Acts

March 2, 2021

Cultivate DT

INTRODUCTION

Part 7) Build: Loving One Another: God calls us to be the church

Journal

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation, or event.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.

 Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Bible Text: Acts 2:42–47

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.   46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their 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.

Questions

  1. How does the picture of the early church in this passage contrast with modern popular notions of church?
  2. How would it have felt to be part of the Acts 2 church?
  3. How can I help our church become more like the Acts 2 church today? How does my view of my life need to change?

Prayer

February 18, 2021

Cultivate DT

INTRODUCTION

Part 5) Proclaim: Life on Mission

Jesus calls us to gospel proclamation

Journal

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation, or event.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.

 Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Bible Text: Acts 8:26–40

26 Now 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 place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over 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 the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
   Who can describe his generation?
   For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from 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 carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Context & Commentary

Acts is the story of the early church: how the first Christians began to live out the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). The early Christians were all Jews. And now, for the first time, Christians took the Gospel message to non-Jews.

Questions

  1. How did God prepare the Ethiopian eunuch to receive the gospel message from Philip?
  2. What made Philip an effective evangelist? What steps can I take to be more like Philip?

Prayer

February 12, 2021

Cultivate DT

INTRODUCTION

Part 5) Proclaim: Life on Mission

Jesus calls us to gospel proclamation

Journal

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation, or event.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.

 Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Bible Text:

Matthew 28:18–20

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:8

8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Questions

  1. What mission does Jesus give to his followers?
  2. What gives Christians the confidence to attempt that mission?
  3. Who am I called to disciple or share the gospel with?
  4. What seems like the “end of the earth” to me? Where does Jesus’ command challenge me to go?

Prayer

February 11, 2021

Cultivate DT

INTRODUCTION

Part 5) Proclaim: Life on Mission

Jesus calls us to gospel proclamation

Journal

  • Explore your fears and what’s behind them.
  • Write about a relational conflict you are experiencing.
  • Recall a significant reaction, conversation, or event.
  • List out all that you are grateful for.

 Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Bible Text:

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 1:16–17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

John 14:6

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Acts 4:12

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.

Questions

  1. What are some truths about the gospel in these verses?
  2. Besides the gospel, what else do people look to for salvation? In what ways do they fail to save?
  3. If I believe Jesus is the only way to be saved, what should be the purpose of my life?

Prayer

October 17, 2019

Acts 28 – 2019-10-17

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • Acts 28:11-31 (ESV)

    11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 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 brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about 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 who guarded him.

    17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a 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 because 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 wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers 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 greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, 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, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing 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 will indeed hear but never understand,
        and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
    27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
        and with their ears they can barely hear,
        and their eyes they have closed;
    lest they should see with their eyes
        and hear with their ears
    and understand with their heart
        and turn, and I would heal them.’

    28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

    30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

  • Reflection Questions   

Acts 28:11-31

    • How long does it take Paul to gather people and share the gospel upon arriving in Rome? Considering the people he calls together, and the events (and conspirators and accusers) that brought him to this point, what can I learn from Paul’s example?
    • Compare the mandate of Acts 1:8 with the continuing narrative represented by Acts 28:31. What is the progress and direction of the gospel and the people who bear it? How am I obeying the same mandate and joining the same narrative today?
    • Many scholars have noted that the book of Acts, in its original Greek, ends rather oddly with an adverb: unhinderedly. What may be the significance of this ending? How does this apply to me?
  • Prayer

October 16, 2019

Acts 28 – 2019-10-16

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • CHAPTER 28 COMMENTARY

    vv.1-2: “Malta (Melite), on which the ship was wrecked, is an island about 18 miles long and 8 miles wide. It lies 58 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles north and east of the African coast. It had been colonized about 1000 B.C by Phoenicians, and the vernacular language in Paul’s day was a Punic (Carthaginian) dialect. But in 218 B.C it was captured by Rome at the start of the Second Punic War waged against Carthage and granted the status of a municipium, which allowed a large measure of local autonomy. Augustus established a Roman governor on the island, who bore the title municipi Melitesium primus omnium (‘the chief man over all in the municipality of Malta,’ Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 10.7495; cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum 5754–or, as at v. 7, ho protos tes nesou, ‘the first man of the island’). He also settled a number of army veterans and their families there. In Paul’s day the island was known for its prosperity and residential architecture, and its native population must have spoken not only Phoenician but also some Latin and Greek. 

