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Introduction to Book of Acts

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ACTS

Author: Luke

Traveling companion with Paul.  “We” sections: Ch. 16:10-17;  20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16

Had access to principal eyewitnesses of Ch. 13-28

Opportunity to interview key eyewitnesses of JC as he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem during 2 yr. imprisonment.

Background:

Defense of Paul’s imprisonment: book ends abruptly w/ Paul awaiting trial in Rome. 

Date: 62 AD, based upon knowledge of rulers during Paul’s imprisonment.

            3 Unmentioned events of Acts:

Paul died AD68

            Nero AD 64

            Destruction of Jerus. AD 70

Story of men and women who took the great commission seriously.  Part II of Luke’s story.  Acts (Greek title: Praxeis-accomplishment of powerful men. 

Some of the Acts of Some of the Apostles: primarily Peter 1-12 and Paul 13-28.

Purpose:

1.     Defend Faith—Apologetic:  All history is written with a purpose. Specifically defend Paul during trial.  A strong argument can be made that the gospel of Luke and the account of Acts builds a case that Paul’s teaching is legal under Jewish and Roman law.  All of the testimonies of previous trials reveal “not guilty” outcomes.    Acts is the only link of a single story of God (Christ) between OT…Gospels…Epistles (application of church).

2.     Story of the Holy Spirit and the Church:  The HS works through the Apostles to form the church.  Development of the Church from Judaism to Gentile membership.

3.     Thesis: Christianity is both distinct from Judaism and its fulfillment.  (From Law to Grace/ Kingdom to Church)

           

            Acts 1:8  The thesis and outline of Acts

                        “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

            3 Sections of Acts:

Jerusalem  Ch. 1-8:4

Judea & Samaria 8:5-12:25

All the ends of the earth  13-28

Message:

Typical Lukan emphasis on prayer, signs and wonders of God—specifically the Holy Spirit at work through followers and faithful, and the requisite power of Holy Spirit in World Evangelization—cross cultural communication.  6 summary statements:  6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:31.


NT CULTURAL BACKGROUND

 

“No civilization comes from nowhere.”  John Drane

 

1.     The Diaspora

586 BC Diaspora-  “the dispersed”  The exile of the Judah during Nebuchadnezar II, King of Babylon.  End of King David’s dynasty 3 yrs. Earlier 589 BC

More Jews in Alexandria than any other city.  Judaism answered the void left by current religions—lg # of proselytes; and “God fearers” (not circumcised) Acts 10:1-48

2.     Alexander the Great 356-232 BC

Defeated Persian Empire, Egypt, and Pakistan.  Estab. Continental unity for the 1st time.

Establishes common language used by world as Greek

            Religious allegiance of the world changed w/ new political power.  Hellenism: rural cultish roots. Homeric expression of relationships.  Did not answer all aspects of religion.  True religion of Greeks: Philosophy, and knowledge.

      Greece broken up by 3 Generals after Alex. Death

                  Antiochus IV: suffered humiliating defeat in Egypt.  Determined to re-establish authority.  Put Zeus in the Temple at Jerusalem and opened the temple to everyone!  Jews only nation with one god. 

Mattathias and religious sect of Macabees overthrow Antiochus’troops. 180-161 BC   Israel still fiercely independent posture of “chosen” to rule world prior to Romans

Combined w/ Diaspora, Greek translation of OT, Septuagint (LXX), ordered by Ptolemy II (285-247 BC)  Document influenced by orthodox Jew named Philo.

3.     Roman Octavian 63 BC - 14 AD

Re-establishes “world order”. Greek language still language of commerce. Improve roads, increased world trade, increased cross-cultural communication.  \

Eastern mystic (astrology/fertility) influence increases. Roman Hellenistic gods dilutes effectiveness of religion to answer questions/meet needs of people.  MORAL VACUUM.

4.     Herod the Great, 37-4 BC

      Procurator, named by Julius Caesar (1/2 Jewish ½ Roman), personal favorite of Marc Antony, kept in power by winning favor of Augustus.  Political expert.“Great” for building and expanding empire. Re-built Temple in Jerusalem 20BC.  Kept family in place, away from taking his power, by killing wife and his own children.  3 sons inherited rule. Herod Antipas ruled Galilee.  Rome gave them less power as tetrarchs.  26-36 AD Pontius Pilate controlled Roman interests.

5.     Jesu s of Nazareth born 4-6 BC

Herod the Great died 4 BC; Caesar Augustus ruled (27 BC- 14AD); Cenus of Quirinius was approx. 6AD

6.     1st C. Sadducees: ultra-orthodox politically influential, well to do priests. Torah only, God had no plans for future life eternal. Pharisees: 6,000 natl. organization, most influence religiously, “gate keeper” to interpretation of the law. Zealots: religiously aligned with Pharisees, but political rebels. Insatiable pattern for liberty against Rome.

WORLD VIEW/CULTURE  MODEL

 

 

The graphic model of how any group of people, or culture, defines and develops their individual concept of culture appears as follows:

 

            Cultural Behavior

            Values

Beliefs

            World View

                     NOMADIC TRIBE OF ISRAEL:


The Missionary Target Model

 

This dynamic model is a method for deciding and communicating the essential Gospel message of atonement within the church and to other cultures.  Atonement, or “at-one-ment,” is simply defined as reconciliation. The actions of man and God in order to come together.  The centrality of atonement in the Gospel message is a prioritization system based upon God’s greatest need to have mankind back in relationship with Him.

The prioritization of the atonement puts the life, death, burial and resurrection (DBR) at the focal point of scripture. The Jesus event proclaimed in the Gospels by the Apostles have all matters crucial to the faith in a relationship to this core.  All matters receive priority by this relationship.  The LDBR is the essential and non-negotiable foundation on which to decide what is important to one’s atonement in the text. Other matters are to some degree less important yet in some way have a relationship to the core. The outer matters in the core are dynamic in the sense that they move away from or draw closer to the issue of atonement based upon the degree of success in expanding the Kingdom of Christ.  This can be graphically exemplified as the following:

Cultural Matters

Congregational Matters

Individual Matters

LDBR

The corresponding and co-active model of  the Missions Target Model, with its core as the world view, is the moving target of cultural behavior for the Atomic Arrow model to address. The Missions Target Model is graphically displayed below.

CULTURE

Learned Responses for Survival of a Group

BEHAVIOR

Norms, folkways, mores, laws, attitudes

VALUES

What doe the group relate to as worthy

BELIEFS

What is true

WORLD VIEW

Presuppositions

These two models in interaction with each other provide us with an understanding of how to use what is essential and non-essential to being a Christian as an entry point to a corresponding cultural behavior. The graphic interaction of these two models appears as follows:

 

               Cultural Matters                                                                      Cultural Behavior

         Congregational Matters                                                                        Values

Individual Matters                                                                             Beliefs

                     LDBR                                                                                 World View

 

As an example,  you might make take issue with a teenager that having tattoos scars God’s human temple; when in fact the norm of having tattoos in a youthful culture allows for acceptance of the individual by his peers.  This individual will have a better chance of witnessing and become observed by the teens for further evidence of Christianity.  This interaction is critically necessary when it comes to reaching across larger gaps into entirely separate cultures or people groups.

Finding common ground is critical to bridging the gap to Christ in a culture with different presuppositions like naturalism; different language and typology; and different behavior like animal worship.  A missionary must filter through his own presuppositions to discern behavior that is not essential and is essential from a separate people group in order that they may learn about Christ.


CH 1

PREPARING TO GO  v1-5

(Luke begins story with recapitulation of the theme of his writing.  Theopolis—“lover of God”, is the ancient customary sponsor of the writing.  Writers honored their sponsors by a dedication in the intro.) 

Parallel of 40 days: JC 40 days in desert; Apostle time being taught by JC w/o power of HS.  “Gathering together” is literally “take salt together” meaning table fellowship—ultimate sign of intimacy for 1st C. Jewish custom.  HS was always associated with purification (baptism of proselytes), wisdom or prophecy.

COMING & GOING v.6-11

OT references to outpouring of Spirit were all in context of restoration of Israel (IS 32:15; 44:3;  Ezek 36:25-28; 37:14;  Joel 2:28-3:1)  See MT 24:36,  Although time of Israel’s restoration remains unknown, the end-time mission given to Israel to be Spirit-anointed witnesses is being given now!  (OT: Is 42:1-6; 43:10-12; 44:3,8)  Prnc: “only the father knows the end…you will be equipped…so get busy!”  No need to fear…you’re equipped…get busy!  App: WITNESS  What is your expectation…world kingdom or heavenly one?  What I s your fear…I’m not enough…that’s right, you arent, the HS is the power.  What is the limits of your witness?  ALL PEOPLES: Ps 67:1, 7; Is 45:22; 46:6; 52:10; Is 49:6=Acts 13:47.

Jesus’ ascension:  Gk stories had humans rise and become godlike: Heracles on his funeral pyre.  OT: Elijah—Jewish audience would understand his destination, yet what of his stature as Christ?  Men dressed in white—Angels defining the moment helps the disciples to see that Jesus’ extraordinary departure confirms him as Christ of heaven.  Prnc  Succession: Moses had Joshua; Elijah-Elisha; rabbis/ philosophers—disciples; Jesus—his believers are his successors to carry out his mission until his return in his glorified body.

REPLACE JUDAS v12-14

v15 “In those days”—Given the 50 days from Passover to Pentecost, and subtracting the 3 days in the tomb, and the forty days of time with Jesus, this meeting could have lasted close to a week.  Tradition is it is the 10 days before Pentecost.  Mount Olivet (Zech 14:4) was the expected place of the Messiah’s coming:  the HS at Pentecost (birth of Ch=Bride of Christ>>2nd coming fulfillment).  The upper room indicates a wealthy or better off family.  A Sabbath’s day journey is a unit of measure, not that it happened on the Sabbath. WOMEN PLAY A ROLE v14  Given the culture’s usual treatment of women as property, the equal participation of the women in prayer and meeting is very significant.

LEADERS ARE IMPORTANT Replacing a leader was common practice among the Essenes community—they kept to 12 leaders believing they were  the true remnant of the 12 tribes of Israel.  JC chose 12 disciples to make the same point. An eyewitness (“…beginning from John’s baptism”)was crucial…verbal communication world, if there weren’t 2 eyewitness—it did not happen. Travel in 2’s would have left one out.  Lots were used in OT to select special duties:  Ex 28:30; Lev 16;8; Prov 18:18;  1 Chron 24:7; 25:8.  Gk’s considered lots to be divine intervention.  This is the last reported incident of using lots…the outpouring of the HS plays the role of communication more directly to his people.

CH 2  THE PEOPLE OF PENTECOST

Jewish people from throughout the Roman and Parthian worlds.  (N.E. Iran/a region southeast of the Caspian Sea. Parthia was Rome’s main rival for control of the near east.  Spoke Aramaic.) PENTECOST:  “50” day Jewish religious harvest festival of the barley crop.  50 days was the amount of time it took to harvest the crop.  Pentecost took place 50 days after Passover. Jews from all over the Mid-east made the pilgrimage to Jerus.  Many Jews were bi-lingual to Aramic and Greek—the language of Roman empire.   To stay for the entire time.  PRNC: Pentecost was GOD’s HARVEST of HIS PEOPLE! THE CHURCH IS FOR GOD’S HARVEST!

APP: Bringing others to God should be the 1st value of the church.

TONGUES: glossa 1. Tongue, 2. foreign language, 3. Strange/obsure speech or “jibberish oracle”  heteroglossos—a strange tongue/ different language.  Used in I Cor. 14:21 where Paul is instructing the church about the use of tongues and interpretation.  The charisma must be subject to be useful in lifting up the church (edification) and limited to testing.  Prophecy (proclaiming  God’s word=preaching Gospel) is superior to tongues, and above all the gifts is love  (I Cor. 13)

“…speaking in tongues”v. 3 belongs to the context of speaking in the gift of the spirit, an unintelligible oracle, which causes astonishment for the purpose of revealing/proving God’s anointing.  Since all the people are Jews, an impression of confused babbling is given as they detect their own language v4 (v.8-dialekto-“dialect”Gk,v 11)

THE PROPHECY OF PENTECOST v14-21

Joel’s prophecy, tongues prove that the spirit of prophecy has come, which proves that salvation has come, which proves the messianic era has come, thus JC= Messiah.   Lord, v. 21, OT text uses sacred Yahweh, spoken in synagogue to be Adonai or Lord.  Audience would have understood Lord to be equal to God.  PRNC If the  Spirit can inspire them to speak languages they do not know, how much more could God inspire us to prophesy the word of the Lord in our own language?  APP:  PREACH THE WORD!

1st SERMON

Peter establishes witnesses to his argument linked to prophesy, David’s Ps. 16.  POINT 1: GOD RAISED CHRIST FROM THE DEAD. This is not an anti-Semitic attack against Jews, rather proves and distinguishes between the expected Davidic Messiah (rebellious war general/king) and God’s anointed descendent of David. PRNC: CHRIST IS VICTORIOUS OVER DEATH. APP Belief/faith in Christ acquires the same victory over death.

POINT 2: The outpouring of the HS is proof of Christ’s resurrection. v.33 PRNC: The resurected Christ is the Lord (Adonai) at the right hand of  the Lord (God/Yahweh).

Baptism was a sign of converstion to Judaism normally reserved for pagans and gentiles.  Peter’s demand would have offended some traditional Jews.  “In the name of Jesus Christ” distinguishes Peter’s form of baptism—it demands a faith in Christ, not just a formula phrase to say over the ceremony.  PRNC: RESPONSE:  People were cut to the heart, and acted out their response towards God.  They repented. APP: The gospel moves people emotionally in an action back towards God.  Faith is a package:  Belief; Repentance: turning to God/ turn away from sin=what separates you from God; Receive HS—accept, claim, a spiritual power that transends earthly power.

