THE BOOK OF ACTS
The writer of this book is the same who wrote the Gospel of Luke. It is a continuation of the account of Christianity written to his friend, Theophilus. In the “former treatise” he tells what Jesus “began both to do and teach”, and in the Acts, what Jesus continued to do and teach through His Spirit-filled followers.
The date of The Acts is about 65 A.D., judging from the subject matter in its concluding chapter, which is that of Paul’s earliest ministry in Rome, which took place about that time. The events recorded cover a period of thirty two years.
As the Gospel pages are filled with the teaching and labors of Jesus, so The Acts is filled with the presence of the Spirit revealing Jesus Christ to the church, and using God’s chosen vessels to present Him in word and deed to both Jew and Gentile.
The book is in two main parts as follows:
1. Chs. 1 to 9. The ministry to the Jews in which Peter is the prominent figure.
2. Chs. 11 to 28. The ministry to the Gentiles, in which Paul is the prominent figure.
THE MINISTRY TO THE JEWS.
As the Gospels close with an account of the resurrection ministry of Christ, so Luke commences his message in The Acts in the same way. Jesus had a last meeting with His disciples, and reminded them of the promise through John the Baptist that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Now He informed them that the time had arrived, and they must remain in Jerusalem and “wait for the promise of the Father”, vs. 4-5. Some of His followers asked if He intended to restore the kingdom to Israel at that time. To this question, the Lord replied that such matters were the Fathers concern, but that they should receive power to be His witnesses after the Holy Ghost came upon them, vs. 6-8. As He spoke these words the Lord Jesus was caught up from their midst, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Naturally this was a great surprise, and as they stood gazing toward heaven two men stood by them in white apparel. They said to the disciples, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so some in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven”, vs. 9-11.
The disciples returned to Jerusalem and commenced waiting on God as Christ had commanded them. Due to the fact that their number had been depleted by the action of Judas, who eventually committed suicide, Matthew 27:5, the apostle Peter suggested that they cast lots for someone to fill his place. A brother named Matthias was chosen, and in their reckoning he became one of the twelve, vs. 23-26. Just whether God really recognized their choice is a question, for Matthias never figures actively in the scriptures after that. We know, however, that the apostle Paul was divinely chosen, and the opinion is often expressed that he was more likely the one whom God will number among the twelve apostles.
The disciples, both men and women, spent most of their time in prayer after Jesus ascended, “and when the day of Pentecost had fully come the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them and they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” There were unusual manifestations of power at that time due no doubt to the ten days of waiting on God. In Lev. 23:9-10, 15-16, we read that a sheaf of the first fruits of their harvest was to be waved before the Lord in recognition of His blessing on the land. This sheaf typifies Christ, the first fruits of the resurrection. Fifty days later the people gathered for the feast of Pentecost. The spiritual meaning literally came to pass as per the record in the second chapter of Acts. Jesus arose, and for forty days met on and off with His disciples. Then He left them, “and when the day of Pentecost had fully come” or exactly ten days later, God fulfilled by the outpouring of the Spirit what was intended by the types contained in the feast of Pentecost, Ch. 1:3, 14, 2:1.
Great was the surprise of the multitude in Jerusalem to hear many languages spoken by these Galileans who were ordinary local people. Peter, being inspired by God, explained the phenomenon as the fulfillment of the prophecy by Joel. He further explained that because Jesus had been exalted in heaven He had shed forth the Spirit, with the unusual result as they had witnessed. Then he exhorted the people to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins, and they too would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, vs. 38-39.
As a result of the great outpouring God moved upon the apostles and they immediately began to carry forward the Gospel ministry which was commenced by Jesus.
Ch. 3 tells of a man lame from birth who daily begged at the gate of the temple, being instantly made to walk. People came running together to see the sight, v.11, and Peter took full advantage of the occasion and preached Christ unto them. This aroused opposition on the part of the priests and Peter and John were put in prison overnight, Ch. 4:13. The next morning they were asked how the healing of the lame man had been accomplished. Peter explained that it was done by the risen Christ whom they had crucified, but now He was alive and working through them, v.10. The two apostles were there-upon commanded “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” Peter and John answered, “whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”, vs. 18-20. After further threatening them they let the two apostles go. The believers thereupon gathered for prayer and asked God for boldness to continue witnessing, and He answered them abundantly with such power that even the house was shaken where they were assembled together.
