Wednesday 31 August, 2016

Acts 25:13-22

13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea. They came to pay a visit to Festus. 14 They were spending many days there. So Festus talked with the king about Paul’s case. He said, “There’s a man here that Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the Jewish chief priests and the elders brought charges against the man. They wanted him to be found guilty. 16 “I told them that this is not the way Romans do things. We don’t judge people before they have faced those bringing charges against them. They must have a chance to argue against the charges for themselves. 17 When the Jewish leaders came back with me, I didn’t waste any time. I called the court together the next day. I ordered the man to be brought in. 18 Those bringing charges against him got up to speak. But they didn’t charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they argued with him about their own beliefs. They didn’t agree about a man named Jesus. They said Jesus was dead, but Paul claimed Jesus was alive. 20 I had no idea how to look into such matters. So I asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem. There he could be tried on these charges. 21 But Paul made an appeal to have the Emperor decide his case. So I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.” Festus replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”

We will all face trials because of our faith in Jesus – something the Bible refers to many times. Paul was certainly not immune to this. He found himself in prison on a number of occasions, and in fact suffered physical, mental & emotional abuse as well.

The one thing I’ve learnt from Paul out of this story and others, is that he never lost hope or faith throughout these trials. He always stuck firm in what he knew his calling was. If it meant death, then it meant death (see verse 11 in this chapter). We even find him singing songs of worship and praise during one night in prison.

My prayer is that I will never shrink back when sharing about Jesus. That my life would be a testimony of His Grace & love towards me – no matter what circumstances may dictate.

May I (all of us) be bolder in 2016 when we speak out Jesus name!

Written by Ps. Mandy Miller

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Tuesday 30 August, 2016

Acts 25:1-12

25 Three days after Festus arrived, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 There the chief priests and the Jewish leaders came to Festus. They brought their charges against Paul. 3 They tried very hard to get Festus to have Paul taken to Jerusalem. They asked for this as a favor. They were planning to hide and attack Paul along the way. They wanted to kill him. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea. Soon I’ll be going there myself. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me. If the man has done anything wrong, they can bring charges against him there.” 6 Festus spent eight or ten days in Jerusalem with them. Then he went down to Caesarea. The next day he called the court together. He ordered Paul to be brought to him. 7 When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many strong charges against him. But they couldn’t prove that these charges were true. 8 Then Paul spoke up for himself. He said, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple. I’ve done nothing wrong against Caesar.” 9 But Festus wanted to do the Jews a favor. So he said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem? Are you willing to go on trial there? Are you willing to face these charges in my court?” 10 Paul answered, “I’m already standing in Caesar’s court. This is where I should go on trial. I haven’t done anything wrong to the Jews. You yourself know that very well. 11 If I am guilty of anything worthy of death, I’m willing to die. But the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true. No one has the right to hand me over to them. I make my appeal to Caesar!” 12 Festus talked it over with the members of his court. Then he said, “You have made an appeal to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

As I read this passage, I try to really, truly imagine what it is like to be in Paul’s shoes at this stage in Acts. The Jews in Jerusalem have managed to get hold of him and to bring him to Felix (meaning Cat) the corrupt Roman governor of Judea, just because he preached the gospel. Paul tries to preach the Gospel to Felix, but all Felix wants is to make money. TWO YEARS pass with no progress and eventually Felix loses his job because things in Judea become so much of a mess. I can just imagine Paul, waiting to meet the new governor, and I can imagine what is going through his head when he learns that the new governor is named “Porcus Festus!” (Which means something like “Party Pig!”

When the same Jews that seized Paul in the first place go even further and try to execute a plot to have Paul killed or further punished, Paul realises that Porcus will not be reasoned with and appeals to the highest worldly authority of the day – Caesar.

It is not clear why Paul makes this appeal. Perhaps though he could see that an appeal to Caesar would allow him to share the Gospel to people in the Roman government who could then be inspired by the Holy Spirit to bring about change to the whole nation.

In placing myself in Paul’s shoes, I am inspired to reflect:

– Am I willing to risk legal proceedings, imprisonment or death for the Gospel?

– How is God testing my patience? How can I be more patient like Paul when he was in prison?

– Do I think strategically about my life and where my choices will take me? Is this strategy gospel centred, or motivated by something else?

