Categories
bible study devotion

Devotion: Pentecost

by Dr Andrew C S Koh

a photo showing an open book
open book

Acts 2: 1-4

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come before You today as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to You, as our spiritual act of worship. We give You our full attention, hearts, and minds. Help us be transformed to the image of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Saviour, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pentecost

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4

Commentary

Easter corresponds to the Feast of First Fruits in the Old Testament. The day of Pentecost is celebrated fifty days after Easter (Feast of First Fruits), Leviticus 28:16. Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering, Numbers 28:26 and Exodus 23:16. The Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 disciples in the upper room on day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came with the sound of a strong wind and rested on the head of each disciple as a tongue of fire and they spoke in tongues.

Jesus compared the activity of the Holy Spirit with the blowing of the wind in John 3:8. In Greek, the word for wind and Spirit is the same word, pneuma from which we get our English word pneumatic.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit

John 3:8

Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.

Leviticus 23:16

Also on the day of the first fruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.

Numbers 23:16

and the Feast of Harvest, the first fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field, and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.

Exodus 23:16

Application

The New Testament church was born on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 disciples in the upper room of Jerusalem. This was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to His disciples in the upper discourse in John 14:26.

 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26

Church Age

The time period from the day of Pentecost until now is the church age. The church age will end on the day of rapture when the church will be taken up to heaven to meet the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit descended open the disciples as visible tongues of fire resting over their heads and they spoke in the languages of other people’s nations. Like a Chinese person speaking French, a German person speaking Arabic, a Korean person speaking Japanese, and so on.

The power of the Holy Spirit is as strong as the wind. Typhoons and cyclones can blow off rooftops! Once, I was in Hong Kong and I saw the effect of a typhoon damaging houses. Another time, I was in India, and I saw the power of a cyclone.

You cannot see the Holy Spirit but you can feel His presence and you can see the result of His work. You feel His presence as goosebumps all over you and in other ways. Once, when I was in a boat in the Sea of Galilee, I felt goosebumps all over me! You see the result of the Holy Spirit in the millions of lives that are transformed by Him all over the world.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for speaking to us through Your word of truth. Thank You for sending us the Holy Spirit to be our helper, teacher, truth revealer, counselor, and advocate. Thank You for the amazing power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. Thank You for Your love, mercy, and grace, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 28

Chapter 28: Acts 28:1-31, Rome at last

The gospel finally made it to Rome!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that finally, we reached the last chapter in our journey of faith. Thank You for faith, stamina, strength, perseverance, and persistence to complete the whole book of Acts, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-2, And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. 2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

They were shipwrecked in Malta. Malta or Melita is a Phoenician word that means a place of refuge. The natives made fires to welcome the shipwreckers.

VV 3-6, 3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

When Paul was gathering sticks for the fire a poisonous snake wrap around his hand. The natives thought Paul to be a murderer and expected him to drop dead at any time. When nothing happened to Paul, they changed their minds and thought that he must be a god.

This is a fulfillment of Mark 16:18.

Mark 16:18, ‘’they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover’’.

The promise of Mark 16:18 is given specifically to the original apostles and Paul. This is not a universal promise and does not apply to present-day Christians.

VV 7-10, 7 In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. 8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. 9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: 10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

It so happened that the father of Publius, the native chief man, was sick with fever and dysentery. Paul laid hands and prayed for him and healed him. Word spread around the island. The natives brought many people with sickness to Paul for prayer and were healed. The natives honoured Paul I’m many and assisted them when they departed.

VV 11-16, 11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. 13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: 14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. 15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

After three months in Malta, they boarded an Alexandrian ship whose signboard was the Twin Brothers, Castor, and Pollux. They landed at Syracuse, proceeded to Rhegum, Puteoli, and Rome. Paul was strengthened and encouraged when met Christian disciples who came to see him. At Rome, the centurion delivered Paul to the captain of the prison. Paul was put on house arrest. Paul lived by himself in a house chained to a Roman pretorian guard. Paul could not leave the house but visitors could visit him. You can follow Paul’s journey to Rome on maps available on the internet.

Paul wrote four prison epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon during his house arrest in Rome.

VV 17-20, 17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. 19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. 20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

Three days later, Paul called the Jewish leaders to explain to them why he was in Rome. He narrated the mob in the temple, his trial before the Sanhedrin, before Felix, before Festus, and before Herod Agrippa the 2nd, house arrest in Caesarea, and appeal to Caesar. Paul said he was in chains for the ‘’hope of Israel’’ which means the Messiah.

