Acts 28

Vs. 1, “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.”  After surviving the “northeaster” storm, Paul and the others found themselves shipwrecked on the island of Malta (vs. 1-10).  They had almost made it to the main land, but due to the winter season, had to say for three months.  Though strangers, these islanders (people who did not speak Greek) of Malta showed exceptional hospitality!  Paul would use this time to minister these months to the islanders and heal all the sick.  After the winter season, they would go on to finally arriving to Rome (vs. 11-15).  It would take nearly 2 ½ years for Paul to finally experience God’s promise to arrive in Rome!  Quite the faithful and patient man Paul was.  While in Rome, Paul would be under house arrest by being chained to Roman soldier at all times.  While awaiting trial, Paul would use his time wisely.  As the custom, Paul would go first to the Jew to preach the Good News (vs. 16-28).  As expected, some would accept the teaching while others would reject it.  The book of Acts ends abruptly without any real conclusion (vs. 30-31).  It is believed this letter from Luke had been completed during this time; which is why we are not told what eventually transpired.  Outside historical information and tradition affirms that Paul was eventually released from imprisonment.  He would go on to more missionary journeys, but eventually would be arrested again where he would write a few last epistles (letter).  It is believed that Paul was beheaded around 67/68 AD.

Regarding application…Joyful Obedience.  Vs. 31, “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Paul was able to joyfully respond with boldness the preaching of God’s kingdom.  But don’t forget this: no pain, no gain.  Paul reminds us that the road to glory is not immune to hardship.  Question: Is the cup half full or half empty?  For example, there is always going to be a reason to look negatively at something.  Church is a blessing, but it also can bring much grief.  Question: How will we respond to the church or to others?  God has given us our purpose to trust and obey Him.  Instead of doing it with complaining and stress, let us find joy even in the midst of trials.  This is a poignant reminder for me as I continue to remember the privilege of being a teacher of God’s word.  Take time this week to boldly stand firm in the tasks that God has given you.  Like the book of Acts, our life is not concluded.  We are more chapters to be written!

Acts 27

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.”  Paul along with his friends Luke and Aristarchus finally made their journey to Rome (vs. 1-12).  The Roman Centurion (Julius) in charge of the prisoner transport extended great kindness to Paul.  Once in Myra (See map below), they changed ships and boarded a large Alexandrian grain ship sailing to Rome (vs. 6).  High winds would hamper their progress (vs. 7-9) and they would only make it to Lasea.  Though Paul was not a sailor, he did experience three shipwrecks (II Corinthians 11:25) and would warn travelers of the ship not to continue to sail (vs. 10-12).  However, the owner and the pilot of the ship would not hear of having such a delay.  They continued on only to experience a “northeaster” which was a violent typhoon (vs. 13-26).  The storm was so intense that it lasted for days and much of the ships goods had to be tossed overboard.  In the midst of this hopeless situation, an angel of the Lord came to encourage Paul that they were all going to make it through (vs. 21-26).  Paul would stand up and exhort them to keep their courage.  However, some would not believe and attempt to escape the ship (vs. 27-32).  Certainly the morale was low and Paul again would encourage them to break their fast and eat to get the strength needed (vs. 33-38).  As they finally made shore, some of the soldiers were ready to kill the prisoners, but Paul’s good relationship with centurion would rescue all the prisoners (vs. vs. 39-44).  If the prisoners escaped, the soldiers in charge could lose their lives.  But just as the angel promised, everyone survived the storm!

Regarding application…God’s Sovereign Control.  Vs. 24, “and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”  Though Paul had warned everyone not to continue sailing, they headed off anyway.  Yet, in the midst of the storm, God would come to bring a promised hope to all.  Question: Why would this storm come in the first place?  One of the things I have begun to understand is not to be so quick to presume everything that happens was because God intended it to happen; example Job’s friends.  Sometimes storms come for no purpose other than we live in fallen world.  Sometimes the consequences of sin hurt us not because God is punishing us, but because we live in a fallen world.  Paul would begin to learn something we must too; God is sovereign over all situations.  Our role is to trust in the Lord and make a stand for our faith!