    Melite has at times been identified with Meleda or Mljet off the Dalmatian coast (modern Yugoslavia) in the northeastern part of the Adriatic Sea, far to the northeast of Malta. But that is linked to the confusion of ‘Adrian’ with ‘Adriatic’ (cf. comments on 27:27). In all likelihood the ship was blown west from Crete to the east coast of Malta, rather than northwest into the Adriatic. So the traditional location of Saint Paul’s Bay on Malta should continue to be considered the most probable site for Paul’s landing. The island was first named by Phoenicians, in whose language melita meant ‘a place of refuge’–a function that naturally fits it.”[1]

    “The proposed forty-mile trip from Fair Havens to Phoenix ended two weeks later on the island of Malta, which was scarcely a day’s voyage from the great port of Syracuse in Sicily.  But the people had to wait three months in Malta because it was winter.  The word islanders’ (28:2) is barbaroi, which was how those who did not speak Greek were referred to in those days.  The islanders showed the shipwrecked travelers ‘unusual kindness’.  And Paul despite his exhaustion from the preceding events, joined in setting up a fire, which was probably needed because of the cool autumn temperature. […] The reaction that Paul was probably a murderer (28:4) is typical of superstitious people who see others going through misfortune – they assume that they are paying for their wrong deeds.  When nothing happened to Paul, their superstition led them to change their verdict, saying that he was a god.”[2]

    vv.3-6: “When Paul was bitten by the viper, the islanders concluded he was a murderer whom Justice (he dike) had at last caught up with since he hadn’t died at sea. The Greek goddess Dike, or her Phoenician counterpart, was apparently venerated by the Maltese.”[3]

    “Wherever we are (in church, at home, in society) and whatever our role may be (leader, follower, Christian minister, worker in a secular job…etc), our attitude should always be that of a servant (Phil 2:5-8).  In our study of Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders (20:17-35), we saw that he adopted a servant lifestyle in his ministry.  Now we see him adopting a similar lifestyle in his activity in society.  Though he must have been exhausted from the strenuous trip and though the Maltese people were doing their best to help the people from the ship, Paul was busy gathering wood for the fire that the Maltese people were building (28:2-3).  Commenting on this Barclay says, “It is only the little man who refuses the little task.”[4]

    v.11: “‘After three months’ (meta treis menas), the centurion Julius arranged for another ship to take his contingent of prisoners and soldiers on to Italy. According to Pliny the Elder, navigation on the Mediterranean began each spring on 8 February, when the westerly winds started to blow (Natural History 2.122) […] Therefore sometime in early or mid-February 61, Paul and his colleagues boarded ship again for the last leg of their voyage to Italy after their shipwreck on Malta, perhaps in late October (cf. comments on 27:9). The ship was another Alexandrian vessel, probably another grain ship (cf. comments on v. 13) from Egypt that had been able to make harbor at Malta before winter set in and the disastrous Northeaster struck. Ships, like inns, took their names from their figureheads […] [this ship had] Castor and Pollux, the sons of Leda, queen of Sparta, who in Greek mythology were transformed by Zeus into twin gods represented by the constellation Gemini. The cult of the Dioscuroi (lit., ‘sons of Zeus’) was especially widespread in Egypt and the Gemini were considered by sailors a sign of good fortune in a storm. For an Alexandrian ship, the figurehead was an appropriate one.”[5]

    v.14:“At Puteoli Paul and his companions ‘found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them.’ It was not, of course, unusual for Christians to be found in such an important city as Puteoli.

