ACTS OF APOSTLES
It is confidently assumed that this book was written by Saint Luke. It is a continuation of his Gospel. The Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ life on earth and finishes which the story of his Ascension. The Acts commence with a repeat of the Ascension story and continues with the story of the Apostles and their work in spreading the news of Jesus Christ. The work then moves on to the story of Saul, his conversion, his three missionary journeys, during which he founded the gentile churches, and finally his arrest and journey to Rome.
Luke’s Preface – Jesus’ Ascension.
1. Luke commences by referring to his ‘earlier work’ and once again directs his writing to ‘Theophilus’ whose name means ‘one who loves God’ and is thought to have been Luke’s patron and probably a Roman official or at least of high station and wealth. Mentioned here, but not in the Gospel, is the fact that ‘He (Jesus) had shown himself to them after his Passion …..…… for forty days……….’ during which time he told ‘them about the kingdom of God.’ (This would be the main subject to be preached by the apostles as it had been the main thing preached by Christ.) Acts 1:1-3.
2. Before his Ascension Jesus told the apostles not to leave Jerusalem: “not many days from now you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” (For Luke Jerusalem was the predestined centre of the whole saving work of God through Christ.) The apostles ask Jesus “………..has the time come for you to restore the kingdom of Israel?” (They still expect the messianic kingdom to be the restoration of David’s dynasty.) Jesus replies: “It is not for you to know the times or dates………..but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit…… (The Holy Spirit is a favourite theme of Luke) …………then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria and indeed to earth’s remotest ends.” (Nothing will limit the apostolic mission.) Acts 1:4-8.
3. Jesus is ‘lifted up……and a cloud took him from their sight.’ Two men in white (Angels) ask “Why are you Galileans still staring into the sky?” (After his three year ministry and all that had taken place including Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection it is not surprising that they were standing and staring. They must have felt totally bereft and rooted to the spot until directed by the Angels.) Then comes the promise of the glorious return: “This Jesus……………will come back………….as you have seen him go.” Acts 1:9-11.
4. The apostles return to the upper room where with Mary, the mother of Jesus and other of Jesus’ relatives (cousins) they ‘joined constantly in prayer……’ Chapter 2:42 tells us that prayer is centred on ‘the breaking of bread.’ They were already following Jesus’ command to ‘do this in remembrance of me’. (Luke 22:19.) Acts 1:12-14.
The Twelfth Apostle.
5. For the first time since Jesus had left them Peter uses the authority conferred on him by Jesus: ‘………………Peter stood up to speak to the brothers.’ He recounts Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus and his suicide when ‘He fell headlong and burst open, and all his entrails poured out. Everybody in Jerusalem heard of it….’ Peter quotes Psalm 109:8 ‘Let someone else take over his office.’ After praying and drawing lots Matthias was chosen and he made up the twelve. Acts 1:15.26.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s Moving Speech.
6. The coming of the Holy Spirit, on the apostles and Mary, at Pentecost, gives them the gift of tongues and overcomes their fears. They go out into Jerusalem and preach ‘about the marvels of God.’ All who hear, from whatever country, can understand. Most are amazed though some prefer not to believe saying “They have been drinking too much wine.” In response Peter speaks to the crowd “These men are not drunk……..why it is only the third hour” (9.00a.m). His speech takes the form of a Jewish sermon, commencing in three texts of scripture and applying them to the present situation. This is recognised rabbinic technique. He quotes from Isaiah 2:2, Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1 and shows that all those readings have been brought to fruition through Jesus who “you took and crucified and killed…” “God raised this man Jesus to life…….”Acts 2:1-36.
Repent and be Baptised.
7. The crowd were ‘cut to the heart’ and asked “What are we to do brothers?” Peter tells them that they must repent and be baptised. (Each of the apostolic discourses closes with a call to repentance to obtain forgiveness of sins.) ‘That very day about three thousand were added to their number. Luke repeatedly notes the Church’s numerical growth.) Acts 2:37-41.
The Temple for Prayer. The Homes for Eucharist.
8. The early Christians met together as a community sharing what they had. The apostles ‘worked many signs and miracles.’ ‘They regularly went to the Temple but met in their houses for the breaking of bread.’ (This tells us that they were still using the Temple for prayer but the Eucharist service took place in the privacy of their homes.) Acts 2:42-47.
A Cripple Walks.
9. The apostles continue to go to the Temple for prayers and on one occasion Peter and John are at the Temple entrance when a crippled man begs from them. They look at him and say “Look at us.” Then Peter said “I have neither silver nor gold, but……………in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” Peter took the man’s hand and helped him stand up. The man went into the Temple with them walking and jumping and praising God. Act 3:1-10.
Peter Recounts Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.
10. Everyone came running towards them in great excitement. The cured man was clinging to Peter and John. Peter tells them “Why are you staring at us……..? It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors who has glorified his servant.” Peter recounts the happenings when Jesus was handed over to Pilate, when at the demands of the people, a murderer, Barabbas, was released “……..while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead.” Alluding to Jesus’ words “Father, forgive them; they do not know what the are doing”, Peter tells the crowd that when they crucified Jesus they did not know what they were doing but God was carrying out what the prophets had foretold – that Christ would suffer. He quotes Moses “From among your brothers the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me; you will listen to whatever he tells you. Anyone who refuses to listen to that prophet shall be cut off from the people.” (Deuteronomy 18:15 & 19.) He tells them that from Samuel onwards all the prophets had predicted what was to happen. Acts 3:11-26.
Peter and John and Arrested.
11. The miracle cure and Peter’s preaching brought the priests, captain of the Temple and the Sadducees to apprehend Peter and John. (The aristocratic priests and the Sadducees opposed the Pharisees. So much so that on rare occasions it produced an alliance between the Pharisees and the Christians). The Sadducees, who did not believe in Resurrection, were especially annoyed that Peter had preached the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. The two apostles were kept in prison overnight. Many of those who had listened to Peter’s preaching became believers. Their numbers had risen to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4.
Peter and John before the Sanhedrin.
12. Peter and John are brought before a meeting of the Sanhedrin in front of Annas, his son in law Caiaphas, and other high-priestly families. They ask in whose name had the cure been carried out? Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, is fearless in telling them that it is in the name of Jesus, who they had crucified, that the cripple had been cured. Standing alongside the two apostles is the cured cripple. Peter continues “This (Jesus) is the stone which you, the builders, rejected (but which) has become the cornerstone.” (Psalms 118:22.) The Sanhedrin were astonished by Peter’s fearlessness and when they saw the cripple who had been cured standing by the side of the apostles ‘they could find no answer’. So they threatened Peter and John against ever speaking to anyone in Jesus’ name and released them. ‘…….they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.’ Acts 4:5-22.
