Welcome to Week 9 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 finished up the Book of Acts and started the Book of Hebrews.
Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to assume his new duties, he headed for Jerusalem where he met with the leading priests and other Jewish leaders to hear their accusations against Paul. They wanted Festus to transfer Paul to Jerusalem, intending to ambush and kill Paul on the way. But Festus replied that he would be returning to Caesarea and those in authority could return with him and make their accusations there.
Eight to ten days later, Festus returned and ordered Paul brought in where the Jewish leaders made serious accusations against him that they could not prove. Paul denied the charges. But, Festus wanted to please the Jews and asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before Festus there. Paul emphatically said No as this was the official Roman court and he should be tried right there. Paul appealed to Caesar which was granted.
King Agrippa arrived with his sister to pay respects to Festus. They agreed to hear Paul’s case to help Festus with his letter to Casesar regarding the charges against Paul.
Paul defends his case before King Agrippa. He tells him of his training and zealous persecution of Christians and how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He explains Jesus’ mission for him and how he began obeying that vision from heaven, preaching the gospel first to those in Damascus, then Jerusalem, Judea, and also to the Gentiles. He tells of God’s protection up to this point and how he teaches nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Festus interrupts that Paul is insane. Paul calmly replies that he is not, what he is saying is the truth and King Agrippa knows it.
Agrippa interrupts and says that he will not be persuaded to become a Christian so quickly and Paul answers that his prayer IS that he will someday. Agrippa confers with the others and they agree that Paul hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment. He could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.
Paul sets sail for Rome with some other prisoners. The trip is slow, bumpy, and dangerous. At a place called Fair Havens, Paul warns the centurion that the trip will be disastrous if they continue. But the centurion listens instead to the pilot and owner of the ship and they sail on since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in.
The ship was caught in a severe storm, forcing the crew to throw cargo overboard. Paul gave them an “I told you so” message and ordered that they should keep up their courage because an angel of God told him that even though the ship would be destroyed, each of their lives would be spared.
After fourteen nights, they sensed approaching land. Paul urged them to eat. He blessed the food, giving thanks to God in front of them all. All 276 on board were encouraged and ate. At daylight, the boat shipwrecked into an island. The soldiers planned to kill all the prisoners to prevent them from escaping but the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life so he prevented them from carrying out their plan. So, everyone reached land safely.
They discovered they had shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The islanders showed them unusual kindness, welcoming them and building a fire. Publius, the chief official of Malta, invited them to his home where he entertained them for three days. Paul healed the man’s father who was sick with fever and dysentary. After this, the rest of the sick on the island came over and were cured. They spent 3 months in Malta and once it was time to leave, the citizens of Malta supplied them with the necessary supplies for the remained of their trip to Rome.
When they arrived in Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with a soldier to guard him. Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews to explain his story and why he was appealing to Caesar. The Jews told Paul that they had not received any letters from Judea regarding him and that none of the brothers who had come from there has reported or said anything bad about him. But they were curious what his views were because they have heard people everywhere talking against this sect.
So, they met Paul again and came in even larger numbers. Paul spoke to them from morning to night, explaining and declaring the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced and others would not believe. They began to leave after Paul declared that God’s salvation had been sent to the Gentiles as well, and they would listen!
Paul stayed for two years and welcomed anyone who came, boldly preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.
END OF THE BOOK OF ACTS
THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
Introduction (compiled from Quest Study Bible and Life Application Study Bible)
- Purpose – To present the sufficiency and superiority of Jesus Christ
- Author – Unknown. The name is not given in the text. Some scholars think it was Paul. Others suggest Barnabas, Luke, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Priscilla, or others. Whoever it was speaks of Timothy as “brother” (13:23).
- Date Written – Sometime between A.D. 60 and 70, most likely before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Audience – Hebrew Christians (early Jewish believers) who may have been considering a return to Judaism.
- Setting – Jewish Christians were facing fierce persecution and hardship from Jews and Romans, tempting them to revert back to their Old Testament way of life and give up their newfound faith and freedom in Jesus Christ. Christ had not returned to establish his Kingdom and they needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
- What Should You Look For? Old Testament images used by the writer to illustrate what God has done through Jesus Christ. The writer makes frequent contrasts between Old Testament ritual law and New Testament faith. You will find strong arguments for the superiority of Jesus Christ.
The writer opens the book by declaring how God spoke many times and in many ways to their ancestors through the prophets. But now, in the last days (Isaiah 2:2), God has spoken through his Son whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe. This means that Jesus was God’s agent in creating the world!
If Jesus could create the universe, then no part of life is out of his control. Do not exclude Jesus’ wisdom and the Bible’s guidance in your complex problems of life. No expert, professor, doctor, lawyer, or financial adviser knows more about your ultimate security and well being than Jesus does. Go first to God for advice. Talk to him in prayer and listen to him in his Word. He can sustain you in times of stress. From that perspective you can evaluate all the other wisdom and help made available to you. –Life Application Study Bible
Jesus radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God. He sustains everything. After cleansing us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of God in Heaven, showing that the Son is far greater than the angels. When God brought his Son into the world, God said:
- “Let all of God’s angels worship him” (v. 6);
- “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever” (v. 8);
- “You laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever” (v. 10-11);
- “But you are always the same, you will live forever” (v. 12); and
- “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet” (v. 13).
Angels are only servants, spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.
Have a great week!