VV 21-24, 21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. 22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. 23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were not interested in pursuing Paul and did not update the Jewish leaders in Rome concerning Paul’s arrival to Rome. Paul shared the gospel with them from morning till evening. He proved to them from scripture that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied by Moses and the prophets. Some believed but some did not believe.

VV 25-27, 25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

the Jewish leaders could not agree among themselves. Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9-10.

Isaiah 6:9-10, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

VV 28-31, 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. 30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Paul announced to the Jewish leaders that since the Jews did not believe, salvation would be given to the Gentiles. They disputed among themselves and left. Paul lived 2 years in his own rented house under house arrest, preaching the gospel and teaching the word of God with confidence to all visitors and the praetorian guards, who took the gospel to Caesar’s household.

The book of Acts ended on this note somewhat open-endedly. Secular history informed us that Caesar Nero released Paul in 62.AD, but rearrested and beheaded him at Rome in 66 AD.

Application:

Paul used his house arrest to preach the gospel. The prison was his pulpit. The praetorian guards and visitors were his congregation. Did you use your home or your office to preach the gospel?

Paul was chained to a soldier, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but he preached the gospel far and wide. Are you chained to your job, sickness, lockdown, or pandemic? Do not lockdown the gospel. Preach the gospel in season and out of season, in pandemic and out of pandemic.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for such an amazing journey of faith across 27 years of church history, through the eyewitness account of Luke. Thank you for the valuable lessons that we can take away from these amazing stories. Thank You for making scriptures come alive, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 27

Chapter 27: Acts 27: 1-44, Shipwrecked in Malta

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that we made it into the second last chapter of our journey. Thank You for giving us persistence, perseverance, insight, and understanding, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

This was the last leg of Paul’s journey to Rome. He was arrested in Jerusalem, tried before the Sanhedrin, before Felix, before Festus, before Herod Agrippa, pronounced innocent, and imprisoned in Caesarea. Paul appealed to Caesar Augustus and Festus approved his appeal.

VV 1-3, And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band.

2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. 3 And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.

The plural pronouns “we” and “us” mean that Luke had rejoined Paul again. Paul was placed in a prison ship Adramyttium to Rome, under a centurion named Julius. Aristarchus, a disciple from Thessalonica accompanied Paul. The centurion Julius was very kind to Paul and gave him the freedom to be with friends. The ship sailed coast to coast and arrived at Sidon the next day.

A centurion was a soldier in charge of 100 soldiers. A regiment is a battalion of 6000 soldiers.

VV 4-8, And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. 7 And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; 8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.

They passed through Cyprus, Cilicia, Pamphylia, and arrived at Myra. Here, they disembarked and boarded an Alexandrian ship en route to Rome. They passed through Cnidus, Crete, Salmone, and with great difficulty, they arrived at fair havens. The sea was rough and the winds were blowing against them.

VV 9-12, 9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. 11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.

After many days, the winds became even rougher and sailing became more dangerous by the day. The Jewish fast or Day of Atonement was already over. Paul announced to the crew that they were heading into a storm and advised the centurion to stop the journey. The centurion did not believe Paul and did not want to stop at fair havens. He hoped to reach Phoenix and disembark there.

VV 13-15, 13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

Initially, the wind was gentle, but as soon as they sailed past Crete, another typhoon-like storm called Euroclydon hit the ship causing it to toss and turn.

VV 16-20, 16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: 17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. 18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; 19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. 20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

They sailed past at a small Island called Clauda. They used cables to stabilise the ship and lighten the ship by throwing the ship’s tackles overboard. The sky was gloomy with no sun by day and no stars by night for many days. The ship was sinking. Everyone gave up hope on survival.

VV 21-26, 21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. 22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. 25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. 26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.

No one dared to not eat food because of fear. Paul took charged of the situation and addressed the frightened crews, sailors, prisoners, and passengers. He told them to cheer up and eat. An angel of God had appeared to him in a vision and said that he must appear before Caesar in Rome and God will save everyone onboard. However, a shipwreck was inevitable. The angel of God was Jesus Christ, whom he served and to whom he belonged. This was the 6th time that Christ had appeared to Paul.

VV 27-32, 27 But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; 28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. 29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. 30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.

They had drifted in the Adriatic Sea for fourteen days. About midnight, the sailors sensed that they were approaching land. They took soundings and discovered that the sea was becoming shallower and shallower. Soundings are measuring ropes with weights attached to measure the depth of the sea bed. When the sea was quite shallow, the sailors dropped four anchors into the ocean floor to stabilise the ship and prayed for daylight. When Paul saw some sailors letting down a small boat to escape, he told the centurion to stop them otherwise no one could be saved. The centurion cut the rope of the boat and foiled their attempt.

