Sunday, October 25, 2020

Acts Study | Session 37 | 25:1-26:10

In today's study, we find that Festus had replaced Felix as governor and was trying to figure out what to do with this man Paul who was being accused by the Jews. Paul is brought before him to give an account of the complaints that had been made against him and decides to try to get him back to Jerusalem to give an account of himself before the Jews again. Paul refuses at this point and appeals to Caesar. Festus then takes Paul to Agrippa to find an accusation that he might write in regards to Paul's appeal. 

Chapter 25

VERSE 1: Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. This is Porcius Festus who had replaced Felix. Historically, they were both sitting on a land mine because the Jews were hard to govern as Pilate also knew full well. 

After Felix and Festus came Albinus and then Florus which ended in what has been called the War of the Jews from 66-73AD. It is also referred to as the Jewish-Roman Wars because they were a series of revolts against Roman rule that eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Josephus details these events in his work The Wars of the Jews: or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem.

Festus is merely at the beginning of these events and was very interested in investigating anyone who was accused of inciting the Jews to rebellion. Remember that Lycius mistook Paul for the Egyptian insurrectionist in Acts 21:38).

VERSES 2-5: Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, (3)  And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. (4)  But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. (5)  Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him. Again, the Jewish were actively trying to get Rome to transport Paul so that they could ambush and kill him, but Festus appears to be a little too smart for that. 

VERSE 6: And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought. Again, we see this word bema that is used for judgment seat here in this verse. Of course, we know that the ultimate judgment seat will be the one that we will all appear before in 2Cor 5:10.  

VERSE 7: And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. Of course, as Paul has already stated, they have no proof of anything that they are accusing him of. 

VERSE 8: While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. Again, Paul states his innocence in regard to the charges. Again, Paul is saying that he has not been teaching against the Law of Moses, or circumcision, or the customs (Acts 21:21). Folks, we are in chapter 25 and Paul is still preaching these things! 

Randy White points out three things at this point. 1. Paul was under the law, and thus we are as well. This is the conclusion of much of Covenant Theology but disregards the clear teachings of the book of Galatians. 2. Paul was not under the law and was not speaking honestly in this verse, i.e., he was lying.  3. Paul was under the law because he was a Jew living in an age when the Kingdom was still being offered to the Jewish nation, but he also taught personal salvation from all sins outside the law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39) according to the revealed mystery. The conclusion is that this is a unique period of transition in which Israel is slowly diminishing (see Rom 11:12) rather than a sharp divide between dispensations.

VERSE 9: But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? The word But means that Festus knew that Paul was innocent, but still chose to do the Jews a favor and drag it out for a trial in Jerusalem. It is obvious that he is appeasing the Jews for political gain. 

VERSE 10: Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. Paul, knowing his rights as a Roma citizen, makes it clear that he did not want to be part of Festus' political games, and that Felix knew full well that he had nothing wrong. In actuality, Festus had nothing concrete that would demand that the trial continue (Acts 25:25), he was merely seeking political favor. 

VERSE 11: For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Paul readily admits that if he did something wrong, he is willing to pay for it with his life. However, if he did nothing wrong, which he knew full well he had not, he appealed his case to Caesar. Again, only a Roman citizen could have done this. Paul knew his rights and he demanded them. Same with us today I believe. I get tired of little weak-spined Christians making it sound like the church needs to lay down and let the world run over them. 

I believe that much of Paul's appeal was a knowledge that the Lord had already told him that he was going to Rome (Acts 23:11), so why not let Rome pay for the transportation. 

VERSE 12: Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go. Festus had no choice but to honor Paul's request. 

VERSE 13: And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. Now we meet Agrippa II and his wife Bernice. Agrippa's father is the one that killed James and fell over dead when he gave not the glory to God in Acts 12:20-22. That means that Herod the Great would have been in grandfather. 

Bernice was an entire other matter, many believe that she was Agrippa's sister. It seems that she was, therefore, on the surface, it looked like an incestuous relationship. Josephus said that later during the First Jewish-Roman War, "she began a love affair with the future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus. However, her unpopularity among the Romans compelled Titus to dismiss her on his accession as emperor in 79. When he died two years later, she disappeared from the historical record."

VERSES 14-17: And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: (15)  About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. (16)  To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. (17)  Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth. Now Festus takes it upon himself to bring Agrippa and Bernice up to speed with Paul's case.    Notice that he says that Paul should have seen his accusers face to face. This did not happen as that the Jews that made the accusations that came down from Asia were never present as Paul pointed on a couple of occasions. Those who were pressing the issue were merely those who did not like Paul and his message in regards to the resurrection and the implications that came from that and wanted to see him destroyed. 

VERSES 18-19: Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: (19)  But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. In other words, Paul was not accused of anything that the Romans would have given two rips about. Instead, he, just like Felix, saw that the accusations had nothing to do with the laws of Rome and everything to do with Jewish superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. Again, the Jews were merely upset that Paul preached the resurrection. Remember that we spoke earlier that the meaning of the word superstition just means a belief in the spirit world. 

VERSES 20-22: And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. (21)  But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar. (22)  Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him. Know Festus had roused Agrippa's curiosity and he too wanted to quesiton him as well. 

VERSE 23: And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth. Now Paul is brought in to stand before Agrippa. 

VERSES 24-26: And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. (25)  But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. (26)  Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. Festus makes it pretty clear that he can find nothing to charge Paul with and that he has nothing to write in regard to his case. He then implores Agrippa to come up with something. Remember that Paul had been given the option to go back to Jerusalem and face that circus or appeal to Caesar. 

VERSE 27: For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him. So, it seems that the entire purpose of this questioning was to find something to write to Caesar in regards to what Paul is appealing to him about. It would certainly be strange to have a man standing before you appealing a charge that was never leveled against him. I am sure that Festus knew that would not reflect positively on his resume. Again, the whole thing was a joke, but God was using the stupidy of man to do his will in Paul's life in taking the Gospel of Grace to Rome, the capital of the Gentile world at that time. 

Chapter 26

VERSES 1-3: Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: (2)  I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: (3)  Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. Paul begins to speak for himself as requested. Notice that Paul acknowledges that Agrippa was an expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews. Interestingly, the Herodian dynasty were Edomites (Eze 25; Obadiah). 

VERSES 4-5: My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; (5)  Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. Paul now begins to share his background. He was first among his nation and known by the Jews. Earlier we learned that he studied at the feet of Gamaliel. 