A dark shadow clouded the church at that time. Through goodness of heart quite a number of believers sold their property and turned their money over to the apostles for the Lords work. A man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, were tempted of the devil to do likewise but to keep back par, and in making their offering they lied, and pretended it was the full amount received in the sale. God punished Ananias with instant death. Sapphira also died as party to the falsehood. Great fear come on the church as a result, Ch. 5:1-11. The apostles continued their ministry. Again the authorities interfered and put them in prison. During the night an angel set them free, and sent them right back to preach in the temple. Officers were sent and brought them before the council, vs. 17-28. Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, stood up and warned the leaders to be careful lest they fight against God. The apostles were thereupon called and beaten, and were commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus, but the Word Says, “they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
As the church in Jerusalem grew, the business management of the church became rather a problem. The apostles, therefore, asked that “seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” be chosen and appointed to look after these matters. This was done, and the work went steadily forward, Ch. 6:1-7. Stephen, who was one of the seven deacons, not only did his part as appointed, but also labored in the Gospel ministry with outstanding results. Certain men of the Jews disputed with him with poor success. They finally engaged false witnesses to lie about Stephen. As a result he was taken before the council, vs. 8-15. In making his defense he preached a masterly sermon to convince his hearers that Jesus was the Christ. He quoted from Deuteronomy18:15, 18, and sought to prove that the Lord Jesus was the Prophet of Whom Moses spoke, Ch. 7:37. So bigoted were the Jewish leaders that they paid no attention, but in great wrath ran upon him, cast him out of the city, and stoned him, vs. 57-58. As Stephen was being thus treated he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge and then breathed his last”, v.60.
After the martyrdom of Stephen, great persecution broke out against the church, and the believers had to flee for their lives. What would naturally seem to be sure destruction led rather to the furthering of the cause of Christ. The scattered ones went everywhere preaching the Word, Ch.8:4, and so the good work spread to other parts, Philip, another of the seven deacons, became an evangelist and held a very successful revival in Samaria, vs. 5-8. Many turned to the Lord and Peter and John paid a visit to them, and through the laying on of hands they received the Holy Ghost, v.15. Philip was led out to the desert where he was used to turn a prominent Ethiopian to the Lord. In this way the Gospel was carried into Africa, vs. 37-38.
The apostle Peter in his missionary travels paid a visit to the saints which dwelt at Lydia.
A certain man named Aeneas was confined to his bed with palsy, and had been in that condition for eight years. Peter entered his room and said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed.” He arose immediately. As a result many in these parts turned to the Lord, Ch. 9:32-35. Following this Peter was called to go to Joppa. Upon his arrival he was taken to an upper chamber where lay the dead body of a woman named Dorcas. A number of widows were present. With tears they showed Peter the garments which the good woman had made for them while she was alive. The only course for the apostle to take was to find out the will of God in the matter. He put the people out of the room and kneeled down and prayed. Then turning to the body he called upon the woman to arise. She opened her eyes and sat up. Great was the effect of this miracle, and many turned to the Lord as a result, vs. 39-42.
THE MINISTRY TO THE GENTILES, ETC.
In Ch. 7:58 we read that a young man named Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen. Then in Ch. 9:1, we find him a prominent actor in persecuting the church. Having obtained letters to the Jewish authorities in Damascus, he journeyed there, intending to round up and commit to prison any man or woman who believed in Jesus. God had His eye on things, and the story tells how He sent forth at midday a light brighter than the sun. Saul fell to the earth and heard a voice which said, “Why persecutest thou me?” Upon asking who spoke he learned that it was Jesus. Then Saul was told to go to Damascus, and a man named Ananias would come to him and tell him what he should do. After the light vanished it was found that Saul was blind. He was led to his destination and for three days he pasted and prayed. God in the meantime called Ananias and sent him to Saul with power to restore his sight. He was told that the Lord had chosen this man to become His messenger to the Gentiles. Ananias obeyed and Saul arose, was baptized, and received the Holy Ghost, vs. 3-19. Thus began the ministry of the great apostle to the Gentiles.
