Acts 1-3

The book of Acts begins with Luke's note to Theophilus that this continues the story which he began in the Gospel of Luke, "about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven." He tells that Jesus appeared to the apostles "and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive." Jesus told the disciples, during this post-resurrection time, that they were to wait in Jerusalem, because a gift from GOD was coming, that they would "be baptized with the Holy Spirit." They asked when the kingdom was going to be restored, and he told them that it was not for them "to know the times and dates the Father has set." But they would receive power, and be Jesus' witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." At which time he was taken up into the clouds. As they stood looking to where he had disappeared, two men "dressed in white" told them that he would come back "the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

The disciples met in Jerusalem and decided that they needed to add one more apostle, replacing Judas, bringing the number back to twelve. They considered two men, and, after praying and casting lots, chose Matthias.

Chapter 2 relates that on the day of Pentecost "a sound like the blowing of a violent winde came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting," and tongues of fire rested on them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues "as the Spirit enabled them." A crowd gathered, including "God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven" and were amazed, each of them, to hear in their own languages. Some in the crowd mocked, saying, "they have had too much wine," but Peter addressed the crowd, telling them that this was the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had said, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people." And he preached to them of Jesus, "accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs," and that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." And many believed and "about three thousand were added to their number that day." And they "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching," and the believers met togeter and sold their possessions and good and gave to anyone who needed, and continue to meet in the temp courts. "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

In chapter 3, Peter heals a beggar at the temple gate, a man crippled from birth. He asked for money, but Peter told him that he had no silver or gold, but "what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." He helped him up and "instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong." He "jumped to his feet and began to walk." The people that saw him recognized him and were amazed. When they came running, Peter preached to them about how GOD, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, "our fathers," had glorified Jesus. He tells them that they had acted in ignorance, and that it was time to repent, because they were "heirs of the prophets and of the covenant GOD made with your fathers."

Thoughts, questions, issues

Acts 4-6

In chapter four, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin. The priests and temple guards were disturbed by their preaching and healing, and put them in jail until the next day, but many believed their preaching and the number of believers grew to about five thousand. The next day, they were brought before the rulers and elders and teachers of the law, and asked in whose name, by what power, did they heal and preach. Peter, "filled with the Holy Spirit," told them that they did it "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead." When they saw that Peter and John were ordinary men, not schooled, "they were astonished." They ordered them out and conferred, and knew that they could not deny the miracle but wanted to "stop this thing from spreading any further." THey brought them in and warned them not to speak or preach about Jesus, but Peter asked whether they should obey the council rather than GOD, so, after more threats, they let them go. Peter and John went back and all of "their own people" prayed to GOD together. There was an earthquake where they met, and "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." And the believers all shared everything they had with one another.

Chapter five tells of Ananias and his wife Sapphira who also sold a piece of property and brought the money to the apostles, but held back some for himself. Peter asked him how it was that Satan had filled his heart so that he lied to the Holy Spirit and GOD, and Ananias, on hearing this, dropped dead. When his wife Sapphira came, about three hours later, not knowing what had happened to Ananias, she answered, "Yes," when Peter asked if they had received for the land what Ananias had said. Peter told her that the men who had buried her husband were ready to carry her out also, and she fell down and died. "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events."

"The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people," including many healings, gathering great crowds from the towns around Jerusalem. But the high priest and his fellow Sadducees "were filled with jealousy" and arrested the apostles. But during the night, the doors were opened by an Angel and they came out. He told them to preach in the temple courts, so they entered at daybreak and did as the Angel had said. When the high priest called together the Sanhedrin and sent to the jail for the prisoners, the officers did not find them there. Someone told them that they were preaching in the temple courts and the officers went and brought them. Peter and the others responded to their questions and charges by saying that "we must obey God rather than men!" The Sanhedrin was furious, but a Pharisee named Gamaliel told them that if their activity was of human origin it would fail, and if not, they'd be "fighting against GOD." So they had the apostles flogged, ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and sent them away. The apostles continued preaching and rejoiced "because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."

In chapter six, the number of disciples was increasing and there were conflicts between the Grecian Jews and Hebraic Jews. The apostles felt that "it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables," so they told the rest of the disciples to choose seven men to handle the worldly responsibilities. "They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism" and the apostles prayed and laid hands on them. Stephen did "great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" and was brought before the Sanhedrin on charges of blasphemy, trying him with false witnesses.

