Bible Study on Acts

These posts are notes I have used when I teach my ladies Sunday School class.  We have spent over a year walking through the book of Acts as well as discussing Christian heroes and points on developing a biblical worldview.

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Acts 27:39-44

  • This bay later became aptly named St. Paul’s Bay, but since it was not the main port, the sailors didn’t recognize it.
  • Here again, God uses a Gentile (the centurion) to save Paul’s life. All of the prisoners are spared as well because of Julius’ affection and respect for Paul.

Acts 28:1-10

  • The term “natives” makes it sound like they were a tribe of Indians.  However, the Greek term used here “barbaroi” simply means non-Greek speakers.  Based on their actions, they were a civilized people.  They were of Phoenician descent.
  • God saves Paul from this deadly viper. Some might say it wasn’t really poisonous, but both Luke and the locals thought it was.  FYI – there are no longer any vipers on the island of Malta.
  • I love Paul’s calm reaction. I would’ve been jumping around and be yelling and screaming.  Paul just casually shook the snake off and kept on adding wood to the fire.  He so believed in God’s word that he would make it to Rome, he didn’t even worry about this poisonous snake, nor did he sit around feeling sorry for himself.
    • There’s something here to learn for ourselves. If we stay busy, even if it’s just putting wood on the fire, we’re a lot less likely to fall into depression or self-pity.  I’m not saying you will never feel down and of course, clinical depression is different altogether, but we are much more likely to “get the blues” when we are idle.
    • It’s important to note that Paul wasn’t just staying busy; he was serving others by keeping this fire going.
  • The chief man Publius was really the Roman governor of the island. God blesses his hospitality and treatment of the sailors and prisoners by allowing/helping Paul to heal his father.  It’s interesting that Publius was hospitable even though his father was dying.  I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to find excuses to not be hospitable.  It’s easy to justify our lack of opening our home to others by saying we’re too busy, or our house isn’t tidy enough, etc.  Publius didn’t make excuses.  He was hospitable despite his pain in seeing his father suffer.  (Fyi – the fever was probably gastric fever which was common on the island and was contracted from contaminated goat’s milk.  Dysentery is from unsanitary living conditions and was common in the ancient world.)
  • Even though Luke doesn’t record it, Paul no doubt used the opportunity of drawing crowds to preach to the people of Malta. He would’ve had plenty of opportunities since they spent 3 months on the island.
  • Historically, the church in Malta dates back to this time with none other than Publius as its first pastor. 10 gives strong evidence that Paul had established a church since the people honored them and gave them all that they needed for their upcoming journey.

Acts 28:11-16

  • The ship they took was probably another one of the imperial grain ships, similar to the one they’d been on.
  • According to tradition, Paul established a church in Syracuse, even though he only spent 3 days there. Did the man ever rest?
  • Puteoli was the key port of Italy. It was a large city, so it’s not surprising that there were believers there.  Julius grants Paul 7 days to stay with the believers there.
  • 14b is probably the understatement of the century: “And so we came to Rome.” It had been quite a long and remarkable and miraculous journey.
  • Believers from Rome traveled to meet Paul – Three Taverns was only 10 miles away, but the Forum of Appius was a whopping 43 miles from Rome. Overcome by the love these brothers showed, Paul was greatly encouraged.
  • That’s what the church does – goes out of its way to love one another as Christ commanded. And what a testimony it must’ve been to those with Paul!  That men would travel on short notice for a very long distance, just to see and encourage Paul and also to tend to his needs.
  • 16 says that Paul continues to receive lenient treatment from the Romans upon his arrival.

Biblical worldview teaching point: The flood

  • There was a global, catastrophic flood just like we read in Genesis.
  • Most ancient cultures had a form of a flood story in which there was a massive flood and only a few survived. The story of the ark was spread after the tower of Babel and was altered slightly in different regions as it was passed down through the generations, but the main tenets are there in them.
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  • From the time the flooding began to the time Noah and his family could disembark, it was just over a year.
  • Contrary to popular coloring book pages, the ark had three decks and was large enough to hold 450 18 wheelers. It was big enough to save Noah’s family, the 6700 animals and birds, all of their food, and have a tad room to spare.
  • Also contrary to coloring books, none of the animals or people were exposed. For obvious reasons, they were all firmly shut inside the ark; remember, God himself shut them inside before the sent the flood.
  • Contrary to stories and children’s songs, the flood was a terrifying, geological event. It wasn’t just rain and thunder for a long time.  The phrase “all the fountains of the deep burst forth” implies that there was both volcanic activity and earthquakes, especially along the ocean floor, for the first 150 days.  A map of the current ocean floor shows fault lines and volcanic cones, as you would expect from that time.  This caused unimaginable tsunamis worldwide in addition to the rain that fell.
  • The water level peaked sometime between the 40th and 150th
  • Most of the earth’s sedimentary rock and fossil record are a direct result of the flood.
  • Due to the violence of the flood, not only were the land animals and birds destroyed, but also sea creatures.

