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Acts 17-23

Sunday (Acts 17)

Paul and Silas at Thessalonica

17:1 After they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 17:2 Paul went to the Jews in the synagogue, as he customarily did, and on three Sabbath days he addressed them from the scriptures, 17:3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, saying, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” 17:4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large group of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. 17:5 But the Jews became jealous, and gathering together some worthless men from the rabble in the marketplace, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. They attacked Jason’s house, trying to find Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly. 17:6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, screaming, “These people who have stirred up trouble throughout the world have come here too, 17:7 and Jason has welcomed them as guests! They are all acting against Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another king named Jesus!” 17:8 They caused confusion among the crowd and the city officials who heard these things. 17:9 After the city officials had received bail from Jason and the others, they released them.

Paul and Silas at Berea

17:10 The brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea at once, during the night. When they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 17:11 These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so. 17:12 Therefore many of them believed, along with quite a few prominent Greek women and men. 17:13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul had also proclaimed the word of God in Berea, they came there too, inciting and disturbing the crowds. 17:14 Then the brothers sent Paul away to the coast at once, but Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. 17:15 Those who accompanied Paul escorted him as far as Athens, and after receiving an order for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.

Paul at Athens

17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset because he saw the city was full of idols. 17:17 So he was addressing the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue, and in the marketplace every day those who happened to be there. 17:18 Also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him, and some were asking, “What does this foolish babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 17:19 So they took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming? 17:20 For you are bringing some surprising things to our ears, so we want to know what they mean.” 17:21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there used to spend their time in nothing else than telling or listening to something new.)

17:22 So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. 17:23 For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you. 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, 17:25 nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone. 17:26 From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, 17:27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 17:28 For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 17:29 So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. 17:30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, 17:31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

17:32 Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 17:33 So Paul left the Areopagus. 17:34 But some people joined him and believed. Among them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Prayer

Lord, Your truth is available to everyone but some will refuse to listen and others will reject You when they hear. May I be patient and respectfully-persistent in sharing, wise in moving-on when confronted by unteachable spirits, and joyful for those whom Your Holy Spirit has prepared to receive Christ.

Summary & Commentary

Paul & Silas at Thessalonica once again preached Christ at the local Synagogue. Some Jews and many “God-fearing Greeks” responded. Once again the religious leaders bribed thugs to lie and to cause violence to disrupt things.

Paul and Silas departed for Berea where the local Jews were more receptive but the religious leaders from Thessalonica followed them to Berea and again caused trouble.

Paul moved on to Athens while Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. In Athens he was troubled by the many idols but preached Christ in the Synagogue to Jews and “God-fearing Greeks”. Some of the local philosophers invited him to share with them and he did so—using an idol he had observed labeled “The Unknown God” as a point of contact.

Some believed, but many scoffed and remained unteachable.

Interaction
Consider

The pattern of response, as Jesus prophesied, His message was to be (and is) highly polarizing - people tend to either accept it or react violently against it - recruiting others through fear and misinformation.

Discuss

How is it that some personalities draw a stronger reaction than others; Silas and Timothy were able to remain and continue the harvest and the discipleship of new believers in Berea whereas Paul needed to move on?

Reflect

The boldness of Paul was amazing, in light of the many beatings and imprisonments and efforts to murder him, he faithfully preached Christ anywhere and everywhere.

Share

When have you observed one Christian leader being effective in “plowing the ground” but another with a different style being the one who could most-effectively “reap the harvest” or disciple the new believers?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who is facing aggressive opposition as they share Christ.

Action:

Today I will pray earnestly for the one whom the Holy Spirit has made e aware. This is not about someone in the political realm or someone engaged more in evangelizing for a denomination or a local philosophy (one that may confuse a pet religious theory or tradition with God's sovereign truth) but someone genuinely preaching the essential and uncluttered Word of God. I will pray for safety, a good harvest, and a powerful testimony.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Monday (Acts 18)

Paul at Corinth

18:1 After this Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 18:2 There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to depart from Rome. Paul approached them, 18:3 and because he worked at the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them (for they were tentmakers by trade). 18:4 He addressed both Jews and Greeks in the synagogue every Sabbath, attempting to persuade them.