VERSES 6-7: And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: (7)  Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Paul says that he now stands and is being judged for the hope of the promises made of God unto our fathers. He is making it clear that the only reason he is standing there was that he preached the resurrection. It wasn't about Mosaic Law, circumcision, and customs at all. Understand that none of this was anything that Rome was interested in. He also points out that Christ was the fulfillment of all of the promises that were given to the nation. 

VERSE 8: Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? In other words, why should any of us be surprised that God can raise the dead? God he flung the stars into space, made man from dirt, breathed life into his lungs, etc. I mean the resurrection should be just as credible as everything else that God has done. Paul said in 1 Cor 15:12-14, Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

VERSES 9-10: I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (10) Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. Paul is referring to his pre-conversion life when he actively went after the followers of Jesus. Notice the word saints is used 95 times in the KJV. I am heavily leaning at this point in my studies to the word only being applicable to Jewish believers (1Cor 1:2; 2Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1-3; Eph 1:1, etc.)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Acts Study | Session 36 | 23:1-24:27

In today's study, we find Paul before the council in Jerusalem attempting to give a defense of himself in regard to the accusations that were laid against him. However, the council was divided over the issue of the resurrection. Upon hearing that some of the Jews had made a pact to kill Paul, he escorted him to the governor, Felix, before whom Paul would again explain his innocence in regards to all that he was accused of except being a follower of Jesus who had resurrected from the dead.

Chapter 23

VERSES 1-2: And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. (2) And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Well, that didn't go far! Ananias was historically crooked as a dog's hind leg. 

Josephus records that later he and his brother were murdered by a band of the Sicarii some years later after being caught in an aqueduct where he had concealed himself. What goes around comes around. 

VERSE 3: Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? Interestingly, Paul uttered prophetic words at this point. 

VERSES 4-5: And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? (5)  Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Paul apologized, not because his words were not true, but because he did not realize who this idiot was. His point seems to be that he was being accused of violating the Law and yet they were violating the Law by condemning him without a fair trial (Deu 25:1-2). Paul's apology seems to stem from Exo 22:28. To me, it is the same thing as respect the office even if you do not respect the man. 

VERSE 6: But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. Paul immediately perceived that his audience was divided and he was going to take advantage of it. The Greek word for perceived speaks of intimate knowledge or absolute knowledge. Remember, he ran with these guys and knew them well. 

They both were influential Jewish sects in Israel very much like our system today. The Pharisees were the "Constitutionalists" in that they believed that the Torah had to be obeyed to the letter. The Sadducees were the leftist elites who believed that the Torah was a good guideline, but were much more secular in their views.  

The Pharisees were members of the middle class and were committed to upholding the Mosaic Law. On the other hand, the Sadducees represented the aristocracy, and leaned to the left and embraced Hellenism. Leaders among the Pharisees were referred to as Rabbi, while most of the Sadducees operated as priests and were members of the Sanhedrin. 

The Pharisees believed in the afterlife, heaven, hell, and that man will be judged on the basis of his adherence to the Torah and his works while on earth. The Sadducees did not believe that man would experience resurrection after physical death. Paul knew this and used it to pull the Pharisees over to his side. 

VERSES 7-8: And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. (8)  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. It worked! Understand that in the end, both of these groups had rejected the Messiah of Israel. 

VERSES 9-10: And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. (10)  And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. The Romans had to intercede again to save Paul's life. 

VERSE 11: And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. Now, once again, just like back in Acts 18:9-10, the Lord steps in to encourage him to keep plugging away because he has to go to Rome to bear witness of him. 

VERSES 12-15: And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. (13)  And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. (14)  And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. (15)  Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. They are after him again. Remember, he, like Peter, and Stephen, is accusing the nation of rejecting their Messiah. That was not a popular message. 

VERSE 16: And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. Machiavelli said that in order for conspiracies, to be successful, it must pass through all three stages (initiation, the plot itself, and the period after the plot). Conspiracies fail because so few can navigate all three stages successfully. Conspirators who wish to succeed should keep silent about their intentions until the last possible moment: The first, the safest and, to tell the truth, the only [remedy against being discovered], is not to allow the [fellow] conspirators time to give information against you, and to tell them of your plan only when you are ready to act, and not before. Machiavelli did not write these words until the 1500s, so they were not aware of these pitfalls. 

VERSES 17-22: Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. (18)  So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. (19)  Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? (20)  And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly. (21)  But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. (22)  So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me. Fortunately, for Paul, God's providence no doubt, his nephew was able to bring the captain up to date in regards to the conspiracy. Amazing how God used this captain in Paul's life! Hard to believe he will not be in Heaven as much time he had spent with him. 

VERSES 23-24: And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; (24)  And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. This was a pretty huge escort. No doubt, the chief captain took this threat seriously. 

VERSES 25-26: And he wrote a letter after this manner: (26)  Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. Now for the first time, we learn the chief captain's name who first appeared in chapter 21 when he first saved Paul's life from their hands. I find it amazing how well this Roman officer had treated and protected Paul. 

VERSES 27-30: This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. (28) And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: (29)  Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. (30) And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell. He just gives a recount of what had happened and how he had handled it. Understand that at this point, the Romans could have cared less how the Jews handled their religious issues, but when it crossed over into civil issues, that was Roman territory. 

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

Chapter 24

VERSE 1: And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. Who is Tertullus? He was apparently an orator and was going to serve as the prosecuting attorney against Paul. My next question is why? His name is clearly Roman. It seems that the Jews hired him to make their case. Barnes points out that it was most likely because they were ignorant of roman law and needed his help to make their accusations stick. 

VERSES 2-4: And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, (3)  We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. (4)  Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. He obviously had lawyer skills in that he knew enough to butter up the judge. 

VERSES 5-6: For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: (6) Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. Now he lays out his accusations in that he accuses Paul of being a pestilent fellow, a mover of sedition among all the Jews, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

First, they accuse him of being a pestilent fellow. The word literally means plague or disease. The accusation seems to be that Paul was a corrupting influence on the Jews. Of course, this goes back to the original accusation that taught them to forsake the law of Moses, not circumcising their children, nor walk after the customs (Acts 21:21). 

Also, they are accusing him of being a mover of sedition. Literally, this means that he sowed dissension among the Jews. Again, the accusation is that he was teaching doctrines contrary to the laws and customs of Moses. 

