The Apostle Paul: Luke’s concluding Words.

30” He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30–31 (ESV)

Luke recorded that the Apostle Paul spent the next two years under house arrest, at his own expense. The wheels of justice apparently did not spin any faster than they did in Caesarea (Acts 24:24-27). As we will see, Paul’s letter to the Philippian church was, in part, a thank you for sending financial resources to meet his expenses (Philippians 2:25-30).

Paul welcomed all who came to visit him. The apostle proved faithful to God and to His call by proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. He did with courage and without restriction. Paul’s desire to preach the Gospel in Rome came true (Romans 1:8-15).

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “From A.D. 60-62, Paul was under house arrest preaching and teaching to anyone who wanted to hear. His subject is summarized as the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. At the end of Acts, Paul had not yet been tried before Nero, as the Lord said was going to happen (Acts 27:24). It appears that Paul expected to be acquitted and released (Philippians 1:25; 2:24; Philemon 22). This must have occurred before A.D. 64 when Nero set fire to Rome and accused Christians of that crime.”  

During this two-year period Paul wrote what are commonly called his “Prison Epistles”—Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. It is to these four prison epistles that we will survey and give our attention.

No matter where Paul was, or what his living conditions were, he preached and lived out the Gospel. May this be said of each of us.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Holy Spirit was Right.

25 “And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never receive.” 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” (Acts 28:25–28 (ESV)

The Jews’ reaction to Paul’s preaching the Gospel was not anything new. Some were convinced of the Gospel’s truthfulness concerning Jesus Christ while others were not. Those who did not believe not only continually disagreed with Paul, they also persistently argued with their fellow Jews. Things have not changed in 2,000 years.

Paul’s response to the Jews’ unbelief was biblical and truthful. He quoted from the Prophet Isaiah: “26 ‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never receive.” 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ The quotation was taken from Isaiah 6:9-10.

Isaiah’s prophecy concerned Israel’s unconverted and spiritually dull hearts, deaf ears and blind eyes (John 9).Therefore, God would send His salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone to the Gentiles. They would heed the truth of the Gospel.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “These Jews continue to fulfill the prophecy of Israel’s hardening that began in Isaiah’s own time and continued up until the time of Christ (Matthew 13:14) and even up until Paul’s own day.”   

Paul’s declarative statement is the final one which Luke records. He said, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Paul’s words take the form of a strong command when he said, “Let it be known.” His audience are the unbelieving Jews. He stated that salvation, the deliverance from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin, originated with and is sourced in God alone. He is personally and completely sending this message of divine deliverance to the Gentiles.

Paul then prophecies: “They (the Gentiles) will listen.” In other words, the unconverted Gentiles will hear, pay attention to, and receive the good news in Jesus Christ. Two millennia of church history has proven Paul’s concluding recorded words as accurate and truthful.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Providence. Part 2.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Five: Providence. Part 2.

2. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly,a yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.b

a. Acts 2:23. • b. Gen 8:22Exod 21:13 with Deut 19:51 Kings 22:2834Isa 10:6-7Jer 31:35.

3. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means,a yet is free to work without,b above,c and against them,d at his pleasure.

a. Isa 55:10-11Hosea 2:21-22Acts 27:3144. • b. Job 34:10Hosea 1:7Mat 4:4. • c. Rom 4:19-21. • d. 2 Kings 6:6Dan 3:27.

Take the time today to read each attribute along with its corresponding biblical reference. You will be blessed and edified.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul Testifies of the Kingdom of God.

23 “When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.” (Acts 28:23–24 (ESV)

The second meeting the Apostle Paul had with the Jews occurred at a pre-appointed time. It also occurred at Paul’s place of lodging. Paul’s residence was not at this time a prison cell of an indeterminate nature, but rather a guest room of a larger house or dwelling place. Luke did not use the word prison, as he had when Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:23).

Additionally, the meeting Paul had with the Jews this time involved a greater number of people than his first encounter (Acts 28:17). The meeting began in the morning and lasted until the evening hours. Paul expounded and explained, from the Old Testament Law and Prophets, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul declared to them the truth of the kingdom of God, that Jesus Christ was the only Savior and Lord. Paul’s method of Jewish evangelism throughout the Book of Acts was to prove from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah (cf. 13:16–41).

The term “kingdom of God” involves the concept of God’s rule and reign over the hearts and lives of His disciples by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is applied to the sinner’s account by grace alone through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

However, the “kingdom of God” also looks ahead to Christ’s literal reign on earth. It is clearly eschatological and future in significance (cf. Acts 1:3–6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; Luke 1:33; 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:1, 10; 9:2, 11, 27, 60, 62; 10:9, 11; 11:2, 20; 12:31–32; 13:18, 20, 28–29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20–21; 18:16–17, 24–25, 29–30; 19:11; 21:31; 22:16, 18, 29–30; 23:42, 51).

Ironically, to these Jews the concept of the Messiah dying for sins as an atoning sacrifice, and the teaching of justification by faith as the way of entering the kingdom, sounded strange. It shouldn’t have given the Old Testament Levitical sacrificial system centered not only in the Tabernacle but also in the Temple. It shouldn’t have given the annual Jewish feasts and festivals which pointed to God’s redeeming work; especially through the festival of Passover (Exodus 12).

Some of the Jews began to be convinced of what Paul declared. Others did not believe in the truth of the Gospel at all. These responses to the Gospel remain the same today.

What is your response?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul Ministers in Rome.

17 “After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:17–22 (ESV)

Romans 1:16-17 says, 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

We have seen throughout Paul’s life and ministry that even though God appointed him to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) he also was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews. Paul’s pattern on his missionary trips was to preach first in the synagogue and only when the Jews rejected the gospel would he then proceed to the Gentiles.

Paul’s ministry pattern did not change when he arrived in Rome. As today’s text bears out, Paul sought out the local leaders of the Jews and said, ““Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.”

Paul wanted his fellow Jews to know the truth about him and why he was a prisoner of Rome. However, the Jews he spoke to possessed no information about either his arrest or his impending trial before Caesar. They said, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” The stage is set for Paul to present the truth of the gospel to the Roman Jews.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “His (Paul’s) primary objective in calling the leaders was to talk with them about the hope of Israel. This term and concept was used by Paul a number of times in the last part of Acts (cf. 23:6; 24:15; 26:6–7). The hope of Israel was more than a resurrection; it meant fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to Israel (cf. 26:6–7). Paul firmly believed Jesus is the Messiah of Israel who will return someday and establish Himself as the King of Israel and Lord of the nations (cf. 1:6).”

Do you have faith in the hope of Israel: Jesus Christ? If you do, rejoice. If you don’t, repent.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul Arrives at Rome.

11 “After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.” (Acts 28:11–16 (ESV)

Paul and Luke, along with the other passengers and crew of the shipwrecked vessel, remained on the island of Malta for three months in order to wait for winter to pass. When spring arrived, they set sail on a ship that had also wintered in the island.

