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.