13. Peter and John tell the community all that has happened. They praise God quoting Psalm 2:2. As they prayed and glorified God the house where they were assembled rocked (a miniature Pentecost?). Acts 4:23-31.
14. The early Christian community shared everything. ‘None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from the sale of them………it was then distributed to any who might be in need.’ A Levite called Joseph whom the apostles had surnamed Barnabas (which means ‘consolation’ or ‘encouragement’) sold a piece of land and presented the money to the apostles. Acts 4:32-37.
The Greed and Death of Ananias and Sapphira.
15. Ananias and Sapphira also agree to sell a property. But Sapphira, persuades Ananias to keep back some of the money for themselves. In their avarice Ananias and Sapphira were cheating the apostles and through them the Holy Spirit. Peter had been given the gift of discernment and knew what was happening. He confronts Ananias with his lie. Ananias falls down dead. Then Sapphira comes to Peter, not knowing what had happened to her husband. Peter asks her “was this the price you sold the land for?” “Yes” she said, “that was the price.” Instantly she dropped dead. (This might appear unfair. But they had made an agreement [‘a covenant’] and the sin of greed enticed them to break it.) Acts 5:1-11.
The Gift of Healing.
16. The gift of healing which Jesus had granted the apostles (Matthew 10:1) had remained with them. Some of the sick ‘were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall on some of them as he went past.’ ‘People came crowding in…………….bringing those tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were cured.’ Acts 5:12-16.
Apostles Arrested and Freed by an Angel.
17. Filled with jealousy at what the apostles were doing the high priest and Sadducees have the apostles arrested and put into goal. During the night an angel comes and opens the prison gates and tells them “Go and take up position in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new life.” (That means the same as ‘the message of salvation.’) The apostles did as they had been told. Acts 5:17-21.
The Sanhedrin Learn of the Apostles’ Escape.
18. The next morning the Sanhedrin convene and send for the prisoners but the prison officials report that, although the doors are locked and the guards in place, the prisoners were not there! Then someone comes to tell the Sanhedrin that the apostles were, at this moment, preaching in the Temple! (At this point surely the Sanhedrin should have realised the enormity of what was happening. Their stubbornness is made apparent and we can clearly understand, during his ministry, Jesus’ grief at their inability to understand his message. Mark 3:5.) The apostles are brought to the Sanhedrin ‘but not by force, for they were afraid that the people might stone them.’ (It is obvious that, through the Holy Spirit, the apostles were in charge of the situation.) Acts 5:22-26.
Peter fixes Jesus’ Death on the Sanhedrin.
19. The high priest reminds the apostles of the previous warning they had received not to preach in this name (in the name of Jesus.) The high priest continues ‘you seem determined to fix the guilt for this man’s death on us’. Peter replies ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.’ He continues explaining that it was through the God of their ancestors (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) that Jesus was raised up, that same Jesus “whom you executed by hanging on a tree.” Acts 5:27-33.
Gamaliel’s advice to the Sanhedrin.
20. Amongst the Sanhedrin was Gamaliel. He was more liberal and humane in his interpretation of the law. He was more inclined to the Pharisees than to the Sadducees and was respected by the people. He asks for the apostles to be taken outside. Then he reminds the Sanhedrin of previous occasions when self-appointed leaders had met with limited success but shortly after they were killed their followers disbanded. Gamaliel suggests that if the apostles obtain their power from God then nothing will be able to destroy them and the Sanhedrin would find themselves fighting God. Gamaliel’s advice is accepted. The apostles are once again told not to speak in the name of Jesus and are flogged (this would be a Jewish flogging, forty lashes less one: 2 Corinthians 11:24. It might seem strange to follow Gamaliel’s words by flogging the apostles. But those were cruel times and the Sanhedrin would want to appear to show its authority.) The apostles leave the Sanhedrin ‘glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.’ They continued to preach both in the Temple and in private houses. Acts 5:34-42.
Hellenist Christians Complain.
21. Now we read about the Hellenists who make a complaint against the Hebrews. Hellenists were Greek speaking foreign Jews whereas Hebrews, who were native Jews, spoke Aramaic. The Hellenists complain that, in the daily distribution of food, their widows were being overlooked. The twelve apostles call a meeting and ask the Hellenists to choose seven of their own members who will look after their widows. ‘The seven being chosen ‘……they laid their hands on them’. Acts 6:1-7.
Stephen Before the Sanhendrin.
22. One of the seven Hellenists was Stephen ‘a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.’ He started ‘…..to work miracles and great signs among the people.’ Synagogue members tried to debate with him but ‘……they could not stand up against him because of his wisdom.’ They procured some men to lie saying that they had heard Stephen blaspheme, then they arrested him and took him before the Sanhedrin. There they make accusations against him – then ‘The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.’ (They witness a ‘transfiguration’ of Stephen as he contemplates the glory of God.) Acts 6:8-15.
Stephen is Stoned.
23. Stephen’s speech encompasses the history of Israel up to the reign of Solomon. (Anyone wanting to quickly revise their knowledge of Israel’s history need do no more than read Chapter 7:1-50.) Stephen finishes his speech by berating the Sanhedrin for their inability to learn. ‘You stubborn people…….You are always resisting the Holy Spirit……..Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In spite of being given the Law through the angels, you have not kept it.’ ( According to Jewish interpretation at that time, the Law was given to Moses by angelic mediation.) Then Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and said ‘Look! I can see heaven thrown open….…..and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this the council of the Sanhedrin rushed at Stephen, thrust him out of the city and stoned him. They put their clothes down at the feet of Saul. (This may be intended to indicate that Saul was in charge of the execution or it may be Luke’s way of introducing Saul [Paul] whose story continues in the next chapter.) As he is being stoned Stephen prays for himself and asks forgiveness for his executioners. Acts 7:1-60.
For years I have questioned how the Sanhedrin was able to stone Stephen to death without obtaining permission from the Procurator, Pontius Pilate. The answer has come in a book ‘The Church of Apostles and Martyrs’. At the time of the stoning Pontius Pilate was away in Rome so they thought it was worth the ‘risk’ to carry out the illegal stoning.