Paul's trip to Rome

Acts 25

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!”  Upon replacing Felix, the new Governor of Judea (Festus) would visit Jerusalem (vs. 1-5).  Even after two years, the Jews in Jerusalem are still plotting to have Paul murdered.  Festus denies their request to have Paul sent to Jerusalem, so they travel down to Caesarea.  Once again, their accusations had no basis for a crime worthy of imprisonment.  Paul must have sensed the danger of Festus bowing to the pressures of the Jews, so he finally appealed to Caesar.  Soon after, Herod Agrippa II (Son of Herod I who was the grandson of Herod the Great) and his sister Bernice happened to visit Caesarea (vs. 13-22).  Agrippa was known for his incestuous relationship with Bernice.  He also held the power to appoint the high priest in in Jerusalem and had good knowledge of the Jewish customs.  Festus would use this opportunity to get advice from Agrippa concerning Paul.  The end of our chapter introduces the beginning of Paul’s introduction to Agrippa (vs. 23-27).

Regarding application…Not Fearing Death.  Paul’s appeal to Caesar was not because he was afraid to die by the hands of the Jews.  We were reminded in Acts 23:11, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”  Paul must have been a very patient man to have dealt with being unjustly imprisoned for two years under Felix.  Question: How can a person not fear death?  While there are fears of the physical pain and the sadness of leaving loved ones behind, I can honestly say I don’t fear death.  I vividly recall my junior high years of life laying up at night tossing and turning because I feared what would happen if I died.  But the Lord was good and brought the Gospel to me through the Hook family (missionaries who happened to move next door to me) when I was sixteen years old.  What a blessing it is to not fear the sting of death!  Live your life confidently in the Lord Jesus!

Acts 24

Vs. 22, “Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.”  The Governor of Judea (Felix) had both sides present their cases (vs. 1-22).  The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were so concerned that they sent Ananias the high priest with their hotshot lawyer Tertullus.  With generous compliments and flattery, Tertullus presents his false case against Paul.  The Jews had been given freedom from Rome to practice their faith.  However, if they disturbed the peace “Pax Romana” Rome might do something about this.  Paul was presented as a person who went against the Jewish faith, caused riots, profaned the temple, and supported Jesus who claimed he was the King of kings.  Paul’s defense was measured and well spoken.  His faith was in the God of Israel and was obeying the Jewish laws when he was arrested in the temple.  Felix should have released Paul for there was no evidence in these accusations.  Unfortunately, we are given insight to his corrupt ways (vs. 23-27).  Though Paul was treated well, Felix did not want to stir issues with the Jews in Judea if he didn’t have to.  Perhaps because Paul brought such a substantial offering to the church in Jerusalem, Felix thought that Paul could bring similar funds to bribe him and get out of confinement.  Paul had presented a clear understanding of the Gospel to Felix, but his fear did not lead him to the Lord.  For two years, Paul would be stuck in minimal security under Felix’s control.

Regarding application…Too Late.  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.”  Felix was a man who understood clearly the Gospel message.  But his love for power, money and success was a big obstacle in his life.  While we don’t know his heart, it seemed there was some interest.  Felix procrastinated and was replaced.  God gives us opportunities to respond to Him in both salvation and in obedience.  Felix had a two-year window where he just procrastinated.  He had other things in this world that were of interest to him.  As believers, while we responded to salvation, we are not immune to spiritually procrastinating.  Take time today to be sensitive to the opportunities God has given us presently in our life.  Don’t wait till it’s too late.

Acts 23

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.”  Paul knew the Sanhedrin were unjustly accusing him, so with indignance claimed his innocence (vs. 1-5).  This incensed the Ananias the high priest so much that he ordered to have Paul struck on the face.  Paul’s boldly responded, but did not realize who Ananias was.  This could easily be explained due to an informal meeting, the high priest may not have had his priestly garments on.  Or Paul was sarcastically responding to the Ananias.  Paul shrewdly shared his belief in his faith while bringing a sharp dispute between the Pharisee’s and Sadducees (vs. 6-10).  The following morning, some of Paul’s enemies had formed a conspiracy to have Paul assassinated (vs. 12-22).  But Paul’s nephew had overheard the plot and forewarned Paul.  Paul knew that the only protection he had was to utilize his Roman citizenship.  The commander in Jerusalem would have Paul transferred to Caesarea where the governor of Judea (Felix) resided.  This would also protect Paul from the dangers in Jerusalem.