VV 33-38, 33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. 35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. 36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. 37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.

As daylight approached, Paul begged them to eat food. Paul took the bread, prayed, and said grace in front of everyone and started to eat. Paul said grace and prayed before non-believers as a testimony to them. They cheered up and started eating. There were 276 people on board the ship. They lightened the ship further by throwing the wheat into the sea.

VV 39-44, 39 And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. 40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. 41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. 43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: 44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.

At dawn, they spotted land and planned to run the ship aground. They took up the anchors and allowed the ship to run aground. The ship broke into two parts. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners but the centurion stopped them from carrying out their wicked plans. Everyone reached the shore safely, some by swimming, and others by floating on parts of the ship.

They landed on the Island of Malta. In the 1960s divers discovered a Roman anchor off the coast of Malta. Whether this is one of the anchors from this ship remained to be proven but it is permanently on display in a maritime museum in Malta.

Application:

A storm is an inevitable fact of life. It is not if but when. You may have to throw things overboard in a storm. Do not jump ship. Pray and wait on the Lord. He had not forsaken you. He will reveal His glory and rescue you by creating a miracle just for you.

Paul said grace before a meal in the presence of non-believers. Did you say grace in the presence of non-Christians?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for refining us through storms. We pray for boldness, and strength to face the dark and stormy situation of the pandemic storm. We pray for anchors to stabilise our faith in the pandemic storm. We pray for protection and strength, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 26

Chapter 26: Acts 26: 1-32, preaching gospel to a King

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are I AM, Yahweh, Jehovah, Adoni, Elohim, Melchizedek, and Messiah. Thank You for bringing us almost to the end of our journey in Acts. We pray for strength energy, and perseverance to complete this journey, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-3, Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: 3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

Herod Agrippa was very friendly to Paul. He allowed Paul the freedom to say whatever he wanted to say. Paul was happy with this arrangement. Paul took this golden, God sent opportunity to share his testimony to King Herod Agrippa the 2nd. In Acts 9:15, the Lord said that he would share the gospel to King, Acts 9:15.

VV 4-8, 4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

Paul said that he was a Jew and a Pharisee. He believed in the promise of the Patriarchs and served God fervently day and night. The Jews falsely accused him of blasphemy against Judaism because he testified about the resurrection of Christ.

VV 9-11, 9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

Paul narrated his past life before he met Christ. He was once a persecutor of the Christians. He persecuted, harassed, beaten, arrested, imprisoned, and consented to the death of Christians with the blessings of the high priest in Jerusalem. He even went on a rampage to harass, beat, punish, and arrest Christians in foreign cities.

VV 12-14, 12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Paul narrated how he met Christ on the Damascus Road. He was going to Damascus to arrest Christians. At noon, a bright dazzling light enveloped him and he fell. A voice from heaven spoke to Paul in Hebrews asking him to stop persecuting Him.

VV 15-18, 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Paul asked the voice who He was and He said He was Jesus, whom he was persecuting. The Lord told Paul to get up because He had chosen him to be a witness to the Jews and the Gentiles, to turn them from Satan to God, from darkness to light, to forgive their sins of everyone who believe in Him.

VV 19-23, 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. 21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Paul narrated what happened to him after he met Christ. He preached Christ to the Jews in Damascus, Jerusalem, Judea, to the Gentiles in other countries telling them to repent and turn to Christ. The Jews arrested him because of his faith in Christ. With God’s help and protection, he continued to preach Christ to everyone, small and great. Christ suffered and died under the hands of the Jews but God raised Him from the dead to be a light to the Jews and the Gentiles. The gospel is all about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

VV 24-27, 24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

At this stage, Festus interrupted Paul’s testimony alleging that Paul was out of his mind for making such claims. Paul said that he was speaking the truth and King Agrippa understood. There and then, Paul gave an altar call to King Agrippa to receive Christ.

VV 28-32, 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. 30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: 31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. 32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

Herod Agrippa heard the gospel but hardened his heart, and did not respond to Paul’s altar call. Herod Agrippa almost became a Christian but a miss is as good as a mile. He missed an opportunity that might not come to him again. Agrippa issued his verdict that Paul was not guilty. He could have released Paul if he had not appealed to Caesar. Paul had to go to Rome to fulfil his God-ordained destiny.

Application

Paul took the opportunity to share his testimony to Herod Agrippa. His testimony was in three parts, before he met Christ, how he met Christ, and after he met Christ. You should compose your testimony in three parts, before, how, and after. Learn to say your testimony in a few ways and share it out whenever an opportunity arise.