It was very evident that God wanted the Gentiles to be reached by the gospel message. In Ch. 10, Peter and Cornelius are brought together after considerable preparation on the part of Peter. So eager was God in the matter that even as Peter preached He poured out the Holy Ghost upon the assembled company, and they began speaking with other tongues, vs. 44-46. Sometime later Peter was criticized by the church leaders in Jerusalem, but all he did was to rehearse God’s dealings with him, and “they held their peace, and glorified God saying, then that God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. Ch. 11:18.
When the church of Jerusalem was scattered, certain believers settled in Antioch. They began preaching to the Grecians and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord. When tidings of this reached the mother church the leaders sent Barnabas to look into the matter. He found a good condition among them, and through his ministry much people were added to the Lord, vs. 23-24. Barnabas then found Saul and took him back with him to minister the Word. For a whole year they assembled with these people, and in the church in Antioch the believers were first called Christians.
In Ch. 12, we read that Herod the king too James the brother of John and slew him with the sword. Seeing that this pleased the Jews he took Peter and put him in prison, intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people to probably kill him in the same way, vs. 1-4. God allows some of His children to become martyrs, but if He sees fit to deliver them, no shackle of man can hinder His will. The church prayed without ceasing for Peter. The night that should have been his last saw the performance of a remarkable miracle. An angel entered the prison cell, caused Peters chains to drop off, and led him forth into the street. Doors and iron gates opened of their own accord. The apostle made known his deliverance to the church, and then went and hid himself, vs. 5-17. Herod was enraged at the incident and gave orders that the keepers should be put to death. A short time later the king died a miserable death caused by worms. Thus the glory and pomp of man must come down before his Maker.
PAUL’S FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
In Chs. 13 and 14, we have the account of the first missionary journey of the apostle Paul. While still known as Saul, he and Barnabas with others were ministering unto the Lord in the church in Antioch, and during a time of fasting and prayer the Holy Ghost said, “Separate unto Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them, Ch. 13:2. The two brethren started out and went first to Seleucia. Form there they sailed to the island of Cyprus, and preached to the Jews in Salamis. From there they went to Paphos. The deputy of the placed called for the two men and desired to hear the Word of God. A Jew who was known as Elymas, the sorcerer, tried to hinder, but god judged him through Paul, who called down the curse of blindness upon the man. The deputy was greatly impressed by this incident and believed in the Lord for himself, vs.6-12.
From Paphos, Paul and Barnabas continued their journey and went next to Perga in Pamphylia. John, also called Mar, left them at that place and returned to Jerusalem, from Perga they went to Antioch in Piscidia. Saul, who from now on is called Paul, always met with the Jews first. After a good sermon explaining the way of life through Christ, the people went from the meeting. Many of the Jews and proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas who sought to persuade them to continue in the grace of God, vs. 42-43. The Gentiles asked that they be granted a meeting on the following Sabbath. A great crowd attended. This angered the Jews, but Paul turned from them and had a profitable ministry among the Gentiles, quite a number turning to God as a result, vs. 44-48. The two men preached the Word throughout that region. Finally they had to leave and went next to Iconium. In this city they attended the synagogue and witnessed to the Jews, so that a great multitude of both Jews and Greeks believed, Ch. 14:1. This stirred up enmity, but in spite of it Paul and Barnabas kept on with their ministry. At last an assault was made upon them and they fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. When Paul preached in Lystra a crippled man was healed, v. 10. This caused quite a stir. The heathen priests told the people that the God’s had come down to them in the likeness of man, and they prepared to offer sacrifice unto them. The tow brethren with great difficulty hindered them from doing this. A little later certain Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and turned the people of Lystra against them. Paul was stoned and drawn out the city and left for dead, v. 19. God raised him up, however, and the next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe. From there the two men turned their steps homeward calling at Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch en route, and after they had passed through Piscidia they went to Pamphylia, preached at Perga, went down to Athaliah, and from there set sail to Antioch in Syria. This was the place from which they had started. Her they reported to the church all that god had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, v.27.