Luke informs us that the ship in question was from Alexandria, Egypt. It had the twin gods as a figurehead. These would have been Castor and Pollux, sons of Zeus.  In Greek mythology, they both were considered the patron gods of seafarers.

Luke then begins to chronicle the places the ship frequented. These ports included Syracuse, which was located on the island of Sicily. Sicily is just south of Italy.

The ship then arrived at Rhegium and then Puteoli.  Rhegium was a harbor on the southern tip of the Italian mainland. There the ship waited one day for a favorable wind to permit it to sail through the Straits of Messina (separating Sicily from the Italian mainland). Puteoli, known today as Pozzuoli, was located on the Bay of Naples near Pompeii. It was Rome’s main port and the most important one in Italy. Puteoli was also the main port for the Egyptian grain fleet.

It was at Puteoli that Paul and Luke met fellow believers in Christ. They stayed with them for a week. Following their stay, Paul and Luke finally arrived into the city of Rome.

Many believers, who heard that Paul had arrived into the city, came to meet him and Luke. Paul expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Lord.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, At last God was bringing Paul to Rome. And the welcome of fellow believers, whom he had never met, uplifted his soul. So they proceeded on the Appian Way, “the queen of the long roads,” to the city of Rome.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “When he (Paul) wrote to the believers in Rome several years earlier, he anticipated his and their mutual encouragement through each other’s faith (Romans 1:11-12). That anticipation is now fulfilled.”

Soli deo Gloria!    

The Apostle Paul: Publius and his Father.

7 “Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.” (Acts 28:7–10 (ESV)

God’s providence is defined as the rule of God in both heaven and earth, governing the activities of mankind and of nature. Throughout Paul’s life, particularly during his journey to Rome, God was working; even in the many difficult circumstances the apostle and his companions encountered.

Luke continues the narrative by introducing a man of Malta known as Publius. Luke called him a “chief man” which means either a prominent or an important individual on Malta. Perhaps he was a government official.

Publius was also a hospitable man for he entertained Paul, and at least Luke, for three days. It was during these visits that Publius’ father became ill with a fever and with dysentery. He suffered from some kind of intestinal illness. One commentator states that Publius’ father suffered from a “gastric fever (caused by a microbe found in goat’s milk) that was common on Malta and referred to as “Malta Fever.” Dysentery, was often the result of poor sanitation, and was widespread in the ancient world.

Paul took the liberty of visiting Publius’ father. He prayed on the man’s behalf, and also laid hands on him and healed him. The man was immediately cured.

This prompted other people on the island who were sick to also come and see Paul. They too were cured.

As a result, the islanders of Malta honored Paul and his companions. It was at this time that arrangements were made to secure another ship bound for Rome, for Luke mentions that the Maltese people provided many supplies as Paul and the others were ready to set sail. Further details about the ship will be forthcoming when next we meet.

While Rome was Paul’s desired destination, he recognized the providence of God in ministering to the people of Malta. So too should we acknowledge that circumstances we might conclude as interruptions, are in actuality divine appointments.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul on Malta

After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.” (Acts 28:1–6 (ESV)

The island on which the Apostle Paul and the other passengers and crew who were shipwrecked was Malta. Malta means “refuge.” How appropriate and providential.

Luke records that the native people of the island displayed unusual kindness to the castaways. Remember, the storm was still raging and an autumn cold had settled over the island. The stranded voyagers were in danger of experiencing hypothermia. However, the islanders build a fire by which the passengers could get warm and dry.

Displaying his spiritual gift of helps, Paul gathered a bundle of sticks for kindling. He then put them on the fire. It was at that precise moment that a viper came out of the fire because of the heat and fashioned its jaws upon the apostle’s hand.

The islanders had the common perspective, which remains to this day, that bad things happen to people who are deserving of them (see John 9:1-2). The islanders must have observed that Paul was a Roman prisoner. They concluded among themselves, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” In other words, Paul may have cheated divine justice from the sea, but justice had caught up with him by the snake’s bite.

However, Paul shook off the snake from his hand and threw it into the fire. Astoundingly, the apostle suffered no harm. The natives waited for Paul to begin feeling and showing the affects from the snake bite. None came.

Like the Lystrans (Acts 14:11-12), who proclaimed Paul and Barnabas to be gods, the Maltese people also said that the apostle must be a god. What a drastic change in their perspective. However, Paul was a servant of the One, True God.

The story is told that on one rainy day, a man accompanied by two women arrived at Northfield, hoping to enroll his daughter in D.L. Moody’s school for young women. The three needed help in getting their luggage from the railway depot to the hotel, so the visitor “drafted” a rather common-looking man with a horse and wagon, assuming he was a local cabby. The “cabby” said he was waiting for students, but the visitor ordered him to take them to the hotel. The visitor was shocked when the “cabby” did not charge him, and was even more shocked to discover that the “cabby” was D.L. Moody himself! Moody was a leader because he knew how to be a servant.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Shipwrecked!

39 “Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” (Acts 27:39–44 (ESV)

A shipwreck are the remains of a ship that has wrecked, which are found either beached on land or sunken to the bottom of a body of water. Shipwrecking may be deliberate or accidental.

It has been estimated that there are some 3 million shipwrecks spread across the earth’s ocean floors. There are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the North American Great Lakes, having caused an estimated loss of 30,000 mariners’ lives. It is also estimated that there are about 550 wrecks in Lake Superior alone, most of which are undiscovered.

Some shipwrecks are historically famous such as the sinking of the Titanic (April 14-15, 1912), and the freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald (November 10, 1975). Not only have books, feature films and documentaries been written and produced about shipwrecks, but also about the survivors of the same. From the dramatic to the comedic, stories about survivors of shipwrecks, otherwise known as castaways, abound. These include such titles as Cast Away, Gilligan’s Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Lost in Space, and Robinson Crusoe.

The Apostle Paul, Luke and others aboard the ill-fated cargo ship bound for Rome knew what it meant to be shipwrecked. Luke recorded in today’s text the circumstances leading to the destruction of their vessel. With the ship’s bow striking a reef and running aground, along with the breaking of the ship’s stern by the surf, the passengers abandoned ship and made for land. Some swam to shore, while others floated on wooden planks or other pieces of the ship. All 276 passengers and crew (Acts 27:37) made it safely to shore. This was one of three shipwrecks the Apostle Paul experienced (2 Corinthians 11:25).

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Why did God allow His servant to suffer so, especially to bring him to an island where he would have gone willingly if asked? God’s ways are often mysterious, but Scripture assures us they are altogether righteous.”

Resolve today to not only praise God for His wisdom in your life, but also to trust Him throughout the circumstances of your life.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Providence. Part 1.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Five: Providence. Part 1.

