10 minutes in search of Christ Jesus.
Saturday, 2 December 2023 “Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. Acts 22:14 The Greek reads, “And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has before-handed you to know His will, and to see the Just, and to hear the voice from His mouth.” (CG). Paul's sight was just restored at the word of the Lord through Ananias. Now, Ananias will speak again in order to explain to Paul his commission. That begins with a statement concerning his calling. This is detailed to the crowd, beginning with, “And he said.” He is referring to Ananias. Paul makes note of the divine appointment given through this Jew who was in good standing in regard to the law. The exact words of Ananias begin with “The God of our fathers.” The meaning of “the God of our fathers" is obvious. He is Yehovah, the one true God. Paul has been selected to know His will. Understanding that in verse 3, he said, “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today,” this statement by Ananias is all the more astonishing. How could someone, brought up in the strictness of “our father's law” not “know His will?” Wasn't it written down for all to know? How much more this man! And yet, he obviously was completely clueless as to what the will of God was. This is an obvious conclusion because of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, his blindness, and now his forthcoming instruction. As for this will, Ananias is next noted to have said that their God “has before-handed you.” The word is procheirizó. It was first used in Acts 3:20 and it will be seen one more time in Acts 26:16. It comes from pro, before, and cheir, hand. Thus, it is literally before-handed, meaning divinely handpicked in advance. The Pulpit Commentary notes, “In classical Greek it means mostly ‘to get anything ready beforehand.'” The words bring to mind the calling of Jeremiah – “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.'” Jeremiah 1:4, 5 What was said to Jeremiah is summed up in this word, translated as before-handed. Paul's calling was “to know His will.” Paul's preselection was to know the will of the Lord. Again, it obviously meant that he did not know this will. Therefore, his persecution of believers was not in accord with the will of the Lord. Ananias was sent first to begin to set this straight. Eventually, Paul would personally receive revelation from the Lord (Galatians 1:2), but this was a necessary first step in preparing him for that. This explains why Paul quite often opened his letters stating that he was an apostle according to the will of God. He does this in 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; and Colossians 1:1. Ephesians 1:1-11 actually gives an entire commentary on this. Next, Ananias says, “and to see the Just.” This term, “the Just,” comes from an adjective, dikaios. It means correct, righteous, innocent, etc. Being prefixed by an article, and without any other words to further qualify it, the meaning is a single individual who embodies what the adjective signifies. It is a term that any Jew would have understood as referring to the Messiah. Many Old Testament passages would have immediately flooded their minds, such as Psalm 2, Isaiah 11:1-5, Isaiah 53:11, etc. The words of Ananias continue, saying, “and to hear the voice from His mouth.” It is a phrase that carries great weight. To hear the voice from His mouth meant that Paul was being granted a prophetic office. If his words to the crowd were true, and they could be verified by Ananias if he was still alive, Paul was being given a commission that raised him to the level of any true prophet of Israel. His words would carry the same weight and effect as those of their own Scriptures. Paul was not being called to do another thing than the other selected apostles, but to carry the same word of the Lord to another group of people, making understandable to them what God was doing in and through Israel. That will be seen in the next verses. Life application: There is one prophetic plan that is being worked out in redemptive history. It is being developed in various steps. The Mosaic Covenant was one step. That was replaced by the New Covenant. Gentile inclusion in the New Covenant was to be a part of that plan, not something separate from it. Israel's rejection of Jesus was known by God before it happened. During their time of rejection, God has been working out His New Covenant through a Gentile-led church, but it is still the same covenant that will be continued through the Jews at a future point. This is completely certain because Paul, writing to the Gentiles, appeals to the New Covenant in 1 Corinthians 11 – “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 Watch out for heretical doctrines that attempt to separate what God is doing for the Jews and for the Gentiles. There is one New Covenant. The nation of Israel has temporarily rejected the offer. But because of His faithfulness to His covenant promises, they too will be brought into the New Covenant someday. In the meantime, any Jew or Gentile can come into the New Covenant in exactly the same way. That Israel, the nation, will be given this opportunity is explicitly stated in Hebrews 9:15 – “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hold fast to what is sound and proper. The New Covenant is one thing. It was given to the House of Israel and the House of Judah, as noted in Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews 8:8. They will be brought into it in due time. Until then, the one and only gospel is currently going forth to any individual who will receive it. O God, Your faithfulness is everlasting. What concern should we have that You would ever not fulfill every word You have spoken forth? Rather, we can read Your word and know, with absolute surety, that You will perform as You have spoken. Praises be to You, our great and faithful Lord! Amen.
Friday, 1 December 2023 “came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him. Acts 22:13 The Greek reads, “Having come to me and having stood, said, ‘Saul, brother, look up.' And I, the same hour, looked up to him” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul told the crowd about Ananias, a devout man according to the law and who had a good testimony with the Jews. Of him, it now says, “Having come to me and having stood, said.” Luke's use of participles makes each step carefully anticipate the next. In Acts 9, Ananias was told by the Lord to go to Paul and put his hand on him in order to restore his sight. Paul skips this information and simply notes that an observant Jew was the one taking the action. This would have had a more profound effect on the crowd. They were gathered outside the temple, accusing Paul of being a violator of the law. And yet, everything he is presenting to them concerned adherence to the law by those he was associated with. As the temple was still standing, it would be an affront to the sensibilities of the Jews to do otherwise when among them. As for Ananias, once he had come to Paul, he then spoke, “Saul, brother, look up.” The word is anablepó. It literally means “look up.” However, it is also used to indicate the recovery of sight, such as in Matthew 11 – “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and [anablepó: look up] the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.'” Matthew 11:5, 6 Therefore, many translations simply say, “receive youryou sight.” With that stated, Paul next says, “And I, the same hour, looked up to him.” He uses the same word, anablepó, that was just used. Paul received his sight right then. The word was spoken, and the sight was immediately restored. Thus, it was certainly a miracle. Further, it was performed by a Jew in good standing and it was performed on Paul. This would have had a pronounced effect on them. This would not only validate that Ananias was capable of such things, but that it was the Lord Jesus who was ultimately behind the act. This is because he had already noted in verse 10 that it was Jesus who directed the events. And more, this power of the Lord through Ananias was in approval of Paul's coming ministry. Paul's words thus far would have had a weighty effect on those listening. Life application: By following the progression of thought one step at a time, it is evident that Paul's ministry was a particular one that was directed and commissioned by the Lord. He was not a rogue Jew who was out of control among his people and among the Gentiles. Rather, he was called by the Lord, healed by the power of the Lord, commissioned as an apostle by the Lord, and then sent forth to his ministry by the Lord. As he was not one of the twelve apostles sent forth to the house of Israel, it means that his ministry served an entirely different purpose. There is overlap in what the apostles taught, but the focus of Paul's ministry was different than that of the others. This clearly indicates that the Gentile-led church, though being brought into the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12), is not a replacement of Israel. Nor is it the fulfillment of the promises to Israel. These things have to be carefully considered. Otherwise, there will be a defect in one's understanding of proper doctrine, sound eschatology, etc. Keep the boxes straight, and the Bible will be rightly divided regarding sound dispensational theology. Lord God, give us wisdom and discernment in how to interpret Your word properly. It is a big book, filled with many difficulties. And so, be with us as we actively engage in it through reading and study. May our doctrine be sound as we go forth telling others about the great plan You have set forth for the people of the world in this wonderful word. Amen.
Thursday, 30 November 2023 “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, Acts 22:12 The words are more exactingly translated, “And a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, being testified to by all the Jews dwelling there” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul noted to the crowd that he could not see because of the light, and so he was led by the hand to Damascus. Continuing now, it says, “And a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law.” Only the term “disciple” was used of Ananias in Chapter 9. Now, for the sake of this Jewish audience and to show that the man would have been acceptable in their eyes, he calls him a devout man according to the law. This is the fourth and last time that the word eulabés is found in Scripture. It is found only in Luke's writings. Once in his gospel (Luke 2:25) and three times in Acts. It is a compound word that literally means “‘taking hold of what is good.' It focuses on the outward response someone gives to what they feel is truly worthwhile (worthy of respect)” (HELPS Word Studies). At times, translators say, “God-fearing” which is more of a paraphrase, but it implies that a godly fear is instilled in the person. With that, Paul next says, “being testified to by all the Jews dwelling there.” This would be easily verifiable, and it shows that Ananias was obedient in his actions as a faithful Jew. The resentment of followers of the Way was obviously not as pronounced elsewhere as it was in Jerusalem. And even at this time, it was perceived by most that followers of the way were considered obedient Jews. This is an obvious truth from the fact that James and the other apostles moved freely about. Gloag says that this “affirms that he was not introduced to Christianity by an opponent of Judaism, but by a strict Jew” (Paton James Gloag). Paul's argument before the people is a petition for reason concerning faith in Jesus that does not contradict their faith. However, as the author of Hebrews (probably Paul) notes – “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13 It was understood that law observance would eventually be ended. Thus, there is nothing deceitful by Paul in living as a Jew among Jews, as a Gentile among Gentiles, and promoting law observance among the Jews during the time that the temple was still standing. As for the ending of the law, Hebrews notes that it will come at some future point. According to Daniel 9:27, Scripture reveals that point will be after the seven years of tribulation, whenever that occurs. Since the destruction of the temple, believing Jews and Gentiles are not bound to law observance, nor could they be. Without a temple, it would be impossible. At the rapture, all believers will be taken to glory. After that, a temple will be rebuilt, and temple rites and law observance will return to Israel temporarily to consummate the times set forth by the Lord in Daniel 9. Life application: The words of Hebrews 8:13 are written to the Hebrew people. They do not apply to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were never under law observance. As the New Covenant supplants the Old, it is insane theology to teach that a Gentile must observe the law, in part or in whole. This is why Paul is so adamant about this issue in Galatians. To go to the Law of Moses, after coming to Christ, means that Christ's finished work has been rejected. Is this where you really want to stand? Is your hope in your own meriting of God's favor. If so, you will be sorely disappointed. Be sure to trust in Christ, rest in Christ, and find your eternal security in the grace of God that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Lord God Almighty, how can we be pleasing to You? Your word tells us. We are pleasing to You through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Help us to never attempt to merit Your favor through observance of the law that He came to fulfill. How good it is to simply rest in His finished work. Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord. Hallelujah and amen.
Wednesday, 29 November 2023 “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. Acts 22:11 Paul was just instructed by the Lord to arise and go into Damascus where he would be told all the things appointed for him to do. Continuing the narrative, he next says, “And since I could not see for the glory of that light.” This verse explains the blindness of chapter 9. The reason for his blindness might be inferred from the words there, but it was not stated. Now, the reason is explicitly given. The glory of the light was so intense upon his eyes that he could no longer see. It is both an argument for the authenticity of the account because Paul personally explains what happened and also a note to the people that what he beheld was exceedingly glorious. It is a reminder to them of the glory of the Lord that Moses beheld. It was because of this glory that he veiled his face – “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. 35 And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.” Paul will later explain the theological importance of what happened to Moses – “Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul was so steeped in reveling in his own efforts through law observance that when he encountered the glory of the Lord, he was literally blinded by the goodness that he saw. The grace of God in Jesus Christ simply overwhelmed him. Of all people, Paul understood the theological implications of the dulling of spiritual senses because of the law. Eyes are blinded, ears are covered over, and hearts are made dull. These types of manifestations of the effects of the law are seen in Scripture, and they are seen in the lives and conduct of people throughout the world today. With these things understood, Paul continues with, “being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.” Rather, both verbs are present participles – “being led by the hand” and “being with me.” Paul is conveying the events in a lively manner for the crowd gathered before him. As for the word translated as “being led by the hand,” this is the second and last use of cheiragógeó in the Bible. Its other use was in Acts 9:8. Also, the word translated as “being with me,” suneimi, is found only here and in Luke 9:18. Luke masterfully uses the Greek language to convey what Paul would have said to the audience in their native dialect. Life application: Referring to the idea of senses being dulled, at the time of Isaiah's commissioning by the Lord, he was told – “And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.”' 10 ‘Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.'” Isaiah 6:9, 10 Jesus used those words to explain why He spoke as He did to the people – “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'” Matthew 13:13-15 The people lived under the law. They thought it was what made them holy and distinct above all else, and they conducted their lives as such. It is true that the law was given to distinguish them from all other people, but the law reflects the Lord's will for them. Thus, it is ultimately the Lord who sets Israel apart. Their history had shown them that the law could not save them. They should have been jubilant at the coming of the perfect Savior who would remove this burden from upon them. But they could not see the truth of who He is. As noted, this continues throughout the world today, and it does so in some very surprising places. Not only is Israel still affected by this, but supposed churches also are. They have returned to the law, given up on the grace of God in Christ, and they have their senses dulled because of this. Grace! The Bible is trying to tell us (if we will only pay heed!) that the ultimate glory that we can behold is the grace of God. It is the greatness of the glory of God found in Jesus Christ that reveals that to us. Do not mar grace. Rather, embrace it. Rejoice in it. And thank God for it all the days of your life. You don't need more law. Rather, you need grace. Cling to what God has done. It is all about Jesus. Heavenly Father, thank You for Your glory revealed. Thank You for the grace that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, 28 November 2023 “So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.'” Acts 22:10 The words are more appropriately translated as, “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord.' And the Lord said unto me, ‘Having arisen, go to Damascus, and there it will be told you all things that have been appointed you to do'” (CG) Previously, Paul noted that those who were with him were afraid, having seen the light, but they did not understand the voice speaking to him. With that, he continues, saying, “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord.'” Paul continues saying “Lord” as he did in verse 8. This, however, is the first time that he has done so with the understanding that Jesus is the Lord. There he was, on the ground speaking to the Lord of creation and the Messiah of Israel, acknowledging submission to Him when the very purpose of him going to Damascus was to snuff out any remnant of His name. There must have been a great sense of terror in his heart as he considered the dreadful awe of the situation in which he found himself. But instead of words of condemnation, the words continue, saying, “And the Lord said unto me, ‘Having arisen, go to Damascus.'” There is a slight variation in Paul's words here from Chapter 9. There it said, “Arise and go into the city...” Here, it says, “Having arisen, go to Damascus.” Paul is speaking to the people in Jerusalem, and so this is an obvious amendment for them to hear and understand. Paul was already headed to Damascus, but now his purpose for going would be diametrically opposed to what it had been only moments before. Instead of giving orders and arresting faithful believers, he would receive words concerning his new direction in life, as recorded in the continued words, “and there it will be told you all things that have been appointed you to do.” In Chapter 9, it said, “...and you will be told what you must do.” Here, that is amended to show his appointment by the Lord as a son of Israel and one given a commission for spreading the word of the Lord. The changes are logical and appropriate. Of these words, Bengel says – “The Divine appointment is the sphere of the godly: whatever they do is a realisation (repræsentatio, a vivid exhibition or ready performance) of that appointment.” Life application: At this point in the narrative, Paul's mind must have gone from vehement rage to utter astonishment to absolute horror and then to complete confusion – all within a few moments of discourse by the Lord. The process of his conversion from persecuting Jesus to acknowledging Him as Lord was as sudden as the flash of lightning. There was no questioning if the Lord could clarify a few things, there was no asking for a sign to confirm who He was, and so forth. He heard, and he acknowledged. How good it would be if we would do this as well. Obviously, we must ensure that what we have read or heard is properly understood. Unlike Paul, who didn't need such clarification, we might. Varying views on Scripture necessitate logically thinking through which view is correct. Is the view of N.T. Wright correct where he views Jesus and the Gentile-led church as being the true Israel? If so, then there will be no national salvation for Israel and the people who have been brought back to the land of Israel have no future hope or purpose in God's redemptive plans. If he is wrong, then there is a future for Israel and, even if not supporting the worldview of Israel at this time, it is incumbent on faithful believers to pray for and stand with Israel in anticipation of the coming fulfillment of the Lord's promises to them. Once that matter is settled in our theology, the latter being the correct view as argued by the author of this commentary, then we should accept God's will, stop bucking against what He is doing in regard to Israel, and continue to pray for Israel in anticipation of the Lord's returning to them. We are under no obligation to place ourselves in a subservient position to the overall views of the Jewish society, but we are obligated by Scripture to anticipate and pray for God's will to be fulfilled according to how His word is laid out and properly interpreted. In all such matters of theology, let us not kick against what God has ordained. Instead, let us look to the higher purposes of God and allow our hopes for the future to be realized in our attitudes in the present. Gracious and almighty God, we come before You, knowing that You are the One who keeps His covenant, even when we fail to do so. Unlike man, who is willing to toss away the promises set forth by You, Your word stands, confirming what You have spoken as a promise to the people You have covenanted with. Help us in our weakness, clarify our confusion, and redirect our hearts and minds to be in accord with Your intentions for all humanity. Amen.
