Chapter 1 Chapter 6 Chapter 11 Chapter 16 Chapter 21
Chapter 2 Chapter 7 Chapter 12 Chapter 17 Chapter 22
Chapter 3 Chapter 8 Chapter 13 Chapter 18 Chapter 23
Chapter 4 Chapter 9 Chapter 14 Chapter 19 Chapter 24
Chapter 5 Chapter 10 Chapter 15 Chapter 20 Chapter 25

This writing, called "The Acts Of The Apostles," was written by the physician Luke, who is also the author of the "Gospel According To Luke." He starts with an account of the ascension of our Lord, follows that with the selection of Matthias as the successor to Judas Iscariot, the activities on the day of Pentecost, and other deeds of some of the apostles, which bring the account through Chapter VIII. In Chapter IX we find the calling of Saul of Tarsus as an apostle. Then, in Chapter X is given Peter's conversion from the narrow Judaistic outlook on the gospel to the worldwide conception of it. Accordingly He, at the command of the Holy Ghost, went without question to the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and preached the gospel to him and those gathered in his house. From this point on, except for a few references to Peter and others, this becomes primarily the story of the ministry of the Apostle Paul, formerly called Saul. This is, of course, due to the fact that Luke accompanied Paul on his travels, and was therefore more cognizant of his activities, than those of others. His ministry is followed until he is finally sent to Rome , a prisoner for the sake of the gospel.

Chapter 1

(Verses 1 through 5) "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but, Wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."


Who Theophilus was is not known. There have been many conjectures about his identity, ranging from the assumption that, since the name "Theophilus" itself can be translated either "lover of God," or "beloved of God," it is simply an address to all that love God, all the way to the ridiculous idea that Theophilus was probably a man of some wealth who underwrote the publication of Luke's writings. Whoever came up with this last idea had evidently forgotten that in Luke's day there was no publication as we know it today. Probably Theophilus was an acquaintance of Luke who was desirous of learning all he could about both the gospel of our Lord and the activities of His apostles; for it is to him also that Luke addressed the gospel record which bears his name.


Luke tells us that our Lord spent about forty days with His apostles after He had been crucified, and had arisen from the dead. During this time He gave them some commandments which Luke does not detail, and taught them the things "pertaining to the kingdom of God ." Having thus instructed them, He gave them a final commandment, to stay in Jerusalem until the fulfilling of the promise of the Father, of which He had already told them. Then He explained that this promise is that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost, and that this was shortly to be fulfilled, "not many days hence."


(Verses 6 through 8) "When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem , and in all Judaea, and Samaria , and unto the uttermost part of the earth."


Strangely, many who profess to believe God's word today will tell us that, God is never going to restore the kingdom to Israel . According to them, He has forever discarded Israel , and replaced it with the gospel church, "spiritual Israel ." If this is true, here would have been the ideal time and place to forever do away with the idea of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel . Our Lord had spent forty days in special teaching of the apostles concerning the things, which pertain to the kingdom. After all this His apostles asked Him, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ?" Why did He not say, "Let's put that old idea to rest for good: the kingdom is not to be restored to Israel, but from now on, all promises are taken from national Israel and given to spiritual Israel, the gospel church"? The reason He did not say this is that it is not true. He simply said to His apostles that, it was not given to them, and certainly it is not given to us, to know the timing of these things. They are exclusively in the hands of the Father. So, there is nothing therein to concern us: for they will take place at the time appointed of the Father. Then He told them that when they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost, they would receive power. He says nothing about the extent nor the limitation of this power; but after receiving it they would be His witnesses, not only in Jerusalem and the area thereabout, but throughout the whole world.


(Verses 9 through 11) "And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee , why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, Which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."


Having finished His present instructions to His disciples, our Lord was "taken up," that is, He literally rose up from the earth, and ascended up toward the heavens, and was by a cloud hidden from their sight. Nothing is said about how slowly, or how swiftly He ascended, but when the cloud obscured the sight of Him, the disciples continued gazing at the point where they had last seen Him. While they were thus engaged, two men dressed in white garments. ("Leukais," the Greek word here translated "white," literally means "light, bright, brilliant, especially bright or brilliant from whiteness," and is usually spoken of the garments of angels, and the saints who have been exalted to the heavenly state). How long they stood observing the disciples as they gazed into heaven is not recorded, and neither is it important. The focus is to be on their message: "Ye men of Galilee , why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, Which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." This is a very simple message, but one that has been of tremendous comfort not only to the disciples who stood on Mt. Olivet that day, but also to every one, who, either literally or figuratively, has ever looked up toward heaven, longing for a glimpse of his Lord. In essence it says, "There is no need to look into the heavens for another sight of Him, but don't lose hope: for the day is coming when He will return, and when He does, He will be the same tender loving Saviour Who has been teaching you the things, that pertain to the kingdom of God." Not only so, but He will come with that same marvelous and glorious power by which He ascended into heaven.


In verses 12 through 14, Luke simply tells us that the disciples left from Mt. Olivet (the Mount of Olives), and returned to Jerusalem , which was "a Sabbath day's journey."


According to Jewish law and custom, no one could make a long journey on the Sabbath day. He was permitted to go no more than about a mile from his place of residence on the Sabbath. Consequently this short distance was often referred to as "a Sabbath day's journey," whether it was traversed on the Sabbath, or on some other day. He then tells us that their place of residence for the present time was in a house, which had a large upper room. This sounds much like the same house where our Lord had His Last Supper with His apostles, but there is no positive proof of this. Here lived all eleven of the apostles, Judas Iscariot having hanged himself after betraying the Lord. There were here also some of the women who followed Jesus, among whom was His mother Mary. Here too were His brothers. All these were constantly in prayer. There no doubt was much sorrow in their hearts. The disciples at this time numbered about one hundred twenty.


Several times before Peter had shown a forwardness beyond that of the other disciples, and on this occasion he rose up and addressed them.


(Verses 16 through 22) "Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem ; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama , that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take. Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection."


In this speech, Peter gives a more graphic description of the death of Judas Iscariot than does Matthew in his gospel record. There he says only, (Matthew 27:5) "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went out and hanged himself." In putting the two accounts together, it seems probable that when Judas hanged himself, something failed about the mechanism he used, and he fell flat upon the earth, and perhaps striking some sharp object, such as a stone, he did indeed burst asunder. To fall headlong does not necessarily mean to fall "headfirst." He may have hanged himself in the very field the priests bought with the money they had paid him to betray the Lord. Thus "he purchased a field with the reward of iniquity."


It has long been a point of controversy, as to whether Peter was moved by the Holy Ghost at this point, or by his own impetuosity, to do something about this situation. Those with the latter view argue that, first, the Holy Ghost was not yet given with power as He was to be on the day of Pentecost; second, our Lord had told His disciples, (Luke 24:49,) "And, behold, I send the promise of the Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high;" and third, there is so little ever said about Matthias after he was chosen.


(Verses 23 through 26) "And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou Lord, Which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two men Thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles."


Luke gives the sequence of events so precisely, and concludes it in such a manner that one might be tempted to think that he himself was not sure of Matthias' apostleship. The order of events is very much the same that we are prone to follow in church matters today, but such that, when we actually ex- amine it, seems strange. First they made their own selection of two candidates, with no mention of asking the Lord to guide them in this matter. Then, having already made this selection, they, in effect, said, "Lord, now You select which, of the two we have already picked, that You prefer." Then they voted, ("gave forth their lots,") and Matthias was elected ("the lot fell on Matthias"). Then Luke's conclusion of the matter is, "and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." It hardly seems necessary, since, in his record of the gospel, he clearly shows that with the fall of Judas, and in verse 13 of this chapter he names only eleven, to say, "he was numbered with the eleven apostles," unless there is some difference between him and the eleven. If indeed he was elevated to full apostleship, it seems sufficient to say, "he was numbered with the apostles." Be that as it may, he is never mentioned again in scripture.

Chapter 2

(Verses 1 through 4) "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."


Pentecost, or as the Jews also called it, "The Feast Of Weeks," was celebrated fifty days after the second day of Passover. When this day arrived, the disciples were "all with one accord in one place." They were not called together by someone, nor by previous appointment, but were gathered in one place, each according to his own desire, as if all were activated by one mind. There is nothing said about the location of this place; whether the upper room mentioned in Chapter I, or some other place is not clear; but the description of the events of the day make it seem to have been a somewhat more public location. They were in a building of some sort, for, as we are told in verse 2, "Suddenly there was a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." Notice that Luke does not say, "There came a rushing mighty wind." There is no indication that there was even a breeze that would riffle one's hair. Yet there was a sound such as might be made by the wind of a great storm, and it filled the entire building in which they sat. "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" may seem confusing because in the first clause "tongues" is plural, while in the second, "it" is singular. The confusion is eliminated when we consider the event more closely. "Cloven tongues like as of fire" signifies a single unit. Just as a fire, large or small will be "cloven," that is, split, into multiple tongues of flame, so this apparition had more than one tongue, but was still one unit. Nothing is said about its size, obviously, it was large enough to be seen by all; and in the process of the work it moved from one to another so that "it sat upon each of them." As it did move from one person to another, all were filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with other tongues, or languages, as the Spirit moved them, "gave them utterance." They by the Holy Ghost spoke with languages different from the Galilaean dialect that was their natural language.


In verses 4 through 13, Luke gives an account of the effect this had upon those who heard them. First he says that, as we might expect at this season, which includes Passover, just recently celebrated, and Pentecost, now in progress, there were devout Jews gathered from all nations of the world, and dwelling at Jerusalem for the celebration of these two feasts. Since the disciples were probably gathered in at least a semi-public place when this event occurred, the report of it was soon spread throughout the city, and for the sake of curiosity everyone gathered around. As they listened, they were completely astonished because, though they all could, probably, understand Hebrew, and maybe the Galilaean dialect, this is not what they heard. Luke names sixteen different regions from which these Jews came, and there may have been more. Yet each  heard, not in the Hebrew, nor in the dialect of Galilee , but in the language of the area where he had been born, the wonderful works of God. There have been arguments about whether the Holy Ghost immediately translated what each said into all the other languages, or whether one was enabled to speak in one language, and someone else in another. This seems to be both a foolish and a useless argument. Since the whole matter was alone by the power of God, neither method presents any difficulty, and since it is not fully detailed in scripture, we are well advised to leave it alone. The effect this had upon the crowd ranged all the way from some of them being so amazed that they began to try to find out more about it, saying, "What meaneth this?" to, as unbelievers usually do, some starting a false accusation against the disciples, saying that "These men are full of new wine." They knew, as do we, that, this, had it been true, could never have produced the effect they saw and heard manifested. At this point, the Apostle Peter arose in defense of the disciples. He first refutes the idea that the disciples might be drunk, saying, "For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day." No person with any self respect would be drunk by nine o'clock in the morning, and surely this whole group would not be such alcoholics that they would do so. He then declares that this is the outpouring of the Spirit, which God promised by the pen of Joel the prophet. In support of this, he quotes the prophecy of Joel; not just the prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit, but also the coming of "the day of the Lord," and the events that will precede it, ending with the Lord's promise, "and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Upon this foundation he sets forth to tell them of the Lord upon Whom they must call for salvation.


He calls their attention to the fact that the Lord is not some myth, nor some figment of the mind; but a very real Person, Whom they have already seen, and of Whom they have already heard, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves know." His works were done in and around Jerusalem , as well as in the area of Galilee, Cappadocia , etc. The people were well aware of what He had done. Next he hits them in the face with a declaration that can have one or the other of only two effects. If God grants them repentance, it can cause them great sorrow; and if not, it can only anger them exceedingly: "Him, being delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." This declaration sets forth two very important points. The first is that, every thing concerning the crucifixion of our Lord took place exactly as had been established by the counsel of God from the beginning. No variation was possible, and no surprises took place. Second, although Jesus said, (John 10:17 -18,) "... I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself._ _ _," the guilt of what was done to Him, both the persecutions and the crucifixion, is just as great upon the perpetrators as if they had had the power to take His life. In Mark 14:21, Jesus clearly establishes this principle, as He says, "The Son of man indeed goeth as is written of Him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born." Though it was all according to the Father's plan, Peter says to them, "ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." This is the sad part of his discourse, but now he turns to that part of the gospel, which is the foundation of the joy of every Christian.


"Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it." There are two outstanding reasons why it was not possible that death should hold our Lord. The first is the obvious, He is the Son of the eternal living God, and "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily." The second is, God had already promised that it could not be, and His word can not be broken, or set aside. This is the reason upon which Peter focuses as he continues his discourse. He quotes David, in Psalms 16:8-11, and then declares to the people that David could not have been speaking of himself, because what he said was in no wise fulfilled by him, and the physical proof that it was not was immediately available, if they cared to examine it. Therefore David had to be speaking of One, of his lineage, Who should come later. His prophecy then was not of himself, but, as a prophet, he foresaw, and testified of the resurrection of Jesus. Not only so, but because the disciples are witnesses of the fact that the Father did raise Him from the dead, and exalt Him by His power, He, having now "received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost," has shed forth this that has so astonished the people. To further clinch the matter, David himself said, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool," clearly indicating that he is speaking of Someone besides himself. Since the facts, together with the prophecies, establish that it is Jesus of Nazareth of Whom he spoke, Peter sums it up thus: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, Whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." The question might arise, "Wasn't He Lord and Christ even from the beginning? If so, how can it be said that `God hath made Him' such, as a result of this?" Surely, He was not only Lord and Christ, but there are many other titles, which were His from eternity before time began. The expression "hath made" does not signify that He is now Something, Which He never was before, but that His tenure of that office is now declared and manifested officially. Also one might consider that the body, the flesh of Jesus was born of an earthly mother, and, in that manner, came into being in this world. It was also in that body that He lived in this world, and suffered, and died. It is also in that same body that He arose from the grave, ascended up on high, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. Thus, in that body, He is now made both Lord and Christ.


Upon hearing this, and being convicted of the truth of it, ("pricked in the heart,") they asked Peter and the other apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" This is indeed the first question that comes to mind when anyone is brought to the realization that he is guilty of the death of our Lord, as in truth we all are by nature, but are never conscious of it until God opens our eyes, minds, and hearts, to see where we stand. That is, until He by the Holy Ghost "pricks us in the heart."


In answer to their query, Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."


