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Acts: For the Cause of Christ #30

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #30

Title: Paul’s Address to Jerusalem

Acts 21:37-22:29

Last time we saw Paul finish his third missionary journey as he came to Jerusalem, gave an account of the Lord’s work in Asia, Macedonia, and Greece. We saw that we each need to follow God’s will for our lives by spending time in the Word and in prayer, we saw that we shouldn’t say, “The Lord’s will be done” without sincerity, without meaning it, and that we shouldn’t expect an easy life or easy path when we follow Christ.

Today, we continue the drama of the riot started in the temple focused on Paul and his ministry.

Paul’s Plea – 21:37-22:2

Paul had been beaten because of false accusations by a Jewish mob, arrested by the local Roman Commander, and then carried to the top of the stairs of the Roman fortress because the mob was still in such a violent state. This is where find Paul now.

Paul wants to address the crowd and try to explain himself and quiet them, but first he has to get permission from the Roman Commander. This Commander, mistakenly thought Paul was an Egyptian who had led a failed revolt in Jerusalem a few years previous. This Egyptian apparently came to Jerusalem, claimed to be a prophet, convinced a large number of men to join him, convinced them he could miraculously cause walls to collapse so the revolt could catch the Romans off guard and regain the city. Of course this failed as Felix had ordered Roman soldiers to meet them, causing a number of people to get killed, and this Egyptian had been able to escape. This commander assumed Paul was this man and wasn’t surprised that the Jewish population was attacking so if it were that man. But Paul caught the commander off guard by addressing him in educated Greek and explains that he himself is a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia.

Paul standing on the steps of the Antonia Fortress, with guards around, motioned with his hands in someway to quiet the mob down so that he could speak. Paul, the master public speaker, ever knowing how to address whatever audience he had, spoke in the local language, Aramaic [read 40-2]. Paul addresses the crowd in a manner similar to Stephen, by calling them “brothers and fathers” he begins by addressing them in the native language and by stating he is Jewish as well. When they heard him address them in Aramaic the crowd grew even quieter. At least now their interest was piqued and would listen to him.

Paul’s Proclamation – 22:3-22

Paul now having the attention of the mob, that just minutes before was trying to kill him, begins to explain to them who is and his Jewish pedigree.

Paul began his defense by telling this crowd that he is as Jewish as they are. Though he was born in a foreign city, he was raised in Jerusalem. As far as his education, he couldn’t have gotten any better than learning the law and traditions from the famous Gamaliel. Gamaliel, you’ll remember from chapter 5 warned the Sanhedrin against using too strong of force against the Apostles and the Church, in case they were God’s messengers. Paul continues by describing his zeal for God and Judaism.

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Paul didn’t condemn this mob for nearly killing him, he simply chalked it up to their zeal for God and the holiness of God’s Temple. He then goes on to describe the lengths he went to in the name of God and Judaism to eliminate the Way, the Church. He also adds that if any of them doubted what he said about his zeal, they could check with the High Priest or the Sanhedrin.

Paul then continues with his testimony by describing his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Paul had stated he was persecuting the Way, those who were Jews and disciples of Jesus. At this point, almost every Jew that was listening to Paul had heard of the Way. But as Paul is recounting his experience with the resurrected Lord, he repeats what Jesus Himself had said. Paul had just equated Jesus to God (called Him “Lord” three times in those 5 verses) and had stated that by persecuting the Jesus’ disciples he had been persecuting Jesus. He mentions that those who were with him, saw the light, and couldn’t hear the words of Jesus. It is possible that they only heard Paul’s side of the conversation. 

Paul remarks that because of this event, he had lost his sight and had to be led into Damascus by his companions. Here Paul, ever mindful of who his audience is, says that Ananias, who is called in chapter 9 a disciple, a term Luke uses to describe Christians, was a devout Jew with a good reputation with the Jews in Damascus. And this devout Jew was sent by God to return Paul’s sight. But not only that, Ananias was there to deliver a message and bestow Paul’s commission from the Lord. Paul continues to direct his Jewish audience to legitimacy of his claims by using familiar Judaic and Messianic terms. “The God of our ancestors (or fathers)”, “the Righteous One”. Verse 15 is the commission, “since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard.” Now the reading of verse 16, in every translation I looked at reads in a similar way, but the list part should be translated, “having called on His name” which better indicates that it is the calling on the name of Jesus that saves or cleanses, not baptism. Water baptism is a picture of our identifying with Jesus and shows our new spiritual condition. Water baptism has no supernatural powers that affects our standing before God, it is an act of obedience and devotion.

Verses 17-21 shows that the Lord was involved in Paul’s calling. Paul again directs his audience to the Jewishness of the experience. The crowd would have been impressed by the fact that Paul was praying in the Temple and received a vision from God. Paul receives a warning from Jesus that a Jewish element was seeking to kill him and that Paul should leave Jerusalem. But Paul tells us here that he actually debate with the Lord. He wanted to stay and continue to preach to the Jews, showing that Jesus was Lord and that Paul was a new man, maybe to undo some of the damage he did earlier, especially for the killing of Stephen. But the Lord told him to go because Paul would be the Lord’s messenger far away to the Gentiles.

That did it. To the first century Jews the thought that their God, the God of the patriarchs, the God of Moses, would show concern for the Gentiles was unimaginable. To the crowd, this rabbi was speaking blasphemy, and their original intention was right, kill him! Apparently they missed the point of the book of Jonah, where God teaches the prophet that He cares for people, even the wicked, Gentile city of Nineveh.

Paul’s Protection – 22:23-29

The crowd had listened to Paul up to the Lord sending him to the Gentiles. Upon hearing this unthinkable idea, they began shouting to have Paul killed again.

With the crowd yelling, throwing dust in the air and waving their coats about, the Commander, who evidently didn’t speak Aramaic, knew whatever Paul was saying had enraged the mob again and ordered that Paul be taken into the fortress for interrogation. The commander ordered that Paul was to be scourged as part of his interrogation. We’ve heard this language before, when Pilate turned Jesus over to be crucified the process began with this scourging. This is the Roman flagellum, where the victim is tied to post with his bare back exposed to the soldiers swinging a whip with multiple leather strips which had pieces of metal or bone or pottery embedded into the leather. If the victim didn’t die from the whipping, he could be crippled the rest of his life. 

Paul was been beaten by rods 3 times by this point (once in Philippi) and received the Jewish lashing 5 times, but none of these would compare to the torture that the Commander had just ordered for Paul.

As the soldiers were tying Paul to the post, Paul called out to the centurion in charge. With that new information the centurion put a hold on the interrogation as he went to the commander and reported that Paul had claimed Roman citizenship. The Romans had protected Paul from the crowd, and now Paul was using Roman legality as protection from the soldiers. This information about Paul made the commander come out and ask Paul himself. Roman citizens were not to be whipped in this manner or beaten by the authorities unless they were convicted of some crime. The Commander comes and asks Paul if it was true, to which Paul replies yes. The Commander then states that he paid a large sum of money to gain his citizenship. This meant he paid a bribe to some magistrate or someone of influence to gain his citizenship, this was not unheard of at the time. However, to the Commander’s amazement Paul states he was born a citizen. This means, that at the very least Paul’s father had gained citizenship, possibly his grandfather, how this happened is unsure, but Paul was legal Roman by the son of Roman citizen. This scene tends to mean that when Paul told the Commander he was a citizen of an important city at the end of chap 21, the Commander took that to mean of Tarsus only and not of Rome. 

Everyone present knew that the entire procedure was illegal. Those who were going to administer the whipping left. The wording here at the end of verse 29 where the Commander is alarmed because he had Paul “bound” more than likely is in reference to the chains Paul was shackled with at the Temple and not just tying him to the whipping post. Paul remained in the barracks for the evening, probably in a cell, but he was spared any further beating for the day. 

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Paul, addressing the crowd, may have stood on the same steps that Christ did when Pilate presented Him to the crowd and they responded with “crucify”. Paul, when being prepared for the scourging, may have been tied to the same post that Christ was tied too when He received the scourging. I wonder if these things went through Paul’s mind that night as he rested and decompressed. I also wonder if Christ’s own words to and about Paul went through his mind, in Acts 9:16 Christ tells Ananias of Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name”; then in our passage during Paul’s speech he told the crowd what Christ had said in the last part of verse 18, “they will not accept your testimony about me”.

Conclusion:

What can we take away from our passage:

That we need to be ready for the Lord to break into our lives. You may not have a dramatic experience like on the Damascus Road, but every salvation testimony is glorifying to God.

Baptism is a symbol, a way to publicly identify with your Savior, we shouldn’t shirk from that.

The Christian life can lead to danger, as Christians we need to trust that God is working out His plan, we need to remain faithful to what He has called us too.

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #29

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #29

Title: Back in Jerusalem

Acts 21:1-36

Last week we saw Paul the Pastor as he was saying goodbye to several churches heading for Jerusalem. We saw how we need to encourage each other to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel, that we should regularly attend church, and that we need to invest in each other’s lives and pray for one another.

This week Paul finishes his third journey as he comes to Jerusalem.