God, search me and help me to answer these reflective questions honestly. Help me to continue to draw closer to you. Amen

Written by Ps. Justin Ware

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Monday 29 August, 2016

Acts 24:24-27

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla. She was a Jew. Felix sent for Paul and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Paul talked about how to live a godly life. He talked about how people should control themselves. He also talked about the time when God will judge everyone. Then Felix became afraid. “That’s enough for now!” he said. “You may leave. When I find the time, I will send for you.” 26 He was hoping that Paul would offer him some money to let him go. So he often sent for Paul and talked with him. 27 Two years passed. Porcius Festus took the place of Felix. But Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor. So he left Paul in prison.

I find this a passage of frustrations.

Felix and Drusilla are open to hearing the gospel, but are unwilling to receive it. Felix recognises the danger he is in from God’s judgement, but continues to be corrupt (keeping Paul in gaol in the hope of either a bribe, or the political favour of the Jews). He’s afraid of judgement but won’t accept God’s rescue.

So for two years Paul’s ministry is trapped in futility. If he were not a prisoner he would have shaken the dust from his feet and moved on. But he can’t.

What do you do in fruitless seasons like this?

Paul continues to patiently discuss the gospel with the unresponsive Felix. And eventually that season comes to an end.

Written by David Cornell

2 replies
  1. Claire Moore says:

    I love that Luke records this episode in Pauls ministry. Tough times, waiting on God, taking opportunities even if apparently in vain. Paul continued to trust and honour his Lord Jesus, and maybe this was a period of preparation for the future trials he was to face. If Luke wanted to show Paul as some kind of ministry superhero he could have left this out of his historical account!

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Sunday 28 August, 2016

Acts 24:1-23

24 Five days later Ananias the high priest went down to Caesarea. Some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus went with him. They brought their charges against Paul to the governor. 2 So Paul was called in. Tertullus began to bring the charges against Paul. He said to Felix, “We have enjoyed a long time of peace while you have been ruling. You are a wise leader. You have made this a better nation. 3 Most excellent Felix, we gladly admit this everywhere and in every way. And we are very thankful. 4 I don’t want to bother you. But would you be kind enough to listen to us for a short time? 5 “We have found that Paul is a troublemaker. This man stirs up trouble among Jews all over the world. He is a leader of those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. 6-7 He even tried to make our temple impure. So we arrested him. 8 Question him yourself. Then you will learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” 9 The other Jews said the same thing. They agreed that the charges were true. 10 The governor motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, “I know that you have been a judge over this nation for quite a few years. So I am glad to explain my actions to you. 11 About 12 days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. You can easily check on this. 12 Those bringing charges against me did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple. I wasn’t stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 They can’t prove to you any of the charges they are making against me. 14 It is true that I worship the God of our people. I am a follower of the Way of Jesus. Those bringing charges against me call it a cult. I believe everything that is in keeping with the Law. I believe everything that is in keeping with what is written in the Prophets. 15 I have the same hope in God that these men themselves have. I believe that both the godly and the ungodly will rise from the dead. 16 So I always try not to do anything wrong in the eyes of God or in the eyes of people. 17 “I was away for several years. Then I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for those who were poor. I also came to offer sacrifices. 18 They found me doing this in the temple courtyard. I had already been made pure and ‘clean’ in the usual way. There was no crowd with me. I didn’t stir up any trouble. 19 But there are some other Jews who should be here in front of you. They are from Asia Minor. They should bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Let the Jews who are here tell you what crime I am guilty of. After all, I was put on trial by the Sanhedrin. 21 Perhaps they blame me for what I said when I was on trial. I shouted, ‘I believe that people will rise from the dead. That is why I am on trial here today.’ ” 22 Felix knew all about the Way of Jesus. So he put off the trial for the time being. “Lysias the commanding officer will come,” he said. “Then I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the commander to keep Paul under guard. He told him to give Paul some freedom. He also told him to allow Paul’s friends to take care of his needs.

Paul was brought before governor Felix on false charges by Ananias the high priest, other Jewish leaders and a lawyer – a credible contingent to say the least. This contingent suggested that Felix should question Paul for himself and then he would find out that the charges the Jewish leaders brought against him were true. Felix did question Paul which revealed that the charges brought against him seemed to be fictitious. Felix was then unsure what to do with Paul as he did not want to upset the Jewish leaders and deferred his decision until after he had spoken to commander Lysias. All the while Paul was held under guard.

