Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[a] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[b] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[c] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[d] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
This passage is the message of freedom that sets us as believers apart from every other religion. I can’t be good enough (perfect) to be acceptable to God by my own efforts. But when Jesus uttered ‘it is finished’ on the Cross it marked the end of our struggle with this conundrum. It is the death of Christ and his victory over sin that makes us able to enter the presence of God. So why do we so often try to impress God with all the great things we have done? It’s not that we shouldn’t do good, but we need to remember that it is not these things that make us Right with God. I need to reset my inner compass so that it doesn’t reflect the standards and mindset of the world. I want to live in the freedom delivered to me by Jesus rather than the condemnation of a life lived by worldly values.
Jesus thank you for all that you have done for me. Remind me every day of how much you have given and create in me a grateful heart. By your Holy Spirit guide my thinking so I might bring Glory to your name. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Paul is seriously fired up in this passage! I can just imagine him reading a letter from his baby Christians in Galatia (they were writing to him about the new teaching they’d received about keeping the Jewish law – particularly circumcision – as the way to get right with God) and saying “NO NO NO…WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SALVATION IS BY FAITH – IT’S ALWAYS BEEN BY FAITH. NOT BY WORKS!”
How fired up do I get about this amazing gift of a new life in Jesus, that is possible only by faith? How desperately do I share the gospel with my friends?
Because they’ll die if I don’t.
Their kids and their families will perish if no one tells them. Will I get fired up enough with love for them to tell them? Will I get up earlier than normal with the express purpose to pray and beg God that he will open a door for me to speak to them? Will I do whatever it takes to help them say yes to Jesus in faith?
Lord, I beg you – please open a door for me today, to share the gospel with someone, open their hearts to receive the words and believe, and open my mouth with the courage to speak! Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. 19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
It is very easy to get caught up in self-righteous indignation when we hear of some of the terrible things that have happened recently in the world. And I’ve noticed this tendency to moral outrage not just in Christians, but also in people who would not describe themselves in any way religious.
As a devout Jew, Paul’s previous focus was an attempt to become righteous by his works and obedience to the Law of God. But his powerful encounter with Jesus showed Paul a new way. He is teaching us that we can only come to God by His grace, not on the basis of our merit, our works, or our efforts. If our focus is on “being good” it leads us to being proud and self-righteous.
I am not dismissing the importance of advocating for social change and justice in the world. But if we believe that we are all sinners saved by grace, we must guard against the attitude that I am better than the “terrible person” who’s done something that I read about in the media. If we are honest, we will acknowledge that we all are deeply selfish and prone to sinful behaviours and attitudes.
Thank you God for Your incredible grace to us, and I pray that we will carry that heart of grace to a world that needs it.
Written by Shelley Witt
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
In this passage Paul is rebuking Peter for some of his actions and behaviours in the way that he was dealing with Gentiles, the people who were not Jews. Verse 13 tells us that Peter’s actions were not honest, and that even Barnabas was led astray. Both Peter and Barnabas are high profile New Testament people – they each played a huge role in building the early church and spreading the good news of the gospel at the time. Yet, as we read in this passage, neither of them got it right all the time or were above reproach. They, like us, were still sinful, fragile humans who were able to be swayed from the truth that they once preached when it came to the way Jews and Gentiles should live.
This passage reminds me that all have fallen short of the glory of God. How important it is to make sure our hearts are right before God at all times, regardless of who we are. I am also reminded that being a leader is a hard job! We need to pray for those who hold the mantle and responsibility of leadership in the church, that they would be strong in the Lord as they make decisions and listen to His voice.
God thank you that you sent your Son to die for us, because all of us – regardless of who we are – have fallen short of your glory. Help us to keep our hearts soft and open towards you, that we would not stray from your will. Lord we ask that you would also help us to remember to pray for those in positions of leadership, to uphold and support them as they seek you. Amen.
Written by Ps. Madelaine Tarasenko
2 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
This passage reminds me of the importance of recognised leadership in my life, and in the life of the church. And I am helped greatly by Paul’s view of things.