Continuing Voyage and Warnings – vv 1-14

We continue our journey from Miletus. Luke uses the phrase, “we tore ourselves away”. This is the same verb, but more active and intentional, that is used in describing leading disciples away in 20:30. We see that emotion in this phrase. Nobody wanted to say goodbye, but the ship needs to set sail.

These first 4 verses here continue with travel route the group was taking. In verse 2 we see that they were in the city of Patara and found s ship sailing for Phoenicia. This was probably a larger merchant or cargo vessel as we see it sailed directly into the open Mediterranean bypassing Cyprus straight for Tyre. Sources say that this trip would have taken 5 days, but this greatly decreased the journey time from staying close to the coast as smaller ships would have had to do. In verse 4 they arrive at Tyre, the major port city of the region of Phoenicia. Their ship took seven days to get all the appropriate cargo off the ship and to the right merchant. 

During that time Paul and the others sought out and stayed with local disciples. This church was more than likely started during the dispersion after the death of Stephen. We are told here that these disciples also warned Paul about going to Jerusalem, through the Spirit. We don’t know what this looked like, but we know that these disciples were warned by the Spirit about Paul’s time in Jerusalem and they urged him not to go. We saw last time that Paul was warned in every city they stopped at by the time they reached Miletus, but we also saw in chapter 19 that Paul was bound by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem and Paul said in chapter 20 that he was compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. Paul could not be dissuaded from his mission. One source highlights Luke’s parallel between Jesus and Paul upon heading to Jerusalem. In Luke 9:51 we read of Jesus, “When the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he determined to journey to Jerusalem.” When their time in Tyre came to an end, the disciples and their families escorted Paul and the others to the beach where the group prayed together before parting ways.

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From Tyre the sailed to Ptolemais, this city was known before the Greco-Roman time as Acre and would be again, but in the OT this city is known as Acco a city which the children of Israel failed to clear when they settled the land. Here Paul and the others stayed a day with disciples before sailing to Caesarea Maritima. This was the provincial capital for Roman Judea, the governor’s home was here at the largest port city in Judea. Here Luke tells us that the group stays with a person we haven’t seen since the end of chapter 8 about 25 years previous. Paul and the others stayed at the home of Philip the evangelist. Philip had traveled through the region preaching and then drops from the narrative of Acts when he reached Caesarea. It seems he settled down here as we now see that he has four daughters who have the gift of prophecy.

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After several days with Philip and his family, another person from the past comes from Judea to address Paul. The prophet Agabus who traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch to help teach and establish that church and had prophesied a famine in chapter 11 came to Caesarea. Once there he gave Paul a prophecy with all the visual drama of an OT prophet. What do I mean by that? Listen to how one source puts it, “As Ahijah the Shilonite tore his new cloak to show how Solomon’s kingdom would be disrupted (1 Kings 11:29-39), as Isaiah went about naked and barefoot to show how the Egyptians would be led into captivity by the Assyrians (Isa 20:2-4), as Ezekiel mimicked the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem by laying siege himself to a replica of the city (Ezek 4:1-3), so Agabus foretold the binding of Paul by tying himself up with Paul’s [belt]” (Bruce, F.F. NICNT: The Book of the Acts, © 1988, p401). In this prophecy, we see a resemblance to Jesus’ own words about His arrest and delivery to the Gentiles in Luke 18:32.

Agabus’ prophecy sent Luke, the traveling party and the local Christians into a passionate attempt to plead Paul from continuing to Jerusalem. Some think Paul was wrong to keep going to Jerusalem, that he may have been going against the will of God. We should remember that Paul’s ministry has been led by a sensitivity to the Spirit, as in Acts 16:6-10. These prophecies, especially Agabus’ only seem to give fact, not prohibition. They were stating what would happen, not that Paul shouldn’t go. These prophecies may have been just warnings for Paul to be prepared for what would happen. After some passionate pleading by close friends and fellow Christians, Paul states that he is not only ready to arrested but to die for the cause of Christ if needed. The others’ response I believe was a natural concern for their dear friend, but they realized they couldn’t convince him to change his mind so they responded with a “The Lord’s will be done.” Here we see an echo of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane in Luke 22:42.

Concerns in the Church – vv 15-25

After the final prophecy in Caesarea, the group went on to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea came with them to bring them to the home of Mnason. Mnason was an early convert, maybe even as early as Pentecost, who was originally from Cyprus. It is unclear as to where his home was, whether it was in Jerusalem or somewhere between Caesarea and Jerusalem as that 60-70 mile distance was more than a single day’s travel.

The day after they arrived in Jerusalem, Paul and his party went and met with James and the elders of the Jerusalem church. After a warm welcome from the church, and greeting James and the other elders Paul recounts his latest ministry journey in Asia and Greece causing them to rejoice. There is no direct mention of the relief funds that Paul and the others were bringing here in the text, but it may have been given to the elders during Paul’s report.

After Paul’s report, the leadership in Jerusalem begin to discuss with him a growing concern about Paul within the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. There were rumors going around that Paul was teaching other believing Jews that lived in Gentile cities to not bother with the Mosaic Law. The first line in verse 22 they ask “what is to be done about this?” We know from other passages that Paul never forgot his Jewish heritage and never encouraged any other Jewish Christian to forget the Jewish heritage, but he did resist the idea of forcing Gentile Christians to follow the Mosaic law, especially as a safeguard to better their position before God. I think that James and the Elders were concerned that with the large number of Jews in Jerusalem for the festival and Paul in town as well would set off a major problem.  I think James and the elders knew Paul well enough to know these rumors were false, but I think to help keep the peace, promote unity, and put an end to these rumors they had an idea for Paul.

There were four men who had taken a vow, this is usually thought to be the Nazarite vow, and had to be purified before they could complete the vow, it is possible they had been defiled during their vow possibly by coming in contact with a dead body. It was suggested to Paul that he put a rest these rumors by publicly show his respect for the Mosaic Law by purifying himself, since he was ritually unclean after 3 plus years in Gentile lands, along with these men and pay for or at least defer the cost of the offerings that these men needed to complete their vow. Paul agreed to this suggestion. Some criticize Paul for going along with this, thinking the was a mistake. However, I disagree. Paul writes about his ministry in 1 Cor 9:19-22, “’Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law — though I myself am not under the law — to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law — though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ — to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”  Also, no one had forgotten the Jerusalem Council back in chapter 15, the elders reference it here. They may have had copies to go back with Paul’s companions to take back to the churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, and the others. I think Paul knew exactly what he was doing, and that he trusted God to do what He would.

Contentious Jews in the Temple – vv 26-36

The next day, Paul joins with the four men under the vow, began the purification time of seven days and went to the temple to determine when the offerings would be made and to make the arrangements for the offerings.

The near the end of the 7 day purification process, Paul was back in the temple. At the same time so unbelieving Jews from Asia, probably Ephesus, saw Paul there. These Jews were already antagonistic towards Paul, whether out of a mistaken assumption (which is how the verse comes across) or out of intentional ill-will towards Paul they grab Paul and call for help leveling extremely serious allegations against him.

Gentiles were only allowed so far into the temple complex. They could go as far as the Court of the Gentiles otherwise called the Outer Court, but any further than that and they could and would be executed. Now you’re thinking that the Romans were the only ones allowed to execute, the Jews couldn’t do it. And typically that was correct, but with this law, the Romans gave Israel the right, even against Roman citizens. There were signs in Greek and Latin around the barriers of the inner courts that warned any foreigner who went pass had only himself to blame for his death. Now since Paul was trying to dispel rumors and allegations about him, I find it hard to believe he would bring Trophimus to the Temple, let alone past the Outer Court. If Paul had done that, Trophimus would have been the one to die, though Paul would be an accessory and probably killed too.

This cry of alarm did what one would expect. A riot broke out as several men rushed Paul dragged him out of the inner courts and the temple police shut the gate to preserve the sanctity of the Temple from any further violations. This appears to be a turning point. F. F. Bruce writes, “For Luke himself, this may have been the moment when the Jerusalem temple ceased to fill the honorable role hitherto ascribed to it in his twofold history. The exclusion of God’s message and messenger from the house once called by His name sealed its doom: it was now ripe for the destruction which Jesus had predicted for it many years before (Luke 21:6)” (Bruce, p410).

At the northwest corner of the temple complex attached by stairs and tunnels was the Antonia Fortress. This was the Roman stronghold in Jerusalem, and was attached to the temple to control riots, like now. At this point the whole temple complex was in an uproar as many were beating Paul trying to kill him. At some point, maybe a Roman guard looking down from the fortress seeing this riot, the regiment or legion commander was notified of the riot. We can assume that at least two centurions were there, meaning at least 200 men and the commander came down the stairs from the fortress and into the outer court. Seeing two centuries of Romans coming toward them, the Jews stopped beating Paul and back away. Assuming Paul had done something, the commander order Paul arrested, and bound with two chains. The commander then tries to get to the bottom of what had happened [read 34]. The crowd was still so enraged at Paul that by the time he got the steps his escort had to carry him up the stairs while the crowd shouted, “Get rid of him! Away with him!” Attacked and beaten by the Jews, Paul was rescued and carried off by the Romans.

