Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
24 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. 5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.  [a] 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” 9 The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true. 10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. 17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’” 22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.
Today’s passage gives an interesting insight into how the world worked back in the time of Paul. It doesn’t seem a lot different to now in certain places and in certain situations. It’s also interesting to see how Paul behaved in the circumstances. Paul was brought before the governor with some serious charges related to things Paul had not actually done.
The thing that stood out to me when I read this passage was firstly how polite and respectful Paul was to the judge. He spoke with care explaining what he did and didn’t do. The religious of the day were also very clear on their story but the story about Paul stirring up riots was not true. They also essentially complained about the behaviour of the Commander who took Paul from these people to the governor.
Paul then explained that other things the religious men said or implied about him were true. This was about who he believed in and what he believed. He remained truthful about the things that mattered. He sounds like he would have come across as a trustworthy witness.
Paul was a great example of how we should all behave. To be respectful and polite and truthful. To hold fast to what God asks of each of us.
Lord God thank you that you are always with us and that you will help us every day to be respectful and polite with everyone we encounter and that you are the one that will protect us from the untruths of others. We can trust you to do that. Awesome. Amen
Written by Therese Manning
23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.” 25 He wrote a letter as follows: 26 Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him. 31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. 33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers 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
12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.” 16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” 19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?” 20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.” 22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”
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 Ps. Bethany Waugh
30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them. 23 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” 4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!” 5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’[a]” 6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) 9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. 11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Paul had been planning to visit Jerusalem and then go to Rome on his way to Spain (Romans 15:24).
But the Holy Spirit had warned him that if he went back to Jerusalem, he would end up a prisoner (Acts 20:23). And he sent Agabus the prophet to give him the same warning (Acts 21:11). From Ephesus to Caesarea, the churches and his companions had all begged him not to go to Jerusalem. And now Paul is fighting for his life. This is the second time the soldiers have had to rescue Paul to save him from being torn to pieces.
Now Jesus appears to him and tells him two things. The first is to be encouraged. That he needed to say this gives a hint of how discouraged Paul must have been. If I were him, I would have been depressed and seriously thinking I had got things all wrong. The second is that though Paul’s plans are in disarray, Jesus’ plans are not. Paul would preach in Rome in a totally different way than he had expected. He would end up preaching to Caesar, the most powerful man in the world. And on the way, he would preach to a king and two governors.
Jesus had already warned his disciples that this kind of thing would happen. “But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” (Matthew 10:18)
Jesus is the one who turns things around. He turns catastrophes around and makes them opportunities. Jesus turns the catastrophe of my life around and makes me his child. He’s turning this out-of-control world around and redeeming and renewing it. To see it, I need to take my eyes off the chaos around me and look to him. I need to listen to him instead of the noise around me.
Today, Jesus, please open my eyes to see the opportunity for you to be heard amongst what sounds like accusation. Show me the things that you’re doing in the middle of what looks like calamity. And show me my part in the transformation you are bringing to my world.
Written by David Cornell
37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?” 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.” 40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic[a]: 22 1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. 10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ 17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ 21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ” 22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Paul’s testimony is so powerful. A clear witness to Christ, His love, His power and the radical change that comes as a result of faith in Jesus.
The sting in the tail of this portion of Scripture is in Acts 22: 22. The Jews wanted God to themselves – the thought that Paul, a good Jew, trained by the best, a Pharisee no less, would pollute himself with Gentiles is completely abhorrent for them. Their national pride is insulted.
God has been for all humankind since His creation of the world – no one race of people, no one class of people, no single group or groups – He is for all. The Israelites were chosen by God, they did not choose Him. God called them to witness to Him. Yet by this period of human history we see the Jews thought they were the exclusive ones of God. Paul, for all his knowledge, cultural upbringing and learning was more committed to Christ than his heritage. The result is he is rejected – because he was not prepared to be simply nationalistic!
