Vs. 1, “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.” For three months, due to the winter weather, they were stuck at the island of Malta. While there, God would use Paul to show us there is always an opportunity to serve Him wherever we are (vs. 1-10). It’s interesting to note how the snakebite did not harm Paul (vs. 3-6). It was not Paul’s time to go and the Lord had already promised Paul he would make it to Rome. While on the island of Malta, Paul would focus sharing the love of Christ through healing and prayer (vs. 7-10). Finally, after nearly 2 ½ years of patiently waiting to get to Rome after Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea…Paul makes it to Rome (vs. 11-16)! What a testament to God’s faithfulness! For the next two years, Paul would be under house arrest but given many privileges and was able to still preach the Gospel (vs. 16-31). Question: How did the Roman Jews not know about Paul and the Gospel? Good question and this can be answered with a few assertions. Years earlier, the Jews were casted out of Rome for a time, which means they were unaware of the semi-present time upon returning. Also, the Jews in Jerusalem might have just given up or the message didn’t arrive by the time Paul had arrived in Rome. Either way, while some Jews believed and others did not, the ministry of Paul thrived in Rome and the church grew as the message was also given to the Gentiles. We have come full circle since Acts 1 as the Gospel spread from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). On side note, it seems Acts ends rather abruptly and ambiguously. Most biblical scholars and historians believe Paul was later released and ministered for about another four years before he was beheaded in Rome around A.D. 67.
Regarding application…Rejecting God. Vs. 27, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” The God and creator of this universe certainly has given us every proof that we need to put our faith in Him. There is a consequence when we harden and reject the Lord in our life (vs. 26). Just like Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 9, God can allow or even harden our hearts from Him. Many of the Jews in Rome rejected the Gospel and so Paul’s focus was now to the Gentile. Brothers and sisters, it is a very dangerous thing to continue to reject God and His message. The book of Acts has given us amazing insight into the early church and its growth. But, it wasn’t perfect and there were time where it seemed the enemy was winning. I believe its safe to say, many looked at the early church and used it as an excuse of why they didn’t need to turn to God. Even nearly two thousand years later, people continue to use the church as an excuse to reject God. The church is full of hypocrites. The church isn’t loving and accepting. The church is judgmental. The church is a place of gossip and slander. These are true statements. But none of them are good enough excuses to reject God. The church is also a gift given from God to us. The church is a place where we can feel accepted. The church is a place where we love with a love that was first given to us. The church is a place to be encouraged. The church is the headquarters of our mission field! Brothers and sisters, don’t harden your heart!
Vs. 1, “When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.” The journey begins from Caesarea to Rome. From the very onset, the Lord provided a very kind Roman centurion Julius who would later save Paul’s life from certain death (vs. 42-43). Paul was not alone in this turbulent time, for Luke the author of Acts as well as a Christian convert from Thessalonica Aristarchus also accompanied Paul (vs. 2). This is a very long and arduous journey by ship. They transferred ships at Myra continued to head westward. By the time they got to the Island of Crete and arrived in Fair Haven (vs. 8), It was early October (vs. 9, Fast refers to Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur which was finished after Oct. 5th). Paul’s experience on the seas compelled him to warn Julius to inform the Pilot of the ship not to try sailing to a better port (vs. 12). Phoenix was not too far away and the Pilot didn’t want to stay at Fair Haven, so they set sail. But a storm, reminiscent of a storm like Jonah came unexpectedly to them (vs. 14). This storm was so severe it totally steered them off their course and they finally hit land (Malta). As you can see from the map, this was quite a storm to take them so off course. During this time, it began to get very hopeless for all who were on board (vs. 21). But Paul would exhort the crew to have courage (vs. 25). When they finally realized they were near land, a few more events transpired (vs. 27-44). Some sailors tried to escape out of fear of the ship being destroyed (vs. 31) and Julius ensured the other soldiers plot to kill the prisoner’s to prevent them from escaping was stopped (vs. 42). All in all, a pretty crazy couple of weeks!
