JohnSWilson3 Blog

“You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
January 30, 2010, 3:25 pm
Filed under: E Acts

The chapters of 25 and 26 of the book of Acts is really an incredible part of this narrative of the early church, specifically of Paul. It would have to be the climax of the the entire letter that Luke is writing. Afterward Paul is sent to Rome and is more of a travel diary of how that occurs and not has climactic as Paul’s trial in these two chapters.

For two years, while in the prison of Caesarea Paul’s companions have been taking “care of his needs.” Other than Luke, who perhaps went with another companion in pursuit of writing of the life in Jesus in Galilee and Judea, the brothers that came with Paul have probably stayed in Caesarea. Because of Paul’s desire for him and his companions to be an expression of Jesus, I am sure they have spent much time together in prayer, sharing meals together, and encouraging each other with the words of God and with Christ Himself among them. Living letters of Christ! Perhaps they are praying for Luke and the work of Jesus in the collecting of the information that will one day be his gospel. Because of Luke’s letter having details related to Mary and her family perhaps Luke has spent some time with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her family. What an amazing journey Luke must have had reliving the earthly life of Jesus!

“When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison. Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul.” I find it amazing that still after two years these Jewish leaders still have this vengeful spirit! Festus later mentioned to King Agrippa that the Jewish leaders also “asked that he be condemned.” Festus told the chief priests and elders “that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges.” This sounded rational and reasonable on Festus’s part. The Jews “urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.’ ”

“After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove.” Then Paul made his defense: ” ‘I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ ” I find it striking how similar Paul’s demeanor is to Jesus. I can only expect that when a person has so been captivated and surrendered to Jesus, the life of Jesus exudes and is expressed through him. May we have Jesus so alive in us that truly all anyone ever sees of us is the life of Jesus!

At this point Festus gives in to his political scheming like Felix before him and “wishing to do the Jews a favor said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’ ” Paul must be beside himself. He knows what this is about, egotism, hatred, and jealousy has mocked this trial, like the other trials before this one. Paul, being a Roman citizen, understands his rights as a citizen, and in the back of his mind you have to think that Paul, knowing that Jesus told him “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome” it has been revealed to him that his journey to Rome will be to not just to visit the Roman Christians, as mentioned in his letter to them, but to see the very emperor of Rome, Caesar himself. So Paul answers “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” Since Festus scheme didn’t work out he has to make a decision. He could either forgo Paul’s request and release him, meaning he would be at the mercy of the Jewish chief priests and elders, or send him to Rome and be rid of the nuisance. Obviously Fetus chooses the latter. “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

The Jewish chief priests and elders go back to Jerusalem. They have gotten rid of Paul, but not how they wanted. God usurped their plans of vengeance. In just a few years, the Roman army will come into Jerusalem and destroy Jerusalem for all of their intrigues and for the leaders selfishness and failures to recognize what Jesus said in Luke: “This is what I told you while I was with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” All of Scripture testifies, are types and shadows of the One to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” How sad, that those who should have known the Scriptures would have not known the One who was the fulfillment of the Scriptures. As John wrote: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” No wonder that when Jesus, upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem some twenty years or so earlier “as he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Jesus is now in His people! When He is so alive in us and we, in humility, encourage one another in love, may God help us to see that it is Jesus touching us, “coming to” us!

How we need, like Paul, to have a “heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites…that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Let us not be so entrenched in our procedures and rules, that we fail to “live in accordance with the Spirit (and) have (our) minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace…And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” May Christ’s life so live in us that our daily gatherings with one another are overflowing with the life of Jesus, that that life would so be expressed that all who see and hear us will but “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Of course, like Paul, we will be rejected, mocked, and hated by many, but others will see the Life and receive Him. May Jesus be glorified in is church!

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
January 24, 2010, 2:44 pm
Filed under: E Acts

In Acts 24 Paul is now in Caesarea. He has been taken to Caesarea primarily because the Roman commander Claudius Lysias was at a loss as what to do with Paul, not able to understand why Paul “was seized by the Jews” and “about to kill him” and since issues with Paul, according to “their Sanhedrin,” dealt with “questions about their law” he felt the Roman governor was probably best able to know what to do with him. Of course the matter of the conspiracy quickened Lysias to action to send him to the governor with an escort of over 470 soldiers! As I read this narrative which continues to the end of Acts, the story describes how often as Christians things happen that we have no control over. In fact when we have no control over the events as seen in the life of Paul, even when those events seem disastrous, God uses those events to bring greater glory to Himself! Perhaps Paul reminded himself of his letter to the Philippians how he told them “that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Perhaps we too should have a view of such things.

“Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor.” Tertullus was a grand orator it seems, trying to persuade the governor into condemning Paul. While the charges made against Paul were to implicate Paul as a rioter, their focus was that Paul was a rioter “among the Jews all over the world.” While for a Jew this might be a problem but for a Roman governor, I’m not sure if he was really interested in whether someone stirred up the Jews or not. To Romans the Jews were not necessarily the best people to deal with and were best either to be ignored or trampled upon. But as governor of that area he would have to listen to the Sanhedrin since it was the Jewish governing body. So Felix the governor listens. Felix listens to them and then finally asks Paul to speak. Paul is cordial and matter of fact. He “gladly” makes his defense. Paul knows that God is using this situation and perhaps more like these to be the Lord’s witness. The Spirit now empowers Paul just as Jesus “stood near Paul” back in the Roman barracks in Jerusalem and said “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” So Paul’s opportunity to go to visit the Roman Christians will be “in chains.” He had asked the Roman Christians to “pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” While to the elders of the church in Jerusalem gave assent to the “service” of Paul I’m sure the poor Christians in Jerusalem truly appreciated the gifts Paul and his companions provided. But God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like. While Paul was rescued from the Jewish unbelievers in Judea he of course was not rescued from the chains of being a prisoner of the Roman unbelievers. So God’s answer to the Christians prayers were to some degree answered but not to the expectation of Paul. Paul is not complaining, Paul knows that God is in control, His visitation to Paul confirms God’s hand in the matter. When God’s hand is confirmed in a matter, no matter how he does it, faith and confidence in Jesus ensues and life is lived to the fullest, to the glory of God! So Paul takes the opportunity given to speak in his defense. Paul strikes down any notion of wrong doing on his part according to the accusations of the Jews. But Paul does not shirk from the fact that “I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” It is a wonderful thing to have a clear conscience! How as Christians we must always allow Jesus life to live through us, to live and walk by the Spirit. How important it is to commune with Jesus in our soul and can have a clear conscience before Him! Paul concludes his defense restating the events that occurred while in the temple in Jerusalem and before the Sanhedrin. Felix apparently does not want to make a decision yet, as a politician perhaps scheming how he can get something from the Jews or Paul, so he decides to adjourn “the proceedings.” It says that Felix “was well acquainted with the Way” and perhaps there is a tug at his heart about the things he has heard about Jesus. Felix does bring “his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess” to go and see Paul. They listen to Paul “about faith in Christ Jesus.” But it seems Felix heart becomes hardened to the gospel.

Even though Felix stated he would “decide” Paul’s case “when Lysias the commander comes” instead has Lysias “keep Paul under guard.” Paul should have been released, but Felix “was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe.” This went on for “two years.” Paul was given “some freedom” and permitted to have “his friends to take care of his needs.” Perhaps Timothy and his companions spent much of their time with Paul for these two years. Luke perhaps was not here and was doing his phenomenal research into the life of Jesus that he would later write in his gospel account. Luke was probably traveling the hills of Judea and Galilee, going along the Jordan River, and to the cities where Jesus traveled. Perhaps Paul got word from Timothy or others about what Luke was doing and realized what God was up to and why he was seemingly being left in prison for two years. But God has His reasons and His perfect timing! May God grant us patience and peace in the midst of the interruptions of life, for perhaps God has something greater in mind, to bring Himself greater glory!

Offering God a Sacrifice of Praise Together!
January 17, 2010, 10:16 pm
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

This is a brief experience of organic church life in Sugar Land, TX. It was shared on facebook. It is our hope that some will read the words and find a body of believers who will decide to live by Christ’s life. This is by no means what an organic church should look like. We have been meeting for only a few months and much still needs to be learned as we detox from religiosity and keep our focus on Jesus together.

Our Christian family began arriving around 10:30 this morning and left sometime around 2:30 this afternoon. We enjoyed eating and sharing each others company. We are learning to eat a little more healthy as we come together, and keeping the coffee pot full! I have found this time to be more of a family time together as we continue to build relationships together. The body of Christ is truly the Family of God!