Conclusion:

What can we take away from this passage today?

We need to follow God’s will. How? We need to be in the word and in prayer.

We need to learn to say, and mean, “the Lord’s will be done”, even if it is something we don’t like.

We should listen to fellow believers, but ultimately we have to choose to follow God.

Though the suffering Paul was going through and would continue to go through was part of Jesus’ commission of Paul, we should know that following Christ doesn’t mean we will have an easy life free from suffering. 

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #28

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #28

Title: Paul the Pastor

Acts 20:1-38

Review of 19:1-41

Last time we looked at Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Paul spent the longest amount of time in Ephesus than in any other city during his recorded journeys. We saw that Paul was constantly working and proclaiming the gospel. We were reminded in Ephesus of the spiritual battles that we are in engaged in as Christians.

Here we see Paul continue his third journey and return to Jerusalem.

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Paul Gathers Funds for Judea – vv 1-6

After the riot was dispersed and calm had returned to the city, Paul gathered the disciples there and encourages them before he leaves for Macedonia. We get a brief statement that Paul went through Macedonia offering a word of encouragement and then went to Greece. But with a little detective work, we can glimpse parts of this journey from Paul’s writings. From passages in 2 Corinthians we see that Paul had sent Titus to Corinth, possibly with 1 Corinthians or the lost letter Paul had sent them. Since Titus was not at Troas, they met in Macedonia where Titus gave a good report helping to relieve concerns Paul had. During this time in Macedonia, Paul may have gone into the Province of Illyricum which is west of Macedonia and borders the Adriatic Sea, since Paul references himself ministering there in Romans 15. Paul may have also mentioned and began gathering the companions and relief fund to assist the needs in the Judean churches.

We see that Paul continued on into Greece/Achaia and this is generally thought to mean he returned to Corinth and spent 3 months there. During his time in Corinth, Paul wrote the book of Romans. Now Paul may have been planning on going back to Antioch in Syria before heading to Jerusalem, but the Jewish population in Corinth was plotting against him again, so he changed plans and returned by land back through Macedonia to Philippi. 

Here we get a list of names of men from churches in Macedonia and Asia who are with Paul traveling back to Jerusalem, but it is probable that these men are messengers from those churches with the relief funds to go to Judea. One man from Berea, Sopater, two from Thessalonica, Aristarchus and Secundus. We see one from Galatia, Gaius of Derbe, and two from Asia, Tychicus, and Trophimus. Now Timothy is listed and we know he is from Lystra in Galatia, but Timothy may have already been with Paul in Macedonia. There is no mention of a representative from Philippi, but that may have been Luke, as another “we passage” appears in verses 5 and 6. Timothy and the others leave for Troas before Paul and Luke. It is assumed the Luke rejoins Paul here at Philippi, as the last “we-section” ended at Philippi in chapter 16. Paul and Luke leave for Troas after the Feast of Unleavened Bread which immediately follows Passover. As we will see in a few verses, Paul wants to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost, so time was of the essence.

We see is this section that Paul continues to take a personal interest in the churches he planted or were planted by co-workers. When Paul had the chance to visit those churches he did so to encourage them to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. We cannot be unfaithful to Christ or the gospel and do the work for the cause of Christ.

Paul’s Travels from Troas – vv7-16

Paul is finishing his stay in Troas. We are told they stayed seven days, then on the first day of the week, Sunday, the church met together. We don’t know when the early church moved their worship time to Sunday instead of Saturday, but we can assume that the why is to remember the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the account before us, it appears that the church met in the evening as their time of worship. As Paul may have already been receiving warnings about arriving in Jerusalem, and I think it is likely, Paul took the opportunity to encourage this church as well as to say good-bye.

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Paul was speaking, late into the night. We are told he spoke until midnight. Now there were no electric lights, no air conditioning or fans. The room was full of people, oil lamps burned adding to the heat, and it was very late at night. Nobody can blame Eutychus for being drowsy and falling asleep. He may have moved closer to the window to help him stay awake, but sleep overtook him. They were meeting on the third story, Eutychus fell back out of the window three stories and died. We don’t know how young Eutychus was, it is thought that he may have been a servant, so it is possible that he was between 8 and 14. Luke may have been one of the first to arrive on the scene and confirmed that Eutychus was dead. But then Paul arrived. Look at verse 10. Paul in a manner similar to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:21-22, bent over the body of the boy, embraced him and then declared Eutychus alive. Paul may have even prayed the prayer of Elijah, saying “LORD my God, please let this boy’s life come into him again”. 

They return to the upper room and continue their meeting, as we see Paul speaking until daybreak. It is possible that this second reference to breaking bread may not be the Lord’s table, but may have been a late snack or, if they hadn’t had the fellowship meal the usually accompanied the Lord’s Table, they may have been enjoying the meal at this time. I think this time was more laid back and focused on fellowship. At daybreak, Eutychus went home alive and the church was encouraged.

Paul sent Luke and the others by ship to the next port at the city of Assos, but Paul walked the 20 or so miles and met them there. Paul may have stayed a little longer in Troas to finish some farewells, or he wanted to spend the time alone with God. I think Paul may have already been receiving warnings about the danger for him in Jerusalem, and that he took the time walking to Assos to pray and spend time with God. The next few verses (14-16) describe the group’s island hopping along the Asian cost in the Aegean Sea. We see Paul skipped past Ephesus and went to Miletus instead. He wanted to visit, to encourage and say farewell in that region as well, but he was trying his best to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost and the clock was ticking. You’ll remember that Pentecost is 50 days after Passover, at this point in Miletus at least 24 days have passed. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, five days sailing to Troas, seven days in Troas, and another 5 days between Troas and Miletus.

Here we see the importance of regular attendance to church and staying awake. Warren Wiersbe made the following observation: “Perhaps each of us should ask ourselves, ‘What really keeps me awake?’ Christians who slumber during one hour in church somehow manage to stay awake during early morning fishing trips, lengthy sporting events and concerts, or late-night TV specials” (Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Daring. © 1988, p84).

We all see Paul’s care for individuals in the church as well. We said earlier that Paul was returning to Jerusalem to bring the offerings raised by these churches to the needy Christians in Judea. Paul not only wanted to build up the churches through preaching and teaching but through the care of individuals as well.

Paul’s Farewell and Charge to the Ephesian Elders – vv17-38

Paul the others stopped in Miletus. Miletus is about 30 miles south of Ephesus. In the pre-Roman days, Miletus held more importance than Ephesus. Miletus sits on a small peninsula and had three harbors operating. From Miletus Pauls for the Elders of the Ephesian church. Paul had spent two and a half to three years with these men ministering to and alongside them. If this was going to be the last he saw them, he wanted to do so face-to-face and give them one final charge.

Paul begins his address in verses 18-21 by reminding them of his history with them, that since the beginning of his third journey he was determined to be in Ephesus. He reminds them that he served God with humility and through trials and plots from the Jews. He reminds them that he taught publicly and privately and didn’t discriminate between Jew or Gentile. He taught anyone who would listen the way of salvation. 

In verses 22-25 he tells them that his future is uncertain, but it appears that hardships await him and that he will likely not see this group again. We don’t know how the Holy Spirit was warning Paul, it could have been with prophets in similar ways to what we see in 21:10-11. But Paul was determined to remain faithful and he knew that he was innocent before God no matter what happens in Jerusalem. In the following verses (26-27), he explains why he was innocent. 

Starting in verse 28 Paul begins to issue his challenge to the Elders from Ephesus. The first thing I see here is that Paul is addressing these men as pastors and leaders. We are told in verse 17 that they are elders of the church. Here in verse 28, Paul calls them overseers, this is the same word in 1 Timothy 3, sometimes translated bishop. Still, here Paul tells them to shepherd the flock, this is the same word and language Peter uses in 1 Peter 5 when he addresses church elders. Acts 20 is key to understanding pastoral ministry and we see these terms used interchangeably, referring to one office with 3 titles. The other things we see here are that these pastors not only need to guard the flock, that is the church, but themselves as well. Pastors need to be aware of the dangers to the church. 

Paul continues in verse 29 with what some of those dangers will be [read 29]. In the immediate context, Paul is concerned that once he is out of the picture in Ephesus and the other surrounding churches, that false teachers and others wishing ill for the churches will come and lead some astray and seek to destroy the churches. Paul tells them that even some of the men there before him would begin teaching false doctrine, he can also mean individuals from the congregation causing division, seeking power, or being false teachers themselves. So Paul tells these pastors to be alert, not to be careless, and to remember his example of constantly teaching and warning every day for those three years he spent in Ephesus.

Verses 32-35 Paul uses himself as an example to these pastors . In verse 32 he warns them not to be shallow. Paul commends these men to God and God’s Word. Pastors need to spend time in prayer and the Word as much as the everyday Christian, if not more. Verse 33 Paul reminds them not to covet. It is easy to see the wealth of other people and to want it for yourself and it can be more difficult for those in full-time ministry when their church members have a level of wealth, but the pastor, missionary, full-time Christian worker should be a servant leader and not given to covetousness. In verse 34 Paul reminds them that he literally worked for everything he had and still devoted himself to teach and preach daily. There are other passages that teach that the church should care for its leaders, and think the other point here is to not be lazy. Pastors should not only be willing to do the work but when it is time to work, they do the work and earn what they receive. 