Regarding application…Needed Reassurance.  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.”  Everyone needs reassurance.  No matter how godly a person may be; everyone needs that extra encouragement.  This would be the reassurance Paul would need to persevere; especially since the next morning he would hear a plot of 40 men proclaiming they will not eat again until Paul dies (vs. 12-13).  I think that’s part of the reason that we gravitate towards sports.  We see how important it is to be reassured and encouraged by other teammates and the audience.  That’s why the home team will often have a better record.  The Lord directly spoke to Paul, and He still speaks to us through His living Word.  That’s why we do spend time in reading and prayer.  But, not only does God reassure us, take time to reassure another this week.

Paul to Caesarea

Acts 22

Vs. 1, “1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”  Paul hushed the crowd by speaking Aramaic (Acts 21:40); this surprised them for he spoke their language fluently.  Many had presumed that Paul was an outsider who sided with the Gentiles.  Little did they realize that Paul was a zealous Jew just like them (vs. 1-21).  He had trained with the most renowned teacher Gamaliel (vs. 3), who was pivotal in convincing the Sanhedrin from killing the apostles early on (Acts 5).  He uses this opportunity to share his testimony of how God called him on the road to Damascus and that Jesus is alive.  Luke gives us another perspective of Paul’s interaction with Ananias and the Lord coming to him in a vision while praying in Jerusalem.  Once Paul mentioned the Gentiles (vs. 21), the crowd erupted again.  The Roman commander having not understood Aramaic wanted to get to the bottom of this (vs. 22-29).  He thought that flogging Paul wound incentivize him to open up.  Earlier, the commander thought Paul was an Egyptian (Acts 21:38).  But Paul was right to remind them as a Roman citizen they had no right to flog him.  He released Paul so that the Sanhedrin could determine what was the true cause of the riot (vs. 30).

Regarding application…Unnecessary Roughness.  Vs. 25, “As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”  While taking up the cross will include suffering, it is also prudent to not suffer unnecessarily.  Paul had been beaten and mistreated before, but wasn’t able to use the law of the land to his advantage.  However, this time he would appeal to his Roman citizenship and the rights that came with it.  As believers today, we are not to be punching bags without a voice.  It is completely right to appeal to your rights.  While our ultimate cause is the spreading of the Gospel, there are times we should appeal to the law for our rights.  The early Methodists heard the cry of the common folk about injustices in the work force.  They helped spearhead new labor laws.  Pray for wisdom in navigating your rights as a Christian to practice your faith!

Acts 21

Vs. 15, “After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.”  Paul continues his journey across the Mediterranean and finally makes land at Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea (vs. 1-16).  Many of the believers knew the false accusations that began to stir and understood the danger of Paul going up to Jerusalem.  Even though Agabus (prophet from Judea) prophesied Paul’s demise, Paul would not allow such things to dissuade him from his goal.  Once arriving to Jerusalem, Paul is warmly greeted for he comes bearing the offerings to the church (vs. 17).  The next day, Paul reports and testifies of what God is doing (vs. 18-26).  However, the believers in Jerusalem knew the lies that were being shared about Paul and encouraged him to participate in the Jewish custom of purification laws.  This would help prove that Paul was not against the Jewish customs.  Bear in mind, while Paul disagreed with the Jews about salvation for the Gentiles, he was not disapproving of their OT practices.  Unfortunately, this idea backfired as some of the Jews in the temple incited a riot against Paul (vs. 27-40).  These Jews had come to Jerusalem (from Ephesus) for Pentecost and were against Paul from the beginning.  Their false assumptions and accusations nearly got Paul beaten to death had not the Roman soldiers intervened.  Paul would use this opportunity to request in Greek to the Roman soldier to address the rioters.

Regarding application…Courageous Obedience.  Vs. 13, “Then Paul answered, “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.”  Question: Why would Paul go to Jerusalem and risk death?  Maybe one day we can ask Paul himself when we go to heaven.  I would venture to say that Paul felt such a burden of love, responsibility and investment.  He wanted to ensure he would be able to clearly witness to the mother church what God had done and hand over the collection himself.  He wanted to finish what he started.  Jesus had called him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and he didn’t want to let Jesus down.  It’s important to understand, that Paul didn’t have a death wish.  He had every intention of continuing on to share the Gospel, but he didn’t want the enemies tactics to undermine his faith.  He was putting his trust in God!

