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Acts Chapter 21

Acts Chapter 21

Paul’s return to Israel

After we departed from them, we sailed straight to Cos [an island south of Miletus], then Rhodes [an island southeast of Cos], and then to Patara [a port city in Lycia on the southern coast of modern Turkey]Finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set forth. [This would likely have been a larger ship since they were sailing over more open water. They had been using a local ship with many stops, and now took a direct route with only a single destination. Phoenicia constituted the west coast of Syria in what is today Lebanon.] Our route took us within sight of [the island of] Cyprus and we sailed south of it all the way to Syria. We went ashore at [the port city of] Tyre, the ship’s destination, where we retrieved our belongings.

Paul's return to Israel

We found some disciples [believers in Jesus] there and stayed with them seven days. They told Paul through [what they received through] the Spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem. [When Paul went to Jerusalem anyway, it did not mean he was going against the Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit reveals bad things in advance, but that does not mean that we can or should avoid them, but it does allow us to prepare for what is coming.] When our time with them was done, we left. But all of them, including the women and children, went with us out of the city to the beach, where we all knelt and prayed. Then we said goodbye and boarded our ship, while they returned home.

Prophecy of disaster for Paul

Our trip from Tyre landed at Ptolemais [another port city of Phoenicia south of Tyre], and we greeted our [Christian] brothers there and stayed with them for one day. The next day we arrived in Caesarea [on the Judean coast], where we entered the home of Philip the Evangelist, who was one of the seven [who had been appointed a servant leader in Acts 6:3-6], and we stayed with him.

Prophecy of disaster for Paul

10 Philip had four unmarried daughters who all prophesied as we remained there for a number of days. There also was a man named Agabus who came from Judea, and he was also a prophet. 11 And after we met him, he took Paul’s belt and used it to bind his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit is saying to the man who owns this belt. In the same way, the Jews will bind you in Jerusalem and deliver you to the non-Jews.”

12 And when we heard these things, we all pleaded with Paul, both his companions and those gathered, to not go to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping? Do you want to break my heart? For I am ready to be bound and also to die in Jerusalem for the [sake of the] name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And when we saw he would not change his mind, we stopped and said, “May the Lord’s will be done.” 

16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, not wanting to lose any time in the province of Asia, since he hoped to be in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost, if at all possible. [If he had gone to Ephesus, it would have been very difficult for him to leave quickly because of how long he had been with them and how close he was to so many.] 17 From Miletus, Paul sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him.

Paul with the Christian elders

18 The next day, Paul took us to see James [the brother of Jesus and leader of the Christian community in Jerusalem]. The elders [of the local Christian community] were there as well. 19 After greeting them, Paul told them about all the things that God had done among the non-Jews in his ministry among them. 20 When they heard about it, they glorified the Lord. [They were about to tell him about the problem his arrival was going to bring about because of his reputation, but how much better it was to celebrate because of all God had done among the non-Jewish peoples.]

Paul with the Christian elders

The elders also said to Paul [possibly with James as spokesperson], “Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers [in Jesus], and how devoted they are to the Law. [There are many of them here in Jerusalem right now for the Feast of Pentecost.] 21 They have been told that you have been teaching the Jews in non-Jewish countries to let go of Moses and stop circumcising their children or following the other Jewish customs. [As a result, they are furious, believing that you are speaking against the Law and undermining the religion of your fathers.] 22 What should we do, then, since they certainly have heard you arrived?

The purification vow

23 “This is what we would like you to do. There are four men here who have taken a vow. 24 Go along with them, go through the purification ceremony yourself, and pay their expenses so they can go ahead and shave their heads. [This was a temporary Nazirite vow, which involved a period of abstaining from wine and strictly observing the Law. At the end of the period, in case the man had touched anything unclean or been near someone who died, the man would shave his head and burn the hair along with an animal sacrifice to represent a new commitment to purity. Nazirite vows are described in Numbers 6:1-21.] When everyone hears what you have done, they will know what they heard before about you was wrong, and instead that you are in conformance with and keep the Law.

The purification vow

25 “Now as for non-Jewish believers, [as you already know,] we have sent them a letter [Acts 15:29] with our decision that they must avoid eating food offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality.”

The riot caused by the Jews from Asia

26 The next day, Paul took the men and performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of the period of purification, and which day a sacrifice would be offered for each of them. 27 And just before the seven days [of the purification] were over, the Jews from Asia [who knew Paul from their many confrontations], when they saw him in the Temple, stirred up the crowd [of Jews at the Temple], grabbed hold of Paul, 28 and cried out, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man that teaches everywhere [things that are against] our people, the Law, and this Temple. And he has even brought Greeks [non-Jews] into the Temple and polluted this holy place!” 29 For they had earlier seen Trophimus, an Ephesian, in the city with Paul, and they supposed Paul had brought him into the Temple. [Since Trophimus (Acts 20:4) was a non-Jewish believer, this would have been against the Jewish Law.]