In 62 A.D. the same occurred with the death of the apostle James (known as the brother of the Lord) high priest Annas felt himself strong enough to crush the Christians. He had James arrested and condemned by the Sanhedrin.
The story regarding the death of James is that he was thrown down from top of the temple. He was still alive and was then stoned and finally clubbed to death. Following this illegal execution Annas was deposed as High Priest.
Four years later Herod II sent a troop of soldiers to re-establish order among the Jews. Among the first to die was Annas.
So carrying out executions without obtaining permission from the procurator was forbidden but was ‘risked’.
Saul Persecutes the Church.
24. The day of Stephen’s death was the start of persecution against the church in Jerusalem. Many scatter to the country though the apostles stay in Jerusalem. Stephen is buried with great mourning. Saul does great harm to the church going from house to house and sending both men and women to prison. Acts 8:1-3.
Unclean Spirits and Cripples are Cured.
25. Philip, who was one of the seven chosen Hellenists, preached in a Samaritan town and was welcomed because they saw the miracles when the possessed were cleansed of their unclean spirits and cripples were cured. Acts 8:4-8.
Simon the Magician is Baptised.
26. In the Samaritan town where Philip had preached was a magician named Simon. He had entranced the people with his magic so much so that they thought he had some divine power. But after Philip’s preaching both the people and Simon are baptised and Simon went around constantly with Philip astonished by the miracles he saw. (As a magician he could immediately distinguish between his ‘magical tricks’ and Philips ‘spiritual cures’.) Acts 8:9-13.
Peter and Philip ‘Lay on Hands.’
27. Peter hears of Philip’s success and he and John go to the Samaritan town and ask the Holy Spirit to come down on the people. After praying Peter and John lay their hands on the people ‘…….and they received the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 8:14-17.
Simon the Magician Scolded.
28. Simon, the magician, is entranced by what he sees and offers money to be able to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter scolds him ‘…………..for thinking that money could buy what God has given for nothing.’ Simon is told to repent. (‘Simony’, trading in sacred things, gets its name from this incident.) Simon asks for prayers for himself. (Some Western texts have the added sentence ‘………and he wept bitterly without ceasing.’) Acts 8:18-25.
The Ethiopian is Baptised by Philip.
29. An angel tells Philip to go towards Gaza. There he comes across an Ethiopian eunuch who is the chief treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia. He had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and is sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah 53:7-8 ‘Like a lamb led to the slaughter house……..’ Philip is encouraged to speak to the man and asks him if he understands what he is reading. The eunuch replies that he cannot understand and needs someone to guide him. Philip joins him in the chariot and starting with the text from Isaiah he explains the good news of Jesus. They come to some water and the eunuch asks to be baptised. As they came out of the water Philip is miraculously ‘taken away’ and the eunuch ….’ never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.’ Acts 8:26-40.
Saul Continues His Persecution and sets off for Damascus.
30. Saul is continuing his persecution He plans to extend his work to Damascus. He obtains letters from the high priest which would allow him to arrest any followers of ‘The Way’, both men` and women, and bring them to Jerusalem. (The Roman authorities must have recognised the high priest’s jurisdiction over members of the Jewish community even as far away as Damascus and, where necessary, to take to task those who had converted.) Acts 9:1-3.
31. As Saul approaches Damascus a bright light shines on him and he falls to the ground. He hears a voice say “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul answers “Who are you Lord?” He hears the reply “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” He is told to go into the city and he will be told what to do. When he gets up from the ground he finds that he is blind. The men who were travelling with Saul lead him into the city. For three days he has neither food nor drink. Acts 9:4-9.
32. In Damascus is a disciple named Ananias. He has a vision where he is to go to a particular house and there he will find Saul of Tarsus. Ananias is told that Saul is at this very moment having a vision of Ananians coming to him. The knowledge of Saul’s cruelty had gone before him and Ananias is reluctant to carry out the orders given in the vision. But he is told that the man, Saul “is my chosen instrument to bring my name before the gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” Acts 9:10-16.
Paul is Baptised
33. Ananias does as he has been commanded. He lays his hands on Saul who recovers his sight. He is immediately baptised. Acts 9:17-19.
Saul Preaches Christianity.
34. Saul’s conversion is so emphatic that after a few days with the disciple he is preaching in the synagogue that “Jesus is the Son of God”. Those who hear him cannot understand. “Surely, this is the man who came with the sole purpose of arresting them (Christians)?” His preaching throws the Damascus Jewish colony into confusion so they plan to kill him. Some time passes: possibly as long as three years: See Galatians 1:17-18. The Jews keep watch at the gates of the city so that Saul can’t escape. But the disciples let him down from the city wall in a basket. Acts 9:20-25.
Barnabas Takes Charge of Saul.
35. When Saul reached Jerusalem he tried to join the apostles but they were afraid of him. Eventually Barnabas ‘took charge of him’. (Perhaps Barnabas had had contact with the disciples in Damascus and knew of Saul’s miraculous conversion.) Saul goes preaching in Jerusalem with the disciples but he has an argument with Greek Jews (Hellenists) who are determined to kill him.(There is no information regarding the cause of the argument. Perhaps the Hellenists were frightened of Saul because of his previous history.) So he is sent to Tarsus. (Tarsus is where later Barnabas found Saul. See Acts 11:25. In Galatians 1:18-21 Saul tells us that after leaving Jerusalem he went to Syria and Cilicia. Syria is on the route to Tarsus and Cilicia is beyond it. So he probably visited all three preaching as he went.) The churches have a period of peace. Acts 9:26 31.
Peter Cures a Paralytic.
36. Peter is going around preaching. He comes to Lydda (North West of Jerusalem on the Jaffa road) and cures a paralytic, Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years. The people saw and were converted. Acts 9:32-35.
Peter Brings Tabitha Back to Life.
37. In Jaffa there was a disciple named Tabitha. She was tireless in working for the church. She became ill and died. The disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda so they sent for him. Peter knelt down in the room where her body lay and prayed. He said to the dead woman “Tabitha, stand up.” She opened her eyes. Peter showed the congregation that the woman was alive. The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed. Peter stayed in the house of Simon, a leather-tanner. Acts 9:36‑43.
Cornelius Sends for Peter Who has a Vision of a Lowered Sheet.