Thoughts, questions, issues

Acts 7-9

Acts 7 details Stephen's speech in front of the Sanhedrin. Challenged on charges of blasphemy, Stephen responds by preaching to them the history of the Jewish people, how GOD made the covenant with Abraham, how the patriarchs sold Joseph into slavery, how he later saved them during the famine, how Moses was born and grew and spoke to the LORD, how they were brought out of Egypt and how they had the tabernacle of the Testimony in the desert, how they brought it with them during the conquest, and kept it through the time of David until Solomon built the temple. Stephen then spoke to the Sanhedrin as a prophet, calling them a "stiff-necked people" and saying, "you always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?" They were angered, but Stephen, "full of the Holy Spirit," look up and told them that he could see heaven "and the son of Man standing at the right hand of GOD." They dragged him out of the city and stoned him. He prayed while this was happening, then cried out "Lord, do not hold this sin against them," then died. One of the witnesses was a young man named Saul.

Following the stoning of Stephen, in chapter eight a persecution broke out against the church, and Saul was one of the leaders, going house to house and dragging the church leaders to prison. Many of the leaders scattered out of Jerusalem, preaching wherever they went. Philip proclaimed Christ in Samaria and healed many. A man named Simon who had practiced sorcery there believed and was baptized, and followed Philip everywhere. When the news reached Jerusalem of the spread of the Gospel, Peter and John came to Samaria. The prayed that the Holy Spirit would come on the new believers, because they had so far "simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." But Peter and John laid on hands and "they received the Holy Spirit." Simon the sorceror offered Peter and John money for the Holy Spirit, but Peter rebuked him "because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money...your heart is not right before God." After they had preached and testified in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. Philip, at the behest of an angel of the Lord, traveled south and met an important Ethiopian official in his chariot, reading the book of Isaiah. He did not understand it, and asked Philip to sit with him and explain. So Philip preached the Gospel, and, when they passes some water, the Ethiopian asked to be baptized, and Philip baptized him. "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again...Philip...appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea."

Acts nine tells of Saul's conversion. Saul continued to "breath out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples," persecuting the church wherever he found it. He asked the high priest for letters to the synagogue in Damascus that he might take any believers prisoner back to Jerusalem. On the road to Damascus, a "light from heaven flashed around him" and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” When he asked who it was, the voice said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." He continued into the city and for three days, blind, he ate and drank nothing. The voice of the LORD called to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias and told him to go lay hands on Saul and restore his sight. Ananias was resistant because of all the harm that Saul had done, but the LORD said "this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." Ananias went, and laid on his hands, and "something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again." He got up and was baptized.

Saul stayed for a time in Damascus, and preached in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God. The people wondered at his transformation but he "grew more and more powerful" and, many days later, inspired the Jews to kill him. But he learned of their plans and escaped by being lowered in a basket through an opening in the wall by his followers. In Jerusalem, the disciples feared that Saul's conversion was only a ploy to find them, but Barnabas took him to them. He stayed with them and moved about in Jerusalem, "speaking boldly in the name of the Lord." He debated with the Grecian Jews, "but they tried to kill him," so the apostles sent him off to Tarsus.

Peter visited the Christians in Lydda, and healed a paralytic named Aeneas. There was also a disciple named Tabitha (Dorcas in Greek) that became sick and died. The disciples heard that Peter was there and called him, and when he came, he was taken upstairs to the room where the body was. He sent everyone out of the room, then got down on his knees and prayed, then told her to get up. He then called the believers "and presented her to them alive."

Thoughts, questions, issues

Acts 10-12

In Acts 10, a centurion at Caesarea named Cornelius had a vision, which told him to send men to Joppa and bring back a man named Simon and called Peter. He sent two of his servants and a devout soldier to do so. At the time when they were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. As he did so, he became hungry, and while the meal was being prepared "he fell into a trance." In a vision, he saw "something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners," containing all manner of animals, and a voice told him to "kill and eat." Peter replied, "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean," but the voice told him that he should not "call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times "and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven." The men sent by Cornelius arrived while Peter was contemplating this vision, and the spirit told him that they were there, and that he should go with them. The next day, he went with them to Caeserea, and when he entered the house, Cornelious fell at his feet. Peter told him to rise, "I am only a man myself." He then asked why he was sent for, and Cornelius told him about his vision. Peter preached the gospel to them and many received the Holy Spirit, even the gentiles, which surprised the Jews. Peter ordered them all baptized and they asked him to stay for a few days.

