Paul’s Defense

A Pastor’s Commentary

Studies in Acts

Lesson 42 Paul’s Defense”

Acts:21-37 through 22:30

 

Throughout history the most acceptable proof has been the testimony eyewitnesses. This was as true in Biblical times as it is in our own.  Old Testament law said that a man could not be put to death for murder except at the witness of two eyewitnesses to the murder, and there were many other crimes that could not be punished unless there was one eyewitness. In the New Testament, one of the most frustrating situations for Jesus’ enemies was the one in which Jesus had healed a blind man on the Sabbath and when he was questioned about it, all he would say was “whether he is a sinner I do not know; but one thing  I know, whereas I was blind, now I can see.”

 

A very similar situation takes place in the passage to which we now come in our study of the book of Acts. In chapter 21 Paul had come to Jerusalem and tried to demonstrate his loyalty to Judaism by participating in a Jewish ceremony. But while he was still in the temple a group of unbelieving Jews tried to have him arrested for bringing a Gentile into the temple. It was a trumped-up charge, but nonetheless they were able to get a riot going. So as we come to the last few verses of this chapter and move on into chapter 22, Paul takes the opportunity to make a defense of his faith. This becomes the first of six “testimonies” that Paul will give in the next six chapters – each one at a higher level of government. But this is the one that sets the ball rolling toward the end of the book.

 

The overview of the chapter goes like this:

 

  1. The Request for the Defense – 21:37-39
  2. The Reasoning in the Defense – 22:1-21

III. The Rejection of the Defense – 22:22

  1. The Reevaluation of the because of the Defense – 22:23-30

 

So lets begin our study by looking at The Request for the Defense which Paul makes in verses 21:37-39

And the first thing we see in this regard is the identification of Paul in verses 37 through 39. First we see the guard’s assumption about Paul’s identity in verses 37 and 38

 

Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek? (38)Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led four thousand assassins out into the wilderness? This commander and his men remind me of the old movie “The gang that couldn’t shoot straight.” This is probably explains why the Roman centurion had quickly gotten involved in the riot of the previous verses. He thought he had caught himself an insurrectionist. The Jews thought Paul was a blasphemous teacher; now the Romans think he is a dangerous Egyptian political operative. It is truly amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same, isn’t it? But now, just by the use of language, Paul clears up the mistake. So in verse 39 Paul gives his accurate identity:

 

But Paul said I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”

 

But in spite of the ridiculous charges, Paul still wants to speak to the people. His trust in Christ soothes his fears and frustrations and he is able to face his enemies with open arms and an open heart. So after getting his identity straightened out with the centurion, Paul begins his defense by giving the interaction that we find in 21:40

So when he had him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people and when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language saying, “Brethren and fathers hear my defense before you now.”

 

“The Hebrew language” mentioned in verse 40 was actually Aramaic, a Hebrew dialect used by the Jews of Palestine. So in this way immediately began to interact with his listeners. By speaking with them in their own language and calling them “brethren and fathers.” He put them at ease and got their attention.

Then, beginning with 22:1 and going through 22:21 Paul gives the reasoning in his defense:

 

And the first part of that is the introduction in verses 2 through 5 in which he tells them about his background:

 

And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, the kept the more silent. Then he said (3) I am indeed a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our father’s law and was zealous toward God as you are today. I (4) I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women (5) “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were to Jerusalem who were there to be punished.

 

Then the actual instruction is found in verses 6 through 21. And the first part of that is about his encounter with Christ in verses 6-9

 

Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. (7) “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?(8)”So I answered,” who are you Lord?(9) And He said “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.”(9) And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.”

 

This is the crucial point in Paul’s presentation, because now the mob has to come to grips with the fact that Jesus Christ is still alive. They thought they had nailed him to a cross and shut Him in a tomb, but now Paul is saying “I saw Him alive and He changed my life.” And this is the key aspect of any witness: direct explanation of Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sin!

 

The next aspect of Paul’s testimony is the instructions that he received from Christ as Paul relates them in verses 10 through 21. First there were the instructions in Damascus in verses 10 through 16

 

So I said, what shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me, “arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you.’” (11) And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. (12) “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there (13)” came to me and he stood and said to me, “brother Saul, receive your sight.” And at that same hour I looked up at him (14) “Then he said, “the God of our fathers has chosen you that you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth (15) “For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard (16) ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

 

He continues his story about how the light blinded him and he went to Damascus. There he waited until Ananias came to him, healed his eyes, and gave him his new commission. Then in verses 17 through 21 he receives further instructions in Jerusalem.

 

Now it happened that when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance (18) And I saw him saying to me, make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning me.” (19) So, I said, Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on you (20) And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed I also was standing by consenting to his death and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.

 

Here is what Paul did in his old life: imprisoned, beat, and approved of the stoning of Christians. But the Lord directly interrupted that course and changed its direction. The most radical shift in Paul’s thinking occurred when God explained His new plan for the world – that He would use Paul to reach out to Gentiles! So Paul next recounts to his Jewish listeners what the Lord had told him. Look at verse 21:

 

(21) Then He said to me, Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.”

 

Right there the buzzers went off and the sirens shrieked in the minds of these zealous Jews! Gentiles?!

 

You can tell from the text that Paul wasn’t quite through with his talk, but as far as they were concerned he was through.

 

And so in verses 22 and 23 we see the rejection of Paul’s defense.

 

(22) And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (23) Then they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air.

 

They were so enraged that they would have torn Paul apart had it not been for the soldiers protecting him.

In their way of thinking, all others in the world except God’s chosen Jews were unworthy of salvation. Yet, in the Jews reaction to Paul’s words, notice what was absent : they shouted, they stamped their feet, they threw dirt in the air – but no one contradicted Paul’s statements! And that’s because his argument was unanswerable. By this time they knew that that same risen Christ had changed thousands of other people who, along with Paul were turning their world upside down. All this evidence was simply too much for them to handle.

 

But when the Roman commander saw them become violent he knew that he had to do something. This put a whole new perspective on things for him. And so in verses 24 we see the reevaluation of Paul’s defense. Now the Greek speaking commander had not understood a word that Paul said in Hebrew – as far as he knew something criminal must have happened. So he came up with the plan that is described in verse 24.

 

The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks and said that he should be examined under scourging so that he could know why they had shouted so against him. This was not a punishment, it    was  

 

Why did the commander order scourging? This was not a punishment, it was just an effective way of extracting the truth or a confession from someone. However, there was a small problem with this method which Paul wasted no time in bringing to their attention.

 

And as they bound him with thongs Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?

 

Knowing that it was illegal for a Roman citizen to be bound and beaten (probably to death,) Paul stops the soldiers in their tracks. Even though Christ had told Paul that he would suffer for His name that didn’t include needless suffering. And Paul knew that his task wasn’t completed yet – he still must go to Rome, so he wisely guarded his life.

 

The value and the power of Roman citizenship is clearly demonstrated in verses 26 through 29.

 

(26) When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.” (27) Then the commander came and said to him, “tell me, are you a Roman? He said, “Yes” (28) the commander answered, with a large sum I obtained this citizenship. “And Paul said, But I was born a citizen. “And Paul (29) Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman and that he had bound him. Incidentally, here is a little lesson about how easy it is to take things for granted. The commander was duly impressed with Paul’s citizenship, because he had had to pay for his own citizenship. But he was even more impressed when he heard that Paul was a natural born citizen of Rome. Think how many blessings we take for granted!

 

Finally, the progression of the case is described in verse 30.

 

The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

 

In effect, what the commander was doing here was releasing Paul to the Sanhedrin because there was nothing more that the Roman government could to do to him. And that leads directly into the next chapter, which we will talk about in our next study. But there are several important points to be sure of before we leave this passage. The first thing we should learn is that when giving our testimony, experience alone might be questioned, but a testimony based on facts is unanswerable. The second thing to remember is that the focus of our witnessing should be Jesus Christ – His life, death, and resurrection. Without these facts, our experiences can easily be rejected by the unsaved.

