Acts

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“When they arrived in Caesarea, they presented Paul and the letter to Governor Felix” (Acts 23:33 NLT).

July 5, 2018

PAUL’S ALL-EXPENSES PAID 4TH MISSIONARY JOURNEY
After being arrested by the Roman authorities in Jerusalem for being at the center of a riot, Paul was taken to Governor Felix at Caesarea. He was transported on horseback at night to avoid the conspiracy threatening his life by certain Jewish zealots. As a Roman citizen he was afforded better treatment and protection than he otherwise would have received. He had shared the gospel with both the Jews and Romans at Jerusalem. Now, he would be able to proclaim the gospel to the Roman governor, Felix, and even to King Herod, who had a summer home at Caesarea. This was the beginning of Paul’s all-expenses paid (By the Romans), 4th missionary journey, which would ultimately take him to Rome and to bringing his appeal before Caesar. The Lord had told Paul he would appear before kings on the Lord’s behalf, and now this very thing was taking place.

“After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance” (Acts 22:17 NLT).

July 4, 2018

PAUL’S UNIQUE CONVERSION AND CALL FROM JESUS
In Paul’s testimony to the angry crowd in Jerusalem, he told of an earlier time when he saw a vision of Jesus while praying in the Temple. The time may have been his first return to Jerusalem “three years” (Gal. 1:18) after his conversion in Damascus and time spent in Arabia. This is the only mention in Scripture of Paul’s “trance” and vision in the Temple. Although it may be the same vision he spoke of in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:1-4), the specific instruction from Jesus telling him to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles, was not mentioned elsewhere.

At any rate, Paul described a state of “ecstasy” (Greek: ἐκστάσει, ekstasei – “trance”) while praying in the Temple of Jerusalem, where Jesus appeared to him with instructions to take the gospel to the Gentiles. The crowd had listened quietly to Paul’s testimony up until this point, but when he spoke of going to the Gentiles, they erupted in anger.

Of all the apostles, Paul’s call from Jesus was unique. Unique, not so much in content, as occasion. The other apostles had seen the resurrected Jesus in the flesh and were sent out to tell others. But the occasion(s) of Paul’s conversion and commissioning was from Jesus making special appearances after His ascension. As Paul once wrote, “Then last of all He [Jesus] was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9).

“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater” (Acts 22:1-2 NLT).

July 3, 2018

PAUL SAW HIS PERSECUTION AS A PLATFORM
When a riot broke out in Jerusalem concerning Paul’s presence there, many in the crowd tried to kill Paul. However, the Roman guard was alerted and intervened, putting Paul in chains and taking him away. Paul considered the great crowd still following and asked the Roman Commander for permission to speak to them. This was an unusual request. Yet even more unusual was that after Paul spoke to the commander in fluent Greek, which clearly impressed him, the commander gave Paul permission. At this, Paul began to give his Damascus road testimony in Aramaic, calling those that sought to murder him, “brothers and esteemed fathers.” When the crowd heard Paul speaking in their own language they stopped yelling and shouting and grew silent as Paul gave his testimony.

When most would be concerned about defending their own life, Paul was focused on defending the faith. He saw the great crowd gathered to persecute him as a platform, an opportunity, to share the gospel with them

“After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry” (Acts 21:19 NLT).

July 2, 2018

PAUL’S MISSIONS REPORT AT JERUSALEM
This was a wonderful day in the history of the early church. Paul returned from his third and longest missionary journey to give “a detailed account” to James and the elders in Jerusalem. After hearing the report of how the Gentiles all over Asia Minor and Greece had received the gospel, the elders rejoiced and praised God.

The modern practice of giving a missions report back to the home church is really not modern at all. I suppose the first missions team to report back was the “Seventy-two” sent out by Jesus who “returned with joy” (Luke 10:17). Yet, Paul and his team certainly solidified the practice of bringing back a detailed report to the sending church.

In only a few weeks, we’ll be sending out our Guatemala Missions Team. And we look forward with hope to rejoicing and praising God at their missions report when they return.

“We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week” (Acts 21:4 NLT).

July 1, 2018

LOCAL BELIEVERS AT EVERY PORT
Paul and Luke went ashore at Tyre while the ship was unloaded of its cargo. They stayed with local believers there for a week. How things had changed since Paul’s first missionary journey. On his first expedition, no one had even heard the gospel. Now, as he returned to Jerusalem after his third missionary tour, believers met him at nearly every stop. Christianity was spreading like wildfire!