Paul clearly is not awestruck into seeing these leaders as some kind of superspecies, but he obeyed God’s revelation to him that told him to seek them out in order to confirm that all he was doing for the Gospel was not in vain. And those recognised as leaders in the church helped confirm and affirm what Paul was doing, such that he left with new vigour, confidence, and backing from the larger church in his missionary endeavours.
Sometimes, I find myself confused about what I’m doing. Sometimes, I find myself unsure if what I’m doing is “in vain.” God clearly directed Paul, the apostle, in one of his such moments, to recognised leaders in the church, who helped him along his way. I must take note to do the same. I don’t have to figure it all out on my own. Nor does everything have to come via direct revelation from God. Recognised leadership plays an important role in the guidance and affirmation of my efforts and calling.
God, help me not to isolate myself from great wisdom, encouragement, and support in the recognised leadership around me, especially if I am concerned that what I’m doing or where I’m going is “in vain.”
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Everybody loves to hear about an amazing over-achiever. I have read a book about a secular entrepreneur named Elon Musk, who founded PayPal, Tesla Cars and also Space-X. Paul the Apostle was even more amazing, but similarly, used the technology of his day to its absolute limit and thought completely outside the box to literally re-write the political and religious systems of the day.
For me, there is a danger though of looking with wonder at an over-achiever. I can idolise their drive, skill, talent and achievements, and I can feel inadequate by comparison. If I am not careful, I also start to tell myself that these over-achievers are “made of different stuff” from the rest of humanity.
But the truth is that this is contrary to so much of what the bible actually teaches. In particular the teaching of Jesus:
– That we will do greater things that even he did as he walked the earth.
– That in order to be great, we must make ourselves humble
– That the first will be last and the last will be first
– That of all the achievements we can have, love is the one most valued by God
In our world of efficiency and productivity, goals and outcomes, stardom and fame, it is actually really easy to start to see ourselves the way that the world sees us, rather than the way that God sees us.
From my reflections this morning, I will continue to read biographies like Elon Musk, but I will also continue to strive to see myself through God’s eyes rather than those of the world. I will see my inspiration from the Holy One rather than an idol.
Lord, thank you for your revelation and the identity that you bring.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Paul is at pains to make it clear that the gospel he preached is of God, not a man-created philosophy. This was because the Galatians were being corrupted by the Judaizers, who were preaching a salvation based on rules. But our salvation is based on grace.
This gospel of grace was also crucially for all – not just Jews (Rom 16:25-26). Simeon the priest praised God for this gospel when he described Jesus as “ a light of revelation to the Gentiles” in Luke 2:32.
Revelation shows something not previously known. Revelation of the gospel flows from a personal encounter with God not through following rules (rules like good deeds, regular church attendance). Paul’s personal encounter with Jesus left him blind and stopped him in his tracks. These verses and reflecting on Paul’s experience remind me that encounters with our God are like that – they change our hearts and minds to be more like His.
This revelation given to Paul by God was ground breaking because it was a revelation of salvation by grace, not law, and it was for Jew and Gentile – everyone. I am so grateful for his grace.
What ground breaking revelation does God have for me today?
Dear Lord, thank you for salvation by grace through Jesus. Please continue to reveal yourself to me. Open my heart and mind to your revelation today. I am expectant. Amen
Written by Claire Moore
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul uses quite strong words here to express his amazement that the Galatians are turning away from their “freedom” in Christ and are instead turning to a different gospel – one which diminishes the grace of God. But this passage does make me wonder – do I do that? Do I forget about the truly amazing power there is present in the gospel because Christ has set us free from the power of sin and death and do I instead grasp at rules and regulations that I feel I should follow? The grace of Christ is so counter-cultural and, at times, so “counter-me”!
Lord, help me to “live in the grace of Christ” as Paul calls it. Lord help me to turn away from the “tick the box”, controlling, rules and regulations that my flesh so often desires and instead help me to continue to fix my eyes firmly on you and your grace. Amen
Written by Ps. Jen Irving
1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
First century letters followed established patterns. They begin by introducing who the letter is from, who it is to, and a blessing, before going on to what the writer really wanted to say. You could gloss over the formalities. (I’m probably not “dear” to my bank and I doubt the respect that “sir” suggests.) But not Paul. Every word of his introduction is significant. How he introduces himself and particularly his prayer or blessing generally contain the key to how the rest of the letter should be understood.
