The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Testimony of Who He Was.

1“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:1–5)

As he would do on several other occasions (Acts 24:10; 25:1-8; 26:1-2, 24), Paul made a defense for Christianity by giving his personal testimony of repentance, faith and conversion to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Paul gave us an example of I Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  

Paul sought to establish a calm rapport with his audience. First, he did so by using the Hebrew language. He did this because his audience were Jews. The result of this tactic was that it caused the crowd to become extremely quiet.

Second, he immediately identified himself as a Jew. He shared that he was not only born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but also he grew up there.

Third, Paul indicated that the respected rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-42) was his primary teacher. Paul related how Gamaliel taught him according to the strict manner of the Mosaic Law. This resulted in Paul being zealous for God, as he said were each one in the crowd.

It was this zealousness for the Mosaic Law (Philippians 3:1-6), that Paul then shared how he had persecuted the followers of Jesus Christ, which was known as the Way (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2). He said, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness.”

Paul continued by saying, “From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”

You get the sense in this scene that Paul had the people’s attention. Where moments before there had been verbal confusion and chaos, now there was a quiet stillness by the people who were hearing an eloquent and Spirit led presentation of biblical truth.

Paul had told the people, thus far, what he had been prior to his conversion to Jesus Christ. As he proceeded, he would then relate how he became a fervent follower of the One who he had previously persecuted (Acts 9:3-5). Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road is about to be shared with the people of Jerusalem.

One commentator writes, “Paul strives to show that he once was like his hearers, hating the Way and persecuting its followers. This is an excellent example for us to reach out to skeptics. Seek to find common ground with them, to help them see that you once thought as they. By refusing to place ourselves on a pedestal, we eliminate a potential stumbling block.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!                                                                                                                                                                       

The Apostle Paul: Paul Asks to Speak to the People.

37 “As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:” (Acts 21:37–40)

Upon his arrest in Jerusalem by the Romans, Paul asked the Roman tribune, ““May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek?” The tribune known as Claudius (Acts 23:26), was genuinely surprised by Paul’s excellent use of the Greek language. This would be an indication to the tribune that the apostle was more than he appeared.

Claudius than began interrogating Paul, in order to ascertain exactly who he was. The tribune asked, “Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”

During the administration of Governor Felix (Acts 23:23-25), a terrorist group, the Sicarii, engaged in the assassinations of Jewish leaders while being friendly to the Romans. Their name came from the Greek word for dagger (sica), which they concealed in the long, flowing robes. Claudius perhaps suspected Paul of being a leader of this terrorist organization.

Paul responded to the tribune by saying, ““I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” Paul’s speech and demeanor clearly displayed that he was not a desperate criminal. He asked Claudius if he would allow him to speak to the crowd.

And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:”  

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Facing the crowd, Paul motions for silence. The crowd, prevented by the soldiers from harming Paul, grows quiet to hear what he will say, and becomes even more respectful when they hear him speaking in the Hebrew language. So Paul calls on his fellow Jews to hear his ‘defense’ of his work as an apostle to the Gentiles.”   

Paul’s arrest was perhaps a time of mourning for his colleagues and friends. It was a time of rejoicing by his enemies. However, the sovereign and providential God of the universe meant it for good. It would be, while in Roman custody, that Paul would eventually reach the capital of the empire and be the instrument God used to touch many lives.

Take heart, while in the midst of your circumstances. You never know how God will use you: not in spite of, but through the providential circumstances of life.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: God’s Providence and Paul’s Arrest.

33 “Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!” (Acts 21:33–36)

God’s providence, or divine intervention, can occur at any time in our lives. Today’s text is an example of how God’s providence occurred in Paul’s life. At the mercy of a riotous mob who sought to kill him (Acts 21:22-31), the Lord used a Roman tribune and his soldiers to rescue Paul from the mob by arresting him and placing him in chains. Certainly, God causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).  

Upon Paul’s arrest, the tribune continually sought to find out who Paul was and what he had done to warrant such a reaction by the Jerusalem citizens. The reason was that the crowd was in complete confusion. Some were shouting one thing about Paul, while others were shouting something else. The result of this scene of turmoil and confusion was that the tribune could not ascertain the facts. Therefore, the tribune ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks.