Agrippa hardened his heart. Today, if you hear the gospel, do not harden your heart, Hebrews 3:15.

Hebrews 3:15, “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation”.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we pray for boldness to share our testimonies to non-believers without fear. We pray for wisdom to prepare our testimonies and the ability to share them out in several formats. We pray for opportunities to share our testimonies to glorify Your name, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 25

Chapter 25: Acts 25: 1-27, trial before Festus

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word, the Holy Spirit, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Help us to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-5, Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, 3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. 4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. 5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.

When Festus came to Jerusalem, the high priest and elders approached him requesting him to send Paul to Jerusalem so that that they could assassinate him. Festus rejected their wicked demand and proceeded to Caesarea. He invited them to follow him to Caesarea to accuse Paul officially.

VV 6-8, 6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought. 7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. 8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

Paul stood trial before Festus. The Jews from Jerusalem charged Paul with serious charges which they could not prove. Paul defended himself saying that he had not done anything against the Jews, the law, the temple, Caesar, or anyone.

VV 9-12, 9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? 10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. 11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

Wanting to please the Jews, Festus persuaded Paul to go to Jerusalem for another trial before him. Paul refused Festus’ request. He did not want to face so many trials since he was innocent. As a Roman citizen, he appealed to stand trial in Rome under Emperor Caesar Augustus and Festus granted his appeal.

VV 13-21, 13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. 14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: 15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. 17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.18 Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: 19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.

After some time, King Herod Agrippa the 2nd and his wife Bernice came to Caesarea for an official visit. Festus told Agrippa about Paul, the prisoner that he had inherited from Felix, about the trial before the Jews, about his refusal to be tried in Jerusalem, about his appeal to Caesar., which he had granted. The charges concerned Jewish religious issues and a man called Jesus of Nazareth who had died whom Paul claimed to be alive.

King Herod Agrippa the 2nd was the son of Herod Agrippa the 1st, grandson of Herod Antipas, and great-grandson of King Herod the Great. Herod was in an illicit relationship with his own sister Bernice.

VV 22-23, 22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him. 23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

Herod Agrippa wanted to meet Paul. He entered the auditorium with a great show of splendour and colourful attires, accompanied by commanders and VIPs of the city. Festus commanded Paul to be brought in.

VV 24-27, 24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. 26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. 27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

Festus introduced Paul to King Herod Agrippa the 2nd, explaining his background and narrating all the events that had transpired since his arrival to Caesarea. He explained that Paul had appealed to Caesar Augustus but he did not know how to write his letter to Augustus Caesar since the charges were so vague. He requested King Herod Agrippa to cross-examine Paul in the case of “Paul versus the Jewish religious leaders”. King Herod Agrippa agreed to cross-examine Paul.

Application:

Here we see providence at work. Paul wanted to visit Rome after Jerusalem but he was arrested and sent to Caesarea. Now his appeal was successful. He would be going to Rome soon! God had protected Paul. His destiny was to go to Rome, to preach to Jews, Gentiles, and Kings, Acts 9:15.

God had a destiny for every Christian, Romans 8:28.

Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel”.

Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your providence in our lives. We claim the promise of Romans 8:28, that all things will work for her for good, for us, who loved you and are called by Your name, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 24

Chapter 24: Acts 24: 1-27, trial before Felix

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Thank You for speaking to us through the inspired, inerrant, and infallible words of scripture. Thank You for conviction, confrontation, correction, teaching, and training in righteousness, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-9, 1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. 2 And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, 3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. 5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: 6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. 7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,

8 Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him. 9 And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.

Five days later, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem Camry to Caesarea. They took with them an orator called Tertullus. Tertullus pleaded their case with governor Felix. He started by praising and thanking Felix for maintaining peace and prosperity for the nation of Israel. Tertullus accused Paul of sedition, for being a ring leader and trouble maker of the Nazarene sect, meaning Christians, and for not respecting the temple. They wanted to judge him by their law bit commander Lysias had snatched him away to Caesarea secretly by night. The Jewish leaders concurred with the charges.

VV 10-14, 10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: 11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

Felix permitted Paul to speak up to defend himself. Paul had arrived in Jerusalem for only 12 days. He was not disrespectful in the temple, in the synagogue, and in the city. The Jews could not prove their accusations and charges. Paul was a believer of the Way, worshiped God, and believed that all things written in the law and the prophets are true. The law and the prophets mean the bible i.e. the Old Testament. The New Testament had not been written yet.

VV 15-21, 15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. 17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. 18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. 19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. 20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, 21 Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.

