Acts

October 3, 2019

Acts 20 – 2019-10-03

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  • CHAPTER 20 COMMENTARY

    “Luke now narrates how Paul left Ephesus (20:1), having spent the best part of three years there during his third missionary expedition. And then traveled from place to place until at last he reached Jerusalem (21:17). True, Luke has let us into the secret that Paul was intending after visiting Jerusalem to make for Rome (19:21). Nevertheless, it was Jerusalem which filled his vision at this stage.“In fact, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Luke sees a parallel between Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem […] Of course the resemblance is far from being exact, and the mission of Jesus was unique; yet the correspondence between the two journeys seems too close to be a coincidence. (i) Like Jesus Paul traveled to Jerusalem with a group of his disciples (20:4ff). (ii) Like Jesus he was opposed by hostile Jews who plotted against his life (20:3, 19). (iii) Like Jesus he made or received three successive predictions of his ‘passion’ or sufferings (20:22-23; 21;4,11) including his being handed over to the Gentiles (21;11). (iv) Like Jesus he declared his readiness to lay down his life (20:24; 21:13). (v) Like Jesus he was determined to complete his ministry and not be deflected from it (20:24; 21:13). (vi) Like Jesus he expressed his abandonment to the will of God (21:14). Even if some of these details are not to be pressed, Luke surely intends his readers to envisage Paul as following in his Master’s footsteps when he ‘steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem’.”[1]

    “This chapter records the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul was heading for Jerusalem, intending to arrive before Pentecost. On the way, he took time in Troas to encourage the believers, then he had a tearful farewell with the elders of the church in Ephesus.

    Paul may have wanted to go to Jerusalem in time for the Passover. He was about to sail from Corinth on a ship bound for Syria, which possibly carried Jewish pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for their feast. But he found out about a plot against him, possibly by some of the people traveling on this ship (v.3). As a result, he decided to take the long route on foot through Macedonia, traveling north instead of east. He spent Passover in Philippi (v6), a city that had had such a small Jewish population that it did not even have a synagogue. According to his revised plan, he hoped to be in Jerusalem in time for the next feast, Pentecost (v.16)”[2]

    v.4: “These men who were traveling with Paul represented churches that Paul had started in Asia. Each man was carrying an offering from his home church to be given to the believers in Jerusalem. By having each man deliver the gift, the gifts had a personal touch, and the unity of the believers was strengthened. This was also an effective way to teach the church about giving because the men were able to report back to their churches the way God was working through their giving. Paul discussed this gift in one of his letters to the Corinthian church.”[3]

    vv.18-27: “The first and most prominent theme of the speech is Paul’s example- an element typical of farewell addresses. He says he was an example in four things. (1) He identified with the people, living among them (v.18), serving God with humility and tears (v.19), and going from house to house (v.20). This enabled him to know what they needed to hear, so that he was able to preach everything that was helpful to them […]

    (2) Paul was a teacher. He taught the Ephesians everything that was helpful to them, and did so publicly and from house to house (v.20). His teaching was relevant to their needs.

    (3) Paul was a witness to the gospel (v.21). Paul uses the word diamartyromai, translated ‘declared’ here. This word conveys the idea that evangelism is a serious responsibility as it calls people to repentance and faith. Later Paul says that the preaching was comprehensive in that he did not hesitate ‘to proclaim to (them) the whole will of God’ (v.27). Because of that he was able to declare that he was innocent of their blood (v.26). Verses 21, 26-27 remind us the call to be a watchman, with a responsibility to warn people adequately as described in Ezekiel 3:16-21; 33; 1-9.

    (4) Paul’s commitment to evangelism is closely tied in with the fourth area where he was an example: Paul suffered because of obedience. In verses 22-23 he attributes two actions to the Holy Spirit; a compulsion that is now driving him now to Jerusalem and a regular warning (diamartyromai) that he will suffer if he goes to Jerusalem. Verse 24 explains how these two seemingly contradictory messages can be reconciled; the goal of life is not to preserve our lives but to be faithful to our calling to testify to the gospel. If such faithfulness involves suffering and imprisonment, then such experiences will be taken on willingly.”[4]

    vv.17-38: “It is important to note that in Acts 20 Paul presents his willingness to suffer for the gospel as part of his attempt to encourage the Ephesian elders to be faithful to their task. This is a common theme with Paul. He often appeals to his own sufferings when he wants to influence his readers about something important (see1 and 2 Corinthians, Gal. 6:17, Eph 4:1). Note also what Hebrews says: After writing how Jesus, ‘for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,’ the author goes on: ‘Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’: (Heb 12:2-3) leaders who suffer encourage others to take on suffering themselves.

