Sunday, October 24, 2010

Acts 20 – Paul’s Farewell Tour

Acts 20

Journeys in Greece

 1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. 2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

[You can see Paul was not just a traveling evangelist, but was committed to making disciples. He had spent about 3 years at Ephesus, and the gospel had so changed that city that the economics of idol making had changed. Imagine if we were so successful sharing Jesus and teaching the converted that sin was no longer profitable (drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes all without customers). Leaving Ephesus he goes back up to Macedonia to encourage all the churches, working his way back around to Greece. When he was preparing to sail for Syria he became aware of a plot to kill him. It was common for Jewish pilgrims to sail from the ports around Corinth, and would have been easy to find Paul in such small groups, so instead he passes back through Macedonia by land.]


4 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. 5 These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

[Notice the disciples from all these different churches traveling and meeting with Paul. Paul is teaching and training these young men for ministry as he travels. This sort of internship reminds me of how Jesus taught his disciples as he completed his earthly ministry. Notice again in verses 5 and 6 the pronouns change indicating the return of Luke to Paul's traveling group.]

Ministering at Troas

7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. 9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

[Now any preacher can look at verse 7 as a license to preach as long as they like. Another way to look at it is that long preaching can kill. Either way Eutychus is forever famous for falling asleep in church. Before the days of children's church, when I was a young boy, my mom encouraged me to sleep during church so I would be quiet and still. Here we had a crowded house with a lot of body heat. We also had many oil lamps used for light, but also adding to the heat, and fumes in the house. With that as the scene, and Paul preaching until midnight, it easy to see how a boy nodding off in a window seat, could be a dangerous situation. But he was healed and fully restored, and the people were again encouraged by the power of God.]

From Troas to Miletus

13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15 We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.

[Troas is the port of the far north west corner of Asia Minor along the Aegean Sea. The "we" again shows Luke is in the boat. They sail south toward Miletus which is the nearest port city from Ephesus. They sail past islands like Chios the birthplace of Homer, and Samos the birthplace of Pythagoras, so you can see this area is the intellectual hub of the once mighty Greek empire. Paul knows if he goes back to Ephesus he would not make it to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost.]

The Ephesian Elders Exhorted

17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

[Instead of going to Ephesus he calls the elders of the church to come to him. Paul has been warned by the Holy Spirit that chains and tribulations are in his future. He feels this could be his last time to see these elders in person. In his message he gives them the keys to ministry in Ephesus:

  • Be a living example of the grace of God to the people "in what manner I lived"
  • Teach the Word (the easy and the hard) without hesitation "I kept back nothing"
  • Be a constant advocate of repentance and faith, not just for salvation but for life

For Paul God was not a way to get what he wanted. God was the goal, the ministry was the method. Nothing in this world had the same attraction to him as the pleasure of his Savior and faithful service toward God.]

25 "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

[Back in Acts 18 when Paul was at Corinth He shook out his clothes and said "Your blood be upon you own heads" a reference to Ezekiel 33 and the watchman. If the watchmen warns and the people to not listen, the watchman is innocent. Here Paul again says he is innocent because for 3 years he was in Ephesus warning day and night of the judgment of God, calling men to repent. Now he hands this responsibility to the elders of Ephesus telling them to watch for two things. 1) He said wolves (external threats) would come into the church to attack the flock, the redeemed. 2) He said that even among them, the elders, the leaders of the Church; false teachers (internal threats) would emerge and draw away disciples for themselves. I always look suspiciously at any ministry where the people seem to be disciples of one charismatic leader rather than disciples of God. We had a full lesson on false teachers back in August when we studied 2 Peter 2. Peter said of false teachers that "many will follow their destructive ways". We can never relax as a church, because when we do the wolves will come, false teachers will come, and do great damage before they are brought down.

Knowing that the Ephesians church is one of the churches of Revelation 2&3 I wondered what it would say about how well they kept Paul's warning.

Revelation 2: 2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. 4
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

The Spirit says that the Ephesian church had identified the wolves (those who are evil) and false teachers (those who say they are apostles and are not) and driven them from the church. They had works, patience, and perseverance. But they had lost their love. In Matthew 22 Jesus had said the greatest commandments were to Love God, and love your neighbor. In Ephesians 1 Paul told this same church he heard of their "love for all the saints". So How can a church known for love, need to be rebuked by the Spirit of God for losing their love? Well I think the answer is in Revelation 2:5 "repent and do the first works". Last week in Acts 19:18 we saw this church got started when people "who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds"; their "first works" were faith and repentance. When we forget that repentance and faith are a constant part of life in the Way of Jesus, we risk losing our love, for God and the Saints. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes a whole chapter explaining that all the works and all the spiritual gifts are nothing without love. And yet without a constant life of repentance and faith toward God, we will lose our love for a Holy God and his people.]

