A Study of the Book of Acts
1: "Christ Ascends"
Read Acts 1
The author of the book of Acts is
Luke, termed "the beloved physician" by Paul. Although his name is found only
three times in the New Testament, we have a fair amount of information about him
from various sources.
Luke was a Gentile, and judging
from his style of writing, a man of culture. The early Christian historian
Eusebius states that he was from Antioch, although this is not certain. His
professional background is reflected in his frequent use of medical terminology
in his writings. Besides being a physician, Luke was also a preacher of the
gospel, and we may presume that this became more important to him than his
Although his name is not attached
to the book, Luke's authorship of Acts is made certain by the fact that it is
addressed to Theophilus (literally "lover of God") as a sequel to the gospel
which bears his name. He was apparently not an eyewitness of the ministry of
Jesus. In Acts we learn something of his activities when he switches his
pronouns from "they" to "we" and back to "they", indicating where he joined and
left Paul on the missionary journeys. It appears that he spent about six years
before accompanying Paul on his final trip to Jerusalem and journey to Rome as a
prisoner for Christ. Shortly before Paul was killed we find him as the sole
companion of the great apostle. (2 Timothy 4:11)
Introducing the Book
The book you are beginning to study
is usually called "The Acts of the Apostles." In ancient times it appears to
have been known as "Acts of the Apostles" or simple "Acts". In reality it is the
story of some of the acts of some of the apostles of Jesus Christ, with special
attention devoted to the work of Peter and Paul.
From the fact that the book closes
abruptly after Paul had been imprisoned for two years, we conclude that it was
written at that time, about 63 AD. It is an historical book tracing the story of
the spread of the gospel from the establishment of the church, a span of a
little more than thirty years. This was the most remarkable, and certainly the
most significant period in the entire history of the church of our Lord. Without
the knowledge gained from Acts we would be totally at a loss to answer many
vital questions. While we have four accounts of the life of Jesus and a number
of letters detailing the requirements of the Christian life, this is the only
source of information relating to the early church, other than isolated
references in the epistles.
What, then, may we learn by
studying this important book? First, it relates the story of the establishment
of Christ's church and its spread within a generation to most of the civilized
world. Second, it tells us much about that church how it was organized, how it
worshipped, its problems, and the attitudes and concepts of those who composed
it. Third, it describes nine specific examples of how people became Christians
in apostolic times. The seeker of salvation can study this book, observe the
examples of conversion to Christ, and follow this pattern with the assurance
that he has thus been added to the family of God.
The Book in Outline
The 28 chapters of the book of Acts
can be divided into many parts. However, to give a bird's eye view of what you
are about to study we will here notice the three main parts of the book.
1. Chapters 1-7 The establishment
and growth of the church in Jerusalem.
Most prominent characters the apostles, especially Peter and
2. Chapters 8-12 The gospel spreads to Judea and Samaria.
Most prominent character Peter.
3. Chapters 13-28 The gospel spreads "into all the world."
Most prominent character Paul.
Jesus Last Charge
The ACTS OF THE APOSTLES begins
where the Gospel of Luke concludes. That book, plus Matthew, Mark, and John,
relate the story of Jesus to the time of his ascension into heaven following his
resurrection from the dead. Jesus had been crucified at the Jewish Passover in
about 30 AD. The exact year cannot be positively ascertained. Three days later
he came forth from the grave, and in a forty-day period thereafter he appeared
upon numerous occasions to his followers, convincing them that he had broken the
bonds of death.
Just before his ascension Jesus led
his disciples out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, a short distance east of
the city. Here he gave them their marching orders as he sent them forth into the
world bearing the good news of his salvation. Three of the gospels record this
Great Commission which in composite form reads like this:
"All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I
am with you always, to the very end of the age. Whoever believes and is baptized
will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. This is what is
written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and
repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem." (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:46,47)
Luke in Acts further tells us that
Jesus charged the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise from the Father.
When they inquired whether he was then going to restore the kingdom to Israel,
thinking about a literal kingdom in which Jesus would reign in Jerusalem, he
replied that it was not for them to know the times or seasons fixed by the
Father. It is evident that they still did not realize that Jesus kingdom was to
be spiritual rather than material. He had earlier observed, "My kingdom is not
of this world." (John 18:36 NIV) But still his disciples had not
fully grasped that his kingdom was one in which Jesus would reign in the hearts
Jesus then informed the disciples
that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them,
referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit which occurred a few days later on
Pentecost. He added that they would be his witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all
Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Thus they now knew
that they were to bear the glad tidings of salvation, not just to the Jewish
people, but to all mankind. The story of the book of Acts relates how they
accomplished this purpose.
When Jesus completed his
instructions to the apostles, he ascended from their midst into the clouds. Two
men in white robes broke their rapt attention by informing them that as Jesus
had gone into heaven, so he would come again referring to his second coming at
the end of time.
The disciples returned to Jerusalem
to wait, as Jesus had instructed, until the received the promised power of the
Holy Spirit. With the eleven chosen disciples who waited in an upper room were
also the devoted women who had followed Jesus, including his mother, and his
brothers as well.
A New Apostle
Judas Iscariot, one of the chosen
twelve, had hanged himself after his betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of
silver. With the betrayal money, which Judas threw down in the temple, the chief
priests purchased a potter's field in which to bury strangers. It was called
Akeldama, or the Field of Blood. While the followers of Jesus were waiting for
the events which would soon transpire, Peter called these facts to the attention
of about 120 of them. He quoted the Psalms, pointing out that in fulfilling a
prophecy it was proper that another should be chosen to succeed Judas. He listed
two requirements for the office:
1. He must have been with Jesus
from his baptism to his ascension, and
2. He must have been a witness of his resurrection.
It is apparent that no one today
meets these qualifications, and that therefore there can be no true apostles in
the twenty first.
Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias were
chosen by the group, and after prayer, they cast lots to see which of the two
was the choice of God to be numbered with the eleven. The lot fell on Matthias
and he was thereafter counted as one of the apostles.
2: "The Day of
Read Acts 2
Power from Heaven
How would you react if a miracle
were performed before your eyes? Would you try to explain it away? Would you
accept it as having occurred? Or would you investigate further?
This was a problem faced by a
Jewish multitude gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, one of three
annual festivities at which all male Jews were expected to be present. These
were people assembled Parthia and Media, from Egypt and Rome, as well as from
many other lands. All were aware that a little more than seven weeks before an
itinerant preacher named
Jesus had been crucified by the
Romans at the insistence of Jewish leaders. His disciples claimed that he had
arisen from the dead, but unsupported claims of friends scarcely convince the
Now in the temple area a strange
phenomenon occurred. Where the disciples of Jesus had assembled there was
suddenly a sound from heaven as of the rushing of a mighty wind. Tongues of fire
were seen sitting upon them, and stranger yet, these men began to speak in
languages which they had obviously never studied. Each Jew was able to
understand in his native tongue. We know this was the baptism of the Holy Spirit
(see Discussion below) which Jesus had promised, but for the Jews, what could be
the explanation? Some asked, What does this mean? The scoffers mocked, They are
filled with new wine.
Peter's Great Sermon
Until now the apostles had been
individually testifying to the Jews of their faith. Now Peter, their spokesman,
stood before the whole group to present the first great gospel sermon. We
probably do not have it in its entirety, but the message was the prototype of
what the apostles would always present to lost sinners.
Peter first refuted the charge that
the apostles were drunk when they began to speak in other languages. This could
not be since it was but the third hour of the day, about 9:00 a.m. according to
our time. Seldom do men get drunk so early in the day. Instead, Peter declared,
the speaking in many languages was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel,
In the last days, God says, I will
pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your
young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)
When speaking to the Jews, the
apostles often quoted the Old Testament prophets as a means of proving that
Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
Peter then presented the basic
facts regarding Jesus.
1. He had performed signs and wonders in their presence. This they knew.
2. He had been crucified by the Romans at the urging of the Jews themselves.
3. God raised him from the dead in accordance with the prophecy of David.
4. That he was in fact raised could be testified to by the apostles
themselves whose witness had been reinforced by the miracles they had seen that
5. Jesus was now at God s right hand in heaven.
6. Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom
you crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
What Shall We Do?
So forceful was Peter s message
that the multitude was cut to the heart. They cried, Brothers, what shall we do?
Peter had just told them that they were murderers for having crucified the
Christ. How, they asked, could they be forgiven of so gross a sin?
Peter s response was immediate.
Repent and be baptized, every one
of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you
will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your
children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call.
Peter did not tell them to believe
in Christ. Their cry for help shows that they already did. But two things were
necessary if they were to be forgiven. First, they must repent. Repentance is a
change of heart prompted by godly sorrow which brings about a change of life.
The one who repents gives himself unconditionally to Christ. Second, they must
be baptized. The purpose of their baptism was to receive the forgiveness of
sins. And when their sins had been forgiven, they would receive the gift of the
Holy Spirit, that indwelling of God s Spirit which is promised every child of
God. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19) Furthermore, Peter added, these blessings would
be received by all future generations who would accept Christ in the same
Why did Peter connect baptism and
the remission of sins? Is there some magical property in the water of baptism?