    “There was a Jewish colony there (cf. Jos. War II, 104 [vii.l]; Antiq. XVII, 328 [xii.]), from which some may have become Christians on their travels or through the witness of believers who visited Puteoli. What is surprising, however, is that Paul a prisoner was at liberty to seek out the Christians of the city and accept their invitation to spend seven days in fellowship with them. Nevertheless, it is possible that for some reason Julius found it necessary to stop at Puteoli for a week after disembarking and that during that time he allowed Paul the freedom (though undoubtedly accompanied by a guard) to seek out his fellow believers and enjoy their hospitality, as he did at Sidon when the journey to Rome began (cf. 27:3).”[6]

    v.15: “At Neapolis, Julius and his contingent turned northwest to travel to Rome on the Via Appia–that oldest, straightest, and most perfectly made of all the Roman roads, named after the censor Appius Claudius who started its construction in 312 B.C. During the seven-day stopover at Puteoli, news of Paul’s arrival in Italy reached Rome. So a number of Christians there set out to meet him and escort him back to Rome. Some of them got as far as the Forum of Appius (Forum Appii), one of the ‘halting stations’ built every ten to fifteen miles along the entire length of the Roman road system. It was forty-three miles from Rome in the Pontine marshland, and a market-town had grown up around it. Others only got as far as the Three Taverns (Tres Tabernae) Inn, another halting station about thirty-three miles from Rome. Paul’s gratitude to God for the delegation that met him must have been unusually fervent, because Luke pauses to make special mention of it.”[7]

    v.16: “At Rome, Paul was allowed to live in private quarters, though a soldier guarded him at all times. The chain he wore (v. 20) was probably attached to his wrists. Yet in Luke’s eyes Paul entered Rome in triumph. Through his coming the gospel penetrated official circles in the capital of the empire, and God used his detention there for two years to spread the proclamation of the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the city (cf. vv. 30-31).

    “With this verse, the last ‘we’ section in Acts closes. To judge by the greetings in Colossians 4:10-14 and Philemon 23-24 (assuming a Roman origin for these letters), Luke and Aristarchus must have remained with Paul through most–if not all of his detention at Rome, being joined from time to time by such friends as Epaphras, John Mark, Demas, and Jesus, who was surnamed Justus.”[8]

    vv.23-28: “We see a familiar sequence in verses 23-28.  The Jews showed an interest in Christianity and a meeting was arranged (v.23a).  Paul tried “to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets” (v.23b).  The familiar word peitho (“persuade, convince”) appears twice in these verses (vv.23-24).  Some are convinced, “but others would not believe” (v.24).  Those who rejected the message had stubborn hearts that did not want to believe.  The result of that meeting was unpleasant for Paul (v.25).  There isn’t much new here.  Luke underscores the tragedy of Jewish rejection of the gospel.  What is new is Paul’s use of a familiar text about hardened hearts to explain Jewish resistance to the gospel (vv.26-27).”[9]

    vv.30-31: “Acts does not conclude on the note of Jewish rejection of the gospel.  Rather, Luke’s conclusion presents a more glorious reality: The Gentiles hear the gospel, and Paul has two years of bold witness about “the kingdom of God and…the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.31).  At the start of Acts Luke gave his key verse (1:8), which predicted that through the Holy Spirit the gospel would be proclaimed “to the ends of the earth.”  The book ends with that prediction being fulfilled.”[10]

    “In the end he comes to a conclusion, implied in his quotation from Isaiah.  It is that this too is the work of God; this rejection of Jesus by the Jews is the very things, which has opened the door to the Gentiles. There is a purpose in everything; on the helm of things is the hand of the unseen steersman – God. The door, which the Jews shut, was the door that opened to the Gentiles….

    To the end of the day Paul is Paul. The Authorized Version obscures a point.  It says that for 2 years he lived in his own hired house. The real meaning is that he lived at his own expense, that he earned his own living. Even in prison his own two hands supplied his need; and he was not idle otherwise. It was there in prison that he wrote the letters to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Colossians and to Philemon. Nor was he ever altogether alone. Luke and Aristarchus had come with him and to the end Luke remained.  Timothy was often with him.  Sometimes Tychicus was with him.  For a while he had the company of Epaphroditus.  And sometimes Mark was with him.

