By Beth Wyatt
Lord, thank you for this gathering this morning. Thank you for being in the midst of us. Lord, please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we can know You better. Open wide our ears, that we may hear you and our eyes that we may be enlightened and fully understand the hope and inheritance that YOU, God, has promised us, Your church. Please allow me to put aside myself and make room for the Holy Spirit to speak through me today.
When we began the study in Acts, we read: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come up; on you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
From Donna’s teaching last week, we learned of whether the Holy Spirit was actually forbidding Paul to go up to Jerusalem or warning him of what was to come…. being persecuted and imprisoned. What resulted in where Paul chose to go is very telling of his state of mind and his relationship with the Holy Spirit. In Ray Steadman’s Acts workbook, he says that Paul took the most logical and sensible course. He went wherever it appeared there was an open door for ministry. Ray further states he believes that Paul experienced what we call the inner witness of the Spirit. The Spirit of God will often confirm or deny that what we are pursuing is the correct course. We can often sense the voice of the Holy Spirit as an inner peace, confirming this is the way we should go. Conversely, we can feel a troubling sense when we are headed in the wrong direction.
And finally, we come to the beginning of today’s lesson with the words “Your will be done.” Still ringing in our ears from last week.
Let’s open our Bibles to Acts: 21:15…. In these 5 chapters we will be hearing about today, we could literally be here for hours. I asked the Holy Spirit to please direct me in the way I should go and it was very clear that I was to continue in the dialog of following the Holy Spirit and how He worked out the things of God’s divine plan as Bev initially began for us as she recapped the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts.
PAUL URGED TO MAKE PEACE ACTS 21:15
“And after those days, we (Luke and Paul) packed and went up to Jerusalem.” This was a distance of about 65 miles. There the brethren received them gladly. As Paul met with James and the other elders, he shares with them all the things God had done among the Gentiles and they, the believing Jews glorified God. They tell him about the misunderstanding that has risen. That it was rumored that Paul was telling the Jewish Christians that they should ignore the law of Moses and reject the old Jewish rites. This was a falsehood; what Paul had responded with was the question why should they be burdened with these provisions when they themselves couldn’t keep them? Paul had learned that it was relationship not religion and where your heart is that matters. They went on, urging Paul to take a vow with 4 men, join in the purification rituals and pay the expenses. In chapter 15 we learned Paul had already taken a vow. Because he wanted to, not because he had to. But they thought this would show the Jews that he was keeping the law. And they were hoping a ruckus would not ensue. Paul knew he didn’t need to go through a ritual in order to maintain his righteousness. But he also understood that for the sake of evangelism, he should and did go along with their request. We know from 1Corinthians 9:19-20 “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews, I became a Jew; and to those under the law, that I might win those who are under the law…”
ARRESTED IN THE TEMPLE VS 26-36
The whole plan James and the saved Jews had hoped for was blown up when confronted by the unsaved Jews who were accusing Paul of entering the Temple with a Gentile. A falsehood. They based this for the reason that Paul had been seen with Trophinus the Ephesian in the city, but NOT the temple, as they falsely claimed. It’s important to understand the context and why this was so important to them. The outer court of the Temple was what was called the court of the Gentiles, which the Jews had turned into a marketplace, beyond that lies the court of the women. here was a sign stating in Greek and Latin that any Gentile passing beyond this point ran the risk of being killed, even for a Roman! The Romans had taken away the right of the Jews to enforce the death penalty --- except for this one law. Even the Romans understood the magnitude of this.
Paul had such an intense desire to reach the Jews, he was willing to die for them. And almost was! The resulting uproar reached the ears of the commander and he had soldiers bind Paul with chains and brought to the barracks with the sound of the multitude crying out “away with him”
ADDRESSING THE JERUSALEM MOB vs 37-40
As he was led away, Paul told the commander that he was a Jew from Tarsus and he implored the commander to be allowed to speak to the people. As Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people in Hebrew.