Indeed not. We are saved by the blood of Christ shed at Calvary.
In him we have redemption through
his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of
God s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians
But baptism is that final act of
obedience which puts sinful man into the death of the redeeming Christ where he
may avail himself of the blood to remove his sins. Paul expresses it this way:
Or don t you know that all of us
who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were
therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as
Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live
a new life. (Romans 6:3,4)
Then it follows that baptism is the
avenue through which one must pass to have his sins forgiven through the blood.
And since man cannot be saved without forgiveness and since baptism is essential
to having ones sins forgiven, it follows that baptism is essential to salvation.
Jesus himself declared, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved& (Mark
A Harvest of Souls
The result of Peter s preaching was
as amazing as the miracle which preceded it. About three thousand were baptized
into Christ that day. They were added by Christ to his church which was born
that day and of which the disciples were charter members. When one was saved
from his sins, he was added by the Lord to his church. (Acts 2:47) From the
beginning the saved constituted the church of God. The church is, by definition,
made up of the saved. Sometimes people ask if one can be saved without being in
the church. This is as impossible as it is for a cocker spaniel not to be a dog.
The church is the saved. Of
course we are speaking of the undenominational body of Jesus Christ for which he
died (Acts 20:28), and not any human denomination. All who obey the same gospel
as did the three thousand on Pentecost are added by Christ to his church and it
is unnecessary for them to join a denomination that seeks to separate itself
from others who would follow Jesus.
These first Christians were
dedicated. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42) The breaking of
bread mentioned was the observance of the Lord s supper as commanded by Jesus on
the night of his betrayal. (Matthew 26:26-28) They daily assembled in the
temple, doubtless to more effectively teach others about the Jesus who they had
The material need was also great,
perhaps because so many converts had stayed in Jerusalem instead of returning to
their native lands. Whatever the reason, many sold their possessions and had all
things in common to meet the pressing material need. Their action was voluntary
and based on the love that they had for Christ and for one another. Then, as
now, service is best expressed from a heart of compassion rather than being
ordered by duty.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that
the gospel which was first preached that day with such marvelous results would
turn Jerusalem upside down, and before long result in a persecution which would
spread the message of Christ throughout the world?
The Baptism of the Holy
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is
only mentioned six times in the New Testament. Four times (Matthew 3:11,12; Mark
1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33) it is a promise of John the Baptist of what would be
given by Jesus. The demonstration of heavenly power in Acts 2 is the fulfillment
of the promise of Jesus just before his ascension.
For John baptized with water, but
in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5)
The other instance is recorded in
Acts 10 and 11 at the household of Cornelius when the first Gentiles were
converted. (See Acts 11:16) The baptism of the Holy Spirit was characterized by
an unlimited outpouring of power from above enabling those receiving it to speak
in different languages. Unlike spiritual gifts transmitted by the hands of the
apostles, it came directly from God with no human intermediary. In both examples
it provided God s testimony that what was being witnessed was indeed of divine
origin. However, in view of the fact that there is no other mention of it we
should not expect to receive it today.
3: "The Jerusalem
Read Acts 3:1 - 6:7
A Lame Man Healed
The events of Pentecost made a
profound impact on Jerusalem. The occurrences of the following days focused the
attention of all upon the message of Jesus. Shortly after the baptism of the
3000 an event took place at the temple gate, Beautiful, which filled the city
with amazement. At the ninth hour of the day, about 3:00 p.m. our time, Peter
and John responded to the cry of a lame man begging alms. Peter said,
Silver or gold I do not have, but
what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. (Acts
The beggar arose, and began walking
and leaping in the temple area, astounding those who knew of his previous
Soon a crowd assembled in Solomon's
Portico, and Peter seized the occasion to present his second great gospel
sermon. He attributed the healing of the lame man to his faith in Christ, the
Jesus whom they had killed. Calling Jesus the prophet of whom Moses had spoken,
he directed them to
Repent, then, and turn to God, so
that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from
the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
He further told them that God had
sent Jesus to turn them from their wickedness and had raised Him from the dead.
Arrested for Jesus
Such a declaration did not go long
unchallenged. The doctrine of the resurrection provoked the Sadducees, the
ruling party, who denied that there is life after death. Peter and John were
arrested and brought the next day before the Jewish Council. When asked by what
power they had healed the lame man, Peter responded that it was through the
resurrected Jesus Christ of Nazareth through whose name men are saved.
The men before the Council were
obviously uneducated, yet just as obviously through them a miracle had been
performed. The Council sent them out so they might decide on a course of action.
When they returned they charged them to speak no more of Jesus. Peter and John
Judge for yourselves whether it is
right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking
about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:19, 20)
The apostles always taught
obedience to the laws of the land, but just as consistently declared that the
law of God must take precedence over the laws of man. And with this declaration
the die was cast in what was to be a continuing confrontation between the
ambassadors of Jesus and the Jewish authorities who, fearing for their position,
were determined to stop the growth of the religion of Jesus. The apostles were
released and returned to the company of their brethren where they offered a
prayer to the Lord.
The official opposition may be
partially understood when the success of the apostles is considered. After 3000
had been baptized on Pentecost, the number soon grew to 5000 men. (Acts 4:4) A
little later we are informed that more and more men and women believed in the
Lord and were added to their number. (Acts 5:14) It was not long before the
ruling class was itself
affected and we read,
So the word of God spread. The
number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of
became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
The "establishment" was unwilling
to lose its authority without a contest and the ensuing persecution eventually
drove the Christians from the city.
Ananias and Sapphira
The sudden conversion of so many
was not without problems. Some were in need, and it became a test of the
practicality of the new religion as to whether it could cope with the poverty.
Many voluntarily sold their possessions and brought the proceeds to the apostles
so that distribution could be made according to need. How this demonstration of
compassion and love must have affected the city! Christianity is a practical
religion, and while we do not have another example of the early disciples
meeting a problem in this way, the apostolic church always sought to translate
its theory into practice.
We should not, however, think that
the church was perfect. We become Christians, not because we are perfect, but
because we are imperfect. Among the first converts were a husband and wife,
Ananias and Sapphira. Sensing that others of means were selling their
possessions for the benefit of all, they sold a piece of land and brought part
of the proceeds to the apostles,
pretending that they were bringing all. When Ananias arrived Peter said,
Ananias, how is it that Satan has
so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for
some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it
was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the
money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not
lied to men but to God. (Acts 5:3, 4)
Ananias was immediately stricken
dead. The young men who were present took him out and buried him.
Three hours later Sapphira came,
ignorant of what had occurred. When Peter asked if she had in fact sold the land
for the amount that had been turned in, she also lied and affirmed that this was
the case. She too dropped dead and was buried beside Ananias. The episode caused
great fear to come upon the church and others who heard of the matter.
Note that these people were not
required to sell their land, or even to give it all to the church once they did.
Their problem was covetousness, and this in turn caused them to lie to God. The
record does not say that Ananias even spoke a lie. But he did pretend one. When
we attempt to deceive, even by action, we lie and stand condemned before God.
The Bible tells us that all liars will have their lot in the fiery lake of
burning sulfur. (Revelations 21:8)
The apostles continued to heal the
sick brought to them from towns around Jerusalem. The high priest and his
associates could take it no longer, and they arrested them and put them in
prison. That night the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and sent them
out to speak the words of life. At daybreak, when authorities sent to the prison
for them, they were preaching the word of God at the temple. Again they brought
them in , rebuking them for seeking to bring on them the blood of the crucified
Jesus. But the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men! (Acts 5:29)
Taking the advice of a wise teacher of the law, Gamaliel, the Council released
the apostles after beating them rather than make them martyrs to a cause. And
the apostles continued to preach God's word wherever they had opportunity.
The Seven Chosen
The early converts in Jerusalem
included a number of Grecian Jews who were not native to Judea. They came to
feel that in the daily distribution of food their widows were being neglected. A
spirit of dissension soon became apparent. To solve the matter the twelve asked
the church to select seven men of good repute whom they might assign to the
daily distribution in order that they, the apostles, might more fully devote
themselves to spiritual matters. The seven chosen all had Greek names and
apparently came from the very party which had murmured. This was a wonderful
expression of generosity, love, and confidence on the part of the other
Although the term deacon is not
directly applied to these men, it would appear that they were deacons in fact
since the Greek verb which is used to describe their function has the same root
as the word deacon. In apostolic times deacons were servants appointed to carry
out delegated assignments, in this case, ministration to the physical needs of
Among those appointed by the
apostles were Philip, who became a preacher of the gospel, and Stephen, the
first Christian martyr, about whom we will study in our next lesson.
Witnesses for Christ
We are witnesses of these things,
and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:32)
With these words the apostles expressed their determination before the Jewish
Council to tell the world about the risen Christ --- in spite of threats,
persecution, and imprisonment.