Father help us to stay true to You and Your Gospel which is good news for all.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”
Once entering Jerusalem Paul tries not to draw attention to himself, he tries to keep things low key and fit in with current Jewish custom. To no avail though as he is recognised by some Jews and called out for “preaching against our people and telling them to disobey Jewish laws.” Paul was beaten, a riot broke out and if it weren’t for the Roman commander arresting Paul he probably would have been killed. There was so much commotion that the arresting officer couldn’t even determine what Paul had done. All he could hear were the shouts “Kill him, Kill him!” Agabus’ prophecy of the manner in which Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles earlier in this same chapter was fulfilled.
What happened to Paul did not surprise him, other believers tried to talk him out of going to Jerusalem but he persisted because God called him there. Paul’s obedience is striking. He was also called out for challenging the status quo by preaching faith in Christ instead of obeying Jewish law as the way to be made right with God. What Paul proclaimed – the Gospel, was counter cultural at the time and not everyone received it well. Believers today face the same thing in that the message of salvation through Jesus is still not readily received by some. It rubs them up the wrong way and they take offence. Nonetheless the apostle Paul stood firm and continued to declare what he knew to be true regardless of the consequences. I am confronted and challenged by this. God give me bravery to share my faith even if it is not always popular and help me to be obedient like Paul.
Dear Lord, although I will probably never face the ongoing opposition Paul did, please give me courage to share my faith even if it is not always welcomed and help me to be obedient. Amen
Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods
17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall 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 vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 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.” 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
As Paul returns to Jerusalem from his ministry travels he reports to the Christian brothers and gives them an account of what had happened in the time that they had been away. Luke says that Paul reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles. “What God had done.” These words hit hard to remind us that whenever we are working at something for God it is Him who is doing the work. Not us.
Certainly, in ministry there are many tasks to perform. We need to make plans, prepare materials, and organise people but always in the leading of God. We need to be following His lead and working with Him where He is working.
I wonder if this is always the way I see things or do I run ahead of God, coming up with good ideas and a tight timeline for when these must be achieved?
Dear God, please help me to slow down in my ministry and lean into you, asking where you are leading next, how to go about the next step and to hand over the reins to you. All of this Lord so that your name may be praised, and the glory given to you. Amen
Written by Jocelyn Petschack
7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. 8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. 10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” 15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
When I know a task is coming up I prepare. I plan my time, I learn what I need to know, I have my mind and body ready.
From the early warning in verse 4, to the vivid prophesy in verse 13, the Lord was preparing Paul and the disciples. Will they finish the race and testify to God’s grace, or try to hide Paul and themselves away, and retain the status quo?
Clearly this wasn’t easy for Paul, as we see his emotional reaction in verse 13. He wanted people beside him ready to stick to the task of sharing the good news. There are echoes of Jesus’ struggle here facing his fate with sleeping disciples for support.
What a powerful work the Holy Spirit is doing in his and the lives of those around him. From being compelled by the Spirit (20v22) to now being prepared by the Holy Spirit, it is just as Jesus prayed in John 16 v13 – the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all truth and he will only speak what he hears and will tell us what is yet to come. They did not have to run the race alone, unprepared, they had a Guide who would show them what glorifying Jesus really meant.
It is clear to me the Holy Spirit has prepared me for things in my life. Dissuaders have whispered into my heart or to be honest I have done my level best to veer off course at times. However, as I serve him, follow him and walk in his will for me (John 12 v 26), I am never alone, never unprepared. The Guide, the Holy Spirit goes beside me.
Dear Heavenly Father, you promise you will honour those who serve you. Rather than clinging to the safe, to the status quo, help me to walk in your will for me today as Paul did as he walked into Jerusalem. As you used him, use me today. Amen
Written by Claire Moore
21 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
What stands out to me when reading this passage is the very first verse, which says “After we had torn ourselves away from them…”. This is referring to Paul and his companions ‘tearing’ themselves away from the leaders and elders in Ephesus as they head towards Jerusalem. I am drawn to this imagery as it causes me to think about why they had to tear themselves away? Why did they not want Paul to leave so desperately?