    “In summary, then, this passage teaches us three things about suffering. (1) Christians take on suffering that they can easily avoid because of their commitment to the glorious gospel of Christ, a cause that makes such suffering worthwhile. (2) People will be motivated to suffer for the gospel when they see their leaders suffer for it. (3) Leaders not only suffer for the gospel they suffer for those whom they lead.”[5]

    vv.28-31: “The third section of Paul’s address continues with an exhortation to the Ephesian elders in light of what Paul sees will soon take place in the church. He warns regarding persecution from outside and apostasy within (cf. 1Tim 1:19-20; 4:1-5; 2Tim 1:15; 2:17-18; 3:1-9, which tell of a later widespread revolt against Paul’s teaching in Asia, and Rev 2:1-7, which says that the Ephesian church abandoned its first love). So he gives the elders the solemn imperative of v. 28.” [6]

    [1] John Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL:  Inter-Varsity, 1992) 315.

    [2] Ajith Fernando, et al., ACTS, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1998) 529-530.

    [3] Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, Il; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1991)  2003.

    [4] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 531,532.

    [5] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 537,538.

    [6] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.28-31.

  • Acts 20:1-38 (ESV)

    1After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.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 decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, 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 ahead and were waiting forus at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at 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 next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, 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 taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth 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. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went 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 went 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 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

    “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to 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 toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to 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 finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, 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 twisted 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 working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

    36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 20:7-11 
    • Knowing he had one last night with the believers at Troas, Paul stayed up all night teaching them, even after a rather traumatic event. What does this reveal about Paul, and how does this challenge me?

    Acts 20:1-38  

    • Write down striking aspects of Paul’s ministry as he recalls how he was while he was among them. What am I most challenged by?
    • What would it have been like to be on the receiving end of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus for three years?
    • Reflect on v. 24 as a sort of life mantra for Paul. What would it take to make my life mantra the same?
October 2, 2019

Acts 19 – 2019-10-02

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  • Acts 19:18-41 (ESV)

    18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had 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 continued to increase and prevail 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 disturbance 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 in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many 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 be counted as 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 were crying 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 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out 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, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who 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 denied, 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 anyone, 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 really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts: 19:18-20
    • Consider the cost the new converts bore as they burned their scrolls. Are there some things from my former way of life that displease God? What do I need to throw away or eliminate from my life?

    Acts 19:23-27

    • How does Paul’s message threaten the silversmiths?
    • What are their motives for espousing the greatness of Artemis?
    • How honest or self-aware am I of what motivates me?

    Acts 19:32

    • What are some lessons I can learn from this odd scene of people shouting so passionately without knowing why?
October 1, 2019

Acts 19 – 2019-10-01

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  • CHAPTER 19 COMMENTARY

    v.1: Some background on Ephesus:

    “Though Pergamum was the capital of Asia, Ephesus (in modern Turkey) was the real seat of provincial administration.  Being on the western shore of Asia Minor, it connected the Greco-Roman world with Asia Minor.  In the first century it was a predominantly Greek city.  […]  Ephesus was at the center of the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman Diana), the multi-breasted goddess of fertility.  It boasted a magnificent temple to Artemis, which was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  In Paul’s time the city had lost some of its importance as a political and commercial center and was turning more to the temple to support its economy.” [1]

    vv.1-7: “The account is extremely difficult to interpret, principally because it is so brief. Probably we should assume that these twelve men, while considering themselves Jewish Christian ‘disciples’ in some sense, thought of John the Baptist as the height of God’s revelation–perhaps even as the Messiah himself. John 1:19-34 and 2:22-36 are directed against anyone thinking of the Baptist as superior to Jesus. Together with the emphasis upon ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ in Ephesians 4:5, they suggest that a John-the-Baptist sect existed within Jewish Christian circles in Asia in the first century (assuming, of course, the Ephesian connections of the fourth Gospel and the Letter to the Ephesians). […] Here it seems, both from their own statements and from how Paul deals with them, that we should consider these men as sectarians with no real commitment to Jesus at all.