The riot caused by the Jews from Asia

30 And the city was in an uproar, and the people ran together and grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the Temple, and the doors were shut. 31 They aimed to kill him, when the word came to the captain of the military guard that Jerusalem was rioting. 32 The military guard brought both soldiers and centurions and ran to where the people had Paul, and when the group saw the captain and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

Paul’s arrest

33 Then the captain came and took him into custody, commanding that he be bound with two chains. The captain demanded to know who Paul was and what he had done. 34 And some cried one thing and some another among the crowd, and when the captain couldn’t determine exactly what had caused the disturbance, he commanded them to carry Paul into the fortress. 

Paul's arrest

35 He made it as far as the stairs, but then the soldiers had to carry him, because of the force of the crowd. 36 The mob chased after him, crying out, “Kill him!” 37 Just as he was about to be led inside the castle, Paul said to the captain, “Can I speak with you?” The commander asked, “You speak Greek then? 38 Then you must not be that man from Egypt who started an uprising some time ago and led four thousand men who were all murderers into the wilderness.” 39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a [Roman] citizen of no small city, and I am asking you, please let me speak to the people”.

40 And when the captain had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs, and motioned with his hand to the large crowd. And when they became silent, Paul spoke to them in Hebrew.

Discussion questions

1. Why do you think Paul is in such a hurry to get to Jerusalem if he already knew that he might die there? Was it right for his friends to try to talk him out of going? Was it right for them to stop trying to persuade him?

Acts Chapter 21 discussion questions

2. Do you think that the plan of James and the elders for Paul to carry through on a purity vow and sponsor others to do the same, was a good idea? Why do you think it didn’t work?

Acts Chapter 22

Acts Chapter 22

Paul’s self defense

“Brothers and fathers, hear my own defense before you.” When they heard he spoke in Hebrew, they became more quiet, and he began to speak, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, in Cilicia [in what today would be far southeastern Turkey]. I was brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel [, where I studied with this famous rabbi], who taught me well the ways of our fathers, and I became passionate towards God, just as all of you are this day.

Paul's self defense

[Out of my passion,] I persecuted to the point of death [those I perceived to be perverters of the truth, the followers of] The Way, capturing and imprisoning both men and women. 5The high priest and all the elders themselves can testify that I obtained letters authorizing me to bring into custody the brothers [who followed The Way] in Damascus and bring them here to Jerusalem to be punished.

“I was on my way and had come near to Damascus. It was around midday, when suddenly from the sky a very bright light shined all around me, and I fell to the ground. I heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Sir?’ And the voice responded, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ Those who were with me saw the light but didn’t hear the voice that spoke to me.

10 “I then said, ‘What shall I do, Sir?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all the things that you must do.’ 11 I had been blinded by the brightness of the light, so I had to be led by the hands of those with me into Damascus. 12 [In Damascus,] there was a man who carefully observed the Law named Ananias, who was well respected by all the Jews.

13 “Ananias came and stood before me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive back your sight’, and now I was able to see him. 14 And he said to me, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you. You must come to understand the will of the Righteous One and hear his voice. 12 You will be a witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why wait? Rise up and be baptized and wash away all your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

17 “Later, when I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple, and in a trance, 18 I saw him [the Lord], and he said, ‘Hurry up and quickly leave Jerusalem, for they will not receive your witness about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘But Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and had beaten those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of your witness, Stephen, was shed, I was right there, agreeing [with his murder], holding the cloaks of those who killed him.’ 21 And he [the Lord] said back to me, ‘Go forth, for I am sending you to the non-Jews in foreign lands.’”

Paul’s Roman guard in Jerusalem

22 After the crowd had heard him say all this, they lifted up their voices, and said, “Remove this man from the earth, for he is not fit to live [because of how deeply he has betrayed our God and our beliefs]!” 23 And as they cried out, ripped their clothes, and threw dust into the air [to indicate how thoroughly they rejected what he stood for]24 the captain commanded he be brought into the fortress, whipped, and questioned, so they could understand why the crowd was so angry against him.

Paul's Roman guard in Jerusalem

25 As they bound him with straps, Paul said to the centurion who was supervising, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who has not gone to trial?” 12 'When the centurion heard this, he went to the captain and said, “Be careful what you do, for this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 Then the captain came to him and said, “Are you really a Roman citizen?”, and Paul answered, “Yes”. 28 And the captain answered, “It took me a large sum of money to buy my freedom”, but Paul responded, “In my case, I was born free.”