Regarding application…Encouraging Others. Vs. 36, “They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.” After many days of enduring a relentless storm and being sea sick, Paul encourages everyone to finally eat. Some scholars believe many did not eat and fasted purposefully to their pagan god’s during the storm. After giving thanks to God, Paul and the others finally get something to eat (vs. 38). While we may not endure physical storms on the high seas, we certainly endure spiritual and emotional storms. Likewise, as Christians we want to give thanks to God no matter the circumstances. And most importantly, we want to encourage others to partake in eating our spiritual food (bible) and dine with Jesus everyday. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to encourage others as they have come to me for prayer or spiritual advice. The one common denominator I have discovered is that during the storms of life, we often do not take time to read the Bible and pray. Whether in my own life or the life of others, the storms of life scare us so much that we don’t turn to the Lord as we should. Brothers and sisters, being a part of the body of Christ (the church), we should do our best to encourage others to spend time daily with the Lord (Colossians 3:16)
Vs. 9, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” Paul is given the opportunity to speak in front of Herod Agrippa II & Bernice now that they have come to visit Caesarea. We get wonderful insight again on Paul’s account of his life before Christ, when he encountered Christ to Damascus, and now his response to Christ upon salvation (vs. 9-23). The Lord certainly knew how to choose the right person to testify of His amazing grace! It’s important to note the response that Festus had with Paul’s testimony. Festus thought Paul had gone insane (vs. 24)! Many of us read this account with the ingredient of faith already mixed in. But for the majority of the world, Christians are out of our minds. We believe in a man who died on a cross and claimed to be God himself! Pretty crazy when you think about it. This wasn’t a trial before King Agrippa, but a God given opportunity to share the clear Gospel message to all those who were present then and even us today (vs. 29)
Regarding application…Open Our Eyes. Vs. 18, “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Question: What does God want? To open our eyes so we may see the light of Christ! In this testimony of Paul, we see the heart of God. Despite our hardened hearts and closed eyes, God still reaches out to us. This exhortation that Jesus gave to Paul wasn’t just for him. The application is quite clear for us today. We must be agents of God and share the Lord by words and deeds so that others will see the Lord through our lives. The more we take the focus off of ourselves, the more life begins to make sense. Paul could have easily despaired for being imprisoned for over two years in Caesarea. But, it wasn’t about him. God timing is always perfect. Think about your own anxieties about the unforeseen future. Let God open your eyes today to see what you can do in the present! Question: Are your eyes open?
Vs. 11, “If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” Paul appeals to Caesar! Earlier, we read that Felix was replaced by the new Roman procurator (military leader) Festus. While Festus was in Jerusalem, the Jews conspired to convince him to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem to stand trial. But they intended to ambush and kill Paul (vs. 1-4). Festus dismissed their request and tells them to come to Caesarea. Once again, the Jews influence on the Roman leader Festus was strong and he intended to have Paul transferred eventually to Jerusalem (vs. 9). But Paul sensing that nothing good could come to him going to Jerusalem had no choice but to appeal to Caesar! Appealing to Caesar was a right and privilege for Roman citizens to take their case to the higher court in Rome. But during this interlude, Festus’ wife Drusilla’s sister Bernice and her brother who happens to be Herod Agrippa II came to visit (vs. 23-27). Festus thought it would be wise to consult Agrippa for he was technically a Jew and much more familiar with the Jews.
Regarding application…Jesus is Alive! Vs. 19, “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Festus states this claim concerning Paul’s testimony to King Herod’s grandson Agrippa. Remember, it was King Herod who feared the birth of Jesus and ordered the edict to have all male babies killed in Bethlehem. Question: What made Paul have the ability to declare Jesus who died on the cross was now resurrected and alive? Faith. It was a claim that seemed impossible. It was a claim that filled the anger and hatred of the very people that Jesus represented. Jesus is alive. Question: What does that mean to you? Our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic church often portray Jesus hanging on a cross. It’s a wonderful reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and pain He suffered for us. But, don’t be mistaken, Jesus is not dead…He is alive! Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding in prayer for us (Mark 16:19, Acts 7:55, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 12:12). God the Father through the Son Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us (John 16:13). I recall that old hymn’s lyris, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!” Don’t give up brothers & sisters!