  1. God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold,a direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,b from the greatest even to the least,c by his most wise and holy providence,d according to his infallible fore-knowledgee and the free and immutable counsel of his own will,f to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.g

a.  Heb 1:3. • b. Psa 135:6Dan 4:34-35Acts 17:25-2628; Job 38-41 throughout. • c. Mat 10:29-31. • d. Psa 104:24145:17Prov 15:3. • e. Psa 94:8-11Acts 15:18. • f. Psa 33:10-11Eph 1:11. • g. Gen 45:7Psa 145:7Isa 63:14Rom 9:17Eph 3:10.

Take the time today to read each attribute along with its corresponding biblical reference. You will be blessed and edified.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Not a Hair will Perish from any of You.

33 “As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”  35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.” (Acts 27:33–38 (ESV)

While in the midst of surging seas, and debilitating despair felt by the crew and others, the Apostle Paul encouraged those around him to eat. The passengers and crew had not eaten anything for two full weeks. This was not only because of the violent storm, but probably also by the accompanying seasickness people were certainly to experience.

Paul prayed for the meal and everyone ate and were encouraged. Luke notes that there were 276 people on board. This indicates that the ship was an ocean going vessel and not a relatively smaller fishing boat one would find on the Sea of Galilee.

Following their meal, the people then threw the rest of the wheat cargo into the sea. This served to further lighten the ship so it would ride high on the surface of the water.

The phrase, “not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you,” was a common Jewish expression. In fact, Jesus used it when He explained to His disciples that they would encounter troubles as His disciples.

Luke 21:12-17 records Jesus, on the night prior to His crucifixion, saying to the disciples, 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

One author comments, “How do you explain this promise in light of all the trials Jesus predicts in this chapter. Among other things, he says that the leaders will lay hands on them; persecute them; deliver them up to synagogues and prisons; bring them before kings and governors; delivered up before parents, brothers, relatives and friends; be put to death; and, to top it all off, they will be hated by all for the name of Jesus (Luke 21:12-17). After all of that, Jesus then says, “But not a hair of your head will perish.” How could he say that? Did he not just say that some would die (v 16)? Is Jesus not contradicting everything he said? No, not at all. The life that is promised here is more than mere physical life.”

Whatever you may be facing, do not despair. Do your best, and trust God for the rest.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: When Driven by the Sea.

27 “When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.” (Acts 27:27–32 (ESV)

Imagine being on a ship at sea in the midst of a raging storm for two full weeks. What an ordeal. This was the case with those on this ship bound for Rome. One can sense that the people involved were hungry, sick, weak, and overwhelmed with despair because of their circumstances.

However, Paul was a rock of faith. This means that Paul trusted in, was committed to, dependent upon, and completely worshipful of the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith, trust, commitment, dependence and worship in the LORD did not change or alter his circumstances, or those with him, but provided him with great resilience and courage while in the midst of his circumstances. Additionally, Paul knew that God was in sovereign and providential control of his circumstances.

Luke’s first-hand account goes into great detail; as one would expect a first-hand account to be. Luke notes that the seasoned sailors on board began to sense that they were near land. Perhaps this was because they heard the waves breaking on the rocks near the shore.

As such, they began to take soundings, which was the means to determine the depth of the sea. The sailors observed that the water was becoming shallower. A fathom is approximately six feet. Therefore, the ship was encountering a water’s depth that decreased from 120ft to 90ft. However, this also meant that the ship might crash upon the nearby rocks. The sailors dropped four anchors from the stern, or rear, of the ship to keep it from drifting. Then the sailors prayed. I wonder if they prayed a variation of the classic Bretton fisherman’s prayer: “Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.

Author Lynne Baab writes, “What component of your life feels like a wide sea: overwhelming, scary, hard to navigate, with storms that might arise any moment? Is it a health issue for you or someone you love? A relationship challenge? A job or financial issue? Something political? I love the power of the metaphor here, acknowledging that we often feel that our boat in the wide sea is just too small for safety. We need God’s help because on our own, some components of life are just too overwhelming. We need a sense of God’s enfolding, God’s arms holding us up, because some aspects of life are just too scary. We need God’s guidance because the sea looks the same in every direction.”

While the apostle rested in the unfolding arms of the Savior, some sailors decided to take matters into their own hands; regardless of who it hurt. Some attempted to drop the ship’s lifeboat and scurry to freedom and potential safety, leaving the others to their peril. Paul declared to the centurion and the soldiers, ““Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.”

I submit that the third stanza of John Rippon’s hymn, How Firm a Foundation, applies. Meditate upon it today.

When through the deep waters I call you to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless
And sanctify to you your deepest distress

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Apostle Paul: The Apostle’s Encouraging Words.

21 “Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:21–26 (ESV)

Remember when Paul counseled the centurion, the captain, and the ship’s owner not to set sail for Rome (Acts 27:9-11)? He said prior to the voyage that if they did set sail the journey would be one of injury and much loss; not only of cargo but also of human lives.

While the ship, crew and passengers were in the midst of a storm of hurricane proportions (Acts 27:13-20) and all hope was lost, Paul stood up among his fellow travelers and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.” More than saying “I told you so,” Paul sought to encourage the discouraged, to bring comfort where there was obvious despair, and to provide hope in place of hopelessness.

He continued by saying, “22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’  25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”

The angel of God had communicated to Paul three pieces of information. First, Paul would reach Rome. Second, all those within the ship would survive the journey. Third, the ship must be run aground on some nearby island.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “With these words, Paul unreservedly identifies himself with the One, True God in the presence of polytheistic and superstitious sailors and criminals.”   

Paul remained confident that God was providentially working throughout life’s situations and circumstances. He trusted in the LORD. Do we?

Have a blessed day as you trust in the sovereign and providential LORD of heaven and earth.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Storm at Sea

13 “Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:13–20 (ESV)

Dr. Joel Beeke writes, “Nothing is more practical than the doctrine of providence, for it engenders faith and godly fear.”

The providence of God is the active outworking of God’s sovereignty in everything we experience in this life: whether we be believers in Christ or unbelievers without Christ.  

Dr. Burk Parsons comments, “There are no good providences or bad providences, happy or hard providences, but simply providence.”

Through the life of the Apostle Paul, the providence of God is conspicuously evident. None more so than during Paul’s journey to the city of Rome, which Luke records in Acts 27-28.

As we continue our study, Paul and his companions set sail from the island of Crete. It was mid-autumn of the year and not the best time to be traveling upon the open sea of the Mediterranean. However, in spite of Paul’s warning that doing so was dangerous (Acts 27:9-10) the captain of the ship, along with the ship’s owner and the centurion, decided to weigh anchor and set sail for the Cretan port of Phoenix.

It wasn’t long before a tempestuous wind, called a northeaster struck the ship. While the captain attempted to say close to land, the ship was driven uncontrollably by the wind.

The word “tempestuous” refers to a whirlwind of hurricane force. In other words, a typhoon. Typhoons and hurricanes are a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originate over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation. The weakest tropical cyclones are called tropical depressions. If a depression intensifies such that its maximum sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour, the tropical cyclone becomes a tropical storm.  Once a tropical cyclone reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, it becomes either a hurricane or a typhoon.