38. At Caesarea was a man named Cornelius who was a Roman centurion. He and all his household were devout and God-fearing. He has a vision of an angel telling him to send to Jaffa for a man called Peter who is staying with Simon a Tanner. Cornelius sends two slaves and a soldier to get Peter. At the time they were travelling Peter is having a vision of a sheet being let down to earth. In the sheet were animals, reptiles and birds which Jews would not eat. Peter hears the words “Peter, kill and eat!” Peter naturally declined and the sheet was lowered twice more. Peter hears a voice saying “What God has made clean, you have no right to call, profane.” Acts 10:1-16.
Peter Goes to Caesarea.
39. Peter does not understand the meaning of the sheet. As he considers it the men arrive from Caesarea. Before he meets the men he hears a voice telling him they are coming and of their request. Peter goes to Caesarea to Cornelius who has gathered his relations and friends. Peter addresses the gathering and tells them that it is forbidden for Jews to mix with people of another race and visit them but God has made it clear that he must not call anything profane. Cornelius tells Peter of his vision of the angel. Acts 10:17-33.
Cornelius and His Family are Bapitsed.
40. Peter now understands that God has no favourites. He tells Cornelius and the gathering all about Jesus. As Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit came down, ‘The Pentecost of the gentiles’, and the gentiles were heard to be speaking in strange languages. They were all baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:34-48.
The Argument Regarding Circumcision.
41. When Peter next went to Jerusalem ‘The apostles and brothers protested to him: “you have been visiting the uncircumcised and eating with them.” Peter told the story of the sheet coming down with the animals on it and the voice saying “Now, Peter, kill and eat! What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” Peter continued with the story of the men coming from Caesarea “and the Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going back with them.” He told them of the Holy Spirit which came down on the gentiles and concluded “…..and who was I to stand in God’s way?” Peter’s words satisfied everyone and they gave glory to God saying “God has clearly granted to the gentiles too the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:1-18.
The Foundation of the Church in Antioch.
42. After Stephen’s death many disciples scattered and some went to Antioch. There they preached to the Greeks (Hellenists). ‘The Lord helped them and a great number believed and were converted…..’ The news of this success came to Jerusalem and Barnabas went to Antioch to see for himself and urged them to remain faithful. Barnabas was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit. Barnabas went to Tarsus, finds Saul and brought him to Antioch. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’ Acts 11:19-26.
Agabus Prophecies a Famine.
43. A prophet called Agabus came to Antioch from Jerusalem and predicted that a severe famine was going to happen (which it did while Claudius was Emperor). The disciples sent relief to the brothers in Judaea. It was delivered to them by Barnabas and Saul. Acts 11:27-30.
Herod’s Persecution and Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison.
44. Herod started persecuting the church. ‘He had James the brother of John beheaded, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he went on to arrest Peter as well.’ The church prayed to God for Peter unremittingly. The night before Herod intended to try Peter an angel appeared. The chains which fastened Peter’s hands fell off and he was led out of the prison with all the gates opening of their own accord. Peter thought it was a dream and it was only when they had gone the length of one street and the angel left him that he ‘came to himself’. Acts 12:1-11.
Peter Safe in the House of Mary and John Mark.
45. Peter made his way to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark where all assembled were praying. (John Mark is Mark the Gospel writer. He was a cousin of Barnabas.) Peter knocked at the door. The servant, Rhoda, recognised his voice but was so exited at hearing him that instead of opening the door she ran to tell everyone the news. They don’t believe her but on opening the door find the truth of what she was saying. Peter told ‘them how the Lord had led him out of prison.’ Acts 12:12-17.
The Prison Guards Executed.
46. The next morning there was ‘great commotion among the soldiers.’ This is not surprising because the penalty for letting a prisoner escape was the sentence due to the prisoner. A search for Peter proved fruitless (he had moved on to a safe place) and under the instructions of Herod the prison guards were executed. Acts 12:18-19.
47. Herod is on bad terms with the Tyrinians and Sidonians who rely on Herod’s territory for their food. He agrees to sign a treaty with them. On the day the treaty was to be signed Herod is seated on a throne and wearing his robes. He started to make a speech and the people said “It is a god speaking, not a man!” At that moment Herod was struck down: ‘He was eaten away by worms and died.’ Acts 12:20-23.
Barnabas and Saul To Convert Gentiles.
48. Barnabas and Saul had returned to Antioch from Jerusalem. One day when they were praying the Holy Spirit said, “I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work I have called them.” Acts 12:24-25 and Acts 13:1-3.
Saul’s First Mission (His name changed to Paul.)
49. The start of Paul’s first mission. Barnbas and Saul went to Cyprus with John Mark. They meet a Magician called Bar-Jesus. When they were ministering to the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of discernment, the magician tried to oppose them. Saul strikes the magician with temporary blindness. The proconsul saw everything that had happened and became a believer. (It was in Cyprus that Saul’s name was changed to Paul. The Jews, and eastern people in general, adopted names familiar in the Greco-Roman world. From here on Luke refers to Saul as Paul.) Acts 13:4-12.
Paul’s First Great Discourse.
50. On their way to Antioch John left them to return to Jerusalem. (We are not told why he left, but Acts 15:37-38 indicate that his leaving had upset Paul. See page 142 Paragraph 61.). Paul and his companions continued on to Antioch and on the Sabbath they went to the Synagogue. Paul preaches a similar, but more brief, sermon to that of Stephen. See Page 134/5 Paragraph 23, which gives a history of the Jews leading up to Jesus, his death and resurrection. This is the first of Paul’s three great discourses. (The other two are Chapters 17:23-31 and 20:18-35. Up to this point Paul had been subordinate to Barnabas. But now Paul is given prominence as the real missionary leader.) During his preaching he quotes:
‘Cast your eyes around you, mockers;
be amazed and perish!
For I am doing something in your own days
that you would never believe if you were told of it.’ Habakkuk 1:5.
(The disbelief and rejection of the Jews are a favourite theme of Luke.) Paul and his companions were urged to preach the next Sabbath and they had many converts. Acts 13:13-43.
Paul and Barnabas Persecuted,
51. The next Sabbath the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. The Jews were filled with jealousy and shouted blasphemies. Paul and Barnabas told the Jews that as they rejected God’s word they will preach to the gentiles. They quote from Isaiah 49:6 : ‘I have made you a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth.’ The Jews stir up persecution against Paul and Barnabas so they were expelled from that territory. Acts 13:44:51.
Paul Cures a Cripple.