29 After that, they backed away from him, since the captain was afraid, realizing they should have examined him first since he was a Roman citizen and they had bound him without cause. 30 He decided therefore that he would settle the next day exactly why Paul was accused by the Jews. [If the Jews had a serious grievance, then it was good the soldiers had captured him, but if not, then the captain might be in trouble.  He needed to know what was really going on.] So the captain had Paul loosed from his bonds and ordered the chief priests and all the Jewish council to appear and brought Paul before them. [The Jewish council included representatives from major religious parties such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, the priesthood, and the elected elders of the people.]

Discussion questions

1. As Paul tells the Jews the story of how he came to follow Jesus rather than be against them, what did you learn that was not recorded in Acts 9? What is he hoping will happen in the mind of his Jewish hearers as he tells this part of his story? Why do you suppose Paul had been able to change his heart to follow Jesus, and his Jewish persecutor years later were not able to change?

Acts Chapter 22 discussion questions

2. How do you see that Paul used his status as a native Roman citizen? What has God provided you from your origins that gives you an advantage for sharing the Good News?

Acts Chapter 23

Acts Chapter 23

Division in the Jewish Council over Paul

Paul looked straight at the Council and said, “Brothers, I have lived with a clean conscience before God to this very day”. And the high priest, Ananias, directed those next to Paul to strike him on his mouth. [Ananias felt Paul was insulting their Jewish faith, especially by claiming to have a clean conscience, so punished him by ordering them to strike him in the mouth.] Paul said to him, “God will surely strike you, you white-washed wall! [You are a fake!] You sit there to judge me according to the Law, yet you yourself break the Law by ordering them to strike me!” [Deuteronomy 25:2] Those who stood there said, “You are insulting the high priest!” Then Paul replied, “I didn’t know he was the high priest [or I wouldn’t have spoken against him even though he sinned by unjustly striking me], because it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people’ [Exodus 22:28].

Division in the Jewish Council over Paul

Paul noticed that some of the Council were Sadducees and some Pharisees. So he cried out in the Council meeting, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee! I am on trial here because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and so the group was divided. [Paul took advantage of the theological difference between the two groups.] For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, nor angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all three.

This resulted in a noisy outcry, the interpreters of the Law that were Pharisees exclaiming, “We don’t find any evil in this man, since a spirit or angel might have spoken to him.” 10 The disagreement began to get out-of-hand, and the captain feared that Paul might be torn into pieces by them, so he commanded the soldiers to go down and remove Paul from their midst and to bring him into the castle.

11 And in the night that followed, the Lord stood by Paul, and said, “Be encouraged!  For you have testified for my sake in Jerusalem. But you must also testify in Rome!” [Paul must have later reported this to his friends.]

Vow and plan to kill Paul

12 When it was daytime, some of the Jews banded together and made a vow that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and told them, “We have bound ourselves with a vow that we will eat nothing at all until we have killed Paul. 15 Send word from you and the Council for the Roman captain to bring Paul before you again, as though you need to get a better understanding by examining him. But he will never get here, for we will be ready to kill him.”

Vow and plan to kill Paul

16 And the son of Paul’s sister heard that they would be lying in wait, so he proceeded to enter the castle and told Paul. 17 Paul told one of the centurions, “Take this young man to the captain of the guard, for he has something to tell him.” 18 The centurion took him to the captain and said to him, “The prisoner called to me and asked me to take this young man to you, because he has something to tell you.” 19 And the captain took him aside and asked him, “What do you have to tell me?”

20 He told the captain, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to them tomorrow so they can examine him further, 21 but do not agree to their request, for more than forty men will be lying in wait, bound by a vow to neither eat nor drink until they have killed him. And now they are ready, looking for a promise from you.” 22 So the captain allowed the young man to leave, and instructed him, “Tell no one what you have told me.”

Paul delivered to Governor Felix

23 The captain called to him two centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen, to depart the third hour of the night [nine o’clock]24 And provide horses to carry Paul [and his belongings] and bring him safely to Governor Felix [who ruled for Rome over both Judea and Samaria] in Caesarea.

Paul delivered to Governor Felix

25 The captain also wrote a letter, that went like this, 26 “From Claudias Lysias to the most excellent governor Felix. I send greetings. 27 This man was captured by the Jews and would have been killed by them if I hadn’t rescued him with a troop of soldiers, knowing that he was a Roman citizen. 28 To gain an understanding of why they accused him, I called forth the Jewish Council. 29 I saw that their charges were matters of their own law, but nothing worthy of death or imprisonment. 30 When it was revealed to me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, right away I sent him to you and instructed his accusers to say what they have against him before you.”

31 Then the soldiers carried out their orders and brought Paul by night to Antipatris [about 40 miles from Jerusalem]32 The next day the foot soldiers returned to the castle in Jerusalem, leaving the horsemen to accompany Paul. 33 When they arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the captain and presented Paul to him as well.