    vv.8-12: “When work in the synagogue became impossible because of the embittered opposition, Paul changed his quarters to the hall of a philosopher called Tyrannus. One Greek manuscript adds a touch which sounds like the additional detail an eye-witness might bring. It says that Paul taught in that hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Almost certainly that is when Paul would teach. Until 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Tyrannus would need the hall himself. In the Ionian cities all work stopped at 11 a.m. and did not begin again until the late afternoon because of the heat. We are told that there would actually be more people sound asleep in Ephesus at 1 p.m. than at 1 a.m. What Paul must have done was to work all morning and all evening at his trade and teach in the midday hours. It shows us two things–the eagerness of Paul to teach and the eagerness of the Christians to learn. The only time they had was when others rested in the heat of the day and they seized that time.  It may well shame many of us for our talk of inconvenient times.

    v.13: “In the ancient world pagan diviners and exorcists were commonplace.  When attempting to cast out a demon, they listed the names of many gods, hoping one of them would produce the desired results.  Having seen Paul effectively cast out demons in Jesus’ name, they added the Lord’s name – and for good measure, Paul’s – to their catalog.  These exorcists had no power over demons, so most likely the demons only deceived people into thinking they had vacated.”[2]

    1. 13-16: “Many Ephesians engaged in exorcism and occult practices for profit (see 19:18, 19). The sons of Sceva were impressed by Paul’s work, whose power to drive out demons came from God’s Holy Spirit, not from witchcraft, and was obviously more powerful than theirs. They discovered, however, that no one can control or duplicate God’s power.  These men were calling on the name of Jesus without knowing the person.  The power to change people comes from Christ.  It cannot be tapped by reciting his name like a magic charm.”[3]

    vv.17-19: “Since a drachma was approximately a day’s wages, this was a multi-million-dollar bonfire in today’s currency.  The book commanded such a high price because they promised power – over sickness, over people and over circumstances.  Power has always been the main allure of the occult, something for which people will pay dearly.  Ephesus was renowned in the ancient world as a ‘shopping center’ for occult practices, which explains the large quantity of scrolls.”[4]

    “Nothing can more definitely show the reality of the change than that in superstition-ridden Ephesus they were willing to burn the books and the charms which were so profitable to them. They are an example to us. They made the cleanest of clean cuts, even though it meant abandoning the things that were their livelihood. It is all too true that many of us hate our sins but either we cannot leave them at all or we do so with a lingering and backward look. There are times when only the clean and final break will suffice.”[5]

    vv.21-22: “It is only by the merest hint that Luke gives us an indication here of something which is filled out in Paul’s letters. He tells us that Paul purposed to go to Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem was poor; and Paul aimed to take a collection from all his Gentile churches as a contribution to it. We find references to this collection in 1Cor.16:1ff.; 2Cor.9:1ff.; Rom.15:25-26. Paul pressed on with this scheme for two reasons. First, he wished in the most practical way to emphasize the unity of the Church. He wished to demonstrate that they belonged to the body of Christ and that when one part of the body suffered all must help. In other words, he wished to take them away from a merely congregational outlook and to give them a vision of the one universal Church of which they were part. Second, he wished to teach them practical Christian charity. Doubtless when they heard of the privations of Jerusalem they felt sorry. He wished to teach them that sympathy must be translated into action.  These two lessons are as valid today as they ever were.”[6]

    vv.25-27: “When Paul preached in Ephesus, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen did not quarrel with his doctrine.  Their anger boiled because his preaching threatened their profits.  They made silver statues of the Ephesian goddess Artemis. The craftsmen knew that if people started believing in God and discarding their idols, their livelihood would suffer. Demetrius’ strategy for stirring up a riot was to appeal to his fellow workmen’s love of money and then to encourage them to hide their greed behind the mask of patriotism and religious loyalty.  The rioters couldn’t see the selfish motives for their rioting – instead they saw themselves as heroes for the sake of their land and beliefs.”[7]

    v.31: “These officials of the province were government officials, responsible for the religious and political order of the region.  Paul’s message had reached all levels of society, crossing all social barriers and giving Paul friends in high places.”[8]