Paul‘s departure was so difficult for the leaders, because he had spent time investing into their lives and showing love to them. Paul exemplified what makes a good leader and disciple maker. He formed relationship with the leaders and they honoured and respected him greatly (e.g. Acts 20:37). Paul’s leadership challenges me to think about my leadership, both in church but also in my work, family, friends and everyday life. How am I leading people to Jesus, such that I’m making a significant difference in people’s lives?
Lord God, I thank You for appointing us to share your gospel. When You call, You equip, so I thank You for equipping me to point people to Jesus. Please help me today to lead with love and investment in those around me. In Jesus’ Name.
Written by Ps. Laura Samperi
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” 36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
Paul understood he had no time to waste. We have spent the last 2 years focusing at church on making disciples – and here is a perfect summary of just what that means. Clearly Paul has spoken the truth boldly, led by example and loved these people.
The question is, who am I doing these things with in my life? Am I speaking, living and loving like there may be no tomorrow? We cannot afford to put off our faith until later. Now is my moment. Just as Paul is speaking about the end of one season with his audience, so too are we living in ‘uncertain times’. That does not mean we should be afraid and anxious. Instead I need to be bold, loving with those in my world, just as Christ loves me every single day.
Jesus, thank you for all that you have done and are doing still because of your great love for me. Show me where I can be bold today. Help me Lord to love fearlessly. My I be a blessing to your kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus! Amen
Written by Christine Knight
17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
In this passage, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit has told him many times that jail and suffering lie ahead for him. If Paul had decided that this journey was going to take a long time, then I don’t think anyone would have argued with him. But is seems here that at this particular stop that he has had to defend his ministry.
And his defence is simple. That he has always spoken the truth to everyone, and that his message is the same regardless of whether they were Jews or gentiles.
All of us need to have someone like Paul in our lives. Someone who will not shrink back from telling us the truth. That might not necessarily be what we want to hear, but we always need to hear the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
I am thankful for all the people who have spoken the truth to me, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not. But the truth is what I always need to hear. The truth has encouraged me when I’m down. The truth has redirected me, re-aligned me, and always encouraged me.
Speaking the truth with love, no matter what, is more important than how the message is received. Speak the truth, and let the Holy Spirit look after the one receiving it.
From the Message: Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got.
Father I thank you for all those who spoke the truth to me. Bless them and encourage them as I have been blessed and encouraged. Help me to faithfully speak the truth always.
Written by Andrew Martin
13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.
On first reading, this passage sounds like part of Great Aunt Hepzibah’s travel diary with a few unnecessary details. But thinking and praying about it have helped me get more out of it.
The first thing that strikes me is how real this is. Someone inventing this wouldn’t bother to include details such as Paul walking to Assos while his companions went by ship. The ‘we’ language shows that Luke (the author of Acts) was there with Paul and is giving an eyewitness account. All of this really happened! It is not just a story.
The second thing is Paul’s eagerness to get to Jerusalem – so much so that he avoided going into Ephesus, where he had many friends. Paul was going to see the elders in Jerusalem to report all that had happened on his missionary trips in Asia Minor and Greece. He was warned that hardship would await him there, but he hurried on, so he could get there before Pentecost. Why was he so eager?
Paul’s missionary trips had helped spread the gospel, and he was eager to return to Jerusalem and share the joyful news of all that had happened. Before Jesus, Pentecost, known as the Feast of Weeks, celebrated the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. Now Paul was coming with joy to celebrate the harvest of souls instead. I’m sure he rejoiced at the changed significance of this feast, and in all that God had done.
I am reminded that there is so much joy in being used by God and fulfilling what he has asked me to do, even in the mundane things like Paul’s travel. And there is so much joy in sharing that with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It has reminded me to open myself to Jesus and ask him to use me, and then rejoice in what he has done with my faith community.
