JohnSWilson3 Blog

“And having pointed out to them in every ekklesia older people…”
July 11, 2011, 2:29 am
Filed under: E Acts

In Acts 14:23 an incident occurs that we see no where else in the book of Acts. Here it is said that “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” The Greek word for “appointed,” “cheirotoneo,” used here in this verse is only used three times in the entire New Testament (1). It is used in a larger compound Greek word in Acts 10:41 describing how God had previously stretched out His hand or pointed out for Himself those who had witnessed Christ’s resurrection and in 2 Cor. 8:19 how Titus was pointed out by the churches to help carry the offerings with Paul to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. In all three instances it seems to describe an approval. In Vine’s Dictionary it means to “stretch forth the hands” and was used in the Greek culture as a word “primarily used of voting in the Athenian legislature assembly.” This gives the word a sense of pointing out something that is approved or shows approval.

Why is this word only used here in Acts? I’m not sure. There are varying opinions. Perhaps Paul only did it this once, realizing the error of having done this because of what happened to these churches in falling into legalism. This is if we think he “ordained” certain special people with a “title” or “position” over the body, which does not correspond to Jesus own words of having authority over others like the Gentile leaders. I am incline to believe their is a mistranslation and thereby causing a misinterpretation. It is my opinion that because the word “appoint” means to “stretch forth the hands” with some indication of approval, the sense is that Paul and Barnabas were merely pointing out something. This passage, using the literal Greek translation, says: “and having pointed out to them in every ekklesia older people…” (2) So Acts 14:23 really seems to describe Paul and Barnabas stretching their hands out (perhaps metaphorically), or pointing out to the body of Christ, those who were the older people, those living by Christ’s life, to indicate what living by the life of Christ was like versus an ordination or an official appointment like some would suggest.

In reading Paul’s letters to the churches his primary concern was for the expression, the manifestation of Christ in and through the body, the fruit of the Spirit, as they lived by the Spirit, the life of Christ. Older people, mistranslated as “elders,” were male or female persons who had learned to live by the life of Christ together in community. It is unknown exactly how long Paul and Barnabas stayed at each ekklesia that was formed during their first church planting mission but apparently it was sufficient time to help them know how to live by the Spirit and for some to have so been consumed by Christ to now be examples to the body of what living by Christ looked like. These are the ones the apostles pointed out. The body of Christ, if it is to fulfill the purpose of God in manifesting the Son, must know how to live by the Spirit together and express Him to and through one another so that His life may be expressed to family, friends, and the world around them. Even today how there is a need for the body of Christ to know how to live by the life of Christ! The body of Christ is a family, all brothers and sisters, each learning Christ together, but not all learn Christ at the same “rate.” These older persons, older spiritually perhaps, were only meant to demonstrate what living by the life of Christ looks like so that each member in the body could see Christ being expressed and in turn could better learn Christ, express their measure of the gift of Christ, loving one another as Christ loved them.

Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news, they preached Christ Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord, the Logos, or Word of God in whom we are to hear and believe and to live by faith. Christ Himself through Paul and Barnabas within their functioning as apostles were expressing Christ by the Spirit, through what was spoken. Perhaps the letter to the ekklesias in Galatia could be reminders of some of what they preached and taught:

“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.”
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…”
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
“Live by the Spirit…keep in step with the Spirit.”

There are other words that are translated “appoint” in the New Testament and I will look at some of the others in another blog. The body of Christ is called to express their Lord, to hear Christ and be taught by Him, living by the Spirit. May the Lord raise up, “point out,” “older persons,” male and female, in the body of Christ who know how to live by our indwelling Lord and can help others know how to express Him together in love by the Spirit, organically if you will, so that the body may grow to the fullness of Christ!

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 34.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 391.

A Response to an Ordination Analysis.

This is a response to a brother’s analysis of ordination in Scripture, specifically from Acts 6, 13, and 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 1.

While others I’m sure can give a better description of these passages I am coming from an organic perspective, Jesus headship perspective of His body. I am definitely not going to say this is the exact interpretation in the matter and I am sure others can provide more details.

