD. 70. It was between Jerusalem and the coast city of Joppa. Luke’s narrative diverts our attention from Paul to Peter and yet relates each apostle to the same point: the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Church on equal terms with the Jews.

V. 33 - Luke normally describes physical problems somewhat more in detail than others, perhaps indicating his (supposed) medical background.

 

V. 34 - Peter, at times, reflects the true Christian attitude: only in Jesus does he do anything. Aeneas is instantly healed.

V. 35 - The effect of doing things in Jesus’ name: people are given reason to trust in Christ. In Lydda and throughout the Plain of Sharon (some 30 miles long) this was the case. Of course, Philip had previously preached in this general area, 8:40.

 

In Joppa, 9:36-43

36 Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, "Please come to us without delay." 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, rise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

V. 36 - Joppa was the seaport most used by people in Jerusalem. It was on the southern edge of the Plain of Sharon, with Caesarea on the northern edge. It is modern Jaffa.

Tabitha is Aramic (Hebrew) and Dorcas is Greek. Her life was characterized by concern for others in certain ways (even as ours can and should be). She, like Jesus, did good (note Gal. 6:7-10).

V. 37 - Burial customs varied, but generally the person was prepared and interred on the same day as the death.

V. 38 - Note how wide spread the Church was and how well-known the power of the apostle (though the text doesn’t say why they called for Peter). Lydda was about 9-10 miles southeast of Joppa.

V. 39 - Luke paints a vivid picture of the many whose lives had been touched by Dorcas. She made all kinds of clothing, both outer and inner garments, which was the customary designation for clothing in that time. Wonder how people will react when we die and what they will remember about us? Will our (good) works follow us (Rev. 14:13)?

V. 40 - Peter’s reaction was much like that of Jesus when Jairus’ daughter was healed (Matt. 9; Mark 5; Luke 8). The healing was just as complete as all others. In the O.T., Elijah prayed before raising the son of the widow of Zarephath; and Elisha for the Shunammite’s son (I Kings 17; II Kings 4).

V. 42 - Same cause - same effect as before. The miracle was a means to evangelization and preaching of the Word. Notice the designation of the word "saint" to the brethren in Joppa.

V. 43 - One interesting thing is that Peter would live with a person who engaged in such business as dealing with things dead.

many days - the same as describes Paul’s stay in Damascus, V. 23; and in 8:11; 27:7.

 

In Caesarea, 10:1-48

10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius." 4 And he stared at him in terror, and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and bring one Simon who is called Peter; 6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside." 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those that waited on him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

9 The next day, as they were on their journey and coming near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heaven opened, and something descending, like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14 But Peter said, "No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common." 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood before the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them." 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, "I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?" 22 And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house, and to hear what you have to say." 23 So he called them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went off with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his kinsmen and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshipped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered; 28 and he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me."

30 And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, 31 saying, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the seaside.’ 33 So I sent to you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."

34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

44 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on even the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 "Can any one forbid water baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

V. 1 - Caesarea is near the north end of the Plain of Sharon, some thirty miles north of Joppa, and some 23 miles south of Mt. Carmel. Caesarea was named by Herod the Great in honor of Augustus Caesar. Herod had an extensive rebuilding program in Caesarea. It was a popular city for Romans, most of the procurators making it their official home.

Cornelius was apparently doing most of the things that would make him acceptable to a Jew, yet was clearly regarded as outside the Jewish circle of acceptance, which, of course, sets the stage for the reaction of Peter, then of those brethren with him, the Jewish church at large as well as the Gentile world. Coupled with Paul’s call and commission to go to the Gentiles, this incident helps us see how universal in nature the church is.

V. 3 - Luke’s account seems to say that the supernatural vision of an angel was just that, and not the actual presence of an angel. However, v. 34 clarifies this verse with the statement of Cornelius. God answered his prayers through a human agent, Peter.

V. 4 - Cornelius may or may not have said, "lord". He may have thought (and said) "Sir." The Greek term could be used either way.

memorial - the Greek term was used in reference to the oblation/offering of frankincense that the Hebrews offered to God. Jesus used it to describe Mary’s offering of ointment (Matt. 26:13; Mark 14:9). The word for "alms" can be seen in Matt. 6:2; Acts 3:2.

V. 6 - Peter was still in Joppa after many days as a guest of Simon. Some of his Jewish training about unclean things (Lev. 11; Num. 19) was seemingly being ignored. However, his reaction to the Lord’s command brings out the fact that he still felt that he was still under those restrictions.

V. 8 - related - The basic Greek word has the idea of explain, or exegete. Cornelius surely felt complete confidence in what he had experienced; and acted as any other good soldier would with an order.

V. 9 - Housetops were ordinarily flat, and were thus utilized for many things of family life, such as sleeping, etc. Note here Deut. 22:8.

V. 10 - Peter must have intended only to pray a little while, since it was noon, and the meal was being prepared. It was an appropriate time for such a vision.

 

a trance - The Greek term is not the word used for vision in v. 3. However, the same word in v. 3 is used in v. 17 to describe the experience. Paul had a like experience in 22:17. The verb form is often translated as "amazed" in the Gospels. See also Acts 3:10.

V. 12 - The sheet obviously contained food not kosher for Jews. See here Matt. 15:1ff; Mark 7:1ff; I Tim. 4:1-5. But Peter (and all Jews had to unlearn what was ingrained and as natural as breathing. Fish are not represented, although some were unclean (like catfish).

V. 14 - Peter is a good example to consider: one’s knowledge may exceed one’s will to do. A person may be emotionally unable to do what is perfectly permissible, etc. Luke records that when Jesus appeared to the people in the upper room, they "disbelieved for joy," Luke 24:41.

V. 15 - The command was plain: quit calling unclean what God has declared clean.

V. 17 - Peter really was perplexed, which indicated that one’s awareness of facts and/or commands may not be equal to understanding of said facts.

V. 19 - Peter was really considering what the vision meant. The Holy Spirit had to command him not to doubt or question what was about to happen, and to make it plain that the whole affair had been arranged by God.

V. 20 - Another construction of a Greek participle (arise) with an imperative (go down) with the participle taking on an imperative meaning, as in Matthew 28:19.

V. 22 - Note that Peter is to have "words to say" to Cornelius. Hence, what Jesus promised to Peter (and the apostles) about the direction of the Holy Spirit when they spoke will be true in v. 34ff. We also need to be aware that Cornelius, like Saul of Tarsus, was in many ways very godlike, but yet quite lost in sin. Furthermore, each man heard God’s plan through a human agent. Not even an "experience" would or could make him saved.

V. 24 - The fourth day Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, who was expecting him.

 

V. 25 - While Jesus accepted worship from people (Matt. 8:2; Luke 5:8), Peter knew better than to do so. Most Jews, however, would have reveled in the action of Cornelius, considering that it was but their just due.

V. 28 - The point Peter had to learn was that it was not unlawful now for a Jew to fellowship with a Gentile. God had wiped away the distinctions inherent within the O.T. law system. Moreover, as his speech will reveal, the common denominator of faith will make of the "two one flesh," Ephesians 2:14-18. The same lesson is taught many places in the N.T., such as Rom. 3:27-31; Gal. 3:26-29 etc. The fact is, that God had always honored faith, in whomsoever it was, as is indicated by Jesus in Luke 4:16ff. See also Matthew 15:21-28. By grace through faith was always true, and was now being presented in its intended application.

 

V. 29 - Peter has come a long way in his knowledge. He will have trouble always being consistent in application (Gal. 2), however, since he was like we are at times. It is only fair to say, though, that Jesus’ ministry was basically to the Jews only. His disciples would rather easily interpret his commands about evangelization of the whole world in this light. God now moves in a clear and convincing way to help Peter (and others) see clearly the scope of the great commission.

V. 33 - Cornelius stands ready to receive whatever Peter will say, because he is thus minded. He was like so many others who longed for a word from God, as is evident by the great numbers who turned to the Lord.

V. 34 - The truth that Peter discovered had always been so - God never acted unjustly (i.e., respected) anyone over others. Even the choosing of the Jewish race was for a purpose: through it, God would bring the Messiah into the world. However, that didn’t preclude the fact that the Jews could, through lack of obedience of faith, become as a non-Jew, and vice-versa (see Rom. 2:25-29). Paul used the same word in Rom. 2:11 (also Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25) that Peter uses to describe the essential character of God: He is not a respecter of any person. Romans 11:32 declares that God declared all to be sinners, so that He might have mercy upon all. What the Jews needed to learn was what Peter was learning: that they, although blessed in many ways (Rom. 9:1-5), did not have any special place in God’s eyes in regard to salvation.

V. 35 - Note: the person acceptable to God is characterized by two things, 1) maintains a proper relationship with God (i.e., fear) which effectually allows him to be unafraid of God, and

2) habitually does righteousness (note righteousness comes from God, but it can also be done). The simple fact is: a Gentile does not need to become a Jew to become a Christian and a Jew is not helped at all by his Jewishness.

V. 36- Peter related that it had always been God’s plan to save men, any men, who would trust in Christ; the Lord of everyone (not just Jews). The message preached was of peace (i.e., "whole" relationship with God) by means of Jesus’ sacrifice (a reconciled relationship to God of those who were enemies of God). Don’t overlook this most important word: peace (shalom). Be alert to the fact that the recorded messages of Jesus do not mention this word, but the intended result of the preaching He did was to restore what was missing: peace (with God). Read Luke 19:41-44. It is good to meditate upon the character of a God who loved, not hated, his creation so much that he sent his only son to die for that creation!

V. 37 - The public proclamation of the word was marked from John’s ministry, who was the forerunner of Jesus.

V. 38 - Peter affirmed that God anointed Jesus in two special ways: with power and the Holy Spirit. Of course, the name Christ means "anointed," but this seems to indicate special things from God.

It is of interest that Peter stated that Jesus healed those oppressed by Satan, even though we are not told specifically that everyone Jesus healed was in need of healing because Satan was oppressing them. It seems doubtful if Peter meant that those whom Jesus did not heal but who needed healing were not oppressed by the devil. The most probable point is this: Jesus’ ministry gave evidence not only of the total import (he did good, not bad - see Mark 3:4), but also that God was evidently working in his ministry.

V. 39 - Witnesses to the aforementioned facts were the apostles. This is an important point in relationship to the 120 who, some say, were equally blessed at Pentecost with the apostles.

V. 40 - The contrast: Jews vs. God. Indeed, the Jews were Jesus’ own people (John 1:11), but not in respect to God’s eternal plan for redemption. As stated above in v. 34, 35, God had no "favorites" in regard to who could be saved, for faith made all men equal (i.e. anyone who believed could be redeemed). Faith produces a certain type or character that makes said person pleasing to God. In this matter, God rewards/respects not persons per se, but the character of persons.

V. 41 - To make the historical facts more credible, Peter gives testimony of his personal knowledge about the resurrected Jesus: he was not a ghost or hallucination. The accounts in Luke 24 and John 21 are corroborated by Peter (the disciples ate and drank in company with Jesus). They were the best prepared to give witness to Jesus’ resurrection, since they knew him too well to be easily deceived by an impostor.

V. 42 - As shown in 2:23, God had specifically confirmed that Jesus was the Christ by various means, with enough evidence to convince the honest inquirer. Another important facet of Jesus: He was designated to be the judge. Hence, one needs to make peace before the judge is faced.

V. 43 - The emphasis is like Romans 3:22; and John 20:30-31. Note that the Greek carries the idea of a life of faith, habitually, constantly, the normal state of affairs.

Perhaps the ironical note is that the Jews had, as a group, missed the prophets’ message about Jesus. Peter will reiterate this very point in I Peter 1:10-12, and mentioned it to those in the temple in ch. 3:18ff., and stated the same idea in 4:11-12, especially in regard to forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name only.

V. 44 - The Samaritans, another group rejected by the Jews, received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8), which helped show that God had accepted them. God used Peter and John there to show his approval.

Apparently the descent of the Holy Spirit interrupted Peter’s speech. The obvious reason, as Peter showed in chapter 11, was to make clear to all, Jews and Gentiles alike, that the principle stated in v. 34, 35 was true. We need to realize the ages-old bigotry of each race, and to what lengths God went to break down the wall of partition. Peter, after the command to not call unclean what God had cleansed, saw the application of that principle in respect to the Gentile household of Cornelius, and now saw God verify the fact.

V. 46 - God had taken special pains to aid the apostles at Pentecost to preach the truth, and the Holy Spirit was the means whereby that was done. Now for the sake of multitudes who did not know the truth about the plan of redemption (i.e., that it was for the whole world), God again used the Holy Spirit to announce in all its splendor: salvation is for Gentiles also.

The languages in which the people were speaking were obviously understood by Peter and his Jewish brethren, or they could not have known that God was being exalted and magnified (the Greek means to make large or make long - so to magnify, exalt, praise, etc.).

V. 47 - The question seems almost superfluous, but in light of the reaction in chapter 11, it was quite appropriate. The fact was clear to those present: Gentiles had received the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews. Hence, all were equal in the way of salvation.

V. 48 - The clear fact: the Gentiles had faith in Jesus, plus the evident acceptance of God - so, the next imperative was immersion, even as was so with Saul of Tarsus (though Christ had appeared to

him personally!). We anticipate the discussion in

11:15 by remarking that the apostles at Pentecost and Cornelius’ household were the only two groups ever said to be immersed in the Holy Spirit, in each case for a specific purpose, and in each case not for the remission of sins. Forgiveness of sins is obtained by faith in Christ (v. 43), not any other way. It is the

message of Christ preached, believed and obeyed that procures salvation.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

114. Is Cornelius an example of a good man who was lost and needed to be saved?

 

 

115. Do the statements of Romans 10:17; I Cor. 1:18; 15:1-4 corroborate what the angel told Cornelius in ch. 11:14?

 

 

 

 

116. What was the common point of reference in the call and commission of Paul and the experience of Peter with Cornelius?

 

117. How could Peter have been a Christian but yet thought that Jewish dietary laws were still binding?

 

 

 

 

 

 

118. Is Cornelius’ character somewhat like that of other centurions mentioned in the N.T.? (cf. Matt. 8; Luke 23; Acts 27.)

 

 

 

 

119. In what way(s) is God a respecter of persons? In what way(s) is he not a respecter of persons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

120. Who is able to receive forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name according to Peter?

 

 

121. To whom did God choose Jesus to appear as a resurrected Savior, according to Peter?

 

122. Is Jesus both a Savior and a judge, according to Peter?

123. Where in the N.T. are we told that having an experience indicates a person has salvation? Do all people have to hear, believe, and obey, or are some exempt from such?

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson Twelve

(11:1-30)

 

 

In Jerusalem, 11:1-18

11 Now the apostles and the brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, 3 saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" 4 But Peter began and explained to them in order: 5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something descending, like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘No, Lord: for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them making no distinction. These six brethren also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" 18 When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life."

V. 1 - It would not take very long for the news about Cornelius to travel to Jerusalem - so Peter was soon back in Jerusalem to give a reason for his departure from Jewish norms. The Jerusalem church was still zealous for Jewish customs many years later, Acts 21:20ff.

V. 2 - The group is not identified, anymore than those of Acts 15 or elsewhere. Indeed, in the light of this episode, Peter had not perceived the real truth about Christianity.

An added thought: it is evident that Peter was not considered infallible in his actions or understanding. In passing, we should consider that Luke records this incident twice, showing how much this new revelation meant to them and to us.

V. 3 - The objection implied in their question concerned Peter’s eating with Gentiles - whether they included all of what Peter did under that particular point is guesswork. However, Peter’s answer may indicate how he understood their question. As Ch. 15 indicates, he understood that the truth he saw did away with any O.T. law being binding for Christians.

V. 5 - The Greek text shows that Peter was in a "trance" and saw a "vision". This shows what was also clear from Ch. 10: The experience of Cornelius and that of Peter were essentially the same in nature.

V. 12 - Peter was clearly commanded to make "no distinction" between Jews and Gentiles, and had six witnesses to back up his story. The word for "distinction" can be seen in 15;9; Romans 4:20; I Cor. 14:29; James 1:6; Jude v.22. It could be translated, "nothing doubting".

V. 14 - Cornelius had said (v.10:33) that he wanted to hear whatever God had commanded Peter. In Peter’s retelling, what he "had been commanded" was in words. Thus the nature of the Gospel message: faith comes only by and through a revelation in words. Faith does not come apart from a messenger of some type (spoken or written), and acceptance of that message. Hence, Christianity is a message of fact(s), addressed to the rational mind, to be received through trust in the essential reliability of the facts in that message. Some of the facts are of a historical nature - others are grounded in the nature of God as being true. Therefore, though the historical facts have ample evidence for acceptance, the believer must always rely upon God to be true to his word - so one always lives by faith, not sight.

It may be observed in passing that the basic nature of Peter’s message, i.e., that a person must hear and will to trust, precludes an infant’s being saved until such time as said infant can hear, understand, decide to obey.

V. 15 - The question to be resolved here: what does Peter mean by "just as" in his explanation? The Greek term means similar to, like, etc. It is further identified in v. 16 as "baptism" such as promised by Jesus to the apostles, and in v. 17 as "the same gift" as given to those "who believed in the Lord Jesus."

Now, what do we have? The issue is again that of the Gentiles being acceptable to God as joint-recipients of the gospel. The Holy Spirit was clearly the indicator that God was at work, that what was happening was divine, not human. Peter then argues that God’s gift to both Gentiles and Jews makes of the two one, thus eliminating any prior differences, and also makes Christianity distinct from Judaism.

V. 17 - Peter had simply recited the facts of the matter, not even bothering to argue what they meant, since the meaning was clear to anyone who honestly considered said facts. As with Peter, who wanted to withstand God?

V. 18 - With such a presentation, the Jerusalemites could do nothing other than be quiet about the matter, and praise God for what was done. It is a good example for us to follow: if God has spoken, we must believe that his wisdom is best, and rejoice in it.

repentance unto life - This is the crucial point to remember: many things are important to salvation, but none equal the privilege of changing one’s mind and obeying God’s commandments which lead to life.

 

QUESTIONS

 

124. Do you wonder why the apostles in Jerusalem didn’t defend Peter for his actions?

 

 

 

 

125. Did Peter argue the case or just recite the event?

 

 

 

 

126. Why was this event so important that Luke would give it to us twice?

 

127. What did the Spirit tell Peter in v. 12?

 

 

 

 

128. Why did God grant the Gentiles repentance unto life rather than faith unto life?

 

 

 

The Establishment of the Church in Antioch, 11:19-21

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord.

V. 19 - This verse refers back to 8:4. Luke has recounted part of the events following 8:4 in the life of Saul and Peter. Now the story of others is briefly given. Think what a history book could have been written if each history had been written down, and each incident doubtless was interesting in its own right. Hence, that which Luke (and other Bible authors) does record should be of utmost interest and importance.

V. 20 - Luke may indicate that others were beginning to catch a clearer understanding of the nature of the gospel message, though with no such cultural implications as in Peter’s case. Note to whom the word was not spoken: Gentiles. It will take a long time for the "truth" to be perceived.

It is interesting, though how much it may mean is debatable, that the preaching done was about Jesus being "Lord" not "Christ". Some argue that "Christ/Messiah" was not relevant to Greeks, but only to Jews. However, the epistles all use the term "Christ" and most were written to Gentiles. It seems best to take "Lord Jesus" as being simply a term equal to Jesus Christ.

V. 21 - It may well be that some of those who were Jews in Antioch felt that preaching to Gentiles was fine, but only by total submission to the law (as in Acts 15) was salvation possible. Maybe others would accept Gentiles as Christians, but maintain a stand off policy insofar as social fellowship, was concerned. At any rate, some Hellenists (as in Acts 6) were turning (cf. 3:19; also note 11:18 -repentance is a change of mind, a "turning") to God/the Lord.

 

The Early Labors of Barnabas and Saul, 11:22 - 12:25

 

 

In Jerusalem, 11:22

22 News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

V. 22 - The choice of Joseph (Barnabas) was quite appropriate - he was not a Jerusalem Jew and thus might well have more empathy for Hellenistic converts than others might. Note also v. 24. For a land without any of the modern means of communication, news traveled fast, didn’t it?

 

At Antioch, 11:23, 24

23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord.

V. 23 - The work of Barnabas was to encourage the believers to keep abiding in Christ, and this he kept doing. Is it not interesting that God’s grace can be seen? Note that grace also teaches (Tit. 2:11) and is given (Eph. 3:8) and can be grown in (II Peter 3:18). There is a play on words in this verse, as the Greek root for "grace" and "was glad" is the same.

 

steadfast purpose - Christianity is not only a beginning in Jesus, it is also a continuing in Jesus. It is quite possible - indeed, truthful and necessary - to be "once saved, always saved" - though not in the sense theses words are normally used.

 

At Tarsus, 11:25, 26a

25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people;

V. 25 - Remember that Saul was probably a Jew who spoke Greek, and thus would be helpful in the work among Greek-speaking people. Of course, Barnabas knew that Saul’s mission was to the Gentiles. With the work enlarging in Antioch, he was a natural for the task of helping the Hellenists as well as Jews who yet had trouble with the law versus Christianity.

V. 26 - The name "Christian" is a very common formation like many other Latin words that were formed in that era, although the word itself is Greek. It is not strange that a distinct term should come into being to designate those who were not Jews, and not Gentiles (in the religious sense). Since so many had become believers in Antioch (which was a large and important city in that time), it seems only natural that the name should come into being. The word "Christian" only occurs twice more (26:28 and I Peter 4:16) in the N.T., although it was common in other religious literature of the days following the first century. It is pertinent to remark that Saul "taught" for a year. He did not always "evangelize" in the narrow sense that word is often used.

 

 

 

 

 

In Antioch, 11:26b-30

and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. 29 And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; 30 and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

V.27 - Prophets were quite evident in the early Church, as is seen in Ephesians 4:11, etc. Their function is not clearly spelled out, though from this text, Acts 21:11; etc., it can be seen that they stood in the same general category as those before them: revealers of God’s message to people. It is somewhat a travesty on the word to use it today to apply to preachers.

V. 28 - The days of Claudius - Approximately A.D. 44-48. Claudius ruled as emperor of Rome from A.D. 41-54.

V. 29 - The Greek text might be translated: "as anyone was well off (or able to do so), such people determined to minister (be a servant/deacon) to the brethren in Jerusalem."

V. 30 - The offering was sent to Jerusalem, and the elders of the church in Jerusalem are specifically identified as those who received it. The church had progressed in growth to the point that men within it were qualified to be elders. Hence, as is taught elsewhere, the elders ministered to the church, even though apostles were present. In Ch. 15, the elders play just as important a part as the apostles. In the epistles, elders are considered as the leaders in the local church. The apostles had a task to do, and did it, but that task was not to oversee the local assemblies when men qualified to be elders were within the group. Such men were chosen and were held accountable for the local group under them. Paul will later take another offering to the brethren in Judea, Acts 21.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

129. Some years have passed since the foundation of the church in Acts 2. Why do you suppose the preaching was to Jews (or Hellenists) and not bona fide Gentiles?

 

 

 

 

130. What figure of speech is found in 11:22?

 

 

131. How does one "see" the grace of God?

 

 

 

132. Can a person maintain a right relationship to the Lord and so be "once saved, always saved"?

 

 

 

133. What did Saul and Barnabas do in Antioch and for how long? (Did Saul/Paul recommend something of this nature in II Tim. 2:2)?

 

 

 

 

134. If the famine predicted by Agabus was to be over the whole world, why did the disciples in Antioch decide to help the brethren in Judea?

 

 

 

 

135. To whom was the offering sent? Who were the ones who took it?

 

 

 

136. Does the sending of the help indicate a realization that brethren whoever, wherever, were members of the same body, so that if one member suffered, all members suffered?

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T H I R T E E N

(12:1-25)

 

 

At Jerusalem, 12:1-24

12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword; 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

6 The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; 7 and behold an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, "Dress yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your mantle around you and follow me." 9 And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. 11 And Peter came to himself, and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, "You are mad." But she insisted that is was so. They said, "It is his angel!" 16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Tell this to James and to the brethren." Then he departed and went to another place.

18 Now when the day came, there was no small stir among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And when Herod had sought for him and could not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and remained there.

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and they came to him in a body, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and made an oration to them. 22 And the people shouted, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because he did not give God the glory; and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

Herod the king - This is a grandson of Herod the Great (Matt. 2). He is Herod Agrippa I, whose father (Aristobulus) was murdered by his grandfather. He was educated in Rome, and was a friend of the Roman emperor of Caligula, and then of Claudius. At this time, A.D. 44, he was king over all of Palestine.

Agrippa I made every attempt to curry favor with the Jewish populace in Palestine - so it is no wonder that the events of our text happened.

V. 2 - James the brother of John - a political casualty, the first of many to follow. Josephus, the Jewish historian, makes mention of this event. Most of the persecution has heretofore been from religious people. Now religion and politics conspire. As far as James is concerned, his death because of his faith was like many others before his time (e.g., the Jews in the Maccabean period) and many Christians later. Perhaps he understood much better what it meant to follow Jesus. He said in an earlier context (Matt. 20) that "He was able." Indeed he was.

V. 3 - the days of Unleavened Bread - the Jewish Passover in the spring, the beginning of the Jewish religious year. A great many Jews would be in Jerusalem from all parts of the world. The rulers of Rome had gotten progressively worse, and there was much unrest among the Jews. Hence, the action doubtless was meant to alleviate some of the unrest.

V. 4 - Just why Herod did not go ahead and kill Peter is anybody’s guess - perhaps it was because he thought it might disrupt the religious rites which he pretended to observe. The precaution of assigning 16 men to guard him probably was taken because of Peter’s previous escape (5:19) as well as the importance of Peter.

V. 5 - The church reacted in prayer, because of the seriousness of the situation. It is possible that they may have anticipated a growing persecution, as that over Stephen. It may have been true that most of the apostles were gone from Jerusalem - thus leadership was at a premium. Because of these or other reasons, prayer was made earnestly in Peter’s behalf. Just how they prayed is difficult to say; either they did not expect his release the way it happened or some thing else unknown to us.

V. 7 - Regardless of the situation, Peter could find rest! The angel suddenly appeared though, and his sleeping was interrupted, while the guards lost not a bit of sleep, which will cost them their lives. Thus is the will of God: just, but sometimes not fathomed by mortals.

V. 8 - mantle - the outer garment - and valuable. The soldiers gambled for Jesus’ inner garment, John 19.

 

V. 9 - a vision - as he had in chapter 10.

V. 10 - The Greek word that describes the opening of the prison doors is our "automatic" (of their own accord). Evidently two men were with Peter, while two others guarded the doors leading to his cell.

V. 11 - Note that Peter does not identify himself with the "Jewish" people. He knew that they, as a group, were against him. Having realized that God had indeed delivered him again from jail, he went to a place where he could doubtless expect a friendly reception.

V. 12 - Mark was better known than his mother. The Biblical information about him is found in the following texts (assuming the same person is in mind each time): 13:5-13; 15:37-41; Colossians 4:10; II Tim. 4:11; Philemon v. 24; I Peter 5:13. Church traditions have spoken of Mark and Peter as friends, and Mark was probably the author of the Gospel which is sometimes said to be a reflection of the gospel Peter preached.

V. 14 - Peter knocked at the outside gate that led to the house.

V. 15 - You are mad - Festus used the same word to describe Paul, 26:24. Those whose words were spoken in languages not understood would be said to be mad, I Cor. 14:23. Some affirmed this of Jesus, John 10:20. Hence, it accuses one of asserting what is unbelievable, untrue. So much is the case with Rhoda that they assert it is not Peter, but his angel - somewhat of an absurd idea in view of their prayers!?! Yet, even most Christians pray in somewhat the same manner: believing while doubting. Perhaps this state of affairs exists because we know that God may choose, rightly, not to answer our prayer, because He knows best, and the best is to say no.

We should consider the fact that the angels had played important parts in past times as God dealt with his people. It is interesting, though, that they think an angel would look and sound like Peter.

V. 17 - James was a leader in the Jerusalem church, Acts 15; Gal. 2. Other than the glimpse in ch. 15 and Gal. 2, Peter disappeared from our history. His two epistles, however, indicate that he continued to serve the church, both as an apostle and an elder, unto an old age. Whether he remained in or about Jerusalem is unknown except for the above texts. There is some indication in I Cor. 9:5 that he went on preaching tours (perhaps Gal. 2 is one of those times).

V. 18 - Herod probably believed that God had intervened, but figured that such a story would not be acceptable to the Jews, and thus put the blame on the men.

V. 19 - As before noted, the official residence of the Roman governors was Caesarea - it was also true of the Jewish hierarchy, though Herod generally made his home in Jerusalem, in an effort to be acceptable to the Jews. Note the common (and accurate) description of the relationship of cities to Jerusalem: Caesarea was "down" in elevation from Judea (i.e., Jerusalem).

V. 20 - Blastus was Herod’s personal valet. Herod had no authority over Tyre and Sidon. They were commercially oriented cities, and so in need of the economic advantages that could be obtained through Herod. Hence, they made efforts to end the embargo imposed upon them.

V. 21 - The occasion seems to have been a festival in honor of the Emperor Claudius, whose birthday was being observed. Josephus says Herod wore a robe of silver tissue.

V. 22 - The reaction of the people (they kept saying it) was what most heathen people do. The only thing that was evidently wrong was that Herod knew better than to accept such praise. Josephus recorded the death of Herod, but attributes it to something other than God’s righteous judgment (which, of course, he would not know about).

V. 24 - This is the third time that Luke reported the church’s progress (6:7; 9:31) in relationship to some significant event. Perhaps a part of the reason for the growth was that the people, in general, knew what had happened with James and Peter, and that knowledge motivated them to turn to the Lord.

 

Back to Antioch, 12:25

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, bringing with them John whose other name was Mark.

V. 25 - Having been sent with material aid from the Antioch brethren to those in Jerusalem who were affected by the famine (11:27-30), the two men, Saul and Joseph/Barnabas, returned from this service unto Antioch. Certainly it is an evidence of the care of brethren, many Gentiles among them, for other brethren not so fortunate. It is a good example to follow, and often a matter of scripture injunction, both O.T. and N.T. (as in Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19-22; Ruth 2:2-16; Matt. 12:1-8; Luke 6:38; Gal. 2:10; etc.). Paul will later bring another offering to the same people, Acts 21; Romans 15:29-31; II Cor. 8,9.

