Welcome to Week 8 of the Higher Hope Church 2018 New Testament Reading Plan! If you haven’t already, go pick up your 5x5x5 Reading Plan and join our private Facebook group for daily interaction and discussion. In today’s post, I will share a brief recap of of our week where we dug into chapters 20-24 of the Book of Acts.
Paul heads to Troas for his final visit where he stays one week. One evening they gathered for the Lord’s Supper and Paul preached late into the evening. Eutychus was sitting on a windowsill and became very drowsy. He fell asleep and dropped three stories to his death. Paul went to him and, taking him into his arms, brought him back to life! The young man went home unhurt.
Paul then traveled to Miletus where he arranged to meet with the Ephesian elders. He tells them that they will never see him again. He exhorts them to guard themselves and to feed and shepherd God’s flock. Paul tells them that false teachers will come in after he leaves and even some from their own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. He tells them to watch out and to remember the three years Paul spent with them, proclaiming the truth of Jesus to them. After he finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed Paul goodbye.
Paul heads to Jerusalem with many stops along the way. In Tyre, the believers there prophesy that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit was warning them of the suffering Paul would face when he arrived there. Next he stopped in Ptolemais and then Cesarea. Agabus prophesied that Paul would be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles. The believers begged Paul not to go, but he was ready to be jailed and to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
Paul continued on to Jerusalem where he met with James and the elders of the Jerusalem church. He gave them a detailed account of everything God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. They warn him that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were told that Paul was teaching the Jews to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. James and the elders asked Paul to join four men in a purification ceremony to have their heads ritually shaved. That would ensure the Jewish believers that Paul does observe the Jewish laws.
Paul went to the Temple with the four men and started the purification ritual. The seven days were almost over when some Jews saw Paul and roused a mob against him. They accused him of disobeying the Jewish laws and speaking against the Temple, even defiling it by brining in Gentiles. A riot ensued and they tried to kill Paul, however the commander put a stop to it. He arrested and bound Paul in chains. Paul asked the commander to speak to the people in their own language, which was granted.
Paul tells his backstory – how he was trained by Gamaliel and honored the Jewish laws and customs and zealously persecuted the Christians. He speaks of his conversion story on the road to Damascus, his blindness, and the encounter with Ananias who told him that he was chosen by God to see Jesus and hear him speak. He goes on to tell the crowd that Jesus told him to go far away to the Gentiles at which point the crowd began shouting for his death.
The commander brought Paul inside and he was lashed with whips to make Paul confess his crime. Paul asked the officer if it was legal for them to whip him without a trial. They stop the whipping and Paul explains that he is a Roman citizen by birth. The next day, the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish High Council so he could find out what the problem was. Paul stood before them.
The high priest orders Paul slapped, but Paul yells back that he is a hypocrite. The high priest assumed Paul was guilty without a trial and ordered a punishment. Paul did not recognize Ananias as the high priest as his command broke the law he was pledged to represent. Paul noticed that some of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees. As a Pharisee, Paul shouted that he was on trial because his hope was in the resurrection of the dead. This statement divided the council because the Sadducees do not believe in this, but the Pharisees do. The conflict grew more violent so the commander ordered his soldiers to rescue Paul by force and take him back to the fortress.
Later that night, the Lord appeared to Paul and told him to be encouraged and to preach the Good News in Rome as well.
The next morning, some Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath to not eat or drink until they had killed Paul. They came up with a plan to have the high council send for Paul again and then they will kill him on the way. But Paul’s nephew heard of this plan and thwarted it. The commander sent Paul to Governor Felix in Caesarea who said he would personally hear the case when Paul’s accusers arrived.
Five days later, the high priest arrived with some of the Jewish elders and the lawyer to present their case against Paul. The lawyer explains that they find Paul to be a troublemaker who stirs up riots wherever he goes. He is a ringleader of the Nazarenes. He was trying to desecrate the Temple when they arrested him.
Paul defends himself by saying that he only arrived in Jerusalem 12 days ago to worship at the Temple, that he ever argued with anyone in the Temple and did not stir up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. He says that his accusers cannot prove the things they accuse him of doing. He does admit to following the Way, which they call a cult. He explains that he worships the God of their ancestors and firmly believes the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. He says that his accusers saw him in the Temple as he was completing a purification ceremony with no crowd around him and no rioting. Paul explains that he is on trial because he believes in the resurrection of the dead.
Felix adjourned the hearing. Later, he and his wife sent for Paul and listened as he told them about faith in Jesus. Felix hoped Paul would bribe him so he sent for him often and talked with him. This went on for two years and Felix was succeeded by Festus. Felix wanted to gain favor with the people so he left Paul in prison.
Have a great week!