 

The second thing we can learn from Paul’s experiences in this chapter is that humility is one thing, but indignity is something else entirely. When the soldiers were preparing Paul for scourging he could have thought, “this suffering is God’s will, I shouldn’t defend myself.” But he knew that being victimized is not the same as humbly suffering for Christ. The suffering of a battered wife or an abused child or a mistreated employee are not examples of Biblical submission. There is time to claim our rights as citizens of God’s kingdom and defend ourselves. The difference is in the source and the reason for the suffering. If you are in a situation in which you think is not the biblical kind, you need to ask God for His wisdom in how to proceed. Seek out your pastor or other church leaders for guidance and prayer. No doubt there are several good churches in your zip code and most of them will have Websites on which you can find out all about them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wavering in Jerusalem

A Pastor’s Commentary

Studies in Acts

Lesson 41: “Wavering in Jerusalem”

Acts 21:15-36

 

One of the hardest things in life to deal with is being misunderstood – particularly when you are only trying to do the right thing. And yet, it seems that the more visible and the more prominent a person becomes, the more likely he is to be misunderstood. In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “to be great is to be misunderstood.” Think of all the great Bible characters who were misunderstood – Noah, David, and Certainly the Lord Jesus! Since that is the case, it is important to remember that what is important is not the misunderstanding, but how we react when we are misunderstood.

 

And here in Acts chapter 21 we have a good example of that. Remember that the chapter falls into 3 parts:

 

In verses 1 through 14 we have “The warnings about Jerusalem”

Then in verses 15 through 25 we have “The weakness in Jerusalem.”

And in verses 26 through 36 we have “The Warfare at Jerusalem”

 

In our last study, we looked at those “warnings about Jerusalem.” So in this lesson we will look at the second two sections of the chapter. Paul had been warned by various friends not to go to Jerusalem. And what he finds there is somewhat surprising. But he went regardless of the possibility of suffering. So let’s look now at The weakness in Jerusalem in verses 15 through 25. The section begins with the  return to the city recorded in verses 15 through 17

 

And after these days we packed up and went up to Jerusalem (16) Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of  Cyprus an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. (17) And when we had come to Jerusalem the brethren received us gladly.

 

The fact that harmony had been restored among the believers after the disagreements of the first section of the chapter is shown by the listing of those who went with Paul. Notice that no apostles were present, just “disciples” and “brethren” in these verses and “elders” in the next verse. This absence of apostles shows the development of the church – little by little it was being turned over to a second generation.

 

After they got to Jerusalem Paul gave the report to the brethren which is recorded in verses 18 and 19

 

On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. (19) When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the gentiles through his ministry.

 

Then the response of the brethren is in verses 20 through 25

 

And when they heard it they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;

 

First notice their patronization – how quickly they dismissed his report; almost offhandedly – they immediately began to talk about their own situation. They were obviously much more concerned about the  problem which was created by his presence than about his victories. The problem was that there was a rumor about Paul that was spreading in the Jerusalem church saying that Paul was telling people to “forsake Moses.” Look at verse 21:

 

(21)But they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs (22) What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will certainly hear that you have come.

 

Now the actual fact was that these Jewish believers had kept the law before they were saved, and they continued to keep it after salvation. Of course, Paul warned about the dangers of trusting in those ordinances for salvation, but he had never told them to stop doing it. In fact he was particularly sensitive to Jewish believers, Back in chapter 16 he had insisted that Timothy be circumcised so as not to offend them. But this problem developed because “they had been informed” that Paul was teaching that he wasn’t. Apparently, the accusations were based solely on hearsay and gossip. It was bad enough that the elders had let things get so far out of hand. So, the real “weakness” in Jerusalem was that the elders and other leaders hadn’t put a stop to it – or to allow Paul to confront the situation head on. Which leads to the next point. On the basis of their own concerns, they gave Paul their proposal as recorded in verses 23 and 24:

 

Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. (24) “Take them and be purified with them and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

 

Instead of confronting the situation head on, their plan was for him to identify himself with these men who had taken a vow (they were probably completing a Nazarite vow, as described in Numbers chapter 6) And in that way the legalistic Jews of Jerusalem would see that he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Then, to make it sound pious, look at their pretense in verse 25.

 

But concerning the gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled and from sexual immorality

 

Now it was true that back in chapter 15 at the Jerusalem Conference they had written these requests to the Gentiles. But this statement was twisting the emphasis of the council. The real focus of the Jerusalem Council was on what would be the minimum they should ask of the Gentiles for the sake of the older Jews; they were not setting up a different set of standards for Jews and Gentiles. But that is exactly what these guys are trying to make it sound like – that a less legalistic approach was only appropriate for Gentiles. Their whole aim was to keep the legalists from rioting. But it was a big mistake. In the first place, their aim was simply to keep the peace, not to really quell the false rumors about Paul. And in the second place, they were asking Paul to go along with a plan that was less than Biblical. But their power is demonstrated in verse 26 when Paul went along with the proposal.

 

Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the Temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each of them.

 

Why would Paul do a thing like this? We don’t really know, but the explanation that makes the most sense is that out of his intense interest in Jewish salvation (see Romans 9:1-3 for an example) he was willing to pacify the Jewish believers without dealing directly with their sin of gossip and rumor-spreading.

 

The English theologian J.I. Packer said, “It is in our moments of highest exultation that we need to be most careful against the possibility of compromise – men who would never compromise in order to save their own lives are in danger of compromising so they might win others.

 

Now we have seen the details of the warnings about Jerusalem and the Wavering at Jerusalem, so that brings us to the last section of the chapter. The remaining verses show us that, sadly, the efforts of both Paul and the elders of Jerusalem failed. The elders wanted to avoid a riot, Paul wanted to win Jews to Christ. As it turned out, there was a riot, and as far as we know no one was saved. So that brings us to The warfare in Jerusalem in verses 27 through 36.

 

The circumstances of the Warfare revolved around a misunderstanding – verses 27 through 29:

 

Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on them (28) crying out, “Men of Israel, Help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (29) (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

 

They “supposed” that Paul had brought a gentile into the temple. And they exaggerated their report about Paul’s activities, which fit in with the rumors the Jews were already believing.

 

Many attacks, verbal and even physical, are made from supposition and exaggeration – be sure of your facts before you believe or act on a report.

 

The severity of the Warfare is shown in verses 30 and 31a

 

And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. (31) Now as they were seeking to kill him news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar (32) He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers they stopped beating Paul.

 

Notice that it is the Roman government that rescues Paul – the church is conspicuously absent. This is ironic, because it was persecution by the Roman government that had driven so many Christians out of Jerusalem back in chapter 8!

 

Actually, true of the church at Jerusalem after chapter 7 – every time it is in the context of compromise or attempted compromise. If we think back the church leaders had trouble accepting Peter’s testimony about Cornelius in chapter 11 They disputed long and loud about which restrictions to place on the gentile converts in chapter 15. By the time we get to this chapter, they had allowed Jews to become active in the church who were “zealous for the law” (verse 20)

 

The problem was that in their anxiousness to agree with Judaism as much as possible they lost their power to confront rumor and hearsay even when they got out of hand. You see, “political correctness is older then you thought!

 

The remaining verses actually fit better with the subject matter of the next chapter, so we will leave them for that lesson.

 

 

Advice and Consent

Studies in Acts

Lesson 40: “Advice and Consent”

Acts 21:1-14

 

One of the biggest problems that can come up in the Christian life is a disagreement over what the Lord’s will is. On the one hand it is good to seek the Lord’s will , and to have that as a norm and a standard of whatever action we are going to take. But when two or more Christians         disagree about what that will is, problems can result. That is the situation that we find in to be misunderstood – particularly when you are only trying to do the right thing. is in the Christian Life is a disagreement over what the will is in a certain situation. On the one hand, it is good to seek the Lord’s will, and to have that as a norm and a standard of whatever action we are going to take. But when two or more Christians disagree about what that will is, problems can result. That is the situation we find in Acts chapter 21 as Paul continues his trip to Jerusalem.