Monday, 27 November 2023 “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. Acts 22:9 The Greek more literally reads, “And those being with me indeed saw the light and were terrified but did not comprehend the voice of Him speaking to me” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul told the crowd that he asked who was speaking to him on the road to Damascus. He then noted that the voice stated He was Jesus of Nazareth, whom he was persecuting. Paul now adds more detail about the encounter, saying, “And those being with me indeed saw the light.” This is an important addition. First, it could be verified if it was true or not. Second, if only Paul saw the light, it could be claimed that he had a stroke, suffered a mental breakdown, got donked on the head by a falling rock, or some other event. However, if all of those with him saw the light, it could not be denied that the event occurred. Understanding this, Paul next says, “and were terrified.” These words are not found in some manuscripts, but they are likely original. It is a natural and obvious reaction to such an encounter, and the words fit with the general tenor of the account. Terror would have gripped anyone who was in such a situation. Such a radiant light in the middle of the day would be inexplicable. But more, Paul continues with, “but did not comprehend the voice of Him speaking to me.” In many translations, there is a seeming contradiction from chapter 9. In Chapter 9, it said, “And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.” As in the NKJV, translations will say “hear.” It is not incorrect, but it leads to a seeming contradiction. The men heard a voice, but they did not understand it. The same word carries both connotations. We might say, “You aren't hearing me” to someone who hears but does not pay heed. We may knock on someone's head and say, “Helloooo, did you hear me?” when it is perfectly well-known that he did. However, he may not have grasped what was said, or he may have completely ignored it. This would have added to their terror. Seeing a gleaming light and hearing a voice but not understanding it would be something truly terrifying to those who experienced the encounter. As for the word “hear,” that carries a dual meaning, one example is found in Mark 4:33 – “And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.” It is clear that the word “hear” means to assimilate into the mind, not simply to audibly hear a sound. 1 Corinthians 14:2 also provides clarity – “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” The same word, here translated as “understands,” clarifies the dual nature of the word. Life application: It is the constant aim of some people to tear apart the word of God in order to deny that it is what it claims to be. Supposed contradictions are highlighted on innumerable websites, attempting to deceive people and rob them of faith. Such claims, incredibly, will even come from the pulpit or lectern in churches or seminaries. However, with a bit of study, such supposed contradictions are cleared up. Don't be hasty to believe everything you read or hear. Instead, check out such claims. In the end, you may find that what you heard was inaccurate. If you care about your analysis of Scripture, it can be even more embarrassing to have repeated what was said, to only later find out you were wrong. Check things out, don't be quick to repeat without verification, and be ready to defend the word as you find out how truly reliable it is. Thank You, O God, for the precious word You have given us. It is a wonder to our understanding, a delight to our minds, and a joy to our hearts to read and know it more each day. We thank You for how You have displayed Your heart to us in it. Thank You! Amen.
Sunday, 26 November 2023 So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.' Acts 22:8 Rather, the Greek reads, “And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting'” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul had fallen to the ground and heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” It next says, “And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?'” Paul's questioning of who the Presence is shows that even though he had all of the training of a master, he still didn't know who the Lord truly was. It is reminiscent of the story of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3 – “And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you did call me.' Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”' So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears.'” 1 Samuel 3:8-10 Paul knew that this was a divine messenger, but he could not have imagined that Jesus was that divine messenger. His worldview and presuppositions about the law, the Messiah, etc., would not allow him to believe that his actions could possibly be responsible for the persecution of God's appointed Messiah. However, that was about to change with the next words, “And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene.'” The word Nazarene was not used by Luke in Chapter 9. However, Paul here indicates that this is the full title that was spoken to him. Luke's words in Chapter 9 were focused more on the persecution and Paul's stubborn inability to perceive the truth, instead recklessly pursuing a false direction – “And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?' Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'” Here, Paul first identifies the Source of the words from heaven because of the audience he is addressing. He carefully calls Jesus the Nazarene to ensure that the proper Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua) was being identified for their understanding. The name was not uncommon in Israel at the time. Identifying him this way would carefully elicit memories of the Man who had come and done so many miracles among the people, who had been crucified, and whose followers avowed that He had risen. Paul poignantly identifies himself with this same Jesus. With that, he completes Jesus' words to him, saying, “whom you are persecuting.” Paul doesn't leave out the fact that he had been persecuting Jesus, but the proper Jesus had to first be identified. Matthew Poole describes the term Nazarene used here, saying “...that contemned (though not contemptible) name is owned by Christ from heaven, that they might not be ashamed when they were reproached by it on earth.” Life application: The name Jesus is the name at which every person shall someday bow. All of humanity, from Adam until the last person born, will acknowledge Him – “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 Isaiah, however, ascribes this honor to the Lord (Yehovah) – “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.” Isaiah 45:22, 23 Paul directly cites Isaiah and applies what the Lord said through him to Jesus. Either Paul was a heretic and a blasphemer, or he is rightly claiming that Jesus is the Lord incarnate. The truth of Jesus' deity cannot be missed if one truly searches it out. However, presuppositions and biases stand in the way. Paul was given a special grace by encountering the Lord personally. We are likewise offered the grace of meeting Jesus personally through the now-completed pages of Scripture. Let us be wise and attend carefully to what we read. The choice is ours, just as it was for Paul. He responded properly – “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Acts 26:19, 20 Paul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. We are not to be disobedient to the testimony now set forth in the pages of the Bible. Believe and be saved, and then share this message with those you encounter, to the glory of God who saved you. Lord God Almighty, thank You for the word that You have given us. It is the place where we can encounter You and find the truth of who You are. May we not be slack about our pursuit of You. Rather, fill us with the burning desire to know You more and more each day. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Saturday, 25 November 2023 “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' Acts 22:7 In the last verse, Paul was approaching Damascus when a gleaming light shone around him. Next, it says, “And I fell to the ground.” The light overwhelmed him, and as happens at other points in Scripture where someone encounters the glory of God. Regardless of how He reveals Himself, it is a natural reaction to beholding His glory. An example of this is found in Peter's encounter with Jesus – “But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.' 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'” Luke 5:5-8 This doesn't mean that Peter recognized Jesus as God, but he did recognize the miracle as having come from God. Thus, Peter understood that Jesus had been a divinely appointed Messenger of the Lord. The miracle leveled him because he discerned his utterly contemptible nature before such greatness. Paul is now overwhelmed in a different but comparable way. The glory of the risen Lord was too much for him to bear, and the event, likewise, leveled him. With that having occurred, it next says, “and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul.'” The Greek Saoul, Saoul is transliterated from the Hebrew name Shaul, or Saul, meaning Asked For. Further, the call is personal, having been repeated twice as so often occurs in Scripture. It is a way of bearing verbal emphasis. Further, it is generally used in a way that demonstrates intimate familiarity. For example – “So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob!' And he said, “Here I am.” 3 So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.'” Genesis 46:1-4 The Lord was emphatically calling Jacob, intimately identifying with him, and demonstrating that He knew what would come to pass. In this, He was reassuring Jacob concerning the future, the events of which were completely within the control of His capable hands. As for the encounter between Jesus and Saul, the words continue, saying, “why are you persecuting Me?” The accusation is personal as well – “Why are you persecuting ME?” An attack against believers is an attack against Christ Himself. If the church is “in Christ,” then it is “in” Christ! Of interest is that the noun “voice” is in a different case than in verse 9. The same is true with Acts 9:4 and Acts 9:7. The reason is certainly to show that the others heard a sound, but it was not speech to them. The Lord was only speaking to Paul. Life application: In Isaiah 66, it says – “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,' Says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.'” Isaiah 66:1, 2 The word of God, meaning the Holy Bible, reveals who God is. It speaks forth His intentions for the people of the world. God says that He looks favorably upon the one who trembles at this word. Does this reflect your state before God? It is certain that you cannot tremble at a word you don't read. Nor can you tremble at a word that you read in which you are looking for personal earthly gain. But this is how much of the church treats the word because this is what they have been taught about the word. You might be looking to get rich, and so you look to the Bible as a talisman to make that happen. There is no trembling and reverent fear in this. There is only the expectation that the Great ATM in the sky will be paying out in the days ahead. The word of God is supposed to appeal to our souls, convict us of our sins, reveal to us His greatness, demonstrate our need for His mercy and grace, etc. These things are what we should find when we open the word and look into it. Let us consider this as we reflect upon this sacred and precious word. Glorious Lord God, we stand in awe of Your splendor and majesty. We thank You for the grace and kindness You have shown to us, even in our fallen state. And we thank You that because of Jesus, we are now reconciled to You for all eternity. Be glorified in our praises to You, O God. Amen.
Friday, 24 November 2023 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me.” Acts 22:6 A more literal translation would be, “And it was to me, traveling and approaching Damascus about midday, suddenly from heaven considerable light gleamed around me” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul told the gathered crowd that he had received letters allowing him to bring in chains to Jerusalem those who followed the Way in Damascus. He continues now, saying, “And it was to me, traveling and approaching Damascus. Paul notes a few things here that are of interest. The first is that what occurred was as he was approaching Damascus. This means that it occurred outside of the land of Israel. It is not to simply be dismissed because of this though, as some Jewish commentaries attempt to do about such events. Daniel and Ezekiel had their visions outside of the land. Moses received the law outside of the land. Elijah was taken out of the land when he spoke to the Lord. Etc. Paul is stating this as a fact, and the people were to receive it as such. Secondly, he next says it was about midday. This was omitted from the account in chapter 9. Paul is giving a first-hand account of the matter. Stating that it was around the middle of the day is then telling the crowd that what occurred was more intense and brighter than even the sun in its fullest moment. The glory which he beheld eclipsed the splendor of the sun. This is similar to how Jesus is described in Revelation 1:16 – “He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” As for the word translated as midday, this is the second and last time it is seen in Scripture. The word is mesémbria. It is a compound word coming from mesos, meaning “middle,” and hémera, meaning “day.” Hence, it means “midday.” Of the manifestation, he next says it occurred “suddenly from heaven.” This was not something that could be attributed to man, such as someone in the distance carrying a mirror that reflected the light. Rather, the direction is from above. It wasn't there, and then it was suddenly there. Continuing, Paul says, “considerable light gleamed around me.” The word periastrapto is also used for the second and last time. It comes from peri, around, and astraptó, to flash forth. The word astraptó was used in Luke 24:4 to describe the dazzling garments worn by the two men at Jesus' tomb. This was more than a temporary flash. Rather, there was a gleaming radiance from heaven that suddenly enveloped Paul. Life application: Paul was chosen as an apostle and designated to go forth to the Gentiles. He was a hard case in his fight against Christianity, and it took a hard lesson for him to understand just who he was persecuting. The same is true with many of the people of the world today. But it should not be expected that the Lord is going to suddenly reveal Himself to them. Nor is it wise to listen to people who claim this is how they met the Lord. We now meet the Lord through His completed word. This is stated explicitly in Scripture. Instead of wasting your time reading books about heavenly visitations and watching videos about people claiming they have seen the Lord, it would be prudent to spend your time reading the Bible and sharing the gospel. It is incumbent on us to tell the world about Jesus. He is not going to go around His word, popping into people's heads or offices, to make converts. He has entrusted that sacred duty to the people of His church. Lord God, what a treasure and a gift Your word is. May we be wise in pursuing it and diligent in sharing it. People need this word to know who Jesus is and what He has done. They need it to understand the gospel. Help us to learn the word and then share it with others. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Thursday, 23 November 2023 “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. Acts 22:5 A more literal rendering would be, “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the elderhood. From whom also having received letters to the brothers, I went to Damascus even to bring those there being bound to Jerusalem so that they might be punished” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul noted that he persecuted the Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. He continues that thought now, saying, “as also the high priest bears me witness.” Scholars enjoy arguing over which high priest is being referred to. Some are adamant that he's speaking of the high priest at the time of his conversion. Others say that he is speaking of the high priest at the time he is speaking. It could be either, but that is not what is important. Having grown up around these people, they would understand his actions and the authority of the position. Such argumentation distracts from the main point, which is the authority of the office. Along with the high priest, he next says, “and all the elderhood.” His statement that the high priest, as well as all of the council of elders, knew of his actions could so easily be refuted that it had to be true. Some of them may have been standing there at that moment. As for the term “elderhood,” it is found only in Luke 22:66, here, and 1 Timothy 4:14. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul uses it concerning the elders of the church. It is a noun indicating an elderhood or presbytery. Of these offices in the leadership of Israel, he next says, “From whom also having received letters to the brothers, I went to Damascus.” From the body of the high priest and the elders, among whom some were still living at the present time, he received his permission to conduct his persecution of the Christians even as far as Damascus. In his words about the Jews there, he calls them “brothers.” It is an emphatic way of saying that, even now, he identified himself with the Jewish people as brothers. Implied in this is that the faith he pursued in no way removed him from his status as a Jew. What he did was with the authority and sanction of Israel's leaders, and it was in accord with the principles of his Jewish brethren where he traveled. This was specifically, “even to bring those there being bound to Jerusalem.” One can see that Paul was operating under a greater plan of ending the Way. Those in other locations who believed were bound. Paul went to retrieve them and bring them to the seat of power and authority in Jerusalem “so that they might be punished.” The word he uses, timóreó, is found only here and in a verse where he again discusses this persecution against the saints, Acts 26:11. Its literal meaning is to assign due retribution. Paul was avenging himself upon the church, and he was working for the elders who would also avenge themselves on it. They believed that the church was committing offenses against their way of life. Thus, suitable atonement through their punishment was necessary. Life application: Paul never stopped being a Jew when he came to faith in Jesus. However, this does not mean that he had to adhere to everything that he once adhered to. That thinking will be proven completely false in the verses ahead. Rather than losing his cultural and national identity, he solidified it. As many messianic believers state today, they are now “completed Jews.” They have developed beyond the Law of Moses, having come to the One whom Moses spoke of. The Law of Moses does not define who the Jewish people are. Their relationship with the Lord, in the context that applies at a given time within His redemptive plans, is what defines them as a people. As the law was fulfilled by Christ, it is by faith in Him alone that defines them as His people. This is explicitly stated in Romans 9-11. Without national salvation through Messiah, Israel is not in a right standing with the Lord. Pray that they will seek Him out while He may be found. The end times are coming upon the world, and Israel will be here, enduring through that terrible trial because of their rejection of Christ. The good news, however, is that they shall survive as a people and enter into the millennium with Christ as their Head. God is ever faithful to His faithless people. Lord God may Your guiding hand be upon Israel during their time of trial and trouble in the years ahead. Open hearts and minds to the truth of who Jesus is before that day comes. And, Lord, we long for the day when You will be glorified through them when they, as Your people once again, hail the exalted name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, 22 November 2023 “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, Acts 22:4 The words are more literally rendered, “Who persecuted this Way until death, binding and betraying to prisons both men and women” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul refuted the accusations levied against him to the crowd standing before him, noting that he was zealous toward God as all of them were. Continuing now, he says, “Who persecuted this Way.” Instead of saying, “I persecuted,” he uses a relative pronoun, referring to his past self in a way that highlights his particular role. In essence, “I am Paul, he who did these things.” Adding in the words “this Way,” is a way of revealing that the man standing before them was the same man. It was a part of who he was at the time. He was an enemy of the Way.” The term Way is the early Christian formula that hearkens back to the words of Jesus – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 By this time, it was an understood term used by believers that others also seemed to be aware of. And more, it could have been a term of derision used by non-believers. Like messianic believers today, they may have been accepted in society but considered on its fringe. This is true of any strange sect. No matter what, the use of the words “this Way” identifies something that the people were aware of. As for his connection to persecuting the Way in his previous life, it was “until death.” The word translated as “until” is achri. It doesn't necessarily mean that he participated in their deaths but that his actions brought the people to this point. Acts 26 gives more detail on this – “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Acts 26:9-11 Of this treatment, Paul openly acknowledges his previous conduct, saying, “binding and betraying to prisons.” This was something already acknowledged in Acts 9, where Paul actively went out searching for those he wanted to be brought before the rulers for trial – “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1, 2 He was given full authority to not only seize the people but to bind them and bring them in. But his words go further by using the word paradidómi, translated as “betraying.” It signifies close, personal involvement. Translating it as betray instead of deliver is because these were fellow countrymen. There had to be a sense of purposeful betrayal, whether right or wrong. Jesus uses the word often. In Matthew 26:46, He says of Judas – “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” As for the word “prisons,” it is in the plural, even though not all translations rightly reflect this. It is a note to the people that he didn't just have them arrested around his area but that he actively went out looking for people to be imprisoned. This included “both men and women.” The man of the house was considered the responsible party for the conduct of the house. However, Paul held women personally accountable for their conduct and arrested them along with the men. He was passionate that anyone associated with the Way was to be rounded up, bound, and taken to prison. He felt there was no room for any such person within the Jewish society. Life application: Acts 9, where Paul was converted, was a long time ago in the ongoing narrative. It had been many years, and Paul had never lost his zeal to speak out concerning the calling to which he had been called. It is something that we should reflect on. It is not possible to retain the same level of emotion as we felt when we first came to love someone. But that doesn't mean we cannot have the same level of commitment to them. Our love evolves and develops in new directions as we learn, grow, and interact. But our commitment can and should remain the same or even stronger. There should never be a time that one is less committed to his marriage, being a parent, being a follower of Jesus, etc. And yet, though we may stay committed in some of these aspects, we may not be so devoted in others. Let us take time to evaluate how truly committed we are to those things we have a responsibility for. Are we just as committed to our job as the day we started? Are we as committed to reading the Bible as we used to be? What about church attendance? Have we let that wane? Search out your priorities and refocus if need be. You may have come to dislike your job, but you should be just as committed to it today as you were when things were going smoothly. Your pay reflects a standard that you should be upholding. Consider and redirect! Be that committed soul that you should be in those areas of life that are a part of who you are. Heavenly Father, we may have let parts of our lives slacken in commitment. In doing this, it is ultimately a reflection on You because we are called by Your name because we are in Christ. Help us to consider this and to redirect ourselves to be fully committed to those things we are a part of in life. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, 21 November 2023 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. Acts 22:3 More precisely, the Greek reads, “I am indeed a man, a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia and brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the scrupulousness of the patriarchal law; being a zealot for God, as all you are this day” (CG). In the previous verse, Luke prepared us for Paul's words of defense before the people of Israel. He now begins those words, saying, “I am indeed a man, a Jew.” These words of Paul, spoken in his defense, will answer everything that he was accused of in Acts 21:28. He begins with the fact that he is a man, a Jew. Thus, he has identified himself as one who was legally allowed to be in the temple area, and specifically the area of the temple in which he was accosted. There is the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, and then it proceeded to where only men could go. From there, he next says, “born in Tarsus of Cilicia.” Mentioning that he was born in Tarsus might seem unnecessary, but he is speaking to them in their language. Unlike many of those who came and didn't speak the local dialect (as is seen in Acts 2), Paul did. Secondly, noting his place of birth sets the stage for his next words, “and brought up in this city.” He was brought up in Jerusalem. He was fully aware of the culture and customs of the city. He would have frequently been to the temple, interacted with the people, and was fully aware of what was allowed and what was not. This is important because it was in Acts 21:29 it was supposed that he had brought Trophimus the Ephesian into the city. Anyone raised in Jerusalem would know that this was not acceptable. He then notes that his rearing was “at the feet of Gamaliel.” This showed that not only was he a Jew, but that even from a very young age, he was brought up to live as an observant Jew in the home country and even in the home capital where Gamaliel instructed. And more, being brought up under him – one of the greatest teachers in their history – meant that he probably came there at 12 after becoming a “Son of the Covenant.” To be brought up “at the feet” of a rabbi as was the custom of observant families. Sitting at the feet of a rabbi has a literal meaning. The rabbis sat in a highchair, and their students sat on the ground at their feet. In this honorable study, he next says he was “instructed according to the scrupulousness of the patriarchal law.” The word translated as scrupulousness is found only here in Scripture, akribeia. It is a noun that gives the sense of exactly adhering to something. There is precise attention and focus. In other words, he perfectly attended to the law which had been passed down from the fathers, even since it was received by Moses at Sinai. The adjective form of the word is used again in Acts 26:5. As for the word translated as patriarchal, it is an adjective meaning hereditary, but in the masculine sense. It is that which is received from one's fathers. Some translations say, “of our fathers,” “father's law,” “ancestral law,” “patristic law,” etc. However, for an exact match, the word “patriarchal” gives the best sense. He next says, “being a zealot for God, as all you are this day.” As he continues, he indicates that this strict upbringing made him just as zealous towards God as they were. It is a subtle compliment to them that they at least thought they were acting on behalf of God's honor through their actions. As he says this in the present tense, translating it as “was” as in the KJV and NKJV is a poor rendering. It makes it sound like his zealousness was in the past and not necessarily continuing at this time. His use of the present tense indicates that he is just as zealous to what God had presented now as he was in the past. How could he say this if he was associating with Gentiles? It is because Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. In following Jesus, Paul was actually more observant to Moses than any Jew who thought he was pleasing to God by observing the law without Jesus. Life application: One cannot say he is a follower of Moses while rejecting Jesus. It is impossible because Moses wrote about Jesus (John 5:46). One who accepts the words of Jesus will be willing to come to Jesus (John 5:40). Moses wrote of the Prophet to come. Jesus is that Prophet. This Prophet would be like Moses. As Moses introduced the covenant at Sinai, Jesus would introduce the New Covenant in Jerusalem. This New Covenant was prophesied during the time of Moses (Jeremiah 31). Therefore, Moses (meaning the Law of Moses) anticipated the end of the law and the introduction of something new. If one fails to come to Jesus through His New Covenant, he has failed to be obedient to Moses, and his condemnation remains. Only in coming to Christ can one truly be observant of the Law of Moses. Paul does not say to the people that they are being obedient to the law. Rather, he says that they are zealous toward God. One can be zealous toward God in Islam. It does not mean that he is right with God. One can be zealous toward God in Judaism and not be right with Him. Paul did not mislead the people, and his words will continue to lead them to the truth of who Jesus is. It will then be their choice to either receive or reject his words. The same is true with each of us today. Choose wisely. Choose Jesus. Lord God, we thank You for Jesus who has come, fulfilled the Law of Moses, and who has set it aside so that we can worship You in spirit and in truth. Without Him, we are all goners. But in Christ, we are brought near to You for all eternity. Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
Monday, 20 November 2023 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: Acts 22:2 In the previous verse, Paul noted his desire to present his defense before the people. With that, it now continues, saying, “And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language.” As noted in the commentary on Acts 21:40, the meaning of the word translated as “Hebrew” would be the Aramaic variant of the inhabitants at this time. It would probably have had a mixture of both Hebrew and Aramaic mingled together, drawing on one language or another for emphasis. Until he started speaking in this particular dialect, the people who were in the mob probably didn't know who Paul was or what he had done wrong. They simply heard someone say something, and they jumped into the fray, accepting what they heard. The impression of many would be that he spoke one of the languages of the dispersion and was simply a miscreant who had come to the festival and defiled the temple. However, he is now speaking to them in their own dialect. The sudden understanding that he was one of them caused them to quiet down. As it says, “they kept all the more silent.” They were already somewhat calmed down by his having been taken by the Romans. There were probably minor cheers or cries for justice, but these would be intermittent by this point. But seeing him turn, wave his hand, and then start speaking in their tongue would have shut up the most boisterous of them. As he was out of their hands, and because there was no reason to continue to strive against him without ending up in chains, or worse, the natural thing to do now would be to simply quiet down and listen to what he had to say. With that, the verse ends with, “Then he said.” The verse leaves us on a cliffhanger. Exciting words surely lie ahead. Life application: To get a sense of what the language of Judea may have been like at the time, we can think of how any language is used today. If you ever go to the Philippines, you will hear people talking in their own language. And then, right out of the blue, they will throw in a few words or even a full sentence of English. In America, we will do the same but usually in a more limited way. Someone may say, “I went to the store today, and the shelves were practically empty. That was no bueno.” Adding in the Spanish is simply for effect. After the return of the people from Babylon, the Aramaic script had taken over as the written aleph-beth. The returnees would have spoken Aramaic for the most part. Over the years, the Greeks came in, and everything Greek became a fashion to many. Therefore, much of their influence was incorporated into the culture. By the time of Jesus' coming, the original Hebrew was reserved for reading in the synagogues, but it was not a language that people would have readily spoken. Everything about languages is in a state of flux. Very few languages remain untainted for very long. As languages evolve, it is important that translations are updated to reflect these changes in order to be relevant to the minds of the readers. Do you know what the word sith means? Hint: it has nothing to do with Star Wars. How about ensample, besom, blains, or bolled? These are just a few of the hundreds of words that have not existed in the English language for eons, but which are used in the KJV. As for the word sith, it is an archaic way of saying since. But even at the time of the writing of the KJV, it was an obscure word, uncommon but to a very small section of the UK. The meaning of so much of the KJV is completely unknown to the modern mind. Why should you need to have a dictionary or use an internet search to translate the Bible just so you can understand it? That is as nutty as a banana split. Read the Bible in the morning, during the day, and at night. Read various versions of the Bible. Listen to audio Bibles. Fill your mind with the word of God. Let it become a passion for you. It is a love letter from the Lord. Refer to it for encouragement, understanding, joy, peace, contentment, and so much more. READ THE BIBLE! Lord God, thank You for the precious word that You have given us. It is a delight to our minds and a light to our path as we proceed through life. May we fill our minds with it and be encouraged by it. Yes, thank You for the Bible! Amen.
Sunday, 19 November 2023 “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” Acts 22:1 The Greek reads – “Men, brothers and fathers, hear now my defense to you” (CG). In the previous verse, which ended Chapter 21, Paul had been given permission to speak to the mob. Therefore, he motioned with his hand and began speaking to them in their own dialect. His recorded words begin with, “Men, brothers and fathers.” He begins his discourse with the same words as Stephen in Acts 7:2. Andres, adelphoi kai pateres – “Men, brothers and fathers.” It seems like a triple address, but it is intended as simply “Brothers and fathers.” Calling out “men” first is a way of acknowledging the whole, which is then subdivided into a respectful note to the elders and a brotherly note to the others. It also may have been a standard formula when addressing an assembly that included the leaders of Israel, such as scribes and elders. Either way, he next says, “hear now my defense to you.” The word translated as “defense” is the Greek word apologia. It is the same word used in 1 Peter 3:15 when speaking of making a logical defense concerning the faith that we possess. It signifies a reasoned argument put forth in a verbal defense of oneself, one's beliefs, etc. It was a term used when making a legal defense in ancient courts. Life application: Paul will set forth to his countrymen a defense of himself and the reason for his faith. He will explain how he came to the position he held. He will acknowledge those who were familiar with his life before coming to Christ, his faithfulness to the customs and cultures of his people, and so forth. We should all likewise be prepared to explain our faith as well. In our explanation, we should be ready to tell what brought us to Christ, how it is logical and reasonable that we hold to our views, the changes that have come to our lives because of our conversion, etc. Think about your conversion and consider how you can use it to tell others about your hope. Also, take time to continue to solidify why you believe the Christian faith is reasonable and worthy of consideration for those you talk to. Heavenly Father, Your word is what reveals Jesus to us. The message is sound and reasonable, and it is a message of love for the people of the world. Help us to properly convey this precious message to all we know and to all we encounter. May we be bold in our proclamation that Jesus is the hope for mankind. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Saturday, 18 November 2023 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying, Acts 21:40 The Greek reads – “And he, having permitted; Paul, having stood on the stairs, shook with the hand to the people. And great silence having come to be, he spoke in the Hebrew dialect, saying,” (CG). Paul had just spoken to the commander, requesting permission to speak to the people. With that, it next says, “And he, having permitted.” The commander was probably curious as to what would come about, and so he allowed this unusual request. Paul was safely out of the grasp of the people, the soldiers were obviously in control of the stairways, and the people would be no threat at this point. Thus, allowing this could possibly control the crowd more. If they remained riled up, nothing would be lost. Therefore, permission was granted, and “Paul, having stood on the stairs, shook with the hand to the people.” With permission comes action. Paul, being on the stairs, would have been above everyone in the crowd. The perfect participle indicates that Paul first stood, certainly facing the crowd. This alone would have brought the crowd's attention more firmly on him. With that, he then motioned with his hand. The word kataseió was also used in Acts 12:17, 13:16, and 19:33. It gives the sense of waving downward with the hand. It is probably the same type of motion we make even today. When someone is being noisy and another person is trying to sleep, we may make the shhhhh sound while motioning downward. By making this common hand motion towards the people, the crowd would have suddenly become interested in hearing him. With that, it then says, “And great silence having come to be.” Anyone who could get a Roman commander to stop in the middle of an arrest and allow the supposed offender to speak would certainly have something to say. The mental picture is worth ten thousand words. He would have been in chains that clanged as he moved. He would have been surrounded by a large number of soldiers bearing swords and shields and fully dressed for battle. He would have been in a traditional Hebrew garment and without any great flash. And yet he is allowed to speak! Who wouldn't stop and grow silent? The marvel of the moment would have been an attention-arresting sight. With that, it next says that “he spoke in the Hebrew dialect, saying.” With the coming of the silence came forth speech in their own language. Some translations say “Hebrew,” others “Aramaic.” The lingua franca was Aramaic and this is what he would have spoken to them in. In other words, the Hebrew language used in Scripture would be taught in synagogues, but the language of the Jews had evolved beyond that in the common speech of the people. This is the same idea as understanding ancient English and reading from it out of the Geneva Bible while normally speaking in the common English of the United States today. Hints of this Aramaic tongue are found in the gospels, clearly indicating that the original Hebrew was no longer the common tongue of the people. As for what he is about to speak to the crowd, curiously, the chapter ends in the middle of a sentence. Some use a colon, some a semi-colon, and some a comma. However it is punctuated, it is one of the convincing proofs of divine attention to the chapter and verse divisions of Scripture. A new chapter will commence in the middle of a thought. Life application: People often get bent out of shape when they are told Paul spoke in Aramaic to the people. It is as if a sacredness has been removed from their thinking and they immediately go on the defense, insisting that the people spoke Hebrew. Call it what you will. It was not the language used in the Old Testament Scriptures. Today, the people in Israel speak Hebrew, but it is also not the same as in the Scriptures. Just as we find it very difficult to read the English of John Wycliffe, so it is with ancient and modern Hebrew. The language of Israel at the time of Jesus and the apostles was so infused with Aramaic that calling it Aramaic is probably a better description of the dialect that would have been commonly spoken. The important issue isn't the exact dialect that was spoken but that what Paul spoke to them was what they also understood. He was fully capable of speaking in their local dialect. This is the same as what it says in 2 Chronicles – “Then they called out with a loud voice in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten them and trouble them, that they might take the city. 19 And they spoke against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth—the work of men's hands.” 2 Chronicles 32:18, 19 Here, it does not say “Hebrew.” Rather, it says Yehudith, or “Judean.” The language of the Jews had evolved into its own particular dialect. That dialect was known by some of the attacking army and it was spoken clearly and openly to the people. The study of languages in the Bible and during biblical times is an exciting adventure. But remember, no matter what language you speak, the Lord understands, reading your heart and knowing what is on your mind. Be blessed in this thought. The intimacy that you share with the Creator because of Jesus is closer than any variations that our languages develop over the millennia. Lord God, no matter what language we speak, You are intimately familiar with our thoughts as we open our hearts to You. You gave us languages and they have evolved throughout the world. And yet, people from every tongue will sing their praises to You. How great it is to share intimacy with You through Jesus, regardless of which language we speak! Amen.
Friday, 17 November 2023 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” Acts 21:39 More precisely, the verse reads, “And Paul said, indeed, I am a man, a Jew of Tarsus of Cilicia – not an insignificant city. And I beg you, allow me to speak to the people” (CG). In the previous verse, the Roman commander had asked Paul if he wasn't the Egyptian who had stirred up a rebellion among the people and who led four thousand Sicarii into the wilderness. In response to that, it next says, “And Paul said, indeed, I am a man, a Jew.” Where the man just referred to was clearly an Egyptian who led Jews, Paul is a Jew who was being persecuted by Jews. He is contrasting himself to the Egyptian. The intent is surely to reveal to the commander that there was more hanky-panky going on than first met the eye. With that, he continues identifying himself, saying, “of Tarsus of Cilicia.” This is the second and last time that Tarsus is identified this way. The first was in Acts 9:11. Being from Tarsus meant that he was a part of the dispersion. Thus, he would be familiar with the way Gentiles lived. He would also more than likely speak several languages and dialects (see 1 Corinthians 14:18), including the Greek he is now conversing in. The particular spelling of the name in Greek is Tarseus. It is also called Tarsus in Acts 9:30, 11:25, and 22:3. James Strong speculates that the name comes from tarsos, meaning a flat basket. If so, it may reflect the layout of the city. It is one of the longest continually inhabited cities in the world. Paul came from the opposite direction of Egypt, and he claimed to be a citizen from there. If he was found lying, it would only make it worse on him. Hence, there was every reason to believe him. Paul next notes that Tarsus is “not an insignificant city.” The Greek word used to describe it is asémos. It means “not distinguished.” Vincent's Word Studies says – “...without a mark or token (σῆμα [sema]). Hence used of uncoined gold or silver: of oracles which give no intelligible response: of inarticulate voices: of disease without distinctive symptoms. Generally, as here, undistinguished, mean. There is a conscious feeling of patriotism in Paul's expression.” Ellicott further notes, “In addition to all its fame for culture, the town of Tarsus bore on its coins the word METROPOLIS-AUTONOMOS (Independent).” Having confirmed his identity, thus demonstrating that he was not a rabble-rouser, he then makes a formal request to speak to the people, saying, “And I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” It is a formal request to the man who could allow it to be realized. His boldness in asking demonstrates that he was hoping it would make a difference in the outcome of the situation. Being a Jew and also not an instigator, then he must want to make a defense against their treatment of him. Life application: As Paul does elsewhere, he appeals to his cultural and national identity. He was willing to work within the framework of the society in which he lived, using his particular identity for the benefit of himself and the ministry. This is completely the opposite of how many cults and sects treat the national identity they possess. They shun participating in various aspects of society that affect them while actively participating in others. They claim they are not of this world, completely abusing the intent of Jesus' words, in order to not participate. At the same time, they have driver's licenses, registered marriages, and (you betcha they do) pay taxes, claiming it is right and responsible to do so. And yet, they refuse to vote, engage in politics, participate in other cultural events, etc. It is a failed “pick and choose” type of lifestyle that harms the very goals they set forth for themselves in the country in which they live. This is completely the opposite of the biblical model found in both testaments of Scripture. Don't hesitate to participate. Your failure to do so may result in the loss of rights you possess or in harm to others (such as the Jews during Nazi Germany). You have a voice as a citizen of your nation. Use it. Lord God, we are citizens of heaven because of Jesus, but we are also living out earthly lives in the lands which You have ordained for us. May we be responsible citizens of both as we await our departure from here and the trip to our final, heavenly, home with You. Help us in this. Amen.