Jesus selected his apostles with
care, training them to testify to others of what they saw and heard. When
Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, one of his qualifications was
that he must become &a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:22) The
conviction of these men caused them to testify to all of their faith, even in
the face of death. James was killed with the sword (Acts 12:2) and there is
evidence that the rest of the twelve, except John, died as martyrs for their
The courage of these men should
inspire all Christians to tell the story of Jesus. True, we neither saw him walk
the hills of Galilee nor heard him preach upon the mount, but through the
evidence of God's word we may declare with Paul, & Yet I am not ashamed, because
I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I
to him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12) The apostles have shown us the way by
dying for Jesus. Surely we may live for Him and witness by life and word our
Savior. In the words of the hymn, "If the name of the Savior is precious to you.
. . O, will you not tell it today?"
4: "The Spreading Word"
Read Acts 6:8 - 8:40
The First Martyr
Among the seven chosen to minister
to the widows in the Jerusalem church was Stephen, described as a man full of
faith and of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 6:5) How appropriate a description soon
became apparent. The conversion of so many stirred up the city. Stephen, we are
told, "did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." Soon he was
publicly disputing with
some of the Jews, who, unable to withstand the force of his words, leveled the
charge of blasphemy against him. Under the law of Moses this was punishable by
death. Stephen was seized and brought before the Council. The false witnesses
This fellow never stops speaking
against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this
Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed
down to us. (Acts 6:13, 14)
How would Stephen reply to these
accusations? When asked by the high priest, "Is this so?" Stephen's face shown
as the face of an angel. Rather than protest his innocence as most of us would
have done, Stephen chose to recount the history of the chosen people. Beginning
with Abraham, he related the story so cherished by every Jew--Isaac, Jacob, his
Moses, and the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. He told the story of
the golden calf, of Joshua, David, and Solomon, who built the temple of God.
Then Stephen abruptly changed his tack. After pointing out that the Most High
does not live in houses made by men," he declared,
"You stiff-necked people, with
uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always
resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?
They even killed those who
predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and
murdered him--you who have
received the law that was put into effect through angelsbut have not obeyed it.
(Acts 7:48, 51-53)
This was more than the Jewish
leaders could take. To preach against their traditions was one thing, but to
accuse them of killing the prophets and murdering Jesus was another. They were
enraged. Stephen continued as he gazed into heaven, Look, I see heaven open and
the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:56) Hearing this, they
cried out against
him, stopped their ears, and dragged him out of the city to stone him. They laid
their garments at the feet of a young zealot named Saul who by his actions
approved of his death. We know him better as the great Apostle Paul. The
character and faith of Stephen became apparent when, under the onslaught of
stones he kneeled down and cried out, Lord, do not hold this
sin against them. (Acts 7:60) How truly Stephen had learned the lesson of
forgiveness from his Lord who on Calvary had prayed for His murderers, Father,
forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34) Surely if
Jesus and Stephen could pray for those who killed them, we ought to learn how to
forgive those who wrong us.
The Samaritans Converted
Stephen's death touched off a great
persecution. Except for the apostles, the disciples were dispersed throughout
Judea and Samaria. The homes of Christians were broken into and the followers of
Jesus were dragged to prison. Saul appears to have been the leader of this
It appears that it was God's will
that the Christians were scattered, because each of them went forth preaching
the word. For them Christ had the words of life. They wanted others to know
about Him. And they were not afraid to personally testify of the meaning of
Jesus in their lives.
Among those scattered was Philip,
another one of the seven Jerusalem deacons. He is later called the evangelist
(Acts 21:8) which literally means a preacher of the gospel. And proclaim the
good news of Jesus is what Philip did when he entered the city of Samaria. He
reinforced his message by miracles of healing which he performed, causing much
joy in the city. Luke tells of the results when he relates, But when they
believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name
of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12) Notice the
order--Christ was preached, the people believed, they were baptized. We will
find in other examples in Acts that this was always the order of conversion.
Among the converts was Simon, the
magician. Unlike modern slight of hand artists who will tell you that the hand
is quicker then the eye, Simon pretended to have the power of God. But the
message of Philip was so powerful that even Simon believed and was baptized,
forsaking his deceptive way of life.
The apostles heard what had
happened in Samaria and sent Peter and John to strengthen the new converts. The
Samaritans had observed the spiritual gifts possessed by Philip when he healed
the sick. He apparently could not transmit this power to others because he did
not do so. However, Peter and John, being apostles, did have the power to confer
these spiritual gifts on
others so that they too could perform miracles. The record says, Then Peter and
John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:17)
We might add that we have no record of others than theapostles being able to
give these special gifts. This being the case, since the apostles are no longer
with us, we are not to look for spiritual gifts today.
When Simon saw what Peter and John
could do, his covetous nature got the best of him. He saw how much he could make
if he had this power to give others the ability to perform miracles. Give me
also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy
Spirit, he asked. (Acts 8:19) Peter's retort was immediate.
May your money perish with you,
because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!
&Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for
having such a thought
in your heart. (Acts 8:20-22)
Simon, realizing his spiritual
condition, implored the apostles to pray for him.
Note that when Simon first heard
the gospel he was baptized to have his sins removed. Now, however, as a sinful
child of God, he is instructed, not to be baptized again, but to repent
and pray for forgiveness. The Christian who sins does not need to be baptized
again, regardless of how far he as sunk into sin. Rather he must repent of his
sins and through his advocate
Jesus, may implore forgiveness of the Father.
An Ethiopian Is Baptized
Peter and John preached in many
Samaritan villages. An angel of the Lord, however, had another mission for
Philip. He was instructed, Go south to the road-- the desert road-- that goes
down from Jerusalem to Gaza. (Acts 8:26) When he reached the desert area between
the two cities Philip saw a man riding in a chariot. He was a eunuch from
Ethiopia, in charge of the
treasury of Queen Candace. He had come about 1500 miles to worship God in
Jerusalem and was on his way back home. He was either a Jew or a convert to
Judaism. He was reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the grandest description of
the Messiah in the Old Testament. But he didn't understand what he was reading
and when Philip inquired if he did, he invited the preacher into the chariot. As
they rode along Philip, beginning from this scripture, preached Jesus to the
nobleman. We can imagine how he must have told him how Jesus fulfilled the
prophecies of Isaiah, how he came to this earth as God's son, how he taught all
about the will of God, how he was arrested and crucified for the sins of man,
and how he rose the third day, conquering death. But it is also apparent that in
preaching Jesus Philipmust have told him that to get into Christ one must be
baptized, for when
they came to some water the Ethiopian asked, Look, here is water. Why shouldn't
I be baptized? (Acts 8:36)
There was nothing to prevent his
obeying Christ. They stopped the chariot.
Then both Philip and the eunuch
went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up
out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the
eunuch did not see him again,
but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:38, 39)
Notice that when the man decided to
accept Christ there was no delay. He became a Christian then. In conversions
recorded in Acts this was always true. And today, when one determines to obey
his Lord, he should not delay, but accept Him immediately.
Baptism is Immersion
The Ethiopian's baptism focuses our
attention on how he was baptized. Since sprinkling, pouring, and immersion are
all regarded as baptism today, we should consider how people were baptized in
apostolic times. Consider:
1. The Ethiopian was immersed. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into
the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water (Acts
2. Jesus was immersed. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the
water. (Matthew 3:16) As Jesus was coming up out of the water... (Mark 1:10)
3. Baptism is a burial. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into
death... (Romans 6:4) having been buried with him in baptism... (Colossians
4. Baptism means immersion. The New Testament was written in Greek.Thayer's
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines the word from which baptism
is translated as follows: "baptism, a word
peculiar to New Testament and ecclesiastical writers, immersion, submersion."
5: "To the Gentiles"
Read Acts Chapters 9 - 11
A Persecutor Accepts
When a man of deep convictions
suddenly changes his life, we must look for something dramatic that has caused
the transformation. Seldom has there been such a profound conversion as that
which changed Saul the persecutor to Paul the proclaimer.
Saul of Tarsus, student of the
great Gamaliel, was a zealous Pharisee who had guarded the garments of those who
stoned Stephen. Convinced that it was his mission to exterminate the new
religion of Christ, he received authority from the high priest to go to Damascus
to arrest any Christians he might find and to bring them bound to Jerusalem.