The fact that the Gospel ministry was being extended so that it embraced the Gentile world, was the cause of some contention in the church among the believing Jews. Many labored under the impression that the commandments of Moses were still binding. Paul felt otherwise. He had seen so many wonderful conversions, and many people healed and filled with the Holy Ghost, and yet they had not been circumcised, that there really seemed to be no reason why this should be enjoined upon these new believers. A church council was called. Paul and Barnabas attended, and testified how God had worked among the Gentiles, Ch. 15:4. Then some arose and said these new converts should be circumcised and commanded to keep the law of Moses, v.5. A meeting was called for the apostles and elders to give their decision in the matter, v.6. Peter stood up and recounted what God had done through him among the Gentiles, and gave his opinion that since the Lord had chosen to purify their hearts by faith, and had poured His Spirit upon them, that it seemed quite unnecessary to put them under the yoke of the law, v.10. Paul and Barnabas spoke next, and the people listened as they told of the marvelous results of their ministry among the Gentiles. James then arose, and by quoting the teaching of the prophets showed how God had foretold His working among the Gentiles, vs. 15-17. Therefore he gave his decision that they should issue no commandment to the new converts as was suggested by some, but that they be written to “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” Two brethren named Judas and Silas were appointed to travel with Barnabas and Paul to the new churches to tell the Gentile believers by word of mouth of this decision, and thus offset the teachings which had been spread among them by teachers who were advocates of the law of Moses, vs. 24-27. The reason for the fourfold injunction mentioned above was no doubt to avoid giving offense to godly Jewish believers who still felt to strictly observe those thing which were taught them from their earliest days, and about which their consciences were very tender.
We read in Ch. 15:36-41 that Paul suggested to Barnabas that they go again to the different places where they had established churches among the Gentiles, and see how the believers were getting along. To this Barnabas agreed. When he desired, however, to take John, whose surname was Mark, with them, Paul very much objected. The reason for this was because he had left them during their last journey, and the apostle Paul did not have much confidence in him. Neither of the men would yield to the other and it ended with Barnabas taking Marl and going to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and they journeyed together.
They went first of all through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches. Then they came to Derbe and Lystra. At this latter place, Paul found a young man named Timothy, who had a good reputation among the believers in those parts, and he was added to their number, Ch. 16:1-3. The brethren then went forward and preached throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia. Paul had in mind to go into Asia, but the Holy Ghost ruled otherwise. “After they were come to Mysia, they sought to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” Passing by Mysia they came to Troas. That night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia who begged him to come to those parts and help them. Feeling it was a call of God they set sail from Troas, and passing Samotshracia, landed the next day at Neapolis. From there they journeyed to Philippi where they stayed for a period of ministry, vs. 6-12. In this city a woman named Lydia accepted the Gospel message and was baptized. She is the first one on record in the New Testament who was converted in Europe.
During Paul’s ministry in Philippi, he and Silas were put in prison. It all came about through the deliverance of a demon possessed girl, whom her masters used for fortune telling. So complete was her healing that she no more could follow her former calling. The men brought Paul and Silas to the magistrates, who commanded that they be beaten and thrust into the inner prison. The jailer did this, and also put their feet in the stocks, vs. 16-24. Not daunted by the hardness of the way the two brethren sang praises at midnight. God shook the building with an earthquake, caused the chains to fall off of every prisoner, and threw all the doors wide open. The jailer was so distressed that he was going to kill himself. Being reassured by Paul that all was well he came to them, fell down before Paul and Silas and asked what he must do to be saved. The Lord accepted him, and Paul baptized him that same night, vs. 25-35. God’s ways are past finding out. Who would have thought that so much good could have come out of such a circumstance? We should learn to rejoice at all times and in all things, and God will make bare His arm and get great glory to Himself. Paul and Silas were set free the next day, and through it all were able to rejoice in the fact that other souls were added to the family of God.