34 When the governor [Felix] had read the letter, he asked Paul what province he was from. [This would determine who had jurisdiction.] When he understood Paul was from Cilicia [in eastern modern Turkey], 35 he said, “I will hear your case after your accusers have come [for I have the jurisdiction].” He then gave orders that Paul be kept [under guard] in Herod’s judgment hall [the palace built by Herod the Great].

Discussion questions

1. How was Paul able to use the theological differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees? Could Paul potentially have used this to have the charges dismissed altogether? Why did Paul not do this?

Acts Chapter 23 discussion questions

2. Was the captain completely honest in describing to the governor how he had handled the incident involving Paul? Did he do a good job of protecting Paul?

Acts Chapter 24

Acts Chapter 24

Paul’s trial before Felix

Five days later, the high priest Ananias traveled down [from Jerusalem] with certain of the Jewish elders and an orator [a skilled speaker who served as the prosecuting attorney] named Tertullus who made the case before the governor against Paul. When he was called upon, Tertullus made his opening argument, saying, “Most excellent Felix, through you we enjoy a long-lasting peace, and you have done great things for our nation through your kind provision. We acknowledge all that you have done, and we are very grateful to you. I don’t want to try your patience, but I beg you to give us your kind attention for our brief account.

Paul's trial before Felix

“We have found this man to be like a plague, for he spreads rebellion among the Jews all over the world, and he is one of the ringleaders of the cult of the Nazarenes. [This was one of the names given the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.] He also intended to perform forbidden acts in the Temple but we captured him ourselves instead. We would have judged him according to the Law, but Captain Lysias interfered and took him away with overwhelming force, commanding his accusers to come before you. If you examine him yourself, you will hear exactly why we brought these accusations. [His own words will explain to you why he is so dangerous.]All the Jewish leaders added their testimony and they agree with this account.

10 Then Paul answered, after the governor invited him to speak, “Because I know you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I am happy to make my defense before you. 11 As you can easily determine yourself, it has been only twelve days since I arrived in Jerusalem to worship. 12 When they found me in the Temple, I was arguing with no one. I did not stir up a crowd in the synagogues or any other place in the city. 13 Nor do they have any evidence for the accusations they are making against me.

14 “I will admit it is true that I worship the God of our fathers by following “The Way” [as it is called], which is not a cult as they say. For in fact I believe everything written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 15 I have the same hope as them that there will come a Resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous. 16 And I live in such a way that I have a clear conscience before both God and men.

17 “After being away from Jerusalem for a number of years, I returned there to bring a financial gift to my own people and also to offer sacrifices. 18 It was while I was carrying this out that they found me in the Temple after I had completed the ceremony of purification. There was no crowd around me or anything out of order. However, there were some Jews from the province of Asia [where I had been before I came to Jerusalem]19 If they have something against me, they ought to come before you and make their accusations. 20 Or these men here can tell you what crime they accused me of before the Council. 21 Unless it was that, as I cried out then, ‘I am being tried before you today because I believe that the dead will rise to life.’ [Some of the Jews here before you believe the very same thing.]

Paul’s witness to Felix

22 Then Felix, already having familiarity with “The Way”, adjourned the trial and said, “Your case will be decided when Captain Lysias arrives. 23 He gave orders for a centurion to keep Paul under guard, but to give him some freedom, and allow his friends to provide what he needed. [Giving Paul freedom, as it turns out may have been less out of kindness and more because Felix hoped for a bribe from Paul’s friends.]

Paul's witness to Felix

24 A few days later, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul. They listened to him speak about faith in the anointed one, Jesus. 25 However, as Paul began to discuss righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became fearful, and said, “That’s enough for now. I will call for you when I have more time.” 26 He was also hoping that Paul would pay him money [for his release]. For this reason, he frequently sent for him and spent time with him. 27 Yet, after two years had passed, Porcius Festus replaced Felix as governor. Felix kept Paul in prison all that time to gain in favor with the Jews. [Even though both Felix and then Festus in turn, as the Roman governors, carried authority over Rome’s Jewish subjects, neither was above giving favor in return for either money or good will.]

Discussion questions

1. Do you think that Paul was ever given a fair trial in Caesarea? How did Paul use his times with Felix and Drusilla?

Acts Chapter 24 discussion questions

2. Have you ever been falsely accused and brought before authorities? Were you more interested in defending yourself or in giving a good witness for who Jesus is in your life?

Acts Chapter 25

Acts Chapter 25

Paul’s hearing before Festus

When Festus first arrived in the province [of Judea and Samaria that he was to govern] at Caesarea [the primary Roman port city], he went to Jerusalem. It was then that the high priest [Ananias] and the Jews informed him of their charges against Paul and told him what they desired. They were seeking that he would order Paul to be brought to Jerusalem, but their plan [once again] was to lay in wait along the way to kill him [Acts 23:20-21]But Festus replied that Paul would be kept in Caesarea and that he himself would shortly leave for there. He told them, “Whoever can come from your group, let them go there with me, and bring charges against the man, if he has done any wrong.”   