 

The chapter consists of three parts:

 

  1. The Warnings about Jerusalem in verses 1 through 14
  2. The wavering at Jerusalem in verses 15 through 25

III. The Warfare at Jerusalem – 26 through 36

 

So let’s begin by looking at the warnings about Jerusalem that Paul received in verses 1 through 14. And the first of those warnings are the warnings at Tyre recorded in verses 1 through 6 The way to Tyre  is given in verses 1 through 3  a listing of the places along the way (probably done to give a sense of travel)

 

Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course, we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara (2) and finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.(3) when we had sighted Cypress, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

 

Then beginning at verse 6 we find the wait at Tyre. The reason for the wait is actually found in the last part of verse 3: The unloading the cargo from the ship. But the real message of the passage is found in the result of the wait. What happened while they were waiting. The wording of verse 4 is very significant:

 

(4) And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

 

Note the phrase “and finding disciples.” Actually, the Greek text says “and having searched out disciples.” The New American Standard Version much more accurately translates it “after looking up disciples.” So this is not an accidental or casual “finding” of fellow Christians as the New King James Version suggests, but a result of careful searching.

 

Harry Ward Beecher, a 19th century liberal criticizes the book of Acts by saying that

 

“Luke was devoid of artistic sense in that he traveled through those cities of asia, packed with things of beauty and artistic merit and value, and never by a line referred to one of them.

 

But G. Morgan Campbell a 19th century conservative said:

 

“There was no “scenery” to Paul, there was no geography, there was nothing but lost humanity, and the redeeming cross of Christ . . .”

 

There is something else about Tyre that is interesting to think about: This is the first time that Tyre is mentioned in the book of Acts. So where did these “disciples” come from? There is no way to know definitively where they came from, but an interesting thing to think about is that these may have been converts of Christ Himself! Mark 3:8 says that a great many people came from Tyre and the surrounding area to see Jesus in the early days of His ministry. Later in his ministry, as recorded in Matthew 11:21,22 Jesus mentioned the openness of those areas to the gospel:

 

Woe unto you, Chorazin and Bethsaida, for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes”

 

So it is not impossible that the first Christians in Tyre were people who had been converted under the ministry of Christ Himself!  In fact, probably many of those first century evangelists were reaping fruit from seeds planted by Christ Himself.

 

But coming back to the text, the point of this part of the chapter is that in the last part of verse 4 those Christians in Tyre “told Paul that he should not go up to Jerusalem.” We will see later what Paul’s reaction to this kind of warning was, but at this point Paul and the others move on.

 

(5) When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children till we were out of the city. And they knelt down on the shore and prayed. (6) When we had taken our leave of one another we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

 

So, Paul received “warnings at Tyre” in verses 1 through 6. But in verses 7 through 14 we read about the weeping at Caesarea. First, we find some nostalgia in the visit. Look at verse 7:

 

And when we that had finished our voyage from Tyre came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day (8) On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. (9) now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

 

Notice the phrase “one of the seven” in verse 8. This is a reference to the seven deacons who had been appointed way back in chapter 6, years earlier. The importance of those deacons is shown by the fact that here years later this would still be the descriptive term for Philip – “one of the seven. “And the use of this term also hints at all that had transpired in the intervening years: When Philip had been appointed a deacon, Paul was still persecuting the church. In fact, it was Paul’s persecution that had driven Philip from Jerusalem as recorded in chapter 8. And it is interesting to notice that Philip had begun pioneering in a work that Paul was later going to become famous for – winning Gentiles (Samaritans and the Ethiopian Eunuch) But now, twenty years later here they are together, involved in the same work! And this is just another example of how “all things work together for good.”

 

So there was nostalgia in the visit.” But verses 10 and 11 tell us about a narrative that was given in the visit. After spending “many days” in Caeserea, Agabus, gives a descriptive narrative of what awaits Paul when he goes to Jerusalem. He does it in the classic Old Testament style of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah etc., which shows again the transitional period typical of Acts – this style would have carried more weight with the Jews involved. And interestingly enough, it is the very same kind of warning that he had given at Tyre back in verse 4. In fact, back in chapter 20, Paul had said that he was hearing this everywhere he went.

 

And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea, (11) When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “thus says the Holy Spirit, “so shall the Jews at Jerusalem do to the one who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”

 

But not only was there “nostalgia” in the visit, and this “narrative,” in the visit but verse 12 tells us there was also an expression of negative opinions in the visit.

 

 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem

 

Everybody close to Paul was telling him not to go up to Jerusalem. And this brings up a central issue of this passage: who was really being led by the Spirit, and who was not? Some say that Paul at this point got out of the will of God by going on to Jerusalem when the Holy spirit was leading not to. Others say that he did exactly the right thing. (and were right!) But at the very least this passage brings up the problem of differing opinions of the Lord’s will by equally sincere people.

 

But the next verses show us the knowledge of God’s will as expressed in this visit – look at verses13,14: The reasoning is found in verse 13

 

Then Paul answered, “what do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

It is significant that Paul had not responded to any of the advice before this. But here his answer gives insight to the whole situation. Note the phrase “breaking my heart.” “Breaking” doesn’t mean from the standpoint of sorrow, but from the standpoint of changing his mind. It could literally be translated “why by your weeping are you attempting to get me to change my mind about something I know I must do?” So the true picture of the situation is this: the Lord had revealed to Paul and to the various disciples, that Paul would be persecuted in Jerusalem. The difference was simply the interpretation of that information. The disciples urged him not to go because of persecution. But he wanted to go in spite of it. The application: This provides a test by which we can know which is the true leading of the Spirit: the test of motivation. The disciples’ motivation was love for Paul – and that is admirable. But Paul’s motivation was love for the Jews and the desire for Jew/Gentile unification.

 

One reason for going to Jerusalem was to take another was to take the offering gathered by the gentile believers  in Antioch for poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Another reason was to show the Jewish believers in Jerusalem the Jewish believers in Jerusalem A good rule of thumb to remember in situations like this is that sometimes “the good is the enemy of the best” – interpreting God’s will is sometimes done in this vein.

 

Well, we have seen The nostalgia in this visit to Caesarea, the narrative prophecy that was given in the visit, the negative opinions that were expressed in the visit, and the knowledge of God’s will that finally surfaced in the visit. Now finally, in verse 14 we see the newness of vision that was developed:

 

So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “the will of the Lord be done.”

 

The other disciples finally saw Paul’s viewpoint and fellowship was restored – in verse 15 they went on with him.

 

This is the direction toward which any disagreement among believers should always move. Even if there is still some disagreement about what the will of the Lord is, the common denominator can and should be the seeking of that will.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleeping in Church

A Pastor’s Commentary on the Book of Acts

Lesson 38 Sleeping in Church

Acts 19:21- 40

 

In I Corinthians 15:32 the Apostle Paul makes an interesting reference to his time in Ephesus. He says, “I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus. As a Roman citizen Paul could not have literally been thrown to the lions in the Colosseum, so we are safe in assuming that this is a figurative reference. But what a realistic description of the frenzied riot he and his companions had just endured at the end of chapter 19.

 

This incident took place when Paul was wrapping up his time in the city of Ephesus and getting ready to complete his second missionary journey. In verse 24 of chapter 19 we read that

 

About that time there arose a great commotion about The Way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said, “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade (26)”Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. “So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.

 

As with all propaganda these claims were wildly exaggerated. But also, as with most propaganda plenty believed it. So, all this leads to the tumult in verses 28 through 34. First there was panic in verses 28,29

 

Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (29) So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.

 

They probably seized Aristarchus and Gaius because they couldn’t find Paul. That theater still exists. It can seat 25,000 – so it is no small matter.  But notice Paul’s peace

 

 (30) So when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. (31) Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater.

 

There was so much mayhem and confusion that most of didn’t even know why they were there, verse 32 says. Then the Jews put forth their greatest orator to try to calm the situation, but nothing worked! Verse 35 says that the chanting went on for two hours! Finally God provided for the taming of the situation. Not with the Cavalry or a high Roman official, but with the city clerk!