The failure of the translators concerning one word in this quotation has given rise to many unnecessary and hurtful arguments. Instead of translating the word "Christos," or as the case form of it in this place is, "Christou," they simply transliterated it, making it "Christ." The word literally means "Anointed," and always in reference to our Lord is a title, not a name. Had they translated it, the first part of the apostle's statement would have read; "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Anointed for the remission of sins." And everyone would have known that Jesus was anointed for the remission of sins, not that we should be baptized for the remission of sins, as some have tried to read into this. This same apostle says, of baptism, that it is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." That Jesus is anointed for this very thing is shown throughout the New Testament, probably, nowhere else, and by no one else, any more than by this same apostle in Acts 4:10-12, which we hope to address at the proper time. Then he tells those who have asked, "What shall we do?" that those who do what he has told them "shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." This may, or may not, as God may see fit, include the ability to speak with other tongues, as has occurred with the disciples on this occasion; but the Holy Ghost Himself will be given them, with all the comfort, guidance, and peace, that our Lord promised His disciples in that farewell speech recorded by the Apostle John in chapters fourteen through sixteen of his gospel record. This promise is not just to those present on the day of Pentecost, but to all succeeding generations, and in all places of the world, "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." This is the only restriction ever placed upon the promise of God. It is not sent by the will of man, nor is it just made universal. Instead it is to those who are called of God, and it will reach every one of them, in every age, and in every place on earth. Peter said much more to them, but it is not all recorded. Nevertheless it all, apparently, was directed to one purpose, to warn them to "save yourselves from this untoward generation." The word translated, "untoward," literally means "crooked or curved," and metaphorically it means" "perverse or wicked." So his admonition to them is to turn away from this wicked generation, and seek to do that which is pleasing to God.


As a result of this event, the working of God upon their hearts, and the preaching of the Apostle Peter, many of them received the word gladly, and such were baptized. At this time there were added to the church about three thousand persons, and these continued steadfastly in three important things, "the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." "Breaking of bread" is their manner of referring to taking of The Lord's Supper, which they were faithful to observe. This whole episode was such a wonderful display of the power of God that fear came upon all the people; and for some time after this, many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.


During the time following this great event the church practiced true communism, not that which has been called communism, and by which some nations have for many years been governed, but that practice of each using whatever he had for the benefit of all. Those who owned property of any sort sold it, and the proceeds therefrom were held in common, and distributed, as needed, to every one of the members. It is not clear just why they did this; whether it is something the Lord taught them during the forty days He spent with them after His resurrection, or whether it sprang from their love of the Lord and their feeling that He would soon return so that they would have no further need of worldly possessions. Whatever its origin, this practice prevailed for some time in the church at Jerusalem , though there is no scriptural proof that it spread to other churches. At this time they continued the practice of going daily to the temple, and of celebrating The Lord's Supper from house to house, and Luke says, that they "did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people." That is, no persecutions arose at this time. At the same time the Lord continued calling forth whom He would, and adding them to the church, daily. Thus its numbers increased rapidly for a while.


Chapter 3

The first eleven verses of this chapter give the account of the healing of a man who had never before in his life been able to walk. In keeping with their practice of going daily to the temple, Peter and John went there at about three o'clock in the afternoon (assuming that Luke is using the Roman clock). Luke gives a very well detailed account of their encounter with the lame man, the healing of the man, and the immediate result of it.


(Verses 8 and 9) "And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God."


We have all seen little children when they have just learned to walk. They seem to think walking to be the greatest thing ever. What joy must this man, more than forty years old, and having never walked, have felt when suddenly he was able, not only to walk, but even to leap! Since all the people knew him, and what his condition had been all his life, it was a matter of the greatest astonishment to them to see him walking and leaping as he was doing. Naturally, when they saw him holding to, or staying in close company with, Peter and John, they felt that they must be in some way responsible for what had happened. Consequently, they gathered around them, looking with amazement upon them. Peter seeing their amazement, began to address them.


(Verses 12 through 15) "And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel , why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; Whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life, Whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses."


In this part of his address, Peter establishes the groundwork for the remainder of his discourse, and for every gospel sermon from that day forward. His first step is to declare that it is not "by our own power or holiness" that this man was made whole, or that any other worthwhile work is accomplished. He then declares that it is "the God of our fathers," not some newly made, or discovered, deity, who has done this; and He has done it not to glorify us, but "His Son Jesus." They had no cause to wonder Who this "Son Jesus" was, but to better impress Him upon their minds, he further says, "Whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go." Not only were they responsible for arresting Him, and taking Him to Pilate, (they "delivered Him up,") but after so doing, when Pilate, having examined Him, was ready to release Him for lack of any evidence of wrongdoing, they would have none of that. They even threatened to report Pilate to Caesar with the accusation that Pilate was not Caesar's friend, if he did release Jesus. He continues thus: "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life_ _ _." Thus he brings forcefully to their minds just what sort of sinners they are; and it always should be kept in mind that we are, by nature, no better than they were. Sometimes we hear someone say, "If I had been there when this, or that was done, I would have done differently from what they did." Let this one thought burn deeply into your mind, and don't ever forget it, Had you and I been there, unless God by His grace had opened our hearts to His truth, we would have done exactly what they did, if not worse. After all is said and done, had not we all been sinners, there would have been no cause for the death of Jesus. What the apostle said to them is also a description of us. Nevertheless He Who was denied before Pilate, and crucified on Calvary , is also He, "Whom God hath raised from the dead." And to this fact Peter and the other apostles were witnesses, not only because they did indeed see these events, but more specifically because they were so commissioned of our Lord Jesus the Christ. (See Acts 1:8.) Although Peter told these men that, they had "killed the Prince of Life," his meaning is that they were guilty, because that was their intent. It does not nullify our Lord's declaration in John 10:17-18.


(Verses 16 through 18) "And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith, which is by Him, hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled."


God has so established that the very name of Jesus His Son, through faith in His name, worked such marvelous miracles as the healing of this man. "The faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness." Without controversy, faith is by Jesus the Christ. No man can, of himself, have faith. It is given through the operation of the Holy Ghost according to the will of our Lord. This faith, which is by our Lord, and no one else, is the medium through which God has thus glorified His Son in the healing of this man, who now stood in perfect soundness before them. This they could not deny. Peter makes it manifest that it is neither his function nor intent to condemn these people for what they have done, but rather, he tells them that he is aware that it was through their ignorance, and that of their rulers, that they demanded the death of the Lord. Further, he points out that, ultimately, it is God, Who has by this accomplished the very things He long before declared by His prophets would come to pass. So, even in the wrath of evil men, God has fulfilled His purpose. The psalmist said, (Psalms 76:10,) "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain."


(Verses 19 through 21) "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, Which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."


Since this great miracle has been witnessed by all of them, and can be denied by none, they should be ashamed of their sins, mourn because of them, and turn away from them. That is what true repentance is. Not only are they to be turned from their sins, and forsake them, they should also be converted, turned to the truth, which is here manifested before them. Those who do this will have their sins blotted out, and "when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Christ Jesus, (this is the word order in the Greek, not "Jesus Christ.") Which before was preached unto you," they will not be ashamed, for nothing will be chargeable against them. Someone will surely say, "You have in that statement declared that their salvation, or lack of it, is dependent upon their works." Not so. There are many places in scripture, where both our Lord and His apostles explain how it is that we are brought to salvation. And it is ridiculous that every time any mention is made of the things which identify those who are saved, whose sins are blotted out, some would be critic has to demand that we go into the background, and explain all the purposes, decrees, and workings of God in bringing this about. In this particular place, the apostle is concerned with showing that this wonderful blessing is sure to all who are converted, and not with just how it comes about, just as, in John 8:24, our Lord is concerned with declaring that those who do not believe in Him, shall die in their sins, not with why they do not believe. That He tells us elsewhere. These "times of refreshing" shall come from the Lord when He sends Christ Jesus back to gather His elect "from the four winds of the earth." (In the event one may wonder why we made mention of the order of words a little earlier, whether "Jesus Christ," or "Christ Jesus," the answer is this: If we were speaking of the man who was king of England during our revolutionary war, which would we say? "George King III,” or “King George III?"  Of course, we would say, "King George III." Why? Because George III was his name, and King was his title. So it is in speaking of Jesus. It is correct to say, "Jesus the Christ," but it is not correct to omit the definite article.) Since He has finished His work of redemption by laying down His life for us, there is no place for Him here, until "the times of the restitution of all things," and for that reason heaven must receive Him until then. Nevertheless when the times of restitution of all things shall come, He will be the One, Who brings them about; and this God has "spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." There can therefore be no doubt that it will be fulfilled. As proof of the fact that it has been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, the apostle reminds us of some things spoken by Moses, and follows that with, "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these things."


Notice should be given to that which Moses had "said unto the fathers." That message was, "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." Since Moses, because God used him to deliver Israel out of Egypt, and through him gave the law to Israel, was revered by the Jews as the greatest prophet ever given to them, by his expression, "a unto me," signifies that this Prophet, Whom Peter has already declared to be the Lord Jesus, is to be received with fully as great veneration as Moses himself. In fact he fully establishes this fact by saying, "And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear (pay heed to) that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." Since Moses first declared this, and all the prophets from Samuel and after, have testified this same great truth, there can be no change or failure concerning it. So Peter continues his address to the people.


(Verses 25 and 26) "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."


Thus the apostle declares to these people that, they are the descendants of Abraham and the other fathers to whom God had given the prophecies and the promises, and with whom He made these covenants. Therefore it is to them first that He has sent His Son Jesus, to bless them, and to turn them away from their iniquities. Certainly, his phrase, "every one of you," is to be understood exactly as that he used in Chapter II, verse 39, where he said, "All them that are afar off." It is there limited by "even as many as the Lord our God shall call," and here the same limitation does apply.


Chapter 4

(Verses 1 through 4) "And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold until the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand."


There were several different sects of the Jews, among which the two principal ones were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. At this particular time it appears that the Sadducees had the upper hand in the oversight of the temple. The Pharisees were no doubt displeased with the disciples for preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Because such teaching was a direct accusation against them, and all the religious leaders of the Jews, that they had brought about the crucifixion of the very Messiah for Whom they professed to be waiting; but the Sadducees had a double reason for "being grieved" that this was being preached. They were just as guilty as the Pharisees concerning His crucifixion, and in addition to that, they adamantly denied the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. With this anger spurring them on, they got the commander of the temple guard, and the priests, and all came together to the place where the crowd was listening to the discourse of the Apostle Peter. They arrested Peter and John, and, apparently, also the man who had been healed, and, because it was late in the day, they put them in jail overnight. The Holy Ghost was working mightily in those who heard the apostle's message; for, in spite of the arrest of the apostles, many of the congregation believed the word; and Luke tells us, "the number of the men was about five thousand." Whether this means that five thousand of them believed, or that the crowd numbered about five thousand, is not clear.


The next day Annas the high priest, and as many of his kindred as were available, gathered together with their rulers, elders, and scribes, in what we would consider a session of court, had Peter, John, and the man who had been lame, brought in, and began to question them concerning the healing of the lame man. They asked, "By what power, or by what name have ye done this?" The question is itself evidence that they already very well knew by what name this had been done. Had they not already heard all about it, they never would have called this session of the priests and elders.


(Verses 8 through 12) "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus the Christ of Nazareth, Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the Stone Which was set at naught by you builders, Which is become the Head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."


Many times in scripture Peter is recorded as declaring that Jesus is the Christ, but, perhaps, never any more solidly than here. At this time he was facing what, so far as he of himself could know, might be the beginning of a trial which could become the cause of his death, but he did not flinch, nor back down from the truth. He first testified to their faces that these, his would be judges, were the very ones who had demanded the crucifixion of our Lord. And declared to them that, in spite of their efforts, God had raised Him from the dead; the very thing which, above all, they did not want to hear. And that, by Him, the arisen Christ, this man who now stood before them was made whole. Then he put them on notice that, this risen Lord is the Stone which they who considered themselves the builders of the house of God, had "utterly despised." (The literal meaning of the word translated "set at naught,") But He is now "the Head of the corner," the most important Stone of all: for there is no other in which there can be any hope of salvation. "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." The door is forever closed to any and all who do not come by Him. As He said, (John 14:6,) "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by Me."


The council were all somewhat amazed when they considered the boldness of these two men, whom they knew to be "unlearned and ignorant men," and who yet would so boldly face them down. So they "took knowledge of them," checked into their past activities, and found that "they had been with Jesus." As the man who had been healed stood before them, and they were well acquainted with his former condition, they could find nothing to say against it. Then, as is common with those who try to overthrow the righteous, they were still not satisfied. Therefore they sent Peter, John, and the man who was healed, out of the council chamber while they plotted against them.  Since the entire matter was so well known, and even they had to admit that, it was a great miracle, there was nothing they could do publicly about it. Therefore they decided to threaten the apostles with severe punishment unless they quit speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. However the answer they received from the apostles was even less to their liking.


(Verses 19 and 20) "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."


Their answer is clear enough that no one has any need of explanation concerning it. Even the members of the council understood it, but there was nothing they could do about it at the time. Because they were afraid of the people: for all the people glorified God for this miracle, and had the council attempted to punish Peter and John at that time, it might have caused an uprising, and the Romans would have held them responsible for it. So they threatened them more and released them. When Peter and John were released, they went back to their own brethren, and told them the whole story, not only what was done, but also the threats of the council.


(Verses 24 through 30) "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, Which hath made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel , were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus."


Before making any comment concerning the message in this quotation, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of one Greek word that is twice used in this excerpt. That word is "pais." It occurs in two different case forms, and is in both places translated "child," which is indeed one of its meanings. However it also means "servant, slave, attendant," or "minister, especially the minister of a king." If this word is to be in this place rendered "child," it should only be as a synonym for "offspring," or "descendant," not to designate Jesus as a "child," which He certainly was not when Herod and Pontius Pilate joined forces against Him; nor is He such now, as miracles are done by His name. Too much emphasis is today, and has been for a long time placed on "the child Jesus." True enough, He was born a child into this world. And as such He grew up in Nazareth ; but He was no child, when He died for your sins and mine, and He was no child, when He arose from the dead, nor is He a child, as He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. With this preamble, let us consider the text.


Upon hearing the report of Peter and John, the other disciples were so moved by the Holy Ghost that all, as if with one mind and one voice, broke forth in prayer to God, acknowledging Him as the Creator of heaven, earth, the sea, and all things therein. And also that He had, even back in David's day, declared the very things that were taking place with them, and had been taking place from, and including the trial and crucifixion of our Lord. They only quoted part of what God had said "by the mouth of David." The whole prophecy is found in Psalms 2:1-12. One can only wonder why the translators used "heathen" in verse 25, and "Gentiles" in verse 27; for the same Greek word is in both places. The disciples declare that the joining of the forces of Herod and the people of Israel , on the one hand, and Pontius Pilate and the Gentiles, on the other, (since Pilate represented the Roman, or Gentile, government of the world,) fulfilled David's prophecy of, "Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?" Although Pilate made a feeble effort to release Jesus, it still remains that he, the representative of the Gentiles, or heathen, gave orders to scourge and crucify One, Whom he had openly declared to be innocent. This must be considered, at least, the beginning of the rage of the heathen, though it increased more and more into the terrible persecutions of the Christians by the pagan emperors of Rome .


