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DateOn-Line Scripture ReadingDaily Devotion Commentary
Nov 7-22: Ezekiel
Nov 23:Acts 1-3* Believers In Transition, by "Theophilus"
Nov 24:Acts 4-6* A New Approach To God, Sween
Nov 25:Acts 7-9:31* One Died - One Was Born Again, Sween
Nov 26:Acts 9:32-11:18* How The Faith Spread, Sween
Nov 27:Acts 11:19-13:52* Early Believers Spread The Word, Sween
Nov 28:Acts 14-16:15* Hardships At The Entrance, Sween
Nov 29:Acts 16:16-18:23* Show the Jews, Then the Gentiles, Sween
Nov 30:Acts 18:24-20:38* Receiving the Holy Spirit, Sween
Dec 1:Acts 21-23:11* New Covenant Controversy, Sween
Dec 2:Acts 23:12-25:27* Through The Lower Courts, Sween
Dec 3:Acts 26-27* Is Resurrection Believable?, Deffinbaugh
Dec 4:Acts 28 and Daniel 1* In Chains and Exile, Sween
Dec 4-9: Daniel

Believers In Transition
November 23 reading
Acts 1-3
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
Forward To Basics, Roberts
Forerunner commentary * On being a hell razer, Acts 2
PROMISE: "So when [the apostles] met together, they asked [Jesus], 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'" (1:6-7)
Special thanks to our guest commentator, Theophilus, author (in 2003) of the blog, http://theophilus.lifewithchrist.org.

Written by Luke, a physician and traveling companion to the Apostle Paul, the letter we know as the Book of Acts was addressed to Theophilus. Scholars differ in their opinions on this "Theophilus." Some contend it was an actual person while others suggest that it is a generic title to all "God-Lovers" for 'Theophilus' comes from the Greek words Theos (God) and Phileo (Love). Either way, we benefit today from Luke's effort to create an orderly account of the things that have been fulfilled (Luke 1:1-3).

The first three chapters of Acts describe the transition from the earthly ministry of Jesus to the Church. Beginning with accounts of Jesus appearing in the flesh after the crucifixion, Luke goes on to record Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit who was to come.

An interesting note on verse 11 is that many take "[Jesus] will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" to mean a physical, bodily return. This concept is attested to elsewhere in Scripture as well.

Relying on Scripture, Peter leads the believers in selecting a new person to replace Judas Iscariot. Using a culturally appropriate method of casting lots, the believers looked for the Lord's guidance in their decision making.

In Acts 2, things really begin to get exciting. The promised One, the Comforter, comes to the believers at Pentecost. They were all waiting together in one place in Jerusalem as they had been commanded when "a sound like a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." As the remainder of the chapter describes, the believers were indeed able to be Christ's witnesses by the power of the Holy Spirit as promised in chapter 1. Peter spoke boldly to the many gathered in Jerusalem for the feast, explaining from Scripture about the Christ. A great many, about 3000, accepted his message and were baptized.

As the disciples had healed and exercised authority in the spiritual realm during Christ's earthly ministry, so now in chapter three Peter continues by the power of the Spirit. Even as he is enabled by the Spirit, Peter gives credit to Jesus Christ (3:6) whom the Spirit came to glorify. The section concludes with Peter speaking once again boldy to the crowd, proclaiming their guilt and sin, and sharing the message of hope found in the Savior.

A New Approach To God
November 24 reading
Acts 4-6
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
Matthew Henry
commentary
PROMISE: "(I)f their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (5:38b-39)
What does warfare look like? Americans are getting a view of warfare as we hear and see the latest news from Iraq and Afganistan, not to mention locally from the ACLU. Values and opinions differ, some take a stand, battles begin, and war is on. Acts 4-6 describes the spiritual warfare going on in Jerusalem a few months after Jesus' crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Up until then, according to the Pharisee Gamaliel, when a man claiming to "be somebody" was killed, their followers scattered and that was that.