    “Before Paul left Ephesus, a riot threatened his life and could have put an end to the outreach of the gospel in Asia. The situation was undoubtedly more dangerous than Luke’s account taken alone suggests. For in what may well be allusions to this riot, Paul said later that he had ‘fought wild beasts in Ephesus’ (1Cor 15:32), had ‘despaired even of life’ in the face of ‘a deadly peril’ in Asia (2Cor 1:8-11), and that Priscilla and Aquila had ‘risked their lives’ for him (Rom 16:4). Luke’s purpose in presenting this vignette is clearly apologetic, in line with his argument for the religio licita status of Christianity (cf. Panel 5 [16:6-19:20]) and in anticipation of the themes stressed in Paul’s speeches of defense (Panel 6, esp. chs. 22-26). Politically, Luke’s report of the friendliness of the Asiarchs (‘officials of the province,’ NIV) toward Paul and of the city clerk’s intervention on his behalf is the best defense imaginable against the charge that Paul and Christianity threatened the official life of the empire. Religiously, Luke’s description of the Ephesian riot makes the point that ‘in the final analysis the only thing heathenism can do against Paul is to shout itself hoarse’ (Haenchen, Acts of the Apostles, p. 578).”[9]

    v.41: “The riot in Ephesus convinced Paul that it was time to move on.  But it also showed that the law still provided some protection for Christians as they challenged the worship of the goddess Artemis and the most idolatrous religions in Asia.”[10]

    [1] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 503.

    [2] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1535.

    [3] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2001.

    [4] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1535.

    [5] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 144.

    [6] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 145.

    [7] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2002.

    [8] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2002.

    [9] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.23-41.

    [10] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan, 1991) 2003.

  • Acts 19:1-20 (ESV)

    1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland 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 not 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 on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.7 There were about twelve men in all.

    8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning 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 was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 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 recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit 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 the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.

    19 And a number of those who had 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 continued to increase and prevail mightily.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 19:8-10
    • Note that Paul’s teaching is once again characterized as “reasoning and persuading” (v. 8). What steps can I take to hone my skills of reasoning and of persuading people about the kingdom of God?
    • What lessons can I learn about human nature through the people’s progressively negative response to Paul’s daily proclamation of the word of the Lord?
    • What can I learn from what Paul did in response to the Ephesian Jews’ rejection and from what resulted?

    Acts 19:11-17

    • One commentator writes of the sons of Sceva, “These men were calling on the name of Jesus without knowing the person. The power to change people comes from Christ. It cannot be tapped by reciting his name like a magic charm.”  What are some ways that people today use the name of Jesus like a magic charm? What are the dangers of being engaged in “spiritual” activities without getting to know Jesus better?
September 30, 2019

Acts 18 – 2019-9-30

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  • Acts 18:23-28 (ESV)

    23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

    24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent 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 aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 18:23 
    • This marks the starting point of Paul’s third missionary journey. As he prepares to leave the comforts of his “home church” in Antioch, and especially after all the suffering he endured on the second trip, what range of thoughts might have occurred in Paul’s mind at this point?
    • Reflect on the principle Paul wrote about to the Corinthians, that of dying so that others can live:

    2 Corinthians 4:7–12 (ESV) 

           7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

    How does this challenge me?

    Acts 18:26 

    • What can we learn about Priscilla and Aquila through their interaction with Apollos? What can I infer about Apollos through this interaction? Are there ways I am challenged to be more teachable or better equipped in Scriptures?
September 27, 2019

Acts 18 – 2019-9-27

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  • CHAPTER 18 COMMENTARYBackground: Corinth was situated on the narrow neck of land that joins central Greece to the southern part of mainland Greece. Due to its strategic location, it became a major center of commerce.  It was also the center for the worship of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and had a temple with a thousand sacred prostitutes.