Peter was challenged, in Acts 11, by other "circumcised believers" for having gone into the house of Gentiles and eating with them. He explained the vision that he had seen, and reminded them of what Jesus had said - "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." And he told them that he realized, "if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" To this, "they had no further objections."

Those disciples who had left Jerusalem, "scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen," traveled to places as widespread as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching to Jews only. Some of the men from Cyprus and Cyrene, however, when to Antioch "and began to speak to Greeks also," and many believed and "turned to the LORD." When the church in Jerusalem heard this, they sent Barnabas, who "saw the evidence of the grace of God" and encouraged them, before going to Tarsus looking for Saul. He found him and took him to Antioch, and they taught there for a year. "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." And a prophet named Agabus who went from Jerusalem to Antioch predicted a famine (which "happened during the reign of Claudius") and the disciples provided help for those in Judea, "sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul."

Chapter 12 tells about the persecution under King Herod in which James, the brother of John, was killed and Peter was seized. He put him in prison, guarded by four squads of soldiers, intending to try him publically after the Passover. The night before he was to be tried, an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He woke Peter and struck his chains off, and led him out of the prison. He went to the house of "Mary the mother of John, also called Mark" and knocked. They were astonished to see him, and described to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. The next morning, Herod had his guards executed for having let him escape. "Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while," where the people of Tyre and Sidon, who had been quarreling with him, sought an audience. He sat on his throne, in his royal robes, and delivered a public address, and the people shouted "this is the voice of a god, not of a man." When Herod "did not give praise to God" he "was eaten by worms and died."

"When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem," taking John Mark with them.

Thoughts, questions, issues

Acts 13-15

In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit said to the prophets and teachers at Antioch to "set apart for me Barnabas and Saul." So they fasted and prayed and laid hands on them and sent them off. They went to Seleucia and sailed for Cyprus, where "they proclaimed the word of God" in the synagogues. In Paphos, they met a Jewish sorceror (Bar-Jesus or Elymas) who attended the proconul (Sergius Paulus). The proconsul wanted to hear Saul and Barnabas had to say but Elymas opposed them. Saul "filled with the Holy Spirit" looked at him, accused him of being "a child of the devil and an aenemy of everything that is right" and told him he would be blind, and "immediately mist and darkness came over him." The proconsul saw what had happened and believed. Later, Paul (formerly Saul) and his companions whent to Psidian Antioch where they were invited to speak in the synagogue. Paul preached the God of Israel and the Gospel of Jesus and the people invited them to speak more about these things on the next sabbath. The next sabbath "almost the whole city gathered" but the Jews "were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying." The word of God spread through the regious, but the Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and they "shook the dust from their feet in protest...and went to Iconium."

In chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas went and preached "as usual" at the synagogue. They were so effective that many believed, but the Jews who didn't "stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers." They remained and the Lord "confirmed the mssage of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders." They found out about a plot to stone them and fled to the cities of Lystra and Derbe "where they continued to preach the good news." In Lystra told a crippled man to rise, and he did, which aroused the people to think that they were the gods Zeus (Barnabas) and Hermes and to gather food to sacrifice to them. But Paul and Barnabas stopped them, insisting that "we too are only men, human like you." They stopped the sacrifices with difficulty, but then "some Jews came from Antioch and Ioconium and won the crowd over." Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead, but "after the disciples gather around him," he arose. Then he and Barnabas left for Derbe, where they preached the Gospel and "won a large number of disciples." They then returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, encouraging the churches they had planted.

Acts 15 describes the council at Jerusalem, at which there was discussion about how much of the Mosaic code must apply to Gentile believers, starting with concerns about circumcision. Some pharisaic believers said that the Gentiles should be required to be circumcised. Peter reminded them of his vision in which God "made no distinction between us and them" and suggested that they should not "try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear." Paul and Barnabas talked about the miracles and wonders they had witnessed among the Gentiles, and James suggested that they "should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God," that they should tell them "to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." This decision was put into a letter and sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Judas (Barsabbas). Silas and Judas later returned to Jerusalem, but Paul and Barnabas remained teaching in Antioch. Some time after that, Paul wanted to go back to the towns where they had preached, but they had a disagreement when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark but Paul didn't ("because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.") Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia, "strengthening the churches."