But Jesus' followers weren't following the norm. After the 40+ year old lame man was healed in Jesus' name, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin (all the elders of Israel). Remember the unschooled, ordinary believers who had been in hiding before Pentacost? Now even with the Sanhedrin's threats, floggings, and arrests, and with internal problems of some believers lying to the Holy Spirit and others complaining about unequal food distributions, there'd been some changes made.

Jesus' believers met together and focused. They prayed (old testament) Scripture together. They explained Jesus' resurrection with Scripture. With the new power to witness, they kept reporting what they were seeing in terms of Scripture.

The Sanhedrin battled the believers with everything at their disposal - intimidation, correction, orders, arrest, punishment, threatening death - to stop them from spreading this approach to God.

Meanwhile, the apostles determined to obey God rather than men. Mixing their prayers with Scripture studies produced results. Sometimes the impossible happened, like escaping from jail with the doors still locked. Sometimes the result was more confidence. "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." The apostles knew their focus was on prayer and the ministry of the word. Their orders were to "tell the people the full message of this new life." And the number of believers was greatly increasing. When the apostles were all flogged by the Sanhedrin, in all that pain they rejoiced to be "counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name".

Gamaliel had been right. "If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

One Died - Others Were Born Again
November 25 reading
Acts 7-9:31
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
Bible chart with area map following
LED BY THE SPIRIT: "The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it.' Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?'" (8:29-31a)
Today's reading spans the detailed first-person witness accounts of Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin about Moses and Jesus, and the baptisms of believers outside Jerusalem, including Saul's conversion. Whose story is your favorite, and why?

One strand that goes through this reading is the thought that "God's ways are not our ways" and neither is His timing. Stephen, brought before the Sanhedrin by false witnesses, testified that for Abraham's belief and obedience, God promised him things before they came about, and even long before he had any children or the covenant of circumcision. God rarely protected people from going through suffering or making mistakes. Instead, God and the righteous leaders of Israel - like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David - were more often rejected. Moses had told the people, "God will send you a prophet like me from your own people." For most of them, unlike Abraham, the wait between promise and fulfillment was too long. Wishing on (worshiping) stars or any other rejection of God was a deal breaker. Centuries later, after all the ways God had proven who He was to them, the Israelite leaders were still resisting the Holy Spirit by persecuting and killing people who proclaimed the Messiah.

Until Stephen was stoned to death, the Sanhedrin's battle against the church had been limited because all the people were praising God for a fantastic healing associated with the believers (4:21). And the believers somewhat pulled their punches because they knew Christ died to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to these very people of Israel (5:31). But now, the church was persecuted and many believers either left Jerusalem or were jailed. Those who left, counted it all joy to preach everywhere they went. As church members relocated, the process of Pentacost (water-baptised believers receiving the Holy Spirit) spread. Who would have thought that astrologer Simon would ever change? Who would have thought that Ethiopia would be one of the first countries to hear the good news? Who would have thought the young Pharisee Saul would ever believe and go back go Tarsus?

How The Faith Spread
November 26 reading
Acts 9:32-11:18
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
McGarvey Commentary:
ch 10 - 11
also Bible Explained

INVITATION: "Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all... All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (10:36,43)
The focus now shifts to the continuing travels of Peter, visiting believers (also called saints) in Lydda and Joppa. Remember Peter as an impulsive disciple? He has changed. And in today's reading, he changes even more. The radio program "Turning Point" looks at 6 marks of a life God blesses based upon the changes in Peter's life since Pentecost.

At Lydda, he tells a paralyzed believer, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat." At Joppa, he prayed and told the dead woman, Dorcas, to get up. Both did.

In Chapter 10, it has been about 10 years since Jesus' resurrection. Under miraculous conditions, God brings a non-Jew, Cornelius together with Simon Peter. This was a big step for the Jew, Peter, who had always obeyed strict rules against associating with Gentiles. He'll have some explaining to do.

