Paul makes his case in Jerusalem in the beginning of Chapter 22. He starts out by getting their attention. He is not getting attention just to glorify himself; his whole drive is to spread the good news about Jesus. He knows he needs to gain credibility for them to come to know Jesus, so he speaks in Hebrew (v2). My guess would be that he does not have a bad accent. Even when Peter speaks, the others comment on his accent right before he denies Jesus (Mt 26:73). My bet is that since Paul grew up in Jerusalem (v3), he was able speak well. He also drops the name Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a renowned teacher and was highly respected by most Jews at the time. Continue reading
Chapter 21 starts with Paul bouncing around a little while people are more and more aware of his death (v4 & 9-12). The Jews in Jerusalem were plotting to have him killed. Paul’s response is unexpected. Paul says, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? I am prepared not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of our Lord Jesus” (v 13). His faith in Jesus and his purpose in dying drives him on.
He trusts in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. This is enough to inspire most Christians, but his love for Jesus that drives him to death is something that even many Christians would hesitate on. Most people would think Jesus is there to bring nothing but good things. Paul seems to be driven more by love than a promise of good things. He is driven by love to give his love to God by way of sacrifice, and nothing else will do. He looks forward to it, but it is a heroism that few would.
I noticed here a small detail as well. Luke, the writer of this book, is using the word “we.” Luke is present in all these events and so is giving first-hand accounts of these events. Actually, Luke has been with Paul for quite a while. If you noticed, the Acts of the Apostles covers Paul’s life since his conversion. The Acts of the Apostles offers a great summary of Paul’s Christian life. Actually, most of the Acts of the Apostles deals with Paul’s life once his conversion happens. There is good reason for this.
It ties in to the reason he is about to go through his persecution and what leads to his death. Paul gets arrested, but only after the Jews of Jerusalem try to kill him. Accusations are made against Paul about his handling of the Gentile converts. He does not demand circumcision or any of the other requirements of the law except for the eating of food dedicated to false gods. Paul is the one chosen by God to go and convert the Gentiles. It is through Paul that the rest of the world is called into the fold of the Christ, the anointed one. He is truly living out the call that Jesus gave to the Church He founded: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:18-19). Paul exemplifies the mission of the Church even to today.
Paul is driven for this purpose. He is accused of not doing as God commands (v21), but points to the higher command. He points to the unity that Jesus desires for us and only He can give (Eph 4:5). False accusations are given on this account (v 28 &29) but only as the old law had required. Even the Jews who believed did not recognize the authority that Jesus had regarding the law. They still do not see Jesus as God.
I am not sure what this means in Jewish understanding, but I noticed how when they take Paul out of the temple to kill him, the Bible says, “and immediately the gates were closed.” Sounds to me that God was not pleased. It would either mean that no admittance would be given, or the flow of His graces would now be shut. The riot that ensues is the commencement for the death of Paul in Rome. Paul’s death happened because he followed Jesus’ divine will. He exemplifies the Church’s mission to sacrifice and love. Ironically, Paul’s accusers echo Jesus’ death by yelling, “Away with him” (v 36). Paul’s mission, even in death, is united to Jesus.
The last half of Chapter 19 proves the difficulty in the change of culture that needed to happen for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. A silversmith named Demetrius complained about how Paul was refuting his work, saying that his work was useless. Paul said he made false idols for worship, and that the works of human hands were not gods at all. That would mean Demetrius would be out of a job. A riot was almost started. It was so dangerous, the faithful made sure Paul would not come out and preach. It took some effort for the town clerk to convince the people to do everything through the legal system and not start a riot, which could have put everyone in danger. Continue reading
Chapter 17 begins with Paul getting to Thessalonica. I find it interesting the argument against Christianity is that the Apostles and early Christians were against women and their rights – that somehow they were suppressing women. Yet in verse 4 a great number of “prominent women” were converting. Not only were there many women, but they specifically say that they were prominent women who converted. Because they were prominent, these women were educated and had a sense of independence. It makes me think about what could have made these women take notice of the Christian faith. What would make independent women think about believing in Jesus and joining the Church? Perhaps they never felt suppressed. In fact, at that time, the Faith in Jesus honored women.
Women in the church were treated as equals and understood to be equals. But equality may not be the same as the agenda driven critics of the Catholic Church. Today, many with agendas may think equality as the same, so in order for there to be equality between men and women, they must be the same. But when you look at the definition of “equals,” you will not find the idea of “same.” Rather, equal refers to value, not same. So women and men are in fact different. That is why many think men are from Mars and women are from Venus. How men and women think is very different, but they both have the same value. Both are necessary for the betterment of society. There are so many people with so many gifts. Continue reading
Three legged stool? What is he talking about? Listen and find out!
Chapter 14 shows how hard it can be when you bring Christ to others. There were people who constantly told lies about Paul and Barnabas that conditioned people not to believe. They became violent against them. Paul heals a crippled man by the power of Jesus. The people think that they are gods. They start to offer sacrifices for them. Paul and Barnabas tear their garments and tell the people not to do this, but they would not listen. Instead, a group of people from Iconium (the previous town) that did not believe in what they preached came to town (Lystra), and the people believed those who opposed Paul and Barnabas. What a strange turn of events. Paul heals a man and they think he is a god. Paul then tries to correct them. They don’t listen to Paul, but those who lie about him and end up stoning him think he is dead. Continue reading