A few miles from Damascus Saul was
suddenly stricken blind at the flashing of a bright heavenly light. Saul, Saul,
why do you persecute me? a voice called. Who are you, Lord? Saul responded,
uncertain as to what was happening. The voice continued, I am Jesus, whom you
are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you
must do. (Acts 9:4-6) Seeing that Saul was blinded, his companions led him
by the hand into Damascus where he found lodging in the home of Judas on
For three days he prayed and
fasted. He knew he had been wrong, but what should he do? Finally, a disciple of
Jesus named Ananias (not to be confused with the husband of Sapphira) arrived to
answer the question. Listen to Paul as years later he recounts the instruction
He stood beside me and said,
Brother Saul, receive your sight! & The God of our fathers has chosen you to
know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You
will be his witness to all men of
what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be
baptized and wash your sins away,
calling on his name. (Acts 22:13-16)
Saul obeyed and was baptized to
have his sins forgiven, setting his course to preach the faith that he once
tried to destroy. (Galatians 1:23)
Saul was not converted when he was
struck down on the Damascus road as some think. Jesus did not tell him that he
was saved or that his sins were forgiven. Rather He told him to go into Damascus
where he would be told what he must do. His penitent heart is shown by his
prayer while blinded, but his actual conversion occurred when in response to the
Ananias he was baptized to wash your sins away. (Acts 9:18, 22:16)
The citizens of Damascus were soon
amazed to learn that the former persecutor of Christians was now proclaiming
that Jesus is the Son of God. Doubtless some were favorably affected by the
transformation of this persecuting zealot, but others, seeing only a turncoat
who was a threat to their religion, plotted to kill him. Learning of this, the
disciples helped him escape by lowering him in a basket over the city walls.
Back in Jerusalem, Barnabas, later his traveling companion, brought him to
the apostles, telling the story of his conversion and allaying their fears.
The First Gentile
The message of Christ was
spreading. Peter visited the saints in Lydda in Judea and healed a paralyzed man
named Aeneas. Not far away was the seacoast town of Joppa. When a disciple in
that city named Tabitha died, the Christians sent for Peter, who, by the power
of God, raised her from the dead, causing the name of Christ to be glorified
throughout the region.
Thirty miles to the north was
Caesarea. Here there was stationed a devout Roman centurion named Cornelius, a
man over 100 soldiers. He was destined to become the first Gentile convert.
Until this time the gospel was preached only to Jews, although in His Great
Commission Jesus had instructed His disciples to go into all the world and
preach the gospel to every creature. It is apparent that even the apostles
failed to realize the full significance of the commission. Most Jews were
prejudiced against Gentiles or non-Jews. Since under the law of Moses the Jews
were God's chosen people, it is not surprising that the apostles did not
realized that Christ's message was universal. It took something extraordinary to
One afternoon, while Peter was
still at Joppa, Cornelius while praying saw in a vision an angel of God who said
Your prayers and gifts to the poor
have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa
to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon
the tanner, whose house is by
the sea. (Acts 10:4-6)
Immediately Cornelius sent a devout
soldier and two servants to carry out the mission.
The next day about noon Peter was
praying on the housetop. (Their houses had flat roofs.) In a vision he saw a
sheet let down by four corners to the earth.
It contained all kinds of
four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then
told him, Get up, Peter. Kill and eat. (Acts 10:12, 13)
Now as a Jew raised under the law
of Moses, Peter had always believed it wrong to eat certain kinds of meat,
including those he saw in the sheet. We should not be surprised at his reaction.
Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean, Peter
responded. But the voice continued, Do not call anything impure that God has
made clean. (Acts10:14,15) This was repeated three times, greatly perplexing
Peter. Did this message relate only to eating meat? Or was there a deeper
Peter soon learned. At that moment
the three men arrived to ask Peter to go with them. The Spirit of God instructed
him to go that Cornelius too might learn about Jesus. Now Peter understood the
statement, Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.
When the party, including
Christians from Joppa, arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius, his relatives, and
friends were waiting. Peter related how God had told him he must not call anyone
common or unclean. Cornelius, in turn, told how he had seen a vision and had
been told to send for Peter to hear all that you have been commanded by the
Peter began his message,
I now realize how true it is that
God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who
fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34, 35)
He told about Jesus---His life, His
good deeds, His death, and His resurrection. And then he said, All the prophets
testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins
through his name. (Acts 10:43)
While he spoke there was a sudden
outpouring of power upon Cornelius and those with him. It was the baptism of the
Holy Spirit which had occurred on Pentecost and which, as at that time, enabled
them to speak in tongues and extol God. If Peter still doubted that God wanted
Gentiles to be Christians, he was now sure. Peter said, Can any keep these
being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.
(Acts 10:47) And Cornelius became the first Gentile convert. As was true when
the first Jews accepted Christ, these believers became children of God by
putting on Christ in baptism.
Peter Defends His
When Peter arrived in Jerusalem he
was asked by what right he had baptized Gentiles. He recounted his vision, the
visit of the men from Cornelius, and the happenings at his home. He stated that
he had no right to refuse those who had received the same gift they had some
years before in Jerusalem. This convinced his critics and they said, So then,
God has granted even the
Gentiles repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18)
The message of this story is clear.
There is but one gospel for all men. And since God is not partial, neither dare
we be. In Christ we cannot discriminate against others because we differ from
them in race or culture without incurring our Savior's displeasure.
Prejudices, however, are hard to
overcome. Most Jewish Christians scattered as a result of persecution preached
only to Jews. But there were some who courageously preached to the Greeks in
Antioch. Great numbers in that city turned to the Lord. The Jerusalem church
sent Barnabas to encourage them, and he in turn brought Saul from Tarsus to help
him. We are told,
So for a whole year Barnabas and
Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were
called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
How appropriate that Jesus'
disciples should wear His name! This is the name that came to be applied
to all followers of the Great Teacher. And we may add, it is the name that
should be worn by all His disciples today---to
the exclusion of all names of human origin designed to glorify men!
The early Christians cared for one
another. When Agabus, a prophet, foretold a coming famine, the disciples in
Antioch each personally contributed to the needs of the brethren in Judea,
sending their contributions to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Is Morality Enough?
Many believe that to be morally
good is all that is required to go to heaven. This is indeed essential to
salvation. But is it enough? Consider Cornelius. Where could you find a better
example of moral excellence than in this Roman soldier? In Acts 10:2 we are told
that he was
1. A religious man (devout).
2. A God fearing man (feared God with all his family).
3. A charitable man (gave alms liberally to the people).
4. A praying man (prayed to God regularly).
But he was lost! The angel of God
told him that Peter would bring you a message through which you and all your
household will be saved. (Acts 11:14) If living a good moral life was enough to
go to heaven, Cornelius would have made it. But the Bible teaches that There is
no one righteous, not even one & for all have sinned and fall short of the glory
of God. (Rom. 3:10, 23) Even though one's life may be comparatively good,
his moral efforts cannot atone for his impurity. Only through one's acceptance
of the sacrifice of Christ can one reach the eternal home.
6: "Paul s First
Read Acts 12:1 - 15:35
The growth of the church brought it
into conflict with both the Jewish populace and the Roman authorities. King
Herod, grandson of Herod the Great who had slain the children around Bethlehem
at the time of the birth of Jesus, arrested the Apostle James, brother of John.
He killed him with the sword, probably beheading him. James was the first
apostle to die, and the only one whose death is recorded in the New Testament.
When Herod saw that his action was
politically popular, he also arrested Peter, probably intending to kill
him as well. Four squads of soldiers, a total of sixteen men, were assigned to
guard him on shifts. While awaiting the Passover when Herod planned to bring him
before the people, he was chained between two soldiers while two others stood
guard. Just before he
was to be brought out, an angel appeared at night and told Peter to leave the
prison. His chains fell from him and he walked unseen past the guards and
through the iron gate of the city which opened of its own accord. Coming to the
house of Mary, mother of John Mark, he found a prayer meeting on his behalf in
progress. When the maid told the disciples that he was at the door they did not
believe it until they saw him. After greeting them, Peter left to go into hiding
until the crisis was over.
When Herod learned what had
occurred he was so infuriated that he executed the guards. But King Herod
himself did not have long to live. Soon afterwards he went to Caesarea and while
there made an oration from his throne. When the people heard it they shouted,
This is the voice of a god, not of a man! Rather than reject the undeserved
flattery, he accepted it and for this reason was immediately smitten by God. The
Jewish historian Josephus also tells us that he was stricken with a stomach
disorder from which he suffered greatly before dying five days later. It is
interesting to note how the biblical account agrees with this secular writer of
the first century.
Paul and Barnabas Sent
Antioch of Syria was rapidly
becoming a focal point for preaching the gospel. The church had some outstanding
leaders, including Barnabas and Saul, who hereafter in the biblical narrative is
known as Paul. At the urging of the Holy Spirit, the brethren decided to send
Paul and Barnabas forth on a missionary journey which they did after a season of
Accompanying Paul and Barnabas as
they sailed from Seleucia, the seaport for Antioch, was John Mark, cousin of
Barnabas. They sailed westward to the island of Cyprus where at Salamis they
proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They crossed the island to
Paphos and there encountered a false prophet, a magician, named Bar-Jesus. A
followed in the presence of Sergius Paulus, the ruling proconsul, and in it
Bar-Jesus was stricken blind, causing the proconsul to believe in Christ.
From Paphos they sailed to Asia
Minor, the present day country of Turkey. At the seaport of Perga in Pamphylia
John Mark left them to go back to Jerusalem, apparently afraid of the trials
that lay ahead. His departing in the middle of the journey was later to be a
point of contention between Paul and Barnabas.