This was also a big step for God's offer of salvation. To quote parts of McGarvey's Commentary about Cornelius,

"At first glance, it might appear strange that such a man should need conversion. There are many men, at the present day, in whose favor not so much can be said, who flatter themselves that their prospects for eternity are good. They are honest in their business, honorable in their intercourse with men, good husbands and fathers, generous to their neighbors, and benevolent to the poor; what have they to fear at the hands of a just and merciful God? They forget that their obligations to God are infinitely higher than those to men, even to the dearest friends on earth; and that, therefore, it is the most inexcusable of all sins (to) persistently refuse him the worship which is his due. This offense takes the hue of the blackest ingratitude, when we remember the blood which has been shed to touch our hearts, and to open up to us the way of pardon and eternal life. Of this crime every man is guilty who does not worship the living God, and submit to the ordinances of Jesus Christ. But Cornelius was a praying man, a devout worshiper of God, besides possessing every other virtue claimed by self-righteous sinners; yet it was necessary for even him to hear "words by which he might be saved." (Acts 11:14) Until a man can claim for himself something more than is here said of him, he may not flatter himself with the hope of salvation."

"Under the former dispensation, the piety and fidelity of Cornelius would have given him an honorable place among the holy men of God; but this alone could not suffice him now. Jesus the Christ had stepped in between God and man, and opened, through the rent vail of his flesh, the only access to God...."

Read more thoughts on Chapter 10 from Bible Explained and about Peter's defense (Chapter 11) in McGarvey's Commentary.

Ideas for Praying Scripture (11:16-17) Intercessor's Prayer Index
"Then I remembered what the Lord had said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.". So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"

Happy
Thanksgiving

Praise the Lord!

Early Believers Spread The Word
November 27 reading
Acts 11:19-13:52
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
Bible chart with
area map following

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from, by the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'" (13:38-41) quoting Habakkuk 1:5

(2003) Today in the USA, it's Thanksgiving Day. There is much to be thankful for in today's reading.

Thank you, LORD, that the good news about Jesus continued to spread, from Hebrew and Grecian Jews and to the Gentiles who joined them to worship You.

Thank you, LORD, for Barnabas, the encourager, who delighted in meeting the new Christian disciples at Antioch, and encouraged them all to remain true to You with all their hearts.

Thank you, LORD, for Barnabas bringing Saul/Paul to Antioch where they taught together.

Thank you, LORD, for the apostle James who died, not for doing anything wrong or for disappointing You, but for loving You and spreading the word about You.

Thank you, LORD, for miraculously protecting and rescuing Peter from jail and for the group of disciples who spent the night praying Your word together, asking for Your help.

Thank you, LORD, for using Agabus and the disciples to help others during the famine.

Thank you, LORD, for sending Barnabas and Saul on a mission to Cyprus and to the Turkey mainland, with John Mark as their helper. Thank you, LORD, that we can still read Saul's powerful message at Pisidan Antioch.

Thank you, LORD, that Barnabas and Saul knew that even when Christ's message was rejected by many, "all who were appointed for eternal life believed."

Thank you, LORD, for the encouragement to continually be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, LORD, for believers all over the world today who came to know You and Your Word through Your plan, and the prayers, the prophets, and the persistance of the early church.

Thank you, LORD.

Hardships At The Entrance
November 28 reading
Acts 14-16:15
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
Online tour: The Journeys of Paul
"I Can Only Imagine", Mercy Me
GOOD NEWS: "We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." (14:15b-17)
As Paul and Barnabas continued back east in the Pisidia area of Galatia (now part of Turkey), they followed the pattern of taking the message first to the Jewish synagogue, then publicly where God worked signs and wonders and the two boldly debated any opposition. In the town of Lystra, the people worshipped Zeus and thought Barnabas was Zeus. The men's veoment denial of being gods, plus some Jewish opposition, turned the crowd, which then stoned Paul and dragged him, dead, out of the city. After the disciples surrounded Paul there, he got up and went back into the city.