For the vain thing imagined by the people (of Israel ), see John 11:48 . "If we let Him alone, all men will believe on Him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation." So, they were all united in the effort. The next verse of the present text should be considered in the light of Psalms 76:10. Certainly, no one would ever interpret the statement that these people "were gathered, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done," to mean that they had made up their minds to find out what the will of God was, and do it. Rather, according to the scriptural record, it was their purpose to do away with our Lord and all that pertained to Him. In their wrath they intended to eradicate Him, his works, and His doctrine from the earth. But, in harmony with David's prophecy, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain," God restrained them from doing any thing more than "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done." After thus acknowledging the wisdom and power of God, they called upon Him to take notice of the threatenings of the Jews. And, instead of asking that He put a stop to that, or even reduce it, they prayed that He would give them boldness to speak forth His word, and that He would grant miracles to be done in the name of Jesus, His holy Son and Minister.


God immediately answered their prayer by shaking the house in which they were gathered, filling them with the Holy Ghost, and granting them the boldness of speaking His word for which they had asked. He also gave great power to the apostles to bear witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and bestowed a great measure of grace upon all of them. They, endowed with these wonderful blessings, were so knit together in the fellowship of the Spirit that no one claimed title to any possession, but considered whatever he had as belonging to all. Even those who owned real estate sold it, and brought the price of it to the apostles, who then made distribution of it as there was need. Mention is made of one Joses, whom the apostles called Barnabas, which Luke tells us, means "the son of consolation." Likely, this is the same Barnabas who traveled with Paul on his first missionary journey. Though he was a Levite, he claimed no special favors, or exemptions, as under the law service had been his due. He owned some land, but just as did others, he sold it, and brought the money to the apostles.


Chapter 5

The first eleven verses of this chapter tell the story of a man and his wife who conspired to deceive the church. They sold some property, and instead of bringing the full price of it to the apostles, or even bringing part of it, and openly saying that they wanted to keep the remainder, the man, Ananias, brought only part of it, and claimed that to be the whole. Later his wife, Sapphira, came in with the same story.


(Verses 3 and 4) "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."


Since the whole practice of selling one's property, and bringing the price thereof to the apostles for distribution was voluntary, there would have been no great wrong with Ananias' keeping part of the money, had he only been honest in saying how much he had received. The sin was not the keeping of the money, but in lying about it, and claiming that what he turned over to the apostles was all there was of it. Peter pointed out very clearly to Ananias that, this lie was of Satan, who had filled the heart of Ananias with falsehood to "lie to the Holy Ghost." Since it was the Holy Ghost Who had led the disciples to this form of operation, Ananias' lie was to the Holy Ghost, and therefore to God, instead of man.


When Ananias heard this, he immediately was stricken by the power of God, fell down, and died. Everyone who heard of this event was affected by great fear. Ananias was quickly taken out, and buried. About three hours later his wife, Sapphira, knowing nothing of this incident, came in where the apostles were.


(Verses 8 through 11) "And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things."


This hardly needs any explanation, since it is almost "a carbon copy" of the incident concerning Ananias. It shows the collusion between Ananias and Sapphira. They were partners in the same lie, which was a lie not to man, but to God. God dealt with the matter according to His will; and the church saw the result. This whole event shows that to, at least, some of the apostles, (in this case, the Apostle Peter, and later, the Apostle Paul,) there were given gifts of discernment of spirits, and of judgment, that are not now given to men.  In fact, we have no record of their being given to any other than apostles.


Verses 12 through 28 need little explanation. They tell us first, of the wonderful power of God given to the apostles, that enabled them by the Holy Ghost to heal the sick, and those vexed by unclean or evil spirits, so that they did not fail in a single case {"and they were healed every one"). This, of course, angered the high priest who was a Sadducee, and all those with him. They sent forth their agents, who arrested the apostles, and put them in the common prison, intending to bring them out the next day, and set them before the council. In the night God sent His angel who opened the prison doors, brought out the apostles, and gave them a command from God: "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." Accordingly they went to the temple early the next morning, and taught the people. When the high priest had assembled the council, he sent officers to the prison to bring the apostles. But their report in verse 23 tells what they found: "The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within." After they had wondered for a while what this episode might grow into, someone reported to them that the men they thought were in prison were actually standing openly in the temple, and teaching the people. Then the commander of the guard took his officers to the temple, and brought the apostles back to the council; but this was done very quietly, because they were afraid the people might stone them for so doing. The high priest's words are self-explanatory: "Did not we straitly command you that you should not preach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." No one can possibly misunderstand the high priest's meaning.


(Verses 29 through 32) "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him God hath exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel , and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him."


In this the apostles answered both the high priest's question, "Did not we ...," and his statement, "and (ye) intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Their answer to the question is, "We ought to obey God rather than men," and to the statement, "Whom ye slew, and hanged on a tree," equivalent to saying, "His blood is already upon you. You are His murderers." In spite of their efforts, "The God of our fathers," not some new deity that we have dreamed up, has raised Him up, and exalted Him a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness to Israel. To clinch this statement, they declared that, not only they, but also the Holy Ghost, were His witnesses of these things, and further, God has given the Holy Ghost to all who obey Him. It is impossible to make a stronger, or more positive answer than this.


The high priest and his council were greatly enraged at such an answer, and immediately set about trying to plan some way to kill the apostles. At this point one should remember that, just as in the case of our Lord, this council had no legal authority to impose, or execute a death sentence on anyone. Their only way of obtaining such was to present some charge to the Roman governor, and get him to sentence one to death. This is why they had to plot ("take council") how to do it. Although the council was mostly of Sadducees, there were some Pharisees in it. One of these, Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, of great reputation among them, and even today held in high esteem among the Jews, who, we are later told was the instructor of Saul of Tarsus, had them remove the apostles from the council chamber, while he addressed the council.


(Verses 35 through 39) "And he said unto them, Ye men of Israel , take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found to fight against God."


This speech should need no explanation as to its meaning concerning the case at hand. But the two incidents mentioned by Gamaliel, that of Theudas, and that of Judas of Galilee, are the clearest explanations in scripture of a statement made by our Lord in John 10:7-13.These two men were exactly what Jesus first spoke of as "thieves and robbers," and later as "hirelings." The wolf did indeed catch them, and scatter the "sheep." Gamaliel's advice to the council can be summed up in a single statement: "Don't foolishly place yourselves in opposition to God."


Although verse 40 says, "And to him they agreed," it is apparent that they did as many do today concerning good advice. They agreed to it, but did not follow it: for he advised them, "Refrain from these men, and let them alone." They, however proceeded to beat them before releasing them. They also repeated their earlier command to them, "that they should not speak in the name of Jesus." Then only did they release them.


(Verses 41 and 42) "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." (In the Greek, the word order is not "Jesus Christ," but "the Christ Jesus." See earlier notes on this difference.)


The apostles, considering that the command of God is greater than the commands of men, continued daily teaching and preaching that Jesus is the Christ. And instead of doing, as so many of us today are prone to do, pray that God will lighten our burdens, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. After all, this is that to which we are called in this world. Glory, honor, and comfort come later.


Chapter 6

(Verses 1 through 4) "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word."


There are several points to be addressed in this quotation. Let us consider them in the order in which they are introduced. Prior to Pentecost it is said (Chapter I, verse 15) that the number of the disciples was about one hundred twenty. On the day of Pentecost, three thousand were added, "and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Then at the occasion of the healing of the lame man at the temple gate, there may have been another five thousand added. This chapter introduces its subject matter thus: "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied_ _ _." This brings the known number of the disciples to about eight thousand, plus many more whose number we cannot even guess at intelligently. At this point, "there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." This tells us that many, who, probably, had come to Jerusalem for Passover and Pentecost, being converted to Christianity, had remained with the disciples in Jerusalem . It must be kept in mind that, up to this time, the disciples had remained in Jerusalem , and the gospel had not been preached among the Gentiles. The Greek word "Helleniston," here translated "Grecians," is a term that was applied to Jews born in foreign lands, and speaking Greek instead of Hebrew, not to those of Greek nationality. The word, which means "Greek" is "Hellen." This also establishes the fact that the church was still following the practice first mentioned in Chapter II, verses 44 and 45. In the daily distribution of necessities there would be some confusion, because, after all, the disciples were human beings, and subject to mistakes. The Greek speaking disciples perceived themselves to be discriminated against, and thought their widows were not being properly cared for. Human nature was at work among them even then. So they began to complain. When the complaints reached the apostles, they considered the matter and established a system to take care of it with less confusion.


This system would do two things. It would relieve the apostles of the responsibility of ministering to the material needs of the disciples, that they might apply their full time to prayer and the ministry of the word. And it established the administration of the material things in the hands of those who could give their full attention to that. Their expression, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables," can mean either of two things, and is probably best understood to mean both. First, "It is not reasonable that we do so," and, second, "There is no reason that we should." Since the ministry of the word of God which, of course, includes prayer, is that to which the apostles were called, should be their only concern, and to that they declared themselves dedicated. (This should be the determination of every gospel minister today also.) So, their command to the disciples was, "Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business." Later, when the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy as to the qualifications of a deacon, (Though the word is not here used, this is the office here established.) he mentions a few other points of qualification for them, but those are primarily extensions of the three given here. These deacons are, first of all, to be of honest report. The reason for this is obvious, since the work to which they are appointed is that of making distribution of church funds according to the needs that arise. He must be filled with the Holy Ghost that he may constantly strive to glorify God, and not himself. Then he must be a man filled with wisdom, not necessarily the wisdom of this world, but that of God and godly things, that he may be able to distinguish between needs and desires. And that he may be able to discern what is beneficial to the whole church, and not just for himself, or for a select few. One thing that is conspicuous for its absence is any reference to ability to teach, or to judge the doctrine that is taught. This qualification is required of the ministry only; in spite of a traditional idea, nowhere even hinted at in scripture, but adamantly held to by some deacons, and even some churches, "That it is the duty of the deacons to watch over the pulpit, to make sure that the preacher maintains the true doctrine." Although there is scriptural evidence that two of the first deacons were also blessed to preach the gospel, there is none that any of the other five had any part in that ministry. By this command to the church the apostles established the office of deacon to take care of the ministry to the material needs of the disciples that they, the apostles, might give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word. It is remarkable that, with the multitude of members in the church at Jerusalem , seven men were sufficient to take care of this matter. While some churches of today, that have far fewer members, and are not practicing the daily distribution of funds, as did that church, find it necessary to have many more deacons than were needed there.


(Verses 5 through 8) "And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."


This needs little, if any, explanation. However it does name the men chosen to be the first deacons, describes the manner of appointing to office. They were elected by the church: not called of God. and the manner of their being set in office was by prayer and laying on of hands. (Laying on of hands always signified the transfer of responsibility. In this case, the apostles transferred the responsibility of ministering to the material needs of the disciples from the gospel ministry to the deacons.) Then it informs us that the word of God increased, or spread, not over the whole world, nor even beyond the local region, but among those in and around Jerusalem , so much that even many of the priests were converted to Christianity. Also Stephen, one of those appointed deacon, and said in the list of the names of the deacons to be "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," was so blessed with the power of God that he "did great wonders and miracles among the people." We are not told how long this lull before the storm of persecution lasted, but it surely was not long.


Verses 9 through 15 tell us of the arrest and the beginning of the "trial" of Stephen. There have been various ideas put forth as to the origin of the Libertines. Since their origin is not pertinent to the present account, we shall ignore it. They did, however, have a synagogue at Jerusalem , and evidently were joined by others from Cyrene , Alexandria , and Cilicia, who were at that time in Jerusalem . They disputed with Stephen, but could not "resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spake." That is, they could not disprove what he said, nor deny the power of the Spirit Which not only moved him to speak, but also enabled him to work great miracles before them. As evil men usually do, when they cannot win fairly at anything, they resorted to corrupt means, bribing false witnesses to testify against Stephen.  First they had these witnesses spread their lies to the people, and then go to the elders and scribes, saying, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." This, of course, stirred up the public as well as the scribes and elders. So they went forth, arrested Stephen, and brought him before the council. At this point they brought false witnesses; either the same ones they used to stir up the people; or others equally false, who said, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us." Certainly, this could do nothing but heighten the anger of the whole council; for, although they had, as Jesus told them, by their "traditions made void the commandments of God," they adamantly maintained that every part of their doctrine and practice was exactly as delivered to them by Moses. This is very much as it is with many today who claim that, "all the doctrines and practices of my church are exactly as we have followed them from the days of the apostles," which every one who has read either the Bible or church history, knows is not so. While all this was going on, the face of Stephen was made so radiant by the glory of God that, "all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel,"


Chapter 7

At this point the high priest who served as chairman of the council asked Stephen, "Are these things so?" In making answer to this, Stephen set forth to recount many of the incidents in the history of Israel, that concern the making of the promises to Israel, and bringing them forward to the fulfillment of them in the coming of our Lord Jesus. From this point through verse 50, Stephen primarily relates history, which is found in far more detail in the Old Testament. So we shall not make any extensive comments on this part of his discourse. Nevertheless notice should be taken that, in verse 35 he says, "This Moses, whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made thee a ruler and a judge?’ the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush," and in verse 37, "This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear.’" He then repeats the fact that him "our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back into Egypt ." He tells of their sin concerning the golden calf, their worshipping "the hosts of heaven," (the sun, moon, stars, etc.,) Moloch, Remphan, and other idols, for which God sent them into the Babylonian captivity. They did all these things in spite of God's giving to them the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, made according to the pattern He had shown to Moses, and which was brought with them, under the leadership of Joshua, ("Jesus,") into the possession which God gave them by driving out the heathen before them. The rejection of the Lord Jesus by this generation to which Stephen spoke is another point wherein Jesus was indeed the "Prophet like unto Moses;" for they rejected him. However, Moses, in spite of their rejection, was still the "ruler and deliverer" sent of God; and he fulfilled that for which he was sent. So our Lord Jesus the Christ, in spite of being rejected and crucified, is still the Saviour of His people, and His work is completely successful. Stephen brings them down to the building of the temple by Solomon, and then makes the point to which every thing already said has been directed.


(Verses 51 through 53) "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them that shewed before the coming of the Just One; of Whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."