 

 

QUESTIONS

137. Herod Agrippa I died in the year A.D. 44 - how long was it after the events in Acts 2?

138. What season of the year is the feast of unleavened bread?

139. How many soldiers (in total) were to guard Peter?

140. Was Peter much different in his initial reaction to the coming of the Lord’s angel than was Rhoda or those in Mary’s house to Peter’s appearance?

 

 

141. What supposed relationship existed between Peter and John Mark in later years?

 

 

142. Which James does Peter have in mind in v. 17?

 

143. For what reason(s) do you think Herod had the 16 men killed? (What would you have done in his place?)

 

 

 

 

144. Locate Tyre and Sidon. Why were they somewhat dependent upon Herod’s favor?

 

 

145. Was it an uncommon thing in that day for people to worship men as gods? Is it today?

 

146. Why did Barnabas and Saul go to Jerusalem?

 

 

SPECIAL STUDY ON BAPTISM

 

Taken from Baptism: A Biblical Study

by Jack Cottrell

Material reprinted with permission from College Press Publishing Co.,

Joplin, MO 64802

 

 

Dr. Jack Cottrell is Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Bible Seminary,

Cincinnati, OH

 

ACTS 2:38,39 (I)

 

Probably the clearest - and probably for that reason the most controversial - passage concerning the meaning of baptism is Acts 2:38,39, "And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.’ " This passage is important because it describes the function of Christian baptism at the point of its very inauguration on the day of Pentecost. It is part of the apostolic instruction to sinners who are asking how they might be rid of their sin and guilt. It states quite clearly that baptism is the focal point of God’s promise of forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit.

 

The Messianic Outpouring of the Spirit

On the Jewish calendar the events of Acts 2 occurred on the day of Pentecost. To the Christian community the day is significant because it was the birthday of the church. On a deeper level still, it was the formal and historical point of transition from the Old Covenant age to the New Covenant age, the actual foundation for which had already been laid in the death and resurrection of Christ.

The central event marking the inauguration of the new age was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Of course the Holy Spirit was present and working among the saints of God in Old Testament times, but both the prophets and the Gospel promised a new and special presence of the spirit as part of the Messianic hope. Isaiah 44:3 says, " ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.’ " Joel 2:28 says, " ‘And it will come about after this that I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind.’ " Ezekiel 36:27 puts it thus: " ‘And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes.’ " John the Baptist promised that the Spirit would be given to believers as an indwelling presence (Luke 11:13; John 7:37-39). At His ascension He renewed this promise, as recorded in Acts 1:4-8. He told His apostles to "wait for what the Father had promised."

The activities recorded in Acts 2:1-4 are the initial fulfillment of these promises. The outward, miraculous manifestations were not the main point of Pentecost, but only the signs or evidence that the invisible, inner presence of the Spirit was now available for the first time. The miracles - especially the speaking with "other tongues" (Acts 2:4) succeeded in their purpose of gaining the attention of the crowd and disposing them toward the message Peter was to deliver. The people asked in amazement, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:12). Peter proceeded to explain what it meant. This is the outpouring of the Spirit promised by Joel, he said. It is one of the primary blessings of the accomplished work of Jesus the Messiah. You crucified Him, said Peter to the Jews assembled there, but God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand. "And having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear" (Acts 2:33). For this Jesus whom you crucified has been exalted as your Lord and Christ (Acts 2:15-36).

The audience that heard Peter’s sermon was a large group of devout Jews who worshipped God according to the Old Covenant relation. No doubt many of them had encountered Jesus and rejected Him, thinking they were defending Jahweh’s honor. What they heard from Peter, as confirmed by the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, shook them to the very foundations of their faith. Jesus, whom they had sent to His death, was their God- the exalted Messiah! From His heavenly throne, as the inaugural expression of His Lordship, He had sent forth the long awaited Holy Spirit! When this realization dawned upon them, they sensed themselves as sinners exposed to the wrath of God. "They were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ " (Acts 2:37).

"What shall we do" about what? About the burden of their sin and guilt. What could they do to be free of this burden? Here is a primary example of the point made earlier while discussing Matthew 28, that even the most faithful Jews, when confronted with the new revelation of the Gospel of Christ, became lost sinners unless and until they accepted Jesus as their Savior and Messiah. Peter’s audience now felt this state of lostness and cried out for help. "What shall we do" to be saved?

Peter’s statement concerning baptism in Acts 2:38,39 must be understood against this background. Baptism is at the very heart of his answer to the question about what must be done to be free from sin and guilt.

 

The Gospel Offer

Peter’s reply to the sinner’s question may be analyzed in two parts: first, the nature of the salvation offered; and second, the conditions for receiving it.

The Gospel offer made here in Acts 2:38 is a classic representation of the "double cure" referred to in the song "Rock of Ages," viz., "Be of sin the double cure; save me from its guilt and power." An alternative version says, "Save from wrath and make me pure." This double cure is God’s answer to the "double trouble" sinners bring upon themselves through their sin.

The first and most immediately pressing problem caused by sin is guilt. The sinner has broken God’s law and thus has incurred its penalty. He stands under the constant condemnation of the wrath of God. This is an objective problem, a problem of wrong relationships with God and with His law. God’s solution to man’s guilt is the death of Christ, in which He took our sin with its guilt upon Himself, paying its penalty through His own suffering. As a result God is able to offer the sinner full pardon for his sin, full remission, complete justification, complete liberation from the fear of condemnation and hell.

This is "the forgiveness of your sins" that Peter offers in Acts 2:38, and it is no doubt what his Jewish audience was inquiring about. Forgiveness itself is not a new blessing of the Messianic age, but was enjoyed by all believers in the pre-Christian era also. The newness is that now it is offered only "in the name of Jesus Christ" since His death and resurrection are the events that make it possible in the first place. In any case Peter’s offer included first of all what was most wanted and most needed by his audience.

The second part of the double trouble is not as readily perceived and understood as the first. It is the effect that sin has on the soul itself. It can be described as sinfulness, depravity, spiritual weakness, spiritual sickness, even spiritual death. The vitiating effects of sin permeate the soul just as the ravages of disease permeate the body; they make the soul weak in the face of temptation and inclined to sin more and more. In other words, sin affects not just our relationship to God and His law; it also affects us personally. Our very nature is corrupted.

The Gospel offer to sinners in the Christian era includes a divine cure for this disease of the soul. It is the new birth or regeneration, as discussed earlier in connection with John 3:3-5. As noted there, this was not made available to sinners in the Old Testament era. Though they were provided with some resources to combat the power of sin, still they were not given the gift of rebirth. This is one of the principal new blessings of the Messianic age and one of the main aspects of the Gospel offer. Thus the Jews who asked "Brethren, what shall we do?" probably were not even aware of this side of the sin problem and thus were not asking about any solution to it. So when Peter’s offer included the words, "and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," this was an unexpected bonus! For "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the person and presence of the Spirit Himself, who will enter the receptive sinner’s heart in order to regenerate him and will remain there in order to give him strength to overcome sin day by day. The offer of the Holy Spirit is the offer of regeneration.

This was Peter’s ultimate explanation of the tongues and other phenomena recorded in Acts 2:1-4 and about which the audience originally asked, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:12). What this means, says Peter, is that God through Christ has now poured out the promised Spirit. And what it means for you is that, if you will repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of your sins, you will receive this very Holy Spirit as a gift. For the promised Spirit is for you (Acts 2:39; the word order makes the "you" emphatic).

 

The Conditions

As is the case in Mark 16:16, the Gospel offer in Acts 2:38 is conditional. A large segment of conservative Protestantism teaches that God’s gracious salvation is completely unconditional, but this view is based on a faulty view of divine sovereignty and some questionable exegesis. Scripture clearly connects the sinner’s reception of salvation with his meeting of certain basic conditions. In Mark 16:16 faith and baptism are specified; here in Acts 2:38 repentance and baptism are specifically mentioned.

When his Jewish brethren asked "What shall we do?" Peter’s first instruction was that they should repent. Repentance as a condition for salvation is not a controversial point, even among those who like to emphasize "faith alone." It is generally recognized that the faith which God requires for salvation cannot really exist without repentance. The latter is basically an attitude toward sin. It is a hatred of sin in general and especially a hatred of the sin in one’s own life; it is a determination and commitment to be rid of all sin as quickly as possible. Since the holy God Himself hates sin, one cannot truly believe in Him without sharing this hatred. Since Christ’s very purpose and work was to oppose and conquer sin in all its forces and forms, and since His very blood was shed to accomplish this, one cannot truly believe in Christ without hating the sin which caused His suffering. Thus even in passages where it is not specified (as in Acts 16:31), it is understood that repentance is the Siamese twin or silent partner of faith.

In Acts 2:38 repentance is the first condition mentioned because the thing foremost in the minds of those who heard Peter’s sermon was the conviction of their sin, especially their sin of rejecting Christ and causing His death. Their question specifically meant, "What shall we do about these terrible sins?" First, says Peter, you must have the right attitude toward them: you must repent.

The only other condition given by Peter is baptism: "Let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Since Mark lists baptism as a condition for salvation, and since John gives it as a condition for entrance into the kingdom of God, we should not be surprised that it is presented here as a condition for the forgiveness of sins, as well as for receiving the gift of the Spirit.

Of course many do find it difficult to accept what Peter says about baptism and look for ways to avoid its implications. One such way is to deny that Acts 2:38 refers to water baptism. As one writer says, "I doubt very seriously whether Peter was referring to water baptism," because there would not have been enough water in the temple area to immerse 3,000 people (Acts 2:41) and because neither here nor anywhere else is water baptism specifically connected with the forgiveness of sins.

Such an idea is not very well thought out, however. Peter must have meant water baptism for the following reasons. First, he must have been speaking of the same baptism prescribed in the Great Commission, which had to be water baptism because it was something the apostles themselves were to administer. Second, the baptism prescribed by Peter was something the sinners themselves were to do ("What shall we do?"); it was their decision and initiative. A purely spiritual baptism would be at God’s initiative. Third, Peter’s language would have immediately called to his audience’s mind the baptism of John (which was "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," Mark 1:4), which was known to all as water baptism. Finally it should be noted that there was ample water in the Jerusalem area (it did not have to be in the temple area) for immersing 3,000 people.

Thus there is no good reason for seeing this as a reference to anything besides water baptism. It is set forth alongside repentance as a condition for receiving the blessings of salvation. This should not be surprising in view of the prominence of baptism in the Great Commission as reported by both Matthew and Mark. In fact, it would have been surprising if Peter had not mentioned baptism when asked "What shall we do?"

This leads to a final consideration relative to the conditions specified in Acts 2:38, namely, why is faith not included here, especially since the commission in Mark 16:16 includes both faith and baptism? We could not infer from both the question in Acts 2:37 and the reply in Acts 2:38 that it was not necessary to specify faith since those who heard the message and were "pierced to the heart" by it (verse 37) already believed. This is why they asked for further instruction on what to do. If Peter had perceived that they did not yet believe, he surely would have required this first of all.

This may be compared with the situation in Acts 16:30,31, when the Philippian jailer asked basically the same question, "What must I do to be saved?" This man, a pagan, had not as yet had the benefit of hearing a message about the true God or our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Paul’s reply focused on the foundation requirement: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved." This instruction was not meant to be comprehensive and all-inclusive; it was an opening statement immediately followed by more teaching: "And they spoke the word of the Lord to him" (Acts 16:32). Though neither repentance nor baptism is specifically mentioned, we can fairly infer that they were included in this "word of the Lord." This is surely the case with baptism, since the jailer was immediately baptized after hearing the teaching (Acts 16:33).

In a similar way we can consider Peter’s instruction in Acts 2:38 to have been determined by the level of response already achieved by his hearers. Since a measure of faith was already evidenced by their question, there was no need to mention it specifically.

In this connection one other point may be noted. Even though faith is not specifically mentioned here as a condition for salvation, the content of Peter’s reply was an implicit call for faith, and not just the faith of the Old Testament saints. It was a call for these devout Jews to rise to a new level of faith, to focus their faith upon a God who is Three as well as One. As we noted in the discussion of Matthew 28:19-20, from this time forward saving faith must include faith in Jesus as the divine Redeemer and faith in the Holy Spirit as the divine gift. A conscientious response to Peter’s instruction would have to include these elements, since he told this group to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Their Old Covenant faith was no longer adequate; whether they had been baptized with John’s baptism was now irrelevant. They are now required to accept God’s word about Jesus Christ and the Spirit as part of their acceptance of baptism itself.

In summary, then, the conditions for receiving the "double cure" according to Acts 2:38 are repentance and baptism, plus an implied faith.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Acts, Part II. It is good that you have the desire to continue the study of Luke’s book, Acts.

As with Part I, the lessons were selected and the intent briefly stated for each. You are quite welcome, though, to use the material to your best advantage. The text is outlined according to Don DeWelts’s outline in Acts Made Actual. Questions are with each lesson. Some of them are answered in the comments, some from the text itself, and some you will need to work on from other sources. This book is designed to help teach you to ask your own questions. The background material from lesson one is not repeated.

The section of Acts that you are now beginning to study, chapters 13-28, records the spread of Christianity in the major parts of the Roman World. It was mostly revealed through the "adventures" of one Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the apostle. The "Church in the Uttermost Part of the Earth" is the way DeWelt described this section, surely a most excellent description of the text before you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N O N E

The Church in the Uttermost Part of the Earth (13:1- 28:31)

 

The First Missionary Journey

(13:1 - 14:28)

 

 

At Antioch, 13: 1-3

13 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said , "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

13:1 - We begin our study of this section of Acts with our "base of operations" switching from Jewish Jerusalem to Gentile Antioch, from Peter to Paul, from an ethnic religion and theology to a religion worldwide in scope and international in its theology. God had made two into one (Eph. 2), and men were slowly but inexorably coming to this understanding with the effects seen in their preaching and personal work.

We know nothing of the men Luke named except Saul and Barnabas/Joseph. We know not whether these men were all possessors of a special gift (a prophet plus a teacher), some had one gift, or even if "the teacher" was just a designation of a position that some were filling (even as we do today) with nothing of a special gift meant.

V. 2 - Two things characterized these men that seemed important to Luke: they served God, and they fasted. The word for worshiping is translated ministering (serving) in other versions (KJV, ASV, NASV, etc.). It does not mean to serve as a slave, but refers to any voluntary service to men or religious service to God.

Fasting had been practiced for centuries, and is yet today. The O.T. day of fasting, appointed by God, was the 10th day of the 7th month, called the day of atonement. On this day, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people. Five days later, an eight-day feast began, called the Feast of Tabernacles, which was a feast of celebration and fellowship.

Some Christians in the early church fasted, though no command to do so was given. Fasting seems of more value when it is voluntary, deriving its worth from the attitude of the one doing it rather than being a prescribed ritual that is (perfunctorily) observed.

The announcement of the Holy Spirit, however it was made, indicated a special assignment for Joseph/Barnabas and Saul/Paul. The men were serving, but were to do so in a special manner. They were "to be separated" in the same sense that a person marks off an object from their objects (as Paul to the apostleship, Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:15). The word is also used in the Greek O.T., Lev. 20:26; Num. 8:11.

They were called to do the work of evangelization, especially to Gentiles, wherever they were, although they did not exclude the Jews. Saul will now begin to do largely what he was selected to do (9:15).

V. 3 - Just how binding the action of the Antioch church is regarding Saul and Barnabas is not clear, and thus a matter of some dispute. Since we do not know if the actions were commanded, or were just done by common consent, etc., it is difficult to decide how much or how little this example is to be followed today. It is surely doubtful that we can do everything the church did during the day of the apostles. The major thing we may be able to "restore" is the use of the apostle’s doctrine as the touchstone of our teaching. We may or may not consider their methods, etc. as anything more than "a" way to do God’s work.

We assume that the whole church sent the two out, as it is to the whole church they report when they return (14:26ff). However, it is possible that only some actually took part in the "laying-on" of hands. It should also be observed that Saul was an apostle, quite apart from this act (Gal. 1), though Barnabas was called an apostle (14:4, 14) while on this journey. The word used for "sent-off" is also used of divorce - hence, the men "split" from the church.

 

At Seleucia, 13:4

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

V. 4 - We assume that at least the general direction for their work was given the two men by the Holy Spirit, though it is not explicitly stated. Cyprus had already been the place of preaching, 11:19, 20.

 

At Salamis, 13:5

5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.

 

V. 5 - Salamis was the major city of the island, and a sizable group of Jews lived there. Jewish synagogues were readily available to Saul, and he used them well. We remember that Barnabas was from Cyprus, and that John Mark was a relative to him.

 

At Paphos, 13:6-12

6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas, the magician, (for that is the meaning of his name) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. 9 But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see for a time." Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

V. 6 - Paphos was the capital, and on the west half of the island (Salamis on the western half). An old city by the same name was eight miles south and east of this city, and famous for the worship of Venus (Aphrodite).

Bar-Jesus - Son of Jesus. His name was like that of Barnabas. He was also called Elymas, and was like many other religious men of his day (cf. Simon in Ch. 8) who made their living "advising" others.

V. 7 - Sergius Paulus = a proconsul, under the Roman senate. The island had formerly been (prior to 25 B.C.) under the Roman emperor, and thus a procurator served there, (as was Pontius Pilate, Felix and Festus). Gallio (ch. 18) was a proconsul. Such accuracy as this shows Luke to be a good historian. An inscription has been found with the title "proconsul" and this man’s name.

We do not know whether to think Sergius Paulus was wise or not, when, though he summoned Paul and Barnabas, yet kept company with Elymas? Maybe he was "wising up"? Perhaps the influence of others in the Christian faith helped prepare the way for Barnabas and Paul. Certain it is that Luke’s intention is to help us see that the gospel was being spread to everyone, more and more.

V. 8 - The term applied to Elymas is a rather broad one, including the likes of him as well as the men in Matthew 2, and Acts 8. It did not indicate, necessarily, something or someone bad, though this man was so.

Faith - Here the term was used to describe a body of truth or doctrine rather than a person’s individual faith.

V. 9 - We note that Paul was described as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Since this term occurs in reference to many people, it seemingly denoted: 1) a given period of life at which time said people were used in a special way by God, or 2) it was a characterization of a life used of God (as of John the Immerser). Even the apostles, who were immersed by the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, were later said to be filled (Acts 4). So it was a generic term, covering a broad spectrum of ideas. Some would hold that Paul was specially aided on this occasion, and Luke was simply describing the matter for us.

V. 10 - It was a bit unusual for an apostle to treat anyone thusly, but certainly is not too unusual for men of God, as one views the whole gamut of Bible history. Many times men of God, even as Jesus, opposed those whose lives were given over to the devil, though they rarely treated them so badly. However, see II Kings 1; 2; 6; Peter in Acts 5; etc.

As we listen to Paul addressing Elymas, we cannot but suppose that Elymas, as a Jew, knew better than to be and do as he was doing. It is possible however, to be tricked by Satan (see II Timothy 2:24-26) until the "straight paths of the Lord" become perverted (turned away, aside). May we strive daily to know the truth and so teach it as it is, not in a perverted way. Note that Elymas was designated as a "son of Jesus" but had that changed to "son of the devil". See John 8:44, Matt. 23:15, 31-33.

Elymas was full of guile, (Matt. 26:4; Mark 7:22; John 1:47, II Cor. 12:16) and villainy - one who does things ‘slickly’ or ‘easily’ as a rascal or trickster.

 

Straight paths of the Lord - another way to describe truth is by "straight". Note Luke 3:4,5.

V. 11 - Elymas would recover his sight, although we are not told when. As is clear in v. 12, the action of God through Paul resulted in the conversion of Sergius Paulus.

V. 12 - The blinding of Elymas provided a means of sight for the proconsul. Faith comes by "hearing" God’s word. Paul displayed God’s righteousness in exposing what Elymas was. Sergius Paulus could "see" the truth of which Paul had been speaking. Hence, he rejected his past life and accepted the truth in Christ.

 

At Perga, 13:13

13 Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem;

V. 13 - Leaving the island, "Paul and company" sailed some 180 miles to the city of Perga (the seaport was Attalia, 14:25) in Pamphylia. Here, for reasons unknown to us, John Mark left and returned to his home. It later would cause Paul and Barnabas to become angry and separate, though each would continue to work, 15:36ff. It may well be that Paul later found Mark useful, if Col. 4:10 and II Tim. 4:11 are speaking of the same person. There is no point in talking about Mark’s leaving. Luke doesn’t say why and anything is a "guess".

 

 

QUESTIONS

1. This second major section of Acts is characterized by what points?

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. What term would best describe the church at Antioch (i.e., were they mostly Jews, Gentiles, etc.)?

3. What had Paul and Barnabas been doing there? For how long?

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. What part do you think the local assembly had in the new work of Paul and Barnabas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. What previous Christian work had been done on Cyprus or by people from there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Did political leaders in that time have men around who claimed to "speak divinely"?

 

 

7. Do you think Paul was out of order to speak to Elymas in such an (unloving??) way? Did Jesus or John the Immerser ever use such terms?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. What did the proconsul do when he saw the Gospel in deed as well as in word?

 

At Antioch of Pisidia, 13:14-52

14 But they passed on from Perga and came to Antioch of Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: "Men of Israel, and you that fear God, listen. 17 The god of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he bore with them in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years. 20 And after that He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

26 "Brethren, sons of family of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. 28 Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead; 31 and for many days he appeared to those who came

 

up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art my son, today I have begotten thee.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption’. 36 For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but he whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest there come upon you what is said in the prophets:

41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish; for I do a deed in your days, a deed you will never believe, if one declares it to you’."

42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And when the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul, and reviled him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us saying ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth."

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

V. 14 - We should not overlook the matter of travel, even if Luke doesn’t bother to record the rigors of the journeys (note here II Cor. 11:26,27). Many ancient historians write about the various tribesmen who lived in the area between Perga and Antioch, and around the area. One of the greatest problems Alexander the Great had was taking his army through this area. From Perga to Antioch is some 90 miles; to Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, another 100 miles - and all through mountainous terrain (the Taurus mountains lay along the coast, with another mountain range to the north). However, Antioch was a great commercial center on a major trade route that ran eastward through Iconium, and past the adjacent cities of Lystra and Derbe. Antioch was situated on a plateau, surrounded by three lakes; and was used as a fortress city by the Seleucids against the Pisidian tribesmen in the years prior to the New Testament times. It became a Roman colony under Augustus, and thus boasted of many improvements, such as a great aqueduct. We should remember that this general area was the center of the Hittite empire (1850-1200 B.C.), which figured in several episodes of Bible times (remember Uriah the Hittite?, See also Gen. 15:20; Deut. 7:1; Josh. 1:4; I Kings 10:29, II Kings 7:6; Ezra 9:1). As is evident, many Jewish people inhabited the area, and had some friends among the local populace.

V. 15 - The text describes the basic content of a synagogue service. Luke 4 seems to indicate that the reading was done in a standing position, while the teaching sitting down. This may not have been universal but local, since Paul stood (assuming he did more than just stand up where he was and then sit down).

V. 16 - Paul’s opening words may indicate what seems to be true: that those present were both Jews and Gentiles (perhaps of such as Cornelius and Lydia). Whether the term "God-fearers" was inclusive of Gentile proselytes as well as those who feared God (like Cornelius) is not definite.

His address was intended both to build on and amplify their understanding of Jewish history. He tried to show that the Jesus he proclaimed was the same person to whom their prophets bore witness; that he had come as a direct fulfillment of the law rather than a destroyer of such; and that his advent was heralded by John the promised forerunner; and finally, that the great stumbling block (the crucifixion) was naught but what God had determined would take place; hence he should not be viewed in an adverse light but instead as a stepping stone to faith in the true nature of the Messiah, such acceptance resulting in redemption for anyone.

V. 17 - Israel was God’s chosen, and, as such he did great things for them, lifting them up as a people in adverse circumstances and despite their ignorance and rebellion (see Exodus 6:6, Deut. 5:15, Psalms 136:10-12). What was not clear to them, but was becoming clear, was that they were not automatically saved because they were Jews, and that the law was simply a forerunner for the Gospel.

V. 18 - He could have amplified this text, as in Heb. 3:7 - 4:13, but didn’t. Moses remarked in Deut. 9:24 that the Israelites were constantly rebellious. Num. 14:22 records that Israel had tested God ten times before the wanderings even began.

V. 19 - God was closely and powerfully involved with Israel, Paul shows, building up the idea of what God did for them as a people, which included the realization of the land promised to them. They did not actually inhabit all the land God had promised, but they did control it all at times, and thus received the promise. See Joshua 21: 43-45; 23:14; I Kings 4:21.

V. 21 - This is the actual source for the length of Saul’s reign, as the Hebrew text of I Sam. 13:1 is lacking and LXX omits the entire verse.

V. 22 - The big name in Hebrew history as relating to the Messiah was David, since God had made David the promise of a son to sit upon his throne, who was obviously to be the Messiah (see Matt. 22:41-42). David, God could see, would do all of God’s desires/wishes, even to believing that God would keep his promises. David was not perfect in life, but he was faithful, which is what God asks and requires.

V. 23 - David’s son was not only the Messiah, but also Israel’s Savior, who was named Jesus, Paul stated. It is doubtful if his hearers had perceived where Paul was taking them in the discussion, especially since he equated Messiah/Savior/Jesus, which they probably did not do, mostly from ignorance of Jesus. Of course, the argument was not about the O.T. prophecies, so much as it was about what and who fulfilled them. thus the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth as being the Messiah of God (cf Matt. 16:16).

V. 24 - The text of Malachi 3:1 was fulfilled in John and the specific preparation John made was the acts of immersion of people who were characterized by repentance. Of course, all knew about John’s work, in general at least.

V. 25 - Many people mistook John for the Messiah, as Luke 3:15ff and John 1:19ff indicates.

V. 26 - Paul continued to build his case that in their own lifetime God’s Messiah had appeared; thus there was no need to keep looking toward the future. Notice again he stated (if only subtlety) the universality of the salvation in Christ (i.e., sons of Abraham, God-fearers - us).

V. 27 - Those in Jerusalem, Paul stated were ignorant of the message in the prophets, and thus condemned to death their promised Messiah. Peter stated the same point, Acts 3:17. See also I Cor. 2:8, I Tim. 1:13. the ignorance was willed in some, doubtless, but related to understanding, not outright rejection.

V. 28 - Several points needed emphasis, and one was that Jesus was innocent of any wrong doing. Another was, v. 29 that God had planned it just as it happened. Both items would be important to those listening, since they needed to realize Jesus died, for sin, according to God’s plan. That was much different than believing Jesus died for some wrong he had done.

V. 29 - Each fact is skillfully brought out: death, burial and resurrection (v. 30), and all as God ordained. We notice in Luke 24:13-43 that when the two men put all the facts together in proper relationship, they were changed men. The same thing was needed for all Jews whose ideas about the Messiah were mixed up.

V. 31 - To encourage trust in the facts, God had men bear witness to the resurrected Christ who had known him well, thus were not easily fooled, especially as the appearances were over a period of many (forty) days.

V. 32 - If the anticipation of the people in Antioch was comparable to that generally, these words would strike a most responsive chord within them: the long hoped-for advent of the Messiah had happened in their time.

V. 33 - Just how Paul meant "raised" to be understood is not so clear; it could be he had the idea of making him to be the Messiah rather than the physical resurrection. See Acts 2:36 again, and note 13:22.

The text of Psalm 2:7 is quoted in Hebrews 1:5 also, and applied there to Jesus. The expression was heard at Jesus’ immersion and transfiguration. Evidently, it had to do with Jesus’ whole life, as God’s son, which included the resurrection; God not allowing his Son to remain in the grave, even though permitting him to die.

V. 34 - An important point: Jesus is alive, never to die again, as Peter asserted in 2:27ff.

The holy and sure (trustworthy) blessings of David were to be realized only in the Messiah, who could only bring such into being by the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:15-17; 25-28). The quote is from Isaiah 55:3; then from II Sam. 7:12-16. Gabriel quoted this to Mary, Luke 1.

This text and the one in v. 33 illustrate how prophetic statements are to be understood. The only sure interpretation is from the New Testament; all else is but guesswork.

V. 35 - Psalms 16:10, which, as v. 36 shows, could not be said of David, but only of David’s son, the Messiah. "Corruption" is to be understood in the sense of "remain in the grave" versus "being raised from the grave."

V. 36 - Corruption - death’s decay and rotteness. The same word is in I Cor. 15:52 in contrast to imperishable. Note that David "fell asleep" David died (a common euphemism in the Scripture, as in I Cor. 11:30; John 11; etc). Christ brought to light life and corruption, putting death into "idle" II Tim. 1:10.

V. 38 - Forgiveness of sins - the Greek is like Acts 2:38. this (i.e., forgiveness of sins - justification/salvation, etc.) is what could not be obtained under the Mosaic law, though the law was, in itself, holy, righteous and good (Rom. 7:12). Only in Christ, by faith, could a person be justified (Rom. 5:1) and thus be uncondemned (Rom. 8:1). Since the law was weak through the flesh (Rom. 8:3), God did in his Son what the law could not do (see also Gal. 2:21; 3:19-22). As Paul would show in Rom. 1:17 (a fact that had also been true in the O.T. dispensation, Hab. 2:4) the "just live by faith" (not by law). The message of a Savior who could and would accept sinners was the great theme of the preaching in Acts (note 5:31; 10:43; 22:16; 26:18).

V. 39 - No reason existed now to continually offer sacrifices and observe the law, etc. However, a major struggle is evident all through Acts: To be unshackled from the law system, and trust in Christ for justification. The same struggle is still evident today, and in everyone’s life, at times. For the Jews, then it was a great upheaval to leave the law behind and accept an entirely new system of serving God, and of being justified.

V. 40 - The text quoted is from Habakkuk 1:5; and not directly applied to this specific situation by the prophet. The sentiment in the prophet was about Israel in 600 B.C., in regard to their unbelief then. It was appropriately quoted by Paul and applied to his own time, since the same basic point was at issue: whether God’s word will be accepted or not. Jews were punished for unbelief in Habakkuk’s day; so it would be yet if they, as individuals, refused to believe what God had said.