Why does God allow this kind of pain and suffering to Christians? Paul and Barnabas strengthened the disciples, appointed elders, and encouraged them all to remain true to the faith this way: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

Some time after they returned to Antioch in Syria, another controversy brewed. Men from Judea came to Antioch with the message that believers had to be circumcised as Moses had taught. Unable to resolve this themselves, the church sent Paul and Barnabas to meet with the apostles and elders of the church at Jerusalem. After hearing what God was doing among the Gentile believers and after much debate and Scripture searching, the apostles and elders gave some restrictions not including circumcision. Why? Salvation hadn't come to the Jews through circumcision. Judas Barsabbas and Silas went with the group returning to Antioch.

Later, Paul and Barnabas agreed to revisit the new Crete and northern mainland churches, but had a falling out over who to go with them. Barnabas wanted John Mark. Paul thought Mark was unreliable, and wanted Silas. So the two groups separated. On Paul's travels, he met Timothy, a young believer, son of a Greek father and Jewish mother. Wanting Timothy to come along on the rest of the trip, and because local Jews knew his father was Greek, Paul circumcised Timothy. Then they went from town to town, telling believers that circumcision was not required. [Not sure that I understand this one.]

During this mission trip, the group was not allowed by God to stop in certain areas of Turkey (Asia Minor). Eventually, Paul had a vision to cross the northern Aegean Sea into what is now Greece (city map). They stayed several days in Philippi, the chief town of the area and, instead of finding a synagogue, they went to a place people gathered along the (Erigon?) river to pray on the Sabbath. (area pictures) There they met Lydia, originally of the Turkey area city, Thyatira. She and her family became baptised believers. (Thyatira is one of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation.)


More: A secular example of the importance of travel companions is Pelosi's Journeys With George.
Maps: * Jewish Diaspora, 1st century CE * Roman Empire 2nd century AD * Spread of Christianity, 2nd-4th century AD
Can Gentiles be saved?, R. Steven Notley

Show the Jews, Then the Gentiles
November 29 reading
Acts 16:16-18:23
Acts Commentary
Dictionary, and Books
Ray C. Stedman:
Studies in Acts
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with geat eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men." (17:11-12)
The pattern of exclusive - inclusive evangelism continues in today's Bible reading:

  • first be part of a group of praying and Scripture-searching believers
  • then show Jesus to the Jews, those who already believe Scripture, using Scriptures to show that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead
  • then tell people who worship God, but aren't Jews
  • then demonstrate Christ to others
  • know that challenges will follow
  • don't despise small beginnings
  • For example, Paul and company (now including future Acts author Dr. Luke) were habitually going to the local Philippi place of prayer on Sabbaths. On the way to one of these meetings, they attracted the attention of a slave girl whose ability to predict the future made her an economic asset to her owners. After her shouting spirit intruded on them many days, Paul used Jesus's name to command the spirit to leave her. It did, and her usefulness was gone.

    So her owners took Paul and Silas to the authorities in the marketplace, blaming the Jews for stirring up trouble. After severe floggings but no trial, the two were locked up, their feet in stocks, hurting and considering it joy to suffer for Christ. Peter had slept when he was jailed, but the Philippi jail had other prisoners, so Paul and Silas used the opportunity for prison ministry, praying and singing hymns. On top of everything else, there was a violent earthquake that shook loose the prison doors around midnight.

    What would you do with these problems?

    Peter's prison guards had been executed after his escape, but Paul and Silas stayed put. How unusual! The jailer wanted to know more. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

    "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -- you and your household." After hearing more about God, the jailer ministered to at least the two prisoners, and they ministered Jesus to him.