18:5 Now when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul became wholly absorbed with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 18:6 When they opposed him and reviled him, he protested by shaking out his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am guiltless! From now on I will go to the Gentiles!” 18:7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went to the house of a person named Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 18:8 Crispus, the president of the synagogue, believed in the Lord together with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians who heard about it believed and were baptized. 18:9 The Lord said to Paul by a vision in the night, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, 18:10 because I am with you, and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 18:11 So he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Paul Before the Proconsul Gallio

18:12 Now while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews attacked Paul together and brought him before the judgment seat, 18:13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God in a way contrary to the law!” 18:14 But just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of some crime or serious piece of villainy, I would have been justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews, 18:15 but since it concerns points of disagreement about words and names and your own law, settle it yourselves. I will not be a judge of these things!” 18:16 Then he had them forced away from the judgment seat. 18:17 So they all seized Sosthenes, the president of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the judgment seat. Yet none of these things were of any concern to Gallio.

Paul Returns to Antioch in Syria

18:18 Paul, after staying many more days in Corinth, said farewell to the brothers and sailed away to Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because he had made a vow. 18:19 When they reached Ephesus, Paul left Priscilla and Aquila behind there, but he himself went into the synagogue and addressed the Jews. 18:20 When they asked him to stay longer, he would not consent, 18:21 but said farewell to them and added, “I will come back to you again if God wills.” Then he set sail from Ephesus, 18:22 and when he arrived at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church at Jerusalem and then went down to Antioch. 18:23 After he spent some time there, Paul left and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Apollos Begins His Ministry

18:24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures. 18:25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. 18:26 He began to speak out fearlessly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. 18:27 When Apollos wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he assisted greatly those who had believed by grace, 18:28 for he refuted the Jews vigorously in public debate, demonstrating from the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Prayer

Lord, You called many and blessed them with teachers as they came to You with teachable spirits. May I remember that no matter how You gift me, no matter how others may admire me because of those gifts, I am always merely Your instrument of ministry and the gifts are from You and for You.

Summary & Commentary

Paul at Corinth worked making tents alongside of Acquila and Priscilla, relocated believing Jews from Rome. He preached Christ and again was opposed by the religious leaders—and again he symbolically “shook out his clothes”, declaring that he would instead share Christ with the Gentiles rather than the Jews.

Among the Jews who were saved was Crispus, President of the Synagogue, and he led his family along with him. God encouraged Paul to continue in Corinth, reminding Paul that He had many there who were among His Family.

Time passed and Sosthenes had assumed Presidency of the Synagogue from Crispus. The religious leaders made charges and had Paul brought before the Roman Proconsul Gallio. Before Paul could speak Gallio dismissed the case as a local religious dispute. The angry religious leaders physically attacked Sosthenes, more evidence of their evil natures.

Paul traveled with Aquila and Priscilla to Antioch in Syria, first shaving his head as a private vow of thanksgiving and commitment, then continued on to Ephesus. While they remained Paul continued on to Caesarea, Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, and Phrygia “strengthening all the disciples”.

In Ephesus a charismatic Jewish convert named Apollos began his ministry. While highly effective in sharing the message of John the Baptist - Aquila and Priscilla were sent by God to explain the rest of the “way of God” in Christ to him. Apollos then traveled to Achaia where he preached Christ and refuted the false teachings of the religious leaders.

Interaction
Consider

Paul, formerly a member of the religious elite and now a Christian, was so humble as to willingly perform manual labor making tents alongside other converted (some would say "completed") Jews. The example of Paul here is a good one.

Discuss

Have you experienced a gifted leader who shared the teachable spirit of Apollos? Although he was a charismatic personality with many admirers when he was approached by Aquila and Priscilla he humbly accepted their teaching and was enriched as a leader by it.

Reflect

God was multiplying and distributing His leadership; first the Apostles, then the Deacons, and now disciples like Aquila and Priscilla and Apollos - discipling and preaching and teaching His truth in many cities and regions.