In this light I see Acts 6, because there was a divisive issue that threatened the unity of the body of Christ, it was necessary to determine how best to bring unity back to the body. The body of Christ lived a shared life; they had all things in common. “The Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” Complaining and arguing is not representative of living by the Spirit. They had lost their focus as Jesus as head. I guess we can take this a couple ways. It seems the distribution of food had become a program run by the Twelve and had evidently had “overlooked” these widows. The body should have been involved in doing this, relationally like they had in the beginning, instead of only the Twelve doing this. I think it is evident that those “chosen” by the body to help with the Grecian Jewish widows were those who were Grecian. The Twelve confirmed what God had done in the body by praying and laying their hands on them. The Twelve’s focus seems to have gotten off of Jesus as Head, they were considered to be sent ones to share Jesus Christ and form communities of the living Christ. I think this is the reason for Jesus to allow a persecution to occur in order to send out His people beyond just Jerusalem. Of course we know later that Peter and Paul had their issues and when Paul came back to Jerusalem time and again he was dealing with issues of legalism in the Jerusalem church.

Acts 13 is God commissioning Paul and Barnabas for the calling Paul had already received many years earlier as well as Barnabas (who was a sent one from the church in Jerusalem and a church planter). These early years of Paul enabled him to live by Jesus life in an organic way in the body of Christ in the church in Antioch. At a certain point in time God in His timing spoke to the church that it was now time to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The body was under the headship of Jesus Christ, I think that has a major implication for what the laying on of hands refers to. The body seeing the life of Jesus in these two, knowing their calling already, placed their hands on them to signify and to agree that Jesus was Head over their lives, Jesus was Lord over them. The church body was manifesting Jesus in His fullness at Antioch and they came together and agreed with the Holy Spirit on what He was saying. When the body is in agreement then that indicates unity and enables the body to see God’s timing in the matter. Think this can be seen a number of times, and a major aspect of the manifestation of Jesus life in the body, as noted from Jesus’ prayer in John and of course the letters in the New Testament.

The letters to Timothy are letters from Paul, a church planter, sent to Timothy, his assistant church planter, and in fact functioning as a church planter in Paul’s stead. In 1 Timothy 4 I see Paul’s instructions that are vitally important to a church planter, things I’m sure he had taught Timothy many years ago, both on the road, in forming churches, and actually doing it, but repeating them. A church planter (or apostle in a basic sense), according to what Paul gives us in his letters lives a very burdensome life, but a most wonderful life to expound the riches of Jesus Christ and to help form churches who believe the message and help them to live by Jesus life. it is burdensome because of the traveling to and from the churches in various homes in various cities and the concern for the health of the churches. Timothy was a convert from Paul’s first church planting journey and had been living in organic church life in Lystra. On his second journey, encouraging the churches that had formed earlier, he found Timothy. It seems Paul now realized he needed additional assistants who had a certain character to help plant churches who lived by Jesus life. He found that Timothy was well spoken of and apparently saw his life as he spent time with these churches and saw God’s calling in his life. (Acts 16). The church saw God’s timing in Paul arriving and the giftings for the work and those who were the older believers (body of elders) “laid their hands on” him, signifying Jesus Headship over Timothy and agreeing together under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The same can be said for 2 Timothy 1 where Paul was reminding Timothy of this event that had occurred, now many more years in the past.

I think Paul, because of his long tenure as a church planter had future church planters, and the importance of the work, in mind when he wrote 1 & 2 Timothy, along with Titus. I think, while these 3 letters have important applications for all those in the body, especially for those who help guide the body to keep Jesus lordship in their lives and gatherings, they were specific to church planters.

A lot here and sure there is more to include but think this sums up what I think you asked brother. Really appreciate the opportunity to share! God bless brother!

“And so we came to Rome.”
February 15, 2010, 1:53 am
Filed under: E Acts

“And so we came to Rome.” What an incredible journey! These few words to Luke probably had some force to them. Finally, they were in Rome, finally they had arrived to the destination that Paul knew that God had been leading him for many years. Again more brothers showed up as they “had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” How encouraging to see brothers following the life of Christ in them to offering their “bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” to go out of their way to travel all the way to the port to meet Paul and his companions. What love the brothers have for one another when living by the life of Jesus!