Lord Jesus, I give myself afresh to you today. Help me to be eager like Paul – eager to do your work, and eager to share the joy of that with my church family.
Written by Megan Cornell
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
All is well that ends well… and because the story ended well, surely Paul was ribbed about this incident in jest by his travelling companions. “Remember that time you literally bored a poor boy to death”… they all laugh. Truth is, the moment would have been absolutely horrifying and the relief amongst the group of listeners at the young man’s return to life would have been tangible.
Paul thought he would not be in this town for even 24 hours, so he uses literally every hour he has and speaks until break of day about the glorious good news, that Jesus is King and Saviour of the entire world.
Lord, may I never cut short the ‘call of duty’ you have on my life. Whenever and wherever I have the opportunity to reveal the Kingdom of Christ may I do it to the full, in word and deed.
Written by Andrew Mellor
20 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.
Have you ever been tasked with a quest to complete? Maybe you were tasked with fulfilling a shopping list for the weekly family groceries? Or you were tasked with a university group assignment? or perhaps you had to climb up a tree to retrieve a cat that was stuck in the neighbour’s tree? These don’t really seem like quests do they, they are more like tasks that seem pretty menial and that could be completed by someone else. Someone else could buy the groceries, someone else to fill your spot on the uni group assignment and yes you could call the fire brigade to get that cat down!
A real quest seems like what Paul was doing when he travelled all around; here in this verse it mentions Macedonia and Greece. Paul had an ordained quest from God. He knew what he had to do. He had to visit certain places, speak to certain people and give them specific words of encouragement. He knew ahead of time what his end would be, it had been prophesied many times and he was aware of how important his quest was: He knew it would be his last time meeting these people before his capture and arrest.
We may think that our days tasks or work fail insignificance compared to the work of Paul. But perhaps others around you don’t think so. Maybe that word of encouragement you gave or that message or that gift or that important work document was particularly significant to them. Perhaps we need to be reminded that we are all significant in God’s eyes and we have been put here with a purpose to fulfil just as Paul was given. Paul was given God’s quest to complete for his life and he completed it. If you are doing work or tasks in the name of Jesus, with love, compassion, truth, humility and honesty then you are doing God’s quest for your life.
Dear heavenly Father remind us of our significance in your eyes. All our works are seen by you and are not invaluable. Thank you for giving us Paul as an example of a man who earnestly followed your will. Amen.
Written by Susannah Ware
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. 32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
In this passage, we see that Demetrius was a very successful business man, a silversmith making shrines for his god Artemis and he is worried that Paul will change all of this. Demetrius was focused on making money and protecting his livelihood – “let’s protect the reputation of our god and our industry” (v27). It seems good and spiritual but it’s misguided. It reminds me of another verse: having a form of godliness but lacking power (2 Tim 3:5).
Paul is also a man who has a lot of success and is influential – he persuades many people throughout the whole region to turn to Christ. Yet, he lives very differently to Demetrius. He doesn’t worry about God being discredited or robbed of His majesty. He is not focused on protecting his own livelihood but making sure people hear the truth.
How can Paul live this way? Paul’s confidence comes from knowing who God is – unchanging in nature and ruler over all. This confidence and reliance on God enables him to live a life of influence and authority. And we see the impact of this.
This passage causes me to reflect on my own life – do I live like Demetrius, have elements of spirituality yet lacking confidence and power? Or do I live like Paul, resting solely on God’s unchanging nature and sovereignty?
Lord, God, help me to know You more, as You truly are, so that I too may be at peace and live with confidence in changing circumstances.
Written by Gab Martin
21 After all this had happened, Paul decided[a] to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
In this chapter we discover that Paul has been preaching and teaching in Ephesus for 2 years, and the good news of Jesus Christ has dramatically transformed many lives. In this context Paul decides to keep moving – to go to Jerusalem and then Rome. He has a plan and he sends two of team members ahead of him.
