NEW TESTAMENT: The Acts of the Apostles
- After Jesus was resurrected, he spent forty days with his disciples, teaching them about the kingdom of heaven, and exhorting them to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- The disciples ask Jesus if he will restore the kingdom to Israel now. Jesus replies that it is not the disciples’ prerogative to know the time when the kingdom of heaven will be restored. But he tells them that they will receive power through the Holy Spirit, and that they will be Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world, even to the ends of the earth. Then Jesus departs into the sky upon a cloud.
- They returned to Jerusalem, and devoted themselves to prayer. Women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers joined them in their devotion.
- Peter addresses the congregation of about 120 devotees. He recalls Judas, who was allotted a share in the ministry of Jesus, but he betrayed Jesus, bought a piece of land with the money he received for handing Jesus to the Pharisees, and died on the land when he fell and all his insides spilled out. The land is known as the Field of Blood. Peter proposes that the disciples must elect another man to replace Judas in the ministry, someone who has been with them from the beginning of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist until Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples decide to elect Matthias, who was thenceforth counted among the apostles, so that the number returned to the original twelve.
- After the Pentecost, the disciples heard a loud noise, like a strong wind enter the house. Then, they saw tongues of fire settle upon each one of them, which filled them with the Holy Spirit, and enabled them to speak different languages. There were people from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem, and when these people heard the clamor, each person was bewildered to hear the disciples speaking their particular language, and extolling the mighty deeds of God. They asked, “What can this mean?” Some scoffed, saying, “They drank too much wine.”
- Peter informs the people that the disciples are not drunk; for it is only 9 o’clock in the morning. He explains that the prophet Joel predicted that God would pour a portion of his spirit into all flesh, and then the people will be able to prophesy. God will work wonders in heaven, and signs on the earth below. The sun shall be turned dark, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
- Peter reproaches the Jewish people for crucifying Jesus, but informs them that Jesus was raised from the dead, and fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah. When the Jews heard this, they were greatly distressed, and asked Peter what they should do. Peter commanded them to repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, and then they will receive the Holy Spirit; for the promise of salvation in the name of Jesus is made to everyone in the world. 3,000 were baptized and added to the initial congregation.
- The devotees lived in a communist society. All property was shared, and when a new member joined the following, he would sell all his possessions, and divide the proceeds evenly among the other worshipers according to need. During the beginning of the ministry, the apostles performed miracles, and there was general joy and happiness shared by all.
- A man who was crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of a temple called the Beautiful Gate every day to beg for alms. Peter and John approached the temple one day, took the man by the right hand, and said “Walk in the name of Jesus the Nazorean.” Immediately, the man’s ankles and legs grew strong, and he arose to follow Peter and John into the Temple. In the Temple, the man danced and praised God. The worshippers who knew the man as the cripple from birth were astounded when they saw the man prancing and singing praises to God.
- Peter reproves the crowd for being astonished at the cripple man’s transformation, and then proceeds to upbraid them for condemning Jesus, the Messiah, to death. Then, Peter exhorts them to repent, and convert to Christianity, so that their sins will be washed away.
- The priests, captain of the Temple guard, and the Sadducees arrested Peter and John for proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. However, Peter and John convinced many people to convert, and the Christian movement grew to about 5,000 people.
- The day after they were imprisoned, John and Peter appeared before the high priest class which questioned them. The priests inquired of John and Peter as to the power or name by which they cured the cripple. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answers that they cured the cripple by the power and in the name of Jesus Christ, who they wrongfully crucified, but was resurrected three days later by God. Peter further asserts that salvation is only attainable through Jesus.
- To prevent the dissemination of John and Peter’s proclamations, the chief priests enjoin John and Peter to refrain from speaking about Jesus, or teaching in his name henceforward. John and Peter respond that it is impossible for them not to preach about what they have seen and heard without disobeying God. John and Peter would rather disobey the chief priests than disobey God. The chief priests reluctantly freed Peter and John because the multitude was praising God and the disciples for healing the cripple.