32 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.

[Paul entrusted this work to God, and to the word of grace, reminding them to be charitable and covet nothing.]

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Acts 19 – Spirit and Reason

Acts 19

Paul at Ephesus

 1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?"
So they said, "Into John's baptism."
4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."

[Paul's expectation in finding disciples is that anyone who believed that Messiah had come would be born of the spirit, would be saved, but these disciples of John were "almost saved". They know about Jesus but did not know that salvation, spiritual rebirth, was available to them right now. In John 3:5 Jesus said "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God".]

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all.

[The Holy Spirit is intrinsically tied to salvation. If I could destroy one idea as a teacher, it would be the idea that salvation is just an intellectual decision, "I agree that Jesus is the Christ".]

1 John 5:7-8 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

[three in Heaven: Father, Word, Spirit; Three on earth: Spirit, water, blood; what do heaven and earth have in common? The Spirit and nothing else, it is the spirit of God that reconciles mortal man, to the eternal God by the blood of Jesus. The Spirit renews or regenerates, the blood atones, and the water confirms what the Spirit and the blood have done in the believer (burry the man of sin, and resurrect the spiritual man). Salvation is more of a spiritual transformation than an intellectual decision. You cannot separate the water, from the spirit and the blood, and expect to get the same result, but people and churches still do this every day, and it has never worked. The world is filled with baptized, unredeemed lost souls, who were never born again.

In Acts 2:38 Peter preached "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" Romans 8:9 says again that those who belong to Christ have his Spirit.]

8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

[Paul again did all he could in the synagogue before withdrawing the disciples and relocating to a private school run by Tyrannus. One Greek manuscript had a marginal note that added "from the 5th hour to the 10th hour" or from 11 am to 4 pm. Paul kept this schedule for two years and "all who dwelt in Asia" this whole region of Western Turkey then called "Asia" heard the gospel of Christ. Anyone who wanted to question Paul or hear more about Jesus knew where to find him. What an amazing opportunity. This region sometimes called Asia Minor spawned the 7 churches of Revelation 2 & 3.]

Miracles Glorify Christ

11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.

[Even in terms of miracles these were unusual, where the apostle did not even have touch the sick person, but if the sick person touched some cloth that has been on Paul's body they could be healed. As always the purpose of miracles was to glorify God and confirm his work. But sometimes people desire God's power without his sovereignty or Lordship.]


13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"
16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

[These exorcists desired the power of the Holy Spirit to cast out evil spirits, but were unaware that the Holy Spirit came with redemption through Jesus. They thought they could just use the name of the Lord Jesus like a magic spell, but it didn't work. This was a form of idolatry that God would not honor. They fraudulently used the name of a Lord they did not know, and there public embarrassment became well known.]


17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18
And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

[Incredible how God can take the misuse of Jesus' name by the sons of Sceva , and turn it magnify the name of the Lord Jesus. Now this burning of magic books was not required nor was it discouraged as these books were instrument of demonic influence in the lives of men. This book burning was a spontaneous act of repentance from men desiring to leave their sins behind. The Way of Jesus overthrew idolatry.]

The Riot at Ephesus

21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.

[In Romans 15 Paul tells of bringing a financial gift from the churches of Asia and Macedonia, to the church at Jerusalem. This was a time of great need for the poor saints in Jerusalem and the fellowship of the Spirit gave Paul and others the desire to help. He also wanted to Go to Rome and take the gospel to the heart of the Roman world, but he continued the work in the churches of Asia Minor.]

23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship."
28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions. 30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. 32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

[Once again people, who profit from idolatry and false worship, use local pride and anti-Semitic zeal to persecute those who follow Jesus. In Greek mythology Artemis (or Diana) was the goddess of the hunt. Her temple at Ephesus is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. These silver smiths were afraid of losing their market. They made little Diana statues, and miniature shrines of the temple of Diana. If everyone turned from the polytheism of the Greek gods, to the mono-theistic God of creation, the God of the Jews, Paul's unseen God; the market for false idols would quickly dry up. They fought back with a confused, agitated, shouting mob on the verge of riot.]
35 And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: "Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? 36 Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. 38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being called in question for today's uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering." 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

[While the silver smiths feared the loss of income, the city officials feared a loss of freedom. If the Romans saw this riot as an insurrection, there would be a brutal occupation by the Roman army. All the local judges and regional governors would likely be replaced by friends and family of Claudius Caesar to guarantee their loyalty to Rome. Like Gallio in chapter 18 we see the God use the calm manner and well spoken reason of the city clerk to persuade the mob to turn away and go home.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Acts 18 – Tentmakers and Watchmen

Acts 18    

Ministering at Corinth

 1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

[Relocated to Corinth (capital of Achaia known for sexual immorality [Aphrodite])

Joined to fellow tentmakers – exiles from Rome

Worked to sustain himself, while witnessing in the synagogue]

5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

[support from Philippi – gift brought by Silas and Timothy, later commended by Paul

Full time opportunity – with the gift his living expenses were provided

Final warning of the "watchman"

Ezekiel 33:
4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.]