From Philippi the party journeyed to Thessalonica, passing through Amphipolis and Appollonia on their way. The Jews made trouble in this city, but through the visit a multitude of Greeks believed. From there Paul and Silas went to Berea. They found the people who attended the synagogue very receptive and willing to search the scriptures, and quite a number believed.
Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up the people, and sought to hinder the great work, Ch. 17:13. Paul moved on to Athens while Silas and Timothy stayed behind awhile longer. They joined Paul a little later. While the apostle waited for his fellow laborers, he walked through the streets of the city. Everywhere he turned he saw signs of idolatry.
The people were ardent worshipers of their God’s. Lest they overlook some heathen deity they erected an altar on which was inscribed, To the unknown God, v.23. To Paul this offered a good subject for a sermon. Taking his place on Mars Hill, he spoke to the assembled crowd and sought to introduce to them the “unknown God.” He explained how this God did not dwell in temples made with hands, but that He was the creator of all things, and we all live, move, and have our being in Him, vs. 24, 28. Furthermore, no one should liken God to some likeness of His animate creation, and then make a graven image of him. Paul said also that God is not far from every one of us, if haply we might feel after Him and find Him. The speaker concluded by pointing them to Jesus, Who was raised from the dead as an assurance to all who will believe in Him, v.31. Some mocked Paul, others said they would hear him again, but a few followed him and believed. It pays to preach the Word of God, for the Lord knows there are always a few here and there who are really open for the truth.
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. So reads Ch. 18:1. He found a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla. They were tent makers by trade and because Paul had worked at the same trade, he abode with them and wrought. These two had evidently embraced the Christian faith. After the apostle had ministered boldly in Corinth in the synagogue, he finally met the usual opposition from the Jews. Many Corinthians believed and were baptized. They eventually separated themselves from those who opposed them, and met in the house of a man named Justus. God spoke to Paul saying that He had much people in that city, and that he should continue to minister without fear. This he did for some eighteen months, v.11. The Jews then created an uproar and sought to persuade Gallio, the Roman deputy, to forbid Paul to continue. The man ignored the request and drove the Jews out of court. After tarrying long, the apostle decided to return to Syria and take Aquila and Priscilla with him. They traveled together as far as to Ephesus where the couple remained, and Paul and his party went on. Landing at Caesarea, they went to Jerusalem and saluted the church, and then pushed forward to Antioch where Paul terminated his second missionary journey, vs. 18-22.
PAUL’S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
After Paul spent some time in Antioch, he stated out again to visit the churches. This time he went all over the country of Galatia and Phrygia, Ch. 18:23, and then went to Ephesus, Ch. 19:1. Just before his arrival a young man named Apollos had ministered there. He is spoken of as being an eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures. He was also fervent in spirit, and spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, but knew only the baptism of John. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him in the synagogue, they took him to them and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. Apollos was open minded and profited much by this contact. Afterwards he went on his way, and was made a real blessing to the disciples which were in Achaia, Ch. 18:24-28.
Paul’s ministry in Ephesus was quite outstanding. He began by meeting with those who were converted under Apollos. Perceiving that they lacked the fullness, the apostle asked the question, Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? They had never heard that such was possible. Paul laid his hands on them, and as the Holy Ghost came upon them they spake with tongues and prophesied, Ch. 19:2-6. For three months Paul preached in the synagogue. Due to the opposition of some he finally withdrew, and med daily with the disciples in the school of one Tyrannus. This continued for the space of two years. God wrought special miracles by his hands, and handkerchiefs and aprons were taken from his body and laid on sick folk and diseases departed from them, and evil spirits went out of them, vs. 11-12. Others tried to imitate the apostle but fled for their lives when a demon attacked them, vs. 13-16.
Due to the success of Paul’s ministry, many people turned from idolatry. This naturally ill-affected the trade of idol making. A man named Demetrius, a silversmith, stirred up others of like craft and created quite an uproar. The town clerk finally got things quieted down and dismissed the assembly, vs. 23-41.