Leaving Perga the two men traveled
northward to Pisidian Antioch, not to be confused with the city of the same name
in Syria. On the Sabbath they went into the Jewish synagogue where they would
have an opportunity to tell those of their nationality of their faith in the
Christ. After the reading of the law and the prophets, they were invited to
speak and Paul used the occasion
to tell them about Jesus. He briefly related the history of Israel to the time
of David from whom, he stated, Jesus had descended. He told how He had come to
be the Savior of man, but that the Jews had crucified Him. And then he told them
of the resurrection of his Lord and how He had been seen on various occasions by
those who knew Him best. He continued,
Therefore, my brothers, I want you
to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through
him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be
justified from by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38, 39)
This good news produced great hope
among many of the Jews so that almost the entire city was assembled to hear the
word of God the next Sabbath. However the popular response to the message was so
great that the Jews became jealous, and Paul and Barnabas turned their efforts
toward the Gentiles. It was Paul's custom always to go to his fellow Jews first,
when they rejected the message, he went to the Gentiles.
The response among the non-Jews was
gratifying and a congregation was established. But Jewish opposition became so
intense that they found it wise to travel eastward to Iconium. Here again in the
synagogue they proclaimed the word. The city was soon divided over their
message, but before opposition caused them to leave they had founded another
Next on their itinerary was Lystra.
Here Paul healed a man crippled from birth. The crowds were so astonished that
they cried out, The gods have come down to us in human form! (Acts 14:11) They
sought to worship Barnabas, whom they called Zeus (or Jupiter), and Paul, whom
they thought was Hermes (or Mercury). The two tore their garments in an effort
to dissuade them from offering sacrifice to them. But men are fickle, and when
the Jewish enemies of Paul and Barnabas arrived from Antioch and Iconium, they
stoned Paul, leaving him for dead. Fortunately he was not, and having again
succeeded in planting a congregation, the two men went on to Derbe. Here too
they preached the word, converted many, and established a church.
They then retraced their steps through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, and
appointed elders to shepherd the flock in each congregation. (Acts 14:23)
From Antioch of Pisidia the two
went south to Perga where they preached the gospel before sailing for Antioch of
Syria. Here they remained for some time, possibly two years, laboring with the
disciples in that city.
The Jerusalem Conference
The conversion of the Gentiles
provoked the first major doctrinal crisis in the body of Christ. The church in
Antioch of Syria had a number of Gentiles in its membership. Some came from
Jerusalem teaching these brethren, Unless you are circumcised, according to the
custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved. (Acts 15:1) Paul and Barnabas took
strong issue with them
because the very nature of the Christian faith was at stake. Was it necessary,
as the Jewish teachers affirmed, for one to become a Jew before he could become
a Christian? Would this not make Christianity a "lean-to" attached to the
structure of Judaism? Paul and Barnabas thought so.
Accordingly the Antioch church sent
Paul, Barnabas, and some others to Jerusalem to lay the matter before the
apostles and elders. They were warmly welcomed as they declared what God had
accomplished through them. But there were dissenters who charged that it was
necessary in teaching Gentiles to circumcise them and make them keep the law.
The apostles and elders met to
consider the matter. Peter, recalling his experience when Cornelius was
converted, expressed his conviction that it was wrong to make the Gentiles wear
the yoke of the law of Moses. James, the brother of Jesus and an elder of the
church, agreed, adding that the Gentile converts should be admonished to abstain
from the pollution of idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood. The
restrictions relating to eating things strangled and blood are the only dietary
restrictions in The New Testament.
The judgement of Peter and James
was endorsed by the church, and a letter expressing the thoughts was sent to
Antioch by Paul and Barnabas, and two brethren from Jerusalem, Barsabbas and
Silas. Silas was later a traveling companion of Paul. The letter was received
with joy in Antioch, for now the Gentiles knew they were free in Christ -- free
from sin and free from the heavy obligations of the law of Moses. This did not
end the problem, however. The book of Galatians, possibly addressed to the same
churches Paul established on his first missionary journey, indicates that these
teachers did considerable damage with their teaching. Paul wrote Galatians to
counteract these efforts.
The Function of Elders
When Paul and Barnabas returned to
the churches they had earlier established, they & appointed elders for them in
every church. (Acts 14:23) They were called elders because they were spiritually
more mature, but they were also known as bishops or overseers. (1 Timothy 3:1)
As pastors (Ephesians 4:11) they were the shepherds who by example (1 Peter 5:3)
and teaching (Titus 1:9) were able to guide the disciples in their spiritual
development. Paul admonished the elders at Ephesus, Keep watch over yourselves
and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds
of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
There is no biblical evidence of
any higher human authority in the local church than that of its elders. Neither
was there a hierarchy outside the congregation to direct its affairs. Although
the New Testament uses "elder" and "bishop" interchangeably, we find that in the
second century it became the practice to designate one of the elders as "the
bishop." From this deviation from the apostolic norm it was not long before the
spiritual affairs of the congregation were under the control of a single bishop.
In succeeding centuries a single bishop ruled all of the congregations in a
single province. Eventually one man was designated as head of the universal
church. It was thus by many short steps rather than one long one that the divine
apostolic pattern of church government was changed.
"Paul s Second Tour"
Read Acts 15:36 - 18:22
New Churches Revisited
After Paul and Barnabas returned to
Antioch from the Jerusalem conference regarding circumcision, they remained for
a time working with the congregation. But they were concerned about the welfare
of the young churches they had planted on their missionary journey five or six
years earlier. Paul proposed to Barnabas that they revisit them. When Barnabas
suggested taking his cousin John Mark along, Paul demurred because Mark had
turned back on the earlier trip. Because they could not agree, they decided to
go separately. Barnabas, taking Mark with him, went to Cyprus where he and Paul
had earlier preached. The book of Acts says nothing further regarding his
efforts. Paul chose Silas, a prophet from Jerusalem (Acts 15:22, 32) as his
traveling companion. Mark later became a co-worker with Paul whom he describes
as helpful to me in my ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11) Although Paul and Barnabas
differed in judgement, we have no evidence that this remained a personal
Paul and Silas headed overland for
the churches in Asia Minor planted on the first trip. Their journey took them
through Syria and Cilicia where they preached among churches Paul had earlier
established. (Galatians 1:21) From there they went to Derbe and Lystra. At
Lystra they found a young disciple named Timothy, son of a Jewish mother and
Greek father, who had
possibly been converted by Paul on his former visit. Timothy joined Paul and
Silas as they traveled westward, strengthening the churches which grew daily in
numbers. Going through Phrygia and Galatia they considered going south
into the province of Asia and north to Bithynia. But the Holy Spirit forbade
them to go in either direction. Instead, Paul saw a vision of a man
of Macedonia who implored, Come over to Macedonia and help us. (Acts 16:9)
Lydia Obeys Christ
At this point we know that Luke,
the author of Acts, joined the party, as he now speaks of we instead of they.
Heeding the divine injunction to go into Macedonia, the four men sailed for
Macedonia from Troas, landing at Neapolis and bearing with them the gospel
message which for the first time they were to preach on the continent of Europe.
They were soon in Philippi,
ten miles away. This was a Roman city surrounded by a Greek population. As there
was apparently no Jewish synagogue in the city, on a Sabbath day Paul and his
companions went to the river where they found a group of Jewish women
worshipping. Among them was Lydia, a businesswoman from Thyatira who sold
expensive purple cloth. Paul taught the women God's word, and Lydia gave heed to
what Paul taught and was baptized with her household. (Acts 16:14, 15) Her home
became headquarters for the four men as they continued for many days to preach
the gospel in the city.
A Jailer Is Baptized
In Philippi there was a slave girl
with a spirit of divination, apparently an evil spirit. By her fortune telling
she made a handsome profit for her owners. From day to day she followed Paul and
his companions crying out, These men are servants of the Most High God, who are
telling you the way to be saved. (Acts 16:17) Her testimony, although true,
suggested an alliance between the demons and the men of God. Sometimes it is
harmful to be endorsed by the wrong person. Greatly annoyed, Paul cast out the
spirit, and in so doing provoked the ire of her owners who realized they had
lost their source of revenue. They dragged
Paul and Silas into the market place before the rulers, charging them with
advocating customs which Romans could not practice. The crowd attacked them and
the magistrates beat them with rods and threw them into jail where they were
placed in stocks in the inner prison.
Imagine how you would have felt in
these circumstances! They were in a dark dungeon, suffering from a painful
beating, with their feet torturously locked in clamps so that they could not
possibly get comfortable. We would be depressed, but not Paul and Silas.
Instead, at midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners
listened and the jailer slept. Suddenly an earthquake rocked the prison. The
doors opened and the fetters fell from the prisoners. The jailer awakened, saw
the open doors, and presuming that the prisoners had escaped, drew his sword to
kill himself, acting upon the Roman code of honor which required suicide under
But Paul cried out, Don t harm
yourself! We are all here! The jailer fell down before the two men and cried
out, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They replied, Believe in the Lord
Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household. (Acts 16:30,31) They
taught him about Jesus, and the same hour of the night he washed their wounds,
and was baptized into Christ with all his family.