The last accusation is interesting in that he accused of being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The word ringleader means one standing first in the ranks. The point is that Paul was the primary instigator in this whole thing. The sect of the Nazarenes is interesting also. The word sect is where we get our word heresy. The Nazarenes is a reference to those who followed the Nazarene, Jesus. 

VERSES 7-8: But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, (8)  Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him. Tertullus pretends that they would have judged Paul righteously if Lysias had not intervened, but we all know that they were going to kill him on the spot a couple of times. 

VERSE 9: And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so. Of course, all of the Jews present nodded in agreement with Tertullus' assessment of how things would have gone. 

VERSE 10: Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: Now Paul is asked to speak for himself. 

VERSES 11-13: Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. (12)  And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: (13)  Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. Paul, of course, disavows the charges that had been laid against him. Of course, his defense is that they can not prove anything that they were accusing him of. 

VERSES 14-15: But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: (15)  And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. While he denied being a seditionist and pestilent, he does confess that he was a follower of the way. Remember, it was called the sect of the Nazarenes in v.5. 

He goes on to say that he worshipped the God of his fathers and believed everything that was written in the law and the prophets. And that he has hope in regards to the resurrection of the dead, both the just and the unjust. I believe Paul is merely pointing out that he believes the law and the profits point to Jesus. 

VERSE 16: And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. Paul is merely saying that he lives his life without consciously offending others. That doesn't mean that he didn't offend, but that he never purposefully offended (Rom 12:18). 

VERSE 17-18: Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. (18)  Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Now he begins to recount what actually happened in the temple. He was there to merely bring the offerings that were required to complete the vow that he had made. Notice that he calls out the Jews from Asia. 

The very fact that we are in chapter 24 and Paul is still purifying himself in the temple is further proof that he was still living under the Law. Here he is denying that he was a mover of sedition or profaning the temple as he was accused in vv.5-6.

VERSE 19: Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. He then points out that the the Jews from Asia who made the charge should be there right now. 

VERSES 20-21: Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, (21)  Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day. Since the "eyewitnesses" aren't there, they have nothing against Paul, unless they are just accusing him of believing in the resurrection of the dead which was no reason for him to be in front of Felix. 

VERSES 22-23: And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. (23)  And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him. Felix was beginning to understand that this was a religious matter and not a Roman one. Therefore, he would wait to hear again from Lysias, and Paul is placed under house arrest until he could do that. Obviously, Felix did not see Paul as a threat. 

VERSE 24: And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Historically, Drusilla had divorced her first husband, Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes, to marry Felix. She was the granddaughter of Herod the Great and daughter of Herod Agrippa. She was also the sister of Agrippa II. Old Felix had for sure married up. Interestingly as well,  both she and their son, Marcus Antonius Agrippa, died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 99 AD.

VERSE 25: And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul teaching righteousness, temperance (self-control), and the judgment to come implies that Paul had been teaching the Kingdom to the Jews. The judgment to come refers to what will happen at the Second Coming in Rev 19:11-21). That message is hardly a grace message. In response, Felix trembled. Understand that the Kingdom message was a threat: repent or else. Grace is just the opposite. 

VERSE 26: He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. Close, but no cigar. While Felix did feel some conviction and even fear over the prospect of what Paul had to say, in the end, the crooked politician rose to the surface. 

VERSE 27: But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound. Acts 28:30 makes it clear that Paul remained under house arrest the entire time. He stayed that way until Felix was removed and replaced by Porcius Festus. 

Historically, Felix was accused of using a dispute between the Jews and the Syrians of Caesarea as a pretext to slay and plunder the inhabitants. Though he was not immediately punished by Nero, Porcius Festus decided his was too tarnished to remain in that capacity. He eventually died of tuberculosis. To appease, Paul's accusers, on his way out, he left Paul under house arrest. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Acts Study | Session 35 | 21:15-22:30

In today's study, find Paul arriving in Jerusalem where he gives an update on what God is doing among the Gentiles. He was also informed that some of the believing Jews were concerned that he was not teaching obedience to the Mosaic Law to the other Jews. A plan was put in place to show them that was not the case, but it ended with his arrest after Jews from Asia came and stirred up the people.

VERSES 15-17: And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. (16)  There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. (17)  And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem where prophetically everything is going to go bad. The word carriages is just a way of saying baggage. 

VERSE 18-19: And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. (19)  And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. Now Paul is giving an update to James and the elders who were present in regards to what God is doing among the Gentiles with Paul's grace ministry. Remember that they had already approved of the message at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 (Gal 2:6). 

VERSE 20: And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: This is a very interesting verse in that it records their response to Paul's update about what God is doing specifically among the Gentiles. In response, they say that God is also working among the Jews who are believing and are zealous of the law. This verse alone clearly demonstrates that there is an overlap of the Kingdom and Grace or Pauline Gospel. If there is only one gospel at this point, this would have been no reason to celebrate! 

VERSES 21-22: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (22)  What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. More verses that clearly indicate that Paul was teaching a different gospel that did not require law-keeping. The posturing of the question, i.e. they vs. we, indicates that they did not believe that Paul was actually telling the Jews to forsake Moses, not to circumcise their children, or to stop walking after their customs. Obviously, Paul was not because he was still preaching the Kingdom to the Jews. And, of course, they want to hear it from Paul himself. 

VERSES 23-24: Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; (24)  Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. Now they are going to initiate a plan that will demonstrate to the questioning Jews that Paul has not forsaken Moses and the Law. Remember that he has been trying to get back to Jerusalem to fulfill the vow, most likely Nazarite (Acts 18:18). They have four other men who are Jewish that had also made the same vow. The was a photo op of sorts. The fact that Paul went through with this was proof that he did believe that the nation was still under the Law. 

VERSE 25: As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Again, this verse proves that Paul was teaching another gospel to the Gentiles that did not require a keeping of the Law. They are making a reference back to the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:28-29). The more I study, the more confused I am that most in the church reject this! It is clearer and clearer to me every day without hesitation. There simply is no grounds to assume that there is only one gospel. 

VERSE 26: Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. Now we see Paul doing exactly what was suggested by his Jewish brethren that he publicly enter the temple with other Jews to demonstrate that he was not teaching that they were to forsake the Law of Moses. Again, we suspect that this was a Nazarite vow mentioned in Num 6. That means that he was sacrificing a lamb as a sin offering (Num 6:14). 