So what?

  • The flood further confirms the concept of a young earth.
  • The flood further confirms the truth of Scripture.
  • The flood warns us that Christ’s return will occur as suddenly as the flood did, and, as people perished with the flood, so they will perish at his return if they have not placed their faith in Christ alone for salvation.

noah's ark

 

FYi – the ark was still smaller than the Titanic

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Acts 26:30-32

  • The king agrees that Paul is innocent. However, they send him to Caesar anyway and we don’t know what they write regarding the charges against Paul since Luke doesn’t feel it necessary to include them here.

Acts 27:1-12

  • Julius was a centurion and one of his tasks was transporting important prisoners to Rome. There was no official ship to do this; that’s why we see him bouncing from port to port with prisoners trying to get his prisoners and soldiers to Italy.
  • Paul spent years pouring into others; here, God provides two faithful men to minister to him. Luke and Aristarchus might possibly have claimed to be Paul’s slaves in order to be allowed to accompany him.  What humility and sacrifice on their part to travel a long, dangerous journey without knowing how they would provide for their own needs…just to help a friend.
  • Aristarchus is also mentioned when he is grabbed by an angry mob in Ephesus as well as accompanying Paul to Jerusalem with the offering for the saints there. According to tradition, he was also martyred by Nero.
  • 3 – It is incredible that Julius had already grown to trust Paul so greatly that he allows him to leave the ship. If he had lost Paul, he would’ve been executed.
  • Since they were on small vessels, and the winds were unfavorable, this is why we see them sailing along the coast rather than just out on the open sea. It was safer.
  • Ships did not sail between mid-September to February. It was simply too dangerous.  Since the day of Atonement was in late September or early October; they were already well into the dangerous period for ships.
  • Wisely, Paul advises them to winter in Fair Havens. He had already been shipwrecked three times and didn’t really want to go through it all again.  However, they decided to gamble because it was safer to winter in the nearby harbor of Phoenix (about 40 miles away.)

Acts 27:13-20

  • Do you think that Paul said, “I told you so” or do you think he just looked up at heaven and shook his head?
  • Just fyi – securing the ship’s boat meant hauling the lifeboat on board. It was difficult because it was already full of water.  By using the term “we”, Luke tells us that the conditions at sea are so perilous that even the prisoners are helping the crew on deck.
  • The Syrtis was the dreaded graveyard of ships off the coast of North Africa. Why was it so dangerous?  It was a gulf that had many shallows in which sailors would run aground and be unable to unearth the ship.  It also contained tons of seaweed, making it additionally difficult to escape.  Sailors avoided this area at all costs.  The story Jason and the Golden Fleece mentions this area as does the ancient Greek geographer Strabo.  It was still a pretty good distance, but they didn’t know that.  20 tells us why.  The fact that the sun and stars had not been visible in a long time tells us that they lost all ability to navigate.  They had no GPS; they navigated using the constellations.
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Acts 27:21-38

  • 21 – They hadn’t eaten because they were busy fighting to save the ship in the storm. They were also undoubtedly seasick in the violent storm.
  • I love that Paul’s faith doesn’t just strengthen him, but all 276 men on board. What an incredible leader Paul was.  Here, in the midst of a horrible storm, when all had given up hope, Paul tells them that God has promised him the lives of everyone on board with him.
  • 31 – the sailors are still scared and try to escape. V. 32 shows us that the captain was not about to ignore Paul’s advice again, taking the drastic measure of cutting away the ship’s lifeboat.  These sailors would be dreadfully needed when the crew was trying to get to shore the following day.
  • Paul tells them to eat because they would need strength to swim to shore.

