Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Acts 26-28

In chapter 26, Agrippa tells Paul to speak for himself, and he begins by claiming that "according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee," and that he is on trial because of his "hope in what God has promised our fathers." He points out that the Jews are also hoping to see God's promise fulfilled, and working for that, and wonders why anyone should "consider it incredible that God raises the dead." He tells Agrippa of his work persecuting the church, and his conversion on the road to Damascus, and how he has "not [been] disobedient to the vision from heaven." When he told them that he proclaimed nothing beyond what Moses and the prophets would say, that "the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles," Festus interrupted him, telling him that he was insane. Agrippa agreed that he was "not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment," and tells Festus that he could have been released if he hadn't appealed to Caesar.

In chapter 27, Paul sails for Rome with several traveling companions, including, apparently, Luke, a centurion named Julius and Aristarchus, "a Macedonian from Thessalonica." They stopped in Sidon and then continued their journey, but it was late in the year and "sailing had already become dangerous." Paul warned the men ofthe ship that the voyage would be disastrous "and bring great loss to ship and cargo," but the centurion listened to the ship's pilot and owner rather than Paul and they sailed on, "hoping to reach Phoenix [a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest] and winter there." A south wind seemed as if it was what they wanted, but blew up into a hurricane force "northeaster" and the ship was driven along, eventually being wreck on a sandbar just off the island of Malta. As Paul had prophesied, all on-board survived.

Acts 28 starts with Paul and his companions shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The islanders welcomed them, building a fire in the rain and cold. Paul was bitten by a viper, and the islanders thought he must be a murderer not escaping justice, but when he didn't die they thought he was a God. They were welcomed into the home of the island's chief official, Publius, and Paul healed his father who was sick with fever and dysentery, and then the rest of the sick on the island were healed . They honored Paul and his companions and provided them with supplies when they were ready to sail three months later.

They sailed for Rome, and spent a week in Puteoli with some Christian brothers. When they reached Rome, "Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him." He called together the leaders of the Jews and explained his situation, and then said that they had received no letters about him from Judea, but wanted to hear what he had to say. They came on a day that they had arranged to meet and "from morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets." Some believed but others did not, and Paul finished by quoting Isaiah and telling them that "I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" The book ends there, telling us that Paul stayed in his own rented house for two years, preaching the Gospel boldly and unhinderedly.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • The first sermon that I ever heard in Park Street Church was given by David Fisher on a Sunday evening at the end of May, 1989, and he spoke about the book of Acts. More specifically, the last word of Acts, which is, in Greek, "unhinderedly." He noted that it sounds ungrammatical in English to end a sentence with an adverb, but that it sounds awkward in Greek, also.

    There are speculations, because of this, that the end of the book is missing, or that Luke planned a third volume. But Fisher's position was that it was an appropriate ending, as what the book of Acts shows us is the Gospel moving out into the world, unhindered by any of those who have tried to stop it. From a small group of frightened disciples huddling in Jerusalem, the Gospel has, in the space of just two short generations (or one long one), acquired thousands or tens of thousands of believers and moved to the heart of the greatest empire on the earth. Ending the book would imply an ending, symbolically, to the acts of the apostles and the spread of the Gospel. Theologically, "unhinderedly" is an appropriate close, because the Gospel isn't ending and the acts of the apostles and disciples of Christ aren't ending - they continue to this day, and will continue until there are no more days.
  • This has been my most in-depth reading of this book, and I come away with an increased sense of historicity. There's almost nothing in here that doesn't read and ring true. While clearly written as a theological document, it's also clearly a history, with names and places of people and events clearly identified. The presence of the first person voice in places enhances the the believability, as it is clear when the author is speaking from personal knowledge and when he's getting information second hand. And the two voices carry the same message, from start to finish - the Gospel cannot be stopped by men.

Psalms 36:23-40

Everything I wrote yesterday about the first half of this psalm holds true for the second. It really is a collection of proverbs, of wisdom statements, praising the wise man and God, while condemning the wicked, and equating wickedness with failing to follow the Lord's way.

23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.

27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.

28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

29 the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.

31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;

33 but the LORD will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

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