Forgive me for the meteorological information, but it helps us to understand that what Paul and the others aboard the ship experienced was a horrendous storm. Wave height in such weather conditions can be 37-52 ft.

In today’s text, Luke described all the efforts done to make the ship less vulnerable to the unrelenting elements. The passengers used rope supports to undergird the ship in order to hold the ship’s wooden planks tight. This would help the ship resist the battering waves. They lowered the anchor to slow the ship. When this did not help, the ship’s cargo was thrown overboard in order to make the ship lighter and less prone to hit sand banks. Even the ship’s tackle, which included the main mast and sail, was jettisoned. Nothing helped.

The storm went on for days. Consequently, there was no sun or stars visible which would reveal the ship’s position. Luke stated, “All hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”

What a scene. Perhaps you have experienced an actual hurricane, whether on land or at sea. Perhaps you have also encountered a storm of life. The storm could have been called cancer, a heart attack, COVID 19, or the death of a loved one. In such a storm of life, you may have been tempted to abandon all hope for God’s deliverance.

Please remember that even in the fiercest of storms, God is in sovereign control. He works all things for the purpose of accomplishing His will (Ephesians 1:11).

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: Options.

9 “Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” (Acts 27:9–12 (ESV)

Docking at Fair Havens on the island of Crete for some time, Paul became concerned because of the lateness of the year. Luke remarked that even the Jewish Fast was over. This mention of the Fast refers the reader the Day of Atonement. It was the only annual Jewish festival which required fasting. It was then, and remains today, observed either in late September or up till mid-October. It was at this time of the year when weather on the Mediterranean became unpredictable and sea travel dangerous.

Remaining at Fair Havens for the winter was not advisable because its bays were open to the sea, which made ships vulnerable to the effects of upcoming winter storms. Consequently, it was dangerous to either stay or to sail.    

Regarding the matter of continuing the journey, Paul stated, ““Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” However, the advice from a prisoner was not viewed with much respect or consideration. Luke recorded that the centurion paid more attention to the captain and the owner of the ship than to the Apostle Paul.

Therefore, the majority opinion was to set sail for the Cretan Harbor called Phoenix. It was 40 miles to the west of Fair Havens. The captain’s intention was to sail for Phoenix and spend the winter there.

There are times in our lives when instead of action, it is best to be still and know that the LORD is God (Psalm 46:10) and to rest and wait upon Him. It is not always easy to do, but it is always the wisest thing to do.

More to come. Have a blessed day in the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul Sails for Rome

And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.” (Acts 27:1–8 (ESV)

Acts 27 is the penultimate chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and is Luke’s inspired account of the Apostle’s Paul journey to the imperial city of Rome. Throughout Luke’s narrative, we witness the providence of God at work.

Following the events recorded in Acts 26, and after an unspecified amount of time, the arrangements are completed to set sail for Rome. Paul, along with other prisoners, is delivered to a centurion named Julius. It was he who would be in command during the trip.

Do not ignore the personal pronouns Luke used. By using the pronouns “we” and “us” (Acts 27:2-4), Luke inserted himself into the narrative. Luke gave us a first-hand account of what Paul experienced during his journey to Rome because Luke, and Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica (Acts 27:2), accompanied the apostle.

The voyage began pleasantly enough with the intention to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia (Acts 27:2). The first port of call was Sidon. It was there that Julius allowed Paul to visit some of his friends (Acts 27:3). Apparently, Julius trusted Paul enough to know that he would not attempt an escape.

Departing from Sidon, sea travel became more difficult due to the prevailing northwest winds (Acts 27:4). This led the ship’s captain to sail under the shelter of the island of Cyprus. It appears that the voyage occurred during either late summer or early autumn (Acts 27:9).  

The ship now traveled upon the open sea until it reached the city of Myra, located in the province of Lycia (Acts 27:5). It was there that Julius transferred his prisoners to a grain ship from Alexandria, Egypt (Acts 27:6; 38), which was conveniently bound for Rome. Sailing northwest to the city of Cnidus (Acts 27:7), the freighter then sailed southwest to the Island of Crete, finally landing with difficulty at a harbor called Fair Havens (Acts 27:8).

Throughout the voyage, the providential sovereignty of God is apparent. No matter the obstacles, the Apostle Paul would reach the city of Rome. How sweet to know that no matter the obstacles we believers in Christ face in this life, God causes all things to work together to the good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

More to come. Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Creation. Part 2.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Four: Creation. Part 2.

2. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female,a with reasonable and immortal souls,b endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image,chaving the law of God written in their hearts,d and power to fulfil it;e and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.f Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;g which while they kept they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.h

a. Gen 1:27. • b. Gen 2:7 with Eccl 12:7 and Mat 10:28 and Luke 23:43. • c. Gen 1:26Eph 4:24Col 3:10. • d. Rom 2:14-15. • e. Eccl 7:29. • f. Gen 3:6Eccl 7:29. • g. Gen 2:173:8-1123. • h. Gen 1:2628.

Take the time today to read each attribute along with its corresponding biblical reference. You will be blessed and edified.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Truth will set you Free.

30 “Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:30–32 (ESV)

Freedom is a much discussed and debated topic; especially in the United States of America where personal freedom is prized by all but sought to be restricted by some. Many people define freedom as their personal sovereignty with no restrictions. It means to do whatever you want to do, no matter who it hurts.

However, true freedom is liberty, independence, and the ability to make responsible choices. With this definition of freedom, we see that it means living responsibly and doing what you ought to do rather than doing only what you want to do.

Within the context of Acts 22-26, Paul was in the custody of the Roman government. He was their prisoner. He was in jail. Politically, lawfully, and technically he was not free. Yet, the incarcerated apostle was freer than the Jews, the Roman Governors Felix and Festus, along with King Agrippa II, his sister Bernice and the Roman garrisons in Jerusalem and Caesarea.

Paul’s freedom was not that he was able to go where, and when he wanted. His freedom was true liberty in Christ. Christ had set Saul of Tarsus free from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin. This was what Paul repeatedly proclaimed to his captors in this context.

John 8:31–38 says, 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

New birth in Jesus Christ (regeneration) is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). It is accomplished on the basis of the virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not speak of political freedom to the Jews, and neither did Paul to his audiences. True freedom is serving the LORD and not serving sin.

When King Agrippa II said to Governor Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar,” he was speaking in political, lawful and technical terms. What Agrippa did not understand was that Paul was freer than the king could ever hope to be.

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Freedom in Christ is not seeking justification before God on the basis of one’s good works. Rather, it is resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. All efforts contrary to the person and work of Christ results in personal and eternal bondage. May each of us know the freedom which is found in Jesus Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: Out of Your Mind.

24 “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:24–29 (ESV)

What are some typical responses to the Gospel? Well, I have had people become angry at me, shut their front door in my face, dismiss me as making much ado about nothing, and/or tell me their hope for eternal life was that they were baptized as an infant. There have even been some who have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!