Thoughts, questions, issues

Acts 16-18

In chapter 16, Paul went to Derbe and then to Lystra, where he met Timothy, whose mother was Jewish and whose father was Greek, who was a believer. Paul wanted to take him along, so he was circumcised and and went with Paul as they traveled through the churches, bearing the decisions from the council in Jerusalem. Laster, as they were in Troas, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come and help them. So they sailed from Troas and made their way to Philippi ("a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia") and stayed there for a while. On the Sabbath, they spoke outside the city gate and converted a woman named Lydia, and she and her household were baptized, and Paul and his companions stayed there. After driving a spirit out of a slave girl, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail for "throwing [the] city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for ... Romans to accept or practice." In the middle of the night, there was an earthquake throwing open the doors of the jail and striking off the shackles of the prisoners. The jailer, seeing the doors opened, "was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped," but Paul called to him to tell him that all of the prisoners were still there. The jailer "rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas" and asked them what he had to do to be saved. The jailer took them to his home and he and his family were baptized. When the magistrates learned, the following day, that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they took them out of prison and asked them to leave the city.

In chapter 17, Paul travels to Greece. First in Thessalonica and then in Berea, they went in to the synagogues and the Jews were outspoken against them. In Berea, Timothy and Silas stayed while Paul went on to Athens. There "he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols." He reasoned with Jews and Greeks in the synagogues and the marketplace. A group of philosophers that he argued with brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus to "know what this new teaching is." He talked about an inscription - "To an unknown God" - and told them that "the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." Many sneered but some wanted to hear more and were converted.

Acts 18 tells of Paul going to Corinth, where he worked as a tentmaker with a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Whn Silas and Timothy joined him, Paul "devoted himself exclusively to preaching" but when the Jews opposed him, he "shook out his clothes in protest" and declared that he would, from now on, "go to the Gentiles." And he stayed in Corinth for a year and a half. He later sailed for Syran with Priscilla and Aquila, had his hair cut off in Cenchrea "because of a vow he had taken" and arrived at Ephesus where he left Priscilla and Aquila. He again preach in a synagogue, but refused when they asked him to stay, saying "I will come back if it is God's will." He visited the church at Caesarea and then went to Antioch. After some time there, he traveled again, through the region of Galatia and Phrygia.

A native of Alexandria, a Jew named Apollos, came to Ephesus with a "thorough knowledge of the Scriptures" and "taught about Jesus accurately." When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they invited him to their home for further discussion. "He was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

Thoughts, questions, issues

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

Acts 23-25

In Acts 23, Paul faces the Sanhedrin and declares that he has "fulfilled [his] duty to God in all good conscience to this day." "Knowing that some were Sadducees and the others Pharisees," he tells them that he is "a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee." This started an argument between the various members of the Sanhedrin, and some of the Pharisees defended him. The commander took Paul back to the barracks to protect him. "The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"

The next morning, several of the Jews formed a conspiracy to kill Paul, but Paul's sister's son found about it and went to the centurions. The commander had a detachment of his centurions take Paul to Caesarea, with a letter to the Roman Governor Felix saying that he found "no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment." In Caesarea, Paul was kept under guard in Herod's palace.

Acts 24 tells about Paul's trial, about a week later, in front of the Governor. The high priest (Ananias) had come to Caesarea with a lawyer named Tertullus to present the charges, of being "a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world." Paul defended himself, saying that he didn't argue with anyone in the temple or stir up crowds in the synagogue or anywhere else in the city. And he professed his belief in God and that he was "a follower of the Way." "Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings." He told the commander to keep Paul under guard but "give him some freedom." Later, he spoke with his wife ("Drusilla, who was a Jewess") and then sent for Paul and listend to him talk of his faith in Jesus. "Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That's enough for now!'" For two years Paul remained in prison until Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.

In Acts 25, Paul is tried before Festus, who wants to send him to Jerusalem to be tried by the Jews. But Paul said that he was standing in Caesar's court, where he should be tried. After Festus conferred with his council, he agreed that "to Caesar you will go!" A few days later, King Agrippa arrived at Caesarea and Festus discussed Paul's case with him. Agrippa expressed interest in hearing Paul for himself. And Agrippa entered Festus' audience room the next day, and Paul was brought in to see him.

Thoughts, questions, issues

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