So, what about those who say that there is one gospel at this point? Making sacrifices in the temple hardly goes along with the Gospel of Grace! Why would Paul do this then? Because the Kingdom Gospel required it!

VERSES 27-28: And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, (28)  Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. The seven days is a reference to the time required under the Nazarite vow in Num 6:9. However, Jews which were of Asia, most likely from the event in Acts 19:9. Their charges were that Paul teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. Understand that the context of their accusations are distinctly Jewish. 

Two things that are obvious, 1. they are confusing his message to the Gentiles as the same that he preached to the Jews. Not so. This accusation alone, at least in my opinion, proves that Paul preached two gospels. This should give a moment of pause to those who insist on "one gospel". If there is, then Paul is guilty of everything that he is being accused of! 2. The last charge that he brought Greeks into the temple was patently false as Luke will explain in the next verse.

VERSE 29: (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) They had apparently assumed that Paul had entered the temple with Trophimus an Ephesian. Again, this proves that these accusers were from Ephesus. 

VERSE 30: And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. Who needs facts!! Sounds like the morons that are running around today. 

The word moved means agitated. As a result that took Paul and drew him out of the temple. We need to do our own homework folks. "Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see."

VERSE 31: And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Their motivations are clear in regards to what they intended to do with Paul exactly what they did with Stephen in Acts 7.

VERSES 32-33: Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. (33)  Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. Well, we now that Agabus was not a false prophet (Acts 21:10-11).

VERSES 34-38: And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. (35)  And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. (36)  For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. (37) And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? (38)  Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? Now Paul requests permission to speak to the chief captain who asked him if he could speak Greek. The question from the guard is more of an act of surprise because it is obvious that Paul asked the question in Greek. 

The captain apparently believed that Paul was an Egyptian who had stirred some people and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers. We are not told why the captain had made this assumption. However, Josephus gives some historical background when he said, "this Egyptian which strikingly accords with the statement here recorded by Luke...came from Egypt to Jerusalem, and said that he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go with him to the Mount of Olives. He said further that he would show them from thence how the walls of Jerusalem would fall down: and he promised them that he would procure for them an entrance through those walls when they were fallen down." He further says that “these he led roundabout from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place. But Felix, who was apprised of his movements, marched against him with the Roman soldiers, and defeated him, and killed 400 of them, and took 200 alive. But the Egyptian escaped himself out of the fight, but did not appear anymore.” And for some reason, this Roman captain believes that Paul was him. Most likely because Paul appeared to be stirring the people up as well. 

VERSES 39-40: But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. (40)  And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Paul then assures him that he is not the Egyptian and is instead a Roman citizen and asks permission to address the people. Remember that we talked about how Paul was uniquely Jewish and Roman. It was his trump card. 

Chapter 22

VERSES 1-3: Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (2)  (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) (3)  I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. Pretty obvious that the guy who did the chapter divisions did not pay close attention to where the commas are. 

Paul is not getting ready to give a defense of himself to the council. The word for defense is apologia which means an answer in regards to the accusations that had been made against him by the Jews that he was teaching them to disregard the Law of Moses. 

Notice also that he spake to them in the Hebrew tongue. I believe he did this because it was their heart language. He points to his education and background as proof that he knows the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and is zealous toward God as ye all are this day.

VERSES 4-5: And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. (5)  As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. Now in his defense, he points out just how zealous he was in how he persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.He even points out that the high priests are witnesses that he had received letters to go and bring them bound to Jerusalem to be punished. 

VERSES 6-16: And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. (7)  And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (8)  And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. (9)  And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. (10)  And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (11)  And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. (12)  And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, (13)  Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. (14)  And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. (15)  For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. (16)  And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Now Paul just shared a bit of his testimony as to his conversion experience on the Damascus Road. Notice that he says in v.16 that Ananias told Paul that he needed to be baptized to wash away thy sins. This is clearly not a part of the Grace Gospel. However, there is nothing that Paul has said thus far that they would disagree with, but that is about to change. 

Verses 17-18: And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; (18)  And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. The event Paul speaks of here is jumping three years forward when Paul visited Jerusalem, disputed with the Grecians (Greek-speaking Jews), and they tried to kill him in Acts 9:26-29. Interestingly, and pertinent to Paul's defense at this point, he was preaching the Kingdom Gospel. Of course, he not received it at that point. 

VERSES 19-20: And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: (20)  And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. Again, Paul is attempting to show that he is one of them. 

VERSE 21: And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And...this is where he lost them. 

VERSES 22-23: And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. (23) And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, Yep, he lost them right after the word Gentiles rolled off his tongue. Notice that the Jews began to cry out, tear off their clothes, and threw dust into the air. That is a lot of vitriol. To me, it is pretty obvious that at this point, they were planning on stoning him (Acts 7:58). As for throwing dirt, it was just a way for them to express their anger and indignation with Paul (2Sam 16:13). 

My question is why did they come unhinged at this point? My answer is that Paul was basically telling them that God had rejected them. No, God was not rejecting them. They were rejecting him and were losing their favored nation status. Today God does not see people as Jews or Gentiles, just believing and unbelieving. Today, Israel has no special status in the dispensation of grace. They will again someday in the Kingdom, but not now. 

I also believe that the Jewish leaders knew the prophecies that spoke of the Jews going to the Gentiles after the Kingdom was established, but did not realize that they had already rejected said Kingdom and God was going to do it another way: Paul. Understand that in the Old Testament, there are no prophecies about the Gentiles hearing the truth before Israel is restored. Again, these are the unsearchable riches of Christ that Paul said has been kept secret since the world began (Eph 3:8). 

VERSE 24: The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. Of course, the Roman captain didn't know what to make of it, so he decided to force some answers out of Paul. 

VERSE 25: And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? Oops, trump card played again!

VERSES 26-29: When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. (27)  Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. (28)  And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. (29)  Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. Unlike what is happening in our society right now, Rome respected citizenship and the rule of law. Paul was also quick to point out that his citizenship was not purchased like the captain's had been. 

VERSE 30: On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them. The next day, to know for sure what the Jews were accusing Paul of, he loosed him and put Paul before the chief priests and counsel. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Acts Study | Session 34 | 20:29-21:14

In today's study, we find Paul addressing the Ephesian elders in his final farewell, warning them of the wolves that would come in after his departing, acknowledging that he would never see them again and that he was prepared for whatever awaited him in Jerusalem upon his arrival.