Paul has such a sense of purpose and urgency about him, he is not flighty and has stayed in Ephesus for 2 years to train people in the way of Jesus, but he knows the season and when to move on to the next thing God has called him too.
I want to be like Paul, focused on what God has called me to be and to do right now, but attentive to His leading and open to new seasons. Holy Spirit, please help me to see the opportunities to serve you in the here and now, and prepare me and lead me into the new seasons upcoming. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
Power in the name of Jesus
The power of the name of Jesus isn’t something that believers jump up and down about.
It’s part of the “new normal” of being a Christian.
But it seems that some people like to try to take that power and make it into something else. Perhaps a power that is only for the benefit of the person who wields it.
I must admit, I am guilty of this! While I do honour my creator and the saviour who died for me, I fall into the habit of using His gifts and His power for my own gain and rather than for His glory!
Lord help me to always strive to fulfil your kingdom’s purpose rather than my own.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
Synagogue was a normal way of life for the Jewish people all over the world. This is where they gathered to worship and learn. Here Paul has travelled to Ephesus (western Turkey) to meet with the believers and others, to discuss and have fellowship. Here is Paul challenging the Jewish people “How to enter God’s kingdom”. However people did not want to listen, so he moves his “followers” to a hall owned by Tyrannus and teaches them for 2 years in the area. What is amazing to me is that the scripture says: EVERYONE LIVING IN THE PROVINCE OF ASIA, JEWS AND NON-JEWS HEARED THE PROPHETIC WORD OF THE LORD.
We know that Timothy, eventually becomes the Pastor of the church at Ephesus which is reputed to have had 60,000 people. Timothy’s leadership has rested on the foundation of the teaching of Paul in that region and of Paul’s discipleship of Timothy. However here is a man Tyannus, who provides a hall for the teaching of this region. This scripture speaks to me of how we are ALL a piece in God’s story – HIStory. We ALL have a place, we all have a mission, we all need to bring something to our church and local community to bring about a future and an effect that we can’t see on this side.
Lord Jesus, help each one of us to take a hold of what you want us to be and do in every season. We thank you Lord that there is no retirement in the Kingdom of God, our lives just take a different course. Show us and lead us how to make a difference with who we are and what we have.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
19 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
I remember a distinct time in my life when I moved from being just a ‘disciple’ of Jesus to having a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit’s power in me.
In this passage of scripture we read today that Paul met some people at Ephesus who were disciples. They had faith and repentance but had not yet encountered the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The good news is that when these disciples heard that there was more to be experienced, they had open hearts to receive it. The result was a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit!
Going back to my own experience, although I had grown up in church, there was a time as a young adult when my eyes were opened to see that God was offering me more. A closer relationship with Him and a more powerful experience of the Holy Spirit was on offer, and I gratefully received it.
This reminds me, that there is always more of God to be known. Whether you have been a follower of Jesus for days or decades, there is an infinite wealth of power and mystery to be uncovered as we seek to go deeper with Him.
My prayer for each one of us is to have a renewed excitement and passion to spend time with the One who’s mysteries we will be discovering for all eternity.
Written by Shelley Witt
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor[a] and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 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. 27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
We are called to make disciples. That’s the
goal – the call – one job – that Jesus left us with. To be disciples
making disciple makers! And it can take a variety of forms and have many
I love this passage because Apollos was a mature Christian. He was teacher and preacher. But he still had holes in his understanding (verse 25). Enter Priscilla and Aquila! Also mature Christians – just a little further “down the road” with Jesus than Apollos was. There was an “Achaia” waiting for Apollos that first required the help of a “Priscilla and Aquila”. That’s discipleship!
Who is my Apollos – that I can help prepare for the next part of their journey? Who is my Priscilla and Aquila – that can speak into my life and prepare me for the task God is calling me to?