    v.1: “Paul reports that he came to Corinth ‘in weakness and fear and with much trembling’ (1 Cor. 2:3). This is understandable considering the pain he had endured in his last few stops. Paul may not have anticipated encountering much receptivity to his message in Corinth because of its prosperity and reputation for immorality. But he stayed here for over a year and a half and saw the founding of ‘a large and gifted church.’ Bruce writes, ‘It is plain from his two letters to the Corinthians that the church which he planted there caused him many a headache; it was turbulent and unruly, but it was undoubtedly alive, and remains so today.”[1]

    v.3: “[Paul] was a rabbi and according to Jewish practice every rabbi must have a trade. He must take no money for preaching and teaching and must make his own living. This meant that they never became detached scholars and always knew what the life of the working-man was like.” [2]

    v.5: “Silas and Timothy must have brought with them a financial gift from the believers in Macedonia (cf. Philippians 4:15). They also brought good word about the perseverance of the believers in Thessalonica. Paul must have been encouraged by all these factors.” [3]

    v.6: “That he shook the dust from his robe was a dramatic gesture separating him from even the dust found in such a rebellious synagogue. His pointed statement, ‘Your blood be upon your heads!’ is a reference to the Jews’ own responsibility for their eventual spiritual destruction and brings to mind the sobering warning of Ezekiel 33:4.”3

    vv.7-8: “The home of Titius Justus became Paul’s base of operations, and its proximity to the synagogue gave the apostle convenient and ongoing contact with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks. As the synagogue leader, Crispus, would have been responsible for maintenance of the synagogue complex and the services held there. Such a position would have made him a prominent and well-to-do person in the community. Thus, his conversion (and that of his household) was a significant breakthrough for the church.”3

    “It seems that Crispus was removed from his position due to his newfound sympathies for Christians and his belief that Jesus was the Christ.” [4]

    vv.9-11: “Apparently, the conversion of Crispus and other Corinthians together with the formation of a growing ‘house church’ right next door to the synagogue, must have provoked great controversy and opposition. But in contrast to his treatment elsewhere, no would harm Paul – he would not endure bodily harm during this time in Corinth. As a result of this divine word of assurance, Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth preaching and teaching.”3

    vv.18-22: “Paul went into the synagogue in Ephesus, reasoned with the Jews (v.19b), and won an invitation to spend more time with them. He declined it with the promise that he would return if it was God’s will (vv.20-21). It is interesting that earlier too he had been ‘kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia’ (16:6). Now for a second time he seemed to discern that the time was not ripe for full-blown ministry in Ephesus.”[5]

    “With the five-hundred-mile voyage from Ephesus completed, Paul went to Jerusalem, then to Antioch. Having been away from Antioch of Syria for some two years, Paul had much good news to report to his fellow believers. This verse marks the end of Paul’s second missionary journey.”[6]

    “Luke adds a note about Paul’s having his hair cut in connection with a vow he had taken before leaving the eastern port of Corinth (v.18). Hair was cut (usually shaven) after completion of a vow. It would probably be taken to Jerusalem and offered to God. Many have felt that Paul took this vow when he was in a discouraged state at the heart of his ministry in Corinth, or perhaps in connection with the vision he received with the promise of God’s blessing. If so, cutting his hair was an act of thanksgiving for protection while in Corinth.” [7] 

    v.23: “The story of the Third Missionary Journey begins at Ac.18:23. It began with a tour of Galatia and Phrygia to confirm the brethren there. Paul then moved on to Ephesus where he remained for nearly three years. From there he went to Macedonia; he then crossed over to Troas and proceeded by way of Miletus, Tyre and Caesarea to Jerusalem.”[8]

    “Christianity is here described as The Way of the Lord. One of the commonest titles in Acts is: ‘The Way’ (Ac.9:2; Ac.19:9; Ac.19:23; Ac.22:4; Ac.24:14,22), and that title shows us at once that Christianity means not only believing certain things but putting them into practice.”[9]

    v.24: “Apollos came from Alexandria where there were about one million Jews. So strong were they that two out of the five wards into which Alexandria was divided were Jewish. Alexandria was the city of scholars. It was specially the place where scholars believed in the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. They believed that not only did the Old Testament record history but that every recorded event had an inner meaning. Because of this Apollos would be exceedingly useful in convincing the Jews, for he would be able to find Christ all over the Old Testament and to prove to them that the Old Testament looked forward all the time to his coming.”[10]

