In Acts Chapter 24 the Jews get lawyered up and travel to Caesarea because their convictions against Paul are so strong that they feel “justice” is imperative. Their case is simple, “We don’t want to take up too much of your time. Just believe us when we say this man is a pest and a troublemaker.” Then Paul makes another eloquent speech and isn’t interrupted this time. He takes every opportunity afforded him to bring up the hope of the resurrection. Paul points out that he agrees with the Jews on a lot of things and wants to worship as other Jews do in the temple. It doesn’t seem like Felix finds any fault with Paul, and yet Paul stays in prison for 2 years while Felix is governor.
It is estimated that Paul spent 5 ½ to 6 years in prison during his whole ministry. It seems like such a long time. We know that while he was imprisoned he would still try to further the work of God by writing letters, but I can imagine that he spent an agonizingly long time waiting on God to do something. How often did he pray for God to help him? How often did he think about how unfair it was that he was wrongfully imprisoned in the first place? How often did he regret that he couldn’t be out speaking and teaching? What was God’s purpose for the 2 year imprisonment anyway? No one really knows except God.
I teach the teenagers at our church and I remind them often that we must patiently wait for the LORD to reveal His plans for us. His way is worth waiting for. I wish I could spare them some worry and tell them that God has told me who they will marry, where they need to live, what kind of job to strive for…I would LOVE to be able to do that for them because I remember what it was like. So much of the time we have to just seek, wait, love, and trust that God knows what He is doing.
Paul knew what it was to be a Jew, but he also knew the benefits of being a Roman. At the end of Chapter 22 we saw two ways you could become a Roman though you were a Jew. You could purchase the privilege at a great cost or you could be lucky enough to have been born a Roman as Paul was. Tarsus was designated a “free city” by Rome. Anyone born there was automatically Roman. We know it wasn’t luck, though. The commander (or chief captain depending on the version you read) must have thought Paul was a lucky dog! We know better. God was working in Paul’s life before he was even born!
Since Paul was a Roman, he was to have a fair trial. A nice little perk for being a Roman, you can see. Paul can sense right away at the start of Chapter 23, though, that he won’t get a fair trial among the Jews. They will surely find him guilty. Paul seems to be doomed. Fortunately, there was that commander that seemed interested in Paul. What a lucky dog! How very fortunate for him that God put that commander there! And this commander feels a powerful urge to protect Paul as a precious Roman.
What a terrible failure his time in Jerusalem seems to have been! No one would listen to him and people want him dead. But God’s active presence in his life is undeniable during this seemingly unsuccessful adventure into Jerusalem.
My name is Melissa New. I am a Sunday School Teacher/Youth Leader at McGintytown Church of God of Abrahamic Faith in Arkansas. I homeschool the kids God has blessed us with and particularly love English and History. I’m pretty passionate about church camps too! 🙂 My favorite verse of the Bible is Jeremiah 29:13 and my favorite Psalm is Psalm 37.
Oh Paul! You are a Jew! And you know the Jews so well. In the past you worked hard to be not simply a Jew, but a Jew worthy of being called a Jew. You know how the Jews can be. You know that going to Jerusalem is a terrible idea. You know that taking Greeks into the temple will not be accepted by the Jews. You know this isn’t going to end well. And yet you went…
Chapter 22 shows us the best of Paul. We have seen the worst and in this speech he admits his worst. I love the emotional appeal that Paul puts into his speech. “Listen to me, brothers. I understand you. I was just like you and I was shown a better way. Please, let me show you a better way.” It’s an effective strategy especially because it bears truth. Unfortunately, the Jews were not ready for truth. Look what they did to Jesus. It really wasn’t that long ago that Jesus, too, went to Jerusalem and the Jews didn’t accept him either.
Ultimately Paul’s message was the same as Jesus’. The Jews could NOT consider a message that tore up their religious traditions. How heartbreaking for Paul. We must ask ourselves if we stand behind our traditions for tradition’s sake or if we are continually seeking God.
Acts 21 focuses on Paul’s travel to Jerusalem and then getting arrested. I don’t have a lot to say about this chapter, as I don’t have personal experiences, or extra knowledge on Paul’s experiences in this chapter. I’ll share a couple points I found interesting though.
We see multiple examples that show us how some people wanted to learn from Paul and his companions. We read that they were received warmly (v. 17). Also, verse 1 says that they had to tear themselves away from the people to continue traveling. I pray that God will work through me when I teach about Him and that people will see Him in me and want to learn more.
Some people were not as fond of Paul and even tried to kill him. The mad mob dragged Paul out of the temple and cause such an uproar the authorities are called in and Paul is arrested by the commander of the Roman troops. At the end of the chapter, as Paul is being carried away he asks to speak to the crowd. Paul is granted permission and the last sentence of the chapter is, “When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:”. I know that the chapter numbers and breaks were added later, but what a cliffhanger! Thankfully, we’re able to read on and see what he says. We don’t even have to wait a week, like we do for a TV show or longer for a movie sequel!