However, no one has ever told me I was crazy for believing the Gospel that I was either sharing or preaching. Maybe they thought it, but they did not say it. The same could not be said by Paul.

Governor Festus said, in an intense and loud voice, that Paul was insane or a raving lunatic. The governor reasoned that Paul’s great intelligence and education had driven him mad.

Paul rationally answered Festus by saying, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”

Paul backed King Agrippa II into a so-called corner. In other words, the king faced a moral dilemma. If he said that he did not believe the Old Testament prophets, he would make the Jews angry. If he said that he did, Paul would urge him to confess Jesus Christ as the Messiah, which would have angered the Jews even more.

Agrippa tried a delay tactic. He said, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Repenting of one’s sin and trusting Christ as Lord and Savior does not require a lengthy discussion. Was Agrippa under conviction of his sin? Was he on the verge of conversion? Whatever his condition, he expressed the need to think. It does seem that Agrippa may have used the term “Christian” with a degree of sarcasm or scorn.

Paul responded by saying, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Paul’s desire was that for all those who heard the Gospel they would receive Christ and become a believer. This was his fervent hope. May it be our hope as well for all those to whom we share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: Repent and Turn to God.

19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:19–23 (ESV)

Paul brought his message to King Agrippa II to a conclusion when he said, “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Paul stated to the Sanhedrin that he lived before God in good conscience (Acts 23:1). He also said as much to Governor Felix (Acts 24:16). He maintained this perspective to Agrippa.

Paul’s obedience to Jesus Christ following his conversion became publically evident by his sharing the Gospel in Damascus, then in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and finally to the Gentiles. His message was succinct and clear: repent, turn to God, and perform good works which are complimentary with repentance.

Paul concluded that it was this message which incited the Jews to seize him in the temple and to attempt to kill him. The Jews were unable to accomplish their plan because of the sovereign providence of God in Paul’s life. It was therefore God’s will that Paul stood before King Agrippa, and the others in attendance, to share the truth from God’s Word.

It was a truth complimentary with both the Old Testament prophets and Moses and fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It was He who fulfilled the prophecies that He would suffer on the sinner’s behalf, rise from the dead, and be the light of salvation for both Jew and Gentile.

Today’s text is an example of what Paul called his “good confession” (I Timothy 6:12-13). It was a message of truth.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, “Repent has always been the cry of God’s messengers, from the prophets through John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles, and contemporary men of God. Repentance is turning from sin to God, as David did in Psalm 51. As such, it is never complete. Examine your life for sins from which you need to turn. Make repentance to your Lord.”  

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:12–18 (ESV)

When Paul shared his personal testimony, before King Agrippa II, of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he revealed, by the Holy Spirit, several details not previously found in either Acts 9 or Acts 22. Why? Perhaps it was to show that the Apostle Paul’s conversion and calling to preach the Gospel was not unlike the conversions and calls to the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Frist, Paul mentioned that all the people who with him that fateful day fell to the ground when Gods’ glory shone around all of them (Acts 26:13-14). However, no one else was blinded like Paul was when they saw the light and no one else heard the voice of the Lord Jesus as Paul did (Acts 26:15; 22:9).

Second, Paul mentioned that Jesus spoke in the Hebrew language. Why does Paul contribute this detail? It could be because Hebrew was the language of the Old Testament prophets and Paul sought to show the complimentary relationship between their message and the Gospel.

Thirdly, unlike the two previous accounts (Acts 9 & 22), Paul indicated that Jesus instructed him regarding his future ministry. However, in the other accounts the Lord used Ananias to communicate this information. Paul most likely is condensing the account and leaving out the details regarding Ananias.

Fourthly, the language Paul used here is reminiscent of the conversions and callings of three major Old Testament prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. God told Paul to stand on his feet much as He did Ezekiel (Acts 26:16; Ezekiel 1:1-19). The Lord told Paul that He was sending him to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17) as He told Jeremiah and Ezekiel that He was sending them (Jeremiah 1:1-7; Ezekiel 2:1-3).

Finally, the Lord told Paul that he would open eyes, turn people from darkness to light, and turn them from the power of Satan so that they would receive forgiveness for their sins and be sanctified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This commission is reminiscent of Isaiah 6:8-13 and Isaiah 42:1-7.

Like Paul, all believers in Christ are His instruments for a noble purpose: to share the Gospel and to build people up in the faith. May all of us submit to the Lord’s sovereign leading by accomplishing the task He has chosen for each of us.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: In Their Shoes.

“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9–11 (ESV)

The idiom “in their shoes” or “in someone’s shoes” means to be in someone’s place or stead. It also means to be acting for another person or experiencing something as another person might experience. It is to be in another’s position or situation.

The Apostle Paul understood the animosity the Jews had for him; even to the point of them wanting to assassinate him. He had been in their shoes, or more culturally accurate, their sandals. In his pre-converted life as Saul of Tarsus, he too wanted to destroy all who were committed to, trusting in, dependent upon and worshiping Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

In sharing his personal testimony of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the apostle articulated his hatred for the God who he now served. He spoke to Agrippa, and all others in attendance, that he opposed the Lord Jesus Christ. To oppose means to be hostile.

Paul’s hostility extended to not only his attitude towards Christians, but also in his actions. He related how he locked up many saints in prison, having received authority from the chief priests to do so. Additionally, when the members of the Sanhedrin Council voted to put the incarcerated Christians to death, Paul voted for their execution.

He sought to punish, or cause to suffer, all believers in Christ he found in all the synagogues, even those in foreign cities. He attempted to make them curse and slander the One, True God. Paul described himself as a man consumed with raging fury, bringing him to the point of insanity.

Paul labored in his recounting of his life before Christ so King Agrippa II would begin to grasp the significant change that had occurred in this once violent Pharisee. What Paul had shared would be but a set up to then recount what happened to him on the Damascus Road.

By using this explicit language, the former prosecutor and persecutor of the church not only admitted to the inflicted injuries he caused, but also described his victims as holy ones, or saints. Paul has moved from hatred to love for believers? Why? It is because he has become one. How? That is what we will examine when next we meet.

The Apostle John stated that one of the evidences of true, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a love for one’s fellow believers (I John 3:11-15; 4:7-8). May it be said of us that we love one another with the love of Christ.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Defense before Agrippa

So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4 My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”  (Acts 26:1–8 (ESV)

Governor Festus (24:37), the Roman procurator for Judea, assembled in Caesarea’s audience hall a great collection of dignitaries, including the Palestinian King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, to come and hear the Apostle Paul. Festus did this in order to come to some consensus of what charges to bring against Paul, since the apostle appealed to an audience with Caesar because of the Jews’ unfounded accusations against him (Acts 25:21-22).

King Agrippa II did not ask Paul any specific questions, but rather gave him permission to speak. This scene was a fulfillment of Jesus’ words about Paul, in that he would speak the Gospel before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). Jesus said to his disciples not to fear such situations as this, because the Holy Spirit would provide the appropriate words (Matthew 10:19-20).