Vs. 1, “Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor.” Paul is standing trial before the Roman governor Felix. We see the gravity of importance this was to the Sanhedrin, for Ananias would come with his lawyer Tertullus to plead their case against Paul. Tertullus opens his statement with much flattery and false accusations (vs. 2-9). But Paul also has a very eloquent response and shows us how we too should be ready to defend our faith (vs. 10-21). Felix should have had the courage to free Paul, but instead he lingered for two years. The evil Roman Emperor Nero would have Felix replaced by Festus. Felix’s inabilities must have also been quite apparent with his leaders as well. While Felix seemed to show interest in Paul (vs. 24-26), we could see that he was a corrupt leader in hoping he would be bribed by Paul to release him.
Regarding application…When I have Time. Vs. 25, “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Yikes…even though Felix came to the realization of the truth set before him, he wanted to approach God on his terms. Question: Have you ever done something similar? God is giving you a clear message to turn back to Him through a sermon, bible study, QT time…and you say something like this, “Not now God…I’m too busy.” “Not now God, I’m too afraid about the future.” “Not now God, I just want to enjoy my own life at this time.” Brothers & sisters…don’t make the mistake of negotiating your own terms when it comes to responding to God. Don’t wait when it’s “convenient”. The Bible has this theme of urgency for us to respond. Hebrews 3:15 in the New Testament quotes Psalm 95 and reminds us of the importance of today… “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
Vs. 1, “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” This chapter is full of intrigue! Paul now stands before the Sanhedrin (The High Priest, mixture of elders, priests/Sadducees and Pharisees) to account for false accusations the day before. Question: Why didn’t Paul recognize Ananias the High Priest (vs. 5)? Biblical scholars basically come down to three conclusions: Paul had bad eyesight, Paul never met Ananias, Ananias was not in his regular High Priest clothes. Paul proceeds to bring up the topic of resurrection, for this is the one of the key understanding of the Gospel message (vs. 6-7) It also was a huge dividing point (vs. 8) between the two parties (Pharisees & Sadducees). The dispute gets so heated that the commander of the Roman army (Claudius Lysias) intervenes and has Paul taken back to the barracks (vs. 10). We will talk about Jesus’ appearance to Paul that night in the application section. In our second half of our chapter, the plot thickens! More than Forty men conspire to make a vow so great that they would not eat or drink again until Paul was dead (vs. 12). But, Jesus’ promise to Paul that night would come true as Paul’s nephew would overhear the plan and inform the Roman soldiers (vs. 16-22). Paul gets transferred to Caesarea with a unusually large Roman infantry (Once again, the Lord intervening to protect his earlier promise to Paul) Question: Why? Because that is where the Roman Governor Felix resided.
Regarding application…Take Courage! Vs. 11, “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Don’t fear, Jesus is here! Not only does Jesus exhort Paul to not be discouraged, He gives him a promise: you will testify in Rome! It’s easy to assume that Jesus came that night because Paul was discouraged. One of Paul’s biggest hopes was that he would be able to go to Rome (Acts 19:21). Though there was a plot to kill Paul, Jesus reminded him that He would protect him during this time. It’s really an amazing promise that Paul would be given! Of course, as we think about our lives today, we are reminded of the many promises of God in the Bible! That is why I exhort you to read His word daily! Question: What situations are you in that seem desperate? As I am in transition with ministry and my future is unknown, I too am very encouraged from today’s bible reading. Take courage dear brothers and sisters and be people who bring courage to others!