 

(35) And when the City Clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? (36) therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. (37)”For you have brought these men here who are neither of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. (38) therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow  craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another (39)But if you have any other inquiry to make, it should be determined in the lawful assembly (40)For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering. (41) And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

 

What happened here? As if He were playing Chess, God moved a pawn into the right position to block Paul’s opponent. And the same thing is true in our lives – sometimes He uses unexpected events and unlikely people. The trick is waiting for Him to make His move! Why do we have so much trouble with that? Because we want to be in charge of our own lives! But the trouble is that we can’t! We have absolutely no control over unexpected situations.

 

But with peace established and the church growing and safe, Paul now decides that the time is right to move on. And chapter 20 gives us another “photo album page” from his travels.

 

And as we look at it we will see three segments:

 

  1. The Ministry in Macedonia – verses 1 through 6
  2. The Miracle at Midnight – verses 7 through 12, and

III. The Message at Miletus – verses 13 through 38

 

So, let’s look at the ministry in Macedonia as it is recorded in verses 1 through 6. And verses 1 and 2 record the that the first aspect of it is fellowship:

 

After the uproar had ceased Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. (2) Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece.

 

After three years of ministry in Ephesus a sizable number of disciples had been raised up. His first trip through this area had focused on evangelism. But evangelism isn’t what is crucial now. This time it is exhortation. And we base that on the key word “encouraged” in verses 2. It is a translation of the word that is usually translated “exhort” or “exhortation.” Let’s take a closer look at this familiar term which is so easy to take for granted or overlook. Chuck Swindoll says it means “the ability to apply truth to life.” The Greek word is “parakaleo,” a word which means, “to call alongside to help.” It is fascinating to know that the Holy Spirit is called a “parakletos,” a helper or comforter, in John 14:26. An exhortation can be a warning, a comforting statement or an encouraging comment. And value is inestimable. Exhorting others is sometimes like lighting small fires in other peoples’ lives. Sometimes the fires illuminate sin, drawing people, drawing people toward repentance. Sometimes they awaken sleepers, sometimes they warm failing hearts, encouraging them with hope. Do you think you might be an exhorter? Perhaps the Holy spirit has given this spiritual gift to you and you need to develop it. If so, you can have no better teacher than Paul in the above examples. Think them through carefully and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the opportunity to light the fire in the right place at the right time.

 

Paul apparently spent about a year in Macedonia and possibly used this time to preach the gospel as far west as Illyricum, an area which was known for many years as Yugoslavia and was sucked into the Communist political machine, and was famous for a few years in the mid 1990’s was known as “Bosnia-Herzegovinia as the communist USSR was falling apart. Also during his stay in that area he probably wrote two of his epistles – II Corinthians and Galatians.

 

Out of that background of “fellowship,” with his dream of reaching Rome still fresh in his heart, Paul heads for the next step in his journey; Greece. And it is there that the second characteristic of his ministry in Macedonia is demonstrated: farsightedness. Look at verse 3:

 

(2) he came to Greece (3) and stayed three months. And when Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

 

Paul then had a fruitful three months stay in Greece, during which he wrote his doctrinal masterpiece, the epistle to the Romans. However, when he is ready to leave, his plans for an ocean crossing to Syria hit murderous swells,

According to Stanley Toussaint, apparently the vengeful Jews were planning to kill him on board and then dispose of the body at sea. But when Paul found this out he wisely set a different course back up through Macedonia the way he had just come.

 

Now the question might come, “does this mean that Paul didn’t trust god to protect him on the ship? Did he show a lack of courage by changing his travel route? Not at all. Paul would have been foolish to board that ship. God had informed him of the plot, so he could escape the murder attempt, not so his courage could be tested. Paul trusted God, but he also knew when to retreat from danger. Verses 4 through 6 bring out a third aspect of ministry among the Macedonians, and that was his fellow travelers. Look at verse 4:

 

Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia; also, Aristarchus and Secundus of the thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia  In his choice of traveling companions Paul revealed that there is no rank or hierarchy in the family of God. Ray Steadman brings this to light for us in his commentary on Acts. The man whose name was Secundus, which meant “the second,” was obviously a slave. Slaves did not bother to name their children, the just numbered them – “The First, “the second,” and so forth. It may be that “Tertius or “number three” to whom Paul dictated the letter to the Romans, was this man’s brother (Romans 16:22) Secundus’ slave status made as little difference to Paul as the fact that Sopater had a noble heritage and a famous father. Even timothy, was half Jewish and half Gentile, yet Paul freely accepted him too. Some of the men were from Asia, some from Europe, Paul treated them all as brothers in Christ. Some of the men were from Asia some from Europe. He lived out the truths he wrote to others There is another “fellow traveler” here who is not mentioned by name, and that was Luke. This is indicated by Luke’s use of the pronouns “us” and “we” in verses 5 and 6. The other “we” sections are (16:10-17; and “we” in  21:1-18)

 

(5) These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas, (6) (But we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at troas, where we  stayed seven days.

 

This brief seven day visit in Troas must have been nostalgic for Paul, for it was here that God had given him the vision of the Macedonian man calling “come over into Macedonia and help us.” (16:9) Now he had the opportunity to minister in the city that had so significantly impacted his life. The first segment of Paul’s trip involved “Ministry in Macedonia, but in the second segment, verses 7-12, we see a miracle at midnight. The setting for the miracle is in verses 7 and 8

 

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

 

In describing the events at Troas, Luke provides us a rare glimpse of first century church life: four facets stand out of their worship are brought out in this one verse. First, notice on what day of the week the early church met for worship. The Jews observed the sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday, but the Christians met on the first day of the week, Sunday, in honor, we assume of the day of Jesus’ of the day of Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:1) Second, the phrase “we were gathered together” implies that the church service was primarily a time for believers. On Sundays Christians would meet to spiritually “tune up” for the week ahead when they would be in the world witnessing for Christ. Third, the Lord’s Supper was an integral part of their worship. Luke simply writes “we were gathered together to break bread.” This phrase gives us no details about how they celebrated communion, which is a good thing. Because now we are free to remember Christ’s death in a variety of ways. We do not have to be in a church building; the “Clergy” doesn’t necessarily have to administer it. As long as there is a worshipful spirit, a body of believers can partake of the Lord’s supper anywhere and in any format.

 

The final glimpse of early church life Luke shows us is the presence of Biblical teaching. Paul began talking to them and he talked and talked and talked. In fact, he kept teaching until midnight (showing that an adequate feeding of the saints can sometimes require a significant amount time.) And that formed the situation calling for a miracle. Look at verse 9

 

And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking down into a deep sleep. He was overcome. And as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.

 

But even more embarrassing, though, is that Luke records this event for every future generation across the entire world to read about. Why do people fall asleep in church? Well, there are all kinds of reasons, and they are not all bad. Church leaders who have the opportunity, such as when constructing, expanding or remodeling facilities should think about good lighting, ventilation, heating and air conditioning, and comfortable seating. (as in the case of Eutychus) sometimes people are already tired when they get to church.) Let’s go ahead and say it: Sometimes it is the fault of the pastor. If he is poorly organized, too much or rambling material, a monotone delivery, and so forth.

 

Thankfully, as in Eutychus case, his sleep was not permanent. In verses 10 and 11, we see the satisfaction with the miracle.

 

But Paul went down, fell on hi m, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” (11) Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten and talked a long while even till daybreak, he departed. (12) And they brought they young man in alive and they were not a little comforted.

 

The passage closes with another of the Bible’s understatements in verse 12

 

(12) And they brought they young man in alive and they were not a little comforted.

 

-end-

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort in Shaky Times

Studies in Acts

Lesson 33: Comfort in Shaky Times

Acts 18:1-18

 

In Acts chapter 17 we read that when Paul toured the city of Athens “his spirit was troubled within him when he saw the city given over to idols.” Interestingly enough the word translated “troubled” is a word that literally means “shaken up.” We are hearing more and more about earthquakes these days (which, interestingly enough, Jesus said would be one of the signs of His return.) so we know that after an earthquake there usually are some “aftershocks” following it. If Athens was an “earthquake” for Paul, Corinth must have been a series of “aftershocks.” And this is what is described in the first part of chapter 18. By way of outline, the whole chapter consists of four parts:

I. The Missionaries – verses 1 – 4The Ministry – verses 5 – 11

II. The Magistrate – verses 12 – 18

III. The Maintenance of Relationships – vv.18 – 28

 

So let’s begin looking at Paul’s experiences in Corinth by noticing the missionaries whom he meets in verses 1 through 4. And the first thing we see about these missionaries is their location as it is specified in verse 1.