- John and Peter return to the community, and invoke God to enable Christians to continue to speak the word of God with boldness, as God heals, and signs and wonders are done in the Lord’s name. (Jesus was crucified according to God’s will and previously established plan.)
- The social system of the Christian community was Communist. No one owned any personal possessions. Before joining the community, an initiate would sell all his possessions and distribute the proceeds amongst the members according to need.
- However, a man named Ananias, who was married to Sapphira, sold his land, and retained some of the sales price, giving the rest to the disciples. Peter rebukes Ananias for retaining the price, and lying to God, not just to men. Immediately after hearing Peter tell him that he lied to God, Ananias dies. Then Peter went to Sapphira, who was unaware of what happened to her husband, and asked her is the money her and Ananias gave the apostles was the complete sales price for their land. She assured Peter that it was. Peter reproaches her for lying to God and testing the Holy Spirit. Immediately, she dies. All who heard of what transpired were struck with fear.
- Sick were brought to Jerusalem, and cured by the disciples. Many people continued to join the Christian community.
- The chief priest of the Sadducees, being jealous, arrested the disciples. But an angel of the Lord opened the prison door, and instructed the disciples to go out into the temple area and preach to the people about this life. The court officers discovered the disciples in the temple area, and brought them before the Sanhedrin. The court scolded the disciples for continuing to speak about Jesus and preach in his name. Peter replied that the disciples must obey God rather than man.
- Peter’s reply infuriated the Sanhedrin, and many of the priests wanted to execute the disciples. However, one member of the court reminded the other priests that many men have come before Jesus, and claimed that they were the Messiah. These men acquired many followers, but after each man was executed, their followers disbanded. If this new congregation originates from humanity, then it will inevitably dissolve of its own accord. However, if this movement is of divine origin, then the Sanhedrin will not be able to destroy it, and may ultimately fight against God. Persuaded by this line of reasoning, the Sanhedrin agree to only flog the disciples and admonish them to refrain from teaching about Jesus. The apostles rejoice that they have the opportunity to suffer in the name of Jesus, and delightfully endure the scourging. Then they proceed to teach about Jesus, contrary to the court orders.
- The original Twelve disciples told the Hellenistic followers, those who spoke only Greek, to elect 7 amongst themselves to become administrators and ministers of the faith. Among others, a man named Stephen is selected by the people.
- Stephen, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, performed miracles and wonders. However, some of the Jews became jealous, and incited the people to arrest Stephen for speaking blasphemies. Before the Sanhedrin, Stephen’s accusers claim that Stephen preached about how Jesus will destroy the Temple and customs given to the people by Moses, and establish new laws and customs. Stephen responds to the accusations by declaring that the Sanhedrin’s ancestors persecuted all the prophets throughout history, and executed the righteous one – Jesus. Stephen pronounces that they received the divine law transmitted by angels, but do not observe it. Then Stephen turns to heaven, and state that he sees Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. Infuriated at Stephen’s audacity and blasphemies, the Sanhedrin stone Stephen to death. While dying, Stephen asks the Lord to forgive them, and to receive his spirit.
- Saul consents to Stephen’s execution, and attempts to eradicate the Christian movement, dragging men and women, who sympathized with Christianity, from their homes and imprisoned them.
- The Christians dispersed to other lands. Philip went to Samaria, where he proclaimed the Messiah to the people, and performed miracles, curing the sick and exorcising demons from people. The crowds rejoiced.
- A man named Simon used to practice magic in Samaria. The people of Samaria believed Simon was the Power of God, but when Simon saw the miracles performed by Philip, and heard Philip preach about Jesus Christ, he converted to Christianity with many other Samarians.