Thursday, 16 November 2023 “Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” Acts 21:38 A more literal rendering would be, “Are you not, then, the Egyptian who before these days having upheaved and having led out into the wilderness the four thousand men, the Sicarii?” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul was about to be taken into the barracks by the Roman soldiers. At this time, he asked the commander for permission to speak. In response, the commander asked if Paul spoke Greek. It can be inferred that Paul either nodded or verbally responded affirmatively. With that, the confusion of the commander arose, asking, “Are you not, then, the Egyptian.” The conjunction, translated as “then,” reflects an inference on the part of the commander. He must have heard one of the people in the crowd (see verse 21:34) and deduced that what he had heard must be the truth of the matter. In other words, the claim was so outlandish that he assumed it must be true. “Hey, get him. He's the Egyptian that you've been looking for!” Luke will continue describing this Egyptian in his coming words. Some scholars, however, look at his words as confirming a suspicion that he had. They say that the commander means, “You art not, then, that Egyptian?” The claim is that because he spoke in Greek, the assumption that he was the Egyptian was wrong. Two things would argue against this. The first is that he had to defend Paul, not fight against him. Secondly, Greek was well-known in Egypt at the time. The weight of the evidence is that he is now making the assumption that this is the Egyptian, and for some reason, he has fallen into disfavor with the Jews. Thus, the probable explanation for the words is that someone called out this lie, and the commander accepted it in his mind. Luke explains who that Egyptian was, saying, “who before these days having upheaved and having led out into the wilderness the four thousand men.” There was a rebellion of some sort that took place. The commander was fully aware of it and was probably even told that his unit should be on the lookout for them. The word translated as “upheaved” has only been previously seen in Acts 17:6. It signifies to turn upside down, upset, unsettle, etc. HELPS Word Studies says, “properly, turn something over (up to down), i.e., to upset (up-set), raising one part up at the expense of another which results in dislocation (confusion).” Thus, using “upheaved” sufficiently translated the idea. As for this crowd of four thousand, the commander next identifies them as “the Sicarii.” It is a word found only here in Scripture, sikarios. Thayer's explains the word, saying, “an assassin, i. e. one who carries a dagger or short sword (Latinsica (cf. Josephus, as below)) under his clothing, that he may kill secretly and treacherously anyone he wishes to (a cut-throat).” It specifically defines a Jewish fanatical group outlawed by the Roman authorities. Concerning such a band of men, Cambridge notes – “Josephus (Ant. xx. 8. 6; Bell. J. ii. 13. 5) tells how he was one of many impostors of the time, and when Felix was governor came to Jerusalem, gave himself out as a prophet, gathered the people to the Mount of Olives in number about 30,000, telling them that at his word the walls of Jerusalem would fall down, and they could then march into the city. Felix with the Roman soldiers went out against him. The impostor and a part of his adherents fled, but a very large number were killed and others taken prisoners. The narrative of Josephus does not accord with the account of St Luke, but if the former be correct, we may well suppose that the numbers and the occasion spoken of by the chief captain relate to an event anterior to that great gathering on the Mount of Olives. The fame of the impostor may have grown; indeed, must have done so before he could collect the number of adherents of which Josephus speaks.” Life application: The account between the Roman commander and Paul shows us the extreme nature of hatred the Jewish people had developed toward Paul and his doctrine. Paul was a respectable Jew, a Pharisee. He was well-educated and well-known during his day. When he came to faith in Jesus, he began to share the message of salvation to the Gentiles. Because of this, he became hated. The Jews thought that salvation and exaltation in the eyes of the Lord belonged exclusively to them. They were incensed that he would speak to Gentiles about such matters. And yet, an Egyptian thug was given the lead over four thousand Jews and would have been almost a folk hero among the people in his resistance to Roman authority. If the account of Josephus is correct, even more sided with him eventually. To these Jews, it was okay to follow a murderous Egyptian if it meant casting off Roman oppression, but it was not okay to follow a Savior who told the Gentiles that they could cast off the bondage of sin and death through faith in Him. To this very day, such an idea of Gentile salvation without conversion to Judaism is repugnant. Paul's words in the epistles are words of the Lord. They tell of freedom in Christ, but there are many who want to bring people back into bondage. Be careful to avoid anyone, Jew or Gentile, who preaches a message of works, especially works of the law, to somehow merit God's favor. Christ has done it all. Trust in Christ alone for your salvation. How we praise You, Lord God Almighty! Thank You for the freedom we possess from the bondage that once held us. Addictions are gone, legalism is removed, and purity of worship in spirit and in truth is realized when we come to Jesus, accepting the good news of His completed work. Yes, Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, 15 November 2023 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek?” Acts 21:37 The NKJV is more of a paraphrase. Although clunky, the Greek reads, “And being about to be brought into the barracks, Paul says to the commander, ‘If lawful to me to say something to you?' And he said, ‘Do you know Greek?'” In the previous verses, Paul was picked up by the Romans and started to be carried up the stairs while the crowd hemmed him in shouting “Away with him.” Now, that continues with, “And being about to be brought into the barracks.” This is still on the stairs, as will be seen in verse 40. He is probably at a much more elevated point by now and thus safely out of the grasp of the people. And yet, he was still not confined indoors. Therefore, this was the most opportune time to speak to the crowd. As such, it next reads, “Paul says to the commander, ‘If lawful to me to say something to you?'” If you think about it, the question is a bit ironic. “Can I ask you something?” “I think you just did!” Despite this, Paul's question is the first time there has been any communication between the two. The commander never bothered to ask Paul what was going on. It shows the abrupt and rigorous military nature of how the Romans dealt with such things. As for the response to the question, we next read, “And he said, ‘Do you know Greek?'” The irony continues. If Paul spoke in Greek under such dire circumstances, it meant that this was his normal language. By speaking in Greek, the commander's question makes their exchange almost comedic. The substance of what has happened in these words is that Paul's question was to ask for permission to formally address the commander. Despite the irony, it was right of him to ask if he could do so. The commander's response was simply a surprised rhetorical question because he expected Paul to only speak Aramaic or maybe Hebrew at best. Only more learned people or a Hellenistic Jew would immediately break out in fluent Greek. A commoner would go to his default language to speak. With these questions now asked, Paul will have an opportunity to explain his situation and ask for freedom to address his accusers. These things will be seen in the next few verses. Life application: In 1 Corinthians 14:18, Paul says, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.” The meaning of these words is not that Paul was constantly flooded with supernatural gifts of speaking in many tongues. Rather, it meant that he was able to speak in numerous languages. He certainly knew and spoke Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. He would have spoken the dialect of his native home of Tarsus, it probably being its own unique tongue. Being a Roman citizen, it is likely he spoke Latin. In his travels, he would have certainly picked up numerous other variations of the languages he already knew. Paul was grateful for this because it allowed him to communicate the gospel effectively to others in their native tongues. He knew that it was pointless to speak in other languages when nobody in the room could do so. Understanding this, the words concerning tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 make sense. He is not referring to unknown languages at all. The word translated as tongues simply means a known language or a nation distinguished by its speech. The unfortunate continued rendering of the word as “tongues” in modern Bibles leaves the reader thinking there is more to what is being conveyed than there actually is. Don't get duped into the nutty teachings of denominations that say you have to “speak in tongues” in order to prove you are Spirit-filled. If you can speak a language, you are speaking in a tongue. If you only know one language, that is fine. If you have accepted the gospel, you are a Spirit-sealed believer. Deal done. Heavenly Father, the most sensational message of all is that Jesus came to take away our sin through His perfect life, followed by His death upon the cross to atone for our wrongdoing. By faith in that, we are saved. We don't need to add anything to that to prove our salvation. Thank You for the eternal security we possess because of what Jesus has done. Thank You for the simplicity of salvation, O God. Amen.
Tuesday, 14 November 2023 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!” Acts 21:36 In the previous verse, the violence of the mob necessitated that Paul be carried by the Roman cohort that had arrested him. To explain the matter further, Luke next says, “For the multitude of the people followed after.” The angry mob, as so often happens, was unwilling to allow the soldiers to do their duties unhindered. Once Paul was arrested, one would think the people would be satisfied and leave him to the Romans to be dealt with. However, they were so worked up that they were determined to follow, attempting to get their hands on him. As they went, they were “crying out, ‘Away with him!'” The word translated as “away” is airo. It means to lift up, take off, or remove. Our modern word aero, such as in an aerodrome, finds its root here. It is the same word, in the same angry voice, that was used in Luke 23:18 and John 19:15. For example, it says in Luke 23:18 – “And they all cried out at once, saying, ‘Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas.'” The same word will be used in Acts 22:22, where its full intent and sense will be clearly given – “And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!'” The intent for Jesus as He stood before Israel at Passover, and for Paul now in Acts, is that these crowds wanted them killed. Life application: The same sentiment has been brought against faithful believers innumerable times over the past two thousand years. Today, it is a common event to see people demanding that Christians be executed for supposed crimes against Islam. Even when the person has done nothing wrong, false charges of blasphemy are conjured up by the rabid accusers. This is becoming much more common in the West as well. Marxist groups are becoming more and more unfriendly to Christianity. Churches are targeted, politicians on the left cry out untrue accusations, and schools are filled with people who literally hate the idea of Christianity being proclaimed. These things will never get better. The world is on a course against God, and it is the Bible that properly reveals who He is and how He has displayed Himself in human history. Because of this, the nations hate Israel as well. It isn't that Israel is right with God, but that God has covenanted with them as a nation. If Israel could be destroyed, then it would prove that the Bible was not truly the word of God. It is understood from the Bible that Israel will not be right with God until they come to Jesus. Therefore, even Jews hate the complete message of Scripture as revealed in the New Testament. It is why so many Jewish people actively work against Christianity. Any attack against you simply because you are a faithful Christian, or against your faith because it is biblically based, is an attack against the God who has saved you and who has revealed Himself in Scripture as having done so. Expect this, and do not be surprised as these things occur. Lord God Almighty, we know that it is in Your power to simply eradicate all the evil in the world today. We also know that You have not done so yet because You have a plan that is greater than our short existence. So, Lord, help us to be patient in our waiting upon You. Should trials come, give us the strength and wisdom to handle them appropriately. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Monday, 13 November 2023 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. Acts 21:35 A literal rendering would be, “And when he came upon the stairs, it happened he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd” (CG). In the previous verse, it noted that the commander of the soldiers couldn't determine what Paul had done, if anything, because of the yelling of the crowd. Therefore, he commanded that Paul be taken into the barracks where things could be sorted out. Now, the action continues, saying, “And when he came upon the stairs.” This takes the reader back to verse 32. The Roman soldiers were said to have run down to the tumult, indicating from a higher area. Now, Paul was being conducted back to that place. As they arrived at the stairs to ascend to the barracks, it next says, “it happened he was carried by the soldiers.” It doesn't yet say why this is the case. There would only be one of two reasonable explanations for it. The first would be that Paul was purposefully hindering their ascent, refusing to comply with being taken voluntarily. The second would be because of external pressures bearing down on them. The latter is the case. As it says, “because of the violence of the crowd.” Luke's description takes us mentally right into the account. The soldiers literally picked him up by his legs and started carrying him up the stairs because the people were pressed in against them. The more they were pressed, the more the crowd would reach in, trying to get Paul. With the soldiers busy caring for him, they were unable to fend off the people. Luke uses a word to indicate suddenness, sumbainó – literally, “it happened.” According to Vincent's Word Studies, “The verb means, literally, to come together; hence, of a coincidence of events. It is designedly introduced here to express more vividly the fact of the peculiar emergency and the peril of Paul's situation.” What this means is that while they were on the flat portion of the temple mount, the guards could easily encircle Paul and have their hands ready at their weapons. However, as they arrived at the ascent, the cohort was unable to fully protect him and the raving crowds pressed in, taking advantage of the confined situation to tear at him. Life application: Like so many things that occur in life, there are times that our guard is let down. For the Romans surrounding Paul, it was an unavoidable event that they could not fully encircle him due to the layout of the surroundings. At times, we may be exhausted, not paying attention, distracted, etc. At such times, we may let our guard down unintentionally. It is at such times that others may take advantage of the situation and try to trip us up. Likewise, the devil wants nothing more than to have the people of the Lord ineffective in their lives. When we are busily engaged in matters of life, he will come to rob and steal our testimony. Therefore, even when we are off guard, we need to be on guard. In other words, the old adage, “When you least expect it, expect it,” applies to believers. We need to always have a subroutine running in the back of our minds to be cautious, wise, and discerning about the world around us. To hone such skills means to purposefully think about one's surroundings at all times, until it becomes second nature. A bodyguard is taught to be alert at all times. He scans close by and off into the distance. His job is to protect. Ours is too. But our protection is to be directed to our maintaining a good testimony, no matter what challenges we face. Let us endeavor to do so, considering that we represent the Lord at all times. Glorious Lord God, You have given us salvation and a new direction in life. Please be with us and help us to always reflect a proper attitude that is honoring You. May our guard be up, and may our lives be alert and ready at all times to stop the attacks that suddenly arise against us. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Sunday, 12 November 2023 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. Acts 21:34 In the previous verse, the commander came forward and seized Paul, asking what he had done. With that, it now says, “And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.” Notice the similarity to what occurred in Ephesus – “Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” Acts 19:32 The same disarray that was found among Gentiles was to be found among Jews as well. There was a disturbance, and few of the people knew why they were there. They simply were there to join in the melee and participate in a big event. And more, those who did know were probably on the outskirts of the fray, egging on the useful idiots who really had no idea why they were there at all. This type of thing continues to this day. People in a mob are easily stirred into a frenzy. And more, they are easily swayed by a quietly spoken suggestion in the ear of one who is antsy to take out his life's frustrations in such a setting. The word translated as “cried” is used only by Luke in the New Testament. He uses it at the crucifixion in Luke 23:21 and three times in Acts. It is derived from two words signifying “upon” and “to give forth a sound.” Thayer's Greek Lexicon notes that it signifies to call out, followed by direct discourse. One can see the people hollering something out, looking for attention. That is then followed up with words that the speaker hopes will have an effect on the commander. But with probably dozens of people yelling at the same time, it would make determining the matter impossible. Because of this, Luke next records, “So when he could not ascertain the truth.” If there were calls from various factions, all trying to defend their actions and to place the blame on Paul – but without actually knowing what he had done – the facts would be nearly impossible to determine. Because of this, and “because of the tumult” the commander would get nowhere. The obvious best course of action would be to get the truth of what occurred from the person who was being pummeled. This could be obtained in various ways, but it was certain that Rome would ultimately get its answers. Therefore, “he commanded him to be taken into the barracks.” Thayer's Greek Lexicon notes that the word translated as barracks is actually one that signifies interpolation or insertion, such as “into a discourse of matters foreign to the subject in hand.” In other words, the area is Jerusalem, a Jewish city in the land of Israel, and yet, there are foreign barracks tossed into the mix. This doesn't match the Jewishness of the general layout of the city. One can think of a US Air Base located in the greater Tokyo area. It is something foreign to the Japanese and city-like nature of the surroundings. Of this word, Vincent's Word Studies provides necessary detail – “The main tower had a smaller tower at each corner, the one at the southeastern corner being the largest and overlooking the temple. In this tower were the quarters of the soldiers. The word is derived from the verb παρεμβάλλω [paremballo], to put in beside, used in military language of distributing auxiliaries among regular troops and, generally, of drawing up in battle-order. Hence the noun means, a body drawn up in battle-array, and passes thence into the meaning of an encampment, soldiers' quarters, barracks. In Hebrews 11:34, it occurs in the earlier sense of an army; and in Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:13; Revelation 20:9, in the sense of an encampment. In grammatical phraseology it signifies a parenthesis, according to its original sense of insertion or interpolation.” Life application: What happens in this account is no different than riots all around the world on any given day. People show up at events and quickly become followers of whoever seems to be in the know. They act out, trying to be a part of something big going on around them, maybe to gain status or notoriety from their conduct. Unfortunately, that is not what will normally occur. Instead, the evil machinations of those who start the ruckus are usually obscured enough to keep them out of the picture while still controlling the events. Today, with surveillance cameras everywhere, such cunning people can be identified. For example, during riots in Washington DC, a city with cameras everywhere, a review of the recordings will reveal people actually giving orders to others to act. At the same time, they remain out of the main focus of the rioting. Their care is not for immediate attention, but to have their greater purposes brought about. When those who are directed to act are arrested or shot, it means nothing to those who instigated the matter. The damage is done, and the cause has been brought forth, permanently changing the course and structure of the society. For this reason, it is important to not be caught in the middle of religious, cultural, or political gatherings without being fully aware of one's surroundings. Real harm is intended for people who start out with good intentions but who get caught up in events beyond themselves. Evil agendas are well planned, carefully monitored, and will rarely reveal themselves, except in how they ultimately gain control from such situations. Lord God, we have lives to live, and we enjoy participating in the things that occur around us, joining in societal events. But we ask You to help us always to be cautious and circumspect in how we enter into gatherings, knowing that as Christians we can easily be targeted simply because we love Jesus. Help us to bring glory to You and to not be caught up in things that could diminish His great name in others' eyes. Amen.
