Read Acts 21: 1-18
· V. 4 – Now this is an interesting verse. It’s one thing to urge people to the wisdom of being open to advice… although being open to doesn’t always mean agreeing and complying, right? But what about when that advice is “through the Spirit,” and still it’s not taken? Perhaps we should understand this “through the Spirit” along the lines of 20:23 and further down in this passage in v. 11: The Spirit bears witness that Paul will find difficulty in Jerusalem, yet that warning doesn’t amount to a prohibition.
· V. 5 – Another instance of praying while saying farewell. It’s a good Christian practice: make prayer the conclusion to hosting people in your home.
· V. 14 – You think someone should do something; no, really think he should do something. But he won’t comply. Instead of labeling him a stubborn &@!* and treating him frigidly, “Let the will of the Lord be done” is a good channel down which to send your frustrations.
Read Acts 21: 17- 36
· VV. 20, 21ff – The word on some of the streets is that Paul’s theology is against the Torah. If you read Romans and Galatians carefully, you realize how this idea could have arisen, and also why it was wrong. Lesson #1: some true and important things are complicated and are ready to be misunderstood. Lesson #2: The best of teachers will sometimes be misheard. Lesson #3: “Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
· Another example of Paul going through some ritual rigamarole for the sake of appearances and keeping the peace. Where he drew the line, though, was teaching or seeming to teach that the rites actually changed something in Heaven’s records. Sometimes tricky to know what to do in these cases: How far should you go to keep the peace? “Walk in step with the Spirit” is necessary.
· V. 27 – “No good deed goes unpunished.” Sometimes, you bend over backwards to be obliging and still get attacked. Paul was not a provocateur or rabble-rouser, but that didn’t stop his opponents from painting him as such. “Blessed are you when men say all manner of evil against you for Christ’s sake.”
· V. 35: The pagan Romans are saving Paul from those who were historically the “guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness” (Romans 2:19). What’s the lesson here?
Read Acts 21: 37 – Acts 22: 29
· V. 38 – The tribune mistakenly assumed he was dealing with a known firebrand. Being a committed Christian can involve you in these types of category errors.
· V. 6ff – This is the second out of three accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts. Interesting to compare the accounts, what is emphasized in different tellings etc. Should we be making more of Paul’s conversion in our witness to the world?
· All was going ok in Paul’s presentation, until when? If you haven’t felt it already, the Jewish ® Gentile antipathy was real!
· V. 23 – Why fling dust into the air? Dust symbolic of something, or was it meant to indicate the kind of chaotic rage that Paul had triggered?
· V. 24 – Up till now, the tribune has seemed to be a level-headed guy. But under pressure, he resorts to thuggery.
· V. 29 – The rule of law can be a powerful, story-altering thing. Be sure to not sneer at it.
Read Acts 22: 30 – 23: 11
· V. 3 – Paul wasn’t above dealing it out! And in the heat of the moment, when emotions were running high, he knew he could appeal to the solidity of the law. Law is good.
· V. 4, 5 – But when Paul hears that he’s insulted the High Priest he seems to take back his words: authority was deeply important to him.
· V. 6ff – How far removed this is from quietism, “Let go and let God”! Paul’s deliberately playing off one opponent against another. He’s politicking. Using his brain. That’s ok!
· V. 11 – The second time in Acts that God tells Paul to “take courage.” Not “take courage, nothing will happen to you.” But “take courage” and keep speaking.
Read Acts 23: 12-35
· V. 12 – Opposition to Christianity is normally low-key, hardly can be called opposition. But sometimes…
· V. 16 – We have questions without answers: 1) How old was this “young man”? I think of him around 12, but there’s no bible backing that up. 2) What did Paul’s family think about his conversion and subsequent Gospel work? Well, even if they didn’t like what he was doing, the ties of family meant they were going to protect him.
· V. 19 – “Took him by the hand” – a nice touch, and makes us think this we’re probably not dealing with an older teenager. And as happened several times in Acts, this kind of detail again puts Rome in a good light.
· VV. 26 – Again, you have to admire the order and patience of these Roman officials. This orderly atmosphere helps the Gospel move ahead. We don’t want chaos and anarchy, but the rule of law. Right? Right?
· As it turns out, that oath (v. 12) was a bad idea. Do we hope these fellows eventually got around to real eating…after this helping of humble pie?
Read Acts 24: 1-21
· V. 5 – “We have found this man [to be] a plague…” Paul the Plague! Sacrifice everything to follow Christ, and don’t expect to be appreciated. In fact, prepare to sometimes be thought of as deeply annoying.
· V.5b – “Stirs up riots among all the Jews” – Could anything be further from the truth? Paul is taking pains to not rile feathers, and yet agitators are traveling to him from great distances…in order to stir up riots. “Blessed are you…”
· V. 10 – [Reminds me of something I read recently: A government’s primary task is not legislation (making laws), but judgment.] We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
· V. 14ff – Paul is not attempting to distinguish his ministry from Judaism, but rather he sets his message into Israelite Scriptures. Another reminder: Jesus Christ doesn’t start a new story, but continues what began with Abraham.
· V. 16 – A worthy universal maxim, useful in any occasion. But also ask yourself: what precisely does Paul intend by using this maxim in the context?
· V. 21: A crucial statement: The controversy was over the resurrection from the dead. Not that most of the Jews disbelieved in this Resurrection event that would happen at the end of time. But Paul was proclaiming that that Great Event had begun in the Resurrection of Jesus. The last days have begun!
Read Acts 24: 22 – 27
· V. 24 – Felix seems to view Paul something as a novelty, and he invites his wife to view the spectacle of the gospel preacher.
· V. 25 – An interesting series of themes that Paul presents. Could Christianity be summarized by these?
· V. 25b – Why was Felix alarmed while hearing Paul? Were Paul’s words hitting too close to home? Our presentations of the gospel should include the notion of “coming judgment,” which naturally will set people on edge. Truth occasionally does that.
· V. 26 – Felix hoped for money from Paul.? Bribe money?
· V. 27 – Whatever Felix hoped to gain from his frequent conversations with Paul, it appears that he didn’t gain eternal life. Spiritual conversations that aren’t earnestly in consideration of eternal life can turn out to be harmful, perhaps having the effect of hardening the heart. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2) should set the mood for evangelism.