- When John and Peter learned that the Samarians had accepted the word of God, they traveled to the city to pray for them, so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Until then, the Samarians had only been baptized in the name of Jesus. However, when John and Peter prayed over them, and touched them, the Holy Spirit entered into the citizens’ flesh.
- Simon offered John and Peter money in exchange for the power to imbue people with the Holy Spirit. Peter reproached him for trying to buy the gift of God with money, and commanded him to repent and pray for forgiveness. Simon asks them to pray for him.
- The angel of the Lord ordered Philip to travel south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Along the road, Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch, who was the Ethiopian queen’s treasurer. He was returning from Jerusalem, where he went to worship, and was busy reading the prophet Isaiah when Philip asked him if he knew what it was that he was reading. The eunuch answered that he desired someone to teach him what the prophet meant in certain passages, in particular, the passage which reads: “like a sheep, he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” Philip told the eunuch that the prophet spoke of Jesus, and then Philip proceeded to preach about Jesus and the kingdom of heaven to the eunuch. Then the eunuch desired Philip to baptize him. Philip did this, and then was called away by the angel of the Lord to another city named Caesarea. The eunuch never saw Philip again, but rejoiced that he had found salvation in the lord Jesus Christ, and received the Holy Spirit.
- A persecutor of the early Christian community named Saul asked the chief priests for letters to Damascus, and permission to arrest any Christians he found in Damascus and along the way to the city. On the road to Damascus, Saul saw a bright flash of light in the sky. Then he fell to the ground, blind, and heard a voice ask him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked the voice who it was. The voice replied that it was Jesus, and told Saul to go to Damascus where he would receive further orders. Saul goes to the city, remains blind and does not eat or drink for three days.
- Jesus told a citizen in Damascus named Ananias to go to the house where Saul was praying, and lay his hands on Saul so that he may recover his sight. Ananias hesitated, frightened from the stories he had heard of Saul persecuting Christians. Jesus tells Ananias not to worry because he has chosen Saul to disseminate Jesus and his teachings to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. Ananias performs Jesus’ will. Saul recovers his sight, and regains his strength after eating.
- Saul preaches in the Damascus synagogues, that Jesus is the Messiah. The people are astounded because they had heard that Saul ravaged Christians, and traveled to Damascus to bring Christians back to Jerusalem in chains.
- The Jews of Damascus conspired to kill Saul, but Saul’s Christian friends helped Saul escape the city through an aperture in the city’s fortifying wall, gently lowering him to the ground in a basket. Then, Saul traveled to Jerusalem where he joined the Christian community. Initially, the apostles were reluctant to believe Saul had sincerely converted, but Saul explained that he had spoken with Jesus on the way to Damascus, and preached in Jesus’ name while in the city. The apostles then welcomed Saul into the following, and Saul proceeded to preach and proclaim Jesus to be the Messiah. The Jews in Jerusalem conspired to kill Saul, so the apostles helped Saul flee to Tarsus.
- Thus, the church had been established in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.
- Peter heals a cripple in Lydda. Accordingly, the people of Lydda and nearby Sharon who witnessed this miracle converted to Christianity.
- A woman named Tabitha, who lived in Joppa, was dedicated to performing good deeds and almsgiving. She died, and the people who loved her and benefited from her charity implored Peter to bring her back to life. Peter knelt down beside her body and prayed. Tabitha rose from death, and Peter presented her alive to the crowd. The people of Joppa who witnessed this miracle converted to Christianity.
- A centurion named Cornelius, who was a god-fearing and devout man, received a vision in which the angel of the Lord came to him and told him to send for Peter.
- The next day, Peter receives a vision in which he sees a sheet lowered from heaven with all the animals of the world placed upon it. Then, Peter hears a voice command him to slaughter and eat. Peter refuses, saying that he has and never will eat anything profane and unclean. The voice tells him that what God has made is not unclean.
- Cornelius’ messengers arrive at Peter’s house, and inform him that Cornelius received a vision ordering him to send for Peter.