POINT 3: The promise is for you, your children and all who are far off.   It’s doubtful that Peter was thinking of gentiles, but of all the Jewish people scattered outside of Palestine.

POINT 4:  The package of faith: belief, turning away from sin, turn to God, acceptance of HS, baptism SAVES YOU FROM THE CORRUPT WORLD. APP:  Whatcha gonna do ‘bout it?

POWER OF PENTECOST: v 41-47

Josephus writes that there were estimated 6,000 Pharisees in all of Palestine…3,000 converts to the new Jesus movement in Jerusalem is no small start!  Most special groups in antiquity ate together, yet many associations met for communal meals only once a month (mystery cults, Pharisaic fellowships, burial associations.  This early Christian practice of meeting daily is noteworthy. The economic sharing is radical, yet not monastic, nor ascetic.  The early Christians acknowledged Jesus owns both our lives and property (4:32)  The temples were among the best places to gather, public prayer took place in the morning and evening offerings. PRNC God’s church is intimate, caring, and loving towards one-another.  COMMUNITY is result of outpouring of the HS.  APP  People over possessions!

CH 3 

The Name of Christ will Heal—Peter heals the crippled beggar.

v1-10: The “Beautiful Gate”  was the popular title for the Nicanor Gate, named after it’s Alexandrian donor.  It was in the Court of Women on the east, facing the sanctuary.  It was made of bronze and had to look brilliant in the rising sun.  Women nor the maimed and unclean could not pass beyond the entrance.  Crippled from birth, congenital defects would be considered harder to cure than other infirmities.

“In the name of Jesus Christ” v.6 means acting as his representative or “Jesus cures you” (Acts 3:16;4:10-12)  Praise to God is appropriate.  PRNC: Jesus cures you.  APP: Power of Christ is over money/material/world.

v.      11-26  2nd SERMON: HEALING/MIRACLES HAS A PURPOSE…God uses miracles/wonders to attract people to him…SO THAT GOOD NEWS CAN BE PROCLAIMED.  God’s power, HS, does the work (healing beggar), faith comes through Christ to beggar.  PRNC: a) Don’t be surprised by God’s power. v.12  b) Leaders betrayal, out of ignorance, is forgivable. C) But “He who does not listen to Christ, will be completely cut off!” D) Acceptance of Christ leads to God’s promised blessing APP:  Turn away from sin and turn towards God and receive His blessing.  Christ is coming back.

            The Purpose of Healing

                        People cling to answers from the world…money, other people

                        Answers for healing come from Jesus through faith v. 16

                        The purpose of this healing was to prove…testify…teach…proclaim

                        Faith comes to everyone…Even betrayers

                        Faith receives blessing=”times of refreashing” v. 19

CH 4 

INTERNAL CONFLICT BEGINS: IS THE MESSAGE TRUE?

COURAGE IN FAITH--  Peter and John confronted by the Sanhedrin

BACK.: The Sadducees controlled the temple hierarchy and most of the resident priesthood who would have made up the Sanhedrin, the central judicial authority.  The “captain, or sagan, of the temple guard” was a local police force permitted by the Romans and made up of Levites.

Sadducees—political party, those allied with Herodian and Roman rulers. Wealthy aristocrats and established families but not a strong influence among the people and were thereby compelled to operate the temple according to the Pharisees view.  Written Torah only, no oral.  Pentateuch prioritized over Prophets.  No future resurrection (that is why they are so SAD, YOU SEE)  No angels, no spirits as it is developed in post biblical Judaism.  (Pharisees did)  Since the Sadducees’ influence was over the temple, they lost all power around the 66-70AD destruction of Jerus.

Pharisees—represented the people, sect started as a religious reform movement of the time of the Maccabean revolt.  Came into power as an opposition party during the reign of Hasmoneans John Hyrcanus (134-104 BC)  Emphasized exact observance of the Jewish religion, exact expression of the law and handed down extrabiblical customs and traditons.  Moderate postiion with regard to the interplay of fate and free will. Resurrection—but did not recognize Jesus, and were not “revolutionary” so they did not pose a threat to the Sanhedrin.

Peter & John preaching resurrection was not only heresy to the Sadducees controlling the Sanhedrin, but it also threatened there existence.  If Resurrection was true, the Sadducees were wrong.  Night trials were illegal.  “…by which we must be saved-includes meaning of making whole or healing.”   v.11 “the stone you builders rejected..” was the same statement JC directed towards the Pharisees in LK 20:17.  “Unschooled” v.13 means not trained in Greek rhetoric (public speaking) and not trained by rabbis.  Peter and John reflect the same background of uneducated boldness that Jesus had.  Both the disciples and the aristocracy recognize there is no basis for a legal charge, yet they have authority to control teachings in their temple—issue of obedience and authority.

PRNC:  HS gave Peter & John power to defend. Cannot help but tell all about JC and Good News.  Can’t deny a miracle. APP: HS gives power to expand God’s kingdom…fulfill your purpose.  Obey God not people.

PRAISE IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION: v.23-31

The prayer starts with God’s authority.  (this contrasts with the attempts for authority by the Sanhedrin)  OT prayers for vindication/revenge were common (2Chron 24:21-22; Ps 109:6-20) but this is a prayer for faithfulness and strength to fulfill God’s purpose.  God shows his power through the outpouring of the HS again…RESULT:  WITNESS + SHARING/CARING.  Barnabus (many Jews had nicknames reflecting their personality) like other Levites during Jesus’ day, owned land.  The Sadducees were also an established rich class---therefore, Barnabus’ gift is quite significant by its contrast.  PRNC  Seek GOD’s power for fulfilling God’s purpose, HS, and it will come.  Sharing, giving, confirms power of HS just as much as tongues.  APP Pray for strength to fulfill His purpose (expand kingdom).  Community = HS in action!  Share with one another.

CH 5

ADDRESSING SIN IN CAMP—Cannot fool God. v.1-11 BACK: OT, Josh 7—the sin of one man, who kept the spoils to himself had once brought judgment on the entire nation of Israel. The man, Achan, had to be killed before Israel moved forward.  “…I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction”  Josh 7:12 PRNC:  1.God takes corporate sincerity far more seriously than most Christians. 2. Sharing/Community is important to God—death to Ananias & Sapphra. 3. Lying to God is a serious offense—death! (2Ki. 5:20-27)  APP Give to God.  Be honest with God.

MIRACULOUS HEALINGS---The Church Grows. V.12-16  See I Cor. 10:20 for an early Christian view on how miracle healings were usually credited to the deities housed in the temples.  Ancient people thought that one’s shadow was attached to oneself; in Jewish law, if one’s shadow touched a corpse—you were unclean.  PRNC:  Healings have a purpose—expand the kingdom.  APP Tell the world of how and where God has healed you.  Ex:  Finances, relationships, self-worth, life’s purpose.

INTERNAL CONFLICT (Sadducees—THIS MESSAGE IS A THREAT TO OUR POWER-- TRIES TO STOP MISSION

ARRESTED AGAIN v.17-32  Sadducees filled with jealousy—jail apostles.  God’s angel opens the door of the jail and brought them out.  PRNC 1. God is there to help in struggle.  2. God leads them out For A Purpose—Expand The Kingdom.

 

Apostles dragged before Sanhedrin—Levite “guards” are the soldiers who report to the Sanhedrin.  They would have been sensitive to the crowd, but Roman guards probably would not.  Roman guards, if they had authority in this situation, could have killed them immediately for escaping. Sanhedrin reminded the apostles were told not to teach Jesus  (Sadducees in Sanhedrin did not believe in resurrection).  PRNC  Must obey God, not men.  Expand Gospel = #1 Priority over man’s rules, regulations, priorities.  APP Proclaim the great news that Christ has died so that our sins against God are forgiven.

HELP FROM ANOTHER v.33-42  Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, stood up before Sanhedrin to make them stop and think before acting—“If they are of God, then God will bless them…if not, He’ll make them fail”  Back: Pharisees had little political power and couldn’t execute someone for political reasons (teaching something different from their beliefs—i.e. resurrection.)  Other rebels for Israel:  Theudas, 44AD, was a Jewish magician who gathered followers to the river Jordan promising to part it.  Roman Govenor Fadus sent troops who killed and captured members of the crowd.  Judas, the Galilean, led the tax revolt of 6AD and was destroyed by the Romans.  THEREFORE, as much as it seems that Gamaliel is trying to help, his common knowledge of Rome will respond shows an adroit handling of the conflict w/o putting the Sanhedrin at risk.

The apostles disobey the edict and teach and preach boldly and at risk. Apostles rejoiced in suffering for Gospel—“badge of honor” PRNC 1. God will prove out his followers.  2. Help in God’s purpose comes from others.  3. With God on your side, you can assume the risk. APP  We are God’s witness.  We too will be helped by God.  We too can take the risk.

CH 6

TIME TO GET SERIOUS…GET MORE WORKERS

STEPHEN MINISTRY  v.1-7  Back: The Bible dictated caring for widows who had no other means of support if they had no family nearby.  Jewish culture took this seriously compared to Gentile cultures.  Grecian Jews were more than likely Diaspora Jews or perhaps Greek Speaking Jews (but most Jews were bi-lingual).  The church is becoming divided: bi-cultural/racial tension.  Diaspora Jews had a tradition of moving to Jerus to spend their last days before death…thus leaving widows abandoned. Creating the problem of disproportionate distribution and supply of charity between synagogues. The mentioned names are all Greek names, one even pointed out as a proselyte (convert).  Laying on of hands: Num. 27:18,23, ritual of ordination—setting apart.  The priests were part of the lower echelon of the temple establishment.  The delegation of duties allows the growth of the faith…even to the “establishment.”

PRNC 1. Delegation of authority, division of labor, helps spread the word.  APP  Stephen ministers: “Men full of faith…HS…God’s Grace.”v.8

STEPHEN SEIZED  v.8-15  Racial problems in the church.  Archaeologists confirm Jerusalem had many synagogues and have found a dedicatory inscription from a “synagogue of the freedman”  those descending from Roman slaves—socially one step lower than proselytes.  The capital of Cilicia was Tarsus, Paul’s hometown.  Sanhedrin had to lie—produce false witnesses—to overcome the power of the HS! PRNC God’s HS could not be overcome.  Opposition had to lie, falsely accuse. APP

 

CH 7

STEPHEN’s TRIAL  Falsely accused, the truth is worth dying for!   The Abraham/Joseph/Moses Narrative recites Israel’s history in order to set the context for his defense—God’s working with man in history does not make the nation of Israel nor the temple necessary……the Most High does not live in houses made by men” v.48   “You stiff necked people”   v.51  STEVEN STONED,  Romans did not permit subject people to carry out executions, but the Sanhedrin are so outraged they carry out their own level of their law in spite of the risk of Roman disapproval.  Martyrdom proves Stephen’s point, Israel is disobedient.  This lays the groundwork for the Gospel to expand to other cultures…SAUL, a conspirator, holds the clothes of accusers as they stone Steven…STEVEN FORGIVES, (Just Like Christ, Lk 23:46)…SAUL GAVE APPROVAL. PRNC  1. Man resists and rejects the HS…opposes the leaders God gives them (Joseph, Moses) 2. The blood of Christians is the seed of the church” APP Have we refused to obey…to follow no matter the price…to forgive those who have “stoned” us.

CH 8 

PERSECUTION SCATTERS THE CHURCH…GOD FORCES THE ISSUE…

THE PURPOSE OF PERSECUTION..v.1-8  The church scatters at the news of Stephen’s stoning, like cockroaches in the light.  It took persecution to get the church to begin to do what Jesus had commanded…they finally go to Samaria  (Acts 1:8).  Up to this point, the spreading of the Gospel was centralized in Jerusalem.  Saul’s dragging them off to prison (prison was normally a holding place till trial) was based upon the charge of opposing the realm of the temple, Stephen’s speech.  “Those who have been scattered—THE DIASPORA”  Finally God get what he wants…get the gospel out of Jerusalem  PRNC: Persecution, suffering, displacement has a purpose.  APP  Like Peter in the storm with Jesus on the water…do we look to the wind, and the waves or keep our eyes on Jesus.  Struggles in life can be opportunities for God to expand the Gospel.

SIMON THE SORCERER  v.9  Signs And Wonders were of high accord in antiquity.  Our Western world view (See World View handout) does not place value in miracles because our culture is centralized by the enlightenment’s (17th C Rationalism—John Locke, John Dewey) value on cause-effect/ scientific method …God is “outside of the box” for current thinking.  Virtually all other world cultures not as extremely influenced by science/technology accept diverse forms of supernatural activity, Mexico.  Those who reject miracles merely on the basis of philosophical dogma do so as ethnocentric rather than genuinely open-minded intellectuals.  Cause-effect is not wrong, but the presupposition that all human knowledge is based upon reasonable causes and human experience is limited. The role of God is not outside of cause and effect, but inside of cause and effect.  God is alive in events, lives, incarnate. (CS Lewis—JC is either a lunatic or God.)

 

Magicians usually drew large followings, the “Great Power” v.10, shows the trend to synthesize Greek gods into one universal male deity.  Samaritans who followed the birth ritual of circumcision, could convert through baptism alone.  But Samaritan conversion was rare since it would have been a public denial of one’s Samaritan culture.  Jews would share the claim that to convert a Samaritan was a cultural betrayal.    The OT teaches that some of God’s signs can be duplicated by pagan sorcerers, the source of which is Belial (Satan)  Ex. 7:11, 22; 8:7.  Conservative Jerusalem, Peter and John, would most certainly have heavy concerns re. The Samaritan conversions.  They travel to make certain it’s for real…hence the focus on their baptism.  Does it include the HS.  Baptism: has the gift of the HS, and Peter & John are able to see for themselves the evidence that God has anointed another culture..   Philip has broken new ground. THE APOSTLES START TO GET IT!!!  Prnc:  Gospel is for every race, culture, and people.

Gonna buy me some power…the only category many Greeks could fit the miracles would have been that of magical works, which were formulas that could be bought and traded.  Prnc  Can’t buy the spirit.  Only your Heart can let the spirit into your life.  App where do we try to “buy” the spirit…if I get this promotion, I’ll tithe…If you get me out of this jam God, I’ll be faithful…?

…PHILIP PLANTS THE SEED FOR AFRICA

CONVERSION OF THE AFRICAN v 26  Luke devotes nearly as much space to the conversion of this one foreigner, who is highly equipped to evangelize his own culture, as to the revival in Samaria.  Why?…because Samaritans were considered half-breeds, in bred through history with the Jews, and this is the 1st fully Gentile convert to Christianity.

Ethiopia in Mediterranean legends and mythical geography was considered as the very end of the earth, with the most commonly mentioned feature of having black skin.  Candace, v27, was a dynastic queen of Ethiopia.  Greco-Roman literature declares her rule over a black Nubian kingdom south of Egypt in what is now Sudan around 750BC with main cities of Meroe and Napata.  (This should not be confused with modern Ethiopia which converted to Christianity in 4th C, AD.) A treasurer of the queen would be a very powerful official. Only the most well to do had chariots, most people walked, better off had horses.  [Jer 38:7-13..an Ethiopian eunuch turned out to be one of Jeremiah’s few allies and saved his life.] Christianity began to expand in Abyssinia through lay witness int he 3rd C around the same time as the Roman Empire’s conversion.  Prnc: Gospel for all…App What race do I exclude?

The language used in “Philip was taken away”  suggests the same as supernatural movement as Iking 18:12; 2King 2:16; Exek 3:12,14,  more of an overwhelming spiritual enrapture leading one’s physical body to another place, than an Elijah flying in the sky or “poof” you’ve disappeared.

Azotus, was 25 miles No. of Gaza, 35 miles W. of Jerus…Caesarea Maritima (coastal Caesarea, not Caesarea Philippi) was over 50 No of Azotus…Philips journey to convert along this path to Caesarea is important in Act 10.1

 

HS, direct intervention giving specific instructions—what is the general message?  “Go and convert” (see worksheet of number of direct occurrences)  PRnc  1.Go and convert…2. use scripture…3. God/HS had prepared the heart of the Eunuch…4. Eunuch responds—IMMEDIATELY! 5. Philip continues to follow HS and looks for the next one.  App  What is the mission of the HS?…Convert/Evangelize—What are we doing about it?

CH 9

THE HERO TO OUR STORY JOINS THE TEAM

SAUL’S CONVRSION v 1 Official letters of authorization by the Sanhedrin were recognized outside of Palestine.  Messages fiven to messengers repeated them verbatim on their delivery—“still breathing threats” Damascus had tens of thousands of Jews living there.  As many as 18,000 were massacred there in AD66. 

Saul confronted by God

            -Flashlight from heaven: the Shekinah or the OT concept of God’s presence or “glory”

            -Voice of Jesus “Why do you perscecute me?”

                        PRNC: Persecuting believers=Persecuting JC

                                    Whatever you do to other you do to JC (Lk 10:16)

            -others witnessed, but did not see Same as Daniel 10:7

            -Saul blinded (Gn 19:11; 2KI. 6:18-20)…prayed…fasted:3days  

                        PRNC: GOD SAYS, GET UP & GO!!!!

AANIAS’ MISSION v10-19 - believer, reluctant, faithful: fearful of God

            -God called him in the same vision (rare, but happens. GN 41:32)

            -Afraid to face persecution

n       PRNC: GOD SAYS GO!!!!!

 

SAUL is chosen instrument FOR SPREADING WORD TO GENTILES…Undeserving!!

This is Luke’s thesis for legal case---God picked this mission

 

n      PRNC: GOD GUARENTEES SUFFERING FOR HIS NAME! (for “his name” means either for Jesus’ honor; or could be translated “on my behalf” meaning while acting as my representative

n      Faithful and fearful: obeyed God and WENT, laid hands on Saul

n      Proper Fear=awesome respect

            APP: What are my fears to GO?

                        Physical: security, housing, safety, food, clothing

                        Emotional: acceptance by others, friends, family

                       

                        ILLus: 2 I left on the table

1)Viva Fresh, near Dinah’s Chicken.  Lady witness, all she needed was the nudge I knew to say,  just ask him into your heart”

2)     Florence funeral, Venice CA, the jewish man who was struggling w/ where she was going.

CONFRONTATIONS IN DAMASCUS & JERUSALEM v19-31

Saul teaches: Jesus is Son of God.  Not trusted in Damascus, he used to be the big threat—Saul’s reputation still floating around. PRNC: Saul grows more powerful as he teaches.  APP: Tell others…strength will grow.  Prnc: God used Sauls experience and knowledge as a knowledgeable rabbi to teach others.  Jews conspire to kill him, means assasinate and not execute legally.  2Cor 11:32-33 indicates by Paul’s own account that they had secured the cooperation of high officials in the Damascus gov’t.  Looks like it could be the same fate as Stephens until he is sent to Tarsus. PRNC: HELPED BY FOLLOWERS.(houses were built into walls of city.  Common escape pattern as that in Josh 2:13, 1Sam 19:12)

Jerus: Saul tries to join apostles, not trusted due to reputation. Barnabus helps: “vouches” for Saul—he accepted JEC and preached Christ.   Grecian Jews don’t believe or trust Saul, conspire to kill him. PRNC: Bros. Helped—sent him to Tarsus.

Tarsus: Cosmopolitan city. Crossroads of trade routes.Because Paul was born there (22:3) Paul probably had relatives there; but his colleagues and training had been thoroughly Palestinian Jewish (Phil 3:5)  SO it is during this period of life that Saul begins to relate to Gentiles from Asia Minor (modern Turkey).  The only representatives of the apostles he gets to know well are Peter and James (Gal 1:18-19)

PRNC:  ONCE THE WORD WAS IN POSITION TO REACH OTHERS>>>THEN THE CHURCH FLOURISHED!!!!! APP: Have I put the word in position to flourish. Surround your life with non-believers.

MEAN WHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH…LUKE GOES BACK IN HIS STORY TO PETER

Peter is about to “Get It”about salvation to undeserving

OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH PETER v 32-43 Lydda- Capital of one of the Judean districts that included non-jews.  Sharon is not a name, but a coastal plain that extended from Lydda to Mt. Carmel in the north.  Aneas gives Peter another oppty to show healing power of JC. “Pick up your mat and walk”  Joppa- was a profitable port city under Jewish control until it came under direct Roman authority AD6.  Tabitha is a Semitic name and Dorcas a Greek name, both with the same meaning: gazelle.  Jewish women were active in charity projects. In Greco-Roman culture women were oftentimes patrons or benefactors.  Only women prepared bodies for burial and had to be prepared right away…Lydda is 10 miles from Joppa over mountains making for a 3-4 hr journey, since it was customary to bury before sundown, they could afford no delay.  Peter tells the others to get out just like Elisha did to heal the boy 2Ki.4:33.

Tanners—despised profession—touched uncleand animals, cured the skins with their own urine. 

 

God is starting to set Peter up…break him down…step one: share hospitality with someone “unclean”

PRNC: JC HEALS>>>WHICH SPREADS THE WORD.  APP: Is my healing spreading the word?   Simon-tanners were not a very prestigious occupation.  They were avoided whenever possible because they touched unclean carcasses.  PRNC: Peter stresses hospitality over legalism.

CH 10

Step Two: God sets up Peter’s messenger—A God Fearer—Meet Peter half-way

Cornelius’ Vision v1-8 Cornelius, lived in Caesarea, the residence of the Roman Governor of Judea and held a large garrison.  Centurions commanded units of roughly 80-100 men, hence “cent-urion” and generally worked their way up in the ranks rather than political appointment.  Italian Regiment: Agrippa had his troops (Judean) in Caesarea from AD41-44 so this event takes place before AD41. Non-citizens could not join military service, but could volunteer for auxiliary troops and receive citizenship upon discharge.  Military service was a preferred occupation, enlisting for 20 yrs. of service, generally ages 17-37.  The rewards were high, but roughly only one-half survived.

Cornelius, “God fearing” term means not a full convert(not circumcised)  but a believer, see Peter’s claim 10:28 “associate w/ Gentiles”  Having been a Roman Solider would have added contempt and challenged the prejudice for the audience reading Luke’s writing after the war in AD70.  His family, is actually written as household—house servants, freedpersons. Doubtful if it was slaves, a cheap slave cost about 1/3 of a regular soldier’s pay.  Centurions could not marry, but had illegal concubines and children that were ignored by superiors. The transient nature of the military does not favor the probability of a marriage.  If he was married it was common for the wife to share the religion of the husband.  PRNC: God looks out for his faithful. (Josh 6:25; 2Sam 12:9-10) He uses a devout man to challenge the church to include everyone.

Step 3: God gives Peter direct communication

PETER’S VISION v 9-16  HS gives a direct vision and instruction. Large Sheet-the sheet of the temple from heaven. The vision of eating all sorts of animals would have been disgusting and revolting to anyone raised in 1st C Palestinian kosher culture.  Hungry as Peter may be since it was the normal noon lunchtime, not a hunger from fasting, he wouldn’t be that hungry.  (Ezek 4:13-15, Ezekial receives the same vision to eat unclean meat from God). PRNC God’s love is for everyone.  No one is “ made perfect by law—eating clean” everyone God made is “clean”

THE TABLE’S FOR EVERYONE: Cornelius bows before Peter, “I am only a man myself”.  PRNC No matter our worldly station, we are all equal and only men and women.  Peter could have been highly criticized for entering into a Gentile’s house by the more conservative factions (Pharisees) of Judaism, but more lax Jews would not object.  Eating with them was a forbidden principle. Peter now gets the message… What a set-up!!!  1!st God sends Peter to a tanner’s house, then God made sure Peter would understand by sending a Gentile to explain this disgusting message to Peter. 

CORNELIUS HAMMERS THE POINT HOME…GOD SAID EVERYONE!!!

PRNC: Gospel is for all!!!  Peter also takes immediate action upon learning the lesson…he preaches the good news of Christ dying and being raised again for our sins.  APP Do we include everyone…do we take immediate action to tell others about Christ?  PRNC: The believers respond immediately…they are baptized  after receiving the HS.  The HS was thought to have been reserved for only the most righteous and pious.  The fact that Gentiles received the HS proves God’s inclusion. The fact that Peter stays an extra few days drives home Peter’s lesson of inclusion. Peter acknowledges that you don’t have to be Jewish 1st …then Christian. Yet there are still requirements of being in a covenant with God as dictated by JC…PRNC Baptism is adherence to the New Covenant.

CH 11

INTERNAL CONFLICT ARISES…”THE GENTILE’S DON’T DESERVE THIS!”

 

PETER CALLED TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF v1-18 Peter’s ultimate evidence to justify his actions is not the story of how he was guided, moreover, it is v16,17 “ Then I remembered…John Baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the HS…who was I to think that I could oppose God”

Even the Gentiles (NIV,NRSV) reflects a confirmation beyond including other races.  Jewish people beleived Gentiles could be saved by converting to Judiasm, and Gentiles could be saved by being righteous and following the seven laws God gave to Noah. But until now, no one had believed that Gentiles could simply be saved by God’s own choosing (sovereign grace).  Therefore v18 ..even the Gentiles reflects astonishment at including other races and astonishment at salvation by Grace. PRNC God’s sovereign grace, (undeserving—not just Gentiles) saves.  HS provides “anointing”

 

NOW THAT THEY GET IT…THE EARLIER PERSECUTION IS FERTILE SOIL FOR GROWTH

MINISTRY AT ANTIOCH… v19-30

The movement shifts from a predominantly rural movement in Galilee, to an urban movement in Jerusalem, to a cosmopolitan, cross-cultural movement in Antioch.  Previous Jewish Diaspora and cultural settling provides a rapid conduit for the persecuted to take refuge and spread the word.  Antioch was the 3rd largest urban center, after Rome and Alexandria, est. pop. 500k.  It was the HQ of Rome’s Syrian legion.  As a large trade crossroads, it was a famous cult center of Apollo, and Seleucia, and boasted many different mystery cults from the east.  Archeology proves it was more integrated than Alexandria.  Thus a more natural place for Gentiles to hear the gospel without circumcision. PRNC God uses the scattering to spread the kingdom. Persecution has a purpose.

Barnabus trusts God’s work in people (9:27, 15:37-39). PRNC: Barnabus’ character make-up is a very good role model—encourager, good man, full of faith. Tarsus was about 100 miles to the north and would be a major trip.  “Christians” occurs only here as a nickname and in 1Peter 4:16, as something like a legal charge.  Even though Greek oracles still operated at cultic centers, and Syria was known for its prophets, few if any had prophets acting together. Most prophets stayed in one town for their livelihood. Agabus-a series of famines devastated Mediterranean agriculture in the time of Claudius. Papyri show hi grain prices AD46; and a grain shortage in Rome nearly led to Claudius’s being mobbed in the streets AD51.  Most Jewish relief efforts were local except in severe cases, for instance, when Queen Helena helped famine-striken Palestinian Jews.  What is significant here is that the believers act in advance of the famine by trusting the prophecy (Joseph and Pharoah GN41:33-36)

CH. 12

POLITICS AND POWER MAKE A MOVE TO STOP THE MISSION

 

Now let me give you a little background…Jerusalem is now being ruled by a very “pro” Jewish king.   What you may not know is that this Herod used to party with the big dog himself, the Roman Emporer Gaius Caligula in Rome.  So when  Caligula became emperor, he named this Herod, Herod Agrippa I, the first official Jewish “king” or ruler since his grandfather Herod the Great because he had Jewish ancestry in his mother’s line.   So, because this Herod was Jewish, and he because he looked out for their economic well being, he was pretty popular

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.  He had James the brother Of John, put to death with he sword.  When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.  This happened during the FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD.  After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of fours soldier’s each.  Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover

 

So naturally, when James and Peter start challenging the established Jewish synagogue with all sorts of new weird teachings…teachings like, even gentiles--non-Jewish people, Samaritans are accepted by God as EQUALS,  teachings like, if you’re an adult you don’t have to be circumcised to receive God’s loving spirit…teachings like ALL ir-religious, un-connected people are wanted by God…these teachings kind of upset the leaders and power in the synagogue.  So being a smart political figure, Herod naturally Acts to keep the status quo…he Acts to keep himself in power…he kills one of the “rebels” and tosses another one in prison for a trial…a trial  I’m sure he hopes will get him a lot of good headlines, maybe even make him as well known as Judge Lance Ito…

But watch what happens next…

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

 

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.  He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.  “Quick, get up!”  he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

 

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals” and Peter did so.  “wrap your cloak around you and follow me,”  the angel told him.  Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening: he thought he was seeing a vision.  They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city.  It opened for them by itself, and they went thorough it.  When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

 

Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angle and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.

I love this story…Here’s one of the greatest religious leaders of all time, and check him out…he’s asleep!  I mean Peter is about as human as any other man I know.  Now when, I first read this I thought maybe he’s asleep because he’s really confident, but the more you keep reading this story, it shows you what was going through his head.  He didn’t think it was happening.  HE thought it was a dream.  I must admit, if Donna and go up to No. Cal to start this church, and the local mayor tosses me in the slammer and I start seeing angels leading me out of the place, I probably won’t believe it either.  I mean angels…really? 

Well that’s exactly what Peter thinks.

Could Peter have misinterpreted something, I mean isn’t it possible that one of the guards was a Christian sympathizer?  You know, another human being just trying to help out someone who was unjustly arrested?  Maybe.  I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time someone mistook an angel, but if it was a guard---he would have known about the risks of having a prisoner escape on your watch…the punishment was death V.19

CH 13

THE MISSION HITS THE ROAD…Tell the Jews

ANTIOCH SENDS OUT MISSIONARIES v1-3  All the overseers o f this church are probably understood to be both prophets and teachers.  Simeon and Manaen are Jewish names, suggesting strong Jewish representation in the church’s leadership.  Though the nickname Nigrer, was a respectable Roman name meaning “dark” in Latin suggesting perhaps a proselyte from North Africa-Cyrene on the N.Africa coast had a large Jewish pop. 

The fact that Manaen was mentioned with Herod may mean they had the same wet nurse. Slaves who grew up in the master’s household with the son who would inherit them were often later freed by the son who had been their playmate from childhood.  Even as slaves they would be powerful because of their close relationship to the owner.  Speculation: Luke may be name dropping to add prominence for his legal case for Paul through this writing.  PRNC: God can use everyone.

Jewish people fasted to mourn, or repent, and some fasted to seek revelation.  Special fasts for prayer related to mourning were called in the face of great crises such as droughts.  The HS was especially known as the spirit of prophecy.  PRNC: Fast for guidance.  The

 

CYPRUS PROCONSUL

THE ROAD SHOW’S 1ST OBSTACLE: THE DEVIL-SORCERER

v4-12  Messengers customarily traveled with companions.  Jesus sent out the 70 in 2’s.   Seleucia was Antioch’s port city on the Mediterranean, 20 mi. to the west.  The island of Cyprus is a natural destination if Barnabas has relatives there (Acts 4:36)  and knows the culture. PRNC God does not direct EVERY decision.  (this clarifies JC’s not going to his home 1st,Nazareth, as a universal rule)APP God’s will is to spread his kingdom, where you go to do that can be your decision at times.  Asking for direction from the HS on EVERY decision can be a waste of God’s time.

 

Salamis, the chief town of Cyprus, was 100 mi. straight across from Seleucia.  Barnabas and Saul, as is the custom for visiting skilled teachers in the law, would be asked to speak in local synagogues.  Bar-Jesus (Jewish magicians were reputed to be among the best in the Roman Empire, though forbidden in Scripture and mistrusted among pious Jews.  Roman aristocrats often had philosphers and to a lesser degree, magicians, attached to their court.  Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Cyprus AD45-46.  Roman citizens had three names, as a Roman citizen, Paul had a Roman cognomen (“Paul,” meaning “small”); his other Roman names remain unknown to us.  As inscriptions of tombs show us, his Roman name, Paul, sounded similar to his Jewish name.  This is not a name change. As Paul is now moving in a predominantly Roman environment, he begins to go by his Roman name, and Luke’s readers would begin to recognize that this writing is about someone they have heard about.  Temporary blindness (of Elymas) was sometimes a judgment to prevent further damage form sin, see 9:8. The proconsul’s employ of a Jewish prophet demonstrates an openness to Judaic culture, but Paul and Barnabas show superior power.  PRNC God’s true teaching will prevail over falsehoods.

GOD WINS…ON WE GO TO…THE WORD SPREADS

SERMON IN PISIDIAN ANTIOCH v13-41 The path and cities Paul visit were along the Via Augusta, a military road built about 100 yrs before. Antioch near Pisidia was a Roman colony; if Sergius Paulus had supplied them with letters of recommendation (13:12), they would receive immediate hospitality.  Biblical readings, especially form the law, would be fixed, and the synagogue sermon would be a homily (exposition of the text), similar to this one.  Paul’s scripture laced exposition v16-43 contrasts plainly with 14:15-17 and 17:22-31, showing that Paul adapted to his audience.  David’s reign is the climax of centuries of waiting through other models of leadership (Judges, King Saul—not always faithful); Jesus is the descendant of David, the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke---Thus they proclaim one greater than David.  Children of Abraham—Jews; God-fearers: proselytes (faithful Gentiles) or even interested Gentiles (fulfillment of MT 28 Great Commission).  Check out the tone of “voice” of 27: “the people did not recognize him…”  “Not really their fault…God takes of it”  It wouldn’t make sense for Paul to denounce Jewish people in front of Jewish people, that wouldn’t win anyone over.  Paul & Barnabas went to the Jews 1st, they went to the “tough sell 1st”  It had always been God’s purpose to bless the Gentiles. (GN 12:3) but Jews thought they were predestined for salvation by virtue of birth . The tenacity of ancestral religions as exclusively cultural is threatened by the inclusion of outsiders and simultaneously weakened from the loss of its constituents.  Ancient soursces report that many prominent women were interested in Judaism (partly because their wealth gave them leisure to consider it, partly because they, unlike men, did not have to be circumcised and in turn these women could influence their powerful husbands.  Local aristocracies made up a fraction of the population but held most of the wealth and political power.  They could drive opposition out of town, but their authority was only local.  Iconium was further down the same road at the very east end of Phrygia-Galatia. : PRNC  Our messiah is not a Davidic messiah.  GOOD NEWS…, v 38, Everyone, even those who do not “deserve” it, are justified through faith! see Ro. 5:16. Paul and Barnabas “shake it off” APP Do we keep going on even after rejection?

 

CH 14

THE NEXT OBSTACLE: Jealous Jews Stir Up Trouble Among Gentiles

TIME TO FLEE vs FIGHT

 

ICONIUM v1-7 Iconium-a smaller town than Ephesus or Smyrna, it was still prosperus and wealthy.  Whereas urban culture was uniformly Greco-Roman, more rural Iconium would have preserved its local language and customs, mainly Greek speaking.  Among the deities worshipped at Iconium was Cybele, the Phrygian mother goddess who, like other mother goddesses, provided fertility for the region; Phrygian mystery cults were also prominent. Under the law, city magistrates could quell any disturbance simply by legally banning them from the city. Stoning goes beyond the law.  Paul and Barnabas prefer flight for safety rather than death. PRNC The HS helps out to spread the word by enabling signs and wonders, but doesn’t intervene and stop the threat.  Paul and Barnabas choose to move through their own choosing. APP Sometimes we have to make a choice on our own, and leave a conflict in order to spread the kingdom elsewhere.

MISINTERPRETATION…MISGUIDED…MISLED…STONED

THE ENEMYCATCHES UP…WINS THE BATTLE BUT NOT THE WAR

LYSTRA v8-20 For half a century Lystra had been a Roman colony and its citizens had privileges of Roman citizens.  It emphasized its local culture and Roman character.  Paul’s appeal here is in the style of street debate.  Street debates were common among philosophers.  Local Phrygian legend told of an ancient visitation by Zeus and Hermes to Phrygia.  In the story only one couple, Baucis and Philemon, received them graciously; the rest of the populace was destroyed in a flood.  Knowing this story would influence Lystra not to make the same mistake.  Hermes was the messenger of the Olympian gods. Luke is not above making fun of paganism’s stupidity. Zeus and Hermes were worshipped together in Phrygia. Temples outside the city gates were quite common.  Lyconian language-villages kept their own ancient language, so Paul & Barnabas are delayed in learning what the commotion is all about.  The MOB: visitors from Antioch would not have any legal authority, but their influence to a mob mentality wouldn’t be hard due to P&B’s denial of their gods.  The STONING: Jewish stoning (7:58) was a most common form of mob violence. Stones, tiles, and cobbles were readily available in ancient streets.  When Jewish crowds stoned a transgressor, they were going for death.

PAUL SURVIVED!!! Paul’s survival, let alone his being able to walk, points towards a miracle as the Disciples gathered around him: dragging him out of the city—would have been done to keep the city clean from a dead body.  PRNC The HS equips the disciples to heal a critical evangelist.  Not everyone will believe. There will be persecution.  The church, the disciples, come through to do the work of the HS  APP Do we tell our church about our need for healing.  Can we too expect a miracle so that we can continue to spread His word.

GOD USES THE MIRACULOUS HEALING TO SPREAD THE WORD

RETURN TO ANTIOCH IN SYRIA v20-28  God uses the miraculous healing to spread the word to large numbers in Derbe.  Derbe was the frontier city on the imperial road and thus probably profited from custom charges, but had little contact with Roman society.  ORGANIZATION: Elders had always governed and judged in towns and villages in the OT and much of the rest of the Mediterranean world.  Most ancient synagogues had several elders who filled an office.  Jewish people of the Diaspora were not all that concerned with what we call “missions” today.  Yet synagogue communities relied upon travelers for news and reports from other cities.  Antioch’s early commitment to Christianity goes beyond other Jewish sects and normal community practice.  PRNC Delegation and organization is useful and requires trust. The success of how God intervened is well received (at least they weren’t stoned and turned away) APP  Missions, expanding the gospel is at the heart of the HS purpose for the church.

CH 15

INTERNAL CONFLICT TAKES ANEW TWIST

“OK Christ is for Gentiles, but you have to be a Jew 1st!”

 

HANDLING THE CONTROVERSY v1-5  Gotta be a Jew first, before being a Christian—JC is a supplement to being a Jew first and foremost. Gotta be “deserving” first, before being saved.  Conservative Jews believed Gentiles were saved only by converting to Judaism, being circumcised and baptized.  Of course, even those Jewish people who believed Gentiles could be righteous with God and saved, still did not accept them as part of God’s people Israel. 

The believers would “go up” because Jerusalem is higher elevation than Antioch.  The churches of the Diaspora were ruled, like the synagogues, by local elders.  Jerusalem was ruled by a hierarchy.  The authority of Jerusalem rests in their responsibility for sending out Paul; and, in their reputation for knowledge of the law.  This is not an issue of control, nor a question of “what does the “pope/Rome/HQ” think?”

The testimony of P&B, like Peter’s, appeal to divine signs of proof.  Pharisees believed that divine signs have to be consistent with scripture interpretations.  The stricter pharisaic school at this time was the Shammai, and due to their numbers, probably had prevailing influence.  (Hillel came later and was more generous toward Gentiles)

PETER’S RESPONSE v6-11, Vigorous debates over scripture were common. Peter speaks up for the Gentiles and declares that spiritual cleansing occurs simply through faith.  V10-11: Most Jewish people viewed the law as beneficial and not a burden (yoke).  If Peter does refer to the law as a burden (yoke) the deficiency  is consistent with Jer31:33-34, “..God would later write the law on their hearts.. Peter claims saved through faith. PRNC Is salvation deserved, or earned?  Appealing to authority is an appropriate pursuit for truth and must involve scripture.

We cannot do anything to deserve salvation. Salvation is through our faith.  Salvation is for all people. APP Baptism: Is baptism a thing to “do” or a “surrender--letting go.”

JAMES’ CONCLUSION v12-21 The way the church settled disputes over scripture interpretation proved wise: appeal to leaders; all sides given time to address issue; leaders spent time with the issue, and a spokesman (James) summarizes; everyone agreed to abide by the decision; sent a written report back to the church along with explanations.  When James says “words of the prophets…” he refers to the scroll containing the 12 smaller prophets, including Amos which he quotes. PRNC God will restore his reign over all men.  James’ requirements:  represent a handful of the more lenient laws tradition claims to have been given to Noah. James means that because there are a lot of followers of Moses, we should require the Gentiles, who are saved by faith, to abstain from some of the same practices of the traditional Jews in order to avoid offending the many people of verse 21.  PRNC  The issue is not really Gentile vs Jew. It is deserving vs undeserving. God has always had salvation in mind for the undeserving.  We should not obstruct other’s salvation. Even though salvation is by grace, laws of obedience to God should be respected. We should respect traditions for their value of assisting the expansion of the gospel, and their complement to leading our lives in a Christlike fashion.  APP Baptism is a law of Christ’s achieving humility, and surrender to God is in control.  It does not save me, but it is an act of obedience to his leading my life.

(How many of you have been baptized by immersion?  How many of you have not?  Of those who have not been immersed, how many want to be baptized by immersion?…Whatever happens, don’t let anything I say today talk you out of it! J  For those who have not been baptized by immersion, write down the reason you do not want to be baptized again.  Now, whatever reason you do not want to be immersed, is the same reason preventing you from having Jesus lead your life.  For ex: 1) I don’t need it…sprinkled as child, therefore I’m saved already = I don’t need to be obedient to what Jesus teaches, parents handled my salvation and “fire (hell) insurance.”  2) I’m too embarrassed to get wet in public = too proud to be humble (by the way, there is no ‘law’ that says it has to be in public.) 

THE CHURCH’S DECREE (A Partial Compromise) v22-35  When disputed views were debated amongst rabbinic academies, the majority view always prevailed; here a partial compromise is the consensus. The greeting of the letter is significant:  “brothers and sisters” is a standard generic, vs specific, Greco-Roman address and shows that the decree was to be circulated to its different regions.  “It seemed good to the HS and to us…”reflects God’s leading men in decisions. In general, the decree is to cut Christians off from anything related to pagan worship:  not to eat food offered to idols, nor were they to participate in pagan religious festivals which often involved sexual activity.  These prohibitions were not meant to be an all encompassing code.  More specific warnings can be found in other NT letters (Cor).  PRNC Christians do not have to adhere to a strict code, nor Jewish rules to be saved.  Morality is important. APP Terms for the New Covenant are live a Christlike life, but you are saved by grace alone.

RETURNING TO THE MISSION FIELD—BACK TO THE TRENCHES

DISAGREEMENT AMONG THE RANKS v36-41  Now that the dispute is over, time to get back to business.  Paul does not trust John Mark since he abandon them in Pamphylia. PRNC  God’s workers are not perfect. Conflict is inevitable.  APP Do the best you can and keep expanding the gospel.

CH 16

PAUL’S STRATEGY: Hit the homecourt first, Go to the local temple 1st…

Derbe & Lystra are east of Antioch

Paul is headed in the wrong direction

 

TIMOTHY JOINS PAUL & SILAS, Spreading the Word—The conflict is resolved, all is well, the church continues to grow. Paul sticks to the formula, go to the temple, pay your respects, try not to upset the establishment, but push to open the door for God for all people. v1-5  Palestinian Jews considered intermarriage a horrible sin but views were no doubt more lenient in places like Lystra where the Jewish community was smaller and interracial marriages almost necessary. Under Jewish law a  person was Jewish if his or her mother were Jewish; but even if that ruling were applied, Timothy would not  be accepted as Jewish because he had not been circumcised. PRNC Paul makes him a full Jew for the sake of the witness.  APP  Many cultural practices are not essential, but beneficial.  See Esse/ Bene-esse handout: what is required to be a Christian.

GOD TURNS PAUL AROUND…GO WEST! 

On the road to Rome

THE SPIRIT’S GUIDANCE. V6-10  Most Jewish groups believed the HS was no longer active in the OT. Phrygia and Galatia may be viewed together as a unit. Troas: was directly  to the east of Mysia, thus Paul goes from eastern Mysia westward toward Alexandria Troas, which was 10 miles south of the more famous ancient Troy.  Troas had a mixed population of Roman citizens and natives who never quite adjusted to each other’s presence. Troas also had 2 major routes from the east converge toward Rome. Macedonia—had been a Roman province since 146BC.  It was strategically vital because it was a link between Rome and the whole eastern empire along the Egnatian Way: which led westward to Dyrrhachium, an Adriatic port from which one could sail to Italy.  Because Olympian dieties used visions to send people on missions, even the Greek audience would understand Luke’s point. PRNC The HS is active and alive. APP God’s speaking directly to Paul was unusual, yet consistent with scripture: “Go and spread the Gospel.”

(Luke uses “we”, which in ancient text usually meant plural rather than a fictitious literary device.  Luke was an eyewitness, personal eyewitnesses were considered the most dependable source for history.)

LYDIA’S CONVERSION—PHILIPPI v11-15  The mountainous and easily visible island of Samothrace is the first port travelers would reach.  Neapolis was one of 2 major ports south of Macedonia, the other was Thessalonica.  A 2 day voyage indicates good winds probably from the northeast.  Except during the winter, (mid Nov.-Mar.) sea travel was quicker and less expensive than land allowing one to cover perhaps 100 miles a day.  Neapolis was the port of Phillipi. Philippi- a Roman Colony since 42BC.  More of an agricultural than commercial center, unlike many urban areas.  Thessalonica was Macedonia’s capital, though Philippi was considered the “1st Part” of Macedonia which was divided into 4 districts. “place of prayer”  was a customary non-Palestinian Jewish term for “synagogue”, but the gathering here appears to be without a building.  A minimum of ten Jewish men constituted a regular synagogue, and thus indicate a city where Jewish people could form their own community.  But in places where there weren’t enough men, as it appears here, Jewish people preferred to go outside the gates is remain “pure” near water in order to wash their hands before prayer.  Josephus attest that a tremendous amount of women were attracted to Judaism. Religion was one sphere in Gk culture women were given public responsibility.  The Diana cult in Philippi may have given women more prominence than in other Greek centers. But GK religion had lots of ritual and little teaching, thus Lydia would have welcomed Paul’s teaching.  Thyatira was known for its dyers’ guilds and textiles.  The purple dye comes from murex mollusks indigenous to Tyre.  Lydia, possibly a freed woman engaged in business, a common practice, probably did not become wealthy due to inheritance.  Roman law only allowed a woman to inherit 10%.  More than likely she has done well on her own by selling purple dye. Well-to-do women sometimes became patrons or sponsors of pagan religious associations.  Paul and his companions had been staying at an inn till the Sabbath, but Lydia immediately offers proper Jewish hospitality.  Though she appears to be the head of a household, she also could be the wife who’s active in religion. PRNC God moves people to respond. Women have a significant role in leadership. APP 1. Pray for specific people to respond. 2. Leadership is not gender specific.

NOW THAT WE’RE GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION…

THE ENEMY SHOWS UP AGAIN

TAKING ON EXORCISM & ECONOMICS v16-22 The slave girl, the word girl in Gk implies that she is very young and literally has the spirit of pythoness—the same sort of spirit that stood behind the Delphic oracle of Apollo whose priestess was called a pythoness (she was named after Pythian Apollo slayer of the great python. Thus Paul and his companions confront a very powerful demon here. Paul calls on the name of the highest authority to evict the lower demon.  The authorities—duoviri in latin, or praetor.  The marketplace—the agora, center of town and Gk civic activity. Unless the accused were Roman citizens, they had few legal rights.  Beatings before trial were called coercitio—coerce evidence and discourage followers.  PRNC Jesus Christ is the highest spiritual authority. Many people are fooled into following monetary gain and ignoring their spiritual allegiance. APP  Where does my allegiance lie?

PRISON MINISTRY v22-40  The job of jailer may have been assigned to a retired soldier settled in this Roman colony. Stocks were often used for torture as well as detention.  Jewish sources praised the ability to glorify God amidst suffering and shame.  Greco-Roman philosophers praised the wisdom of being content and thankful in one’s situation.  Midnight was not a normal time of prayer, most people were naturally asleep.  Miraculous deliverance’s are common in Jewish tradition. An earthquake severe enough to split the staples of prisoners bonds from the wall could have brought down the roof.  When confronted with execution, Romans considered suicide a noble alternative.  The other prisoners may have stayed out of fear.  Asking how to be saved is a motif of Luke, in this case the jailer may view Paul and Silas as representatives of the gods who can “save/deliver/heal”, but more than likely he is aware of their teaching of the Judaic God.  Romans expected the whole household to worship Roman gods. Here conversion is not automatic, the whole household must hear the word.v31. Considering the jailer is abandoning his post, and his prisoners have “escaped”,  he is at risk of death, and his hospitality would not lessen the risk nor punishment.  The magistrates could have regarded the earthquake as a sign, then again, intercession from the wealthy Lydia may have helped.  Roman citizenship in the provinces in this period was a mark of high status, especially since Paul’s family was from Tarsus, not a Roman colony, and therefore must have been nobly earned.  The magistrates are in an awkward legal position, Paul and Silas did not inform them of their citizenship prior to their punishment.  Reports of their folly could even disqualify them from office (and in theory, deprive Philippi of Roman colony status)  Negotiating with the missionaries could help secure the future political bond of the fledgling Christian community. They had no authority to expel Roman citizens on legal grounds without trial, but a trial would bring up their own breach of the law; thus they can only plead.  PRNC The HS intervenes to save us from physical persecution. Praise of God in all situations.  God will rescue you from your prison. APP What is your prison…drugs, divorce, loneliness, pressure at work?

GOD BAILS THEM OUT AGAIN

CH 17

JEALOUS JEWS STOOP A LITTLE LOWER—

if you can’t get confusion going among the Gentiles, get some hoodlums to stir the crowd into a mob

THESSALONICA v1-9

Thessalonica—an important city, Macedonia’s largest port, capital of its old second district, residence of the provincial governor.  Eclectic religious culture: Judaism-a minority, Greek gods, Egyptian gods of Serapis & Isis (goddess, “giver of life”, wife of the grain-god Osiris, mother of Horus—considered the ancestor of all pharaohs.  Protector of children.  Her  tears of mourning caused the Nile to flood.  Her cult flourished until 6th C, AD)  Paul had to be there long enough to receive support from Philippi, 100mi. away (Phil 4:15-16).  Paul’s occupation would allow him to set up shop in the agora to support him (I Thess 2:9)

Paul sticks to the formula, go to the temple, pay your respects, try not to upset the establishment, but push to open the door for God for all people.  It was easier for women to progress in stature in the church than in public because they could hold the status of patron.  The idle unemployed could be stirred to bob action as other ancient examples attest so the Jews who could not be persuaded and were threatened would need the extra numbers.  Romans would understand proclaiming another king as treason.  (They could take mention of signs indicating this new ruler’s coming as predictions of the current emperor’s demise.  The fact that Jesus was crucified for sedition only adds weight to the charge against Paul.  As their host, Jason is responsible for his guests actions and must post the bond. The city officials, plitarchs in that region, penalty against Paul was getting off easy considering the charge, maybe they didn’t take the charge seriously and saw through the Jews jealousy.  PRNC  REJECTION--Persecution continues APP Do we give up when we’re not accepted by everyone?

THE MISSION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ACCEPTANCE

BUT THE NEXT STOP IS POSITIVE

BEREA v10-15  The road onto Rome, the Via Egnatia, headed west, but the road to Greece led south to Berea, 60 mi W. of Thess and the Via Egnatia. Judaism placed a high value on checking everything against scripture.  Gk philosophers likewise praised those who listened attentively.  Messengers rarely travelled alone, Thess. Had no legal jurisdiciction in Berea, but mobs are prone to follow.  PRNC The gospel is met with acceptance and rejection, persecution pursues. Flee: save the accused & keep the practical support in place. APP In conflict: Prioritize your battles.  Is it a hill worth dying on, or can others take care of the situation.

A FORTUITOUS DETOUR…onto take on another culture

ATHENS v16-21  Athens—its fame rested primarily on the glories of the past. Even as a philosophical center, it was becoming challenged by the East: Alexandria and Tarsus.  But it remained the "symbol” of high education and debates. Athens was unrivaled for its exquisite architecture and statues. City streets were still lined with statues of men and gods.  Hermes was one of the most popular.  Inscriptions attest to a Jewish community in Athens, but it was not prominent.  Epicureans, v18, All things were made up of physical particles {predecessor to atoms} including gods, but gods did not play a role in creation, nor human life. Epicureans had similar views about God to deism—he was uninvolved in the universe and irrelevant.  If he did exist, he could only be known through physical senses of knowledge, like stars or planets.   Death is the end of everything and therefore not to be feared.  Existence is therefore freed to be pursued for pleasure.  Existence strives for happiness—there is a heirarchy of pleasures.  Epicureans  were influential only among the educated classes.  Their philosophy led to hedonism, Caligula Nero.  Faded around AD180, paralleling the decline of the Empire when Rome declared Christianity an acceptable religion, ca. 323. Life’s goal was pleasure.  Stoics—were more popular, opposed pleasure, and criticized the Epicureans.  Paul’s debate strategy is wise—divide and conquer.  Babbler—translates a Gk expression originally applied to birds pecking up grain—meaning worthless or “birdbrain.”  But in the same verse Luke points out their own stupidity : they think Paul is preaching gods “Jesus & Resurrection”—Resurrection was a girls name.  Socrates had also been brought to the Areopagus many centuries before.  Some scholars have suggested the council was an accrediting board that tested lecturers; whether or not, it appears they have some “official” function.

THE MESSAGE HITS THE BIGTIME

AEROPAGUS v21-31  Paul’s view of God is quite different than the Stoics, but he emphasizes the  religious similarities--‘Unknown God”. (KJV “superstition, is a poor choice.) (Judaic God is omnipresent—Stoic view divinity as a virtue, and it permeates everything and cannot be confined to a temple.  Virtue is something to strive for through pursuit of living in accordance with nature. Pagan gods were more ritual than ethics. Defenders of Judaism had worked for centuries to make their faith philosophically respectable, and Paul draws heavily on his predecessors arguments.  Athens was proverbial for  its curiosity and pursuit of the debate. 

The Argument:  v24 Paul is hoping to show pagans that their highest religious aspirations were best met in Judaism; Stoics believed he could not be held to a temple building.  V25 Stoics and Gk speaking Jews emphasized that God “needs nothing” v26 Jews and GKs agreed God was creator and divider of the earth, seasons and boundaries. Stoics believed the universe periodically dissolved back into God, but this was not a common point for Judaism.  V27-29  Jews spoke of God as a father to his people  (DT 32:6; Is 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:4) Gk Diaspora Jews and some 2nd C Christian writers spoke of God as the world’s father in the sense of creator.  (v28 is a poem from the Gk Epimenides—Paul uses their own culture as a proof text) v30 Paul breaks with his audience views—although it is not too far from other philosophers appealing to conversion of a way of thinking, it is not the same as turning towards God.  V31 Gk view of time is that it would simply continue, not that history had a future climax in the day of judgment.

The Response: v32 Only the Epicureans denied the soul’s immortality: it was material and died with the body. Most Gks believed in a shadowy afterlife in the underworld, sometimes coupled with reincarnation (Plato) where the soul could be freed from worldly existence so it could escape back to the pure heavens from which it was created.  Stoics believed the soul lived on and was eventually absorbed back to God. ALL could not conceive of a resurrection of a body—BODY/MATERIAL World was bad: Spiritual world was Good. Judaism: Mind/Body/Spirit are all combined.  There sneering sure beats being stoned by a mob!  Not a bad outcome considering the differences in world view.

SUCCESS…V33  Dionysius--root word for the name Dennis.

 THE 1st TO GET IT IN THE WESTERN WORLD!!!! J

The Areopagus include only those of the highest status in the university community. So the conversion of Dionysius and Damaris (an unlikely female participant unless she had high stature) is significant.

PRNC The Gospel gets a response when you look for a conduit to meet the other culture group. APP See handout on Apostolic Target

CH 18

 

CORINTH—one of Athens ancient rivals, the capital of Achaea, the political and economic center of Greece. A literal urban crossroads where east met west—multiple languages, multiple religions.  See handout on background. Like Tiberius, an earlier emperor, Claudius AD49, expelled the Jewish community from Rome.  In the ancient economy, people of the same trade did not compete with one another.  They usually pulled together in guilds, and usually adopted a pagan deity as a sponsor.  This would make it more important for Jews to find other fellow tradesmen so they would not have to bond with a deity. “Tentmaker” could also be leatherworking in general.  Corinth’s agora had the longest line of  colonaded shops in the empire. 

The church met in houses for the first 3 centuries (Ro 16:5)  Between avoiding persecution (not necessarily hiding, but staying low keyed), saving funds to free slaves (not people in bondage, but working class property nonetheless), feeding the poor, supporting missionaries, churches had little money for a building fund.  Crispus—a typical Roman name, though it was not uncommon for Jewish people to have Latin names.  To be a synagogue ruler demands a person of status—responsible for the services, probably had wealth to keep things going. PRNC THE HS SPEAKS DIRECTLY IN A VISION—KEEP ON PREACHING!!! APP PERSEVERE

JEWISH OPPOSITION LOSES SOME STEAM

GALLIO’s REFUSAL v12-17  No accident!! Just when Paul gets the message to hang in there, he gets opposed one more time.  Gallio ruled for just a short time from July 1, AD51 to the end of his death late 51, early 52.  Proconsuls decided lesser crimes, juries decided cases of murder, adultery and other offenses.  If Paul has lost the support of the Jews, he would lose the protection granted by Rome to Judaism by virtue of its antiquity.  A proconsul’s first decision is to accept the charges as valid or invalid.  Gallio chooses not to meddle in a “Jewish” affair.  Therefore, Gallio has just legally granted Paul’s religion as a variant form of Judaism and is therefore legal to worship in the province.  The fact he booted them out of court notes more than a tinge of impatience for the Jewish complaint.  Beating Sosthenes: courts were typically crowded, especially if held in the pubilc agora.  Luke is telling us: in the least, the crowd went nuts; the crowd turned on their leader for his bad idea that backfired and benefited the Christians instead of defeating them; or , after having vented Gallio’s anti Jewish sentiment, the Gks and Gentiles get ugly and turn on the Jews; or the Jews found a scapegoat and disciplined a different Christian sympathizer.

PRNC God was right, hang in there. Sometimes things work out. APP  Dont panic when faced with public ridicule or persectution.

 

PAUL RETURNS HOME v18-23  Cenchrea was Corinth’s main port on the isthmus; it also harvbored temples of Isis, Artemis, Aphrodite, Asclepius and Poseidon.  Travel was easier, faster, cheaper on ship.  Some pagan priests (those of Isis) shaved their heads—Paul is trying to fit in. Jewish people shaved their heads after completing a Nazirite vow, and Paul’s faith in Jesus had not diminished his own Jewishness in the least (21:23-24) The Palestinian teachers demanded that Nazirites fulfill the vows in Jerusalem shows only that Paul had taken the less Jerusalem-centered approach of Diaspora Jews—who had no time or money to travel to Jerusalem frequently.  Ephesus had a very large Jewish community.  “If God Wills” was a standard statement of pious Greeks and some Jews.  Summer winds were generally northerly, but often east of north—Caesarea was easier to reach than Antioch’s port city of Seleucia.  Only by late spring or early summer was the land route from Antioch through Galatia and Phrygia open---another indication of time.

PRNC  Paul’s travel was purposeful…he uplifted the existing churches---maintenance mode. But he didn’t dawdle. APP  Uplifting of the troops is crucial and can be done while covering other issues. Boundaries are important to keep things moving.

Apollo’s ENLIGHTENMENT  v24-28

Many Alexandrian Jews had names compounded with “Apollo” a prominent Gk god.  “Learned” means “formally skilled in rhetoric” the most practical form of advanced learning for the well-to-do; the other was philosophy.  Alexandria may have had the largest Jewish community in the empire outside Syria-Palesitine.  The Jewish aristocracy had worked hard to be accepted by the Greek establishment, and they resented their own inferior status.  The clash of cultures and oppression of Jews ultimately led to a Jewish revolt and the massacre of the entire Jewish community. Ancient readers would most naturally take the phrase “fervent in spirit” NASB as referring to Apollos’ own spirit. Aquila and Priscilla apparently accompanied Paul on his voyage, then stayed to help the synagogue in Ephesus which was open to teaching about Jesus. Letters of recommendation were standard in Greco-Roman society. Apollos’s learning might well appeal to the educated elite of the Corinthian culture. 

CH 19

EPHESUS—Ephesus afforded an opportunity to influence all of Asia (not meaning the continent, but the Roman province “Asisa” (now western Turkey)  It was the most populated and prosperous (crossroads for trade) province in the empire.  Ephesus became the chief city with the real seat of provincial administration (although Pergamum was the official capital) 

BAPTISM & THE HS—v1-8 The Roman world was cosmopolitan and other Palestinian Jews also settled in Ephesus, which had a large influential Jewish community.  “Disciples”  means students, apparently of John. “Tongues—inspired speech”  PRNC Baptism has the anointing of the HS.  APP  Considering the incarnational aspect of our God (parting of the Red Sea; Christ in the flesh) it should be no surprise that there is a mystical aspect of baptism.

JEWISH OBJECTIONS ARE ONLY A MINOR DISTRACTION NOW

WORD SPREADS—v8-12  True to form, Paul starts out in the synagogues and is successful again, but not without opposition.  This time however, the opposing voices do not grow to a fervor pitch, or at least Paul draws upon his earlier experiences and leaves the synagogue alone before they grow angry. Philosophers often lectured in rented halls this could have been a guild hall.  Tyrannus would then be the owner of the hall, if it is a customary lecture hall—then he could be the regular speaker.  Early Greco-Roman observers classified Christians as a religious association or club, thus classifying Paul as a philosopher or professional public speaker.  Being a center of trade, once the Word spread to Ephesus it would reach a lot of people.  Paul’s handkerchief’s and aprons are customary rags tied around his head to catch sweat and his work aprons tied around his waist. Magicians often healed with these items, OT ex. 2Ki 13:21, but they also could have been take without Paul knowing.  PRNC  Similar to Jesus’ healing by the touch of his garment, faith heals, not the cloth. APP  A strong faith can heal, God’s word will spread.

THE INADEQUACY OF MAGIC—v13-20  Though many people would think Paul to be simply a magician, God seems to have healed them anyway to draw attention to his message, but God would not tolerate unauthorized use of Jesus’ name.  Ancient literature indicates demons were typically unimpressed with orders from those who had no power over thm, although they feared God and could be controlled by the manipulation of spirits more powerful than themselves. When people recognized that Paul’s Jesus cannot be manipulated like lower spirits, they understand that he is the servant of God. Magical papyri were rolled up in small cylinders or lockets used as amulets around the neck.  These magical incantations were so common in Ephesus that rolls  of theses formulas are called Ephesia grammata or “Ephesian writings”  The total price of what is burned comes out to about 50,000 days wages for an average worker! PRNC Jesus’ name above all names.  Hypocrites will not be blessed. The word grew in power as the word spread!  APP  Our words mean something. Spirit business is serious business. Swearing, taking the Lord’s name in vain—what spirit are you calling upon?  Sharing blessings, compliments, looking for the good side of people and telling them about it—reinforces the power of God’s spirit.

 

A CHANGE IN COURSE v21-22

Paul had already planned to leave Ephesus before he knew that trouble was coming (next section v 23-41)  Luke here sets the stage for the rest of the book…one more trip through Greece, then on to Rome via Jerusalem.  Erastus—may have been the aedile, or commissioner, of public works in Corinth (Rom 16:23); if so this text shows that status in the kingdom and in the world are not determined on the same terms.

PRNC Paul chose to go back to Jerusalem (after things were going well)  APP Sometimes we know when it’s time to move on in our lives and don’t need a vision nor skywriting directly from God.

THE LATEST THREAT—ECONOMICS

Help from others—personal interests think things through.

ARTEMIS & SURVIVAL—v23-41 The temple of Artemis served as a bank as well as a temple.  People deposited funds there and received interest and loans were made.  AD44 Inscriptions show the proconsol had to get involved due to some temple financial irregularities—temple monies were being funneled to individuals.  Ephesus celebrated Artemisium—Artemis’s birthmonth festival, so the impact of denouncing idols would cause havoc at civic proportions. (Early 2nd C, the Roman governor of a nearby province complained that Christian conversion caused a drop in temple activity of the gods. After many arrests, the governor reported more people did buy animals for sacrifices.)  “The world worships..”—Artemis’ fame was world wide: she had cult centers in 33 places in the Mediterranean; her temple was a wonder of the ancient world—350 ft. long x 150 ft. wide; 45 residents of Sardis accused of assaulting a group of followers of the Ephesian Artemis received the death penalty;  Jewish texts also mention her temple.  Because the town was heavily populated and dense (250 per acre) and the civic meeting place was a public open air theater accomodating 25,000, the news spread fast.  Asiarchs—were the most prominent men of the province, who presided in 1 yr terms over the cult of the emporer goddess Roma; different cities in the Gk east competed for having the largest imperial cult, so having an Asiarch in your town was a big deal.  They had authority over the theater; but cannot quell this riot, but Luke still wants us that they have a loyalty to Paul. Either  as patron or at least Paul was hanging around the right circles.  Greek comedy frequently parodied people’s stupidity, Luke does the same showing the people did not know why they were rioting.  The city clerk deliberate move to stop the mob, “If your god is so great, why the fuss?” could actually be acting in self interest to avoid Rome from finding out about the riots.  Other examples show leaders warned their people that Rome could crack down on a city by revoking privileges as a “free city” (they had their own Senate). PRNC Religious piety becomes a thin cloak for personal interests. APP When someone wants to change something, or criticizes something about the church, ask the question---what is the purpose of their communication: put someone down, personal agenda, or genuine sincere interest in improvement. 

NOW THAT THE THREATS HAVE SUBSIDED…TIME TO HELP THE HOME CHURCH

 

CH 20

UNITY IN MISSIONS-- Hinted in Acts 24:17, but clear in his letters, Paul’s purpose now is to collect the offering of the Macedonian (Philippi, Thessalonica) and Achaean (Corinth) church to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem to demonstrate the unity of Jewish and Gentile Christians. If he took the Via Egnatia route (as Ro.15:19 suggests) this would have taken many months to reach Corinth.  Paul wrote Romans from this area (Ro 15:26-28). V4 Just as prominent Jewish communities would bring the annual temple tax to Jerus. Paul has traveling companions from different Christian communities serving the poor in Jerus. (20:1-2)  This offering would show the Jerus. church that the Gentile Christians still recognize the Jewishness of thier faith (Ro. 15:26-27)  The WE picks up where it left off; Paul had left Luke in Philippi for the Passover and Feast of Unleavend Bread.  PRNC  In Christ their is unity to do the mission of God and care for one-another  APP  Do we support those who are in need? Are we united regardless of background, culture, or country?

LONG WINDED PREACHERS…

RESURRECTION OF EUTYCHUS v7-12– Most religious associations in the Greco-Roman world met together once a month. Although some early Christians may have met daily (Jers, Acts 2) they seem to have gathered especially on the first day of the week, probably because of the resurrection (Lk 24:1) and to avoid conflicting with the sabbath in the synagogues. 

Because Sunday was a work day, this meeting took place late at night…”Monday evening blah’s”  Because people went to bed not long after sunset, midnight was well into sleeping time.  The odor and heat of the lamps wouldn’t help drowsiness.  Open windows were generally blocked off in the winter, but during summer, one would sit in them to cool off.  Either the heat from the lamps, or the crowd in the room made the window seat appealing.  “Young man”  attests to his being of working age.  This is a fall of 2 stories.  Paul’s action is not new…Elijah (1Ki 17:21-22; 2Ki 4:34-35)  PRNC Teaching, like any form of communication, requires the message to have a receptive audience.  God can make up for our errors.  APP  Put yourself in the shoes of your audience.  God will make up the difference.

URGENT PRIORITIES…SHOW THE HOME CHURCH WHY GOD WANTED TO REACH THE GENTILES!!!

 

CONTINUING THE JOURNEY v 13-17 – Assos was 20 mi overland from Alexandria Troas, the main port, about a day journey on foot.  For short distances, especially if one had to wait at ports for ships that could take on passengers, a and journey might not take much longer, and traveling on foot was cheaper than buying a passage.  Mitylene was the main town of the island of Lesbos.  They take the customary sea route, across the island of Chisos, enabling them to avoid a longer voyage hugging the coast of the long promontory jutting forth into the Aegean Sea between Smyrna and Ephesus. From Chios it was quicker to sail by the island of Samos and straight to Miletus, rather than cutting in toward the Asian coast to Ephesus. They put in at the Lion Harbor at Miletus, which sported a temple of Apollo; the city also had a sizable Jewish community (as did Samos, where the worship of Aphrodie and Isis was prominent)  Their trip avoided the busy harbor of Ephesus, the land route for messengers to reach Ephesus was over 30 miles so they would have to travel quickly to arrive by Paul’s 3rd day.  To leave their work would have been a big sacrifice.  Paul’s mission to Jerusalem was urgent.  He needed to present the offering at a festival when Jerus. would be full of and this symbol of the church’s ethnic unity would make the loudest statement.  PRNC  Urgent missions deserve priority, and sacrifice.  Timing to draw attention that edifies the church is a priority.  APP The work of glorifying the church is a higher priority than my job.

PAUL’S FAREWELL SPEECH v18-35 

 

A RECURING THEME:  GOD’s WORD WILL KEEP YOU STRONG

18-21 Paul’s address appealed to the hearers in endearing terms. Paul reminds them that any condemnation were given as signs of true friendship, as opposed to the flattery of false friends—“By gones” ; or, “I have treated everyone equally—Jew & Gentile.”  v 22 PRNC  God’s message is worth dying for.  APP What “death” must I pay…acceptance by friends, co-workers, material gain?   Shepherds accountable for the flock; and wolves—John 10.  “…warning you night and day”= all the time: “24-7”.  V 32 “…word…build you up”—PRNC God’s word makes you stronger.  V34-25  Working with one’s hands was not humiliating to artisans, but the small upper class (landowners) and most of the philosophical/religious elite preferred to charge teaching fees or draw off of charity; so, Paul’s position is uncommon.  PRNC Give all of yourself  APP  Geo. Bernard Shaw’s “ When I die, I want to be like a torch whose flame has been all used up for the cause”

…CH 21

THE AFFECTION OF FRIENDS…20:36-CH 21:6

Many Romans and Gk philosophers believed that it was not proper for men to cry; but, momentary kisses for greetings and embraces were common.  Repeated kissing and embracing of course would be common for mourning and reveals the depth of the relationship. Cos—a small island on the usual route to Rhodes with a large Jewish population  Still under a slight time constraint, (20:16) they get off of the ship taking the coastal route.  The southern shore of Cyprus was shallow and had no harbors, the Roman province of Syria included Antioch,  Phoenicia and Judea—they saved critical time sailing across the open sea to Tyre. Jewish hospitality was a cultural requirement and a superior alternative to staying at an inn which commonly doubled as a brothel.  V4 “Through the spirit the urged him…” refers to what the Disciples knew “through the spirit” that Paul’s life would be in jeopardy if he went on, so they tried to stop him.

ON TO JERUSALEM…

AGABUS’ PROPHECY v7-16

Caesarea was about 40 miles so. of Ptolemais (fortress built by Ptolemy II).  Paganism sometimes associated virginity with spiritual power, but the point show that they were young.  The verb tense used for prophesy indicates they prophesied regularly.  The Jewish tradition about Job’s prophetically endowed daughters (Testament of Job; probably written later) illustrates the high degree of esteem female “proclaimers” of God’s word held in antiquity.  (Wonder when they lost it?) PRNC WOMEN PROPHECY—messengers for God…PREACHERS!  APP  Should women preach and not lead?  Caesarea was the Roman HQ for the province of Judea, but Luke uses Judea in the Jewish Palestine or ancient Judah sense.  The girdle was a long cloth wrapped around the waist several times and used as a pocket—prophets often acted out their messages.  The literal fulfillment was never thought to be as important as the essential message had to be accurate (2Ki 19:7; 28,33,35,) Gk oracle tradition saw predictive oracles as preventative warnings.  Accounts of martyrs frequently include exhortations to avoid martyrdom.  But Paul’s friends, knowing what he will face, act out of love for him. PRNC  God does not promise happiness 100% of the time  APP  Are we grateful for our eternal blessing?

CONFLICT WITH CULTURE …

DO WHATEVER EDIFIES THE GOSPEL…DO THAT!

PAUL’S JEWISH IDENTITY AFFIRMED v17-26  Jerus. Christians accept the Gentile work but in so doing are confronted by a conflict with culture.  Jerus. has changed since Acts 2; tensions are rising and in the temple sicarii, or assassins, are murdering aristocrats suspected of collaborating with the Gentiles. Jewish nationalism is on the rise, intolerance of outsiders is short.  Thus ,in order to maintain credibility, it is important that Paul establish his cultural and religious heritage.  PRNC Culture is an important conduit for expanding the Gospel.   APP Esse/Bene-esse.  In some cultures, women should not lead in the church.  In others, they can and in some they should.

THEY JUST DON’T GET IT… JEALOUSY REARS IT’S UGLY HEAD AGAIN!

Paul’s legal battle begins

RIOT IN THE TEMPLE v27-36 It wasn’t just Paul. This is only ten years before Jewish tension against Roman occupation would lead to war where over 20,000 Jews will be slaughtered in Caesarea in one hour culminating in the destruction of the temple. “Racial” Hostility with Gentiles was mounting: Josephus estimated that 10,00 people were trampled to death in a riot under Cumanus, the Roman governor preceding Felix, when a Roman solider lewdly exposed himself in the temple area.

The Jewish leaders had authority under Rome permission to execute foreigners who breached the inner temple court from the outer court open to Gentiles, but Roman officials still had to approve it . (This privilege was also accorded the Greek temple at Elusis)  Roman garrison—Antonia, housed about 600 soldiers and was right next door to the temple, they only had to run down the stairs from the fortress.  V33 The commander wisely asked for what he is being charged with, who and where are the witnesses.  Luke’s record of this arrest is an interesting parallel of Jesus (Lk 23:18) 

PAUL AND THE TRIBUNE…PAUL SPEAKS OUT v 37- CH 22:2 

GK was the language of the Roman empire.  Latin was only used in military and government writing and as a verbal language in the eastern empire.  The point is not that Paul speaks Greek (it doesn’t prove nor disprove whether he is Egyptian. Egyptians would have known Gk as well.)  The point is Paul speaks Gk without an accent, like someone educated and fluent in the language, which attests to his higher status and thereby not being the “rabble rouser” from Egypt.  The Roman Governor Felix, defeated an Egyptian false “messiah” who had a following of 30,000 and he escaped.  Most “messiah’s,” (new Davidic rulers thus military rebels) gained their followings in the desert (Act 23:24).  Citizenship in a GK city gained higher status, one became a citizen only by birth in a citizen family or as a grant from the civic authorities.  Tarsus was not a Roman province, so Paul saves his disclosure of Roman citizenship for when he needs it later.  The tribune grants permission to speak probably hoping Paul can quiet the crowd.  Paul affirms his Jewish heritage by his speaking Aramic.  The tribune would not understand anything Paul would have said.  The parallel to Stephen (7:2) who provoked his audience to martyr him builds suspense for Luke’s readers.  Those who thought they caught a Diaspora collaborator with the Gentiles must have reconsidered after they heard his fluent Aramaic.

PAUL’s SPEECH IN THE TEMPLE  V3-21  Paul tells his conversion story. “brought up and raised” are 2 different periods of a persons life—raised in Jerus…studied the law under Gamaliel I .  As a son of an aristocratic home, his father being a citizen, Paul probably was sent to Jerus. around age 10. Of the three accounts of Paul’s calling, this is the most nationalistic for Jews.  However clear God’s call was to Paul, “V15…to all men!” and even though the crowd was incited Paul refused to compromise the gospel. PRNC Paul knows his statement will offend them, given the current Gentile tensions, but multi-ethnic inclusiveness is a crucial part of the gospel APP  THE GOSPEL IS FOR EVERYONE…who do I exclude…homeless, drunks, murderers, adultering political leaders?

 

THE REACTION  …catch Luke’s irony: Throwing dust on one’s head, and throwing off one’s cloak was an act of mourning, and an act one would make to repent of their guilt.  Even if Paul was not a Roman citizen, the tribune would have no authority to try a provincial after he had quelled the unrest.  But it was legal to scourge slaves or aliens to extort confessions…but Julian laws exempt Roman citizens from such beatings without trial.  Paul waits until he has been chained for the same reason as in 16:17, he now has legal room to maneuver against them. Not all officials would care about violating the law—some Roman procurators crucified Jerus. aristocrats who were Roman citizens, but this tribune already has shown his concern for Roman law.  The tribune is either a former slave who bought his own freedom; or he bought his citizenship by bribe which was common under the preceding emperor.   He had to be a citizen before being a part of a legion; to have the status of tribune, he must have had a powerful patron, or been one of the rare individuals who worked his way through the ranks.  Paul thus has superior status in some sense.  PRNC  Laws of men can be helpful to expand the gospel.  APP  Zoning laws, First Amendment laws, all can work to help expand the gospel.

CH 23

A HERO GOES BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN..

THE SANHEDRIN v22:30-23:10  The Sanhedrin was the  highest religious court of Jewish Palestine.  The Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed on many points.  The Pharisees had less power and representation on the council, but some of them (like the aristocratic Simon, son of Gamaliel I [Paul’s mentor]) would have some power.  Because Paul’s offense is clearly a religious one related to the temple, the perplexed official is going to try to ascertain the charge by consulting the Sanhedrin.  Paul’s claim, v 1, suggest that even when he was persecuting Christians, he was doing right rather than intentionally opposing the truth (Phil 3:6).  Ananias was the high priest AD 47-52 & 53-59, he was a Roman vassal know for his greed and for stealing the tithes belonging to the poorer priests.  Whitewashed wall—was one whose ugliness could be concealed, but not changed.  The high priest usually sat in a special place or wore distinctive robes---he either does not here because the gathering is informal or Paul answers ironically because of his corruption and tainted upholidng of his power.  Paul’s legal strategy: DIVIDE & CONQUER…CHANGE THE ISSUE…it’s not about my “crime” it’s about the resurrection. Pharisees and Sadducees were notorious for disagreements, especially on the doctrine of resurrection.  Sadducees did not believe in life after death.  I wonder if Paul’s reaction to Jesus’ directive was, “OH NO! NOT AGAIN!”  PRNC Hold strong to your convictions.  Faithful will be used by God for great things.

THE PLOT TO KILL PAUL  v11-22 Revolutionary-minded Jews considered some assassinations pious religious acts; Herod the Great had once executed 10 Pharisees who had formed an association by oath for the purpose of killing him  The Sadducean members of the council, not the Pharisees. 

THE COMMANDER’S COUNTER-MEASURES  v23-32  The commander’s assignment, 200 soldier soldiers, would take as much as 1/3rd of Jerusalem’s Antonia fortress, so they must return quickly.  Given the unrest in Palestine, and attacks by night robbers, a smaller contingent would not be safe.  The Roman procurator, or governor, resided in Caesarea—a palace built by Herod the Great, visiting Jerusalem only for feasts, it was also the military headquarters.  It was only 60 mi. away.  Troops were trained and able undertake all-night marches.

Tiberius Antonius Felix—became procurator because his brother was Pallas, a powerful freedman of Emporer Claudius.  He was considered corrupt—a king’s authority but a slave’s mind. Despite his low birth, his 3 wives were from royal households. Drusilla, #3, was convinced to divorce her husband, a king of a small region in Syria and marry him (24:24). She was Herod Agrippa I’s youngest daughter, and Agrippa II’s sister. He ruled AD52-59 or 60.

Letters were sent with slaves, traveling friends, or in this case, soldiers.  Subordinate officials sometimes put their own slant on a story to make themselves look good, and cases had to be justified worthy to be sent to the governor.  Felix could have deferred assuming jurisdiction since Cilicia, with its capital of Tarsus, was an imperial province, but governed as part of Syria. But Syria was a bigger province so Felix could have assumed the relatively minor case.  Hearings for Roman Citizens capital charges required painstaking examination, if Felix were to follow the law. 

Another trial…(see LK 23:6-9)

CH 24 

THE ACCUSATION v1-9 Tertullus—a fairly common Latin name infers that the legal representation could easily be a fellow Roman.  Prosecution always begins first, and as is typical, with flattery to win the judges favor.  (Compare the triple charge of LK 23:2 with v5-6. Paul’s accusers make themselves out to be Romans; profaning the temple was a capital charge; and inciting people to riot against Rome was high treason.)  Nazarenes—a term Jewish Christians eventually applied to themselves, was originally an insult cast against the obscurity and reputation of the town (JN 1:46)

PAUL’s DEFENSE v10-21 The defendant follows the prosecution.  Proclaiming one’s confidence in the judge implies one’s innocence.  Roman lawyers had 3 common defenses for the guilty: concessio-admitting the deed was wrong; purgatio-claim they meant well; or, deprecatio- beseech pardon.  But when Paul admits a deed he doesn’t admit guilt but instead builds a defense: 1. The issue is about Jewish law, not a Roman crime. 2. The ancient religion that is protected by Roman law, is the heritage of this “sect’; 3. He makes a confession, but what he has confessed to is not a crime.  Paul’s almsgiving adds proof of his solidarity with his people and defuses the charge of violating the temple.   “It’s concerning the resurrection of the dead” Roman magistrates would view this as a matter of religious dispute, nothing to judge as a case of Roman law. PRNC  Paul holds the faith…speaks boldly APP Speak boldly.

FELIX’s PROCRASTINATION v22-27  Lysias, the commander, is the independent witness who would not be expected to be bias on either side.  It would have been difficult for Felix not to have heard about the Jesus movement; but he and other Roman officials of this period were treating it as innocuous.  “House arrest”—in the curator’s palace, making it easy for Felix to summon him, and to watch over Paul and see if his friends delivered him money as he already claimed he had access to for his almsgiving.  Drusilla’s Jewish heritage, (Agrippa family), may have influenced her husband to listen to Paul. 2 years of house arrest allows Luke to interview, reasearch and write Paul’s defense: The Gospel of Luke and Acts.  Felix did not have a reputation of being particularly just; Josephus complained that he sent priests to Caesar on a trifling charge. When Felix was replaced, AD59, Jewish leaders from Caesarea finally went to Rome and accused him (Roman law permitted provincials to accuse their governors since 149BC).   PRNC Patience…waiting on the Lord.

CH 25

A WILLING FOLLOWER OF CHRIST…

 

THE TRIAL BEFORE FESTUS v1-12  Festus—Josephus’ writings about Festus are much more positive than that of Felix.   Felix corrected disturbances and caught many revolutionaries.  Having died in office, Festus only served a year or two.  It was politically appropriate to visit the local authorities centered in Jerus.  A new governor meant a new chance for the political religious sect.  Once again, the relevant charge under Roman law was violating the sanctity of the temple; or, leading a revolt—treason, a capital offense.  Roman citizens had the right to appeal to Caesar’s tribunal, although the emperor normally delegated the hearing to others.  Later, Pliny in Bithynia, executed Christians, but sent the citizens to Rome for trial.  Noncitizen provincials, the Jerus. court, had no authority to appeal a governor’s decision.  Festus has reason to comply with Paul’s request: the political implications of dismissing an appeal were unpleasant, the benefits of sending the problem away removes him from political harm in the eyes of the Jerus. leaders.  PRNC Luke wishes to point out the parallel between Jesus and Paul—Christians must follow in Jesus’ footsteps. APP Following Christ means facing trials with confidence…appeal to a greater authority—Christ.  Marriage—die alittle when you put your golf clubs in the trunk.

 

FESTUS & AGRIPPA II  v13-22  When Agrippa I died, his son, Agrippa II (here), was only 17; his daughters were Berenice (16), Mariamne (10), and Dursilla (6). Agrippa II ruled a small part of Palestine and worked with the Roman administration. He was an advocate for his people but was also loyal to Rome and later struck a coin in AD89 commemorating Rome’s triumph over the Jewish rebels.  Josephus’s record shows that Agrippa visited Roman officals frequently, especially when they first arrived.  Gestus later took Agrippa’s side in a dispute with the priests. Berenice—some ancient writers maligned her close relationship with her brother Agrippa, slandering it as incestuous, but their charge is unlikely.  She later became the mistress of Titus, who besieged Jerusalem, forced to ignore her; she finally left Rome brokenhearted. She was 15 yrs older than Titus. 

Roman law required the accused be permitted to confront his accusers and defend himself.  The real issue is one of Jewish law, not Roman; and, again Luke shows the Roman impression that Christianity was a part of Judaism and thus afforded legal toleration.  (LK 23:8) As a newcomer, Festus would naturally want an insiders opinion from someone who knew Judaism but was also sympathetic to Roman interests.

PAUL BEFORE AGRIPPA v23

The pomp Luke records was characteristic of royal families.  It is obvious, the charge against Paul is political, but all the evidence involves Jewish religion, which would be incomprehensible to Roman procurators.  Agripp II is the 1st official competent in both Roman & Jewish law to hear Paul’s defense and summarize the case. 

CH 26

PAUL’S PROLOUGE v1-1  Paul’s hand is stretched forth in customary rhetorical style; gestures were an important part of ancient training in public speaking. Two of the most basic future hopes of most Jews were the resurrection of the bodies of the righteous and the restoration of the twelve tribes at the same time.

THE RISEN CHRIST CALLS PAUL TO THE GENTILES v12-23  Paul tells of his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus.  “Kicking against the goads” was a GK proverb about fighting a god, possibly originating with the classical Gk playwright Euripides.  It is not cited in the other accounts of Paul’s conversion, but it is appropriate in an address to Agrippa, who had an ample GK education.  A Roman aristocrat like Festus may dislike Paul’s mission to move Gentiles to repent, but he would not understand the Jewish opposition.  It is important that Paul reaffirm Christianity in continuity with OT religion.

THE COURT’S RESPONSE  v24-32  Festus gives a typical answer that educated Romans would give to concepts so foreign and barbarian as resurrection.  In Gk circles, madness was sometimes associated with prophetic inspiration, but Festus, a Roman, undoubtedly means it less charitably.  Paul’s rebuttal is that Christians claim is not clandestine, nor insane, but publicly acclaimed.   Agrippa statement may be taken literally “Are you trying to convert me?” and based upon how it was written, it could be a rhetorical overstatement: “you are so convincing that you may convert me”  Because Paul had used his Roman right to appeal to Caesar’s tribunal, Agrippa and Festus can only refer him there with a letter specifying their own opinion.  This appeal had earlier saved Paul’s life, and now it provides him free passage to Rome and a public forum for the gospel.  PRNC God’s victory in what otherwise appears as a setback. APP If it looks like lemons make lemonade.

CH 27

THE VOYAGE TO ROME BEGINS v1-8  This narrative is clearly eyewitness history; the details of the voyage, including the number of days it took to reach particular harbors given the winds mentioned, fit exactly the report of someone who participated in the journey. On this journey Julius, the centurion, treated Paul kindly and allowed him considerable freedom while on land (28:7,140  It has been suggested that Paul’s travelling companions including Aristarchus (Col 4:10; Phlm 24), Luke and Titus as far as Crete (Titus 1:4) would all help to account for the high honor in which he was held despite being a prisoner. The ship is being opposed by the usual summer winds from the west or northwest.  Thus, remaining close to the Syrian coast east of Cyprus, and northward to the south of Asia Minor, their voyage is much slower than the reverse voyage (21:1-3)  Alexandrian grain ships dominated Mediterranean sea trade and would normally take over 2 months. They were the biggest ships,180 ft x 45 ft x 40 ft deep. and est. at 800 tons (most ships were small at 250 tons).  They were the quickest means of transportation from Syria to Rome.

CRISIS AT SEA v9-19  The “Fast” refers to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which occurs in Sept or Oct. Sea travel became much more dangerous as winter approached (2Tim 4:21; Tit 3:12)  The seas would be completely shut down around mid Nov. to late Mar. so this period is on the cusp of being dangerous.  Bieing a practical traveler, the Roman centurion trusts the knowledge of the captain more than a Jewish prisoners religious insights.  The captain is just hoping to make it to a better harbor for the winter and does not hope to make Italy this late in the year.  Phoenix is a common winter harbor. A south wind is what they need and could have brought them to their destination within hours.  Even in good weather, Alexandrian grain ships sailed north to Asia then west to Italy even in good weather because of a rocky shallow shoal west of Cyrenaica along the African coast.

THE GOD OF SAFETY v20-44 Pagans believed those who died at sea never entered the realm of the dead, instead their souls wandered aimlessly forever above the waters.  The lack of eating could be due to seasickness.  Running aground was not good news, so advance notice of this crises would make faith easier when the time came.  Little did they know, on the next day they could have used the small boat to ferry people to land (although it would take many trips) without it, they would have to run the whole ship aground.  “Not a hair on one’s head” was an OT expression Isam 14:45; 2Sam 14:11; IKi 1:52.  The traditional site of St. Paul’s Bay is on northern Malta, between the bay and the island of Salmonetta on the northwest is a shallow channel about 300 yards wide.  Guards were responsible for their prisoners; they would be less liable if they died at sea.  In Greco-Roman literature, someone’s escape from disaster at sea could serve as evidence of that’s person’s religious purity before a court.

PRNC God’s guiding hand is their during the storm.  He will fulfill his promise to protect his faithful in order to complete his mission.  APP  Even though we don’t always see beyond the waves and the wind, (see gospels JC walk on water) God is there. Even though we don’t know how he’s going to do it, we do know the why—fulfill His mission: Expand the Kingdom.

CH 28

MIRACLES ON MALTA v1-10 Malta—was on the shipping route from Rome to Egypt.  The Maltese were of Phenician descent, and read only Punic (Phoenician dialect of the Carhaginians) It was the stop immediately after Syracuse in Sicily.  Greco-Roman stories considered those who survived snake and lizard bites to be divine holy men.

JOURNEY TO ROME v11-16  The seas opened as early as Feb. or as late as Mar.  Ships were named for the patron deity in whose protection they trusted.  The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux-twin heroes, sons of Zeus) were considered special protectors of ships, on whom one might call in a storm.  Syracuse was the chief city of Sicily with a rich Greek and Roman heritage.  Rheguim was the Italian harbor closest to Sicily.  Mercantile vessels put in at Puteoli just west of Naples; to have reached it in 2 days meant they had made optimum time (90 miles a day).  The Jewish community in Puteoli had been there a long time and had Egyptian and Phoenician cults. As the regular port for travel from the east, it naturally received foreign religions as well as goods. In older times, isolated inns had grown into larger settlements that retained the names of the inns.   One of these was the Tres Tabernae, or Three Taverns, it was 33 Roman miles from Rome on the Appian Way.  The Market of Appius or Appii Forum, was 43 miles on the same road.  Along the Appian Way, Paul and the others would enter Rome’s Porta Capena. Paul was loosely chained by the wrist to a soldier (28:20) who would be a member of the Praetorian Guard, Caesar’s elite personal guard in Rome.  The Preaetorian Guard was commanded by the Praetorian prefect, who was responsible for all prisoners from the provinces to be tried by Caesar’s court.

PAUL, JEWS, & GENTILES IN ROME  v17-31  The leaders of the Jews are leaders of different synagogue communities.  The Jewish congregations were autonomous.  Christians could spread their views among the various synagogues with relative freedom.  The Jewish community there had also made many Roman converts and sympathizers.  Many of these sympathizers would be happy to embrace a version of the Judaic god that accepted them fully without circumcision. 

V18-20 Imprisonment and chains were not used as punishments but as a means of detention until trial.  Paul continues to emphasize the continuity of the OT and Christianity for the Jewish leaders and Roman readers who needed to understand the movement was rooted in the ancient religion tolerated by Rome.  Unable to win their case in Judea, Paul’s accusers whould have even less chance in Rome. By AD 62, the Jewish community in Rome had an advocate with the emperor in his wife (former mistress) Poppaea Sabina—until Nero kicked her to death while she was pregnant.  It is by no means clear that Roman Jewish communities were uniformly hostile the Christian movements (28:24) but they naturally had questions, concerns, and issues if their previous expulsion in 18:2 was due to Christian teachings. 

GOD’s OWN CHOSEN REJECT THE MESSIAH…

GOD’s PRIORITY IS WITH ALL HIS PEOPLE

v23-37  Paul’s citation of Isaiah 6 climaxes the theme that God is for all people.  At the end of two years, if no accusers had arrived and no charges had been sent against him (28:21), Paul would normally be automatically released on the emperor’s authority.  But the vision of 27:23-24 would most likely not have been recorded had Paul never come to trial.  It would have been the habit of Nero to delegate Paul’s trial and merely confirm sentences.  If Paul was tried, convicted and executed at the end of the two year period, he would have died AD62.

Paul was later arrested again and beheaded, but Luke ends on a note of positive legal summary—a “closing argument”:  Paul was allowed to preach under the very nose of the Praetorian Guard, suggests that before Nero instituted his persecution of Christians that Christians were tolerated and legitimate under Roman law. (political retaliation and scapegoating for the burning of Rome: Nero was accused of setting Rome on fire in his annual recital of the fall of Troy, but he accused the Christians and instituted the first Roman persecution)

Early Church traditions say Paul (and Peter, I Pet. 5:13) was executed at Rome, but do not link his death with Jerus. accusations instead connecting them to Nero’s persecution of AD64.    Other statements of the early church indicate Paul was released and imprisoned again, which is a possibility. Clement claimed he preached “to the limit of the West”; which others have interpreted as Spain, but it need not imply anything outside of Rom 15:24, “ I plan to do so {visit Rome again} when I go to Spain.”  Luke’s defense paved the way for 2nd Century defenders of Christianity and points the way for the church today.

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