Acts

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‘Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”’ (Acts 26:29 NLT).

July 8, 2018

PAUL’S PURPOSE AND PRAYER FOR HIS AUDIENCE
After Paul gave his defense before Festus, King Agrippa, Bernice and a crowd of Roman military officers and Jewish dignitaries, Agrippa realized Paul’s purpose. It wasn’t only a defense of his innocence, but a testimony of his salvation through the resurrected Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to persuade his audience to join him in believing and trusting in Jesus. This is why Agrippa interrupted Paul, saying, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

Agrippa got the point. Paul’s purpose and prayer was that they believe the gospel and follow Jesus. Agrippa had used the name “Christian,” a name first used in Antioch to describe disciples of Jesus (See Acts 11:26). It was a new name, more respectful than that which Paul’s accusers had used, calling him a “ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).

The “Nazarene” is what they had called Jesus. And it is the name that ISIS recently used to label Christians in the Middle East, forcing them to wear the Arabic letter “N” on their clothes and painting it on their houses.

Paul was proud to wear either name, as long as they identified him with Christ. His purpose and prayer was that others would join him.

“So the next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived at the auditorium with great pomp, accompanied by military officers and prominent men of the city. Festus ordered that Paul be brought in” (Acts 25:23 NLT).

July 7, 2018

PAUL’S DEFENSE MARKED BY POMP AND PROMINENCE
Porcius Festus was the new Roman governor over Judea. He replaced Felix who had been recalled to Rome by Nero. As a result, Festus inherited the case against the apostle Paul, which Felix had delayed, hoping for a bribe. Historians agree, that overall, Festus was a better governor than Felix, who was actually recalled because of his poor administration. Yet, even Festus was easily wooed by the Jewish leaders who wanted Paul’s trial moved to Jerusalem, so they could kill him along the way. Festus was ready to move the trial from Caesarea to Jerusalem as a favor to the Jewish leaders, but Paul appealed to Caesar. Festus had to honor Paul’s request because of his Roman citizenship.

The next day after the trial, Festus received King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, who came to pay their respects to the new governor. Agrippa II, whose birth name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, was raised and educated in Rome, while his father, King Herod Agrippa I, reigned in Judea. It was his father who had beheaded the apostle James. Coincidently, Agrippa’s sister, Drusilla, was the wife of the previous governor, Felix. So, when Festus began to talk about the unusual case concerning a man named Paul that Felix had left to him, Agrippa was, no doubt, fully aware. When Agrippa asked to hear Paul for himself, Festus happily agreed.

Can you visualize the scene where the auditorium is arrayed in the banners of Rome as trumpets sound announcing the arrival of King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice? Can you see all the Roman military officers decked out in their dress uniforms, gathered there at the order of Governor Felix, along with the prominent Jewish leaders of the region who had received his invitation? Can you see the apostle Paul being led in to face this illustrious crowd, dressed in a plain robe with chains on his wrists?

The apostle Paul was given this amazing opportunity to give his testimony and preach about the resurrected Jesus to all the pomp and prominence of the region. And preach he did.

“After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison” (Acts 24:27 NLT).

July 6, 2018

PAUL’S TWO YEARS IN CAESAREA MARITIMA
Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and delivered to Marcus Antonius Felix, the Roman Governor of Judea, at Caesarea Maritima (“By the Sea”). He was imprisoned there for two years, but was allowed the freedom to be visited by friends and receive help from them. Although it was the unscrupulous Felix who kept Paul there, hoping for a bribe and seeking favor with the Jewish leaders, surely it was God’s will for Paul to stay there for a while. For Paul had the freedom to regularly preach to Felix and his wife, Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I. Paul also had the freedom to reach out to his Christian brothers and sisters in Israel, while being protected by mighty Rome from his Jewish enemies.

Caesarea Marítima was the major seaport for the Judean Province. It was a beautiful place. Herod’s summer palace was there. And so was the home of the Roman Governor. Paul was able to expand his ministry influence, while living in a Roman prison at this important crossroads. Soon Porcius Festus, the new governor, would hear Paul’s testimony and ultimately send him on to Rome to appeal to Caesar.

“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.