52. Paul and Barnabas preach in the synagogue in Iconium and win converts. Some Jews and Greeks became believers. But other Jews refuse to believe and stir up the gentiles against the preaching even though signs and wonders were performed by Paul and Barnabas. Eventually the Jews persuaded the authorities to agree to stoning. Paul and Barnabas heard of this and moved on to Lycaonia, where they preached the good news. Amongst those listening was a man who had never walked. Paul saw that he had the faith to be cured. ‘Paul said in a loud voice “Get to your feet – stand up,” and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.’ Acts 14:1-10.
The Crowds Call Paul and Barnabas ‘Gods.’
53. When the crowds saw what Paul had done they said “The gods have come to us in a human form.” They named Barnabas and Paul after Greek Gods and even suggested that sacrifice should be offered to them. At this Barnabas and Paul ‘tore their clothes’ and rushed into the crowd explaining that they were only human beings and the power to cure had come from God. Acts 14:11-18.
Paul Stoned and Left for Dead.
54. Some Jews turned the crowds against the preaching and Paul was stoned and left for dead outside the town But, miraculously, he stood up and went back into the town. Acts 14:19-20
Paul and Barnabas’ Extensive Travels.
55. Paul and Barnabas travel extensively. They go to Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia and from there back to Antioch. During these journies: ‘They put fresh heart into the disciples encouraging them………”We must all experience many hardships.” ’ The end of Paul’s first mission. Acts 14:21-28.
The Problem of Circumcision.
56. Some men from Judaea teach that circumcision is necessary. After a long argument Paul and Barnabas agree to go to Jerusalem to speak to the apostles and elders about the matter. They are welcomed in Jerusalem and give an account of all that God has done through them. Acts 15:1-4.
The Council of Jerusalem.
57. Some Pharisees who had been converted insisted on gentiles being circumcised to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter. This was the Council of Jerusalem. After a long discussion Peter uses the authority conferred on him by Jesus by addressing the gathering. He pointed out that God had made no distinction between Jews and gentiles in giving them the Holy Spirit. See page 137/8 Paragraph 38. Then the assembly ‘……listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders worked through them among the gentiles.’ Acts 15:5-12.
James Addresses the Council.
58. When they had finished it was James who spoke. He reminded them of Peter’s conversion of Cornelius and his whole family and then of the words of the prophet Amos.
‘After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen hut of David;
I shall make good the gaps in it and restore it.
Then the rest of humanity,
and of all the nations once called mine,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.’ Amos 9:11-12.
James Suggests a Letter.
59. James continued by saying that a letter should be sent to the gentiles telling them to abstain from food sacrificed to idols (eating the food implies a sharing of the idolatry), from blood of strangled animal (Leviticus 1:5 explains the Jew’s reluctance to dispense gentiles from this prohibition), and from illicit marriages. Acts 15:19-21.
The Letter is Read to the Communities.
60. From among the brotherhood Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas are chosen to return to Antioch with Paul & Barnabas to present the letter. On their arrival in Antioch the whole community was summoned and the letter was read. They were delighted with the encouragement which the letter gave them. Judas and Silas returned to Jerusalem but Paul and Barnabas stayed on. Acts 15:22-35.
The start of Paul’s Second Mission. His disagreement with Barnabas.
61 Paul and Barnabas have a ‘sharp disagreement’. Barnabas wants John to join them (he had earlier left them to return to Jerusalem. See Page 140 Paragraph 50). The outcome of the disagreement is that Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways. Paul is joined by Silas and Barnabas by John. (Later John is to make up for whatever had upset Paul and regains his full confidence.) Acts 15:36-40.
Paul Meets Timothy.
62. Paul travelled through Syria to Cilicia then to Derbe and Lystra where he met a disciple called Timothy whose mother was Jewish, and a convert, and whose father was Greek. Paul was so impressed with Timothy that he wanted him as a travelling companion. But before doing so he had him circumcised. (Paul opposed Circumcision for gentiles but with Timothy’s mother being Jewish, and to satisfy Jews in the district, circumcision was considered necessary.) They continued their travels passing on the decisions reached by the apostles in Jerusalem. The churches grew stronger in faith and in numbers. Acts 15:41 & 16:1-5.
63. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work guiding Paul and Silas who travel to where their preaching is most needed. Having travelled to Phrygia they go to Mysia and on to Troas. Whilst there Paul had a vision telling him to go to Macedonia. They took a ship which eventually took them to Philippi the principle city in Macedonia. Acts 16:6-13.
Lydia and Her Household Converted.
64. There was no synagogue in Philippi so the meeting place for prayer was outside the city gates by the river. Paul and Silas went there to preach and especially to the women who were there. Among the women was Lydia who was in the purple-dye trade. Her heart was opened by what she heard and she and all her household were converted. She insists that Paul and Timothy stay at her household. Acts 16:14-15.
Paul Drives a Spirit From a Soothsayer.
65. A slave-girl who was a soothsayer (she was possessed by a spirit which foretold the future) started following Paul and Silas. She was continually shouting “Here are the servants of the Most High God; they have come to tell you how to be saved.” After several days of this Paul became exasperated and said to the spirit:: “I order you, in the name of Jesus Christ to leave that woman.” The spirit left her. Acts16:16-18.
Paul and Silas Flogged and Imprisoned.
66. As a soothsayer the slave-girl had been making a lot of money for her masters who turned on Paul and Silas and took them to the market place where the magistrates operated. They accuse Paul and Silas of causing a disturbance and advocating practices which are unlawful. The magistrates have them stripped, flogged, and thrown into prison where their feet are fastened in stocks. Acts 16:19‑24.
An Earthquake Shakes the Prisoners Free. The Gaoler and His Family Converted.
67. During the night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises. Suddenly there was an earthquake which shook the prison, opened all the doors, and released the prisoner’s chains. The gaoler, who thought all the prisoners had escaped, was about to kill himself when Paul shouted “at the top of his voice” to stop him. The gaoler and all his family were converted. Acts 16:25-34.
The Magistrates in Fear.
68. The next day the magistrates order that Paul and Silas be released. Paul shows a sense of humour. He demands that the magistrates come themselves to release them. Although Paul and Silas are Roman Citizens they had been given a public flogging. Under heavy penalties such a flogging should not have taken place. The magistrates are terrified when they realise their error and urge Paul and Silas to leave. (It is certain that Paul can see the hand of God in all that had happened. If they had not been put into prison then the gaoler and his family would not have converted. The earthquake also played a part!) Acts 16:35-40.
Converts and Persecution.