Paul was glad to defend himself in Felix’s court. Paul recounted that he had only been in Jerusalem twelve days and hadn’t caused trouble in the temple as the Jewish leadership had alleged. Paul also explained that he wasn’t with a crowd nor had there been an uproar. He even brought gifts for the poor. Importantly, Paul highlighted the real reason for the charges – different beliefs. The Jewish leaders knew that Paul believed in the resurrection of the dead and that he was a very persuasive speaker – he needed to be shut down so they falsely accused him and brought him before governor Felix.

­Paul understood what he believed would cause division. After all, our beliefs are central to who we are so we need to be able to understand and articulate them confidently. At the same time Paul aimed to have a clear conscience in whatever he did for God or for people. These are great aims for us to follow as well.

Lord please help me to be ready to explain what I believe in a humble manner. Help my actions to confirm what I believe too, Amen.

Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods

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Saturday 27 August, 2016

Acts 23:23-35

23 Then the commanding officer called for two of his commanders. He ordered them, “Gather a company of 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 men armed with spears. Get them ready to go to Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.” 25 Here is the letter the officer wrote. 26 I, Claudius Lysias, am writing this letter. I am sending it to His Excellency, Governor Felix. Greetings. 27 The Jews grabbed Paul. They were about to kill him. But I came with my soldiers and saved him. I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were bringing charges against him. So I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found out that the charge against him was based on questions about their law. But there was no charge against him worthy of death or prison. 30 Then I was told about a plan against the man. So I sent him to you at once. I also ordered those bringing charges against him to present their case to you. 31 The soldiers followed their orders. During the night they took Paul with them. They brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the horsemen go on with him. The soldiers returned to the fort. 33 The horsemen arrived in Caesarea. They gave the letter to the governor. Then they handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter. He asked Paul where he was from. He learned that Paul was from Cilicia. 35 So he said, “I will hear your case when those bringing charges against you get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

This is a passage which can be easy to skip through, after all, it is mainly a historical account of Paul’s movement, under guard, to Caesarea.

However, it engenders in me a profound sense of gratitude.  Paul has been tormented, humiliated and persecuted for his faith.  Here he is, having broken no laws of the land, and yet he is being imprisoned for his faith in Jesus.

So many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are in the same situation – tormented, humiliated and persecuted for their faith. I am so profoundly grateful that it is not me, or my family.

Father God, thank you that I have been born at such a time and in such a place as this.  Help me to continue to support those of my fellow believers who have not been so fortunate. Amen

Written by Ps. Jen Irving

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Friday 26 August, 2016

Acts 23:12-22

12 The next morning some Jews gathered secretly to make plans against Paul. They made a promise to themselves. They promised that they would not eat or drink anything until they killed him. 13 More than 40 men took part in this plan. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders. They said, “We have made a special promise to God. We will not eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin must make an appeal to the commanding officer. Ask him to bring Paul to you. Pretend you want more facts about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.” 16 But Paul’s nephew heard about this plan. So he went into the fort and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the commanders. He said to him, “Take this young man to the commanding officer. He has something to tell him.” 18 So the commander took Paul’s nephew to the officer. The commander said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me. He asked me to bring this young man to you. The young man has something to tell you.” 19 The commanding officer took the young man by the hand. He spoke to him in private. “What do you want to tell me?” the officer asked. 20 He said, “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul to the Sanhedrin tomorrow. They will pretend they want more facts about him. 21 Don’t give in to them. More than 40 of them are waiting in hiding to attack him. They have promised that they will not eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are ready now. All they need is for you to bring Paul to the Sanhedrin.” 22 The commanding officer let the young man go. But he gave him a warning. “Don’t tell anyone you have reported this to me,” he said.