Dinosaurs

  • For whatever reason, people are still fascinated by creatures we call dinosaurs. Dinosaur literally means large lizard, so flying dinosaurs like the Pterodactyl were not actually dinosaurs but ancient birds.  Dinosaurs in the water or ocean similarly were not dinosaurs but rather ancient species of fish.
  • Did they live at the same time as people? Yes
  • Some people say they must’ve gone extinct before people were created because they were so dangerous, but that’s not true at all. Most dinosaurs were actually plant eaters despite the fame of the raptors and T-rexes of Jurassic Park. There are plenty of other species of wild animals that are equally dangerous to humans – lions, bears, tigers, hippos, elephants, etc.
  • They were created on day 6, the same day as people. They are not millions of years old and the labels of the Mesozoic, Jurassic, Cesozoic periods, etc are not accurate.  Dinosaurs were created a little over 6,000 years ago.  How do we know?  We have found dinosaur remains that still has soft tissue inside the bones.  There’s even footprints you can still view in places like Glen Rose.
  • What happened to them? Scientists make a big deal about something catastrophic hitting all of them and killing them like a giant meteor or something.  There was something catastrophic that happened to most of them – the flood.  It killed most of them just like it killed most of all the rest of the animal species on earth.
  • Were they on the ark?   How?  God prob didn’t bring a ton of full-grown dinos to the ark.  He would’ve sent young ones that would have the maximum time left to reproduce and repopulate the earth.  How did God keep the dinos from eating Noah and his family?  The same way he kept the lions and tigers and bears from eating them – providentially.
  • So if they didn’t go extinct in the flood or some other catastrophic natural disaster, what happened to them? They most likely died out by natural means such as overhunting.  As civilization spread across the globe, it would make sense that man would hunt down these creatures and kill them.  It’s also possible that some species went extinct, as did other ancient creatures, during the Ice Age that ensued as a result of the flood.  (All of the moisture in the air following the flood caused a massive change in temperature and weather patterns creating colder temps and growing glaciers that eventually covered about a third of the earth.  Snow was common much closer to the equator than is normal now.  There were not multiple ice ages – just one.)

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Acts 25:1-12

  • Festus is intelligent and thus refuses to have Paul brought to Jerusalem; he informs the Jewish religious leaders that they will have to go to Caesarea through the proper channels to bring charges against Paul.
  • It’s incredible that after two years, their hatred for Paul and Christ still burns strong.
  • Festus was quite different from his predecessor Felix. He was Roman nobility and according to Josephus, a good ruler – better than both Felix and his successor.  He don’t know too much about him since he only ruled for two years before he died.
  • Festus inherited all of the problems created by his inept predecessor Felix. He is not a procrastinator though.  He wastes no time getting to work.
  • Festus faces the same problem as Felix though, in regards to Paul. He sees no guilt in him, yet he doesn’t dare release him.  To do so would cause the religious leaders to become incredibly angry and Festus couldn’t afford to allow unrest in the already volatile region of Judea.  The area was always on the verge of revolt and indeed, it did break out in AD 66.
  • He asks if Paul would go with them to Jerusalem, but Paul knows exactly what would happen. There would be no trial because he would be killed on the way.  He reminds Festus of his official duty as an agent of the emperor and that Paul has every right to remain in Caesarea since he was a Roman citizen.
  • Paul knows the predicament Festus is in and risks further stalling, just as Felix did. Paul doesn’t desire to just languish in prison, so he appeals to Caesar.  Festus is more than happy to send him up to Rome and escape dealing with the problem himself.

Acts 25:13-22

  • Are you ready for Episode 2 of ancient Roman Jerry Springer? You remember our first episode involved the relationship between Felix and his wife Drusilla?  In this text, Agrippa and Bernice were both siblings of Drusilla’s.    So, Agrippa was with his sister, not just as brother and sister though.  The dad of all of these hooligans was Herod – the one who God struck down and was eaten by worms because he took God’s glory for himself.
    • And it gets better. Bernice was married to a noble at the age of 13.  After his death, Bernice was married to her own uncle.  After his death, she was widely known to have a relationship with her own brother.  She then married Ptolemy who was willing to be circumcised as a Jew for her, but she soon left him to return to her brother.  She later left again though and was reported by some to be a mistress to the Emperor Vespasian (who took control of the empire following Nero’s death) and then to his son.  His son Titus though cast her aside after he became the emperor.
  • So it’s this couple that comes to pay their respects to the new governor Festus. This required a somewhat lengthy visit, so Festus sees the opportunity to get Agrippa’s help.  He has no idea what to include as the charges against Paul when he sends Paul to Rome.  It had to be good; he’s sending him to the emperor.  Festus did not understand the Jewish laws nor the history of Paul and the Sanhedrin.  IT didn’t make sense to him that an educated man like Paul would be claiming a dead man was alive.  Agrippa feels honored to be asked his opinion, so he decides to hear Paul himself.  The imperfect tense of the verb “I would like” is more like saying “I have been wanting”.  He’d most likely been interested in hearing Paul personally for some time.

Acts 25:23 – 27

  • The word for pomp is “phantasia” and it implies a grand showy affair. They are accompanied by all the Roman tribunes stationed in Caesarea and no doubt were also with guards in full Roman uniform.  Both Agrippa and Bernice would’ve been attired in royal robes, crowns, etc.  Quite the show.
  • Paul is the complete opposite of the whole charade. He comes in, modestly, if not poorly, attired, short, bald, and unattractive.  No doubt many of those in attendance were surprised to see the actual appearance of this notorious man.
  • Festus publicly states the reason he’s bringing Paul out – he needs Agrippa’s help in writing charges against him prior to sending him on to Rome.