VERSES 29-30: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (30)  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. The word grievous means weighty or have. In other words, they will be very dangerous, so much so that they would not be easily resisted. Barnes points out that the term wolves are used to denote "enemies of the flock, false, hypocritical, and dangerous teachers" just like was referred to in Matthew10:16. 

Paul knew that they were going to be attacked after he left, but not from the outside, but from within. I believe he is referring to the unbelieving Jews. Also, the words enter in among you seem to imply that this would not be a full-frontal assault, but an infiltration. 

I have no doubt that this is the case when it comes to church life as that it usually always comes from within. They enter is sit, smile, greet, and then start subverting everyone that they can. The word subvert means to undermine. 

Notice that they, from within again, will speak perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. The word perverse means to distort, corrupt, or misinterpret. 

With that said, the church today is simply not teaching doctrine, everything else, but not doctrine. One pastor said it this way. "Even though I had been reared in a denominational system, I eventually realized I had been taught very little doctrine.  I had been taught about my Baptist religion, that Christ died for my sins, sin in my life would keep me from having a good relationship with God, to attend church regularly, to abstain from doing many things (don’t smoke, don’t chew and don’t go with the girls that do), to give my tithes, and to witness to the lost. All of these things were supposed to make me a better Baptist, a better Christian. Furthermore, I had not been taught how to study, the unique ministry of Paul, the mystery, about the body of Christ, the difference between the gospel Peter preached and the gospel Paul preached, that there were different inheritances (heavenly and earthly), and how to rightly divide the word of truth."

VERSE 31: Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. He is saying, in lieu of the wolves that will come, watch, and remember. Watch for them and remember what I taught you in regard to these inevitable dangers that will come. 

Timewise, Paul spent more time with the Ephesians was the longest of his ministry. And he says that during that time he ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. The word warn means to set in place, put in mind, to caution, reprove, or admonish. 

VERSE 32: And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Finally, Paul commends them to God, and to the word of his grace for two reasons. 1. That it might build them up, and 2. give them an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Again, I believe the context is Jews to whom the inheritance will be given. Remember that the Jews are heirs of the covenants of promise, not the Gentiles. Instead, we are the heirs according to the promise and not according to the Law. 

VERSE 33: I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Paul is saying that he did not do it for the silver, gold, or apparel. We see this all throughout Paul's ministry: 2Cor 12:14 and 1Cor 9:12-15. 

Notice that Paul included apparel with silver and gold. Bullinger says that it expresses stateliness more so than himation (a type of clothing worn by ancient Greeks). 

VERSE 34: Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. We know from previous verses that Paul used his tentmaking skills to support himself (Acts 18:3; 1Cor 4:12; 1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:8). 

VERSE 35: I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Now Paul says that he has shown them not only by instruction but by example all things. Again, I believe this refers to the fact that Paul supported himself through his trade instead of relying on others to support him so that he could minister to them without charge, i.e., more blessed to give than receive. 

VERSES 36-38: And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. (37)  And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, (38)  Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship. Obviously, there was a tremendous love both ways between Paul and the Ephesians. Remember in Acts 20:22-25, he told them what was awaiting him in Jerusalem and they would not see him again as a result. It would be his brethren that would do this to him. Why? Because what Paul preached was an indictment against them. 

Barnes points out three things from these verses. (1) The parting of ministers and people is a most solemn event and should be one of much tenderness and affection. (2) The effect of true religion is to make the heart more tender; to make friendship more affectionate and sacred, and to unite more closely the bonds of love. (3) Ministers of the gospel should be prepared to leave their people with the same consciousness of fidelity and the same kindness and love which Paul evinced. They should live such lives as to be able to look back upon their whole ministry as pure and disinterested, and as having been employed in guarding the flock, and in making known to them the whole counsel of God. So parting, they may separate in peace; and so living and acting, they will be prepared to give up their account with joy, and not with grief. 

Chapter 21

VERSES 1-2: And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: (2)  And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. So now after Paul leaves the elders in Ephesus, he heads to Jerusalem. 

VERSES 3-5: Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. (4) And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. (5) And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. These disciples warn Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem. The question is, was Paul being disobedient to the Spirit? He is going to be warned again in v.11. I don't believe so, Paul already stated in Acts 20:22-24 that the Holy Spirit told him to go. I believe this is a case of we have to do what we believe that the Lord wants us to do regardless of what others say. Now, I don't believe these others were necessarily wrong. They were clearly led by the Spirit in what awaited Paul, but apparently, it is what God wanted for Paul. In the end, we have to do what God tells us to do (1Ki 13:1-24).

VERSES 6-8: And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again. (7)  And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. (8)  And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. These verses are just a review of Paul's travel. Notice Luke is writing in the first person. Philip the evangelist was one of the original deacons from Acts 6. This is the same Philip who ministered to the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza in Acts 8. 

VERSE 9: And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. Bear in mind that we are still around 60AD and prophesy had not ceased (1Cor 13:8).

VERSES 10-11: And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. (11)  And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Here another prophet is warning Paul about going to Jerusalem, but he wasn't telling Paul anything he did not already know. Some identify this Agabus with Acts 11:28. 

Notice that his message to Paul is simply what was going to happen to him once he arrives and did not try to stop him like the ones in v.4. So, obviously, Paul had to go for this to happen. 

VERSES 12-14: And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. (13)  Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (14)  And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. Now those around Paul begin to beg him not to go to Jerusalem, but he does not yield and was content to allow the Lord's will to be done. It is obvious that Paul did the right thing when we read Acts 23:11.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Acts Study | Session 33 | 19:36-20:28

In today's study, we find Paul still in Ephesus ministering to both Jews and Gentiles, taking a closer look at the word church and its uses, a riot, the Feasts of Israel, a sleeping Eutychus, his address to the Ephesian elders which included words of endearment and warning, and Paul's determination to make it to Jerusalem by Pentecost.

VERSES 36-37: Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. (37)  For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. The townclerk continues to try to stop the mob by pointing out that they need not overreact to what was happening as a result of Paul's teaching that was causing such an uproar in the city as the people began responding to his message. Of course, as we stated earlier, his council proved to be wrong in that Diana is no longer worshipped. He goes to say that Gaius and Aristarchus are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of Diana. 

