The Book of Acts

By COGwriter

This article is 'in-process' and eventually should include the entire Book of Acts, with commentary.

The Book of Acts shows the return of Jesus to hatseaven, the start of the New Testament church, and various events related to spreading the gospel of the kingdom to many lands.

It is believed that Luke, the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14), wrote the Book of Acts.

Author

Although the author does not name himself, evidence outside the Scriptures and inferences from the book itself lead to the conclusion that the author was Luke.

The earliest of the external testimonies appears in the Muratorian Canon (c. a.d. 170), where the explicit statement is made that Luke was the author of both the third Gospel and the "Acts of All the Apostles." Eusebius (c. 325) lists information from numerous sources to identify the author of these books as Luke (Ecclesiastical History, 3.4).

Within the writing itself are some clues as to who the author was:

      1. Luke, the companion of Paul. In the description of the happenings in Acts, certain passages make use of the pronoun "we." At these points the author includes himself as a companion of Paul in his travels (16:10-17; 20:5 -- 21:18; 27:1 -- 28:16; see notes on 16:10,17; 27:1). A historian as careful with details as this author proves to be would have good reason for choosing to use "we" in some places and "they" elsewhere. The author was therefore probably present with Paul at the particular events described in the "we" sections.

        These "we" passages include the period of Paul's two-year imprisonment at Rome (ch. 28). During this time Paul wrote, among other letters, Philemon and Colossians. In them he sends greetings from his companions, and Luke is included among them (see Col 4:9-17 and notes; Phm 23-24). In fact, after eliminating those who, for one reason or another, would not fit the requirements for the author of Acts, Luke is left as the most likely candidate.
      2. Luke, the physician. Although it cannot be proved that the author of Acts was a physician simply from his vocabulary, the words he uses and the traits and education reflected in his writings fit well his role as a physician (see, e.g., note on 28:6). It is true that the doctor of the first century did not have as specialized a vocabulary as that of doctors today, but there are some usages in Luke-Acts that seem to suggest that a medical man was the author of these books. And it should be remembered that Paul uses the term "doctor" in describing Luke (see Col 4:14 and note).

Presuming that Luke wrote both the Gospel with his name (which is the longest of the gospel accounts) and the Book of Acts, it has been reported that Luke wrote 27.5% of the entire New Testament.

Date
Two dates are possible for the writing of this book: (1) c. a.d. 63, soon after the last event recorded in the book, and (2) c. 70 or even later.
The earlier date is supported by:

      1. Silence about later events. While arguments from silence are not conclusive, it is perhaps significant that the book contains no allusion to events that happened after the close of Paul's two-year imprisonment in Rome: e.g., the burning of Rome and the persecution of the Christians there (a.d. 64), the martyrdom of Peter and Paul (possibly 67) and the destruction of Jerusalem (70).
      2. No outcome of Paul's trial. If Luke knew the outcome of the trial Paul was waiting for (see 28:30 and note), why did he not record it at the close of Acts? Perhaps it was because he had brought the history up to date.

https://www.biblestudytools.com/acts/

Agnostic sources take a different view. Wikipedia, for example, pushes 80-90 A.D.:

The earliest possible date for the composition of Acts is set by the events with which it ends, Paul's imprisonment in Rome c.63 AD, but an early date is now rarely put forward.[13][9] The last possible date would be set by its first definite citation by another author, but there is no unanimity on this; some scholars find echoes of Acts in a work from c. 95 AD called I Clement, while others see no indisputable citation until the middle of the 2nd century.[13] The majority of scholars date Luke–Acts to 80–90 AD

Note: Wikipedia takes a secular view on matters like this and tends to NOT give much credibility to those who actually say that they believe the Bible.

Most likely, the Book of Acts was finished in the early 60s A.D. Got Questions says:

Date of Writing: The Book of Acts was likely written between 61-64 A.D.
(Theophilos) which meant "friend of god", derived from θεος (theos) "god" and φιλος (philos) "friend". In the New Testament the evangelist Luke addresses his gospel and the Book of Acts to a man named Theophilus.

It is intended that this in-process paper will have the entire Book of Acts with commentary.

Acts 1

The Book of Acts begins with the following:

1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3, NKJV throughout unless otherwise specified)

Theophilus means friend of God. This is the same person Luke's gospel is addressed to (Luke 1:1-4).

Notice that we see that Jesus spoke to His followers after His resurrection about the Kingdom of God. This was not mainly references to His death and resurrection, but about that coming kingdom that Jesus wanted preached.

In verses 4-5 we see that the Jesus’ first words in Acts are prophetic:

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:4-5)

The Apostles wondered about the prophetic timing of certain events:

6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)

They partially wondered because they had been brought up with a view about the Messiah that was in error. Many have wrong ideas about Jesus and prophecy today as well.

Jesus responded in a way they likely had not expected:

7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8)

Jesus basically said the them, do not worry about the timing, but do the work, including the Great Commission:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Then Jesus returned to heaven:

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)

While the disciples were essentially in awe, two angels told them, don't just stand around here, get to work.

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. (Acts 1:12)

Now, I have been to the area where Jesus ascended. It is where He also taught what was recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. It is not very far from the walls of Jerusalem. A 'Sabbath days's journey' was around one kilometer, a little over 1/2 a mile.

Continuing:

13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:13-14)

That upper room has been claimed to be in the area of the building called the Cenacle or Cenaculum which was built AFTER the destruction of Jerusalem, with some of the Jewish temple stones/bricks (also called ashlars) used as the foundation and some of the original walls. Whether or not it was the upper room location, the foundation stones and a part of at least one original wall is left (see Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill ). Part of what is there now is shown on the cover of the Bible Hymnal of the Continuing Church of God.

15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 "Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry." (Acts 1:15-17)

So, despite Jesus' 3 1/2 year ministry, including miracles, there were only 120 disciples.

18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.) (Acts 1:18-19)

Matthew 27:8 also records this being called a field of blood. Anyway, Peter continues with:

20 "For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

'Let his dwelling place be desolate,And let no one live in it';

and,

'Let another take his office.'

21 "Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."

23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:20-26)

There are prophecies for the 12:

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?"

28 So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:27-30)

It is because of prophecies, that a twelfth was selected. Judas has a chance, but did not endure. Do not be like him.

Anyway, notice that the replacement was one who had been around Jesus since the beginning. He probably never thought he could be one of the twelve that Jesus promised to sit on the twelve tribes, yet he attained what seemed unattainable. Do not give up as many will attain what they thought was out-of-reach.

Before going further, it should be pointed out that we never see a casting of lots in the Bible after this, as the Holy Spirit was given in the next chapter. There also would be no longer any need to cast lots for the Atonement goats (Leviticus 16:8) as Jesus clearly fulfilled His Atonement role and animal sacrifices were no longer needed (Hebrews 9:11-15).

Acts 2

Now, the next chapter of Acts:

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1).

Notice that the emphasis is on the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. The Bible is making it clear that the events that follow were directly related to the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. And, it happened to the disciples because they were all observing it together.

Here is what happened next:

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

Getting God's Holy Spirit changed them. And not just because of their speaking.

They received some of the power of Holy Spirit. And this is considered to be the start of the Christian church by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestant, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Church of God groups. But, note, that the Holy Spirit was given at a certain time, the same time that many of the Jews observed Pentecost, and that Jesus' disciples were still observing it.

Going back to Acts:

5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"

13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.'

Acts 2:17: Numbers 4 and 8:25 point to age fifty as the beginning of being an old man. Some foolishly will not accept that God uses dreams, but this is in biblical error (see also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).

Peter continued with the following after quoting Joel 2:28-29:

22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'

29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

David, then, clearly had not yet been resurrected, but he awaits it, like Christians who have died from Peter's time (cf. 2 Thessalonians 4:15-17; see also What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections? here also is a link to a related sermon: Understanding the Resurrections):

30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

Repent means to change. They did NOT JUST accept Jesus, they were told that they needed to change and be baptized (see also Christian Repentance, a related sermon is also available titled: Real Christian Repentance and.Baptism, the Early Church, and the Continuing Church, a related sermon video is titled Baptism: What is it and how should it be done?).

Continuing:

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."

So, Peter tied various events, like what happened to Jesus and sins of his generation in a sermon to encourage people to change. We in the Continuing Church of God do this regularly.

Getting back to Acts:

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Notice that they were steadfast keeping to the original doctrines.They did not make their own up. The faithful CONTINUED in the apostles’ doctrines. Sadly, most who profess Christianity do not do that. The Apostle Jude told Christians to:

3 ... contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

To learn more about the original faith, study the Bible and also you may wish to read the free online booklet: Continuing History of the Church of God.

Getting back to Acts:

43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47).

God had many miracles done then. Many open miracles.

In the future, this will happen again. And as far as things being in common, that would be expected to happen again to a significant degree when the Philadelphia Christians are protected during the time of the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Near Petra.,a sermon-length videois also available Physical Protection During the Great Tribulation).

Here is a link to a sermon titled: Book of Acts 1-2: Jesus Left, New Testament Church Began.

Acts 3

Now, here is the start of the third chapter:

1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. (Acts 3:1)

The 9th hour equates to 3:00 pm today. Notice that at this stage, they were still totally fine with going to the Jewish temple. Hence, they were certainly not anti-Jewish.

Then, they noticed someone:

2 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, "Look at us." 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. (Acts 3:2-5)

So, the beggar was hoping to get some money. Peter apparently realized that. Continuing the story:

6 Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them — walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:6-10)

This was dramatic. The location of this is interesting as all the Jewish religious leaders must have heard about this. This should have given them even more pause to consider Jesus and Christianity.

Continuing:

11 Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed. 12 So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? (Acts 3:11-12)

Note that even the Apostle Peter did NOT have any power of himself. God did the healing. God heals today (for more on prayer and healing see the free online booklet: Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach? A related two part sermon is available: What Does the Bible Teach About Prayer? and What does the Bible Teach About Prayer (& Healing)?).

Humans do not have the abilities that God does. But Christians have access to them:

13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

This is not unique to Paul, God's people can accomplish what needs to be done through God's Spirit:

3 So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. 3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." 4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?"

5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?"
And I said, "No, my lord."

6 So he answered and said to me:

"This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:' Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,'Says the Lord of hosts. 7 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'"

8 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:

9 "The hands of ZerubbabelHave laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it.Then you will knowThat the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. 10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to seeThe plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."

11 Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees — at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" 12 And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?"

13 Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?"

And I said, "No, my lord."

14 So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth." (Zechariah 4:3-14)

God's Spirit can accomplish all that needs to be done. When you face difficulties, consider the following:

4 ... Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

"God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble."

7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:4b-10)

In Acts, Peter continued with:

13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:13-16)

So, Peter says that his audience is guilty by being complicit with Jesus being put to death.

But then notice what he says:

17 "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. (Acts 3:17)

Even the rulers DID NOT KNOW what they were doing--but they should have realized that Peter was speaking the truth.

Notice what Peter then said:

18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. (Acts 3:18)

Peter is telling them that the Messiah was supposed to suffer like Jesus did.

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21)

Peter told them to not just believe, but to repent (for more on repentance, see Christian Repentance; A related sermon is also available titled: Real Christian Repentance.). He then explains about sins being blotted out. The Greek term for restoration is apocatastasis. God has a plan for all--and this is something that is taught throughout the Bible (see also Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).

Peter then says:

22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25 You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' 26 To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities." (Acts 3:22-26)

So, we see Peter referring to Hebrew (Old Testament) prophecies in an effort to try to persuade his audience to convert.

That is part of why we have a free online book Proof Jesus is the Messiah.

For those who have properly repented, been baptized, accepted Jesus as Savior, and who have striven to live as Philadelphian Christians, there are additional reasons to have that book.

One of the reasons we of the Continuing Church of God have booklets available such as this one as Proof Jesus is the Messiah, Is God’s Existence Logical? and Faith for Those God has Called and Chosen (all of our booklets are free online at www.ccog.org) is so you can know the certainty of the truth (cf. Luke 1:4). This will help  you, if you are truly a Christian, to better handle the persecutions to come (cf. Daniel 7:25, 11:28-36; Luke 21:12-15; see also Persecutions by Church and State).

Another is the better you know that Jesus is the Messiah, the more steadfast you can be (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). Christians are NOT to be unstable or double-minded (James 1:6-8, 4:8), but know, and act upon, the truth (cf. John 8:32). End time Christians should to support God’s work as Philadelphian Christians (Revelation 3:7-13). At the time of the end, Jesus warned most Christians would not be ‘hot’ in supporting the work, but instead be lukewarm—so much so that Jesus threatens to vomit them out of His mouth unless they repent (Revelation 3:14-19).

Truly believe. With certainty.

Furthermore, as the Apostles Peter and Paul wrote:

15 … Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

Hopefully this article and free books mentioned can assist you in that.

Acts 4

Now, let's go to the 4th chapter of the Book of Acts:

1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. (Acts 4:-13)

It wasn't just the preaching of Jesus that upset the Sadducees, it was teaching His resurrection as well as that Christians would be in the first resurrection. Here is something about the Sadducees:

18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: 19 "Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man's brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. 22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. 23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife."

24 Jesus answered and said to them, "Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken." (Mark 12:18-27)

Like the Sadducees of old, many who claim Christianity today are also greatly mistaken. Most seem to believe that one goes to heaven upon death (see also Did Early Christians Teach They Were Going to Heaven?; here is a link to a related sermon: Heaven and Christianity) and that the resurrection is of little practical importance.

But that is NOT what the Hebrew scriptures taught, it was NOT what Jesus taught, and it was NOT what Jesus early followers taught. For more on the resurrections, check out the article What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?; here is a link to a related sermon: Understanding the Resurrections.

Anyway, the Sadduces were so upset with the disciples preaching the truth, they laid hands upon them. This was one form of persecution. Other parts of the Bible reveal that more persecution is coming (cf. Daniel 7:25, 11:28-36; Luke 21:12-15; see also Persecutions by Church and State).

Continuing in Acts:

4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)

Jesus told His followers "you should go and bear fruit" (John 15:16). The preaching of the disciples bore fruit.

But it also brought disapproval from various authorities as they had the Peter, John, and possibly others interogated:

5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?"

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. (Acts 4:5-10)

Before going further, again see that Peter states he has no special power. Peter essentially had the power of God's Spirit that other converted Christians can have.

Back to Acts, Peter states:

11 This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' (Acts 4:11)

Jesus referred to this Himself:

9 Then He began to tell the people this parable: "A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. 10 Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out.

13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.' 14 But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.'

15 So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others."

And when they heard it they said, "Certainly not!"

17 Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written:

'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone'?

18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

19 And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. (Luke 20:9-19)

Religious leaders have a history of rejecting God's leaders such as prophets as well according to Jesus in Matthew 5:11-12 (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).

Back to Acts, Peter states:

12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

One does not get saved with the word Buddah or something else. In order to be saved one MUST accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Do not believe the falsehoods from the ecumenical and interfaith movements (see also Will the Interfaith Movement Lead to Peace or Sudden Destruction?).

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

Notice that the disciples did not have formal education, but did the preaching anyway. While God does use educated people (Moses and Paul come to immediate mind), lack of formal education is not an excuse to not support the work.

Anyway, as it turned out, the Jewish leaders were not sure what to do and wanted to figure our their next step. Instead of accepting Jesus, they met and came up with their own bad plan:

15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name."

18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:15-18)

The solution was to tell them to stop preaching.

But Peter and John could not accept that decision:

19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19-20)

Peter and John said that they were telling the truth and that is what they had to do.

Instead of loving the truth, the leaders were afraid of it, so:

21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. (Acts 4:21-22)

Peter and John were then let go:

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.

24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.'

27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus."

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31)

Notice that threats from governmental authorities did not prevent the disciples from boldly speaking the word of God. While many are afraid of the government now, in CCOG we still speak the word of God with confidence (recognizing limits cf. Amos 5:13; Matthew 10:16).

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:32-37)

As mentioned related to Acts 2, I expect something like this sharing again at the place in the wilderness (Revelation 12:17-16) that the Philadelphians (Revelation 3:7-13) will be protected at during the 3 1/2 year persecuting reign of the Beast (Revelation 13:5-7; see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Near Petra ).

ACTS 5

There was nothing wrong with giving donations in the earlier chapters. However, some wanted to make a show of it, even though Jesus taught:

1 Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (Matthew 6:1-3)

Despite the teaching from Jesus, notice what happened in Acts 5:

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:1-4)

Notice the Ananias DID NOT have to give up all that he had. Plus, he and his wife could have told the truth.

Continuing:

5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. (Acts 5:5-6)

So, Ananias, he presumably was trying to do good, is killed for bearing false witness.

Now, his wife did not know what had happened at this stage. So, continuing:

7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?"

She said, "Yes, for so much."

9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."

10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. (Acts 5:7-10).