Note that in response to virtually
the same question on Pentecost Peter told his listeners to "Repent and be
baptized" while on this occasion Paul instructed the jailer to "Believe in the
Lord Jesus." Why the difference? Peter's audience already believed in Christ
while the jailer did not. The answer given depended upon where the sinner was in
his understanding. You will note, however, that the jailer did repent (he washed
their stripes) and was baptized. So the teaching given in both cases was the
The next day the authorities
instructed the jailer to release Paul and Silas. But Paul was not willing to let
the matter drop at that. He and Silas were Roman citizens, and it was a crime to
scourge a Roman without a trial. Were the accusers going to drop the charges as
if nothing had happened? When the magistrates learned what they had done, they
personally apologized to Paul and Silas and asked them to leave the city.
From Philippi they traveled 100
miles west to Thessalonica, while Luke remained at Philippi. For three weeks in
the Jewish synagogue Paul taught the resurrection of Christ. He converted a
large number, both Jews and Greeks, but his success provoked a riot in which a
mob attacked the home of Jason where they had been staying. Their accusers
cried, These men
who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here (Acts 17:6)
Sixty miles to the west was Berea
where Paul and Silas next taught in the synagogue. We are told that
the Bereans were of more noble
character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message
with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul
said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Preachers of the word ought always
to allow their teachings to be compared by seekers of truth with the scriptures,
and it is commendable when men will do so. Paul's enemies from Thessalonica soon
arrived to stir up the crowds, but not before he had planted another church. He
left Silas and Timothy with the infant congregation and proceeded by sea to
Athens, the seat of
learning in the ancient world.
On Mars Hill
In Athens Paul found himself among
a multitude of idols. He was soon disputing with the Jews and it was not long
before the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers took him to the Areopagus (or Mars
Hill) where men commonly expounded their views. Paul addressed himself to his
heathen listeners with unparalleled wisdom. Rather than condemn them for their
commended their religious nature, and then proceeded to tell them about the
"unknown God" whom they worshipped in ignorance. He climaxed his message by
proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. His sermon evoked indifference on the
part of many, but some believed and a church may have resulted.
Paul next went to Corinth, the
great and evil commercial city situated on the isthmus connecting the two parts
of modern Greece. Here he stayed for a year and a half, making tents with Jewish
Christians named Aquila and Priscilla. On the Sabbath he taught in the
synagogue. He was soon joined by Silas and Timothy and together they had
considerable success in preaching
Jesus. The conversion of the Corinthians is recorded in this way:
Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and
his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of
the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. (Acts 18:8)
Once more opposition came from the
Jewish community. But this time when the charges were brought before Gallio,
proconsul of the province, he threw the case out of court. Instead, Sosthenes,
who had apparently brought the charge, was beaten before the tribunal.
Having firmly established a
congregation in Corinth, Paul, with Aquila and Priscilla, sailed for Syria,
stopping briefly at Ephesus enroute. Landing at Caesarea he briefly visited the
church before returning to Antioch from which he had begun his journey
about three years before.
What It Means to Believe
Because Paul told the jailer,
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, some have concluded that
man is saved by faith alone. That this is not true is demonstrated by the only
use of this phrase in the New Testament, You see that a person is justified by
what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)
There are two kinds of faith. One
is historical faith which simply accepts as true statements of fact such as
Washington being the first president of the United States. This is the faith of
the demons of which James writes, Even the demons believe that -- and shudder.
(James 2:19) If this kind of faith could save, it would save even Satan who
recognizes the deity of Christ.
The kind of faith that saves is
trust. One who trusts Christ will do anything he asks of him. Paul speaks of the
obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5; 16:26) If we trust Jesus we will
obey Him, and if we stop short of obedience we will not be saved because we have
the wrong kind of faith. Saving faith, then, includes the whole of obedience.
When Paul told the jailer to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved, he was
including repentance and baptism. It is interesting to note that after the
jailer completed his obedience in these things that &he was filled with joy
because he had come to believe in God -- he and his whole family.
(Acts16:34) Had he not obeyed, he would neither have truly believed nor been
8: "Paul s Third
Read Acts 18:23 - 21:16
The Ephesians Converted
Paul ended his second journey where
it had begun at Antioch of Syria. He remained there briefly before beginning in
AD 54 his third missionary journey which was to last four years. He again
traveled westward through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the churches he had
previously established. Doubtless the congregations in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium,
and Antioch of Pisidia were among them.
In the meantime an event occurred
at Ephesus where Paul had briefly visited at the end of his second journey and
where he had left Priscilla and Aquila, his companions in travel. A Jewish
preacher named Apollos, a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the
scriptures, was teaching in the Jewish synagogue. He accurately taught about
Jesus, but knew only the
baptism of John the Baptist. Priscilla and Aquila found him and taught him the
way of God more accurately. He shortly left for Corinth where he was destined to
become a powerful force in teaching the Word.
Soon thereafter Paul arrived in
Ephesus, true to his earlier promise to the Jews that he would return. He found
a group of a dozen disciples who knew only the baptism of John and who had
probably been taught by Apollos. When Paul discovered that they knew nothing
about the Holy Spirit, he inquired and learned that they had been baptized by
John's baptism instead of the
baptism of Christ. When he had taught them more fully, they were baptized in the
name of the Lord Jesus, after which Paul laid his hands on them so that they
might receive certain spiritual gifts.
Why did Paul rebaptize these
Ephesians? It would appear that they had been baptized in John's baptism after
the church was established when John's baptism was no longer valid. At any rate,
Paul baptized them because their previous baptism was invalid. It is possible
for one to be biblically baptized only once, so in that sense these men were not
rebaptized as their earlier baptism did not count. If a person has not been
baptized in accordance with the Bible, his baptism is not valid and he should be
baptized in conformity with the divine plan. Several things may invalidate a
person's earlier baptism:
(1) the wrong subject (one who does
not believe such as an infant);
(2) the wrong purpose (not for the forgiveness of sins);
(3) the wrong action (not immersion).
If it was necessary for the twelve
Ephesians to be baptized again because their previous baptism was imperfect, we
ought to seriously consider whether our baptism conforms to what Christ
Paul stayed three years in Ephesus
preaching the gospel. For three months he taught in the synagogue, but when some
of the Jews spoke evil of the Way, he began teaching in the school of Tyrannus.
For two years this continued so "that all the residents of Asia heard the word
of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." Probably Paul journeyed to neighboring
cities to proclaim Christ, although this is not specifically stated. It would
also appear from Paul's writing to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:2) that
he visited Corinth during his three year stay in Ephesus. This is not mentioned
Paul worked miracles while in
Ephesus. When seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, tried casting out an evil
spirit in the name of Jesus, the man in whom the spirit was leaped on them and
overpowered them. All of Ephesus was amazed at the power of God, so much so that
a number of magicians brought together their books of sorcery worth about
burned them in a great bonfire.
Riot in Ephesus
Paul now made plans to again visit
the churches he had established in Macedonia and Achaia on his second journey,
intending afterwards to return to Jerusalem. He sent two of his helpers, Timothy
and Erastus, on ahead, while he remained in Ephesus a little longer.
About this time a riot erupted
because of Paul's preaching. In Ephesus was the great temple of Diana (or
Artemis as the word is in the original language). It was one of the seven
wonders of the ancient world, being 425 feet long and 120 feet wide with sixty
foot high white marble columns spaced four feet apart. The city's inhabitants
were worshippers of Diana and the city silversmiths did a good business in
making shrines for the goddess. But Paul's teaching turned many away from
idolatry and in so doing hit the craftsmen in the pocketbook. Led by a
silversmith named Demetrius, a protest meeting was called about Paul's teaching.
It was soon out of control, two of Paul's companions were dragged into the
theater where the meeting was being held, and for two hours the mob chanted,
Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! The crowd was finally dispersed by the town
clerk who pointed out that Paul and his companions had not broken the law, and
if the silversmiths had any charges, the courts
were open to them.
Paul soon left to visit the
Macedonian churches. After a stay there he went into Greece for three months,
probably making Corinth his headquarters. In Macedonia and Greece he
collected an offering from the churches to take with him to Jerusalem for
distribution among the poor Judean Christians. Besides alleviating the poverty
among these needy people, this was also a way in which the Gentile churches
could express their love for the Jewish Christians who received their gift, and
in this way help to break down the wall of prejudice between Jew and Gentile.
The First Day Assembly
Paul retraced his steps through
Macedonia, taking with him seven brethren to carry the contribution to
Jerusalem. In Philippi Luke joined them as they sailed across the Aegean Sea to
Asia Minor where they landed at Troas. Luke tells us, On the first day of the
week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he
intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. (Acts 20:7)
The purpose of the assembly was
worship with the observance of the Lord's supper being the primary reason for
their assembly. The context indicates that this was their customary practice
each Lord's day.