Share

When have you experienced or observed a Christian fellowship that included an unusually-wide sociological range of saved people as a result of the faithful preaching of Christ? Compare that to the time of Paul's ministry when it ranged from the President of a Synagogue to the average Jew, to Greek philosophers to the average Gentile. God is "no respecter of persons" - drawing near anyone who freely responds to His invitation.

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a Christian leader who may be laboring bi-vocationally, perhaps due to the enemy blocking their ministry, perhaps being humbled or taught something important by God.

Action:

Today I will Today I will pray for that Christian leader. I will also pray for new and bold and vigorous and teachable new leaders who will preach Christ with integrity and grit and that older leaders will make room for them.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Tuesday (Acts 19)

Disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus

19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there 19:2 and said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 19:3 So Paul said, “Into what then were you baptized?” “Into John’s baptism,” they replied. 19:4 Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, 19:6 and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. 19:7 (Now there were about twelve men in all.)

Paul Continues to Minister at Ephesus

19:8 So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for three months, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. 19:9 But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 19:10 This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.

The Seven Sons of Sceva

19:11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, 19:12 so that when even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his body were brought to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. 19:13 But some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were possessed by evil spirits, saying, “I sternly warn you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 19:14 (Now seven sons of a man named Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were doing this.) 19:15 But the evil spirit replied to them, “I know about Jesus and I am acquainted with Paul, but who are you?” 19:16 Then the man who was possessed by the evil spirit jumped on them and beat them all into submission. He prevailed against them so that they fled from that house naked and wounded. 19:17 This became known to all who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks; fear came over them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. 19:18 Many of those who had believed came forward, confessing and making their deeds known. 19:19 Large numbers of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them up in the presence of everyone. When the value of the books was added up, it was found to total fifty thousand silver coins. 19:20 In this way the word of the Lord continued to grow in power and to prevail.

A Riot in Ephesus

19:21 Now after all these things had taken place, Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. He said, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 19:22 So after sending two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, he himself stayed on for a while in the province of Asia.

19:23 At that time a great disturbance took place concerning the Way. 19:24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought a great deal of business to the craftsmen. 19:25 He gathered these together, along with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity comes from this business. 19:26 And you see and hear that this Paul has persuaded and turned away a large crowd, not only in Ephesus but in practically all of the province of Asia, by saying that gods made by hands are not gods at all. 19:27 There is danger not only that this business of ours will come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be regarded as nothing, and she whom all the province of Asia and the world worship will suffer the loss of her greatness.”

19:28 When they heard this they became enraged and began to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 19:29 The city was filled with the uproar, and the crowd rushed to the theater together, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, the Macedonians who were Paul’s traveling companions. 19:30 But when Paul wanted to enter the public assembly, the disciples would not let him. 19:31 Even some of the provincial authorities who were his friends sent a message to him, urging him not to venture into the theater. 19:32 So then some were shouting one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had met together. 19:33 Some of the crowd concluded it was about Alexander because the Jews had pushed him to the front. Alexander, gesturing with his hand, was wanting to make a defense before the public assembly. 19:34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for about two hours. 19:35 After the city secretary quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, what person is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the keeper of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image that fell from heaven? 19:36 So because these facts are indisputable, you must keep quiet and not do anything reckless. 19:37 For you have brought these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess. 19:38 If then Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against someone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges against one another there. 19:39 But if you want anything in addition, it will have to be settled in a legal assembly. 19:40 For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause we can give to explain this disorderly gathering.” 19:41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Prayer

Lord, You not only called converts You called them to be disciples and to grow and then to tell and teach others. May I be as alert to an opportunity to disciple as I am to one to evangelize.

Summary & Commentary

Paul traveled through Macedonia and Greece with several disciples, including the author of Acts, Luke. On his last day in Troas he spoke until midnight and a young man fell asleep on the 3rd story ledge and fell to the ground. Paul threw himself upon him, a conduit for the healing power of the Holy Spirit, and the boys life was restored.

Paul set out on a voyage to Miletus, bypassing Ephesus, but asking them to instead meet him there. He reviewed his ministry with them, shared his understanding from the Holy Spirit that he would not live to return to Ephesus, and warned them to beware false teachers.