Lord please show me today – my “Apollos” and my “Priscilla and Aquila”- so I can grow as a disciple and be a disciple maker. Amen
Written by Boudy van Noppen
18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Paul had been in Corinth for a while, after God had encouraged him to stay. But now it was time for Paul to continue on his journey. He visits a lot of cities, going from Corinth to Cenchrea, Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem and Antioch. He then goes onto Galatia and Phrygia. While it doesn’t say how much time this took, neither does it give us a lot of detail as to what each day looked like.
In some strange way I find this encouraging. In my broken nit-picking way, I over-examine my everyday life hoping that I am pleasing God in every moment. But this passage encourages me to stand back a bit and take an overall, broad kind of look: am I doing what I believe God has called me to? Pure and simple. Gracious.
Holy Spirit help me to let go and trust the Father more. That who I am – His child – is enough and that I can relax and enjoy this life You offer me and live in the arena of Your Grace.
Written by Gab Martin
12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.
It’s interesting to think about Gallio’s perspective on Paul’s activities. In one sense he saw it as it really was – a difference in ways of worshipping God. But in another sense, he saw if completely wrong – this was about very different understandings of God.
I regularly hear people talking about all religions being the same. And if you don’t look closely, they can appear this way, to be sure. But the truth is, for Paul and these his equally committed Jewish opponents, Christianity and Judaism were chalk and cheese different.
I am called to take care in how I present my hope in Jesus, but I am also reminded that not everyone will be pleased with what I have to say. Some will oppose me quite passionately. To the uncommitted or disinterested, talk of religion is same-same. To those deeply committed, it’s a much more tense and potentially angry affair.
Lord, I like to keep the peace. But unfortunately, that won’t always be possible as I represent you. Give me boldness to proclaim you clearly, fearlessly in the face of opposition, but always with the aim and in the hope of seeing people discover you.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
Going next door is fairly common in communities all over the world. Here Paul is not received well in the Synagogue, so he literally goes next door and plants a church in the house and the synagogue leader and family joins in!
Even in rejection God makes a way. All too often we can carry the scars of rejection rather than use rejection as an opportunity that God will bring about in His redemptive wisdom. A long time ago a thought popped into my head that over the years I have come to be certain was from God. It was this “I ‘take’ offence.” Without doubt people have been deliberately offensive to me – I have had people spit on me for the sake of the Gospel, punch and kick me for the sake of the Gospel, plus any number of lies and slander over the years – yes I have been rejected, but really people were rejecting Jesus not me – I am only a messenger. I have learned rather than ‘taking’ this offence to heart to ask God to show me how He would redeem the situation – and often it was in the moment. Immediately after being spat on, punched and kicked others at the evangelistic meeting (where we as Christians did not retaliate) rose up (not believers I might add) and quieted the crowd and after the message was preached many came to Jesus. I would have missed the Lord at work if I had ‘taken’ the rejection, the offence to heart. Here Paul could have done the same.
Father, help us to not ‘take’ offence, rather may we look to You for Your redemptive purposes, even when we feel rejected. Help us to hear – both sides of the story – that You would prevail!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b] 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
The bible tells us that God has placed an innate knowledge in the heart of every human being to know of His existence. The people here in Athens knew there is a God and wanted to worship Him, but didn’t really know who He is, so Paul took the opportunity to explain a bit about God. Some sneered, but some joined him and believed.
We can be fooled into thinking that the people of today mostly don’t believe there is a God. Sometimes it can seem like this, however the bible (an personal experience) tells us that this is not the case.
It’s good to be reminded that eternity is set in the hearts of every human, and that creation daily pours forth speech about our God. People know in their hearts there is a God, but of course, many don’t really know who He is and what He is like.
Like Paul, we can look for opportunities to talk about who God is. Let’s be careful not to assume that people don’t want to know or hear about God. Sometimes it’s just a short sentence here and there in our everyday conversation with friends and colleagues that makes mention of God and reminds us all that He is exists and He can be known.