The above shows that Ananias and his wife conspired to lie about a donation. It also shows that God expected the commandment about bearing false witness to be kept. None of the Ten Commandments had been 'done away' or 'nailed to the cross' as some Protestant leaders have falsely claimed (for more details, check out the free online book: The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast; a partially related sermon is also available: The Ten Commandments and the Beast of Revelation).

11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. (Acts 5:11)

The deaths of Ananias and his wife got Christians there to notice.

Continuing:

12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. (Acts 5:12-13)

Up to this stage, we see relatively little persecution of Jesus' followers. This is probably because of the signs and wonders that were know to be true in the region. This had the Jewish leaders still trying to figure out how else to try to deal with the followers of Jesus.

Continuing:

14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:14-16)

So, miracles were happening and the Church of God in Jerusalem grew.

Instead of the Jewish leaders being able to humble themselves and accept this, they got upset:

17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. (Acts 5:17-18)

This was supposed to punish the apostles, serve as a warning to others, as well as to discredit the followers of Jesus. By placing them in a common prison, they implied that the apostles were common criminals.

This was not a new tactic. Jesus was killed with criminals (Luke 23:32), which was to wrongly imply He was a criminal as well.

Understand that Satan uses the same tactic today. When critics lump us in with false Christians and false prophets that claim to be part of the Church of God, many improperly do go along with the notion of guilt by word association.

But Jesus was not guilty of being false, and while we are not perfect, neither is the CCOG false.

Continuing:

19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life." (Acts 5:19-20)

Being imprisoned, they did not hide but were told to do the work--and then they did it:

21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. (Acts 5:21)

So, God performed another miracle by helping them get out of prison.

Continuing:

22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!"

24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" (Acts 5:22-25)

What should have happened?

The religious leaders should have repented.

Continuing:

26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. (Acts 5:26)

The religious leaders exercised caution, but would not repent. Continuing:

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" (Acts 5:27-28)

The religious leaders did not want people thinking that they shared guilt for getting Jesus killed--but they still had their personal guilt.

Peter and the other apostles responded:

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

While we normally should obey governmental authorities (Roman 13:1-2), we must realize that God is above all and that Christians need to "obey God rather than men."

Peter and the other apostles continued:

30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. (Acts 5:30)

Yes, Jesus was killed on a tree, and apparently the pole of one (see What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?; here is a link to a related sermon video: Origin of the Cross).

Consider also that the Jewish Talmud teaches also:

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. … (Sanhedrin 43a)

Yeshu is a reference to the one commonly called Jesus. Jesus, though was killed, not on the eve of Passover, but on Passover itself (the Pharisees had the date of Passover wrong, whereas the Sadducees had this date right--see also TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?).

Peter and the other apostles continued with their response:

31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:31-32)

Well, telling the truth while striving to be faithful did not change the minds of the Jewish religious leaders. They probably were also offended by the implication of the apostles that the Christians were the ones who obeyed God and had His Holy Spirit and that they did not.

Continuing:

33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. (Acts 5:33)

So, the Jewish leaders wanted the apostles dead.

But a cooler head prevaled.

34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God."

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:34-40)

Before going further, I did some research about Gamaliel. Elsewhere in the Book of Acts we see that the Apostle Paul said he trained under him (Acts 22:3). There are also some legends as well as some observations:

The Clementine Literature dating from c. 100-300 asserts Gamaliel was a silent Christian in order to help his fellow Christians. Recognitions of Clement 1.65-67 Some early manuscripts aver that Gamaliel and his son Simeon (named after Gamaliel’s father) were baptized by Peter and John. There is no ancient Jewish textual evidence that Gamaliel was a convert to Christianity.

However, it is noted that Gamaliel, this most celebrated leader of the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, is not represented as the one who continued the Mishnaic tradition of his grandfather Hillel. In the chain of tradition given in the Mishnah (Avot i.,ii), Johanan b. Zakkai is given that mantle.

It can be deduced that for some unknown reason Gamaliel did not deserve, could not or did not want to inherit the authority of his grandfather Hillel.

Gamaliel is seldom mentioned in the Halakhah, but Johanan b. Zakkai, the successor to Gamaliel’s grandfather, does comment that when Gamaliel died in c. 50-52, “the honor of the Torah ceased and purity and piety became extinct.” Sotah 15:18 https://earlychurchhistory.org/beliefs-2/was-gamaliel-a-christian/ accessed 07/03/18

But at that initial time, it is not probable that Gamaliel was a Christian in Acts 5. It may have been that he was considering all the evidence, including the reports of the resurrection and various miracles and wanted to be cautious. From what he is quoted in Acts 5 for saying, unlike various Jewish leader, Gamaliel was not convinced that Jesus was not the Messiah. Perhaps, in time, he did convert--which would have been a reason he became less important to the Jews.

Anyway, getting back to Acts:

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41)

Now, 'my hat's off' to the apostles on that. When I read the frequent false denunciations of myself and other real Christians online, I do not tend to rejoice. But I do pray for those who bear false witness against us. However, like the apostles, I keep striving and doing the work:

42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42)

We are not to give up because of persecution.

More persecution is coming (cf. Daniel 7:25, 11:28-36; Luke 21:12-15; see also Persecutions by Church and State).

Here is a link to a sermon: Acts 3-5: Miracles, Trials, Proclamation, and Persecution.

Acts 6

Acts 6 begins with:

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. (Acts 6:1)

So, a valid complaint arose. The disciple were unsure how to handle this, but came up with a solution:

2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:2-4)

So, only dealing with the widow was not to be the apostles' focus. But they also did not neglect the widows either.

They knew the scriptures, such as the following:

28 "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

The above has been called called third tithe (see also Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?).

The apostles told Saul, after he became known as Paul, to "remember the poor" (Galatians 2:10) when they needed help. Paul later told Timothy that the Church should help older widows only (over 60) and who had no family (children/grandchildren) to take care of them (2 Timothy 5:3-16).

Today, we have the problem about how to allocate money for Africa to assist the poor. Yes, we need to help widows and orphans (which we do), but we also need to spend funds to preach the gospel (Matthew 24:14) and teach as we should (Matthew 28:19-20)

As far as a good reputation goes, notice a couple of passages from the Old Testament:

11 Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right. (Proverbs 20:11)

21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace."

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. (Exodus 18:21-26)

Those chosen to be deacons had to have been living an exemplary life, but also needed to be able to do the job.

Now, it needs to be understood that listening to false ones that improperly trash reputations is not what the apostles wanted done. Consider that the Apostle Paul wrote:

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)

What the apostles wanted were people who had good reputations among real Christians.

Back to Acts 6 they chose people who they thought could do the job (they needed abilities beyond just good reputations):

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:5-6)

Later, we see that this was expanded to include women (see also Women and the New Testament Church).

1 Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess in the church at Cenchrea. (Romans 16:1, ISV)

Continuing in Acts:

7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)

The apostles' approach was the correct one. They knew that widows and orphans needed to be helped, but that this help was not the only thing to concentrate on. They realized the work that Jesus wanted them to do (Matthew 24:14, 28:19-20). The fact that many of the priests, who presumably had a good grasp of the Old Testament, converted shows that those alive then realized that Jesus did, in fact, fulfill many prophecies in the Hebrew Bible.

Now as it turns out, one of the deacons strongly caught the attention of the Jewish religious leaders:

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. (Acts 6:8-10)

The above was a synagogue for ex-pats and others.

There is an expression, "when you can't beat 'em,' join em.' " More of the Jewish leaders here should have repented and became Christians. Instead, various of them decided to break God's commands:

11 Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.

13 They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." (Acts 6:11-14)

Despite the lies, there was something impressive about Stephan:

15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)

Acts 7

Anyway, then the high priest asked Stephan a question in chapter 7:

1 Then the high priest said, "Are these things so?" (Acts 7:1)

So, Stephan took advantage of the opportunity:

2 And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.' 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. 5 And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. 6 But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. 7 'And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.' 8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs. (Acts 7:2-8)

So, Stephan starts out by telling them about something that they should know about, as well as agree with.

He then tells them information that they should know, but he also got in a point for them to ponder:

9 "And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him (Acts 7:9)

The patriarchs denounce the dreams from God:

5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf."

8 And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me."

10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:5-11)

Even Jacob, who had dreams from God himself (Genesis 28:12, 31:11, was not humble enough to accept his son's divine dream--but at least he kept it in mind, unlike his sons.

Anyway, Joseph's brothers were so annoyed by the dreamer that they plotted against him:

17 ... So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

18 Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. 19 Then they said to one another, "Look, this dreamer is coming! 20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, 'Some wild beast has devoured him.' We shall see what will become of his dreams!" (Genesis 37:17-20)

Many still discount and/or denounce dreams from God.

Now, Stephen mentioned envy from Joseph's brothers.

It was envy from Jewish leaders led to Jesus being executed:

6 Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. 7 And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. 8 Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. 9 But Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" 10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. 12 Pilate answered and said to them again, "What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?"

13 So they cried out again, "Crucify Him!"

14 Then Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has He done?"

But they cried out all the more, "Crucify Him!"

15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. (Mark 15:6-15)

Envy still is a problem among church leaders today--and sadly was a factor of my being pushed out of my former COG association.

Anyway, back to Acts 7:

10 and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Now a famine and great trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. 13 And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to the Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people. 15 So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. 16 And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. (Acts 7:10-16)

Again, the religious leaders knew about this.

Continuing:

17 "But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt 18 till another king arose who did not know Joseph. 19 This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live. 20 At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father's house for three months. 21 But when he was set out, Pharaoh's daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. (Acts 7:17-22)

Again, the religious leaders knew about this.

Continuing:

23 "Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. 25 For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand. (Acts 7:23-25)

Somehow Moses knew God's plan was for him to deliver the children of Israel. But they would have none of it then:

26 And the next day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and tried to reconcile them, saying, 'Men, you are brethren; why do you wrong one another?' 27 But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?' 29 Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons. (Acts 7:26-29)

Moses was in Midian for the next four decades:

30 "And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. 31 When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32 saying, 'I am the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33 'Then the Lord said to him, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt."' (Acts 7:30-34)

So, now Stephen starts to get in another point about rejection of someone God was using:

35 "This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. (Acts 7:30-34)

In the next verse Stephen is laying out something specific about Jesus:

37 "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.' (Acts 7:37)

Then he is back to telling Jews what they knew but rubbing in the fact that the children of Israel had turned aside from God:

38 "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 41 And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:

'Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch, And the star of your god Remphan, Images which you made to worship; And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.' (Acts 7:38-43)

Stephen was basically telling them that God news they sinned in Exodus as well as later.

44 "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house.

48 "However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

49 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?' (Acts 7:44-50)

Now, the Jews knew all of that. Then Stephen hits them up with direct connections and accusations:

51 "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." (Acts 7:51-53)

Instead of repenting, they got very upset:

54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. (Acts 7:54)

They could not take criticism.

Can you?

Anyway, their reaction did not seem to frighten Stephen:

55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" (Acts 7:55-56)

So, God allowed Stephen to have a vision, and he focused on that.

The crowd did NOT want to hear that. So, they added to their sins:

57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. (Acts 7:57-58a)

No freedom of speech. No freedon of religion. No formal court. Murder by stoning.

Stoning, or lapidation, is a method of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until the subject dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Often slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of contemporary Western culture is considered a form of execution by torture. (Stoning. Wikipedia, accessed 07/10/18)

While stoning is enjoined in scripture (Leviticus 20:24, 24:13-16; Numbers 15:35), it was very painful.

Of course, by murdering him, Stephen became a martyr. Martyrs can be motivating for others, and should be motivating for you as well.

Consider that if people like Stephen were willing to get stoned to death for Christ, should we not strive to live better as we go through life?

One person who approved the stoning was Saul, who became the Apostle Paul:

58 ... And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:58b)

Since God forgave and later used Saul, do not think that you were a worse sinner and that God cannot forgive you (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?).

Continuing:

59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

Stephen was a forgiving individual. God forgives even more.

Hopefully you can forgive.

Acts 8

In the 8th chapter we see that not only was Saul there, he approved:

1 Now Saul was consenting to his death.

At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. (Acts 8:1-2)

So a great persecution set in.

And Saul wanted to be a part of it:

3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

This was terrible. So, what did the scattered Christian preachers do?

4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)

That is what they were supposed to do

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

There was also some success:

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8)

But there was an apparent success that was not a real success:

9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God." 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The pronoun He above is NOT in the original Greek. Verse 16 should be translated as follows:

16. For as yet it had not fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (A Faithful Version)

Now, back to the NKJV:

17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."

24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. (Acts 8:9-25)

Simon Magus clearly had a false conversion. Despite being baptized he had not truly repented and accepted Jesus.

The old Radio Church of God published the following:

 Notice the points Luke places clearly before us.    

1) Simon was a Samaritan, not a Jew — (Acts 8:9). Remember that the Bible tells us salvation was of the Jews — not of the Samaritans (John 4:22).

2) Simon Magus greatly used demonistic powers to do miracles and wonders (Acts 8:9).

3) The whole population of Samaria (both small and great) gave heed to him (Verse 10). He was looked on as the greatest prophet — all Samaritans BELIEVED IN HIM!

4) The Samaritans WORSHIPPED him as "the Great One" — a god. "This man is that power of God called Great [that is the Almighty]" (RSV. Verse 10). Imagine it! They called him god in the flesh!

5) Luke is also careful to inform us that Simon had become firmly established in Samaria as "the Great One" and had practiced his powers "for a long time" (Verse 11).

6) Luke wants us to understand that he nominally became a Christian ("Simon himself believed") and was baptized — that is, he physically, outwardly "entered" the Christian Church (Verse 13).

7) Simon even recognized that Christ's power was greater than his but wanted to be associated with that great name (Verse 13).

8) Simon, seeing the potential of the Christian religion waited until the authorities, Peter and John, came to Samaria and then offered to pay them money to OBTAIN AN APOSTLESHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Verses 18-21). ...

9) Peter perceived that Simon was in the "gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity [lawlessness]" (Verse 23).

NOTE: This verse has been misunderstood because the King James Version fails to give the full force of Peter's accusation. This verse when understood in the manner Peter intended, is one of the most important of the whole chapter. IT IS A PROPHECY! Peter knew the mind of this man and what this man was to become.

This is made plain by Sir William Ramsay in his Pictures of the Apostolic Church, p. 60. He says: "Peter rebuked him in strong and PROPHETIC TERMS. The PROPHECY is concealed in the ordinary translation: the Greek means 'thou art FOR a gall of bitterness and a fetter of unrighteousness [lawlessness]', i.e., a cause of bitterness and corruption to others."

This makes it plain. Peter was uttering a prophecy by the Holy Spirit. He was telling what this Simon was to become; Lange's Commentary says: "Peter's words, literally, mean: 'I regard you as a man whose influence WILL BE like that of bitter gall [poison] and a bond of unrighteousness [lawlessness], or, as a man who has reached such a state'." (Vol. 9, p. 148). Not only was Simon, in Peter's time, a great antagonist to the Church, but he would be the adversary of the future. ...

10) Even after Peter's strong rebuke, Simon DID NOT REPENT! (Martin E. SIMON MAGUS SERIES - More About SIMON MAGUS. Good News, March 1964)

If Acts 8:23 was a prophecy for Simon Magus' influence, it was fulfilled according to writers in the second, third, and fourth centuries.

Even those now considered to be early supporters of the Roman Catholic Church condemned Simon and his followers for doctrines such as statues, revering a woman, the doctrine of the immortal soul, incantations, mysteries, mystic priests, claiming divine titles for leaders, accepting money for religious favors, preferring allegory and tradition over many aspects of scripture, having a leader who wanted to be thought of as God/Christ on earth, and divorcing themselves from Christian biblical practices considered to be Jewish. And, even according to Roman Catholic recognized sources, Simon Magus directly influenced many in Rome.

For more details, see Simon Magus, What Did He Teach? and/or watch Simon Magus and 'Christianity'?

Continuing with Acts 8:

26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot."

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

31 And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:26-31)

The Ethiopian was humble enough to admit that he had trouble with understanding aspects of scripture. Part of the purpose of the ministry is to spread the message and help people properly understand it:

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!"

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:14-17)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Notice that Philip basically went and did those things after the Ethiopian pointed out something in Isaiah:

32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

"He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth."

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:32-35)

So, Philip used the Old Testament to explain Jesus. That is something that can still be done today.

Anyway, the Ethiopian was interested and wanted to be a Christian.

37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." (Acts 8:37a)

Philip said he needed to believe with all his heart. Not just accepting that there was someone named Jesus.

37b And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."

38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

This Ethiopian looks to have been the first Gentile that was baptized. And this is before God had to straighten the Apostle Peter out about this.

Philip realized that when Jesus said to go to all the word, teach, and baptize, that this was not limited to the descendants of Israel.