Acts 20

Vs. 1, “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.”  Paul was resolute on ensuring he would have the opportunity to encourage the churches he had previously helped plant (vs. 1-6).  He also wanted to ensure he could get enough offering to help the mother church in Jerusalem.   The fact that Paul had to change his mission itinerary due to a plot to kill him is a stark reminder that Jesus was right when it came to wolves among sheep (Matthew 10:16).  In Troas (vs. 7-12), we see the believers meeting on the first day of the week (Sunday).  But more importantly we see Paul’s passion to teach and God intervening to see Paul raise Eutychus from the dead.  Reminiscent of Elijah and Elisha, Paul was able to raise the fallen Eutychus back to life.  Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost (vs. 16), so he followed up with those in Ephesus in Miletus (vs. 17-38).  Paul gives a emotional farewell speech to the elders.  Paul’s life and dedication to the Lord served as a powerful example to all of them (vs. 18-27).  Like Jesus, he warns them of coming trouble that will transpire in the church (vs. 28-31).  They are to remain dedicated and follow Paul’s example of giving and service.  Lastly, we see the raw emotions of having to say goodbye (vs. 36-38).

Regarding application…Will You Give?  Vs. 35, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Paul might have been accused of many things, but working hard, loving, and giving could not be one of them.  Like Paul, we travel down the road of life with a calling from God.  Question: Will you be a giver?  We are all takers, but not all of us are givers.  When Jesus told us to take up the cross, this was not a “taker” mentality.  As you face an unknown week ahead, take time today to pray that the Lord would use you this week to be a giver.  Paul’s giving landed him in many difficult situations that would cause him much grief.  Yet, in the midst of that, Paul continued to trust in God.

Acts 19

Vs. 10, “This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”  Paul is now in his third missionary journey.  Upon following up with the Galatian churches, Paul finally has the opportunity to stay in Ephesus for two years building up God’s church.  Ephesus was the capital city in the Roman province of Asia and one of the most impressive cities of its time.  In Paul’s time, it was the fourth largest city in the world.  The temple of Artemis (Greek Goddess and daughter of Zeus and Leto) was worshipped in Ephesus.  In the first section of our chapter, Paul prays with twelve men who had thought they were disciples of the Lord (vs. 1-6).  Paul is able to discern the Spirit of God is not in them and explains how God worked through Jesus and they receive the Holy Spirit.  In Paul’s normal fashion, he went first to the synagogue but eventually wore out his welcome (vs. 8-10).  But the Lord would provide a meeting place (lecture hall of Tyrannus) for everyone to meet.  Because of this wonderful place to meet, Paul’s two year stint would ensure nearly everyone (Jew and Greek) living in the province of Asia would have heard the Gospel.  God would use Paul so powerfully the handkerchiefs and aprons he touched would heal others (vs. 11-12).  We are also reminded of quite a vivid illustration of the spiritual warfare that wages on (vs. 13-16).  An unbelieving Jewish priest tried to use the name of Jesus to cast out a demon, but was physically and brutally attacked by the demons.  But, this incident only brought more glory to the Lord as people began to understand the gravity of the spiritual world (vs. 17-20).  In the latter section of our chapter (vs. 21-41), we see a riot break out because the silversmiths were protesting on all the Ephesians getting rid of their idols.  They seized two of Paul’s companions (Gaius and Aristarchus) and the amphitheater that housed 25,000 were filled with an angry mob of people.  Paul desperately wanted to help, but there were those who protected him from such dangers (vs. 30).  Fortunately, the city clerk spoke reason to them (vs. 35-41) because the Roman law actually protected people’s right for religious freedom.

Regarding application…Throw It Away.  Vs. 19, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.”  This was the reason for the riot, for the new Ephesian Christians not only got rid of their idols, they burned them!  The value of these scrolls would have been the equivalent of about 8-10 million dollars.  Not only was this an offence to the unbelievers in Ephesus, this threatened their economy.  But the Christians in Ephesus knew that such ungodly items in their lives were of no value to them.  I recall when I was a teenager; I threw away all my cassette tapes of secular music after becoming a Christian.  My friends were so angry with me because I had not given my valuable collection to them.  I knew at that time, that my love for such music would have been a stumbling block for me.  Question: What items or hobbies in your life can you get rid of?

Theater at Ephesus