One must remember that these are the same Jews, (probably even some of the same individuals,) to whom Jesus said, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." (John 8:44.) Whether actually and individually, or not, figuratively those who resisted Moses, and turned aside to idols, were the fathers of these who called for the crucifixion of our Lord, and were still persecuting His disciples. Such, being the agents of Satan, are always in opposition to ("do always resist") the Holy Ghost. This has been going on ever since the devil, in the person of the serpent, appeared in the Garden of Eden, and will continue until he, the great red dragon of Revelation 12, is totally vanquished by our Lord, and at His command cast into the lake of eternal fire. In this short, but very eloquent address, Stephen declares, without reservation, that these are "stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears," and are walking in the steps of their fathers, who have persecuted all the prophets, and have killed those who prophesied ("shewed before") of the coming of the Just One. Now, in their turn, these have been His betrayers and murderers. This is very similar to, and in perfect harmony with, what Jesus told the Jews on one occasion, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify: and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, ‘All these things shall come upon this generation.’" Stephen closes his address with the declaration that these have received the law, not only by its being delivered to them by Moses, but also by their boast that they, and they alone were the custodians of it: but he finishes with, "and have not kept it." No matter how wonderful a code of law, how fine a set of rules of conduct, or how sound a list of "Articles of faith," one may have, if he does not keep them, they are not only worthless to him, but what is worse, they become detrimental to him, for those who know him, will hold them up before him to his shame. This is their condition. The remaining seven verses give us the conclusion of this event. Since the activities of the council are only what is to be expected of evil men, they need little comment. However Stephen's part of the matter is far more noteworthy.


(Verses 54 through 60) "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and said with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."


What a contrast between the council with its attendants, and Stephen the servant of our Lord Jesus! The first thing to consider is that, the Jews were not an autonomous nation. They could not legally condemn any one to death nor execute such a sentence. The only one with that authority was the Roman governor. Yet, in their rage, they completely forgot about that, and, being no longer reasoning men, but an enraged mob, they threw all caution and reason to the wind, and "cast him out of the city," (most likely, literally dragged him out). When, formerly, the Jews did have legal authority for such action, the place commonly used for such was what we would call the garbage dump; and probably that is exactly where they took Stephen. Just before they so violently seized him, he looked up "steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." We read in various places in scripture of our Lord's being seated at the right hand of the Father, but here Stephen saw Him standing, as if to welcome home His faithful servant, who was about to be murdered for the sake of His testimony. This should be of the utmost comfort to every one of God's little care worn children as he travels here: "Will not He, Who gave to Stephen such wonderful assurance in the hour of his death, comfort me when I come to cross that river?" Surely He will. As they, in their wrath, murdered Stephen, by throwing stones at him until he was beaten to death by them, he was "calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then a most amazing thing took place. This man whom they were in the very act of murdering, kneeled down in that garbage dump, and spoke with a loud voice, saying, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Whereupon our Lord ended his suffering by letting him fall asleep. This brings to mind a line from an old hymn, which was once well known, but seems to have been forgotten by many today: "Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep, from which none ever wakes to weep."


Chapter 8

(Verses 1 through 4) "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church, which was at Jerusalem ; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria , except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word."


To better understand the picture Luke presents here, let us review two scriptures. (Psalms 76:10) "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain." (Mat. 10:23) "But when they shall persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." Although this last quotation is our Lord's instruction to His disciples when He sent them out to proclaim His message before He was crucified, it was never remanded. Therefore this is His ordained way of sending forth the gospel. Until the stoning of Stephen, the disciples had remained at Jerusalem . They were neither moved by the Holy Ghost, nor driven by persecution, to follow His command, "Go into all the world_ _ _," which, of itself shows that this commandment did not intend that they began immediately, and, according to their own timetable, go indiscriminately, into all the world, but that they were no longer under the restriction earlier given them (Mat.10:5-6), but were free to go when and where the Holy Ghost might direct Therefore until this time they had made no move. In the previous chapter we saw that the "witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul." According to their custom, the witnesses had the responsibility of throwing the first stones at the condemned. It is highly probable that the council members themselves considered it beneath their dignity to actually cast stones. So, having aroused the mob to blood lust, they did not go out to the garbage dump; but since it was necessary that they be represented, this was likely Saul's duty at this stoning, as indicated by the witnesses' laying their clothes (their outer garments) at his feet. Thus Saul was consenting to the death of Stephen, not only personally, but also officially, as representative of the council. As mentioned earlier, according to Roman law, this whole proceeding was illegal. But, as mobs usually do, having "tasted blood," and finding that they got away with it, they let loose such a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, which to this time had enjoyed a time of relative peace and quiet, that though the apostles themselves remained at Jerusalem, all the other disciples were "scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria." The wrath of man was indeed in operation; but God restrained the overflow of it so that it only worked to praise Him by spreading the gospel. Also this follows our Lord's command, "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." Though God suffered the wrath of man to bring about the death of His faithful martyr, Stephen, and trigger a great persecution against His church, yet He restrained it that it should only accomplish His purpose in spreading the gospel. "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word."


Some might wonder, "Why did not the apostles scatter along with the remainder of the disciples?" Perhaps, the best answer would be the same as Jesus instructed his disciples to give to any who might ask why they loosed the colt, "The Lord hath need of him." Since Jerusalem was the center of the persecution, their continued presence in that city gave strong support to the faith of not only those who were scattered abroad, but also to any who may have "gone underground" in the city itself. And the miraculous powers with which they were blessed continued to astonish their enemies, thereby bearing witness of the wonderful power and glory of the risen Christ, Whom they preached and served.


As we drop back to the center of this quotation, verses 2 and 3, Luke tells us, "And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison." Surely, this needs little explanation. Although the mob killed Stephen, his friends did not forsake him, but took up his body, and buried it. Because of the great love they had for him, it was a time of heavy sorrow to them. Men have sometimes surmised, and even declared, that from the time of Stephen's death until the time of his conversion, Saul pondered those things spoken by Stephen at his trial and death, and that they are what finally brought about his conversion. This, of course, the record will not allow. There is absolutely no indication that he ever gave a second thought to those things, but, on the contrary, he did every thing possible to eradicate both the doctrine Stephen maintained, and all who adhered to it, both men and women.


(Verses 5 through 8) "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria , and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.


This Philip is the deacon, not the apostle. There no doubt was a Jewish synagogue in Samaria , and that would likely be the place where Philip preached. (We see later that this was the normal manner of even the Apostle Paul, when going to any city.) The Samaritans, in general, were considered almost as "untouchables," because, long before, many of them had intermarried with other nationalities, although Samaria had been the capitol of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Philip, as he went forth preaching, was also empowered to work miracles of healing, and casting out of evil spirits. Although nothing is said about what those unclean spirits said in such a loud voice, in thinking back to what the Gaderene said when the legion of evil spirits were cast out of him, one would think they might have acknowledged the power that cast them out. Be that as it may, Philip's ministry was so blessed that practically the whole city believed the gospel, and there was great joy in the city.


(Verses 9 through 13) "But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God , and the name of Jesus (the) Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs that were done."


It was not at all unusual in that day for sorcerers to prey upon the superstitions of the people, and build up for themselves great reputations as workers of magic and miracles. This is exactly what Simon had done, so much so that, he was regarded throughout the whole city as a great man, even as "the great power of God." When Philip came preaching the gospel, and working real miracles of healing, and casting out unclean spirits, they believed his preaching, and turned away from the sorcerer to the Lord Jesus, and were baptized in His name. We might think, if verse 13 were all we had about Simon, that, his believing, being baptized, and continuing with Philip, were all positive proof that Simon was truly interested in following the Lord. Even here, however, there are two things that might cause us to wonder a little about him. First, the word order of the first clause, "Then Simon himself believed also." That is, after all his followers had left him, and turned to the Lord, he felt that he had better go with them. Then, as he continued with Philip, observing the actual, not pretended, miracles done by him, he "wondered", that is, he was astonished, or puzzled at them.  He had long been doing sleight-of-hand feats and illusions, but he could not understand these real works of the power of God.


(Verses 15 through 24) "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost, And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which thou hast spoken come upon me."


This should need little comment in the way of explanation, but there are a few points of which we might take notice. In verses 18 through 23, we see the condition of Simon's heart, both by his actions, and by Peter's address to him. He no doubt thought that if only he had this power, he could regain his reputation of greatness, which he formerly enjoyed in the city. So he offered to buy from the apostles the power to cause men to receive the Holy Ghost. Peter's first statement to him amounts to, "May you and your money both perish," signifying that he wanted no part of either one. This thought, That the gift of God can be either bought or sold, is not just a mistake due to ignorance, and thus something to be "winked at." But it indicates that the heart is not right in the sight of God, and is wickedness for which one must receive forgiveness, or be forever lost; because such an one is "in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity." This is not to say that God cannot, or will not, forgive this sin, as he sees fit: for Peter admonishes Simon to "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Simon's answer, Pray ye to God for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me," will, perhaps cause men to argue about it, as long as it is read by them, as to whether it indicates Simon to be truly repentant, or only frightened by the judgments which, though not recorded here, Peter must have declared to him, since he says, "_ _ _that none of these things which you have spoken come upon me." That argument is not ours to make from either side. God alone is the Judge.


This matter having been disposed of, the apostles gave their testimony of the Lord, preached the word to the people, and began their return to Jerusalem . On their way they stopped in many villages of the Samaritans, and preached the gospel to them. In the meantime the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, and directed him to go down south of Jerusalem , to the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza , which is desert country. Without asking any questions about the matter Philip went as he was told. When Philip arrived at the place, he found another traveler on that road. This man is never identified by name, but only by this description, "A man of Ethiopia , an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure. And had come up to Jerusalem to worship," and is afterward only referred to as, "the eunuch." It is of little importance to us that he was from Ethiopia , or even that he was an eunuch, but these points do help identify him. Then we know from this that in his home country he was a man of great importance, the equivalent of Secretary of the Treasury. And finally, he was a convert to the Jewish worship of God under the law; for this was his sole reason for going up to Jerusalem , to worship. While riding along in his chariot, he was reading the prophecy of Isaiah, in the portion we know as Isaiah 53:7. He was evidently reading aloud, for as Philip, in obedience to the command of the Spirit, approached the chariot, he heard him as he read. Philip then asked him a question which, under different circumstances, could have been considered a little irritating, if not worse, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" Since the Holy Spirit had directed Philip's question, He had also prepared the eunuch's answer, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" So he invited Philip to join him in the chariot, which he promptly did. As they considered the afore mentioned scripture, the eunuch asked, "I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?" It is obvious that the Lord brought all of this to pass according to His own purpose, for even this question presented the exact opening to fit the purpose of God. "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."


Nothing is said about the length of Philip's sermon, or of the details of the subject matter. All we know is that He preached Jesus. The account of the activities that followed show its success. As they arrived at an oasis, ("a certain water,") the eunuch asked a question which, so far as we have ever found in scripture, has only one answer, and that a very simple one. First, the question, "_ _ _what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Now the answer, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." In the event one might ask, "What is it necessary to believe?" that too is answered completely in the response of the eunuch, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God." (Although some editions of the Greek text omit this question and answer series, it is found in most, and there is no reason to think it lacking in the original, since this is the very formula that was employed among the early Christians.) At this point the chariot was stopped, both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.


(Verses 39 and 40) "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus; and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea .


As soon as Philip had finished the work for which God had sent him to the Gaza road, the Spirit literally lifted him out of the sight of the eunuch, and transported him to Azotus, the city earlier known as Ashdod of the Philistines. The Eunuch saw him no more, but went on his homeward way rejoicing. From Azotus, Philip continued on to Caesarea , preaching the gospel in all the cities through which he passed.


Chapter 9

As is true of most of this book, Chapter IX is a simple straight forward account of some events that took place in the early days of Christianity, and most of it needs little explanation. Nevertheless it contains some things that we should carefully consider, and retain in our minds. The first thing we are told is a short account of some activities and experiences of the man Saul, at whose feet the witnesses against Stephen laid down their clothes as they prepared to stone Stephen. He continued "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." That is, he was very vociferous in proclaiming that they should be either subjected to sufficient torture to make them recant their faith, and turn back to the law service, or put to death so that they could not persuade others to join fellowship with them. In furtherance of this purpose, he went to the high priest, obtained letters to the rulers of the synagogues authorizing him, (and no doubt calling upon them to help him,) to find and arrest all he could of those who confessed our Lord as the Christ. And bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners for trial before the same council that had condemned Stephen. Thus authorized, he and his party began their journey to Damascus .


(Verses 3 through 9) "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus : and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, Whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus . And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink."


We often hear men trying to persuade us to "Let the Lord Jesus come into our hearts," which is a totally contrary concept to their own experience, and to the principle set forth here. Notice the contrast between Saul before the Lord focused His light upon him, and Saul after the light came. "He WAS breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." He WAS so enraged against this Jesus, that it was as if with every breath he advocated threats and slaughter against His disciples. As soon as he was informed that this was the work of Jesus, his question was, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?" Beforehand he very aptly could have been described as "a roaring lion going about, seeking whom he might devour;" and afterward, "meek as a lamb." There is no indication that Saul had any desire or intention to "let Jesus come into his heart." Had anyone approached him immediately prior to this event with such a suggestion, it is highly probable that Saul would have taken him prisoner. This was not the work of a weak Jesus, a would-be savior, but that of our Lord Jesus the Christ of God. The light of His presence brought the mighty Saul to the ground. His question to Saul carries the force of saying, You cannot possibly win this contest, so why do you attempt it?" Then, in answer to the question Saul asked, He said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." He identifies Himself as the very One, against Whom Saul has been so violently enraged. And to put the second part of His statement into our modern manner of speaking, "It is dangerous for you to kick against the goads," meaning, "If you do, you will only receive damage to yourself." At this point, the once arrogant Saul had become an astonished and fearful man. (The word translated "trembling" also means "fearing.") This once such mighty man is now afraid. Is not this the experience of every one who has been brought to the realization that his life, however violent, or non-violent, it may have been, still has been persecution of Jesus the great and righteous Judge? He very humbly asks, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?" The Lord's answer to Saul was not to give him detailed instructions, but only to tell him to go into the very city he had set out for in the first place, "And there it shall be told thee what thou must do." The message to be given him in Damascus has no reference to choices he can make about whether or not he will accept them. They are "what thou must do."


In Chapter XXII, verse 9, we are told that the men who were with Saul saw the light, but "they heard not the voice," while here Luke says, "and the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man." There is really no contradiction here; for the Greek word that in both places is translated, "voice," also means, "sound." So in fact they did hear a sound, but it was not intelligible to them as a human voice. In Chapter XXII the apostle also says that they saw the light, and though it is not explicitly said here, since there is no statement to the contrary, we can be well assured that they did see the light. But it meant nothing to them except that it was an unusual and unexplained occurrence, so they stood speechless. Apparently Saul had closed his eyes, as we all will, involuntarily, when a bright light is suddenly focused upon us. It seems that they remained closed through the entire encounter, because in verse 8, we are told, "And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him to Damascus ."