 

After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.

 

Now that seems like a very simple little statement, but it is one that forecasts very difficult times of ministry for Paul. To walk into Corinth would be very much like getting off a bus in one of the seedier districts of a major city – times square in New York before it was cleaned up by Mayor Julianni  some years ago. Or San Francisco’s tenderloin district or Hollywood’s “sunset strip.”

 

And this was no shanty town, either. Corinth was a town of awesome wealth It was located close to the isthmus which joined Greece to the Peloponnesian peninsula. Thus it commanded trade routes north and south by land and east and west by sea. For that reason, it actually had two harbors, one on each side of the isthmus. Naturally, then, it was a wealthy city with merchants and goods from all over the world – with all of the wealth and the worldliness that went along with them. In Greek plays there was a standard character known as “the Corinthian,” who was always a drunk or a womanizer. On the highest peak of the city was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, where 1,000 priestesses, who were actually male and female prostitutes, officiated. It was into this atmosphere, then, that Paul walked as he wound down his second missionary Think about what an assault on his senses this must have been for Paul! Even though we know that before his conversion he had chased down Christians and dragged them into prisons or even to their deaths. In that sense Paul had led a very sheltered life in the theological schools and teaching in the synagogues. Think what thoughts and questions must have filled his mind “How can these people be reached with the gospel? What can I do?” Why should they listen to me? In a letter that he wrote to the Corinthians years later, he wrote about those feelings. Look at I Corinthians 2:1, 3

 

And I brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the gospel of God . . . (3) I was with you in weakness and in much trembling

 

Corinth was probably a low point in Paul’s life, physically, emotionally, even financially (in the next verses we see him working for a living.) But unbeknownst to him God was about to provide him with new friends who would remain close to him for the rest of his life, and a fruitful, long-lasting ministry. This is the location, then, of the missionaries whom Paul is going to meet, their identification is given in verse 2:

 

And he found a certain Jew named Aquila born in Pontus, and he came to them. recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome) 

 

At just the right time God gave Paul just the right people to welcome him. Not only were they fellow Jews but they, too, were new to the area, and thus not tainted by it. Another similarity to Paul was their vocation Look at verse 3:

 

(3) So, because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked. For by occupation they were tentmakers

 

The Greek word translated “tentmaker” actually means “cloth worker” in Greek, so it is conceivable, though not provable, that Paul was a weaver or a tailor. But whatever the work was, Paul’s character is shown by the fact that he joined right in with them in their work – he didn’t presume on their hospitality at all. His trade kept him busy during the week, but along with Priscilla and Aquilla, their real motivation is demonstrated in verse 4

 

(4) And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded both Jews and Greeks

 

Notice that nothing has changed. No matter what problems it had caused him in the past, Paul still went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach Christ to the Jews.

 

Suddenly the scene changes in verse 5. There we see details of a couple of different kinds of ministry that go on down through verse 11. First there was a ministry to Paul. Look at verse 5a:

 

When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia . . .”

 

The text doesn’t say so, but probably Silas and Timothy brought an offering from Philippi, which was in Macedonia, when they came and this enabled Paul to stop working and devote his full time to preaching and writing – a ministry to him as well as to the Jews. We base that on the statement of Philippians 4:15:

 

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

 

And this is another illustration of the fact that when we give to a missionary (or any kind of ministry, for that matter, you have a part in everything he is able to accomplish – you “free him up” to work on ministry, rather than having to spend time supporting himself.

 

So first there was a ministry to Paul, and that, in turn, enabled him to have a ministry to the Jews.

 

Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ (6) But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles,”

 

Obviously, the ministry to the Jews did not go well. And this reminds us that the same message will not be heard by everybody in the same way. Some will accept and some will reject. But the real focus of these verses is Paul’s reaction to their rejection? Actually, he was just doing what Jesus had said to do in Matthew 7:6

 

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces.

 

This is not talking about being lax in in giving the gospel to people who are hard to deal with. In the context in which Jesus said this, it was referring to people who refuse to accept what you have to say. Later Paul wrote this same principle to Titus in Titus 3:10, 11

 

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, (11) knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self condemned.

 

The word “divisive” describes a person who is “argumentative,” always disagreeing with what you are saying. And notice that it says, “after the first and second admonition.” What this boils down to is that if you have given the gospel clearly to a person two times, you should move on. You have better things to do than to keep hammering away at him. there are plenty of other people who haven’t heard it even the first time. Of course, keep in mind that it may take many conversations to get the gospel across even one time. Paul had done all he could for the Jews and still they rejected the “precious pearl” of the gospel, so with a clear conscience he very practically said, “that’s it” and, striding briskly out the door turned to the Gentiles. So with a clear conscience he very practically and striding briskly out the door went all the way . . . .next door!

 

(7) And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue (8)Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, were baptized.

 

This must have seemed like a breath of fresh air!  Paul was now preaching in the personable atmosphere of a home, no longer stifled by the traditions of the synagogue. Ironically, even Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, heard the gospel there and joined in believing in Christ. So, there was ministry to the Jews, to the Gentiles, and, interestingly enough there was also ministry to Paul. look at verses 9 through 11

 

(9) Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent (10) “for I am with you and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” (11) And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them. 

Evidently Paul had not been able to completely shake off his feelings of fear and inadequacy even with the good results of the home bible study, so God speaks to him in this special way. And not only did He promise protection, but reassurance of a fruitful ministry – “I have many people in this city.” This is an interesting statement, because as far as we know, Paul was already acquainted with all of the believers in Corinth at that point. But God knows those who are going to be saved and considers them “His” people too. How many of those around us are “His” people waiting to find out that they are? But the reassurance from God was effective, because we read that Paul then stayed there another year and a half. And many Bible scholars believe that this when Paul began his writing ministry, writing to the Thessalonians.

 

With the ministry of Paul prospering, even to the point of taking away their former rabbi, the Jews couldn’t stand it any longer. And so in verses 12 through 18 they bring charges against him before the local magistrate. First, we see the hearing in verses 12 through 16.

 

(12) When Gallio was proconsul of Achia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul brought him to the judgement seat, (13) saying, “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” (14) And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “if it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. (15) But if it is a question words and names and your own law, look to it for yourselves; for I do I do not want to be a judge of such matters.” (16) And he drove them from the judgement seat.  

 

Here is an amazing provision from the Lord! This is demonstrated in the fact that Paul didn’t even have to speak in his own defense. But the real significance is that this ruling established a legal precedent. Since Gallio was a “proconsul” his ruling could be used in future cases. And that ruling was, in effect, that Christianity could not be considered illegal. Probably in their excitement about the ruling the Gentiles began the heckling of the Jews described in verse 17.

 

Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue and beat him before the judgement seat but Gallio took no notice of these things (18) So Paul still remained a good while.

 

It is interesting to notice that “Gallio took no notice of these things. This doesn’t mean that he was indifferent to justice, but probably just that he didn’t want to get drawn into a racially charged situation. But with all that as background it is not surprising to read that “Paul remained a good while” in verse 18a.

 

As we wrap this up it is interesting to see that Paul had entered the morally corrupt city of Corinth “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3b). But even though his spirit was shaking, God was at work protecting him and turning him and the lives of others around. Later Paul wrote with confidence:

 

And He said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made in perfect weakness”

 

As we analyze this “shaky” experience in the life of the Apostle Paul, there are at least three principles that we can distill from it: First, the darker the scene the greater the challenge. Whether in first century Corinth or 21st century America, where there is little light there is great need and therefore great opportunity.

 

Second The weaker the spokesman, the stronger the message. Paul came to them in fear and trembling – too weak to depend on his own wisdom, he later wrote:

 

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

Third: The greater the resistance, the less the fear. When resistance grows great enough it throws us on the Lord’s strength. And when we depend on his strength we realize that, as Paul also wrote, “If God be for us, who can be against us?