7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

[As we discussed previously Paul declaring "I will go to the gentiles" did not exclude the Jews from salvation, it just meant they were less of an opportunity for the gospel right now. But God is still sovereign, and just by coincidence Justus who takes Paul in, lives next to the synagogue giving Paul a continued opportunity with Crispus so that he also will trust in Christ. Crispus and many others were saved during this time.]

9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10
for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

[It seems everywhere Paul he went he was chased out of town by a mob led by the unbelieving Jews that Satan would turn to oppose the gospel. But here God allows Paul to stay in one place for 18 months and grow a very strong church by the Holy Spirit.]

12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, "This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law."
14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters." 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.

[Here you see the providence of God's protection, when the unbelievers tried to make the same old argument that faith in Jesus, was somehow a threat to Roman law, Gallio sends them away before Paul can even offer a defense. The Greeks though were tired of this abuse of civil authority and make a mob of their own to attack Sosthenes the current ruler of the synagogue. 1 Corinthians 1:1 tells us that Sosthenes even trusted in Jesus. Amazingly Gallio's statement in verse 15 contains a summary of the Gospel. "It is a question of words" (Jesus the word become flesh), "names" (Jesus is the name above all names and the only name by which man can be saved), and "law" (by the law we were all condemned, but by grace we are saved).]

Paul Returns to Antioch

18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. 19
And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing." And he sailed from Ephesus.
22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

[So Paul begins to make his way home. First he goes to Cenchrea and got a haircut so he would look good when he got home. Really he had apparently taken a vow to God symbolized by letting his hair grow like a Nazarite vow, possibly related to his long term mission at Corinth. He sails from Cenchrea to Ephesus with his two disciples, does some quick evangelism in the synagogue, gets a church going then leaves Aquila Priscilla there to minister in his absence. If you remember Paul was headed to Ephesus (Asia) earlier in the journey but was redirected by the Holy Spirit to Macedonia.


From there he sails to Caesarea so he can be back in Jerusalem for the next feast. He visits the church at Jerusalem, before returning to Antioch. In a short time he was back in the churches in Galatia and Phrygia where he had started his second missionary journey probably 3 years back.]

Ministry of Apollos

24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

[We see here how the work continued in Ephesus. A disciple of John the Baptist had believed that Jesus was the Christ but somehow had not been in contact with the Apostles or the church at Jerusalem. But he makes his was to Ephesus and is there persuading the Jews with the Old Testament. Aquila and Priscilla hear his preaching; take him aside and disciple him teaching the Way of the Lord and the Apostles doctrine, so he can more effectively witness to Jews and Greeks. Achaia is the province containing Athens and Corinth. He continues his travels now working with the other believers in the church, trained and connected (references from Aquila and Priscilla) to be even more useful in building the Kingdom of God.]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Acts 17 – Paul vs. the Philosophers

Acts 17

Preaching Christ at Thessalonica

 1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

[Moving through Macedonia they are persuading many with the gospel. Again starting with the Jews but also reaching the Greeks.]

Assault on Jason's House

5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus." 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

[Satan is never idle. Those who resist the gospel can easily be turned to oppose the gospel. Again they use they lie of civil unrest and political danger to stir up the local officials. Jesus is the King in the hearts of believers and will be again at His return, but Christians were not seeking a political kingdom. In this case not finding Paul they arrest a believer named Jason who had apparently hosted the apostles during the three weeks they witnessed there. Jason had to pay "security" a monetary fine before he was released.]

Ministering at Berea

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

[Leaving the civil unrest in Thessalonica the apostles come to Berea and find great success among the fair-minded Jews, as these would listen to the gospel then go back and read the prophets that Paul would quote showing that they had foretold the gift of Jesus. So many of the Jews believed, also Greeks, and prominent people of the city.


Once again trouble follows, this time from Thessalonica, unbelieving Jews stir up the crowds, so the believers take Paul first to Athens, with Silas and Timothy and Silas to follow.]