Acts 9

Now to Acts 9:

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

Saul was zealous. He went above and beyond to try to eliminate what he considered the menace of Christianity.

But God called him anyway:

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?"

Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." (Acts 9:3-5)

Now, Saul had not seen Jesus before this. But when he was persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Jesus.

If you are persecuted for Christianity, understand that Jesus was executed and the persecutors are also persecuting Jesus when they attack you.

Now, some scholars believe that the "goads" statement was a later edition to the text. Whether it was or not, the reality is that is what Jesus said then as can be found in Acts 22:18.

Anyway, goads had pricks and were something used to get oxen to not resist instruction. Kicking against the goads also conveyed a uselessness of action. Like in English, we tend to use the expression "banging your head against the wall." An action that causes personal harm but otherwise is useless.

Jesus was apparently also conveying that Saul had personal conflicts about what he was doing and how Christians acted when he persecuted them. For example, Saul likely realized that his teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) said not to fight against the Christians (Acts 5:34-39).

Anyway, this encounter with Jesus basically terrified Saul:

6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?"

Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." (Acts 9:6)

Saul did not argue, but asked what Jesus wanted him to do.

There were people with Saul who were not sure what happened:

7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. (Acts 9:7)

The message was clearer for Saul than the others.

8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:8-9)

So, Saul is now blind. He does not know if that will be permanent or not.

He then goes to the city like Jesus said to, but had no idea how long he was to wait.

Many of us wonder how long certain trials will last.

Well, presumably to take advantage of the time and to try to get closer to God, Saul fasts completely for three days.

Jesus got Saul's attention, but Saul still wondered what would happen next.

Perhaps he was going over Old Testament scriptures in his mind that now he was willing to connect to Jesus. It is likely he had real remorse for his persecuting actions.

Toward the end of the three days, Jesus appears to someone named Anaias to tell him about Saul:

10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias."

And he said, "Here I am, Lord." (Acts 9:10)

So, Ananias realizes that this is Jesus. Continuing:

11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight."

13 Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." (Acts 9:11-14)

Ananias seems to be hinting that Jesus was making a mistake. As foolish as that seems, Christians act like God is making mistakes more often than most would admit.

Continuing:

15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15-16)

So, Jesus gives a partial explanation about Saul and tells Ananias what to do. So, at what he may perceive as a risk to his own life, Ananias does what he was told by Jesus:

17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 9:17)

So, Jesus told Ananias a bit more than Luke recorded earlier, because we see that Saul was to get his sight and the Holy Spirit.

By this time, Saul had truly repented.

Continuing:

18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. (Acts 9:18)

Notice that Ananias realized that for Saul to get the Holy Spirit he needed to be baptized (see also Baptism, the Early Church, and the Continuing Church).

Baptism is something that Christians are to do once they have properly repented and accepted Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38).

Continuing:

19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. (Acts 9:19)

So, Saul ate and then got an opportunity to speak with actual Christians for a while:

20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)

Saul accepted that he was charged by Jesus to preach.

Continuing:

21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?" (Acts 9:21)

This was a shock to nearly everyone.

22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:23)

To prove Jesus was the Christ, Saul must have gone through the Hebrew scriptures to advance that point. While Saul had been a Jew all his life, he was only a Christian a short while when he was able to prove to others that Jesus was the Christ. We have a new book coming Proof Jesus is the Christ that is intended to make this easier for Christians to do in the 21st century.

Of course, the Jewish religious authorities in Damascus did not care for this success of Saul's:

23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. (Acts 9:23)

So, notice what happened next:

24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. (Acts 9:24-25)

Notice that Saul did not stay in order to physically fight.

This is consistent with what Jesus said:

36 ... My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36).

Anyway, Saul went back to a city in Israel, Jerusalem.

At first he was not accepted:

26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26-27)

So, Barnabas spoke up for Saul. Saul then was with the Christians and preached:

28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. (Acts 9:28-29)

Now it looks like those who previous encouraged Saul turned against him. The Jewish religious leaders wanted him dead.

30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. (Acts 9:30)

The above is consistent with something else that Jesus taught:

23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:23).

Saul's departure seems to have calmed things down for a while:

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (Acts 9:31)

Now we hear again about Peter:

32 Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. 33 There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed." Then he arose immediately. 35 So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:32-35)

Another miracle and more conversions.

Continuing:

36 At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. 37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.

39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner. (Acts 9:36-43)

God made it clear that He was with the Apostles and Christians, despite the fact that various ones had been martyred.

When God allows more public and dramatic miracles in the future, at least part of that time it will be when major martyrdoms will also be occurring..

Herer is a link to the sermon: Acts 6-9: Widows, Stephen, Saul, and Simon Magus.

Acts 10

Now to the 10th chapter of Acts:

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!" (Acts 10:1-3)

The 9th hour equates to 3:00 pm today.

Continuing:

4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?"

So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do." 7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:4-8)

Joppa was a costal city in Judea, commonly called Jaffa. Cornelius was a Gentile. He was sincere in following God, but at that time the Apostle Peter had not understood what Philip had about Gentiles.

Well, God had a plan to fix that:

9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. (Acts 10:9)

The 6th hour equates to 12:00 pm today. Continuing:

10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance (Acts 10:9-10)

Before going further, notice what happened to Peter. He fell into a trance around lunch-time. What is that?

The Greek word translated as trance in Engligh above is ekstasis. Danker and Bauer's Greek Lexicon says that word means:

1 a state of consternation or profound emotional experience to the point of being beside onself ...

2 a state of being in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended.

That sounds somewhat like sleep or some other similar feeling.

Interestingly, the Contemporary English Version renders Acts 10:10 as:

10 and became very hungry. While the food was being prepared, he fell sound asleep and had a vision.

That sounds like a message in a dream from God.

Continuing with the vision that God gave Peter in this trance-state:

11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."

14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean."

15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate. (Acts 10:9-17)

Notice that the chief Apostle was not sure what this vision meant then. Yet, we have Greco-Roman-Protestants who have stated that this meant that Peter was supposed to eat biblically unclear animals.

18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.

I actually was able to be at the site that this is believed to have happened at back in 2013.

Continuing:

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you.

20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them."

21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, "Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?"

22 And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you." 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them.
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.

26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man." (Acts 10:19- 26)

Peter did not want to be worshiped.

Many who have claimed succession to Peter have not had the same attitude, and hence were not his spiritual successors (see also Apostolic Succession)

Continuing with Peter:

27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (Acts 10:27-28)

This is important for many reasons.

For one this shows that Peter did NOT conclude his vision meant he was supposed to eat unclean animals.

Also, it should be pointed out that the Greek word koinon/os for common in Acts 10:28 is the same root word translated as "common" in Titus 1:4 (our koinos faith) and Jude 3 (our koinos salvation), obviously faith and salvation are not unclean (though they are common in the sense they are available to Jews and Gentiles).

Although various theologians have pointed to Peter's vision meaning that unclean meats could then be eaten, that is not what the Bible teaches. Nor are there any records into the first century that show that any professing Christians ever ate unclean meat.

However, allegorical Gnostics from Alexandria Egypt may have been the first to teach that this was acceptable for Christians. The following is from an early second century document falsely titled The Epistle of Barnabas (it is 'falsely' titled because the biblical Barnabas did not write it) and it is not accepted as scripture by Protestant, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or Church of God followers:

But in that Moses said, Thou shalt not eat the swine, nor the eagle, nor the hawk, nor the crow, nor any fish that hath not scales in itself, he had in his mind three doctrines. For in the end he saith unto them in Deuteronomy, And I will arrange before this people my ordinances. The commandment of God is not, therefore, that they should not eat; but Moses spake in a spiritual sense. He spake of the swine with this meaning: Thou shalt not cleave, he meaneth, unto men of this sort, who are like unto swine, for when they become wanton they forget their Lord, but when they are in want they think upon the Lord; even as the swine when it eateth knoweth not its lord, but when it is hungry it crieth, and when it hath received it is again silent (Apostolic Fathers, Epistle of Barnabas, 10:1-3, 1885 translation by Charles H. Hoole).

The above is certainly not in the Bible. God told Moses to write statements such as:

8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses (Deuteronomy 14:8).

And while some may wish to speculate as to why God made such an ordinance, it is certainly wrong to conclude, as the so-called Epistle of Barnabas does, that God did not command that swine are not to be eaten and that the command was simply 'spiritual,' whatever that would mean for the readers.

It may be of interest to note that Alexandria appears to have been the original home of allegorists amongst those that professed Christ, as well as the home of various Gnostic and semi-gnostic leaders (see also What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?).

Do Christians wish to base their faith on those who do not believe what the Bible says?

Although the heretic Justin advocated eating unclean meats, even as late as around 180 A.D., it appears that even Catholic leaders still considered certain animals to be clean, with others unclean, as Irenaeus' account below suggests:

Now the law has figuratively predicted all these, delineating man by the [various] animals: whatsoever of these, says [the Scripture], have a double hoof and ruminate, it proclaims as clean; but whatsoever of them do not possess one or other of these [properties], it sets aside by themselves as unclean...The unclean, however, are those which do neither divide the hoof nor ruminate...But as to those animals which do indeed chew the cud, but have not the double hoof, and are themselves unclean...the Lord says, "Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say to you?" For men of this stamp do indeed say that they believe in the Father and the Son, but they never meditate as they should upon the things of God, neither are they adorned with works of righteousness; but, as I have already observed, they have adopted the lives of swine and of dogs, giving themselves over to filthiness, to gluttony, and recklessness of all sorts. Justly, therefore, did the apostle call all such "carnal" (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 8 , Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Irenaeus, in the late second century, specifically taught that certain animals are unclean--Irenaeus also claimed to know Polycarp and perhaps he learned this from him (Polycarp knew the Apostle John). And while Irenaeus is also describing how humans can be clean or unclean, he never suggests that one should eat anything that is unclean--especially since he condemns gluttony and adopting the lives of swine and dogs (both of whom eat unclean meats).

Eating unclean animals was certainly not an original part of the Christian faith. Those who claim to believe the New Testament should consider the following:

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common {koinos} salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

So since early Christians did not eat unclean animals, how come consumption of unclean meat became common?

Well in addition to the Gnostic writings (which were generally in conflict with the Bible), the answer could be revealed in a Catholic document titled Liber Pontificalis.

According to the Liber Pontificalis, this was changed by Bishop Eleutherius shortly after the time the above was written:

He also decreed that no kind of food in common use should be rejected especially by the Christian faithful, inasmuch as God created it; provided it was a rational food and fit for human kind (Book of the Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) 2nd edition. Translation by Raymond Davis. Liverpool University Press - Translated Texts for Historians, Liverpool, 2001, p.17).

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

The "Liber Pontificalis" ascribes to Pope Eleutherius a decree that no kind of food should be despised by Christians (Et hoc iterum firmavit ut nulla esca a Christians repudiaretur, maxime fidelibus, quod Deus creavit, quæ tamen rationalis et humana est).

(It should be noted that Roman bishops were not called Popes that early (that did not happen until the late fourth century.) Anyway, according to Lopes book The Popes, Eleutherius was bishop of Rome from 175-189 AD. This book (which I purchased at the Vatican itself) states this about Eleutherius:

He dispensed with the obligations of Christians to follow dietary laws of Judaic origin (page 5).

The above book should have said the obligations of biblical origin as the dietary restrictions began with God and not Jews (the distinction between clean and unclean animals was known by at least Noah's time, since God so declared in Genesis 7:2-3).

Perhaps it needs to be stated that no one called of God in the Old Testament is ever shown to have consumed unclean meat. Hence the Catholics (and the Protestants that follow this edict) are relying on a possible pronouncement of a bishop of Rome for justification of eating unclean meats more than they may realize. And this alleged decree did not happen until about 150 years after Jesus was resurrected.

Now, I should add that the Liber Pontificalis was composed in the fifth/sixth centuries and has a reputation, even amongst Roman Catholic scholars, for arbitrarily assigning events with certain "popes" (some of this is documented in the article What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?). It would seem, however, that this could not have been assigned any earlier than 175 A.D. because of Irenaeus' writings. Hence, it is clear that well into the second century, the laws concerning clean and unclean meats were considered to have been in force for Christians in general (exceptions including the apostates in Alexandria). And that it is due to a later Catholic tradition that unclean animals became food for Roman supporters. It was not an early belief that Peter's vision made unclean animals clean to eat.

In the third century an elder named Pionius, who claimed to be part of the Catholic Church, refused to eat unclean meat:

3. It was Saturday and after they had prayed and taken the sacred bread with water, Polemon the temple verger came in on them with his men in order to seek out the Christians and drag them off to offer sacrifice and to taste forbidden meats. "Surely you are aware," said the verger, "of the emperor' edict commanding us to sacrifice to the gods." "We are aware," said Pionius, "of the commandments of God ordering us to worship him alone."

Polemon said: "Come then to the market-place; there you will change your minds."

Sabina and Asclepiades said: "We obey the living God." He led them off then without restraint and as they walked along everyone saw that they were wearing their chains, and such a crowd rushed up in haste as it were for a strange sight, that they jostled one another. As they came into the forum, by the eastern Stoa and the double gate, all the forum and the upper storeys of the porches were crowded with Greeks, Jews, and women. They were on holiday because it was a great Sabbath. They drew near, looking towards the tribunal steps and the voting urns.

6. There was a lawyer by the name of Alexander, a wicked man, who spoke: "Listen to us, Pionius."

"You should be concerned," said Pionius, "to listen to me. What you know, I know; but what I know, you are ignorant of."

Alexander was minded to make sport of him, for he said to him ironically: "Why are you wearing these chains?"

"First of all," said Pionius, "so that though we are passing through your city, we mlght not be suspected of having come to eat forbidden foods...

9. Then he interrogated him for the sake of the record, while a notary took everything down. "What is your name?" he asked him.

"Pionius," was the answer. "Are you a Christian?" asked Polemon

"Yes," said Pionius.

Polemon the verger said: "What church do you belong to?"

"The Catholic Church," was the answer; "with Christ there is no other." (The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions, Chapters 3,6, & 9. Text from H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford, 1972), 137-167. http://archive.is/abf7S accessed 07/25/15)

While some associated with the Greco-Romans, like Justin, apparently ate unclean meat, Pionius (who seems to have had a connection to Polycarp of Smyrna) did not. (As far as the 'Catholic Church' goes, the first two times this appears in the literature it is a reference to the Church of God in Smyrna. It was not until the late 4th century that the Church of Rome and its Eastern Orthodox confederation had it for its exclusive legal use because of a decree of the Emperor Theodosius related to the Council of Constantinople he called for in 381.)

I should also add that the Church of Rome considers that the presbyter Pionius was a saint, hence the fact that he did not even wish to be accused of eating it in the mid-third century should show that those that considered themselves faithful Christians did NOT eat biblically unclean meats in the third century.

The Rome Emperor Constantine apparently liked unclean food so much that he persecuted those who would not eat it. Here is a report from a source with Middle East ties:

Constantine called a gathering of Christian monks with a view to the formulation of obligatory religious beliefs ... However, some of them disagreed with this text ... There was a scission and the symbol of faith which had been formulated was not regarded as valid.

Thereupon, three hundred and eighteen men gathered in Nicaea and formulated a symbol of faith, which was accepted and made obligatory by Constantine. People who dissented from it were killed and professions of faith differing from it suppressed.

In this way people who professed the religion of Christ came to do all that is reprehensible; they worshipped the cross, observed the Roman religious rites and ate pork. Those who did not eat it were killed (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 31-32)

Here is a report from a Roman Catholic scholar about matters in Jerusalem:

That there existed strife between the different branches of the faithful can easily be gathered from the expression of the anonymous pilgrim of Bordeaux in 333, who says that the three basilicas were erected by the gentile Christians “at the command of Constantine”, that is by force, and from the late account of Eutychius (PG 111,1012-1013) that, just at this time, the faithful while they were leaving the church on Easter day, were forced to eat pork under the pain of death.  We know how the Judaeo-Christians refused this in order not to transgress the Mosaic law to which they held there were bound (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 13-14).

(Note: The term 'Easter' is not accurate as Christians did not use that term in Jerusalem for Passover.)

And this was probably why the following is reported about the Greco-Roman Cyril of Jerusalem:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, or as some believe, his successor John II ... the saint ... adds “... Keep away from all sabbathical observances, and do not call some foods clean and unclean because they are all indifferent”. (ibid, p. 89)

Perhaps the main argument I have seen from Protestant unclean advocates is that many state that in the vision Peter received in Acts 10, that this vision meant that Christians were to eat unclean animals. Of course, that is NOT how Peter understood the vision. Nor did other early Christians.

More on unclean meats can be found in the article The New Testament Church, History, and Unclean Meats There is also a sermon-length video on this: Christians and Unclean Meats; a short video is also available: Did Jesus declare all animal flesh food?