    Nor was it wasted time. He tells the Philippians that all this has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.  That was particularly so because his bonds were known throughout the Praetorian Guard. He was in his own private lodging but night and day a soldier was with him.  These headquarters soldiers were members of the picked troops of the Emperor, the Praetorian Guard.  In two years many of them must have spent long days and nights with Paul; and many a man must have gone from his guard duty with Christ in his heart.

    And so the Book of Acts comes to an end with a shout of triumph. In the Greek without let or hindrance are one word and that one word falls like a victor’s cry.  It is the peak of Luke’s story. We wonder why Luke never told us what happened to Paul, whether he was executed or released. The reason is that this was not Luke’s purpose. At the beginning Luke gave us his scheme of Acts when he told how Jesus commanded his followers to bear witness for him in Jerusalem and all over Judea and Samaria and away to the ends of the earth. Now the tale is finished; the story that began in Jerusalem rather more than 30 years ago has finished in Rome.  It is nothing less than a miracle of God. The church, which at the beginning of Acts could be numbered in scores, cannot now be numbered in tens of thousands. The story of the crucified man of Nazareth has swept across the world in it conquering course until now without interference it is being preached in Rome, the capital of the world. The gospel has reached the center of the world and is being freely proclaimed – and Luke’s task is at an end.”[11]

    “Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Rome, and he eventually got there – in chains, through shipwreck, and after many trials.  Although he may have wished for an easier passage, he knew that God had blessed him greatly in allowing him to meet the believers in Rome and preach the message to both Jews and Gentiles in that great city.  In all things, God worked for Paul’s good (Romans 8:28).  You can trust him to do the same for you.  God may not make you comfortable or secure, but he will provide the opportunity to do his work.” [12]

    [1] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.1.

    [2] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 613.

    [3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.3-4.

    [4] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 621.

    [5] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.1.

    [6] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.14.

    [7] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.15.

    [8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.16.

    [9] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 625.

    [10] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 625.

    [11] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 192-193.

    [12] Life Application Study Bible, notes on vv.17-20 (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers,  1991) 2020.

  • Acts 28:1-10 (ESV)

    1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people 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 were waiting for 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 also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

  • Reflection Questions   

Acts 28:1-10

    • In what ways are Paul’s actions upon landing incongruous with the ordeal they had just barely survived?
    • What reaction does this produce in those observing him? What opportunities for ministry result from this?
    • What inspires or challenges me from this passage? 
  • Prayer

October 15, 2019

Acts 27 – 2019-10-15

  • Journal
  • Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:
  • CHAPTER 27 COMMENTARY

    Background of passage: “The last two chapters of Acts record the fulfillment of Paul’s great ambition to go to Rome (cf. Rom. 1:10-13, 15:22-32).  Luke records the event with the crisp, ‘And so we came to Rome’ (Acts 28:14).  This was politically the most powerful city of the time and Paul had been a citizen of it from birth.  He had planned to go there several times but had been prevented from doing so (Rom. 1:13).  He had spent the twenty-seven years or so after his conversion in the eastern parts of the empire (15:19-20) and had dreams of taking the gospel westward as far as Spain, hopefully using Rome as a base for this stage of his career (15:22-29).

