Sunday, December 16, 2018


The Spiritual House

In these two verses, Peter gives a summary of argument he presents in the whole passage. He used a metaphor of a temple (spiritual house) built of stones. He switched from the metaphor of infants needing nourishment to the metaphor of stones used to build a temple.

Christ is a “living stone”. He is the first building block of the spiritual temple. He is alive because he was resurrected from the grave and will live forever. Peter got this language from Psalm 118:22, which says the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Psalmist was thinking of Israel. But Peter applied it to Jesus, the true Israel.

Jesus applied this language to himself in the “Parable of the Tenants” (Matthew 21:33-46). That parable involved God rejecting the original tenants who killed his son. He took the vineyard from them and gave it to those who would bear fruit. He removed his kingdom from unbelieving Jews and gave it to those who believed in him and followed him.

He was rejected by men. Many have rejected him. But God chose him. He chose Jesus to be the savior of those who believe in him. That is why he is called Christ, or Messiah, the Anointed One. Those chosen by God for a special role were anointed as a sign of their being chosen.

God chose Aaron to be the high priest. Leviticus 8:12 shows Moses, as God’s representative, anointing Aaron with the anointing oil to consecrate, or set him aside, for his role. Samuel anointed David with oil to show God had chosen him to be king. (1 Samuel 16). God chose Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, to be the savior, so he was the Anointed One.

The Greek word for chosen is “eklektos”. It is also translated as “elect”.  

Not only did the Father chose, or elect, him, but Jesus was “precious” to the Father. He was precious to him because of their relationship in eternity in the Trinity, but also because Jesus agreed to come to earth in human flesh to reconcile men and women to the Father.

Those who come to Christ are built into a spiritual house, a temple. When we come to the Living Stone, we ourselves are as “living stones”. Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the spiritual house is built. We are built on top of that cornerstone as part of the house that is constructed. Paul instructed us that the foundation of this building is made up of the apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 2:20)

The builder of the church is Jesus. He said “I will my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)

Not only are we the stones that are built into the temple, we are the priests who serve in it. Peter said believers are a “holy priesthood”. (5) A priest serves as a mediator between mankind and God. In the Old Covenant, the Levites, or tribe of Levi, were set apart to be a holy priesthood. They continually offered sacrifices to God.

New covenant believers are to offer spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

What are the spiritual sacrifices we are to offer? Peter does not say. Romans 12:1-2 tells us that our bodies are living sacrifices when we live holy lives that are acceptable to God. When we are called out of the world, and do not conform to it, but are transformed by the Holy Spirit, we live lives that please God. This also makes us priests in the sense that our lives witness to the lost about Christ and his saving power. We represent God to the nations.

The writer of Hebrews also says that we should continually offer up praise to God, and that it is a sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15. We used to teach kids a song about this:

“We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord.
“We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord.

And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of thanksgiving,
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of joy.”

Thus, the Old Testament temple and priesthood were types of the church, a people among whom God dwells and who praise God and live for him in witness to the world. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

From Fear to Joy

Luke tells us in Luke 2: 8-14: 
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

I love this story because it has lots of things I’m interested in. It has unusual charactersgloryfear and joy

Unusual Characters.
I do not know why God chose to announce the coming of Christ first to some shepherds. But, it’s interesting. 
These guys were camped out with their flock of sheep in the fields, bedded down with the sheep. Shepherds were not that well thought of. They were transient, moving from field to field. They were not bathed or well-groomed a lot of the time. Even though they took care of animals that would be sacrificed at the temple, the priests and Pharisees would not associate with them. Yet, angels appeared and told them the Messiah had been born.
It is an interesting parallel: those who took care of sacrificial lambs were the first told of the birth of the lamb without blemish that would be the perfect and complete sacrifice for sin.
When the angel of the Lord appeared, the glory of the Lord shone all around them. Angels are the messengers of God. This angel came from the presence of God to deliver God’s message of salvation, and he brought, or reflected, God’s glory with him.
We give glory to God in the sense that we extol his great attributes. But, God possesses glory in himself. We do not add to that. 
His glory is an expression of his holiness, his worth, and his perfection. It is expressed in the Bible as overpowering light. 1 Timothy 6:16 says he dwells or lives in unapproachable light and no one can see him. Angels often reflected his glory when they appeared, showing that they had come from God to deliver his message.

The response to God’s glory if usually fear. Men and women fall to the ground. We are told to fear the Lord. Those who encounter his glory do fear him. Here are many examples in the Bible. 
For example, in Isaiah 6, the pre-incarnate Christ appeared to Isaiah in the temple. The seraphims were calling out “the whole world is full of his glory”. And Isaiah cried out “woe to me. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”. Isaiah’s encounter with God’s glory revealed his sin and sent him into despair and fear. 
When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, his clothes shone with radiant, intensely white light and they were terrified. (Mark 9:2-8)
Sinful men and women cannot bear the glory of the holy God.
The good news is, fear is turned to joy by Jesus. The angel told them not to fear, for he was bringing them good news of great joy. That joy came from the news that the Messiah had come. The one that had been expected since the Fall had finally come! 
Jesus would be the bearer of God’s wrath, the perfect sacrifice for sin, and the mode of reconciliation of sinful children to their heavenly father. 
Salvation brings joy. The end of the story shows the shepherds praising God and giving him glory as they walked down the road. There was joy because there was salvation.
We sing a lot about joy at Christmas. I want us to experience it. Meditate on this passage. 
Lots of people think God is permanently mad at them or out to get them. Notice the last statement in this passage. God is please with those who have put their faith in Jesus. He is pleased with us. 
That should bring us joy. 


Sunday, December 09, 2018

LOVE! 1 PETER 1:20-2:1


There is a bit of a shift in emphasis here that will continue through verse 10 of chapter 2. The shift is from the call to personal holiness to instruction on how to live in the Christian community.

Our salvation should not only lead us to live in holiness, but to live in love, loving especially other believers. When Peter wrote “having purified your souls by obedience to the truth” in verse 22, he referred to their salvation. He could have said “now that you have been converted or saved”.

The impure (unregenerate) heart finds it difficult to love because it is often against one’s self interest to love another person. For example, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, says “love is not arrogant”. But, it is human nature to be arrogant if you are successful. We all know arrogant people. Believers should not be arrogant, however, because they know all that they have or do is a matter of grace from God. Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on the planet in his time, found this out the hard way when God drove him out of his senses to act like an animal until he repented. You can read the story in the book of Daniel.

The pure (regenerate) heart can love sacrificially because God loved us and saved us.  We love our fellow believers (brotherly love) especially. This love flows from Christ our Savior. God puts his love in our hearts (Romans 5:5). The fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal. 5:22) God gave us a spirit of love (1 Timothy 2:17).

It is a love that gives grace, compassion and selflessness. This love does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:6).

We love earnestly (stretched\strained-as Jesus when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane). It is not always easy to love our fellow church members. We may have to work at that, praying earnestly along the way. But that is what Christ calls us to do.  

It actually is the command of Christ, not a suggestion. He said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this’ll people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35) The converse, or opposite of this statement is also true. If we do not love our fellow believers, no one can tell that we are disciples.

The command to love is based on God’s saving work in our lives. (23) We have been born again (begotten) by the seed of God’s word (the gospel). (23, 25) It is imperishable.   We should love one another because we have been begotten by God.

Peter proved his argument with an Old Testament quote, from Isaiah 40:6-8. The context of Isaiah 40 is a word of encouragement, that God’s word that he will restore Israel will be fulfilled because God’s word stands forever. To use Peter’s term, it is not perishable.