Then in verse 35, he reminds them that selfishness has no place in ministry. Christian service is not about receiving, but giving. Paul quotes Jesus’ own word of “it is better to give than to receive”. Now you’re not going to find those words in any of the gospel accounts. “This saying is one of the agrapha, a term, used to describe sayings of Jesus which are not recorded in the four gospels. That thee were many such can hardly be doubted” as John 21:25 tells us (Kent Jr., Homer A. Jerusalem To Rome © 1972, p158).

Paul finishes his time with the Ephesian Elders by praying with and for these beloved coworkers. It was difficult for everyone to say goodbye. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place, they took turns hugging him and as was the custom a affectionate kiss on the cheek. They were all grieving because as far as anyone knew at this point, Paul could have been going to his death, and he nearly did. But his friends escorted him to the ship and he sailed for Jerusalem.

Paul here was not only concerned for the churches, or the individual members of the churches, but for the leaders of the church. Just as churches and their members need to be encouraged and challenged, so do their leaders and pastors.

Conclusion:

Warren Wiersbe said of Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian Elders, “…is unique in that it reveals Paul the pastor rather than Paul the evangelist or Paul the defender of the faith” (Wiersbe, p85). I think he is right, but I think we can expand that statement. How we see Paul in Acts 20 is not Paul the evangelist as in chapters 13, 14, and 17; not Paul the apologist as is in chapters 22, 23, 24, and 26, but here we see Paul the pastor. Caring for multiple flocks, individual sheep, and fellow shepherds.

You’re thinking, “that’s great for you, but not all of us are pastors or leaders”.

We need to encourage each other to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. We cannot be unfaithful to Christ or the gospel and say we are for the cause of Christ.

We need to be intentional and regular in our church attendance.

The church is built of individuals that need each need specific care and attention.

We need to be praying with and for each other. We need to be invested in each other to pray for our church and one another.

Even pastors need prayer and encouragement as we guard and tend to the flock.

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #27

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #27

Title: Ephesus

Acts 19:1-41

Review of 18

Last time we saw Paul’s time in Corinth. How the Lord encouraged and protected him for 18 months of ministry. We saw how God uses different people in different ways for the ministry. We were reminded that God is faithful and trustworthy, He will do what He says He will do.

Paul in Ephesus – vv 1-10

Luke returns our focus back on Paul and we find him in Ephesus. We see that he traveled overland again came to Ephesus from the east. He arrived sometime after Apollos had left and was in Corinth. Paul has now arrived in Ephesus, has probably met up with Priscilla and Aquila again, and he begins his ministry in Ephesus which last more than two years.

The City

Ephesus was the major city in Asia during Roman times. It was the Roman capital for the province, a major commercial center, and port, and boasted a quarter of a million populace. That population put them just behind Rome. Ephesus was a free Greek city so they had their own senate/assembly for self-rule, though the city held the home the Roman governor for the province.

Ephesus held a large Jewish community, partly because they were given privileges from a partisan of Julius Caesar which was later confirmed by Augustus. No wonder Paul made this city his headquarters for his third journey, and why Luke comments in verse 10 “that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks heard the word of the Lord”.

12 Disciples of John the Baptist

Apparently somewhat early in his time there, Paul comes across 12 disciples of John the Baptist. These twelve seem to be a distinct group of Jews that was unknown to Apollos or Priscilla and Aquila. They are evidently introduced to him as disciples, but something, maybe the Holy Spirit, causes Paul to ask if they had received the Holy Spirit. In his interaction with them, Paul must have noticed that their understanding of the basic Christian tenants was deficient in some way. They respond no. It is generally thought that an implied ‘given’ should be read with the text. Meaning that these disciples of John hadn’t heard that the Holy Spirit had been given, as in John 7:39 where we read, “…Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given…” The word given there is implied and added in many versions.

Paul then asks how they were baptized, and the answer with John’s baptism. The baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming Messiah. He explained that Jesus had come, completed his mission, returned to the Father and had sent the promised Holy Spirit. This meant the baptism these twelve undertook was no longer adequate. We’re not told, but I am assuming that Paul then baptized these disciples in Christian baptism and after laying his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit in a way similar to the pentecost experience. These disciples may have helped form the core of the Ephesian church, may have continued on as missionaries, may have been included in the group of elders that meet with Paul in Miletus in Acts 20.

Synagogue and Lecture Hall

Paul, again, starts with the Jewish synagogue. For three months, Paul was debating and reasoning with Jews about the kingdom of God, that is the death and exalting of Jesus. It took three months before the many of the Jews became hardened and wouldn’t believe. They began slandering the Way, the name for the church, to slander the Way is to slander the gospel and the Savior. Paul could no longer teach in the synagogue in Ephesus. 

Paul moves his public teaching to a lecture hall. It is unclear who Tyrannus was, as there hasn’t been any building found in the Ephesian ruins with this name attached to it. It is possible that Tyrannus was a philosopher or lecturer that used that hall regularly or the building’s owner who rented it to Paul. There is a tradition in the Western and Byzantine texts that Paul used the building from “the fifth hour until the tenth hour”, from 11 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. There may be some truth to this as it was common in the region that that time would be used for a meal and rest, similar to the siesta culture. This means Paul could have done his leatherworking during the early part of the day like many businesses and then devoted those five hours to his teaching. This teaching arrangement continued for two years. 

During these two years, it appears that Epaphras had “evangelized the cities of the Lycus valley Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis-cities which Paul evidently did not visit in person…Perhaps all seven of the churches of Asia addressed in the Revelation of John were also founded about this time” (Bruce, F.F., NICNT: The Book of the Acts, © 1988, p366). The whole province was greatly evangelized during this time.

Ephesus and the Occult – vv 11-20

Since Ephesus was a major city it was like many of the other cities with its many idols and false religions, but Luke also tells us that the spiritual battle here was on several levels.

Paul

God used Paul in many ways proclaim the gospel and Christ. In Ephesus, God uses Paul to do many miracles and healings. Paul was even able to send sweat-rags and aprons to those possessed or in need of healing. This seems to parallel Peter healing those who fall under his shadow in chapter 5. The word handkerchief or facecloth here, what is meant is a sweat-rag that may have been worn on the head or wiped the sweat from one’s face. This and the apron were used by tradesman in their work, like Paul in his leatherworking. Whether these items belonged to Paul or were brought from the sick and possessed is unknown, but the power that healed was not in the items but in the name of Jesus.

Imitators

Ancient practitioners held Jewish magicians in high respect as it was believed they had especially effective spells to use. “Ephesus was the hot place o ministry for a number of itinerant Jewish exorcists. This may correspond to the fact that this city had a reputation for being a center for magical and occult practices. These men apparently developed special ability in effectively dealing with evil spirits” (Arnold, Clinton E., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Acts, © 2002, p193). So popular was Paul and the name of Jesus, that Jewish itinerant exorcists began using Jesus’ name in their formulas and incantations. 

In this instance the Luke records, the sons of Sceva attempt to employ the name of Jesus. We do not know anything about Sceva other than what is mentioned here. He may have been the head of a priestly family or used the term chief priest or high priest as an advertising ploy to add prestige to his exorcism business. His seven sons attempted to exorcise a demon by saying, “by the Jesus that Paul preaches”. The names of Jesus and his apostle were known to this spirit, but these seven men were nothing to this spirit. The man possessed using abnormal strength attacked these men, beat them, injured them and tore their clothes. These men were fortunate to get away with their lives, having learned not to misuse the name of Jesus.

Burning books

The incident with Sceva’s sons spread throughout the whole city, “and filled those who heard it with awe; this name, invoked by Paul and his colleagues with such beneficial effects, was plainly not to be trifled with” (Bruce, p369).

The power of the gospel is greater than those playing with magic. Many of the practitioners converted to Christianity and openly confessed what they did and what their spells were. In the magical theory, the power of the spell was wrapped in its secrecy, by openly revealing what the spell was and how it was used, these new disciples were making these spells worthless. Many of them also gathered their “magic books” the scrolls and papyri that held their spells and held a bonfire. “The special connection of Ephesus with magic is reflected in the term ‘Ephesian letters’ for magical scrolls” (Bruce, p369). They added up the value of the scrolls that were being burned based on the local market, and it came to 50,000 silver coins or drachmae. That is roughly the combined year’s wage of 150 people. The burning of the books was a sign of casting off, of disowning their old way of life. 

Artemis of the Ephesians – vv 21-41

Paul was encouraged and decided that to go back through Macedonia and Achaia before returning to Jerusalem (it is suggested that this trip was to collect the love offering for the churches in Judea as mentioned in 1 Cor 16), he also resolved to go to Rome. Perhaps he was encouraged to see the great victories Christ was having over the idol worship and practice of the occult in Ephesus and thought Rome needed a good dose of Christianity as well, but there was still a big issue in the city of Ephesus, and her name was Artemis.