    “About three years before, Paul had written to the Roman church his testament of faith, the letter to the Romans, in preparation for his visit.  In a time of crisis, the Lord had buttressed this dream through a vision in which he was told that he ‘must also testify in Rome’ (Acts 23:11).  But he probably never imagined that he would reach Rome as a prisoner.  The description of the way he got there reads like an excerpt from an exciting novel.  We can feel the drama and excitement of the events through Luke’s vivid description.  These two chapters also contain details typical of the record of one who was part of the travel group (this is a ‘we’ section).”[1]

    vv.1-3: “Paul has embarked upon his last journey.  Two things must have lifted up his heart.  One was the kindness of a stranger, for all through the voyage Julius, the Roman centurion, treated Paul with kindness and consideration, which were more than mere courtesy.  He is said to have belonged to the Augustun Cohort.  That may have been a special corps acting as liaison officers between the Emperor and the provinces.  If so, Julius must have been a man of long experience and with an excellent military record. It may well be that when Julius and Paul stood face-to-face one brave man recognized another.  The other uplifting thing was the devotion of Aristarchus.  It has been suggested that there was only one way in which Aristarchus could have accompanied Paul on this last journey and that was by enrolling himself as Paul’s slave. It is probable that Aristarchus chose to act as the slave of Paul rather than be separated from him – and loyalty can go no further that that.”[2]

    vv.4-12: “It was Paul’s advice that they should winter in Fair Havens where they were.  As we have seen, the ship was an Alexandrian corn ship.  The owner would be rather the contractor who was bringing the cargo of corn to Rome.  The centurion, being the senior officer on board, had the last word.  It is significant that Paul, the prisoner under arrest, was allowed his say when counsel was being taken.  But Fair Havens was not a very good harbor nor was it near any sizeable town where the winter days might be passed by the crew; so the centurion rejected Paul’s advice and took the advice of the master and the contractor to sail farther along the coast to Phoenicia where there was a more commodious harbor and a bigger town.” [3]

    vv.13-20: “The peril of the ship was by this time desperate.  These corn ships were not small. They could be as large as 140 ft long and 36 ft wide and 33 ft draught (the depth of water a ship draws especially when loaded).  But in a storm they had certain grave disadvantages.  They were the same at the bow as at the stern.  They had no rudder like a modern ship, but were steered with two great paddles coming out from the stern on each side.  They were, therefore, hard to manage.  Further, they had only one mast and on that mast one great square sail, made sometimes of linen and sometimes of stitched hides.  With a sail like that they could not sail into the wind.

    “It can be easily seen what peril they were in.  Then an amazing thing happened. Paul took command; the prisoner became the captain, for he was the only man with any courage left. The man of God is the man whose courage stands when terror invades the hearts of others.”[4]

    “We noted that this passage is unique to the exposition of God’s sovereignty amidst hardship in Acts because here the hardship comes not from the sinfulness of people but from the forces of nature and the folly of humans […]

    “Indeed, Christ can still every storm, but he does not immunize Christians from problems that others in the world also face.  Sometimes he miraculously delivers Christians from such situations, while at other times he gives Christians courage to endure natural and other disasters.  We thank him for performing miracles but also for his sufficient grace that provides endurance in the midst of storms (2Cor 12:7-10).

    […]

    “Since Paul believed so strongly in the sovereignty of God, he could look beyond the bleak situation and anticipate good to come out.  A vision of sovereignty may not come to us at once because our natural tendency may be to panic in a difficult situation. If so, we must grapple with God until we come out of that situation and are able to go to the people with a word from God rather than with a public display of anxiety.

    “The psalmist in Psalm 73, for example, pondered the mysterious providence of God that can permit the wicked to prosper while the righteous suffers.  After a sustained reflection on his doubts, he said, ‘If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed your children’ (Psalm 73:15).  As a result, without publicly proclaiming his doubts, he went to the sanctuary to battle it out with the Lord (73:17).  There he received a vision of Gods’ sovereignty, and in the rest of the psalm he praised God.  We too must grapple until we see things the way that God sees them.  This will give us the confidence to be agents of hope in this hopeless world.”[5]

    vv.27-38: “The sailors planned to sail away in the dinghy, which would have been quite useless for 276 people; but Paul frustrated their plans.  The ship’s company must sink or swim together. Next comes a most human and suggestive episode.  Paul insisted that they should eat.  He was a visionary man of God; but he was also an intensely practical man.  He had not the slightest doubt that God would do his part but he also knew that they must do theirs.  Paul was not one of those people who ‘were so heavenly minded that they were of no earthly use.’ He knew that hungry men are not efficient men; and so he gathered the ship’s company around him and made them eat.