“Grace and peace” (and the source of Paul’s apostleship) will be central ideas in the rest of the book. Both these words speak of relationship. The word translated as “peace” is more than just peace with God or even the peace that God gives, it is the place with him where peace and favour reign. Similarly, the word translated as “grace” is more just receiving blessing we don’t deserve, it’s a relationship characterised by favour out of which generosity and blessing flow naturally. And that “grace and peace” are given to us by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as part of that relationship of favour and generosity. They don’t come from obeying the law, not even a little bit. And the result is rescued lives and glory to God.
The gospel is simultaneously incredibly simple and unbelievably profound. I love it!
Written by David Cornell
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”  30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Paul took such care and time in sharing Jesus, “the hope of Israel”, with the Roman Jews. All day he was at it and I can imagine the debates that went on.
What I find incredible here is the heart Paul has for the Jews. He desires that they meet Jesus, their hope of salvation. I find it incredible because everywhere he has been the Jews have harassed and generally make things very difficult for Paul and his companions. By the time he reaches Rome and, thanks again to the Jews is under house arrest, he could be understandably pretty fed up with them all.
He also could have written this group off as being as hard hearted as those he had already dealt with and assumed they were only set to oppose him.
It is a fall-back position I must avoid – assuming people won’t be interested in the message of the gospel, or will have already hardened their heart, so why bother trying to share my faith? What are my preconceived ideas about those I meet or know who don’t know Jesus? More and more people today have no idea about Jesus and God’s plan to rescue us. But on the other hand, everyone has an innate sense of a higher power, and many are searching for a connection with a higher being. I want to be ready to passionately persuade, just as Paul did.
Thank you, Lord, that despite my preconceived ideas of others’ attitude to you, you are still at work bringing people into a loving relationship with yourself. You have shown me that my attitude to them is a hindrance. Change my heart to be like Paul’s, ready to open up about your love in my life. Amen
Written by Claire Moore
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
Paul is clearly facing a situation that is the result of jealousy and hatred. He has been set up but his words are not of resentment, rather he is choosing to see his position as one of opportunity. Even the smallest child seems to know if ‘that’s not fair!!’ But we are called to live differently. A wise man once said ‘the devil of resentment is that it is justified!’ Paul had been badly treated by his own people but he chooses in vs 20 to focus on what lies ahead, not his unfair past.
It makes me wonder if I have missed God’s opportunity at any time because I was focussed instead on myself and the ‘unfair’ circumstances of my life. I want my testimony to be about the goodness and greatness of God, not the sad or unfair things that have happened along the way. The cause of my resentment may be justified, but I need to let that go to be used by God.
Heavenly Father thank you that you are the God of my life. Help me Lord to focus on your goodness. Help me to see all that you place before me. Give me the strength Lord to leave with you the things in my life that fester because they are not ‘fair’. Use me Lord for your Glory. In Jesus name. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
Paul’s missionary journey continues, from Malta, to what is now known as Sicily, then onto Rome, where finally he had arrived to a destination, that fulfilled what the Lord has spoken of. If we go back to Acts 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood by him (Paul) and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”
Through all the hardship that Paul endured to get to Rome, including plots to have him killed, being shipwrecked after a perfect storm that lasted over 2 weeks, then being bitten by a deadly snake, he had arrived.
This makes me ponder the faith that Paul showed through these events, knowing that God had a purpose for him at a very important destination . . . the most powerful city in the world of that time.
I so admire his determination. He never gave up, or considered these harsh events in his journey as anything but stumbling blocks, not stone walls.
I am challenged as I write this, of the journey I am on. This year has not been the easiest of years, and yet it is part of the journey that God has, and is orchestrating.
Father, may I trust You more, and always be mindful that by remaining in You, the journey is not necessarily easy, but is as You design for me, for Your purpose. Amen
Written by Steve Fell
28 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. 7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.