The seven sons of Sceva tried to copy Paul, though they were not saved, so when they challenged the demon in a possessed man the demon challenged them back and then empowered the man to beat them. Jesus was praised and fifty thousand silver coins worth of magic books and other items were voluntarily destroyed by the people.

The makers of silver artifacts to a false god stirred up trouble and violence broke out in Ephesus, nearly a riot, but a leader calmed the people — warning them that the Romans would treat them badly for causing trouble without cause — that if they had a legal complain against Paul and the others they needed to take it before a proper court.

Paul informed the disciples that he was going on to Jerusalem, knowing that there waited the most fierce and violent opposition to the Word of God about Christ.

Interaction
Consider

The short-sightedness of the makers of silver statues to a false god not only almost got the into serious trouble with the Romans it kept them from eternal salvation.

Discuss

Why were the sons of Sceva powerless before the demon-possessed man but Paul and the disciples could command the demons to depart and they had to obey?

Reflect

The points of emphasis in Paul's parting words to the "elders of the church" from Ephesus:

I served you with humility

I declared Christ despite the threats of the religious leaders

I worked with my hands to support myself and those with me

I earnestly discipled you and now expect you to do the same for others

Just as Jesus had Judas you have weak men among you who will betray you

The "elders" are to care for and feed the flock, as Jesus instructed the Apostle Peter

Share

When have you observed someone stuck in the “baptism of John”, repentant of their sins — pre-saved — but not yet surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me His inventory of my service to Christ, based on the list from Paul's summary, and to motivate me where I need to make adjustments.

Action:

I will identify at least one of the items that "convicts" me where I fall-short and will ask a fellow believer to pray in agreement with me for improvement. Today I will take a look at the fellowship with which I am affiliated to measure health and teachability.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Wednesday (Acts 20)

Paul Travels Through Macedonia and Greece

20:1 After the disturbance had ended, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them and saying farewell, he left to go to Macedonia. 20:2 After he had gone through those regions and spoken many words of encouragement to the believers there, he came to Greece, 20:3 where he stayed for three months. Because the Jews had made a plot against him as he was intending to sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 20:4 Paul was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, and Timothy, as well as Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 20:5 These had gone on ahead and were waiting for us in Troas. 20:6 We sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and within five days we came to the others in Troas, where we stayed for seven days. 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul began to speak to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, he extended his message until midnight. 20:8 (Now there were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.) 20:9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, was sinking into a deep sleep while Paul continued to speak for a long time. Fast asleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. 20:10 But Paul went down, threw himself on the young man, put his arms around him, and said, “Do not be distressed, for he is still alive!” 20:11 Then Paul went back upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he talked with them a long time, until dawn. Then he left. 20:12 They took the boy home alive and were greatly comforted.

The Voyage to Miletus

20:13 We went on ahead to the ship and put out to sea for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for he had arranged it this way. He himself was intending to go there by land. 20:14 When he met us in Assos, we took him aboard and went to Mitylene. 20:15 We set sail from there, and on the following day we arrived off Chios. The next day we approached Samos, and the day after that we arrived at Miletus. 20:16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so as not to spend time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to arrive in Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. 20:17 From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, telling the elders of the church to come to him.

20:18 When they arrived, he said to them, “You yourselves know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, 20:19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, and with the trials that happened to me because of the plots of the Jews. 20:20 You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, 20:21 testifying to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. 20:22 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there, 20:23 except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. 20:24 But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

20:25 “And now I know that none of you among whom I went around proclaiming the kingdom will see me again. 20:26 Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of you all. 20:27 For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God. 20:28 Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 20:29 I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 20:30 Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them. 20:31 Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. 20:32 And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 20:33 I have desired no one’s silver or gold or clothing. 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine provided for my needs and the needs of those who were with me. 20:35 By all these things, I have shown you that by working in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

20:36 When he had said these things, he knelt down with them all and prayed. 20:37 They all began to weep loudly, and hugged Paul and kissed him, 20:38 especially saddened by what he had said, that they were not going to see him again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

Prayer

Lord, You caused the apostle Paul to evangelize and disciple, then he transferred leadership and instructed them all to persevere and to watch out for deceivers. May I also be a useful instrument but then not tarry when my service is complete and I need to be elsewhere.