    “As we read the narrative, into the tempest there seems to come a strange calm.  The man of God has somehow made others sure that God is in charge of things.  The most useful people in the world are those who, being themselves calm, bring to others the secret of confidence.  Paul was like that; and every follower of Jesus ought to be steadfast when others are in turmoil.”[6]

    vv.30-32: “Contrary to the best tradition of the sea, the sailors schemed to save themselves by lowering the dinghy (cf. vv. 16-17) under cover of lowering some more anchors from the bow. But Paul saw through the ruse, doubtless realizing that no sailor would drop anchors from the bow under such conditions. He knew to try to make shore in the morning without a full crew would be disastrous. So Paul warned Julius that all would be lost if the sailors deserted the ship. Though he had not listened to Paul earlier (cf. vv. 11-12), Julius took his advice here and ordered his men to cut the lines holding the dinghy and let it fall away.”[7]

    vv.33-38: “The storm had been so fierce that preparing food had been impossible. In this time of crisis, Paul’s great qualities of leadership came to the fore. Urging all on board to eat, he took some bread, gave thanks to God, and ate it. The others on board also ate. Then, strengthened by the food, they threw the cargo of grain overboard to give the ship a shallower draft as they beached her.

    “Only at v. 37 does Luke tell us how many were on board. Probably it became necessary when distributing the food to know the exact number, and Luke himself may have had a part in supervising the distribution. Though there is some MS evidence for reading 76, there is nothing improbable in the larger and better-attested number 276. Josephus tells of making a Mediterranean crossing to Rome in A.D. 63 in a ship that had 600 on board and which was also wrecked (cf. Life 15 [3]).”[8]

    vv.42-44: “Once again, the fine character of this Roman centurion stands out.  The soldiers wished to kill the prisoners to prevent possible escape. It is difficult to blame them, because it was Roman law that if a man escaped, his guard must undergo the penalty intended for the escaped prisoner. But the centurion stepped in and saved Paul’s life and the other prisoners with him.”[9]

    [1] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 609.

    [2] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 181.

    [3] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 183.

    [4] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 184.

    [5] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 618.

    [6] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 186.

    [7] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.30-32.

    [8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.33-38.

    [9] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 186.

  • Acts 27:1-44 (ESV)

    1 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. 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. 4 And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5 And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of 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. 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 farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

    9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, 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 pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

    13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 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 along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

    21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 

    22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, 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 must run aground on some island.”

    27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land.28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down 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 ship’s boat into the 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 ship’s 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. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, 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 276 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 run 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 reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being 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 plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump 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 were brought safely to land.

  • Reflection Questions   

Acts 27:1-44

    • Note all the things Paul says and does that are uncharacteristic for a prisoner under guard. 
    • Chart Paul’s progression from prisoner to leader, and note his actions and his growing influence throughout this narrative.
    • Contrast Paul’s perspective on the storm to everyone else’s. How does his perspective lead him to be a blessing to everyone on the boat? Are there any situations I am going through with non-believers, in which I can provide a uniquely gospel-centered perspective?
    • What challenges or inspires me from this passage?
  • Prayer

October 14, 2019

Acts 26 – 2019-10-14

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  • Acts 26:1-32 (ESV)

    1 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

    2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the 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 in 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 because of my 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 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 locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving 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 “In this connection 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, that shone around 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 are you persecuting me? It is hard for 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 as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so 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 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with 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 our people and to the Gentiles.”

    24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been 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 would you persuade me to be 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.”

  • Reflection Questions   

Acts 26:12-23

    • Underline the gospel proclamation in these verses.

Acts 26:18-20

    • Reflect on vv. 18-20. What is the heavenly vision I have received, and what has been my response to this calling?

Acts 26:24-32

    • Recount and consider the various responses to Paul’s testimony and the presentation of the gospel. Have I personally encountered some of these responses? 