V. 41 - The "one believing" in v. 39 is now in contrast to the "one not believing".

V. 43 - Since many were evidently very interested, the two men gave them encouragement "to continue" in the grace of God (i.e., the message of God, which would bring them salvation if they accepted it). Thus we see now a person is viewed from God’s standpoint: one might not have complied with all that God has ordained, but if the willingness is present, one could "continue" in God’s grace. Sure it is that a person can "grow" in grace, II Peter 3:18.

V. 44 - The interest was city-wide, even if many were not Jewish in descent.

V. 45 - The Jews who were unwilling to accept the grace of God as found in Jesus reviled/blasphemed (opposed) the apostles. Note Acts 26:11. they were unwilling to accept the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ of God (with the resultant voiding of all Mosaic law).

V. 46 - Paul was never one to run from an encounter, and the boldness was quite characteristic.

As is evident in other texts (Acts 1:8, Rom. 1:16, etc.), the Jews were the privileged recipients of the Good News - but it was never meant to be only for them - it was also to the Gentiles, as v. 47 (a quote from the Jews’ own revelation!) will show.

This text is one of the most interesting in the whole Bible in that it shows that one’s worthiness (or lack of it) to receive redemption in Christ is directly related to what one does with Christ. One can "thrust" (push away; hence: reject/refuse) the message away (as some did conscience, I Tim. 1:19 or as the Jews did to Moses, Acts 7:27, 39). Such action places one in the "not believing" class, and brings condemnation and loss of eternal life.

V. 47 - The text in Isaiah 49:6 is concerned with the redeemer whom God was sending to Israel. Note Rom. 15:9-12 in this light. Now Paul applies the idea in relationship to himself and Barnabas, who were to carry the message of Israel’s redeemer to the Gentiles. See Luke 2:32 as Simeon speaks to Mary.

V. 48 - The news as stated by Paul was good news to those listening who were Gentiles, and thus far had little hope of life eternal except through becoming a Jewish proselyte. Now they could avoid all such. They continued to rejoice in that fact and to glory in the word of the Lord.

We then have two classes of people: the Jews and others who refused the message, and the Gentiles and Jews who accepted the message. The difference was the decision of the mind; some were disposed to be worthy, others not so disposed.

From this perspective, we can view the expression: "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." The verb is a Greek verb and is often seen as a military term; with the idea of to arrange , or set in order. See the verb in Matt. 28:16, Luke 7:8; Acts 15:2, 22:10; 28:23; I Cor. 16:15. In each case, the individual set of the mind was the determining factor. God had ordained that salvation was in Christ; and the acceptance of Christ was totally based upon the free-will of the individual.

V. 49 - The converts carried the message to various places throughout the region over a period of time. Hence, some time elapsed before the events in v. 50.

V. 50 - The Jews in opposition stirred up people in "high places" and the former "heroes" were forcibly caused to leave the city. See here II Tim. 3:11.

V. 51 - As Jesus had instructed the disciples in Matt. 10:14 and Luke 10:11. A similar gesture is that of Paul in Acts 18:6.

V. 52 - The effect of such persecution only increased the joy of the disciples in Antioch, a normal reaction throughout the history of the church.

As we contemplate the message of Paul in Antioch, we can but get the distinct notion that Gentiles are on equal footing with Jews in respect to the most important matter of all: salvation in Christ. Perhaps this is not any surprise to you, but it surely was to countless people in the early days, despite all that had been said and written to the contrary. From the New Testament writings, however, it is evident from the following scriptures that God’s purpose was to include the Gentiles in the plan of salvation which was brought through Christ, and in whom He made both Jews and Gentiles one, creating one new man in place of the two, Eph. 2:14-16. Notice:

1) Hosea 2:23 quoted in Rom. 9:25

2) Hosea 1:10 quoted in Rom. 9:26

3) Genesis 13:15; 15:5 as explained in Galatians 3: 16-18, 29; 4:21-31; Rom. 9:6-9, John 8:39, 44

4) Isaiah 42:1-4 as explained in Matthew 12:15-21

5) Isaiah 40:3-4 by John in Luke 3:4-6

6) Amos 9:11-12 as explained by James in Acts 15:12-21

7) Psalm 18:49 quoted in Romans 15:9

8) Deuteronomy 32:43 as quoted in Romans 15:10

9) Psalms 117:1 as quoted in Romans 15:11.

10) Isaiah 11:10 as quoted in Romans 15:12

We thus conclude that the redemptive community (the church) does not equal Israel according to flesh, but the redemptive community equals Israel according to the spirit (or promise).

Consider following passages carefully with their import about Jews and/or Gentiles:

1) Simeon’s remark about Gentiles in Luke 2:30-35, plus the fall and rising of Israel.

2) Jesus implied in Luke 4:16-30 about God and Jewish/Gentile relations that God honored faith wherever he found it; that faith (like sin) made men equal.

3) Jesus taught that Israel by and large, was like wicked tenants in Matt. 21:33-45 (Mark 12; Luke 20; Titus 2:14).

4) The implication of the rejected invitations in Luke 14 and Matt. 22:1-14 was that the people who "made the feast" were those who willed to come, expressed by their obedience, regardless of who or what they were. Jesus used the expression, "So the last shall be first, and the first last" in Matt. 19:30, and explained it in 20:1-16, that God would honor his promises, not cease to be God; and that all would be treated fairly, whoever they were.

5) The implications of the various commissions given to the disciples just prior to the ascension of Jesus are that the whole creation (red, yellow, black, & white) is to share in the redemption. As others did, Peter had to learn some lessons, as expressed in Acts 2:39; 10:1-11; 11:18; 15: 6-11; Gal. 2:11-21, about the import of those commissions. Paul expressed it well in Acts 13:16b-41, 47; and in Acts 28:28. (Rom. 11:13b; Gal. 1:15-16; Acts 9:10-16 with 22:21 and 26:12-17, shows the major lesson about God’s plan for Paul, and for Jewish/Gentile relationships in Christ.)

6) Eph. 2:11-18 contains important lessons about Jews/Gentiles: they are one in Christ.

7) I Cor. 10:11 says something is true about Christians (including Paul, the writer, a Jew) that is likewise mentioned in Heb. 1:1-2 (note Rom. 3:27ff here). Consider the personal possessive pronoun in I Cor. 10:1 ("our" fathers).

8) The "people of God" in Heb. 4:9 denotes a faithful people, who are exhorted, beginning with ch. 3:7, to not be unbelieving. God’s people were promised a land in the O.T. times which typified heaven. The people who first received that promise of an earthly habitation were characterized by faith. So it will be with those who inherit the real heaven, regardless of whether they be Jews or Gentiles by physical birth. If either sort of person will become "reborn" into God’s family "Israel" and thus a son of God and a joint-heir with Christ, Rom. 8:16ff; Gal. 3:25ff. Note the passage in Heb. 8:8-13 and connect that with I Peter 2:4-10.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

9. Outline Paul’s sermon, attempting to briefly set before your mind the main points of what he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Are God’s promises always kept, or are some conditional?

 

11. Did Paul make some of the same points and use some of the same scriptures as Peter in Acts 2?

 

 

 

 

12. Would you say that v. 38,39 sum up the basic gospel message?

 

 

13. Does v. 40,41 indicate God could foresee the unbelief of some?

 

 

14. Describe the exact spiritual status of those who were urged to continue in God’s grace.

 

 

15. Have you ever opposed the truth because of jealous envy?

 

 

 

 

16. How does one judge oneself "unworthy of eternal life"?

 

 

 

 

 

17. What must one do to "glorify the word of God"?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Iconuim, 14:1-7

14 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue, and so spoke that a great company believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews , with their rulers, to molest them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; 7 and there they preached the gospel.

V. 1 - Iconium (modern Koniah) was also a Roman colony like Antioch, and thus enjoyed privileges many other cities did not. Any person born there was a Roman citizen, for instance.

Luke’s term to describe the company of believers is like our "great multitude". As at Antioch, many of those who listened were persuaded/obedient. The procedure was the same as elsewhere: to the Jewish synagogue first, where access was yet readily available.

V. 2 - As at Antioch also, some were not persuaded/obedient. This really sets forth the crux of the whole Christian system: to so speak as to persuade people to trust in the gospel rather than in the system then held as trustworthy. If we fail to persuade them, then the result is disobedience. (Note John 3:36 and the contrast there; also Acts 14:19; 19:9; 29:24). The Jews made some Gentiles feel hostile toward the apostles. This did not result in cessation of the preaching, at least immediately.

V. 3 - Despite opposition, the apostles continued - at least until the authorities got into the act (v. 5). The Greek text indicates that signs and wonders were constant rather than just occasional. Doubtless it was such "helps" from God that gave pause to those opposing the gospel.

V. 5 - However, with the backing of the authorities, violence was in store for the men. There is a Greek term that means to "treat shamefully" (see Matt. 22:6; Luke 18:32). This and the plan to stone them, caused the men to leave.

V. 6 - The two cities and the surrounding areas were evangelized. God blessed both his messengers and those who believed them.

 

 

At Lystra, 14:8-20a

8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting, who could not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet". And he sprang up and walked. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices saying in Lycaonian, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifices with the people. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying 15 "Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; 17 yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." 18 With these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium; and having persuaded the people, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city.

V. 8 - The physical condition of the cripple is specified, so that we might perceive the great news of the miracle which God did through Paul.

V. 9 - The hope in the man’s eyes was there, because he evidently believed that God was with Paul and Barnabas.

V. 10 - At Paul’s command, the man was healed, and proved it by springing up and walking around. Needless to say, the miracle was evident to all.

V. 11 - The crowd was correct in one sense. Only God’s power could have performed the healing. The people were like Nicodemus in John 3, who knew that no mortal man apart from divine power, could do miracles. What was not known to Paul and Barnabas was what was being said by the crowd who saw the miracle.

V. 12 - Of course, Zeus (Jupiter) and Hermes (Mercury ) were well known Greek gods in mythology, and clearly important in the religious life of these people.

V. 13 - Evidently the people communicated to their priests their conclusions in their native language which was unknown to Paul and Barnabas. The priests began the preparation for sacrifices to the "gods". The crowds certainly did not understand the nature of Christianity! Yet Cornelius tried to bow before Peter, and John attempted to do so before an angel, Revelation 22:8-9. All have much to learn about relationships, and whoever they are, wherever they live, no system compares with Christianity in the matter of personal relationships, either of God to men, or man to man.

V. 15 - Reacting in an arresting fashion (v. 14) and not like gods, the apostles made clear the distinctive of Christianity: God has made the only sacrifice necessary - all that needs to be done is accept it. Men are all alike: sinners, and are not to be made objects of worship. Only the God who made all is worthy of worship. We do well to meditate upon our views of people, and in what respect we see them. We may be guilty of doing "vain things" like those in Iconium.

V. 16 - Paul made it plain that the God whose handiwork was seen in the universe was the God who also had provided for their basic needs, and who had sent them to declare what else he had done for them in a greater and more important area than the material realm (see ch. 17 and Rom. 1:18ff).

V. 20 - Some think that one result of this stoning was the conversion of a young man named Timothy to the preaching ministry. See II Tim. 3:10-17. Some were not disobedient to the gospel message, but rather accepted the message of the revelation from God. Timothy was among those believers evidently.

 

At Derbe, 14:20b-21a

and the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples,

V. 21 - The men, going on to Derbe, preached much. Many were made disciples in Derbe. Thus the men fulfilled the commands of Matthew 28:19.

 

In Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, 14:21b-23

they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to Lord in whom they believed.

V. 22 - In view of the great opposition in these three cities, Paul apparently felt it necessary to make the disciples as stable in the faith as possible. Certainly his life should have been an inspiration to them. The disciples (their souls) were strengthened (as in 15:32, 18:23; Luke 22:32; Rom. 1:11; 16:25; I Peter 5:10) by Paul and he continually encouraged them to abide in the (their?) faith (note v. 23). See II Tim. 3:12; Rom. 8:17 for persecution, and the account in Hebrews 10:32ff; 12:1-17.

V. 23 - appointed - This word brings a question to mind which is not easily settled. The Greek word in question originally was used of voting through show of hands ; then to mean someone chosen by such a manner of selection, than to a simple act of appointment aside from any action by an assembly, etc. Acts 10:41 has the word used referring to God’s appointed witnesses. We have had elders mentioned in the Jerusalem congregation (11:30), so such persons are not new. It is evident that some oversight was necessary in each of the congregations, and this was God’s answer to that need. We may wonder if or how these men measured up to such texts as I Tim. 3 and Titus 1, but some evidently did so. Perhaps some were given special gifts to aid them in their work. What is not so evident is the matter of how they were appointed to the eldership. No question but that Paul had the right to appoint men. What is the question is if the congregation(s) had any part in the matter. However, we are not told that what was done in these places was to be a pattern which all subsequent churches were to follow. So we must leave it at that. Every congregation had a plurality of elders, but it is not stated that such a fact was to be "the" pattern for all time; rather men were to be chosen who were qualified, as the individual congregation(s) desired. We do not know if these churches received any letters from Paul, but he later visited them all.

 

Through the Provinces of Pisidia and Pamphylia 14:24

24 Then they passed through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia.

V. 24 - The return journey was over the same route, basically because it was one of the better ways to travel the country. Attalia was actually the seaport city, while Perga was inland.

 

At Perga and Attalia, 14:25 in Antioch, 14:26

25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

V. 26 - grace of God - It is ever intriguing to notice how the expression "grace" is used in the Scriptures. This is one of the many varied uses of the term. See such texts as John 1:16, Gal. 1:15; Eph. 3:7; Philippians 4:23; II Thess. 1:12, 2:16; II Peter 3:18.

V. 27 - This is a good example of how relationships should be between congregations and those who are responsible to the congregation. The Church should do the sending, and those sent should be expected to be responsible to the congregation that sent them.

The apostles reported "many great things" that God had done through them, summed up in the idea that the door of faith had been opened to Gentiles, many of whom had stepped through it. Hence, the universal nature of the gospel message was clearly presented to all in Antioch. It is against this backdrop that Chapter 15 is to be seen.

It may be interesting to consider that no report was given to the church in Jerusalem. As records of historians will show, Christianity spread rapidly throughout the area, although much division and heresy was to take place in subsequent years.

V. 28 - As in 11:26; the men did much work in the local congregation. Surely it is true and right that "teaching" is equally important with "evangelizing" people. Paul did both, and made provision for others to do likewise.

 

QUESTIONS

18. Does 14:1-2 indicate the nature of Christianity - always in struggle with the unpersuaded of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

 

19. Have you ever considered the different way the message of salvation has been described in Chapters 13 and 14?

 

 

 

 

 

20. In consideration of the departure of Paul and Barnabas from Iconium in the face of persecution, how does one decide when to do such in like circumstances? Must one always stand "one’s ground"?

 

 

 

 

 

21. Is the Lyconian cripple a good illustration of v. 3?

 

 

22. Do you see people in your day who do "vain things" like those in Lyconia tried to do?

 

 

 

 

23. In what way did God allow nations to walk in their own ways, v. 16? Why would God choose to permit this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. Do people yet today not see any evidence for God in the universe about them?

 

 

 

 

25. Is faith often changed (cf. v. 22)?

 

 

 

 

26. How could men who were of recent conversion be qualified for eldership? (We don’t know that any were Jewish before becoming Christian. However being a former Jew would not necessarily make one a candidate for an elder by any means).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T W O

(15: 1-35)

 

 

The Trouble Over Circumcision

The Jerusalem Council

 

Without any controversy, this chapter is one of the most challenging in the whole New Testament. The reason the issue in question came up is one reason the chapter is important; and the decision of the council (both as to its significance for Paul and those who were adherents to one position or the other) and the stipulations which were laid upon Gentile believers are likewise important, since the understanding of the basic nature of the church was in question. That these issues are yet relevant is hardly in need of assertion. The matter of law versus grace is always in need of understanding and clarification. The specific items enjoined upon Gentiles are likewise timeless in importance. So we have a great chapter at hand.

The text of Galatians 2:1ff probably is the same event from Paul’s perspective. It gives much important information about the meeting, such as the fact that God instructed him to go the meeting in Jerusalem. It is doubtful if Paul would have gone otherwise since his apostolic authority was in question. God evidently considered that the most appropriate place to settle the issue once and for all was at the source of the trouble. Hence, the directions for Paul to go.

 

False Teachers Trouble the Believers, 15:1

15 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

V. 1 - The divergent doctrines finally caused a sharp clash, which resulted in a "face-down" between the two groups. We will note that the Jerusalem group disclaims any responsibility for the Judaizers’ teachings. We need to see that the issue was not a matter of fleshly circumcision. It was rather what that act meant: keeping of the law to be saved. It is significant that some from Jerusalem yet taught lawkeeping despite the experience of Peter in Acts 10 and his explanation thereof in the Jerusalem church. Evidently not everyone was willing to believe what Peter taught. Some years had intervened between the event in Acts 10 and Acts 15; perhaps the memory of some had failed, or new converts who did not understand the true nature of Christianity may have been responsible for the problem.

 

Paul and Barnabas Sent to Jerusalem, 15:2,3

2 And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about the question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles, and they gave great joy to all the brethren.

V. 2 - Dissension - The disagreement over circumcision caused discussions that were serious and extensive. The term for questionings is the ordinary word for seeking. All arguments among Christians should be seeking for truth and its application. See Matt. 13:45; Mark 13:7; 11:18; Rom. 2:7; I Cor. 13:5; I Tim. 6:4; II Tim. 2:23.

Certain others - Titus, a Greek, was among them. We again remark that if apostolic authority had been observed, no such trip would have been necessary. Note here Gal. 2:2. Paul did not oppose people who kept the law as a manner of life as long as they did not keep it for the purpose of claiming salvation in the keeping of it.

 

Their Reception in Jerusalem, 15:4,5

4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses."

V. 4 - Church - Apostles - Elders We again are reminded of the place the elders had in the early churches, even with apostles present. Gal. 2 has Paul meeting privately with the apostles and elders to compare notes. We can understand why this took place when we consider that revelation and understanding of revelation were two different things, as was true in Peter’s case. Paul had to consider this point.

V. 5 - This verse shows us how wrong one can be and still have believed. The people of the Pharisees’ sect, were insisting that one must keep Moses’ law in every way to be saved. For them, Christianity was simply a "leaf" added to Judaism’s book rather than a distinctly new relationship to God in Jesus. Paul described them in Gal.. 2:4 as false brethren, who were attempting to take away the freedom in Christ. See here Gal. 5:1ff. It seems so clear, perhaps, from our point of view, but it was not to them. It is yet to many a real problem as how one is saved and remains saved. The problem is commonly discussed in the terms "faith and works".

 

The Elders and Apostles Meet to Settle the Dispute, 15:6-29

6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we shall be saved through grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

12 And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, "Brethren, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written.

16 ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up.17 that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, 18 says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old.’

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues."

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the leaders with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among brethren, 23 with the following letter: "The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting. 24 Since we have heard that some persons form us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us in assembly to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."

V. 6 - Matter - The Greek term means here a way of thinking.

V. 7 - Apparently despite the presence of apostles, the matter was given full discussion. It was not a matter of whether the apostles understood all they preached, so much as it was that the revelation through them, if accepted, would have made the matter clear. It may well be that the case of Cornelius was considered unique, not normative. Hence, Peter repeats (v. 8) the matter, showing the total application.

V. 9 - The principle common to all for redemption: Faith. See especially Rom. 2:25-29; 9:27 - 10:4; and 11:32 on this point. Since this was so, what the Judaizers were arguing for was a test of God’s judgment and expressed desire.

V. 10 - Why tempt - The same idea as in Exodus 17:7 or Numbers 13. God was not to be so treated, Matthew 4:7. Do not contest the words of God.

Neither we nor our fathers - A clearer picture of how impossible it was to actually "keep" the law. If such was so, then it was foolhardy to argue that salvation could be had by keeping the law. Jesus’ yoke, Matt. 11:28-30, was the only yoke that could be borne with any success.

V. 11 - It would have been better if Peter had practiced as well as he preached - but at least he taught correctly. Grace and faith had always provided for a people of God, Rom. 11:1-6, and still would do so, since the Gospel was God’s power unto salvation for both Jews and Gentiles alike. As God looked at people, the differences were only outward, because all were the same inside.

V. 13 - This James was probably the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19) and author of the epistle of James. He was in the Jerusalem church for many years, suffering stoning, according to tradition, about A.D. 64. He would have been influential with the Jewish Christians (note 21:18ff), and his agreement with and elaboration of the experience of Peter added weight to the argument for release from the law, etc.

V. 15 - Additionally, James showed that such as had happened was prophesied by God. Doubtless, the full meaning of the prophecy was only clearly realized after Pentecost, as God revealed through the apostles exactly what had been prophesied, and various things unfolded that had been foretold.

V 16 - The prophecy was probably viewed prior to Pentecost in a literal sense: i.e., the rebuilding of a kingdom, etc. However, it was rather to be understood in a spiritual sense; i.e., in reference to a body made up of people characterized by faith, which faith transcended party lines and made people in every culture one flesh.

We may note with some interest that James quoted from the Greek version (LXX) of the prophet Amos rather than from the Hebrew which reads slightly different. As noted in other places, the New Testament has the only authoritative interpretation of the Old Testament. Sometimes the speaker or writer used the Old Testament to illustrate a point, sometimes to prove a point.

V. 17 - Gentiles - The Jews very likely understood this reference to mean that Gentiles would have to come under the law as proselytes. As this incident shows, they had a hard time accepting the fact that Gentiles by their faith, and apart from observance of any of the Mosaic law, were acceptable to God, and considered as equals in the sight of God.

V. 19 - Those who have turned to the Lord (as Amos had predicted) have done all that is essential - hence the circumcision party has not won a point, and Paul has been vindicated.

judgment - There is nothing scripturally wrong with judging people, unless one does so unjustly or as sitting in God’s seat.

V. 20 - The four prohibitions were of themselves, a negative decision against the Judaizer’s, since the keeping of the whole law was in question. These things were wrong without the Law given to Israel through Moses, See Gen. 9:4.

pollution of idols - explained in v. 29

unchastity - The Greek word means what we generally view as unlawful sex, of whatever nature.

strangled things and blood - from the context in Leviticus 17:10-16; Deuteronomy 12:15-16; 20-27, these things come. Little of the O.T., per se, was retained under the direction of the Holy Spirit. God’s will was not that voiced by the Judaizers.

V. 21 - This verse seems to argue that since Jews would be omnipresent, abstention of the Gentile converts from these items would give less offense, and thus permit the Jews with scruples to associate with the Gentiles who had no such scruples until such time as the Jews could change. Others differ from this, holding that James meant that Moses (i.e., the law) was still read (obeyed) in many places (thus placating the Jews) and there would be those who accordingly followed the law.

V. 23 - As this decree would be of major importance everywhere, it was put into writing under the auspices of the Holy Spirit working through the apostles, etc. Silas and Judas were added strength for Paul and Barnabas as they returned to Antioch. It surely would have been nice if the action had ended the controversy, but it didn’t then, and hasn’t yet. The nation of Jews still exists, and there are still people who cannot distinguish between grace and legalism.

V. 24 - The men in v. 1 had apparently claimed what was not true, i.e., that the Jerusalem church had sanctioned their view. The issue was clearly resolved from every point.

Unsettling your minds - subverting your souls would be a good translation. The Judaizers had wrought great problems in Antioch, and continued that in other places.

V. 25 - In assembly - The Greek word means "together" or "in agreement," "united,", as in 1:14; 2:46; 4:24. Gal. 2:9 shows that the action of acceptance and agreement was done in a personal way as well as publicly.

V. 29 - The word translated "abstain" means "to hold oneself back from," as in I Thess. 4:3; I Tim. 4:3; I Peter 2:11. The necessity was apparently only for the association /fellowship of Gentiles and Jews, both of whom were Christians. The points of idolatry and unchastity were elsewhere forbidden for everyone for all time.

 

Farewell - The Greek word means "to be strong," "keep well," and was common at the close of letters.

 

The Work in Antioch, 15:30-35

30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words and strengthened them. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brethren to those who had sent them." 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

V. 30 - The mission was over, and the truth of the gospel message was upheld - no wonder many rejoiced (v. 31 ).

V. 32 - Judas and Silas - Silas was to accompany Paul on the next missionary journey, and suffer many things from Jews because of his faith in Jesus.

prophets - The scriptures do not at any time equate the word "prophet" with the word "preacher." The prophets did preach as a part of their function, but the prophets were called such because God revealed His words through them.

V. 33 - As seen in v. 40, either Judas returned to Jerusalem, while Silas remained Antioch, or Silas went to Jerusalem but returned to Antioch.

V. 35 - The point made in 11:26 is again pertinent; Paul did not always "evangelize" in the narrow sense of that term as often used today.

 

Peter’s Visit to Antioch, Galatians 2:11-21

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party 13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" 15 We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do no nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.

 

 

QUESTIONS

28. What importance is there about ch. 15?

 

 

 

 

 

 

29. According to Galatians 2, why did Paul go to Jerusalem?

30. Who went with Paul?

31. Were the men who came from Jerusalem sent by the church there?

32. Was it merely a matter of circumcising the men that was the issue?

33. Could one be wrong about the relationship of Christianity to the Mosaic law and still be called a believer?

 

34. What position did Peter and James take in regard to the issue?

 

 

 

 

 

 

35. By whose authority was the letter (epistle) written?

 

 

36. Were the prohibitions placed upon the Gentiles temporary or permanent in nature?

 

 

37. Can we "make trial" of God today as the men did in ch. 15?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T H R E E

( 15:36 - 18:22)

 

 

The Second Missionary Journey

15:36 - 18:22

 

 

In Antioch, 15:36-40

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." 37 And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.

V. 36 - Paul is just as interested in the upbuilding of Christians, their faith-progress, as he is in "discipling" people, since each is equally important. Neither is to be neglected for Christian growth is a must on the list of items for consideration by any church group. Paul felt the need for "daily care of the churches" (II Cor. 11:32), whether in Antioch or elsewhere. He now felt that it was wise to return to the converts in the Galatian area, since they were to suffer many things that could disturb their faith, 14:22.

V. 37 - John Mark was a relative (a cousin) of Barnabas, and probably was being considered by Barnabas in this light.

V. 38 - Each man was unchanging in his attitude about the matter, Barnabas insisting, Paul refusing.

V. 39 - It is ever the part of God to "tell it like it is." So, we are treated to the occasion of two good men, each indebted to the other, who yet disagreed over another and, unable to resolve the matter, agreed to disagree. Doubtless God had this written down for "our admonition and our learning." Often times it will be this way in regard to where one worships, or what methods one uses, where one labors, etc. We need to carefully consider the difference between likes and dislikes and doctrine, and keep them separated. One may even differ in matters of conscience (which often is equated in Scripture) with another, and yet both remain Christian.

V. 40 - Whether the brethren gave Barnabas and Mark the send-off they gave to Paul is not stated. We will see that Paul’s group returns to Antioch. No historical mention is made of Barnabas again, though Paul mentions him in I Cor. 15, and several references to Mark are in Paul’s letters. Silas probably the Silvanus of II Cor. 1:19; I Thess. 1; I Peter 5:12.

 

Through to Provinces of Syria and Cilicia, 15:41

41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

V. 41 - The route would be past Paul’s home in Tarsus, over the mountains through the Cilician Gates, a rough and dangerous journey.

 

At Derbe, 16:1a

16 And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra.

16:1 - The presence of churches in Syria and Cilicia is mentioned, though we are not told how they arose. Perhaps they arose from Pentecost, or through Paul’s efforts. (Note here 15:24.)

 

In Lystra, 16:1b-5

A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

V. 2 - Timothy, Paul’s "son" in the faith, would serve well, and become a most valuable member of the Lord’s team. Evidently the brethren thought highly of him.

V. 3 - The mixed background of Timothy made his acceptability to Jews questionable. Therefore, though no law was at issue, the factor of expediency was obviously considered valuable enough to cause Timothy’s circumcision. This is most important to consider in the light of what happened in ch. 15, where Titus was not circumcised, though pressure to do so to keep the law was brought to bear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Cities of Iconium and Antioch to Whom They Delivered the Decrees of the Jerusalem Council, 16:4,5

V. 4 - In keeping with the intent of the conference, Paul and Silas convey the decision of Acts 15 to the various churches along the way. The general matters of the letter are contained in I Cor. 8-10 and Rom. 14:1-15:13. We must remember that the N.T. was mostly yet unwritten. What was written, if anything, would not be readily available to but a few. We also note that though the Holy Spirit directed its inception and writing, we have no actual copy of it except in Acts 15. There may have been other such epistles produced about which we know nothing.

V. 5 - A result of the missionary journey was that churches were strengthened.

 

Through the Region of Phyrgia and Galatia, 16:6a

Cf. Galatians 4:13-15; I Cor. 16:1,2

6 And they went through the region of Phyrgia and Galatia,

V. 6 - The item of interest here: the restraint upon the men from the Holy Spirit. If this is so in other places and times, as seems evident, the Holy Spirit controlled more of the apostles’ activities than just their speech and writings.

 

 

While in the Above Stated Regions They Were Forbidden by the Spirit to Speak the Word in Asia. They Passed Through the Province of Mysia and Attempted to go into the Province of Bithynia but They Were Again Forbidden, 16:6b-8a

having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8 so, passing by Mysia,

V. 7 - The Holy Spirit "hindered" (forbid) in v. 6, and will not permit (again forbid) in v. 7.

V. 8 - Troas was the major seaport serving all of the area.

 

At Troas, 16:8b-10

they went down to Troas 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the he night; a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

V. 9 - The vision Paul received is like that of Cornelius in chapter 10 and is the first positive response in direction, which, of course, Paul obeyed, even as he had obeyed the negative command.

V. 10 - Macedonia was a province in the Roman empire, though in another continent.

Luke joined the party, and continued with it to Philippi, where he remained when the others left.