Back to Acts 10. Peter asks:

29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?" (Acts 10:29)

So, Peter did not know all the details yet. It seems that God wanted Peter to hear statements from Cornelius and come to proper conclusions. Sometimes God does not give us all the details today either.

Continuing:

30 So Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.' 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God." (Acts 10:30-33)

So, this Gentile was communicated with by God. And God did that and did not do the same with the Jewish high priest.

God does not alway work with the "high and mighty" (cf. 1 Corinthians 1), though Cornelius had a Roman position as a centurian (over 100 military men).

Back to Acts 10, we know see that Peter finally gets the meaning of the vision he had:

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all — (Acts 10:34-36)

Now, Peter is trying the "Lord of all" understanding to the Hebrew scriptures. Probably these:

11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap. (Joshua 3:11-13)

5 And the angel answered and said to me, "These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth. (Zechariah 6:5)

Peter finally better realizes that "Lord of all" included non-Israelitish ethnic groups. Apparently his own traditions and prejudices stopped him from recognizing that before.

Continuing, Peter says:

37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. (Acts 10:37-39)

So, Peter gave witness and also stated that Jesus was "killed by hanging on a tree" (see also What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?).

Continuing Peter says:

40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:37-43)

Note that Peter did not discuss unclean meat. He did mention that all prophets of the Old Testament foretold that the Messiah would offer remission of sins to whoever truly believed.

Now to be sure that Peter (and others) understood God's plan for the Gentiles, notice what happened next:

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. (Acts 10:44-46a)

So, God again directly intervened. Continuing:

46 ... Then Peter answered, 47 "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:46b-48)

Interestingly, just having the Holy Spirit via a miracle was not enough. Peter had these Gentiles baptized.

He apparently also stayed for several days to answer questions and to help them learn more about living as Christians (see also Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian).

Acts 11

Now, not every one was pleased with this. Let's look at the 11th chapter of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!" (Acts 11:1-13)

So, because of not understanding the great commission from Jesus (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20) and relying on faulty tradition, some were not pleased with what happened regarding Gentiles.

Some Christians and others today criticize the CCOG because we have mainly reached Gentiles. While we tend to quote scriptures like Acts 14:27 where it says God has "opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (as well as point out some dreams), Peter pointed to visions:

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' 8 But I said, 'Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.' 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. (Acts 11:4-10)

You might be thinking that since there was a vision, that you would have accepted Peter's testimony then.

If so, good. Maybe you would have.

But let me add that many still criticize CCOG for explaining visionary dreams from God, but the fact is that is one way God has worked for millennia (see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God) and specifically, God says:

6 “Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream. (Numbers 12:6)

In CCOG's case, not only have I had a couple of prophetic dreams, others I did not know had some which should confirm mine to any interested in acting on the truth (see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).

Now consider that in the light of Peter's further testimony:

11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.' (Acts 11:11-14)

So, Peter conveyed that a Gentile also had a message which confirmed his.

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to been there hearing this back in the 1st century?

Well, we have seen essentially the same thing in the 21st century with dreams and confirmations in the Continuing Church of God.

If you are not sure about the CCOG and want to see interventions like what happened in the first century, study the article Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God to see how God has similarly worked in the 21st century.

Continuing:

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:15-17)

So Peter was trying to make it clear that it was truly God who intervened. We still have to make it clear when God directly intervenes as many still will not accept how God actually works.

Continuing:

18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." (Acts 11:18)

Finally, the critics became quiet. They finally understood that God had a plan for the Gentiles.

But they always should have realized that since they thought that they were God's people and they were knowledgable of the Old Testament. Notice what God inspired Isaiah to write:

1 Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

6 Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:6)

Yet, these converted Jewish Christians still did not get it.

Many, like the Laodiceans, do not get how God still works now.

Yet, Christians should realize that today that:

  1. God has historically used dreams (Genesis 20:3-7, 28:10-17, 31:10-13, 31:24, 37:5-10, 40:5-18, 41:1-32; Numbers 12:6; Judges 7:13-15; 1 Kings 3:5-15; Daniel 2:3-45, 4:4-27, 7:1-28; Matthew 1:20-25, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22; Acts 16:9).
  2. Gentiles are to be called (Acts 10:34-36, 13:47, 14:26). And a 'trance vision' conveyed this.
  3. God specifically says He speaks to prophets with dreams (Numbers 12:6).
  4. That dreams are prophesied for the end times (Acts 2:17)

CCOG is the only COG I am aware of that has had such appropriate dreams and had them essentially confirmed by and through others.

Continuing:

19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21)

So, there were more believers outside of Judea. Instead of ignoring that, notice what happened nextL

22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. (Acts 11:22-24)

So, those in Jerusalem sent out Barnabas and more people outside of Judea were added. In CCOG, not only have I been to several continents were people were added, we also have often sent Evangelist Evans Ochieng to different nations where we have also had growth.

Plus, and they did not have the printing press back then, we also send literature to nations around the world which also has resulted in growth.

Now, Barnabas wanted some help, so continuining:

25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:25)

So, they did not just stay a few days, they stayed a year to teach. There is a lot for Christians to learn and Saul and Barnabas took time to do that. We try to do that with multiple visits as well as our literature and online messages.

As far as the term Christians goes, this was an apparent change from their Jewish opponents calling them Nazarenes or Galileans. It was apparently a description that the heathen Gentiles of Antioch conferred on them.

Back to Acts 11:

27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

So God gave a prophecy to the Christians prophet Agabus to warn that a famine was going to hit. Claudius was Emperor from 41-54 A.D.

The Jewish historian Josephus mentions famine during this time (see also Benson Commentary). It was apparently around 44 A.D.:

1. ABOUT this time it was that Helena, queen of Adiabene, and her son Izates, changed their course of life, and embraced the Jewish customs, ...

5. But as to Helena, the king's mother, when she saw that the affairs of Izates's kingdom were in peace, and that her son was a happy man, and admired among all men, and even among foreigners, by the means of God's providence over him, she had a mind to go to the city of Jerusalem, in order to worship at that temple of God which was so very famous among all men, and to offer her thank-offerings there. So she desired her son to give her leave to go thither; upon which he gave his consent to what she desired very willingly, and made great preparations for her dismission, and gave her a great deal of money, and she went down to the city Jerusalem, her son conducting her on her journey a great way. Now her coming was of very great advantage to the people of Jerusalem; for whereas a famine did oppress them at that time, and many people died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal, queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others of them to Cyprus, to bring a cargo of dried figs. And as soon as they were come back, and had brought those provisions, which was done very quickly, she distributed food to those that were in want of it, and left a most excellent memorial behind her of this benefaction, which she bestowed on our whole nation. And when her son Izates was informed of this famine, (5) he sent great sums of money to the principal men in Jerusalem. However, what favors this queen and king conferred upon our city Jerusalem shall be further related hereafter. (Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews, Book XX, Chapter 2, sections 1 & 5)

2. Then came Tiberius Alexander as successor to Fadus; he was the son of Alexander the alabarch of Alexandria, which Alexander was a principal person among all his contemporaries, both for his family and wealth: he was also more eminent for his piety than this his son Alexander, for he did not continue in the religion of his country. Under these procurators that great famine happened in Judea, in which queen Helena bought corn in Egypt at a great expense, and distributed it to those that were in want, as I have related already. (Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews, Book XX, Chapter 5, section 2)

While there was some governmental assistance, Christians outside of Jerusalem decided that they should help:

29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:29-30)

Notice that God did not miraculously provide food, but the Christians outside of Jerusalem realized that they should help.

We have had to help brethren with famine issues in various parts of Africa, which in my mind, is consistent with the above. It is the Christian things to do (Galatians 6:10).

Acts 12

Now to Acts 12:

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. (Acts 12:1-3)

So, we see more persecution. And because the Jewish leaders liked this, the government decided to do more of it.

Back to Acts 12:

5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. (Acts 12:5)

Was the prayer effective?

Yes:

6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals"; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment and follow me." 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. (Acts 12:6-10)

So God miraculous intervened.

Well, you might wonder about having more miracles now, like those that happened in the first century.

But you might also want to consider the type of persecution that happened in the first century, as dramatic miracles tended to happen during times of intense persecution.

This will happen again in the future. Consider the following:

32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. 34 Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. 35 And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time. (Daniel 11:32-35)

Notice that the above people will be spiritually strong, carry out something (called 'great exploits' above), and also be betrayed by people pretending to be with them. There are likely miracles being referred to here.

Notice further that "those of the people who understand shall instruct many." In order to do that, they need to learn. Part of the purpose of sermons is so that people will know God and be able to teach others.

Notice what Peter later wrote:

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. (1 Peter 3:15-17, KJV)

So, see that the Bible ties in giving answers/testimony in with the possibility of persecution. Jesus also taught that persecution would happen in the end times, but that it was an opportunity to be a witness:

9 "But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Mark 13:9-13)

Intense persection will occur right around when Mark 13:10 has been fulfilled. That is also consistent with what Matthew 24:10-14 teaches (though it suggests the persecution then the gospel proclamation fulfillment). Either way, both tie the persecution with something that happens at the end.

So, we may see more miracles around when we see more intensified persecution.

Now back to Acts 12, we see that Peter was not sure at first what had happened, but then did:.

11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people."

12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. (Acts 12:11-12)

So, Peter goes to see people who were praying for him. Continuing:

13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!" Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel." (Acts 12:13-15)

So, those praying apparently did not have the faith to truly believe God would answer.

Now, what about the angel view? Here is something from a Q&A article in the Good News Magazine June 1974 from the old Worldwide Church of God.

The guardian angel concept probably originates from the following scripture: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones [newly converted Christians]; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18:10). This verse does definitely show, as do other scriptures, that all true Christians have God's angels watching over them. But whether each individual has a personalized guardian angel (or angels) is purely an academic question. The Bible simply isn't that technically specific on this point. The important thing to remember is that God does dispatch His righteous angels to oversee and protect those who obey Him (Ps. 34:7; Heb. 1:13, 14). As a cautionary note, we would not encourage people to attempt to become familiar with some personal "pet" angel. Rather, allow God to provide the invisible protection of His angelic host in His own way.

Angels are not to be worshipped. Notice:

18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18)

Now back to Acts 12:

16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren." And he departed and went to another place. (Acts 12:16-18)

So, Peter departed.

Which seemed to have been wise as:

18 Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death.

And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there. (Acts 12:18-19)

Caesarea was basically built by Herod's grandfather, Herod the Great and was an impressive place. Now notice what happened with Herod:

20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king's personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king's country.

21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:20-22)

Herod thought he was really, really important. He liked flattery. But the Bible warns about it:

19 He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips. (Proverbs 20:19)

5 A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet. 6 By transgression an evil man is snared, But the righteous sings and rejoices. (Proverbs 29:5-6)

The Jewish historian Josephus also wrote about Herod Agrippa:

2. Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Cesarea, which was formerly called Strato's Tower; and there he exhibited shows in honor of Caesar, upon his being informed that there was a certain festival celebrated to make vows for his safety. At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the principal persons, and such as were of dignity through his province. On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,) that he was a god; and they added, "Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature." Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, "I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner." When he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad every where, that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign; for he reigned four years under Caius Caesar, three of them were over Philip's tetrarchy only, and on the fourth he had that of Herod added to it; and he reigned, besides those, three years under the reign of Claudius Caesar; in which time he reigned over the forementioned countries, and also had Judea added to them, as well as Samaria and Cesarea. (Antiquities, Book XIX, Chapter 8)

Despite Herod's attempt to stop Peter, Acts 12 says:

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)

The righteous were likely not upset with the flattered Herod's demise (cf. Proverbs 29:5-6).

Continuing:

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark. (Acts 12:25)

So, Mark was added to the team of Barnabas and Saul.

Here is a link to the fourth part of a sermon series: Acts 10-12: Visions, Dreams, and Gentiles.

Acts 13

Now in Antioch there were prophets:

1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3)

More on prophets check out the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God; there is also a sermon-length video titled How to determine if someone is a true prophet of God. Here is a related link in Spanish/español: ¿Cómo determinar si alguien es un verdadero profeta de Dios?

Anyway, Barnabas and Saul left after presumably the prophets laid hands upon them:

4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant. (Acts 13:4-5)

Salamis was on the eastern shore of Cyprus. That John was John Mark as their assistant. So, there was some type of organization or hierarchy.

6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. (Acts 13:6-8)

Paphos was a town on the southwest part of the island of Cyprus. And there was opposition from a Jewish sorcerer. But Saul, who is now starting to be called Paul decided to deal with the sorcerer:

9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him

Before going further, let's look at the names Saul and Paul.

The name Saul seems to descend from a Hebrew word meaning "demand" (OT:7592 Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.). Some claim the word Saul means "asked from."

Paul is a Latinized name mainly meaning restrain or desist (NT:3973 Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

Back to Acts 13, Paul called out the sorcerer as a fraud:

10 and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time."

And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. (Acts 13:9-11)

This impressed the proconsul (a Roman government leader):

12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord. (Acts 13:12)

Paul and company left:

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. (Acts 13:13-14)

Now, they are in Asia Minor. This was predominantly a Gentile region. Continuing:

15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." (Acts 13:15)

They probably did not have a lot of visitors and were likely interested in hearing something new. Paul took advantage of the offer:

16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: (Acts 13:16)

So, with the above Paul was talking to those of Israel as well as the Gentiles.

God-fearers (Greek: φοβούμενος τον Θεόν, Phoboumenos ton Theon) or God-worshipers (Greek: θεοσέβής, Theosebes) were a numerous class of gentile sympathizers to Hellenistic Judaism, which observed certain Jewish religious rites and traditions without becoming full converts to Judaism. ...

The class of God-fearers existed between the 1st and the 3rd century CE. They are mentioned in Latin and Greek literature, Flavius Josephus' and Philo's historical works, rabbinic literature, early Christian writings, and other contemporary sources such as synagogue inscriptions from Diaspora communities (Palestine, Rome and Asia Minor). (God-fearer. Wikipedia, accessed 07/17/18)

So, here is what Paul said to them:

17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.

20 "After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.' (Acts 13:17-21)

The Jews would have known all of that as might many of the Gentiles in attendance.

But then Paul goes into something they likely had not expected:

23 From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior — Jesus— 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, 'Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.'

26 "Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. (Acts 13:23-27)

Paul is saying that those in Jerusalem should have recognized Jesus because of what the Prophets wrote in the Old Testament.

Paul continued:

28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. (Acts 13:28)

After saying that Jesus was not rightfully killed, again, Paul is saying that Jesus fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament.

30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. (Acts 13:30-31)

So, Paul taught that Jesus was resurrected, then continued by mentioning some scriptures that Jesus fulfilled:

32 And we declare to you glad tidings — that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.' {Psalm 2:7}

34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus:

'I will give you the sure mercies of David.' {Isaiah 55:3}

35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm:

'You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.' {Psalm 16:10}

36 "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:

41 'Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.'" {Habakkuk 1:5}

So, Paul warned them that they should believe the scriptures and not be among those that will not listen.

Jesus warns Christians in the end times that most of them need to repent (Revelation 3:14-19). Most will not accept the Philadelphian work that is being done now.

However, in Paul's time, many wanted to hear more:

42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:42-43)

So, after services, Paul and Barnabas spoke with those who wanted to hear. This is also the shift in order--up until then we see the listing as Barnabas and Saul. So, Paul was being granted leadership.

They were persuading through testimony as well as bringing up Old Testament prophecies.

So, continuing:

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 13:44-45)

The Jews were now quite upset. And vocal, and driven by envy.

Paul and Barnabas responded:

46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:

'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'" {Isaiah 49:6} (Acts 13:46-47)

The door in that area to many Jews was shut, but for many Gentiles it was opened.

The Gentiles were pleased to learn that salvation was to be available for them:

48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. (Acts 13:48-49)

But the Jews were not happy. They appealed to devout, but influential women and men:

50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. (Acts 13:50)

Notice that it was the religiously devout that were persecuting Paul and Barnabas and getting them expelled not only from the synagogue, but from the region. Many are devout for the wrong things.

Jesus warned about such people:

2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. (John 16:2-4)

Many claim to know Jesus, but do not. Those that do not have long been on the side of being persecutors (see also Persecutions by Church and State).

If you are not sure, you may be interested in our free online booklet: Is God Calling You?

Back to Acts:

51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:51)

Iconium is called Konya now. On modern roads it is about 200 miles/300 km from Perge--it is inland in Asia Minor.

Acts 14

Let's go to chapter 14:

1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. (Acts 14:1-2)

Understand that there are people today trying to poison the minds of people against the CCOG.

Yet:

3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. (Acts 14:1-3)

So, we see the Jews in Iconium stirring up the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas:

4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.

5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. (Acts 14:4-6)

So, the poisoner supporters turned violent. Lystra was about 15 miles from Iconium.