Saturday, 11 November 2023 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. Acts 21:33 More precisely, the Greek reads, “Then, having drawn near, the commander seized him and commanded to be bound with two chains, and inquired who he might be and what he had done” (CG). In the previous verse, the commander took soldiers and centurions and ran down to the unruly mob beating Paul. When they saw these Romans coming, the mob stopped beating him. Now, the action continues, saying, “Then, having drawn near.” With the power and authority of Rome, they came through the unruly mob and approached Paul. Once there, it says, “the commander seized him.” It is a bold move showing the caliber of the man. This chiliarch, taking full command of the situation, simply came forward and personally seized Paul from their grasp. Being the commander of a thousand men, he could have delegated this to anyone below him. But one can see the air of authority in him through this action. He personally seized him “and commanded to be bound with two chains.” These words are the fulfillment of the prophecy by Agabus in Acts 21:11 – “When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”'” As he prophesied, so it came to pass. However, the Jews only passively bound him through their actions. The Romans formally bound him. The two chains, if to be taken literally from the words of Agabus, were placed with one chain on his hands and the other on his feet. Luke's specificity in these details concerning “two chains” is probably to indicate this. Being bound in this way would imply that they thought he was a hardened criminal, and this appears to be the sense as indicated in the coming words of verse 38. For now, it next says, “and inquired who he might be and what he had done.” It is an obvious thing to do, even if the responses he received may not be the truth of the matter, he had to begin somewhere. As will be seen, the confusion of the situation will not be determined until later.' Life application: The boldness of the commander walking into the midst of the fray and seizing Paul reveals a person confident in his position and authority. One can even imagine the Jews around Paul dividing and stepping back as he approached. He is the one who wielded the power, and he was unconcerned about what anyone around him may do. This is a confident act, but it could have ended badly for him. One in the crowd, or even Paul himself, may have had a knife and struck out at him. But he was confident enough that such an occurrence was unlikely. This man was not a believer in Christ, and yet he didn't fear the situation around him. He was a man with hope only in this life, but he was confident in his actions. Unlike him, we have a hope that goes beyond this earthly life. Despite this, how willing are we to simply step forward and act? People are going to be separated from God for all eternity, and yet we act peevishly in our sharing of the gospel. We worry we might offend. We worry that we will look silly. We fret over not being able to properly convey what needs to be said. One thing is for sure, if we don't try, we won't convey anything at all. Let us be bold and confident that our words and actions can have an effect on those we meet. Go forward and speak! People need Jesus. Let us be bold in our desire to share the wonderful message of Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father, be with us and direct us according to Your wisdom. Help us as we go out into the world each day and boldly find others that we can talk to about what You have done through the giving of Your Son for us. May we not fail to speak! Help us in this, O God. Amen.
Friday, 10 November 2023 He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Acts 21:32 The words are more literally rendered, “Who, immediately, having taken soldiers and centurions, ran down upon them. And having seen the commander and the soldiers, stopped beating Paul” (CG). In the previous verse, it noted the commander of the cohort heard that all of Jerusalem was in an uproar. Now, referring to this commander, it says, “Who, immediately.” This man was responsible for keeping peace and security within his area of jurisdiction. If he failed to act with absolute alacrity, things could get out of hand within moments. If it did, there would be investigations and possibly being relieved of his rank and/or position. Therefore, without delay, he arose from whatever he was doing, “having taken soldiers and centurions.” Without even bothering to go see what was occurring, the first thing he did was to instinctively get a number of men assigned under him. By the time he had gone to see the disturbance and then returned, it might be too late. Therefore, he grabbed an overwhelming force and headed out. Centurions were leaders over one hundred men. Therefore, this gives the sense that many soldiers were immediately dispatched. If there was more than one centurion, as the plural implies, then there were at least two hundred soldiers, maybe more. They were prepared for whatever could happen by bringing a large show of force. And it worked. It next says they “ran down upon them.” The sense is lost with the NKJV, which says, “ran down to them.” First, Luke uses a word found only here, katatrechó. The word gives the sense of running down from a higher point to a lower point. As they were in the tower, they descended. Second, the word epi, or upon, is used. It was as if the soldiers were poured from on high, descending upon the masses below, flooding them. With that, Luke next says, “And having seen the commander and the soldiers.” Those who were the perpetrators of the confrontation realized that they were being flooded with soldiers who were well-ranked and set for battle. There was obviously only one thing they could do at this point. And so, they “stopped beating Paul.” As soon as the folks pounding on Paul saw the overwhelming flood of soldiers descending upon them, they restrained their fists lest they be taken in for rioting and assault. Of this, Matthew Poole marvelously notes, “The fear of man caused them to forbear what the fear of God could not.” With that, the commander would have to evaluate the situation and take the path that would lead the most quickly to restoration of peace. Life application: It has previously been argued during this Acts commentary checking a variety of translations is profitable for finding out the true sense of what is being conveyed. In this verse, and speaking of the commander, it says, “Who, immediately, having taken soldiers and centurions.” Here, the word exautés is used. It is derived from ek, from or out of, and autos, a word used for a third-person pronoun such as he, she, it, etc. In the case of exautés, the explanation of the second word is given by James Strong, saying it is “the genitive case singular feminine of autos (hora being understood).” The word hora that Strong's says is implied means a time period, such as an hour. Why does this matter? It is because Smith's Literal Translation uniquely says, “Who having taken out of it the soldiers and centurions.” In other words, instead of “immediately,” he says, “out of it.” The obvious question is, “Out of what?” The answer is determined from the previous verse, “Out of the cohort.” Why would Smith's say this? It is because the word translated as cohort is genitive, feminine, singular. This is exactly what the form of autos is in the word exautés. Hence, Smith's determined that Luke's reference is to the cohort and not to the amount of time in which the commander acted. Considering this, look at the two translations again – “Who, immediately, having taken soldiers and centurions.” CG “Who having taken out of it [the cohort] the soldiers and centurions.” SLT Which is correct? They are both possible, and just because Smith's is unique among translations, it does not mean he is wrong. As for the word exautés, it is used five other times in the New Testament. Each time it is used, it implies time. As such, the conservative view would be this is referring to time as well. Hence, the CG translation followed this translation for consistency. However, this does not mean that this is what was on Luke's mind. It would have been foolish for the commander to do anything but act with promptness. But there have been many fools in the world. Maybe he was just scared to go alone and called men out of the cohort. As you can see, there is a chance that the translation may be one thing or another. Translating this verse one way or another will make absolutely no change in theology. But it demonstrates to us that we should not be so bullheaded as to demand that the Bible we are using is correct and all others are to be tossed in the fire. Rather, let us consider this wonderfully precious word, giving it our attention and careful consideration all our days. O God, You who have given us Your word, help us to be careful and meticulous in how we consider what You have given to us in the pages of Scripture. May we be studious and lovingly consider each word that comes forth to us as we read. What a precious and beautiful gift of love this word is! Thank You for Your superior word. Amen.
Thursday, 9 November 2023 Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Acts 21:31 In the previous verse, the city was disturbed, and the people ran together, seizing Paul, and dragging him out of the temple. With that, it next says, “Now as they were seeking to kill him.” As is typical with crowds that have been stirred up, people will often act in a manner that they would not act in when alone. In this case, they have been riled up to the point that they are ready to kill Paul. As will be seen, though, once Paul has a chance to defend himself, they will quiet down and listen to him. This means that at this time they actually have no idea why they are doing what they are doing. They are bent on killing him based on whatever rumor met their ears, whether true or not. While this was going on, “news came to the commander of the garrison.” The word translated as garrison is better translated as a cohort or band. A garrison is the place where men are gathered. This man's position refers to the gathering of the men rather than the place of their gathering. He is the commander of a unit of men stationed in Jerusalem. The Greek designation of the commander is a chiliarch, meaning the captain of one thousand men. Such a cohort is one-sixth of a legion, which equates to six thousand men. This cohort was stationed in the castle Antonia which was on the north side of the temple. It is referred to in Matthew 27:65, 66; John 18:12; and Acts 5:26. As for the word translated as news, it is the Greek word phasis. It is found only here in the New Testament. It speaks of the disclosure of a secret crime. In other words, an unlawful act was occurring because the Jews had no right to put anyone to death, especially in a mob scene. However, by beating him to death in a mob, they could avoid having accusations against any individual for murder. It was a planned way of executing him that would leave a body but no available suspects. However, during the time of a feast, the Romans would be on a higher state of alert because of the multitudes of people flocking to Jerusalem. As for the news he received, it was “that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.” Chaos had broken out because of the situation. In such a case, it could only get worse without immediate crowd control. Otherwise, people would be hurt, factions within the crowd would arise, and more chaos and destruction would occur. This is the exact reason why so many men were stationed in Jerusalem. The city was a hotbed of activity. The religious, cultural, and political views of the Jews were set against any authority being established over them. Unless very strict controls were placed over the people, especially during the annual pilgrim feasts, things could get out of hand quickly. From there, a general uprising could easily spread throughout the land. Life application: The best thing to do when in a crowded situation is to mind your own business. If people start getting out of hand, finding a quick avenue of escape is then the preferred option. Once the camera comes out and people start recording, it means things are getting out of hand. Instead of watching, which can be done on the evening news or YouTube later, ducking out and getting away from the mob is prudent. This is even more important today, where governments are actively looking for reasons to arrest people of conservative, Christian values. There is a “guilt by association” attitude for anyone who is in such an area, even if they are just watching. This is perfectly evident when murderous thugs on the left are actually apprehended for severe crimes but are then released without charges within a few hours. The world is devolving into wickedness, and it is the wicked who will be given the free pass when such times arise. Be on your guard and get away from crowds that are getting agitated. That is your best option in today's world. Lord God, give us wisdom and discernment in how to conduct our affairs when we are gathered in large settings. Help us to pay attention to what is going on around us and to be ready to act quickly if things get out of control. Above all, Lord, keep us from getting ourselves into situations where we might bring reproach on the name of Jesus. May it be so, O Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, 8 November 2023 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. Acts 21:30 More literally, the verse reads, “And the whole city was moved. And there was a rallying of the people. And, having seized Paul, they dragged him outside the temple, and immediately the doors were shut” (CG). In the previous verse, it mentioned that the people erroneously believed Trophimus the Ephesian was brought into the temple by Paul. Because of this, it next says, “And the whole city was moved.” When the accusatory words of these Jews, as stated in verse 28, were heard, it would have been greeted with the same horror as the defilement of any closely held religious or national icon among any given people. The entire city would have gone into an uproar, just as it did when accusations were leveled against Paul while in Ephesus at the Temple of Artemis. One can see the entire throng beginning to move in unison as if rushing at a rock concert or political gathering, hurrying to participate in the surrounding events. This then led naturally to the next event, where Luke records, “And there was a rallying of the people.” Here is a word found only here in Scripture, sundromé. It is a noun signifying “a rushing together,” or literally “a concourse.” Saying “a rallying” gets the intent across because the accompanying words indicate that it was a riotous rallying. As the crowd was moved, it was impelled toward the source of the events. All rallied to where the finger of the accusing Jews was pointed, meaning Paul. He is the focus of the rallying that has occurred. The violent actions of that are seen as the words continue, saying, “And, having seized Paul, they dragged him outside the temple.” With a bloodthirsty lust, they grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the temple, supposing it was his actions that had brought defilement to their holy site. It is obvious that they intended to kill him. However, they didn't want to do so in the temple and further defile it with his blood. Instead, they would do it outside. Further, to make sure that there could not be any further defilement, it next says, “and immediately the doors were shut.” This would have been a hurried act by the priests to keep anyone else from coming in. These doors would have been the gates between the holy place and the Court of the Gentiles. Access to the temple was thus cut off from any but the priests. But no matter what would happen to Paul, because of the actions of the riotous mob, the good news of Revelation 21 would await him if this moment were to be his last – “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.” Revelation 21:22-27 Life application: In the world today, there are innumerable edifices that claim to be the focus of religious life for adherents of whatever religion is espoused. Judaism has synagogues, Islam has mosques, and Hinduism has temples. The Roman Catholic Church has churches spread out around the world, but the main focus of their religious life is found at the Vatican. Someday, Israel will again have a temple that will be considered the ultimate symbol of their faith. These are locations where people meet and attend to their religious affairs. But despite being physical locations, this is shadow over substance. The true substance of rightly directed worship of God is not found in a building but in a Person. As Revelation 21:22 says, “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Jesus implied this in His words to the woman at the well in John 4 – “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 True and proper worship of God can occur anywhere and at any time. It is found in honoring God through the provision He has given to allow us to once again fellowship with Him, meaning the Person of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can atone for our sin, which separates us from God. In this act of atonement, our prayers can be heard, our praises can be accepted, and our fellowship is restored. Don't worry about a building or a location when you need to pour your heart out to God. Instead, cry out to Him through Jesus. In this, your words will be heard. Lord God Almighty, how thankful we are for Jesus, who has made our calls to You possible. When we cry in anguish through Him, You will receive them and send comfort. When our hearts are overfilled with joy, and we extol You through Him, You will hear and be pleased. And when we have a need, You will attend to it according to Your wisdom because of Jesus. Yes, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, 7 November 2023 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) Acts 21:29 In the previous verse, the Jews from Asia had leveled various charges against Paul. The last of those charges was, in their words, that “he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” As a note of explanation from Luke the next words are provided, saying, “For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city.” This would be the same Trophimus noted in Acts 20:4 and who will be referred to in 2 Timothy 4:20. Though he has not been mentioned since Acts 20:4, he had been a member of the missionary party continuously referred to since then. He and any other Gentiles, including Luke, had clearly been welcomed into the houses of the Jews mentioned in Acts 21:4, 21:7, and 21:8. Because of his many interactions with Paul and the others, Trophimus would have been at least visually known to these Asian Jews, being from Ephesus himself. Having seen him together with Paul, they assumed that he was Paul's sidekick, to be taken everywhere he went, including the temple. That is seen in the words, “whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.” This seems to confirm the idea mentioned in verse 28 concerning them already having been speaking against Paul to others in the city. They knew he was there, and they were determined to get him in one way or another. They were using the presence of Trophimus as a pretext to bring charges against Paul. It never says they saw him bring Trophimus into the temple, only that they supposed he brought him into it. To make such a serious charge against him without actual proof meant that they did not care about the truth at all. Life application: Israel was set apart as the people of the Lord. They were to refrain from becoming defiled and thus bringing defilement into the Lord's presence, among whom they dwelt. However, throughout the Old Testament, they are continuously noted as defiling themselves. The only thing that actually deemed them as holy was the Lord Himself. In Isaiah 65, speaking first of the Gentiles who sought the Lord, and who are then contrasted to the people of Israel, Isaiah calls out the word of the Lord – “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,' To a nation that was not called by My name. 2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; 3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick; 4 Who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; Who eat swine's flesh, And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; 5 Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.” Isaiah 65:1-5 Paul cites a portion of these words of in Romans 10, contrasting the Gentiles who had received Christ to the people of Israel who had rejected Him – “But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.' 21 But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.'” Romans 10:20, 21 Israel, not believing Gentiles, stands as defiled before the Lord. Why? The reason is that none of us are holy except because of the Lord who purifies us. Israel's holiness was positional, not actual. They, however, did not live out their positional state by backing it up with holy actions. When Christ came, He offered holiness to those who would, by faith, trust in Him. Israel as a nation failed to do this. On the other hand, the Gentiles readily accepted the message, they were granted God's righteousness, and they are deemed holy and set apart to Him. This continues to this day. Those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who come to God through Jesus are reckoned as holy. Israel, as a nation, remains in a state of defilement. Be sure to grasp this. Until they, as a nation, call out to Jesus, they remain – as Paul says in Romans 9:26 – not His people. Israel is God's people in the sense that there is a future for them under the Messiah. But they are not at this time His people as regards being set apart as holy. It is Jesus who makes the distinction. No Jew who has rejected Jesus is saved, nor is he holy. This is important to remember so that we do not fall into error concerning the state of Israel at this time. Lord God, help us to clearly understand what You are doing in the stream of redemptive history at this time. You are calling forth a people unto Yourself out of all nations of the earth through simple faith in Your offering of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and the Christ of the nations. May we proclaim this message loudly and clearly so that none are deceived about their relationship with You. All people need Jesus. Help us to get this word out! Amen.