Acts 26:1-11

  • Here Paul describes how zealously he persecuted believers; he is preparing to show the dramatic change in his life after his conversion.
  • He is not merely pleading his case before the king; he’s presenting the gospel to him. He selflessly focused on Christ and his mission rather than his own wellbeing.  Oh, if we had an ounce of the faith and resolve that Paul had!
  • The hope Paul refers to is, of course, the coming of the Messiah. HE also refers to Jesus’ resurrection – obviously the most crucial part of the gospel message.  Without the resurrection, the crucifixion was pointless.
  • Paul’s mention of casting his vote against Christians may refer to the fact that he had once not only been a religious leader, but a member of the Sanhedrin.

 

Acts 26:12-29

  • At the mention of speaking with the resurrected Christ, a ripple must’ve gone through the crowd. They had all heard of Jesus but the news of his resurrection and actually appearing to Paul must’ve caused quite a stir.
  • Knowing that the king was Jewish, he appeals to his belief in the prophets and tells him that the prophets all testified about Christ and his resurrection.
  • Festus declares him mad – the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18), but he appeals to Agrippa, trying to persuade him to trust in Christ.
  • Paul boldly answers that yes, he would like for not just Agrippa, but all in attendance, to believe and trust in Christ.

 

—Part One of Teaching Your Kids to have a Biblical Worldview:

  • Teach them that the Genesis account of a six day, literal creation is accurate and why it’s important.
  • If you teach that each day could’ve been thousands or millions of years, then basically you’re saying that the Bible might not actually be true. If you can’t take the beginning at face value, why can you trust the rest of it?
  • Same thing if you teach that there could’ve been a gap between some of the days.
  • So why do scientists and books consistently teach that the earth is millions of years old?
    • If you don’t believe there’s a Creator, then the only answer is evolution (of which there is no evidence whatsoever of one species changing into another.) If evolution were true, it would’ve taken millions of years.
    • They say the fossil record took millions of years to form, although from the layers of rock at Mt. St. Helens, we know that a fossil record actually can develop in just a few hours due to a catastrophic event…say a global flood…
    • If you say there was no global flood, then you must come up with a way to explain the fossil record.
  • We must teach our children that the earth is thousands of years old, not millions and why. We can read to them books from creation scientists and show them videos from creation scientists – answers in genesis.
  • We must teach them that their questions have biblical answers. Never just tell them, “Because the Bible says so.”  While that’s a valid answer, it’s not enough for the inquisitive mind of a child or young adult.  They want to know why.
  • For fabulous resources (articles and videos) for both adults and children, check out answersingenesis.org

 

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Acts 25:1-12

  • Festus is intelligent and thus refuses to have Paul brought to Jerusalem; he informs the Jewish religious leaders that they will have to go to Caesarea through the proper channels to bring charges against Paul.
  • It’s incredible that after two years, their hatred for Paul and Christ still burns strong.
  • Festus was quite different from his predecessor Felix. He was Roman nobility and according to Josephus, a good ruler – better than both Felix and his successor.  He don’t know too much about him since he only ruled for two years before he died.
  • Festus inherited all of the problems created by his inept predecessor Felix. He is not a procrastinator though.  He wastes no time getting to work.
  • Festus faces the same problem as Felix though, in regards to Paul. He sees no guilt in him, yet he doesn’t dare release him.  To do so would cause the religious leaders to become incredibly angry and Festus couldn’t afford to allow unrest in the already volatile region of Judea.  The area was always on the verge of revolt and indeed, it did break out in AD 66.
  • He asks if Paul would go with them to Jerusalem, but Paul knows exactly what would happen. There would be no trial because he would be killed on the way.  He reminds Festus of his official duty as an agent of the emperor and that Paul has every right to remain in Caesarea since he was a Roman citizen.
  • Paul knows the predicament Festus is in and risks further stalling, just as Felix did. Paul doesn’t desire to just languish in prison, so he appeals to Caesar.  Festus is more than happy to send him up to Rome and escape dealing with the problem himself.
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Acts 25:13-22