Paul lives an adventurous, inspiring life. In this passage, he has just survived two weeks at sea and being shipwrecked. Elsewhere he says that he has been in prison, flogged, exposed to death, whipped, beaten and stoned (2 Cor 11:23-26). And now, arriving in Malta, he gets bitten by a deadly viper snake and survives. No fear is mentioned. He just shakes it off. I love this guy! He doesn’t panic. He doesn’t apply first aid. He just goes on. (Do not try this at home!) Furthermore, he prays and Publius’ father is healed along with the rest of the sick islanders.
Is this guy insane? Is he second to Jesus? How can he be this way? Back in Acts 27:23 it gives us a clue: an angel told him he would stand before Caesar. It’s that simple. God gave Paul a word and he believed Him. Paul knew he wouldn’t die by shipwreck or snakebite because God had told him. Pfft what’s a snake bite, what’s being shipwrecked but a light and momentary affliction (Paul’s words in 2 Cor 4:17).
This guy is crazy good. He is about God’s business and reliant on God’s word and instruction. While I may not be experiencing literal shipwrecks and snakebites, when I experience hardship, may I be like Paul and hold fast to God’s word and character and continue moving forward and not be sidelined or side tracked by momentary afflictions.
Written by Gab Martin
27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[a] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet[b] deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet[c] deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away. 33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. 39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
We see in this passage that when motivated by fear the sailors act in desperate ways. They’re so consumed with anxiety that they don’t eat, and then they try to escape and save their own skins using a lifeboat.
In complete contrast, Paul – a prisoner on his way to stand trial before Caesar – is motivated by faith and acts with incredible calm in the midst of difficult circumstances. He warns the leader of the risk of shipwreck, and when all seems lost he is the voice of peace challenging the desperate efforts to escape and encouraging the people to eat. Who is it in the middle of the storm that has the capacity to thank God? It is Paul – assured that God will do what He has promised and save Paul and his fellow passengers from the storm.
Where am I motivated by fear and acting out of desperation? What would it look like to be motivated by faith, to cling to God’s promises and to thank God in the midst of the circumstances? Who might I bless by being the voice of peace and pointing to God?
Holy Spirit, help me to see where I’m being driven by fear and teach me again how to rest in your promises and thank you in the messy middle. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor[a] and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. 21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
I love it when I’m going about my daily life and suddenly I realise that a decision that I thought I made though natural means was exactly what landed me in an ideal God situation.
In today’s passage, Paul isn’t being all powerful and miraculous, he is just being Naturally supernatural. He is doing what comes naturally to him in challenging moments and the outcome is that all those around him are encouraged and awestruck at the power of God!
Lord help me to be natural in the way that I live out Your power that is made perfect in my weakness.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
27 When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. 3 The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. 9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.
As we read this story of Paul’s journey by ship to Rome as a prisoner, I am reminded of our current journey with Covid-19. The scriptures tell us that Paul’s journey was long, confined, scary, unexpected challenges, difficulties, dangerous, strong winds, large seas and a struggle. This must have been an unusually large storm to create this scary and treacherous journey as even the “professional” sailors were scared! Paul advises these frightened sailors that the journey is too treacherous and the losses will be great to the ship, the cargo and to the very lives of people on board. The sailors seem to be willingly listen to Paul, however the officer in charge, ship’s helmsman and captain are more interested in getting to Rome, whatever the cost. In this story, we also see the kindness of the Roman Officer, Julius, who cared for Paul, allowing him to go ashore and be refreshed by his friends in Sidon.
This reminds me that in challenging times all types of characters come out. Some are just scared and require reassurance. Some buy up all the toilet paper and hand sanitiser to make money off others less fortunate. Some leaders bringing a sound voice and wisdom. Other leaders are too focused on final results and money to compassionately consider the risks and lives of their people. Others are like the Roman officer, caring and loving in the journey. In our current Covid-19 journey – I wonder what or who can we be like. I hope that I am more like Julius, caring and considering the people around me, strengthening them and praying for them. May each of us make a difference in the lives of others in this season we are in.
Lord, I pray that you would give us eyes to see and ears to hear those around us in need. Help us to connect with people where we can be a sound voice and caring hand in this season.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” 25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” 30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
The first verse in this passage of scripture gave me a bit of a laugh: “At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
I’m pretty sure that no one has ever accused me of such a thing! But it got me thinking that Paul appears to have been widely known at the time for his intellectual achievements. And, in addition to that, Paul was a very forceful and public opponent of Christianity prior to his famous encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Imagine if a modern day renowned intellectual with a very public opposition to Christianity like say, Richard Dawkins, had an encounter with Jesus. And then as a result, he not only changed his views about the existence of God, but he also became a vocal Christian evangelist. What a stir that would cause!