We praised God for answering prayers in opening a door for a brother to find a job! I shared how I seemed to be more aggravated at school than normal this past week which opened the door for the body to share a word of knowledge, exhortation, or encouragement. God revealed to me the need for Christ to be formed in me. A brother shared a word to me of how God has seen fit to allow some extra pressure in my life to allow Christ to be more formed in me. God is not satisfied with a little bit of Christ being expressed through us! Brothers and sisters shared stories of how Christ is working in their lives. Something Jesus had been revealing to me already, but now was revealed in the body. Brothers and sisters shared stories that revealed a similar thing – God allowing pressure in our lives.

The family sang songs, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another. The Spirit led the body to sing songs such as “Refiner’s Fire,” “You Fill Up My Spirit,” and “Your Steadfast Love,” and others that gave a sense of the importance of trials and tribulations in our lives, in order for Christ’s love and compassion, His very life, to be formed in our lives.

Haiti became an analogy as there is a sense that as Haiti lies above a fault line and lives in the presence of earthquakes so to does the Christian family. The Christian body lives over a fault line that has earthquakes occur from time to time. We are not called to run away from them, as some have done this past week in Haiti, but to allow them to do its perfect work in us, to help us grow closer to each other and to the Lord. Stories were shared of the need in Haiti and many prayers were offered for the people of Haiti and especially to those Christian communities in Haiti who were showing Jesus’ love to them in many practical ways. Other testimonies were shared about sharing the love of Jesus. Other brothers and sisters shared stories from the Bible, specifically Hebrews, John, Luke and Jonah, to encourage the body to be light to the world and not condemners. Some shared the importance of learning to hear Jesus speak to us from the inner man. More testimonies were shared and prayers spoken.

We talked later in smaller groups about what God is doing through them, what God is teaching them about being an organic body of Christ. The family played games in various parts of the house and enjoyed the last few moments together before leaving to their homes. The Christian family agreed to meet at another brother and sister’s home for next week, providing others in the body to express Christ to one another through hospitality. Some of us are still reading Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and Finding Organic Church, books by Frank Viola, and have found the dialogue so useful in leading us to a pure and simple devotion to Christ. It was such a wonderful time to enjoy Christ through His body, the Family of God!

We have much still to die to! We still have much to learn about being the Family of God, how, like a family, lives are shared throughout the week, versus just on one day. Milt Rodriguez’s book “The Butterfly In You” is so on target when it comes to understanding what happens when the body comes together, truly it is a “cocoon” experience so that through it we allow Jesus life to flow, like a butterfly, through us to one another.

“Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
January 4, 2010, 12:00 am
Filed under: E Acts

In the book of Acts in the latter part of chapter 21 to chapter 23 Luke describes what happens to Paul immediately following his arrival in Jerusalem and meeting James “and all the elders” of the Jerusalem church. The elders focus, inferred from Scripture, after Paul had described “what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry,” was on whether Paul was like them, “zealous for the law.” They said to Paul that “the thousands of Jews (who) have believed” had “been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you.” In this entire discourse there is no mention if Paul said anything. From all appearances it seems Paul opted to follow his own advice he had given the Corinthian church that “though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” Perhaps it was more of following his own advice he had given the Roman church, since what he described to the Corinthians was more “for the sake of the gospel” so that he “might save some.” To the Roman church he said to “live in harmony with one another…Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Perhaps it is more of acceptance, to “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters…The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant. To his own master he stands or falls.” While Paul understood that because “faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” he did understand that the law was a part of the “customs” of Jews and did what he did next as following the custom of a certain people, in this case the Jewish people. So Paul followed the advice of the elders of the church in Jerusalem.

“The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.” But as happens where ever Paul went “when the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.’ (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.) The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple…” Incredible! Why do people, who are very religious about something, seem to be the ones who are the most defensive and vindictive of people? Perhaps for many reasons. Some of the reasons could be as he described in his letter to the Romans that “Israel…pursued a law of righteousness…not by faith but as if it were by works” and so seek “to establish their own” righteousness, also because “Israel has experienced a hardening” to the benefit of the Gentiles. But perhaps, because of what happened to Paul in his travels from both Jew and Gentile, it is because of greed, jealousy, and unbelief. To Paul this behavior was to be expected. He states in his letter to the Galatian churches that “the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Perhaps Paul had heard from Peter or Mark the story that Jesus said about the hypocrisy of “the Pharisees and teachers of the law” that “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” But of course, Paul had referenced the Psalms in Romans when he wrote: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…there is no one who does good, not even one” and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” both Jew and Gentile. The events unfolding in the temple were foreseen by Paul, the Spirit had been warning him of what was to happen. Assuredly he had read the words of the gospel according to Matthew from Jesus that Christians would “be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