Peter is also saying the word of the Lord, recorded in Isaiah 40, represents the promise that God will restore is people from exile and fulfill his promises to Abraham (as in Genesis 12:1-3, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”). That promise is ultimately fulfilled in the proclamation of the Gospel to these Gentile churches in Asia, bringing the families of the earth into the family of God, the greatest blessing of all.

In loving our fellow believers as a product of our salvation, we must put away some characteristics of our former selves: (1) malice; (2) deceit; (3) hypocrisy; (4) envy; and (5) slander.

Malice is the desire to do harm or evil to another person.

Deceit involves misrepresenting or concealing the truth.

Hypocrisy is a false appearance of virtue.

Envy is wanting something someone else has and resenting them for having it.

Slander is making false statements that harm another person’s reputation.

All of these things are destructive. They can easily destroy a local church. We need to rid ourselves of these traits, both personally and congregational. They are the opposite of love. In fact, Paul, in Galatians 5:19, refers to these things as works of the flesh.

Instead we should long for the “pure spiritual milk” of God’s word. (2:2) The image here is of an infant seeking nourishment. The new believer is like a baby. He needs nourishment to grow. That nourishment is the Word of God. We never outgrow the need. As we understand more, we long to understand even more.

You cannot go wrong immersing yourself in the study of God’s word.

 So, this week, examine yourself prayerfully. Do you love your brothers and sisters as you should? Are there attitudes or actions you need to confess and correct? Dedicate yourself this week to God's word and to loving your brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Sunday, December 02, 2018


Having this mindset, we should set our hope fully on our eternal life, our inheritance. Peter here calls it the grace that will be brought to us when Jesus returns, when he is revealed. (13) Our hope is not in our job, our wealth, or our friends. Those things are nice, but perishable. Our hope is in the imperishable, eternity with Christ.

Further, having this mindset, we do not conform our thinking to the passions of the world. Specifically, Peter refers to the Gentiles in their former ignorance. (14) We do not follow our selfish passions. We are obedient to God, as children to holy father. (15) That means we are called to be holy, knowing that God is holy. Paul put it this way: do not be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

We live in the knowledge of God who judges each ones deeds, so we live in reverence\fear of him. We know that heavenly rewards will be proportionate to our faithfulness.

Paul explained this in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. He spoke of his work of laying a foundation, as in a builder laying the foundation of a house. Some else will build on it. It must all be built on Christ. If one's work is genuine, Jesus will reveal it when he returns (the Day). If it is genuine, the person will receive a reward in heaven. If it is not, that person will experience the loss of reward. The person does not lose salvation, but does lose rewards in heaven.

We also live in appreciating that we were saved out of sin by the blood of Christ. The penalty of our sins was paid for by our Savior. (That is the doctrine of penal substitution.) Knowing that, we live holy lives in his honor.

This idea is intensified by knowing that Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world. God the Father chose him to be the savior of mankind before mankind was created. He was kept a mystery for ages until the Father manifested Jesus as his Son and Christ in the last times for our sake. We know he did this. Therefore, we put our faith and hope in God.

We were also foreknown in Christ by the Father (1 Peter 1:2; Eph. 1:3-4)

This grand plan of God, conceived in eternity before this world was created, revealed when Christ was born, consummated when he returns, was for your benefit, your salvation.

Live in the light of this truth! 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

  1. When morning gilds the skies,
    My heart awaking cries:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Alike at work and prayer,
    To Jesus I repair;
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  2. Does sadness fill my mind?
    A solace here I find,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Or fades my earthly bliss?
    My comfort still is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  3. When sleep her balm denies,
    My silent spirit sighs,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    When evil thoughts molest,
    With this I shield my breast:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  4. The night becomes as day
    When from the heart we say:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    The pow’rs of darkness fear
    When this sweet chant they hear:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  5. In heav’n’s eternal bliss
    The loveliest strain is this,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Let earth, and sea, and sky
    From depth to height reply,
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
  6. Be this, while life is mine,
    My song of love divine:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!
    Sing this eternal song
    Through all the ages long:
    May Jesus Christ be praised!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Speaking of rejoicing, here is my prayer for you:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Sunday, November 18, 2018

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE? 1 Peter 1:10-20

Jesus Fulfills God’s Promises

The Old Testament prophets prophesied about the grace that would come in Christ to bring salvation. But they were not given the whole picture. They searched and inquired to know who the Messiah would be, when he would come, how he would suffer, and how he would be glorified. (10-11) Despite this, the Holy Spirit did not give them the whole picture. In fact, even angels longed to see the revelation of Christ, but did not. (12)

They were not serving themselves, though. They were serving us, showing us the promises of God made in the past, then showing us the fulfillment of them in Christ. We have a great advantage, for the Holy Spirit has announced the full picture to us through those who preached the good news, such as Jesus himself and his apostles. What a blessing it is!

How Shall We Then Live

Yes, this is a reference to Francis Schaeffer’s book. Published in 1976, Schaeffer’s point in his book was that worldview affects the way people live and make decisions, which affects the direction of culture. Charles “Chuck” Colson was influenced by Schaeffer. He followed Schaeffer’s ideas in his own book “How Now Shall We Live”, published in 1999 and dedicated to Schaeffer.

Peter has the same thought in this passage, although more limited in scope. His question is “how do we now live in light of this inheritance, this hope?” . That is why he starts the passage with the word “therefore”. In other words, in light of this permanent inheritance given to us through the grace of God, how do we live out this life on earth?

First, Peter tells us what our state of mind should be. He says “preparing your minds for action”. (13) It is literally “gird the loins of your mind” for action. This is a reference to men getting ready for battle or some kind of action. The Jewish men wore robes that went down to their ankles. This was not conducive to running and moving. So, they pulled up the skirt of the robe and tucked it into their belt for more freedom of movement. It was called girding your loins. You prepared yourself for action. For example, as Israel prepared to leave Egypt, the men were told to eat their dinner with their robes girded. They were to be ready to move quickly when the time came.

This is not unlike Paul using the battle dress of a Roman soldier to tell us to put on the whole armor of God.

Christians need to go into the world prepared, knowing where trouble lies and being ready to face it. Peter also says to be sober minded. If our minds are full of frivolous things, we cannot fight spiritual battles. If we are drunk or on drugs, we cannot fight spiritual battles.

So, we go into every day knowing the world is not our home, that temptations and trials will come, that opportunities to witness will arise, and that we need to live each day to glorify God.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


Praising God For Salvation

Having greeted the readers of his epistle, Peter breaks into praise for God. These three verses are a doxology.

When Peter says “Blessed be..God”, it is a praise. It is not the same was when God blesses us by adding something to us, because we cannot add anything to God. He is self sufficient and perfect. But it is a way to say “praise God”. It is also a way of saying, may his name be blessed, or honored, on earth because of who he is and what he has done. That is probably why the NIV translates the word as “praise” rather than “blessed”.

This blessing of the Lord is common in the Old Testament. For example, see Psalm 89:52.

Peter praised God for our salvation. God gave us salvation according to his great mercy, not our work or righteousness. As Paul wrote, “for by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…” He also wrote”by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Mercy is the showing of forgiveness to whom you have the right and power to harm. God certainly has the power to do us harm. He also has the right to do this, for we all sinned against him and deserve death. (Romans 3:23; 6:23)

But he acted in mercy, not judgment, toward those who would believe in his Son, Jesus. He caused us to be born again. It was his initiative.