Paul hoped in God and the resurrection of the dead, the just to salvation, the unjust to condemnation. Paul’s conscience was clear, he had not offended God and men. After many years, he came to Jerusalem to bring an offering to his nation. When he was purifying himself in the temple, some Jews from Asia Minor falsely accused him of bringing a Gentile into the temple. This charge was baseless. They attacked him for no reason and started a riot in the temple. These Jews did not come to testify against him in Caesarea. Paul was incarcerated just because he had testified to the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, which they could not accept.

VV 22-23, 22 And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. 23 And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

Felix had heard about the Christian movement. He adjourned the case refusing to give any verdict. He commanded the centurion to keep Paul under house arrest. Paul was free to move around the prison complex and receive friends and visitors. Felix in Greek means happy.

V 24, And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.

Felix’s wife, Drusilla was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa the 1st, the great-granddaughter of King Herod the Great. Felix and Drusilla sent for Paul to share his faith in Christ with them.

VV 25-27, 25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. 26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

When Paul spoke to Felix on righteousness, self-control, and future judgment, he trembled and dismissed Paul. He wanted Paul to bribe him in exchange for release and called for him more frequently to talk. 2 years later, Porcius Festus took over the position of Felix as governor of Caesarea and took over the custody of Paul’s case.

Application:

In verse 14, Paul said that he believed that all the things written in the law and the prophets are true. Paul believed in the Bible. Do you believe in the Bible? Do you read, study, and believe it?

Paul shared the gospel to Felix and Drusilla but they did not believe because they hardened their hearts. Felix heard the gospel for 2 years but still did not believe. Today, if you hear the word do not harden your heart, Hebrews 3:15.

Hebrews 3:15, “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation”.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for telling the story of Paul’s trial under Felix and his house arrest in Caesarea. We pray for soft, obedient, teachable, faithful, and believing hearts. We pray that You will soften our hearts to believe in You and surrender our lives totally to You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 23

Chapter 23: Acts 23: 1-35, trial before the Sanhedrin

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for protection, healing, blessing, salvation, justification, sanctification, and eternal life. We pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, revelation of truth, and personal spiritual revival, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-4, 1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?

Paul said in the trial before the Sanhedrin, that his conscience was clear before God. The high priest Ananias ordered one of his men to slap Paul. Paul rebuked the high priest for ordering him to be slapped without a valid reason. The council rebuked Paul for not honouring the high priest. Ananias had replaced Annas, the high priest of Acts 5.

VV 5-6, 5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. 6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Paul apologised for not knowing that Ananias was a high priest. Paul realised that half of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, and half were Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection. He cried out that he was a Pharisees and he was judged for testifying to the resurrection of Christ.

VV 7-10, 7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

Another dispute broke out in the court out between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over the issue of resurrection. The Pharisees believed in angels and resurrection but the Sadducees did not. The scribes and Pharisees found no wrongdoing with Paul but the Sadducees objected and another mob broke out! The Roman commander rearrested Paul and took him by force into the barrack to protect him.

V 11, And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

The next night, the Lord appeared to Paul again in a vision and commended him for testifying for him in Jerusalem. The Lord prophesied that he would testify for Him in Rome.

Jesus appeared to Paul at Damascus road, Acts 9, at Troas, Acts 16, at Corinth, Acts 18, at Jerusalem, Acts 23, and at Fair Havens, Acts 27.

VV 12-15, 12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. 14 And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. 15 Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

More than 40 Jews took the law into their own hands. They took an oath, fasted, and plotted to assassinate Paul in cold blood. They approached the Jewish leaders and informed them of their conspiracy. They wanted the Jewish leaders to bring Paul into the court the following day so that they could assassinate him.

VV 16-10, 16 And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. 18 So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. 19 Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?

Paul’s nephew overheard the assassin’s conversation with the Jewish leaders and reported to Paul. Paul instructed the centurion to take his nephew to the commander and he did so. The commander asked the young man in private what he wanted to tell him.

VV 20-22, 20 And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly.21 But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. 22 So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.

The young man told the commander about the conspiracy to assassinate Paul. The commander believed the young man and told him to keep everything secret.

VV 23-24, 23 And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; 24 And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

At 9 pm, the commander ordered 2 centurions, 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen to send Paul in a convoy to governor Felix in Caesarea Maritima. The 3rd hour of the night is 9 pm. Caesarea Maritima is 65 miles northwest of Jerusalem, a Roman port, beside the Mediterranean Sea.

VV 25-30, 25 And he wrote a letter after this manner: 26 Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. 27 This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.28 And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: 29 Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. 30 And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.