After the uproar was over, Paul decided to go into Macedonia again. From there he went to Greece where he stayed three months. The Jews laid a plot to do him damage, but Paul changed his course of travel, and returning to Macedonia, he joined his companions at Troas, Ch. 20:1-5, stopping at Philippi en route. In Troas, Paul preached his midnight sermon, prayed for and restored to life the young man who fell out of the window, and then continued ministering until the break of day. Paul’s party went by ship to Assos while the apostle went afoot and met them there. Then they sailed together to Mitylene, next to Chios, and from there to Samos, stayed a short while at Trogyllium, and the next day arrived at Miletus, vs. 6-16.
While at this place, Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. As they sat together the apostle recounted to them his ministry and manner of life among them, and foretelling that false brethren would arise and seek to harm the church, warned them to watch and remember how he had labored among them for three years, so that they might now follow his example. The apostle also intimated that it might be the last time they would see his face. At the close of the discourse, they knelt down and Paul prayed with them all, and with a great outburst of sorrow and affection they accompanied him to the ship, vs. 17-38.
Leaving Miletus, the party sailed on, calling at Coos, and Rhodes, and from there went to Patara. Here they changed ships, boarding one that went to Phenicia. Passing Cyprus, they sailed into Syria and landed at Tyre, where they tarried seven days. While there, certain disciples through the Spirit, told Paul he should not go up to Jerusalem, Ch. 21:4. After their stay at Tyre, Paul and his party sailed to Ptolemais, stayed there one day, and the next day landed at Caesarea. They took up their abode with Philip, the evangelist, whose four daughters were used in prophecy, vs. 8-9. During those days, Agabus, a prophet, came from Judea. He took Paul’s girdle, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus saith the Holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” The friends of Paul tried hard to dissuade him from going into certain danger, but he answered that he was ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus, v.13.
PAUL’S LAST VISIT TO JERUSALEM.
When Paul made his decision to go forward at any cost, his brethren said, “The will of the Lord be done.” The party accordingly arrived in Jerusalem. Paul met James and the elders who advised him to do something to allay the feelings of the many Christian Jews, because of their zeal for the law. Following his rule of becoming all things to all men, he complied by taking on himself a vow along with four other men, for which he must shave his head and offer the customary sacrifice, to signify that the days of purification had ended, vs. 23-26. While engaged in this religious exercise Paul was seen in the temple by certain Jews of Asia. They at once raised a great cry against him, saying that he taught men everywhere to cease conforming to the law, and that he had brought Greeks into the temple, thus defiling the sacred place. While none of these things were true everyone believed them nevertheless. Many laid hands on Paul and began to beat him. The Roman captain came and took him from them, vs. 27-32. The apostle was bound with chains, but obtained permission to address the Jews, and spoke to them in the Hebrew language.
As Paul began to speak the people were silent. He gave a brief account of his past history, his training under Gamaliel, his zeal toward God, his former bitter enmity against the Christians, his call from God while on the way to Damascus and the circumstances which attended it, and the command of God that he should minister to the Gentiles, Ch. 23:1-21. When Paul got that far his oice was drowned out by the multitude crying, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live.” The Roman captain commanded that he be examined by scourging to draw from him a confession of guilt. Paul objected on the grounds that he was a Roman citizen and the order was canceled. Then it was arranged that he appear on the morrow before the Jewish council, vs. 22-30.
The next day, Paul’s bands were removed and he began his defense. Before he had gone far he perceived that the council was made up of Sadducees and Pharisees. The apostle thereupon cried out that he was called in questing touching the hope and resurrection of the dead. Immediately there was a division among them, and as Paul was in danger of being injured in the excitement, the Roman soldiers took him from them by force and brought him into the castle, vs. 1-10. That night the Lord stood by Paul and assured him that as he had testified of Him in Jerusalem, he must bear witness of Him in Rome also.
The Jews madness seemed insatiable. Finding themselves unable to get a sentence of death against Paul, forty of their number took a vow on themselves to neither eat nor drink until one of them had slain the prisoner. When this was brought to the ears of the Roman captain by Paul’s nephew, he immediately sent Paul under a heavy escort to Caesarea, to Felix the governor. Upon arrival he was placed in Herod’s judgement hall pending an interview with his accusers, Ch. 23.
