Saul Ravages the Church – Acts 8

Paul the Apostle, Russian icon from first quar...

Paul the Apostle, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first three verses of chapter 8 really belong with chapter 7 in this writer’s opinion because they really mark the end of what could easily be considered the first section of the book of Acts. The significance of the previous chapter’s cold-blooded murder of murder of Stephen cannot be understated. A t the end, they stoned Stephen to death, laying their garments at the feet of Saul. Verse one begins

And Saul approved of the execution.

The reality of those words from verse one would haunt the apostle Paul for the rest of his life. Known at this time as “Saul of Tarsus,” Paul was himself a Pharisee, having been “educated at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), a much revered member of the Sanhedrin council.  Though himself not a member of the Sanhedrin, the last few verses confirm that Paul did enjoy a somewhat revered status himself. That status afforded him some authority as well. The fury over Stephens speech was not quenched by his death by way of stoning. The wrath of the council was then turned upon all Christians, and Saul acted upon their authority as he “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison (verse 3).

The tremendous growth of the church from the day of Pentecost up until Stephen’s death had been a great blessing mixed with the growing pains we saw in chapter 6. Now as the church scattered, that growth would ensure that many more in many other places would be taught, as well as become teachers of, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostles, of course, remained where they were.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

Beaten for the name of the Lord! – Acts 5

English: St. Paul. From the Acts of the Apostl...

English: St. Paul. From the Acts of the Apostles printed in , Georgia, in 1709 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the apostles had not backed down, but had indeed accused the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ death, they were furious and wanted them killed. Then verse 34 says that a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel spoke up. Paul spoke of this man in Acts 22:3, saying that he had been educated “at his feet.” Verse 34 says that Gamaliel was “a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people.” He had the prisoners taken outside, so that he could address the council privately.

Gamaliel reminded them about a man named Theudas who had “claimed to be somebody,” and had gotten about 400 supporters. He had been killed and his followers dispersed, and it came to nothing. This verse perks up the ears of skeptics looking for “errors” in the Bible because Josephus wrote about  a Theudas that led a revolt sometime between 44-46 A.D. But that could not be who Gamaliel was speaking of here. Of a certainty, there were many men with that name. He also spoke of a similar event with a Galilean named Judas. We certainly know there were plenty of men with that name! The point that Gamaliel was making was that they needed to slow down and give this “movement” some time.

He told them that if this movement came solely from men, it would fail — it would fizzle out on its own. If, on the other hand, it was from God, the council was fighting against God — and they would fail. The council, by and large of course, did not believe for a moment that the apostles were acting on the authority of God. But Gamaliel’s words did serve to calm them down and consider less emotionally.  So instead of having them killed, they beat them, charged them (again) not to teach in Jesus’ name, and let them go.

The apostles rejoiced on their way, Luke tells us, because they had been “counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Did they stop teaching in Jesus’ name? Certainly not. Verse 42 says that they did not even stop doing it in the temple where they had been arrested!

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Please check out my Books and my Facebook Author’s Page. You will find the links at this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books“.

In the Presence of All Peoples

In verses 22-24 of Luke chapter 2, we learn that Mary and Joseph have brought Jesus to Jerusalem to make an offering once the days of her purification following childbirth are complete. This is in accord with the Law of Moses given in Leviticus 12:3-8, and it means that it was 40 days after his birth. The offering is to be a lamb and a turtle-dove or pigeon unless she cannot afford a lamb, in which case it would be two turtle-doves or two pigeons. Since Joseph was not a man with much wealth, the offering would be the latter.

St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (c. 1635), at ...

St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (c. 1635), at the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. Oil on canvas, 126 x 101 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beginning in verse 25, we are told of a righteous and devout man who was there that was filled with the Holy Spirit. The text says that he was waiting for”the consolation of Israel,” which is to say that he was waiting for God to send the Messiah to redeem His people. In fact, verse 26 says that the Holy Spirit had revealed that he would see the Christ in his lifetime. There are some scholars (particularly Dr. John Lightfoot) that believed this Simeon was the son of a great philosopher and doctor of that day, Hillel, and that Simeon was also president of the Sanhedrin. If true, this would mean that he was also the father of Gamaliel, who Saul of Tarsus studied under. All very interesting, and we are sure, quite educated calculations, but still historically unsubstantiated.

As he took the child in his arms, he offered his blessing to God, saying “…that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”  Filled with the Holy Spirit, Simeon already knew what many would not figure out until after Jesus’ death and resurrection – that he had come for the Gentiles as well. He then blessed the parents, and addressed Mary with some prophecy in verses 34-35 that points to the rise of many ordinary men to be His apostles, the fall of unbelievers such as Annas and Caiaphas, and a darker prophecy of Mary’s heartbreaking witness of her son’s death (“a sword will pierce through your own soul”).