Since Paul preached until midnight,
we presume they began their worship in the evening. Did they assemble on
Saturday night (according to Jewish time) or Sunday night (according to Roman
time)? The record does not say. The important thing is that their worship was on
the first day in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, not the Jewish
Sabbath. This is unmistakable
evidence that Christians should worship on the first day of the week rather than
Paul preached so long that a young
man named Eutychus fell asleep and fell from the third floor window in the hall
where they were worshipping. He was dead when he was taken up, but Paul embraced
him and restored his life. Themeeting continued until daybreak when the party
left to resume its trip to Jerusalem.
Paul Charges the Elders
The ship laid over briefly in
Miletus, the seaport for Ephesus, thirty miles away. Paul sent for the Ephesian
elders so that he might charge them regarding their spiritual responsibilities
as overseers of the flock. He recounted his trials and tears while among them,
and instructed them to
Be shepherds of the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
He then warned them not to allow
the church to be torn apart by false teachers who would come among them.
From Miletus they sailed to Patara
on the south coast of Asia Minor where they changed to a ship destined for Tyre,
one hundred miles north of Jerusalem. After a week with the Christians there,
they resumed their voyage, stopping for a day with the church at Ptolemais
before reaching Caesarea where they stayed with Philip, the evangelist, who
years before had converted the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch.
The prophet Agabus came from Judea,
and binding his hands and feet with Paul's girdle said,
The Holy Spirit says, In this way
the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt
and will hand him over to the Gentiles. (Acts 21:11)
The Christians in Caesarea and
Paul's companions begged him not to continue to Jerusalem. But Paul
Why are you weeping and breaking my
heart? I am ready not only to be bound but also to die
in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 21:13)
When they saw that they could not
deter him they said, The Lord s will be done. So Paul left for Jerusalem,
knowing that there he would be arrested for the name which he cherished.
About that time there arose a great
disturbance about the Way. (Acts 19:23) No less than six times in Acts is the
church called THE WAY. Jesus taught the disciples, I am the way (John 14:6)
Therefore the early Christians conceived of Christianity as THE WAY of living;
of the church as THE WAY of fellowship; and of the teachings of Jesus as THE
ONLY WAY to eternal life.
The Lord's Supper
The expression break bread as used
in Acts 20:7 is found several times in the scriptures. Sometimes it refers to
the eating of a common meal, but on other occasions it undoubtedly applies to
what Paul calls the Lord's supper (1 Corinthians 11:20) or the participation in
the blood and body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). It is used in this sense in
Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians
10:16, and 1 Corinthians 11:24. The meeting in Troas was obviously a religious
gathering and the breaking of bread must have been their observance of the
The supper was instituted by Jesus
on the night of his betrayal (Matt. 26:26 - 29) as a memorial to His death and
suffering. In giving them bread as a symbol of his body and fruit of the vine
(grape) as a representation of his blood, he commanded the disciples, &do this
in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:24) As the Christian partakes of it he
should focus his mind
on his crucified Lord, remembering how he made the supreme sacrifice for us.
Every indication is that in the
apostolic church the communion was observed every first day of the week. The
meeting in Troas so implies. Justin Martyr, writing about fifty years after the
death of John, describes the worship of the church and tells us how the Lord's
supper was observed every Sunday. If we seek to reproduce the apostolic worship,
we must "break
bread" every Lord's day.
Read Acts 21:17 - 24:27
Attacked by a Mob
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem at
the end of his third missionary journey, he was warmly received by the church as
he related the wonderful work among the Gentiles. Furthermore, he was bearing a
gift from those Christians to the disciples in Judea that their material needs
might be alleviated.
There was, however, a problem.
There was a report that Paul was teaching Jewish Christians to forsake Moses and
Jewish customs. While the Jerusalem elders were aware that the law of Moses
should not be bound upon the Gentiles, they were concerned that Paul's visit
would stir up the Judaizing element in the church which did not yet understand
that the law of Moses has been removed by the cross of Christ. They, therefore,
persuaded Paul to pay the expenses of four men then taking the vow as prescribed
by the law of Moses. They reasoned that in this way Paul would demonstrate that
he was not trying to destroy the Jewish institutions and customs.
Perhaps the best explanation of
Paul's agreeing to this procedure is found in his statement to the Corinthians,
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to
win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I
myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. (1
Before the week was over some Jews
from Asia who knew Paul stirred up the crowd by accusing him of teaching men to
break the law and of taking Trophimus, a Gentile, into the temple. The charges
were untrue, but the mob dragged Paul from the temple, trying to kill him. He
was rescued by Claudius Lysias, the Roman tribune who was over 1000 soldiers.
him if he might speak to the people. The tribune was surprised that he spoke
Greek because he had presumed him to be an Egyptian who had led an insurrection
of 4000 men. When Paul stated that he was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, he was
given permission to address the crowd.
In his defense Paul related his
former life as a strict adherent to the law of Moses. He told of his conversion,
and how he had been baptized into Christ to wash away his sins. He showed how
Jesus had sent him forth to bear the gospel to the Gentiles. When he mentioned
Gentiles the mob would no longer keep quiet. The tribune ordered him taken into
the barracks and
scourged in order to extract a confession of crime from him. But when Paul
called attention to his Roman citizenship, the tribune relented for it was a
serious matter to beat an unconvicted Roman citizen. He, therefore, unbound him
and ordered that he be taken before the Jewish council for examination.
Before the Council
Paul began his defense, My
brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.
(Acts 23:1) This is a remarkable statement for anyone to make, but everything in
Paul's life points toward his always having lived according to what he thought
was right. It also demonstrates that the conscience is not always a safe guide
since this was the same man
who had previously persecuted Christians to their death. The conscience must be
correctly educated and this can come only from study of the word of God.
Paul's declaration provoked the
high priest, Ananias, to order him struck on the mouth. This was in defiance of
the law which he was supposed to be upholding, and caused a verbal exchange
between the high priest and Paul.
As Paul viewed the Sanhedrin before
which he stood, he realized that it was divided between Pharisees and Sadducees.
The former believed in the resurrection, angels, and spirits, while the latter
denied all of these. Before his conversion Paul had been a Pharisee, and with
respect to his views on these matters he still was. Sensing the division in his
accusers, he declared his views on the resurrection, and stated that it was for
his convictions on this subject that he was on trial. While it was true that
other matters were immediately responsible for his arrest, yet his repeated
declaration relating to the resurrection of Jesus was one of the most basic
reasons for which his enemies attacked him.
Paul had assessed the council
correctly. The Pharisees sided with Paul because of his views on the
resurrection and favored dropping the charges. A riot ensued, and the tribune,
fearing for Paul's safety, ordered him forcibly removed from the assembly by the
Paul's Life Is
The next night the Lord appeared to
Paul telling him to be courageous because he would witness for Christ in Rome.
Eventually Paul was allowed to testify of his faith before the emperor.
The uproar before the Sanhedrin was
not designed to cool things off. A band of more than forty Jews conspired to
kill Paul, vowing that they would not eat until they had fulfilled their
objective. Paul's nephew heard about the plot in which they planned to waylay
Paul as he was being brought before the council. He informed Paul of the
conspiracy, and the apostle instructed the
young man to tell his story to the tribune. When the tribune learned of the
scheme he moved Paul to Caesarea in the dead of night with two hundred spearmen
to protect him. He sent along a letter to Felix the governor into whose custody
he was delivering him. The letter was factually accurate except that he claimed
he had originally rescued Paul from the mob because
he was a Roman citizen when in fact he had learned about it later. But on the
whole the actions and attitudes of Claudius Lysias were commendable. Without his
concern for the enforcement of the law Paul might have been killed.
Felix the Governor
The man whom Paul now faced was
Felix, governor of Judea for six years. He was acquainted with the Christian
faith and had done much to pacify the countryside which had been beset by
robbers and assassins. But Felix was also a very evil man. A former slave, he
had been elevated from that position to governor. In his personal life he was
little better than a beast. The Roman historian Tacitus said of him that with
every kind of cruelty and lust, he exercised the authority of a king with the
temper of a slave. He had even stolen Drusilla, wife of the king of Emesa and
daughter of the Herod who had murdered the apostle James, and married her.
The Jews hired a Roman lawyer,
Tertullus, to present to Felix their case against Paul. After commending the
governor for service to the nation, he charged Paul with being an agitator of
the Jews, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, and of trying to profane
Paul responded by saying that he
was not guilty of trying to stir up an insurrection since it was then only
twelve days since he went to Jerusalem and some of those he had spent in jail.
The charge of being a ringleader of the Nazarenes (as Christians were derisively
called because Jesus had come from Nazareth) was unsupported without the
testimony of the Jews from Asia
who had made the accusation. As for profaning the temple he noted that the
Jewish leaders who had examined him on the matter were not present to testify of
any wrongdoing on his part. Then he focused the attention of all on what he
considered to be the real issue -- his teaching relative to the resurrection of
Felix deferred judgment until the
tribune, Claudius Lysias, should arrive to testify in the matter. In the
meantime he kept Paul in detention while allowing him considerable liberty.
Sometime later Felix, in the company of Drusilla, again called Paul before him.