In this passage we see God’s sovereignty at work. In verse 11 of the previous passage God encourages Paul and tells him that he will testify about God in Rome. God uses the attack on Paul, and the Roman intervention to safely transport Paul from Jerusalem to Rome. Historically, Rome was the brutal enemy oppressing the Jewish people, and yet, in this twist, it is a Roman officer that saves Paul. Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, and now Roman soldiers defend Paul on his way to Rome to preach about Jesus. How amazing that Paul’s nephew should be in the right place at the right time to hear of this conspiracy against Paul: in this we see God using a nephew as part of His plan to protect Paul. As Paul prioritised God’s kingdom and His righteousness God took care of Paul. I am encouraged that God is sovereign, He is in complete control, and He uses whatever means He chooses to bring about His will. God is unpredictable, I don’t know how He is going to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, but I know that He will do it. Lord, please help me to trust you and to rest in your sovereignty. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness today. Thank you for working all things together for my good. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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Thursday 25 August, 2016

Acts 22:30 - 23:11

30 The commanding officer wanted to find out exactly what the Jews had against Paul. So the next day he let Paul out of prison. He ordered a meeting of the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin. Then he brought Paul and had him stand in front of them. 23 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin. “My brothers,” he said, “I have always done my duty to God. To this day I feel that I have done nothing wrong.” 2 Ananias the high priest heard this. So he ordered the men standing near Paul to hit him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “You pretender! God will hit you! You sit there and judge me by the law. But you yourself broke the law when you commanded them to hit me!” 4 Those who were standing near Paul spoke to him. They said, “How dare you talk like that to God’s high priest!” 5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I didn’t realize he was the high priest. It is written, ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’ ” (Exodus 22:28) 6 Paul knew that some of them were Sadducees and the others were Pharisees. So he called out to the members of the Sanhedrin. “My brothers,” he said, “I am a Pharisee. I come from a family of Pharisees. I believe that people will rise from the dead. That’s why I am on trial.” 7 When he said this, the Pharisees and the Sadducees started to argue. They began to take sides. 8 The Sadducees say that people will not rise from the dead. They don’t believe there are angels or spirits either. But the Pharisees believe all these things. 9 People were causing trouble and making a lot of noise. Some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up. They argued strongly. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The people arguing were getting out of control. The commanding officer was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. So he ordered the soldiers to go down and take him away from them by force. The officer had told them to bring Paul into the fort. 11 The next night the Lord stood near Paul. He said, “Be brave! You have told people about me in Jerusalem. You must do the same in Rome.”

Life following Jesus is filled with adventure and challenge and Paul was no stranger to these things happening. When he finds himself called before a Roman commander with the Jewish High Council and the leading priests Paul answers all he is asked – calling those who accuse him “brothers”. Even here – under attack – he carries the peace of God and has a heart for reconciliation. However – when Paul reminds the Pharisees that he is under attack because his hope is in the resurrection of the dead – the response is an uproar. It gets so bad the Roman Commander removes Paul from the situation. Tense! Paul seems to take it all in his stride – this is part of the adventure of following Jesus. God is still in control. The passage ends with God confirming this. You are in the right place – “be encouraged – just as you have been a witness here in Jerusalem, you must preach the good news in Rome.”

Oh God – help me let go of the comfort of the familiar and be ready for all that the adventure of following You brings. Like Paul – in the midst of hostility – may I be a witness to You. Encourage me – in whatever situation I find myself – that I am there for you!