The rioters were “beating Paul” until finally “the commander and his soldiers” showed up. In the confusion “the commander came up and arrested (Paul) and ordered him to be bound with two chains.” Because “the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered Paul be taken into the barracks.” But Paul, even when being “carried by the soldiers” because of “the violence of the mob” still desired to “speak to the people.” Man! The fortitude of Paul, or should I saw, the power of Jesus in Paul! Paul’s recent letter that he wrote to the Roman Christians was now being put into practice! “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel…Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” But Paul knows that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” So he makes an appeal to speak to the rioters and is given permission to do so. God was at work, preparing Paul for this moment! “When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.” Paul describes his personal testimony of how his life was “as zealous for God as any of you are today,” persecuting the church, and describing the facts of his life before he knew Jesus. He then described how he encountered “Jesus of Nazareth” the One he had been “persecuting” and how Jesus became his “Lord.” Paul also points to Jesus mission, His desire to be made known “to all men” using Paul as “his witness.” But because of the Jews distrust and hatred for anyone other than of their own race when Paul describes how the Lord said to him “‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles'” the rioters began “shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air.” Crazy! Can people really be that hateful of others? Truly it has happened time and again in the history of man. Peace with God only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Afterwords, Paul narrowly escapes being flogged by pointing out to the centurion that he was “a Roman citizen.” So God used the Roman army, including his natural citizenship, to protect Paul and in ironic fashion, opposite of what happened to Jesus, the Gentiles “released him” to the Jews “to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews.” Paul says little. The Jews of the Sanhedrin know Paul and Paul knows the Jews of the Sanhedrin. Paul now has an opportunity to go to those who knew him before he had received Jesus and to share the gospel. May it be that God gives us opportunities to revisit with those who knew us in times past to share the good news of Jesus with them! Paul knows of the doctrinal division within the Sanhedrin and uses the knowledge they share to open up the gospel which is his “hope in the resurrection of the dead.” “The dispute became so violent” as a result “that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them.”

So Paul was taken back to “the barracks.” And what is so awesome is “the following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome.'” Lord thank you for your wonderful love! “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Paul knew from experience the life of Jesus! Lord may I know you more, that you would be my all in all, that I might know your love by experience!

After a conspiracy was foiled due to “the son of Paul’s sister” Paul is escorted to Caesarea by “a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearman”! With this many Roman soldiers taking Paul away to Caesarea you have to know that the church in Jerusalem, not to mention the whole of Jerusalem, must have got the word quick about what happened to Paul. It almost makes you wonder about what happened to this church. We know some things from other ancient writers, such as Josephus. How did James and all the elders of the church take what happened? How did the body of Christ, meeting in each others homes, understand what was going on? Were they praying for Paul? It is hard to imagine because nothing is ever mentioned again in the Scriptures about the church in Jerusalem. The last thing mentioned was how “zealous for the law” they had become. How sad that they had not been zealous for the Lord Jesus like they had been at the very beginning when love for Jesus and one another was the mark that distinguished them above everything else.

Jesus had told His disciples on the night he had been betrayed “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” Is it possible that every body of Christ in any city or town can succumb to the same thing, focused on something else other than on Jesus? According to history, absolutely. Because of Paul’s letters and his constant warnings, we know that Satan wants nothing more than to neutralize and destroy the family of God, to “steal, kill, and destroy” like Jesus said. The body of Christ must live together by Christ’s life, His abundant life! As Paul stated so succinctly in his letter to the Galatians: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

“All of the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.”
January 1, 2010, 5:14 pm
Filed under: E Acts

In the book of Acts chapters 20 and 21 Paul is returning to Syria, specifically to Jerusalem. It took him a little over a month to do so since they had “sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread” and because Paul “was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.” In this 40 days or so Paul is preparing for “prison and hardships” which “in every city the Holy Spirit” has warned him about. It seems something like what Matthew said in his gospel that when “Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'” But Paul also knew that Jesus had given him an affection and a longing to visit the Christians in Rome and had asked that body of believers “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Perhaps Paul, after having written this letter in Corinth before he began his return trip to Jerusalem, shared these same words to the believers in the various places he visited. Interestingly, Paul had his companions with him, similarly like Jesus had His disciples with Him on their return trip to Jerusalem. A good time perhaps for Paul to share some of his greatest thoughts of living the life of Jesus with one another, something also Jesus did, especially during the night of the Last Supper before His crucifixion. Paul would have many Last Suppers in these 40 or so days.