The Philosophers at Athens

16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?"
Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

[Epicurean philosophy allowed for gods but focused on personal pleasure, with the caveat that the highest pleasure was the avoidance of pain. So Epicureans followed very modest and moderate lifestyles never enjoying anything too much for fear that a great pleasure might never be enjoyed again, thus leaving you in want or feeling loss and regret which is the worst state for an epicurean. These are the kind of people who would marry and ugly person for fear that some else might want your spouse, they would drive 10 year old Volvos, they lead a risk averse life, as simple as possible but always in fear of pain or loss. The epicurean prescription is: don't fear god, don't fear death, good things are easy to obtain, bad things are easy to endure. Epicureans believed in a do-no-harm, receive-no-harm, social contract, which held that man is basically good, and the only reliable standard for truth was the 5 senses. The epicurean philosophy, has a lot in common with Buddhism (nirvana is the absence of suffering), Hinduism (cause no harm receive no harm), and was very influential in the formation of Marxist socialism and communism.


The problem with the this philosophy is that man is wicked, God might actually require something of you, most people really do fear death, living in constant fear of pain or loss will never give you peace, and sometimes really terrible things happen that are not easy to endure, with no hope of redemption here or beyond the grave.


The stoics believed that virtue was sufficient for happiness, so that they sought to become a wise "sage" free from destructive emotions and thus immune from misfortune. So stoics believed ethics was the highest intellectual pursuit and encouraged great personal fortitude and self control so that your human will would always be in sync with the laws of nature. A stoic sage could be: "sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy," thus positing a "completely autonomous" individual will, and at the same time a universe that is "rigidly deterministic." Stoics believed that the universe and God were one in the same so whatever happened outside of your control was always right. "Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill... I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together."


So stoics were certainly more rational about the state of mankind than the epicureans, but there was still no justice, and no redemption, you just always expected the worst to happen and force yourself to be happy about it. Stoicism finds its supporters today in the religion of scientology. For them reality is only in your mind, your senses cannot hurt you if you make your own reality one exclusively of the mind.


These philosophers became interested in Paul's message that man was wicked but that God by Jesus paid for mans sin, and transforms man through faith in Jesus, to become righteous.]

19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine
is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean." 21
For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

[Athenians were highly educated busy bodies who really liked a good debate with someone who could make a true defense of their personal philosophy. The Areopagus or rock of Ares is a rocky hill outcropping just below the Acropolis that forms a natural stage, and this is where the council of elders also called Areopagus, would meet to judge all matters of importance.]

Addressing the Areopagus

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; (superstitious or fearful of gods) 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

   Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:

[In addition to the twelve main gods and the innumerable lesser deities, ancient Greeks worshiped a deity they called Agnostos Theos, that is: the Unknown god. In Athens, there was a temple specifically dedicated to that god and very often Athenians would swear "in the name of the Unknown god" The Unknown god was not so much a specific deity, but a placeholder, for whatever god or gods actually existed but whose name and nature were not revealed to the Athenians or the Hellenized world at large.

According to a story told by Diogenes a biographer of Greek philosophers, Athens was once in the grips of a plague and desperate to appease the gods with the appropriate sacrifices. Thus Epimenides gathered a flock of sheep to the Areopagus and released them. The sheep roamed about Athens and the surrounding hills. On Epimenides' suggestion wherever a sheep stopped and lay down a sacrifice was made to the local god of that place. Many of the gardens and buildings of Athens were indeed associated with a specific god or goddess and so the appropriate altar was constructed and the sacrifice was made. However, at least one, if not several sheep led the Athenians to a location that had no god associated with it. Thus an altar was built there without a god's name inscribed upon it.

Paul sees one of these altars and says let me tell you about this unknown god.]

24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'

[In verse 28 Paul quotes a poem by the same Epimenides from the story of the Unknown God.

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.]

29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

[The resurrection is the central truth of Jesus, once you believe Jesus was resurrected and ascended then you know him as God. This is what makes redemption possible. One of the converts in Athens was member of the civil counsel; tradition holds that Dionysius would later become the Bishop of Athens.]

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Acts 16 – All for the Gospel

Acts 16

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

[It seems incredible that Paul, who fought so vigorously to keep the legalism of circumcision away from the gentiles, would take a young man named Timothy, the son of a Greek father and Jewish mother, and circumcise him. So is this hypocrisy or something else? Timothy wasn't just a gentile believer; he was a missionary intern who would minister to Jews and Greeks. So while Paul fought to keep the church free of legalism, he was willing for himself and all ministers to endure the loss of individual liberty for the sake of the gospel. You will see this attitude sprinkled all throughout Paul's writings in the New Testament.]