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Wednesday 24 August, 2016

Acts 21:37 - 22:29

37 The soldiers were about to take Paul into the fort. Then he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who turned some of our people against their leaders? Didn’t you lead 4,000 terrorists out into the desert some time ago?” 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia. I am a citizen of an important city. Please let me speak to the people.” 40 The commander told him he could. So Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When all of them were quiet, he spoke to them in the Aramaic language. 22 1 “Brothers and fathers,” Paul began, “listen to me now. I want to give you reasons for my actions.” 2 When they heard that he was speaking to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said, 3 “I am a Jew. I was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but I grew up here in Jerusalem. I studied with Gamaliel. I was well trained by him in the law given to our people long ago. I wanted to serve God as much as any of you do today. 4 I hurt the followers of the Way of Jesus. I sent many of them to their death. I arrested men and women. I threw them into prison. 5 The high priest and the whole Council can be witnesses of this themselves. I even had some official letters they had written to their friends in Damascus. So I went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 “I had almost reached Damascus. About noon a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice speak to me. ‘Saul! Saul!’ it said. ‘Why are you opposing me?’ 8 “ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth,’ he replied. ‘I am the one you are opposing.’ 9 The light was seen by my companions. But they didn’t understand the voice of the one speaking to me. 10 “ ‘What should I do, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said. ‘Go into Damascus. There you will be told everything you have been given to do.’ 11 The brightness of the light had blinded me. So my companions led me by the hand into Damascus. 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a godly Jew who obeyed the law. All the Jews living there respected him very much. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ At that very moment I was able to see him. 14 “Then he said, ‘The God of our people has chosen you. He wanted to tell you his plans for you. You have seen the Blameless One. You have heard words from his mouth. 15 Now you will tell everyone about what you have seen and heard. 16 So what are you waiting for? Get up and call on his name. Be baptized. Have your sins washed away.’ 17 “I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple. Then it seemed to me that I was dreaming. 18 I saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem at once. The people here will not accept what you tell them about me.’ 19 “ ‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know what I used to do. I went from one synagogue to another and put believers in prison. I also beat them. 20 Stephen was a man who told other people about you. I stood there when he was killed. I had agreed that he should die. I even guarded the coats of those who were killing him.’ 21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go. I will send you far away to people who are not Jews.’ ” 22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they shouted, “Kill him! He isn’t fit to live!” 23 They shouted and threw off their coats. They threw dust into the air. 24 So the commanding officer ordered that Paul be taken into the fort. He gave orders for Paul to be whipped and questioned. He wanted to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 A commander was standing there as they stretched Paul out to be whipped. Paul said to him, “Does the law allow you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the commander heard this, he went to the commanding officer and reported it. “What are you going to do?” the commander asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the commanding officer went to Paul. “Tell me,” he asked. “Are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” Paul answered. 28 Then the officer said, “I had to pay a lot of money to become a citizen.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Right away those who were about to question him left. Even the officer was alarmed. He realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

Nothing Wasted

Paul used everything he had in his life to promote Jesus and God’s Kingdom.  His background, his skills, his education, even his city of birth.  In the passage above Paul speaks to the Roman Commander in Greek – much to his surprise.  He then speaks to the crowd in Aramaic – they are immediately silenced in hearing their own language. At the end of the passage Paul declares his Roman citizenship; preventing further beatings and gaining favour with his captors.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that the things we are doing or learning right now are of no use.  That they have no value to God.  Maybe Paul felt that way about his Greek classes at school or his Roman Citizenship.  Maybe he thought “I’m a Jew – when am I ever going to need this?”

But God wastes nothing.  There is a reason why I am in this time of learning or going through this particular difficulty.  Even heartache and tragedy are not wasted.  God wastes nothing. He can redeem and use everything we go through to help others and point people to Jesus.  We simply need to be patient and keep our eyes open.

Jesus, thank you for this trial I’m facing right now.  I know someday You’ll redeem it – I’m looking forward to seeing how.  May what I’m going through be used for Your glory.

Written by Boudy VanNoppen

1 (reply)
  1. Rosie says:

    Thanks B. Such a timely reminder and so encouraging to know God uses everything we face for our good but also so that he is shown to be faithful and sovereign. He’s got us in the palm of his hand, and knowing that we press on!

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Tuesday 23 August, 2016

Acts 21:27-36

27 The seven days of cleansing were almost over. Some Jews from Asia Minor saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and grabbed Paul. 28 “Fellow Israelites, help us!” they shouted. “This is the man who teaches everyone in all places against our people. He speaks against our law and against this holy place. Besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple. He has made this holy place ‘unclean.’ ” 29 They said this because they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul. They thought Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 The whole city was stirred up. People came running from all directions. They grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the temple. Right away the temple gates were shut. 31 The people were trying to kill Paul. But news reached the commander of the Roman troops. He heard that people were making trouble in the whole city of Jerusalem. 32 Right away he took some officers and soldiers with him. They ran down to the crowd. The people causing the trouble saw the commander and his soldiers. So they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commander came up and arrested Paul. He ordered him to be held with two chains. Then he asked who Paul was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another. But the commander couldn’t get the facts because of all the noise. So he ordered that Paul be taken into the fort. 35 Paul reached the steps. But then the mob became so wild that he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

What strikes me in this passage is that the Roman authorities actually saved Paul’s life in this episode of Acts. By all accounts, Roman authorities in Paul’s time were not the nicest bunch, nor were they supporters of Christianity per se. But in this particular moment, God used the authorities to spare Paul’s life.

As soon as the commander and his troops arrived on the scene, Paul’s accusers stopped beating him.