  • Are you ready for Episode 2 of ancient Roman Jerry Springer? You remember our first episode involved the relationship between Felix and his wife Drusilla?  In this text, Agrippa and Bernice were both siblings of Drusilla’s.    So, Agrippa was with his sister, not just as brother and sister though.  The dad of all of these hooligans was Herod – the one who God struck down and was eaten by worms because he took God’s glory for himself.
    • And it gets better. Bernice was married to a noble at the age of 13.  After his death, Bernice was married to her own uncle.  After his death, she was widely known to have a relationship with her own brother.  She then married Ptolemy who was willing to be circumcised as a Jew for her, but she soon left him to return to her brother.  She later left again though and was reported by some to be a mistress to the Emperor Vespasian (who took control of the empire following Nero’s death) and then to his son.  His son Titus though cast her aside after he became the emperor.
  • So it’s this couple that comes to pay their respects to the new governor Festus. This required a somewhat lengthy visit, so Festus sees the opportunity to get Agrippa’s help.  He has no idea what to include as the charges against Paul when he sends Paul to Rome.  It had to be good; he’s sending him to the emperor.  Festus did not understand the Jewish laws nor the history of Paul and the Sanhedrin.  IT didn’t make sense to him that an educated man like Paul would be claiming a dead man was alive.  Agrippa feels honored to be asked his opinion, so he decides to hear Paul himself.  The imperfect tense of the verb “I would like” is more like saying “I have been wanting”.  He’d most likely been interested in hearing Paul personally for some time.

Acts 25:23 – 27

  • The word for pomp is “phantasia” and it implies a grand showy affair. They are accompanied by all the Roman tribunes stationed in Caesarea and no doubt were also with guards in full Roman uniform.  Both Agrippa and Bernice would’ve been attired in royal robes, crowns, etc.  Quite the show.
  • Paul is the complete opposite of the whole charade. He comes in, modestly, if not poorly, attired, short, bald, and unattractive.  No doubt many of those in attendance were surprised to see the actual appearance of this notorious man.
  • Festus publicly states the reason he’s bringing Paul out – he needs Agrippa’s help in writing charges against him prior to sending him on to Rome.

Acts 26:1-11

  • Here Paul describes how zealously he persecuted believers; he is preparing to show the dramatic change in his life after his conversion.
  • He is not merely pleading his case before the king; he’s presenting the gospel to him. He selflessly focused on Christ and his mission rather than his own wellbeing.  Oh, if we had an ounce of the faith and resolve that Paul had!
  • The hope Paul refers to is, of course, the coming of the Messiah. HE also refers to Jesus’ resurrection – obviously the most crucial part of the gospel message.  Without the resurrection, the crucifixion was pointless.
  • Paul’s mention of casting his vote against Christians may refer to the fact that he had once not only been a religious leader, but a member of the Sanhedrin.

 

Acts 26:12-29

  • At the mention of speaking with the resurrected Christ, a ripple must’ve gone through the crowd. They had all heard of Jesus but the news of his resurrection and actually appearing to Paul must’ve caused quite a stir.
  • Knowing that the king was Jewish, he appeals to his belief in the prophets and tells him that the prophets all testified about Christ and his resurrection.
  • Festus declares him mad – the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18), but he appeals to Agrippa, trying to persuade him to trust in Christ.
  • Paul boldly answers that yes, he would like for not just Agrippa, but all in attendance, to believe and trust in Christ.

 

—Part One of Teaching Your Kids to have a Biblical Worldview:

  • Teach them that the Genesis account of a six day, literal creation is accurate and why it’s important.
  • If you teach that each day could’ve been thousands or millions of years, then basically you’re saying that the Bible might not actually be true. If you can’t take the beginning at face value, why can you trust the rest of it?
  • Same thing if you teach that there could’ve been a gap between some of the days.
  • So why do scientists and books consistently teach that the earth is millions of years old?
    • If you don’t believe there’s a Creator, then the only answer is evolution (of which there is no evidence whatsoever of one species changing into another.) If evolution were true, it would’ve taken millions of years.
    • They say the fossil record took millions of years to form, although from the layers of rock at Mt. St. Helens, we know that a fossil record actually can develop in just a few hours due to a catastrophic event…say a global flood…
    • If you say there was no global flood, then you must come up with a way to explain the fossil record.
  • We must teach our children that the earth is thousands of years old, not millions and why. We can read to them books from creation scientists and show them videos from creation scientists – answers in genesis.
  • We must teach them that their questions have biblical answers. Never just tell them, “Because the Bible says so.”  While that’s a valid answer, it’s not enough for the inquisitive mind of a child or young adult.  They want to know why.
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  • Acts 23:25-35
    • Claudius Lysias writes a letter to Felix, as he was required to do when sending a prisoner to his superior. Interestingly, he casts himself in the best possible light.  For example, he did not know Paul was a Roman citizen until after he’d arrested him, and he conveniently left out the part where he ordered him flogged.  He tells him that Paul was “charged with nothing deserving imprisonment or death.”  In essence, he’s telling Felix that Paul is innocent.  He explains the reason for him sending Paul to him is Paul’s safety because of the plot Lysias discovered to kill him.
    • They stop once they get to Antipatris, a city on the border of Judea and Samaria. It was a grueling 35 mile trip for one night.  They had made it quickly in order to insure Paul’s safety.  Some of them turn back to Jerusalem while the 70 horsemen continue on with Paul to Caesarea.
    • Felix asks Paul what province he is from in order to determine if Paul was legally under his jurisdiction. After learning the answer, Paul was in fact under his jurisdiction, he orders Paul to be kept in Herod’s praetorium, which was his official residence.  Caesarea was located on the Mediterranean Sea and this was quite a compound consisting of two parts of the palace.  The lower part was located on sea level and consisted of the governor’s private quarters.  The upper portion of the palace was higher and was where the judicial and administrative roles of the governor would be carried out.  This is also where the governor’s prisoners were kept.  There was a theater and stadium (called the hippodrome) both in close proximity to the palace.  Archaeologists have discovered some of the ruins of these buildings.
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    Acts 24:1-21