The Extension of the Holy Spirit

Studies in Acts

The Extension of the Holy Spirit”

Acts 19:1-7

 

Acts chapter 19 is another of those chapters that is like a travelogue or a slide show : it consists of several loosely assembled events strung together by a time frame. By way of outline we can divide the chapter into 4 parts:

 

  1. The extension of the Spirit in verses 1 through 7
  2. The explanation of the scripture in verses 8 through 10
  3. The explanation of the scripture in verses 11 through 20
  4. The exposure of a false spirit in verses 21 through40

    The Extension of the Holy Spirit”

  5. Acts 19:1-7

     

    Acts chapter 19 is another of those chapters that is like a travelogue or a slide show or a travelogue: it consists of several loosely assembled events strung together by a time frame. By way of outline we can divide the chapter into 4 parts:

     

    1. The extension of the Spirit in verses 1 through 7
    2. The explanation of the scripture in verses 8 through 10
    3. The explanation of the scripture in verses 11 through 20

    4, the exposure of a false spirit in verses 21 through 40

     

    As we come to this section of the book of Acts we enter a controversial area which we have touched on before and which comes up from time to time as we move through the book. But it is not by accident that it does recur. And it is important to go over it again when it does come up because people who are sincere believers in Jesus Christ differ, sometimes strongly, about the issues involved. Since they are differing viewpoints it is easy to slip into extremism on either side of the issues, leading to stereotyping, prejudice, and finally division among fellow Christians. The biggest reason passages like this can be difficult is the differing viewpoints have about spiritual gifts in general. Charismatics view all of the gifts, including tongues and prophecy, as being active and available to the church today. The word “charismatic” comes from the Greek word “Charis,” which means “gift of grace.” Today the term is associated with those who promote the expression of the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and miracles. These three abilities are sometimes called the “sign” gifts because they were used by God in the days before the completion of the New Testament to validate His message and messengers. Non-charismatics, on the other hand, believe that some of the gifts, such as tongues and prophecy are no longer needed because the New Testament has been completed, and they are therefore no longer needed and therefore are no longer being given.

    The late Dr. S. Lewis Johnson has defined these terms in this way:

     

    1. The gift of tongues as we find it described in the New Testament is a supernatural ability to speak in a language one has not studied.” The most famous occurrence of this gift was the first time it was used – the day of Pentecost, when people from all over the world heard the gospel preached in their own language, but many other instances of it are also recorded in the New Testament. The word always translated “tongues” in the New Testament is “glossa,” the Greek word for “language.”

     

    1. The gift of prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive a special revelation from God and to speak that revelation without error. During the years before the Old Testament was recorded, God spoke through men (and sometimes women) to whom he had given this gift. During the years before the Old Testament was written down, and again during the years before the New Testament was recorded God spoke through men (and sometimes women) Although that was a valuable gift, it is no longer necessary because in the written scriptures we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” as Peter later wrote. These were the 30 or so years between Jesus’ ascension and Paul’s first Roman imprisonment – a time of great change and development. At the beginning of the book believers worshipped in the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath; toward the end they were meeting in house churches on the first day of the week.

     

    In the beginning, Christian doctrine was in the minds of only a few; by the end the Apostles had started to distribute doctrine widely through their writings; At the beginning only Jews were accepting Christ; at the end Gentiles were in the majority. The book of Acts, therefore covers some 30 years of transition. It represents a whole period of time when things were in a state of flux. We must be careful, therefore, that we don’t base our doctrinal foundations on this book, because we may be setting some things in cement which God had not fully formulated yet. And the first few verses of Acts 19 are a good example of that.

     

    The opening words – “and it came about” show that what happens next was more of a happenstance than a planned movement. Luke isn’t even sure how many people were involved – in all about 12 men (according to verse 7) – a smallish group by any standard. And, more significantly this incident is never mentioned again in the rest of scripture – Paul never uses it to establish a norm or set a standard of practice for the church. So, again, we should be careful in this “transitional” book. Always pay attention to the details of any situation recorded here. I have a pastor friend who had a new member who came into his church. And at the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper he attended, this man insisted that the lights were too bright, because he had read “somewhere in Acts” that it was recorded that on one occasion of celebrating the Lord’s supper the lights had been turned down low.

     

    So, with all that as background, let’s look at this controversial passage.

     

    As we saw earlier, the first 7 verses of this passage contain the story of the extension of the Holy Spirit to a new group of believers. The setting for that extension is in verse 1

     

    And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples . . .”

     

    We saw in the last verses of chapter 18 that Paul wound up his second missionary journey by coming back to Antioch, from which he had started the journey (18:22). Verse 23 summarizes a brief time he spent there, then after an unknown period of time he began the third missionary journey. After visiting other places where he had won people to Christ, he came to Ephesus here in these verses. And here he comes across these 12 or so men who were disciples of John the Baptist. (verses1b,3) A.T. Robertson, in his book Word Pictures in the New Testament describes them as “floating followers of the great John the  Baptist who drifted into Ephesus and whom Paul found. Some of John’s followers clung to him until his death (referred to in John 3:22 through 25). But as Paul got acquainted with these men he discovers some gaps in their knowledge of doctrine. So he begins the search for what they do know in verses 2 and 3:

     

    He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” (3) And he said to them, “into what then you were baptized? So they said, “into John’s baptism.”

     

    In the desert John, the Baptized had preached:

     

    Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . .”prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.”

     

    Apparently, his message had impacted these men – they had believed and repented – they may have even seen Jesus. But after John was killed, they apparently left Jerusalem without hearing about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. So in verses 4 through 6 they find the satisfaction t of their lack of knowledge. First, Paul gives them the report  about Jesus in verse 4

     

     Then Paul said,  “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

     

    The gospel is always focused on Jesus Christ, not on any messenger of His, no matter how effective that messenger might be. The response to that is in verse 5

     

     When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

     

    And the result is in verse 6

     

    And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied

     

    Now these verses open up some important questions to us. And the questions focus around the theme, “is this normative?” – is it expected of everybody who gets saved? And in answering that question there are several things to consider: First, we can’t say that the laying on of hands is necessary, because in chapter 10 Cornelius received the Holy Spirit without it, and so did many others. In fact, if we were to make a larger scale study, we would find that the laying on of hands was the exception, rather than the rule. Second, although these men spoke in tongues and prophesied, even that doesn’t fit the usual pattern. Pentecostal and charismatic churches have three basic doctrines concerning tongues and prophecy. The first is “subsequence” – the belief that after receiving Christ there is “a second work of grace” – an infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit that comes completely separately and apart from salvation. The second basic doctrine is “Evidence” –  an outward, visible proof of having received Christ – through speaking in tongues and prophesying. And the third basic belief is “Seeking” – waiting for and pleading with God, for that experience.

     

    But is that what happened to these men? No. They believed, were baptized, received the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and prophesied, in rapid order. There was no “waiting” or “pleading.” What actually happened here is that God gave these men their own experience of “Pentecost.” And He had done that before. The first Jews who believed had the original Pentecost, described in chapter 2:1-11 of this book. Then the first Samaritans had a similar experience in chapter 8, verses 14 through 17. And then the first Gentiles in 10:44-48. Each of these groups were unique in one way or another. And God gave each group their own experience of Pentecost to prove to the others that they were genuine Christians even though they were from a different group.

     

    These men were a unique group in that they were followers of the great John the Baptist. The giving of these particular experiences was for exactly that same reason. But on that same basis, there is no need now for individual Christians to have those experiences, for two reasons: First, the genuineness of salvation for all diverse groups has been established and proven by the original “sign gifts,” and second, besides that, we now have the completed text of scripture. Now our proof for any question or experience can be found there. There is no longer a need for miraculous signs and wonders.

     

    In conclusion, we might ask, why is this passage so important anyway? First, because it underscores the fact that everything we do, in belief and in behavior, must be based on scripture. No amount of tradition or sincere feelings can be taken as normative if it is contrary to the scripture.

     

    Second, it demonstrates the fact that scripture must be interpreted in its broad context as well as its specific statements. No one incident can be taken as necessarily normative.