Luke, Aristarchus, and the rest of his companions arrive with Paul to Rome. “Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.” In Rome, Paul’s companions perhaps stayed with Phoebe and Priscilla and Aquila, whom Paul had sent to Rome to transplant another living expression of Jesus Christ in the city along with those who had returned from Pentecost when the early church was first formed. Or perhaps they paired up in other homes of the “fellow workers” or the other households that had left Ephesus with Phoebe and Priscilla and Aquila, such as Mary of Rome, the apostles Andronicus and Junias, or Urbanus, and other homes of the brothers and sisters. How they must have encouraged one another and praised God for answering their prayers which they had prayed to God for the rescue of Paul so that he might “come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.”

Paul was not slow in his habit of first sharing the gospel “first for the Jew” and “three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.” Paul explained to “the leaders of the Jews” of the circumstances that led to his arrest and examination by the Roman governors concluding with “it is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” The leaders were unfamiliar with Paul’s case and because they had heard about “this sect” they wanted “to hear what” his “views are.” This curiosity of the Jews led to another meeting which they arranged with Paul. They “came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying.” God was setting the stage for the Jews, His chosen people of old, to hear the good news of the coming of the Messiah, to bring hope and peace and a new life that God had purposed in eternity past and had now brought about through Jesus Christ. “From morning tell evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.” What an amazing time this must have been! The Holy Spirit was at work using the life of Paul, the spiritual authority that Christ was manifesting through Paul, to share Jesus the Messiah from the Old Testament scriptures, and some believed! But many “disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul” finally ended his message with the message of Isaiah the prophet:

” ‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’ ”

Paul concludes with “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

Luke concludes his letter with Paul staying “in his own rented house” “for two whole years” “and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” This final part of Luke’s letter sounds similar to Matthew’s gospel of Jesus Christ, which I am sure he must have read while visiting Judea, Galilee, and Samaria as he researched the life of Jesus for his own gospel of Jesus Christ he planned to write, and perhaps had a draft made already. Matthew concluded his gospel with Jesus words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Perhaps the similarity is that the ending is really a beginning. That the gospel of Jesus Christ only began at the end of Matthew and the multiplying of the expression of the living Christ through bodies of believers only began at the end of Acts. What an incredible journey God has called His people on! That we would be participants of His divine mission of expressing His life, a life of grace, hope, and love, to all that we meet, so that Christ would have a home, a body, in every city and groups of people on this earth! Would to God that the body of Christ would be a living expression of Jesus, where God would organically build His people to be His glorious bride, living a life that has Jesus as the Head, the Leader.

May the Body of Christ truly fulfill the mission of Christ by living by His life, a life of sincere love for one another, where their is devotion to knowing Christ and Him crucified, “to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” where “all the believers were together and had everything in common,” meeting together daily, breaking bread “from house to house” and eating “together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”

Can churches who focus on organization and traditionalism or fundamentalism learn to focus on Jesus Christ, to guide God’s people to have a sincere devotion to Christ with one another instead of to a program or agenda or themselves?

“The islanders showed us unusual kindness.”
February 15, 2010, 1:50 am
Filed under: E Acts

In Acts chapter 28 we come to the conclusion of the letter that Luke wrote as a sequel to his gospel of the life of Jesus Christ. The end of the letter brings us some 30 years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the birth of His body, the church. It is also roughly been 25 years since Paul’s dramatic conversion when the Lord touched Him on the Damascus road. In that space and time Christ has found living expressions of Himself, His ecclesia, from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the known world. His people when living by His Spirit have been His witnesses, visible expressions of His life on this earth! May we do likewise!