Paul spoke intelligently, logically, persuasively, and passionately about his personal faith in Jesus Christ. He began with his childhood, and being raised to become a Pharisee. Paul made it very clear that he was imprisoned and on trial because of the biblical truth of the resurrection of the dead.

Paul’s message to Agrippa paralleled what he shared with the Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-21). The truth of the resurrection was reverently believed by the Pharisees and the Jewish people in general, but rejected by the more liberal and powerful Sadducees.

Are you familiar with the old hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story?” Paul loved to tell the story of his conversion and faith in Jesus Christ. Are you also glad to tell people what Jesus Christ has done for you? Doing so brings Him glory.

I love to tell the story
Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and his glory
Of Jesus and his love

I love to tell the story
Because I know ’tis true
It satisfies my longings
As nothing else can do

I love to tell the story
‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love

I love to tell the story
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest

And when in scenes of glory
I sing the new, new song
‘Twill be the old, old story
That I have loved so long

I love to tell the story
‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Creation. Part 1.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Four: Creation. Part 1.

  1. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,a for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness,b in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.c

a. Gen 1:2Job 26:1333:4John 1:2-3Heb 1:2. • b. Psa 33:5-6104:24Jer 10:12Rom 1:20. • c. Gen 1 throughout; Acts 17:24Col 1:16Heb 11:3.

Take the time today to read each attribute along with its corresponding biblical reference. You will be blessed and edified.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul and King Agrippa II.

23 “So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.” (Acts 25:23–27 (ESV)

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (1938). At the climax of the film, there is a scene in the great hall of Prince John. There is a tremendous amount of pomp and circumstance as he is about to be crowned King of England, until the ceremony is thwarted by Robin Hood and England’s true king: Richard I, the Lionheart.

Luke’s description of Paul’s audience with King Agrippa II is somewhat parallel because of the great pomp with which Agrippa and Bernice entered the audience hall. They were accompanied by military tribunes along with prominent men of the city of Caesarea.

In contrast to the majesty of the earthly king, is the Apostle Paul. He is a prisoner who is brought in at the command of Governor Festus. One can imagine Paul is dressed in tattered clothes from having been in prison for over two years (Acts 24:27). However, he represents the King of kings and the Lord of lords (I Timothy 6:15), who is sovereign over all.

Festus’ reasoning in presenting Paul before King Agrippa II was so that he might conclude some reason, or charge, against Paul in sending him to Rome, per Paul’s appeal to have his case heard by the Emperor Nero. While not a formal trial, it was an examination (Acts 25:26).

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “To refer a Roman citizen’s case to the emperor rather than resolving it locally, entails some political jeopardy for a provincial governor. This is particularly true if he cannot articulate the crimes against the empire that warrant further legal process rather than the prisoner’s exoneration and release.”

That web of the Jews’ deception against the Apostle Paul has entangled Governor Festus. Festus hopes that King Agrippa will help to untie him from this political predicament involving Paul. The audience with Agrippa will provide Paul with one of his most personal and public testimonies of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Festus and King Agrippa.

13 “Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.” (Acts 25:13–22 (ESV)

Paul remained in Roman custody for some time following his appearance before Governor Festus (Acts 25:1-12). Apparently, Festus was in no hurry to send Paul to Rome in order for the apostle to appear before Caesar. The Roman Caesar at this time was Nero.

Dr. R .C. Sproul writes, “Festus fully intends to honor his commitment to send Paul to Nero. But he has a problem. Paul’s appeal places the governor in the unenviable position of having to justify sending Paul to Nero without specific charges. Nero and his officials would not take kindly to a governor who showed incompetence in judging trivial matters. Festus was unable to formulate a charge against Paul because the accusations by the Jews pertained to religious matters having nothing to do with Roman law.”

As today’s text reveals, it was during this time that King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice visited Festus. Agrippa II was the great-grandson of Herod the Great (Matthew 2) and son of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12). Agrippa II ruled the northern half of Palestine. He was also known as an expert in Jewish customs (Acts 26:1-3) and he was familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.

Festus discussed the case concerning the Apostle Paul with the visiting royal couple. Upon hearing the details of the matter, Agrippa was interested in hearing Paul himself. Festus was agreeable and the audience would occur the next day.

The setting was set for Paul to give one of his most personal messages. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus declared that Paul would share the Gospel to kings (Acts 9:15). Providentially, the Lord arranged for this to occur. God caused all things to work out for the good (Romans 8:28). He still does.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul Appeals to Caesar.

After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” (Acts 25:6–12 (ESV)

Paul received a new trial. The Jews leveled the same accusations against him, but again they could not prove or provide evidence to their charges. Paul again defended himself and denied that he had violated Jewish law, desecrated the Jewish temple, or attempted either to threaten or overthrow Roman authority.

However, instead of Governor Felix presiding, it was Governor Festus. Festus, as a shrewd politician, endeavored to please the Jews by proposing that Paul stand trial in Jerusalem. He asked Paul, ““Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?”

Paul had enough. He had been in jail for two years, and had endured two trials. He refused a third trial in Jerusalem, but rather invoked his right as a Roman citizen to have a trial in the capital city. He appealed his case to Caesar.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Though he is willing to be punished even by death if found guilty of a crime, Paul will not accept transfer to the Jewish authorities while his guilt is unproven. Impatient for a decision, indignant over his treatment, and perhaps fearful of the Jews’ malice, He takes the fateful step of appealing his case to the emperor.”

After Festus conferred with his council, he agreed to send Paul to Rome. He said, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

Paul was a Roman citizen and possessed certain rights under Roman law. Depending upon the country you currently reside, you also have rights as a citizen of that country. However, we must all agree that no earthly court of law is perfect. Pray today that God would give justices, judges, lawyers and other legal offices a love for the truth.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Festus Arrives on the Scene.

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” (Acts 25:1–5 (ESV)

Previously, Luke mentioned that Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as the Roman governor of Judea (Acts 24:27). The precise date of Festus’s accession to power is debatable but has been narrowed to sometime between ad 55 and 60. The only sources mentioning Festus are the book of Acts and the writings of Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in Rome in the first century ad (Antiquities 20.8.9–11; 9.1).

One commentator writes, “Josephus wrote that Festus ruled wisely and justly, in contrast to Felix and Albinus, Festus’ successor. Sicarii bandits (named after the small swords they carried) who had terrorized the Palestinian countryside were eliminated under Festus’s rule. In spite of this, he could not reverse the damage incurred by his predecessor, Felix, who had aggravated the conflict between pagans and Jews.”

Luke records that three days after Festus arrived in the Judean province, he traveled from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Upon his arrival, Luke states, “And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way.”