     

    Third, it shows us the importance of separating the essentials from the incidentals. For example, in this passage it was not the receiving of the Holy Spirit that was essential, but the fact that the basis of salvation is faith in Jesus Christ alone. But it also shows the things that follow salvation, not parts of it.

     

    And 4, the exposure of a false spirit in verses 21 through 40

 

As we come to this section of the book of Acts we enter a controversial area which we have touched on before and which comes up from time to time as we move through the book. But it is not by accident that it does recur. And it is important to go over it again when it does come up because people who are sincere believers in Jesus Christ differ, sometimes strongly, about the issues involved. Since they are differing viewpoints it is easy to slip into extremism on either side of the issues, leading to stereotyping, prejudice, and finally division among fellow Christians. The biggest reason passages like this can be difficult is the differing viewpoints people have about spiritual gifts in general. Charismatics view all of the gifts, including tongues and prophecy, as being active and available to the church today. The word “charismatic” comes from the Greek word “Charis,” which means “gift of grace.” Today the term is associated with those who promote the expression of the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and miracles. These three abilities are sometimes called the “sign” gifts because they were used by God in the days before the completion of the New Testament to validate His message and messengers. Non-charismatics, on the other hand, believe that some of the gifts, such as tongues and prophecy are no longer needed because the New Testament has been completed, and they are therefore no longer needed and therefore are no longer being given.

 

The late Dr. S. Lewis Johnson has defined these terms in this way:

 

  1. The gift of tongues as we find it described in the New Testament is a supernatural ability to speak in a language one has not studied.” The most famous occurrence of this gift was the first time it was used – the day of Pentecost, when people from all over the world heard the gospel preached in their own language, but many other instances of it are also recorded in the New Testament. The word always translated “tongues” in the New Testament is “glossa,” the Greek word for “language.”

 

  1. The gift of prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive a special revelation from God and to speak that revelation without error. During the years before the Old Testament was recorded, God spoke through men (and sometimes women) to whom he had given this gift. During the years before the Old Testament was written down, and again during the years before the New Testament was recorded God spoke through men (and sometimes women) Although that was a valuable gift, it is no longer necessary because in the written scriptures we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” as Peter later wrote. These were the 30 or so years between Jesus’ ascension and Paul’s first Roman imprisonment – a time of great change and development. At the beginning of the book believers worshipped in the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath; toward the end they were meeting in house churches on the first day of the week.

 

In the beginning, Christian doctrine was in the minds of only a few; by the end the Apostles had started to distribute doctrine widely through their writings; At the beginning only Jews were accepting Christ; at the end Gentiles were in the majority. The book of Acts, therefore covers some 30 years of transition. It represents a whole period of time when things were in a state of flux. We must be careful, therefore, that we don’t base our doctrinal foundations on this book, because we may be setting some things in cement which God had not fully formulated yet. And the first few verses of Acts 19 are a good example of that.

 

The opening words – “and it came about” show that what happens next was more of a happenstance than a planned movement. Luke isn’t even sure how many people were involved – in all about 12 men (according to verse 7) – a smallish group by any standard. And, more significantly this incident is never mentioned again in the rest of scripture – Paul never uses it to establish a norm or set a standard of practice for the church. So, again, we should be careful in this “transitional” book. Always pay attention to the details of any situation recorded here. I have a pastor friend who had a new member who came into his church. And at the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper he attended, this man insisted that the lights were too bright, because he had read “somewhere in Acts” that it was recorded that on one occasion of celebrating the Lord’s supper the lights had been turned down low.

 

So, with all that as background, let’s look at this controversial passage.

 

As we saw earlier, the first 7 verses of this passage contain the story of the extension of the Holy Spirit to a new group of believers. The setting for that extension is in verse 1

 

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples . . .”

 

We saw in the last verses of chapter 18 that Paul wound up his second missionary journey by coming back to Antioch, from which he had started the journey (18:22). Verse 23 summarizes a brief time he spent there, then after an unknown period of time he began the third missionary journey. After visiting other places where he had won people to Christ, he came to Ephesus here in these verses. And here he comes across these 12 or so men who were disciples of John the Baptist. (verses1b,3) A.T. Robertson, in his book Word Pictures in the New Testament describes them as “floating followers of the great John the  Baptist who drifted into Ephesus and whom Paul found. Some of John’s followers clung to him until his death (referred to in John 3:22 through 25). But as Paul got acquainted with these men he discovers some gaps in their knowledge of doctrine. So he begins the search for what they do know in verses 2 and 3:

 

He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” (3) And he said to them, “into what then you were baptized? So they said, “into John’s baptism.”

 

In the desert John, the Baptized had preached:

 

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . .”prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.”

 

Apparently, his message had impacted these men – they had believed and repented – they may have even seen Jesus. But after John was killed, they apparently left Jerusalem without hearing about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. So in verses 4 through 6 they find the satisfaction t of their lack of knowledge. First, Paul gives them the report  about Jesus in verse 4

 

 Then Paul said,  “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

 

The gospel is always focused on Jesus Christ, not on any messenger of His, no matter how effective that messenger might be. The response to that is in verse 5

 

 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

And the result is in verse 6

 

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied

 

Now these verses open up some important questions to us. And the questions focus around the theme, “is this normative?” – is it expected of everybody who gets saved? And in answering that question there are several things to consider: First, we can’t say that the laying on of hands is necessary, because in chapter 10 Cornelius received the Holy Spirit without it, and so did many others. In fact, if we were to make a larger scale study, we would find that the laying on of hands was the exception, rather than the rule. Second, although these men spoke in tongues and prophesied, even that doesn’t fit the usual pattern. Pentecostal and charismatic churches have three basic doctrines concerning tongues and prophecy. The first is “subsequence” – the belief that after receiving Christ there is “a second work of grace” – an infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit that comes completely separately and apart from salvation. The second basic doctrine is “Evidence” –  an outward, visible proof of having received Christ – through speaking in tongues and prophesying. And the third basic belief is “Seeking” – waiting for and pleading with God, for that experience.

 

But is that what happened to these men? No. They believed, were baptized, received the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and prophesied, in rapid order. There was no “waiting” or “pleading.” What actually happened here is that God gave these men their own experience of “Pentecost.” And He had done that before. The first Jews who believed had the original Pentecost, described in chapter 2:1-11 of this book. Then the first Samaritans had a similar experience in chapter 8, verses 14 through 17. And then the first Gentiles in 10:44-48. Each of these groups were unique in one way or another. And God gave each group their own experience of Pentecost to prove to the others that they were genuine Christians even though they were from a different group.

 

These men were a unique group in that they were followers of the great John the Baptist. The giving of these particular experiences was for exactly that same reason. But on that same basis, there is no need now for individual Christians to have those experiences, for two reasons: First, the genuineness of salvation for all diverse groups has been established and proven by the original “sign gifts,” and second, besides that, we now have the completed text of scripture. Now our proof for any question or experience can be found there. There is no longer a need for miraculous signs and wonders.

 

In conclusion, we might ask, why is this passage so important anyway? First, because it underscores the fact that everything we do, in belief and in behavior, must be based on scripture. No amount of tradition or sincere feelings can be taken as normative if it is contrary to the scripture.

 

Second, it demonstrates the fact that scripture must be interpreted in its broad context as well as its specific statements. No one incident can be taken as necessarily normative.

 

Third, it shows us the importance of separating the essentials from the incidentals. For example, in this passage it was not the receiving of the Holy Spirit that was essential, but the fact that the basis of salvation is faith in Jesus Christ alone. But it also shows the things that follow salvation, not parts of it.

 

A Greasy Message

A Pastor’s Commentary

Studies in ActsLesson 31

“A Greasy Trip”

Acts 17:1-15

 

Have you ever had one of those days when you do so many things that at the end of the day when you sit back and think about it you think “how did I get here from where I started?” Maybe it was a day of Christmas shopping (or some other kind of shopping) or a list long list of school assignments, or whatever.