Paul and his companions, after the ship wreck, “found out that the island was called Malta.” God continued to show His people favor as His people expressed His life to those around them. “The islanders showed us unusual kindness” Luke states. Interestingly, Luke describes a story of Paul as he was helping build “a fire” because of the rain and cold weather. As he put a “pile of brushwood” “on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” It is reminiscent of the words of Jesus from the gospel according to Mark how “they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.” In fulfillment of Jesus’ words “Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

And then the next story of Paul, that Luke describes, is about “Publius, the chief official of the island” who had “welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this happened the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.” Strikingly, Mark also mentions in his gospel, that after Jesus mentioned how picking up snakes would not hurt them that “they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” While the healing of the sick seemed to be consistent throughout Acts as representative of the manifestation of Jesus Christ so that He might be glorified among those observing it, it seems Luke is seeing what is happening as representative of bringing his letter of what God has done in the early church to closure.

Paul and his companions along with the centurion and soldiers finally “put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island.” They travel from seaport to seaport. Finally they reach the mainland, the chief port of Rome. Paul and his companions “found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them.” What an amazing story or stories Paul and his companions would share with the brothers for the week they spent with them! No doubt everyone was encouraged as they mutually shared the life of Christ with each other! Paul must have been thinking of his letter to the Roman Christians how he had longed “to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

“So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”
February 14, 2010, 11:01 pm
Filed under: E Acts

After Paul gave his incredibly riveting testimony to Festus and King Agrippa and those in the audience room it is decided that Paul will be sent to Rome. It is unknown what Festus wrote reference “the charges against” Paul. Whatever he wrote I’m sure Festus would have liked nothing more than to get rid of Paul who was a nuisance to him politically if he stayed in Caesarea. But Paul knows, even from his letter to the Roman Christians that he knows “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” even when those things seem bleak and hopeless at first. Paul saw the moving of God’s hand in the events as they unraveled before him!

So Paul along with his companions, including Luke and “Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica,” “sail for Italy.” Aristarchus, a church planter that Paul trained in Ephesus, has been traveling with Paul for many years now. Aristarchus has lived the life of Christ together with Paul and his companions and has faced persecution with Paul, actually being “seized” by the rioters back in Ephesus. Aristarchus would be identified by Paul later in Rome as a “fellow prisoner” so it may be that Aristarchus was on the ship as a prisoner with Paul or while in Rome with Paul was put in prison with Paul, no doubt because of his witness for Jesus!

Paul is being held as a prisoner along with “some other prisoners” and “were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.” During the trip Paul is shown kindness by the centurion and after landing “at Sidon” was “allowed to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.” Paul was encouraged and praised God “if God is for us, who can be against us?!” His friends, I’m sure, were also encouraged by the opportunity to give aid and encouragement to there fellow brother in Christ!

Paul, his companions, the other prisoners, the centurion with his soldiers, and the ship’s sailors “put out to sea” and sail through rough waters. They are able to board another ship, this one sailing directly “for Italy.” Again sailing is difficult and Luke describes in detail their travels. Paul warns the centurion and the sailors about the disaster that is going to befall the ship if they continue, but because Paul is only a prisoner the centurion follows “the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.” The pilot and owner of the ship make a bad decision to try and “reach Phoenix (a harbor in Crete) and winter there.” But while enroute “a wind of hurricane force” sweeps “down from the island.” The ship gets caught in the storm and for two weeks is “driven across the Adriatic Sea” by the storm.

Paul some how feels the weight of the trials that the ship in the storm is causing for everyone on board. Even Luke describes that through the horrific storm that “we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Through this crisis Paul comes as a shining light to all who are on the ship, manifesting the gracious life of Jesus Christ. An angel of God visits Paul and encourages Paul saying “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” With this word from God Paul stands “up before them” and encourages them “to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” May God’s people so live, allowing Christ to live through us, that we might have a definite word from God Himself to encourage others in desperate times!