- The next day Peter travels to Caesarea to visit Cornelius, who has gathered all his close friends and family in his house. When Peter arrives, Cornelius bows and pays homage to him. Peter tells him to rise; for Peter is only a human being like Cornelius. Peter tells Cornelius that it is traditionally considered unlawful for him, as a Jewish-Christian man, to associate with a Gentile like Cornelius, but that he had received a vision which instructed him that none of God’s creatures are profane. Accordingly, Peter came to Cornelius without objection or fear that he was committing an unlawful act.
- Cornelius tells Peter that he and all who are in his house have gathered to hear Peter speak about the Lord.
- God favors everyone who is god-fearing and acts righteously, not just the people of Israel. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah will receive forgiveness for their sins.
- While Peter was giving his speech, the Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius and the other Gentiles. They began to speak in tongues, and praise god. Peter baptized Cornelius and the others who received the Holy Spirit, and remained with the Gentiles for a few more days.
- When the apostles who lived in Judea heard that Peter had baptized Gentiles, they were astounded. Peter explained the vision in which he heard the voice of heaven tell him that all of god’s creatures were clean, and not to discriminate between them. He also told the apostles how he witnessed the Holy Spirit descend upon Cornelius and the other Gentiles as it had fallen upon the original apostles. After this explanation, the apostles realized that God desired to bestow life-giving repentance upon Gentiles and everyone else in the world, not just the people of Israel.
- A large number of Jews converted to Christianity in Antioch. Upon hearing this news, Barnabas brought Saul to the city, and began to teach about Jesus and disseminate the tenets of the faith. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
- Agabus predicts a severe famine will afflict the Roman Empire.
- King Herod ordered the execution of James, one of the original apostles. When he found that this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter. Herod placed a guard of four squads of four soldiers each to prevent Peter from escaping prison. On the night before Peter’s arranged trial, the angel of the Lord appeared in Peter’s cell, and aided his escape. Peter escaped the prison, and fled to the house of one of the apostles’ mothers. He told the people within the house to notify the disciples of his escape, which was aided by the angel of the lord. Herod tried and executed the prison guards when he discovered that Peter was gone.
- The angel of the Lord struck Herod down when he did not ascribe the plentiful harvest to God’s power and beneficence. Worms ate him.
- Barnabas and Saul travel to Jerusalem with John who is called Mark.
- Sent forth by the Holy Spirit, Saul, John, and Barnabas travel to Cyprus. The proconsul of Cyprus named Sergius Paulus summoned Saul and Barnabas to hear the word of God. But a magician and false prophet named Elymas attempted to dissuade Sergius from the faith. Saul censured Elymas for being the son of the devil, and twisting the straight paths which lead to the Lord. Saul cursed Elymas, predicting that Elymas would soon become blind. A dark mist descended upon Elymas, and he walked about searching for someone to lead him. When Sergius witnessed this, he was astounded and converted to Christianity.
- Saul, who is also called Paul, arrives at Antioch in Pisidia, and proclaims Jesus as the Messiah. He asserts that according to God’s promise to send the people of Israel a savior descended from David, God has sent Jesus.
- Many Jews inveighed against Paul’s teachings. Paul responded that God delivered his law to the people of Israel first, but because they rejected it, they condemned themselves as unworthy of eternal life, so that now Paul must speak the word of God to the Gentiles.
- The Jews expelled them from the territory.
- Paul and Barnabas next arrive in Iconium. They converted many Jews and Gentiles, but the resentful and obstinate Jews expelled them again.
- They traveled to Lystra when they discovered a plot to stone them to death. They healed a man, who had been crippled his entire life. When the people witnessed this, they proclaimed that the gods had come to them in human form. They deemed Barnabas to be Zeus, and Paul as Hermes.