However, Festus proved to be every bit a shrewd and savvy with the Jewish leaders. Luke records Festus refusing their request saying that Paul would be kept at Caesarea and that Festus himself intended to go there shortly. Festus also stated, “Let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”

Festus granted the Jews another opportunity to bring their case against Paul. However, he did not grant them the change of venue they desired.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Festus must protect Paul while he was in Roman custody. Probably having reviewed the letter from the tribune Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26-30), that explains Paul’s relocation to custody in the provincial capital, Festus refuses the request of the Jews, saving Paul from their plot.”

Today’s text once again displays the sovereign providence of God in the life of the Apostle Paul. The same sovereign providence is active among believers today. May each of us rest in God’s sovereignty.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Felix, a Consummate Politician.

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” (Acts 24:22–27 (ESV)

Felix was nobody’s fool. He certainly wasn’t fooled by the inept case brought by the Jews against the Apostle Paul. Luke records that Felix had a more accurate knowledge of Christianity, the Way, than did the Jews from Jerusalem. As a result, Felix adjourned the hearing and said, ““When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.”

However, the Roman tribune Claudius Lysias had already expressed his opinion concerning Paul’s innocence in his letter to Felix (Acts 23:23-30). It seems that Felix believed Lysias because while he had Paul kept in custody, he extended to Paul liberties including permitting his friends to visit him and to attend to his needs.

Several days followed whereupon Felix, accompanied by Drusilla who was his third wife and who was also Jewish, sent for Paul and heard him share the Gospel and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul spoke about God’s imputed righteousness on behalf of sinners, the Christian virtue of self-control and the coming judgment of God.  

As a result of Paul’s preaching the truth of the Gospel, Felix became frightened and ordered Paul away from His presence until a later time. However, being a consummate politician, he hoped that Paul would offer him a bribe for his release. Receiving none, Felix continued to send for Paul and to have conversations with him. There is no evidence, though, that Felix ever repented of his sins and became a believer in Christ.

Paul was no respecter of persons. He preached the Gospel and confronted unrighteousness whenever and wherever he could. He loved the truth and also knew his eventual destiny was in God’s sovereign control and not in a human politician’s. Such fearlessness is needed today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: A Confession from an Apostle’s Soul. Part 2.

17 “Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ” (Acts 24:17–21 (ESV)

The Jews presented three accusations against the Apostle Paul when both parties came before the Roman Governor Felix. The Jews accused Paul of (1) causing riots among Jews all over the world and (2) being a leader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:1-9). Both accusations Paul refuted.

The third accusation was that he profaned the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Paul indicated that he was in the temple court, having come to Jerusalem to present alms and offerings from the Gentile churches to the church in Jerusalem, to purify himself according to the custom of the Jews (Acts 21:17-26). While he did so there was no crowd and there was no riot.

On the contrary, Paul indicated the riot was caused by certain Jews from Asia. Paul indicated that these Jews did not even come to the trial. He stated that these were the ones who should be present accusing him if they had anything against him. At the very least,

Since the Jews who were present at this particular trial were not first-hand eyewitnesses of what took place in the temple, they should at least testify what occurred when Paul stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-9). The apostle stated that the real reason he was before Felix was because of the truth of the resurrection of the dead through Jesus Christ alone. This was a truth that half of the Sanhedrin did not accept or believe. It was the truth for which the apostle stood on trial.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “You may never testify about your faith in a court of law. You may not have Paul’s oratorical skills. No matter. You must live and speak of the One, True God day by day. Never hesitate to bring up spiritual things. You will face ridicule and anger, but your testimony may be used in ways you cannot imagine. Simply speak and trust God for the results.”

Be strong and courageous beloved (Joshua 1:1-9). Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of God’s Eternal; Decree. Part 4.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Three: Of God’s Eternal Decree. Part 4.

8. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care,a that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.b So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God;c and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.d

a. Deut 29:29Rom 9:20. • b. 2 Pet 1:10. • c. Rom 11:33Eph 1:6. • d. Luke 10:20Rom 8:3311:5-6202 Pet 1:10.

Take the time today to read each attribute along with its corresponding biblical reference. You will be blessed and edified.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: A Confession from an Apostle’s Soul. Part 1.

10 “And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:

“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” (Acts 24:10–16 (ESV)

When Felix gave the Apostle Paul permission to speak, he did not waste time, or his breath, in flattering the Roman governor. Rather, he immediately made his defense against the Jews’ accusations.

First, Paul asserted that he had only been in Jerusalem for 12 days. Second, he indicated that he had not been disputing with anyone, or stirring up a crowd, during that time. Third, Paul asserted that his Jewish accusers could not prove any of the charges against him. So much for the negative.

Paul then made his assertive defense in the form of a confession. A confession is a personal acknowledgement or declaration of truth. Often, a confession is made when an individual admits their guilt in having committed a crime. Such was not the case with the Apostle’s Paul confession.

Paul stated that he was a worshipper of the One, True God. In addition, as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of the Way, he confessed his trust in, commitment to, and dependence upon the Word of God. Finally, he acknowledged his confident expectation in God was centered in the resurrection of the dead: for both the just and the unjust. Paul stated that his conscience was clear in that he had not violated any Jewish, or Roman, law and that he also was obedient to Jesus Christ.

Dr. Simon Kistemaker writes, “Paul blunts the significance of the Jews’ accusation by putting his admission within the context of serving Israel’s God.”

Each believer in Christ faces the possibility of being asked to deny their belief in the Gospel. Ask God to give you holy boldness to confess and live for Christ before the people you encounter each day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Flattery will get you Nowhere.

And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: “Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.” The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.” (Acts 24:1–9 (ESV)

Are you familiar with the phrase, “flattery will get you nowhere.” While its origin is unknown, there are several ancient Greek and Roman statesmen who are credited with originating the phrase including Aristophanes (388 B.C.), Cato (175 B.C.), and Cicero (45 B.C.). 

Flattery is another word for compliments given to someone. The phrase, “flattery will get you nowhere” means that compliments will not persuade someone to do what you want them to do.

It is interesting to note that the Jews from Jerusalem, who came to Caesarea to address the Roman governor Felix and verbally attack the Apostle Paul, began their address by using no small amount of flattery before the governor. They praised the Roman procurator, not only for his personal leadership but also for the peace and prosperity the region was enjoying.

The ironic hypocrisy is that the Jews hated the Romans. Additionally, Felix’ administration was so oppressive that the Roman Emperor Nero recalled him two years after Paul’s trial. In fact, it was because of Felix’ repressive governing that the Jews revolted against Rome culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 70 A.D.

The Jews in general, and their spokesperson, Tertullus, in particular offer many accusations against Paul. However, they offer no evidence or proof of the apostle’s guilt.

Flattery is a form of dishonesty. It leads to all kinds of evil. I encourage you to read the following verses and meditate upon God’s truth concerning honest speech. See Proverbs 5:1-9, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 29:1-5, Romans 16:18 and Jude 16.

Let us all pray that our speech would be truthful.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Arrival in Caesarea.