Monday, 6 November 2023 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” Acts 21:28 A more literal rendering would be, “crying out, ‘Men, Israelites, help!' This is the man, teaching all everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place. And also, Greeks he brought into the temple and defiled this holy place” (CG). In the last verse, Jews from Asia, seeing Paul in the temple, stirred up the crowds and laid hands on him. With that, they were also “crying out, ‘Men, Israelites, help!'” Their goal was to solidify their position by appealing to the crowd as fellow Israelites. The implication is that even if Paul were a Jew, he didn't measure up as a citizen of the nation. This is because of their coming words. He was, to them, essentially, a traitor. They were Israel, but this person was a friend of Gentiles. That is seen in their next words, “This is the man, teaching all everywhere against the people.” The words “This is the man” imply that they had already informed people about him and maybe even warned them to keep an eye out for him if he came. They had failed to quiet him in their own land, and now they thought to do so while on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, where the crowds would be easier to manipulate from a sense of national and religious pride. And this is exactly how they have come against him, making accusations that he was both unpatriotic and apostate. But more, they next appeal to the main source of their national identity, saying, “and the law.” They were all of Israel, but it was the law that set them apart as the people of the Lord. Moses was their great lawgiver, and their national leadership was based upon that, as is testified to in both testaments of Scripture. For example, Jesus said – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.'” Matthew 23:1-3 Because of Moses, the people were under those who administered the Law of Moses. This was understood just as the US Constitution is what guides and governs the law of the United States. The law was the basis for Israel's religious, political, and cultural life. Along with their words concerning the law, they next bring in the edifice that is intimately tied to the religious administration of that law, saying, “and this place.” It is referring to the temple itself. They accused him, incorrectly, of having defiled the temple. The word for “defiled” is koinoó. It literally means “to make common.” As the temple was considered holy, they claim his actions had defiled it by making it common. In such an instance, there would be a need to ritually cleanse the temple. They were acting as if Paul was a contaminant that needed to be eradicated so that he would not affect the people, violate the law, or cause defilement to the temple. But more, they continue with untrue words, saying, “And also, Greeks he brought into the temple and defiled this holy place.” The meaning of this will be explained in the coming verse. For now, Vincent's Word Studies provides the following on this – “The Jews evidently meant to create the impression that Paul had introduced Gentiles into the inner court, which was restricted to the Jews. The temple proper was on the highest of a series of terraces which rose from the outer court, or Court of the Gentiles. In this outer court any stranger might worship. Between this and the terraces was a balustrade of stone, with columns at intervals, on which Greek and Latin inscriptions warned all Gentiles against advancing farther on pain of death. Beyond this balustrade rose a flight of fourteen steps to the first platform, on which was the Court of the Women, surrounded by a wall. In this court were the treasury, and various chambers, in one of which the Nazarites performed their vows. It was here that the Asiatic Jews discovered Paul.” Life application: It must be remembered that the reason these people were riled up against Paul was ultimately because of one word: Gentile. There were innumerable Jews who didn't adhere to Moses, they practiced sorcery, lied, cheated, made idols, etc., thus failing to adhere to the Law of Moses. These are seen in both testaments of Scripture. Of such infractions, there was normally little or no response to their conduct. But once Paul, commissioned by Jesus as an apostle to the Gentiles, came on the scene, things never went well for him. And the One he proclaimed became completely disdained in their eyes. How could Jesus be the Messiah when He accepted Gentiles? But this is exactly what Isaiah proclaimed – “Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'” Isaiah 49:6 To this day in Israel, Jews can become Muslims, Buddhists, or pretty much any other religion they choose. They can even be atheists. And yet, they are accepted as Jews. But when a Jew converts and accepts Jesus as his Messiah, he is ostracized by much of the society. Take time today to pray for those Jews who are willing to openly proclaim the Name above all names, Jesus. And pray that their testimony to their own people will be effective in changing hearts and minds. Israel needs Jesus. Until they call out to Him, bad times will continue to plague them. Heavenly Father, there is a great deal of animus and even hatred towards You among the people of Israel. This is multiplied when the name Jesus is proclaimed. Help us to be willing to witness to this stubborn and rebellious group so that hearts and minds will be softened and converted. May it be so to Your glory. Amen.
Sunday, 5 November 2023 Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, Acts 21:27 The previous verse saw Paul being purified according to the temple rites and announcing the expiration of the days of purification. Continuing the narrative, it next says, “Now when the seven days were almost ended.” This makes it certain that the seven-day duration of the previous verse began with Paul's purification and that the offering would be made at the end of that period. From verse 24:11, in relation to the timeline of events, it appears that this was about the fifth day. There, it says, “because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship.” It is right about this time, as these seven days were almost complete, that it then notes, “the Jews from Asia.” At that time, Jews from Asia, meaning Jews who had been in the same locations that Paul had evangelized – and who had probably stirred things up against him previously – saw him in the temple. As it is the time of a pilgrim feast, it was a time when many Jews came to Jerusalem to meet old friends, share in cultural fellowship, and – above all – worship the Lord as instructed in the law. Of these Asian Jews in relation to Paul, it next says, “seeing him in the temple.” Paul was still in the time of purification. Therefore, it was natural that he would be in the temple. It is because of this, and their unwillingness to determine the facts, that they will accost him. It is ironic that the very place where he was under rites of purification was to be the place which they accused him of defiling. Instead of perceiving the truth of the matter, they simply relied on their memories of his past actions in Asia and began the attack. As it next says, they “stirred up the whole crowd.” The verb indicates pouring things together so that they are mixed. Hence, they were confusing the situation in the minds of the people. It is a term found among medical writings of the time and which Luke would have probably used often in his own work. One can think of a doctor pouring various liquids together to form a particular medicine. As the verb is imperfect, it means that they began to stir up the crowd, and they continued to stir it up, getting the multitudes into a mass hysteria over Paul. Because of the crowd and the confusion that was brought upon them, it next says the crowd “laid hands on him.” The meaning is that they were ready to commit physical harm against him at any moment. Once again, Paul has found himself in a dangerous situation from the agitations of his own people. It was, as he says in 2 Corinthians 11:26 “in perils of my own countrymen.” The message of the gospel was rejected by the nation. But hatred for that message came into its strongest focus because it is a message available to the Gentiles. The idea of Jesus' incarnation and sacrificial death for the sins of Israel could only mean that Israel was a nation of sinners. But more, it meant that the Law of Moses was incapable of correcting this situation. This notion was unconscionable to them. But more, that the same sacrifice of Jesus extended to Gentiles, who were not even a part of what God had been doing (or so they thought), was inexcusable to them. Paul was the herald of this message, and they wanted him eradicated because of it. Life application: At the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Gaza in October 2023, a Jewish “rabbi” Chaim Richman, was being interviewed and said to the interviewer, “You guys are worshiping one Jew, that's a mistake. You should be worshiping every single one of us because we all die for your sins every single day. And that's exactly what's going on here. We're all God's firstborn and we're dying for your sins right now.” This is the attitude of the Jewish people that attacked Paul, and it has permeated their society to this day. They cannot accept that it is they who need forgiveness of sin, not only individually but as a nation. Until one comes to Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, there is a mental disconnect between one's state as a sinner and the infinite holiness of God. This is why people grade themselves on a bell curve when asked why they should be allowed to go to heaven. A common answer is, “Well, I'm not as bad as...” or “Well, I'm a good guy.” Such evaluations make oneself the acceptable standard of goodness, a standard that sets the bar for God's decision. This is what Chaim Richman has done in relation to Israel. He has openly avowed that Israel is the standard of God's holiness, that they alone have met it, and they are, therefore, to be worshiped as a people. All others are to be subject to them, not because of who God is in relation to them, but who they are in relation to God. Rather, there can be only one standard of holiness: God alone. The incarnation of Jesus Christ means that Jesus is God come in human form. He, therefore, is the standard – the bar – by which all men will be judged. One will stand in relation to Him and be condemned or saved, and the only way to be saved is by faith that He is the offering for the sin of man. This is the message of the Bible. We must come to God through Jesus, and when we do so, God's infinite perfection – His righteousness, holiness, etc., is imputed to us. Without this, we are condemned already. Let us hail God, who has brought us back to Himself through Jesus! Glorious God Almighty! Praises to You forever and ever because of what You have done. You are worthy of all our honor and praise simply because You are our Creator. How much more should we glorify You because You are our Redeemer! Thank You for Jesus Christ, who has made this possible. Praises to You, O God. Amen.
Saturday, 4 November 2023 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. Acts 21:26 The Greek is more literally translated as, “Then Paul, having taken the men on the following day – having been purified with them – entered into the temple, declaring the fulfillment of the days of the purification, until which was offered the offering for each one of them” (CG). In the previous verse, James repeated the requirements expected of Gentiles concerning their walk before the Lord. Now, in contrast to that, the hoped-for completion of the rites of the Nazirite previously discussed for the four men who had taken such a vow is noted. Paul included himself in these rites, thus identifying with them. That is noted, beginning with, “Then Paul, having taken the men on the following day.” The word “them” is referring to the four men described by James in verse 23. Paul took the advice of James and the other elders and took these men on the very next day, “having been purified with them.” Fully complying with James' advice, he took the men and went through the mandatory rites of purification with them. This was in accordance with the law, and the period would be seven days. When those days were met, an offering was to be made for each individual. That is stated in the next words, saying he “entered into the temple, declaring the fulfillment of the days of the purification.” Of this, Charles Ellicott says, “The process lasted, as the next verse shows, for seven days, which were probably reckoned from the completion of the thirty days, or other term, of the vow itself. St. Paul, having made himself the representative of the Nazarite company, had to give, in their name, the formal notice to the priests, who were to be ready for the sacrifices when the seven days had expired. Seven days was, it will be noted, the ordinary period for the more solemn purifications (Exodus 29:37; Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 13:6; Numbers 12:14; Numbers 19:14, et al.).” Ellicott may be correct. There is nothing in the rites of the Nazirite to specify a seven-day period being required. However, if Paul was to be the representative for these men, a seven-day period might have been expected for purification purposes. No matter what, this was obviously a custom expected by the priests. Therefore, it next says, “until which was offered the offering for each one of them.” The words “until which” could have various meanings. The Pulpit commentary says – “Meyer makes ‘until' depend upon ‘the fulfillment of the days,' so as to define that fulfillment as not taking place till the offering was offered. Wieseler makes ‘until' depend upon ‘he entered into the temple,' with the idea supplied, ‘and remained there,' or ‘came there daily;' supposing that it was the custom for Nazarites to finish up their time of separation by passing the last seven days, or at least being present daily, in ‘the court of the women, where was the apartment appropriated to the Nazarites.'” What seems logical based on the previous words, “having taken the men on the following day,” is that the rest of the days are future, not past. If it was past, it seems likely that Luke's words would have been more precise concerning those seven days. Therefore, in these words, it is probably that Paul is declaring that the rites of purification had been administered, he was representing the four men, and after the necessary interval, he would make the offering for them. Life application: The book of Hebrews says – “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Hebrews 10:1-4 The point of those words is that the rites and rituals of the temple were only outward, fleshly ordinances, a term used in Hebrews 9:10. They actually didn't cleanse anything but were external rites that could never change the true nature of a person, making him permanently acceptable to God. However, Christ, because of His complete cleansing of those who come to Him, makes us wholly and eternally acceptable to God. This is reflected in the words – “‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,' 17 then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:16-18 In saying, “there is no longer an offering for sin,” it means that Christ's work is a one-time and for all-time cleansing. No other offering for sin is acceptable, nor is it needed. As this is so, then why would anyone want to go back to the external, temporary, and futile rites and rituals of the Mosaic Covenant? Jesus Christ purifies those who come to Him once and forever! Rejoice in that and be confident in your salvation and eternal cleansing. Take time today to read Hebrews 10:1-25. Think about what is being said there. Hold fast to faith in Christ as your hope. It is the sweet spot in what God offers to the people of the world. Heavenly Father, it is beyond imagination to think about what You have done through the giving of Jesus. You have brought us back to Yourself, completely and perfectly, through His sacrificial offering. We rejoice in You and thank You. Praises be to You forever and ever! Amen.
Friday, 3 November 2023 “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Acts 21:25 Paul was just told that he should consider going with four men who were completing their vows and to participate in their purification rites according to the law, also paying their expenses. That was intended to show all who saw that the things they heard about him were untrue and that he also walked in an orderly manner and kept the law. With that remembered, James once again upholds the edict of the Jerusalem council. By doing so, he is determined that the Gentiles are to be considered acceptable to the Jews in the church regardless of their nature. Therefore, he begins with, “But concerning the Gentiles who believe.” James has set a line between the Jews and Gentiles. The Jews are doing their thing, but what they were doing was not to be imposed on the Gentiles. The thing the Jews were doing is what he just said, they “kept the law.” On the other hand, he says, “we have written and decided.” This refers to the formal edict published by the Jerusalem Council based upon the judgment rendered there. That explicitly said “that they should observe no such thing, except...” In other words, they were not bound to any restriction, law, precept, custom, or tradition of the Jewish nation, nor to the Law of Moses. They were given complete freedom to live out their lives in the manner of their culture, laws, customs, traditions, diets, holidays, etc. All of this was to be without any question of impropriety in the minds of the Jewish believers. However, the word “except” is given to introduce four points agreed on by the council that the Gentiles should avoid. And even those four things were not given as laws, but as hoped-for recommendations as evidenced by the words of their letter which said, “If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well” (Acts 15:29). James next repeats the four recommended prohibitions, beginning with “that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols.” The word “should” is not in the original, even if it is implied. It more literally says, “to watch themselves from that sacrificed to idols” (SLT). In Acts 15, it was clear that this doesn't merely mean practicing idolatry, but abstaining from anything that is connected to the service of idols, such as partaking in sacrifices and offerings, etc. James does not go into the depth of the Law of Moses concerning this. Rather, it is a general statement set forth as a guideline for right living among believers. His words distance the decision of the council from the weight of the law in his words. He next says, “from blood.” The words form a general statement concerning a matter that is carefully detailed in the law. It is stated many times and in exacting ways concerning what was to be done with the blood. James' decision completely separates the matter from the Law of Moses. But its main intent was surely to have the people consider why they were drinking blood in the first place. Several reasons were surely behind the decision. One is that drinking blood was, and even today in some cultures is, intended to assimilate the power of the one whose blood was being drunk into the person drinking. Another reason is related to idolatry, where the blood of an animal that was sacrificed was consumed by the offeror as a way of fellowshipping with their god or gods. Also, the shedding of blood has almost universally been considered a means of atoning for sin. This is seen in cultures around the world. But Christ's blood is the only effectual sacrifice for the atonement of sin. This then is an object lesson concerning the nature of Christ's sacrifice as much as anything else. James next says, “from things strangled.” The Greek simply reads “and strangled.” The Greek word is pniktos, and this is its last use in Scripture. It signifies something killed without letting the blood out. Vincent's Word Studies extends the thought to animals killed in snares. This is an inference, but it is probably the case. The laws within the Law of Moses are detailed and explicit on how to treat the blood of animals sacrificed or simply slaughtered for meat. James, once again, gives a general statement concerning the matter, completely distancing the decision from the Law of Moses. With that, he finishes the thought with, “and from sexual immorality.” The word in Greek is porneia. It signifies “selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity, promiscuity of any (every) type” (HELPS Word Studies). Quite often, it is associated with idolatry. James gives this general word, never mentioning the very strict laws associated with such things as set forth in the law of Moses. As such, it was another clear indication that the Law of Moses had no bearing on the decision. In Acts 15, James said, “to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” In Acts 21, he says, “except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” His words, though being in a different order, are essentially the same. These were the only restrictions placed upon the Gentiles, and they are clearly only recommended prohibitions. Life application: The words of James, repeated from Acts 15, are not words of law. If they were, then the Gentiles would be under their own set law, and grace would be excluded. But Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, has clearly indicated this is not the case in his epistles. These are recommendations given for a set purpose, which is to not cause conflict between the Jews that believe and the believing Gentiles they would encounter. The Jews eventually stopped observing the Law of Moses as well, it being impossible to observe without a standing temple. Even if believing Jews continue to observe various aspects of the law as cultural customs, they are not under the Law of Moses any longer. That is made explicit in the book of Hebrews. It was during the time that the temple was standing, a time when observing the law was culturally mandatory, that believing Jews continued to observe Moses. Paul includes himself when he confirms this in Romans – “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Romans 6:14, 15 The law is not grace. But believers are under grace, not law. Therefore, even if Paul observed Moses for set purposes that have been seen in Acts and in his epistles, he also did not observe Moses for set purposes as well. He did these things to win people to Christ. Do not let anyone steal you from the proper path. Your salvation is not dependent on what you do or do not do. It is dependent on your faith in what Christ has done, nothing else. Glorious Lord God, today we rejoice in You and in Your goodness toward us through the giving of Your Son for our sins. He has freed us from the bonds of the law and set us on a path of grace. May we be all the more willing to please You in our walk of faith and holiness because of this wonderful blessing that rests upon us! Amen.
Thursday, 2 November 2023 “Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. Acts 21:24 A more literal rendering of the Greek is, “Having taken these, be purified with them and spend upon them so that they will shave the head. And all will know that which they have been informed about you is nothing, but you yourself walk also, keeping the law” (CG). Paul was just told about four men who had taken a vow. Now, to help Paul's image before the people, ensuring that they could not make unfounded claims against him, it next says, “Having taken these.” It is referring to the four men just mentioned. Their way of helping Paul is to include others who were not in question concerning their keeping of the law. Paul was to take them and “be purified with them.” In being purified with those who were being purified after a vow, it was as if Paul had included himself in the vow vicariously. There is nothing in the law that specifically allowed this, but there was nothing to preclude it as well. By including himself in the vow, it would increase the number (and thus the cost) of the sacrificial offerings required. The priests would certainly have no problem with this. More than just being purified and identifying himself with these men, the words of James continue, saying, “and spend upon them so that they will shave the head.” This is just what the law required. First, the offerings were made, and then the head was shaved – “Then the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering; 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering.” Numbers 6:16-18 James has suggested this for obvious reasons. If Paul were to join in the purification and also pay the expenses of the others, then it would be apparent that the charges against him were false and that he was, in fact, a law-abiding Jew. It would be impossible to claim otherwise because he is accomplishing these things prior to any public accusations. The four men and the accompanying priest would be open witnesses to the fact. As this is so, James states it, saying, “And all will know that which they have been informed about you is nothing.” This was not a minor point of the law that people might do out of cultural identification. Nor was it something so obviously required that even a non-observant Jew would still be sure to follow, such as not eating pork or failing to keep the Sabbath. Rather, the Nazirite vow was a voluntary imposition upon oneself. It would be unthinkable that someone would lay this burden upon himself unless he truly respected the law and saw the benefit in assuming this burden. Therefore, James continues, “but you yourself walk also, keeping the law.” The idea of walking is the conduct of one's life. For example, one can walk contrary to the law, or one can walk in accord with the law. Therefore, to participate in the vows and sacrifices of these men was a way of ensuring people knew Paul was walking in step with Moses. Of this verse, James Kypke (quoted by Meyer) says, “It was a received thing among the Jews, and was reckoned an act of eminent piety, for a rich man to undertake to bear, on behalf of poor Nazarites, the expense of those sacrifices which they had to offer when they shaved their heads at the expiration of their vow.” Further, Vincent's Word Studies says, “‘For a week, then, St. Paul, if he accepted the advice of James and the presbyters, would have to live with four paupers in the chamber of the temple which was set apart for this purpose; and then to pay for sixteen sacrificial animals and the accompanying meat-offerings' (Farrar, ‘Life and Work of Paul'). He must also stand among the Nazarites during the offering of the sacrifices, and look on while their heads were shaved, and while they took their hair to burn it under the caldron of the peace-offerings, ‘and while the priest took four sodden shoulders of rams, and four unleavened cakes out of the four baskets, and four unleavened wafers anointed with oils and put them on the hands of the Nazarites, and waved them for a wave-offering before the Lord'” (Farrar). Life application: Walking, as noted above, indicates the way and manner of one's life. If you believe you must walk according to Moses in order to be pleasing to God, then you are walking contrary to the gospel of Jesus, which says that Christ died for your sins. Sin is imputed through infractions of the law. Christ never sinned under the law. Further, He gave His life up as the Substitute for our sins. To attempt to merit God's favor by law observance means you are attempting to do so apart from Christ's already accomplished work. As such, you have set yourself against Christ as if you are racing. Be advised that Christ has already won this race. Your attempts at meriting righteousness apart from Him means that you will be disqualified. Rather, learn what it means to walk in Christ. From the book of Ephesians, Paul gives numerous thoughts on how we are to walk properly – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as [f]the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind.” Ephesians 4:17 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1, 2 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15, 16 These and many other charges are provided by Paul in his epistles. Never does he instruct his reader to be a law observer. Instead of self, walk in Christ and honor Him because of what He has done. Lord God, may our walk in this life be pleasing to You by following in the footsteps of Jesus, who has accomplished all things necessary to reconcile us to You. Our walk is one of thankfulness and holiness in Christ. May we walk faithfully all our days, honoring Jesus and glorifying You through Him. Amen.