The experience had left Saul blinded; and he remained sightless for three days. In the meantime he fasted, neither eating nor drinking. This was to Saul a physical experience, in that he was actually struck to the ground. He heard, and spoke to Jesus, and was for three days left in a state of physical blindness, but in it one can see a parallel which often occurs in a spiritual manner with God's children. What many consider as a lost soul seeking salvation, and groping in darkness for a period of time, whether long or short, before, as they put it, "accepting Christ, and being saved," is, in reality, one born of the Spirit, but not yet enlightened as to what the Lord will have him do, "what he must do." God often uses His ministers to do some of this enlightening just as He used Ananias to restore Saul's sight, but never for bringing sinners from death in sin to life in Christ Jesus. Just as Saul, in this period of blindness had neither food nor drink for the physical body, so in that period of spiritual blindness, the newborn in Christ may fast spiritually.


A disciple of the Lord, named Ananias, not the one of Chapter IV, lived in Damascus . To him the Lord appeared in a vision, and called him by name, and after he replied, gave him some instructions.


(Verses 11 through 16) "And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem : and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel : for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake."


When the Lord spoke to Ananias, He did not say, "I want you to go_ _ _," nor did He say, "Go when you have opportunity," but, "Arise and go." Ananias was not given a choice, either as to whether, or when, he was to go. He must go, and the time is now. Many try to make a great thing of the fact that he was to "go into a street called Straight." Had it been called, "Capitol", " Main ," "Broad," or any other of the names to which we are accustomed, it would have been the same. "Straight" is the name by which the street was known, probably because it did not wind around as did some others. Be that as it may, a man named Judas had a house there, and Saul of Tarsus was lodged in that house. This Judas is never identified any further in scripture. Whether he was a former acquaintance of Saul, a total stranger who operated a lodging house, or a Christian who took Saul in out of pity for his condition, likely none of us will ever know, but for the time he was Saul's host. The Lord informed Ananias that Saul had become a praying man, and that in a vision he had seen a man named Ananias coming in and restoring his sight by the laying on of his hand. No doubt Ananias was fearful of going to Saul, and this is reflected in his answer to the Lord, but he never made any attempt to refuse the assignment. He simply acknowledged that he had heard a great deal about both what Saul had done in Jerusalem and what was his purpose in coming to Damascus . The Lord's answer to him was, first, a simple directive, "Go thy way," which in no wise means, "Go as you will," but on the contrary, "Go as I have appointed you." Then He gives Ananias comfort and assurance that he may boldly fulfill his mission. That message is clear enough to stand on its own without comment: "For he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel . For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." The final point of this message is one we should keep firmly in mind, "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." Some may suffer more, and others less, but the Apostle Paul declared to Timothy, "Yea, and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."


(Verses 17 through 19) "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus ."


Evidently, the Lord had revealed more to Ananias than just that which Luke recorded in verses 11, 12, 15, and 16; for he mentions, in speaking to Saul, Saul's experience on the road. He also says not only that he was sent to restore Saul's sight, but also that he might "be filled with the Holy Ghost." It is commonly considered that the power of conferring the "filling with the Holy Ghost" by the laying on of hands is a gift given only to the apostles. But Ananias was certainly not an apostle, and whether this power was given him only temporarily for this special occasion, or was permanent is not clear, but he certainly had it at this time. When Ananias laid hands upon Saul, addressed him as "Brother Saul,” and told him his purpose for coming, "immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales." The phrase, "as it had been," can also be translated, "as though it had been." Consequently, whether, as some affirm, there actually were scales upon Saul's eyes, or simply whether the result was the same as if there had been scales, and they are now fallen, makes little difference. What matters is that Saul's sight had been restored. It was not a matter of waiting for his sight to gradually return. "He received sight forthwith," (immediately.) Whether from fear and bewilderment of the ordeal through which he had come, or as a result of his three day fast, or a combination of both, he was apparently very much weakened down physically. And was, to this point, either lying down or sitting down, but upon receiving his sight, Saul arose, and was baptized. Dr. Gill rightly observes that this is evidence that baptism was administered by immersion, for had it been by sprinkling or pouring, it could just as well have been done with Saul either sitting or lying down. To be immersed, it was necessary that he arise, and go where there was sufficient water for the purpose. There is no real room for argument on this matter any way, because the meaning of the Greek word "baptidzo" is "immerse" whether in reference to the ordinance of baptism, or simply immersing an object of some sort in a liquid. After his baptism, Saul was given food; and after he had eaten, his strength returned. Then he remained "certain days" with the disciples at Damascus . The expression "certain days" simply means "an unspecified number of days." In Galatians 1:12-17 Paul gives the impression that it was a very short while.


(Verses 20 through 22) "And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem , and came hither with that intent, that he might bring them bound to the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus , proving that this is very Christ."


In verse 20, some Greek texts say, "he preached the Christ_ _ _that He is the Son of God," while others say, "he preached the Jesus_ _ _that He is the son of God." The latter is probably as the original: for the Jews might agree that the Christ is the Son of God. Their problem is that they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore the Christ. In verse 22, it is said, "But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews, which dwelt at Damascus , proving that this [Jesus] is the very Christ." In all the writings of the Apostle Paul we find that his principal theme is to prove that this Jesus, Who struck him down on the Damascus road, and called him to the apostleship, is the Christ. This is the gospel he preached in Damascus also, and he did not delay very long about it, since Luke tells us that "straightway he preached." The very places to which Saul had been authorized by the high priests to go to take captive those who worshipped the Lord Jesus were the very places where he set forth to preach that Jesus is the Christ. This sudden change in both the man himself and the doctrine he declared was the source of great amazement to all who heard him. Of course, the more he proved that Jesus is the Christ, the more the unbelieving Jews hated him.


(Verses 23 through 25) "And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket."


It seems highly probable that Luke has here omitted some details which are later revealed by the Apostle Paul (Saul). In Galatians 1:15-17, Paul says, "But when it pleased God Who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him to the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem_ _ _." Apparently the "certain days" of verse 19, of the present text, were so few that Paul did not consider them worth mentioning, and immediately following them he went into Arabia . Then after his return to Damascus , the "many days" that were fulfilled by his sojourn in the city amounted to about three years. It seems that his stay in Arabia was very short, both by the fact that Luke does not mention it at all, and by Paul's own statement, "I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus ." His purpose in going to Arabia and his activities while there have been matters of conjecture by many, but nowhere does he ever give us any details of the matter. He may have gone there to preach to someone as Philip did at Gaza . He may have gone there to some desert place to meditate and receive revelations from the Lord, concerning the "things he must suffer," and the doctrine he was to preach. Or it may have been for some totally different reason; but one thing is certain, all any one can do about it is to guess, and no one can prove his guess right or wrong.


After "many days were fulfilled," the Jews being so outraged at the change in Saul and the doctrine he taught, came together and plotted to kill him. In II Corinthians 11:33-34, Paul describes an incident so much like this that, in the absence of anything said to the contrary, we feel must be this. Here Luke gives less detail of it than does Paul, who says, “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of Damascus with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands." Not only were the Jews trying to kill Saul, but they had enlisted the help of the governor of the city who assigned his entire garrison of soldiers to the task of apprehending Saul. Nevertheless Saul was aware of this, and escaped by the means described. How he was made aware of this we do not know, whether by revelation of God, or simply by some of the disciples having heard of it, but the important thing is that he knew. As was the case with many walled cities, some of the houses on the perimeter of the city were actually built on the wall, and formed an integral part of it. Through a window in one of these houses the disciples let Saul down by the wall in a basket; and he escaped.  This was at the time a fairly common way of smuggling persons and goods in or out of the city.


(Verses 26 through 30) "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem , he assayed to join himself to the disciples, but they were afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that He had spoken to him, and that he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem . And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus ."


As soon as he escaped from Damascus Saul made his way back to Jerusalem , apparently with the intention of finding the disciples that were still there, especially the apostles and joining himself with them. But the disciples, knowing his former reputation and activities, and possibly having heard nothing of his experience on the Damascus road and his present zeal and ability of preaching the Lord Jesus, were afraid of him. They evidently feared that he was only pretending to be a disciple in order that he might the more easily locate them, and continue his persecution of them. At this point Barnabas, first introduced in Chapter IV, being thoroughly familiar with Saul's case, (whether he had heard it from the brethren at Damascus, had received it by revelation of God, or had been told it by Saul is not made clear, and is of no consequence to us,) "took him, and brought him to the apostles." And he recited to them the miraculous story. Luke says, "_ _ _brought him to the apostles." However, if Paul's account given in Galatians 1:15-19 is of this same incident, and apparently it is, only Peter and James were present at that meeting. Further, Paul says, "James the Lord's brother;" and, although the Lord's brother James is the author of the epistle of James, he was not one of the twelve. The James who was one of the twelve was the brother of John, not the brother of Jesus. Nevertheless, since the Lord's brother James seems to have been very active and influential in the church at Jerusalem , he was probably considered, and may indeed have been on equal footing with the apostles. On this subject we look forward to Chapter XII. In verse 2 of that chapter, we are told, "And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. " Then after the deliverance of Peter from prison, he says, "_ _ _Go shew these things to James, and the brethren." The James of the present text is evidently the same as "James the Lord's brother." So Barnabas introduced Saul to Peter and James, and became his sponsor in that he declared to them Paul's experience on the road, and his subsequent activities. When their approval of Saul was made known to the brethren their fear of him was set aside, and he was received freely among them. Saul then continued his preaching, and boldly declared that Jesus is the Christ. He disputed against the "Grecians," not Greeks, but Jews who spoke Greek instead of Hebrew, as earlier noted. He was so able in his arguments against them that they, considering it the only way they could prevail against him, plotted to murder him. When this was known to the brethren, they, for his safety, took Saul to Caesarea, and sent him to his native city, Tarsus .


Luke says, (verse 31,) "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria , and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."


The remainder of this chapter is a report of some of the activities of the Apostle Peter. While the churches enjoyed a little season of peace he did some traveling among them. At Lydda he found a man named Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years by reason of the palsy. To him Peter said, "Aeneas, Jesus (the) Christ maketh thee whole: arise and make thy bed." (The K. J. V. and some Greek texts omit "the" before "Christ," while others have it, but, as was earlier explained, it should be used.) The power of the name of Jesus being effective, Aeneas immediately arose from his bed. This miracle was blessed to have such great influence on the observers that Luke says, "And all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord."


Then at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, or Dorcas, ("Tabitha" being a Chaldaic name, and "Dorcas" the Greek translation of it,) died, and since Joppa was not far from Lydda, the disciples at Joppa sent for Peter. Since Luke gives a well detailed account of this, it is unnecessary to make any lengthy discussion of it. Verses 40 through 43 give the conclusion of the matter. "But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body, said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout Joppa: and many believed in the Lord. and it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner."


Chapter 10

In verses 1 through 8 Luke gives the account of a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea . He was a centurion, the officer in charge of one hundred soldiers. He himself was probably an Italian, since the unit he commanded was called "the Italians." Yet, though he was a Gentile, he was a devout man, that is, one who worshipped the true and living God, not the Roman idol gods; for he always prayed to God, and was very generous in giving to those in need. Luke says that about three o'clock in the afternoon he saw a vision of an angel of God, who came to him, and gave him a very strange message. Beginning with verse 4, we have, "And when he looked on him he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said to him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." As before mentioned this is a very unusual message. First, the angel assures him that he has nothing to fear, because God has taken notice of his prayers and his alms. They have "come up for a memorial before God." Since God thus takes notice of him, there is something he must do. Notice should be taken of the fact that God did not invite Cornelius to do this, if he wished, but commanded him to do it. The command is very specific, just as are military orders, with which Cornelius was completely familiar, as he was a military man. He was not told to go, but to send men. These men were to go to Joppa, a town about thirty-five or forty miles away as the crow flies, but as the roads ran, perhaps farther. They were to call for a man of whom Cornelius probably had never before heard. He was "Simon, whose surname was Peter," and for the time he was lodging with another Simon, who was a tanner, (a worker in leather,) and whose house was by the sea side. These directions were clear enough to prevent any confusion. They were to bring this man back to Caesarea with them; and when he arrived he would tell Cornelius what he ought to do. Some seem to want to add a few words to "what thou oughtest to do." They want to add "to be saved." However it is clear that Cornelius was in that sense of the expression, already saved. His prayers and alms had already come up before God as a memorial of Cornelius. His salvation must already have been secure in the hands of God; and for that reason God commanded him to send for Peter that Peter might tell him how to live for the glory of God. Cornelius did not yet know the wonderful gospel of his salvation, and God had made choice that he should be one of the first Gentiles to hear it; and Peter was God's choice as speaker for this momentous event.  As soon as the angel had delivered his message, and departed, Cornelius "called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them he sent them to Joppa."


Verses 9 through 18 tell of an experience of Peter just before the messengers of Cornelius arrived at the house of Simon the tanner. Since Luke gives the incident in very clear detail, it needs little explanation, so we shall comment upon only the more outstanding items thereof. Peter fell into a trance in which he saw a vision of a vessel like a great sheet "knit at the four corners," or with the four corners joined together, forming a huge pocket of the sheet. It was let down from heaven to earth; and in it "were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter, kill and eat."


Peter, a Jew having been taught from childhood to observe the dietary laws of God, which forbade the eating of many four footed beasts, fowls, and creeping things, had religiously followed this teaching. And, though he was an apostle of our Lord, he still believed that he must observe these laws. For this reason he made answer, "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean." That is, if it was not kosher, he left it off. This would seem the proper answer for one who was being tempted to eat something which was forbidden by the law; but the voice which ordered him to kill, and eat, answered him thus, "What God hath cleansed, call not thou common." "This was done thrice," not the letting down of the vessel, for apparently it remained before Peter the whole time, but the conversation was repeated twice after the initial time. Then the vessel was taken up again into heaven. This vision was a great puzzle to Peter, and while he was thinking about it, and trying to determine what it might mean, the messengers of Cornelius arrived at the gate of Simon the tanner's house, and asked if  "Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there."


Luke then recounts Peter's meeting with the messengers, his inquiring as to the purpose of their coming, listening to their message, and finally his going back with them to Caesarea . He first says that even as Peter considered the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men seek for thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them." It is noteworthy that the Spirit told Peter no more than he needed to know, "I have sent them." If He has ordered a matter, we do not need to know more: that knowledge will come in due time. We are to walk by faith. With this assurance Peter went down to meet the men. In answer to his inquiry, they told him, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee." Peter satisfied with their answer, bid them come in, lodged them there that night, and on the next day returned with them toward Caesarea . With them went "certain brethren" from Joppa, (Peter says, in Chapter XI, that there were six of them). Some time on the next day they reached Caesarea , where Cornelius had called together his kinsmen and close friends. When Peter entered into his house, Cornelius fell at his feet to worship him, but was properly rebuked by the apostle who said, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." This rebuke is still proper for anyone who would attempt to set any minister above that which he actually is, a man, and a servant.


