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!