Do we believe that such an occurrence is even possible? Prior to his conversion, did the Christians of Paul’s time ever imagine that such a transformation of his beliefs and his life could ever occur?
Who in my world (or the world at large) have I given up on as too difficult for God to reach?
Today I lift my eyes of faith to pray once again for those on my heart who need to know Jesus. And I remember that God is able to do ‘exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine’.
Written by Shelley Witt
26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? 9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. 12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
There’s three things that King Agrippa needed to hear…
1. There is forgiveness from God only through faith in Jesus. v18
2. This faith is demonstrated by turning your heart and life and mind God (repentance), and proving the repentance is genuine by changing your deeds/actions. V20
3. This Jesus – the Gospel, this love letter from God, this “message of light” – is for all people! Jews and gentiles alike. V23. It’s for anyone willing to say ‘yes’ to Jesus.
Lord, who in my world is in anguish in the dark right now? Who Lord, needs to hear that you love them and will welcome them into you arms through a simple act of saying ‘yes’ to Jesus?
Written by Boudy van Noppen
23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.”
Paul was brought before King Agrippa “amid great pomp” in order that they might try to find some guilt in him to charge him with. As we read this we can imagine that in this situation Paul was a prisoner and would have appeared to be a very humble and unimportant man.
King Agrippa, Bernice and Festus are all mentioned here as part of the great pomp, and yet all these years later, which of these men have changed the world history forever? The answer is Paul – the one who appeared to be a lowly nobody at the time.
In heaven, I’m sure we will be very surprised when we see some of the humble people whom God has esteemed as important – ones who have changed the world through pursuing God’s Kingdom.
May my heart be fixed on eternal things and not impressed by the things of this world.
Written by Shelley Witt!
13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. 16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”
Here we have the description of the newly appointed governor Festus being visited by King Agrippa & Bernice … with the words of Jesus echoing in Matt 10:18 “You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” NTL
Festus is following roman protocols in sending Paul to Rome while at the same time building favourable relationship with Agrippa. The scene is set by the Holy Spirit once more with the opportunity for Paul to testify of Jesus. What these officials then do with the gospel message is up to the choice of their own hearts.
Paul takes every opportunity presented to him to share the gospel, coming before these two powerful men will be no exception & not only them but all the officials & security people that sound them.
How often do I take the opportunities presented to me to share the good news of Jesus? In truth, not nearly as often or as boldly as Paul.
Holy Spirit fill us all afresh with more courage, wisdom and grace to share our testimony of your work in our lives to those you put around us.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
25 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.” 6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. 8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” 10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
Paul has been in prison now for two years, defending his case but also talking with the ruling authority (Felix) about faith in Jesus. Then the ruling authority changes (Festus) and Paul has to start again. Yet again the accusations again Paul are made, and yet again Paul answers that he has done nothing wrong against the Jewish law, the temple or Caesar. Essentially he repeats Acts 24:16 – his conscience remains clear before God and man.
How does Paul remain so confident after two years of multiple people telling him he is in the wrong? And whilst these accusations are different, how can a man who has a history of murdering Christians ever stand before a court and say his conscience is entirely clear? Sometimes I define myself by old sins. I get stuck in regret and almost try to punish myself by feeling bad. When I get into this mindset it ruins me for the present and the future.
Paul is not yet perfect and still struggles with sin (Romans 7:15-20 is written in the present tense!), but he does not define himself by his own actions or previous sin. Paul stands confidently with a clear conscience because he knows in whose righteousness he stands. By Jesus’ blood Paul has been made righteous before the only Judge that matters in the end. His conscience is clear and he is free.
Jesus forgive me for trying to pay a debt that has already been paid with my regret. Please help me to live in the freedom of a clear conscience, which your precious blood has bought.
Written by Rhiannon Mellor
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. 27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, 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
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
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PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118