Paul's hearing before Festus

When Festus had waited eight to ten more days among them [in Jerusalem], he traveled to Caesarea [along with a sizable number of the Jewish accusers of Paul]. The next day, sitting on his judgment seat, he ordered for Paul to be brought. And when Paul stood in front of him, the many Jews who had come down from Jerusalem brought some serious charges against him, though they could not prove them.

Paul defended himself, “Oh Festus, I have committed no offense at all against the Law of the Jews, or against the Temple, or against Caesar!” But wanting to please the Jews, Festus answered Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and be tried there for these accusations before me?” 10 Paul replied, “I stand at the judgment seat of Caesar, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong against the Jews, as you can perceive better than most. 11 If I were judged to be unrighteous or to have committed something worthy of death, then I would not resist my execution as my judgment. But since there is nothing to these charges these men make, it is wrong to turn me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” [Paul was a Roman citizen and therefore had a right to be tried before the emperor’s court.] 12 After Festus talked with his own advisors, he said, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you shall go.”

Visit of Agrippa and Bernice

13 Some while later, King Agrippa [the last of the Herod dynasty, who ruled a small area in what is today southwestern Syria] and Bernice [his sister, who lived with him,] came to welcome Festus. 14 And after they had been visiting there for some time, Festus mentioned Paul’s case to the king, “There is a certain man in our custody remaining from Felix’ administration. 15 When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priest and elders lobbied for me to judge his case. 16 To which I answered, it is not the Roman way to deliver any man to death before he has the right to face his accuser and defend himself against the charges. 17 When they came, without any delay, the very next day, I sat on the judgment seat and ordered the man to be brought forth.

Visit of Agrippa and Bernice

18 “But when the accusers stood against him, they didn’t bring the type of accusation I expected, 19 but rather things having to do with their own religion that they held against him, concerning someone named Jesus, who was dead but whom Paul declared was alive. 20 I had doubts about how to proceed with this kind of question, so I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and there be tried on these matters [since I could have access there to those who might understand the issues]21 But Paul appealed, asking to be kept until he could be tried in front of [Emperor] Augustus, so I ordered he be kept under guard until I could send him to Caesar [the emperor].”

22 “Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” Festus replied, “Then tomorrow you shall hear him.” 23 The next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great ceremony and entered the audience hall with the military chiefs and leading men of the city, and Festus ordered for Paul to be brought in. 24 And Festus spoke, “King Agrippa and all those present, you see here a man against whom all the Jews have complained, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting out that he no longer deserves to live. 25 But I did not find him having committed any crimes worthy of death.

“Since he has appealed to Caesar, I have decided to send him [to Rome as he has requested]26 But I have nothing definite to write to my Lord[, the Emperor, about his case]. So I have brought him before all of you and especially you, King Agrippa, so that after investigating his case, I might have something to write. 27 For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without clearly presenting the charges against him.”

Discussion questions

1. What do you think would have happened if Paul had given in to being tried in Jerusalem? What are the reasons Paul appealed to his right to be tried before Caesar? What do you think resulted from this decision?

Acts Chapter 25 discussion questions

2. Why was Herod’s family so curious about Jewish holy men like John the Baptist (Mark 6:20), Jesus (Luke 23:8), and Paul (Acts 25:22)? What was the root of their curiosity? And what do you think was the reason that they did not change their hearts and follow God?

Acts Chapter 26

Acts Chapter 26

Paul’s defense before King Agrippa

Then, [King] Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak.” Paul stretched out his hand and began his account in defense of himself, “With respect to all the accusations the Jews have made against me, King Agrippa, I am glad to make my defense before you, because you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and issues, so I beg you to patiently hear me.

Paul's defense before King Agrippa

“All the Jews know the way I lived from a young age, first in my own country [Tarsus of Cilicia, in today’s eastern Turkey] and then in Jerusalem. If they [my Jewish accusers] testified, they themselves could tell you I lived as a Pharisee, the strictest group of our religion. And I am on trial because I stand for the hope of our ancestors for [the fulfillment of] God’s promise, the very promise for which the twelve tribes of our people worship God fervently night and day! It is because of this hope, oh King, that I am accused by the Jews. It shouldn’t be so hard for you [who are listening] to believe that God would raise the dead [since it is at the center of our faith].

[The “hope of the Jews” to which Paul is referring is for the coming of the Anointed One, and with his coming, the restoration of the Jewish kingdom, the return of the exiles, and at the time of the Judgment, the resurrection of those who had died. These expectations were included in the Temple prayer every evening and morning as well as Jewish household prayers recited night and day. Paul is claiming that his belief in Jesus as the Anointed One and his resurrection from death are completely consistent with Jewish belief and hopes as evidenced by their worship.]

