Monday, March 15, 2010


Acts 19-22

In Acts 19, Paul arrives in Ephesus and asks some of the disciples whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized. Told that they hadn't he aked what baptism they'd received, and was told, "John's." Paul told them that John's was a baptism of repentance and baptized them "into the name of the Lord Jesus...the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied." Paul preached in the synagogue there for three months, then, after some "became obstinate...publicly maligned the Way," he took the disciples and "had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus" for two years, and God did "extraordinary miracles" through Paul. Some Jews who had driven out spirits "tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed," but a demon replied "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" And the possessed man "overpowered them all," a story which had all of the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus "seized with fear" and honoring the name of Jesus. Many who had practiced sorcery "brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly," scrolls valued at fifty thousand drachmas. After all this, Paul decided to go through Macedona and Achaia on his way to Jerusalem, and that he must visit Rome. He sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia.

"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way." A silversmith (Demetrius) who made pagan idols, called the craftsmen together, and expressed concern that Paul's work would endanger their trade and "that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself." They caused a great riot, and "the people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia." Paul wanted to address the crowd but the disciples held him back. But the city clerk addressed the crowd and told them that "these men...have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess," and dismissed the assembly.

In chapter 20, Paul traveled through Macedonia and Greece with several companions. They all met and spent a week in Troas where Paul raised a young man named Eutychus who had fallen from a third story window. Paul then traveled on foot to Assos and met the ship carrying his companions, and then decided to hurry to Jerusalem, by Pentecost if possible. He had the leaders of the church in Ephesus come to Miletus to meet with him, and gave them his farewell, telling them that "compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there," and that "none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again." They wept and prayed with him, and accompanied him to his ship.

In chapter 21, Paul returns to Jerusalem, passing through Rhodes and Cyprus and Tyre. He and his companions spent seven days in Tyre, with the disciples urging them not to go to Jerusalem. He traveled from Tyre to Caesarea, staying at the house of "Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven." A prophet named Agabus traveled from Judea, and tied Paul's hands and feet with his own belt, saying that "In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles." Paul was not dissuaded, insisting that he was ready not just to be bound "but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And they went up to Jerusalem, where they were received warmly by the disciples. The next day, they went to see James, with all of the elders, and Paul greeted them and "reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry." The praised God, and then told Paul that the Jewish believer were "zealous for the law" and had been informed that Paul was teaching Jews to "turn away from Moses." They proposed that he take four men among them who had made a vow and "join in their purification rites and pay their expenses" so that people would "know there is no truth in these reports." The next day, he purified himself along with them, then gave notice at the temple of the days when the purification would end and the offering be made. When the time of purification was almost over, Paul was publically accused of teaching against the Mosaic law, seized and dragged from the temple. The commander of the Roman troops heard of the uproar as the crowd was trying to kill Paul, and tooks some soldiers to stop the riot. He arrested Paul and had him chained up, and asked the crowd who he was, but there was too much tumult to get an answer, so he had him taken away to the barracks. When they got there, Paul told them that he was a Jew from Tarsus, and asked to speak to the people. They allowed him to, and he addressed the crowd in Aramaic.

In chapter 22, Paul defended himself, in Aramaic, before the crowd. He told them that he was a Jew, "thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers" under Gamaliel, and "just as zealous for God as any of you are today." He told them of how he persecuted the church, and then shared the story of his conversion on the road to Damascus. When he told them that the Lord said to him that "I will send you far away to the Gentiles," the crowd "raised their voices" and called for his execution. The Roman commander had him taken into the barracks and directed that he be flogged and questioned, but Paul asked whether it was legal to flog a Roman citizen who hadn't been convicted of anything. When asked, he told them that he was born a citizen, and they did not flog him. The next day, he released him and order the priests and Sanhedrin to assemble, and had Paul brought before them.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • As in chapter 16, Luke reports some of these journeys and events in the first person plural, as a participant and eyewitness.
  • The story of Eutychus is one that could be true without any miracle, if the first people to reach him just thought he was dead and didn't make a thorough examination before Paul got there. I frankly dislike the resurrection stories in Acts, because they don't ring true to me. The barrier between life and death is a significant one, a veil that Jesus pierced, if you will, and it's hard for me to believe that God would have the apostles doing it willy-nilly afterwards.
  • The story of the silversmith and the riot in Ephesus, on the other hand, absolutely rings true. Certainly, those in the business of making idols were going to be hurt if the market for idols dried up.
  • I find the reference to "Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven" perplexing. One of the Seven what? Of course, as I write this, a memory stirs - hold on just a second...Yup, my bad, never mind. Philip is, of course, one of the seven chosen to offload the chores of day-to-day living from the apostles back in Acts 6:5, along with Stephen and five others.
  • The reading schedule stopped after chapter 21, but I thought that was a bad place for it, so I did chapter 22 also.

Psalms 36

For four verses, the psalmist deals in "the sinfulness of the wicked." The first, and most serious charge, is that "there is no fear of God before his eyes." I've mentioned before that there are parts of the Psalms, translated into English and broken into verses, that read much like parts of the book of proverbs. Well, Proverbs tells us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," and here the Psalmist tells us that the lack of that fear is the "sinfulness of the wicked."

And there's a lot of truth here. That is, in the end, what sin is - it's a turning away from God, from God's word. Sinfulness comes when we focus on ourselves and "in [our] own eyes [we] flatter [ourselves] too much to detect or hate [our] sin..."

Psalm 36
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
1 An oracle is within my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.

2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself
too much to detect or hate his sin.

3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good.

4 Even on his bed he plots evil;
he commits himself to a sinful course
and does not reject what is wrong.

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.

6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.

7 How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find [b] refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.

9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.

11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.

12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!

No comments:

Post a Comment