Note the word churches. He is obviously not talking about Kingdom or Grace churches as that would not have even been his frame of reference as an unbeliever. A better translation would be temples. Further proof that the word always needs context. Remember that the word church simply means a called-out assembly. 

There are four churches identified in the Bible and we also run into problems when we try to combine them. 1. Historically, there was the church in the wilderness mentioned in Acts 7:38 by Stephen, which was the assembly of the children of Israel that were called out of Egypt and assembled in the wilderness. 2. Then there was the Jerusalem church which was made of none but the lost sheep of the house of Israel and proselytes. This is the Kingdom Church. No one is a part of this church today. It stopped after the rejection was complete. 3. And today, we are a part of the Body of Christ made up of Jew and Gentile that was the mystery revealed to Paul. This is the Mystery Church that was revealed through Paul who are justified freely by grace (Col 1:18; Rom 11:25; Rom 16:25; Eph 3:1-2). 4. And finally, there is the Tribulation Church which is made up of those who sealed their fates in their own blood by not accepting the Mark of the Beast which is made up of the congregations mentioned in Revelation 2-3. It is those who overcome and sit with him on his throne. That is not us. We are already sitting in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). Those who eat of the Tree of Life (Rev 22:14) will be the reward for those who make it through the Tribulation. The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached again by the 144,000 according to Mat 24:13-14. To interpret the churches any other way, as I did for years, is allegorizing the text which is exactly what dispensationalists do not do. 

VERSES 38-41: Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. (39)  But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. (40) For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. (41)  And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly. The townclerk further warns them that if they did not handle this correctly, Rome would come down on them and dismisses the assembly. Again, assembly is ekklesia which is also translated as church. Further proof that we have to be careful with that word, even the pagans were a church! 

Chapter 20

VERSES 1-2 And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. (2)  And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, It is from Macedonia that Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. He also wrote 2 Corinthians from Greece. 

VERSES 3-6: And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. (4) And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. (5)  These going before tarried for us at Troas. (6)  And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. Unbelieving Jews still stirring up trouble against him. Notice that Luke mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The feast lasted seven days and commemorated Israel's flight from Egypt (Exo 12:17-20; Exo 23:15). It spoke of the fact that the Israelites had no time to put leaven in their bread before their hasty departure from Egypt. 

There were Spring feasts and Fall feasts for Israel. The Spring feasts consisted of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. All fulfilled at Christ's 1st coming. Passover =  Crucifixion;  Unleavened Bread = Buried; First Fruits = Resurrection; Pentecost = The Holy Spirit. 

The Fall feasts are Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. These will be fulfilled at his 2nd coming. Trumpets = Rapture? Regathering?; Atonement = Judgement; Tribulation; Tabernacles = Millennium. 

It is said that the Body of Christ lives in the gap. Summer, if you will. Where we get into trouble today in the church is that we try to tie these feasts to us, when in reality they are all a part of the prophetic program for Isreal. No one today is required to keep the feast days because we have the Lord himself and not just the shadow of him in the feasts. However, they should be studied with great interest in that they are Israel's prophetic program, past, and future. Notice, I left at present. 

Notice Paul's traveling companions. The ones we are most familiar with is Tychicus (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7, 2Ti 4:12, and Tit 3:12). And also Trophimus from Act 21:29 and 2Ti 4:20. These went ahead of Paul and met up in Troas. 

VERSE 7: And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. Bear in mind that we are in the midst of the Feast of Passover. 

Nisan 14 is Passover; Nisam 15 is Unleavened Bread; Nisan 16 is First Fruits; 50 days later was Pentecost. So, the phrase first day of week is speaking of the first of seven sabbaths that had to take place until Pentecost (Lev 23:15-16). 

So, Paul, the night before he was to head out for Jerusalem, preached until midnight. 

VERSES 8-9: And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. (9)  And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. Well, ol' brother Eutychus was sleeping in the wrong place at the wrong time! 

Now, there has been some dispute about this event in that some say that the text does not specifically say that he was dead, they just supposed that he was based on what Paul says in the next verse.  

VERSE 10: And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. Either way, Albert Barnes says, "The late hour of the night, and the length of the services, were the excuse. But, though the thing is often done now, yet how seldom is a sleeper in a church furnished with an excuse for it. No practice is more shameful, disrespectful, and abominable than that so common of sleeping in the house of God."

VERSES 11-12: When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of  day, so he departed. (12)  And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted. When the young man is revived, Paul eats and talks until daybreak and everyone was not a little comforted. 

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

VERSES 17-20: And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (18)  And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, (19) Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: (20)  And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Paul calls for the elders in Ephesus to express how he served them with tears, temptations, and the Jews who spoke against him. 

VERSE 21: Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Some will point to these verse to say that Paul ministered to both groups; Jews and Greeks. Also, the phrase repentance toward God for the Jew and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ for the Greeks. Either way, many apparently responded positively and a church was started. 

VERSES 22-23: And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: (23)  Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. Now Paul tells them that he is going to Jerusalem bound in the spirit. Albert Barnes says of this verse, Paul is being "strongly urged or constrained by the influences of the Holy Spirit. Not by any desire to see the Jersusalem, and not urged merely by reason, but by the convictions and mighty promptings of the Holy Spirit. Some translations capitalize spirit in this verse which would make this the third person of the Trinity. The words abide me mean await me or facing me. 

VERSE 24: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. But Paul says nothing that awaits him will stop him because he does not count his life dear unto himself. The same thing came to be said for his when we are walking in obedience. Why? Because what he is doing and preaching had been received of the Lord Jesus which is to testify the gospel of the grace of God. I believe this is Paul stating once again that what he preached did not come from the other apostles, but from Jesus himself: the gospel of the grace of God today. 

VERSE 25: And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Now he pivots back to the fact that he had preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the Ephesians though. The only assumption we can come to is that while Paul was given the Gospel of Grace (v.24), he still preached the Gospel of the Kingdom (v.25) because the Kingdom was still on the table at this point. 

Of course, today these two gospels are mixed because "evangelicals" have attempted to mix covenant and dispensational theology instead of rightly dividing the Word of Truth as they were told to. 

Notice and you shall see my face no more. Interesting that Paul knew that he would not see these people again in this life, and he also knew that he had honestly given to them the entire counsel of God.

VERSE 26: Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. Some commentators say this blood that Paul is speaking of here is a reference to the second death. However, I believe that he is referring to them physically now that they are rejecting Christ and his Kingdom offer (Act 18:6). 