 

At Samothrace, 16:11a

At Neapolis, 16:11b

11 Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,

V. 11 - The sailing weather was good, taking two days for what was later a five-day journey (20:6), 125 miles.

 

In Philippi, 16:12-40

12 and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; 13 and on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation". 18 And this she did for many days, but Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, " I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers; 20 and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice." 22 The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" 31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, "Let those men go." 36 And the jailer reported the words to Paul, saying "The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out and go in peace." 37 But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now cast us out secretly? No! let them come themselves and take us out." 38 The police reported these word to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; 39 so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison, and visited Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they exhorted them and departed.

V. 12 - Philippi (its name from Philip the Great) was near the area where a decisive battle in Rome’s history took place. (Octavius and Anthony vs. Brutus and Cassius; and later Octavius defeated Anthony and Cleopatra. 31 B.C.) Philip had taken over the city because of the gold mines nearby. However, because it was on the main thoroughfare between Europe and Asia, its importance grew and commerce increased. It was made a Roman colony in 42 B.C., which meant its citizens received all the benefits of any Roman citizen.

V. 13 - It is noticeable that in all these cities (Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea), women are prominent in the happenings. Archaeological evidence in Macedonia indicates that women were afforded much greater privileges than elsewhere.

V. 14 - Lydia was a common name, although her occupation was not so common. Some evidence exists to show that the Jews in Thyatira were involved in the dye business, which may be where Lydia received her knowledge of God, etc.

The basic problem is not new: how or why did God open Lydia’s heart? The answer may well vary, even if your theology is not Calvinistic. See Luke 24:45 in this vein.

Proponents of infant baptism over the centuries have used this text and others to argue for their position. Obviously, their position is weak from several angles. The New Testament Scriptures always insist that each person is accountable to God, and one’s relationship to God. The New Testament Scriptures to not teach anything except believer’s immersion. Clearly, infants can not believe for themselves, and it is never stated that anyone else can believe for them. The inferences that are drawn (that the word "household" means all obeyed through the person who was the head, or that infants were in the household) are not provable at all. Their position is only mentioned because the point needs clarification.

V. 15 - The Philippian epistle is good evidence of the positive results which took place through the efforts of Paul’s company.

Lydia’s hospitality would be something for which Christians would be noted everywhere. She may have encouraged others to continue to help Paul, as they evidently did (Phil. 4).

V. 16 - Spirit of Divination - The Greek term was used in the Greek O.T. (LXX) of such as the witch of Endor (I Sam. 28) and those described as "mediums" in Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Isaiah 8:19, etc. As v. 18 indicates, the girl was inhabited by a spirit.

The owners used the girl as a steady source of income. How much she willingly cooperated with the men is not stated.

V. 17 - Even though her testimony about the men was accurate, perhaps it was like that of demons to Jesus, which testimony he rejected because of the source (i.e., the devil. Note Mark 1:34. It may well have been because of such testimony that some accused Jesus of being in league with Satan).

V. 18 - Because the woman kept up her testimony for many days, Paul exercised miraculous powers (as did Peter, 3:6) to instantly "heal" the woman. As in all cases, Jesus’ power through the apostles was greater than the demon’s power (note Matt. 12:22ff).

V. 19 - The men, with a vested interest, reacted as most others: adversely, since their hope (source) of gain was now gone. That Christians were not free from such self-interests is evident in II Cor. 2:14-17. It will do us all good to consider why we wish certain people or institutions to continue rather than be phased out or discontinued.

Agora - This is the common term for marketplace or forum. Paul stood in Athens at the marketplace, 17:17. It was also the area where the judges appeared to hold court, etc.

V. 20 - Some think that the "rulers" of v. 19 and the "magistrates" here were the same persons described two different ways; while others feel that two different groups of rulers were meant. It is not too important in the end.

Being Jews - Whether or not the accusers knew, or, knowing, cared that Jews and Christians were different groups is not stated. Doubtless many did not perceive the fact was so (see 18:14-15; 25:14-19). The men were only interested in eliminating two troublemakers.

V. 21 - As this verse shows, the two men were merely considered as Jews of a certain brand. It seems to be apparent that the Romans allowed much religious freedom as long as no disruptions were evident. That the Jews actually made many into "God fearers" is also evident. When Christianity came into being, disruptions occurred, however, and thus the Romans were often involved. The statement of the girl’s owners about being "Romans" indicated that Jews were still a despised race in most Roman eyes.

V. 22 - We should note the mob spirit, that unthinking attitude that so often is evident in world history. Christianity is so very different from this, making its appeal to reason and to personal, individual responsibility. Paul will mention "shameful treatment" in Philippi (I Thess. 2:2) and that he had been beaten with rods "three" times (II Cor. 11). The Greek term for "gave orders" indicates that the orders were repeatedly given; the mob spirit was even in the magistrates.

V. 23 - As far as these beating went, no limit was placed as in Jewish law. It was the whim of the officer.

V. 24 - An inner prison was normally made so that no opening was in it except the door. Hence, the stocks were only additional forms of punishment, and not necessary for their safe-keeping.

V. 25 - Those totally committed to a cause as great as Christianity would be able to rejoice even with such circumstances as were upon the men. They were but practicing what Jesus taught in Matt. 5:11-12. The other prisoners were listening, some doubtless in awe and wonder. Perhaps the jailer listened too.

V. 26 - Since Paul and Silas were praying as well as singing, perhaps part of their prayers were directed to God in connection with their awful situations. At least God answered in a most impressive way (note 4:31).

V. 27 - The jailer assumed too much; he, except for Paul, would have taken his life, and needlessly. His action was little different from the prior action of the mob - both were unthinking. He was responsible for the prisoners, and should have exercised some responsibility in regard to himself.

V. 28 - Brutus had taken his life near Philippi. It seems that the place was rather well-known for suicides.

Apparently some lights were in existence in the outer prison so that Paul could see what the man was about to do.

V. 29 - The jailer, unnerved by it all, fell down at the feet of the men, perhaps to worship them, surely to question them. His state of mind was like that described of Moses, 7:32; Hebrews 12:21.

V. 30 - The jailer’s question is probably best understood in the light of the answer he received, although it could be understood in other ways (the Greek word means "save" in many ways, physical as well as otherwise.)

V. 31 - The answer is best understood in the sense that salvation (by faith) was in Christ rather than anywhere else, instead of in the more narrow sense of "believe," then "repent" then "be immersed" etc. The jailer was to accept Jesus for his salvation, trusting totally in Christ in place of anyone or anything else. The same thing could be true for this family as for him - all or any could trust in Jesus for salvation, as Peter said in 10:43, and Paul said in 13:39.

V. 32 - The men amplified the true but comprehensive statement in v. 31, so that the meager knowledge the jailer had would be added to and better understood by him and those of his household. We should add, however, that the issue of faith in connection with salvation is not the degree of faith in Jesus that one possesses, but the presence or absence of faith in Jesus that counts. One either believes (trusts) that Jesus is able to save, or one doesn’t so believe. Faith should increase, however, II Peter 1:5ff.

V. 33 - Here is a good test to consider two words involving usage of water - the jailer washed/bathed the outside of the prisoners’ bodies, but he was washed/immersed for the afflictions of this inner man.

V. 34 - Like the treasurer in Acts 8:39, he rejoiced in the trust he had placed in Jesus ) as did those of his household who had obeyed too).

V. 35 - Why the magistrates decided to let Paul and Silas go free is not known.

V. 36 - In peace - Probably the jailer, much more aware of the total situation than his bosses, suggested the "in peace". He may well have understood more about peace than at any time previous. Too, he could but rejoice over the sudden change of attitudes of the magistrates.

V. 37 - Paul’s reply must have caused fear in the magistrates. It was unlawful to so treat any Roman. Emperor Claudius had taken the freedom from the city of Rhodes for having crucified a Roman citizen. The historian Cicero wrote, "To fetter a Roman citizen was a crime, to scourge him a scandal, to slay him parricide."

In Paul’s reply, he says that the magistrates wanted "to cast them out" which he rejects, and used a word which means "let them come and escort us out," since they were Roman citizens who had been flogged without an investigation, and cast into prison - all beneath the treatment deserved by an Roman.

V. 38 - The magistrates were justly afraid, and tried to make the best of a bad matter.

V. 39 - Silas and Paul were escorted out, and were "begged" to leave, having been consoled/comforted. The Greek term is at times translated exhort, beseech. It may well be that the official action helped preclude any more mistreatment by the crowds.

V. 40 - Note "brethren" which shows several persons in mind. Seemingly only Silas and Paul leave, the others as Luke either remaining behind.

 

QUESTIONS

38. How could Paul and Barnabas "agree to disagree" and yet be brothers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

39. Did Paul spend all of his time evangelizing, or did he also spend time teaching in churches?

 

 

40. What was one result in the churches of the deliverance of the decree from Jerusalem?

 

 

 

 

 

 

41. Noting the interference of the Holy Spirit in the places where Paul planned to go, where else do we have any record of direction by the Holy Spirit in his activities?

 

 

 

 

 

42. Would direction from the Holy Spirit at one point in life mean that all of life was likewise directed (i.e. no free will at all?)

 

 

43. What sections of acts are "we" sections where Luke wrote in first person?

 

 

44. Describe Lydia.

 

 

 

45. How do you understand the phrase about God opening her heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

46. Why do you think Paul was annoyed by what the girl was saying?

 

 

 

 

 

 

47. Why did he cast the demon out of her? Couldn’t she keep on saying the same thing about him and Silas?

 

 

 

 

48. Why did the slave owners take Paul and Silas to the market place?

 

 

 

49. What customs were being advocated by Paul and Silas which were unlawful for Romans to keep?

 

 

 

 

50. Were the charges leveled against the men actually the reasons for their seizure?

51. How widespread was the earthquake?

 

 

52. Do you think that God sent the earthquake?

 

 

53. How much does the text state that the jailer knew about his two prisoners?

 

 

54. What evidence is there for infant immersion (i.e., "household baptisms")?

 

 

 

 

55. Why did Paul insist on a public and personal apology?

 

 

 

 

56. How many Christians were in Philippi?

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N F O U R

(17:1-34)

 

 

Passing Through the Cities of Amphipolis and Appollonia, 17:1a

17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Appollonia, they came to Thessalonica.

V. 1 - Paul apparently did not stop in Amphipolis or Appollonia - they were both important cities - but went to Thessalonica, the capital city of Macedonia, about 100 miles from Philippi. It ranked with Antioch of Syria and Caesarea in Palestine in political influence. Paul remarked in I Thess. 1:8 that the gospel had "sounded forth" (from Thessalonica) everywhere. I Thess. 2:20 has Paul saying that the converts in Thessalonica were his "glory and joy". He boasted to churches of their "steadfastness and faith" in all their persecutions, II Thess. 1:4. Note the description of the Jews there in 2:14-16. Through the middle ages it was a stronghold of Christianity in the East.

 

At Thessalonica, 17:1b-10a

where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." 4 And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. 9 And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10. The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea;

V. 2 - Paul reasoned/discussed from the "writings" (i.e., Scriptures) with the Jews in the synagogue, where he went first, as was his custom. He remarked in I Thess. 1:9 that some there had turned from idols; so his ministry encompassed people like the Greeks, v. 4. I Thess. 2 and II Thess. 3 both bring up Paul’s manner of life there. These incidental remarks may indicate a stay of some time, which included the three Sabbath days.

V. 3 - Luke described Paul’s method as opening the Scripture (as in Luke 24:32, 45) and presenting his case: 1) that the Messiah must suffer and die (cf. Luke 24:25-27) and 2) that the Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. I Thess. 2:2 states that Paul faced great opposition. Doubtless the Jewish rabbis resisted the presentation.

V. 4 - Yet, some were open-minded and were persuaded (note the comments on 14:2) rather than being disobedient, and joined Paul.

leading women - This may mean wives of important men, or women in positions of importance, or both. 17:12 has a like reference. Luke’s Gospel has more about women than the other Gospels have.

V. 5 - The jealousy of the Jews killed Jesus, and caused Christians no end of trouble. It is good to be jealous for the things of God, but not to the point of doing harm to others who disagree. The O.T. speaks of God being jealous, with an everlasting love (Deut. 4:24; Jer. 31:3). And Paul speaks of his jealousy for the Corinthians (II Cor. 11:2). Such must be tempered with restraint and wisdom, however.

 

The wicked fellows of the rabble were probably some who loafed around the market place; and "made a crowd" and raised a great tumult.

V. 6 - The description of the work of the apostles is somewhat revealing in regard to their accomplishments. Perhaps the description was overdrawn, but it certainly was accurate as to the intent of the Christians. The Greek word means "to stir up," "upset," and thus to create strife or revolt. Naturally, as in Ephesus, ch. 19, such could not be tolerated by Romans.

The word for the rulers of the city is an example of Luke’s fine historical accuracy, as examples can be cited to show that the city was ruled by men described by the exact word in our text.

V. 7 - Some think the charges were perverted, but in essence, the Christian system was, in some points, opposed to the decrees of Caesar. Rightly understood, any culture, Christian in nature, may have government (as witness even in Romans 13). of the people. But to set up someone in opposition to Caesar was not acceptable. The Christian system, in some ways, did exactly that, and Christians would in subsequent years, but put to death for refusing to bow to Caesar’s image, and offer a pinch of incense thereupon. You may already have noticed that Luke, in his first book, has this same charge made against Jesus to Pilate, 23:2.

V. 8 - The charges from the crowd agitated the city fathers and may have affected them somewhat as the cries of the mob influenced Pilate’s decision.

V. 9 - Just what the security from Jason was to insure is not quite clear, but Paul mentions (I Thess. 2:18) that he was unable to return, so it may have meant his leaving the city. Note also in 2:14-16 how Paul viewed the Jews who opposed him.

V. 10 - However long or short the time spent in the city, much good came from it, and many were saved in spite of the defiant Jews. We have no notice of any subsequent church activity there, as at Athens with the church begun there, 17:34. However, Paul’s letters (that we possess) were not necessarily written to every church begun by him, but to churches with problems. He may have not written to other churches, or we may not have the letters.

 

 

At Beroea, 17:10b-14a

and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there too, stirring up and inciting the crowds. 14 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea.

V. 11 - An oft-quoted verse, since it described the ideal attitude of anyone faced with a challenge to the position then held - i.e., check the charges being made as to their accord with truth. One has no need to fear truth, whoever has it. However, it is just as necessary to check how the various "truths" presented are fitted together. It may be in this area that most disagreements occur. This is where the problem invariably arose with Jesus’ preaching, and with the preaching of the apostles; there was little argument about the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures foretold of a Messiah to come. The argument was about the nature and identification of that Messiah. Paul asserted the Messiah was Jesus; the Jews who disbelieved denied it.

For us, the same thing is true. Many people will agree with the assertion that all the Bible is from God. The point of dispute is how one views or arranges the material in the Bible.

The phrase "more noble" comes from a word meaning "a better kind." These Jews were eager to listen and learn, and did not allow pride and prejudice to detract them from pursuit of truth.

V. 12 - An impressive group both of men and women accepted the position advocated by Paul. Note that although the synagogue was the main place of work, others not necessarily connected with it were also evangelized and brought to faith in Jesus.

V. 13 - The jealous Jews wrought havoc in Beroea, stirring up (as an earthquake "shakes" things) and troubling (agitation again) the people to revolt against Paul. We note that the brethren in Beroea supplied a messenger to Jerusalem (20:4) and doubtless money for the collection which Paul’s group was taking there. Since they were a part of the Macedonian churches which gave so liberally, II Cor. 8,9.

V. 14 - We don’t know for sure when Timothy came to Athens, if separately or with Silas. He would act as a messenger at a later time (I Thess. 3:1ff).

 

In Athens, 17:14b-34

but Silas and Timothy remained there.

15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there. 18 Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, "What would this babbler say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" - because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you present? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what theses things mean.." 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except selling or hearing something new.

22 So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said, "Men of Athen, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship. I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each of us, 28 for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, "for we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead".

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." 33 So Paul went out from among them. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

V. 15 - Why Paul was such a prominent person is hard to understand at times, since others also preached the good news. However, the whole Acts account describes Paul as a very intense individual, and against such a person people react, whoever they may be. Others, such as Luke, Silas or Timothy, could stay where Paul could not, even though all were of the same persuasion. Perhaps this fact should be kept in mind today as we labor among people. Some can do one work, others another work, though all believe and teach alike.

V. 16 - Athens, well known in secular history because of its university, and the various men who graced its campus, such as Pericles, Demosthenes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles and Euripides, now has a Jew turned Christian who is running from his own countrymen to enter its portals. Paul doubtless knew about its past, and its present, including such things as its renowned art centers, and the beautiful Parthenon crowning the Acropolis. He saw what others may also have seen; a city full of idols and people worshiping them. But he had a different response than others: a substitute of the true for the false, the real thing for that which was deceiving. (Can we only dimly perceive how he felt, or could his reaction be replayed in our lives?)

Provoked is the Greek word also in ch. 15:39; I Cor. 13:5; Heb. 10:24. It indicates a strong reaction. He saw a city with idol statues everywhere. Note here Romans 1:18-23 - when one refuses the knowledge of the true God, idolatry is the natural and inevitable result. He surely did not view the art and sculpture merely for its own sake, but saw beyond it to what it said about the people. Historians of this period who suggest that it was easier to find an idol in Athens than a man perhaps exaggerated the matter, but there were evidently plenty of idols.

V. 17 - Paul’s procedure was again the same - reasoning ("argued" as in 17:2) with Jews in their synagogues, and also others who chanced to pass by the market place where all would appear, sooner, or later.

V. 18 - Most commentaries will give information on the philosophical schools mentioned. Both groups were prominent in Athens. and were rather at opposite poles of thought. Stoicism tended more toward intellectualism. Epicureanism tended to emphasize a pleasurable (hedonism) life, having everything under control. Epicurus (342-270 B.C.) was anything but a sensualist, but followers over the centuries allowed his philosophy to degenerate. He had taught that man had freedom to act, and life ought to be so lived that none of the stresses and strains in it would bother, but that came to be simply "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" (and cease existing).

Zeno, (340-265 B.C.) founder of Stoicism (from stoa, a colonnade or porch where Zeno taught), was pantheistic in theology, fatalistic in thought. Some have characterized the stoics as the Pharisees of Greek philosophy, since they tended to apathy about life. Paul may have known more about Stoicism, since Tarsus was a center of learning, and Stoicism was prominent in the school there (at least six famous Stoic philosophers made their home in Tarsus). It was a mixed bunch addressed by Paul.

The one point both of these had in common: they tended to exalt self. Paul’s remarks seem to take in these philosophies, even if somewhat indirectly at times.

Babbler - The Greek word describes someone who had picked up bits and pieces of wisdom but had nothing to offer of genuine interest. They described him as one who proclaimed a strange doctrine of deities (i.e., a god who came to earth, was crucified and resurrected). In Athens, if a new doctrine of a god was introduced that would upset the current doctrine held, it was considered a captital offense. (At its ultimate, Christianity would do just that!) Socrates was killed for just such activity.

V. 19 - There is considerable doubt as to just where Paul was taken. The Greek text quite possibly indicates that Paul appeared before the council of the Areopagus (which met often times close to the Agora (market place) rather than on

the hill itself, from whence the council got its name).

Their question indicates that they wondered if it were possible to know whereof Paul spoke. The reason for such a question was that many mystery religions of the day would not share their doctrines outside of those in the group.

V. 20 - Some surprising things, they affirm, Paul has brought to their attention, and they desire to know more.

V. 21 - Luke inserts a note for his readers’ benefit, describing the basic character of those in Athens. Historians of the day confirm Luke’s description. With this sort of desire apparent, Paul set himself to declare the eternal truth, both new and old.

V. 22 - The opportunity presented itself, and Paul was ready for the offensive. He through the previous activity (v. 17) knew his audience, and addressed them correctly and well. Some have taken Paul to task for his presentation, and quote I Cor. 2 as his personal reaction to this sermon. Such does not appear to be the best position. He clearly addressed them on their philosophical basis, showing errors therein, and led them directly to God, with relevant information. The resurrection was the point at issue, and could not be avoided. Furthermore, some believed, including one of the distinguished people of the court itself, and a church was begun in Athens. Who could ask for more? In regard to the I Cor. 2 text, the contrast is that of the wisdom of God, elaborated in ch. 1 and proclaimed through the apostles, versus the wisdom of those in Corinth, which tended to puff up, 8:1.

Very religious - a much better rendering of the Greek term than "superstitious" of K.J. The Athenians were just that, and not superstitious. The Greek term means a "fearer of deities".

V. 23 - The reason for the previous observation in v. 22 is in this verse. Paul had observed the many objects of their worship. Whether these men shared the common views or not, some, through the expression of the statue in question, had expressed the desire to know more. His approach was to amplify what some presently claimed, thus avoiding the charge of presenting something contrary to what was then held.

V. 24 - Of course, monotheism was not unknown to these men, but their religion was not so. In fact, polytheism was found (and still is) everywhere except among the Jews, who had a revelation from the one God whom they worshiped.

V. 25 - The Epicureans held that the "gods" were quite indifferent to human needs, and dwelt afar, not being bothered by any of earth’s problems. The Stoics held that the "gods" animated the earth (but couldn’t exist apart from it). Paul declared that God is both transcendent and more than the sum total of the universe since he made it while remaining separate from it.

V. 26 - This verse cut across their cultural belief that the Athenians were self-generated, and so superior. Christian doctrine teaches the opposite (though it is more difficult to practice such doctrine than to preach it). It may be added that such a view hit at the prejudice of the Jews too. Contrariwise, all were created of one origin (from Adam) and no one was innately superior to another.

The major problem here is to what extent God determined man’s boundaries without transgressing man’s free will. To some extent, the O.T. prophets showed that God did determine the movements of some peoples, especially Israel, though that nation was treated on the basis of what God knew they would do.

V. 27 - As in ch. 14, Paul asserted that God’s witness should have led men to him, had they thought correctly. Note that here Paul denied what the Epicureans taught about the gods being far off from man. The true God had rather planned all of life so that it would bring men to him.

V. 28 - The part quoted was of a Greek philosopher of the Stoic school whose language was adapted to assert that God was the only source of life, movement, existence. The assertion was made of Zeus (Jupiter), but Paul went beyond Zeus, pointing out that man didn’t produce God but rather God created man, and that God wasn’t Zeus.

V. 29 - Now, the essential nature of the divine is not to be expressed in idols, and subject to man’s ideas rather, God is transcendent and separate from his creation (thus arguing against the position of the Stoics who had their gods being immanent and pantheistic).

V. 30 - God’s past revelation was rather incomplete for most peoples (only Jews had a written revelation) and men were judged accordingly (God looked beyond those times to what was to come). But now, the final and greater revelation (in Christ) had come, and such actions as had been allowed were no longer allowed so repentance is in order in view of an impending judgment (thus arguing life after death in opposition to the Epicureans). Moreover, God had given assurance (Greek word for faith) that such was going to happen by evidence which all could know, and act accordingly. (See the importance of proclaiming a resurrected Jesus! Actually, faith in anything comes from evidence, which "persuades" that "whatever" is presented is trustworthy. it is always a process of persuasion through presentation of evidence, etc., as in 17:2-3.) As Paul wrote in Galatians 4, the fullness of time had come, and Jesus came that men might not be condemned but saved.

V. 32 - Paul had presented the essentials of Christianity: one eternal transcendent God who cared for man, who gave man a charge to repent in view of the day of reckoning to come. Some didn’t believe in any life after death, while others thought the soul lived on. But none held to a bodily resurrection, the basic fact of Christianity.

V. 33 - With the possibility of another hearing, Paul departed, but not without results. Some of those listening were persuaded and formed part of the body of the church in Athens. Of interest is that one of the council was persuaded, and a woman, plus others. In consideration of the audience, hardly more results could have been expected. A university town is both open for promulgation and difficult to persuade.

As before mentioned, some think that I Cor. 2:1-5 is Paul’s response to this sermon, in which the cross, per se, was not proclaimed. However, it seems that such a position discounts God’s leading in what Paul did. If we believe that God directed Paul in what he preached and wrote, there is no good reason to think that this sermon was not so directed.

 

QUESTIONS

 

57. What words describe Paul’s presentations in Thessalonica? in Beroea? in Athens?

 

 

58. What two points did Paul make to the Jews of Thessalonica?

 

 

 

 

59. What was the actual charge in v. 7 leveled against Paul and Silas by the Jews?

 

 

60. What was the cultural effect of this charge, as stated in v. 6?

 

 

61. Have you treated other people like the Berean Jews treated Paul? (Weren’t their actions like the "golden rule"?)

 

 

62. What sort of effect in Berea did the Jews from Thessalonica create?

 

63. Most cities of Paul’s day were full of idols (cf. Thessalonica, I Thess. 1:9). Do you suppose that a center of learning such as Athens, with all its potential for evil, was somewhat more of a "provoker" to Paul than other cities?

 

 

 

64. What terms describe Paul in the Athenian eyes?

 

65. Summarize Paul’s sermon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

66. In what way(s) did Paul differentiate between the Christian God and those of his hearers?

 

 

 

 

67. Is all the human race of one origin?

 

68. Do people yet today consider themselves better than others because of birth, wealth, etc.?

 

69. If you were in Paul’s place, what would you preach?

 

70. Is there anything more powerful to preach than a resurrected Christ and universal judgment?

 

 

71. What were the results of Paul’s sermon?

 

 

 

72. Do you suppose God directed Paul in

remarks? (Read Matthew 10:17-20; I Thess. 2:13; Gal. 1:11,12).

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N F I V E

(18:1-22)

 

 

In Corinth, 18:1-17

18 After this he left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them; 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them, and they worked, for by trade they were tentmakers. 4 And he argued in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks. synagogue every

5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with preaching, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go the Gentiles." 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision. "Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city." 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack upon Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, "This man is persuading men to worship God contrary to the law." 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "It if were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, I should have reason to bear with you, O Jews; 15 but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I refuse to be a judge of these things." 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to this.

V. 1 - Though some believed in Athens, Paul either had to leave or thought it best to leave. Hence, he went to the trade capital of Greece, Corinth, some 45 miles southwest of Athens, situated on the Isthmus that provided passageway from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic, and thence to Rome.

 

The city is famous in history for its bad character which doubtless made all sorts of difficulty for the people in the church. Nevertheless the people needed Christ, and Paul was the man to do it. The two letters to the Corinthian brethren are doubtless the most helpful letters of any we have in the areas of understanding relationships in Christ, of brethren to each other, how to take care of church problems, what to do about support of preachers, how to live in the world but not be of the world, etc. Additionally, reading of the two epistles to Thessalonica both written during this time in Corinth, will aid in understanding Paul’s spirit while in Corinth. (See, for example, II Thess. 3:2).

V. 2 - Aquila was probably from the Pontus next to Bithynia, and lived in Rome until Claudius drove (all) Jews out about the 9th year of his reign, approximately A.D. 49-50. They had therefore been in Corinth for some time, since it is now approximately A.D. 51-52.

V. 3 - It is not stated that Aquila and Priscilla were Christians, but if not they evidently became so before too much time had passed. Paul made reference in 20:34 that he worked in Ephesus, and in II Thess. 3:6ff, about working in Thessalonica (though he received financial help while there from the Philippians, 4:14-16). He wrote in II Cor. 12:13 that he was not a financial burden to the Corinthians.

V. 4 - Many Jews (a stone has been found in Corinth that probably had on it the words: "synagogue of the Jews") would be present in a place like Corinth, where business opportunities would be excellent. Paul kept reasoning with them.

V. 5 - Paul had left orders for Silas and Timothy to come when possible (17:15) and so they did come, bringing gifts from the Macedonians (I Thess. 3:6, II Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:15). Timothy was evidently sent back to Thessalonica with the first epistle to the church there. The gifts of money (all evidence that brethren were supporting him) apparently freed Paul from tent-making so that he could increase his efforts, and doubtless also was aided by Timothy and Silas. (See II Cor. 1:19, and the Thessalonian epistles). He was compelled by the word to speak of Jesus as the Christ.

V. 6 - The Jews, like others previous, arrayed themselves against Paul, blaspheming the message he proclaimed. He, as before, left them, after warning them of the consequences of their choice. His statement was like that in Acts 20:26, and to the effect that he was not responsible for their damnation (see Ezek 3).

V. 7 - The scene of labor barely changes to the house next door, and the work goes on, with evident success (v. 9).

V. 8 - As is evident elsewhere, Jews and Greeks were convicted through the preached word. We note that some of the Corinthians were of bad backgrounds (I Cor. 6:9-11). Crispus is mentioned in I Cor. 1. His reception of Christianity undoubtedly was a major factor in the response of others.

V. 9 - Noting I Cor. 2:3, this action of God is most impressive. NASV correctly translates the Greek: Paul was to stop being afraid and to keep speaking, not becoming silent. Certainly the apostle well knew what Jewish hatred could do, as well as the wrath of Gentiles (see v. 12). The foreknowledge of God is displayed here. The human agency God used to accomplish his will. God had chosen Paul for a rugged life, but often encouraged Paul in a personal way.

V. 10 - I have many people - Perhaps this was partially prophetic, and would then have been a great encouragement to Paul.

V. 11 - Whether this is an inclusive statement of time, or to be considered apart form the time in v. 18, we have no knowledge. At any rate, Paul spent much time preaching to people, helping them become Christian and continuing with them to help them grow. He evidently did not practice what is sometimes said: "No one has the right to hear the gospel twice until everyone has heard it once."

V. 12 - Gallio became proconsul (under the Roman senate) in July A.D. 51. So we know about when Paul was there. Gallio ruled one year, then left.

The court was a place of judgment which was located near the agora (market place). In recent years, evacuation has been done, and the agora uncovered. It had an elevated platform for the bema (Latin rostra), which is undoubtedly the exact spot where Paul stood. The agora itself was surrounded by various shops where food, etc. could be bought. An underground tunnel for water supplies connected all the ships. The main roads leading to Corinth’s two ports (Lechaian and Cenchreae) led away form this agora. A stone with the name Erastus, commissioner of public works, has recently been found; perhaps the same man as in Romans 16:24.

V. 13 - The charge was ambiguous: whose law was being broken, and in what way? Gallio was too sharp for the Jews, however, and refused to judge the case. Paul was indeed stirring people up by persuasion, but that was not necessarily unlawful.