Summary & Commentary

Paul traveled through Macedonia and Greece with several disciples, including the author of Acts, Luke. On his last day in Troas he spoke until midnight and a young man fell asleep on the 3rd story ledge and fell to the ground. Paul threw himself upon him, a conduit for the healing power of the Holy Spirit, and the boys life was restored.

Paul set out on a voyage to Miletus, bypassing Ephesus, but asking them to instead meet him there. He reviewed his ministry with them, shared his understanding from the Holy Spirit that he would not live to return to Ephesus, and warned them to beware false teachers.

Paul informed them that he was going on to Jerusalem, knowing that there waited the most fierce and violent opposition to the Word of God about Christ.

Interaction

Consider

The key points of emphasis in Paul's parting words to the "elders of the church" from Ephesus:

I served you with humility

I declared Christ despite the threats of the religious leaders

I worked with my hands to support myself and those with me

I earnestly discipled you and now expect you to do the same for others

Just as Jesus had Judas you have weak men among you who will betray you

The “elders” are to care for and feed the flock, as Jesus instructed the Apostle Peter

Discuss

To what message from the Lord God to an Old Testament prophet was Paul referring when he said in Acts 20:26-27 “Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of you all. For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God.“

Reflect

Paul warned them to be watchful because deceivers would come.

Share

When have you experienced or observed a deceiver come into a fellowship?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a ministry you may need to hand-off to someone else, a threat to ministry from bad teaching or other deception, and/or and opportunity to be His instrument of emotional, intellectual, physical, and/or spiritual healing.

Action:

Today I will step out of my comfort zone of ministry in faith that He is in control.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Thursday (Acts 21)

Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem

21:1 After we tore ourselves away from them, we put out to sea, and sailing a straight course, we came to Cos, on the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 21:2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went aboard, and put out to sea. 21:3 After we sighted Cyprus and left it behind on our port side, we sailed on to Syria and put in at Tyre, because the ship was to unload its cargo there. 21:4 After we located the disciples, we stayed there seven days. They repeatedly told Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. 21:5 When our time was over, we left and went on our way. All of them, with their wives and children, accompanied us outside of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, 21:6 we said farewell to one another. Then we went aboard the ship, and they returned to their own homes. 21:7 We continued the voyage from Tyre and arrived at Ptolemais, and when we had greeted the brothers, we stayed with them for one day. 21:8 On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 21:9 (He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.)

21:10 While we remained there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 21:11 He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it, and said, “The Holy Spirit says this: ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man whose belt this is, and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 21:12 When we heard this, both we and the local people begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 21:13 Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be tied up, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 21:14 Because he could not be persuaded, we said no more except, “The Lord’s will be done.”

21:15 After these days we got ready and started up to Jerusalem. 21:16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea came along with us too, and brought us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple from the earliest times, with whom we were to stay. 21:17 When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly. 21:18 The next day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were there.

21:19 When Paul had greeted them, he began to explain in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 21:20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all ardent observers of the law. 21:21 They have been informed about you — that you teach all the Jews now living among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 21:22 What then should we do? They will no doubt hear that you have come. 21:23 So do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow; 21:24 take them and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself live in conformity with the law. 21:25 But regarding the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter, having decided that they should avoid meat that has been sacrificed to idols and blood and what has been strangled and sexual immorality.”

21:26 Then Paul took the men the next day, and after he had purified himself along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them. 21:27 When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 21:28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!” 21:29 (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.) 21:30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut.

21:31 While they were trying to kill him, a report was sent up to the commanding officer of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 21:32 He immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down to the crowd. When they saw the commanding officer and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 21:33 Then the commanding officer came up and arrested him and ordered him to be tied up with two chains; he then asked who he was and what he had done. 21:34 But some in the crowd shouted one thing, and others something else, and when the commanding officer was unable to find out the truth because of the disturbance, he ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks.