The intensity of the scene is evidenced by the soldiers. They literally had to carry Paul into the barracks because of the violence of the crowed. This was done because either the tribune, or the soldiers, feared for Paul’s life, or because he had been so badly injured and weakened by the crowds’ violence that he could not climb the steps.

Mirroring the crowd’s reaction to Jesus years earlier (Luke 23:18; John 19:15), they shouted for the Romans to execute Paul. This would have been done by crucifixion. Placing Paul under arrest and bringing him into the Roman barracks, proved to be a providential decision safeguarding the apostle’s life and wellbeing.

Can you recall how God has providentially intervened in your own life, with circumstances, at least on the surface, which appeared to be less than ideal but which proved to a blessing from the Lord?  Take time today to not only think about such things, but to also thank God that He continues to intervene in our lives.

Sol deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: The People Seize Paul.

30 “Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.” (Acts 21:30–32)

Much like the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-34), the city of Jerusalem was in an uproar due to the false accusations the Asian Jews made against the Apostle Paul. As a result, the people rushed together in a riotous assembly. They seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple area, whereupon the temple guards shut the gates to the inner temple courts.

The rioting crowd sought to kill Paul. It was providential that at that precise moment the news of what was happening came to the tribune’s attention. The tribune was the commanding officer of the Roman cohort, or band of soldiers. A tribune would command 1,000 soldiers.

The tribune immediately sent soldiers and centurions and ran down to where the riot was occurring. When the crowd saw the tribune and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Adjoining the temple area to the northwest was the Fortress of Antonia with two flights of steps leading into the outer court of the temple. Troops were stationed there, and more were added during Jewish feast days. They were part of the Roman Tenth Legion. The commander of the troops at the fortress, Claudius Lysias (cf. 23:26), at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. “Commander” is chiliarchos, leader of a thousand soldiers (25:23). The “officers” (hekatontarchas, lit., “rulers of hundreds” or centurions) indicates at least 200 soldiers were involved since the noun is plural.”

Then and now, it does not take much to stir up a crowd into committing acts of violence. Any excuse or reason will do. This is especially true where the Gospel is concerned, for unconverted people love to hate the good news of Jesus Christ.

Resolve today to be strong and courageous as you live out, and when you share the Gospel.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Jews stir up the Crowd.

27 “When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.” (Acts 21:27–29)

Following the Jerusalem church elders instructions (Acts 21:22-24), the Apostle Paul, and the four Nazarites, had almost completed their seven day purification ritual. It was at this time that certain Asian Jews, seeing Paul and the other four began to stir up the crowd. This means that they began to cause confusion and consternation. In other words, these Jews were seeking to create anxiety and worry among the people.

Having seized Paul, they continually shouted and screamed, ““Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”  

The Asian Jews accused Paul of teaching against the Jewish people, the Mosaic Law, and the Jewish Temple. They also assumed that the four Jews with him were Gentiles and accused Paul of defiling the temple. Additionally, they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they presumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Placards on the low wall separating the courtyard of the Gentiles from the Israelite women sharply warned uncircumcised males not to proceed beyond that point to enter the areas nearer to the temple building itself. Paul’s accusers, Jews from Asia, assumed and alleged without proof that he (Paul) brought an Ephesian Gentile colleague into a forbidden area of the temple precinct.”

In spite of these misleading and false accusations, the inflammatory charges have their desired effect. We will examine what were the results of these accusations when next we meet. WE will see that God the Father was already working His providential will in Paul’s life in order for him to eventually reach the city of Rome.

To this day, the Jews hold the temple area in high respect. However, Jesus proclaimed that God can be worshipped anywhere (John 4:21). The only qualification is that worship of God is to be done in spirit and in truth. Respectively, this means with one’s sincere thinking, emotions and will along with biblical truth.

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Attempt to Maintain Church Unity.

25 “But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.” (Acts 21:25–26)

When I visited the Holy Land in 2012, there were times during my trip that I had to be sensitive to Jewish customs. For example, in some areas of Jerusalem it was customary for men to wear long pants and not shorts. Therefore, in order to not needlessly offend anyone during my visit, I wholeheartedly complied where and when the observance of certain clothing customs was requested.