V. 15 - Gallio stated that Paul was not a criminal, one who worked deceit, or a doer of evil. Therefore, he would not honor their charges. (This is somewhat the same thing as in seen later in Acts when Paul is arrested in Jerusalem, and is tried before Felix, etc.) His sentence had the effect of protecting Christianity by law, since the Jewish religion was approved under law, and Gallio had refused to make Christianity a separate thing.

V. 17 - This action may have pleased Gallio, since it might have given tacit approval to the onlookers that his decision was correct. I Cor. 1:1 mentions a Sosthenes. The name was common, but it is surely more than a coincidence that it appears in both accounts.

 

At Cenchreae, 18:18

18 After this Paul stayed many days longer, and then took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he cut his hair, for he had a vow.

V. 18 - Paul had a "scissors cut" in Cenchreae (in Acts 21, the word is "shave", not "cut"). Cenchreae was the eastern port of Corinth. From Rom. 16, it appears that a congregation was evidently there, though we are not told how it began.

The vow Paul took has always been a point of contention. It was possible to become a Nazarite for a time, but why would Paul do so, since it generally involved abstinence from wine, etc, which Paul probably did not drink anyway. Since the hair was cut, not shaved, it may have been in connection with some other type of vow. Any or all of the law could be kept, as long as it was not kept for the purpose of redemption. Many Christians kept it, at least major points in it, as is evident here and elsewhere. Again, the reason for keeping it would be paramount.

 

In Ephesus, 18:19-21

19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there; but he himself went into the synagogue and argued with the Jews. 20 When the asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined; 21 but on taking leave of them he said, "I will return to you if God wills," and he set sail from Ephesus.

V. 19 - Whether Ephesus was his intended stop in Asia is a guess. Maybe he was trying to see where the work could be done at some future time, though intending now to go to Antioch.

argued - The same procedure as in Thessalonica, 17:2, and the other places he has been.

Priscilla and Aquila evidently went back to Rome later, since A.D. 57 finds them in Rome (Rom. 16:3).

V. 21 - Ephesus was the capital of Asia, across the Aegean Sea from Greece, home of Diana (Artemis) of the Ephesians. Paul, recognizing the presence of God’s will in his plans, promised to return. We can’t help but admire Paul for his never-ceasing efforts to win his countrymen (Rom. 9:1ff; 11:13ff).

 

At Caesarea, 18:22a

22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church.

In Antioch, 18:22b

and then went down to Antioch.

 

QUESTIONS

 

73. What do you know about Corinth?

 

 

 

 

74. Approximately what year was it when Paul was in Corinth?

75. Did Paul have the right to be supported by the Christians in Corinth? (ref. I Cor. 9; II Cor. 12)

 

 

 

 

 

76. Why does the apostle always try to persuade people? Would this mean that God did not make them become Christians, but rather left each to decide what course life would take?

 

 

 

 

 

77. When Paul argued that Jesus was the Messiah, would this indicate that the Jews believed in a coming Messiah, but disagreed as to who it was? (Isn’t it often the case that the "facts" are the same for all, but it is the interpretation thereof that brings the disagreement?)

 

 

 

 

78. Did Paul’s persuasiveness convince any to believe in Jesus?

 

 

79. What did the Corinthians who were persuaded do (v. 8)?

 

 

 

80. Did Paul need encouragement even as we do?

 

 

81. Considering the charge brought against Paul by the Jews, were they correct, in some senses, that Paul was trying to get people to worship God contrary to the law?

 

 

82. What do you know about Priscilla and Aquila?

 

 

83. Were the Jews in Ephesus willing to hear Paul’s case?

 

84. What expression did Paul use that would be good for us to use (and practice)? See James 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N S I X

(18:23 - 19:41)

 

 

The Third Missionary Journey

18:23 - 21:16

In Antioch of Syria, 18:23a

 

 

Through the Provinces of Galatia and Phrygia, 18:23b

23 After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

V. 23 - Which church Paul greeted is uncertain, but he evidently wasted little time anywhere, going on to Antioch. After some time, he returned through his earlier places of work, and then back to Ephesus (19:1). Over 1,500 miles were covered on this account by Luke, who does not even mention the long days and weary bones Paul must have experienced. Sometimes God included or excluded the strangest things in his revelation to us.

 

 

At Ephesus, 18:24-19:41

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him , and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

19 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John’s baptism." 4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve of them in all.

8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; 9 but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

11 And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; and fear fell upon them all; and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily.

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

23 About that time there arose no little stir concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear than not only at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable company of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may count for nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship."

28 When they heard this they were enraged, and cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" 29 So the city was filled with the confusion; and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 Paul wished to go in among the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; 31 some of the Asiarchs also, who were friends of his, sent to him and begged him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, wishing to make a defense to the people. 34 But when they recognized the he was a Jew, for about two hours they all with one voice cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" 35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, "Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be contradicted, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against any one, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, there being no cause that we can give to justify this commotion." 41 And when he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

V. 24 - While the beginning of Paul’s third journey is taking place, Luke the historian treats us to a notable personage in the life of the Corinthians, Apollos by name. One of the world’s great libraries was at Apollos’ home city in Alexandria. It was a major center of Jewish learning (Philo the Jewish philosopher was alive at this time). The Greek version of the O.T. (the Septuagint, LXX, in Hebrew) was made there. Many of the great church scholars (like Origen) lived in Alexandria, where Christians came to study. Apollos was a man of learning (i.e. wisdom/words) in the Scriptures - a worthy goal for any of us.

V. 25 - Just how he got this particular combination of knowledge we know not. It is clear, however, how twelve men could be in Ephesus who had been immersed with John’s immersion, and not the immersion in the authority of Jesus.

V. 26 - There is a play on words in the Greek where v. 25 has Apollos speaking "accurately" while v. 26 has him being instructed "more accurately".

V. 27 - Here is evidence of a letter of recommendation for Apollos, such as we find in II Cor. 8. Note here II Cor. 3:1ff, Apollos, put together much that was helpful to the believers in Corinth, not only from his own knowledge of the Scriptures but also with new framework provided by Aquila and his wife.

V. 28 - Apollos may not have caused the Jews to believe but he did show that they were incorrect in their position. His influence was so great that some in Corinth made him their leader (I Cor 1:12ff). Paul says that Apollos watered 3:6. Note also 4:6 and 16:12.

We might do well to note that many Jewish teachers might have been better versed in their traditions than in the law. Apollos knew the Scriptures, which may be the reason why he had such success.

 

19:1 - As Paul begins his ministry, the time is probably A.D. 52 or A.D. 53. The city of Ephesus was the capital of the province called Asia (an area on the western end of modern Turkey, and about 200x 300 miles) which was governed by the Romans senate. All of the cities in Revelation 2 and 3 were located in Asia, Ephesus being described in Revelation 2:1-7. In Paul’s day it was a great commercial seaport on the south of the Cayster river. Now the ruins are some seven miles inland, since the harbor has filled up. Some of the ancient ruins can still be seen, including the amphitheater where the crowds went, v. 29. Note I Cor. 15:32.

The basic religion was that of Diana, the goddess of fertility, protectress of all young, a beneficent and helpful deity of the night; to whom the creatures of nature were sacred. The temple that was built was one the world’s seven wonders, and employed eunuchs (quite a difference from Greek religions) in the worship. The religion was Asiatic not Greek, though the Greeks called the goddess Artemis. Temples were also there to the Roman emperors Claudius, Hadrian and Severua.

The city was prominent in church history, and said to be the place where John spent his last years. One of the early church councils (A.D. 431) was held there, with the major topic of discussion being about the heresy of Nestorius, who was appointed bishop of Constantinople in A.D. 428. He had become popular in defending Christianity against various heresies then prevalent in that area. Cyril of Alexandria charged that Nestorius did not believe that Christ was really God in the flesh, but had two natures, thus was two distinct persons. Nestorius argued that Mary was only mother of the human side of Jesus, and the two natures were joined Siamese-twin fashion.

One of the points in Revelation 2:7 is a reference to the "tree of life". A date tree was part of the things sacred to the goddess and the religion surrounding her.

V. 2 - The disciples (v. 1) must have been like Apollos, or like the apostles prior to the time they followed Jesus. They may have learned what they knew from Apollos himself, prior to his instruction from Aquila and Priscilla.

We should note that the text in King James is not as accurate as some of the later versions (i.e., "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since you believed? and they said unto him, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost"). The better translation is "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

Your guess is as good as mine as to the reason Paul asked the question. It might be that many people were ignorant of the facts about Jesus, to whom John pointed, even as was Apollos, and Paul had encountered such persons in this travels. Their answer might indicate they had not understood what John preached (either about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, etc.) or had not known much of what he preached. He did mention the Holy Spirit, but they may not have heard/understood.

V. 3 - As Paul’s question makes clear, any immersion is "into" something (i.e., purposive, achieving certain results). John’s immersion was on the basis of information received, acceptance of that message (i.e., repentance), thus producing a change of mind, and immersion as the commanded response, resulting in remission of sins (Mark 1:4). What differences there were between it and Christian immersion could be summed up in 1) preaching of Jesus as the crucified, resurrected Savior and Lord, 2) immersion into Jesus and his body and church, and receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit. Implicit in this "new" message, would be the fact that John’s immersion was no longer valid.

V. 4 - As noted above, a major difference between what was preached/believed was in relationship to "the coming one" whom John preached, but denied that he was, and Jesus, who asserted he was "the coming one".

V. 5 - Since their immersion was not valid (having been done after the time when it was right "to fulfill God’s righteousness" by being immersed by John, Matt. 3:15), they were obedient by obeying Jesus’ command about immersion. It is pertinent to remark that one’s interpretation of this text will be determined by several things, such as presuppositions, ideas about immersion, the Holy Spirit and the believer, spiritual gifts, etc.

V. 6 - As is evident elsewhere, we know 1) that the apostles could give to others gifts through their hands, and 2) excepting Acts 1 and 10, no one received the special gifts of the Holy Spirit except by the Apostles. The results in these disciples were 1) languages and 2) prophecy.

V. 8 - Because the Jews were already interested (18:20), Paul apparently had a longer time of reception here than elsewhere. We also note that it is still "to the Jew first". He followed his same procedures: reasoning and (trying to) persuade those listening concerning the kingdom of God, the church.

V. 9 - Some listeners "hardened" themselves, refusing to be persuaded (thus disobedient) and spoke evil of ("blasphemed") the "Way" (i.e., Christianity) before the crowd.

The Greek text says that Paul "apostasized" from them (i.e., withdrew) and separated the disciples from the rest, setting up shop in the school of Tyrannus. One Greek manuscript reads that Paul taught from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Greek term for school originally meant a place of leisure, then of learning. Many places throughout history have served as meeting places for instruction and learning by the church. I Cor. 16:19 has a group meeting in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. See also Philemon v. 2.

V. 10 - Since from Ephesus roads radiated everywhere throughout the country of Asia, the news about Jesus would soon be carried everywhere in the region. This may well be how the "seven" churches got started, even though Paul did not in person visit some of the various places (Col. 2:1). (It would really be good to read the Ephesian letter at this point in your study. Remember also that both the Corinthian letters were written from Ephesus during this period. Paul received and sent messengers to and from Corinth, and quite possible made a trip there himself during this three-year period, according to his statement in 20:31.

V. 11 - Since v. 12 explains that some of the mighty works were "out of the ordinary," we may be helped to see why the message had such wide hearing. Demetrius helps us see how effective Paul’s work was, v. 23ff. A Roman governor of the area, Pliny, writing to the emperor Trajan about A.D. 100 gives ample evidence that Christians were numerous and everywhere.

We may note in passing that though it seems somewhat odd to put faith in such things as aprons (i.e., something one worked in), yet Elisha wanted Elijah’s mantle, the woman (Luke 8) wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and Peter’s shadow was thought beneficial, 5:15. The way God chooses to work is his wisdom being expressed. Sometimes he works in people’s lives despite either foolish beliefs rather than because of such.

V. 13 - The Jews were evidently like others who used an oath to do their work. The word "exorcist" means ‘to exact/use an oath’ in incantations, etc. These particular Jews traveled about performing for their living.

The work of Paul in Jesus’ name evidently was considered powerful, and evidently also thought to be a means of making fame and fortune (what a cruel twist! yet true for many, II Cor. 2:17) by these Jews. They may have considered Paul one of their own people. They evidently thought that success turned on the use of the correct incantation rather than sustaining a right relationship with Jesus.

V. 15 - This remark of the demon is universal throughout the N.T. Never once did demons (K.J. ‘devils’) fail to recognize who Jesus is. Note also the knowledge of the demons about people.

V. 16 - As is clear from Matthew 8, some people indwelt by evil spirits were unusually powerful - this one obviously was. Doubtless to the chagrin of these Jews, the cause of Christ was magnified by this incident, which lends added impetus to the remark in v. 11. It seems that all seven sons were present, and overcome by the evil spirit. What a spot for the candid camera!

V. 17 - Fear fell - We may make little out of it, or quote I John 4:18 to justify our behavior, but Scripture makes much (esp. in Acts) about fear falling upon people with results following. Let us not minimize effect of fear in our preaching. At the end of Paul’s description of sinful people in Romans, he said that there was no fear of God in their eyes, 3:18. A proper fear of God is the basis for wisdom. The result was good here, as fear kept falling upon people, motivating repentance and confession of sin, coupled with the magnifying of Jesus’ name.

V. 18 - This text gives evidence of how repentance (=changing of the mind) is a continuous process in the Christian life. Many things may cause a Christian to become more Christ-like - such as increased knowledge, or better understanding of how a text may apply, etc. Notice too that confession is not related to becoming a Christian, but is often needed in the Christian life.

Many...came - The Greek text indicates that people kept coming as time went by.

V. 19 - This text seems to be speaking about those who were not disciples (as were those in v. 18), but who learned that what they were doing was not right. Some, however, think that believers were also involved, which is surely a possible interpretation.

V. 20 - Change impresses! And as peoples’ lives were transformed, God’s Word (as it was seen to affect the lives of people) became more of a force in the area, growing and becoming stronger day by day.

We remind the reader that Luke’s summary of the work in Ephesus has been considered by some to be a division marker in Acts. The outline by Barclay (see the Introduction) follows this thesis.

V. 21 - From the Corinthian epistles, especially I Cor. 16 and II Cor. 1, Paul apparently had planned to do somewhat differently than our text indicates. As it turned out, he did go from Ephesus into Macedonia, then to Corinth, thence to Jerusalem. As Romans 1 and 15 show, he had long prayed about going to Rome, thence to Spain (the far end of the Roman Empire).

purposed in the Spirit - It is not clear whether this has reference to the Holy Spirit or simply to the fact that Paul decided within himself to go.

V. 22 - As I Cor. 4:17 and II Cor. 12:17-18 indicate, both Timothy and Titus were sent by Paul to Corinth while Paul was in Ephesus. Timothy and Erastus (who was from Corinth, Rom. 16:23) now go to Macedonia to prepare the brethren for Paul’s coming, while he remains in Ephesus. Apparently the "great and effectual door" of I Cor. 16:8,9 was the reason. As we shall see, however, Paul left before Pentecost, primarily because of the "many adversaries."

two of his helpers - The Greek term is commonly transliterated as "deacon". Hence, Paul sent two who were "ministering" (serving) him to minister to others.

V. 23- no little stir - ("Same song, second verse") - The comments of Alexander indicate just how much success Paul was having. Certainly the epistles to Ephesus and Colossae, and Revelation chs. 2 and 3 shows how great the word of the Lord grew. The riot occurred about the time of Paul’s departure from Ephesus into Macedonia, apparently.

"the Way" - Notice again this unique designation for Christianity. In ch. 9:2, Paul was going to Damascus to arrest any of "The Way"; in 16:17, we had "way of salvation"; in 18:26.

the way of God - In 19:9 the Jews spoke evil of the "Way"; in 22:4, Paul in recounting his life told of persecuting "this Way to the death"; and in 24:14 said "after the Way which they call a sect". In 24:22; Felix is described as having a "rather accurate knowledge of the Way." Other texts of interest here would be Romans 3:17; Hebrews 9:8; 10:20; James 5:20 and II Peter 2:2; 15; 21.

V. 24 - The vested interest of people, if contrary to Christianity, invariably caused opposition at some point in time. One’s treasure location will determine his loyalty, and rarely does loyalty go unchallenged. In fact, if Christ is to be Lord, every loyalty will be tested.

From epistles written from Ephesus, consider I Cor. 15:30ff and II Cor. 1:8ff for some feeling about this time on Paul’s part.

The name Demetrius is common. He may have been the leader of the silversmiths in Ephesus. We should note in passing that this Artemis (Diana) and the Greek goddess Artemis are not identical, though both were worshiped.

V. 25 - The appeal is made to their living, not to their religion necessarily, though the workmen may have also worshiped Diana.

V. 26 - Paul’s preaching had changed many. The message must have been in principle like that in Acts 17. Compare I Cor. 8:4-6.

V. 27 - Now, the additional motivation of the greatness of their religion is brought up, after that major point is emphasized about their own interests. So, their living and their honor were at stake!

V. 28 - Demetrius achieved the desired result! Inscriptions show that this was the usual cry in the worship of the goddess by the multitudes.

We note the mob spirit is frequently seen in the Acts account, that spirit of mindlessness that so often acts before thinking, and sometimes with tragic results. Recall the "mob spirit" in ch. 7 with Stephen, ch. 12 with Herod, ch. 14 at Lystra, ch. 16 in Philippi, ch. 17 in Thessalonica, ch. 18 at the agora, then in ch. 21 in the temple. Christianity does not pander to mob spirit or mob psychology in any form. It is a religion of saneness and soberness, intended for serious and solemn consideration of its claims, and teaches personal responsibility. True, the multitudes can be preached to, and encouraged to individually respond, but that is a far cry from mass methods of getting responses by frenzied singing, and other methods of mass hypnosis.

V. 29 - The crowd was confused (the Greek term means "poured together" as a flooding river) and rushed impetuously into the amphitheater (the ruins are still extant) which seated some 25,000.

Aristarchus and Gaius from Macedonia were taken along with the mob. As is evident in Acts 20, they were helping Paul deliver money to Jerusalem. These men doubtless also helped in the evangelistic endeavors of Paul.

V. 30 - Some think that Aquila and Priscilla may have had a hand in the matter (see also Rom. 16:3,4).

V. 31 - Asiarchs were rulers of the province. These men were generally ten (10) in number, chosen from the various cities in the area. They supervised the emperor worship, public festivals and games, and from them was chosen the high priest of the emperor cult. They, as well as the disciples, probably considered that Paul would lose his life in the rioting crowds.

V 32- the assembly - the church. The Greek term regularly translated church means any assembly, from local to national or in a religious sense, a group of people associated together, having a common bond. The term is used both collectively and individually. There is little reason to use the etymology that some do (i.e., "to call out"). The word simply meant an assembly, whether "called out" or not.

V. 34 - A Jew was not acceptable, even though he tried to give a defense (Greek: apologia).

V 35 - The city of Ephesus had a proconsul (v. 38) who lived there, but the town clerk was an elected official from the local group, who would answer to the proconsul. He would be in charge of the city records and finances, etc. His opening remarks show that he knew how to handle the mob.

V. 36 - No one can assert differently he says, and then suggests that they do not rush head-long into anything, since (v. 40) their defense to the proconsul would be weak.

V. 37 - Though the two friends of Paul were not technically guilty of the charges he suggested, they were united with Paul in what he preached, as described by Demetrius in v. 26. The ultimate end of Paul’s message would be opposition (blasphemy) against Artemis.

V. 38 - The place for the trial was the agora (market place) where such things were heard (v. 39, and as in Acts 18), not by such a gathering as this.

V. 39 - This matter, and all others, were to be settled in legal, orderly fashion and at an assembly, the Roman way. (Consider this in reference to the uproar before Pilate’s judgment seat, and the pressure he had, with his background in mind.) This region had the essence of the democratic process, and it was only proper that such matters should be handled therein.

V 40 - He reminded them that they could be accused/charged (as in v. 38) with unlawful proceedings, and should therefore come to their senses quickly. Otherwise the proconsul will demand an account of their disorderliness.

V. 41 - The authority of this man is seen by this verse. We should note that both Gaius and Aristarchus and Luke were together on the journey to Jerusalem. They probably furnished Luke with his information about this event.

 

 

QUESTIONS

85. Can you trace the three journeys of Paul, giving Scripture limitations and cities visited?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

86. Describe Apollos.

 

87. What is the meaning of the phrase in 18:27 "those who through grace had believed"?

 

 

 

 

 

88. Describe the difference(s) between the immersion as practiced by John and the immersion of Christians.

 

 

 

 

89. How did Luke describe the activity of Paul in the synagogue in Ephesus?

 

 

 

 

90. What was the extent of Paul’s work in the two-year span at Ephesus?

 

 

 

 

 

91. Describe the men who attempted to do miracles in Jesus’ name.

 

 

 

 

92. What was the extent of knowledge of the world and people in it that the demon indicated? (Would this indicate how difficult the "war" is in which we are engaged, according to Ephesians 6:10ff.?)

 

 

 

93. What good result came to pass in Ephesus from the victory of the evil spirit?

 

 

 

 

94. Were the Christians in Ephesus learning what being Christian in both thought and practice meant?

 

 

 

 

 

95. How did Luke describe the progress being made by God’s word?

 

 

 

 

96. Approximately what year is it, as Paul concludes his work in Ephesus?

97. What descriptions of the Church and the Christians did Luke use in Acts?

 

 

 

98. What reasons did Demetrius have for opposing Paul?

 

99. How many times do you find the "mob spirit" in Acts? (Is it still evident in our time?)

 

 

100. What evidence do you see of the "democratic process" in Ephesus? (Remember that some of our government processes come from the Romans.)

 

 

101. What term used to describe the church also was used to describe the crowds in the theater?

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N S E V E N

(20:1-38)

 

 

In Macedonia, 20:1,2

20 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples and having exhorted them took leave of them and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through these parts and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.

V. 1 - Paul took leave from Ephesus, probably in the year A.D. 55 or 56, during the spring/summer. We recall that Timothy and Erastus were already in Macedonia, 19:22.

V. 2 - How much time he spent there in Macedonia is unknown. (Compare Romans 15:19). It is quite possible that II Corinthians was written during this trip. Titus finally arrived in Macedonia from Corinth (II Cor. 7:5ff) and helped lift an offering from those churches. He apparently took II Corinthians to Corinth, ahead of Paul’s arrival there.

 

At Corinth in Greece, 20:3-5

3 There he spent three months and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater of Beroea, the son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on and were waiting for us at Troas,

V. 3 - While in Greece (Corinth), most think that Romans and Galatians were written. Because of the Jewish plot, instead of sailing to Syria, he went by land back through Macedonia. Thus from v. 1 to v. 6, most of a year had elapsed, in which time Paul was active in many ways.

V. 4 - All the men were chosen from the various churches in Macedonia and elsewhere to help with the collection being made for the Judean brethren, and some were evidently used to help evangelize also. The men sailed to Troas, awaiting Paul who was coming through Macedonia by land, with Luke as his companion. It is noticeable that Paul’s party was careful with the offerings, doubtless thinking both of thieves and any who might be suspicious concerning Paul’s integrity (cf. II Cor. 8:20,21).

 

V. 5 - Luke again became an eyewitness to the account we are studying.

 

At Philippi, 20:6a

In Troas, 20:6b-13

6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer; and being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead . 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and embracing him said, "Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him." 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bead and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the lad away alive, and were not a little comforted.

13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there; for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land.

V. 6 - the days of unleavened bread - a point in time by the Jewish calendar. It has been at least a year since I Corinthians was written from Ephesus (note 1 Cor. 16) and it is now A.D. 56,57. As II Cor. 2:12 shows, Paul had been to Troas the preceding fall, but had not stayed, because of his concern for the report of Titus who was coming from Corinth.

V. 7 - This oft-quoted text shows the practice of the brethren in Troas. The churches in Corinth and Galatia (I Cor. 16:2) evidently had the same practice. The early churches evidently met on Sunday, and did not observe Saturday as a liturgical day for 300 years. It seems evident that the early Christians understood that the fourth command was a part of the law that was made void in Christ.

The few records we have of the early centuries show some divergence in practice among the churches in regard to Sunday. In Bithynia, a service about dawn included singing, prayer and vows to lead holy lives. In the evening they observed the communion and other things such as confession of sins, preaching, etc. In some areas, the communion service was separate from the fellowship meal (as it seemed to be in I Cor. 11).

Early church councils encouraged observance of Sunday, and inveighed against Sabbath observance (because of Jews often attempted to Judaize those who observed the Sabbath). Little was said about rest on the Lord’s Day, since many Christians were slaves and could not do so, while others recognized that the N.T. said nothing about rest in order to observe Sunday. It wasn’t until the 6th century that manual labor was forbidden for Christians on Sunday.

Probably one of the major reasons why the early Christians felt so free to change days of worship was their recognition that Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath had the perogative to change that day if he chose to do so. It seems clear from Romans 14 that one might hold one day above another, and others consider all to be alike. However, such differences of belief did not involve observance of Sunday or another day as a required part and parcel of his salvation. That sort of thinking essentially would make Christianity into a legal system. One must be careful that such does not happen, because it is rather easy to do so.

Justin (2nd century) argued that Sunday observance was proper because God began his creative work on the day, and Jesus arose on that day. All the "Church Fathers" used the expression "Lord’s Day" (Rev. 1:10) to refer to Sunday. From that time to this, Christians have kept Sunday as the day of worship, albeit in varying manners.

As mentioned above, by the mid-second century the early morning worship had become the norm. In Justin Martyr’s description, Sunday worship was composed of 1) immersions (if any), 2) preaching, 3) prayers, 4) Lord’s Supper.

The problem with our text is: What system of time (Jewish or Roman) did Luke use? Since they were in Roman territory, and away from the area of Palestine, it is more probable that the meeting began on Sunday evening, and lasted until Monday morning.

V. 9 - The late hour, long speech, flickering lights: all proved too much for Eutychus, forever immortalized by those who follow in his train during preaching.

V. 10 - Paul repeated what Elijah (I Kings 17:21) and Elisha (II Kings 4:34) did. He cut off the tumult they were making (see Mark 5:39), and restored Eutychus to life.

 

V. 11 - he conversed - From the Greek we get our word "homily" or "sermon".

V. 12 - This verse shows that the boy was dead, but came back to life.

V. 13 - Troas was some 20-25 miles north of Assos, and about 150 miles north of Miletus.

 

At Assos, 20:14a

At Mitylene, 20:14b

Over against Chios, 20:15a

At Samos, 20:15b

In Miletus, 20:15c-38

14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

"You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews: 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there; 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I now that all you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

36 And when he had spoken thus, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they all wept and embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they brought him to the ship.

Luke notes that they "touched" at Samos (v. 15). Our word "parable" comes from the Greek word behind "touched" which implies a point of contact, etc. Miletus was about 28 miles south of Ephesus. It used to be an important city, but Ephesus eclipsed it. Like Ephesus, it is now several miles from the sea, the harbor being filled up with silt.

 

V. 16 - Paul left Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread (=Passover)and intended to arrive in Jerusalem some 50 days later at Pentecost. We remember that an offering for the Judean brethren was being taken by Paul and those with him.

V. 17 - Unwilling to pass by Ephesus altogether, Paul called the elders there to him. We note that the Ephesian congregation had elders soon after its beginning, just as the congregation in Derbe, etc., did.

elders - Note that in v. 28, the Greek words for overseers ("guardians") and shepherd ("to feed") are used to describe these men. In the second century, bishops (overseers) were elevated over other elders as church polity began to depart from the Biblical pattern. Titus 1:5 and 1:7 will show that the terms were applied to the same man. etc. In I Peter 5:1-4, all three terms are used.

As is clear, these Christian men loved each other, although the Ephesian letter does not tell us as clearly as this account does. It will be good to recall that Timothy probably served the church in Ephesus - so read I Tim. in this light.

V. 18 - Not to detract from the importance of the text, and what is said - it is yet pertinent to note the similarities and differences from the other recorded speeches in Acts. As someone has said, "It is most of Paul and least of Luke." Luke probably did not hear the other speeches of Paul and Peter, but this one he did hear. The speech itself, when compared to Paul’s epistles, leaves little doubt as to the one giving it.

Again, call to mind the problems that he endured with the Corinthians (especially evident in the II Corinthian letter), and then meditate upon Paul’s appeal to these men regarding his ministry among them.

V. 19 - serving - The common word for slave/servant. The word was used by Jesus (Matt. 20:27) to describe the relationship that should exist of each Christian to the other. Note Matthew 6:24; Romans 12:11.

Paul did so with the Christian virtue (but considered anything but a virtue in the pagan world), lowliness of mind (Matt. 11:29; Isa. 53) and tears (note v. 31; II Cor. 2:4; Phil. 3:18); and in all these with knowledge that the Jews were continually attempting to silence him. (See Rom. 10:21) It certainly wasn’t a carefree life!

plots of the Jews - Some have been described for us in previous chapters, though doubtless many others occurred that Luke does not mention.

V. 20 - Paul, in spite of great difficulties, yet withheld not one thing he thought profitable to these people. One with less commitment might draw back for fear of others, but Paul publicly and privately served them.

house to house - I Cor. 16:9 mentions the house of Aquila and the church that met there.

V. 21 - testifying to everyone (in the synagogues, school of Tyrannus, and in their homes) about their need to repent towards God (i.e., recognize their sin and make right their relationship to God) and place trust in Jesus Christ as Lord (which act permits God to forgive their sins through the redemption in Christ Jesus). Thus, the basic gospel message was given to everyone in Ephesus/Asia. Peter "testified" (same word) in Acts 2:40.

We need not feel amiss in preaching the same basic message, even if immersion is not mentioned, per se. Immersion is only necessary when the mind has been changed in regard to God’s will and God’s son (Jesus). Trust in Christ will lead to obedience to him as Lord. Immersion is the action taken upon recognition of Jesus’ lordship over one’s life.