    “For all that there was a lack in his training. He knew only the baptism of John. When we come to deal with the next passage we shall see more clearly what that means. But we can say now that Apollos must have seen the need for repentance and have recognized Jesus as the Messiah; but as yet he did not know the good news of Jesus as the Savior of men and of the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. He knew of the task Jesus gave men to do but he did not yet fully know of the help Jesus gave men to do it. By the words of Aquila and Priscilla he was more fully instructed. The result was that Apollos, who already knew Jesus as a figure in history, came also to know him as a living presence; and his power as a preacher must have been increased a hundredfold.”[11]

    “Into this situation Priscilla and Aquila entered (18:26).  Luke has changed the order of their names from this first mention of them (18:2), giving the wife’s name first (see also 18:18-19).  On two occasions when Paul sends greetings to this couple, he mentions Priscilla first (Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19) […]  Priscilla may have been the more prominent of the two.” [12]

    “We are not told whether Apollos lodged in Priscilla and Aquila’s home, but this act of inviting Apollos into their home is typical of the open home attitude that this couple had.  Though Apollos ‘was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures’ (18:24b), he was willing to learn from his hosts.” [13]

    v.25:What was the baptism of John?   A confession of sin and repentance (see Matt. 3:6, 11).  Apollos came from Alexandria in Egypt, where he had perhaps encountered disciples of John carrying the message of repentance from sin.  Another possibility is that he’d been taught by believers in Christ who did not know about or did not practice Christian baptism.  With the limited communication of those days, Christianity did not develop uniformly from one area to the next.  A person can believe in Christ and receive the Spirit before being baptized (10:44-10:48).”[14]

    [1]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), p. 490

    [2]William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, (Daily Study Bible Series, Rev.ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976),135

    [3]The NIV Life Application New Testament  Commentary, 538

    [4]Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994),1533

    [5]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 494.

    [6]Acts (The Life Application New Testament Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 539.

    [7]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 494.

    [8] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 138.

    [9] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 139.

    [10] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 139.

    [11] William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 139.

    [12] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 504.

    [13] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 504-505.

    [14] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1534.

  • Acts 18:1-22 (ESV) After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogueevery Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

    5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, 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 on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to 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 his entire 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 go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 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 on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 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 any of this. 18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers[c] and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they 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.

    22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 18:1-22
    • Note again how Paul’s speaking is described in v. 4. How does this challenge me?
    • What was Paul’s trade, and what did it provide for him? What did Silas and Timothy’s arrival from Macedonia enable Paul to do? (See Philippians 4:14-16)

    Philippians 4:14-16 (ESV) 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

    Acts 18:9-11

    • Consider Paul’s recent experiences as described in Acts 16:22-18:6: beaten and imprisoned in Philippi; rejected by the Jews in Thessalonica; forced to flee an angry crowd in Berea; preaching of the gospel received with mixed results in Athens; and now kicked out of the synagogue in Corinth. How might Paul have been feeling at this point? How does God encourage Paul? Recall a time when I received specific encouragement from God’s word.

    Acts 18:22

    • Paul’s second missionary journey concludes with his return to Antioch. Consider all of the suffering that Paul endured on this trip (15:36-18:22). How does this challenge my level of willingness to suffer for the salvation of souls and the establishment of new churches?
September 26, 2019

Acts 17 – 2019-9-26

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  • Acts 17:16-34 (ESV)

    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 reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

    22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, 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 the 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 temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,28 for

    “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

    as even some of your own poets have said,

    “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

    29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people 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 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 their midst.34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 17:16-17
    • In what ways am I challenged by Paul’s response in vv. 16-17?

    Acts 17:22-32

    • Contrast Peter’s Acts 2 sermon, given to devout Jews who had knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures and of Jesus’ ministry, with Paul’s sermon here to a pagan, philosophical audience. Contrast the results as well. What can I learn about ministry in a secular setting?
    • Note Paul’s words in v.30. To what extent do I personally appreciate that repentance is a command God issues to “all people everywhere”?
    • Have I obeyed this command?  How has repentance brought wholeness and healing into my life?
September 25, 2019

Acts 17 – 2019-09-25

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  • Acts 17:1-15 (ESV)

    1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned 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 men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “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 these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

    10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; 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 from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 17:1-4
    • What is the relationship between faith and reason as shown in this text?
    • Why might some who are “persuaded” end up not “joining” (v. 4)?