69. Paul and Silas travel on to Thessalonica where Jews, gentile Greeks and ‘a number of the leading women,’ after listening to Paul preaching in the synagogue, are converted. Other Jews are resentful and enlist a gang to go to the house of Jason where the disciples had been staying. Their complaint is that Paul has been preaching Jesus as a ‘king’ which would be in opposition to Caesar. This is not likely as Jesus was preached as a Messiah not a king. Acts 17:1-9.
Fresh Difficulties at Beroea.
70. The disciples move on to Beroea. The people checked the prophesies which were mentioned in the preaching and many men and women became believers. But the trouble-makers came from Thessalonica to stir up trouble. Paul leaves for Athens and, later, sends for Silas and Timothy to join him. Acts 17:10-15.
Paul in Athens.
71. Paul is revolted by the idolatry which he sees all around him in Athens. He gets into debates with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (the two philosophical systems) who comment “What can this parrot mean?” (Which was their way of saying “this man is like a bird who pecks at food: or a man who speaks in cliches, parrot-wise”). To them the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘the resurrection’ sound like outlandish gods. Acts 17:16-18.
Paul’s Speech Before the Council of the Areopagus.
72. They take Paul to Areopagus (this is on a hill to the south of Agro where the Athenian supreme council held it meetings. Either they took Paul there, away from the city centre, for easier listening, or perhaps they led him before the council). There Paul spoke to them. He told them that he had seen their altar ‘To An Unknown God’ and continued “In fact the unknown God you revere is the one I proclaim to you.” Paul pointed out that God, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Paul tells them that God created the whole human race so that they might seek Him…….” indeed as some of your own writers have said: ‘We are all his children.’ ” (This is a quotation from Phainomena of Aratus a poet of Cilician origin third century B.C.) “As his children we have no excuse for thinking of god as being anything in gold, silver or stone made by man.” Paul mentions ‘judgement’ and ‘rising from the dead’ but at this some laugh at him. Others ask to hear more and some were converted; among them were Dionysius and Damaris. (This is the second of Paul’s great discourses.) Acts 17:19-34.
Foundation of Church in Corinth.
73. Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. He met a Jew called Aquila whose family were tent makers which was Paul’s own trade. They had been expelled from Italy by an edict of Claudius. Paul stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he held debates in the synagogue. Silas and Timothy join Paul who devotes ‘all his time to preaching, declaring to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.’ When they reject him he tells them that he will ‘from now go to the gentiles with a clear conscience.’ But he has some success as Crispus, the president of the synagogue, and his whole household became believers. Also many Corinthians believed and were baptised. Acts 18:1-8.
74. Paul has a vision where the Lord tells him “Be fearless: speak out and do not keep silence.” Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months. Acts 18:9-11.
The Jews Take Paul to Court.
75. The Jews brought Paul to the Roman proconsul, Gallio. They accuse Paul of breaking the Law. Before Paul can speak Gallio tells the Jews that as their complaint is quibbling about words they must deal with it themselves. As he hustles them out of court they turn against Sosthenes, the synagogue president and beat him. Acts 18:12-17.
Return to Antioch.
76. Paul returns to Antioch with Aquila, and Priscilla, his wife. There Paul becomes a Nazerite and had his hair cut off (Numbers 6:21) to fulfil a vow he had made. He preached in the synagogue at Ephesus where they ask him to stay. But he declines saying that, God willing, he will come back another time. The end of Paul’s second mission. Acts 18:18-22.
The Start of Paul’s Third Mission. Apollos Preaches in Ephesus.
77. Paul travels to Caesarea then to Antioch and through Galatia and Phrygia encouraging the followers. A Jew from Alexandria named Apollos arrived in Ephesus. He was eloquent, has a sound knowledge of scripture and although his contact with Jesus as Christ had only been through baptism by John he was able teach fearlessly. Aquila and Priscilla attach themselves to him and give him more detailed instructions. Acts 18:23-26.
Apollos Preaches in Achaia.
78. Apollos crosses to Achaia with letters of introduction. The disciples welcome him. The energetic way he refuted the Jews was a great help in demonstrating that Jesus was the Christ. Acts 18:27-28.
The Disciples of John at Ephesus.
79. Paul goes to Ephesus which, along with Alexandria, was one of the finest cities of its day. The disciples in that city had only received John’s baptism. Paul lays his hands on them and they are baptised in the Holy Spirit and are able to speak in tongues and prophesy. Acts 19:1-7.
Foundation of the Church in Ephesus.
80. Paul preaches fearlessly in the synagogue at Ephesus. He stayed there for two to three years during which time both Jews and Greeks were able to hear the word of God. (During this time Paul sent his first letters to the Corinthians and Galatians and possibly the letter to the Philippians.) Acts 19:8-10.
The Jewish Exorcists.
81. Miracles are worked by items, like handkerchiefs, which have touched Paul. They are taken to the sick who are cured and evil spirits come out of the possessed. Some Jewish exorcists try and drive out evil spirits using the name of Jesus. One of the evil spirits replied, “Jesus I recognise, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The spirit then threw himself on the exorcist who fled badly mauled. Others who had used spells made a bonfire of their books. Their value was said to be fifty thousand silver pieces. Acts 19:11-20.
Ephesus: The Silversmith’s Riot.
82. The silversmiths of Ephesus encouraged by one of their number, Demetrius, cause a riot because Paul and his team are affecting the sale of silver shrines of Diana. They meet in the theatre taking some disciples with them. Paul wanted to go to the theatre to speak to the rioting crowd but other disciples stop him. The situation was too dangerous. Eventually the town clerk, who must have had considerable authority, tells the crowd that they ‘could easily be charged with rioting for today’s happenings….’ and the crowd disperse. Acts 19:21-40.
Paul Leaves Ephesus. Paul Raises a Dead Man to Life.
83. Paul plans to travel through Macedonia. (It was at this time that he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians.) At Troas while waiting for a boat to take them to Greece Paul preached such a long sermon that a young man sitting on a widow ledge fell asleep and fell to the ground three floors below. ‘He was picked up dead. Paul went down and stooped to clasp the boy to him, saying, “There is no need to worry, there is still life in him.”…… ……They took the boy away alive…….’ Acts 20:1-12.
Farewell to the Elders of Ephesus.