- Paul and Barnabas insisted to the crowd that they were not gods, but humans like them, and continued to exhort them to renounce their idols, and worship the one true living God instead. The Jews of the city incite the crowds to stone Paul, and drag him out of the city. When Paul’s friends found him outside the city, they discovered that he was still alive. Paul and his friends traveled to Derbe on the following day.
- The Church called a council to determine whether the Gentiles should be enjoined to follow Mosaic Law in order for them to be saved. Peter and the apostles concluded that God granted the Gentiles the Holy Spirit in the same way that he granted it to the original Jewish converts; and thus God intended for all to be saved regardless of whether they strictly adhere to Mosaic Law.
- However, the council of apostles determined that the Gentiles must follow the proceeding rules: abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, abstain from blood, abstain from meats of strangled animals, and abstain from unlawful marriage. They sent these rules in a letter along with some delegates to Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
- When the Gentiles read the letter, they were delighted.
- Paul and Barnabas separate from each other because Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them to revisit the cities in which they proclaimed the word of the Lord to discern the status of the church. But Paul thought they should not take with them someone – i.e. Mark – who deserted them in Pamphilia. Accordingly, Paul took Silas with him to Syria and Cilicia. And Barnabas took Mark with him to Cyprus.
- In Philippi, a girl with an oracular spirit repeatedly shouted that Paul and his friends were slaves of god. Vexed by the girl, Paul casts out the demon that possesses the girl. The
girl’s owners, who earned a lot of money from her fortune telling, were infuriated that Paul removed the girl’s fortune-telling ability. The owners brought Paul and his friends before the magistrates of the city, and accused them of advocating practices unlawful for a Roman to adopt. The magistrates had Paul and his friends stripped, beaten with rods, and placed in a jail cell with their legs tied to a stake.
- At midnight, while Paul and his friends sung hymns to God, there was a severe earthquake which opened all the doors of the prison and loosed all the chains. When the guard discovered that all the doors of the prison were opened, he drew his sword, intending to kill himself because of the impending punishment for allowing the prisoners to escape. However, Paul called out to the guard, “Do not harm yourself; we are all here.” The guard prostrated before Paul, and asked him what must be done in order for him to be saved. Paul told him to believe in the Lord Jesus, and he and his household will be saved. The guard took Paul and his friends to his house where he bathed their wounds, and fed them. Paul preached the word of the Lord and baptized the guard and the guard’s family. The next day, the magistrates ordered Paul and his friends to be released, but Paul said that they would not leave the prison until the magistrates personally came to the prison and placated them for unlawfully beating them without a trial. Paul and his friends were Roman citizens, and it was unlawful for Romans to be beaten. The magistrates were distressed when they realized that Paul was a roman citizen, and came to the prison and placated him. Then Paul left Philippi for Thessalonica.
- The Jews in Thessalonica stirred up a mob against Paul and his followers. Paul fled to Beroea.
- When the Jews of Thessalonica heard that Paul was preaching about Jesus in Beroea, they traveled to the city and incited anther revolt, forcing Paul to flee to Athens.
- Paul gave a speech on the Areopagus –the hill of Ares in Athens. The pagan worshippers, Epicureans, and Stoics were eager to listen to Paul’s radical new ideas about resurrection and salvation.
- Paul tells the Athenians that the one true God, who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, and does not require sacrifices and service from people. He says that humans are the offspring of God, and therefore it is absurd to believe that God could inhabit images made with stone, gold, bronze, or other inanimate materials. Paul informs the Athenians that God demands that everyone repent; for he has established a day of judgment, on which all will be judged with justice through Jesus. Some Athenians converted, some scoffed.
- Then Paul travels to Corinth, and converts many Jews and Gentiles to Christianity.
- Paul arrives in Ephesus where there are many followers of the Christian faith, but they have not heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul instructs them about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and then baptizes them. He remained in Ephesus for several years, preaching the word of the Lord, and healing the sick and possessed.