Artemis

Artemis of the Ephesians was one of the most well-known cults in the ancient Mediterranean world. This goddess is not the Greek goddess of the hunt with the same name, as the Greek goddess was a chaste maiden, and the Ephesian Artemis was similar to the mother goddess of ancient Asia Minor. Artemis was the main deity of the city of Ephesus. “As a mother goddess, Artemis possessed fertility and reproductive power that caused the earth to blossom with life of all kinds. She was the goddess of childbirth and a nourishing mother to all. Animals and wildlife were also a part o her domain and under her control” (Arnold, p198). The temple for Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The cult was woven into the daily life and culture of Ephesus. The Ephesians were very protective and proud of their patron goddess.

Silversmiths

The silversmiths and some other craftsmen made a large profit in creating and selling small shrines of Artemis. These were more than just small statuettes but depicted the goddess sitting on her throne in the temple. The problem they were having was because of the spread of Christianity in Ephesus and the surrounding area, their profit was falling, and the demand for these idols was falling. 

Verse 26 gives us an insight into the mass success the gospel was having in the city. We also see that many were turning to Christianity directly from idol worship. This is a major change in lifestyle for these new converts and it was affecting the economy of the city, or at least the wallets of some of the craftsmen.  Demetrius a silversmith had gathered many craftsmen together and began persuading them that they shouldn’t let the Lady of Ephesus be slandered or their businesses fail.

Riot

Fueled by Demetrius’ words, the crowded began a riot. The enthusiasm for Artemis spread from the craftsmen to many of the citizens. Once the rest of the citizens were added to the craftsmen the theater was the natural place to go with such a large crowd. The theater in Ephesus could hold 24,000 people. We don’t know how many people were involved in this riot, but it was probably in the thousands, as Luke commented that the city was in confusion, or the whole city was in an uproar.

On their way to the theater, the crowd was able to get a hold of Gaius and Aristarchus, two of Paul’s companions, and dragged them along. Even though the crowd hadn’t grabbed Paul, when he knew what was going on Paul wanted to go the theater and try to make a defense and reason with the mob. However, some of the disciples kept him from going and even some of the influential and ruling members of the city that were friendly toward Paul sent messages to him to stay away.

So many people were there in the riot that everybody was shouting something different and many didn’t even know why they were there. But a group of the Jews were and to make sure they could distance themselves from Paul, who was a Jew and Jews were knows to not worship Artemis, sent Alexander to make their case. We don’t know who this Alexander is, we have no more direct information about him. When he got up to make his defense the people weren’t going to listen. They recognized him as a Jew, which meant he didn’t worship Artemis, he may have seemed too eager to make a defense or some of th crowd may have thought he was the cause fo the issue. Before he could speak, the crowd began a two-hour chant of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

After two hours the city clerk quiets the mob down to speak. Now the city clerk was the head or executive officer of the civic city council. He was essentially the city mayor. But he was also the liaison between the Roman provincial government, which resided in Ephesus, and the city council. He would be held responsible by the Romans for this riotous assembly, and the city may receive severe penalties because of it. He tells them that there is no reason to worry or act like this. The Lady of Ephesus is known all over, and everyone knows the statue was sent from heaven. The men grabbed and dragged along weren’t guilty of any crime, they didn’t steal anything from the temple, they did nothing sacrilegious against Artemis. The clek reminds them if there were any real charge to be made, the courts were ready to hear it, or find some other legal way to get the issue taken care. He reminds them that they are endangering the city of Roman consequences for an illegal assembly that is disturbing city. After the crowd and listened to the clerk, he dismissed them, possibly in the same way he would have for a legal assembly, and they went home.

Conclusion:

Today we were reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit. Later in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, he reminds them that the Spirit is the seal and guarantee of their salvation. The Holy Spirit is how God marks each Christian as His possession. (The greatness of salvation Eph 2:1-3:13)

We also how that there needs to be a sharp distinction between the new life a Christian leads and their old sinful life. What do you or I need to get out of our lives that is sinful?  (The Old and New Life Eph 4:17-5:21)

We were also reminded that mob rule and anarchy are unbiblical. As citizens, we need to obey our governments and laws. And within the church, we need to have unity and not division. (Unity Eph 4:1-16)

We were reminded that as Christians we have entered into a spiritual war against Satan and his fellow fallen angels. We need to renounce all forms of spiritism, occultism, and remember that demons didn’t go away when the ancient world went away. (Christian Warfare Eph 6:10-20)

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #26

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #26

Title: Paul’s Encouragement – 2nd Journey Pt3 – Acts 18:1-28

Review of 17:1-34

In chapter 17 we looked at how Paul focused his gospel presentation on the Christ’s resurrection. It was the focus in Thessalonica where he used the OT to show the Jews that Christ had to suffer, die, and be raised to life, though they chose not to listen. He repeated the presentation in Berea where the Jews trusted the Scripture and many took Paul’s message as from God, though trouble was coming when Thessalonian Jews came to Berea. Even in Athens, a center for paganism and philosophy, Paul focused on God raising Christ from the dead. 

In our passage today, we follow Paul to another major city in Greece. A city where he spent the majority of this journey preaching and teaching.

Paul in Corinth – vv 1-11

Temple of Apollo – biblepicturegallery.com

Corinth

Paul headed to Corinth after his address in Athens. Corinth was the Capital of the Province of Achaia (Greece). It was a major city as it connected the Grecian mainland and the Peloponnese. It formed a triangle with the port cities of Lechaeum in the north and Cenchrea in the south. You may recognize the city name of Cenchrea as the place Phoebe is mentioned to serve in the church there in Romans 16. These cities connected the Aegean Sea with the Adriatic Sea, the Province of Asia with Italy. Corinth was a strategic place for Paul to spread the gospel as merchants, sailors and soldier all passed through as they went from one port to another.

Priscilla and Aquila

After arriving in Corinth. Paul quickly met and befriended Aquila a Jew from Pontus and his wife Priscilla. They had recently come from Italy and Claudius had issued a decree expelling all Jews from the city of Rome. We know that this occurred in the year AD 49. This couple is mentioned at least three times in Paul’s writings, 1 Cor 16, Rom 16, and then 2 Tim 4. It is possible that these two were already Christians when Paul met them here in Corinth as there is no mention of their conversion or baptism in our passage. 

Paul met them, befriended them and they gave him a place to stay as they had the same trade, tentmakers. The word here actually refers to more than just tentmaking, but working with leather. Paul’s home region of Cilicia was known for its working with goat skin. 

Synagogue Ministry

Since Corinth was so big and had so many travellers going through it Paul was sure to go to Synagogue every Sabbath and reason with the Jews and Greek proselytes. Then after a some time Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia. Since we do not have recorded in Acts what Silas and Timothy were doing in Macedonia, some speculate based on comments in the epistles of Paul. Homer Kent Jr believes, “(1) Silas and Timothy had been left behind in Berea with instruction to meet Paul at Athens (17:14-15). (2) They did meet Paul as planned (17:16; 1 Thess 3:1). (3) From Athens Timothy was sent to Tessalonica to encourage the church (1 Thess 3:1-2). Silas also must have gone to someplace in Macedonia, perhaps Philippi (18:5). (4)Both men rejoined Paul at Corinth, bringing a report from Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:6) and a gift (2 Cor 11:8-9, Phil 4:15). It was at this time that Paul wrote First Thessalonians, and shortly after he probably wrote Second Thessalonians from Corinth also” (Kent Jr, Homer A. Jerusalem to Rome, © 1972 p142). After Silas and Timothy joined Paul in Corinth, Paul doubles his efforts. Some translations read he was compelled in the spirit, while others say he devoted or occupied himself with preaching to the Jews. Either way Paul focused on presenting Jesus Christ as the Messiah to Jews. 

His work had some pay off. Some believed. The leader of the synagogue and his house believed the Lord, this man was Crispus who Paul mentions in 1 Cor 1:14 as being baptized by Paul. But many of the Jews were again abusive, belligerent, and blasphemous. Paul had had enough with the Jews in Corinth. Look at verse 6 [read 6]. Paul had told them that he had done what he was supposed to, he proclaim Jesus Christ and the gospel to the Jews, but they resisted so he turned again to the Gentiles, and we see in verse 8 that many of the city’s people turned to the Lord. Verse 6 says Paul shook out his clothes. He shook the dust of the synagogue from his cloak, he as leaving and didn’t even want the synagogue dust to come with him. This is similar to what he and Barnabas did when they were kicked out of Pisidian Antioch, and the first thing I thought of as a cultural equivalent today is brushing the dust off your shoulder.

Paul may have been worried or concerned now. Things are following the pattern of his first journey again. Go to the Jews, get some converts, Jews get upset, Jews cause an issue, Paul gets beaten or arrested, or both, and/or kicked out of town. But in verses 9-10 the Lord encourages Paul. These verses echo OT passages in Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” and Jeremiah 1:8 “Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to rescue you. This is the Lord ’s declaration.” This vision from the Lord must have greatly encouraged Paul. And the pattern broke here in Corinth. Paul was able to stay for about 18 months. He, Silas, Timothy, and probably Priscilla and Aquila were able to help establish, teach, train, and disciple the new Christians in the city. The Lord still encourages His workers today, through the completed revelation of the Scripture. The Lord through the Holy Spirit and the reading of Scripture, the fellowship of believers encourages His followers during difficult times.