84. The third of Paul’s great discourses takes place at Miletus in Asia where the elders had come from Ephesus. (Many of the details of his last discourse are found in his letters.) Paul detailed his work for the church; how he hadn’t spared himself. He warns the elders against ‘the wolves who come to destroy all that has been done.’ Some of these destroyers will come from their own ranks. He encourages them to ‘…..support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord who himself said, “There is more happiness in giving than receiving.”’ He tells them that the Holy Spirit has made it clear that imprisonment and persecution awaits him. When he had finished they made their farewells and were all in tears. The end of Paul’s third mission. Acts 20:13-38.
The Journey to Jerusalem.
85. The journey took them to Cos, Rhodes, Patara and Tyre. At some of these they stopped with disciples for a few days, ‘Speaking in the Spirit and praying together.’ Eventually they arrived at Caesarea where they met the evangelist, Philip, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who were prophets. A prophet called Agabus came from Judaea. He came with a message to Paul from the Holy Spirit. If Paul goes to Jerusalem he will be tied up and handed to the gentiles. Agabus demonstrates the ‘tying up’ by taking Paul’s belt and tying his own feet and hands. (This is prophecy by mime as used in Jeremiah 18:1-7 where the potter’s vessel comes out wrong.) They all try to dissuade Paul from continuing on to Jerusalem. But Paul is determined to go and speaks of his acceptance of all that is to come. Acts 21:1-14.
Paul’s Arrival in Jerusalem.
86. Paul and his travelling companions arrive in Jerusalem. Paul is warned that Jews who have become believers have heard that Paul’s Jewish converts were encouraged to break away from the laws of Moses. (This meant that the Mosaic law no longer gave Jews any superiority over gentiles. Paul’s purpose had been to leave pagan converts free from Jewish observances but not to dissuade Jews from their observances.) Paul is given four men who, like him, are Nazerites (See Page 145 Paragraph 75) and he is told to ‘be purified with them and pay all expenses connected with shaving of their heads.’ (It seems that the disciples’ intentions are that by getting Paul to take part in this especially Jewish custom the Jews will be satisfied that Paul is not working against their observances.) Acts 21:15-25.
87. The five men give notice to the temple of their intended observance. (It seems that they were obliged to give seven days notice though there is no previous biblical mention of this). Just before the seven days were completed Paul is seen by some Jews. They shout for his arrest and blame him for profaning the temple by taking a Greek there. (Paul had been seen with a Greek, Trophimus, but it is unlikely that he would have aggravated the situation by taking such a person into the temple.) Paul’s arrest: The whole city is aroused, Paul is seized and dragged out of the Temple with the people beating him and set on killing him. A Roman tribune comes, the beating stops and Paul is taken into custody. The tribune enquired of the crowd who this man was and what had he done? The crowd shout differing things and the noise made it impossible to hear. The tribune asks whether Paul is ‘the Egyptian’ – this refers to the leader of the ‘dagger-men’ who specialised in assassinating Romans and pro-Roman Jews. They murdered Ananias the high priest in AD 66. Paul is taken to the fortress but asks permission, and is allowed to speak to the people. Acts 21:26-40.
Paul’s Address to the Jews of Jerusalem.
88. In previous chapters we had Paul’s three discourses Now we have the first of three apologias (formal defence of one’s conduct) The Bible says that he chose to speak in Hebrew but it would more likely have been in Aramaic. Hebrew was barely spoken after the return from exile. This silenced the crowd and they listened. Paul tells his story explaining that he is a Jew, telling of how he persecuted followers of Jesus but then of his conversion on the way to Damascus. He told the crowd that he had been sent to preach to the gentiles. At the mention of gentiles the crowd begin to shout “Rid the earth of the man!” Acts 22:1-23.
Paul the Roman Citizen.
89. The tribune took him into the fortress and ordered him to be examined under the lash. After they had strapped him down Paul asked the duty centurion whether it was legal to flog a Roman Citizen (Paul knew the answer!). The centurion was alarmed when he realised that he had put a Roman citizen in chains. Acts 22:24‑29.
His Appearance Before the Sanhedrin.
90. The next day Paul is taken before the Sanhedrin. He commences his defence by claiming his clear conscience. (This is a feature of Paul’s teaching. Then an usual occurrence difficult to explain……). The high priest, Ananias, orders that Paul be struck in the face. Paul issues a curse “God will surely strike you, you whitewashed wall!” Paul is asked, ”Are you insulting the high priest?” To which he makes the unlikely reply, “I did not realise it was the high priest”. Then he continues “certainly scripture says ‘You will not curse your people’s leader.’” Exodus 22:28 (Luke maintains the truth by mentioning Paul’s curse. Is he then trying to excuse his words by Paul’s knowledge of the quotation from Exodus?) Acts 22:30 & 23:1-5.
The Pharisees and Sadducees Argue Against Each Other.
91. In the clear knowledge that the Sanhedrin is made up of Pharisees and Sadducees Paul mentions ‘resurrection’ which the Sadducees do not accept. An argument breaks out between the two factions. (This is an occasion when the Pharisees sided with the Christians as mentioned on Page 132 Paragraph 11.) The uproar became so heated that the tribune was afraid that Paul would be attacked. He ordered his troops to bring Paul back to the fortress. During the night ‘the Lord appeared to [Paul] and said “Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.”’ Acts 23:6-11.
The Conspiracy of the Jews Against Paul.
92. The Jews hold a secret meeting and more than forty of them make a vow that they will not eat or drink until they have killed Paul. Paul’s nephew gets to know of the plot and he goes to the fortress to tell Paul who sends the boy to tell the tribune. On hearing of the plot the tribune arrange two hundred soldiers to escort Paul to Caesarea with orders to deliver him unharmed to Felix the governor. He sends a letter to the governor explaining his actions. The governor agrees to hear Paul’s case when the accusers attend. Paul is held in Herod’s praetorium. (A palace built by Herod.) Acts 23:12-35.
Paul’s Case Heard Before Felix.
93. Five days later Ananias and some elders attend. They bring with them an advocate (lawyer), Tertullus, who suggests that this is a Jewish matter which should be dealt with by them. Felix asks Paul to speak. This is Paul’s second apologias. Paul recounts how he went up to Jerusalem on pilgrimage and to bring financial relief from the gentile churches but did not cause any disturbance. He admits that he worships God ‘according to the Way’ but retains his belief in all points of law and in the prophets. He recounts how during a time of purification in the Temple, when there was no arguing or stirring up of trouble, as indicated by Tertullus, that he had been apprehended. Paul suggests that perhaps his ‘crime’ was to have stood before the Sanhedrin and stated “It is about the resurrection that I am on trial before you today.” Acts 24:1-21.