When Peter entered the house where the people were gathered, he addressed them thus: "Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation. But God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?" When Peter first understood his vision is never made clear, nor is that of any great importance. He evidently understood it at this time, for he says, "God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." This is, of course, to be taken and understood in its context, since the order to him was, "What God has cleansed, call not thou common." So no man is to be considered unclean on the basis of his race or nationality. The Gentile whom God has cleansed is just as clean as the Jew whom He has cleansed. With this understanding, Peter did not delay, but came to Cornelius without any gainsaying, or excuse making. So he inquires as to what is their intent, or purpose.


Cornelius then recounted the vision he had seen and the message given to him, and concluded it thus; "Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God." Whether one is called upon to speak to a congregation, or whether he is one of that group, he should always keep in mind that "we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God." If the listener keeps this in mind, he will give serious consideration to what is said; and if the speaker does the same, he will be just as careful of what he speaks.


(Verses 34 through 38) "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all:) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil; for God was with Him."


Here we find a clause, which, like so many others, is a profound truth, as expressed in its context, but, when removed therefrom, can very readily become false, "God is no respecter of persons." If this is taken alone, it would appear to mean that in the eyes of God, every person is exactly like every other person, or He cares no more for one than another. If this were the case, how could it be that He said, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," and that before either of them was born? or how could He say, "And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel ?" Yet if taken in context, "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him," it shows clearly that its only meaning is that race and nationality have no part in determining whether a person is accepted with God. Those who fear Him and work righteousness, are accepted with Him, and those who do not, are not. Careful notice should be given to the fact that the Apostle Peter did not say a word concerning how it is that a person is brought to fear God, and work righteousness, and neither should we at this point; for the subject is "What", not "Why." The "Why" is fully covered in other places.


He then declares that those whom he is addressing already know "the word, which God sent unto the children of Israel , preaching peace by Jesus Christ." In this expression, as indeed in his whole discourse down to the point at which the Holy Ghost fell upon his hearers, Peter gives the impression that it is his understanding that, in spite of the vision already given him, the gospel is basically only for the Jews. Although he does say that these, his hearers, "know this word," inasmuch as it was published, or declared "throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached," it was still of "God sent to the children of Israel ." This word preached peace to the children of Israel through Jesus the Christ. He then inserts the declaration that He (Jesus) is Lord of all. Then he explains what this word, or report, is, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power: Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him." All this was commonly known by all who were in the area, whether Jew or Gentile, because the miracles Jesus did caused His fame to be spread abroad throughout the region.


(Verses 39 through 43) "And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; Whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He Which is ordained to be Judge of quick and dead. To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins."


Certainly, though this may have seemed a little strange to Cornelius and those gathered with him, it should need no explanation to us who are already familiar with the gospel of our Lord; for it is only a short outline of the gospel. Peter declares that he and others chosen before of God are witnesses of both what Jesus did before His crucifixion, and the fact that He rose from the dead. They even ate and drank with him after He had arisen. Further, He commanded them "to preach unto the people," that is, the people of Israel , and to testify to them that Jesus is He Who "was ordained of God (to be) the Judge of quick and dead." "To be" is not in the Greek text, nor is it needed: for, as with any act of God, the ordination was instantaneously effective. He was of God ordained the Judge of quick and dead, or living and dead. Peter declares that this is not some new thing that God has brought to pass, but that which He not only purposed in the beginning, but has also declared from time to time by all His prophets, "that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins."


(Verses 44 through 48) "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then Peter said, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days."


We have no way of knowing how many people were gathered here to hear Peter's sermon, but back in verse 27, it is said, "And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together." So we know that there must have been a fairly large congregation. It is even possible that there may have been as many of them as there were of the disciples on the day of Pentecost; for at that time their number was only about one hundred twenty. Since all of these were Gentiles, it was indeed amazing to the Jewish disciples who had come with Peter from Joppa, and possibly to Peter himself, that the Holy Ghost should come upon them all in this manner, because they were still of the opinion that the gospel was another blessing for Israel , and not for the Gentiles. There was no delay, but even as Peter was speaking, the Holy Ghost descended upon them, and to them was given the gift of tongues, just as to the disciples at Pentecost. We might here make this observation. If this is what people today refer to as "The Gift Of The Unknown Tongue," will someone please explain how the Jewish believers who came with Peter "heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God?" In I Corinthians 14:2, Paul says, "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him." Yet apparently all here understood that these who spoke with tongues were magnifying God. Instead of being unknown, this tongue was well known, as was that on the day of Pentecost. Seeing this, Peter was fully convinced of the meaning of the vision he had seen, and asked, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" No doubt this question was intended, and taken, more as a declaration that since God had shown His approval of these, no man could forbid their baptism, than as a question asking their opinion of the matter. At this point He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." The word here translated "commanded, also means "enjoined." So with his authority as an apostle of the Lord Jesus, he enjoined, or strongly advised, them to be baptized in the name of the Lord; and evidently they were baptized, though that is not specifically stated. They were so happy for this wonderful blessing of God that, they begged Peter to remain with them "certain days," that is, an unspecified number of days, whether many, or few, we do not know.


Chapter 11

(Verses 1 through 3) "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem , they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them."


Here we see the attitude that prevailed among the disciples, and even among the apostles themselves. Instead of rejoicing that God had sent the gospel among the Gentiles, they were angry at Peter for going into the house of a Gentile, and especially for his eating with Gentiles. Although Jesus had long before told them, "No man putteth a piece of new cloth upon an old garment," they still thought that the gospel was only an extension of the law service, and was only for the Jews and for proselytes who would submit to circumcision. Therefore they were displeased with Peter for breaking their traditions.


Verses 4 through 17 give Peter's answer to this charge. Since most of it is a repetition of matters already covered, we shall consider only verses 15 through 17.


(Verses 15 through 17) "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell upon them, as upon us in the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I that I could withstand God?"


We see from this that the first time Peter realized the full meaning of his vision was when the Holy Ghost came upon Cornelius and his guests. At this point he remembered what Jesus had told them about the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Just as we often do about so many things, in the stress of the times, he had let it slip from his mind; but now he remembered it. Having this brought to mind, and seeing before him the reality that God was doing exactly the same thing for these Gentile believers that He had for him and others at Pentecost; he was made to realize that he could not afford to even try to hinder God in His work. In that moment he realized fully that when God speaks or acts, the only thing we have a right to do is to say, "Amen."


(Verse 18) "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."


These brethren, who before were somewhat contentious, had no further criticism to make of Peter for what he had done, but praised God for granting to the Gentile believers the same blessing He had given the Jews. He granted to them "repentance unto life." The way was now open for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles. Nevertheless it was some time later before it was preached to them without any restraint.


Verses 19 through 26, without giving much detail, bring us through a considerable period of time. They do point out that through this period the gospel, though preached throughout quite a large Gentile area, was yet preached only to the Jews. Some of those doing the preaching were "men of Cyprus and Cyrene ," but they were still Jews. When they went to Antioch , they preached the Lord Jesus to the "Grecians." As earlier explained, this word refers to Greek speaking Jews, not to Greeks per se. "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord." As soon as the report of this success was known to the church at Jerusalem , they sent Barnabas to Antioch . Not only was Barnabas a good man and full of the Holy Ghost, but evidently a very able minister. When he arrived at Antioch , he was well pleased with seeing the manifestation of the grace of God that was bestowed upon the brethren there. He exhorted them, "that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord." While he was there, there were many additions to the church.


Barnabas is the one who earlier had presented Saul to Peter and James, and had told them of Saul's conversion and his preaching. Now when he left Antioch , he went to Tarsus to find Saul, whom he brought back with him to Antioch . They remained in Antioch a full year assembling with the church, and teaching many people about the Lord. Heretofore the disciples had been referred to only as "the disciples." Here they were first called "Christians." Though this name was no doubt given them in derision by their enemies, it has been their badge of honor in all ages since.


During the time Saul and Barnabas were at Antioch some prophets came there from Jerusalem ; and one of them, a man named Agabus, moved by the Spirit, prophesied that there would be a great famine "throughout the whole world." This was fulfilled in the days of Claudius Caesar. The disciples at Antioch , knowing how severe persecution had been at Jerusalem , and how little opportunity the brethren there had to provide for their necessities, decided to send something to help relieve their suffering. They made choice of Saul and Barnabas to take this gift to the elders at Jerusalem . Later in Saul's (Paul's) ministry we find him encouraging the church at Corinth to take part in another matter of relief for the poor saints at Jerusalem .


Chapter 12

(Verses 1 through 4) "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quarternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."


Luke is not giving a detailed history in which actual dates would be important; so he simply says, "About that time_ _ _." It is a time when persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem and Judaea was so popular with the unbelieving Jews that, Herod decided to officially take a hand in it. He had the Apostle James, the brother of John killed "with the sword," which could mean he had him arrested, and officially executed by decapitation, or it could be that he sent forth soldiers to kill him where they found him. Be that as it may, when he saw that this pleased the Jews, to improve his political relations with them, he had Peter arrested, and put in prison. To make sure that Peter could not escape, Herod not only had him put in prison, but also appointed four quarternions of soldiers to guard him. A quarternion is a contingent of four soldiers. Two of these were to be in the cell with Peter, and actually chained to him, while the other two stood guard outside the door. The reason for having four of these groups is that the guard changed four times a day.  Thus was provided continuous guard. It was Herod's intention, since this was the time of the Passover, ("the days of unleavened bread,") to bring Peter forth from prison after the Passover, and present him to the people in a mock trial, condemn him, and have him executed. The word "Easter" is a totally incorrect translation of the Greek word "pascha," which when properly translated is "Passover." The word "Easter" was substituted in deference to the pagan celebration, "Easter," a festivity belonging to the fertility cult of Astarte, (also called "Ashtaroth," "Ashtoreth," or "Ishtar,") the fertility goddess, and goddess of spring, of the Babylonian and Zidonian pagans. It had been adopted by some professed Christians, a little more than a thousand years before the King James Version was translated. But in the days of Luke it would have been regarded, as in reality it is, totally pagan; and to honor it would have been considered the height of idolatry, as it should be today, in spite of having been almost universally accepted by professing Christians. That season is indeed the anniversary of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus; but the name "Easter," as well as the chickens, eggs, rabbits, and sun worship, usually associated with it are all nothing but paganism and idolatry.


Verses 5 through 17 give us a true story that is more wonderful than any fairy tale ever told. It is one, which to the world is totally unbelievable; but to us, who believe in Jesus the Christ, it is just another example of His marvelous power.


Herod kept Peter in the prison under guard, feeling that he was in full control of the situation; but the church was continuously in prayer to God for Peter. The day Herod had appointed for bringing Peter out of prison, and putting him on trial was almost at hand. Then in that last night before Herod's great day, the Lord sent His angel into the prison where Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between his two guards, while the other two stood guard outside the door. As the angel entered into the cell, the light of his presence lighted the prison. Apparently the two chains with which Peter was bound were one on each hand, with the other end of each fastened to the hand of a guard, so that any movement Peter might make would alert the guards. But when the angel aroused Peter, the chains fell off his hands without even disturbing the guards. The angel instructed Peter to dress himself, and follow him, which he did, not realizing that this was actually taking place, but thinking it a vision. However, when they had come all the way out of the prison to the outer gate, the one that separated the prison from the public area of the city, it opened "of its own accord;" and as they walked on through the street, the angel left him.


At this point Peter was fully awake, and realized that this was a real experience, and not a vision or a dream. He said, "Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews." He very well knew what "the expectation of the people of the Jews" was. It was his execution; but God delivered him from that at this time. As Peter mused over this situation, he came to the home of the mother of John Mark. (We later learn from the Apostle Paul that John Mark is the nephew of Barnabas.) Here many of the disciples were gathered in prayer. They were no doubt trying to keep their place of meeting secret from the unbelieving Jews and the authorities, for when Peter knocked "at the door of the gate," instead of one of the men coming to see who it was, they sent a young girl named Rhoda. When she recognized Peter, she was so overjoyed and excited that instead of opening the gate, she ran back, and told the others that Peter was there. In spite of their faith in the Lord, and their constant prayers for Peter, they could not believe it, but accused Rhoda of being mad, or insane. As she kept insisting that it was he, they decided that Peter must already be dead, and this was his "angel" or spirit. When they finally did open the door, and saw Peter, they were completely amazed.


(Verse 17) "But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went to another place."


Peter knew that it would not be safe for him to tarry at any of the places where he was accustomed to being found. So, without letting the brethren waste time in asking questions, he told them his story, and instructed them to go to James, and tell him what had taken place, and also to tell the rest of the brethren. As noted earlier, the Apostle James had already been put to death. This James, to whom Peter sent his report of this event, was the brother of our Lord, and also the author of the Epistle of James. Having comforted the brethren by both his appearance and his report, Peter left, and went to an undisclosed location.


(Verses 18 and 19) "Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea , and there abode."


There is certainly nothing unusual about what is in this text. It does, nevertheless, indicate that Peter's deliverance must have been in the last watch of the night. We remember that Peter was sleeping between two guards, and apparently chained to them, and they also must have been asleep, which would not have been considered dereliction of duty, since Peter was chained to them so that any movement he might make should have awakened them. The ones outside the door, though by the power of God kept unconscious of any of the events that took place, may well have been fully alert at all other times. But since there was no sound of a scuffle, or anything of that sort, they had no reason to look into the cell. When the inside guards awoke at dawn, they immediately noticed that their prisoner was gone, and sounded the alarm, but to no avail.


When Herod was unable to find Peter anywhere, he ordered the guards executed. Then disappointed that he could not set up the great spectacle of the mock trial, and the execution of Peter, he left Judaea, and went to Caesarea , where he stayed for a while.


(Verses 20 through 23) "And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon : but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.


The first part of this contains nothing unusual. It is very common for those who are dependent upon the support of some political entity, as were these cities upon Herod's country, to work through the leader's subordinates to curry favor with him, in order to promote their own welfare. In the process of settling all their differences, Herod set a day for the people to gather, and listen to a speech he had prepared for them. At the end of this speech, whether from being so delighted with the speech, or just to promote their own cause with Herod, or both, they loudly acclaimed him a god, saying, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." Of course, this is exactly what Herod wanted, for politicians always thrive on flattery. However, because he accepted this acclaim without rebuking the people for such idolatry, "the angel of the Lord smote him." The angel did not strike him dead immediately. But laid upon him such a malady that, according to historians, as well as this account, he was literally eaten internally by worms, (and even some of the worms came to the outside, through the mouth, nose, ears, etc.,) and he died about five days later.