Paul and his companions went first “back through Macedonia” to Philippi. Paul had possibly written his letter to the Philippians before he wrote his letter to the Romans, while in a prison in Ephesus. Paul always had the body of believers in Philippi on his heart, and must have had a wonderful time encouraging one another “with the affection of Christ Jesus” during the time of passover and “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” where they remembered that “the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” How much joy Paul must have had with these Philippian Christians as they lived Jesus life together during the many meals he had with them!

They traveled then by ship to Troas where, with his companions and the church in Troas, “came together to break bread” and spent a week sharing Jesus’ life with them. And to see Eutychus raised from the dead must have been one of the greatest moments for this church to truly experience the resurrection power of Jesus in their midst!

Paul travels to Miletus and shares with the “elders of the church” in Ephesus, those who were older and more mature in living Jesus’ life in the body, the importance of living by the Spirit, serving one another in love, caring for the body of believers by helping them to keep Jesus as the Head of the body and to live by His life because of what Paul had seen what Satan had done to try and neutralize the life of Jesus in the other churches. What is awesome is that when he had finished speaking to the elders “he knelt down with them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him” because “what grieved them the most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.” How Paul must have loved this church, no wonder he could write later in prison how he would in prayer “keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” How Paul desired that every body of believers would know Jesus better by living a life of love towards one another! May this also be our prayer!

“After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea” and Paul and his companions “landed at Tyre” where they found “the disciples there” and “stayed with them seven days.” What an incredible time of fellowship they must have had together! Paul again must have shared his thoughts with these believers, similarly as he had done with the elders of Ephesus. As they experienced Jesus life together “through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem.” How it troubles us when our other brothers and sisters are also troubled. The Spirit that lives in every believer, making us one with Him, it is difficult to let another brother or sister leave knowing that they will face trouble. Paul’s teachings on how to live the life of Jesus, the life of love, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” that he had shared with the Roman church must have come to mind. They loved each other so much with the “affection of Christ Jesus” that when it was time to leave the whole family of believers, men, women, and children all “accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.” What incredible moments together with Jesus the body of Christ must have had in the various places Paul went! Paul still hadn’t made it to Jerusalem yet!

They landed “at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day.” How Paul enjoyed the refreshing time of life with Jesus with the body of Christ! They finally “reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven” who “had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” Paul must have had some wonderful conversations with Philip about the early life of the church in Jerusalem. Luke must have begun to hear the stories that he would later use to begin writing his gospel and later the book of Acts. What an incredible time for Luke, to be in the land of Jesus, his Savior and very life, and to begin recording what “all that Jesus began to do and to teach” and how through the life of Jesus the body of Christ would “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” now that practically the known world had heard the good news of Jesus! Paul must have gotten to Caesarea ahead of schedule since it seemed he was no longer in a hurry to get to Jerusalem so he enjoyed the time of fellowship with the believers in Caesarea. “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”” Jesus was now speaking to Paul that the time was ready for him to leave to Jerusalem. But “when we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem.” But Paul had heard all of this before. He understood that God was guiding him, that Jesus was behind the scenes orchestrating His plan to use him “to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” which Jesus told him the day Paul first heard Him. Paul would not be moved from the purpose of Jesus and Paul answered them “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Of course Paul “would not be dissuaded” so they “gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.'”

“After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.” How the body of Christ loves one another! Could we be that hospitable to other believers who need to stay with us for a day or so, or longer? Perhaps Mnason knew of Paul’s earliest companion Barnabus and shared stories together, perhaps Paul got caught up with what Barnanbus was doing in Cyprus, or perhaps got word of how Mark, who had been with Barnabus, had been writing a gospel that was being overseen by Peter and was now away working as a companion of Peter. That must have brought joy to Paul’s heart!

“When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this they praised God.” I expect that Paul provided the Gentile churches the “contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” What is interesting, while “they praised God” for what Jesus had been doing through Paul the next thing the Jewish Christian elders say speaks volumes. “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.” The elder Jewish Christians seemed to have waved the hand about the contribution to the poor and so somehow this contribution really did not matter to these elders. How sad that the elders of a body of believers, who were to be living by the life of Jesus, would not receive a gift in the spirit that it was given to them, being overshadowed by whether a Jewish Christian, Paul, is “zealous for the law.” No wonder Paul wrote to the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the churches the way he did. May we be zealous for Jesus Christ, that he be are all in all, being Head and in control, allowing His life to be lived through one another! Let us not live by a law, tradition, program but by the law of Christ which is love. As Paul said in his letter to the churches in Galatia: “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”