We need to realize that word order, per se, is not a very good basis for arguing what a person is to do, and in what order it is to be done. Consider here the fact that we often use Mark 16:15-16 in this fashion; arguing that since belief precedes immersion in the text, therefore, we must have faith prior to immersion. Our assertion about faith and immersion may well be correct, but it is not so just because one word proceeds another. Rather it is so because of the nature of the case. Otherwise, if we argue on the basis of word order, we must repent before we believe. The actual fact is, that when a person accepts Jesus as Lord, said person repents (i.e., changes the mind) in that act. To transfer trust/belief from something/someone to Jesus is a change of mind, and begins a life of mind changing until the mind of the flesh becomes as the mind of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13,14), so that the total person is an accurate, constant reflection of Jesus.

V. 22 - Despite warnings already received (v. 23) and those later from brethren in Tyre and Caesarea who spoke through "the Spirit" Paul will go to Jerusalem. I assume that the Holy Spirit revealed to these various ones the things that awaited Paul, and they on their own urged him not to go on that basis. Any other position means Paul disobeyed direction from the Holy Spirit which seems a doubtful possibility. It is better to hold that Paul had decided to go to Jerusalem, taking the collection with him, trusting that he would be able to serve profitably. (We note in passing that Luke does not mention any particular reason why Paul was going to Jerusalem, though he knew about the offering, which Paul mentions in 24:17).

V. 23 - The Holy Spirit informed Paul, through many people, what awaited him in Jerusalem and would still be there when he arrived. Few of us could view the distant scene in such clear fashion and yet continue. Jesus knew what awaited him in Jerusalem, and yet continued. We may well rejoice that God does not reveal what lies ahead, and rather helps us take one step at a time.

V. 24 - do not account - The Greek says "Nothing of account I make my soul." restated: My own life I consider to be as worth nothing. The reason for this is that the ministry he had received (bearing witness to the good news of God’s grace) was worth infinitely more than his life.

course - The Greek term means a way, a race, what is laid out ahead.

grace of God - The good news was about God’s grace, manifested in his son, Jesus.

V. 25 - It seems evident that Paul did not expect to see them again. However, from such passages as I Tim. 1:3; 3:14; 4:13; II Tim. 4:13, 20, an impression is given that perhaps he did see them again.

 

kingdom - Note that to preach the Gospel, v. 24, is to preach the church, and the kingdom, a synonymous entity; Christians being made and becoming a part of Jesus’ body.

V. 26 - Paul says: I did not fail in any regard to tell you all that was my duty to tell you. Clearly, every person, preacher or otherwise, ought to strive for that same goal. Just as clearly, however, is the fact that such a statement is a personal judgment which may not be shared by some or any. There are always those who feel that more could have been said or done. Somewhat disturbing is the fact that more could often have been done. Without questioning Paul’s testimony about himself, it appears to me that few if any get done all that is possible to do, even if one has a good conscience at the time. Hence, God’s grace will doubtless be needed by most of us. Happily, God doesn’t ask for perfection in us, just faithfulness.

innocent - The Greek term means pure, clean, thus innocent, not being the cause for any of them being lost.

V. 27 - Paul had come to them preaching the kingdom (v. 25), and "all the counsel of God." He spoke of the "church" in v. 28 as the effect of what was done. I assume that the church and the kingdom are identical, as far as the counsel/will/plan of God for us is concerned. Notice Ephesians 1:11 (1:3-14) and 3:1-11 in this vein.

V. 28 - The idea of flock and the shepherd is a prominent idea in the O.T. (Psalms 23:Ezek. 34; etc.) and evident in Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 9:36; Luke 15:3-7; John 10.) The Holy Spirit had apparently made/placed the men as overseers of the flock through such instructions as are in I Tim. 3. Stated differently, I assume (believe) that the Holy Spirit directed the apostle(s) and the N.T. writers to spell out that which was wanted. In following said directions, the Holy Spirit would be responsible for the effects (in this case, elders in the Ephesus assembly).

Much argument has surrounded this verse, since the Greek texts vary between "church of God" and "church of (the) Lord." The reason is that the next phrase speaks of his blood. If "Lord" be the correct reading, no particular problem arises. If "God" be correct, then God shed his blood. To many, both then and now, to ascribe deity to Christ was bad enough, but to have God shedding his blood was too much. Hence, many scribes through the centuries wrote in the word their theology dictated. (A similar verse is John 1:18) The issue then is about the person of Jesus, his total nature, including the ideas of divinity and humanity uniting in one person. If Jesus were deity in flesh, then the text could correctly read that God could die (shed his blood) to purchase the church. We so believe and teach.

V. 29 - Jesus had spoken of wolves (John 10:12) but not their source. Here Paul states the same fear, and I Tim. 1:20 shows that he spoke truly. Check Revelation 2:2.

V. 30 - As is plain in the several epistles, all kinds of false doctrine was taught, by those in and out of the assemblies. Some room for differences must be made, but some consideration of motives must also be made. Paul accused Elymas of perverting God’s word in 13:10.

V. 31 - be alert - Watch or be careful. Jesus used this idea, as in Matthew 25:13, etc. Paul tried to admonish/warn/put sense into every person so that they would not be children, but mature in faith. The references to his own ministry among them had the purpose of helping the elders see what true leaders would do, their manner of life, etc. When the "wolves" came along, or men teaching perverse things, they could remember Paul’s example and use it as a means of judgment.

V. 32 - The apostles knew that God’s word, carefully followed, could do for them what nothing else could. It is surely obligatory upon us to teach God’s Word if such results can be obtained.

Paul often wrote about building people up, and of the inheritance awaiting Christians. I Peter 1 speaks of Christians and their inheritance. Jude, v. 20 has "build yourselves up on your most holy faith."

In 14:23, Paul had committed the Christians there to the Lord; here to the word of his grace.

V. 33 - This verse doubtless counters accusations made against Paul by some perhaps on account of the offering he was taking to Jerusalem. Note II Cor. 12:11-18.

V. 34 - I Cor. 4:12 states that Paul worked to supply his own needs, as we know from Acts. Verse 35 will elaborate this point.

Several times in his epistles, Paul encourages toil as in II Thess. 3 and Eph. 4:28. See Matthew 11:28.

V. 35 - Often Paul encouraged Christians to follow his example, and evidently always attempted to set before them a good example.

We surely understand the happy state of affairs in receiving from others, but doubtless also realize that more happiness is ours in giving to others (if giving is done freely, without thought of return. See Luke 6:27-36; 14:12-14; Matt. 5:43-48). Since this quotation is not in our extant Gospels, it has always caused men to wonder how much Paul knew of Jesus’ teachings, and how much more was known than was written down for posterity.

V. 37 - The word for "kiss" is often translated "love". These men had learned and grown together, and loved one another in Christ.

V. 38 - the face - The Hebrew way of speaking about one’s person/self.

 

QUESTIONS

 

102. Verses 3 and 19 speak of Jewish plots. Did Luke record any of these for us?

 

 

103. Who all was going with Paul to Jerusalem?

104. Why were these men traveling with him?

 

 

 

105. About what time of the year was it when the group left Philippi for Troas?

 

106. Does Luke state why Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem, or be there by Pentecost?

 

107. What terms describe the men from Ephesus that Paul called unto him?

 

 

108. How did Paul describe his ministry at Ephesus?

 

109. What had the Holy Spirit told Paul about the trip to Jerusalem?

 

 

110. What was more important to Paul than his own life?

 

 

111. Can one be innocent of the blood of another if the other person is yet unsaved?

 

 

112. Is the phrase "the whole counsel of God" defined for us?

 

113. What relationship did Paul say the elders had to the church in Ephesus?

 

 

 

114. For what reason(s) would the elders need to be watchful of themselves and of the flock?

 

 

115. What two things is God’s Word capable of doing in a person’s life?

 

 

116. Is it not a blessing to receive something?

 

 

117. What command of Jesus had the men evidently obeyed? (cf. John 13:34-35)

 

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N E I G H T

(21:1-40)

 

 

At Cos, 21:a

At Rhodes, 21:1b

At Patara, 21:1c-2

21 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail.

V. 1 - Cos was a famous place, Hippocrates and Apelles having been born there. There was also a great medical school there.

V. 2 - Phoenicia - This country , with its two main cities of Tyre and Sidon, had its major source of revenue from shipping, being a poor agricultural land.

 

In the Sight of Cyprus on the Left, 21:3a

At Tyre, 21:3b-6

3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 And when our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey; and they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way till we were outside the city; and kneeling down on the beach we prayed and bade one another farewell. 6 Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

V. 3 - The ship was a larger one than they had previously used, a cargo ship, able to sail across the open seas. From the seven-day stay, it may have taken that long to unload its cargo and load it again in preparation for sailing.

 

V. 4 - The same general message was given Paul here as previously. As commented before, the Spirit had revealed to many that trouble awaited Paul in Jerusalem. On this basis, various ones were urging him not to go. No one, including Paul, had received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he was not to go to Jerusalem.

V. 5 - We note "children" being mentioned by Luke, which he (as all other writers) rarely does.

V.6 - There is an idiom in Greek here, found also in John 1:11 and 19:27, "the things of them" (i.e., their homes).

 

In Ptolemais, 21:7

7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the brethren and stayed with them for one day.

V. 7- Ptolemais (Acre, Accho) commanded the road down the sea coast from Phoenicia to Egypt. The Israelites apparently never controlled it, though they did control the area south of it.

Notice that brethren are found everywhere, as seems evident also in chapter 11.

 

Caesarea, 21:8-14

8 On the morrow we departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied, 10 While we were staying for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands and said, " Thus says the Holy spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’" 12 When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "The will of the Lord be done."

V. 8 - Caesarea was the major Roman center in Palestine, with a good harbor. The journey from Ptolemais to Caesarea seems to have been by land.

Philip - It has been many years since our last notice of Philip in chapter 8. There Luke says he was "evangelizing" (8:40),and so became known as an evangelist (a bringer of good news). Consider that he is not designated a deacon which is a common mistake, in that the word is much broader in its usage than we traditionally use it. Stated differently, an evangelist (such as Timothy, II Tim. 4:5) could be described by the Greek word normally translated "deacon" (as could an apostle, Acts 20:24; Romans 11:13), as well as any who served others.

V. 9 - This verse brings up the point of women and their place in the church life. That God often used women in public worship and things of religion in general is obvious in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament (I Cor. 11). What seems to this writer quite as obvious is that they are to be under the authority of men, both in and out of the assembly (i.e., in public and at home). As I see it, no other restrictions than these are enjoined upon them. Hence, they may or may not be permitted to do something/anything, depending upon the decision of the men/husband/elders present and responsible. The text in I Cor. 11 clearly shows the "chain of command." In chapter 14, silence was enjoined upon them unless they had a revelation from God, vs. 26-32. In I Tim. 2:11,12, the place of men and women is again spelled out: she is to be subject to man, as was stated fully in I Cor. 11. Hence, the issue is of authority, submission and obedience.

V. 10 - Agabus may be the same person who appeared in chapter 11. In my judgment, a prophet in the Bible is not equal to a preacher even though both may do some of the same things. As is here shown, the prophet foretold something through direction of God. Such is the distinct facet of a prophet but not of a preacher. There is no good reason to appropriate the word and apply it to a preacher anyway. Preacher is a perfectly good word, and descriptive of a biblical function.

V. 11 - Agabus stated, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what had been already revealed to Paul and to others who then told Paul. As did Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others, he symbolically portrayed the coming events.

V. 13 - As at Miletus (20:24), Paul considered his task was to take the offering unto Jerusalem. In my opinion, he thought it necessary to do so, but had no revelation on the subject. Hence, it was purely a human judgment on his part. As before mentioned, Luke does not state any reason for Paul going to Jerusalem. Paul does in Romans 15:22ff.

V. 14 - Since they could not persuade Paul (i.e., make him believe as they believed), they left it as it was.

Their expression may indicate several things, such as 1) May Paul’s decision be God’s; 2) May God use Paul’s decision to His glory; 3) We can’t change Paul’s mind, so let’s quit trying. This was quite a different matter than that of Jesus in Luke 9:51, in that Jesus was under god’s direction to go to Jerusalem.

 

 

At Jerusalem, 21:15,16

15 After these days we made ready and went up to Jerusalem 16 and some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

V. 15 - After some preparation, they left Caesara to travel the 64 miles to Jerusalem.

V.16- Mnason of Cyprus (note Joseph/Barnabas, and others) provided hospitality. He evidently was a first generation disciple.

 

 

The Voyage to Rome

At Jerusalem, 21:17-23:30

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them.

27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place; moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place." 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was aroused, and the people ran together; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 He at once took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd; 36 for the mob of the people followed, crying, "Away with him!"

37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, "May I say something to you?" And he said, "Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?" 39 Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; I beg you, let me speak to the people." 40 And when he had given him leave, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying:

22 "Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you."

And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet. And he said: 3 "I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 "As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do’ 11 And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 "And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know this will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ "

17 "When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in thee. 20 And when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by and approving, and keeping the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Depart; for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ "

22 Up to this word they listened to him; then they lifted up their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he ought not to live." 23 And as they cried out and waved their garments and threw dust into the air, 24 the tribune commanded him to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by scourging to find out why they shouted thus against him 25 But when they had tied him up with the thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen, and uncondemned?" 26 When the centurion heard that, he went to the tribune and said to him, "What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen." 27 So the tribune came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" And he said, "Yes." 28 The tribune answered, "I bought this citizenship for a large sum." "But I," replied Paul, "was born a Roman citizen." 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him instantly; and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

30 But on the morrow, desiring to know the real reason why the Jews accused him, he unbound him, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

 

 

23 And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, "Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day." 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, "God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?" 4 Those who stood by said, "Would you revile God’s high priest?" 5 And Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’"

6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.." 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose; and some of the scribes often Pharisees’ party stood up and contended, "We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?" 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and bring him into the barracks.

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome."

12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 And they went to the chief priests and elders, and said, "We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 You therefore, along with the council, give notice now to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near."

16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush; so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 And Paul called one of the centurions and said, "Bring this young man to the tribune; for he has something to tell him." 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, "Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you." 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?" 20 And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not yield to them; for more than forty of their men lie in ambush for him, having bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you." 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, "Tell no one that you have informed me of this."

23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, "At the third hour of the night get ready two hundred soldiers with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and bring him safely to Felix the governor." 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:

26 "Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greeting. 27 This man was seized by the Jews, and was about to be killed by them, when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 and desiring to know the charge on which they accused him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him."

V. 17 - The time of arrival was around the feast of Pentecost; late May or early June. As the group comes to Jerusalem, call to mind the long-standing hostility of the Jews toward Paul. Additionally, since it is around A.D. 58, the Jewish people were growing ever more restless under the Roman rule. They were being encouraged in such thought by various groups of zealots in their midst. Of course, at such a time as Pentecost, with thousands of Jews in the Jerusalem area, religious and patriotic feelings would naturally be higher, and tempers shorter on every hand. Into this sort of situation Paul arrived with a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles, who were Christians. A more explosive situation would be hard to find.

V. 18 - Apparently the elders were "overseeing" the disciples in Jerusalem, and were the leaders of the church there, as the New Testament teaches they should be. James was probably Jesus’ brother.

V. 19 - Paul, some years after chapter 15, again shows how God had used him to evangelize the Gentiles (cf Romans 15:16-20). Make note again that the Greek term for "deacon" is used by Paul to describe his activities (i.e., his ministry).

 

V. 20 - What the response was to the money Paul brought to Jerusalem we know not. He was justly concerned about how it would be received, Romans 15:25-32. The brethren did glorify God for what he had done through Paul, just as they did in Acts 11:18 in Peter’s case.

What seems to be of interest is the multitude of Christians, Jewish by birth and background, who yet kept the Mosaic law as a habit of life. This fact highlighted the issue of what the gospel message did to the Law. Doubtless, many were so clear on just what the relationship was (it is not much better today). My opinion is that any or most of the law could be kept, just as long as one did not view said practice as replacing Christ or in any way achieving one’s salvation. Evidently Paul felt something of the kind, viewing the incident in our text, with what he taught generally. It is, however, pertinent to consider that his understanding was not necessarily equal to his revelation. Hence, his practice may not always have been equal to what he preached on this occasion or elsewhere. (Ref. Acts 6:14 and Stephen).

thousands -The Greek word is "my hands", equaling ten thousand in Acts 19:19, or a large number as in Luke 12:1; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11; etc.

V. 21 - Paul was not anti-Jewish in some senses of the term, as he himself asserted (and see Acts 24:14-15; 26:6-7). Jesus taught that Moses and the prophets pointed to Him, and were fulfilled in Him - so Paul taught. He was a Jew and practiced as a Jew (I Cor. 9:19; Acts 16:3; etc.), though not holding such practice to accomplish his salvation.

V. 22 - Since his arrival was known to all, the question was about what should be done (about clarifying Paul’s stand, or pacifying the fanatics among them, or how?). As v. 23 shows, they thought they had a way to resolve the issues before them.

V. 23 - The vow, perhaps a Nazirite vow of short duration, could be countenanced without a compromise of the law or the gospel, or so they thought. Note here Numbers 6:1-5., and Acts 18:18.

V. 24 - Paul is to take the vow with these men. The idea of purify/cleanse occurs in the LXX at Numbers 6:1.

live in observance - It is pertinent to point out that though the plan seemed good, unless it was clearly explained to all, anyone who did not know differently could have concluded that Paul was like all other Jews. There was nothing particularly Christian about keeping any of the law, per se. Anyone should know that unless one explains what one is doing, those watching may draw any conclusion. God sent Jesus as an example of his love, but he did not neglect to spell out the fact. Jesus died on a cross, but it was simply a death until God stated what the death meant.

V. 25 - The elders believed they understood what Paul held true and were in agreement therewith. This verse is a record of the attempt to keep the record straight as far as they are concerned.

V. 26 - Some suggest that the costs would be considerable for all five men, even if the charges were just those for a Nazirite (Num. 6:13ff). How Paul had this money is not known.

V. 27 - We suppose that Luke mentions the Asian Jews for two reason: 1) they would know Paul’s position well, and 2) also know Trophimus. In passing, we note that they had come to Jerusalem for the Pentecost feast. They "stirred up" the crowds, just as the people in Ephesus were stirred up (the same Greek word in both places).

V. 28 - The charges they pronounced against Paul were serious and were intended to bring such action upon him as would (evidently) take his life. They said that he had defiled (Greek term "made common") the holy place (i.e., the place not common to everyone).

 

V. 29 - Whether they really supposed that Paul had done as they charged, or simply used Trophimus as an excuse for what they did is anyone’s guess.

 

V. 30 - Since the Jews had the right to protect the temple grounds, their actions were in accord with their rights, insofar as the temple was concerned. Paul was apparently dragged outside the court reserved for Jews into the court for the Gentiles. The terms for "seize" and "drag" were used in ch. 16 when Paul was in Philippi.

 

V. 31 - We recall that the Romans kept guard in the tower of Antonia at the N.W. corner of the grounds. Any such riot as this was would quickly attract the soldier’s attention.

 

cohort - At full strength, 1,000 men

 

tribune - The commander, who would have centurions under him.

 

V. 32 - It is somewhat of a miracle that the soldiers arrived in such good time. We assume that God had further use for Paul. The crowd was beating Paul. The Greek term is often seen in English, transliterated as "type." It originally meant to leave a mark, imprint, etc. Paul doubtless believed they were leaving their marks (note Gal. 6:17).

 

V. 33 - The Roman (chiliarch) tribune, Claudius Lysias, assumed Paul was guilty of something, and inquired of what. Remember that one could be an Egyptian and still be Jew.

 

V. 34 - As noted under v. 27, the identical terms were used in Acts 19:31,32. Because of the crowd’s confusion, Paul was taken to the tower, or the barracks. It has been well remarked that a crowd (mob) can be equally dangerous whether they know a reason for their action or not.

 

V. 35 - The Jews may have stopped beating Paul, but they were still very upset!

 

V. 36 - They shouted, "Away with him" which is equal to "kill him". See Luke 23:18; Acts 8:33; 13:28.

 

V. 38 - As is evident, Paul was not who Lysias thought him to be: an Egyptian. Perhaps he had drawn this conclusion from something said by the crowd. "Assassin" comes from a word meaning "short sword".

 

There were many efforts such as mentioned in those days, which was one reason why the Romans sent an army to quell a Jewish rebellion, and end the matter by destroying the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

 

V. 39 - Paul politely reveals his true identity, and ends with a somewhat surprising request.

 

V. 40 - We should probably understand that Paul spoke Aramaic, a kindred language to Biblical Hebrew, and the common dialect among the Jews at that time. As he faced the crowd, perhaps the comments made in vs. 20-21 about the Jewish conceptions of him can be seen more clearly. Certainly some Jews thought him an apostate.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

118. Did the travelers expect and receive hospitality from Christians along the way to Jerusalem?

119. Why does Luke describe Philip as an evangelist and not a deacon?

 

 

120. Did Philip’s daughters have to prophecy to someone besides the Christians in assembly since they had to remain silent in said assembly?

 

 

 

121. Did Paul know to some extent what lay before him in Jerusalem?

122. About what time of year is it?

123. Does it seem as if the elders in Jerusalem were in agreement with Paul’s work?

 

 

124. What did it mean to glorify God?

 

 

125. Could the people described in 21:20 have been like those in 15:5?

 

 

126. How would Paul taking a vow pacify the Jews?

 

 

127 Was Paul directed by God to do what he did, or was the action merely of man’s wisdom?

 

 

128. In what way(s) was the charge in v. 28 true of Paul? False?

 

 

 

129. Is a mob equally dangerous whether the issue is clear or not?

 

 

130. Was Roman citizenship valuable?

 

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N N I N E

(22:1-23:35)

 

 

The Voyage To Rome

22:1 - My defense - This address tells the history of Paul’s conversion, in an attempt to present Christ to them as the reason for his conversion.

V. 2 - Paul’s past life gave him a keen understanding of his people and their preferences. Using their language was a smart thing to do.

V. 3 - Tarsus - A great city in the Roman empire. However, his religious education (the Greek term translated "educated" is more often translated as discipline, as in Hebrews 12, etc. It was used in Luke 23:16 to describe what Pilate intended to do with Jesus) had been in Jerusalem under the direction of an illustrious Hebrew scholar, which doubtless impressed many in his audience. Moreover, he recognized their earnestness for the things of God, and admitted that he had been as they were, zealous for God. See 21:20.

 

strict manner - A careful and exact manner of life. See the root of this word in Luke 1:3; Acts 18:26; 24:22 and Ephesians 5:15.

V. 4 - this Way - Clearly understood as meaning Christianity. See here Philippians 3. Paul’s confession was that his ignorance and unbelief brought him to do such things. Then the implication was that had he understood the law rightly, he would have believed in Jesus as the promised Messiah.

V. 5 - The high priest would have been Caiaphas. Probably some of the Sanhedrin remembered Paul well. Paul attempted to show how zealous he was for the law, and how right (correct) he considered himself to be though so very wrong. (This is a good time for us to consider why we believe as we do).

V. 6 - The fact that it was midday makes the "great light" all the more meaningful, as it flashed around him, brighter than the noonday sun.

V. 7 - His recollection of the event was vivid, especially the idea of him being a persecutor of the Lord.

 

V. 8 - The speaker is revealed as being Jesus from Nazareth. We know that Jesus was a common name then, so the further identification was required. The crux of the gospel is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the son of the living God. His hearers doubtless listened to this with great interest, since it said a great deal about the true character of Jesus.

The obstacle here, as far as the listeners were concerned, was that Jesus was God. But the greater obstacle, and more unacceptable, was the fact that salvation in Jesus was for the Gentiles (see v. 22). Recall Peter’s opening words in ch. 2:22.

V. 9 - Those in Paul’s party saw the light and heard the sound of the voice in Aramaic. They evidently did not hear the word or did not understand what they heard - only Paul understood.

V. 10 - How different Paul’s obedience to the Lord should have been from what it was! Many of us have in some degree, learned that our discipleship is not perfect either. The commendable point in Paul was that his allegiance to the Lord was such that he was willing to do as he was commanded even when it meant a radical conversion of his lifestyle.

V. 11 - The heavenly source of his blindness is disclosed: the glory of the light. Some interesting uses of the effects of light are in Paul’s epistles, such as II Cor. 3:7; 4:4-6.

V. 12 - Notice the mention that Ananias was in favor with the Jewish populace of Damascus. We need to be aware that all these things are mentioned to convince his audience that he was a zealous Jew who only changed because of God’s intervention. Thus, Paul’s present status was in response to a divine imperative, which fact would hopefully bring his hearers to a point of acceptance of the "way" themselves.

V. 13 - Brother - The word meant one of a family or faith, as in 22:1; Rom. 10:1; etc.

V. 14 - The God of our fathers - Often this was Paul’s appeal to the Jews. For us, it spells out the sameness of God, the eternality of his being and plans for redeeming man, etc. Ananias explained just how Paul fit into God’s plans.

V. 15 - witness - The English "martyr" transliterates the Greek word. Notice here that the Christian religion is one of evidence and directed at one’s rationality.

 

V. 16 - A verse we often quote. The Greek term has a personal interest in it: get immersed for yourself (in your own interest). Paul was to invoke Jesus’ name (Rom. 10:13) and in the obedience, have his past life with its sinful nature replaced with a new life, hidden with Christ in God, II Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:1-4.

Here is a good place to comment further on the doctrine of immersion, supplementing what was said on 2:38 and 8:36. Certainly one’s theology is on the line insofar as the issue of becoming a Christian is concerned. In regard to immersion, some questions to be asked about he matter would be like these:

1. What does the Scripture teach, if anything, about the person who is to do the immersing (in order for the immersion to be valid)?

2. What must be said, if anything, at the time of immersing (not what is possible, but does the Bible specify anything that must be stated orally)?

3. Can any part of the person be unimmersed and the act yet be valid?

4. What about the person who has ceased being Christian and then wishes to return to God - must they be immersed again, or were they merely a straying son?

5. Must anyone be present to witness the act other than the two people involved?

We need to recognize that the recitation of the facts about immersion may not indicate understanding them. For instance, for the act to be valid, must the candidate understand all the reasons why, or just some? Suppose said person believes some results accrue to him, but not others (though wrong about either or both)? If the results are not known or understood, are said results still applied?

Additionally, we need to consider the actual things we believe about immersion, as to what is to be taught prior to the act, as well as what is taught afterward? What must the candidate know or understand prior to immersion to make it valid? Can said person not believe that some results take place, and the results still happen regardless of the disbelief?

 

Some of the reasons and/or results for immersion might be these?

1. Jesus commanded it (and the apostles)

(Matt. 28).

2. Remission of sins (i.e., to be saved).

3. Reception of Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

4. Putting on Christ (Rom. 6; Gal. 3).

5. Dying to law (Rom. 7).

6. Entering the kingdom of God, the Church

(John 3; I Cor. 12).

7. Regeneration (II Cor. 5; Titus 3).

8. Obeying the righteousness of God (Matt. 3).

9. To obtain a clear conscience (I Peter 3).

10. Accepting Jesus’ death for ours (Rom. 6).

11. Following example of Jesus (I Peter 2:21).

We reiterate the fact that the early Christians did not have problems either with the mode or the necessity of the act in question. None of the New Testament books argues about the "mode of baptism". It was only immersion that was taught and practiced. None of the epistles ever encourage the recipients to be immersed, but rather assume those who receive the letters have been immersed.

V. 17 - Ch. 9:26-30 reveals this incident from the viewpoint of Paul’s acceptance by the church in Jerusalem, and gives the same basic reason for leaving Jerusalem: Jewish opposition. Note that he was in the temple, and praying - both indicate a continued interest in the Jewish way of life even though he was a Christian.

V. 19 - A reflection of his past life, to impress upon his auditors that something very demanding must have happened to have caused him to change from Saul the Jew unto Paul the Christian; thus to give his bearers a subtle hint to consider the facts.

V. 20 - Saul never could forget the death of Stephen. Perhaps it was because Stephen and he were brothers of the same synagogue.

V. 21 - Relating his vision in the temple, and the express command of God to him, was an attempt to convince the crowd that his actions were directed by God. A noble effort that failed.

V. 22 - The word "Gentiles" was too much and the riot resumed. The crowd kept shouting and saying that he should have been killed before this time.

V. 23 - Just how deep was the rage of the crowd is evident by this verse. They were screaming, and throwing their garments about, and heaving dirt into the air; surely a vivid picture of a mob.

V. 24 - The chiliarch evidently thought Paul was guilty of more than seemed evident from Paul’s speech (if he could understand it, being in Aramaic), and gave orders to get the correct information. We would note that police brutality is not a new thing.

V. 25 - The magic word: Roman citizen! Paul made the same point in 16:37, only too late. The command may have been given in Latin, and if Paul did not understand it, he would not have known what was to take place until he was being tied up.

V. 26 - It would be a grave error to proceed if what Paul affirmed was true. As v. 29 shows, it was bad enough to have chained him up. But as matters stood, not much else could have been done under the circumstances.

V. 27 - The chiliarch’s question almost implies that Paul was lying.

V. 28 - During the reign of Claudius, Roman citizenship, a valuable possession, could be purchased. As we know, Paul’s birth brought him the citizenship. Perhaps Paul’s father or grandfather were citizens of Rome as well as being Jewish by birth and religion. Some argue that all born in Tarsus were Roman citizens.

V. 29 - At this development, the proceedings came to a halt, and a different course is taken. Paul’s citizenship will explain the treatment he is accorded in ch. 23.

V. 30 - Because of Paul’s varied background, Lysias has him brought before the Sanhedrin. We know that it was a question about Jewish law, but with far-reaching implications. Certainly the Jewish attitude about their law brought up trouble, such as in ch. 22, and now in ch. 23.

23:1 - Paul fastened his eyes on the members of the Sanhedrin and delivered a real blast to them, in effect saying that his manner of life had been lived as he understood God wanted it to be lived. He had thought it correct to be zealous for the law, persecuting Christians; and thought it correct to renounce Judaism for its appointed successor, Christianity. Hence, he had no apologies for anything in his life.

conscience - This facet of our consciousness (personality) is troublesome to many people. It is a God-given facet that is found in every person, which is based upon what is believed to be right or wrong, and having to do with the reaction that comes when either the right has been done, or the wrong done. The problem with conscience arises because each person can determine the base upon which conscience works. Obviously, the more one believes that a certain act is right or wrong, the greater the reaction when said person does the right, etc. Hence, there are vast differences of reaction in people over the same issue, and this even among Christians (i.e.: abortion, going to war, divorce, etc.). Paul was a murderer even under his own Mosaic law, but considered his actions not to be so, because he justified himself on the basis that what he was doing was right (i.e., Christians were blasphemers and deserved to be punished; and he was doing God a service, John 16:2). So it is with all of us. This is the reason why one could live in all good conscience and yet be condemned to hell.