Reading this passage, it is clear that God uses all people, at all levels of society, to fulfill his good purposes. Even the most unwitting people. And in this instance, these authority figures saved God’s servant, Paul, from probable death.

I am reminded that I need to be thankful, and prayerful, for all those in authority over me. I need to prayerful that people of good repute, and Godly character, would hold such positions.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

2 replies
  1. Justin Ware says:

    Here in this passage of scripture, we see a significant contrast.

    The Jewish leadership in Jerusalem had an agenda to take out the man at the top of the recently birthed Christian Church and they were willing to do anything to achieve their goals. Emotions are high and chaos ensues.

    The Roman authority, by contrast, is ordered and systematic. There are rules and balances, processes that need to be followed. Things are done slowly and in a considered way.

    But on deeper analysis, neither are truly principled. The Romans still arrest Paul, even though he is the victim. Later we see high officials wanting Paul to bribe them. We see their interest is in upholding order so they can hold on to power.

    In the world I see around me today, I often see that people assume that if a system is considered, equitable and systematic in the way that it deals with people, then it must be based on good principles. On the contrary, often there is hidden systematic discrimination and improper treatment and injustice veiled behind a curtain of structure.

    Lord, help me to be a person of principle, and to lead others in confronting injustice especially when the machinations of society move in the wrong direction

  2. Andrew says:

    Well done Rob.
    And what a profound comment Justin. It is easy to think that something that is orderly and part of the status quo is fair or just, but as you note, often not.

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Monday 22 August, 2016

Acts 21:17–26

17 When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters gave us a warm welcome. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James. All the elders were there. 19 Paul greeted them. Then he reported everything God had done among the Gentiles through his work. 20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they spoke to Paul. “Brother,” they said, “you see that thousands of Jews have become believers. All of them try very hard to obey the law. 21 They have been told that you teach Jews to turn away from the Law of Moses. You teach this to the Jews who live among the Gentiles. They think that you teach those Jews not to circumcise their children. They think that you teach them to give up our Jewish ways. 22 What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a promise to God. 24 Take them with you. Join them in the Jewish practice that makes people pure and ‘clean.’ Pay their expenses so they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that these reports about you are not true in any way. They will know that you yourself obey the law. 25 We have already given written directions to the believers who are not Jews. They must not eat food that has been offered to statues of gods. They must not drink blood. They must not eat the meat of animals that have been choked to death. And they must not commit sexual sins.” 26 The next day Paul took the men with him. They all made themselves pure and “clean” in the usual way. Then Paul went to the temple. There he reported the date when the days of cleansing would end. At that time the proper offering would be made for each of them.

Paul arrives in Jerusalem and is warmly greeted by James and the elders, and they rejoice together at what God has been doing amongst the Gentiles through him. There are also many Jewish believers, which would have pleased Paul enormously, however, it seems that the Jewish believers were upset with him. Paul understands that the purification rites are no longer necessary because salvation is by grace, not works. But he follows his stated principle from Corinthians where he says “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law…… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Cor 9: 20

In Romans 14:13 Paul says “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

Paul is following both of these principles here. He is always trying to witness to people for their salvation, and he is trying to not offend other believers by his actions.

Lord, please help me to not be a stumbling block for anyone else’s faith, but to encourage others by my actions.

Written by Megan Cornell

1 (reply)
  1. Justin Ware says:

    Thanks so much Megan for sharing your wise insights into these “purification rights.” I have often wondered what the vow was that Paul had taken and I reflect on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:33-37 where he says not to take vows but to simply let your yes be yes and your no be no.

    It is intriguing how something as simple as a public demonstration of Paul’s values and beliefs can have so many complex interactions and have such an impact on the people around him.

    I was recently at a funeral and there were some elements of the service that had been carefully and deliberately planned, seemed to anger some of the people who attended. I heard someone saying afterwards “it’s just not right to do that at a funeral”

    I wonder how many times my own well-reasoned but under-considered words and actions have offended others and become a stumbling block for others.

    On the other side of the same coin, I am aware that Jesus often sought out to offend the Pharisees to highlight the flaws in their religious structure.

    Lord, give me wisdom in this area. In the modern domains of marriage, parenting, politics and religion, it is so easy to offend others, and so challenging to be bold in communicating the principles that the Bible shows as leading to life, especially when these principles are counter-cultural.

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