    Eventually Paul spent some time alone in Athens, Greece, going to the synagogue and exploring the city. He found interest in ideas here, and began a marketplace ministry similar to talk radio or maybe even Blogs on the internet of today. Taking the message of Jesus to people with no Old Testament background, Paul used things common to the Athenians to explain new information. "In the past God overlooked such ignorance [of worshiping idols], but now he commands all people everywhere to repent..." Not only was there new information, but God through (OT) Scripture had changed to the promised new covenant. Again, only a minority of people hearing this good news actually believed it.

    [Special thanks to Bruce Goettsche for his sermon on Small Beginnings and to Lambert Dolphin for suggesting Ray Stedman's Studies in Acts.]

    Receive the Holy Spirit
    November 30 reading
    Acts 18:24-20:38
    Acts Commentary
    Dictionary, and Books
    Donald C. Stamps:
    Full Life Study Bible
    THOUGHT FOR TODAY: "Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria (Egypt), came to Ephesus (Greece). He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the Way of God more adequately." (18:24-26)
    Believers with a lot more training than mine have debated long and hard over the topics in today's readings. Imagine the discussions between Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila, or the shock of the seven sons of Sceva! Have you ever nodded off during a sermon like Eutychus did, while the guest evangelist (Paul) spoke on and on? Has someone you love ever said you would never see him alive again? Imagine the shock of hearing about the hardships Paul knew he would voluntarily face at Jerusalem. Remember his warnings to church leaders about facing continual threats from apparent Christians who would distort the truth as well as greedy leaders.

    What do you think of the Egyptian Jew Apollos? With his thorough Scripture study, all the instruction he had had in the way of the Lord Messiah, all his eloquent speaking, and all his accuracy about Jesus, who would think he still lacked something. (Remember the rich young ruler?) As Donald Stamps points out, "At this time Apollos's understanding of the gospel was limited. He had accepted John's baptism and believed in Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Messiah. What he had not learned was that Jesus himself was now baptizing all believers in the Holy Spirit. The Ephesian disciples were in much the same situation." (The Full Life Study Bible)

    Our daughter was perhaps 10 the first time she learned about Paul asking the Ephesian disciples if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. "I didn't know the disciples were teenagers," she exclaimed on the drive home from church.

    "What makes you think they were?" my husband asked. We were still using the King James version then, and at the end of the account, our daughter read, "And they were all about twelve."

    One thing I get from today's reading is that no matter what age we are, we are not to rely on what we know or think we know, but on God the Holy Spirit. More to the point, Stamps comments, "(in Acts) Luke never presents the outpouring of the Spirit as something one could only perceive by faith. Rather, he shows it to be a knowable and identifiable experience capable of being verified objectively; speaking in tongues was external and visible proof that the Holy Spirit had come on these followers of Jesus." On the other hand, Paul says that the real evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism is love (1 Cor 13) and a changed life exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

    If I read this right, we need the Holy Spirit NOW as much as they did then, not so much for protection from our hardships as for God's chosen method to strengthen us, so we can complete whatever tasks He gives us. Being immersed in the repentance of John's baptism is a first step. But John knew it would be more important for people to believe and be immersed in Jesus, the promised Messiah.

    No matter what your age, this Scriptural offer is by the personal invitation of Jesus, for a limited time only - during your lifetime.

    So, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you accept Him? If not, come to Him now, participate with Him, and thank the Lord for His plan.

    New Covenant Controversy
    Advent stories
    * Day 1
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    December 1 reading
    Acts 21-23:11
    Acts Commentary
    Dictionary, and Books
    Ray C. Stedman:
    Studies in Acts
    THOUGHT FOR TODAY: "As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality." (21:25)
    In today's Bible reading, Paul continues on the new assignment God has given him to go back to Jerusalem, and controversy follows. On his previous assignment to identify, spread, and establish the Way among scattered Jews and their Gentile neighbors, Paul told it like it was, stepped on toes, and infuriated people perfectly content to believe what they already believed. His overall task to testify to the gospel of God's grace (20:24b) would continue, but now to a different audience.