No one can take credit for being born. No one can take credit for being born again.

What is different about people who are born again? We are born again to a living hope. That hope is not that we will live our best life now. It is that we will live our best life in eternity.

“Hope”, as the New Testament uses it, is not a wish. It is a firm belief in something to come that is so great and so much better than this life that we can even endure suffering and hardship for Jesus, know it is temporary and eternal life is forever.

This hope comes to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Jesus was raised from the dead, so will all who are in Christ. Because he was raised, we can believe we will be raised as he promised. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ”. (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)  

This hope of eternal life is an inheritance. It is something we receive in the future because of our relationship to God. Just as you might inherit money from you parents because you are their son, you, as a believer, inherit eternal life because you have been adopted into the Family of God. We are God’s children. We call him “father”. And we are brothers and sisters of his Son, Jesus. Since we are children of God through and with Jesus, we are heirs of God and fellow heirs of Jesus. (Romans 8:15-17)

In Old Testament Israel, the inheritance was portrayed in the physical land God promised and gave to his people. A plot or portion of land was allotted to each tribe and family by Joshua. But believers, the church, inherits so much more. We first inherit heaven, then the new heavens and new earth, all of which will belong to us, not just one tiny country.

This inheritance is kept for us in heaven. (4) We do not keep it ourselves. That is why we cannot lose our salvation. If we could lose our salvation, we would. But God keeps it. Peter says we are those who are guarded by God’s power through faith. (5) We place our faith in Jesus and God keeps our salvation for us.

Not only can we not lose our salvation, it cannot be diminished in anyway. Peter uses three words to describe this. Our inheritance is (1) imperishable; (2) undefiled; and (3) unfading. These are not three different types of salvation, but three ways of saying the same thing.

Created things all disintegrate. I got out some broccoli to cook this week. But, I had to throw it away because it was molded. It was perishable. But God is not perishable. He is the immortal God (Romans 1:23) He does not die or decline. Therefore, he can keep our salvation imperishable.

It is also undefiled. In contrast, I once had some bug poison in a can. The can rusted, the poison leaked out and got into some other things and ruined them. They were defiled or corrupted.

It is also unfaded. When I was young, each time you washed your clothes, they faded a little bit. Soon, they no longer looked new. But your salvation does not fade.

No matter how long you live, your salvation and eternal life will be as beautiful and glorious as on the day you were saved. No matter how long this age lasts, the age to come will be as perfect and beautiful as it would be if this age ended today. And it is because the eternal, all powerful, God keeps it.

Peter also pointed out that, although we were saved when we believed, the full measure of our salvation will be realized, or revealed, in the last time. (5) When Jesus returns and makes all things new, we will see the full measure of what God has for us.

Our bodies will be changed. “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sow in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural (temporarily alive) body; it is raised a spiritual (eternally alive) body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

The earth will be changed. “ Behold, I am making all things new”. (Revelation 21:5)

In this we rejoice. (6) “Rejoice” means to feel and to express great joy or delight. Let that sink in and convict you for a moment. You salvation should cause you to feel and express great delight.

I do not know how many of you rejoiced in your salvation this week. I know many who rejoiced when their sports team scored points or when they won the game. But Peter said these elect exiles rejoiced in their salvation.

Paul instructed us to rejoice. He wrote: “Rejoice the the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”. (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoicing in salvation is important. On reason it is important is that it helps us endure suffering. Peter said his readers rejoiced even though they were grieved by various trials. Those trials tested the genuiness of their faith. It is easy to profess your faith in a room with fellow believers. It is more difficult to profess to someone who might punish you for it with death, or prison, or banishment, or depriving you of a job or other rights.

It is also difficult to rejoice when you are suffering, even though the suffering is not because of your faith. Do you rejoice in your salvation when you are very sick? Or when someone you love is very sick? Or when you lose your job? Or when friends abandon you?

Rejoicing in your salvation will not only help you get through those times, but it demonstrates to the world that your faith is genuine. And, it will result in glory, praise and honor when Jesus is revealed at his second coming. (7) This glory will come to you and also result in glory to Christ.

Peter acknowledged that his situation was different than his readers’. Peter knew Jesus in the flesh. He knew him intimately as a follower and friend. Peter also had a deep appreciation for the resurrection, for he saw the resurrected Jesus. And this Jesus came to the fallen, ashamed, Peter and restored him to fellowship and service.

Neither Peter’s readers nor we ourselves saw Jesus. But Peter said you love him though you have not seen him, you believe in him though they did not see Jesus at the time Peter was writing to them. And they rejoiced with this inexpressible, glorious joy.

Sometimes I go through a week and I am not joyful at all. I hate to confess it, but is true. Then, when Sunday comes around, I feel terrible about it. How could I be like that? Like David, I have to say to God, “restore to me the joy of your salvation”. (Psalm 51:12)

And he does.


Sunday, October 28, 2018


Peter, the Author

This book is an epistle, a letter. It begins with the name of the author: Peter, further identified as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

Peter, the leader of the Twelve, has been considered the author of the epistle. The fact that he says in 5:1 that he was “a witness of the suffering of Christ” lends credence to this position. The early church fathers accepted Peter as the author. The picture above is of a painting by Rembrandt. He came along much later than Peter so it is just his imagination of what Peter looked like.

He identified himself that way so that people would know exactly who the letter came from. He also identified himself that way so that people would know that he spoke with authority.

Recent critics claim that the Greek of the epistle is too refined for a Galilean fisherman. Although he was a fisherman, he was a fisherman with his own business. He may well have known Greek. However, Peter had not been a fisherman for several decades at this point. The book was likely written around 62 A.D. He had had almost three decades to learn and polish his Greek as he left Jerusalem and ministered in different places. There are probably many things you do better now than you did 30 years ago, including speak and write.

Peter, who was once brash and often foolish, has matured in Christ, taught by the Holy Spirit. He is fulfilling Jesus’ command to him to “feed my sheep”. (John 21:15-17) He has become the rock, Peter, and is no longer just Simon, his birth name. He has been changed from impulsive fisherman, to evangelist, leader, and apostle. He was sent by Jesus, and this letter is not just his thoughts, but the word of God.

The Recipients

The recipients of the epistles were believers in Asia (northern Turkey), many of which were evangelized by Paul. They were in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

Peter gives a interesting description of the people. First, he calls them “elect exiles of the dispersion”. There is an allusion to the Old Testament here. When the Jews were conquered by Babylon, they were taken into exile, removed from their land and taken to another land and dispersed.

But, Peter was not writing to Jews in Babylon, but to Christians in Northern Turkey. So, he does not mean they are in exile in the sense of being removed from the country they were born in. But all believers are exiles in the sense that their true home is with Christ, first in heaven, then ultimately in the New Earth. (The NIV wording is “strangers in the world” captures the concept of this not being our home, but does not point out the Old Testament allusion.) Their home is not this fallen world of sin. Since it is not, they will suffer in this life, this exile, as Israel suffered in exile in Babylon. Suffering is an important theme in the epistle.

An American country singer sang a song called “This World Is Not My Home”, one stanza of which said:

This world is not my home
I'm just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.  

The song was written by guy named J. B. Baxter. He was saying earth is not my home, heaven is. The complete picture would have included the New Earth, but he may not have known that.

The purpose of the letter is to encourage believers to stand firm in suffering. The could stand firm because of the future glory awaiting them.

The recipients of the letter were also likely Gentile believers. Peter exhorted them not to be conformed to the passions of their former ignorance. (1:14) Since Jews would have known the law, the would not have been in ignorance.