- Those who had practiced magic burned their books, and converted to Christianity when they witnessed Paul healing the sick and exorcising demons.
- Because Paul preached that God does not dwell in images fashioned by the hands of men, a silversmith and other craftsmen incited a revolt against Paul and the Christians. The craftsmen asserted that Paul defamed the temple of Artemis, who was the patron god of Ephesus. The town clerk finally quelled the riot by persuading the multitude that Paul and his followers have not defiled the Temple of Artemis, and if the Roman authorities came upon the scene, they would arrest everyone for unlawfully assembling; for there is not a justifiable reason for gathering. With this, the crowd dispersed.
- During one of Paul’s long speeches, a young man named Eutychus fell asleep and fell out of a three story window to his death. Paul hurried downstairs and fell upon the young man, telling the others not to worry because he perceives some life in him. The next day the young man was restored to life.
- In Miletus, Paul summons the elders of the church at Ephesus, and gives a speech. He informs the elders that the Holy Spirit has repeatedly informed him that he will experience many hardships and imprisonment, but Paul does not care about his life, so long as he can fulfill his desire to complete the ministry he received from Jesus.
- Paul tells them that none of them will ever see his face again after he commences his trip to Jerusalem. He warns them of the false prophets that will arise from among the disciples and attempt to lead some of the flock from the true way of the Lord. He exhorts them to be vigilant against these treacherous wolves. He recalls that he has never wanted gold or silver, and that he has provided for his needs and his companions needs with his own hands. Accordingly, the elders must follow in his path; for Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
- When Paul and his companions arrived in Caesarea, a prophet named Agabus foretold Paul’s impending imprisonment in Jerusalem. Paul’s companions implored him not to travel to Jerusalem, but Paul said that he was prepared to not only suffer imprisonment but also to die for Jesus.
- While Paul was preaching in a Jerusalem Temple, the Jews ordered the crowds to arrest him because he is preaching everywhere against the Mosaic Law, and has defiled the Temple by bringing a Greek into it.
- A Roman commander heard that Jerusalem was rioting, and sent centurions to the city to restore order. When the crowd saw the soldiers, they ceased beating Paul. The commander placed Paul in chains, and attempted to ascertain why the crowd was beating him. Some of the crowd said one thing, others something else, and because of the general confusion and uproar, the commander led Paul to his compound.
- The commander assented to Paul’s request for an opportunity to address the people.
- Paul addresses the crowd in Hebrew, telling them that he was educated according to ancestral Jewish Law, was zealous for God, and persecuted Christians. However, on his journey to Damascus to bring back Christians to Jerusalem in chains, he saw a vision of Jesus, who exhorted him to cease persecuting Christians, and to preach the word of the Lord. Accordingly, he commenced his ministry.
- After he returned to Jerusalem, and while he was praying in a temple, he fell into a trance, and saw Jesus again. This time, Jesus warned him to leave the Temple immediately because the Jews will not believe his testimony about Jesus. Paul replied that he does not fear them because they know how Paul persecuted the Christian. Then Jesus told him to visit the Gentiles. At the mention of the Gentiles, the crowd angrily exclaimed that Paul must be executed.
- When the crowd erupted into clamor, the commander ordered Paul taken into the compound and interrogated under the lash to determine the reason why the crowd was making such an outcry against him. Paul retorted that it is unlawful for them to bind and scourge a Roman citizen without a fair trial. When the commander ascertained that Paul was a Roman citizen, he was alarmed, and ordered that Paul be brought before the Sanhedrin in the morning of the next day instead of being whipped.
- Before the Sanhedrin, Paul notices that there are Pharisees and Sadducees amongst the crowd. He informs them that he is a Pharisee on trial for believing in the resurrection of the dead. This causes an uproar among the two Jewish sects because the Sadducees do not believe in angels, spirits, or resurrection, and the Pharisees believe in all three. The dispute was so severe that the commander feared the crowd might tear Paul apart. He therefore ordered his troops to take Paul back to the compound. Jesus visits Paul in a vision that night. He tells Paul to have courage because as Paul bore witness to Jesus’ cause in Jerusalem, he will also bear witness in Rome.