    James (leader of the Jerusalem believers and half-brother of Jesus) and the elders praised God after hearing Paul give details of what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. But they knew theirs wouldn't be the response of the thousands of Jews who believed Jesus was the Christ, not to mention all the Jews who didn't believe. Being Jewish meant being zealous for the law given to Moses as the authority for daily life, as well as for recognizing the Christ. And these men had heard that Paul was teaching the dispersed Jews to reject Moses, circumcision, and the customs.

    When Jews from the providence of Asia (now in Turkey) saw Paul at the temple, their accusations started a mob riot, trying to beat him to death. Rescued when the local commander of the Roman troups arrested him, Paul spoke in Greek to get permission to speak to the crowd. Speaking in Aramaic (or perhaps Hebrew), Paul told the Jews details of his training by Gamaliel, recognition of Jesus as the Christ, and assignment to go to the Gentiles.

    That was too much! Gentiles have no place here!

    When flogging Paul didn't reveal why the mob had started shouting again, the commander ordered the chief priests and Sanhedrin to find out. More controversy broke out when Paul said he was on trial "because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead." As a Pharisee, Paul knew that the Sadducee members of the Sanhedrin rejected the Pharisee belief in resurrection, angels, and spirits. Controversy again became violent. To keep him alive, Paul was hustled off to the barracks, where the next night the Lord encouraged him in a vision, letting him know that he would survive this and get to Rome.

    Controversy about truth, authority, and method of Christian belief continues. Yesterday, while searching for information on another project, I found a page explaining that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was only for the first Jewish believers at the Pentacost of Acts 2 and the first Gentile believers of Acts 10. The author said "the baptism with the Holy Spirit is passed", and that Biblical examples of later baptisms such as the Samaritans' (8:17), Paul's (9:17), the disciples' continual filling (13:52), and the 12 Ephesian disciples' (19:1-7) are something different when passed on by the laying on of hands. This is an example of the kinds of controversies Paul warned the church about in Acts 20:29-31. The reading today is an example of how Paul handled controversy.

    More from scriptures about the Covenant of peace and the New Covenant

    Through The Lower Courts
    Advent stories
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    December 2 reading
    Acts 23:12-25:27
    Acts Commentary
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    Acts 23
    David Guzik
    ACCUSATIONS: "We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is the ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him." (24:5-6)
    Paul, who was born both a Jew and a Roman citizen, received vastly different treatment for offenses under the co-existing legal systems. On the one hand, the Jewish chief priests were offended by Paul's activities in synagogues of Jews dispersed among the Gentiles. They were intent upon killing him by secret plot or having him killed by the Roman court in order to stop him.

    On the other hand, once the Roman officials found out that Paul was born a Roman citizen and thus had specific rights, they were mostly curious about him and why he stirred up the priests and Sanhedrin so much. Luke's account gives names that can be historically verified and authenticated. Luke gives his readers a copy of the official letter from Claudius Lysias, commander of the Roman troops, to Governor Felix, and a transcript of the court proceedings of the case high priest Ananias and his lawyer, Tertullus, brought against Paul, who represented himself.

    But the chief priests had approved a plot to kill Paul without proof or a hearing. Had these priests lost respect for the law of Moses applied to their own people?

    In Felix's Roman court, we learn that the charge of being a "trouble maker" and the ringleader of the "Nazarene sect" of Judaism wasn't enough to convict Paul. After the trial, there was no decision except that Felix detained Paul with some freedom, including access to his friends.

    Within a few days Felix brought his Jewish wife to hear Paul, and over the next two years, still with no resolution to the case, the two men had frequent conversations when convenient for the governor.

    Porcius Festus replaced Felix as governor, and the chief priests urged him to do something about Paul. Wanting to get off to a good start with the Jewish leadership, Felix asked Paul if he was willing to stand trial in Jerusalem. Instead, Paul appealed to Caesar in Rome.