    Acts 17:5-9

    • Contrast what motivated the Jews’ opposition (v. 5) with the charges they bring against Paul (vv. 6-7). This contrast has been seen before. How is this played out today?

    Acts 17:10-15

    • In what ways am I challenged by the description of the Bereans?
September 24, 2019

Acts 16 – 2019-09-24

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  • Acts 16:16-40 (ESV)

    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 fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command 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 marketplace 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 that are not lawful for us as 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, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

    25 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 everyone’s bonds 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 the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, 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 who 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, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire 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 these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now 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 throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words 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 brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 16:22-40
    • What happens to Paul and Silas after they deliver the slave girl from her demon-possession?
    • How do Paul and Silas respond, and what does this passage show about the impact our response to suffering can have on others?
    • Recall why Paul came to Philippi in Macedonia: “a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (16:9). How might Paul have envisioned his ministry in Macedonia?  Considering what ends up happening at Philippi, do you think Paul would have regretted responding to the call?
    • How does this passage address my expectations of what a life of responding to God’s will looks like?
September 23, 2019

Acts 16 – 2019-09-23

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  • Acts 16:16-40 (ESV)

    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 fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command 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 marketplace 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 that are not lawful for us as 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, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

    25 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 everyone’s bonds 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 the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, 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 who 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, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire 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 these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now 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 throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words 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 brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 16:16-24
    • Think about the slave girl who “brought her owners much gain” through her demon-possession. What does Paul’s deliverance of the girl do for her? For her owners? For Paul and Silas?
    • Notice the charges against Paul that the owners of the slave girl bring to the magistrates (vv. 20-21). Why might they have phrased their grievance against Paul in this way?
    • Who might be similarly threatened by the gospel’s impact on people today?
    • How does this passage identify, inspire or commission me?
September 20, 2019

Acts 16 – 2019-09-20

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  • CHAPTER 16 COMMENTARY

    Background: This was Paul’s second missionary journey which lasted for about three years. This time, Paul and Silas set out by land, rather than by sea, traveling the Roman road. Macedonia was a Roman province and Philippi was its key colony, which means its constitution was patterned after that of Rome. This was Paul’s first attempt to evangelize to the Romans.

    v.6: “The regions of Phrygia and Galatia included much of modern-day Turkey, yet God, for reasons known only to him, did not allow the missionaries to go into the province of Asia at that time. ‘Asia’ referred not to the continent, but rather to the Roman province that was the western part of Asia Minor. Ephesus probably would have been the leading city in this region.”[1]

    “God’s strange providence in the way he prohibited Paul from going to places where he wanted to go shows us that, while it is right for humans to plan and have visions, those plans must be submitted to the will of God and be open to his veto. Proverbs 16:9 says, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ Paul submitted to God’s will and was also receptive to his voice. Though he had his plans, he always presented them to God, and God was able to get through to him with his will. We should be careful about pushing through projects we have reservations about. After all, we will be unable to give our heart and soul to such projects. It is better then to take the time to grapple with God to find out what his will is.” [2]

    “They were forbidden at this time to preach the Gospel in Asia… [perhaps] because the people were not yet prepared to receive it, as they were afterwards (Ch. 19:10), when all those who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord.” [3]

    v.13: “Though ‘place of prayer’ was used in those days for synagogues, this must have been simply a place where people met to worship God. It was necessary to have ten men to organize a synagogue, but only women were gathered here. Being by a river facilitated any ceremonial washing rituals.”[4]

    “Paul’s first evangelistic contact in Macedonia was with a small group of women. Paul never allowed gender or cultural differences to keep him from preaching the gospel. In the early church, God often worked in and through women.” [5]

    v.14: Thyatira, the city where Lydia was from, was a great way from Philippi. Perhaps marriage or business brought her to that city, but one should acknowledge God’s providence at work here: to bring Lydia from Thyatira to Philippi so that she can meet Paul and hear the Gospel. Note that through Lydia, her entire household was baptized.