So, what did the Paul and company do:

7 And they were preaching the gospel there. (Acts 14:7)

Despite being ran out of two towns, they continued to preach the good news.

A miraculous healing then happened:

8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother's womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, "Stand up straight on your feet!" And he leaped and walked. (Acts 14:8-10)

This was impressive, but the people misunderstood that it was God, not Paul and Barnabas who really healed.

11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. (Acts 14:11-13)

The apostles were quite upset with this development:

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:14-18)

Now people are 'fickle.' The Bible warns that some will seem to agree with, and then, betray God's people (cf. Daniel 11:32-35).

Notice what happened to Paul shortly after the people wanted to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas:

19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. (Acts 14:19)

Even people who say nice things to us or are related to us can turn against us (Matthew 10:36; Micah 7:6).

20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. (Acts 14:20)

Paul survived and went to Derbe. Derbe was around 50 miles away.

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:21-22)

Despite the threats, notice that they went back.

23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. (Acts 14:23-26)

These were areas of Asia Minor.

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples. (Acts 14:27-28)

God opening the door of faith to the Gentiles was a good thing. And it still is.

The Jews did not like it nor respect it. Hence, the persecution.

Acts 15

Now to Acts 15:

1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)

Consider that these people in favor of required Gentile circumcision were certain that scripture was on their side. The term "Laodicea' is made up of two words which together means "people judge' or 'people decide.'

Most endtime Christians are in that category as they have one or more 'pet' reasons to not wish to support the Continuing Church of God.

3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. (Acts 15:3)

Many, but not all, properly were happy that Gentiles were being converted.

Continuing:

4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." (Acts 15:4-5)

There were also deep rooted prejudices among the Jews. The Laodicean Pharisees were sure that they were right.

Continuing:

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." (Acts 15:6-11)

So, while Paul is considered to be the apostle of the Gentiles, God gave Peter a message on this. Peter preached to both Israelites and Gentiles, but mainly Israelites. Paul was basically similar, but with the opposite main audience.

Anyway, Peter gave his answer on the circumcision question.

Continuing:

12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:12)

One of the reason for the miracles and wonders was for Christians to understand that God's plan was to also call Gentiles.

Continuing:

13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, "Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

16 'After! this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.'

18 "Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath." (Acts 15:13-21)

So, James, the leading apostle then at the Jerusalem church confirmed what Peter said, confirmed that Moses was still being preached, but mentioned a few items that the Gentiles needed specific warnings about.

These warnings were to keep them away from falling back into pagan practices, like observing pagan holidays. Christians need to avoid pagan practices today (see also Should You Keep God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?).

Continuing:

22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

So, there was agreement.

Then:

23 They wrote this, letter by them:

The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,

To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Greetings.
24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law" — to whom we gave no such commandment — 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
Farewell.
(Acts 15:23-29)

Two more points related to the above.

The first is that infant male circumcision is safe and better than being uncircumcised for a variety of health reasons (see Health Benefits of Circumcision; here is a link to a related video: Circumcision: Good or Bad?).

The second is that some Protestants have misunderstood what happened in Acts 15 and taken it as a license to not have to try to obey the Ten Commandments. But, that is absolutely NOT how early Christians understood this--they believed that they still were to keep the Ten Commandments (see also The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast; a related sermon is titled: The Ten Commandments and the Beast of Revelation).

Continuing:

30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. (Acts 15:30-31)

They were happy that with the decision as they realized that this would make it easier for Gentile males to accept Christianity.

Now, they were also encouraged by prophets:

32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.

34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. (Acts 15:32-34)

So, we have prophets encouraging the brethren. So much so, that the prophet Silas decided it would be best to remain in Antioch, but the prophet Judas and various others went back to Jerusalem.

Continuing:

35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (Acts 15:35)

So, more instruction was given to the Christians in Antioch.

But later, Paul realized that Christians in other cities needed more instructions:

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing." (Acts 15:36)

Jesus said to teach everything He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20) and probably at least partially because of issues that came up in Antioch, Paul realized that others needed more instructions.

Continuing:

37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. (Acts 15:37-38)

Paul simply did not feel he could trust Mark.

39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; (Acts 15:39)

They could not agree, so they separated.

40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:40-41)

So, Paul chose Silas the prophet to accompany him to strengthen the churches.

Prophets clearly had a role in the New Testament church (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).

Acts 16

Now to chapter 16 where Paul goes back to Derbe and Lystra:

1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. (Acts 16:1-3)

So, we see that despite the ruling in Acts 15, Christian males were sometimes circumcised. In Timothy's case, it is likely that Paul correctly concluded that there would be less problems with the Jews if Timothy was circumcised.

Continuing:

4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. (Acts 16:4-5)

Here we see that the Gentiles were given some instructions about specific things to be careful about, and that the numbers of Christians was then increasing.

Notice now the following:

6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. (Acts 16:6-7)

This probably came from one or more of the prophets.

Consider that these passages show that God was NOT trying to call everyone at that time. And since God is not a respector of persons (Acts 10:34), God will one day need to offer salvation to those like those in the parts of Asia He would not allow Paul and company to visit (cf. Isaiah 52:10; Luke 3:6; see also Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).

Continuing:

8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:8-10)

So, while Paul and others had their own ideas about where to preach the good news, God redirected them. Troas is on the western coast of Turkey, ancient Asia Minor. Macedonia is in Europe and not in Asia.

Continuing:

11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. (Acts 16:11-12)

So, they went to the largest city in this Greek-speaking region.

Continuing:

13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. (Acts 16:13)

So, they went out to a place were prayers were commonly given on the Sabbath day and spoke to the women there. Jesus spoke to women He did not know, which was not something that most Jewish men were not doing (see also Women and the New Testament Church).

14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14)

The Lord opened her heart, hence God was calling her (for more on God's calling, see our free online booklet: Is God Calling You?).

As a seller of purple, she would have been wealthy, or at least in the upper half of financial income. Barnes Notes states:

A seller of purple - Purple was a most valuable color, obtained usually from shellfish. It was chiefly worn by princes and by the rich, and the traffic in it might be very profitable.

Lydia and those with her responded to God's calling. Lydia lived in Thyatira, which is in Asia Minor, and she wanted to learn more (if you want to learn more about Christian living, check-out our free online book: Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian):

15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us. (Acts 16:15)

But something else happened before Paul and company left:

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." 18 And this she did for many days. (Acts 16:16-18a)

While this sounds like it could have been a good thing, the Apostle Paul did not see it that way.

18 ... But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour. (Acts 16:18bc)

We see then that the spirit of divination was demonic, and despite telling the truth that the Apostle Paul and those with him were proclaiming the way of salvation, the Apostle Paul prayed for it to be cast out.

Well, everyone did not care for that result:

19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, "These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe." (Acts 16:19-21)

Without an opportunity for a trial, the government officials tore off the clothes of Paul and those with him, as well as beat them and put them in prison:

22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24)

But God decided that He would use this as an opportunity:

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (Acts 16:25-34)

So, God had a plan to call a Gentile jailer.

Now see what happens next:

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, "Let those men go."

36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, "The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace."

37 But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out." (Acts 16:35-37)

Paul asserted his legal rights. He apparently did this possibly prevent future retaliation against the jailer and other Christians in the area--since he, Paul, had been allowed to leave.

38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed. (Acts 16:38-40)

The magistrates would remember this, so this probably comforted some of the Christians in the town.

A sermon covering the previous 4 chapters is available: Acts 13-16: Prophets, Poisoning, and Proclamation.

Acts 17

Now, let's go to the 17th chapter of Acts:

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

Thessalonica was (and still is) north of Athens in Greece.

Continuing:

2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." (Acts 17:2-3)

So, in this Gentile area, Paul spoke on the Sabbaths. But also kept bringing up the Hebrew scriptures and the efforts bore fruits:

4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:4)

But not everyone was pleased:

5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. (Acts 17:5)

So trouble makers were brought in.

We have people who speak against the CCOG and try to cause trouble today--this is, thus, not a new thing.

6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.

Apparently Christian preachers were so influential that the Jews claimed that they had "turned the world upside down." And that is consistent with what Jesus told them to do.

The Jews then made an accusation:

7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king — Jesus." (Acts 17:7)

Obviously Paul and company were doing more than telling people to 'give their hearts to the Lord.' They must have been explaining about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in enough detail that the Jews realized that Jesus would be a literal king.

Continuing, the Jews were not happy:

8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:8-9)

Apparently Jason and company had to put up some money so that Paul and Silas could leave.

19 And money answereth all things. (Ecclesiastes 10:19, JPS)

14 A gift in secret pacifies anger, And a bribe behind the back, strong wrath. ( Proverbs 21:14, NKJV)

Jason and company did not give money, perhaps even considered as a bribe, to get officials to do what was wrong, but to do what was right.

And yes, there are times money can come in handy for more than buying our usual physical needs.

Once the money was paid and accepted:

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17:10)

So, they again went to a synagogue. But this time in Berea:

Berea or Beroea was a city of the Hellenic and Roman era now known as Veria (or Veroia) in Macedonia, northern Greece. It is a small city on the eastern side of the Vermion Mountains north of Mount Olympus. (Berea (Bible). Wikipedia, accessed 07/30/18)

Thus Berea was a Gentile-dominated area, but had enough Jews to have a synagogue.

Continuing:

11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

So, we see that the Bereans were not dismissive, but were willing to do the work to check the scriptures to see if what Paul and company were teaching as correct.

This meant that they were looking into the Old Testament at the time. To see over 200 Old Testament scriptures that the New Testament shows that Jesus fulfilled, check out our free online book: Proof Jesus is the Messiah.

Anyway, notice the result of the Bereans being willing to take the time to prove whether or not Jesus was the Messiah:

12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:12)

But envy struck:

13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. (Acts 17:13)

There are people today that try to stir people up against the true faith.

Anyway, it appears that Paul was the main one that was being complained about:

14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed. (Acts 17:14-15)

So, Timothy and Silas stayed in Berea for a time to teach more to those that had believed.

Paul waited, but then decided that there was too much idolatry in Athens:

16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.


Inside an icon shop in Athens, Greece (photos by Joyce Thiel)

Idols and icons are still a problem in Greece today.

Anyway, Paul decided to work and teach:

17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17)

Some dismissed him, but others wanted to know more:

18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?"
Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18)

So, Paul taught about Jesus and the resurrection. Nearly two thousand years later, we in the CCOG do (see Jesus: The Son of God and Saviour and What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?). Yet, many who teach about Jesus do not understand what He taught, and many simply do not teach the resurrection like the early Christians did.

Many dismiss the truth today. Now some were merely curious:

19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean." 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:19-21)

Various ones are like that today. And some are mainly interested tin for entertainment.

But, irrespective of their motivations, Paul spoke:

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: (Acts 17:22-23)

So, we see Paul trying to make a connection with the people with something they were familiar with.

This is consistent with something that he wrote:

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

That is consistent with the Old and New Testaments:

39 ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)

You love your neighbor better as yourself if you try to understand where they are coming from.

24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:24-27)

Some have criticized the CCOG for being willing to cite pagan sources, but that is something that the Apostle Paul clearly did as we can see in the following:

28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' (Acts 17:28)

Paul was getting across the idea that what he was teaching was not completely foreign to them.

He then takes that to try to connect more to them:

29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:29-31)

Some thought this was intriguing enough to hear more about, while others were mocking what Paul taught:

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." (Acts 17:32)

Continuing:

33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:33-34)

Some believed. Others apparently wanted more time, but Paul did not stay.

Acts 18

Now to Acts 18:

1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. (Acts 18:1)

Corinth is basically in south-central Greece, about 83 km (51 miles) from Athens.

2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. (Acts 18:2)

Pontus was in the north-east portion of Asia Minor-2450 km (1522 miles), via land, from Corinth.

The Roman historian Suetonius in The Deified Claudius wrote:

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he {Emperor Claudius} expelled them from Rome. (as cited in McDowell, p. 147)

Claudius was emperor from 41 -54 A.D. Some believe that this is a misspelled reference to Christians, as Christians were considered to be a Jewish cult at that time.

Whether it was or not, Suetonius’ writing confirms that Jews were expelled from Rome as Luke recorded in Acts.

Anyway, continuing:

3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.(Acts 18:3)

So, here is where we find out that Paul was a tentmaker. Plus, we see that the Apostle Paul was still willing to work with his hands, despite his preaching responsibilities. Which he still had:

4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)

Thus, Paul did work during the week, but was still able to be a persuasive speaker on the Sabbaths, as he was able to persuade both Jews and Greeks.

But not everyone cared for the message:

5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." (Acts 18:5-6)

So, more persecution and more travel. But also a switch to having a greater focus on reaching Gentiles. Here is something related to that last point:

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, (Romans 11:13)

Back to Acts 18:

7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. (Acts 18:7-8)

So, the ruler of the synagogue converted and was baptized. Preumably the ruler of the synagogue would have been familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, and hence understood what Paul was explaining about Jesus.

Then Jesus spoke to Paul by a night vision, which may have been a dream:

9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:9-10)

So, we see Paul and company staying around in order to teach the word of God--beyond conversion.

In that amount of time, one would expect opposition, and it happened:

12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, "This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law."

So, we see Jews trying to use the government against Paul.

But the procounsel was not interested in listening to the Jews:

14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters." 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. (Acts 18:14-16)

Thus, the government official ruled that this was not something for him to get involved in.

But some of the Greeks took this as an opportunity to beat a leading Jew:

17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things. (Acts 18:17)

The Benson Commentary states:

Acts 18:17. Then all the Greeks — Who were present, perceiving how little favour the Jews found from the court, and displeased with them for their turbulent, persecuting spirit, perhaps, thinking that Paul was thus insulted for the regards he had expressed for the Gentiles; took Sosthenes — The successor of Crispus, as chief ruler of the synagogue — And probably Paul’s chief accuser; and beat him — It seems, because he had occasioned them so much trouble to no purpose; before the judgment-seat — While Gallio looked an without hindering them. But though this was certainly a very irregular proceeding, Gallio cared for none of those things — Did not concern himself at all to interpose in the affair. Probably he was pleased with the indignity done by the Greeks to the chief magistrate of the Jews, whose bigoted and persecuting spirit he disliked.

Gill's Exposition states:

Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes,.... These were not the Greeks or Gentiles that were devout persons, or converted to Christianity, and were on the side of Paul, and fell foul on Sosthenes, as being his chief accuser; for this is not agreeably to the spirit and character of such persons, but the profane and unconverted Greeks, who observing that Gallio sent the Jews away, with some resentment and contempt, were encouraged to fall upon the principal of them, and use him in a very ill manner; it is very likely that this person was afterwards converted, and is the same that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1. The name is Greek, and there is one of this name mentioned among the executors of Plato's will (w). This man was now chief ruler of the synagogue; chosen in, very likely, upon Crispus becoming a Christian, and being baptized:

and beat him before the judgment seat; of Gallio; before he and his friends could get out of court:

and Gallio cared for none of these things; which might not be owing to any sluggishness in him, but to an ill opinion he had of the Jews, as being a turbulent and uneasy people, and therefore he connived at some of the insolencies of the people towards them; though it did not become him, as a magistrate, to act such a part, whose business it was to keep the public peace, to quell disorders, to protect men's persons, and property, and prevent abuse and mischief, and to correct and punish for it. The Arabic version renders it, "and no man made any account of Gallio"; they did not fear his resentment, he having drove the Jews from the judgment seat.

Continuing notice that Paul stayed a while then resumed his travels:

18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing." And he sailed from Ephesus. (Acts 18:18-21)

Now, Ephesus was in Asia Minor. While most Protestant commentators tend to believe the feast mentioned was Passover or Pentecost, the late WCG evangelist Herman Hoeh was convinced that this was the Feast of Tabernacles:

Was Paul planning to keep the feast with the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem? Indeed!
   Which feast?
   The spring festivals were already past. The two late summer or early autumn holy days, the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, were held at any of the local congregations. Yet here was a major festival being held at Jerusalem in the autumn. The one big major festival that occurs in the autumn is the Feast of Tabernacles! Paul told the Ephesians that he "must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem" — with the Headquarters Church. (This was long before A.D. 70, at which time Jerusalem fell to the Roman General Titus and the Temple was destroyed.)
   Paul had just completed his first journey into Europe with the gospel and undoubtedly felt he had to report the progress of the work to the Headquarters Church and the brethren (verse 22). What better time to do so than while keeping the Feast of Tabernacles!
   Here is the example of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. After years in the New Testament ministry he is still keeping the Feast of Tabernacles! (Hoeh H. The New Testament FEAST OF TABERNACLES. Good News, July-September 1973)

The Protestant Thomas Lewin, and he extensively studied the chronology of the New Testament, also concluded that Acts 18:21 was a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles (Lewin T. Fasti Sacri, Or A Key to the Chronology of the New Testament. Longmans, 1865, p. 300; Lewin T. The Life and Epistles of St.Paul, Volume 2. G. Bell and sons, 1878, p. 343).