Paul is now regarded as a man of God, a man whose very life has a spiritual authority that no natural man has ever seen before. Paul’s advice is regarded as having a true knowledge that can only come from God. The centurion is now following the advice of Paul instead of the pilot or owner of the ship who are no longer in the picture of this story. I guess when our lives are on the line and the very breath of our life could be taken away at any moment, those who are without Christ can have a tendency to look to the one who is spiritual, or who seems to have spiritual authority, a spiritual knowledge of God Himself to find a way out, instead of seeking God for himself. May we as His people guide people who are seeking after Christ, not to ourselves and our agendas, but to the Lord of glory! That’s what Paul did. He did not boast about himself but Christ alone.

Luke makes a point to mention in this story of how “Paul urged them to eat.” And in so doing expressed the wonderful love of Jesus to everyone on board. “For the last fourteen days…you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food – you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” Then Paul “took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.” Amazing! Paul is calm, he is confident about what God has told him. Paul’s faith is unwavering because he received a sure word from the Lord! As a result of the peace of God in his life in the midst of the storm “they were all encouraged and ate some food themselves” and they ate “as much as they wanted.”

After lightening the ship and waiting until daylight it runs “aground” near “a sandy beach.” Here is another moment of crisis, the ship is about to be “broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf” and the soldiers plan to kill all “the prisoners.” “But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.”

God was faithful to is word! I can only imagine what Paul thought as he saw God’s deliverance of everyone on board the ship. Surely he reflected on the words that he wrote to the churches God had raised up through the gospel he had preached. Maybe Paul was thinking about when he wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” Perhaps he remembered what he wrote to the Corinthians how “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” and was reminded that Jesus had told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God is faithful! Amen!

“But I have had God’s help to this very day…”
February 6, 2010, 4:22 pm
Filed under: E Acts

Paul’s defense before Festus and King Agrippa must be one of the greatest testimonies written in the Bible! Luke goes to some length to describe what Paul says. Perhaps Luke and his companions are in the “audience room” it is unsure. Perhaps there were some, no doubt, in the audience room who witnessed hearing the incredible story of Jesus saving Paul that some believed and later provided Luke some details of what was said.

Festus is very much the intelligent Roman governor and is one to play favorites for any who are of nobility, who have prestige and power. It just so happened that “King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Casarea to pay their respects to Festus.” Seems God was setting up the very scene which Paul would testify about Jesus Christ and secure his trip to Rome.

Festus explains to Agrippa about the man, Paul, “whom Felix left as a prisoner.” he describes how “the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.” Festus then described to Agrippa the results of the court but was “at a loss” about what it all meant as it only involved “some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Of course Festus does not mention how “wishing to do the Jews a favor” he wanted Paul to go to Jerusalem “and stand trial before me there on these charges.” Of course “Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision.” So Festus has been waiting to “send him to Caesar.” Perhaps because of what happened to Paull with Felix, being left in prison for two years, it was a good thing for Agrippa to show up, or Paul would be in prison for a couple more years! Agrippa is intrigued by what Festus has shared about Paul and says “I would like to hear this man myself.”

“The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city.” Festus makes a loud introduction presenting Paul to the audience. Sounds almost too good to be true! The risen Lord Jesus will be presented to the highest ranking people of the area and of the country. It sounds very similar to the story of Jesus being presented to the audience by Pilate, before His crucifixion. Then after Festus describes every reason why he shouldn’t even be holding Paul at all as a prisoner, Agrippa asks Paul that he has “permission to speak for yourself.”

Paul very eloquently shows appreciation to King Agrippa for allowing him to “make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews.” He is also appreciative of the fact that Paul knows that Agrippa is “well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies.” Paul describes the facts of how “the Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child” and “have known me for a long time and can testify” how Paul lived before he came to know the Lord Jesus. But Paul describes that what he is on trial for is really what the Jews were “promised” by God Himself. Paul describes it as his “hope in what God has promised our fathers…the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled…it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.” Paul’s hope has its basis in what was promised in Scripture by God Himself, the fulfillment of those very Scriptures, by the One God raised from the dead!

Paul even points out how he too thought the way the Jews thought and “earnestly” served “God day and night” by opposing “the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Paul “put many of the saints in prison,” “cast my vote against them” “when they were put to death,” “punished” them, and “tried to force them to blaspheme.” Paul was obsessed, a religious fanatic if you will, trying to rid the world of a people who believed that the Messiah had come.