    • Tertullus was an attorney the high priest and religious leaders had hired to present their case to Felix. They had acted quickly because they had hired him, put their case together, and made the trip to Caesarea in just five days.
    • Tertullus begins his accusation against Paul with words of flattery for Felix. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can say for Felix.  Historians called him “a king with the mind of a slave.”  Felix was indeed a former slave who had received his position only because his brother was well-liked by the Emperor Claudius.
    • His words were not just flattery, they were false. Felix, in fact, carried out no reforms.  Even though he did defeat the terrorists known as the “assassins”, his cruelty toward the Jews actually caused more unrest in the region and Nero would remove him as governor just two years later.
    • His first charge against Paul is one of sedition – saying Paul violated Roman law by disturbing the peace or the Pax Romana. This was a serious charge.  However, Tertullus gives no specific details because, of course, Paul had never actually stirred up trouble.
    • Tertullus then charges Paul with sectarianism – being the leader of a Jewish sect. Felix was obviously familiar with Christians (or Nazarenes as Tertullus refers to them since he does not explain any further).
    • He then charges Paul with desecrating the temple, although, again the accusation is vague since there was actually no time when Paul had done so. If he had, the Jews had the right to try him themselves.
    • There is a line that is omitted by some ancient texts that explains that Lysias violently came and took Paul from the Jewish religious leaders’ hands. Macarthur says that the text makes more sense with the line.  Without it, the Jews are asking Felix to examine Paul himself to discover if he’s guilty.  If you add in the line that is omitted from some texts, the Jews would be asking Felix to examine Lysias to see if he had subverted Jewish religious laws by taking Paul into custody when the Jews had the right to try him.
    • Even though he has no lawyer, Paul calmly and wisely lays out his defense to each one of the Jews’ charges. First, he tells Felix that he had not had time to stir up trouble since he had only arrived in Jerusalem twelve days earlier.  He explains that the only reason he had come there was to worship.
    • Paul goes on to acknowledge that he is in fact a Christian, but he refers to it as “the Way” rather than “Nazarenes.” He also turns the tables by pointing out that he believes in the same God as the Jews and that, unlike them, he actually reveres the whole law and the prophets since the Sadduccees only believed in the Pentateuch.  He also explains that he believes in the hope of the resurrection.  Here we see evidence that everyone will live eternally – either in heaven or hell.  Paul explains that he was bringing an offering for the poor to Jerusalem and that it was Asian Jews who had not shown up that were accusing him of desecrating the temple.  Romans frowned on a case where the accusers didn’t show up to follow through with their charges.  That’s the reason Paul brings it up.  He concludes by pointing out that it’s religious differences, not legal ones that caused the Jews to put Paul on trial.  Therefore, Paul argues, there’s no grounds for a case against him.

     