Continuing:

22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. (Acts 18:22)

The place that Paul had "gone up" to was Jerusalem after landing in Caesaria and then Paul wintered in Antioch (see also Lewin T. Fasti Sacri, Or A Key to the Chronology of the New Testament. Longmans, 1865, p. 300).

Continuing:

23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. (Acts 18:23)

He apparently also stayed to try to reach more people as well as to help the interested learn more about living as Christians (see also Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian).

Now we learn about Apollos:

24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24-26)

So, Apollos was zealous, but needed more information. Teachers are to strive to teach accurately, so Apollos seems to have take the advice.

27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 18:27-28)

Notice that he proved Jesus was the Christ to the Jews by citing the prophecies of the Old Testament. This is something Christians should be able to do, hence our free online book: Proof Jesus is the Messiah.

As far as Apollos goes, he became a distinguished and successful preacher of the gospel and is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Titus 3:13. Nothing more is known of him than is stated in these passages, though I read one report where someone claimed he left the faith--but that is not from a reliable source.

Acts 19

Now to the 19th chapter:

1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." (Acts 19:1-2)

So there are Christians in Ephesus who had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. So, it is pretty safe to conclude that these people had not been taught trinitarianism. To learn more about what early Christians taught about the Holy Spirit, check out the article: Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity?

Continuing:

3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?"

So they said, "Into John's baptism."

4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would 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 hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all. (Acts 19:3-7)

Now, some wonder today if they need to be baptized again. Well, notice the following from Jesus, as recorded by Luke:

28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:28)

John the Baptist also baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13).

Yet, John's baptism was not consider sufficient for Christians--they needed hands laid upon them.

Anyway, I was baptized as an infant by the Church of Rome and as a teen by Salem Bible Church. But, I realized that I did not truly understand sin or Christianity until learning more from the old WCG, which baptized me decades ago (see also Baptism, the Early Church, and the Continuing Church).

Paul continued to go to the synagogues and teach about the Kingdom of God:

8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10)

So, we see that Paul stayed for two years and reached people through Asia Minor (not all in the continent we now refer to as Asia)

Continuing:

11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:11)

In the days of the old Radio Church of God, people were so far away from a minister that this was a practice they had, and it carried over into the old Worldwide Church of God. We have that practice in the Continuing Church of God and people have responded that they have been healed after requesting and/or receiving an anointed cloth. This is also discussed in an article titled When should you be anointed? in the July-September 2018 edition of Bible News Prophecy magazine.

Continuing:

13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"
16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16)

Apparently the exorcists believed in magic words and name dropping. The demons were not impressed. But this made an impression of many people:

17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. (Acts 19:17-20)

So, this resulted in conversions. Also, notice that people were willing to burn their pagan books. Books were VERY expensive back then.

Matthew Poole's Commentary says this was 6,250 ounces of silver ($100,000 if silver is valued at $16 per ounce). This was a huge financial sacrifice. Yet, some have objected in modern times of disposing of leavened products during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Anyway, these people were serious enough to get rid of what may have been most of their lives savings when they burnt the books.

Continuing:

21 When these things were accomplished, 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 those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time. (Acts 19:21-22)

So, Paul realized he was supposed to go to Rome, but he did not at that time.

Anyway, a new problem popped up in Ephesus:

23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship." (Acts 19:23-27)

So, Demetrius and others were worried about loss of money and probably tourism. Instead of converting, Demetrius wanted others to count the cost of tolerating Paul:

28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" (Acts 19:28)

Diana was "great" for their wallets. Perhaps I should add that certain aspects of Diana have seemingly been transferred to the Greco-Roman version of Jesus' mother Mary (e.g. Assumption of Mary).

29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions. (Acts 19:29)

Many in the city realized what happened to the Jewish exorcists, but many were concerned about revenue and paganism. Many pagans did not, in theory, mind the idea of Jesus. But they would have considered Him just one more of their gods, not a Deity above their gods. So, this caused an issue.

Paul wanted to speak, but:

30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. (Acts 19:30-31)

So, the Christians and even government officials, saw massive danger for Paul at this time.

32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. (Acts 19:32)

So, a crowd was worked up, but most were not sure why. Then:

33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

So, we see that the crowd got emotional and cried out for two hours. Well, eventually they probably wore themselves out. Finally, Alexander was able to calm them down:

35 And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: "Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? 36 Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. (Acts 19:35-37)

While Alexander was a believer in Diana, he did not consider Paul and the disciples to be thieves that needed mob 'justice.' He continued with:

38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being called in question for today's uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering." (Acts 19:38-40)

Back then, people realized that if they caused too much of a commotion, the Roman army might come in and simply start killing and destroying. By this time, the crowd had sense enough to pay attention.

41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. (Acts 19:41)

Thus, they stopped their protests and thus Paul and the disciples were spared.

Here is a link to a sermon covering Acts 17-19: Travels, Anointed Cloths, & the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Acts 20

Now to the 20th chapter of the Book of Acts:

1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. (Acts 20:1)

So, Paul left Ephesus and went to Macedonia. He got out of the place that almost had a massive riot because of him.

Continuing:

2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. (Acts 20:2-3)

Again, he was being plotted against.

Don't think that Satan does not plot against us.

Continuing:

4 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia — also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. 5 These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. (Acts 20:4-5)

So, we see that they would have been keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread in Philippi. The fact that the Book of Acts is addressed to a Gentile Greek, plus this mention of the Days of Unleavened Bread, provides biblical evidence that early Christians still kept it--they also kept the other Holy Days (for more information, check out our free online booklet Should You Keep God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?). Otherwise, one would not expect a Greek letter recipient to have any idea of when it was.

For those that doubt this explanation, consider that over a century later, around 192 A.D. Polycrates of Ephesus wrote that he and those before him, "always observed the day when the people put away the leaven" (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

Continuing, after Sabbath servives one day, there was a dinner:

7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. (Acts 20:7-8)

Many Sunday keepers like to claim that this shows that early Christians had church on Sunday. Instead, what it shows is that after the Sabbath was over, there was a Saturday night dinner. And since Paul was to leave the next day, he spoke until midnight Saturday.

Even Catholic scholars know that to claim that this proves Sunday is ridiculous. Notice something from the Catholic Mirror:

Once more, the Biblical apologists for the change of day call our attention to the Acts, 20th chapter  6th and 7th verses: "and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread," etc. To all appearances, the above text should furnish some consolation to our disgruntled Biblical friends, but being Marplot, we cannot allow them even this crumb of comfort. We reply by the axiom: "Quod probat nimis, probat nihil" — "What proves too much, proves nothing." Let us call attention to the same Acts 2, chapter, 46th verse: "And they, continuing daily in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house," etc. Who does not see at a glance that the text produced to prove the exclusive prerogative of Sunday, vanishes into thin air — an ignis fatuus — when placed in juxtaposition with the 46th verse of the same chapter? What the Biblical Christian claims by this text for Sunday alone, the same authority, St. Luke, informs us was common to every day of the week: "And they, continuing daily in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house."(The Christian Sabbath. Catholic Mirror of September 16, 1893, p. 8)

For more on this see my article The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad and/or the Catholic Mirror article The Christian Sabbath.

Continuing:

9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. (Acts 20:9)

So, Paul was not an entertaining enough speak to prevent someone from falling asleep. The person dozed off and fell and died!

But God was not done with Eutychus:

10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." (Acts 20:10)

Then after this, they were someone excited and stayed up and talked until the morning:

11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted. (Acts 20:11-12)

Certainly they were comforted by seeing this miracle.

Consider, however, on the one hand, God raised the man from the dead with Paul. But on the other hand, Paul was beaten, chased, and imprisoned. God does not always intervene when or how people think He would/should.

Back to Acts:

13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. (Acts 20:13-14)

Assos was in northwest Asia Minor, a little south of Troas. Mitylene was a south of Assos.

15 We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus. (Acts 20:15)

Samos is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, south of Chios and sligthly passed Ephesus. Miletus is further south.

16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16)

So, we see hear that Paul was keeping the Day of Pentecost (see also Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?). Hence, Paul clearly was keeping the biblical Holy Days. Anyway, despite not going to Ephesus, he called for the elders from there to go to see him:

17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)

That is about 78 km, or about 49 miles, between Miletus and Ephesus. Continuing:

18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:18-24)

Paul said that they should have been paying attention to his example and that he was not lukewarm. Plus that he was willing to give his life for doing the work of God.

Continuing:

25 "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Paul made it clear that he had been preaching the kindgom of God. He also gave commands for the church leaders to acts as overseers of the flock. He later wrote this to the Ephesians:

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

So, on multiple occasions, Paul brought up church governance in Ephesus (more on church governance is in the article The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government).

Notice part of why:

29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

So, Paul warned that people that were part of the church would rise up, teach perverse things, in an effort to draw people to them. We have seen that today as well (see also Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders?).

Those in Ephesus were among those that left Paul:

15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day — and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Timothy 1:15-18)

So people left or otherwise betrayed Paul (see also The Ephesus Church Era).

Anyway, after Herbert W. Armstrong died, men speaking perverse things rose up. Those who remained with the old Worldwide Church of God destroyed it, and it ceased to be an actual Church of God (they also renamed it to be Grace Communion International). Others claimed to be faithful to the original teachings, but instead added perverse teachings like no contact with Church of God relatives outside their group (see Teachings Unique to the Philadelphia Church of God), requiring assets supposedly to be "in common" (see Why Not the Restored Church of God?), claiming ministers are not to be held to biblical standards (see Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God), and/or formed lukewarm organizations (see The Laodicean Church Era). Others, do disappointed with such antics, rejected (though not intentionally) church governance and became independent (see Independent Members of the COG: Herbert W. Armstrong Comments, Plus Questions and Answers).

The Bible later shows that there were false apostles that rose in Ephesus (Revelation 2:2), and we have seen various false apostles rise up who were once part of the old Worldwide Church of God (Gerald Flurry, Ronald Weinland, and the late William Dankenbring come to mind).

Paul continued with:

32 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:32-35)

Paul made it clear he was not in it for the money or financial compensation. I also "have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel" as most of "you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me." For those who do not know, I do not now, nor have I ever, taken a salary from the Continuing Church of God. I, also, am the only high level leader in any of the top ten COG organizations to not do so.

The idea that "It is more blessed to give than to receive," is why we in the Continuing Church of God teach the way of love, the give way of life. We also have related sermon available: Cause and Effect: Two Trees, Two Ways.

Continuing:

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship. (Acts 20:36-37)

So, Paul prayed with them and they said their good byes.

Acts 21

Now to Acts 21:

1 Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.

2 And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. (Acts 21:1-3)

So they went to the Greek islands of Cos and Rhodes, then to the coastal town of Patara. Patara was on the southwest point of the coast of what is now Turkey.

Continuing:

4 And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:4)

So, they provided more information to them. Notice, though, that God's Spirit someone told them to warn Paul about going to Jerusalem.

Paul, however, did not listen, as we will see later.

Continuing::

5 When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. 6 When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home. (Acts 21:5-6)

The group with Paul was clearly more than just him, Luke, and Silas.

Continuing:

7 And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. (Acts 21:7)

Ptolemais was an ancient port city on the Phoenician coast. It is directly west of the northern border of the Sea of Galilee. A Greco-Roman bishop named Clarus was there and in 190 A.D. attended a council against having Passover on the biblical date.

Continuing

8 On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. (Acts 21:8)

This is believed to be a reference to this Philip being one of the original seven deacons in Acts 6:5.

Continuing:

9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

So, we see that there were women who prophesied. This is consistent with what was taught earlier in Acts:

17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-19)

Expect more prophecying in the future (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God)., plus, more dreams (see also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).

10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" (Acts 21:10-11)

So, a prophet warned the Apostle Paul.

12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:12)

Others were concerned. Plus Paul had received the warning NOT TO GO in Patara.

Continuing:

13 Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13)

While the Apostle Paul's willingness to die is exemplary, his failure to heed the message from God's Spirit and as given through one or more prophets was a grave mistake on Paul's part.

14 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, "The will of the Lord be done." (Acts 21:14)

They knew that Paul was wrong on this, but stayed with him.

Continuing:

15 And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:15)

So, Paul stubbornly insisted on doing the wrong thing.

Continuing:

16 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge.

17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. (Acts 21:16-17)

Well, the brethren in Jerusalem were pleased to see them.

Continuing:

18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. (Acts 21:18)

James was believed to be the leader there and was apparently the apostle in charge of Jerusalem.

19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. (Acts 21:18-20a)

The brethren were pleased that God was opening doors in the Greek-speaking lands.

Continuing:

20 ... And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. (Acts 21:20b-21)

Before going further, let's discuss circumcision for a little bit.

Early Jewish Christians did continue to practice circumcizing their baby boys after Acts 15. Additionally, so did many Gentile converts.

According to the fourth century Catholic historian Eusebius, starting in the first century:

James, the first that had obtained the episcopal seat in Jerusalem after the ascension of our Saviour…The first, then, was James, the so-called brother of the Lord; the second, Symeon; the third, Justus; the fourth, Zacchæus; the fifth, Tobias; the sixth, Benjamin; the seventh, John; the eighth, Matthias; the ninth, Philip; the tenth, Seneca; the eleventh, Justus; the twelfth, Levi; the thirteenth, Ephres; the fourteenth, Joseph; and finally, the fifteenth, Judas. These are the bishops of Jerusalem that lived between the age of the apostles and the time referred to, all of them belonging to the circumcision. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, 2005 Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), pp. 45, 71)

The historian E. Gibbon wrote:

The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. (Gibbon, Edward ; Eckler, Peter. History of Christianity: Comprising All that Relates to the Progress of the Christian Religion in “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and A Vindication of Some Passages in the 15th and 16th Chapters. Published by P. Eckler, 1916. Original from the New York Public Library. Digitized Jun 19, 2006, p. 117)

But circumcision was not just the practice with the first and second century bishops of Jerusalem. Epiphanius wrote of this group from the time of 69/70 A.D. until his day, that he called the Nazarenes:

All Christians were called Nazarenes once…They were so-called followers of the apostles…they dedicate themselves to the law…However, everyone called the Christians Nazarenes as I said before. This appears from the accusation against Paul…[Acts 24:5]…For they use not only the New Testament but also the Old…For they also accept the resurrection of the dead and that everything has origin in God…Only in this respect they differ from the Jews and Christians: with the Jews they do not agree because of their belief in Christ, with the Christians because they are trained in the Law, in circumcision, the Sabbath and the other things…(Epiphanius. Panarion 29 as cited in Pritz R. Nazarene Jewish Christianity. Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 30-34)

Their adherence to Jewish customs, especially circumcision and observance of Jewish holy days, naturally alienated the “Nazarene” Christians from the church that distanced itself away from many practices it considered to be Jewish.

Here is some of what the Catholic scholar Bagatti wrote about some of the gentile Nazarenes in the fourth and probably fifth centuries, that were sometimes derisively referred to as Minim by some Jews:

In fact some Minim of gentile stock, following St. Paul, taught that the Law had been abolished with the exception of the Decalogue…Some Jews…intensified the observance of the Law…especially regarding circumcision and the Sabbath. The Judaeo-Christians in this were in accord with the Jews…(Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 108)

While it was not a required practice, throughout history, many “Nazarene” Christians have practiced circumcision, not as a commandment, but as a biblically-based concept, knowing that God’s statutes were good (cf. Nehemiah 9:13). The fact that they were in accord with the Jews shows early Christians would have been circumsizing their boys while they were infants.

One of the inquisitors in the Middle Ages found that a certain type of “heretic” (in his mind) uniformly observed the Sabbath and sometimes (though apparently not always) observed circumcision (Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 88).

Thus, it seems that circumcision was (and still is) often practiced by many trying to be faithful Christians. And because of “Judeo-Christian influence” (like from the Bible), this may be why there have always been a relatively high proportion of circumcised males in the USA (though this may be changing).

For more on circumcision, check out the article Health Benefits of Circumcision and/or watch the video Circumcision: Good or Bad?

Anyway, there were rumors that Paul was not living as a Christian was supposed to live and teach.

Continuing with what the leadership of the Church of God in Jerusalem said:

22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." (Acts 21:22-25)

So, notice that they wanted Paul to publicly demonstrate he was keeping the law.

Hence, no one should think that Paul was not keeping the law.

And this was not just for show, as Paul later stated:

17 ...Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. (Acts 28:17-18)

This words from Paul must have meant that he kept the Ten Commandments, weekly Sabbath, and the annual Holy Days.

Continuing:

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. (Acts 21:26)

So, Paul went through the public motions as advised. But remember he did NOT follow warnings from the Holy Spirit not to come to Jerusalem.