But at the height of his religious persecution against Christians God, in His mercy, came to Paul. Paul describes what happened when he “was going to Damascus.” He and his companions saw the light of God and all were thrown “to the ground” and Paul heard the voice of the Lord. God revealed Himself to Paul as the Lord “Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Paul tells the audience that Jesus told him “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Wow! Jesus desires that all men might be saved! This wonderful salvation is a revealing of the Jesus Christ as Lord and God, to invite them into an eternal relationship with God Himself who will freely forgive the sins all who have faith in Jesus and to no longer be at odds with God because of the power of Satan. What a wonderful message! You and I free from the bondage of sin and Satan, as Paul told the Roman Christians earlier, by “confessing Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead”! Have you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus? Oh how He desires to give you salvation which is His life, life that is eternal, life that is free from condemnation!

Paul placed his faith in the risen Lord Jesus, the Messiah not of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles, anyone who would place their trust in Him! God was restoring His creation before Satan had caused Adam to fall and the rest of mankind with him. Paul was so confident in what the Lord Jesus had told him, he said he “was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” Paul proclaimed to any who would hear him “that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” When Jesus becomes our life, His life begins to be lived through us to one another. Love becomes the mark of His people. In contrast “the Jews seized (Paul) in the temple courts and tried to kill” him. Paul makes an incredible statement at this point: “But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here to testify to small and great alike.” Jesus has been true to His word to Paul, he has rescued Paul “from your own people and from the Gentiles.” God has miraculously protected Paul for this very moment. God has a moment for His people, for you and me. How is Christ being formed in you? Christ wants to be our all in all, He desires first place in everything. Only in the context of allowing Him to live through us in love will He trust us to give us moments, moments that move heaven and earth and enable the Lord Jesus to be given the glory and His life expressed and multiplied to others. Awesome!

Paul concludes with the final statement: “Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” We, as His followers, are alive with His resurrection life! But that life cannot come about accept through Christ’s suffering, by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily, and following Him. People will see Jesus, His hope and eternal life, is salvation, when they see Christians for who they truly are when in the midst of crisis and suffering they see His life and love.

Festus was beyond himself and couldn’t take it any longer! He interrupts Paul, seemingly at the top of his lungs: “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.” Here Jesus life comes through Paul again as Paul patiently, and without being defensive says: “I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What am saying is true and reasonable.” Festus could not accept this truth and was not willing to accept it as reasonable. His mind was focused not on wanting to trust in Jesus but on his position, prestige, and power. He wanted to get rid of Paul, but wanted to so only for the material and political benefits he could get out of it. It seems it had backfired!

Paul then goes straight for Agrippa and for the rest of the audience. Paul goes and says “the king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” But Agrippa, himself a king, is not willing to humble himself to someone else as King and Lord and tells Paul “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Agrippa totally ignores the truth and reasonableness of the message that Paul gave. Amazing how people can deny the truth when it is in front of them.

Paul concludes his defense with this statement: “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” How many times are we willing to listen to the message and deny it’s truth? How many times as believers are willing to listen to the message of being the body of Christ but deny the truth by our individualism? It is only when Christ is Head of the body, in the context of dieing to one another and loving one another from the heart that it is the only means to truly live the life of Jesus?

Agrippa told Festus that “this man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” Paul’s chains reflect bondage. While he was in bondage, his time was not his own, he found comfort in the fact that he was no longer in bondage to sin and to Satan, he was in bondage to the Lord Jesus Christ, His slave. In His life Paul found himself free in the midst of the prison experience. Can we realize that while our time may not be our own, we can bask in the freedom of knowing Jesus Christ, so that the glory of Jesus would be expressed to others? Do not complain dear brothers and sisters, complaining shows how immature our faith is in Jesus and gives Satan the opportunity to wreck us spiritually and emotionally. Let Jesus be Master of you life today and as we have opportunity, to meet continually with the brothers and sisters to encourage one another and reveal Jesus, His glorious life, to one another!

“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!

“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.”