[Even though I would desire you all to see that Jesus is the Anointed One, there was a time that I, like you, thought that such a belief was an insult to God.] I myself thought I should do everything I could against the name of Jesus [and all who believed in him], 10 which I proceeded to carry out in Jerusalem. Obtaining the authority of the chief priests, I put many of the believers in prison, and at their sentencing, I voted against them in favor of their execution. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues and tried to force them to deny their faith. I was so enraged against them, I even pursued them to foreign cities. [So I understand how strongly some Jews feel against the things I now know to be true.]

12 “In fact, I was on my way to Damascus, with authority granted by the chief priests [to persecute the followers of Jesus]13 At the height of the day as we were on the road, I saw a light from heaven that was brighter than the sun, and it shined all around me and those who were with me. 14 And when we had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speak to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you fighting me? You will hurt yourself if you resist what I am doing.’

15 “And I said, ‘Who are you, Sir?’ And he told me, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are fighting. 16 But stand up. I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant, so that you may tell others what you are now seeing and the things I will yet show you. 17 I will keep you safe from those to whom I send you, both your people [the Jews] and the non-Jews [who will also persecute you]18 I am sending you to turn them from darkness to light, from the rule of Satan to [the kingdom of] God, so through faith in me, they may receive forgiveness of sins and their place among God’s chosen people.’

19 “After that [encounter], I was not disobedient to the vision [I received] from heaven.  20 First to those [the Jews especially] in Damascus, and in Jerusalem and throughout Judea, and [finally] to the non-Jewish nations, I declared that they should turn their thoughts toward God’s [ways] and do works [demonstrating their new life].

21 “This is the reason the Jews captured me in the Temple and tried to kill me. [Just as the Lord told me, I was to bring both Jews and non-Jews from darkness to light, but in the process there are many who resist the message of Jesus risen from the dead, just as I once did.] 22 But I have received help from God to this very day, so I continue to share my testimony with both the great and lowly. What I am sharing is not different from what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass – 23 that the Anointed One would be the first to rise from the dead, a light shown forth both to our own people and the non-Jews [alike].”

24 In the middle of Paul’s defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are crazy!  Your great learning is driving you crazy!” 25 But Paul replied, “I am not crazy, noble Festus. But the words I speak are both sober and true. 26 For the King [Agrippa] knows about these things, so I can speak about them freely, for I am confident he is aware of all that happened, since they were not done hidden in some corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do believe. [For if you believe them, I can show you what they said predicting the coming Anointed One and how he would come and suffer and die for all.  Jesus has fulfilled all that they said the Anointed One would do.]” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In such a short time, you would persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Whether in a short time or long, I would to God that both you and all those listening to me this day would be [followers of Jesus] as I am but without these chains!”

30 Then the king [Agrippa] and the governor [Festus] rose up and also Bernice [Agrippa’s wife] and the others who sat with them [for the hearing with Paul]31 And when they went to a private place, they said among themselves, “This man has done nothing deserving of death or even imprisonment.” 32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free, except that he already appealed to Caesar.” [An appeal to Caesar by a Roman citizen had to be honored even if evidence indicated he was not guilty. But Jesus had already appeared to Paul and told him he was to testify in Rome (Acts 23:11).]

Discussion questions

1. Do you think it is fitting that Paul was persecuted the same way he once persecuted other Christians? But does he treat himself as superior to them, or use this fact to hopefully appeal to them? Do you think Paul makes a good case?

Acts Chapter 26 discussion questions

2. Why did Festus think Paul was sounding crazy? Why did he not sound crazy to Agrippa? Why did this not lead Agrippa to a saving knowledge of Jesus?

Acts Chapter 27

Acts Chapter 27

Sailing from Israel to Turkey

Once it had been determined we would sail to Italy, they [Festus and his soldiers] delivered Paul and some other prisoners over to a centurion named Julius who was from the Imperial Regiment [that served the Emperor directly][That the author says “we” indicates that Luke accompanied Paul on this journey.] Boarding a ship from Adramyttium [a city in Asia on the northwest coast of modern Turkey], which was set to sail by way of the Asia coastline, we departed. We had with us a man named Aristarchus, from Thessalonica in Macedonia. [Aristarchus was a fellow Christian worker and a prisoner himself according to Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 1:24.]

Sailing from Israel to Turkey

The next day we stopped at Sidon [north of Caesarea on the coast of modern Lebanon]. Julius [the centurion] was kind to Paul and allowed him to visit his friends [in Sidon] who supplied his needs. We launched from there and sailed on the protected side of Cyprus [the east] because the wind was against us [they were proceeding towards the west and the wind was from the west]When we had sailed over the sea past Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra [in the province] of Lycia. [This may have been the destination of the ship, so Julius was now required to find another ship]The centurion found a ship there from Alexandria sailing to Italy and he placed us on board.