(Verses 24 and 25) "But the word of the Lord grew and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem , when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark."


Apparently Herod's death brought a little lull in the persecution of the Christians, and in this space of time the gospel spread, and many were converted to it. When Barnabas and Saul had finished the work of carrying the gift from the church at Antioch to the disciples at Jerusalem , they returned to Antioch , and brought John Mark with them.


Chapter 13

(Verses 1 through 3) "Now there were in the church at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which was brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."


The church at Antioch was greatly blessed with prophets and teachers. Luke names five of them, and his language indicates that these were not all. Barnabas and Saul have already been presented to us, but Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen are here mentioned for the only time in scripture, unless the Lucius mentioned in Romans 16:21 , is this Lucius; and if so, he had by that time moved from Antioch to Corinth . Simeon was also called " Niger ," which is the Latin word meaning "black." He no doubt was a black man; for most surnames given to persons in that era had reference to some characteristic of the individual. Although Luke tells us that Manaen was brought up with Herod the Tetrarch, (Herod Agrippa I,) the same Herod whose death was described in Chapter XII, he does not say in what capacity. Among some Christians today fasting for religious purposes has been discontinued, while it is still practiced by some; but among early Christians, it was universal. As the church at Antioch served the Lord, and fasted, they received a message directly from the Holy Ghost. He commanded them to "separate," or consecrate, to Him Barnabas and Saul "for the work whereunto I have called them." There is no record that the Holy Spirit ever told the church what that work was, nor is there any reason that He should. It is sufficient to know that He has called them to a work of His choosing. The church had already been fasting before they received this message, and as they continued fasting, they prayed and laid their hands upon them. Historically, the laying on of hands has been considered a sign of conferring authority or responsibility, but in this case it cannot signify that; for the authority is not of the church, but of the Holy Ghost, Who has done the calling. In this case it can only be a sign of their submission to the will of God, a visible manner of saying, "Amen," to His command. In this manner, "They sent them away," not in the sense of dispatching them "with the authority of the church," as some like to think, but simply in the sense of saying, "Farewell," as the next verse clearly shows.


(Verses 4 through 8) "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia ; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus . And when they came to Salamis , they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. And when they had gone through the Isle to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose surname was Bar-jesus: which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith."


Thus began the first missionary journey of Saul, who from this time forward was called Paul. He and Barnabas took with them John Mark, whom they had brought back with them from Jerusalem to Antioch . Nothing of any outstanding nature took place until they reached Paphos. They had preached the gospel "in the synagogues of the Jews" in Salamis , and apparently made no effort to preach to the Gentiles at all. When they reached Paphos they had an encounter with a Jew named Bar-jesus, who was a false prophet and sorcerer. ("Bar-jesus" means "the son of Jesus," "Jesus" being a very common name among the Jews, and actually being a variant of "Joshua.") The manner of this encounter is that this Bar-jesus was with the deputy, or administrator, of that country. The deputy, a very wise man named Sergius Paulus, a Roman name which, with reasonable clarity, shows him to be a Gentile, called for Barnabas and Saul to come and declare the gospel to him. Here Luke says that this sorcerer also had another name, "Elymas," which seems to mean "powerful," and he, with a view to holding his reputation, set about trying to influence the deputy against the faith.


(Verses 9 through 12) "Then Saul, (who is also called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."


This is the first recorded act of apostolic judgment by the Apostle Paul. By the power of the Holy Ghost and the authority of the office to which the Lord had appointed him, he addressed this sorcerer as a "child of the devil" and "enemy of all righteousness," and by that same power he declared God's judgment against him. He was to be not partially, but totally blind, so completely that he could not even see the sun. This was to last for a season. How long that season was to be we are not told. But the sentence was executed immediately, and we never hear of this man again, except that he had to have someone lead him around by the hand. No more was he the powerful sorcerer, but a blind and helpless man. When the deputy saw this, he was completely amazed at the power of the doctrine, or word, of God; and he believed the gospel.


The remainder of this chapter is the story of Paul's ministry immediately before and at the time of his first breaking away from preaching only to the Jews, and turning to the Gentiles also. Notice Luke's change in his manner of recording the entire story. Heretofore he has consistently, when speaking of the two, said "Barnabas and Saul," giving the priority of listing to Barnabas. Here he says, "When Paul and his company_ _ _," signifying that from henceforth Paul, not Barnabas, is the leader. At Perga in Pamphylia, their first stop after leaving Paphos, John Mark left them and returned to Antioch . Then they went to Antioch in Pisidia, not the Antioch from which their tour began. As was apparently their usual manner of activity, they went on the Sabbath day into the Jewish synagogue, where they quietly sat down, and listened to the reading "of the law and the prophets," which was the normal order of services in the synagogue. After the reading was finished, the rulers of the synagogue invited them to speak whatever word of exhortation they might desire. At this invitation Paul arose, and began his address. Verses 16 through 21 are only a very brief recounting of some Jewish history, which is given in far greater detail in the Old Testament; so we shall make no comments on them.


(Verses 22 through 25) "And when He had removed him, He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfill all My will. Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached before His coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel . And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not He.  But, behold, there cometh One after me, Whose shoes of His feet I am not worthy to loose."


Thus he declares to them that this Jesus is the seed of David, and the Saviour promised of God. And that John the Baptist, of whom all had heard, had testified that He, Who was to come after him, was so much greater than he that, he was not even worthy to loose His shoes.


Then he says that the word of this salvation is sent to these, his hearers. Because those who dwell at Jerusalem together with their rulers, because of their ignorance of the very prophecies they had read to them every Sabbath day, had done exactly what the prophets had foretold would be done, in that they condemned Him without cause, and had Pilate order His execution on the cross. "And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead: and He was seen many days of them, which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem , who are His witnesses unto the people." Although it certainly was not the intention of the people to fulfill the purposes and prophecies of God concerning Jesus, as they condemned and crucified Him, Paul says that is exactly what they did, "When they had fulfilled all that was written of Him." (The meticulous care of God to assure that even what we might consider the least prophecies, such as, "They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture," were fulfilled to the letter, should teach us that so shall He fulfill every promise and prophecy He has ever set forth. No word shall ever fail.) They thinking that they had made a complete riddance of both Him and His doctrine, "Took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre." Although those who had Him crucified did not actually take Him down from the tree, they demanded that it be done as soon as possible, because the next day was a "high day," and so it was by their insistence that it was done so soon. This, instead of accomplishing what they wanted, only as it were, set the stage for the greatest ever manifestation of the power of God. "But God raised Him from the dead." After this He remained many days on earth with those whom He had previously chosen to be witnesses of these things, and who had come with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem for this purpose.


(Verses 32 through 37) "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore He saith in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.  For David, after that he served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but He Whom God raised again, saw no corruption."


Having reminded these Jews that God had given Israel many wonderful promises, even promising them a Saviour, Paul declares that his message is only the good news that what God promised to the fathers, and that for which Israel has waited through the ages, He has fulfilled to the children, in that He raised up Jesus from the dead. And in proof that this is according to God's eternal purpose, and not something new He has decided to do, he refers to the same prophecy, and follows it with the same reasoning that the Apostle Peter did at Pentecost. Since David, speaking by the Holy Ghost, had said, "Thou wilt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption," and had later died, and, by the natural process of decay and corruption, had returned to the dust from whence he came, he could not have been speaking of himself. But the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Who, being raised from the dead by the power of God, saw no corruption.


(Verses 38 through 41) "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you."


This is the conclusion of Paul's message at that time, the climax toward which everything else has been directed. He calls upon his hearers to take notice, "Be it known unto you," that what is being preached to them is forgiveness of sins through this man, Jesus the Seed of David Whom God had raised up from the dead. By Him all, (every one that believes in Him,) are justified from all things. This is something that could never be obtained by the law of Moses. We should carefully notice that here he says, "all that believe are justified from all things;" and he makes no effort to explain how they were brought to believe. Therefore neither should we consider such at this point. The important thing is that all, who do believe are by Him justified from all things.


Paul then takes up the other side of the situation, And gives a very stern warning, that they beware lest they prove to be those spoken of by the prophet, "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you." This is also essentially the same as that, which our Lord told the Jews, (John 8:24 ,) "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins." From this only one conclusion can be drawn: believers are saved, while unbelievers are not.


(Verses 42 through 45) "And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitude, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."


A few words concerning the synagogue might be in order at this point. A synagogue was, is, and will be, until the rebuilding of the temple, the place of worship for the Jews, as well as a place for study of all things pertaining to the Jews' religion, and even some things which do not pertain to religion. In the time of Luke's account, there were also admitted to the synagogue those called "God fearers," who had embraced the worship of Jehovah, but had not yet submitted to circumcision. These were still considered Gentiles. It was in such a congregation that Paul delivered this address. Apparently, these God fearing Gentiles approached Paul and Barnabas after this sermon, and requested that Paul preach to them the next Sabbath day. Nothing is said about the reaction of the Jews to this first address, although it is said that after "the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas." This gave Paul and Barnabas the opportunity to privately speak further with them and strengthen them in "the grace of God," that is, in the doctrine that He had in Jesus the Christ provided forgiveness of sins by His grace, and not by the works of the law. It appears that no one raised any major objection to those things Paul had preached until the Jews saw "almost the whole city" come together the next Sabbath to hear the word of God. Then Luke tells us, and his words need no explanation, "But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."


(Verses 46 through 49) "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region."


Heretofore Paul had preached to the Jews in whatever place he traveled. Now that the Jews, envious because more people came to hear the gospel than came to their services, rejected both the gospel and the ministers thereof, he and Barnabas did not quietly fade away for fear of them, but boldly declared to them their intention, and the reason for it. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you." Some might ask, "Why was it necessary that the word of God first be preached to them? Could not God have sent Paul directly to the Gentiles when He called Him?" One must keep in mind that God can do any thing He sees fit, and in any manner He may choose. The only thing that makes any thing NECESSARY in any work of God is that He purposed it thus. There are many things that man thinks are the reasons for this necessity, but the one just cited is sufficient, and overrides all others. Now Paul and Barnabas tell these Jews that since they have fallen into exactly that of which they were warned, (in verses 40 and 41,) and have judged, (or by their actions have declared,) themselves unworthy of everlasting life, they will leave them, and turn to the Gentiles. Because it is for this very work God has called them, that they should be a light to the Gentiles, and witnesses for salvation to the ends of the earth. Having delivered this notice to the Jews, they did turn to the Gentiles, who gladly received them and the gospel. In a very short statement Luke declares the election of God as firmly as can any man, though he speak for hours on the subject: "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." How long Paul and Barnabas remained and preached in the area is not recorded, but it was long enough for the word of the Lord to be declared throughout all the region.


(Verses 50 through 52) "But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.


These "devout" women were not of those who embraced the gospel, but rather proselytes to the Jewish religion. The fact that they are also called "honourable" indicates not so much their character, which may also have been honorable, as it does their position and influence in the city. They were from "honorable families," perhaps, even the wives of the "chief men of the city," whom the Jews also stirred up. With their help the Jews aroused such persecution against Paul and Barnabas that, in accord with our Lord's instructions, they shook off the dust from their feet as witness against their persecutors, and went to Iconium. There the disciples received them with great joy, and were filled with the holy Ghost.



Chapter 14

In Iconium Paul and Barnabas stayed for a long while; just how long is not said, but in this time they both preached in the synagogue of the Jews, and their preaching was so blessed of God that, many, both Jews and Greeks, believed. They were also granted of God the power of working miracles which added to the force of their testimony of His Grace. Nevertheless the unbelieving Jews acted just as they did everywhere. They stirred up the Gentiles, and caused them to think evil of the disciples. For some time the city was divided, part holding with the apostles and others with the Jews. Finally the rulers of the city sided with the Jews, and they tried to arrest Paul and Barnabas, intending to stone them. But this was made known to the apostles, and they fled to the Lycaonian cities of Derbe and Lystra, and the region around them, where they continued to preach the gospel.


(Verses 8 through 10) "And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: the same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked."


This is very similar to the incident concerning the Apostle Peter and the impotent man at the gate of the temple. (See Chapter III.) Small details vary, but in both cases the ones healed were crippled from birth. The one in Chapter III was above forty years of age, and nothing is said about the age of this man, but it is evident that he was a fully grown adult. The earlier incident presents a man begging at the temple gate, while the one here was listening to the preaching of the gospel. In the present instance, Paul fixed his sight on this man, ("steadfastly beholding him,") and by the gift of "discerning of spirits" given him of the Holy Ghost, saw that he had faith to be healed." His faith was real, not pretended, and this Paul could discern. So he spoke directly to the man in a voice loud enough that those gathered around might hear, and understand that it was through him that God worked the miracle of healing on this man. What he said to the man was, "Stand upright on thy feet." Immediately, and to the total surprise of the people, the man leaped up, and walked.


(Verses 11 through 13) "And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people."


This text needs very little explanation, but it should be kept in mind as one reads that which follows. The whole account together shows just how fickle is humanity in its natural condition. In this particular text we see the people so amazed by the miracle of healing that, led not by the Spirit of God, but by their own natural superstition, they thought that their pagan gods had come down from Mt. Olympus in the likeness of men. They evidently had paid very little attention to what Paul had preached just before he healed the man. Admittedly, there is no record of what he said in that particular instance; but it surely was in harmony with the gospel as he always preached it, and would never have led anyone to such ideas as these people had. Even the priest of Jupiter, who was over, or in charge of the city (that is the meaning in this instance of "epi," the Greek word translated "Before,") came with what their religion required for such. And "with the people," that is, with their full approbation and concurrence, would have offered sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas.


(Verses 14 through 17) "Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, Which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."


Paul and Barnabas, (both called apostles by Luke, though Barnabas is not commonly considered as one of the apostles,) being faithful servants of God, could not let these people accord to them the glory that belongs to God alone. So, they ran in among the crowd, telling them that these were the very things from which they should turn unto the living God, just as they had already been preaching to them. This God to Whom they were trying to persuade the people to turn is He Who created all things, including heaven, earth, sea, and all the fullness of them. Until the coming of Jesus the Christ into the world, God's revelation of His will, laws, and purposes, had been restricted to the Jews, and all other nations had been suffered to walk in their own ways. Still, during all that time, He did not leave Himself without witness; for it was He, Who gave the "rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons." "Heaven," in this expression, is to be understood either as the atmospheric heaven, in which the clouds move, and from which the rain literally comes, or heaven, the throne of God, from which He commands the rain, as well as every thing else. From heaven God rules all things. The expression, "filling our hearts with food and gladness," might be a little clearer to follow the word order of the Greek, "filling (us) with food, and our hearts with gladness." Except for the "(us)," this is the actual word order of the Greek text. We have supplied "us" for clarity.