4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

[Part of Paul's purpose is to vaccinate all these new churches against the legalism of the Judaizers. So every place he visits, he reads them the Jerusalem Decree that we looked at last week. So with the consent and approval of the elders of Jerusalem, Paul's ministry to Jews and Gentiles increased in numbers and strength of the believers.]

The Macedonian Call

6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

[What they call Asia was the western most region of modern Turkey that contains cities such as Ephesus and Sardis, it's not that gospel would not go to those cities, that was just not God's plan for Paul at that time.]

7 After they had come to Mysia, (NW) they tried to go into Bithynia (NE), but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

[The apostles were directed by Jesus when he walked the earth. Now after the ascension they are led by the Spirit. As the leave Galatia they try to go west and the Spirit says not there, so the head north-west. Then when they look to head back to the north-east the Spirit again says no, which takes them all the way to the north-western coastline, where they would have to sail to go any further, so Paul has a vision of a man pleading with him to come to Macedonia. So the follow the vision to Macedinia.]

Lydia Baptized at Philippi

11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace (an island in the Aegean Sea), and the next day came to Neapolis (a port city of Macedinia), 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.

[So they make it to Philippi the main city of Macedonia a military outpost very loyal to Rome. Notice in verse 11 the pronoun changes from "they" to "we", many believe that means Luke had joined Paul Silas and Timothy at this point of the journey.]

13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

[A city with 10 Jewish families would usually have a synagogue, if there was less than that, they would just have a designated place of prayer. Our missionaries go there and talk to the woman, which probably means there were few if any Jewish men around. A merchant woman from Thyatira, probably very wealthy because purple was an expensive die and very desirable for clothing, hears the Gospel and God open her heart to believe.]

15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us.

[We don't know the make-up of her family but God was sometimes calling entire families to faith in Jesus. Lydia invites the disciples to stay in her home for a while, notice again the pronoun "us" so this would include Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke."]

Paul and Silas Imprisoned

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer (another Sabbath day), that a certain slave girl
possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

[Here is a girl a slave times two, first bound to men by law as a servant, then bound to Satan by a spirit of divination, which allowed here to earn money as a future teller. And she follows them yelling about God and salvation, making it impossible for them to witness and reason in a rational way. The phrase "many days" means with persistence such that she would have continued this forever without stopping.

Paul was grieved by this obstacle so he cast out this demon, frees the girl from Satan, and her behavior immediately changes, such that it is obvious that her career as a fortune teller is over. Now her earthly masters are mad at this loss of income, so they seize Paul and Silas (no mention of Luke and Timothy) and take them to Roman civil court.]

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, "These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe."

[The slave owners play the race card, make up lies about customs, public order, and loyalty to Rome while saying nothing about the demon possessed slave girl.]

22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

[Not surprising the local courts, side with the local merchants against the foreigners. Paul and Silas are stripped, beaten with rods, and whipped, then physically hurled into jail, and locked into stocks by the feet, so they can barely move.]

The Philippian Jailer Saved

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.

[How do you worship when you have done everything for the gospel, but your ministry is stopped, your body tortured, and you are publicly humiliated?

  • The Epiphany of worship – Your body and mind have a physiological response to worship in releasing serotonin yielding a sense of peace.

It turns out that God responds to worship too. As they worshipped God causes an earthquake that just opens doors and breaks chains, so all the prisoners are set free.]

27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."

[If you think worship in response to humiliation, torture, and jail, is crazy, imagine staying in jail when you are supernaturally set free. Jailers were personally liable for keeping prisoners, and he would have been executed if they left. But not just Paul and Silas, they ALL stayed! God had a bigger agenda than just physical liberation.]

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

[Some take these passages about households being saved and use it to justify infant baptism, and proxy baptism like the Mormons practice. This is just God calling whole families to repentance together, there is no evidence that anyone can trust Jesus for you, everyone has to believe for themselves.]

33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

[Then same man, who locked them in the stocks of prison, washed and treated their wounds. The apostles baptized the believers, and then they all celebrated with a meal, rejoicing in all the new believers, who trusted in Jesus because Paul and Silas worshipped God even in the worst of circumstances. How stupid does that make people look, who refuse to worship because they don't like the song. Worship is not about getting what you want; it's about receiving from God what we could never earn. Grace]

Paul Refuses to Depart Secretly

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, "Let those men go." 36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, "The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace."

37 But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out."

38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

[After all this it turns out the torture and imprisonment of Paul and Silas was illegal because they were Roman citizens, and were never given a proper hearing. I think Paul made this stand, so that the magistrates would be very hesitant to harass the new converts that they would leave behind or the apostles when they returned. They go back to Lydia's house to encourage the converts before leaving Philippi.]