Acts 26:28-29

    • Reflect on Paul’s wish in vv. 28-29 and his boldness to declare it to all. Is it my wish toward everyone I meet—young or old, wealthy or poor—that they become Christian? How does this compare with my wishes for the people in my life?
  • Prayer

October 11, 2019

Acts 26 – 2019-10-11

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  • Acts 25:1-26:32 (ESV)

    1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were 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 bring charges against him.”

    6 After he 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 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 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 yourself 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 to 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, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

    13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted 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 laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when 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. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain 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 wanted 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 ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”

    22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”

    23 So on the next day 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, at the 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 in 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 go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so 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 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

    2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the 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 in 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 because of my 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 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 locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving 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 “In this connection 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, that shone around 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 are you persecuting me? It is hard for 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 as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so 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 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with 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 our people and to the Gentiles.”

    24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been 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 would you persuade me to be 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.”

  • Reflection Questions   

Acts 25:22-26:32

  • Consider the scene of Paul before King Agrippa and Bernice, the military tribunes and all the prominent men of the city. What is the audience’s view of Paul? What is Paul’s view of his audience?
  • The testimony of history reveals that even members of Caesar’s household would come to believe (cf. Philippians 4:22) and that the gospel would triumph over the Roman Empire in AD 313. In view of history, what moments in Acts 25-26 stand out and challenge my faith today? 
  • Prayer

October 10, 2019

Acts 26 – 2019-10-10

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  • CHAPTER 26 COMMENTARY

    “It was a dramatic moment when the holy and humble apostle of Jesus Christ stood before this representative of the worldly, ambitious, morally corrupt family of the Herods, who for generation after generation had set themselves in opposition to truth and righteousness.  ‘Their founder, Herod the Great’, wrote R.B. Rackham, ‘had tried to destroy the infant Jesus.  His son Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, beheaded John the Baptist, and won from the Lord the title of “fox”.  His grandson Agrippa I slew James the son of Zebedee with the sword.  Now we see Paul brought before Agrippa’s son.’ […] But Paul was not in the least intimidated.”[1]

    vv.4-8: “Saul must have been a familiar figure in Jerusalem when as a young man he sat at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel (22:3).  He is likely to have gained a reputation for scholarship, righteousness and religious zeal.  Many Palestinian Jews still alive knew how he had lived as a child, first in Tarsus, then in Jerusalem.  More than that, they had known him personally and could testify from their own experience that he had belonged to the strictest party in Judaism, that of the Pharisees (4-5).  It was surely anomalous, therefore, that he should now be on trial for his hope in God’s promise to the fathers, which he and they shared, namely that God would send his Messiah (foretold and foreshadowed in the Old Testament) to rescue and redeem his people.”[2]

    v.14: It is hard for you to kick against the goads.  “This proverb appears often in classical writings.  Daniel Fuller explains that it was ‘often used by the Greeks to express the futility of striving against fate or against the gods, and its meaning to Paul on the Damascus road was that it was now futile for him to try any longer to work against Christ as it would be for an ox to kick against the plowman’s goad.’”[3]

    vv.14-15: “Surely, when the heavenly voice declared, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ at least two truths must have registered instantly in Saul’s consciousness.  The first is that the crucified Jesus was alive and had thus been vindicated, and the second that the Jesus who identified himself so closely with the Christians that to persecute them was to persecute him, must regard them as being peculiarly his own people.”[4]

    v.17: “…I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles (17).  A similar promise of ‘rescue’ was made to Jeremiah.  This did not guarantee immunity to suffering.  On the contrary, it was part of the vocation of prophets and apostles to endure suffering (cf. 9:16).  But it did mean that their testimony would not be silenced until their God-appointed work was done.”[5]

    v.18: “The promise of forgiveness was part of the apostolic gospel from the beginning.  So was belonging to the Messianic people (2:40-41, 47).  For the new life in Christ and the new community of Christ always go together.  What was specially significant in Christ’s commissioning of Paul was that the Gentiles were to be granted a full and equal share with the Jews in the privileges of those sanctified by faith in Christ, that is, the holy people of God.”[6]

    vv.14-18: “In this passage Paul insists that the center of his whole message is the resurrection.  His witness is not of someone who has lived and died but of One who is gloriously present and alive for evermore.  For Paul every day is Easter Day.”[7]