ACTS 22 VS 1-21
There was a great silence (possibly the Holy Spirit’s presence?) Paul didn’t give these Jews theological treatise, he witnessed to them with his personal testimony. Our own personal testimonies can be the miraculous example of God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit as we witness. He reminded them that he was a Jew and that he had once been a zealot and greatly persecuted the Christians. Next, he spoke of his amazing and miraculous transformative journey on the road to Damascus and how he had been blinded and how the Lord spoke to him on 3 occasions. The people were listening intently until he shared in the final visitation from the Lord when he was told to depart and go to the Gentiles…at these words the Jews again raised their voices against him.
I don’t think we should take lightly, or skim over just how much this meant to the Jews and their culture. They rightly understood they were, and are, God’s chosen people. The words that claimed that bringing Jews and Gentiles into the same realm was unthinkable to them. They believed they were superior to the Gentiles and that all other people groups were rejected by God.
PAUL’S ROMAN CITIZENSHIP vs.22-29
So, when Paul said he had been sent by God to the Gentiles, they erupted in great anger. They tore their clothes and threw dirt. They wanted to kill Paul. Ultimately our own words of wisdom will never convince a man to follow Jesus Christ. Only the Holy spirit opens ears and hearts to hear and receive the truth. Apparently, this wasn’t the time. They listened to a point but they did not hear.
So, Paul pulled out his Roman citizenship card. Those around him hearing of this were afraid and withdrew.
THE SANHEDRIN DIVIDED 22:30-23:10
The next day, because Paul wanted to know for certain why he was being accused by the Jews, he was released from his bonds and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear with Paul. Paul addresses them by saying “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God til this day. At this, Ananias the high priest, commanded Paul be struck on the mouth. Paul responded to this by saying “God will strike you, you white-washed tomb.” Meaning hypocrites---nice on the outside painted white, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones. (Matthew 23:27) He went on to say that he was a Pharisee and believed in resurrection and the hope of what that means. With these words, dissension started between the Pharisees, who believed in resurrection, and the Sadducees, who did not. A loud outcry arose. The commander, fearing Paul would be torn to pieces, had him taken by force to the barracks.
THE PLOT AGAINST PAUL vs 23: 11-22
Paul may have felt like he failed and why, the following night, the Lord stood by him and said “be of good cheer, Paul, for you have testified for Me is Jerusalem and so you must also bear witness of Me in Rome.” Paul was not forsaken by the Lord. And neither must we feel that way when our witnessing seems to fall on deaf ears. God stood by Paul in a dark time, as He always will with us today.
Some of the Jews banded together (about 40 of them), and bound themselves with an oath stating that they wouldn’t eat or drink til they had killed Paul.
READ VS 12-22
I believe we can all see the work of the Holy Spirit as He worked through the young boy, Paul’s nephew. He had just happened to overhear of the men’s oath and was able to get to Paul and then the commander about it. The commander let the young man depart, telling him to tell no one of these things.
SENT TO FELIX vs 23-35
Consequently, The Tribune sent for 2 centurions to prepare 200 hundred soldiers, 70 horsemen, 200 spearmen to go to Caesarea with Paul to be brought before Felix. That is 470 men guarding one little Paul! God was using the corrupt government of Rome to move His Kingdom forward! You can almost picture Paul as he left that day from the Antonio Fortress, through the North Gate, looking back to Jerusalem with what was his last view. The journey to Caesarea from Jerusalem is about 65 miles NW on the west coast. Caesarea was the Capitol of Rome in that region, the procurator’s seat of power. Caesarea is very beautiful on the Mediterranean Sea. When the Aswan dam was built on the Nile River, the silt that typically built up, slowed tremendously. Israelis, for the first time in centuries, saw from a helicopter, a horse-shape in the sand of the shallow waters. When they began excavating, they found the city of Caesarea. The university of Pennsylvania became involved in a major way and unearthed the palace spoken of during these times. (see the picture).