Wednesday, 1 November 2023 “Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Acts 21:23 The words more literally say, “This, therefore, do what we say to you: With us are four men having a vow on themselves” (CG). In the previous verse, it was noted by the church leaders to Paul that those in Jerusalem would meet, and it would be made known that he had come to Jerusalem for the feast. They continue by saying, “This, therefore, do what we say to you.” James and the other elders have a plan that will hopefully convince the people of Paul's still holding to the law and the customs of the people. Their recommendation is just that. They are not commanding Paul to do what they suggest but have devised a path that will make it open and public that he has remained faithful to the precepts of the people. That plan begins to be explained with the words, “With us are four men having a vow on themselves.” Israel was given laws concerning vows within the Law of Moses. One of them was a Nazirite vow, carefully recorded in Numbers 6. Other vows and their binding nature upon the individual are recorded in Numbers 30. It is generally accepted that the vow now mentioned in Acts is dealing with the Nazirite vow. Charles Ellicott, noting an ancient source, says that James himself lived his life under a Nazirite vow. The contents of the history say that “No razor came upon his head, and he drank neither wine nor strong drink.” Along with him, these four others had taken such a vow which was now expiring. They were apparently converted Jews that James was associated with. These vows were of whatever duration the person decided. It could be for a month, a year, five years, etc. When the vow expired, they were to follow a very precise ritual explained in Numbers 6. Certain offerings were made at that time, and others could identify themselves with the vow and its fulfillment by helping to pay the expenses associated with the offerings. Those offerings, as detailed in Numbers, were as follows – “Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 14 And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.” Numbers 6:15-15 Life application: Unlike the Old Testament, there are no particular vows detailed in the New Testament. However, the books of Psalms and Ecclesiastes are books of wisdom. These carry truths that extend to any given situation, whether during the time of the law or at any other time. They speak of man's obligations before the Lord in a general way. In these books, the following words of wisdom are provided – “Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them; Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared.” Psalm 76:11 The psalm is not saying that we must make vows. The point is that when vows are made, they are to be paid. This is a simple truth that exists at any given time. If a man says to the Lord, “I vow to give this thing to the church I attend,” it would be inappropriate for him to later renege on that vow. Nobody made him make the vow. He was under no obligation to make it. In vowing and then not following through, he has essentially lied to the Lord. Solomon continues with this line of thought, saying – “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” Ecclesiastes 4:4, 5 The Lord expects us to be people of integrity. If we are to keep our promises to those we interact with, how much more should we be willing to keep the vows we make to God? If there is a chance that we will not be able to fulfill that vow, it is better to not make the vow at all. Having said that, if you made a vow before becoming a Christian, and it was a vow contrary to the faith or to your life in Christ, why would you feel obligated to keep it? Christ is the one who paid all of your debts before coming to Him, that would include any such vow contradictory to your new faith. Use reason in such matters. Just be sure that any vow you make to God as a Christian, you do your utmost to fulfill it accordingly. O God, give us wisdom to conduct our lives properly before You. May we honor the commitments we make with others and with You. Help us to not speak rashly and later regret it. Instead, may we carefully consider the words that come out of our mouths. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.
Tuesday, 31 October 2023 “What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Acts 21:22 The words of this verse are significantly different based on the source text used – LSV: ...what then is it? Certainly the multitude must come together, for they will hear that you have come. LET: What is it then? Certainly they will hear that you have come. In the previous verse, James and the elders noted that the multitude of believing Jews had heard that Paul was teaching apostasy from Moses and the customs of the people. Now, their words continue, beginning with, “What then?” These words are given as an introduction concerning what is sure to occur and what should be done about it. Today, we might say, “Whadaya think? It is sure to be, and so what to do about it...” These leaders of the church are preparing, in advance, to avoid any problems that may arise from the rumors that had been spread about Paul and his teachings. With that, they next say, “The assembly must certainly meet.” The word “assembly” is better rendered “multitude.” There would be a large gathering of people simply because Paul was such a hot topic. He would have the nonbelieving Jews attacking him because of his faith in Jesus. He would have the Judaizers attacking him because he taught the Gentiles that they were not obligated to Moses. And more, He taught all that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. Therefore, even if he never told a Jew to not observe Moses and the customs, the inevitable truth was that they were freed from such bondage. What they were doing by continuing to observe the law was as pointless as remaining in prison after one's sentence was complete. His letters to the Gentiles could very easily be twisted to fit any situation they wanted to stir up. And this is exactly what Peter warned about – “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:14-16 Any law-observing Jew, whether believer or unbeliever, could read his words, twist them, and use them against him, charging him with apostasy. Because he is now in Jerusalem, there would be little doubt that an angry crowd would be just around the corner. This is exactly what is implied in the next words, which say, “for they will hear that you have come.” It was inevitable that the word would get out. It was the time of the feast. The people who had argued against Paul in Acts 15:1 & 2 would be there. His old associates from the Pharisees before his conversion would be there, etc. It wasn't a question whether it would become known or not. Rather, it was a matter of just how soon until it took place. With a list of enemies a mile long and growing by the day, it would be easy to stir up the multitudes against him. Life application: Peter's words about Paul still resound today. There are those that take the words of this chapter and other parts of Acts and adamantly state that Paul always observed the Law of Moses. They then essentially say, “Because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and because he faithfully observed the law, it then logically follows that his adherents must also follow the Law of Moses.” Rather, Paul explicitly denies this time and again in his writings. But to the unlearned, fear tactics are used to lead them away from the truth and directly into the very bondage that Christ Jesus came to free people from. Take time to read Colossians 2:11-23 today. When he writes about “the handwriting of the requirements” in verse 14, he is writing about the Law of Moses. When he writes about food, drink, festivals, new moons, and sabbaths, he is writing about various things required under the law and within the customs of Israel. Christ has freed us from these things. Don't let anyone steal the prize from you. Jesus offers grace. If you choose law, you reject Jesus. Hold fast to the grace of God which is found in the completed work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Lord God, we are all susceptible to being led astray by those who desire control over us. Please guide us in understanding Your word so that we will be able to spot when such people come against us. May we be clear in our thinking so that we are faithful in our lives and sound in our doctrine. Yes, Lord God, lead us for Your name's sake. Amen.
Monday, 30 October 2023 “but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. Acts 21:21 The words are more literally rendered, “And they have been taught about you that you teach apostasy from Moses – all those Jews among the Gentiles – telling them not to circumcise the children nor walk in the customs” (CG). In the previous verse, a problem with Paul's ministry, as perceived by some in Israel, had arisen. It said in those words, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are having believed. And all are zealots for the law.” With the temple still standing, and with the leadership of Israel having rejected Jesus, the people were required to observe the Law of Moses. To teach otherwise was justification for being stoned to death. Now, to continue the thought, it says, “And they have been taught about you.” The word translated as “taught” is katécheó. It signifies to be instructed orally. It is where we get our modern word catechism. Some, quite likely the Judaizers mentioned in Galatians, had been spreading falsities about Paul. Their words, as he was being told, were “that you teach apostasy from Moses.” This was a way of imputing true wrongdoing, even evil, to Paul. It was a criminal charge against him, indicating that he was an apostate Jew. Their words were either an intentional lie, or what they were saying was a misunderstanding of Paul's instructions to the Gentiles. He taught that there was now no distinction between Jew and Gentile. He also explicitly taught them that they were not bound to the Law of Moses. This is found time and again in his epistles, but it was fully supported by the decision rendered at the Jerusalem council as recorded in Acts 15. Also, in his letter to the Galatians, he rebuked Peter for his hypocrisy in this matter – “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.” Galatians 2:11-13 Paul's words to and about Peter continue to tell the truth of the gospel. However, Paul had not violated the command of the Jerusalem council. He had not told Jews not to observe the customs or the law. He states this explicitly in 1 Corinthians 9 while, at the same time, explaining what that meant – “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 However, he was being charged with teaching apostasy from Moses to “all those Jews among the Gentiles.” He had not done that. The decision of the council had been rendered, the temple was still standing, and to do so would have been contrary to what was expected of Jews at this time. Eventually, the Gentile church would gain complete ascendancy. With their rejection of Jesus, the nation of Israel would have its temple destroyed, they would be exiled, and they would remain in this state of punishment for the time set by God. This was known to God. But until that occurred, there was still friction and tension between what was expected of Jews and Gentiles. Teaching Jews that they no longer needed to observe the law would only make things worse. Such a teaching, as some were claiming about Paul, was “telling them not to circumcise the children nor walk in the customs.” Circumcision was first mandated to Abraham and his household. It was later made a point of law by Moses. In Galatians, Paul clearly taught that circumcision was not a part of salvation in Christ. The customs mentioned here refer to everything Israel was bound to, both by law and by the decisions rendered by the leaders of the people. Jesus taught the latter was true in Matthew – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.'” Matthew 23:1-3 These words were spoken by Jesus to Israel. None of what He said was imposed upon the Gentiles. Paul, though the apostle to the Gentiles, did speak to Jews about the Messiah. In order to accommodate them, he even had Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, circumcised (Acts 16:3). However, he did not have Titus, who was a Gentile, circumcised (Galatians 2:3). He was careful to follow the decision rendered at the Jerusalem council. Life application: Other than aberrant cults, few in the church would argue that Jews today are in any way obligated to the Law of Moses. A simple read through the book of Hebrews shows with all clarity that the author (who was probably Paul) states that the law is done and over. This is explicitly stated in Hebrews 7:18, 8:19, and 10:9. It is implied in numerous ways as well. Despite that, it needs to be remembered that at the time recorded in Acts, the temple still stood and the Jews who had not received the Lord were in control. As noted above, they would find any Jew not adhering to Moses as an offender of the law and subject to punishment and even death. The law will again be brought into the lives of the nation of Israel in the end times. The final week of Daniel 9:24-27 (a period of seven years) is granted to them to lead them to the Messiah that they failed to recognize on His first advent. Despite this allowance, having a rebuilt temple with all of the rites and rituals being conducted by them does not mean that they will be right with God. Until they call on Jesus, they are not His people (Romans 9:26). Only when they, as a nation, receive Jesus as the fulfillment and end of the law will they again be in a right standing with God. At that time, they will again be His people. It is an important point of theology. Today, Christians are actively supporting the rebuilding of the temple and anticipating the restoration of the temple rituals. Instead of rejoicing over this, we should mourn that they have not, instead, taken the direct course to Jesus. Because of their rejection of Jesus, two-thirds of the nation will perish (Zechariah 13:8). Be willing to evangelize the Jews you know now. Like all people, without Jesus, there is no hope for them. Glorious God, may we accurately and faithfully teach the truth about who Jesus is and what the gospel tells us. It is not by our works that we will be right with You. Rather, it is about what Jesus has done. Help us to think this through and be willing to share this simple, direct, and beautiful offer of restoration through the all-sufficient work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, 29 October 2023 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; Acts 21:20 More precisely, the Greek reads, “And they, having heard, were glorifying the Lord. And they said, ‘You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are having believed. And all are zealots for the law'” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul told James and the elders in Jerusalem all that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. Now, in response to that, it says, “And they, having heard, were glorifying the Lord.” Depending on the source manuscript, this will either say “Lord” or “God.” Verse 19 says “God,” but that doesn't necessarily mean that it carries through to this verse. Either way, it doesn't substantially change the intent. The Lord Jesus is the God/Man. As for Paul's work among the Gentiles, it was to these leaders a source of great praise and of glorifying the Lord. There is nothing in what is said here to somehow suppose that they felt jealousy or feelings of ill will towards Paul. Instead, they rejoiced in his apostleship and the fruit that it bore. That is important because the rest of the verse and several verses to come are misused by Judaizers to indicate that Paul's ministry was not working in accord with their own twisted view of the grace of God in Christ. Understanding this, Luke next records, “And they said, ‘You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are having believed.'” Using the word “brother” indicates that they felt he was certainly in right standing among them and that they had friendly feelings towards him. That is a key point to consider in relation to the coming words. They knew the details of Paul's ministry. They knew and acknowledged that he taught that the Gentiles did not need to observe the Law of Moses. They knew that Peter had associated with the Gentiles and had been rebuked by Paul for his actions, as recorded in Galatians 2, etc. However, they also knew that the temple was still standing, that the Law was still being observed by Israel, and that if they did not observe the law, it would only further complicate their lives and evangelism of the Jews. Thus, they remained obedient to the law for both cultural and practical reasons. As for the word myriads, it indicates a large but indeterminate number, quite often in the tens of thousands. Some translations will say “thousands” instead of myriads in order to convey the sense to an English audience, but “myriads” or “tens of thousands” would be more appropriate. This large, indeterminate number shows how the smallest of mustard seeds had truly grown into a great tree before Israel was eventually brought into judgment for rejecting Christ as a nation. It is probably only about 25 or 30 years after the cross at this point. Further, adding in the Gentiles would bring the universal church up to a rather large number. Of these believing Jews, it next says, “And all are zealots for the law.” It is James who is probably speaking. The word he uses is a noun, not an adjective. Thus, they are zealots. Thayer's Lexicon says it signifies “a person with zealous enthusiasm who (literally) ‘boils over with passion.'” It says this because the word is derived from zeó, to boil or be hot. Thus, it figuratively refers to one who is passionate or fervent about a matter. Those of Israel who had believed in Jesus during this period continued to be faithful observers of the law. The Gentiles were not of Israel, they were not in Israel, and they had never observed a single rite of the law. Instead, they came directly to Christ who is the fulfillment of the law. As for the Jewish believers, their ability to observe the law would be ended with the temple's destruction in AD70. It would be the final termination of the Law of Moses. From that point on, any observance of the law would be pointless. Observing or not observing the law after coming to Christ did not affect their standing before the Lord. With the temple gone, they would be able to rely solely, and more properly, on the grace of God in Christ as is intended for all believers. Life application: Just because these believers of Israel continued to be zealous for the law after coming to Christ, it doesn't mean that their actions gave them any greater standing before the Lord. This must be true, because without the temple after AD70, they remained saved. Not observing the rites of the law did not change their position in Christ at all. The time between the ascension of Christ and the destruction of the temple was a time of grace for Israel to turn to Jesus. When that time ended, just as prophesied by Jesus in Luke 11:31, 32, the nation's time was up, and the temple was destroyed. The focus of God's attention turned solely to the Gentile-led church age, and that has continued to this day. At the rapture, the focus will return to Israel. Until then, the Law of Moses cannot be observed, nor is it right for those in the church to attempt to do so, in part or in whole. We are to trust exclusively in the merits of Jesus Christ for our salvation and continued salvation. Don't mar grace, but trust in Christ! Lord God, thank You for the guarantee of eternal salvation that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, 28 October 2023 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. Acts 21:19 More precisely, the Greek reads, “And having greeted them, he recounted one by each thing that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry” (CG). In the previous verse, Paul went with the other missionaries to see James and the other elders in Jerusalem. Now, Luke continues, saying, “And having greeted them.” It is the same word used in Acts 21:6 and 21:7, aspazomai. It means to greet, salute, embrace, etc. The idea is that of enfolding in the arms. Being fellow believers, it is probable they met and gave hearty hugs and fraternal kisses. After this greeting, “he recounted one by each thing.” To recount means to fully explain. Paul mentally calls forth the wonderful things that were accomplished over the past years, and then he repeats those things in detail to his audience. This report would have included everything since his last visit which was in Acts 18:22. This would have been a long and detailed report, filled with the marvels of what had occurred throughout the various regions he had visited. These things are further described, saying, “that God had done among the Gentiles.” The things Paul did are specifically credited to the hand of God. Paul and those with him were as emissaries going forth on behalf of God. As Paul was the active agent of what God was doing, the mentioning of what was done among the Gentiles reflects his own words of Galatians 2:8-10 – “...(for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.” Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles, and it is his words that set church doctrine in this context, meaning during the Gentile-led church age. Understanding this, Luke specifically says this with the words “through his ministry.” God is doing the work among the Gentiles, but it is through Paul that this is being accomplished. There is a syncretism implied here that carries through to the doctrine of election. God uses man to carry His message forward to others. He initiates, He enables, He directs, etc. However, it is still done through man. In this case, it is through Paul and his ministry. God is pleased to allow Paul to be recognized for his efforts which have been accomplished through him. Further, this verse is a sharp rebuke to Judaizers who have attempted to limit him in his ministry and shrivel the church into a Jewish-only sect. God has different plans, and He used the apostle to the Gentiles to bring it about. No glory is robbed from God in the way Luke has structured his words. Rather, God is further glorified because it was He who selected Paul, and it was He who worked through Paul, to effect what had (and continues to) come about. As the Geneva Bible says, “God is to be praised, who is the author of all good sayings and deeds.” Life application: A couple points of extremely important doctrine are focused on in the words of this verse. One of them is that of free will. Paul was fully capable and permitted to simply walk away from his ministry. But he knew that he was the one carrying the message to the Gentile for them to hear and respond to. In other words, the doctrine of free will extends not only to Paul, who was already a believer in Christ, but to those Gentiles he would speak to. If Paul had not conveyed the message to them, they would not have heard. If they didn't hear, they could not respond. If they did not respond, they would not be saved. Thus, the Calvinistic idea of God electing people apart from their free will is shown to be false. One must hear the word of God. After hearing, one either has faith and believes or dismisses what he heard and doesn't believe. Another doctrine that is seen is that what Paul says is that which applies to the Gentiles who hear it. Paul is dismissed in varying degrees by the Judaizers of the world, be it through Sabbath day observance, not eating various foods, etc. Deferring to the Law of Moses for one's standing before God is totally excluded from Paul's teachings, and thus for the whole of the Gentile-led church age. Thus, for two thousand years, the church has been a Gentile-led display of God's redemptive plans. This is so plainly evident that it is amazing how much of the church seems to miss this fact. Lord God, help us to keep what is being relayed to us in Scripture in its proper context. May we be obedient to the calling which is made, meaning Your grace that is seen in the giving of Jesus for our sins. Help us never to attempt to earn what we have been freely given. May we not disgrace the significance of His cross in this way. Amen.