    Acts 24:22-27

    • At this point, Felix should have dismissed the case and released Paul. However, that would’ve enraged the Jewish religious leaders and caused further unrest back in Jerusalem.  Remember, a Roman leader’s chief job was to keep peace in the empire.  Felix stalls by saying he needs to talk to Lysias.  However, there’s no evidence that he ever actually summoned Lysias; it was simply his way of avoiding making a decision.  He kept Paul imprisoned, but not closely confined since he was a Roman citizen and not actually guilty of anything.
    • Felix and his wife find Paul intriguing. Here’s the story of Felix and his wife Drusilla – listen closely.  This is like real-life, ancient Jerry Springer stuff.
      • Drusilla was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I – the one mentioned in Acts 12 who was responsible for executing James (the disciple) and imprisoning Peter. He died shortly thereafter, eaten by worms, for taking God’s glory from the people for himself.
      • Drusilla was Felix’s third wife. His first wife was a granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra.
      • As a teenager, Drusilla was given in marriage to the king of Emesa, in present day Syria. Felix lured her away because he was struck by her beauty.  She gave him a son that later was killed when Mount Vesuvius erupted.  Drusilla was still a teen.
      • Felix becomes alarmed when he hears the gospel from Paul. Remember, he was a deeply sinful man.  However, he didn’t repent but rather sent Paul away.  He later conversed with him repeatedly but was hoping Paul would bribe him so he could set him free.  He could’ve just let him go, but instead is hoping for a monetary reward from Paul.
      • Nero replaces him and likely would’ve very severely punished him had it not been for his brother Pallas, who was also on Nero’s good side. Instead, Felix just fades from history, replaced by Festus.
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      • Acts 22:30
        • Since he wasn’t able to interrogate Paul by flogging, the tribune decides to use this more diplomatic approach to try and figure out why the crowds were so angry with Paul. FYI – the tribune’s name was Claudius Lysias.
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        Acts 23:1-11

        • Before he begins speaking, Paul takes a moment to look intently at the Sanhedrin. No doubt, he recognized many of them.  He would’ve studied and possibly been friends with some of them.  Now, he’s opposing them.  For all the history Paul had with this group of men, (remember he previously acted with the full support of these leaders), for all the history Paul has with them, they now want to kill him.
        • It’s interesting that the high priest orders Paul to be struck for absolutely no reason. The verb used here didn’t mean merely to hit; he was ordering an extensive beating.  Ananias is only mad because Paul’s a believer and because he points out the truth.  Therefore, he’s also pointing out that, if he’s living in obedience to God, then the religious leaders are fighting against God.
        • His allegations against Ananias are reminiscent of Jesus’ condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders; they both are referring to Scripture in Ezekiel 13, a text dealing with false prophets.
        • 5 is a bit controversial – Did Paul really not know that Ananias was the high priest? Surely he did.  Perhaps though, he didn’t recognize him because it had been years since he’d seen him.  It’s also possible he didn’t recognize him because of his poor eyesight.  It’s also possible he lied.  It’s probably most plausible that he was simply being sarcastic.
          • Just a side note, Ananias the high priest is not to be confused with Annas the high priest who condemned Jesus. Ananias became high priest in AD 47 and reigned about twelve years.  He was one of the most evil and corrupt high priests that there ever was.  For example, Josephus, the Jewish historian, writes that he stole the tithes from the lesser priests that rightfully belonged to them and beat those who resisted.  He also had to appear before the emperor because of his involvement with some atrocities committed against Samaritans.  He was acquitted.  Because he was so heavily pro-Roman, when the Jewish revolt of AD 66 broke out, rebels promptly killed him.
        • 6 shows how clever Paul was. He knew he could get the focus off of himself if he pitted the Pharisees against the Sadduccees.  It worked like a charm.  They end up violently arguing about their own differences in spiritual beliefs, and the Pharisees even clear Paul of any guilt.  It’s almost amusing that these educated, wealthy, powerful men come to blows over their beliefs.  It’s what happens when you get a bunch of powerful, arrogant men together.
        • 11 – let’s camp out here for a moment. The Lord actually appears by him, with him, in his chains.  However, he doesn’t come to free him as Paul had been miraculously freed by an angel before.  He doesn’t come to pronounce judgment on the Romans or the Jewish religious leaders.  He comes to strengthen Paul.  Sometimes, God doesn’t save us from the fire.  Sometimes, he doesn’t even save us in the fire.  Sometimes, he just gives us the strength to withstand the fire until he can take us home to glory.  The recurring theme of this life is pain, but we can have courage, because, the recurring theme of the next life is that there is none.
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        • Another reason Paul was constantly able to suffer well and to not lose hope was that he never forgot his purpose. The world tells us that our purpose is to seek glory, pleasure, and honor for ourselves.  However, the Bible says we were bought at a price.  The third catechism question my kids do asks, “Why did God make you and all things?”  The answer is, “For his own glory.”  When we rightly see that our purpose in this world is to bring honor and glory to the God who made us and saved us, it gives meaning to our suffering and difficulties in life.  It allows to keep moving forward because we know there’s a prize waiting in heaven for us if we just hold on.
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        Acts 23:12-24