From Turkey to Crete

We made slow progress for many days and with great difficulty finally made it near the town of Cnidus [on the southwestern coast of Turkey]. Because the wind was against us [sailing directly towards the south coast of Greece], we sailed towards the south of Crete [the more sheltered and populated side], and barely making it past Salmone and came to the place called Safe Harbor and near that the town of Lasea [on the shore near the middle of Crete].

FromTurkey to Crete

We spent many days there [possibly recovering from damage in the voyage and restocking the ship]. As a result, it was dangerous to continue the voyage, for it was already after the Fast [the annual Day of Atonement which also marked the beginning of Fall weather]. And Paul advised them, 10 “Men, I have seen [from what the Lord has revealed to me] that traveling from here will result in much harm and damage not only of our supplies and the ship itself, but potentially also of our lives.”

11 Nevertheless, the centurion put his trust more in the helmsman and the owner of the ship than in what Paul had spoken. 12 [Also,] because the harbor did not provide good accommodation for the winter months, many advised that they should depart so they could possibly make it to Phoenix, a harbor [at the western end] of Crete facing both the southwest and northwest winds.

The storm and disaster

13 When the wind blew softly from the south, they thought their plan would work, so taking up anchor, they sailed near the coastline [so if the wind reversed they would be less likely to be driven out to sea]14 But after only a short time, a strong wind rose against us from the east, 15 and the ship was caught in it and could not bear up into the wind [which was necessary to get back to the island], so we let the ship be driven before the wind [thus taking us west]16 Seeking shelter by sailing just on the south of the small island of Cauda, we had difficulty securing the ship’s landing boat. 17 They pulled it aboard and tied it to the ship with ropes. Because they were afraid of being beached on the shoals [the rocky shores of the African coast], they lowered the sail and let the ship be driven ahead.

The storm and disaster

18 The storm continued to toss them violently, so the next day they began to jettison the cargo, 19 and the following day with our own hands we tossed away the ships sails and ropes. 20 For many days, we could see neither sun nor the stars, and we lost almost all hope of being saved.

21 After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have left from Crete, and we would not have had this harm and loss. 22 But even now, I tell you, be encouraged, for though we will lose the ship, not one of you will lose your life. 23 [I know this because] this night, a messenger [angel] from the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, [came and] stood by me, 24 saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. For you must appear before Caesar, and God has granted you [the lives of] all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 Therefore, cheer up, for I believe God. It will be exactly as he told me. 26 For we will be driven ashore on some island.”

27 On the fourteenth night [out], as we continued to be driven forward on the sea, around midnight the sailors thought we were approaching land. 28 When they measured the depth, they found it was twenty fathoms [120 feet], and a little later they measured again and it was fifteen fathoms [90 feet]29 Afraid we would crash on the rocks and be thrown overboard, they cast anchors and prayed for daytime to come. 

30 Then the sailors tried to escape from the ship. They let down the ship’s boat into the sea, pretending they were going to cast more anchors from the bow. 31 But Paul said to the centurion and soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you will not be saved!” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes of the boat and let it fall.

Paul’s direction saves the ship’s passengers

33 As it was turning to daylight, Paul encouraged them all to eat, saying, “This is the fourteenth day and you have abstained from eating all this time. 34 Therefore I am asking you to eat for your strength. I am telling you, not a hair of your head will be destroyed.” 35 When he had spoken, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all, and when he had broken it, began to eat. 36 And they were all encouraged and began to eat. 37 There was a total of two hundred and seventy-six of us on board. 38 After everyone had eaten, they lightened the load, throwing the wheat overboard.

Paul's direction saves the ship's passengers

39 When it was fully day, they didn’t recognize the land, but saw it had a bay with a shore [not rocks], so they made up their minds to bring the ship aground there if possible. 40 So they pulled up the anchors and let the sea drive them forward. Also, they loosed the bands of the steering oars, hoisted the foresail to catch the wind, and made toward shore. 41 But the ship hit a sandbank and ran aground. The front was stuck and the back was being battered by the violence of the waves.

42 The soldiers wanted to kill all the prisoners to keep them from swimming ashore and escaping. 43 But the centurion, determined to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He commanded those who could swim to go first and get to land. 44 And the remainder used boards or broken pieces of the ship. And so it happened that all of them made it safely to shore [just as Paul had said].

Discussion questions

1. What enabled Paul to gradually take over the leadership of the ship in spite of being a prisoner? How important is continual prayer in order to hear from the Lord? How important then is boldness in sharing what you hear?