So:

27 Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." 29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) (Acts 21:27-29)

While Paul did not bring the Ephesian into the Temple, the accusations by the Jews upset the city and action was taken.

Many often react improperly to wrong or incomplete information still today.

Continuing:

30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. (Acts 21:30)

The Jews wanted to kill him, however:

31 Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. (Acts 21:31-33)

So, the Romans had him bound and wanted to know what Paul did.

Continuing:

34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. (Acts 21:34)

So, we see another mob, similar to what happened in Ephesus (see Acts 19)--except these seem to mainly be Jews, and not Gentiles, who are trying for mob 'justice' even though most really did not know what Paul had done.

35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, "Away with him!" (Acts 21:35-36)

So, some of the mob wanted the Romans to kill Paul.

Paul was not intending to die then. Continuing:

37 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?"

He replied, "Can you speak Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?" (Acts 21:37-38)

So, the commannder realized that Paul was not someone that he had thought.

Continuing:.

39 But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people." (Acts 21:39)

Cilicia was an early Roman province, located on what is today the southern (Mediterranean) coast of Turkey. Cilicia was annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey. Since it was officially part of Rome, this made Paul a Roman citizen.

Continuing:


40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying, (Acts 21:40)

Paul decided that the best way to handle the situation was to speak Hebrew, or perhaps more properly Aramaic.

Acts 22

Now to the 22nd chapter of the Book of Acts:

1"Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. (Acts 22:1-2a)

So, the language move did help calm the multitude down a little.

Continuing:

2 ... Then he said: 3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5 as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 "Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'

8 So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.'

9 "And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. 10 So I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?'

And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.' 11 And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.

12 "Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 came to me; and he stood and said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14 Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'

17 "Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance 18 and saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.' 19 So I said, 'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. 20 And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.' 21 Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 2b-21)

From this account, Paul added some information that Luke did not record in Acts 9.

Now notice what happened after Paul spoke the truth:

22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!" (Acts 22:22)

They listened to Paul, but got quite upset right when Paul mentioned that God wanted him to reach the Gentiles.

Continuing:

23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. (Acts 22:23-24)

Well, the Jews did not like to get blamed for anything and really had a prejudice against the Gentiles. Many, even today, harbor improperly racial and ethnic prejudices (see also God's Grace is For All).

Anyway, getting back to Paul:

25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?" (Acts 22:25)

So, Paul asserted his legal rights. He had not done so here before, but now decided this was the right time to do so.

26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman."

27 Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?"
He said, "Yes."

28 The commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship."

And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen." (Acts 22:26-28)

So, apparently both Paul and the commander both had what is now called "dual-citzenship." Paul had Roman and Jewish citizenship from birth, whereas the commander had some type of citizenship for birth, but bought Roman citizenship.

The Pulpit Commentary states:

Verse 28. - Citizenship for freedom, A.V; am a Roman for was free, A.V. A great sum (πολλοῦ κεφαλαίου). The word is only found here in the New Testament in the sense of a "sum of money," but is so used in classical writers. Citizenship; πολιτεία, for "freedom of the city," in Xenophon, AElian, Polybius, Dion Cassius, etc., and 3Macc. 3:21. Dion Cassius (9 17) relates that Messaliua, the wife of the Emperor Claudius, used to sell the freedom of the city, and that at first she sold it (μεγάλων ξρημάτων) for a very high price, but that afterwards it became very cheap. In all probability Lysias had so purchased it, and in consequence took the name of Claudius (Renan, ' St. Paul,' p. 524). I am a Roman born. It is not known how St. Paul's family acquired the Roman citizenship.

Since Paul was born a Roman citizen and did not pay for it, then his family had it somehow.

Continuing:

29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. (Acts 22:29)

So, now the commander was going to be even more careful with Paul. So:

30 The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them. (Acts 22:30)

So, Paul was unbound, which must have been a lot more comfortable.

There are times to assert legal rights, but wisdom needs to be used.

Here is a link to a sermon: Acts 20-22: James, Sunday, and Prejudice.

Acts 23

With Paul still in Jerusalem,, let's continue in Acts 23:

1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."he (Acts 23:1)

So, Paul is basically saying that he is not a criminal and respected God's ways.

However, not all agreed:

2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. (Acts 23:2)

Paul did not like that:

3 Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?" (Acts 23:3)

Paul likely felt that this was a violation of biblical law, plus also Roman law. But his insult was a bit much.

4 And those who stood by said, "Do you revile God's high priest?"

5 Then Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'" (Acts 23:4-5)

So, although Paul had been pointed out the hypocrisy of the Jewish accusers, he decided to take a step back.

He realized that those supporting the high priest were likely to be Sadducees (though some priests were Pharisees).

Then, however, Paul got an idea:

6 But when Paul perceived that 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; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" (Acts 23:6)

So, we saw Paul play the Roman citizenship card before, now he is playing what we could call the Pharisee card.

7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection — and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:7-8)

Many of the priests were Sadducees. They considered themselves to be knowledgable of God's word--even though angels and the resurrection are taught in it (e.g. see also What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?), they would not believe parts of it. Laodiceans are like that today. And like the Sadducees, they discount parts of God's plan.

Continuing:

9 Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees' party arose and protested, saying, "We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God." (Acts 23:9)

Now, the Pharisees here are acting a bit like the Bereans as well as like the Pharisee Gamaliel. Recall it was Gamaliel who said

38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 5:38)

There are some today who are not that cautious. They belittle the fact that God intervenes with things like dreams--but the Bible is clear that dreams are a method that God uses to intervene (see also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God)--they also have a variety of improper doctrines they insist upon.

Continuing:

10 Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. (Acts 23:10)

So, the military had to remove Paul from the crowd.

While awake or during sleep we are not told, but the next night God spoke to Paul:

11 But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." (Acts 23:11)

Now, Paul already knew he was to go to Rome, but he had not gone (see Acts 19:21-22). But now Jesus is telling him, that yes, you will be going to Rome so be of good cheer.

But some of the Jews had another idea:

12 And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. 14 They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, "We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near." (Acts 23:12-15)

So, they plotted and boasted that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul. This was a false, as well as stupid vow to make.

Consider that the Hebrew scriptures teach:

2 Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

6 The words of the wicked are, "Lie in wait for blood," (Proverbs 12:6)

Clearly, the Jews bound by that oath had made a wicked vow.

Anyway, the plans the Jews had were bragged enough about that they were no longer a secret:

16 So when Paul's sister's son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. (Acts 23:16)

In the military, they teach you that a secret is when 1 person knows something. When more than one knows it is not truly a secret. And the more that know, the more likely that the 'secret' will be revealed.

Anyway, Paul told someone to pass the information on:

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, "Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him." 18 So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, "Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you."

19 Then the commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?"

20 And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him. 21 But do not yield to them, for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, men who have bound themselves by an oath that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you." (Acts 23:17-21)

It is interesting to note that the Bible does not record that the centurian was told--he was only told to bring the young man to the commander. Hence, this minimized the number of people who were aware that Paul knew about the plot.

Bible prophecy shows that people who appear to be trustworthy will betray God's people:

32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. 34 Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. 35 And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time. (Daniel 11:32-35)

21 "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22)

5 Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. (Micah 7:5, NIV)

So, be careful who you tell 'secrets' to.

Interestingly, getting back to Acts, the commander also decided to try to keep this quiet:

22 So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, "Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me." (Acts 23:22)

The commander then implemented his own plan:

23 And he called for two centurions, saying, "Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; 24 and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor." 25 He wrote a letter in the following manner:

26 Claudius Lysias,

To the most excellent governor Felix:

Greetings.

27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. 28 And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. 29 I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains. 30 And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him.
Farewell. (Acts 23:23-30)

So, the commander mentioned that Paul was a Roman citizen, that he did nothing deserving chains or death, and that Jews were plotting against Paul.

Anyway, continuing:

31 Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. (Acts 23:31)

Now, the fasting Jews were not successful.

If they kept their vow they would have all died within a week or so.

The Hebrew scriptures teach:

4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed —
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

So, the Jews were fools and humiliated that made the fasting vow. They were also vain:

6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God. (Ecclesiastes 5:6-7)

They never should have made their wicked and rash vow.

Jesus warned:

33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

The Old Testament similarly taught:

19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

There is a time not to speak Christians need to be careful.

16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. (Matthew 10:16-17)

We also need caution today.

Acts 24

Now, let's go to Acts 24:

1 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul. (Acts 24:1)

So an orator was brought in by the high priest. Matthew Henry's Commentary on Acts 24:1-9 has the following:

The prosecutors brought with them a certain orator named Tertullus, a Roman, skilled in the Roman law and language, and therefore fittest to be employed in a cause before the Roman governor, and most likely to gain favour. The high priest, and elders, though they had their own hearts spiteful enough, did not think their own tongues sharp enough, and therefore retained Tertullus, who probably was noted for a satirical wit, to be of counsel for them; and, no doubt, they gave him a good fee, probably out of the treasury of the temple, which they had the command of, it being a cause wherein the church was concerned and which therefore must not be starved.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

It seems that the Jews felt what we might call today "a high priced, smooth-talking lawyer" is what they needed to be sure they could get rid of the Apostle Paul.

Continuing:

2 And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: "Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, 3 we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. (Acts 24:2-4)

So, we see the lawyer trying to pretend that he wants to help the Romans quickly resolve a problem. Continuing:

5 For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. (Acts 24:5)

Before going further, let's look at another translation of that verse:

5 We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. (Acts 24:5, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.)

The term cult has been defined as follows:

cult noun ( RELIGION ) Definition
• [C] a religious group, often living together, whose beliefs are considered extreme or strange by many people
Their son ran away from home and joined a religious cult.
• [C] a particular system of religious belief
(the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press. viewed 04/07/12)

Some cannot handle being part of church that many call a "sect" or a "cult" like the Jews derogatorily did.

The Bible teaches that "the Devil" (Satan) is "the accuser of our brethren" (Revelation 12:9,10). Jesus said the Devil was "a liar and the the father of it" (John 8:44).

Do not be dissuaded by those who do not really believe the Bible and make misleading comments about the true Church of God: "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11) as the Apostle Paul wrote.

The Apostle Paul also warned that Satan's ministers can seem to be "ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) so all should be careful about Church of God accusations. If you hear one, first find out if it is REALLY true (most I have read are not which is clear upon detailed investigation), and then if it is, if that should, according to scripture, disqualify the entire church--and even then consider what happened related to the faithful in scripture.

Many who claim to be Christian in the USA condemn the original Christian faith as cultic. This is despite the fact that Jude wrote "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and that real Christians have been negatively considered to be part of a sect/cult since the Book of Acts.

Nazarene beliefs included accepting the Old and New Testaments, keeping the Sabbath, avoiding unclean meats, and observing biblical holy days (for more details see Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).

While 'Messianic Jews' have many of those practices, unlike the Nazarene Christians who were binitarian, the bulk of the Messianics are trinitarian (see Messianic Judaism Beliefs Differ from the Continuing Church of God), and not considered by Protestants to be a cult in the same negative way many of them view the Church of God.

To see for yourself if the CCOG has the true and original Christian faith, check out the free online book: Continuing History of the Church of God

Anyway, back to the orator's complaints about Paul:

6 He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7 But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, 8 commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him." 9 And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so. (Acts 24:6-8)

But the orator gave inaccurate testimony and he then "overplayed his hand" when he blamed commander Lysias for defending a Roman citizen named Paul.

Now Paul get's a chance to respond:

10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: "Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. (Acts 24:10-13)

So, Paul flatout states that the accusations are false and that they cannot prove them. The same can be said of much of the nonsense naysayers have said about me and the CCOG.

Getting back to Paul he then says:

14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14)

So, Paul admits to following "the Way." The Christian way of life. He was willing and not ashamed to say that. Notice also said that he believed what was written in the Law and the Prophets.

Before going further, let's look at another translation of Acts 24:14:

14 "But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets.

(Acts 24:14, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.)

Christians with "Nazarene" practices have long been accused of being part of a cult (or "sect," Acts 24:14, NKJV/NJB) by persecutors of various types. Jesus warned that the faithful would be persecuted (Matthew 5:11-12) and Paul even claimed that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions" (2 Timothy 3:21). So, of course, keeping the same practices that Jesus of Nazareth, the Nazarene ringleader called the Apostle Paul, and others throughout history does not make one part of an inappropriate "cult" (see also Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).

Continuing:

15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. (Acts 24:15-16)

Again, the Apostle Paul mentions the resurrection--this is a recurring theme from him.

Continuing:

17 "Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, 'Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.'" (Acts 24:17-21)

Paul plainly says he is not guilty of wrong doing. Instead he tried to point out that he was doing things that they should have approved of. We in CCOG, for example, are essentially engaged in a version of almsgiving when we send funds to the poor and hungry in places like Africa.

But we have been criticized for that.

Back to Acts:

22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case." 23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. (Acts 24:22-23)

So, Felix did not really see Paul as a criminal. Perhaps he even respected the almsgiving statement.

24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you." (Acts 24:24-25)

Many people, especially today, do not want to hear about self-control.

That was prophesied:

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-8)

Many of those who promote sexual immorality have major problem with self-control and do not want that preached. It is essentially illegal to do preaching on certain aspects of self-control in parts of Canada. The USA has its issues as well.

Peter, like Paul, also taught about self-control:

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:2-11)

Getting back to Paul, he wrote:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)

Related to Galatians 5 as well as self-control, the old WCG wrote the following:

These are the spiritual attitudes we need to develop properly our minds and emotions. They are the marks of a great mind! ...

SELF-CONTROL: This means we recognize anything can be misused or abused. And that there are some things we must totally avoid because God reveals in Scripture they are wrong. Other things we are permitted to use, we use in moderation. ...

God's Word and Spirit work hand in hand. Together they lead repentant minds in attitudes of mercy, forgiveness, forbearance, patience and self-control-attitudes we need to properly control our thinking and emotions under trials and problems. God's Spirit will empower us to express attitudes of respect, concern and consideration for others — including those who try to abuse us.

But we must be diligent to do our part. We must earnestly seek and be strengthened by God's Spirit through daily humble prayer. We must also drink in and yield to God's instructions in Scripture. We then begin to develop a totally different attitude and outlook on the world and other human beings. We begin to see them as God sees them in their potential — even if they are presently unconverted or are spiritually blind to their wrong ways. (Schroeder DD. THE MARK OF A GREAT MIND. Plain Truth Magazine October 1983)

Self-control not only is a 'fruit of the Spirit,' it is NOT always a reference to the control of physical desires--it most certainly includes spiritual qualities, such as those issues that Paul warned Timothy about.

The same WCG article also stated:

Without developing right self-control and character no one can be given great powers ... as future rulers in God's soon-coming kingdom. (Schroeder DD. THE MARK OF A GREAT MIND. Plain Truth Magazine October 1983)

As Christians, exercising self-control helps us build character.

And do not think that you cannot exercise self-control. Remember the New Testament teaches:

13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Many do not really believe that. But with prayer, trust (Proverbs 3:5-6), Bible study, faith can increase (cf. Romans 10:17; see also the free online booklet: Faith for Those God has Called and Chosen).

Getting back to Felix, he also had a problem with greed:

26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. (Acts 24:26)

Continuing:

27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound. (Acts 24:27)

So, no bribe and no justice. Paul was stuck with Felix for two years!

Acts 25

Now to the 25th chapter:

1 Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, 3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem — while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. (Acts 25:1-3)

The Jews were concerned that they really did not have a legal case in Roman court, so once again plotted to kill Paul outside the legal system.

I wonder if it was the same people who had previously claimed they would not eat or drink until Paul was killed (Acts 23:21). If so, they were going to be disappointed again.

Continuing:

4 But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. 5 "Therefore," he said, "let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him." (Acts 25:4-5)

The above somewhat sounds like Festus was saying that Paul was innocent until proven to be guilty.

Continuing:

6 And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. (Acts 25:6)

While trying Paul was not on the top of Festus' list, he did get to the matter.

7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8 while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all." (Acts 25:7-8)

Festus does not really find Paul guilty.

9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?" (Acts 25:9)

So, Festus is willing to continue the injustice against Paul to do the Jews a favor like Felix did.

Paul does not trust the Jews nor does he want to stay bound. So, again he brings up his legal rights:

10 So Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar." (Acts 25:10-11)

Festus realized the legal bind, so he tried to figure out what to do:

12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!" (Acts 25:12)

But this took a while:

13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying: "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, 'It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.' 17 Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar." (Acts 25:13-21)

So, Festus said he was trying to comply with legal requirements. Since he did not see Jesus after the resurrection, he said he really had no way to check that out (though he could have found out that others had seen the resurrected Jesus, though the non-believing Jews would have likely argued against that).

Continuing we see that Festus was in the mood to resolve this quickly:

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself."

"Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him." (Acts 25:22)

Continuing:

23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: "King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him." (Acts 25:23-27)

So, again Festus says he was trying to comply with legal requirements, but was at a loss as to what to tell Rome about Paul.