But the Gentiles did not have the law, worshipped idols, and found many sexually immoral practices acceptable in their cultures. Also, Peter later says they were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers. (1:18) Again, he would not likely say that to Jews. And if it were to Jews, he would have said “our forefathers”.  Finally, Peter wrote they had spent enough time doing what pagans choose to do, and listed several sins, including idolatry. Peter would not write that to Jews.

These believers are not just exiles, but “elect” exiles. “Elect” means chosen. Here it specifically means “chosen by God”. Israel was often referred to as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. For example, Moses wrote “because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them…” (Deuteronomy 4:37) He also wrote “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

Since ethnic Israel was the chosen people of God in Old Testament times, and Peter was applying this same language to the church we see that Peter was saying that the church is the Israel of God. It is his chosen people. Peter reiterates this in 2:9, calling the church a chosen race, a holy nation, and a people for his own possession, the very language God used for Israel in the Old Testament.

Peter said they were the elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God. (2) (The NIV says “who have been chosen”, but those words are interpretive; they are not in the Greek text). “Foreknowledge” means more than knowledge of someone, it means to be the recipient of his favor and love, his choosing. For example, in Romans 8:28, Paul refers to “those whom he foreknew”.

There are some who say that it only means that God foresaw who would be his elect or chosen. The early church father, Origen, held to this view. A number of Baptists hold to this view as well. This view does not, however, take into account the covenantal aspect of the word “know”. In the Old Testament, if often refers to God’s covenantal love bestowed upon his people.

So, when Peter said believers were foreknown by God, he was emphasizing God’s sovereignty in salvation. Believers are foreknown and elect because God set his covenantal love upon them. “According to” is used to mean “cause.

For example, when God commissioned Jeremiah to be his prophet, he said “before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. (Jeremiah 1:5) God’s plan, or will, was to set Jeremiah apart from the rest of Israel for the purpose of delivering God’s word to Israel. In Amos 3:2, God said “you only have I known of all the families of the earth”. God knew about every family on earth. He knows everything. But only Israel was chosen by God and God set his affection only on Israel.

Next, Paul describes these believers as being “in the sanctification of the Spirit”. (2) They have been set apart, sanctified, by the Holy Spirit. These believers were taken out of a pagan, immoral people world, and placed in the people of God, who are to live holy lives. Believers are to be conformed to the image of Christ. Paul said those whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. There are many different analogies to this used in the New Testament, but the idea is always that believers leave the world of sin for the world of holiness when they are converted.

Therefore, believers set apart for obedience to Christ. We commit to obey Christ when we convert (when we are saved). Repentance means we turn away from our life of sin and turn to Christ. Jesus, in fact, said “if you love me, keep my commandments”. (John 14:15) Jesus also said Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

The recipients of the letter are also “for sprinkling with his (Christ’s) blood. (2) These believers have been cleansed of their sins by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 1:7 says “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (sins)….

Why did Peter use the term “sprinkling with his blood”? It again is a covenantal reference. The people of Israel pledged to obey the covenant. Then Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice, saying “this is the blood of the covenant the the LORD has made with you”. (Exodus 24:8) The blood signified the cleansing of sin needed to stand in right relationship with God.

Similarly, we enter into the New Covenant by an obedient response to the gospel and cleansing from sin through the blood of Christ.

“Sprinkling” is a metaphor for this cleansing. We are not literally sprinkled with blood, but are cleansed of sin because Jesus shed his blood (died) for us.

So, the conclusion is that the foreknowing work of the Father and the sanctifying action of the Spirit result in human obedience and to Christ’s work of cleansing from sin (sprinkling of the blood).

Conversion, then, or getting saved, is not just a get out of hell free card. It is a commitment to follow Jesus in obedience.

The Trinity is in sight here. The Father foreknows, the Spirit sanctifies, and the Son cleanses.

All of the things Peter says about these Asian believers applies to you as well. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Author and sustainer,
source of life and breath;
you for our salvation
trod the path of death:
Jesus Christ is living,
God for evermore!,
Now let all creation
hail him and adore. 

From Welcome, Happy Morning! 

By Fortunatus 

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Safe on Malta

Everyone on board survived the shipwreck and managed to get to shore on the island of Malta. As Paul had prophesied, no one was killed, but the ship was lost.

The people of the island were kind. they built a fire to keep the wet survivors warm. Paul worked with them gathering wood. He was bitten by a viper that was in the wood. The islanders, who were pagans, first believed that Paul was a murderer , and the goddess Justice had arranged to kill him when the sea did not. However, when Paul did not die, they changed their minds and claimed he was a god.

God did not let a shipwreck stop his plan.
God did not let a snake bite stop his plan.

The ruler of the island, called the chief man or chief official, also treated the survivors kindly, providing for them for three days. (7) This man’s father was very sick, so Paul went to him, prayed, laid hands on him, and healed him. (8) When this became known, the people brought all of their sick to Paul and all were healed. (9) This is  similar to the event when Jesus healed the mother in law of Peter, resulting in the whole town bringing their sick to Jesus to be healed. (Luke 4) The people were very grateful, and gave Paul and his friends provisions for the rest of the journey.

From Malta to Rome

After three months, winter passed and it was safe to sail again. It was probably in March of A.D. 60. The centurion found another ship that had stayed the winter in the harbor of Malta, and put Paul and his companions on it. It was another ship from Alexandria, so was likely another grain ship. Luke described it as having the twin gods as a figurehead.

A figurehead is a carved decoration at the front, or prow, of a ship. It was believed to protect the ship and its sailors. The twin gods were Castor and Pollux, who were the protectors of sailors. The constellation Gemini was believed to be the twins after death. Again we see great detail in Luke’s historical account. We can also see that Luke expected Romans and Greeks to read his book, because he did not see the need to name the "twin gods", assuming his readers would know who he meant.

The ship traveled from Malta to Syracuse, a port on the eastern side of Sicily. From Syracuse, they sailed north to Rhegium on the extreme southern tip of Italy. Then they made their way north along the western coast of Italy to Puteoli. There were Christians there and they hosted Paul and his friends for seven days.

At the end of the seven days, they traveled overland to Rome. A few miles from Puteoli, they were able to get on the Appian Way, one of the great Roman roads.  As they made their way toward Rome, Christians from Rome came to greet them and accompany them into Rome. This welcome from believers gave Paul courage and he thanked God for it. (15)

When Paul came into Rome, he entered through the Porta Capena, the gate that marked the entrance onto the Appian Way.
Paul was allowed to stay on his own in Rome instead of in prison. This shows the regard the Romans had developed for him. These Christian friends likely provided for his needs while he was there.

Speaking to the Jews

Paul did not waste much time before beginning a new ministry. He began as always, speaking first to the Jews. He could not go to the synagogues, though, because he was a prisoner. So, he called the local leaders, probably elders, to come and see him.

Paul explained to them how he got to Rome, being wrongfully accused and appealing to Caesar to prevent bad treatment at the hand of the Jews. He emphasized that he, on the other hand, did not make a charge against the Jews. (19)

Finally, Paul said he was in chains because of the hope of Israel, the Messiah. (20) These Jews were fair minded and stated their willingness to hear his views even though people spoke against “this sect”, or Christianity. (22)

The Jews came back, and brought others with them, and Paul spoke to them all day. He used both the Pentateuch (law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible) and the Prophets. As he had done in the synagogues, he used scripture to argue that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and that they should believe in him. (23)

Luke wrote that Paul spoke of the kingdom of God, meaning he believed the first coming of Jesus was the coming of the kingdom.