21:35 When he came to the steps, Paul had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob, 21:36 for a crowd of people followed them, screaming, “Away with him!” 21:37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commanding officer, “May I say something to you?” The officer replied, “Do you know Greek? 21:38 Then you’re not that Egyptian who started a rebellion and led the four thousand men of the ‘Assassins’ into the wilderness some time ago?” 21:39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Please allow me to speak to the people.”

21:40 When the commanding officer had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and gestured to the people with his hand. When they had become silent, he addressed them in Aramaic,

Prayer

Lord, You call us to be faithful in an evil and rebellious fallen world, and so sometimes we will suffer for our faithful obedience. May I worry less about what may happen if I am faithful then what won't happen through me if I am not faithful.

Summary & Commentary

Paul’s traveled from Miletus to Tyre on his journey to Jerusalem. In Tyre he met with the disciples for seven days during which the Spirit revealed to them the danger to Paul in Jerusalem and they encouraged him to not go. [Note: It is unclear in the text if the Holy Spirit was affirming earlier warnings to Paul, which he continued to ignore, or if He wanted the disciples to comprehend the risk Paul was taking for the cause of Christ.]

Paul journeyed on to Caesarea (Palestinian coast south of Mount Carmel) where stayed with one of the original seven Deacons from Jerusalem named Philip, and his four daughters. The Holy Spirit was delivering prophesies via Philip’s daughters. [Note: The author, Luke, makes an intentional point of the parenthetical note both that Philip’s daughters we single and that God was using them in an important ministry role. It is also notable to recall that most Biblical “prophesy” was the re-telling of what God had done and only a small fraction was fore-telling of things to come. The text does not record any prophesy; that they prophesied appears to have been the purpose of their mention.]

Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem [also mentioned in Acts 11:28], came to Caesarea and tied Paul’s hands and feet with Paul’s belt then prophesied that the same would happen to him in Jerusalem. Luke and the others pleaded with Paul, weeping as they did so, not to travel to Jerusalem but Paul was undeterred so they entrusted the matter to God.

Paul continued on to Jerusalem where he was warned of the rumors that he had taught Jews to abandon their law-keeping customs and even brought Gentiles into the inner courts of the Temple [presumed to be for Jews only]. They started a riot and Paul was attacked. The commanding officer of the cohort hear of the disturbance and stopped it.

He arrested Paul then had to remove him to the barracks so hysterical had the mob become. There Paul noted his citizenry of Tarsus and requested permission to address the crowd. He addressed them in their local dialect of Aramaic.

Interaction
Consider

The Lord God used the Romans to rescue Paul and then to require the people to listen to him.

Discuss

Isn’t it amazing that despite the danger to Paul and others - which they courageously ignored - how they were persuaded in their minds that the calling of Christ was worthy of any price?

Reflect

Philip’s unmarried daughters were empowered by the Lord God to prophesy, actualizing His teaching that there was no hierarchy "male or female, Greek or Hebrew" in God's value system.

Share

When have you been aware of someone who was faithful to the Lord in sharing His truth and suffered a violent reaction — physical or social — yet they persevered?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you increased-courage to serve the Lord God.

Action:

Today I will share a word of encouragement with a woman whose calling is blocked by man.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Friday (Acts 22)

Paul’s Defense

22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen to my defense that I now make to you.” 22:2 (When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter.) Then Paul said, 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated with strictness under Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors, and was zealous for God just as all of you are today. 22:4 I persecuted this Way even to the point of death, tying up both men and women and putting them in prison, 22:5 as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I was on my way to make arrests there and bring the prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

22:6 As I was en route and near Damascus, about noon a very bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 22:7 Then I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 22:8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 22:9 Those who were with me saw the light, but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.

22:10 So I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told about everything that you have been designated to do.’ 22:11 Since I could not see because of the brilliance of that light, I came to Damascus led by the hand of those who were with me.

22:12 A man named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who live there, 22:13 came to me and stood beside me and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ And at that very moment I looked up and saw him. 22:14 Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has already chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear a command from his mouth, 22:15 because you will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’

22:17 When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 22:18 and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 22:19 I replied, ‘Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat those in the various synagogues who believed in you. 22:20 And when the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing nearby, approving, and guarding the cloaks of those who were killing him.’