Felix and his brother Paulus had been slaves and their mother, Antonia was a slave of Claudius’, now Caesar. Felix, Paulus and Claudius had grown up together and were friends. As Claudius became Caesar and Emperor of Rome, he appoints Paulus in a govt. position in Rome and Felix as the Procurator over Syria and Judea. He was the first to have obtained that position as a freed slave. Tacitus, the historian, says that he ruled with a royal power but with the mind of a slave. He was cruel and intolerant.
The soldiers took Paul, the first night to Antipatris, about 35 miles away.
Then on 27 more miles to Caesarea. Accompanying Paul was a letter from the Tribune of Jerusalem, Claudius Lysias to the governor of Caesarea, Felix. This letter is the exact text is in our New Testament. Either Paul saw the letter himself in Rome’s archives or Luke did. In either case, I find it fascinating this bit of history is right here, verbatim, in our hands. The soldiers delivered Paul and the letter to the governor, who understood that Paul was from Celicia and under the jurisdiction of Felix. He commanded Paul be put in Herod’s praetorium and would hear from Paul when his accusers arrived. So, Paul waited not exactly in luxury, but far more comfortable than what he had been subjected to previously. He was to remain there for 2 years.
ACTS 24 vs: 1-9
ACCUSED OF SEDITION
5 days after his imprisonment in the praetorium, Ananias, the high priest, the elders from Jerusalem and the orator (atty) Tertullus, gave evidence against Paul. They accused him of being a plaque, a trouble-maker, and the source of dissension and even sedition amongst the Jews and all of the world. False accusations. They claimed he was the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes and had profaned the Temple by bringing a gentile. They claimed Lysias had taken him out of their hands for their judgement instead demanding that he be brought before you, Felix, to examine.
THE DEFENSE BEFORE FELIX vs: 10-21
It was here that Paul shows his knowledge of Roman law. He defended himself against the accusations by claiming he had only been in Jerusalem for 12 days AND that they couldn’t prove any of their accusations. This is a serious claim with Felix. What Paul does confess is that according to “The Way”, which they call a sect, he is worshipping the God of his fathers, believing all things written in the law and the Prophets.
FELIX PROCRASTINATES vs:22-27
Felix, who had a fairly good understanding of “The Way” having heard both sides, adjourned. He said that when Lysias, himself, comes to Caesarea, I will make a decision and commanded the Centurian to keep Paul imprisoned. He did allow for Paul some liberties that included visits from friends and provisions. After some days, Felix came with his wife Drusilla (Jewish). Let me tell you a little bit about Drusilla…she was the daughter of Agrippa 1st, who had had James killed. He, himself, was eventually smitten by worms and dropped dead. Drusilla was about 4 years old at that time. Her great uncle was Herod the great. He had been the one to take the head of John the Baptist and slaughtered the innocents. Josephus, the historian, says Drusilla was the most beautiful in all the land. We don’t know why but Felix was eventually banished back to Rome and Drusilla, with a son (Agrippa) ended up in Pompei. They were there when Vesuvius erupted and they were both incinerated! If only she and Felix had listened to Paul and accepted Jesus as Christ….
…but, back to the narrative and Felix arrival to Caesarea: He sent for Paul and listened to his faith in Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of righteousness, self-control and the judgement to come. Of course, this would have frightened Felix because of his lifestyle. He told Paul to go away saying, when I have a convenient time, I will send for you. It is thought he was hoping that money would exchange hands to purchase Paul’s freedom. Again, we see Felix living up to his reputation as a procrastinator. Two years went by. During that time, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix. Though Paul’s incarceration was fairly liberal, he was left bound all that time. Felix left it that way hoping to impress the Jews.
During the 2 years of Paul’s incarceration, Luke often made trips back to Jerusalem. As you read the opening of Luke’s gospel, it’s obvious that with the eye-witness reports and gathering information the things that composed the book of Acts, we can see the Holy Spirits inspiring him. These two years may also have been when Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians and it is speculated Hebrews having been so stirred by his own experience with the Jews.