Some, in fact, did believe. (24)  Others rejected Paul’s message.

As they left, Paul gave them a scriptural condemnation, quoting Isaiah 6:9-10. Isaiah 6 records the event where Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple and was commissioned to go and speak for the LORD. The message Isaiah was to speak was that the Jews would not accept God’s word of coming judgment.

Jesus applied this scripture to his teaching in parables, saying the secrets of the kingdom were given to the disciples but not to the Jews at large. (Matthew 13) Jesus said the Jews rejection of his proclamation of the kingdom was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In our text, Paul did the same thing, applying the words of Isaiah to the Roman Jews rejection of his message. (26-27)

And, as Paul had done before, he said this message of salvation had gone to the Gentiles who would listen.

Paul lived two years in Rome. He was under guard, but able to see guests and preach and teach to them. He had to provide his own food and necessities, likely with the help of local believers. But God provided for him to preach boldly without hinderance from the Roman government. Paul wrote “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known through the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (Philippians 1:12)

That is the end of Luke’s story. We do not know why he did not write more. Although some believe this imprisonment ended in Paul’s death, history indicates otherwise.

Evidently, Paul was freed at some point, possibly after a hearing before the emperor. He may have made it to Spain as he desired. (Romans 15:24) Clement wrote that Paul preached to the limits of the west. (1 Clement 5:7). Eusebius (circa 325) wrote that Paul was released and ministered until he was again arrested and executed.
Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon during this first imprisonment. He wrote 1 Timothy and Titus after his release, then wrote 2 Timothy during his second imprisonment.

Writing to Timothy, during the last imprisonment, Paul said “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing”. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Paul is a great example to us of the believer who was faithful to the end, regardless of circumstances.
The Book of Acts shows us that God had and has a plan for the gospel to be preached all over the world and he cannot be stopped.


Sunday, October 14, 2018


Acts 27
Starting For Rome

Once Agrippa was finished hearing Paul, Festus had the praetorian guards deliver Paul to a Roman centurion for the voyage to Rome. This centurion, named Julius, found a ship in Caesarea heading back to the port of Adramyttium in Asia. It was the type of ship that stayed close to the coast rather than sail in open seas.

Luke was with Paul, as seen by the use of “we” in verse 3.

Also with Paul was Aristarchus, who was from the church in Thessalonica. (1) There are several mentions of him in connection with Paul. Aristarchus had been seized by the mob at Ephesus and taken into the theater (Acts 19:29). He returned with Paul from Greece to Asia (Acts 20:4). Paul later wrote that Aristarchus was Paul's fellow prisoner and fellow laborer. (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24)

The ship sailed north from Caesarea to Sidon in Lebanon and stopped there. Julius allowed Paul to leave the ship to see believers in Sidon and be cared for. (3) They may have given Paul food for the journey in addition to friendship.

Leaving Sidon, things got difficult as the winds turned agains them. They sailed “under the lee” of Cyprus, meaning on the side that protected them from the wind. From Cyprus, the sailed across a stretch of open sea to reach Myra, a port on the south side of what was then known as Lycia, and now as southern Turkey. (5)

At Myra, Julius the centurion found a ship from Alexandria sailing for Italy. This was likely a grain ship. Egypt grew most of the wheat for Rome and shipped it via the sea.

Julius got Paul, his friends, and Julius’ soldiers on board. There were other prisoners on board also, as we see later in the text. (6)

The wind continued to be a problem for the trip, blowing hard from the northeast and slowing the progress of the ship until they finally reached Cnidus. There they could not continue to sail northwest toward Italy because the wind was so strong. Therefore, they let the wind take them southwest to Crete, again sailing around the lee side of the island for protection. They made it to the port of Fair Havens on the outside of the island. (8)

Because the wind had made them travel slowly, it was too late in the year for safe travel across the sea to Italy. Luke wrote that the “Fast” was already over. He referred to the Day of Atonement. This would occur in September or October of the year, when storms were common on the Mediterranean Sea.

Because of this danger, Paul; advised staying in port rather than sail and risk destruction. The ship’s owner and pilot, however, wanted to press on because the harbor at Fair Havens was not good for spending the winter. They did not want to try and reach Italy, but did want to try and reach Phoenix on the western tip of the island. (12) Phoenix had a better port for spending the winter.

So they took off, staying as close to shore as possible. The plan did not work, however, for a storm from the northeast (a northeaster) drove them out to sea. They began to worry that the ship would fall apart in the rough seas. They pulled the ship’s boat (used to take passengers from the ship to land) up onto the deck and secured it. They also pulled cables around the ship to help hold it together. (17)
The storm continued to drive them west and, they feared, south. They worried about being driven onto the coast of Africa (Sirtis) and run aground, destroying the ship. (17) They were driven at the mercy of the wind. They began to jettison the cargo, likely barrels of wheat. They even threw equipment over to lighten the ship and come into ground riding as high as possible. As the storm raged on, they finally gave up all hope. (20)

At this low point, Paul again inserted himself into the situation. He inserted a “I told you so”, saying they should have listened to him.(21-22)

 But, he wanted them to take heart because an angel of the Lord had told him he would survive, along with all the people on board, even though the ship would be destroyed. (21) The angel told Paul he would stand before Caesar in Rome.

He urged them to run the ship aground on some island. On the 14th night of this stormy journey, the sailers began to think they were nearing some land. The water got more shallow. They did want to run aground in the dark, so they dropped anchors hoping to hold out until daylight. (29)

At this point, the sailors attempted to desert the ship. They lowered the ship’s boat into the sea, thinking they were close enough to land to make it if they were not hindered by passengers or soldiers. (30)

Paul alerted the centurion and his soldiers. Without the sailors, they would not survive. (31) The soldiers took drastic action, cutting the ropes and letting the boat go.

Paul encouraged the whole group to eat so they wold have strength for the remainder of the ordeal. he promised them they would not die. (34) To set an example, he took bread, gave thanks, and began to eat. The others followed his example. When they were all full, they threw the remainder of the wheat overboard to lighten the ship. (38)

At daylight, they saw land, a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship aground on the beach. They removed the anchors, unhooked the rudder, then hoisted the foresail to propel them to the beach. The foresail is a small sail at the front of the ship.

They didn’t make it, though, and grounded on a reef. The ship began to break up. It was clear they would end up in the sea.

When you think all is lost, despite God's promise, do you take matters into your own hands? Or do you continue to trust God?

The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners so they would not escape. They did not want to be punished for letting the prisoners escape. The centurion prevented that because he wanted to save Paul. He was grateful for all Paul had done. So, he sent everyone into the water, swimmers first, then non-swimmers holding on to whatever would float. And all of them made it to the land. (44)

The word of the Lord, spoken by an angel, and repeated by Paul, was completely fulfilled. The ship and the cargo were lost, but every person on board was saved.

Luke recorded this adventure in incredible detail. He wanted to show that God’s purpose of sending Paul to Rome must be fulfilled despite all of the circumstances that made it seem impossible.

As Daniel 4:35 says, “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as noting, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitant of the earth, and none can stay his hand…”

God will accomplish his will in your life, also. Nothing can prevent that. Your job is to trust him even when the future looks bleak, and to be faithful to him.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Paul Before Agrippa
Acts 26

Festus presented Paul to to Agrippa, stating that he found nothing worthy of death in Paul’s behavior and that Paul had appealed to Caesar.