 

 

lived - The Greek means one’s manner of life or behavior as a citizenship. See Philippians 1:27; 3:20.

V. 2 - Ananias was a Sadducee, a politician (and scoundrel). He had been appointed high priest in A.D. 37, succeeding Caiaphas.

V. 3 - Jesus had spoken of turning the other cheek (but see John 18:22-23). Paul, perhaps willing to do so, still pointed out that what was done was not lawful in Jewish circles (even if it was commonly practiced).

whitewashed wall - Something close to the word "hypocrite".

V. 4 - The position, if not the person in it, was entitled to respect, since he was God’s representative, as Paul well knew (v. 5).

V. 6 - Several reasons might be suggested as to why Paul spoke as he did, among them 1) the remark just made had put him in a bad light (see Ex. 22:28), 2) no fair trial was possible, since he was a Christian, or 3) he considered that, as a Jewish Pharisee turned Christian, the cardinal point of the issue was a resurrection. Of course, since this was true, no fair trial was possible, since the issue would immediately divide the Sanhedrin (as it instantly did, v. 7).

V. 8 - acknowledge - Aside from the points of doctrine, the word in the Greek text stating what the Pharisees affirmed about certain points is normally translated "confess". The Greek term simply means to affirm a point, or assert a belief, etc.

V. 9 - As the Greek text shows, a real fight occurred, and the trial was for all practical purposes over. If the Pharisees knew any of Paul’s experience on the Damascus road, even if they did not believe in Jesus, they could have agreed that an angel might have spoken to Paul. So they adjudged Paul innocent.

V. 10 - The Sadducees were not less adamant, and Paul was in danger of actually being torn in two. Recall the statement of Gallio in Ch. 18:15 about just such matters as are herein described.

V. 11 - God was not unaware of Paul’s inner feelings, and gave assurance that much was yet to be accomplished. One promise that Paul had received was to have words from Jesus, 22:14, and here were some of those words. It was a great help to Paul. The promise of going to Rome was undeniably a sustainer in the months and years ahead.

V. 12 - The 40 men, banding themselves together, and invoking with an oath and curse upon themselves, clearly show that the prejudice against Paul especially and Christians generally was unreasonable and beyond pacifying.

V. 14 - The men clearly had the support of the Jewish hierarchy.

V. 16 - Their best-laid plans were discovered by Paul’s nephew, who was yet friendly to his uncle (perhaps Paul’s relatives were Christians too?)

V. 17 - Note that the centurion was evidently not told what the Jews had in mind.

V. 18 - The nephew evidently was not an old person, though the same word described Paul in 7:58, and Eutychus in 20:9.

V. 21 - The young man makes the case clear, and also makes the part Lysias is to play very important.

 

do not yield - The Greek word is the common- "to be persuaded" and thus obey.

V. 23 - The preparations show that Lysias knew the danger the Jews presented, and the importance of Paul.

V. 26 - Felix, and his brother Pallas, had been slaves, but were made freedmen by Emperor Claudius. He married a daughter of Herod Agrippa I, Drusilla, mostly to win Jewish favor. Some describe him as very evil. These things may account for his refusal to let Paul go, as 24:27 points out. Note Luke 1:3; Acts 24:2; 26:25 for the "most excellent."

V. 27 - The report of Lysias is not quite accurate when compared with Luke’s account, but who cared in that day? or our day?

V. 29 - The actual issue was about interpretation of the Jewish law. This brings up the point that although the law was the same for every Jew, many things caused it to be variously interpreted. It is yet the same today with the New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament), for though it reads the same, the many sides of interpretation cause much division. Consider how the same law could be said not to teach a resurrection, angels, etc., by one group of Jews, and the exact opposite by another group. It is not different today, when issues that appear to be so plain to one are not so to another. We do well to keep such as this in mind when we have class discussion, etc.

V. 30 - Lysias had decided to throw the hot potato into the lap of Felix. As far as Lysias was concerned, Paul was innocent.

 

At Antipatris, 23:31, 32

31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the morrow they returned to the barracks, leaving the horsemen to go on with him.

V. 31 - Antipatris - Some 40 miles from Jerusalem, and then about 25 miles southeast of Caesarea.

 

In Caesarea, 23:33-27:1

33 When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked to what province he belonged. When he learned that he was from Cilicia 35 he said, "I will

hear you when your accusers arrive." And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.

24 And after five days the high priest hear you when your accusers arrive." And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul; 2 and when he was called, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:

"Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your provision, most excellent Felix, reforms are introduced on behalf of this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him about everything of which we accuse him."

9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all this was so.

10 And when the governor had motioned to him to speak, Paul replied:

"Realizing that for many years you have been judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 As you may ascertain, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem; 12 and they did not find me disputing with any one or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues, or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bringing up against me. 14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, 15 having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men. 17 Now after some years I came to bring to my nation alms and offerings. 18 As I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia -

19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 except this one thing which I cried out while standing among them, ‘With respect to the resurrection of the dead I am on trail before you this day.’ "

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put him off, saying, "When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case." 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but should have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented form attending to his needs.

24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess; and he sent for Paul and heard him speak upon faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he argued about justice and self-control and future judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, "Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity I will summon you." 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 But when two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

25 Now when Festus had come into his province, after three days he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor to have the man sent to Jerusalem, planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea, and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 "So," said he, "let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them accuse him."

6 When he had stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea; and the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 And when he had come, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem stood about him, bringing against him many serious charges which they could not prove. 8 Paul said in his defense, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended at all." 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, "Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem, and there be tried on these charges before me?" 10 But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried; to the Jews I have done no wrong, as you know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death; but if there is nothing in their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar." 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go."

13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, "There is a man left prisoner by Felix; 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews gave information about him, asking for sentence against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any one before the accused met the accusers face to face, and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 When therefore they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in this case of such evils as I supposed; 19 but they had certain points of dispute with him about their own superstition and about one Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them,

21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until I could send him to Caesar." 22 And Agrippa said to Festus, "I should like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," said he, "you shall hear him."

23 So on the morrow Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then by command of Festus Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, "King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to send him. Therefore I have brought him before you; and, especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him."

26 Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand made made his defense:

2 "I think myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 because you are especially familiar with all customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

4 "My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and at Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here on trial for hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

9 "I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme; and in raging fury against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

12 "Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king , I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ and the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles - to whom I send you 18 to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass; 23 that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles."

24 And he thus made his defense. Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad." 25 But Paul said, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe." 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, "In a short time you think to make me a Christian!" 29 And Paul said, "Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am - except for these chains."

30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them; 31 and when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, "This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment." 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."

27 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius.

V. 35 - It is now about AD 58-59. After two years, Paul will go to Rome, and spend two years there. It is commonly thought that the information needed by Luke to write the gospel, and the parts of Acts that he did not personally experience, was gathered at this time.

Herod’s praetorium - The Roman imperial guard. Paul mentions these in Philippians 1:13.

 

QUESTIONS

 

131. What things do you perceive Paul tried to accomplish in his address to the mob?

 

 

 

132. What reasons did Paul have for his conversion?

 

 

 

 

133. What did Ananias tell Paul God had planned for him?

 

 

134. Were Paul’s sins forgiven before Ananias came to him or afterward?

135. Did Paul have faith in Jesus before Ananias came to him?

136. Why did Paul leave Jerusalem?

 

137. Do you suppose Paul purposely did not mention his Roman citizenship until he had to do so?

 

 

138. What evident rights did a Roman citizen possess?

 

 

139. What do you know about conscience?

 

 

 

 

140. Are rulers a terror to those who obey the law?

 

141. Should a Christian respect the office or the person in the office?

 

 

142. How could Paul the Christian still identify with a Jewish Pharisee?

 

 

 

143. How could the same Bible be viewed so differently?

 

 

 

 

144. Did Jesus’ promise in Matt. 28:20 hold true for Paul?

145. Were the "forty" somewhat like Paul had formerly been?

 

146. What did the preparation made by Lysias signify about Paul?

147. Why would Lysias write what was not true?

 

148. According to Lysias, was Paul guilty?

149. What do you see about Roman jurisprudence in our text?

 

 

 

 

PLEASE REFER TO PAGE 85

FOR A SPECIAL STUDY

ON BAPTISM!!

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T E N

(24:1-27)

 

24:1 - spokesman - our word orator. The Jews had hired legal counsel to present their case, someone who would understand proceedings in a Roman court, etc. It was his business to inform Felix about Paul. As the account shows, the "witnesses" were not brought to the trial, and the charges thus could not be proved.

V. 2 - Some historians tell a different story about Felix than Tertullus relates, that Felix was the cause of much trouble.

to accuse - Our English word "categorize" is a transliteration of the Greek word.

most excellent - The same Greek term used to describe Theophilus in Luke 1:3.

V. 4 - Tertullus said, "We will cut it short so as not to hinder your good work, etc." The word for "kindness" denotes what is reasonable and fair and is a virtue to be found in Christians, I Tim. 3:3; Titus 3:2; James 3:17 and I Peter 2:18.

V. 5 - Pestilent - Paul caused lots of trouble, including being a trouble-maker among the Jews, especially in the sense that he had started a sect in Judaism. These general charges were intended to make Felix realize that Paul was opposed to the Roman peace and the standing Jewish Hierarchy, and thus someone who should be eliminated from the scene.

 

Nazarene - Jesus was to be called such, Matt. 2:23, and his followers evidently were so labeled.

No connection can be found between the name Nazarene and the concept of the Nazirite of Numbers 6. Matt. 2:23 seems to be a summation of "prophets" rather than a prophet, per se.

The Hebrew roots are not the same for the two words. Since Jesus identified himself as being from Nazareth (Acts 22:8) it seems probable that the identification of this followers as Nazarenes is in reference to that idea, not to the idea of a Nazirite. The Hebrew root (=word) that is used in Isaiah 11:1 to refer to Jesus means root/offshoot, etc., whereas the Hebrew root in Numbers 6 means to consecrate, or separate. As far as the town of Nazareth is concerned, its origin is unknown, so we can not draw any help from that source.

V. 6 - The accusation in 21:28 was to make common the temple, which was sacred (i.e., had been sanctified to Jewish use only). That the Jews had arrested Paul was not true; rather they had tried to kill him without any hearing at all.

tried to - The Greek term is often used in the sense of test or tempt.

V. 8 - A thorough testing by Felix would reveal the true facts about Paul. Perhaps Felix thought that Paul’s true nature and feelings would surface under questioning. If so, he was wrong.

V. 10 - Paul’s defense (English apology transliterates the Greek word) begins and though the charges made against him were somewhat vague, he answered them one by one, v. 11-21. He denied the charge of insurrection; which would have been the main concern to Felix. Because v. 21 gives the real ground of difference, the issue was clearly a matter of interpretation. Recall that Gallio had surmised the same point, 18:14ff.

V. 11 - Since Tertullus had spoken of "knowing," Paul affirmed that Felix could know certain things, which he proceeded to state, denying the accusations against him. "In only twelve days, very little could have been done," Paul stated.

V. 13 - The only thing Tertullus had done was accuse, without proof, Paul said. One reason was that no witnesses were present.

V. 14 - I admit - The Greek term is generally translated "to confess" (or "to profess" in King James Version). Tertullus had spoken of the Christians as a sect (heresy) of the Jewish faith. Paul asserted that it was the fulfillment of it, and also in the Pharisaic sense of resurrection, etc., v. 15, 21.

V. 16 - Anyone who fears God will attempt to keep the conscience pure/clean. One may discover, as did Paul, that even such attainment does not mean one’s life is acceptable to God.

take pains - The Greek term has the idea of doing one’s very best, thus to labor hard, or strive greatly. Our word ascetic comes from this term.

V. 17 - Rather than having done what Tertullus had said, Paul affirms the opposite: he had made every effort to be a good Jew, including the bringing of money to the Jewish nation (which may have alerted Felix to the possibility of a ransom from Paul for his release). Now if these things were so, then the basic charges against Paul were untrue. Felix so thought, and thus did not treat Paul as a troublemaker.

V. 19 - The absence of those who should have been witnesses at the trial was noted and was really an indictment of the Jewish case. Felix decided that Lysias would help clarify the matter, v. 22. In reality, if the truth were told Felix, the Jews had tried to kill Paul without any trial, and Lysias was going to scourge him without trial. Neither group would have looked too good in that case.

V. 21 - The obvious differences among those in the Sanhedrin, and known by Felix, were the only ground of accusation against Paul.

 

V. 22 - How Felix had obtained knowledge of Christianity is not stated. The real problem was his interest in pleasing the Jews, and wishing to receive money from Paul, v. 26. He thus put off a decision under the pretext of having Lysias come to Caesarea.

Some two years ago or better were spent in confinement. Most suppose that Luke took advantage of this time to investigate the facts about Jesus that are in his Gospel and the information needed for the early part of Acts.

 

V. 24 - Drusilla had been the wife of Azizus, king of Emesa, but became the third wife of Felix. Her great-grandfather was Herod the Great, her great-uncle killed John the Immerser, and her father killed James the apostle.

V. 25 - Many sermons have used this text. It surely sums up the essence of the faith and moral life of a Christian, and was an indictment of Felix and Drusilla.

V. 27 - We suppose the time was about A.D. 60-61. Some attempt to show that the time was much earlier, A.D. 55-57. We don’t think the evidence is any better, if as good, for those dates as the ones suggested. It isn’t of great moment in most ways. If the earlier times were so, the suggested dates for the writing of some of Paul’s epistles, and the time of the events within them would be changed somewhat.

 

 

QUESTIONS

150. What important persons were not at the trial?

 

 

151. In what sense(s) were the accusations made by Tertullus against Paul both political and religious in nature?

 

 

 

 

 

 

152. Would taking a Gentile into the Jewish portion of the temple have been considered "profaning the temple"?

153. Would twelve days be sufficient time to cause an uprising?

154. Could a sharp agitator provoke all sorts of trouble while being innocent himself?

 

155. Is assertion of charges different from proving charges?

156. What clarification of the charge about the sect of the Nazarenes did Paul make?

 

157. Did Paul agree that Christianity was a sect of Judaism?

158. How much can you find in the Old Testament about a resurrection of both the just and the unjust?

 

 

 

159. Can one have a clear conscience and still be a sinner?

160. What conclusions did Lysias draw from the proceedings?

 

 

 

161. Does speaking on "faith in Christ Jesus" also include justice, self-control and future judgment?

 

 

162. Felix was alarmed. Is fear a good motivation to conversion?

 

 

163. Did Felix suppose that a ransom might be given for Paul’s release?

 

 

164. For what reason did Felix keep Paul in prison the whole two years?

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N E L E V E N

(25:1-27)

 

25:1 - The Greek expression used here is exactly the same as that used in reference to Jesus’ resurrection and means "on the third day" as in Acts 28:17 (see Luke 18:33, 24:7; etc.)

Province - Festus was a procurator serving under the Roman ruler of Syria.

V. 3 - The remarkable thing is that even after more than two years, the Jewish hatred for Paul is as intense as ever. They really practiced loving friends and hating enemies. In ch. 23, they had agreed to help others; here they plan it themselves.

V. 5 - Festus, at least in some ways, kept the case on the right track. although he later showed that he was not above political favors either. He doubtless wanted to start out right with the Jewish hierarchy, especially since much tension then existed.

V. 6 - The Greek term for the "tribunal" is the same as in 18:12, 17, which see for discussion.

V. 7 - Although the Jews made a great attempt, Luke wrote that they did not have the strength to prove the charges. The scene was much like that with Felix and Tertullus, or Pilate and Jesus.

V. 8 - Paul used the word generally translated "to sin" in his denial of the guilt of which he was accused. He noted that no Roman law was involved, which was of special interest to Festus.

V. 9 - The true character of both Felix and Festus is seen when they attempt to curry favor with the Jews rather than doing what they both knew was just. The redeeming factor (and maybe the express will of God) was that Paul ultimately arrived in Rome, even as God had promised (23:11)

 

favor - From the Greek root meaning a favor or gift. See it in 24:27; 25:11 and 16 (give). It is the root word meaning to give, etc.

 

V. 10 - Paul said in effect, "Festus, you are to judge me here. If you will not do so, I will appeal for justice elsewhere (and not to Jerusalem!)."

 

V. 12 - As a general rule, any appeal to Caesar had to be granted. Some exceptions to that rule were made, so not every appeal was granted, such as those of murderers.

 

V. 13 - This is Agrippa II, son of Agrippa I, and brother to Bernice and Drusilla. Bernice lived with him, also was married to several others, sided with the Romans when Jerusalem was destroyed, and became a mistress to Titus, the Roman general.

 

V. 14 - Because of the problem Festus had (cf. v. 27), the knowledge of Agrippa might help, so the prisoner would appear before a king. Agrippa II ruled almost as much area as his great-grandfather (excepting Judea).

 

V. 16 - Festus made his former actions seem quite fair, even if they were not so. Notice again the Roman jurisprudence.

 

V. 17 - The truth of the case, Festus said, was different than he had supposed. Indeed, as Agrippa pointed out in 26:31,32, and as Festus knew well, Paul should have been freed.

 

V. 19 - Festus correctly stated the essence of the matter between Paul and the Jews.

The word Festus used to describe the Jewish religion was used by Paul in 17:22 in his remarks to the Athenians. The Greek word means either worship /reverence/ superstition, depending upon the context in which it occurs. It is probably better to translate religion here, as it is doubtful Festus would have wanted Agrippa to think the Jewish religion was a superstition.

 

V. 20 - Felix may well have been in doubt about Paul, and also attempting to gain Jewish favor at the same time. He probably wanted to have Paul appear before the Sanhedrin.

 

V. 22 - Some translations take Agrippa to say, "I should like..." while others take him to say, "I for some time have wanted..." Both are possible translations, and either might well be true. He was trying to be polite and yet show interest.

 

V. 23 - This sounds like a description by an eye-witness. Note that Festus made the occasion a grand one, which simply gave Paul a better audience to address. We can hardly appreciate the contrast between Paul in chains and his august audience of leading people, dressed finely, with all the show that politics can put on. Yet, as ch. 26 shows, Paul is one who has control. Jesus’ promise in Matt. 10:17-20 was again true in Paul’s life.

V. 24 - Evidently the Jews acted normally before Festus when he was in Jerusalem, v. 1,2.

 

V. 25 - Consideration of the statement here by Festus makes him quite hypocritical, and places him in a bad light before those who knew all the facts. He hopes that King Agrippa can bail him out. He did not have to grant Paul’s request to have an audience before Caesar (note v. 12). He could simply have dismissed the case for want of evidence.

 

V. 26 - nothing definite - Imagine sending a prisoner to Caesar himself and having no reason to do so! Yet, that is what happened. Because of this fact, it is probable that Paul was released at his first appearance before Nero.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

165. What would be your description of the Roman procurators Felix and Festus?

 

 

 

 

166. Did Paul always work within the Roman law system?

167. Is the case with Paul like that of many others - a matter of interpretation of the law and one’s actions?

168. Why would it be a favor to change the trial of Paul to Jerusalem?

 

 

 

 

169. What was the relation of Agrippa to the other Herods of the New Testament?

 

170. Over what general area was Agrippa king?

 

171. How did Festus assess the case of Paul in his conversation with Agrippa?

 

 

 

172. For what reason did Festus want Agrippa to hear Paul?

 

173. Can you describe the trial scene?

 

 

 

 

174. How did Festus describe Caesar?

 

 

 

 

L E S S O N T W E L V E

(26:1-27:44)

 

26:1 - Since Festus has no case, he may consider that Paul’s defense before Agrippa may reveal something he doesn’t know. As it turns out, Festus evidently thinks (v. 24) that the Romans and the Jews are dealing with a man who is out of his mind. We should be aware that this is not so much a trial as a hearing.

Though the lesson begins here in ch. 26, we suggest that some consideration be given to a light once-over of this chapter, since you have already studied ch. 9 and ch. 22, and more extensive attention given to ch. 27.

V. 2 - fortunate - The Greek term is normally translated blessed/happy, as in Matthew 5. It is evident that Paul does not unduly flatter his chief auditor, or other listeners.

V. 3 - Agrippa was knowledgeable in Jewish affairs, and had control of the temple, high-priest appointment, etc. He would know, perhaps better than most, what the situation was.

patiently - as in Rom. 2:4; II Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22; II Peter 3:15.

V. 4 - Though some of the Jews in general knew about Paul, some might not of those present, so Paul recited basically what has been recorded by Luke prior to this event.

manner of life - how one lives, life-style.

strictest party - As we noted on 24:5, the Greek term is transliterated "heresy" and translated often as "sect". strictest - same as in 22:3.

V. 6 - The very end of our hope as a Jew is what is found in Christ, Paul asserts.

V. 7 - An interesting point is Paul’s expression "twelve tribes", even though ten tribes had disappeared from the scene seven centuries earlier, for all practical purposes.

earnestly - The Israelites "stretched themselves" to do God’s will, Paul’s word indicated.

worship - From the Greek term as in Matt. 4:10; Luke 1:74; Acts 7:7; Rom. 12:2; Hebrews 9:9, 14, meaning service to a diety.

V. 8 - This expression is addressed to all of his auditors, and is intended to illuminate the essence of the hope he had just mentioned, as well as to challenge their own preconceptions. (Recall the scene in Acts 17.) The incongruity is , Paul says, that he is being accused for the Jewish hope. He points out, in v. 9, that he had once thought God did not raise Jesus from the dead, though such a position was not correct (which is why he changed).

V. 9 - His religious position as a Jew caused him to oppose the Christian heresy, specifically identified with one Jesus from Nazareth.

V. 10 - Some have argued pro and con from this verse about Paul’s position on the Sanhedrin. We can not show, from this verse, or any other verse, that he was a member thereof. He may only have meant that he was for such acts as he detailed and willfully participated in them. It seems more natural taking the verse as meaning that Paul was a member of the council, however.

V. 11 - His efforts were zealous, and continued over a period of time and various places. He made (or tried to make) Christians blaspheme (that is, reverse their stand and speak against faith in Jesus as the hope of the twelve tribes, etc.).

Notice Paul’s efforts: he pursued Christians everywhere, continually working at making them reverse their position about Jesus when he caught them, and even killed some of them.

V. 14 - Some see in the common Greek proverb about the goad that he mentioned an attempt to speak to the culture of this audience. The Greek text indicates he had often kicked against a goad, figuratively speaking. He may have reference to his conscience (24:16) or his inability to believe in God though rejecting the resurrection, etc.

Hebrew - Paul is probably speaking in Greek.

 

persecute - Note that though Paul was persecuting Christians, and not Jesus per se, yet Jesus identified with the Christians, since they were members which made up Jesus’ body.

V. 16 - appoint - Select, choose, as in 3:30; 22:14.

V. 17 - God’s agency is herein expressed. We know he did many times deliver for Paul (v. 22).

Gentiles - This word was a real stumbling block to Jews, who could not accept the fact that their hope was extended to Gentiles.

V. 18 - This verse has the essence of the Gospel message and that which it does for those who accept it. As elsewhere in the N.T., only two state in life are possible. In consideration of this fact, Paul preached (v. 20) repentance, the change of mind that brings one to turn to God and away from idols (cf. Acts 14:15), and practice a life in keeping with such a decision (see Luke 3:8ff). For the "power/authority" of Satan, see II Cor. 4:4; II Tim. 2:26; I John 5:19.

V. 19 - This verse indicates that God had plans for Paul, but Paul had to be willing.

V. 21 - The truth is stated, as seen by Paul!

V. 22 - The prophets and Moses - Note here Jesus’ comments in Luke 24:25-27; Acts 3:18-25. The expression "Moses and the prophets" generally included the Old Testament, especially as it related to what God previously promised and was in the process of fulfilling at the time of speaking. Fulfilled prophecy was and is a great apologetic to lead people to a position of faith. Paul certainly used this very point in his sermon, and appealed to Agrippa on this basis, v. 27.

V. 23 - Note II Tim. 1:10, and the contrast of "darkness" in v. 18 to light through Christ. Of course, John’s gospel and first epistle are full of light/darkness.

first to rise - The first can either mean first to rise by virtue of who he was, or first in point of importance. See I Cor. 15:20, 23.

V. 24 - The Greek term translated "mad" has a general idea of frenzy/mania/disturbed mind, or even irrationality. In view of Festus and his background, the last meaning is likely, since Festus evidently thought that Paul had overdrawn his conclusions, and was thus attempting to do what was not justified. The Greek word occurs in John 10:20; Acts 12:15 and I Cor. 14:23.

V. 25 - Some have pointed out that much of this discourse, not only in the arragement of words (syntax) but the very words chosen, is in the classical Greek of the day rather than the more common Greek of the street. If so, then Paul’s educational training is used before this cultured audience. He certainly was courteous in the response to Festus.

V. 26 - sober truth - The Greek text has "true and sound words" (i.e., not mad or deceitful).

V. 27 - Agrippa could hardly deny believing the prophets, though maybe he did not believe them as Paul had presented them, which, of course, was the point at issue.

V. 28 - The answer of Agrippa is most difficult to decipher, since the various phrases and words can mean different things. Paul had argued that the O.T. had pointed to Christ and Christianity. He then appealed to Agrippa on this basis. What Agrippa meant could be: "With so little effort as this, do you think you can make me become a Christian?" or "With such little effort do you think I would reject possibilities", though the King James translation is not a very good possibility.

 

V. 29 - Again, Paul’s consummate skill came to light, as he took Agrippa’s reply, whatever it might have meant, and turned it into something in his favor. One can easily believe that the promised help of the Holy Spirit for the apostles was his on this occasion.

chains - The status of Paul was hard to appreciate, if one considered his position that Christianity was the consummation of Judaism. If so, then of all people, Jews should not be persecuting him (cf. v. 7). He would yet have been a Jew except for the divine intervention in his life that brought about the change. If all Jews would accept the truth, Paul asserted, then every difficulty would vanish.

V. 31 - The unanimous conclusion was: innocent. The problem is yet with Festus: what to do with Paul. He still could have freed him in spite of the appeal, had his desire for justice matched his desire for Jewish favor.

 

QUESTIONS

 

175. Was Paul on trial before Agrippa?

176. Was Paul’s former life as a Jew an important part of his defense?

 

177. Why did Paul think it somewhat absurd to be persecuted by the Jews?

 

 

 

 

178. What do you think was so convincing to Paul to make him oppose Jesus?

 

 

 

 

179. Do you think v. 14 indicates that Paul had some inner turmoil about his avid persecution of Christians?

180. Why did Jesus say he appeared to Paul?

 

 

 

181. Did Jesus promise to help Paul in times of trouble?

182. Describe the effects of conversion as stated in v. 18.

 

 

183. When Paul remarked that he was not disobedient, v. 19, did that indicate that he believed he had a choice in serving as God wanted?

 

 

 

 

184. Why did Paul talk about repentance in v. 20 rather than faith or immersion?

 

 

 

 

185. In what way did Paul mean that Jesus was "first to rise from the dead" in v. 23?

 

 

 

 

 

186. What did Jesus bring to light among "the people and the Gentiles?" (Cf. II Tim. 1:10)

 

187. What caused Festus to speak so in v. 24?

 

 

188. What was not done in a corner?

 

189. Did Agrippa consider Paul innocent?

190. What do you think makes ch. 26 such a great chapter to study?

 

 

 

Leaving for Rome, 27:1,2

27 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. 2 And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica.

27:1 - It will be good to review the four centurions (Matt. 8; Luke 23; Acts 10; here) that are prominent in the New Testament, all of whom were noteworthy for some reason. Though the lesson is inclusive of Ch. 26, further study of this chapter will surely be profitable. The character of Julius and that of Paul as revealed on this voyage are worth much reflection.

V. 2 - Evidently Paul and two companions Luke and Aristarcus, sailed to Italy. Adramyttium- a city of Mysia in Asia.

 

At Sidon, 27:3

3 The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.

V. 3 - kindly - Translates a Greek term with the Greek word for love as a prefix.

friends - The above Greek word is the root of this term also. These people may have been Christians, or otherwise.

 

Under the Lee of Cyprus, 27:4

4 And putting to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us.

V. 4 - It was late Fall, and the wrong time to be sailing on the sea (see v. 9). The sea became treacherous with storms and wind, with which the vessels of that time were not capable to cope.

 

At Myra, 27:5-6

5 And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and put us on board.

V. 6 - Much sea traffic moved to and from Alexandria, mostly because of the commodities involved.

 

At Cnidus, 27:7a

Under the Lee of Crete, 27:7b

7 We sailed slowly for a number of days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone.

V. 8 - The voyage so far: Caesarea to Sidon, about 70 miles. Sidon to Myra, about 450 miles. Myra to Fair Havens, about 350 miles (Fair Havens to Malta, some 500 miles).

 

At Fair Havens, 27:8-15

8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

9 As much time had been lost, and the voyage was already dangerous because the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives." 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the captain and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to put to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, looking northeast and southeast, and winter there.

13 And when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close inshore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land; 15 and when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven.

V 9 - The fast - The Jewish day of Atonement, occurring on the 10th day of the seventh month (of the religious calendar) and on the 10th day of the first month of the civil calendar. It came in late September or early October. Today it is called Yom Kippur. It was the only day that the Old Testament somewhat officially designated as a fast day, although many Jews fasted otherwise. Paul may or may not have observed the day - Luke may simply have recorded it as a point in time.

 

V. 10 - Perhaps Paul is speaking from experience, since he had been shipwrecked before. As it turned out, God’s intervention saved the people, though the ship was lost.

V. 11 - paid more attention - The centurion was actually in charge of the ship. The captain and the owner did a better job of persuading (which is the Greek word used) than did Paul. The fact that a prisoner should have even been considered speaks volumes both about Paul and Julius.