It was actually unreasonable to keep Paul locked up. However, the way that Rome ruled, essentially this was normally considered the right thing to do if doing so would prevent a possible riot.

But it was still wrong.

Here is a link to the eighth part of this sermon series: Acts 23-25: Vows, Secrets, Cults, & Criticisms.

Acts 26

Now to the 26th chapter:

1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." (Acts 26:1a)

So, we see that Paul must have realized that even Festus knew there were no legal charges against him

Continuing:

1 ... So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself: 2 "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, 3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently. (Acts 25:1b-3)

So, Paul is telling the king that since the king is familiar with the Jews, it should be something that the king will understand.

So, Paul then goes to his background:

4 "My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (Acts 26:4-6)

Notice that Paul says that the Jews should know all of that as well.

Paul then says that he is being judged because of the prophetic hope:

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. (Acts 26:6-7)

Then Paul asks about the resurrection:

8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:8)

The resurrection is a recurring theme with Paul in the Book of Acts.

Then Paul admits his own persecuting past:

9 "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11)

The Jews would have known that.

That is especially clear from the next statements:

12 "While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, (Acts 26:12)

The Paul goes into something that they did not want to hear:

13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' 15 So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:13-17)

So, Paul tells of seeing Jesus and his being given a commission to be a minister.

Continuing, Paul says:

19 "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Acts 26:19-20)

Paul explains that he had no choice but to listen to God. Yet, the Jews were not happy about that:

21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come — 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." (Acts 26:21-23)

So, Paul mentioned the resurrection of Jesus and his commission.

Yet, Festus did not care too much for Paul's response:

24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!" (Acts 26:24)

Paul disagreed with Festus' view and then made an appeal to King Agrippa:

25 But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe." (Acts 26:25-27)

After mentioning the prophets, which would have been a reference to the Old Testament, King Agrippa responded:

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." (Acts 26:28)

Notice that one familiar with the Old Testament prophets did NOT consider that Paul's defense pointed to madness.

Paul then showed a little humor:

29 And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains." (Acts 26:29)

The king liked what Paul said:

30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains." (Acts 26:30-31)

But Festus had known that before.

Continuing:

32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." (Acts 26:32)

But both Festus, and Felix before him, knew Paul did not deserve chains, which is why Paul appealed to Caesar.

Acts 27

Now to Acts 27:

1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. (Acts 27:1)

So, Festus decided he had to send Paul to Rome.

Continuing:

2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. 3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. 4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board. (Acts 27:2-6)

So far, so good.

Then there were some weather problems:

7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. (Acts 27:7-8)

Notice also:

9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, (Acts 27:9a)

The "Fast" was the The Day of Atonement.

It is in late September/early October on the Roman calendar.

The fact that Luke used to the term "the Fast" to a Gentile Christian is supportive of the view that this day was known and observed by early Christians, including Gentile ones.

Furthermore, notice the Greco-Roman Origen of Alexandria taught that in the late second/early third century:

A DAY of atonement is necessary for all who have sinned, and for this reason among the festivals of the Law, which contains visions of heavenly mysteries, one certain festival is held which called a day of atonement." (Origen. Gary Wayne Barkley editor. Homilies on Leviticus, 1-16. Homily 9 (1), p. 176),

But he discouraged keeping that day by fasting (Ibid, Homily 10 (3-5), p. 205-207). But even this indicates that there were others who were fasting then and that Origen disapproved.

It is reported that early Christians kept the Day of Atonement in Antioch the same time the Jews observed Yom Kippur in the third and fourth century (Ben Ezra DS. The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity: The Day of Atonement from Second Temple Judaism to the Fifth Century. Mohr Siebeck, 2003, pp. 2, 261, 277). And there is even more historical evidence about this.

For more on that Holy Day, check out the article: The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance.

Now, back to Paul:

9 ...Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." (Acts 27:9)

As it turns out, the Apostle Paul was wrong. He was correct that the voyage would result in much loss to the cargo and the ship, but it was not to their lives.

Paul was a prophet (1 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7). But he was wrong on his perception on some of this matter. Therefore, delays and speculations do not make one a false prophet.

Paul, himself, wrote:

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (Romans 12:6)

It is NOT faith in themselves that prophets prophesy in proportion to, but faith in the certainty of what God has told them. This is not something that a prophet works up (cf. Jeremiah 32:6-8).

See also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.

Anyway, Paul's warning was not heeded:

11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there. (Acts 27:11-12)

People do not often responded to warnings.

Then the sailors thought the weather improved:

13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. (Acts 27:13)

But they were sailing by sight. Christians need to be like the Apostle Paul wrote:

7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

The weather looked good when they started:

14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. (Acts 27:14)

Elliot's Commentary states:

A tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.--The Greek adjective typhonic is perpetuated in the modern "typhoon," as applied to whirlwinds like that now described. The "vortex" of such a wind is indeed its distinguishing feature. The name Euroclydon, which is fairly represented by such a word as "wide-wave," or "broad-billow," is not found elsewhere, and, if the reading be genuine, must be looked on as a term which St. Luke reported as actually used by the sailors on board. Some of the best MSS., however, give the form Euro-aquilo, which, though a somewhat hybrid word unknown to Greek and Latin writers, fits in, as meaning north-east, or, more strictly, east by north, with all the phenomena described. The earlier English--Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva--all give "north-east," while the Rhemish reproduces the term Euro-aquilo, without attempting to translate. A sudden change from south to north, with a great increase of violence, is a common phenomenon in the autumnal storms of the Mediterranean, and in this instance the blast would seem to have rushed down on the ship from the hills of Crete.

Various translations called the storm a "Northeaster" (NIV, BLB, ESV, CVE, etc.).

Anyway, for the ship it was bad:

15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. (Acts 27:15-20)

Throwing away ship's tackle was costly. The crew must have thought this was really bad and all was lost.

However, God inspired Paul:

21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island." (Acts 27:21-26)

This time, instead of just saying his perceptions (which were partially in error), this time Paul says what God's angel told him to say. This message was to comfort not only the sailors, but Paul himself.

Continuing:

27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. 28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. (Acts 27:27-29)

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:

But when the fourteenth night was come,.... From their setting out from the Fair Havens in Crete, or from the beginning of the storm:

So after two weeks of this, the sailors were still quite scared.

They did what THEY thought was best, but:

30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off. (Acts 27:30-32)

So, now there was some listening to the prisoner Paul.

Paul then was able to encourage them:

33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. (Acts 27:33-36)

They were encouraged, but not completely safe:

37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea. (Acts 27:37-38)

No one throws away vast quantities of food, unless there are major concerns.

Continuing:

39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. 40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. (Acts 27:39-41)

They grounded in the sea, relatively near the shore.

But the wave were so strong it broke more of the ship.

The soldiers came up with a plan:

42 And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. (Acts 27:42)

The soldiers figured it was safer to kill all the prisoners than to risk being executed themselves for allowing any to get away.

But Paul's example and statement apparently made a major impression on the centurion:

43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land. (Acts 27:43-44)

Notice that the scripture does not say that the centurion would have opposed killing prisoners in general, but that it was because he wanted to keep Paul alive that he stopped the soldiers' plan.

Acts 28

Continuing in Acts 28:

1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. (Acts 28:1)

Malta is an island country that is part of the European Union. It was once part of the old British Empire.

In August 2018, Alexsandar Veljic wrote that the old Worldwide Church of God had some members there and that there are still some few trying to be faithful there.

Those of Malta were friendly to the Apostle Paul and his companions:

2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. (Acts 28:2)

Then notice what happened:

3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live." (Acts 28:3-4)

So, they figured Paul was essentially reaping destruction for sin. But they misjudged him.

5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. (Acts 28:5)

What happened to Paul is consistent with a prophecy from Jesus:

14 Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. 15 He said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 Believers will be given the power to perform miracles: they will drive out demons in my name; they will speak in strange tongues; 18 if they pick up snakes or drink any poison, they will not be harmed; they will place their hands on sick people, and these will get well.” (Mark 16:14-18, Good News Translation)

While some misunderstand the above and intentionally grab poisonous snakes, those who do so are not following Jesus' example.

Consider the following:

5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

'He shall give His angels charge over you,'

and,

'In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"

7 Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" (Matthew 4:5-7)

So, the idea of intentionlly grabbing snakes to see if you will not get bit would not be consistent with Jesus' actual practices.

Anyway, back to Acts:

6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:6)

So, they thought that, well he must be divine. This is at least the second time in Acts people thought Paul was some type of god.

Continuing:

7 In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. (Acts 28:7-8)

This is also consistent with what Jesus said in Mark 16.

As far as Publius goes, there is a questionable tradition.

The Catholic Encyclopedia itself wrote:

The Church in Malta was founded by St. Paul, and St. Publius, whose name is mentioned in the Acts, was its first bishop. After ruling the Maltese Church for thirty-one years he was, we are told, transferred in A.D. 90 to the See of Athens, where he was martyred in 125. Though a complete list of bishops from the days of St. Paul to Constantine has been made out, its authenticity is more than doubtful. (Kendal, James. Malta. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910)

It should be noted that, unless Paul returned to Malta or Publius saw Paul somewhere like in Rome, it would not seem that the Apostle Paul could have ordained Publius to be a bishop on his original trip there as Publius was a novice/neophyte to Christianity when Paul visited him. Notice Paul's restrictions on ordination:

1 A faithful saying: if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher, 3 Not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not quarrelsome, not covetous, but 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity. 5 But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? 6 Not a neophyte: lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the judgment of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-6, Rheims New Testament)

Interestingly, a 21st century news story from Malta seems to admit that its religious traditions may only go back to Constantine (Sunday Times of Malta, January 17, 2010). If this is the case, even if Malta did have an early and proper list, the predominant church there is holding to many religious practices that would not have been brough there by the Apostle Paul.

However, this does not mean necessarily that Malta never had true Christians (or that it does not have any in the 21st century). Scripture shows that Publius and others in Malta accepted Paul (Acts 28:5-10)--though specific conversion is not explicitly taught in the scriptures (nor is ordination of any bishop mentioned). Those in Malta (and everywhere else) should strive to have the same faith that the Apostle Paul held and to imitate him as he imitated Christ (c.f. 1 Corinthians 11:1).

Anyway, going back to Acts we see Publius' fathers healing got more people to come to see Paul and company:

9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. (Acts 28:9)

The people were grateful:

10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary. (Acts 28:10)

They needed supplies as they had thrown food and other things overboard.

Apparently, Paul and company were there for three months:

11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. (Acts 28:11)

Then they went elsewhere:

12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. (Acts 28:12)

This Syracuse is on the island of Sicily.

Continuing:

13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. (Acts 28:13a)

Rhegium is close to Sicily, but is on the Italian penninsula.

Continuing:

13 ... And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. (Acts 28:13b-14a)

Puteoli is north of Naples. Now this shows us that there were faithful Christians in Italy before Paul got to Rome.

Continuing:

14 ... And so we went toward Rome. 15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. (Acts 14b-15)

Notice that having brethren show up encouraged Paul and he thanked God for them.

We are appreciative, for example, when we see people at the Feast of Tabernacles or any special visits we make in various parts of the world.

The Book of Hebrews teaches:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

The Day is almost 2,000 year closer to approaching than it was in New Testament times. Attend services, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc, when you can. This encourages and exhorts others--and helps you as well.

Continuing:

16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. (Acts 28:16)

So, Paul had more freedom and privacy than other prisoners. It was in Rome that Paul wrote many of his epistles.

Paul even had the freedom to call for meeting with people:

17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. (Acts 28:17a)

Paul was able to speak to them as well:

17 ... So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." (Acts 28:17-20)

Notice that Paul again defended himself. He also said he did nothing against the Jewish nation. That would include meaning that Paul was avoiding unclean meats, keeping the Sabbath, and keeping the biblical Holy Days.

Continuing:

21 Then they said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere."

Apparently Festus had nothing really to say against Paul and the Jews in Judea decided there was no point in pushing Rome on this matter.

Continuing:

23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)

So, Paul continued to teach the Kingdom of God in Rome (see also The Gospel of the Kingdom of God).

He also continued to teach Jesus from the Old Testament (see also Proof Jesus is the Messiah).

But even with Paul speaking only some were persuaded:

24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. (Acts 28:24)

Paul apparently thought that they should have clearly accepted the truth about Jesus from the books of the Old Testament as the following shows:

25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,

26 saying,

'Go to this people and say: 'Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; 27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."' (Acts 28:25-27)

Paul reiterated a prophecy that not all would be able to accept the message in this age. God was not calling all of them then.

To learn if God is calling you, please check out our free online booklet: Is God Calling You?

28 "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!"

Paul wrote that he was a apostle to Gentiles:

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry. (Romans 11:13)

11 I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. (2 Timothy 1:11)

So, while he hoped to reach Jews, he knew he had a role to reach Gentiles.

Continuing:

29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. (Acts 28:29)

So, some Jews must have believed to have great disputes with others (apparently the majority) that did not.

30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. (Acts 28:30-31)

So, we see Paul was preaching Jesus and the Kingdom of God in Rome for two years. He then left Rome. Catholic tradition said he was killed in Rome the 12th year of Emperor Nero's reign, but The Catholic Encyclopedia says that is mainly speculative.

Here is a link to the sermon Acts 26-28: Shipwreck, the Kingdom of God, & Amen.

Unlike most of the rest of the New Testament, the Book of Acts does NOT end in Amen.

In the original inspired Greek New Testament every one of Paul's letters ends with an "Amen." Every one of the four gospels ends with an "Amen." The book of Revelation ends with an "Amen."

This little word "Amen," of Hebrew derivation, signifies completion. In the Authorized Version (most modern versions are incorrect, and in several instances carelessly leave off the proper ending found in the Greek) every one of the New Testament books ends with an "Amen" except three — Acts, James and-III John. In these three, and these three only, the word "Amen" is not in the inspired original Greek. It is purposely missing. Why?

Each missing "Amen" is a special sign. It indicates God wants us to understand that certain knowledge was not to be made known to the world — until now, when the gospel is being sent around the world as a final witness before the end of this age.

God purposely excluded from the book of Acts the final chapters in the history of the early true Church. If they had been included, the identity and whereabouts of Israel and of the true Church would have been revealed. It is part of God's plan that the House of Israel should lose its identity and think itself Gentile.

If the book of James had ended with the ordinary salutation, the nations of Israel would have been disclosed. Paul often ends his letters with names of places and people. See the last verses of Romans, Colossians, Hebrews, for example. This is the very part missing. purposely, from James.

And why was the short letter of III John missing an "Amen"? Let John himself tell us, "I' had many things to write: but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee" (verse 13). John reveals, in the letter, a pagan conspiracy. It was a diabolical attempt by Simon Magus and his false apostles to seize the name of Christ, gain control of the true Church, and masquerade as "Christianity." God did not permit John to make known, in plain language, the names of the leaders of that conspiracy, and the city of their operation. That is why John cut his letter short. The missing "Amen" is to tell us to look elsewhere in the Bible for the answer.

It is described, if you have eyes to see, in Revelation 17, Acts 8 and many other chapters of the Bible. The time to unmask that conspiracy is now (II Thessalonians 2), just before the return of Christ. (Hoeh H. Where Did the Twelve Apostles Go? Worldwide Church of God, 1973 version. Originally, Plain Truth magazine, May 1964)

It may be different as well as even more than that. It may well be that the Book of Acts has been continued over the centuries. Perhaps even you will be listed in it.

The Book of Acts starts with Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), He gives instructions, says the Holy Spirit will given, and says He will return. We then see that on the Day of Pentecost the New Testament church began, dreams and prophets were expected, and people were urged to repent, accept Jesus, and be baptized.

Despite doing the work of God, trials and persecutions were encountered.

Yet, there were faithful Christians who obeyed God to the point of beatings, imprisonment, and sometimes death.

Similar to how it started, instead of Jesus teaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the Apostle Paul was doing that.

We in the Continuing Church of God still do that today (see also The Gospel of the Kingdom of God).

Here are links to Book of Acts sermons:

Book of Acts 1-2: Jesus Left, New Testament Church Began
Acts 3-5: Miracles, Trials, Proclamation, and Persecution
Acts 6-9: Widows, Stephen, Saul, and Simon Magus
Acts 10-12: Visions, Dreams, and Gentiles.
Acts 13-16: Prophets, Poisoning, and Proclamation
Acts 17-19: Travels, Anointed Cloths, & the Gospel of the Kingdom
Acts 20-22: James, Sunday, and Prejudice
Acts 23-25: Vows, Secrets, Cults, & Criticisms
Acts 26-28: Shipwreck, the Kingdom of God, & Amen.

Thiel B. The Book of Acts. http://www.cogwriter.com/book-of-acts.htm COGwriter (c) 2018 0825

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