Paul’s defense began with flattery, a common way to present an argument in the Greek world. the Flattery (1-3) His defense was similar to that he gave before. After the flattery, Paul described his life as a Jew (4-5). He was raised in the Jewish tradition and was a faithful Jew. In fact, Paul said, he believed what all Jews have always believed (6-8)
Paul was such a good Jew that he persecuted believers (9-11). But then he had the encounter with Jesus (12-18), as we studied in chapter 9. After his conversion, Paul was arrested for preaching (19-23).

After Paul spoke of the resurrection, Festus erupted. Festus thought Paul was crazy. All of his learning had made him made. The reason for this is that Romans did not believe in resurrection. They believed the soul endured for eternity, but the body was left behind to perish.

Paul denied being crazy and asserted that  king Agrippa knew of these things. Agrippa was a Gentile, but had learned about Judaism and Christianity. Agrippa was likely pleased that Paul recognized his knowledge until the next thing happened. Paul asked if Agrippa believed the prophets. He was trying to get an opportunity to share the gospel. Amazingly, he was not solely focused on his criminal defense, but also on bringing souls to salvation.

Agrippa recognized this and cut Paul off. But, all agreed Paul was innocent. Nonetheless, since Paul had appealed to Caesar, he must go to him.

The Lord continued to accomplish his will, propelling Paul toward Rome, protecting him from murderous plots and working his way through the Roman judicial system. The Lord said Paul would witness to the emperor, and he made it happen. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018


The Jews Plot to Murder Paul

Having failed in their efforts to kill Paul by mob attack and trial before the tribune, a group of 40 Jews took an oath to kill him by ambush. The would not eat or drink until Paul was dead. This is how much they hated Paul and how much they hated the gospel.
Paul’s nephew heard about the plot, however. (Here we learn one of the few facts about Paul’s family: he had a sister and a nephew.) The nephew told Paul, then the tribune about it. The tribune instructed the nephew to keep quiet about informing the him, then made plans to move Paul and keep him safe.

Paul Goes to Felix

The tribune took the threat seriously. He sent 470 men to move Paul: 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen. The soldiers took Paul by night to the city of Antipatris, about half way to Caesarea, where Felix ruled as governor. Paul spent the night there. The soldiers then returned to Jerusalem and the horsemen took Paul on to Caesarea. (31-32)

The horsemen delivered Paul to Felix with a letter from the tribune. (33) The letter absolved Paul of any crimes. But the tribune did send the Jews to Felix for another trial. Felix agreed to hear the case and had Paul confined in the praetorium. The praetorian was the governor’s mansion built by Herod. It also contained quarters to confine citizens who awaited trial.

The praetorian is being excavated today. You can see how it was built with a view of the ocean.

The Jews State Their Case

The Jews chose a man named Tertullus to make their case. Since this name is Roman, the man was likely a lawyer hired by the High Priest to present the case. He accused Paul of stirring up riots all over the world as the ringleader of the Nazarenes. He also accused him of attempting profane the temple.

Paul’s Defense

Paul denied that he disputed with anyone or stirred up trouble. He, in fact, believed everything the Jews did. (15) (Of course, he believed more than they did.) Not only that, but he brought alms to give to his people and to make offerings.

Then Paul turned the tables, accusing the Jews from Asia, who conveniently had not come before Felix, of stirring up trouble.

Paul In Custody

Felix put off making a decision until the tribune made it to Caesarea. Paul was kept in prison, but given some liberty and allowed to have friends contribute to his needs. (23) Since there were believers in Caesarea, including Philip and his family, it is likely Paul did have visitors.

Interestingly, Luke records that Felix had accurate knowledge of the Way. (22) He and his wife, who was Jewish, had Paul speak to them about faith in Christ. (24) So Paul spoke to them, including talk about the coming judgment. (25) Talk of the judgment alarmed Felix and he sent Paul away. (25)
So we see that Felix heard the gospel and experienced fear of judgment, but did not believe unto salvation. His carnal nature was in play also, as he hoped to get a bribe from Paul. (26) Paul ended up staying in prison for 2 years. When Felix was removed from his position, he left Paul in prison to do the Jews a favor, maybe at the request of his Jewish wife. The next governor was Festus.
The Jews Press Their Case
Time did not lesson the desire of the Jews for Paul’s death. When Festus visited Jerusalem, they presented their case to him. They asked that Paul be brought to Jerusalem because they intended to ambush and kill him. Festus kept Paul at Caesarea, though, and invited the Jews come go there and present their charges against Paul.

Paul Before Festus

Festus began a new trial. Likely, he could do this because Felix never rendered a verdict. The Jews made their case, but could not prove anything against Paul. Paul presented his case of innocence.
Festus tried to use Paul for political advantage while not going so far as to violate Roman law. He could not force Paul to submit to a trial in Jerusalem, but he could offer it to gain favor with the Jews. (9)

Paul was too smart for that, knowing that they plotted to ambush and kill him. He appealed to Caesar to deprive Festus of further jurisdiction to act. (11) Festus was evidently not happy about that, for he conferred with his council before ruling. But he could find no way out, so he agreed that Paul would go to Caesar. (12)

“Caesar” at this point is Nero, the Emperor, who reigned from 54-68.

Agrippa Comes to Town

Agrippa II was a king, but not of this region. He is sometimes referred to Herod Agrippa II because he was a descendant of Herod the Great. He was actually the last Herodian king.

Agrippa did not have jurisdiction, but came at the request of Festus to help sort out the Jewish issues. He as a Hellenistic Jew.

He came to Caesarea with his sister Bernice. Festus presented Paul’s case to Agrippa. He cast it as a theological dispute that he was unable to investigate. All of this interested Agrippa and arrangements were made for Paul to stand before Agrippa the next day. (22)

The next day, amid much ceremony, Festus presented Paul to to Agrippa, stating that he found nothing worthy of death in Paul’s behavior and that Paul had appealed to Caesar. And, so, Paul was able to make his defense.

The Lord continued to direct Paul's steps to accomplish his will that Paul testify before the Roman leaders, including the Emperor Nero. Although the Lord protected Paul, it was not without suffering on Paul's part. Although he appears to have been treated fairly well, he was confined in various prisons. He lived under the threat of assassination. His ethnic people turned against him.

Yet, Paul did not waver. He stood strong in the faith, using every opportunity to witness to the Lord Jesus. His eyes were on Christ, not his circumstances. He was faithful.

May we all seek to imitate his faithfulness. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

If the gospel is true, none of us comes to the table with rights. The only way in is flat on your face. If I want to hold on to my fundamental right to self-determination, I must reject the message of Jesus, because he calls me to submit completely to him: to deny myself and take up my cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).