        • 12 – It’s interesting and so ironic to me that these men, evil as they were, shared the same religious zeal that Paul had prior to his conversion. They were willing to shed blood in order to wipe out the name of Christ.  They will later be thwarted because we can know that the gospel will always endure because it is, in fact, the truth and power of God for salvation. These men knew that some of them could be killed by the Romans in this attack on Paul, but they were willing to give their life in order to take Paul’s. Even though this group of men doesn’t include the chief priests or highest religious leaders, they are told about the plan and do nothing to stop it. In fact, they become co-conspirators in this plot.
        • 16 –This is the only mention of Paul’s biological family after his conversion. Macarthur confirms that it was likely he was disinherited by his family when he became a believer.  It does show us that at least someone in his family cared for him.  His nephew risks his own life to save Paul’s.  It also shows us that his nephew was either not a Christian or not known to be one if he could discover this insider information of the plot to kill Paul.
        • 23 – 24 – The tribune is sending Paul under the cover of night to see Felix the governor, some 65 miles away. It’s interesting that he also sends him with 470 soldiers to protect him.  God uses the heathen Romans to save Paul from the Jews.  Jesus came to save first the Jews and then the Gentiles.  However, the Jews largely reject him as their Messiah, and therefore, he sends Paul (and other ministers) to share the gospel with the Gentiles.  After achieving great success in planting churches among the Gentiles, Paul returns to his home of Jerusalem where the Jews attempt, on more than one occasion, to kill him.  Paul’s life is then saved (at least for a few years) by the Gentiles.  It’s interesting how the story of Paul’s life keeps circling from the Jews to the Gentiles and back again.  When he was growing up and being trained and educated to be a religious leader, I doubt he ever could’ve imagined what God would use him to do.
        • And so it is with us. Think back to when you were a child.  What kind of dreams or plans for the future did you have?  How did those change as you got older?  Have there been any unexpected events in your life?  Through it all, we, like Paul, can trust the Lord who is sovereign over all things and whose plan has never changed.  None of those unexpected events in our life were a surprise to God.  According to Psalm 139, he ordained every one of them before we were even born.  That’s a promise we can rest in.

        —John Knox

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    • Acts 21:37-40
      • It surprised the Roman tribune that Paul could speak Greek because it was the language of the educated, not your typical Jewish criminal. Since Greek was spoken in northern Africa, the tribune erroneously assumes Paul is the Egyptian leader of the Assassins.  This Egyptian had lead a band of thousands of followers to Jerusalem and claimed that he would free Jerusalem from Roman rule.  He attacked, but the Romans routed them, capturing and killing hundreds of them.  The rest fled.
        • The Assassins were a terrorist group of extremely zealous Jews. They were enemies of both the Romans and the Jews that collaborated with them.  They were known for sneaking up to someone in a crowd, stabbing them, and slinking off.  They attacked often during religious festivals when crowds were plentiful.  This is why the tribune mistakes him for an Assassin or the leader himself.
      • Paul corrects him in regards to his origins and then asks to address the crowd. Instead of being angry at the mob, he sees it as yet another opportunity to witness to his unsaved Jewish brothers.

      Acts 21:40-22:21

      • He begins by refuting their allegations against him by describing some of his impressive credentials, especially name dropping his tutor, Gamaliel, who was highly esteemed. He does this, not to glorify himself, but to refute their claims that he is against the Jews or the temple.
      • He explains again the dramatic details of his conversion. This is the third mention of his conversion experience in Acts because it was hugely significant.  It was a turning point in history and in the church since it was in Paul’s ministry that the church expanded throughout the empire to Gentiles.

      Acts 22:22 – 22:29

      • They listen to Paul up until he mentions his call to go to the Gentiles with the gospel. This was unacceptable to the Jews because it put the Gentiles on equal spiritual footing with the Jews, a heresy they could not ignore.  This again stirs up the crowd and they start throwing off their cloaks, either to stone Paul or in a sign of protest and rage.
      • This also upsets the tribune who is trying to keep peace, so he orders Paul interrogated during flogging or some versions call it scourging. This was a horrible beating during which the victim would be pulled taut and tied down and then beaten with leather strips, woven with broken metal and bone.  This would be the worst thing Paul had ever faced; many men died from flogging due to blood loss and infection.  Jesus himself experienced this torture prior to the cross.  (Do you ever wonder why God couldn’t help Jesus out by making him a Roman citizen?)  Anyway, fortunately for Paul, his status as a Roman citizens prohibits this punishment.  When he mentions it, the centurion is appalled and reports the matter to the tribune, who is equally disturbed.  He’d already unlawfully tied up Paul without a trial, but if he had flogged him, the tribune could’ve lost his job or his life even.
      • They take Paul’s word on his citizenship because a false claim to be a Roman citizen was punishable by death. Plus, I imagine it was incredibly difficult to check birth records of citizenship back then.

       

      —George Wishart