22:21 Then he said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

The Roman Commander Questions Paul

22:22 The crowd was listening to him until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Away with this man from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live!” 22:23 While they were screaming and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust in the air,

22:24 the commanding officer ordered Paul to be brought back into the barracks. He told them to interrogate Paul by beating him with a lash so that he could find out the reason the crowd was shouting at Paul in this way. 22:25 When they had stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing nearby, “Is it legal for you to lash a man who is a Roman citizen without a proper trial?”

22:26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commanding officer and reported it, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 22:27 So the commanding officer came and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” He replied, “Yes.” 22:28 The commanding officer answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” “But I was even born a citizen,” Paul replied. 22:29 Then those who were about to interrogate him stayed away from him, and the commanding officer was frightened when he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had had him tied up.

Paul Before the Sanhedrin

22:30 The next day, because the commanding officer wanted to know the true reason Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and the whole council to assemble. He then brought Paul down and had him stand before them.

Prayer

Lord, the apostle Paul confronted the people with Your truth and they hated him for it. May I remember that Jesus warned His followers that those who rejected Him would also reject us as His messengers.

Summary & Commentary

Paul’s defense began with a presentation of his mentoring and performance as a member of the religious leaders and their most aggressive persecutors of Christians.

He then shared the story of Jesus confronting him on the road to Damascus and how another man, respected by Jews-of-the-law, named Ananias delivered God’s healing of his sight and led him to be baptized.

Paul continued to share, noting that God spoke to him in the Temple, saying “get out of Jerusalem ... because they will not accept your testimony about Me.”

Paul protested to God that the Jews in Jerusalem knew of his zealotry against the Christians, even approving the murder of Stephen, but God declared that He was sending Paul to the Gentiles.

When Paul mentioned outreach to Gentiles the crowd burst into hysteria and Paul was returned to the barracks.

[Note: The Jews had been deceived by the religious leaders into believing that despite the clear Word of God they remained His unique people - to share God with Gentiles was considered the worst sort of betrayal to such a self-important people.]

The Roman commander ordered Paul lashed to force him to explain why the people were so angry. Paul informed them that he was born a Roman citizen and thus it was a crime against Rome to punish him without a trial. The next morning the commander brought him before the Sanhedrin.

Interaction
Consider

As long as he did not stray from the "brainwashed" narrative the religious leaders had imposed upon their followers they were silent but the moment Paul crossed the socio-religious line of outreach to the Gentiles they reacted with a mindless corporate rage.

Discuss

Does it trouble you that the Roman commander was more-reasoned than the Jews?

Reflect

The people seemed OK with Jesus as long as His message was directed only to Jews.

Share

When have you observed the same sort of blind emotional reaction, against certain culturally-uncomfortable truths, by people within the family of those who associate themselves with the name of Christ?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me an individual, a ministry, or a gathering of believers among a certain people-group who are oppressed for their faith and/or hindered in sharing Christ freely.

Action:

Today I will pray for a quick harvest of those who remain open to the truth as the enemies of truth multiply, seize power, and move to silence those who would preach and teach Christ.

I will pray specifically for the individual, ministry, or gathering of believers whom the Holy Spirit has revealed to me. [This latter population may be in China or Vietnam, most of the middle east, and increasingly (though less visible) in the west as well.]

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Saturday (Acts 23)

23:1 Paul looked directly at the council and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God to this day.” 23:2 At that the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 23:3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit there judging me according to the law, and in violation of the law you order me to be struck?” 23:4 Those standing near him said, “Do you dare insult God’s high priest?” 23:5 Paul replied, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You must not speak evil about a ruler of your people.’”

23:6 Then when Paul noticed that part of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, he shouted out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” 23:7 When he said this, an argument began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 23:8 (For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.) 23:9 There was a great commotion, and some experts in the law from the party of the Pharisees stood up and protested strongly, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 23:10 When the argument became so great the commanding officer feared that they would tear Paul to pieces, he ordered the detachment to go down, take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

23:11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Have courage, for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The Plot to Kill Paul

23:12 When morning came, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. 23:13 There were more than forty of them who formed this conspiracy. 23:14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have bound ourselves with a solemn oath not to partake of anything until we have killed Paul. 23:15 So now you and the council request the commanding officer to bring him down to you, as if you were going to determine his case by conducting a more thorough inquiry. We are ready to kill him before he comes near this place.”