Vs. 1, “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” Imagine for a moment being Paul. Question: Have you ever had an angry mob wanting to kill you? The scene is volatile, yet Paul uses this opportunity to share his testimony (vs. 1-21)! He wisely speaks in their own language and thus gain their attention (vs. 2). Paul was able to identify with this crowd because he too was once one of them (vs. 2-5). Paul expounds and gives some insight on his conversion to Damascus and most importantly his encounter with Jesus (vs. 6-21). Paul has a pretty captive audience up until the point that he mentions Jesus called him specifically to reach out to the Gentiles (vs. 21-23). But, Paul courageously speaks the truth! It’s here that the Roman commander decides to have Paul scourged to understand more why the Jews hated Paul (vs. 24). But Paul wisely appeals to his Roman citizenship to prevent being scouraged. By law, a Roman citizen could not be scourged without a just trial.
Regarding application…God’s Ways are Best. Vs. 21, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” It’s interesting to note that when Paul initially arrived in Jerusalem years earlier, it was his intention to preach the Gospel to his people the Jews. It makes sense, because Paul of all people would understand upon his conversion how to reach out to the Jews who still could not believe. But, God’s way are higher than our ways. Jesus had different plans for Paul. Think about your own life and the plans you have set before you. When I was in Bible College many years ago, I was sure that God was calling me to go to a lost people in a third world country! But 16 years later, the Lord has directed me in a much different direction. But in the end, God has a reason for putting us in certain places and circumstances that don’t always make sense. It’s here when we must walk by faith and not by sight. Trust in God’s ways and always be open to where God could lead you.
Vs. 30, “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.” The fears of many came to fruition as Paul would indeed be in danger in Jerusalem (vs. 12). We read earlier in our chapter that Paul makes his journey by ship from Miletus (in Asia) across the Mediterranean Sea to Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea (vs. 1-9). Along the way, Paul takes the time to encourage the local churches. Paul runs into Philip (one of the original seven deacons chosen from Acts 6) and we read about his four prophesying daughters (vs. 8-9). Moving on to Tyre, the prophet Agabus, acting out his prophecy much like Ezekiel did and gave an ominous prophecy of trouble ahead for Paul (vs. 10-11). But Paul is resolute and will not allow this to sway his decision to bring the offerings to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. When Paul arrives to Jerusalem, he is warmly greeted by James (Jesus’ half-brother) and the rest of the disciples. But, their was already opposition (Jewish Christians) ready to criticize Paul for their misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching to the Gentiles. Question: Why the purification requirement (vs. 23-26)? Some have argued why didn’t James and the leaders at the Jerusalem church defend Paul more? Valid question and one I struggle with too. Perhaps they too were unsure how to go about and they thought having Paul go through the ritual would suffice. With Paul supporting the vows of these four men at the temple, they had hoped that the Jewish Christians would see this as a good gesture of support from Paul to the church. But, this was Pentecost time and Jews from all over the regions were there, including some Jews from Asia (probably Ephesus)…who had been insulted by Paul and stirred up the crowds at the Temple. Fortunately, the uproar and public beating of Paul caught the attention of the Roman soldiers (vs. 31-32). He was subsequently arrested but before he was taken, he prepares his defense which we will read in chapter 22.
Regarding application…Surrendering to God’s Will. Vs. 14, “When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” In Caesarea, the Christians there upon hearing Agabus’ prophecy of Paul’s demise…begged Paul not to go. We get a real sense of the struggle Paul must have had (vs. 13)…for it was breaking his heart to know and see the anguish in others and quite possibly his own fears. Yet, Paul and those in Caesarea finally realized that all they could do in the end is surrender it all to the Lord’s will. Author and pastor, A.W. Tozer, “Before God can use a man greatly, He must allow him to be hurt deeply.” Question: Isn’t that so true? Following God’s will hurts at times. We can live a pretty care-free life if we go down our own path…(the wide path – Matthew 7:13). That path has no obstacles and life is great. But the narrow path of God’s will is arduous and long. It is a road that many choose not to go down. Even for Paul, many tears flowed because he knew the sadness and toil that was to come. Brothers and sisters…are you surrendering to God’s will? If you are, life isn’t going to be easy. But, yet…we can still consider it joy for while we may lose our life, we are bringing the life and light to others! As Joshua and the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, God would exhort them to be “Be strong and courageous!” Let us do likewise.