I came across a quote just yesterday that was shared by a fellow pastor, and I felt worked well with this passage:

“You feel like quitting, like giving up. You can’t understand why the road doesn’t get easier, why God doesn’t remove the stones and straighten the path. If God did that, you might never get to the top, because the bumps are what you can climb on.” – Warren Wiersbe

Possible Problem vv 12-14

Gallio the Proconsul

Sometime after Paul had received the vision of encouragement from the Lord, the Jews united against him and brought him to the judgement seat of the proconsul of the Province of Achaia. Gallio is thought to have begun his consulship in the middle of AD 51, from this we can assume that this incident happened near the end of Paul’s time in Corinth. Previous judgements, like in Thessalonica, had their limitations and boundaries. But if the provincial governor ruled against Paul, this would affect the whole of Greece, and other governors would have a precedent to follow. This could have hindered the growth of the church or increased the persecutions the church faced in the first century.  The claim was that Paul was acting contrary to the law, whether that “meant Jewish law or Romans law is not clear” (Kent, p143). We may not need to distinguish between the two laws, because Judaism had the freedom to be practiced and make converts, so Paul’s accusers were saying he was going against Judaism and therefore outside Roman law.

Paul was about to make a defense, but he didn’t get the chance. Gallio wasn’t going to listen to the Jews. He tells them that this is nothing he needs judge since they are not charging Paul with any real serious crime. Gallio seemed to know that the Jews are out to get Paul for religious reasons, turns the table on them. He considered Christianity as a branch of Judaism, so this was nothing but an internal matter for the Jews, sound familiar? Maybe sound like Pilate and the chief priests? 

Gallio dismissed the cases and forces the Jewish leaders out of the tribunal area. The Jews may not have wanted to let this go, they may have been creating a disturbance leading Gallio to forcibly remove them. Sosthenes the new Synagogue leader, was beaten. We don’t know if this was an intentional order from Gallio or something else. The pattern was broken. The Lord told Paul he would be protected in Corinth, and Paul was. The Lord turned the tables and spared Paul the beating while allowing a Jewish leader to be beaten in a similar manner that Paul had experienced on previous occasions.

Paul Heads Home

Paul and the team stay in Corinth for awhile longer, but then Paul left to return to Antioch in Syria. We are told that Priscilla and Aquila go with him, but there is no mention of Timothy or Silas. We can only speculate on Timothy and Silas, they may have been sent back to Thessalonica with one or both of Paul’s letters. They may be returning with Paul, but Luke doesn’t mention it for some reason. We don’t know, but Priscilla and Aquila do go. They head down to the southern port of Cenchrea. There Paul shaves his head because of a vow. Some think this is reference to a Nazirite vow, but the hair is not cut until the Nazirite vow had been completed, not before. I think this is something similar to the Nazirite vow, a vow Paul had made out of thankfulness to the protection that was promised in verse 10. Paul may have been in a bit of a rush as to get to Jerusalem to complete his vow and make his offering of thanks to the Lord.

They stop for a short time, maybe a day, in Ephesus on the other side of the Aegean Sea. Paul, had to go to synagogue here. He knew he wouldn’t be able to spend long, but he needed to bring the gospel to the Jews in Ephesus. Remember this may have been his intended place of ministry when he left Galatia about two years previous. He goes and debates or reasons with the Jews. They become intrigued and ask him stay but he has to decline. Now translations add a phrase in verse 21, “by all means it is necessary to keep the coming festival in Jerusalem” before we read that Paul promises to return if God wills. It is possible that this festival was Passover, and he wanted to complete his vow before keeping the Passover that year. Priscilla and Aquila are left in Ephesus, we don’t know if that was their plan or if Paul wanted to leave them so they might be able to start a church or if there was a small number of converts the couple may have stayed to help establish them. Either way they remain there in Ephesus, and we’ll see them again in just a moment. 

Paul continues and lands in Caesarea, the dominant port on the Mediterranean for Judea. Paul heads to Jerusalem to greet the church and complete his vow. After some time in Jerusalem he heads back to Antioch. There he reports on the ministry as he had been gone for roughly two years. Luke is summarizing to put Paul on pause, but after a time in Antioch Paul again heads through southern Galatia to visit and strengthen those churches before continuing into Asia and heading towards Ephesus. 

Apollos Comes to Water vv 24-28

Apollos

Luke briefly returns to Ephesus to introduce a new minister of the gospel. Luke tells us of Apollos. A Jew from Alexandria on the coast of Egypt. He was knowledgeable in the Scriptures and was eloquent in his discussions and preaching. He was in Ephesus preaching of the Messiah, there was just one problem. He only knew of John’s preaching of the coming Messiah and the call to repentance. Somehow he never heard the truth about Jesus.

More Accurate

Apollos went to the synagogue and spoke boldly what he knew. It is safe to count Apollos with the OT saints, he hoped for the Messiah and had not rejected him and had believed what John had preached, but Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and filled in the gaps. He apparently accepts the truth and is welcomed into the church at Ephesus. After some time he wants to go to Greece and continue to evangelize. The church in Ephesus sends with him a letter of introduction for the churches in Greece.

Apollos to Water in Corinth

Apollos arrives in Greece, and we see in 19:1 he goes to Corinth. He is of great help to the churches in Greece, and we know he had a fruitful ministry in Corinth as well. Not only was he evangelizing, but he was doing the work of an apologist was well as he publicly defended the faith and the messiahship of Jesus to the Jews. Paul had planted in Corinth, Apollos came to water and help nurture.

Conclusion:

Today we saw how the Lord gave encouragement to Paul. The Lord promised to protect Paul in Corinth, Paul may also have been encouraged to meet Priscilla and Aquila there which started their friendship. Today, we may not receive a vision from the Lord, but we have the ministry of Holy Spirit and the complete Word of God to lean on.

We were reminded that the Lord is faithful and trustworthy. Paul was promised that no one would harm him in Corinth so he could do the work of the ministry there. Paul was protected against another Jewish plot to do him harm and tried to slow the gospel. But the Lord used an unbelieving Roman governor to discipline the Jews in Corinth and protect Paul.

We saw how the Lord uses different people in ministry. Paul began the work in Corinth and just got things started in Ephesus, he planted. Priscilla and Aquila were probably used to help teach and deepen the understanding of those in the churches, and they certainly helped Apollos. Apollos continues the work in Corinth or as Paul himself wrote in 1 Corinthians, “Apollos watered”. Apollos defended the faith against the unbelieving Jews in Corinth and continued to help minister in the church. 

Every Christian is important to the work of the ministry, to the Cause of Christ. What are you doing? 

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #25

for-the-cause-of-christ-a-series-in-the-book-of-actsActs: For the Cause of Christ #25

Title: Paul in Athens

Acts 17:1-34

Last time we looked at Paul’s time in Philippi. How Paul was used to start another church. How he and Silas kept their faith in the midst of injustice and physical abuse. How the gospel is presented freely to all people. We continue to follow Paul’s journey after leaving Philippi. Paul makes it to two big cities as he continues to spread the gospel in Greece.

Thessalonica – vv 1-9

Mixed Results 1-4

Paul, Silas, and Timothy arrive in Thessalonica after apparently stopping for the evening at Amphipolis and Apollonia. These were on the Egnatian Way from Philippi. Once in Thessalonica, Paul and the team stated as always within the Jewish community at the local synagogue. Paul discussed the gospel with them from three consecutive Sabbaths, so they were in Thessalonica for at least three weeks. Paul was using the OT prophets alongside the events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. Paul’s pattern continues to repeat. We are told that some Jews believed the gospel message as well as God-fearing Greeks. Among these believers were leading women, Macedonian women had a reputation for independence in society and business.

Jealous Jews 5-9

Keeping with the pattern from Paul’s time in southern Galatia, the unbelieving Jews became of jealous. Whether this was because they lost a number of proselytes or because they lost financial support with some leading women converting to Christianity, we don’t know for sure. These Jews, went to the marketplace and found wicked men for hire to create a mob to riot. The went to the house of Jason, who was housing Paul and the others, and may have been one the Jews that converted from Paul’s teaching in the synagogue.

The mob could not find the missionaries, so they dragged Jason and few other Christians before the town officials. Since Thessalonica isn’t a Roman Colony, we see a different group of leadership. These magistrates are generally called politarchs, this term is used for the local magistrates in Macedonia. The mob charged the missionaries with treason, basically, and since Jason was housing them, he was a complicit as well. Theses charges were similar to those that were brought up in Philippi. The magistrates didn’t seem overly concerned, probably because there was no real evidence to these claims, however Jason paid a bond. This would have guaranteed that his guests wouldn’t cause trouble and probably required them to leave town.

Paul’s Letters:

Because of the persecution he faced, Paul was unable to really establish the new Thessalonian church in doctrine. In a few months time from this point in our journey, Paul will be in Corinth where he spends about 18 months. During this time in Corinth (~51-52 AD) Paul writes both 1 and 2 Thessalonians to encourage the church, explain doctrines more thoroughly, and correct a few errors the church had. 