PAUL APPEALS TO CAESAR ACTS 25 vs: 11-12
It is important to know that it was God and the power of the Holy Spirit that held Paul as prisoner in Caesarea---not Felix, Festus or even Rome.
The Jews hatred of Paul was still simmering, even after 2 years. And were still plotting to kill him. After 3 days of being appointed to the procuratorship, Porcius Festus traveled to Jerusalem to introduce himself officially. He met with the High Priest and the chief men and they filled him in with their side of the claims against Paul. They wanted him returned to Jerusalem. They plotted, again, to lay in wait and kill him, so great was their anger. You can see the hand of Satan still working behind the scenes. It’s interesting to observe that wherever the Holy Spirit is moving and working, the counterfeit, satan, is close behind. Constantly the spiritual battle rages on.
May I just take a moment here to share with you something that came to me as I was preparing this study. Some very big things were going on around the world as I sought quiet time and peace of mind in order to apply myself. A bigger picture presented itself and I want to share with you that picture, if I can. I have noticed that during certain global events, some were quick to claiming conspiracy theories. i.e.: the Lahaina fire and the war in Israel, our govt, their govt, and so on…as a way of explanation. Well, there is a conspiracy and it is not a theory! It began a very long time ago when Lucifer wanted to be God. He loves to imitate God. Please read Isaiah 14:4-21 again….and so it began, in the garden with Eve and Adam, his evil conspiracy against humanity, that continues to this day. we can still see division between men and women, brothers killing brothers, Jews and Gentiles, and so on. He and his demons love to inhabit mankind and drive them to evil deeds. I have also noticed that Satan is nothing more than a counterfeit. To this day he is ever attempting to be like our Almighty God. Look to the Holy Trinity for a moment and then notice the unholy trinity--- that may even now be forming: Satan, the anti-Christ and the false teacher. Or in times past, Baal, Molech and Astaroth…. that Adrienne alluded to in her intriguing lesson. I was taken back when I heard whispers that it was a conspiracy that had executed the Lahaina fire or the slaughter in Gaza. We are thinking too small. Whatever the case maybe, true or false, who do you think is behind all of it? Pull it back to the bigger picture. Don’t try to make sense of what is playing out here on earth. Whatever is happening here is being played out in the spiritual realm on a much larger scale. We need to learn how to separate the persons and events before us from the evil one that is behind it. They all lead to the same place…master-manipulater, counterfeiter, hater of mankind---Satan and his demons. He uses situations, people whether he comes in the form of communists, nazis, Isis, hezebollah, taliban, hamas. He can infiltrate our schools, universities, pandemics, economies, countries and sadly even our churches. Beware, he can take on many forms. The time you spend trying to figure all that out would be better spent in looking to the Lord and His call on our lives. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. If we are continually being side-tracked by satan, we will be anxious and fearful and no earthly good. Right where satan wants you. Don’t be paralyzed, remember the end of the book! It’s a happy ending…. Instead, we need to “Gird up our loins” and be sober-minded, watchful, prayerful and immersed in the Word. Sober-minded means to be of sound judgement, making careful, spirit-sought decisions, not based on emotions. WITH ETERNITY IN MIND! Meditate, and even memorize Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy---meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in Me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Back to Festus who chose to keep Paul in Caesarea and asked that those with authority should go to Caesarea with him to accuse Paul. From there, sitting on his judgement seat, he had Paul brought before him, where the Jews again laid out their many complaints…which they still couldn’t prove. Again, Paul defended himself saying against the laws of the Jews, nor against the temple or Caesar had he offended. Festus, wanting to please the Jews, asked Paul if he was willing to return to Jerusalem and be judged. Paul said No, which was legally his prerogative. In Rome, unless an accused is willing to go, they cannot be made to.