Rebecca McLaughlin

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The right question to ask about finding God's will according to Jen Wilkin.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Paul in Jerusalem
The tribune, or commander, was surprised when Paul spoke Greek to him. He thought Paul was an Egyptian Jew that had led a revolt that was put down by Felix the governor. So, it was a good thing Paul spoke to him. His ability to speak Greek and his status as a Roman citizen got him the privilege to speak to the crowd.
It is interesting that Paul wanted to speak to the crowd. Most people in this situation would be happy to be taken away from the crowd and put in a safe place. But Paul always wanted to share the gospel. He believed, as Peter would later write, that believers are “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. (1 Peter 3:15)
Paul also had a burden for his own people, the Jews. He wanted them to come to Christ. He wrote “Bothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved”. (Romans 10:1) And he knew they would not believe unless someone preached to them. (Romans 10:14-15) Having no regard for his safety, or even his life, he wanted to share the gospel with them, hoping they might be saved.
The tribune granted permission and Paul spoke to the crowd in their language. “Hebrew language” here probably means the language of the Hebrews, as opposed to Hebrew itself. The language of the average Jews was Aramaic, so Paul likely spoke that. We see how educated Paul is here. He spoke Greek and Aramaic, but also likely spoke and wrote Hebrew, since he was an Old Testament scholar and the scriptures were written in Hebrew.
Paul addressed the crowd with the same words Stephen used to address the Sanhedrin: “brothers and fathers”. (Acts 7:2)

Paul’s testimony
Paul did not go into a theological discussion with the Jews. Instead, he gave his testimony. He told them the story of his conversion. While every believer should work to be able to explain the gospel theologically, it is also true that giving your testimony is an effective way to communicate.
The theme of Paul’s testimony is: I have been a good Jew and then I met the Lord. So, he told them he was born a Jew but raised right there in Jerusalem, the spiritual home of Judaism. He had a first rate theological education, studying with Gamaliel. He was a revered teacher and a member of the Sanhedrin. Paul was trained as a Pharisee, observing the strict manner of the law. Paul was born a Jew, raised in the center of Judaism, and educated by the leading teacher of the Pharisees. His preparation to be a Jewish leader was impeccable.
Not only was Paul raised and trained as the ultimate Jew, helped as one. His proof of that is is persecution of “this Way”, of Christianity. It was this role as persecutor that brought him to Damascus. (5)
It was on the way to Damascus that things changed, Paul encountered Jesus in a bright light. Most of this story has been told by Luke previously in Acts 9. Jesus told the blinded Paul to go into Damascus to be told all that “is appointed for you to do”. (10) Jesus had plans for Paul.
Ananias restored Paul’s vision and told him God appointed Paul to do 4 things:
to know his will;
to see the Righteous One (Jesus);
to hear his voice; and
to witness for him to everyone of what he saw and heard. (15)
Two new facts are given us that are not related in Acts 9. The first new fact that we have here is that Paul was evidently baptized. Ananias urged Paul to call on Jesus’ name and be baptized. (16)  The implication is that Paul did those things.
The second new fact is that, when Paul returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, he had a vision of Jesus telling him to leave Jerusalem quickly because they will not accept his testimony. (17) The parallel to Isaiah is notable.

Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in the temple also. He saw the Lord, he heard his voice, and he was appointed to go and preach to the people. (Isaiah 6) He was also told that his people, the Jews, would not listen to him.

Paul protested to Jesus, saying the Jews knew how he persecuted Christians and observed the stoning of Stephen with approval. (20) But Jesus insisted he go and speak to the Gentiles.

The Angry Crowd
At this point, the crowd erupted. Preaching to the Gentiles was the last straw for them. They again called for his death. The shouted, threw off their cloaks and flung dust in the air. It must have been quite a sight. The tribune had to bring Paul back into the barracks.

Paul and the Tribune

The Tribune was still not sure what was goin on, so he took Paul into the barracks, intending to question him by flogging. In other words, he intended to beat the truth out of him. (24) But, Paul asserted his citizenship again. And again we see a centurion cast in a good light, for he went to the Tribune to caution him against being a Roman citizen who had not been to trial. You can see how important Roman citizenship was because the Tribune was afraid.

We will see that Paul’s claim to citizenship and his rights of trial will define what happens to him.

We also see that the sovereign God appoints us to certain work and he will make sure we are at the right place and time. It is our job to faithfully serve him wherever he takes us, whether we expected to be there or not. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Paul Goes To Jerusalem

Paul in Tyre

Chapter 20 ended with Paul leaving the Ephesian elders in Miletus. He sailed from there to the island of Cos, then to the city and island of Rhodes, and to Patara. There they changed ships and sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Tyre. Tyre was under the governance of Syria at the time, so Luke said they sailed to Syria. (3)  Today it is the 4th largest city in Lebanon.

While the ship’s cargo was unloaded, Paul and his companions found some disciples. (4) Christianity had spread there, likely as a result of the persecution that occurred after the death of Stephen, when many Jewish Christians left Jerusalem. We know also that Jesus spent some time in the area. (Matthew 15) They stayed with them for 7 days.

Luke wrote: “through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem”. (4) What does this mean? It cannot mean that the Spirit was telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem, for Paul previously stated that he was constrained (bound) by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. (20:22) It seems, then, that the Spirit, through local prophets, continued to tell them and Paul that he would be arrested in Jerusalem, as prophets in other cities had done. Because of this, those in Tyre thought Paul should not go. But Paul believed the Spirit wanted him to go even though he would be arrested. As Jesus did, He set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

At the end of the 7 days, the disciples walked Paul back to the ship. In a poignant scene, they all knelt on the beach and prayed together before saying good bye. Paul and his companions then got back on the ship and sailed to Ptolemais.

Paul in Caesarea

From Tyre, Paul sailed to Ptolemais. This is the Old Testament city fo Acco. It is known by that name today, though it is spelled often as Akko. He stayed there one day to visit with the disciples. Then it was on to Caesarea. In Caesarea, Paul stayed with Philip the evangelist. This is not Philip the apostle, but Philip who was one of the seven elected to assist the apostles. (6:1-7)

Philip went from delivering food to widows to mission work. He evangelized the Ethiopian Eunuch, then was taken by the Spirit to Azotus on the coast, and evangelized all the way up to Caesarea. (8:40)  Evidently he stayed there. He lived there with 4 daughters who prophesied.

Paul encountered another prophet also. His name was Agabus. He arrived there from Judea. He acted out the binding of Paul and repeated the message that the Holy Spirit had been giving, that the Jews in Jerusalem would arrest Paul and deliver him to the Gentiles (Romans). (11) This set off another wave of protesting by Paul’s friends, who did not want him to go. (12)

Paul remained committed to going, but the protests and crying had an effect. He said it broke his heart. (13) Finally, the friends said “let the will of the Lord be done”. (14)

At the end of this stay, Paul and his companions went to Jerusalem. Some from Caesaria went with him and brought him to the house of an early disciple, who let them stay there. (16)

With The Believers In Jerusalem

The believers in Jerusalem were happy to see Paul. (17) Paul then went to see James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem. (18) Notice that no apostles are mentioned. They must have all left Jerusalem to go to other countries and evangelize, following the example of Peter.

Paul told them all the great things the Lord had done among the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry. They all glorified God for this. (20) Since Paul’s companions were Gentile converts, the elders could see a representation of this. Additionally, though Luke does not record it here, the Gentiles had brought a gift of money to the Jerusalem believers, who were suffering in poverty.

The elders were concerned, however, because the could see a conflict between the Jewish believers and Paul. The Jewish believers were still zealous for the law. (20)  They believed Jesus was the Messiah, but still practiced the Old Testament law. Furthermore, they had heard tat Paul had told the Jews in other countries to abandon the law. (21) And Paul had, indeed, told believers they were free from the law. His letter to the Galatians affirms that.

As a remedy they advised taking 4 men who had made a vow and to purify himself along with them as well as paying their expenses to shave their heads. (23) This is the Old Testament Nazarite vow. They could not drink, touch dead bodies, or cut their hair. So, they often shaved their heads first to show they were under the vow. At the end of the vow, they offered a sacrifice.(Numbers 6:1-21) This was a demonstration that they had set themselves apart to the Lord.

Paul was not taking the Nazarite vow, but had to purify himself from his contact with Gentiles. So, he purified himself along with them. This was all to show the Jews that Paul lived in observance to the law so the Jews would not be angry with him. (24) Paul did it, but it turned out to be pointless.