Concerning the circumstances the Apostle Paul faced, Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The decision of the Jerusalem Council was once again reiterated (cf. Acts 15:20, 29). The elders assured Paul that their plan (mentioned in 21:23–24) did not conflict with the council’s earlier decision. Paul then followed the elders’ suggestion and purified himself with the four men (vv. 23–24). This did not conflict with Paul’s teaching that Jews and Gentiles cannot be brought under the Law to be saved. This was a matter of Jewish custom, not of salvation or of sanctification.”

Paul willingly complied with the Jerusalem church elder request. He paid the expenses for the Nazarites. He even participated in the purification rites with them. In no way was Paul compromising the Gospel. Rather, he was being an observant Jew by adhering to Jewish customs. Paul saw this as a small price to pay to maintain church unity.

Dr. Simon Kistemaker writes, “Paul maintained that Gentile Christians would sin if they were to observe Jewish ceremonial laws and customs, and Jewish Christians would sin if they kept the law for the purpose of meriting salvation.”  

However, even though Paul, and believers today, seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3), that is not good enough for some people who are looking to cause divisions. We will witness this when we continue our study when next we meet.

Make every effort to maintain unity within your church. However, one should never compromise biblical truth for the sake of church unity.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity. 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 Two: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity. Part 2.

2. God hath all life,a glory,b goodness,c blessedness,d in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made,e nor deriving any glory from them,f but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things;g and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth.h In his sight all things are open and manifest;i his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature;k so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain.l He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands.m To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, he is pleased to require of them.n

a. John 5:26. • b. Acts 7:2. • c. Psa 119:68. • d. Rom 9:51 Tim 6:15. • e. Acts 17:24-25. • f. Job 22:2-3. • g. Rom 11:36. • h. Dan 4:25351 Tim 6:15Rev 4:11. • i. Heb 4:13. • k. Psa 147:5Rom 11:33-34. • l. Ezek 11:5Acts 15:18. • m. Psa 145:17Rom 7:12. • n. Rev 5:12-14.

3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost,a The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father;b the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.c

a. Mat 3:16-1728:192 Cor 13:141 John 5:7. • b. John 1:1418. • c. John 15:26Gal 4:6.

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: Attempting to Avoid a Church Split.

22 “What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.” (Acts 21:22–24)

False rumors have the capacity to inflame people’s emotions within a church. If emotions run high enough, the result can be a church split. I have witnessed such splits. They are never pretty and they can result in a long-lasting impact affecting not only individuals, but also a community.

Paul, James and the Jerusalem church elders were concerned about such a church split occurring within the believing community in Jerusalem. They were afraid the church would divide along ethnic lines. Knowing that people would soon learn that Paul was in town, the church leaders knew they had to act fast.

The elders proposed to Paul that he demonstrate his piety as a law-abiding Jew. They said, “23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.” Such a public display of his integrity towards God’s Word would be more effective, they reasoned, than any verbal explanation.

The elders reasoning involved four Jewish Christians. Apparently, they had taken Nazarite vows (Numbers 6). Unfortunately, they could afford the cost of the animals to sacrifice when the vows are concluded. The elders encouraged Paul to pay those expenses. This would be viewed by people as an act of piety.

Since Paul had also been with Gentiles, the elders additionally proposed that Paul join the aforementioned four in ceremonial purification rites. The elders were convinced this would put an end to any questions concerning Paul’s commitment to the Mosaic Law. Unfortunately, as we will soon see this would not be the case.

Church splits are hard to avoid if gossip and false rumors are allowed to persist within a local church. Resolve to not spread gossip or false rumors and to not listen to any. When a conversation begins to become gossip, leave immediately. Do not partake of gossip in any way.

Soli deo Gloria!      

The Apostle Paul: Ah, the Rumor Mill.