    Festus found Paul's situation intriguing. When King Agrippa and Bernice visited soon after, the governor and king discussed Paul's rights according to Roman law, and the fact that the dispute was over "religion and a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive." Felix invited King Agrippa and Bernice to sit with high ranking officers and local civic leaders to question Paul. So far, Festus hadn't come up with any specific charges against Paul that would warrant his detainment or sending him to Rome, and he hoped that an investigation with the King present would accomplish this.

    Is Resurrection Believable?
    Advent stories
    * Day 3
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    December 3 reading
    Acts 26-27
    Acts Commentary
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    Robert L Deffinbaugh:
    Acts 26: Paul's Appeal to Agrippa
    PROMISE: "I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'" (26:17-18)
    [The following begins two of Robert L. Deffinbaugh's article on Acts, with special thanks.]

    Deffinbaugh's Paul's appeal to Agrippa:

    "Paul now turns to Agrippa, a ruler, but also a Jew, and asks, "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?" (verse 8). If belief in the resurrection of the dead is a fundamental premise of Judaism, how is it that the Jews condemn Paul for believing in the resurrection of Jesus? Why do they find believing in an actual instance of resurrection (namely, Jesus) so incredibly difficult? Judaism was not consistent with itself in its response to Paul’s proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

    Here is the key issue, the watershed, the bone of contention between Paul and his Jewish opponents—the doctrine of the resurrection, and especially the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is the fuel which fires the opposition of the Jews against Paul and Christianity. This is reason for the uprisings over Paul which the Roman rulers were trying to discover. Paul let Agrippa know, at the outset, what the issue was. Paul will now follow this matter through, showing how he, as an unbelieving Jew, opposed Christianity because of the same failure, and how, through a confrontation with the resurrected Christ, he was converted, from an opponent of the gospel to one of its most renowned proponents." (Updated version continues here...)

    Deffinbaugh's A Biblical Look At Leadership:

    "When I come to Acts chapter 27, it is like a breath of fresh air to me. I have always looked upon the Apostle Paul as a godly man, a zealous servant of Jesus Christ, and a powerful preacher of the gospel. But it is here, in our text, that I see Paul as a very wise man in practical matters, a man who is a leader of men, and whose counsel is taken seriously because he knows what he is doing.

    "Paul’s leadership emerges on board the ship, on which he was headed toward Rome. As time went on, as Paul was better known, and as the crises on board the ship became more pronounced, Paul stepped forward, giving both direction and hope to all the others on ship. Paul accomplishes all this without any formal leadership position or authority. He was not the captain of the ship, nor one of the soldiers. He was not a sailor; in fact he was not even a paying passenger. Paul was a prisoner, on his way to stand trial before Caesar in Rome." (Updated version continues here...)


    In Chains and Exile
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    Acts 28 and Daniel 1
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    * Chuck Smith: Acts
    "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them." (28:27)
    [Today's guest commentator for Acts 28 is Donald C Stamps, from the " Full Life Study Bible"]
    "It had been Paul's desire to preach the gospel in Rome (Ro 15:22-29), and it was also God's will that he do so (23:11). Yet Paul arrived in Rome in chains and only after setbacks, storms, shipwreck, and many trials. Though Paul remained faithful, God did not make his way easy and trouble free. Likewise, we may be in God's will and entirely faithful to him; nevertheless, he may direct us in unpleasant paths involving troubles. Yet we can know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Ro 8:28)." [plus Acts 14:22b]

    Stamps continues by telling what is thought to have happened to Paul after the two years under house arrest, and that "the book of Acts breaks off suddenly with no formal conclusion". "God intends that the acts of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel continue in the lives of Christ's people until the the end of the age (2:17-21; Mt. 28:18-20)" "If the power, righteousness, joy, and faith found in our churches are not the same as what we read about in Acts, then we must ask God once more for a renewed faith in the resurrected Christ and for a fresh, new outpouring of his Spirit."

    Tomorrow's reading (December 5) Daniel 1-5

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