Acts Chapter 27 discussion questions

2. How was Paul like Jesus in handling a storm at sea? In what ways was he different?

Acts Chapter 28

Acts Chapter 28

Paul’s impact on Malta

Once everyone was safe, they found out the island was called Melita [Malta]And the natives [people of the island], showed us no little kindness. They gathered us all around a fire they started because it was raining and cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks together [for the fire] when a poisonous snake came away from the fire and clamped onto his hand.

Paul's impact on Malta

When the natives saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said among themselves, “No doubt this man is a murderer, for though he was saved from the sea, he has been condemned [by the gods], not allowed to live.” Yet Paul simply shook the snake off into the fire and experienced no harmful effects. [This fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus from Mark 16:18.] For a long time, the natives observed him, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down [from the effects of the bite]. When they saw no effect on him at all, they changed their thinking, and said he was a god.

Not far from that place was the home of Publius, the chief of the island, and he welcomed us kindly, and cared for us for three days as his guests. It turned out that Publius’ father lay sick with a fever and dysentery [a disease of the intestines]. Paul entered [where the father lay], laid his hands on him, and healed him. After this took place, all those in the island who were sick came [to Paul] and were healed. 10 [As a result, the islanders] gave us many honors and before we left, resupplied us with all we needed.

From Malta to Rome

11 After having been on the island three months, we were able to embark on a ship from Alexandria which had wintered on the island, under the sign of the twins [having a figurehead of the twin Gods Castor and Pollux who were believed to watch over sailors]12 We landed at Syracuse [on the southeastern coast of Sicily] and stayed there three days.

From Malta to Rome

13 From there we sailed to Rhegium [at the tip of the toe of Italy], where we waited a day until the south wind blew, and the next day made it to Puteoli [near Naples]14 There we found brother believers who met our needs so we could stay with them seven days, and then we went on to Rome. 15 When the brother believers [in Rome] heard we were coming, they came as far as Appii Forum and the Three Taverns to greet us. And when Paul saw them, he thanked God [for fulfilling all God had said concerning this journey] and was encouraged [by being among believers].

Paul’s sermon to the Roman Jews

16 When we arrived in Rome, Paul was allowed to live [in a rented house] by himself with a soldier guarding him. [Probably, the centurion Julius spoke on his behalf how Paul had been a model prisoner and had in fact saved the lives of the passengers through his guidance.] 17After three days, Paul called together the chief Jews [of Rome] and when they met with him, he told them, “Fellow Jews, [I want to explain to you how I have come to be delivered here as a prisoner]. Even though I had done nothing against the [Jewish] people or the customs of our fathers, I was made a prisoner in Jerusalem. 18 They turned me over to the Romans, who found I had committed no crime worthy of death and would have released me. 19 But when my Jewish accusers spoke against my acquittal, I had no choice but to appeal to Caesar, though I myself made no counter accusation against my fellow Jews. 20 This is why I asked to see you and talk to you. As a matter of fact, I am in chains like this for the sake of [following] him who is the hope of Israel [the Anointed One, whom has been foretold for centuries].”

Paul's sermon to the Roman Jews

21 They [the Jews of Rome] replied to him, “We have neither received any letters from Judea about you nor have any of our Jewish brothers spoken anything bad about you.  22 But we would like to hear what you have to say about this faction [the followers of Jesus] that we know has aroused controversy everywhere.”

23 They made an appointment and many came to his house, and he explained and gave his testimony to them about the kingdom of God from the morning until the evening, to convince them [of the truth] concerning Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 And some believed what he had told them and some did not.

25 They couldn’t reach agreement, so they departed, but Paul had one last word, “The Holy Spirit spoke accurately about you through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers [Isaiah 6:9-10], saying, 26 ‘Go to this people and say, “You will listen and listen, but not understand. You will look and look, but not see. 27 Because this people’s ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes are closed, or else they would see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and change their minds, and I would heal them.”’ 28 Let it be known to you that the [word of] the salvation of God will be sent to the non-Jews and they will listen to it.” [Some manuscripts have an additional verse 29, “When he said these words, the Jews departed, with much dissension among them.”]

How Paul used his Roman confinement

30 Paul stayed there two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to visit him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching with complete assurance about the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, and no one stopped him.

How Paul used his Roman confinement

Discussion questions

1. Why was Paul not affected by the bite of the poisonous snake? How was he able to heal all of the sick people on the island? How did these factors affect the openness of the people of the island to Paul and his team?

Acts Chapte 28 discussion questions

2. Paul made a great effort to reach his fellow Jews in Rome. When we go to a new city or land today, do you think we are under an obligation to reach the Jews? Or was that specific to Paul?

3. What effect do you think Paul might have had among the believers in Rome over a two year period, even if restricted to his house? Who do you think provided for his needs?

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