In verses 36-38, we are told of a prophetess named Anna, who was “advanced in years.” The words “did not depart from the temple” simply refer to the fact that despite her age, she did not forsake her temple duties. Verse 38 says of her: “and coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” “To speak of him” refers to Jesus, not God, as is obvious from the context.

So we can deduce from these two accounts, that a number of people were being told of the fact that this child was the long-awaited Messiah.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Acts 22 – Paul and the Roman Tribune

Paul bound with chains

Paul, having been arrested and beaten, had at the close of chapter 22 convinced the Roman tribune to allow him to speak to the mob.  When he spoke in Hebrew, it settled them down and they listened.  He then gave them a history of himself as a Jew, “educated at the feet of Gamaliel” (a Pharisee and renowned teacher, who was also a member of the Sanhedrin council – see Acts 5:34).  He also recounted his own persecution of Christians and the “Way ” (see previous post here for more information on “the Way”); and then told of his encounter with the Lord in Acts 9:3-8, in which he was blinded.   The re-telling of that event here in verses 6-11 is not contradictory at all, despite what some say.  Those who were with Paul on that road could hear what was said, but were not made to understand.

Paul then turns to Ananias restoring his sight and his subsequent baptism in verses 12-16.  But when he told them of his encounter with the Lord, and how He had told Paul that He was sending him to the Gentiles (verses 17-21), the crowd became wild with anger again.  The tribune ordered him to be flogged in order to find out why they were shouting out against him.  But as he was stretched out, Paul told the tribune that he was a Roman citizen by birth (verses 25-28); and the Roman tribune became fearful (Roman law forbade flogging a Roman citizen without a hearing or a formal condemnation).  So in verse 30, the chapter ends with the tribune having Paul brought before the Sanhedrin, since scourging was not an option.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As is often the case with Scripture, context is everything in this chapter.  As chapter 4 closes, the young church was growing with the Apostles leading them; and the unity among the believers was amazing.  People were selling their own possessions, and bringing the proceeds to the Apostles to help provide for others who were in need.  It was in that spirit that we were introduced to Barnabas of Cyprus in Acts 4:36 (we will read more about Barnabas in later chapters).  As Peter makes clear, the property that had belonged to Ananias and Sapphira was theirs to do as they wished.  Their sin was in trying to fraudulently claim that they had sold land and were giving the entire proceeds to the apostles to help those in need.  The lie would certainly be found out. The credibility of the Apostles would be harmed – how can they be said to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not know these people were perpetrating such fraud?  The unity of the believers would certainly suffer.  God would not allow this to happen.

Verse 12 lets us know that the Apostles had worked many signs and wonders.  Note that the verse does not refer to 120 people having done so, again affirming that it was the twelve who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in chapter 2.  And despite Peter and John’s earlier arrest, they were all together in Solomon’s Portico again. Verse 13 simply means that even the non-believers that did not join them held them in high esteem.  But verse 14 declares that the church was growing faster than ever, with both men and women.  People were also bringing their loved ones from all around to be healed.

The high priest and the rest of the Sadducees were jealous of the attention and the esteem everyone had for the apostles, and had them arrested.  But in verse 19, an angel of the Lord let them out and told them to go teach – this time in the Temple.  They did exactly that at daybreak.  The words the angel used were “…speak to the people all the words of this Life”  – the eternal life that Jesus spoke of in John 17:1.  There are some who believe that early Christianity may have been referred to as both “the Life” and “the Way.”  The former is unsure, but we do know that the latter is true.  It is first mentioned in Acts 9:1-2.

Apostles Peter and John by Pieter Aertsen (157...

Apostles Peter and John by Pieter Aertsen (1575). Oil on wood, 55.5 76 cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the council sent men to bring the Apostles to them from prison, they returned to let them know that they not only were not in the prison – but they were teaching in the Temple.  When they brought them from the Temple, they did it quietly.  The popularity of the Apostles made the officers afraid of the people.  At the Sanhedrin, the high priest reminded them that they had been warned not to teach in the name of Jesus, saying “you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”   But Peter and the Apostles again boldly declare that they will obey God – that He raised Jesus, whom they had killed, and that they are witnesses, as is the Holy Spirit.  The council was furious, wanting to kill them all.  But Gamaliel, a Pharisee, reminded them that two others had gathered a following, but had died and the movement fizzled.  His argument was that they should let this one fizzle out as well – either it would do so, or it was indeed from God.

Gamaliel’s advice was taken, but the Apostles were beaten (verse 40) before they were released.  This would have been a brutal beating – probably less severe that the scourging Jesus had received, but likely would have been the traditional 39 stripes for each of them.  Upon release, the attitude of the Twelve was to rejoice.  Verse 42 confirms “…every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.