Friday, 27 October 2023 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. Acts 21:18 In the previous verse, it noted that the missionaries had arrived in Jerusalem and that the brethren received them gladly. Now, the narrative continues, saying, “On the following day Paul went in with us to James.” This is now very close to Pentecost, which was Paul's intent from Acts 20:16. Jerusalem would be filled with many pilgrims, and it would be a great time to remember the establishment of the church and the giving of the Spirit. It was at this memorable time that they had arrived and were now meeting with James. The highlighting of James (certainly James the Less, the brother of the Lord) gives sure proof of his office as the leader of the church and the true Bishop, or Overseer, of Jerusalem. This was seen in Acts 15, and nothing has changed in all the years since the gathering of that council. Along with him, it next says, “and all the elders were present.” As the verb is imperfect, it means that they were arriving, not that they were sitting there in chairs like a Sanhedrin or governing council. Paul and the missionaries arrived for a gathering while the elders of the church in Jerusalem were also gathering. This gathering, and the words conveyed during it, show that Paul and his apostolic ministry to the Gentiles were fully accepted by those in Jerusalem. There will be some points of life for Jews at that time that need to be worked through while this meeting is conducted. The reason for what is conveyed will be explained as the narrative continues, but it is to be remembered that these men lived during the time while the temple was standing, and the temple's rites were centered on the Law of Moses. Understanding this will help explain what will be discussed by these men. Life application: To this day, the ridiculous claim that Peter was the first Pope is a central point of Roman Catholic teaching. Claiming Peter was the first pope is completely unsubstantiated by any portion of the book of Acts. It also cannot be justified by the gospels or the epistles without a complete twisting of what is said. This is important because it is one of the ways that the RCC claims it is the true and only valid church. They claim an unbroken succession back to Peter, making them stand out as bearing the authority of Peter's supposed seat as pope. It is rubbish, and such things are thoroughly opposed to what Scripture proclaims. Despite many claims of this sort, there is no true “church,” such as the Roman Catholics. Nor is there a set line of those who held to the “true faith” during the years of the church while all others had apostatized, as the Jehovah's Witnesses and certain Baptists claim. The Scriptures have always been present and available for some in the church. It is from this precious word that proper doctrine and understanding of church matters are found. And just because a church has a copy of Scripture, it does not mean it is faithfully following it. That is the case in the vast majority of churches in the world today. Having said that, being a Bible-believing Christian is not a requirement for being a saved believer. It is not something that determines whether a person will be taken at the rapture or not. Faith in the simple gospel alone is what marks a person as a believer. When a person believes, he is sealed with the Holy Spirit. A person who has been saved may never have read the Bible or even known it exists. Therefore, it cannot be a requirement of the faith to be a believer. Further, every person ever saved is on a different level of maturity in Christ. If acceptance of and adherence to Scripture were a requirement for salvation, there would be very few, if any, ever saved. Keep the theological boxes straight. It is acceptance of the gospel that saves. Development in doctrine and maturity in Christ will come with learning and applying the word of God to one's life after being saved. Think from a biblical context, and you will cut out a lot of the fat of poor theology found in various teachings. Lord God, thank You for the simplicity of salvation. Jesus Christ has done the work. He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again. In our believing this, we are saved. You have made it simple because we are dull. Help us to remember and share this simple gospel of hope. Thank You, O God, for the surety of eternal life because of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Thursday, 26 October 2023 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. Acts 21:17 In the previous verse, it referred to the journey to Jerusalem and that Mnason of Cyprus, who was an early disciple, went also. The missionaries were to lodge with him upon arrival there. Now, Luke continues the narrative, saying, “And when we had come to Jerusalem.” Paul left Antioch and traveled by land, eventually coming to Ephesus. He was in Ephesus for about three years (Acts 20:30). He had extensive other travels during this journey as well, including Macedonia, Greece, and elsewhere. This means that his journey probably lasted 4 or 5 years. It is thought that this journey lasted from approximately 53-58AD. Now, along with Luke and others, they have arrived at Jerusalem to complete the mission of bringing a gift from the Gentile churches to the Jewish believers. Next, the narrative says, “the brethren received us gladly.” Paul and his associates had come with the express intent of bringing this gift with them for the saints in Jerusalem. This alone would have been a great reason for the glad reception, but there is also the fraternal greeting among brothers, meeting new friends, and of reengaging those who had not seen one another for a rather long time. The verb, being imperfect, tells us that believers in Jerusalem kept coming as they learned about the arrival of these men. As they arrived, the gladness and favorable reception continued. Life application: When we read the account of Paul's missionary journeys, the turn of a page may encompass a period of years. Therefore, what we read comprises a large portion of the life of Paul and those with him. Despite often being hurried out of one place or another because of the enmity of the Jews, there really wasn't anything hurried about Paul's approach to dealing with those he encountered. He took the time to get to know people, interact with them, instruct them, and build up bonds that would remain for a lifetime. In our world today, things are truly conducted at warp speed in comparison to how things were, even until the very recent past. Information flies before our eyes, friendships are often based on a tally displayed on a social media page, and there is very little true and heartfelt interaction with others. And more, we tend to put everything else in our lives on hyperdrive as well. We may learn a point of doctrine, accept it, and run with it without ever taking the care that is necessary to determine if what we were told is correct or not. Let us slow down, take time and care to learn what is presented in Scripture, and be willing to do the hard work to confirm that what we have learned is correct or not. In the process, let us not neglect the special fellowship that can arise from interacting with others as we grow in Christ. There is no need to rush because we have eternity to continue from this starting point. Again, let us slow down and make the walk of our lives one that is not overly jammed with things that are not profitable, to the glory of God, who placed us here to search Him out all our days. Precious Lord God, thank You for providing us with the wisdom found in Your word. There is instruction to be found for every aspect of our walk before You. May we slowly, carefully, and prayerfully pursue You through this precious word all our days. Amen.
Wednesday, 25 October 2023 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. Acts 21:16 A more literal rendering would be, “And also the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing – with whom we would lodge – Mnason, a certain Cypriot, an original disciple” (CG). The previous verse noted that the missionaries completed their time in Caesarea and packed up, beginning their ascent to Jerusalem. Now, that continues with the words, “And also the disciples from Caesarea went with us.” Most translations add in the word “some” or say something like, “of the disciples,” implying that not all of the disciples went. This is probably the case, but such an insertion should be italicized or set in brackets if it is included. Of these disciples that joined in the trek up to Jerusalem, it next says, “bringing – with whom we would lodge – Mnason.” This person is noted by name only here in Scripture. Most studies and commentaries note that the name is of uncertain origin. However, undeterred as usual, Abarim suggests it is derived from the Greek word mnaomai, meaning to remember. Thus, they define the name as Remembering. They also add in the following thoughts concerning the name – “The phrase ‘Mnason of Cyprus' means the Cypriot Tradition and may very well have been the code name for a kindred movement that too sought to topple Roman tyranny by means of theology and philosophy (instead of an armed revolt). Remember that Paul's good friend Barnabas was from Cyprus (ACTS 4:36), and although the two individuals parted ways due to a disagreement (ACTS 15:39), the two movements may still have remained kindly inclined to one another.” Their words are wholly speculation, and it could also be that Mnason was one who was careful to memorize Scripture as a means of protecting its passing from one generation to the next. This, or some other such thought, could be behind the name. Saying that they would lodge with him could have one of two meanings. Either they would stay with him in a home on the way to Jerusalem, which was a two-day journey, or they would lodge with him in Jerusalem. The latter seems more likely. Of him, it next says he was “a certain Cypriot.” As Abarim noted, this is where Barnabas was from. Nothing is said of how the men met up with Mnason, but it is possible that he was one of the people referred to in Acts 11 – “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21. If so, it might explain why he had a place to lodge in Jerusalem, but he also dwelt in Caesarea. One more thing is said of him which would support that possibility. Luke next says that he was “an original disciple.” The word is archaios. It signifies original, primitive, ancient, etc. Some translations say “old,” but that is ambiguous. Does that mean “old as in age” or “of olden times?” In this case, Luke is noting that he was a disciple from the very founding of the church. He may have even been with Jesus in His ministry. The special noting of him by Luke may also mean that he was one of those mentioned in Luke 1 – “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us.” Luke 1:1, 2 In other words, Luke may have obtained some of his eyewitness accounts from this man who had seen the works of the Lord. If he was a man of remembering, his eyewitness testimony would be even more reliable than others as he took care to minutely detail in his mind events that he had participated in or personally seen. Two short commentaries concerning the words of this verse are – “It lies on the surface of the narrative that Mnason had a house at Jerusalem in which he could receive St. Paul and his companions. The arrangement seems to have been made as the best course that could be taken to minimise the inevitable danger to which the Apostle was exposing himself. In that house at least he might be sure of personal safety, and the men from Cæsarea would form a kind of escort as he went to and fro in the city.” Charles Ellicott “This would imply that Mnason was at Caesarea, and accompanied Paul and his companions to Jerusalem. It seems better to suppose that the disciples accompanied the apostle in order to introduce him to Mnason, whom they knew. Render, conducting us to Mnason, with whom we should lodge.” Vincent's Word Studies In other words, Vincent's thinks that rather than Mnason having been with them in Caesarea and who then accompanied the missionaries to Jerusalem, the disciples went along with the missionaries, and they introduced the missionaries to Mnason when they arrived in Jerusalem. This is how some translations state it, such as – “Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came with us, taking us to Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing with whom we were to stay.” NASB Either way, the men were to lodge with this original disciple upon their arrival in Jerusalem. Life application: Acts 21:16 is the official ending of the third missionary journey. It is an adventure that has been filled with amazing details of real events that took place during the early days of the church. It is good to remember that the record of Acts is a descriptive account of what occurred. There is nothing to prescribe anything for our daily lives. However, in Acts, there are things that are normative and can be taken as universally applied truths because of this. For example, it is noted, time and again, that when someone received Jesus, he was immediately baptized. This forms a normative idea of what is expected of all believers. This fully supports the notion that Jesus' words in Matthew 28 concerning baptizing disciples apply to all believers throughout the church age. It makes no sense to say that believers in the church are disciples – something to be taken as an axiom – and yet they do not need to be baptized. This is the claim of various sects, but it is then something in defiance of the Lord's words concerning baptizing disciples. Be sure to take Acts as it is intended. It is a descriptive account of what occurred, but there are hints of what is normative for all believers found within it. Carefully consider what is being conveyed, and be sure to follow what should be followed, especially if it is supported by a command from the Lord Jesus. We all have to stand before Him someday. Let our meeting be one of rewards and not of loss. Heavenly Father, thank You for the early apostles and disciples who were willing to travel far, work long and tedious hours, and expend themselves for the sake of the church. May we be like them and continue on that noble tradition of giving our all for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, 24 October 2023 And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem. Acts 21:15 The Greek reads, “And after those days, having packed up, we were ascending to Jerusalem” (CG). In the previous verse, those with Paul gave up trying to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem. Therefore, it next says, “And after those days.” The amount of time they remained in Caesarea is unknown, but it was spent at the house of Philip the Evangelist. Due to the proximity to Jerusalem, they could have stayed right up until the time just before the Feast of Pentecost. Once the feast was close enough for them to begin the short trek, it next says, “having packed up.” This is another word found only here in Scripture, aposkeuazó. It comes from two words, meaning away and vessel. Hence, packed up gives a good sense of what they did. From there, and with their things readied, it next says, “we were ascending to Jerusalem.” The verb is imperfect, giving the sense of motion. As they are heading to Jerusalem, it says “up.” A trip from any location or direction, regardless of height or the importance of the location, is always said to go up to Jerusalem. This signifies that it is the location of pinnacle importance from a biblical perspective. Life application: For such a short verse, translations vary quite a bit. A few of them, with a short analysis of each, are provided – “After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem.” (NIV) The words are incomplete because of the missing content concerning packing up. “And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.” (KJV) The words are archaic and without any modern sense. Also, the verbs do not match the intent of the original. “A few days afterwards we loaded our baggage-cattle and continued our journey to Jerusalem.” (Weymouth) It is overly wordy, adding in stuff that is not reflected in the original. “And after these days, having got our effects ready, we went up to Jerusalem.” (Darby) It is a good job, but still a tad wordier than the original. Also, the words “went up” can be taken as an accomplished task or as ongoing. Therefore, to reflect the imperfect, that needs tweaking. “And after those days, having packed up, we were ascending to Jerusalem.” (CG) This is a super-duper translation. It reflects the original without getting overly wordy. Take time to read various translations, think about why certain words were chosen, and how the variations may actually help you to get a fuller understanding of what is being said. Sometimes, two different words may have a similar meaning, but you might be unsure of what one of them means within the context of the verse. But in reading the next translation, you can then say, “I see what they were saying in the first.” The more you check, compare, and study, the more likely you are to not make an error in thinking concerning one particular translation that may be incorrect, outdated, or ambiguous in meaning. Note that the KJV reflects all three of these inadequacies. It is incorrect in the tense of the first verb, outdated in the content, and ambiguous in the final verb. And this is a short, doctrinally unimportant verse! Heavenly Father, may we be well studied in Your word. In some cases, people may have just one translation. At least they have that. In some cases, there may be several. That will help them to compare and consider. In some cases, there may be the original and fifty translations. How blessed are such people! In whatever we possess, may we be careful to consider Your word as a gift from You and treat it accordingly. Amen.
Monday, 23 October 2023 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14 The Greek literally reads, “And he not being persuaded, we quieted, having said, ‘The will of the Lord be done'” (CG). Paul just protested to those who desired him to not go up to Jerusalem. In his words, he said that he was ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. With that stated, it next says, “And he not being persuaded, we quieted.” There was obviously no point in continuing. His statement meant he was fixed and firm in his decision to go as intended. Therefore, they resignedly ceased, “having said, ‘The will of the Lord be done.'” As Paul invoked the name of the Lord in the preceding verse, they gave in and, in turn, invoked the will of the Lord. Life application: There is a time when words are to cease, and attempts to change what shouldn't be changed should be ended. Jesus understood this, made a simple petition, and then resigned Himself to the will of His Father – “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.' 41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.'” Luke 22:39-42 For us, although we cannot know what the future holds, we can clue in and realize that fighting against what should occur is a futile thing to do. Paul was determined to complete his mission, he was aware of what was coming, but he knew that it was the right thing to do. There are times where we may be challenged to act in a way that compromises our faith. That may include certain imprisonment or even death. But if we truly believe that Jesus has us firmly in His hands, then such an outcome is temporary. We will be rewarded for our faith. Therefore, let us choose the right path, even if things look bleak in the short term. Lord God, our faith can be weakened when facing difficult prospects that may lie ahead of us. In such times, give us strengthening for the trials. Help us when we willingly choose to be obedient to Your word and Your will. Yes, be with us, O God, that we may be faithful to the calling You have called us to. Amen.