The commander’s name was Claudius Lysias. He wrote a letter to governor Felix saying that he had rescued Paul, a Roman citizen, from the Jews, who wanted to kill him. He said that charges against Paul were religious issues that did not warrant the death penalty. He sent Paul to Felix to protect Paul from being assassinated by the Jews. He requested Felix to take over the case because he could not handle it anymore.

VV 31-35, 31 Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:33 Who, when they came to Caesarea and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. 34 And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; 35 I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall.

The soldiers took Paul to Antipatris by night. Antipatris was a military base halfway between Jerusalem and Caesarea. The next day, the convoy arrived at Caesarea. The leader gave the commander’s letter and handed Paul to Felix. When Felix read that letter and found out that Paul was from Cilicia, he kept Paul in Herod’s Praetorium. Felix was the successor of Pontius Pilate.

Application:

Paul was persecuted by the Jews in Damascus, Jerusalem, Phillipi, Thessalonica, Iconium, Lystra, Pisidia Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, and now in Jerusalem again. Christ appeared to Him in a vision five times to encourage him. He continued to teach, preach, and heal the sick until his death at the hands of Nero. Paul was our hero of the faith. He is the apostle and evangelist par excellence. We should imitate Paul just as he imitated Christ.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the life of the great apostle, Paul. Thank you for preserving the book of Acts for our benefit and our enrichment. We pray for healing, guidance, protection, and providential care, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 22

Chapter 22: Acts 22: 1-30, sharing testimony to a mob

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we pray that You will speak to us through the Word. We pray for insight, revelation, Word of knowledge, and Word of confirmation as we seek directions and guidance. We pray that You will bring the pandemic to an end, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-5, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. 2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) 3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. 4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

Paul addressed the mob in the Hebrews language by telling his conversion testimony. Greek for dense is “apologia” from which the English word apologetics is derived. The art and practice in defending the Christian faith are called apologetics. He introduced himself as a Jew, born in Tarsus, Cilicia. He was raised as a Jew, studied under Rabbi Gamaliel, was zealous of the law, and persecuted Christian men and women. Many years ago, he went on a witch hunt to Damascus to arrest Christians, armed with arrest warrants from the high priest.

VV 6-8, 6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.

At noon, when he was very near to Damascus, a dazzling light shone into his eyes. He fell and heard a voice calling his name, twice, and asking why he was persecuting Him. Paul ask who He was and He answered, “Jesus of Nazareth”.

VV 9-11, 9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.

Paul’s companions saw the light but did not hear any voice. Paul asked the Lord what he should do. The Lord commanded him to get up, go to Damascus, and await further instructions. Paul’s companion led him by the hand into Damascus because he could not see.

VV 12-16, 12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

At Damascus, Ananias, a faithful disciple, came to him, calling him brother Saul, prayed for him, and he received his sight. Ananias told Paul that Christ had chosen him to be His witness to all people. Ananias baptised him in the name of the Lord and he was saved.

VV 17-21, 17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Paul left Damascus and went to Jerusalem. Christ appeared to Paul in a trance and commanded him to leave the city immediately because the Jews were plotting to kill him. Paul was afraid that the Christians would not accept his testimony because he had persecuted Christians and had approved the martyrdom of Stephen. The Lord told him to leave, saying, He would send him to the Gentiles.

VV 22-25, 22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. 23 And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,

24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. 25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

Paul could not finish his testimony. As soon as the Jews heard the word Gentiles, they were furious and turned into a frenzy. They removed their clothes, threw dust in the air, and shouted: “away with him”. The Roman commander took Paul into the barracks, chained him, and ordered the centurion to scourge Paul. Paul said he was a Roman citizen. Under Roman law, it was unlawful to scourge a Roman citizen before a guilty verdict.

VV 26-29, 26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. 27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. 28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. 29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

The centurion reported to the commander that Paul was a Roman citizen. The commander asked Paul whether he was a Roman citizen. Paul said he was born as a Roman citizen. The commander was surprised because he had to pay a large sum of money to be a Roman citizen.

V 30, On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.

A riot broke had broken out in the temple and the Romans had arrested Paul. Paul’s address triggered another riot and the Romans rearrested Paul. The next day, the Romans sent Paul to be tried under the Sanhedrin;

Application:

Paul shared his testimony to defend his faith. His testimony can be broken down into three-part, pre-conversion, conversion, and post-conversion. This is how you should share your testimony. Break it down into three parts, the before, the during, and the after. Write it out, practice it out and share it out.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Paul’s extraordinary testimony. We pray for wisdom to prepare our three-part testimony as an evangelistic tool, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 21

Chapter 21: Acts 21: 1-40, mobbed at Jerusalem

Prayer:

Heavenly, we praised You and blessed You. You are worthy to be praised. You are righteous and pure, Your Name is above all Name. Thank You for the gift of salvation and the gift of eternal life, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-6, 1 And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: 2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. 3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. 4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. 6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.