(Speaking of movies – there have been several movies made of Paul’s life. I encourage you to try one out. See how closely it follows with Scripture – the real story. )
We, like Paul, do not get to choose people’s reaction to hearing the good news. Some will gladly and thankfully accept the message and appreciate the messenger. Others, sadly will not. But, we, like Paul, have very good news to share. And even when it is not accepted as good news….and even when people mock us or persecute us….we have God’s Word to share.
Every chapter in life has its own busy, stressful times. I’m currently a freshman in college. This week we are preparing to register for next semester’s classes. With this comes looking at every course I need to take for the next three years and what my life could look like after I graduate. I like to plan things. I like to have big goals and dreams and then work toward accomplishing them. Some of my dreams (short term and long term) include building new and strengthening old friendships, graduating and then going on to be a teacher in an elementary school classroom, finding the man I want to marry, and raising lots of children – all while serving and praising God with all my heart.
Just the other day, I was driving and listening to a Christian radio station when a song started that I’ve never heard before. I was listening when two words stuck out to me – “Dream small”. I was confused. It didn’t make sense to me. I tried to think of times it would be better to dream small. I wasn’t getting very far. I looked up the lyrics later (Dream Small by Josh Wilson) and I understand a little more where the artist was going. The beginning of the chorus says,
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time”
The song explains how you should be living your life for God and those little things you do can make a difference. You don’t need to wait for your dreams to become a reality. Living your life for God will make the best dreams fall into place, and the other ones will be replaced with even better ones we could never have imagined. Be used where you are now. I don’t need to dream big because God has got my life planned out. He knows how he’s going to use me, and that’s something I find special.
This finally brings me to the chapter for today, Acts 20. Please read verses 22 through 24 below, because it’s written better than I could ever summarize.
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
How wonderful is that! Paul knew of the dangers and hardships and he still said his life was worth nothing to him. Sounds to me like Paul wasn’t trying to follow his own big dreams and was instead following the path that was planned for him, doing things every day for God and Jesus. I want to be able to say that my only goal is to finish the race and task that the Lord has given me. That’s so much better than my plans and big dreams.
What stands in the way of you living completely for Jesus? Not enough time, a secret sin, a preoccupation with _______, a friend taking you in the wrong direction? Many in the early church in Acts were living out a completely committed relationship with God and His Son, Jesus. And the results are exciting to watch as we read through the book. Their faith was living and active and daily – and tested regularly.
I wonder if today too many people who carry the label ‘Christian’ use their faith as a once-a-week booster shot, if they can make it to church that week. But then are quite content to spend the week surrounded by (and sometimes covered in) the germs and sicknesses of worldly living and priorities.
Go ahead and read Acts 19 today and search for all the sold-out characteristics and examples; and while you’re at it – spot the imitations as well (those exist today, too). I particularly like the passage in verses 18-20 where the believers were confessing their practices and bringing their (expensive) magic books to be burned. They had heard about Jesus and they believed and they were excited and ready to change! It’s not that they had heard about Jesus and kind of believed and were sort of interested and wanted to add in some Jesus/church/faith to their full lives. See the huge difference? They were radically changing their lives because they wanted to follow Jesus well.
Do you have anything in your life to add to the bonfire? Anything that is keeping you from being totally committed to God and His Coming Kingdom? Anything that doesn’t mix well with Jesus’ message that you need to give up?
The believers had burned 50,000 drachmas worth of obstacles to living sold-out lives (a drachma was a silver coin worth about one day’s wages) – that’s a lot of obstacles they eliminated! The very next thing Paul wrote was: “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” (Acts 19:20). Sacrifice and true change brought growth. Are you ready to grow?
Shoes and socks, salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly. Some things just go together, complement one another and make the perfect team.
Priscilla and Aquila are just such a pair. They are spoken of at least three times in this chapter by Luke, and then Paul will speak highly of them in three of his letters – and each time they will be mentioned together – a team. They were a team in marriage and a team in ministry.
They endured storms together – banished from their home in Italy when Emperor Claudius removed all Jews from Rome. Together they opened their home to others. Paul would stay in their home, and later they would host a house church. Together they risked their lives for the sake of Paul (Romans 16:3-4). They learned together and taught together. They traveled together. They mentored together. Together – they served God.
If you are married already – consider how you can work on your teamwork skills today (and all your tomorrows, too). Neither you nor your spouse is perfect – that is true, of everybody else’s spouse too – but together you CAN be a perfect team – complimenting each other’s skills and working together for God’s glory. What acts of service to God and others can you work on together?
If you are not married now – but might be in the market to be married at some point…consider wisely. Rather than seeking out the hottest athlete or the cutest nerd (or whatever characteristics are already on your to-find list), be intent upon finding one who will be a great mate to serve the Lord with you.