- The next day, more than 40 Jews contrived a plot and bound themselves by oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. The conspirators went to the chief priests and disclosed their plan, asking the priests to send for Paul so that they can kill him. However, the son of Paul’s sister overheard this discussion, and informed the commander about the conspiracy to murder Paul. The commander orders 200 soldiers to escort Paul by horseback to Caesarea. The commander writes a letter to the governor of the province, informing him of all that had transpired concerning Paul. The commander writes to the governor that Paul is not guilty of any offense worthy of death or imprisonment under Roman Law, but rather hated by the Jews for some controversial question concerning Jewish Law.
- Paul arrived in Caesarea, and five days later he was put on trial before Felix the governor. The chief priests from Jerusalem formally charge Paul with desecrating the temples in Jerusalem and causing dissension among Jews all over the world.
- Paul replied that his accusers cannot adduce anything to prove he incited riot and dissension. Paul only admits that he worships the Jewish God, and believes in the prophets, and possesses the same hope as his accusers for resurrection of the righteous. Felix tells the attendants of the trial that he will make his decision when the commander comes to Caesarea. Until then, Paul must remain in custody, but have some liberty. Felix will not prevent Paul’s friends from caring for his needs.
- Felix visited Paul in prison several times, hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe. However, Paul only conversed with him about the way of the lord. Wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Felix kept Paul in prison for two years until he was replaced as governor by Porcius Festus.
- Festus brings Paul before him, and asks him to respond to the accusation against him made by the Jews in Jerusalem. Paul replies that he has not broken any Jewish or Roman Law, and appeals to Caesar. Festus decides to send Paul to Rome. Paul has appealed to Caesar, and thus must go to Caesar.
- King Agrippa visits Festus in Caesarea. Festus tells Agrippa that Paul’s accusers did not charge him with any Roman crime, but took umbrage to some question concerning their religion and about a man named Jesus, who was crucified, but Paul claims to be alive. Agrippa wants to hear Paul speak. The next day he is granted his wish.
- Agrippa, Festus, commanders, and prominent men of the city gathered in a hall. Paul was brought before them. Festus informed those in attendance that he has brought Paul before them all in order to determine the charges against him; for Festus is reluctant to send Paul to Caesar without explicitly indicating the charges against him.
- Agrippa gives Paul the opportunity to speak. Paul asserts that he is on trial because of his hope for what God promised his Jewish ancestors – resurrection and salvation. Then he explains how he once persecuted the Christians, but while traveling to Damascus, he saw a vision of Jesus, who exhorted him to cease persecuting Christians, become one of them, and minister to the Jews and Gentiles the word of the Lord.
- Jesus chose Paul to turn the people of the world from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
- Accordingly, Paul preached the need to repent and turn to God. This is the only reason the Jews seized him according to Paul.
- Paul believes that the prophets and Moses foretold that the Messiah must suffer.
- Agrippa and Festus agree that Paul has done nothing to deserve punishment or death. They would have released Paul had he not appealed to Caesar.
- Soldiers embarked with Paul and some other prisoners to Rome. Paul warned the centurion that the voyage would result in severe damage and heavy loss not only to the cargo, but also lives. However, the centurion heeded the pilot and crew of the ship rather than Paul. While sailing along the coast of Crete, a wind of hurricane force called a “Northeaster” struck. The wind drove the ship towards dangerous shoals (shallows), so the crew lowered the anchor and threw overboard some of the ship’s tackle. However, neither the sun nor the stars were visible for many days as the storm raged, and all hope for survival was seemingly lost.
- Paul reproaches the men for not heeding his warning to avoid sailing from Crete, but he persuades them to take courage because he knows that no lives will be lost. The previous night, he received a vision from the Lord that no lives would be lost.