But Paul’s work was not yet finished. Even though fellow believers warned him not to go, Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem and ultimately, to travel to Rome to preach the gospel. His calling was not only to the Jews and Gentiles, but also to kings (See Acts 9:15). So, to Caesar he was determined to go.

“After the Passover ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later joined them in Troas, where we stayed a week” (Acts 20:6 NLT).

June 30, 2018

THE HISTORICAL PRECISION OF LUKE
Paul’s missionary companion, Luke, rejoined Paul at Philippi. Luke was a physician, missionary and the author of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. His presence, while not specifically named, is seen by a reappearance of the word, “we,” a second person plural unused since Acts 16. 

Like John in his gospel, Luke doesn’t name himself, but does note when he is present in the story. Notice the detail that Luke gives. What time of the year? “After the Passover.” Where? “Philippi in Macedonia.” Destination? “Troas” (The ruins of”Troas” also called “Troy” are on the coast of modern day Turkey). How long? “Five days” on the ship and “a week” in Troas.

Apparently, Luke had remained at Philippi in the house of Lydia (See Acts 16:12), since they had first passed through the region. Why he remained there is not known. At any rate, Luke rejoined Paul at Philippi and continued with his precise historical record.

“Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices” (Acts 19:18 NLT).

June 29, 2018

CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL
An amazing thing began to happen in the city of Ephesus, new believers began to confess their sin and turn from sinful practices. Their faith in Christ led to life-change.

The word “confession” in the New Testament has the literal meaning, “to say the same” (From “homologeo”). So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that we have sinned. It’s not news to Him. He already knows. Confessing our sins, we no longer deny our sinfulness, but agree with God. More than that, confession is a crying out to God for relief from the guilt that pervades the soul as sin’s consequence.

The apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our part is confession. God’s part is not only forgiveness, but also cleansing. So that even sin’s stain might be removed.

“So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:9-10 NLT).

June 28, 2018

PAUL RENTS A SCHOOL FOR CHURCH MEETINGS
Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire during the time of Paul. It was a strategically placed seaport city with a population of over 250,000. It became the new center of Paul’s missionary efforts. Some gospel work had already been done in Ephesus, but now Paul lay a foundation for one of the greatest churches of the first and second centuries. The people of Ephesus and the surrounding province were so open to the gospel that Paul was able to rent a school from a local named Tyrannus, where Paul preached and taught daily for over two years.

Our church rented schools for our meetings for 19 years before we purchased a property of our own. I’m not sure how long the church at Ephesus rented the school of Tyrannus, for Paul felt the call to head back out on his third missionary journey after two years. Perhaps they were still renting when Jesus had John send them a letter some years later (Rev. 2:1-7).

“From there he went up and visited the church at Jerusalem and then went back to Antioch” (Acts 18:22 NLT).

June 27, 2018

PAUL RETURNS FROM HIS SECOND MISSIONARY TOUR
At the end of Paul’s second missionary journey, he visited the church at Jerusalem and then returned to the church at Antioch in Syria. The second tour was much longer than the first. He and Silas were gone from their home base in Antioch for about four years (50 to 54 AD). Along the way they added several people to their team. Young Timothy was added early in the tour, while visiting Lystra (Acts 16:1-3). Priscilla and Aquila were added to the team at Corinth, where the team worked together for a year and a half. After Corinth, Paul felt led to return home and report to the apostles in Jerusalem and to the church at Antioch that had sent he and Silas out.

What an exciting report this must have been to both the church at Jerusalem and the church at Antioch. What joy, to be involved with Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations!

“As I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about” (Acts 17:23 NLT).

June 26, 2018

PAUL’S COMMON GROUND APPROACH
After debating with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens, they invited the apostle Paul to appear before the city council to explain more fully his teaching. For the Athenians loved talking about different religions and philosophies. Noticing that Athens was filled with shrines and altars to a multitude of gods, Paul saw one with an inscription to an “Unknown God” and indicated that he wanted to tell them more about Him. He commended the Athenians for their religious interest and used the example of the shrine to tell them about the God they didn’t know. He even quoted the Greek poet, Aratus, who wrote a poem describing Jupiter (Acts 17:28), to win common ground with them.

Paul described his approach to sharing the gospel with the peoples of different cultures in his letter to the Corinthians: “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).