Paul’s Captivity at Caesarea.
94. Felix, was well informed about the Way (his wife was a Jewess.) He said that he would wait for the tribune, Lysias, to come to Caesarea before he gave judgement. He gave instructions for Paul to be kept under arrest but for his own people to have access to him. Acts 24:22-23.
Paul Preaches to Felix.
95. Felix was married to, Drusilla, a Jewess (She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa and had left her first husband, the king of Emesa, to marry Felix.) They sent for Paul to hear him talk about Jesus Christ. But when Paul mentioned uprightness, self-control and the coming judgement ‘Felix took fright’ and told Paul “You may go now……”. Two years went by and Felix is succeeded by Porcius Festus. (Appointed probably 60AD, died in 62AD.) Felix left Paul in prison probably partly due to gain favour with the Jews and partly due to his wife Drusilla. Acts 24:24-27.
Paul Appeals to Caesar.
96. When Festus went to Jerusalem the Chief Priest and elders ask him to support them against Paul. They were preparing an ambush to murder him. Festus tells them to come to Caesarea to bring charges against Paul. The Jews go to Caesarea and Paul is brought before Festus. The Jews made accusations which they were unable to substantiate. When it was Paul’s turn to speak he points out that he has committed no offence whatever against either Jewish law, or the Temple or Caesar. Festus asks Paul whether he will go to Jerusalem to be tried. Paul makes his appeal to Caesar. Festus has no option but to agree to send Paul to Caesar. Thus the Jews lose their chance to murder Paul. Acts 25:1-12.
Paul Appears Before King Agrippa.
97. King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice, arrive in Caesarea. (Like Drusilla they were also children of Herod Agrippa. Bernice later became the mistress of Titus, the Roman general, and later Emperor.) Festus tells them about Paul and they ask to hear him. The next day Agrippa and Bernice arrive in great state with tribunes and city notables. Festus explains that he is satisfied that Paul has committed no offence which demands the death penalty. But he wants advice on what to write to Caesar about the man. Acts 25:13-27.
Paul’s Speech Before King Agrippa.
98. Paul is brought into the audience chamber and given permission to speak. This is Paul’s third apologias. As on previous occasions he tells the story of his early life, his persecution of the followers of the Nazarene, then the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus. He continues telling of his preaching in the name of Jesus. When he mentioned “Christ…..the first to rise from the dead….” Festus shouted out “Paul, you are out of your mind; all that learning is driving you mad.” King Agrippa said to Paul “A little more and your arguments would make a Christian of me.” To which Paul replied “I wish…all who are listening to me today would come to be as I am – except for these chains.” Acts 26:1-29.
King Agrippa’s Words.
99. The king, Festus, Bernice and all who sat with them retired and talked together. They agreed that Paul had done nothing to warrant death or imprisonment. They agree that he should be sent to Caesar in Rome. Agrippa remarked to Festus, “The man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” Acts 26:30‑32.
The Departure for Rome.
100. Luke now writes in the first person ‘…we should sail,’ ‘…we boarded a vessel,’ ‘…we made little headway’. Paul, along with some other prisoners, is handed over to a centurion called Julius. They set off from Caesarea. At Sidon Julius let Paul visit friends. Two weeks later they reach Myra and next stopped near Lasea in Crete. On leaving there Paul predicted bad weather conditions which would lead to the loss of cargo and a risk to their lives. But the ship’s captain and owner had different ideas and they set sail. Paul’s words come true and all cargo and even its gear had to be jettisoned. In the midst of the storm Paul spoke to them telling them that they ought to have listened to his warnings. But they have no need to despair. “Last night there appeared beside me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, he said ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You are destined to appear before Caesar.’” Acts 27:1-26.
Storm and Shipwreck.
101. The storm continued and on the fourteenth day they sensed they were near land. Paul encourages them to eat to build up their strength. Some of the crew try to lower a boat but Paul tells the centurion that if anyone gets into that boat they will not be saved. The soldiers cut the boat’s ropes and let it drop away. Eventually they see land and run the ship ashore. The soldiers plan to kill the prisoners so they cannot swim away and escape. But the centurion does not allow it. He was determined to bring Paul to safety. Eventually they all get safely to shore. They had landed in Malta. Acts 27:27-44 & 28:1.
Waiting in Malta.
102. The Maltese are kind to the shipwrecked and light a fire as it is raining. Paul picks up sticks for the fire but a viper attaches itself to his hand. Those watching consider him to be evil – “he has escaped the sea but divine justice will not let him live.” Paul shakes the creature off into the fire and he comes to no harm. Those who had seen the occurrence change their minds and say that Paul must be a god. Acts 28:2-6.
Paul Cures the Sick.
103. The chief of the island was Publius. He was hospitable and looked after them for three days. Publius’ father was sick in bed. Paul prays and lays his hands on him and he is cured. When news of this got about other sick people came and were cured. Acts 28:7-10
The Continued Journey to Rome.
104. After three months they sail from Malta and having called at Puteoli, where there was already a Christian community, they arrived at Rome where there was also a Christian colony who came to greet Paul. He is allowed to stay in his own lodgings but he will be chained to a soldier who will guard him. Acts 28:11-16.
Paul Makes Contact with Roman Jews.
105. Paul holds a meeting with Roman Jews and explains why he has appealed to Caesar. He tells them about Jesus, arguing from the Law of Moses and the prophets. Some of the Jews were convinced and others were sceptical. So they disagreed among themselves. Paul comments, “How aptly the Holy Spirit spoke when he told your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah:
Go and say to this people:
Listen and listen but never understand!
Look and look but never perceive!
This people’s heart is torpid,
their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight,
to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear,
using their heart to understand,
changing their ways and being healed by me. Isaiah 6:9-10.
You must realize, then, that this salvation has been sent to the gentiles;
and they will listen to it” Acts 28:17-28.
The Jews Argue Between Themselves.
106. Verse 29 is only included in a few manuscripts. ‘When he had said
this, the Jews departed, having much argument among themselves.’
Paul’s Two Years in Rome.
107. Paul spent two years in his own rented lodgings. (It is not clear what happened after the two years. Nero gave occasional acts of clemency and Paul may have benefited from one of these.) He continued to fearlessly proclaim the kingdom of God and to teach the truth about Jesus Christ. Acts 28:30-31.