- The ship ran aground on a sandbar, and began to disintegrate from the pounding of the waves. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners, so that none would escape. However, the centurion thwarted the plan because he wanted to save Paul. All those who could swim jumped overboard first, and then those who remained grabbed onto planks and other debris and swam to shore. All arrived safely on the island.
- The island was called Malta. The natives showed them extraordinary hospitality
- While Paul put some brushwood on a fire, a viper escaped from the stick and bit him. When the natives saw the snake hanging from Paul’s hand, they concluded that Paul must be a murderer, and that although Paul escaped the storm on the sea, Justice has prevented him from living. However, after Paul nonchalantly shook off the snake into the viper, and manifested no signs of illness, the natives began to believe that he was a god. Paul even healed the king’s father, who had dysentery, and cured several others who were sick.
- Three months after the shipwreck they embarked for Rome again.
- Paul’s arrival in Rome signifies the completion of his mission to spread the word of God to the ends of the earth. Rome represents the center of the world.
- He remained in Rome for two full years, and proclaimed the kingdom of god and taught about Jesus with complete assurance and without hindrance.
Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.
I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh.
Receive my spirit.
This is the voice of a God, not of a man.
I have made you a light to the Gentiles, so that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.
The Gods have come down to us in human form.
It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.
The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything.
Savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Scholars have not reached a general consensus as to why Luke, the author of the Acts, wrote this text. Some believe that the Acts is an attempt by Luke to persuade the Romans that Christianity is benign, and not a pernicious sect. Others believe that Luke wrote Acts to convince Christians that Rome is not pernicious. However, I concur with what I believe to be the majority; i.e. Luke wrote the Acts to demonstrate the proper way for Christians to behave when faced with persecution by describing how heroic Christian personas of the past dealt with hardships. Through detailed accounts of the lives of Peter, Stephen, and Saul/Paul, Luke’s narrative is reminiscent of Plutarch’s Lives. Reading about great men of the past who behave virtuously and courageously in the face of strife encourages virtuous and courageous behavior.
Saul/Paul’s life is the main focus of the Acts. Saul was a persecutor of early Christians. His conversion to Christianity commenced while he was traveling to Damascus to imprison and presumably mistreat Christians in that particular city. While on the road to Damascus, he saw a light in the sky brighter than the sun. He fell from his horse and was blinded. Then he heard a voice ask him why he persecuted the speaker behind the voice. Saul asked the voice to whom it belonged, and it replied “Jesus.” Then Jesus told Paul that he chose Paul to be his witness to the ends of the earth. Jesus commanded Paul to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about Jesus. Saul obediently performed this duty, eventually disseminating Christianity metaphorically to the whole world when he arrived in Rome.
One of the most radical ideas proposed in the Acts is that salvation and eternal life is available to Gentiles. This was the source of the Jewish backlash against early Christianity. Peter was imprisoned, and Stephen was stoned to death for preaching about Jesus. Likewise, Saul/Paul was imprisoned several times, unlawfully scourged, and almost beaten to death by an angry mob. Despite these hostilities and threats to their safety, the heroes of Acts demonstrate an extraordinary amount of faith and devotion to their beliefs to the extent that they are willing to suffer severe pain, imprisonment, and even death. This type of devotion and conviction is admirable, even if their beliefs may be flawed.
Another part of the Acts which I considered interesting was the notion of the Holy Spirit, particularly the notion that God had poured some of his spirit into all flesh. This evokes a sense of fellowship with all creatures, and instilled camaraderie into the early Christian movement. This idea also might lead to disastrous conclusions because of the belief which logically follows from that assertion; i.e. that we are god, and are not answerable to anything. I enjoy musing over this idea, especially when reflected through the lens of existentialists, such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Camus.
I will conclude this post concerning the Acts with a statement about the benefits of generosity toward others: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”