    “It is not so much what is actually said in this passage which is interesting as the atmosphere which the reader can feel behind it.  Paul was a prisoner.  At that very moment he was wearing his fetters, as he himself makes clear.  And yet the impression given unmistakably is that he is the dominating personality in the scene.  Festus does not speak to him as a criminal.  No doubt he knew Paul’s record as a trained rabbi… Agrippa, listening to Paul, is more on trial that Paul is.  And the end of the matter is that a rather bewildered company cannot see any real reason why Paul should be tried in Rome or anywhere else.  Paul has in him a power which raises him head and shoulders above all others in any company.  The word used for the power of God in Greek is dunamis; it is the word from which dynamite comes.  The man who has the Risen Christ at his side need fear no one.”[8]

    “As for the trial before Agrippa, Paul was not overawed by the show of pomp and power which marked that occasion, or by the assembly of notable personages in court. […] But Paul made no attempt to ingratiate himself with the authorities.  He wanted the king’s salvation, not his favour.  So he did not stop with the story of his own conversion; he was concerned for Agrippa’s conversion too.  Three times, therefore, Luke has Paul repeating the elements of the gospel in the king’s hearing. […] Each time Paul thus repeated the gospel in court, he was in fact preaching it to the court. […] Jesus had warned his disciples that they would be ‘brought before kings and governors’ on account of his name, and had promised that on such occasions he would give them ‘words and wisdom,’ Jesus had also told Ananias (who had presumably passed the information on) that Paul was his ‘chosen instrument’ to carry his name ‘before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel’ (9:15).  These predictions had come true, and Paul had not failed.”[9]

    vv.26-27: “This challenge is for Agrippa to compare what the prophets foretold with what happened in Christ.  The king is in a dilemma.  As an expert on the Jewish Scriptures, he knows what Paul is speaking about.  But he cannot afford to make connections between what he knows and what Paul is saying because then he will have to make a decision about Christianity.  He therefore brushes off the challenge with an evasive comment…”[10]

    [1] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 370.

    [2] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 370-371.

    [3] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 593.

    [4] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 372.

    [5] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 373.

    [6] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 374.

    [7] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 177.

    [8] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 180.

    [9] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 379.

    [10] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 594.

  • Acts 25:1-26:32 (ESV)

    1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were 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 bring charges against him.”

    6 After he 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 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 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 yourself 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 to 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, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

    13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted 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 laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when 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. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain 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 wanted 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 ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”

    22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”

    23 So on the next day 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, at the 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 in 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 go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so 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 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

    2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the 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 in 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 because of my 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 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 locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving 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 “In this connection 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, that shone around 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 are you persecuting me? It is hard for 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 as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so 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 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with 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 our people and to the Gentiles.”

    24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been 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 would you persuade me to be 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.”

  • Reflection Question  

Acts 25:1-12

  • It seems like Paul is a pawn in the hands of these governors at Caesarea and that he is forced to appeal to Caesar in Rome, but Jesus had already told him that he would go to Rome.
    • Acts 23:11 (ESV) The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” 
    • Meanwhile, Paul wrote many letters (the “prison epistles”) while in custody, enjoying a degree of personal liberty, as his friends were free to visit him and meet his needs (24:23). From this, what are some lessons regarding how God is leading Paul’s life and ministry?

Acts 24-26 

    • List all the officials for whom Paul becomes the topic of conversation. What does this say regarding what it looks like to be a Christian witness?
    • Reflect on what God said to Ananias about Paul upon his conversion in Acts 9:15: “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 children of Israel.’” What is my response to God’s promise regarding how he wants to use me?
  • Prayer
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