Ezekiel said something similar in Eze 33:1-9. Pretty sure that is physically blood and not spiritual.  He is merely warning them, or just emphatically saying, I can not be blamed for what is going to come upon you because of your lack of heeding the message. 

VERSE 27: For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. This verse would seem to indicate that Paul shared with them everything that he knew, both national and personal salvation. It is obvious to me that he did just that in that he preached both a Kingdom (v.25) and Grace Gospel (v.24). Therefore, v.26 I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. v.27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Sounds like he was preaching both. This will become important to remember when we study the book of Ephesians, i.e. pronouns. We will even see it before we finish this chapter. 

VERSE 28: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. This reference to the flock here sounds like a distinctive Jewish analogy. If so, he is referring to Jewish leaders in this verse. Remember that the little flock is the one that is going to receive the kingdom and not the Body of Christ (Luk 12:32). Again, the shepherd and flock analogy refers to the Jews. 

By the way, the word shepherd does not appear in the Pauline epistles. Also, the word flock only occurs one time in the Pauline epistles, yet in context has nothing to do with Israel (1Co 9:7). Therefore, the church of God spoken of here would be the remnant of Israel, which he hath purchased with his own blood

Let's talk about words. Personally, I am starting to be very careful with my words when referring to Scripture. Remember that to purchase is to redeem or to ransom. Salvation on the other hand is a gift that was given as a result of what Christ did on the cross. Redemption is a purchase and salvation is a gift. I am beginning to believe that redemption refers to Israel and salvation refers to the Body of Christ. 

As a matter of fact, Paul only uses the word redeemed one time in his epistles (Gal_3:13) and it is referring to the Jews. We know this for a few reasons. 1. He uses the word us and instead of you. In the book, just like in Ephesians, he uses we/us to refer to Israel and you/ye to refer to the Gentiles. 2. We have never been directly under the curse of the law because it was given to Israel. Instead, the Gentiles were without hope in the world because we were aliens to the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12). 

So, the context dictates, at least to me, that Christ redeemed the Jews from the curse of the law by taking the curse on himself (Gal 3:14). Therefore, I don't think that we, the Body of Christ, should be quoting this verse as a reference to us. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Acts Study | Session 32 | 19:1-35

In today's study, we find Paul back in Ephesus where he meets twelve men who had only knew of the baptism of John, the sons of Sceva attempting to cast out a demon, and creating another riot because the business and religious people there felt that his teaching was going to harm their livelihood there in Ephesus where they worshipped the goddess Diana.

Chapter 19 

VERSES 1-2: And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, (2)  He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. Paul, on his way to Ephesus, runs into twelve (v.7) men who were disciples of John the Baptist. It is apparent from the context that these men, despite the fact that Pentecost was twenty years prior, had no idea about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that happened in Acts 2. This makes it obvious that these are Jews that Paul was dealing with here. They were under the baptism of John still. 

VERSE 3: And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. It is interesting that Paul realized that they had received some kind of baptism, but just wanted to clarify. It seems from the text, at least to me, that he knew the answer before he even asked it based on their behavior. By acknowledging that they were under John's baptism, it means that they had accepted the message of repentance that John preached, but had not received the spiritual baptism that happened at Pentecost. So, they had no doubt repented, baptized, and were looking for the Messiah. 

Note: It was not the same baptism that we practice today which represents the death, burial, and resurrection and is not required for salvation. 

VERSES 4-7: Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. (5)  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (6)  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (7)  And all the men were about twelve. I have been guilty of "overthinking" these verses and arriving at a bad interpretation for years. The bottom line is that these guys had accepted the teaching of John that the Messiah was going to come, but they did not know that Jesus was that promised Messiah, so Paul took the time to explain it to them. They needed to understand that Jesus was that promised Messiah and then receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was poured out in Acts 2 as prophesied by Joel as a sign (1Cor 1:22). This happened when Paul laid hands on them as Peter and John did with the kingdom believers in Samaria with Philip in Acts 8. 

These twelve Jewish disciples of John just received the long-overdue gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised to believing Israel in the book of Joel, and in the gospels, and in the early part of the book of Acts who believed that Jesus was their Christ.

Now, with that in mind, at least to me, the text clearly indicates that Paul did not preach the Grace Gospel to these twelve men. They were Kingdom believers and they stayed that way as that there is no mention of trusting in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to these twelve Jewish believers. These were kingdom saints and they would receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost after they had repented and were baptized in Jesus' name just like Peter said they should in Acts 2:38.

Finally, just another proof text, notice that it says that the Holy Spirit came "on" them. Not "in" them like he does for the Body of Christ, but "on" them. Again, this was a time of overlap in the Kingdom offer and the beginning of the age of grace. I believe this time of overlap officially ended at the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. 

VERSE 8: And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. Remember that Paul had already been to Ephesus in Acts 18:19-20 when they desired for him to stay longer, but he couldn't because he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. Now he is back for three months and still disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. Again, this can not be taught today, not even to the Jews, because that offer is no longer on the table. 

VERSE 9: But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. But, as usual, some did not believe, and Paul left the synagogue and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 

VERSE 10: And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. So, over a space of two years, Paul taught the word of the Lord Jesus to both Jews and Greeks. Again, it is difficult to determine what Paul preached to whom, Kingom or Grace. Again, the word for Greeks is hellen which refers to non-Jews. The assumption would be that Paul would have been preaching the Kingdom Gospel to the Jews and the Grace Gospel to the Gentiles. However, as we look through this chapter, it seems that he only taught the Kingdom Gospel.

Randy White points out a few things. First, the says clearly that he was teaching the kingdom of God (v.8), and nowhere do we see that the message changed. It would require an assumption on our part to assume otherwise. Second, he is performing special miracles which is always associated with the Kingdom, not the Grace Gospel. Third, those who responded confessed and shewed their deeds. which is consistent with the Kingdom message. With this in mind, we would be hard-pressed to conclude that Paul preached anything other than a Kingdom message to the Ephesians. 

That is not to say that he didn't also preach the other, just that the text does not support it. Gentiles were present, and they accepted the message, but again, we see no indicator from the text that he went into a Grace message with them. We have to assume that during this unique time of overlap that both were effectual. 