V. 13 - The northeast wind had been giving them problems. It had died out, and the south wind seemed to be what they needed to get from Fair Havens to Phoenix, about 40 miles distance.

V. 14 - Our word typhoon transliterates the Greek term. It was a violent storm, and "caught" (to take violently, as in Luke 8:29; Acts 6:12; 19:29) the ship, and drove (carried) it out from shore to the open sea. The Greek verb for "were driven" is seen in Matthew 14:11; Luke 24:1; John 21:18; Acts 12:10; Hebrews 1:3; II Peter 1:21, with the idea of something being carried or driven, not of its own accord.

 

Cauda, 27: 16-17

16 And running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the boat; 17 after hoisting it up , they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they should run on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and so were driven.

V.17 - Because of the possibility of being driven south onto a dangerous area, they attempted to use the wind and keep a course at right angles to it, thus being blown westward. undergird - Evidently they tried to tie the ship together in some way to keep it from breaking into pieces.

 

Driven for 14 Days by the Wind, 27:18-27

18 As we were violently storm-tossed, they began next day to throw the cargo overboard; 19 and the third day they cast out with their own hands the tackle of the ship. 20 And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many a day, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

21 As they had been long without food, Paul then came forward among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail form Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.

23 For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and to whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we shall have to run on some island."

27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adrea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land.

V. 18 - storm tossed - the reason for the action in v. 17.

V. 19 - tackle of ship - The vessels and whatever of the ropes, etc., that could be spared to lighten the ship and help prevent it from being filled with water from the boisterous seas. Note that not everything was thrown overboard, but what was thought could be spared.

V. 20 - Their condition was bad enough, but they could not chart any course without the sun and stars to guide them. Thus they won’t know where they are until they get on the island, 28:1. Luke says that their hope of being saved (in a physical sense, though the Greek term is the same for salvation, etc.) was gradually "taken from around them" as one takes off a layer of something) at a time.

V. 21- Lack of hope causes many other things to happen. For the ship’s passengers, loss of appetite was a result. Some think that the ship may have been a government ship, carrying wheat from Egypt’s granaries to Rome. If so, then the ship’s captain would have been in the employ of Rome, and with the centurion in charge, they thought they knew more than the "landlubber" Paul. He, however, still stood by them, and with God’s encouragement, helped them in a tight spot.

 

V. 22- no loss of life - He believed God’s word, and it proved true.

V. 24- Paul evidently was being affected by the others. God, knowing this, used the occasions to encourage Paul and to create faith in the others through Paul.

V. 25 - Take heart - Surely needed, since all hope was gone. The word is used again in v. 36, also in James 5:13. Paul’s stand on God’s expressed word was made on the basis of his past experiences with God, who had always proved faithful. Christians often are called upon to do much the same thing; we can’t prove to anyone, even ourselves, that God’s promises, yet unfulfilled, will be honored. However, consideration of what God has done in the past, especially as relevant as the Bible, gives us a foundation upon which to build our faith and hope. (Some evidently didn’t believe too much in Paul, as v. 30-42 shows.)

V. 26 - The manner of the salvation of the people was not specifically spelled out.

V. 27 - The ship was still on a storm-tossed sea, and driven to and fro.

 

Coming to Land, 27:28-44

 

28 So they sounded and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let our four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go.

33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food; it will give you strength, since not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you." 35 And when he had said this, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all two hundred and seventy-six persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. 39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to bring the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders; then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a shoal they ran the vessel aground; the bow struck and remained immovable, and the stern was broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape; 43 but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their purpose. He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all escaped to land.

V. 28 - fathoms - Originally, the distance of the outstretched arms, about 6 feet.

V. 29 - The usual practice was to anchor from the bow rather than the stern/rear (see v. 30).

V. 30 - The sailors evidently did not trust Paul, or anyone but themselves.

V. 31 - Even if God had spoken about he salvation of all being assured, the sailors, Paul figured, would be needed to help with the ship. As it turned out, they were not needed, but Paul understood God’s promise to preclude such action as the sailors were taking. (The soldiers finally believed Paul, and cut loose the little boat.) This is a good example of how human reasoning enters in the understanding of God’s revelation. As nearly as we know the sailors were not said to be a part of the salvation process.

 

V. 34 - Again Paul is emphatic about God’s promise and ability to save them all - even to the hair of their heads! As previously noted, not all was thrown overboard, but only what was considered expendable.

V. 35 - Thanksgiving to God for food was both a Christian thing to do (Matt. 15:36; I Tim. 4:3-5) and a good witness to all 276 aboard. A good example was set before them all by Paul, who then put his trust and advice into action.

V. 38 - The last of the ship’s cargo was cast overboard. They considered themselves ready to do the best possible, whatever that would be.

 

V. 39 - Because of the stormy conditions, they had lost track of their position (v. 20).

V. 41 - The sea was still big enough to destroy the ship - so danger was yet present. The sailors evidently attempted to go between two obstacles or through a channel which was not deep enough to permit passage. The ship was apparently "chancy" since efforts had been made earlier (v. 17) to keep it from falling apart. The currents were from two directions at that point, and the buffeting of the ship from one side and then the other was too severe for the ship to stand it. It began breaking up, and something had to be done immediately in order for the people to be saved.

V. 42 - The soldiers were responsible for the prisoners, and perhaps thought that their escape would cost them their lives, as in Acts 12.

V. 43 - The centurion realized the debt all owed to Paul, and determined to save him. The salvation of all was a great example of God’s ability and their trust in him.

 

QUESTIONS

 

191. Describe Julius, as chapters 27 and 28 present him.

 

 

 

 

192. Name people in "Paul’s party"

 

193. Have you ever used a map to trace the sea adventure?

194. Was Paul’s expression (v. 10) about the voyage true?

195. What provisions were made to help save the ship (prior to arriving at Malta)?

 

 

196. How do you reconcile Paul’s statement in v. 10 and v. 24?

 

 

 

 

197. Does one’s trust (faith) in God sometimes mean that God’s Word will have to be trusted, even if it can’t be proved?

 

 

198. How do you see Paul’s statement in v. 31 with God’s revelation in v. 24?

 

 

199. What conditions of mind would describe the people on the ship?

 

200. Did God’s promise to Paul come true?

201. Isn’t this chapter a great chapter on the subject of God’s ability and God’s faithfulness?

 

 

 

L E S S O N T H I R T E E N

28:1-3(1)

 

 

Melita, 28:1-10

28 After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live." 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They waited expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They presented many gifts to us; and when we sailed, they put on board whatever we needed.

28:1 - Melita/Malta, was an island some 75 miles south of the island of Sicily and about 100 miles from Syracuse on the island. They had been blown some 500 miles from the island of Crete.

 

V. 2 - natives - The Greek term is translated Barbarians in Romans 1:14. It simply meant a people who did not speak Greek, or whatever language was native to the listener (or writer).

unusual kindness - The Greek term is the two words love and man - love of man (the source of our word philanthropy). They were such by receiving them all, building a fire for their comfort, etc. See v. 7 also. Many other people would have taken advantage of the situation. Perhaps God caused these people to so act.

viper - John and Jesus (Matt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33) used this same word in reference to people of their day.

heat - The Greek term is transliterated into our "thermos." Observe that Paul was also helping - not afraid to work.

V. 4 - The natives thought like most other people do at times - that physical calamities are an evidence of some sin in the lives of those being punished. However, it is not necessarily so. And every Christian should remember it. God often uses such things to teach lessons, even to the righteous. The very death of Jesus disproves the thought (if nothing else does) - the just suffering for the unjust. It is pertinent that people thought the snake was poison, whether we can prove it was or was not.

V. 5 - Paul will show that their theology is bad. But that doesn’t help, since they immediately draw another false conclusion,

 

V. 6. harm - the common Greek word for evil or bad.

he had escaped - "Paul had been ‘saved’ from the problem of the sea, but he was not going to escape his just punishment" was their thinking. How fickle is popular opinion! (Reread Acts 14:8-18).

V. 7 - hospitably - The Greek word is the word for lovingmindedly; or in a friendly manner.

V. 8 - dysentery - A transliteration of the Greek term. His "fever" was perhaps caused by the dysentery, or something else. Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever, Luke 4:38,39.

V. 9 - Luke may have helped in the healing of those who came. The word for weakness is used of disease or a deficiency of some sort; often in a comparative sense, as in II Cor. 12:9,10 or Rom. 14:1-15:7.

 

At Syracuse, 28:11-12

11 After three months we set sail in a ship which had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the Twin Brothers as figurehead.

12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days.

V. 11 - The three winter months were probably December through February. Note that even if Malta was but a short distance from Sicily, another ship had wintered there, the captain probably afraid of the stormy sea. Some think that the ship’s name was given because the sailors thought that the constellation was a good luck omen. It stood for the sons of Zeus, Castor and Pollux.

 

At Rhegium, 28:13a

In Puteoli, 28:13b, 14

13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium; and after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome.

 

V. 13 - Puteoli was an important seaport, and the chief port for Rome. It lay some 180 miles up the coast from Rhegium, which was about 75 miles north of Syracuse. Since it was such an important place, Christians were almost certain to be there, v. 14, although we know not how Christianity came to Italy. The faith of the Roman Christians was known everywhere, however. Some think that those from Rome in Jerusalem on Pentecost could have been among those converted, and then took their faith back to Italy when they went.

 

Paul at Rome, 28:15-30

15 And the brethren there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him.

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews; and when they had gathered, he said to them, "Brethren, though I had done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar - though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain." 21 And they said to him, "We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brethren coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against."

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in great numbers. And he expounded the matter to them from morning till evening, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, while others disbelieved. 25 So, as they disagreed among themselves, they departed, after Paul had made one statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

26 ‘Go to this people, and say,

You shall indeed hear but never understand,and you shall indeed see but never perceive. 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’

28 Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen."

30 And he lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered.

V. 15 - The Roman road is yet visible and used. The Christians came some 40 miles over the road, which was then over 300 years old. How they heard that Paul was coming is unknown. His letter to them some years earlier had introduced him to some, and he obviously knew some of them at the time of writing.

Paul...took courage - God may have been with Paul many times earlier, and have given him special revelations along, even to promising him that he would stand before Caesar, but Paul was still human and was encouraged by the brethren who loved him (even if perhaps not knowing him) enough to come and meet him. It is a good example for us.

V. 16 - As in Caesarea, and pretty much throughout the trip the prisoner was treated kindly.

V. 17 - Of course, multitudes of Jews were in Rome and thereabouts, and the Roman letter gives evidence that some were Christians. Paul, even if an apostle to the Gentiles, still attempts to win some of his brethren according to the flesh.

V. 19 - Jews - The first time that Paul so characterizes those who opposed him.

V. 20 - Note again: Paul’s thrust was about the "hope of Israel" which was fully realized in Christ Jesus. For some, it would not help to so state.

V. 21 - As far as the Jews were concerned, they were not predisposed against Paul, though they may well have heard of him (see v. 22). They evidently did not know why he was in Rome until he informed them. This may say something indirectly about his case - the Jews in Judea considered their evidence so flimsy that they didn’t bother to go to Rome to defend themselves.

V. 22 - sect - the same word as in 24:5. It also occurs in Galatians 5:20. As used then, it seemed to mean a party or faction of a larger group (i.e., Jewish Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.). Now, we use it various ways, sometimes making it equal to heresy (which word transliterates the Greek term rather than translating it). Heresy means, generally, either a position held contrary to a revealed truth, or a doctrine considered to be untrue, and to which a group adheres, making it a major part of their belief. It is fair to say, however, that it is defined various ways, though generally the above is true. It obviously relates to what is considered as essential and truth rather than opinion.

In the early years of Christianity, those considered heretics were anathematized from the fellowship.

In later years of the church, that which was considered essential and normative for the members was called "dogma" or sometimes (essential) doctrine or confession of faith. Wrapped up in this problem is the question of infallibility (Whose interpretation shall be held as correct?) which rightly must be considered, since the basic principle upon which the Protestantism stands is that every man is his own interpreter and no one has the right to lord it over another. Hence, for these and other reasons, heresy and sect are difficult concepts to handle. For instance, one might be divisive (schismatic) and not over any major doctrine, or even a minor doctrine, etc. Various positions might be held on certain things, and yet no one would be accused of heresy. One ought to be careful about terms, being biblical if possible, and correct according to current usage as well.

The Jewish men doubtless knew of the Christians in Rome, and also knew that the report about Christians were generally bad.

V. 23 - the kingdom of God - It seems to me that from Paul’s testimony in Acts, the kingdom of God and the church were equal in his thinking. At least he never distinguishes between them (see v. 31).

trying to convince - The Greek term meant persuade, which we have pointed out many times before, was and is the method most used by Paul. Those unpersuaded are then called "unbelievers."

V. 24 - Two groups as always: some persuaded, some still unbelieving. In v. 25, Luke describes the two groups as being unable to speak together (i.e. agree with each other by speaking the same thing).

V. 25 - Notice the evidence and manner of inspiration of the prophet (another reason why I think it is misleading to say prophet and preacher are synonymous) Isaiah, and Paul’s judgment that what was said 700 years earlier yet had a present-day application. The general text occurs in Matthew 13:14,15; Rom. 11:8. Or, in the words of Stephen in Acts 7, and Jesus in Matt. 23:29ff., the Jewish people were characteristically unbelieving, resistant to the Holy Spirit speaking through men to them. Note again Romans 10:18-21, where the indictment of guilty is placed upon them, because they were responsible for their hearts and unbelief. Note the idea "and turn" (i.e., repent. See Acts 20:21; 26:20 etc.).

V 28 - Another item the Jews, as a whole could not get straight: that God loved the Gentiles just like he loved Jews. Observe that Paul stated that the Gentiles would listen; perhaps in contrast to Jews who would not listen.

V. 30 - As is clear elsewhere, many supported Paul in his ministry, which, it seems to me, establishes the right of a congregation to support someone, or the right of someone to be supported by a congregation or individuals.

V. 31 - Note again "the kingdom of God" and "the things concerning Jesus Christ." To me, to do the one is to do the other (i.e., to preach Christ is to preach the kingdom, and vise versa).

 

unhindered - Most commentators remark about this word with which the book of Acts ends, since it has so many interesting connotations. For instance, through many trials, Paul yet arrived in Rome, and continued to preach Christ, allowing nothing to hinder him. Again, the Gospels, Acts and all the epistles tell how God tried to lead the Jews from their allegiance to the law to the gospel, which alone makes men free and unhindered. Certainly the book of Acts is an engrossing history of the early Christians, so often hindered in their understanding, or by their culture, and their attempts to remove all obstacles so that the gospel might "run and have free course" (Phil. 1:12-14; II Thess. 3:1).

We might recall in passing that some of the epistles were written here, such as Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, and perhaps others of which we do not know. We should also consider that the surroundings in this imprisonment seem to be much more pleasant than those reflected in II Timothy.

Various people came to see Paul , or work with him, like Epaphroditus, Onesimus, Epaphras, Tychicus, Demos and Timothy among others.

Acts is truly a great book - may we be grateful to God for using Luke to write it for mankind, and that we have been privileged to study it for our edification and upbuilding in faith.

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

202. How did the people on Malta contrast to the Jews with whom Paul had been dealing?

 

 

 

 

203. Does it seem to you that the stay on Malta was rather encouraging to the travelers, even after three months?

204. Did the news of Paul’s coming travel ahead of him?

205. Does God sometimes work through others to encourage us?

206. How does Paul plead his case (before the state) in Rome?

 

 

 

 

207. Why did Paul say he was in chains?

 

 

208. Were the Roman Jews cordial to him?

 

209. What were the sources of Paul’s presentation to the Jewish brethren?

 

 

 

210. What does Paul see as being true in Isaiah’s day and also in his day?

 

 

 

 

211. Had God spoken in Isaiahs’s day of a salvation of the Jews which they were rejecting and would reject?

 

212. What would be true of (some) Gentiles that would not be true of (some)Jews in regard to this promised salvation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

213. How does Luke describe Paul’s two years in Rome?

 

 

 

 

 

 

214. What do you see in the word "unhindered"?

 

 

 

 

 

SPECIAL STUDY ON BAPTISM

 

Taken from Baptism: A Biblical Study

by Jack Cottrell

Material reprinted with permission from College Press Publishing Co.,

Joplin, MO 64802

 

Dr. Cottrell is Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio

 

ACTS 22:16

 

Baptism is mentioned a number of times in the book of Acts after 2:38, but mostly just to record the fact that certain individuals were baptized (e.g., 8:12,38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15,33). Only one other passage reflects significantly on the actual meaning of baptism, viz., Acts 22:16. Here God’s servant Ananias addresses the humble Saul of Tarsus (who is about to become Paul the Apostle) with these words: "And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name."

 

Saul the Sinner

To understand the meaning of baptism as taught in this passage, again we must study the historical context in which the statement is made. Especially we must inquire concerning Saul’s spiritual state at the time Ananias addresses him. Is he already saved, or is he still an unsaved sinner? To find the answer we must study all three accounts of Saul’s conversion together: Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-16; and 26:1-18.

Before his conversion experience Saul considered himself to be among the elite in believing Israel, a devout Jew who was "zealous for God" (22:3). From his perspective as a Christian, however, he realized that he had been the foremost sinner (I Tim. 1:15). He was guilty of blasphemy, persecution of Christians and of Christ Himself (26:14-15), violence, and unbelief (I Tim. 1:13). This is another example of how even the most sincere Old Covenant faith was no longer sufficient once Christ was known.

While Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians, the risen and living Christ appeared to him and demanded, "Saul, why are you persecuting me?" The bewildered and bedazzled Saul could only ask, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply: "I am Jesus, the one you are actually persecuting" (9:5; 22:8; 26:15). Immediately filled with a sense of his guilt and with fear, Saul could only ask, "What shall I do, Lord?" The reply: "Go into Damascus, and there someone will tell you what to do" (22:10).

Blinded by the brilliance of the risen Christ, Saul was led into Damascus; but no one came to him for three days. During this time the blind Saul prayed and fasted, waiting for someone to help him. He knew from a vision that a man named Ananias would come for this purpose (9:9-12). Ananias himself prepared by a vision, finally arrived after the three days of fasting and prayer. First he laid his hands on Saul so that the latter’s sight might be miraculously restored (9:12, 17,18; 22:13). Then he announced why the Lord had confronted him to be an apostle to the Gentiles (22:14,15; see (:15,16). Finally, Ananias told Saul what to do about his sin and guilt: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (22:16).

Now the crucial question is this: can we discern whether Saul is still in his sins when thus exhorted, or whether he has already been saved? To put it another way, is there any point prior to this where he might have been fully converted?

Someone might suggest that he was converted on the Damascus road at the time of his encounter with Christ. Since he calls Jesus "Lord" (22:8,10), perhaps this means that he was at that point surrendering to the Lordship of Christ. This is unlikely, however. The word itself (Greek, kurios) was the usual term of respectful address, on which occasions it was roughly equivalent to our word "sir". Perhaps this is all Saul meant in his first use of this term, since at this point he does not even know who Jesus is: "Who art Thou, Lord?" (22:8). But after Jesus identifies Himself (22:8), Saul again calls Him "Lord" (22:10), perhaps in a stronger sense than before, and perhaps even indicating an attitude of submission. It is still unlikely, though, that any true conversion has taken place. Saul had not yet heard the gospel offer, nor had he been told the conditions for receiving what is offered. This is why he asks, "What shall I do, Lord?" (22:10).

The fact that Saul asked this question suggests that he was at that time in the same spiritual condition as the Jews who were convicted by Peter’s Pentecost sermon. They asked, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Saul’s question is exactly the same: "What shall I do?" But whereas they were immediately told who to receive forgiveness, Saul was not told at this point what to do about his sins. Thus we conclude that he is still in them here on the Damascus road.

But even if this is so, someone might say that Saul was surely converted during the three days when he was fasting and praying. But there is no indication that any change took place in him during this time. Conversion is usually accompanied by a deep sense of joy and relief (see Acts 8:39; 16:34), but this is not mentioned here. The fact that Saul continues to pray and fast during the whole three days shows he has not yet received that for which he is praying and fasting. He has still not had his question answered: "What shall I do?" He knows that someone named Ananias will come and tell him what to do (9:6,12), but nothing happens for three days. During this time he is still in his blindness, which is symbolic of the fact that he is still in his sins.

When Ananias first encounters Saul, what does he assume about the latter’s spiritual condition? The fact that he addresses him as "Brother Saul" (9:17; 22:13) is taken by many to be a sure indication that Ananias accepts him as a fellow Christian and thus as a saved person. It is true that Christians called each other "brother" and "brethren." About 30 instances occur in Acts and 130 in Paul’s own writings. But this practice probably arose from the fact that the Jews already customarily called each other "brethren," by which they meant only "fellow Jews." This is the sense in which Paul refers to all Jews as "my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:3). The addressing of fellow Jews as brethren occurs quite often in the book of Acts; thus we need not think that anything more than this is implied by Ananias’ address of Saul as "brother."

In fact there are two strong indications that Ananias did not view Saul as a saved Christian brother when he first encountered him. As we have seen in our study of Acts 2:38, salvation in the Messianic age includes receiving the Holy Spirit. But Ananias says that he has been sent to Saul for the very purpose of filling him with the Holy Spirit (9:17). This shows that Saul was not yet saved, and that Ananias was quite aware of it. The other element of the double cure of salvation is forgiveness of sins. Now, when Ananias tells Saul to rise up and wash away his sins (22:16), this shows that he sees Saul as still bearing the burden of guilt.

Thus there is nothing in the text or context that places Saul in the company of the saved when he first meets Ananias. He welcomes Ananias as the one whom God has sent at last to tell him what to do to be saved, and baptism is a central element in the instruction. It is related both to receiving the Spirit and to forgiveness, just as in Acts 2:38.

We can infer its relation to the Spirit in Saul’s case from Acts 9:12, 17,18. In verse 17 Ananias mentions two reasons why he was sent: that Saul might regain his sight and be filled with the Spirit. In the very next verse we are told that Saul’s sight returned (when Ananias laid his hands on him, v. 12) and that he was baptized. The implication is that the latter was the occasion for the giving of the Spirit, as promised in Acts 2:38.

The relation of baptism to the forgiveness of Saul’s sins is the focal point of Acts 22:16. We now turn to a more detailed study of this aspect of the verse.

 

Wash Away Your Sins

Ananias’ instruction to Saul includes two aorist participles, "rising up" and "calling upon"; and two imperatives, "be baptized" and "wash away your sins." This last item is the crucial one. What does it mean to "wash away" sins? At first the imagery might suggest to our minds the second part of the double cure, or the cleansing of our souls from the condition of sinfulness, a purifying change wrought within our very hearts. But this is not the main idea. It rather refers to the first part of the double cure, namely, the washing away of the guilt we have incurred because of our sins. It is equivalent to the forgiveness of sins as discussed in the study of Acts 2:38; its background is the washing or ritual cleansing ceremonies of the Old Testament. It is accomplished only by the application of the blood of Christ to our lives: "The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7). When Ananias says, "Get your sins washed away," he is simply saying, "Get your sins forgiven."

The significant point for our purposes is the close connection between baptism and the washing away of sins. The most natural understanding is that the former is somehow the occasion or the condition of the latter. This is true for several reasons. First, this is consistent with the situation as described in the last section. Saul is under deep conviction of his sins, and has been fasting and praying for three days while awaiting instruction as to what he should do about them. Thus when Ananias tells him to "be baptized and wash away your sins," the guilt-ridden Saul would most naturally take baptism to be what he should do to wash his sins away.

Second, this view is consistent with other New Testament teaching about baptism and salvation in general and with its teaching about baptism and forgiveness in particular. It is in effect the exact equivalent of Peter’s instruction in Acts 2:38. "Be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins" means the very same thing as "be baptized and wash away your sins."

Third, the very fact that Saul is instructed with an imperative to wash away his sins shows that it must be the result of baptism. As noted above, the only true means of washing sins away is the blood of Jesus Christ. All would surely agree that only the Lord Himself can apply His blood to our souls. That is to say, the washing away of sins is an act of God and not the act of any human being. It is a spiritual act accomplished by divine power alone. It is impossible for Saul or anyone else to literally wash away his own sins. What sense does it make, then, for Saul to be told to "wash away your sins"? How could he possibly do such a thing? Here is the answer: there was no way that he could do this himself unless the washing away of sins was dependent on something he could do, namely submit to Christian baptism. This is the implication of the fact that "wash away" is in the imperative form.

Finally, the number and order of the imperatives show that baptism is a condition for washing away sins. If the outward act were only a symbolic picture of a prior inner cleansing, we would not expect him to put both in the imperative form. In such a case it would be appropriate for the "washing away" to be an aorist participle (like "rising up" and "calling upon"). Strictly speaking the action of an aorist participle precedes the action of the main verb. Ananias thus would have said, "Be baptized [imperative], having washed away your sins [aorist participle]." But he does not say this; he uses two imperatives instead.

But does the use of two imperatives in itself mean that baptism is a condition for washing away sins? Not necessarily. Both could be imperative, with baptism still being just a symbolic picture of the prior inner cleansing. But in this case, the imperatives would have to be reversed: "wash away your sins and be baptized." In fact, only if they were in this order could we say that baptism just pictures the prior cleansing. But they are not; "be baptized" - an imperative - precedes "wash away your sins" - an imperative. This order of the two imperatives, along with the other reasons cited above, requires us to conclude that baptism is a preceding condition for the washing away or forgiveness of sins.

The close connection between baptism and washing in Acts 22:16 helps us to understand the baptismal content of other New Testament references to washing. For example, Paul says to the converted sinners at Corinth, "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" (I Cor. 6:11). All three verbs are in the aorist tense, referring to a single action in the past. The verb for "washed" is the same as that used in Acts 22:16, where the action is connected with baptism. This suggests that I Cor. 6:11 is also referring to baptism.

The two modifying phrases in this verse in Corinthians also point to baptism. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" recalls Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; and I Cor. 1:13. "In [ev] the Spirit" is the same expression as Matthew 3:11 (and parallels); Acts 1:5; and Acts 11:16. These are all baptismal references. The fact that the two phrases are used to modify all three verbs shows that the latter are all referring to a single act, namely baptism. "You were washed," at which time "you were sanctified" and "you were justified."

Another passage that speaks of washing is Hebrews 10:22, which says that we have had "our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." That this speaks of baptism is clear not only from the reference to washing but also from its description as an application of water to our bodies. The statement as a whole refers to the inner and outer aspects of the "one baptism" (Eph. 4:5), namely, the cleansing of the heart from sin and the immersion of the body in water.

Two other inferences to washing that most probably are speaking of baptism are Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5. These will be discussed in separate chapters.

 

Calling on His Name

Ananias instructs Saul to arise and be baptized, and wash away his sins, "calling on His name." The verb here is an aorist participle. This means that this action, while intimately connected with that of the main verb, is nevertheless meant to precede it. Saul is thus told to "call on His name" as a preface to his baptism and the washing away of his sins.

What is the significance of this action? To understand this we must look to the origin of this expression in Joel and its use elsewhere in the New Testament, especially in Acts. The Old Testament source is Joel 2:32, "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered." Since this appears in connection with Joel’s prophecy concerning the coming of the Spirit, we are not surprised that Peter quotes it in Acts 2:21, "And it shall be, that every one who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Paul quotes it in Romans 10:13, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Christians are described as those who call upon His name (Acts 9:14,21; I Cor. 1:2).

Specifically, whose name is being called upon? In Joel it is the name of Yahweh (Jehovah), whom we know in the New Covenant revelation to include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the New Testament passages the name "Lord" specifically refers to Jesus Christ. This is especially clear in Acts 9:13-17; Romans 10:9-13; and I Cor. 1:2. Thus, although no specific name is mentioned in Acts 22:16, it undoubtedly refers to calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now the crucial question is this: for what purpose or what end was Saul told to call upon the name of the Lord? Here again the answer is not in doubt. He must call upon the name of the Lord for salvation. This is Joel’s point: "Whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered." This is how Peter and Paul quote it: whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Paul equates it with the confession of the mouth that Jesus is Lord, a confession that results in salvation (Rom. 10:9,10; cf. 10:13).

Thus Ananias’ instruction does no less than confirm the unanimous Biblical testimony to the saving significance of baptism. God has promised to save us - to give us forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit - in Christian baptism. As a person prepares to be baptized, he should call upon God to keep this promise; he should call upon the Lord Jesus Christ to apply His cleansing blood to his sinful heart and to send the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a prayer of faith in the faithfulness of God.

As it applied to Saul, it meant two things. First, the fact that he was supposed to call upon the Lord’s name in connection with his baptism meant that he had not yet received salvation. The whole point of his calling upon the Lord’s name was to be saved. Thus this is one final confirmation of the conclusion already reached above, that Saul was not saved on the Damascus Road nor during his three days of fasting and prayer. He was not saved until he called upon the Lord’s name in baptism. Second, this "calling upon His name" was an indication of Saul’s faith in Jesus. We may note that there is no specific mention of faith in Ananias’ instruction, but it is implied nevertheless. According to Romans 10:14, one cannot call upon Him unless he has believed in Him. Thus Saul is here being told to do what every good Jew has to do now that the Messiah has come, namely, transform his limited Old Covenant faith into the fully-rounded faith that accepts Jesus as Yahweh Himself and as the source of salvation.

 

Summary

In this chapter we have explored the teaching of Acts 22:16 on the meaning of baptism. First we recounted the basic facts of Saul’s encounters with Jesus and Ananias, and concluded that he was not yet saved when Ananias instructed him concerning baptism. We noted that Ananias gave him the gospel offer of the double cure: forgiveness (the "washing away" of the guilt of his sins) and the Holy Spirit.

Next, we concentrated on the relation between baptism and the washing away of sins. We concluded that the only reasonable understanding of Ananias’ words is that the washing takes place in the act of baptism. This is consistent with the context and with other New Testament teaching. Also, it is required by the fact that "wash away" is an imperative as such, and also by the number and order of the two imperatives in the verse.

Finally we saw that "calling on His name" refers to calling on the name of Jesus for His promised salvation. That this precedes baptism is shown by the participle construction and confirms the fact that baptism is for salvation. The sinner approaches baptism calling upon the Lord to save him as He has promised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANDANTES