Today’s reading is: Acts 20-24
Acts Chapter Twenty
- Paul fled from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 20:1). While in that region, he wrote 2nd Corinthians.
- He then came to Greece for three months (Acts 20:2-3a). While there, he wrote Romans.
- Paul had a team of seven assistants (students) who went ahead of him as an advanced party (Acts 20:3b-5).
- The “we narrative” returns at Philippi (Acts 20:6ff.) as Luke rejoins Paul’s mission for the rest of Acts (2nd Tim. 4:11).
- In Troas, Paul followed the example of Christ, and the instance of Peter, in restoring physical life to someone who had physically died (Acts 20:7-12).
- Paul bypassed Ephesus in his hurry to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 20:13-16).
- While in Miletus, Paul summoned the elders/overseers (pastors) of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17,28-29).
- πρεσβύτερος presbuteros #4245: an elder (of age or office).
- ἐπίσκοπος episkopos #1985: an overseer. ἐπισκοπέω episkopeō #1983: to oversee, care for.
- ποιμήν poimēn #4166: a shepherd, pastor. ποιμαίνω poimainō #4165: to feed, tend a flock.
- Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders/overseers/pastors was to be on the alert, guarding themselves and the flock against the savage wolves (Acts 20:18-35).
- Paul departed from them after a corporate prayer meeting (Acts 20:36-38).
Acts Chapter Twenty-One
- Paul’s journey to Jerusalem is a study in contradictions.
- Paul had purposed “in the spirit” (ἐν τῷ πνεύματι) to go to Jerusalem prior to his trip to Rome (Acts 19:21).
- Paul’s orientation to Rome was slowly being altered to a preoccupation with Jerusalem.
- “I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).
- “I hope to see you in passing” (Rom. 15:24).
- “I am ready . . . to die at Jerusalem” (Acts 21:13).
- Paul’s was commissioned to minister “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15; see also Acts 22:18,21). Yet, his first contact in every city was always the local synagogue, turning to the Gentiles only after Jewish rejection (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 19:9).
- Why was Paul so oriented to the Jews? The Book he wrote just prior to his Jerusalem trip offers some clues:
- Paul testified that his carnal nature kept prompting him to defy the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6&7).
- Although impossible to be separated from Christ (Rom. 8) Paul desired it for the sake of redeeming the Jews (Rom. 9).
- In Tyre, the believers there kept telling Paul through the spirit (διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος) not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-6).
- This witness was verified in Caesarea, when the prophet Agabus, in the company of four prophetesses, warned Paul against going to Jerusalem (Acts 21:7-11).
- Even Paul’s companions joined with the saints of Caesarea in begging Paul not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12).
- Paul was ready to die in Jerusalem, and would not be persuaded by the multiple witnesses to the will of God (Acts 21:13).
- Thus, we see Paul tested (& failing) in a similar manner to Peter (Matt. 26:35; Mk. 14:31; Lk. 22:33; Jn. 13:37).
- Paul’s companions had to defer to his apostolic authority, and surrendered Paul to the Will of God (Acts 21:14).
- Paul was greeted by the legalistic church in Jerusalem, and heartily participated in their zeal for the Law (Acts 21:15-26).
- James & his disciples were the source of false teaching that nearly destroyed the church in Antioch (Gal. 2:12).
- There is no reference upon his arrival in Jerusalem to the grace gift that had been sent by the local churches of Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, & Achaia. We must assume the gift was delivered, but the Acts narrative doesn’t tell us.
- Paul spoke Divine activity among the Gentiles outside of Jerusalem (v.19).
- James spoke of great attendance in the church at Jerusalem, and their zeal for the Law (v.20).
- James also mentioned a slanderous report about Paul that the legalistic believers in Jerusalem accepted as true (v.21).
- James suggested that Paul participate in Mosaic ritual in order to prove himself a Law-keeper to the legalistic believers who believe Satanic lies (vv.22-26).
- Paul fell victim to the Jerusalem Jews’ favorite tactic of mob justice (Acts 21:27-30). This was a tactic pioneered by a young Saul of Tarsus!
- God the Father overruled the mob justice by placing Paul into Roman custody and achieving His purpose in commissioning Paul to Gentiles & Kings (Acts 21:31-40).
- The Roman Chiliarch (Claudius Lysias, Acts 23:26) asks Paul who he was and what he had done (Acts 21:33)—presenting the perfect opportunity to preach the Gospel to a Roman soldier like Peter had done years earlier.
- Instead of redeeming the open door opportunity with a Gentile, Paul requested another chance to address the Jews (Acts 21:37-40).
Acts Chapter Twenty-Two
- Saul the crusader worked for the destruction of the Church (Acts 79), and now Paul the crusader worked to prevent the destruction of the Jews (Acts 22).
- Acts 22 is a powerful message by Paul pleading for his “brethren and fathers” to follow his example and humble themselves before Jesus Christ (Acts 22:1-21).
- He reviews his Damascus experience (vv.1-16).
- He reviews his first Jerusalem experience (vv.17-21).
- The Lord commanded Paul to leave Jerusalem, as his testimony (μαρτυρία marturia #3141) would only be rejected (v.18).
- Paul argued with the Lord that he was the perfect evangelist to deliver Jerusalem (vv.19,20).
- The Lord repeated the command: “Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (v.21).
- The idea that God would minister to the Gentiles drove the Jews in Jerusalem to murderous rage (Acts 22:22,23).
- The Chiliarch intended to torture the truth out of Paul until Paul made use of Roman political privilege to avoid the scourging (Acts 22:24-29).
Acts Chapter Twenty-Three
- Released by the Romans, Paul is placed before the Sanhedrin for additional examination (Acts 22:30; 23:1).
- Paul has been so long away from Jerusalem politics, that he no longer recognizes the high priest (Acts 23:2-5).
- Paul hasn’t been too long away, though, to stir up the divisions between the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Acts 23:6-10).
- The Lord urged Paul to take courage, informing him that his Jerusalem witness would be repeated in Rome (Acts 23:11).
- Paul’s solemn witness to the cause of Christ in Jerusalem was as a prisoner in custody on trial.
- Paul’s ministry in Rome will likewise come as a prisoner in custody on trial. We are left to speculate what Paul’s Roman ministry might have been like, had he journeyed there rather than to Jerusalem.
- The son of Paul’s sister uncovered a conspiracy against Paul, and was able to thwart it by informing Paul of the matter (Acts 23:12–16).
- The Chiliarch Claudius Lysius sent Paul up the chain of command surrendering him to a higher court under the Roman Governor, Felix (Acts 23:17-35). Thus, Paul’s use of Roman political privilege placed him in Caesarea for over two years (Acts 24:27).
Acts Chapter Twenty-Four
- Felix presided over Paul’s next trial, where Ananias made use of an expert Roman orator—Tertullus (Acts 24:1).
- The Jewish plea was essentially a change of venue motion, requesting Paul’s transfer to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem for trial (Acts 24:2-9).
- Paul professed his innocence of any offense in Jerusalem, and appealed to Felix’s understanding of the Jews (Acts 24:10-21).
- Felix knew something of The Way, but when he learned more of it, he became frightened (Acts 24:22-25).
- Felix kept Paul in prison for two years. He was hoping to keep the Jews happy, and also hoping to receive a handsome bribe for Paul’s release (Acts 24:26-27).
A Note on the Caesarean imprisonment: Scholars have engaged in tremendous debate concerning Paul’s activities for these two years. Some are inclined to place the writing of Colossians & Philemon at this point rather than Paul’s later imprisonment in Rome. Those who hold to a Pauline authorship of Hebrews also tend to make this imprisonment the time of its composition. Pastor Bob believes that the prison epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, & Philemon) belong to various Ephesian imprisonments. (Pastor Bob also rejects the Pauline authorship of Hebrews). It is, however, most probable that during the time of Paul’s Caesarean imprisonment, Luke had the opportunity to conduct his Judean research and compose the Gospel of Luke.