Randy also offers some possible scenarios. First, Paul only preached the Kingdom message, and later Timothy continued and shared the grace message. As you remember, Paul wrote to Timothy who was in Ephesus in his first letter (1Tim 1:1-3). Second, Paul did preach both messages, but only the Kingdom is emphasized in the text. 

Of course, today, most mix the two anyway and naturally see no point in our discussion right now. 

VERSES 11-12: And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: (12)  So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. Again, these verses seem to indicate a Kingdom message  (1Cor 1:22). Of course, the signs were so that the Jews would believe. It is also obvious that later on, Paul did not have the ability to perform miracles. They were temporary because they were a part of the Kingdom message. We do know that Paul was able to perform them up until at least Acts 28:1-9 when on his way to Rome, he was shipwrecked in Melita when he healed Publius' father, the islanders, and the snake bite that did not cause him any harm. 

Of course, it was at Rome that he pinned his prison epistles with new revelations in regards to the Body of Christ. Afterward, we see no miracles from Paul. Interestingly, on this same island, later Paul was not able to heal Trophimus later (2Tim 4:20). 

I am of the opinion now, haven't always been, that the sign gifts associated with the Kingdom message ceased with the rejection of the Kingdom. The next time these gifts will come back will be Daniel's 70th Week. In the meantime, the Bible does foretell of false signs that will accompany apostasy in the latter days (Mat 24:24). 

That is a hard one to settle on since so many today swear by them. I can only conclude that they are mistaken and overcome with emotion. 

VERSES 13-14: Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. (14) And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. Now we are introduced to some Jews that apparently specialized in exorcisms. And when they did it, they did so by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. Among these were the seven sons of Sceva. Sceva is said to be chief of the priests in Ephesus. So this would have made him a member of the Sanhedrin there. 

One teacher puts it this way, "they were not evil men, just ignorant of what they were getting themselves involved in. Their father was a chief priest and they were all wanting to serve the Lord with what knowledge they had. They no doubt had heard that Paul was casting out demons in the name of Jesus and they perhaps thought it may work for them being fellow Jews, but something was missing in their walk with God, salvation. They did not know that being a Jew like Paul was not enough, you had to know the Jesus that Paul preached before you could call upon his name."

VERSE 15: And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?  Notice that the evil spirit said that he knew Jesus and Paul, but not them. That must have been just a bit scary I would think. The word ginosko speaks of intimate knowledge. 

VERSE 16: And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Well, that did not end well at all! Unusual strength seems to be the order of the day with evil spirits (Mar 9:14-29; Mar 5:1-5). The word wounded is interesting in that it means traumatized. 

Les Feldick points out at this point that Paul never addressed the issue of demonic possession; therefore, salvation is the only answer. Something to think about. I mean, all exorcisms occurred during the Kingdom offer. 

VERSE 17: And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. No doubt, this further magnified the ministry of Paul. 

VERSE 18: And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. The result was that many believed, confessed, and shewed their deeds.  Again, this verse suggests a Kingdom response here. 

Notice that it says that they shewed their deeds. That literally means that they disclosed their deeds or openly confessed their deeds. 

VERSE 19-20: Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (20)  So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. Also, many who believed confessed to using curious arts. In context, the word is referring to magic and all of the accouterments associated with that. 

Historically, the city of Ephesus was ate up with magic and sorcery. History paints a picture of Ephesus as full of paganism and mysticism. One writer said, "Magic scrolls, rings, amulets, bracelets, and necklaces thought to have powers were all common in ancient Ephesus. The price of these magical documents and trinkets varied, but history tells us that there was a huge market for them in the commercial agora." It was altogether worth 50K pieces of silver. You talking about putting your money where your mouth is! This was going to lead to short term problems of course as we will see over idol worship. 

VERSES 21-22: After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. (22)  So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. Now, Paul feels led to pass through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem, and then on to Rome. This would complete his third missionary journey. I believe that Paul felt that as to the Gentiles that Rome was the golden apple as the capital of the Gentile world. 

On a side note, I find it interesting that the Devil wants everyone to believe that Peter founded the church in Rome, thus thoroughly conflating and mixing the Kingdom with the Grace gospels and diminishing the role of Paul. The Devil is in the details for sure and has been trying to mix the two programs and cause division and confusion for quite some time. 

VERSE 23: And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. Notice that way. I believe that the way or that way is always a reference to the Kingdom program (John 14:6; Acts 9:2). Therefore, it has nothing to do with the Pauline gospel of grace. 

VERSE 24: For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Diana was the Greek goddess Artemis. She was the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. Orion was who she loved. She was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery. Her temple in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the world at the time. Many connect her to Semiramis. 

VERSE 25: Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. (26) Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: (27)  So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. Of course, there is no doubt that Demetrius is first and foremost acting out of self-preservation, but who would really care about that. So, he makes it about their great goddess Diana. The same tactic is used today in society, i.e., make it about one thing while nothing could be farther from the truth. 

VERSES 28-30: And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. (29)  And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre. (30)  And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. Things are have just turned ugly. 

VERSE 31: And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre. Albert Barnes says of this chiefs that they "were persons who presided over sacred things and over the public games. It was their business to see that the proper services of religion were observed, and that proper honor was rendered to the Roman emperor in the public festivals, at the games, etc. They were annually elected, and their election was confirmed at Rome before it was valid. Probably they were assembled on such an occasion now; and during their remaining there they had heard Paul preach, and were friendly to his views and doctrines." There is no indication from the text that they were believers. 

VERSES 32-34: Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. (33)  And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people. (34)  But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. However, Alexander was, he was prepared to speak on behalf of the Jews. Some associate him with Alexander the Coppersmith in 1Tim 1:20, but that is speculation. If would make sense that a Jew would be asked to defend what was going on because Paul's Kingdom message was to and about them. However, it doesn't appear that he was allowed to speak, and even if he had, we have no idea what he was prepared to say; for or against Paul. Of course, if this was in indeed the same Alexander mentioned to Timothy, it would seem that he spoke against.

VERSE 35: And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? The townclerk appears to be just trying to calm the situation by saying basically that everyone knows that the image of Diana fell down from Jupiter. He is saying that there is nothing to worry about from these Jews. Of course, time proved him wrong! The word worshipper in this verse means a temple keeper. 

David Guzil points out at this point that what was going on in Ephesus as a result of Paul's teaching did not please the Devil at all and it may have been why he spoke of spiritual warfare in Eph 6:10-20. When God is at work, the Devil does get busy for sure.