Over five days the high priests with the elders went to Caesarea, taking with them an orator named Tertullus. He made many accusations against Paul, who was then allowed to speak for himself. The result was that Felix was rather persuaded in his own mind that the apostle was innocent of the charges, and if sufficient money had been given him by Paul he would have set him at liberty. The wife of Felix was a Jewess named Drucilla. One day Paul was called for an interview and as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement, Felix trembled with conviction and sent Paul away saying that he would hear him again at a more convenient season, Ch. 24.
The next one to hear Paul’s testimony was Procius Festus, who became governor upon the transfer of Felix. The Jews desired him to have Paul taken to Jerusalem for another hearing, hoping that one of their number might kill him en route. When Festus reached Caesarea, he brought Paul and the Jews together into court. The Jews made many accusations against the apostle, none of which they could prove. When asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and there be tried, Paul appealed to Caesar. As a Roman citizen, he had that privilege, and so it was decided that the request should be carried out, Ch. 25:1-12. Shortly after that, king Agrippa and his wife Bernice visited Festus, at whose request Paul was asked to state his care in their presence. As Agrippa was well versed in Jewish prophecy the apostle could speak very fully on such matters. Festus finally interrupted him, saying with a loud voice, “Paul, thou are beside thyself; much learning hath made thee mad.” Finally Agrippa said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Then the king told Festus that but for the fact that the apostle had appealed for a hearing by Caesar, he might have been set at liberty, Ch.26. The remarkable opportunity Paul had for testifying before kings, etc. was a fulfillment of Acts 9:15.
PAUL’S JOURNEY TO ROME.
The day came at last when Paul with a group of other prisoners was put on board a ship. As they sailed the called at Sidon, where Paul was allowed to visit his friends, Ch. 27:3. Setting sail again, they moved on, calling at Myra, a city of Lycia. There they transshipped and boarded a vessel which was sailing to Italy. Paul, who had crossed those waters a number of times, saw there was a grave possibility of bad weather. He informed them that to proceed was like throwing their lives away, but the centurion listened rather to the master of the ship, who spoke to the contrary. Then they ran into a great storm which raged for many days. No one took time to eat. Finally Paul stood up and said that they should have hearkened to him.
God sent His angel to him and showed him just how matters would end. The ship would be lost, every life would be spared, and they would be cast upon a certain island. As Paul gave this forth he said, Be of good cheer and then later took some nourishment. The others followed his example, and took courage to hope for the best. Finally land was sighted and with the wreck of the ship as was foretold, all the passengers and crew, by swimming or clinging to broken pieces of timber, got safely to land, vs. 4-44. Paul was used in a great healing ministry on the island which was named Melita. They stayed three months, and then took another ship sailing to Rome. On the way they called at Rhegium, and then at Puteoli, where Paul fellow shipped with some brethren for seven days. Other believers met them at Appii forum and the three taverns, which gave Paul quite a little encouragement. Then the party reached Rome where the apostle was allowed to swell by himself with a soldier that kept him, Ch. 28:1-16.
During his stay in Rome, Paul arranged for the Jews of the synagogue to come and see him. He reasoned with them about the scriptures which testify of Christ. They disagreed among themselves and finally left him. Turning from them, Paul ministered to the Gentiles, and anyone who came to him. For two whole years he dwelt in his own hired house “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him,” Ch. 28:17-31.
From this brief exposition of the Acts one can see how patiently God labored through His chosen vessels, not only to give the Gospel to the Jew, but also the great unsaved Gentile world. Peter was privileged to see into the plan through the incident of Cornelius. To Paul, however, was granted an unfolding of the full message by which a man could turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from Heaven.” Another fact we learn is that it is possible to be gloriously saved and healed as the people of the Samaritan revival, and yet still need the outpouring of the Spirit, as in Ch. 8; or to be devout and prayerful as Cornelius, and still ignorant of the full blessing of the Gospel with accompanying signs as in Ch. 10; or be eloquent and mighty in the scriptures as was Apollos, and yet know only the baptism of John. We should aim to live up to the full standard of New Testament experience that others may see, and hunger, and receive, to the glory of God.