001-paul-athens

Berea – vv 10-15

Searched the Scriptures

Paul, Silas and Timothy were taken out of the city under the cover of night and headed to Berea. Again, Paul stays true to form and heads to the local synagogue. However, here in Berea we get a breath of fresh air for minute, as these Jews break the pattern and hear Paul out while checking the Scriptures to see if they can verify what Paul has told them. This is something we all need to do, double check things against Scripture. I don’t wonder if these Bereans would be surprised if they knew how many Christian churches and groups have named themselves after them because of their careful study of Scripture? We can only assume Paul was reasoning with them the same way as he was in Thessalonica by showing that the Messiah had to suffer, die and be raised back to life through the OT Prophets. And again, many believed, both men and women, Jew and Greek. 

Thessalonian Jews

We don’t know how long it was before the Jews of Thessalonica heard that Paul and the others were in Berea, but in another reminder of southern Galatia, a group of Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea to stir up trouble. Paul seems to be the main target, but Paul quickly escorted out of town be some the new believers. There are some variations in the manuscripts as whether they took Paul by sea or by land, either way they escorted Paul to Athens. Paul had them take a message back to Silas and Timothy to join him in Greece as quickly as they could.

Athens – vv 16-34

Culture

Paul has entered Athens. The cradle of Greek mythology, philosophy, and culture. This city’s cultural influence would be equivalent to London, Pairs, or New York today. Athens was steeped in idolatry. Everywhere he would have turned there would be another temple or carving or statue dedicated to the false gods of Greek and Roman Mythology. In its past glory days, this city was called home by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. This city was used to different ways of thinking and worshipping. Though Paul would have been somewhat accustomed to idolatry, there was something of how saturated Athens was that caused him to be distressed.

Synagogue and Marketplace

In the middle of this idolatrous city, Paul was able to find a Jewish synagogue. Not only were there Jews worshipping but there were Greek proselytes worshipping the true God. Paul spent his days reasoning in the synagogue as well as trying to interact with other people in the marketplace. Luke doesn’t tells us how the Jews or proselytes responded to Paul’s teaching, or if there were any converts from his “street evangelism”.

What we do see, is that on one specific day Paul is addressing a group of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers.

Stoics – The Stoics claimed Zeno from Cyprus as their founder and took their name from specific colonnade in the marketplace where Zeno had taught. “Their system aimed at living consistently with nature, and in practice they laid great emphasis on the primacy of the rational faculty in humanity, and on individual self-sufficiency…they were essentially pantheistic, god being regarded as the world-soul….Stoicism at it sbest was marked by great moral earnestness and a high sense of duty. It commended suicide as a honorable means of escape from a life that could no longer be sustained with dignity” (Bruce, F. F. NICNT: The Book of the Acts, © 1988 p330).

Epicureans – This school founded by Epicurus and “based its ethical theory on the atomic physics of Democritus and presented pleasure as being the chief end in life, the pleasure most worth enjoying being a life of tranquillity, free from from pain, disturbing passions, and superstitious fears (including in particular the fear of death). It did not deny the existence of gods, but maintained they they took no interest in the life of men and women” (Bruce, p330-331).

On this particular day, some that were listening to Paul were unimpressed by him calling him, “an ignorant show-off”, a more literal translation would read “seed-picker”. The word does refer to birds eating seeds and scraps, but the idea here is someone who doesn’t align with a specific school of thought. Others though he was teaching about some strange or foreign gods. It is thought that they may have misunderstood and personified the resurrection along with Jesus.

Areopagus 19-21

They brought Paul to the Areopagus. Some translations have “Mars’ Hill”, that is a translation of the Latin name for the “Hill of Ares”. Either way it is a hill dedicated to the god of war in Greek/Roman Mythology. The Areopagus lent its name to a court, sometimes the court met on the hill itself and sometimes it met in the Royal Colonnade in the marketplace, where it met to hear Paul, we don’t know for sure. The court was mainly used at this time to preside over religious and moral matters. Paul was not taken as a criminal, or to see if they should give him license to be a public lecturer/teacher. He was merely asked there to further expound his teaching so they could better understand it. Verse 21 reads, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.” So if Athens is culturally like New York is thought of today, then Paul being able to present on the Areopagus is like playing on Broadway.

So what does Paul do with this opportunity? What any good preacher does, he preaches the gospel (v22).

Paul begins by telling them that as he walked through town he noticed that they were very religious. He had even seen an altar inscribed “to an unknown god”. He uses this as a place to start. Now I doubt that when that altar was placed, there was any idea of a particular god they were trying to appease, but Paul used this to begin to discuss the one, true God.

He continues by telling them “that God is the creator, the sovereign of heaven and earth, the sustainer and director of all things ans is the Omnipresent One” (Kent, Homer A. Jr.; Jerusalem to Rome, © 1972 p140). He tells them that all of humanity came from one man, Adam, and then explained “that God has determined the seasons which make life possible, and has appointed the habitable zones of the earth in which [people] may live” (Kent, p140). Verse 28, actually contains two different quotes from Greek poets, the first part of the verse is attributed to Epimenides from Crete and the last section, generally put in quotes is from Aratus from Cilicia. Now both of these poems names Zeus as the supreme being in Greek philosophy and religion, Paul is not equating the trude God and Zeus, he is merely using these poems to make a point and to make a connection with his audience as these poems have contexts that can point to some recognition of the true nature of God. (doctrines of God and man)

Paul continues by telling them that God has set a time for divine judgement and that there is a need of repentance before that judgement comes. [read 30-31] God has determined Who will be the judge and has set the time.  This discussion of end-times judgement was new to the Greek thinker, at least the biblical revelation of the end-times. Paul assures his listeners that God’s man has been revealed as there is solid proof about this man. We know this is Jesus, and that proof is the that God has raised Jesus from the dead. (doctrines of end-times and christology).

Mixed Results 32-34

There is a difference of opinions over whether Paul concluded his message or if he was cut off as they ridiculed him for the idea of the resurrection. Some think he concluded the message, because this was an introduction to Christianity, and the first thing to learn was to turn from idols. Others think he was unable to finished the message where he would have expanded the information to contain the elements of the gospel. We don’t know for sure.

Some did ridicule him for the notion of the resurrection, while others wanted to hear more. We are told that some followed Paul and believed. Luke tells us the name of two people, Dionysius a member of the Areopagus court and a woman named Damaris.

No mention of a church being planted, no mention of baptisms. Some think that the poor reception to the gospel is why Paul left for Corinth and that he changed is approach in Corinth “to ‘know nothing’ there ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’” (Bruce, p344).

Conclusion:

In Thessalonica we saw how Paul started in the synagogues and reasoned, discussed, or lecturered from the Scripture and showed the Jews that Jesus Christ was meant to come and suffer and die. Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection fulfilled OT prophecy. 

In Berea we have an excellent model to follow. Examine Scripture for yourself when you are listening to teachers. Don’t just accept anybody’s explanation. That includes me or any man that is standing behind this pulpit proclaiming the Word. That includes your favorite radio/TV preacher, that includes your favorite writing preacher, or printed bible studies.

In Athens, we saw that Paul spoke in ways his audience could understand and relate to him, but he didn’t use “church language” or “christianese”. He used language and words his audience could understand. He related commonly known poems in way to point to the true God. We should be careful doing this so we don’t marginalize the true christianity or place the gospel on the same ground as a false religion. We also see that we need to be aware of the openings to share the gospel that the Lord provides. 

Most importantly, we saw that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel. Whether for those who have a knowledge of Scripture and need instruction or those who have never read the Bible or heard of the God of heaven, Christ’s resurrection is the centerpiece for the gospel.

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #24

for-the-cause-of-christ-a-series-in-the-book-of-actsActs: For the Cause of Christ #24

Title: Paul’s Second Journey – Pt 2 – Paul’s Philippian Adventure

Acts 16:11-40

Review of 15:36-16:12

Last time we saw as Paul started his second journey. He and Barnabas decided to not serve together on this trip as Barnabas was determined to take John Mark along. Paul chose Silas and headed back to Southern Galatia. He and Silas added Timothy to the team at Lystra before continuing on. As they sought to continue on the Lord kept them from going in to the Provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Then when they reached the city of Troas, the Lord sent Paul a vision directing them to go into Macedonia, the northern region of Greece. This would also bring the gospel into Europe.

44_ac_16_07_rg
https://missionbibleclass.org/new-testament/part2/acts-epistle-selections/lydia-becomes-a-christian/

Philippi – vv 11-15

 

The City

As we see here in the opening portion of our passage. Philippi was a Roman colony. This plays a big role in the coming events of this passage, so we should have an understanding on what a Roman colony was.

Philippi was named a Roman Colony by Caesar Augustus around 42 BC. Colonies were usually created as a place for Roman veterans to have homes as well as creating a military presence. The residents to these cities were given Roman citizenship and the rights that entitled them too. The city had an autonomous government, freedom for taxation and tribute and legal-ownership rights like those who lived in Italy. Being a colony was the highest status a city in a province could receive. Philippi was helping in the Romanization of Macedonia, so the city would have seemed like a “little Rome”. Other colonies mentioned in Acts are Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Troas, Corinth, and Ptolemais.