This was Paul's prime opportunity to plead for his release. Instead he reasoned
with Felix regarding justice, self-control, and future judgement. To a man for
whom justice meant little and who had abandoned self-control in a profligate
life, mention of future judgement could only cause great alarm. The governor was
terrified, but instead of repenting he postponed the matter saying,
That's enough for now! You may
leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you. (Acts 24:25)
The character of Felix becomes
evident when we learn that he kept Paul in prison because he hoped for a bribe.
But the bribe was not offered and for two years the apostle to the Gentiles
remained in prison in Caesarea until Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.
Summing Up the
In our study of Acts we have found
nine accounts of how sinners came to Christ. By carefully studying them we can
determine how we too can become Christians.
Should you wish to restudy these
examples they are the 3000 on Pentecost (Acts 2), the Samaritans (Acts 8), the
Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Saul (Acts 9, 22, 26), Cornelius (Acts 10, 11), Lydia
(Acts 16), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16), the Corinthians (Acts 18), and the
Ephesians (Acts 19).
Note that in each case the word of
God was first preached. Men were told of the divine love and grace by which
Christ was sent to earth to live and die for us. They were told how Jesus shed
His blood on the cross to secure forgiveness and how God raised Him triumphantly
from the dead.
But these accounts also inform us
how these people accepted this freely offered grace. Although Christ died for
all, our salvation is conditioned upon our acceptance of the gift of God. And
what is this acceptance? In all nine examples it is stated or implied that those
accepting Jesus first believed in Him. Thus they had to be old enough to
understand their actions and could not have been infants. In two instances (the
3000 on Pentecost, Acts 2:38, and Cornelius, Acts 11:18) repentance is mentioned
while in other cases, such as the jailer, it is clearly implied. In all nine
examples those accepting Christ were baptized. The purpose of baptism was the
forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), and the action of baptism was immersion
(Acts 8:38, 39).
Thus, when sinners obeyed their
Lord in the way described they reached the blood of Christ which takes away our
sins. There is no other command nor example in the New Testament describing a
different way of coming to Christ.
"A Prisoner for Christ"
Read Acts Chapters 25 - 28
Go! This man is my chosen
instrument to carry my name before & kings & (Acts 9:15) So spoke
the Lord to Ananias as He sent him to Saul of Tarsus with the words of life. And
now, as he languished in Caesarea in prison, the Apostle Paul was about to
appear before a king. For two years Paul had been incarcerated by the governor
Felix who was replaced by Porcius Festus
who knew little about the charges against Paul or the cause he represented.
With the change of administration
the Jewish leaders sensed a new opportunity to kill Paul so they asked Festus to
bring him to Jerusalem, intending to ambush him en route. Instead Festus
told them to make their charges in Caesarea. A few days later they did so, but
offered no supporting evidence. Paul was given an opportunity to defend himself,
but when it appeared that Festus was about to yield to Jewish pressure and send
him to Jerusalem for examination, Paul invoked a seldom used right of a
Roman citizen -- that of appealing to the emperor. This had the immediate effect
of stopping all other proceedings. The governor was now obligated to send the
prisoner to Caesar in Rome with military escort, and to specify the charges
against him. Unfortunately he had nothing with which to accuse him.
A few days later Festus had
visitors that he felt might help him in formulating the charges. Coming to
welcome him to the area was King Agrippa of Chalcis, a small district east of
the Jordan, and his widowed sister, Bernice. Agrippa was only thirty-one years
old and exercised his authority under the emperor. He was the son of the Herod
who had murdered the Apostle James, and the great-grandson of Herod the Great
who had slain the infant children around Bethlehem in an effort to kill the baby
Jesus. Unlike Festus he was thoroughly acquainted with the claims of the Christ
and His followers. Therefore when Festus sought his help, Agrippa welcomed the
opportunity to hear the apostle firsthand.
Paul Relives His Life
Amidst great pomp Paul was brought
before the royal assemblage. After Festus stated his predicament, Paul was given
his opportunity to speak to the king. As Agrippa had been brought up in the
Jewish faith, he was familiar with the customs and controversies among them,
especially as they related to the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead.
Once more Paul retold the story of
his life. He related how he had been raised as a Pharisee, and how, when the
Christian faith appeared on the scene, he had become a militant persecutor of
the new religion. He described his experience on the Damascus road where he was
stricken blind by a light from heaven, and how he had been converted to Christ.
And he relived the story of his proclamation of the message of Christ to the
Gentiles, concluding with his arrest by the Jews, when in fact his only
crime was that of preaching that the Messiah had risen from the dead.
At that point Festus cried out, You
are out of your mind, Paul. But Agrippa knew Paul was not mad as Paul now
The king is familiar with these
things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of
this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. (Acts 26:26)
He then said,
King Agrippa, do you believe the
prophets? I know you do. Agrippa responded, Do you think
that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian? (Acts
Paul's response indicates that he
understood Agrippa to be sincere rather than sarcastic as he avows,
Short time or long-- I pray God
that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become
what I am, except for these chains. (Acts 26:29)
When the assembly was over Agrippa
and Festus agreed that had Paul not appealed to Caesar he could have been set
free. But the die was cast, and it was the divine intent that this mightiest of
all proclaimers of the truth should one day stand before the emperor.
Shipwrecked at Sea
The prisoner of Christ Jesus as
Paul so aptly describes himself (Ephesians 3:1) was to sail half the length of
the Mediterranean Sea on his voyage to the capital city. In his company was
Luke, author of our book, who describes the voyage in minute detail. Paul was
delivered into the custody of Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Cohort.
Leaving Caesarea their ship sailed northward along the coast, touching Sidon
before passing on the east end of the island of Cyprus on their way to Myra in
Lycia where they changed to a ship sailing to Italy. The wind was against them
as they sailed toward Crete in the middle of the Mediterranean. When they
finally reached the island they had difficulty in finding a place to anchor.
Against the advice of Paul the centurion decided to go on. It was a mistake. A
terrific storm caught them at sea and they threw everything possible overboard
to lighten the ship. For fourteen days they were tossed on the sea, not knowing
where they were.
Once more Paul gave his counsel,
informing them all that an angel had told him that all would be saved and cast
on some island. This time they believed him, and when they drew near land, they
anchored and waited for dawn. The sailors, thinking only of themselves, sought
to escape, but were foiled by the soldiers who cut away the lifeboat. However,
when the captain
attempted to maneuver the ship into land, it ran aground and the stern was
broken by the surf. Each man went overboard and swam for land in the best way he
could so that all reached the beach safely.
On to Rome
The island on which they found
themselves was Malta off the southern tip of Sicily. The shipwrecked crew and
passengers were taken in by the natives. When Paul shook off a viper that came
out of a fire without ill effects, the people were convinced that the apostle
was a god. And when he healed the father of Publius, the local chieftain, they
brought to him their sick to be
cured. Three months later Paul and his company again set sail, stopping briefly
at Syracuse in Sicily before sailing to Italy. Shortly thereafter they landed at
Puteoli, a hundred miles southeast of Rome. Here they stayed with fellow
Christians for a week before proceeding to the capital. Word of their arrival
had reached the disciples in Rome and some of them came as far as the Forum of
Appius and Three Taverns to meet them.
Once in Rome Paul called together
the Jewish leaders to tell them of the controversy that had provoked his arrest.
After he told them why he had appealed to Caesar, they responded,
We have not received any letters
from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who
have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to
hear what your views
are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect. (Acts
The open-mindedness of these Roman
Jews was commendable. Although they acknowledged that all of their prior
information was such as to prejudice them against Christians, they were willing
to listen to the other side before drawing their conclusions. What a need today
for such honesty in searching for truth! Truth cannot be found until we divest
our minds of those prejudices and preconceptions that stand in its way. Our
search for spiritual truth must cause us to cast aside these things as we read
Bible to determine God's will. Paul met again with the Jews, but unfortunately
they disagreed among themselves and it is apparent that most of them did not
accept his message.
For two years Paul remained a
prisoner in Rome, being allowed his own lodging and the opportunity to testify
of his faith to all who might come to him. At this point in time Luke closes his
narrative, probably because it brought him to the time of his writing.
Although Acts concludes at this
point we do have additional information available regarding Paul's life
thereafter. It appears that during his imprisonment he wrote Philippians,
Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. He converted a runaway slave, Onesimus, and
sent him back to his Christian master, Philemon. He preached the gospel to his
guards and through them the word of God apparently found its way into the palace
as he speaks of those of Caesar's household. (Philippians 4:22) It appears that
tried and released, and that he returned to again preach the word in Ephesus,
Macedonia, and Crete. He was again arrested, and from his prison cell penned his
letters to Timothy and Titus. Eusebius relates the tradition that after his
second trial Paul died in Rome as a martyr for Christ. There seems no good
reason to question this. The great apostle victoriously concludes in his last
epistle, For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time
has come for my departure.
I have fought the good fight, I
have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on
that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his
appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Truly, if we follow him as he in
turn followed Christ we will one day enjoy his fellowship in the eternal home.
I learned the above
from WBS, all glory goes to the Lord Almighty