 

Well the Apostle Paul had one of those days in the course of his second missionary journey as he moved from town to town ministering to churches that he had founded on his first journey. That is the way the 17th chapter of Acts is. It consists of four different activities and relationships, each of which can teach lessons about ministry and the Christian life in general.

 

Actually, there are four major “happenings” in the chapter, which form the outline. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson used to enjoy pointing out that all of these things happened as Paul traveled through the area that is now known as Greece. So he enjoyed referring to it as a “greasy” trip.

 

The four segments in his travel can be outlined in this way, using the King James Version terminology.

 

In verses 1 through 4 we read about Paul’s Manner

 

Then in verses 5 through 9 we read about Jason’s Ministry

 

Then in verses 10 through 13 it is the Bereans’ Mentality

 

So let’s begin our study by thinking about “Paul’s Manner” in verses 1 through 4

 

We take that terminology from the statement in verse 2 and says that Paul, “as his manner was,” went in to the synagogue” he had a “custom,” or a “method” that he followed when he was preaching in a new area. And the first thing we see about that method is that it had a priority. And that priority is described in verse 1:

 

Now when they had through Amphipolis and Apolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue.

 

Notice that they passed through two other towns before they came to Thessalonica and stopped. The implication seems to be that they stopped there because as the last line says, “there was a synagogue of the Jews there.” Even though Paul eventually became known as the “Apostle to the gentiles” his priority was to preach to the Jews first. Another aspect of Paul’s method is in the first part of verse 2. Look at the persistence he demonstrated.

 

Then Paul, his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the scriptures.

 

Even though it was a part of a “method” for his ministry, Paul didn’t just “whip through” it – he was persistent, evidently staying until he thought they fully understood the subject. On this basis he could have been in Thessalonica as little as 15 days or as long as 27 days. Paul knew something that seems to be widely overlooked in evangelistic circles today and that is that it usually takes some consistent time with people to be able to bring them to Christ.

 

Closely related to his persistence is something that we find in verse 3. Look at the primary emphasis he made in his presentation:

 

Explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying “this Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”

 

The problem that the Jews always had with Jesus of Nazareth was that he was so badly treated in his life on earth, rather than being exalted as “king of the Jews.” And so Paul always dealt with these facts first – showing them that it had to be that way (notice the wording of verse 3 again “that Christ had to suffer and rise again . . .”)  

 

The last part of verse 2 really goes with this section – notice that it says that he “reasoned with them from the scriptures.” (Remember that the scriptures at that time consisted of the Old Testament only. This demonstrates that it is possible to lead someone to Christ using only part of the scriptures. Jesus did this same thing with the two on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Verse 27 of that passage says that beginning with Moses and all the prophets He explained to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.

 

 It would be a good Bible Study project to make a study of finding some of those Old Testament references that you can use in that way, especially if you ever hope to witness to a Jewish person.

 

But notice in verse 3 that it says that Paul “explained” and “demonstrated” the truth about Christ. Evangelism is not a matter of beating people over the head with Bible verses or scaring them with verses about hellfire. True evangelism is a careful, logical, explanation” and “demonstration” from the scriptures about the truth of Jesus Christ. Well, after all of that well reasoned and loving approach, verse 4 tells us the product that resulted:

 

And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

 

Some Jews believed, but interestingly enough “a great multitude” of Gentiles were saved also. (including a few female socialites) And there is a reason for that too. And there is a lesson in that too: Paul’s priority in using the approach that he did was to convince Jews – but more gentiles than Jews were saved.  And the lesson to learn from that is that the gospel is really the same for everybody. We may approach it from one angle with one person and another angle with another, but the bottom line is that, properly presented, the gospel will reach people no matter what their background is. Another “product” of Paul’s brief ministry there was that he later wrote two letters back to them which later became a valuable part of the New Testament.

 

Well, in verses 5 through 9 the scene changes. In those verses, we find the story of jason’s ministry. The source of his ministry is in verse 5

 

But the Jews who were not persuaded becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the market place and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

 

The basic source of this whole mess was the sin of envy. The Jewish leaders simply could not stand to see the success of the gospel! Apparently they thought that Paul and his group were staying at the home of Jason, so they got a mob together and stormed his house. We don’t know anything about  Jason – or even whether Paul and the others were staying him. But this situation gave him an unusual ministry. The substance of the ministry is in verses 6 through 9

 

It began with his capture is in verse 6a

 

But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city . . . . .” If they couldn’t have Paul they would settle for Jason and some other unknown Christians. And this thrust Jason right into the forefront of the battle!

 

And then the Jews made their complaint in verses 6b and 7

 

“. . . . crying out, “These who have turned the world upside have come here too.(7) Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus.”

 

Notice the irony here – Paul and the others as they preached the gospel were actually “turning the world right side up.” But to those who wouldn’t accept the gospel, it must have seemed like it was being turned upside down.

 

The whole concept of human government is laid out clearly for us in Ephesians 6:12

 

We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand

 

Remember, we were talking about Jason’s ministry. And we have seen his capture and the complaint against him. But in verses 8 and 9 we see the cost that Jason faced:

 

And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things (9) So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

 

This decision shows the lack of backbone that the leaders had – they found the Christians guilty without them having their day in court. But the bigger issue is in these verses what is brought out in verse 9. Jason and these unnamed believers had to post some kind of bond. But the result was that Paul and the other leaders were let go.

 

Now at this point you may be thinking “now wait a minute” You said these verses were going to talk about Jason’s ministry, but here we are at the end of the section and Jason hasn’t said a word.” And that is exactly the lesson of these verses: There are other kinds of ministries than preaching sermons or Sunday school classes. By posting this bond and allowing Paul to go free, these men had a share in every person Paul led to Christ from that day forward. And in that sense, they form a picture of every person who contributes financially or in some other material way to a ministry that someone else performs!

 

Finally, (for this study at least) we see the Bereans’ Mentality in verses 10 through 14 In verse 10 we see the approach of the missionaries to the Bereans.

 

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

 

Notice how they begin their ministry in this new town: in “a synagogue of the Jews”! What’s the matter with these guys! Hadn’t they learned anything from experience in Thessalonica? Wasn’t this exactly how they got in trouble there? But you see, it wasn’t a matter of learning a lesson to avoid trouble, it was a matter of using a method that God had lead them to use – no matter what the cost.  And in this case it was well worth the trouble. Because in verse 11 we see the attitude of the Bereans:

 

These were more fair minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

 

Notice that the Bereans were “fair minded.” But notice also what the definition of being “fair minded” is: “searching the scriptures.” In fact, the King James Version translates this word “noble.” In other words, God is saying in these verses that it is a noble thing do! This is always the key to successful ministry: to use the Word of God. We don’t know whether or not Paul told them to search the scriptures in this particular case but in any case, a ministry will be more fruitful when it encourages and makes it as easy as possible for the hearers to “search the scriptures. In my own ministry I have made it a regular practice for several years to use computer software to project the scriptures that we are talking about on a screen behind me. And the failure to use such “helps” is where the cults might get a foothold – and then a stranglehold.

 

Well, as a result of the Bereans’ attitude they had a great advantage as recorded in verse 12

 

Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

 

Here is a great harvest! The “many of them” is a reference to the Jews – Paul’s first goal. But in addition to that many others believed also. And it is directly tied in the access and acceptance of the word of God. And it is directly tied in with the access and acceptance of the word of God. What an important for those in ministry to understand! This seems like a good place to end the story. But God doesn’t end it there – because Satan doesn’t. Verse 13 records that in spite of “their advantage” they also had some antagonists

 

But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.

 

Remember way back at the beginning we saw that the Jews were motivated by envy? These verses show how potent “mental attitude sins” can be: not satisfied to ruin the work of Christ in their own area, these jealous Jews move on into other people’s territories as well! But there a lesson in that too: Satan is never disheartened by a great victory such as the one at Berea; it only stirs him up all the more!

 

We have certainly seen some “twists and turns” and have come a long way since the beginning of the chapter, haven’t we? But no matter what the new developments God has been faithful. And we are even going to see in the last section of the chapter that He is going to use “antagonists” from this first part of the chapter to set Paul up for what was probably one of the greatest accomplishments his entire ministry!