Philippi was a wealthy city as it was on the famous Egnatian Way, and the nearby hills held deposits of copper, silver and gold, as well as having a fertile plain for crops. Though this city was not the capital of Macedonia, which was Thessalonica, nor was Philippi the capital of the district, that was Amphipolis, Philippi was a leading, major city in Macedonia. It also held various pagan religions including the emperor worship. Though it seems there was no Jewish Synagogue at this time. If there was a Jewish population, it must have been very small. At the time a minimum of 10 Jewish men was required to have a synagogue.

Lydia

Since there was no synagogue there Paul adjust his tactic. On the Sabbath day they went outside the city gates to find a place where the small Jewish community or at least God-fearing gentiles would meet to pray. Paul and the others find a group of women meeting for prayer. Paul takes the opportunity to talk them and share the gospel. Lydia was one of the ladies there listening. She was God-fearing gentile from the city of Thyatira. “The Lord opened her heart” to the gospel during Paul’s gospel presentation. We have another example here of baptism coming after salvation as Lydia and her household were all baptized there in the river where they were meeting.

Lydia may have been a wealthy business woman. She is noted as a dealer of purple cloth. Purple dyed cloth was fairly expensive as the dye either came from a shellfish or the roots of a madder plant. For Lydia to have house large enough to house Paul and his team, she must have been fairly successful. Her household could refer to any children still living with her assuming she was married and possibly widowed, but that is unknown, or her household could include any servants in her business and home. Lydia’s household becomes the first recorded converts of Paul’s second journey and in Macedonia.

The Trouble with Demons – vv 16-24

Regular Prayer Meetings

Either Paul and the others established regular prayer meetings with this small band of disciples or they were still using the Jewish tradition of prayers at certain times. We know that Paul the others were in Philippi for several days, verse 12, and on their way to the place of prayer they were being followed by slave girl possessed by a demon that was shouting out unwelcomed testimony about Paul.

This slave girl was possessed by demon giving her the ability to serve as a fortune-teller. Her masters used her to make large profit for themselves. Remember, Philippi held several pagan idols, including the Greek god Apollo. Luke actually uses the term that refers to soothsayers and fortune-tellers that goes back to the myth of Apollo and the Oracle of Delphi. So for a slave girl telling the future would not be anything strange in this city.

Paul’s Annoyance

After many days of this poor girl following Paul the others around acting like an unwanted herald, Paul had had enough. He turned and addressing the demon, he commanded it leave the girl using the authority of Jesus’ name. The exorcism happened immediately.

What was the girl saying? What was the annoyance? The phrase can be taken in an ironic sense as a demon is proclaiming truth about God, though because she represents many false gods, the testimony proves confusing. It is also possible that since what the demon is saying doesn’t directly refer to Yahweh, it could be understood that the God Paul is serving and preaching about was the highest of many gods. This would be confusing as many of the polytheistic religions represented in Philippi all had such phrases for certain gods. Also the phrase of offering salvation may have been heard as “a” way of salvation versus “the” way of salvation. Paul’s use of Jesus’ name in the exorcism primary shows that it is not Paul’s own authority by which he can expel demons, but only through the authority of Jesus. It also ties the God Paul proclaims is tied to the name of Jesus.

PaulandDemon_Girl_1179-61
http://bibleencyclopedia.com/pictures/Acts_16_Paul_and_demon_possessed_girl.htm

When the slave girl’s masters realized they lost significant income, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the chief magistrates, these are possibly the two men who ruled the colony called praetors.

Illegal Activities

Paul and Silas were accused of trying to proselytize as Jews and disturbing the city, or disturbing the peace. Most religions were allowed and tolerated by Roman law, while proselytizing wasn’t illegal it was discouraged; and religions that became destructive to the city was not allowed. Judaism was generally looked down upon because it was monotheistic and did not worship the emperor. These accussors are stretching the truth a bit as they slander Paul and Silas about disturbing the peace and proselytizing an illegal or unpopular religion. The idea of Roman is important here as Artemis is in Ephesus in chapter 19.

By claiming they are disturbing the city, the accussors are forcing the issue into the realm of the magistrates. It seems as if the crowd had been whipped into a mob as they begin to attack, probably verbally, Paul and Silas as well. The magistrates then take them have them beaten. This punishment was called adminitio, where we get admonition. It emphasized the warning element of the punishment. This particular beating was called fustigatio where the clothes were stripped off and then beaten in public. This was more liking a caning designed to discourage Paul from preaching any further. After the beating, they taken to prison and the jailer was ordered to watch them carefully. Paul and Silas were put into the inner prison, a  more secure area, then their legs were placed in stocks.

Midnight Miracle vv 25-40

Praising God

As Paul and Silas sit in jail, they probably can’t sleep from the pain of the beating and the discomfort of the stocks, they pray and sing to God. They know the other prisoners are listening, this makes them stand out. Praising God even though they were just beaten and imprisoned, Paul and Silas displayed their faith.

While they were praising the Lord, an earthquake came and shook the prison so violently that the chains came away from the walls and the doors swung open. This caused concern for the jailer when he awoke. He was about kill himself, why? There is thought that he assumed the prisoners would have escaped, which could have led to his execution as punishment, while this was certainly done at times, there is also the fact of the ancient values of shame and honor. It is also possible that he was acting out of superstitious fear. Concerned over who was in the prison and why the gods acted this way. Maybe he knew the punishment was unjust and was fearing the gods reaction.

Luke has condensed a lot of what was happening in these verses, somehow Paul knew what the jailer was about to do, and called out to him to keep him from harming himself.

The jailer seems to be aware of some sort of divine activity to what has been happening. He falls to his knees trembling before Paul and Silas, not worship them, but probably in fear and shock that none of the prisoners had escaped. He leads Paul and Silas out and asks how he must be saved. It appears that he knew why Paul and Silas were imprisoned and has linked the earthquake to the God they proclaimed.

Paul immediately shared that the jailer needed to trust Jesus. People try to take verse 31 out of context and think this verse doesn’t show the need for individual faith. However, if we correctly read verse 32 with verse 31 we see that Paul and Silas were explaining the gospel. The jailer took Paul and Silas home, where everyone in his house heard the gospel and believed. Next the jailer tends to their wounds, then the whole household receives believers baptism. The jailer provides a meal Paul and Silas. Again we see the element of joy of new believers over their salvation.

In the morning the magistrates decide to have Paul and Silas released. The term “police” is the same root as the word used earlier for the beating Paul and Silas received, so the men sent were possibly the ones who carried out the beating. These men carried bundles of rods and functioned as constables or police.

When the jailer informs Paul and Silas the magistrates are letting them go and telling them to leave town, Paul decides now to make it known that he and Silas are Roman citizens. It is greatly debated over why Paul did not make this claim before they beaten, possibly they made a strategic decision so there would be no confusion of their religious and cultural loyalties lay.

The secretive nature in the way the magistrates had tried to get Paul and Silas to leave would have left the idea that Paul was a troublemaker and would have left the new Christians open to persecution. The magistrates had acted illegally. Roman citizens were always supposed to receive a fair trial and were not to be whipped as Paul and Silas had been. Paul and Silas were publicly shamed by the beating, and since they were Roman citizens they deserved an apology in the very least. For the Magistrates to come publicly to appease Paul and Silas and to escort them from the jail would publicly resolve the issue that Paul and the Christians were not troublemakers seeking to disturb the peace. The magistrates could have faced serious punishments and at the very least may never have been removed from their position. The magistrates come, apologize and ask that Paul and his team leave Philippi. And after going to Lydia’s house, speaking encouragement to them Paul and team leave Philippi.

Conclusion:

Today we saw how God had led Paul and the others to Philippi. We saw that God used Paul to found another church. We see how God’s gospel is not limited by race or gender. Paul proclaims the gospel to everyone. Luke has tendency to show accounts in pairs of men and women: Simeon and Anna (Luke 2), a raised boy and girl (Luke 7 & 8), the Holy Spirit descending on all (Acts 2), miracles for Aeneas and Dorcas (Acts 9), then here with Lydia and the Jailer. Though Paul and Silas face injustice and beating to please the crowd, they do not lose faith. They praise God in the midst of their trial. They know this is part of doing anything for the Cause of Christ.

But we also see the seeds being planted for Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church:

  • In Philippians Paul reminds the disciples their citizenship is in heaven and that being citizens of Roman, which was a big deal, is secondary.
  • Paul will remind them to humbly serve God. Paul was called a slave of God by the demon possessed girl, and then calls himself that in the opening verse to the Philippians, he also reminds them that Christ’s humility is to be regarded as the standard.
  • Paul tells them to keep their priority on the future reward they will receive from God, and not trust in their flesh or own strength. Paul could have used his Roman citizenship earlier than he did, but would he have been trusting God to care for him or trusting in things of this world?
  • In Philippians Paul discusses contentment and joy in all circumstances, good and bad. We saw how Paul and Silas sang hymns to and prayed to God while they spent a sleepless, painful night in prison. They were content with whatever God had planned for them.

Are these things true of us?