23:16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush, he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. 23:17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commanding officer, for he has something to report to him.” 23:18 So the centurion took him and brought him to the commanding officer and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” 23:19 The commanding officer took him by the hand, withdrew privately, and asked, “What is it that you want to report to me?” 23:20 He replied, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as if they were going to inquire more thoroughly about him. 23:21 So do not let them persuade you to do this, because more than forty of them are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him, and now they are ready, waiting for you to agree to their request.” 23:22 Then the commanding officer sent the young man away, directing him, “Tell no one that you have reported these things to me.” 23:23 Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, “Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea along with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen by nine o’clock tonight, 23:24 and provide mounts for Paul to ride so that he may be brought safely to Felix the governor.” 23:25 He wrote a letter that went like this:

23:26 Claudius Lysias to His Excellency Governor Felix, greetings. 23:27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, when I came up with the detachment and rescued him, because I had learned that he was a Roman citizen. 23:28 Since I wanted to know what charge they were accusing him of, I brought him down to their council. 23:29 I found he was accused with reference to controversial questions about their law, but no charge against him deserved death or imprisonment. 23:30 When I was informed there would be a plot against this man, I sent him to you at once, also ordering his accusers to state their charges against him before you.

23:31 So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him to Antipatris during the night. 23:32 The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, and they returned to the barracks. 23:33 When the horsemen came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. 23:34 When the governor had read the letter, he asked what province he was from. When he learned that he was from Cilicia, 23:35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive too.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Prayer

Lord, You exposed the false teachers for the apostates that they were, and You protected Paul via the secular Roman authorities so that he could be Your instrument in Rome. May I rest in the truth that You preserve that which is necessary to Your great and perfect plan.

Summary & Commentary

When Paul declared a clear conscience before God the high priest Ananias [a common name] ordered those near Paul to strike him [because he had preached Christ and had done so to the Gentiles, therefore they thought him a liar and now a heretic]. Paul chastised them for violating the law, they replied that to say so insulted the high priest, and Paul apologized as he had not known that Ananias was “ruler of the people”. [Note: The leadership rotated because of the distrust and competition among the religious leaders; Paul had been away for several years and had lost touch with the powers-that-be.

Also, Paul referred to Exodus 22:28, which forbade disrespect for God or the leader of His chosen people. Paul was not respecting the apostate who held the office but the office itself - he would continue to call upon them all to turn away from their false teaching as had Jesus before him.]

Paul then played the Pharisees against the Sadducees on the matter of resurrection, on which he knew that they strongly disagreed, and the argument became so heated that the commander removed Paul again to the barracks. The night the Lord encouraged him that he would share the same testimony in Rome.

Some among the religious leaders plotted to kill Paul but his nephew heard of it and informed him, and he sent him to the commander who transferred him under heavy guard to the Roman Governor of the region, Felix, in Caesarea. Based on the letter from the commander in Jerusalem Felix had Paul confined and guarded in Herod’s palace until the religious leaders could arrive to present their charges against him.

Interaction
Consider

One must carefully separate respect for an office from an endorsement of a person or a policy. While the Bible teaches us to pay our taxes, to obey and respect secular and religious authority (so long as they do not demand that we disobey God), and to pray for our leaders it nowhere asks Christians to be silent about sin.

Discuss

Why would the Romans care if the Jews killed Paul?

Reflect

Paul’s history was of a zealous commitment to the truth, as he knew it at the time, first as a zealous “Pharisee of Pharisees” (as he put it) then sold-out to Christ when the blinders of tradition were removed.

Share

When have you observed people with power attempting to silence someone who was attemtping to expose the truth?

Faith in Action
Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a secular or Christian leader for whom He wants you to pray that they listen to God.

Action:

Today I will search my own Christian walk for the kind of zealous commitment to Christ that empowered Paul to be so bold.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

 

All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org

Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.

Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.

Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2011 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study— “Acts” — prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in December of 2011. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.

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