This sets the stage for the rest of the book of Acts in which Paul eventually comes face to face with Nero. I think it’s important to mention here that Paul wasn’t willing to be a martyr for the Jews on unconfirmed charges. Remember Jesus had said “You are going to bear witness of Me in Rome.” I doubt Paul would have planned how he got to Rome courtesy of the Roman govt.
PAUL BEFORE AGRIPPA vs: 13-27
Here we see God’s man played out against the world’s man King Agrippa II. Son of the Agrippa I (who had put James to death) and Bernice (Drusilla’s sister) had come to Caesarea to officially meet Festus as the new Procurator. Bernice, herself beautiful, but not so much as her sister, Drusilla… had first married Prince Marcus at 13, then married her uncle Herod, left him for her own brother, Agrippa II. This is who we see her arrive with in Caesarea. She eventually left him for King Ptolemais of Selecia. Left him and went back to Agrippa and then left him for Vespasia and left him for Tacitus and left him for his son Titus! Whew!!
And so, back to their arrival in Caesarea to meet Festus…after several days, Festus gets around to telling Agrippa about the Paul situation, saying “it isn’t Roman custom to deliver any man to die without meeting his accusers and has the opportunity to answer for himself. Festus further discusses Paul’s belief of Jesus and His resurrection. Which, remember, is largely at the heart of the Jew’s accusations. Completely missing the message Paul was trying to convey that Jesus was there long hoped for Messiah! Indeed, His resurrection was the only hope for their future. Agrippa wanted to hear Paul for himself and with great pomp, Paul was brought before him. Festus said that in spite of the Jews complaints, he had found nothing deserving of Paul’s death and that Paul, himself had appealed to Augustus. He said that he had found nothing lawful charged concerning him. He appealed to King Agrippa to examine Paul himself so that he could specify charges against him.
PAUL’S EARLY LIFE ACTS 26:1-11
Agrippa said to Paul that he was permitted to speak for himself.
READ ACTS 26:1-11
PAUL RECOUNTS HIS CONVERSION 26:12-17
Paul continues by recounting his journey on the road to Damascus, where he was heading to persecute the Christians and THEN he saw the LIGHT!
From heaven, brighter than the sun READ vs: 14-18
Paul says: This is the Messiah of Israel I caused saints to blaspheme against!
It was Him who now asked Paul to serve as witness. And now no longer blind himself was commissioned to open the eyes of the Jews and the Gentiles. To turn them from the darkness of being blind to the Light! To turn from satan to God, receive forgiveness and an inheritance. Grace! The one God forgives the most is the one who loves HIM the most.
PAUL CONVERSION LIFE vs:19-23
…. Paul goes on to “Therefore, King Agrippa, I wasn’t disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, Jerusalem, Judea and then to the Gentiles. And for that reason, the Jews seized me and tried to kill me.” Having obtained help from God (Holy Spirit) to this day I stand witnessing those things---that the Christ would suffer, be the first to rise from the dead/resurrection and would proclaim light to the Jewish people AND the Gentiles.
AGRIPPA PARRIES PAUL’S CHALLENGE vs:24-32
Paul began to address Agrippa and probably /hoping he would be receptive to his message. Sadly, Agrippa’s response was “you ALMOST persuade me to become a Christian.”
Sadly, because there is no such thing as an almost Christian.
Then Agrippa, Bernice, Festus and those who sat with them, talked amongst themselves saying: “this man was done nothing deserving of death or chains.” Agrippa said to Festus: “this man might have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar.”
Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, 2Cor 10: 3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
We would do well to cloth ourselves in Ephesians 6:10-20 each day, putting on the armor…. ***see the screen
Please read ahead for the continuance of Paul’s journey that eventually led him to Rome and his mission there and how it significantly resulted in blessings to the churches to this day!
Peace to you sisters and love. Grace be with all those who love our Lord, Jesus Christ, with sincerity. Amen