The elders reiterated their earlier instruction to the Gentiles to assure Paul and the others that they had not gone back on that.

Paul’s Arrest

Once the Jews from Asia, in town for Pentecost, saw Paul, they stirred up the crowd and grabbed Paul as they had done in the cities of Asia. (27) These were likely Jews from Ephesus. They accused him of teaching against the law and the temple. They even accused him of taking Greeks into the temple and defiling it. (28) Gentiles could go no further than the court of the Gentiles, the large outer court.

There was even a sign at the gate to the next courtyard telling them they could not enter on pain of death. Two of those signs have been found. A picture of one of them is below.

Paul had not taken Greeks into the temple. But the Jews had seen him with a man from Ephesus, whom they likely recognized as a Greek, and assumed Paul had brought him into the temple. They priests even shut the gates. They crowd dragged Paul out of the temple and sought to kill him, evidently by beating him to death.

The Romans heard of the riot. The tribune of the Roman cohort came with solders and centurions. (32) A cohort is 1,000 soldiers. They would have been quartered in the Tower of Antonia (named in honor of Mark Antony) which was next to the temple.

The Jews stopped beating him when they saw the soldiers. The tribune arrested Paul, presumably for disturbing the peace. He brought Paul into the barracks for his protection and so the tribune could question him.(35)

Ironically, the crowd yelled out “away with him”. (36) This was the same cry of the crowd demanding the death of Jesus, not far from the same spot, about 27 years before. (Luke 23:18)

The efforts of the elders to avoid conflict were useless. In fact, it was not Jewish believers who were the issue, it was non-believing Jews who knew of Paul and opposed his teaching about Jesus. Jesus plainly told the disciples this would be an problem.

Jesus said “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18)

Christians should expect persecution. They should be faithful like Paul, willing to face persecution when the Spirit says to do so. Above all, the believer should faithfully affirm Jesus as Lord regardless of the opposition.

Sunday, September 09, 2018


Speech to the Ephesian Elders

Paul Sent For the Elders

Miletus was not far from Ephesus (30 miles), so Paul called the elders to come to him so that he could speak to them, knowing he would not likely return to them. He had spent three years with them, so he had developed deep relationships. He wanted once last word to encourage and prepare them for the future without him.

Paul’s Ministry To Them

Paul first reminded them of how he served them. He served with humility. (19) He did not act important or entitled. He acted as a servant, both of the Lord, and of the church.

He served with perseverance in trials, not watering down the gospel or changing it to please his detractors. He preached a message of repentance and faith in Christ. (21) It was the same message Jesus preached: “repent and believe in the gospel”. (Mark 1:15)

The word for us here is that we do not change the message of God’s word for anyone or any reason. We do not change to prevent suffering or persecution. We do not change the gospel to please those who think we are ignorant. We do not even change the gospel to please those in our own church who come up with new ideas. We hold firm to the Word, knowing “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. (Romans 1:16)

Paul Looked Ahead

Paul set his mind to go to Jerusalem. (22) He was “constrained” by the Holy Spirit to do so. “Constrained” means to bind. Paul strongly believed the Holy Spirit was directing him to go to Jerusalem and he must obey. He did not know the outcome, but would obey nonetheless. What he did sense was the Holy Spirit telling him he would suffer imprisonment and affliction (23) He may have had a direct revelation of this or he may have heard this from prophets he met along the way. We will see an example of such a prophet in chapter 21.

Although Paul believed he would face unpleasant things, he was not concerned about that. He said he did not even value his life as precious. (24) He was concerned instead with finishing his course, preaching the gospel everywhere the Lord led him. It is the picture of a race that Paul wants to finish, running strong. In Romans 15:30, which Paul wrote from Corinth before he left on this trip to Jerusalem, Paul asked the Roman Christians to pray for his deliverance from the unbelievers in Judea. He knew it was likely the Jews in Jerusalem would come after him.

Paul said the Ephesian elders would never see him again. (25) He knew he would either go to prison in Jerusalem or he would travel on to Rome and then Spain as he desired. Either way, he would not be back to Ephesus and Asia.

But Paul was leaving with a clear conscience that he had declared to them the whole counsel of God. (27) Therefore, he was innocent of their blood. Since he had proclaimed the gospel to them, they were responsible for believing and persevering.

Paul’s Charge to the Elders

Having laid the groundwork of showing them they had what they needed to continue in the faith, Paul warned the elders to pay careful attention to themselves and the flock. First, an elder cannot take care of anyone if he does not take care of his own spiritual life. He must continue in the Word. He must be faithful in prayer. He must pay attention to his spiritual condition, not taking it for granted.

He must also pay attention to the flock. He is an overseer or shepherd of the flock that the Holy Spirit has given him. He must watch. He must know what is going on both spiritually and theologically.

Paul also charged the elders to look after the flock, to care for the church. He has used the metaphor Jesus so often used, that of believers as a flock of sheep. The elders are shepherds. They take care of the sheep entrusted to them by the Holy spirit.

There will be attacks from outside the flock. Paul called them fierce wolves. (29) Wolves were natural enemies of sheep, hunting them to kill them. It was the job of the shepherd to keep the wolves away from the sheep. In the church, this is done by teaching sound doctrine so that the sheep recognize false doctrine. It is done by pointing out the attackers. For example, an elder may need to keep someone from speaking to the church if he realizes the speaker preaches heresy. The elder should be aware of and point out ideas in the culture that are not compatible with Christianity.

In Ephesus, the elders had to resist the attacks of the Jews who tried to impose the law upon the believers. They would face those who attacked Paul and the message he had preached. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written later from prison, defends his calling and ministry to them. (Ephesians 2) They would face those who said believers could live the same way the pagans did, something Paul also refuted in his letter. (Ephesians 4:17)

Even more concerning, Paul said the elders would face attacks from inside the church, as men arose twisting the gospel to draw away the disciples. (30) That happens constantly in our time, as men and women seek to become popular or wealthy, perverting the gospel to achieve their own ends. Peter would later write:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” 2 Peter 2:1-3)
If you want to see this, just turn on your television. You will hear lots of weird stuff that has no basis in the Bible.

Elders again must know the Word well enough to spot heresy and confront it. Innocent but ignorant members must be taught and counseled. Those who knowingly seek to to mislead the block must be admonished and, if they do not repent, removed from the fellowship.

Therefore, the elders must be alert. (31) They must pay attention to what is going on in the fellowship and in the culture. Paul commended them to God and his word. That is where strength and stability reside. Elders must rely on God and stand firm on his Word. His word would build them up and empower them to persevere to the end, receiving their inheritance along with other saints. It is true for us also and for our elders. The word builds us up, makes us strong in the faith and resistant to false teachers.

Paul also set an example for them in not desiring money. He worked to support himself and even supported others. Paul extolled (praised) hard work and helping the weak who cannot work. He related that Jesus said it was more blessed to give than receive. We do not have those words written down in the gospels, so Paul must have heard that from the apostles who were with Jesus during his earthly ministry.

The Long Goodby

Paul ended the visit with prayer. You can tell how much the elders loved Paul. They hugged him and kissed him. They wept in sorrow of not seeing him again. They walked him to his ship.

Isn’t this moving! Paul poured himself into the Ephesians for three years. He preached and taught. He endured opposition from the Jews. He worked at his trade, but still worked to preach the gospel. And the Ephesians loved him for it. They understood his love and devotion for Jesus and for them, and they reciprocated, loving and appreciating him.

This is the way it should be.