Vs. 1, “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.” Upon leaving Ephesus, we are given a brief summary of Paul’s final trips through Macedonia and his visit to Corinth. It is believed that at Corinth, Paul wrote the letter to Romans we now have in our bible. But Paul was getting opposition again he would now begin his journey back to Jerusalem. He had collected offerings from the churches to bring back to help the Jerusalem church. Paul makes his way and stays for a week in Troas (vs. 6). It is here that we see the local church in Troas meet on Sunday to share in fellowship (vs. 7). We also see an interesting miracle in Paul bringing Eutychus back to life after falling from a 3 story building (vs. 7-12). In the latter of our chapter we see Paul’s stirring exhortations to the Ephesians elders of the church at Miletus (vs. 17-38). It was an emotional and heartfelt farewell that should resonate in our own hearts today as we think of the times we had to say goodbye to those we love.
Regarding application…What do you Value? Vs. 24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Like Jesus, Paul knew by going to Jerusalem that there was going to be suffering and trouble. Yet, his life was a testament of putting other first and giving his life (vs. 35). If we value our own life, we will not be able to finish the race! There are many obstacles along the way and people who want to go against us (vs. 29), but let that not hinder us. While it was sad that Paul was driven from many of the places where he tried to do ministry, he never lost sight of his ultimate goal. It was to testify of the gospel of God’s grace (vs. 24). Question: What are you valuing in your life? What we value will dictate our direction and path in this life. Think about the choices that lay ahead of you and honestly seek the Lord in where He may be leading you!
Vs. 1, “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples.” On Paul’s third missionary, God finally opened up the door to Asia (modern day Turkey). Paul arrives in Ephesus (was there earlier for a short time) and finds those who wanted to know about the Lord, but only had the truth up to John the Baptist. Ephesus was known for being a place for the educated and were also interested in magic, which explains their response to the early miracles Paul was doing (vs. 11-12, 19). Paul’s desire and love for the Ephesians was so strong, he ended up staying there for nearly 2 ½ years! The story of the sevens sons of Sceva is an interesting insight into not respecting the power of Jesus’ name (vs. 13-20). But God would use this display of fear to spread the Gospel even more fervently (vs. 20). We see one last major event that Luke shares with us in the riot of Artemis (vs. 23-41). Artemis was a Greek god (goddess Diana, fertility god)believed by her worshippers as the daughter of Zeus. But, this wasn’t a religious riot as much as it was a jealous and financial riot. Paul’s continued perseverance to share the Gospel was hurting the financial gain at the temple because people would put in money when they visited it. With many turning to Christ, the profit naturally began to lessen. But, God’s sovereign hand was upon them and the riot would disband.
Regarding application…Confessing. Vs. 18, “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.” It’s never easy thinking about this topic. Confession seems to be tied to ideas like failure and sinner. Question: What helped influence many Ephesians of the day to confess? From our text, we see literal spiritual warfare before our eyes with the seven sons of Sceva (Sons of a Jewish priest). Because in their unbelief, they went around boasting of their own confidence and flesh. But they were quickly taught a brutal lesson by an evil spirit and beaten (vs. 16). I share this reality of spiritual warfare because it can wake us up out of our own narrow outlook in life. We believe what we only see and forget that there is a spiritual battle raging on (Ephesians 6). This encounter spurred many to respond the right way to the Lord. I still remember as clear as day the response I saw from a youth retreat some years ago. There was a demon-possession and when the reality hit the students, that retreat was one of the most powerful and spiritual retreats I’ve been a part of. This is sort of what happened in Ephesus. Let us come with belief in our hearts and confession from our lips those things that have a foothold in our lives!