    “Her immediate reaction was to offer the hospitality of her house to Paul and his friends. When Paul is describing the Christian character he says that the Christian should be ‘given to hospitality (Romans 12:13). When Peter is urging Christian duty upon his converts he tells them, ‘Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.’ A Christian home is one with an ever-open door.” [6]

    v.18: “The girl is said to have ‘a spirit by which she predicted the future.’ Though what she proclaimed affirmed Paul’s ministry, he was ‘troubled’ by it. (diaponeomai, v.18, which means “to be strongly irked or provoked at something or someone.”). Why Paul delayed responding for a few days remains a mystery. But when he did attend to it, the power of God overcame the demoniac hold over the girl’s life. The employers of the girl must have known that she was in a miserable state and that what Paul had done for her was, in effect, a deliverance from bondage. But they had lost a means of income, so they opposed Paul.  Yet, they couched their opposition in noble terms, stating that the stability of the city was at stake because Paul and his team were ‘advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’ Paul was motivated by such a deep love for people that he could not endure the pain seeing this girl under the grip of deception.”[7]

    vv.19-21: “The charge laid was that Paul and Silas were advocating a religio illicita and thus disturbing the Pax Romana. But the charge, being couched in terms that appealed to the latent anti-Semitism of the people (‘these men are Jews’) and their racial pride (‘us Romans’), ignited the flames of bigotry and prevented any dispassionate discussion of the issues.

    Many have asked why only Paul and Silas were singled out for persecution, with Timothy and Luke left free. Of course, Paul and Silas were the leaders of the missionary party and therefore most open to attack. But we must also remember that Paul and Silas were Jews and probably looked very much like Jews (cf. comments on 14:3 on the tradition of Paul’s appearance). Timothy and Luke, however, being respectively half-Jewish and fully Gentile (cf. Col 4:14, where Luke is grouped by Paul with his Gentile friends), probably looked Greek in both their features and their dress and therefore were left alone. Anti-Semitism lay very near the surface throughout the Roman Empire.”[8]

     vv.27-28: “When the awakened jailer saw the doors open, he surmised the worst. In Roman law a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was liable to the same penalty the prisoner would have suffered (Code of Justinian 9.4.4). Thus the jailer drew his sword to kill himself, believing the prisoners had all escaped. But Paul saw him in the doorway and shouted out from within the prison, ‘Don’t harm yourself We are all here!’”[9]

    v.34: “Luke’s report of joy over salvation in the home of the jailer is evidence of one of the most important themes in his writings. Nearly ¼ percent of words of joy in the New Testament appear in Gospel of Luke (53) and Acts (24). It is not surprising then, that the fellowship of the first Christian community was characterized by ‘unaffected joy.’ (Acts 2:46).”[10]

    v.37:Was Paul being petty?  Why did Paul make the magistrates escort him personally out of prison?  His motive may have been to gain respect and some measure of protection from the government officials for the Christians who would remain in the city.  Having treated him shamefully the day before, the city official might be more prone to mistreat the church in the future if they succeeded in hustling Paul out of town.  Paul didn’t want this kind of menacing precedent to go unchallenged.  In addition, Paul may have been setting the stage to return someday. ”[11]

    [1] Acts (The Life Application New Testament Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 529.

    [2]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 436.

    [3]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Peabody,MA: Hendrickson Publisher, 1997) 2134.

    [4]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 443.

    [5]Acts (The Life Application New Testament Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 530-531.

    [6]William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, (Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976) 123.

    [7]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998),444,449, 454.

    [8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.19-21.

    [9] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.25-28.

    [10]Ajith Fernando, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 450.

    [11] Quest Study Bible, study notes  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1531.

  • Acts 16:1-15 (ESV)

    1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. 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 brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who 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 that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

    6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

    11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a 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 pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

  • Reflection Question

  • Acts 16:1-15
    • What is the wisdom behind Paul’s decision in v. 3?

    Acts 16:6-10

    • Think about the topic of God’s leading as related in this passage. What did being led by God look like for Paul and his companions? How does this match our notion of what it looks like to be led by God?

    Acts 16:11-15

    • In what ways was Lydia ready to receive salvation?
    • What can I learn about the fruit of salvation from Lydia’s response in v. 15?
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