Paul sailed through Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia, Cyprus, Syria, and Tyre. The ship docked at Tyre to unload the cargo. Paul used this opportunity to fellowship with the disciples of Tyre and stayed with them for 7 days. The disciples advised Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. At the end of 7 days, the disciples and their families gave Paul a grand sent off. At the emotional farewell, everyone kneeled, prayed, and seek the Lord.

VV 7-11, 7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. 8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

Paul came to Ptolemais, greeted the local disciples, and stayed with them overnight. The next day, he came to Caesarea and visited the house of Philip, the evangelist. Philip was one of the 7 deacons selected to oversee the welfare of the widow’s food distribution in Acts 6. Philip had 4 unmarried daughters who moved in prophetic anointing. Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem came to Caesarea. He took Paul’s belt, tied it around his hands and feet, and prophesied that the Jews in Jerusalem would arrest Pail and deliver him to the Gentiles.

VV 12-14, 12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

The disciples at Caesarea tried to stop Paul from going to Jerusalem out of safety concern. But Paul was adamant in going because he knew he was in God’s will and had heard from the Holy Spirit. When it was clear that Paul would not change his mind, they gave him their blessings.

VV 15-19, 15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. 16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

The disciples of Caesarea, and Mnason from Cyprus, accompanied Paul and his missionary team up to Jerusalem, which is 3000 feet above sea level. The elders and apostles received them cordially. The next day, Paul visited James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the elders. Paul narrated to them in detail about his missionary journeys and his evangelistic work among the Gentiles

VV 20-22, 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

They glorified the Lord when they heard Pauls’ story. However, there were thousands of Jewish believers in Jerusalem who were legalistic and opposed Paul. These were the Judaizers or those of the circumcision. They were unhappy with Paul’s leniency to the Gentiles over the issue of circumcision and Mosaic law-keeping. They would certainly want to meet Paul over this issue.

VV 23-26, 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

The Jerusalem elders wanted Paul to take the Nazarite vow together with 4 other Jewish believers and pay for their expenses. The Nazarite vow is recorded in Numbers 6. During the duration of the vow, they abstained from eating grape products, shaving, haircut, touching a dead body, and so on. At the end of the vow, they would offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Taking the Nazarite vow was to prove to the Jews that Paul has not forsaken the Jewish customs. Paul agreed and took the Nazarite vow together with the 4 other men. Paul entered the temple the next day to announce the expiry day of the vow, whereby, each of them would offer an offering.

VV 27-29, 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

Trouble broke out even before the Nazarite vow had expired. When Jews from Asia Minor saw Paul in the temple, they harassed, attacked, and deliberately started a mob, saying that Paul had taken a Greek into the temple. Just because, they saw Paul with Trophimus, an Ephesian Greek, in the city, they jumped to the conclusion that Paul had taken Trophimus into the temple. Paul had not taken Trophimus into the temple.

VV 30-32, 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.

The Jews went on a rampage, attacked, beat, and dragged Paul out of the temple intending to kill him. The Roman commander of the garrison immediately came to Paul’s rescue bringing soldiers and centurions to stop the mob. When the Jews saw the Romans coming to the scene they dispersed and stopped attacking Paul

VV 33-36, 33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. 34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. 35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.

The commander handcuffed Paul with two chains and asked for his identity. The mob was very rowdy, screaming, and shouting. Unable to proceed further, the commander took Paul to the barracks. Paul could not even walk up the stairs and had to be carried by soldiers because was so severely beaten by the mob. Meanwhile, the mob outside continued to scream and shout “away with him”.

VV 37-40, 37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

Paul politely told the commander that he wanted to speak to the mob. Surprised that Paul could speak Greek, the commanded enquired whether he was the Egyptian who had started a rebellion some time ago and had escaped with 4000 terrorists into the wilderness. Paul said he was not a terrorist, but a Jews from Tarsus in Cilicia, and a Roman citizen. The commander permitted him. Paul stood at the stairs and addressed the mob in the Hebrew language,

Application:

The Jews attacked Paul because of his faith in Christ but God protected him by sending the Romans to arrest him. Persecution, afflictions, trials, and sufferings are hallmarks of a believer. In times like these, we have to stay strong and surrender our lives to Christ. He will protect, rescue, and save us. Even in a pandemic, we need to trust the Lord and remain strong in the faith. Do not throw in the towel.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Paul was mobbed by the Jews in Jerusalem, but You rescued him by sending the Romans to arrest him. We pray for strength to remain strong in the faith during this time of the pandemic attack. Protect, rescue, and save us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Categories
bible study

Bible Study: Acts 20

Chapter 20: Acts 20: 1-38, raising a dead man to life

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Son of God, Son of Man, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, we come before You in humility, brokenness, and contrite hearts, casting all our anxieties upon You because You cared and loved us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-6, 1 And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. 2 And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, 3 And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. 4 And there accompanied him into Asia, Sopater of Berea, and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These going before tarried for us at Troas. 6 And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.

After the dust of the silversmith riot had settled, Paul left Ephesus and traveled to by sea Macedonia. From there he traveled to Greece or Achaia. After 3 months, he wanted to sail to Syria but when the Jews plotted to harm him, he traveled back to Macedonia. Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus accompanied Paul but they went ahead and waited for Paul at Troas. Luke rejoined Paul in Acts 20:6 because he started to use the plural pronouns “we” and “us” again, instead of “they” and “them”. After the feast of unleavened bread, Paul, Luke, and others sailed from Philippi to Troas for 5 days and stayed there for 7 days.

VV 7-12, 7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight.8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep, and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, trouble not yourselves, for his life is in him. 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

The first day of the week is Sunday. In Troas, Paul preached to the disciples on Sunday during worship and Holy communion. Paul preached a very long sermon until past midnight. A young man called, Eutychus, sitting near a window fell asleep, dropped from the third floor, and died. Paul raised him from the dead, gave him bread to eat, and continued preaching until morning as though nothing had happened! Paul left Troas. Eutychus means fortunate. True to his name, he was indeed fortunate to be alive after such a great fall!

VV 13-16, 13 And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul, for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot. 14 And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene. 15 And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium, and the next day we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia, for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

Luke and others traveled by sea to Assos but Paul traveled on foot by land. They reunited in Assos and sailed to Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogyllium, and Miletus. You can follow Paul’s journey on maps available on the internet.

V 17-21, 17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews. 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul sent words to the Ephesian elders to meet him in Miletus and they came there to meet him. In his address, Paul reminded them of his humility, sufferings, persecutions, integrity, honesty, transparency, private and public teachings, evangelistic mission to the Jews and the Gentiles.

VV 22-24, 22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there. 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul faced an uncertain future after Jerusalem. He sensed through the Holy Spirit, that he might not be able to see the Ephesian elders again. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he had to suffer for Jesus’ sake but he was not afraid. His life was less important than completing the spiritual race and preaching the gospel of Christ with joy.

VV 25-28, 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Paul was very emotional when it was time to say farewell. Paul had a clear conscience because he was pure in words and deeds. Paul warned them to be careful. As overseers of the church of Christ, they must feed and shepherd the flock of Christ, whom Christ redeemed by His own blood.

Greek for overseer is ‘’episcopal’’, which means bishop. Greek for shepherd is ‘’poiminoi’’, which means pastor. A shepherd protects the sheep.

John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

VV 29-31, 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Paul knew that after his departure, false teachers, Gnostics, and Judaizers, would come to deceive, harass, attack, and persecute the flock. He warned them to be watchful and vigilant and know that Paul interceded for them day and night for 3 years.

VV 32-35, 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Paul committed the elders to God’s Grace. Paul reiterated on his integrity, honesty, and transparency in all his dealings. He had self-supported himself through tent-making. He encouraged them to support the weak and to remember that giving is more blessed than receiving.

VV 36-38, 36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him. 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

Paul prayed for the elders, and vice versa. The elders kissed Paul’s neck, and everyone wept sorrowfully. The elders accompanied Paul to the ship.

Paul sailed from Miletus passing through many cities, landing at Caesarea, and traveling by foot to Jerusalem to conclude his third missionary journey. Paul’s third missionary journey lasted 4 years from 54-58 AD. Scholars estimated that Paul could have traveled close to 10,000 miles in his three missionary journeys. You can follow Paul’s missionary journeys on maps available on the internet.

Application:

Paul was an apostle, evangelist, missionary, preacher, and bible teacher par excellence. Paul was a great role model for all of us. We should imitate Paul just as he imitated Christ.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for highlighting the marks of effective ministry for our benefit through the life of Paul. Help us to imitate Paul just as Paul imitated Jesus. Help us to be humble, honest, transparent, and above reproach in all our dealings with others, in Jesus’ name, Amen.