31 “So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium. (Acts 23:31-35)

The two day journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea was safely accomplished and the Roman soldiers delivered the Apostle Paul to the Roman Governor, Felix. Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Felix is one of three Roman procurators mentioned in the New Testament. The others are Pontius Pilate (a.d. 26–36) and Porcius Festus (a.d. 58–62). Felix married Drusilla (24:24), a sister of Herod Agrippa II, the Agrippa in Acts 25:13–26:32.”

It is speculation on our part to know whether Paul thought he would be quickly released by the governor. What we do know from today’s text is that Felix, having learned Paul was from Cilicia, determined to have a hearing once the apostle’s accusers arrived from Jerusalem. The governor needed to know whether he had jurisdiction to hear Paul’s case. Since Judea and Cilicia were at that time both under the representative of Syria, Felix had the authority to preside over Paul’s hearing. Felix ordered that Paul be kept safe, and under guard, in King Herod’s praetorium or governmental offices.  

What will occur will be a period of political red tape for Paul and his desire to travel to the city of Rome. However, his trust in the LORD never wavered, in spite of frustrating circumstances. May this be said of each of us.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: A Letter to Governor Felix.

23 “Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:

26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.” (Acts 23:23–30 ESV)

I have often stated that one of the evidences that the Bible is the Word of God is that it presents biblical characters as they really are: humans with the corresponding faults and frailties of sinners. The Roman Tribune Claudius Lysias is no exception.  

The tribune wrote a letter to the Roman Governor Felix. Felix was a former slave. As a freedman, he ascended to an influential position in the Roman government under Emperor Claudius in A.D. 52. He served as governor for eight years.  

In his letter, the tribune related the facts, in summary fashion, to the governor concerning the Apostle Paul’s arrest and subsequent transfer from Jerusalem to Caesarea. However, regarding his leadership in the situation, the tribune Claudius played loose with the truth.

First, he told the governor that he rescued Paul when he learned that the apostle was a Roman citizen. The truth is, Claudius did not discover Paul’s Roman citizenship until he was about the have Paul scourged (Acts 22:22-29).

Second, Claudius did not mention that melee which occurred with the Sanhedrin. Perhaps he did not want the governor to perceive any lack of law and order under the tribune’s leadership.

Regardless, Claudius did give Felix his opinion that the case had to do with Jewish law, and not a violation of Roman law by the Apostle Paul.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “All that comes to pass is according to God’s will and for His glory.” This was so true in Paul’s life, and so true in our own.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul is sent to Felix the Governor

23 “Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:

26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.” (Acts 23:23–30 (ESV)

Dr. J.I. Packer writes, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Pro. 16:33). “God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.11). If Creation was a unique exercise of divine energy causing the world to be, providence is a continued exercise of that same energy whereby the Creator, according to his own will, (a) keeps all creatures in being, (b) involves himself in all events, and (c) directs all things to their appointed end. The model is of purposive personal management with total “hands-on” control: God is completely in charge of his world. His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute. The nature of God’s “concurrent” or “confluent” involvement in all that occurs in his world, as – without violating the nature of things, the ongoing causal processes, or human free agency – he makes his will of events come to pass, is a mystery to us, but the consistent biblical teaching about God’s involvement is as stated above.

The Lord used not only the Roman tribune Claudius Lysias, but also 200 hundred Roman soldiers, 70 Roman horseman, and 200 Roman spearmen in order to bring the Apostle Paul safely to the Roman Governor, Felix, who was residing in Caesarea. This large contingent set out during the third hour of the night, which began at 9:00 p.m.

Why did Claudius send out almost half of his 1,000 man garrison? There are likely three reasons.

First, the tribune knew that there were at least 40 men planning to kill Paul. Perhaps he thought there might be even more. This large force would provide ample protection. Second, this many soldiers might not raise suspicion about Claudius’ plan to quietly send Paul away from Jerusalem since such large troop movements were common. Third, Claudius was perhaps protecting himself. By assembling such a large force, he could argue he did everything possible to protect Paul, if the apostle was killed on his way to Caesarea.

Claudius even wrote a letter to Governor Felix. We will examine the contents of the letter when next we meet. I encourage you to rest in the sovereign providence of God.

Soli deo Gloria!     

The Apostle Paul: God uses Paul’s Nephew.

16 “Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.” (Acts 23:16–22 (ESV)

While the LORD is providentially acting and leading us throughout our lives, He does not, however, promise a pleasant journey. The road unto eternal righteousness in the presence of Christ can be difficult and dangerous.

Jesus Himself said, 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12 (ESV). He also told his disciples, 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 (ESV).

The LORD providentially foiled the plot of the Jews who desired to kill Paul. God used Paul’s nephew, who was able to warn his uncle about the impending plot against his life. Upon hearing this, Paul sent his sister’s son to the tribune.

Upon hearing of the conspiracy, Claudius (Acts 23:26) dismissed Paul’s nephew and charged him not to tell anyone else what he knew about the assassination plot. He then put into play a plan that would begin the apostle’s long journey to the imperial city, Rome. The Jews’ plot actually served God’s sovereign purpose.

For further study, I encourage you to read Genesis 11:1-8, Psalm 37:1-13, John 4:28-30 and acts 4:27-28. Have a blessed day as you reflect upon the providence of God.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Perception.

6 “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.” (Acts 23:6–8 (ESV)

One of the distinguishing features of the Jewish council known as the Sanhedrin was that half was comprised of the Sadducees while the other half were the Pharisees. Each group had 35 members. The 71st member of the council was the current high priest.

The origin of the Sadducees cannot definitely be traced. The first time they are mentioned is in connection with John the Baptist’s ministry. They came out to him on the banks of the Jordan, and he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7.) The next time they are spoken of they are presented as coming to our Lord tempting him. He calls them “hypocrites” and “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 16:1–4; 22:23). The only reference to them in the Gospels of Mark (12:18–27) and Luke (20:27–38) is when they attempted to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, as they also denied the existence of angels. They are never mentioned in the Gospel of John.

The Sadducees showed their hatred of Jesus in taking part in His condemnation (Matt. 16:21; 26:1–3, 59; Mark 8:31; 15:1; Luke 9:22; 22:66). They endeavored to prohibit the apostles from preaching the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:24, 31, 32; 4:1, 2; 5:17, 24–28). They were the deists or sceptics of that age.

The origin of the Pharisees is also unknown. They held to a strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. There was much that was sound in their creeds, yet their system of religion was religious formality and nothing more. They had a very lax morality (Matt. 5:20; 15:4, 8; 23:3, 14, 23, 25; John 8:7). On the first notice of them in the New Testament (Matt. 3:7), they are also ranked by our Lord with the Sadducees as a “generation of vipers.” They were noted for their self-righteousness and their pride (Matt. 9:11; Luke 7:39; 18:11, 12). They were frequently rebuked by our Lord (Matt. 12:39; 16:1–4). The Pharisees did believe in the resurrection and the existence of angels.

As we shall see, Paul used the fundamental differences between these two groups in order to play one against the other. More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!