My prayer is that this day, and every day I’ll have opportunities to talk about our wonderful God.
Written by Shelley Witt
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
Paul didn’t intend to come to Athens. He had fled there from Macedonia because of opposition. He was just waiting for his friends to catch up.
Athens must have seemed the most unlikely opportunity for the gospel. They were spiritually superficial: Paul was troubled by the idols to every possible deity they could find, including one to “an unknown God” in case they had missed one. And they were intellectually superficial: They were known for being entertained by new ideas, but not for acting on them. Luke doesn’t record the usual response from the Jews and “God fearing Gentiles”, and no response from those in the public square. The only response recorded was the philosophers who dismiss him as a “babbler” and preacher of foreign gods. And now, being brought before the city rulers to explain himself must have seemed daunting. (Remember the painful experience in Philippi.) By any rational assessment, Paul should not waste his time with Athens.
But Paul knows his God better. “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:16). He does seek out those who fear God. He goes to where the people are. He brings substance to the superficial intellectual exercises of the philosophers. He takes the opportunity of bringing the truth to the Areopagus, and though they dismiss him, at the end some do believe.
It’s easy to dismiss the workplace discussion of life or even the Christian-baiting argument as a waste of time. Still, wherever people are willing to allow us to talk about God, there is an opportunity for God to speak into the most unexpected lives. (So long as we are as positive as Paul’s speech to the Areopagus.)
Father, give me your eyes to see the opportunities and your boldness and grace to take them.
Written by David Cornell
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. 13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
Here we have people who are commended for two things: receiving the teaching of the word with eagerness, and also examining the scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was correct.
This is a good model for us of how we should respond to teaching. We should be (1) eager to receive and learn new things and (2) diligent to examine what we hear and test it against the what we read in the Bible. Developing both of these qualities is essential for growth and maturity.
Some people are really eager to receive teaching and take on-board anything they hear without taking the time and effort to see if it lines up with the Bible’s teachings.
Others are so focused checking up on all the facts and the “letter of the law” that they become cynical and lose their open-hearted eagerness to learn.
Lord, help me to be an eager learner and a diligent examiner of what I am hearing. Help me to keep an open heart and to be a determined seeker of truth.
Written by Shelley Witt
17 When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. 5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
Paul and Silas had made their way to Thessalonica and were preaching the good news of Jesus. Amongst the listeners, were God fearing Jews. Paul reasoned and explained and proved that Jesus was the Messiah that they had been waiting for. Some believed but some were jealous. Those that were jealous struggled to accept the revelations that Paul was teaching them so they stirred up trouble.
It’s amazing to me that this message of salvation, that carries hope, love, peace and grace, can also stir unease and unrest in people. When someone shares a new, fresh, deeper revelation of God to me, I wonder how much convincing and explaining I need to have before I receive it?
Father God, may I have an open heart to receive deeper truths about you. Continue to teach me more about who you are.
Written by Gab Martin
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
I love the audacity that Paul had. He
knew who he was in this situation and His audacity was based on his citizenship
– Paul was a Roman Citizen.
What about my citizenship? Because of Jesus I am a citizen of Heaven. I have the highest possible standing – I am a co-heir with Jesus (see Romans 8:17), I am chosen by God Himself (see Ephesians 1:4), I am his adopted son (see Ephesians 1:5) and He loves me! (See 1 John 3:1). He dispatches angels on my behalf – I’m that precious to Him! (See Psalm 91:11)
With that kind of citizenship, what audacious step of faith could I take today?
Father, I know you are calling me to live audaciously for You, for Jesus, for the gospel and for loving those around me in your name. Please help me remember who I am – I am your Son! And with that Citizenship I can step out with fearless audacity.
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
PO Box 2744,
Carlingford NSW 2118
PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118
PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118