20 “And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.” (Acts 21:20–21)

Following his greeting to James and the Jerusalem church elders, the Apostle Paul related to them all the things God had done through him among the Gentiles in his ministry (Acts 21:19). It was also at this time that Paul probably presented the gifts from the Gentile churches (Romans 15:25-28; I Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

When the church leaders heard all that Paul had shared, they glorified the Lord. In other words, they gave God the praise and the honor. That is as it should be: then and now.

It was also then that the elders brought up a serious matter concerning Paul’s life and the overall unity of the church. The elders said to the apostle, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law.”

From the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 Jews were converted to the Gospel (Acts 2:1-41), many more Jews trusted Christ as their Savior and Lord. Like all believers in Christ, but especially the Jews, they sought to keep and obey God’s law.

Unfortunately, rumors spread throughout the Jerusalem church that Paul did not encourage the Gentile believers to keep the law of God. The fact was that the Jerusalem Council freed Gentile Christians from a strict observance to the Mosaic Law except in behavior that was particularly offensive to the Jews (Acts 15). While the council did not give strict instructions to Gentiles to obey the law, they also did not order the Jews to abandon the law.

The elders continued by saying, “and they (the Jews) have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.” Paul endeavored to be a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles (I Corinthians 9:19-23). He never instructed the Jews to abandon the Mosaic Law. It is interesting to observe that the elders apparently did little or nothing to stem the flood of these rumors.

The Jewish Christians wanted more from Paul. They wanted Gentile believers in Christ circumcised and also for them to follow other Mosaic customs. As previously noted, this Paul and the church leadership, would not do. Consequentially, Jewish Christians were angry with Paul and unconverted Jews were enraged.

How often are pastors, and church elders, accused of preaching and teaching something they do not, and did not, proclaim? How often are other believers? The rumor mill plagued the church in Paul’s day, and does so also in our own.

How may believers in Christ stop rumors from spreading in their own church? First, don’t repeat gossip. Do not do so even under the guise of sharing a prayer request. Also, don’t jump to conclusions. This is easy to do and hard to resist, but resist we must. Finally, do not concern yourself about a situation which does not directly affect you. If you must use your tongue, do so in the discipline of private prayer and not in public gossip.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Missionary Report.

17 “When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.” (Acts 21:17–19)

Have you ever taken a motor trip and felt that the journey would never end? I remember the first time my wife and I, along with our small children, traveled to Florida by car to spend a week with dear friends who had recently moved to a community just north of Daytona Beach. The kids thought that once we crossed into Florida that the trip was done. Frustratingly for them, we still had another couple of hours yet to go.

I wonder how Paul, Luke, and their companions (Acts 20:4-5), felt after traveling for well over a month when they finally arrived in Jerusalem. It must have been a welcome relief to reach their destination, although they knew that the city was fraught with danger for Paul and those committed to the Gospel.

When they arrived, the Jerusalem believers in Christ gladly welcomed them. Luke recorded, “the brothers received us gladly.” To receive means to personally accept and have as a guest in one’s home.

The next day, presumably after a good night’s rest, Paul, Luke and others went to see James, the half-brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19) and an elder in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15). The other Jerusalem church elders were also present at the gathering. Following his greetings, Paul relayed in detail the events of the third missionary journey and all the things God had done among the Gentiles though his ministry in preaching the gospel of God.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The mention of elders indicates that the apostles, often away on evangelistic work, had turned over rule of the Jerusalem church to them. Some have speculated that there were 70 elders, paralleling the Sanhedrin. Given the large size of the Jerusalem church, there probably were at least that many. God had decreed that after the apostles were gone, the church was to be ruled by elders (cf. 14:23; 20:171 Tim. 5:17Titus 1:5James 5:141 Pet. 5:1, 5). Paul’s official report of his missionary work did not involve meaningless generalities; he related specific incidents from his journeys (cf. 11:4). As always (cf. 14:27; 15:4, 12), Paul gave all credit and glory for his accomplishments to God.”

Do you have a relationship with any of the missionaries supported by your church? If so, and even if not, make the effort to write a letter, or send an e-mail, to these families and get to know them. Inquire as to what needs they may have and uphold them in prayer. You may even ask them about their successes and encourage them because of any disappointments.

Soli deo Gloria!