(Verses 18 through 20) "And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe."


As noted earlier, this account clearly shows the fickleness of humanity. The very people who were with great difficulty restrained from offering sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas as gods, have so quickly been persuaded by false reports to not only disregard what they have been teaching, but even to murder Paul. This they thought they had accomplished. Luke says that, they supposed him dead; and we can be reasonably sure that their supposition was correct. Yet the same God Who through Paul had healed the cripple, was able also to raise Paul from death, that he might continue the work to which he had been ordained and called. So, with the disciples standing by as witnesses, he arose, and went back into the city with them. On the next day both he and Barnabas left Lystra on their way to Derbe.


There is no indication of how long they remained at Derbe, but while there they did preach to many people. Then they came back to Lystra, and from thence to Iconium and Antioch , the very cities from whence came the Jews who stirred up the people of Lystra to stone Paul. This Antioch is the one in Pisidia, not that from which Paul and Barnabas started their journey. While in this city they confirmed, or encouraged the disciples, and taught them that it is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God . They exhorted the disciples to continue in the faith, they ordained, or appointed, "elders in every church," and with fasting and prayer they "commended them to the Lord on Whom they believed." That is, they took their leave of them, exhorting them to depend upon the Lord to lead them, as they would no longer be there to instruct them. It seems from this text, and many others that, in spite of traditional ideas, not necessarily all the elders were preachers, but all were overseers of the churches, and these in this instance were appointed, not by the church, but by Paul and Barnabas.


Apparently nothing of any major importance besides their preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus throughout the region, took place as they returned through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, and Attalia, to Antioch from which they began this journey. Having fulfilled their first mission, they had returned to the place where they were when the Holy Ghost commanded the church to separate them for this work.


(Verses 27 and 28) "And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples."


This needs no explanation unless it be their expression, "How He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." It must be remembered that at the time of their departure, except for Peter's preaching the gospel at the house of Cornelius, there had been no effort to preach to the Gentiles. Even Paul and Barnabas, at the beginning of their journey, preached only to the Jews, though, as earlier explained, there were a few Gentiles in some of the congregations in the synagogues of the Jews. It was while on this mission that they had announced to the Jews that they were turning to the Gentiles. It is not clear whether the brethren at Antioch were aware of this or not. So they told them how this had come about.



Chapter 15

This chapter gives the record on an incident which brought about a council of the apostles at Jerusalem , and forever settled the question of how much observance of the law is required of Gentile Christians. Luke says, "certain men" came down from Judaea to Antioch , and began teaching the brethren, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." This seems to be the incident Paul describes in the second chapter of Galatians. If it is, it is evident that what he told Peter at that time was indeed taken to heart, as we shall see a little later in this chapter. It is noteworthy that Luke says, "certain men_ _ _came down from Judaea ." He says nothing about their being sent. However, when Paul describes this event, (assuming that it is the same one,) he says, "For before that certain came from James_ _ _." This, of course aroused Paul and Barnabas, and quite an argument arose between them and these men from Judaea . The church at Antioch decided that the best way to settle the matter was to send a delegation made up of Paul, Barnabas, and others chosen for this mission, to Jerusalem , that they might present the question to the apostles and elders there. As this delegation passed through Phenice and Samaria , they reported to the churches there the conversion of the Gentiles, which was very pleasing news to them.


(Verses 4 and 5) "And when they were come to Jerusalem , they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and command them to keep the law of Moses."


No doubt they had expected the brethren at Jerusalem to be as well pleased with the conversion of the Gentiles as had been those along the way. But there were some of these who had come from the sect of the Pharisees, and although they had been given faith in the Lord Jesus, they had still retained their zeal for the law. Thus, their argument that everyone must be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses. This contention caused the apostles and elders to come together for the purpose of considering the matter.


(Verses 7 through 11) "And when there had been much disputing Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God Which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we, nor our fathers, were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."


As is usual when there is sufficient difference of opinion on a matter to cause contention among the leaders of any movement, even those who are led by the Spirit of God, as were the apostles, there was a great deal of discussion of the question. (The King James version says, "disputing," but the Greek word thus translated also means "discussion.") After this Peter arose to address the council. When he did speak on the matter, he reminded them of his own experience and observation when the Holy Ghost sent him to preach to Cornelius, proving thereby that God dealt in exactly the same manner with the uncircumcised Gentiles as He had with the circumcised Jews. He purified their hearts by faith, not by the law. In his judgment, it would be tempting God to put this burden on the Gentile believers, especially since "neither we nor our fathers were able to bear" it. Because the Jews could not bear that burden, that is, they could not obtain justification by the law, they too believed that they would be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus the Christ, just as would the Gentile believers. Peter's declaration quieted the council so that they listened to Paul and Barnabas, as they recounted all the miracles that God had worked by them among the Gentiles to whom they had ministered.


The next speaker after they had given their account was James, who called their attention to Peter's account of his preaching to Cornelius, and showed by the word of the prophets that God had long before declared that he would call a people from among the Gentiles. Then he set forth his opinion of the matter.


(Verses 18 through 21) "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned unto God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day."


Since all of God's works are known to Him from the beginning, there can be no thought that He has overlooked something in what He has already done for these Gentile believers. Therefore since He has already accepted them without circumcision, and given to them exactly the same gifts He has given to those who are circumcised, there is nothing that circumcision can add to them. Therefore there is no reason to even trouble them about this matter. Only four things would James enjoin upon them. One is, that they have nothing to do with idols. At this point we should keep in mind that any thing or any one that one lets come between him and God is an idol. The next thing he would require is, that they abstain from fornication. Someone will surely say, Why did he single out that particular sin, and not mention theft, murder, drunkenness, etc., seeing that in many places in scripture they are all linked together?" There may be several reasons. But two outstanding ones are: first, in many Gentile societies of that day, there were laws of the state against most other evils. So that respectable persons, whether believers in Jesus, or not, knew that such were not acceptable, while fornication was not only so common that many did not even consider it a sin, but it was even a part of the ritual of some of the pagan religions. And therefore believers must be forcefully taught that it is a sin, and is to be avoided. And second, although it is sometimes listed on apparently the same level as other sins, the Apostle Paul says, (I Cor. 6:18 ,) "Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body," thus establishing that fornication is an exceptionally damaging sin. Then James says that Gentile believers should be taught to abstain from two more things. They are "things strangled" and "blood." Both of these have to do with dietary laws, and although the ban on both is set forth in the law of Moses, that was not their origin. This commandment antedates the law by hundreds of years. (Gen. 9:3-5) "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it_ _ _." Anything that has been killed by strangling, retains the blood in it, and therefore one who eats it, is also eating the blood with it, which is the same as eating, or drinking, blood. Since this commandment did not originate in the law of Moses, but was given to Noah, who is the father of all races, both Jew and Gentile, it is to be observed by all who honor God. So far as the law of Moses is concerned, there are "in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day."


After this address by James, there appears to have been no more dissension. Not only the apostles and elders, but even the whole church were united in their desire to send Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with letters giving the decision of the apostles and elders. And with them they sent two men of their own associates, "Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren," probably as witnesses that the letters were genuine, and not a forgery, so as to put to silence those teachers who had started the problem to begin with.


(Verses 23 through 29) "And they wrote letters by them, after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria, and Cilicia: forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must needs be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good to us, being assembled in one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well."


There is little new in this quotation. The letter does call attention to those who were the root of the trouble, and declare that neither the apostles, elders, nor church at Jerusalem , had authorized any such teaching as they had been doing. It affirms their love of Barnabas and Paul for their faithful service to God, and introduces Judas and Silas to the Gentile brethren, saying that they "shall also tell you the same things by mouth," confirming that this was, at least part of, their purpose in sending them. Their expression, "it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us," should be the order of operation, as far as we can determine it, in every thing we do. We should strive to find what does seem good to the Holy Ghost. And if that can be ascertained, it should also seem good to us. Although the order of the wording of the letter is slightly different from that in James' speech, the message is the same, and we have already discussed that. One thing we should carefully note is the phrase, "these necessary things." Necessary things are not things which may be observed, or set aside, at will, but are things which we MUST follow. Otherwise, we will suffer. Further, this letter gives this final thought, "from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well." This is, without question, the most concise declaration of church order ever given in scripture.


When the council was over, Paul, Barnabas, and their company returned to Antioch , where they called the disciples together, and delivered to them the letter, which greatly relieved and comforted them. Then Judas and Silas gave witness to the same things that were in the letter, and, being prophets themselves also, they exhorted the brethren at length. After they had remained for a while in Antioch , Judas returned to Jerusalem , but Silas remained in Antioch , along with Paul, Barnabas, and many others, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.


After some time, Paul and Barnabas decided to re-visit all the places they had gone on their earlier journey, but there arose a disagreement between them because of John Mark, who had started with them before, but had turned back. Barnabas wanted to take him along again, but Paul would not have this, So they parted company, with Barnabas taking Mark with him, and Paul choosing Silas as a traveling companion. Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus , and Paul and Silas "went through Syria and Cilicia , confirming the churches." From Paul's own testimony it appears that later he had a much better opinion of Mark than at this time, for in II Timothy 4:11, he says, Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry."


Chapter 16

As Paul and Silas continued on their journey, they came to Derbe and Lystra, two cities Paul had previously visited. In this area was a disciple, a young man named Timotheus, whom we later know as Timothy. Evidently Paul was very favorably impressed by him immediately, for when it was time to continue his journey, he wanted Timothy to go with him. Although Timothy's father was a Greek, his mother was a Jewess, and to prevent the Jews from making any objection to Timothy, he circumcised him before taking him along. He tells us in Galatians, Chapter II, that in the case of Titus, a young Greek disciple, who later accompanied him to Jerusalem , he made no such concession to the Jews.


As they traveled through the cities, they not only preached the gospel, but also delivered to the churches the decrees that were ordained of the council in Jerusalem , which we have already seen in the letter sent from Jerusalem to the Gentile brethren,


It seems that most people, when they read our lord's directive to His disciples, (Mat. 28:19,) "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations_ _ _," or (Mark 16:15,) "Go ye into all the world_ _ _," think that He meant they should set forth to see how quickly they could go all over the world with the gospel message, and going wherever they might desire, and according to their own scheduling. However, in verses 7 through 10 we find proof that what He meant was that they were free to go anywhere in the world that the Holy Ghost should direct them, and at His schedule, not theirs. Apparently, after Paul and his company had finished their work in Phrygia and Galatia , they wanted to go into Asia , but were forbidden by the Holy Ghost to do so. Then when they reached Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia , and the Spirit would not permit this either. Then at Troas Paul was given a vision in the night of a man of Macedonia , begging him to come into Macedonia , and help the people there. All of this clearly shows that the gospel is not to be sent by man according to some schedule he may design, but as the Holy Ghost may direct the one He calls for the work. Neither is the planning of the itinerary to be of man. It too must be of the Lord.


After passing by Samothracia and Neapolis, they reached Philippi, a city of Macedonia , where they remained for a few days. Outside the city there was a place by the riverside where people were accustomed to gather for prayer. Apparently most of those who frequented this place were women, for Luke speaks thus concerning it, "and we sat down, and spake with the women which resorted thither."


(Verses 14 and 15) "And a certain woman named Lydia , a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira , which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto those things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."


This lady was a woman of Thyatira, a merchant whose item of traffic was either a purple dye which was very popular in the area, or cloth dyed with that dye, or possibly both. She being a worshipper of God, came here to pray to Him, along with others, who also prayed. As Paul talked with her, the Lord opened her heart to attend unto those things, which Paul told her. Evidently one of those things was that, those who believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord should be baptized in His name, as testimony to the world that they do believe. Not only did the Lord open her heart to these things, but also the hearts of those of her household; for they were all baptized. After her baptism she not only invited Paul and his associates to come into her house, and abide while in the vicinity, but she insisted that they do so. Luke says, "And she constrained us." Her plea was that if they considered her faithful to the Lord, they should do so.


In verses 16 through 24 Luke tells of an event which brought on more persecution of Paul and his party. There seems to have been a more or less set time of day for them to resort to the place of prayer; and there was a slave girl "possessed with a spirit of divination." (We would probably today call her a fortune teller or a soothsayer, which most people regard as fake, or at most, an oddity, but according to the word of God, and witnessed by this very incident, there are those who, being possessed by evil spirits, have this power.) For many days this girl followed Paul and his companions as they went to the place of prayer, loudly proclaiming, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation." As we read this, we might be tempted to think it a good thing, and possibly take this as a revelation given her of God. Yet we must keep in mind that evil spirits know God, know Jesus, and know the servants of God. Witness Matt. 8:29 , "And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?," and Acts 19:15 , "And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" Paul having the gift of discerning of spirits, and being grieved, not because the girl was telling the people that they were the servants of the most high God, but because she was possessed of an evil spirit, "turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. The phrase, "the same hour," does not indicate that sometime later in the hour the evil spirit came out. Its normal usage is to mean the same as "immediately." Of course, when the evil spirit came out of the girl, she was no longer a fortune-teller, or soothsayer, and her masters had lost all hope of any future income from her powers, so they were furious.


Evidently, her masters had some influence with the city officials; so they caught Paul and Silas, and carried them into the market place, which, as it did in many cities, served as an open-air forum for court. They presented Paul and Silas before the magistrates, pretending that they had been advocating things which would be unlawful for them as Roman citizens to receive, although most likely, as citizens of an occupied country, they were no more in love with Rome than with Paul and Silas. Howbeit, they influenced the crowd to join their complaints, and the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas stripped, and beaten, after which, they put them in jail, and ordered the jailer to keep them safely. Upon receiving such orders, the jailer, not only put them in one of the inner cells, but also fastened their feet in the stocks.


(Verses 25 through 28) "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors of the prison were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."


The text of the prayer of Paul and Silas is not given, but in consideration of the fact that they were also singing praises to God, it seems likely that they were thanking God for counting them worthy to suffer for His sake, rather than praying for deliverance. Nevertheless it was not God's purpose that they should remain there as they were. Earthquakes have often been known to shake buildings to their foundations, and even to open doors of buildings. But one that will loose the bands of every person in prison without hurting any one in the building is totally unheard of; and can only be by the power of God, not a phenomenon of nature. It can only be by the special appointment of God. Since, by Roman law, a jailer's life can be held in forfeit for the escape of a prisoner, when this jailer was awakened by the earthquake, and thought that all his prisoners had escaped, he considered suicide the honorable way out, instead of waiting for the executioner. It is not known positively whether or not Paul could see him, but probably not, since the jailer had to get a light before coming to Paul's cell; but Paul knew what to expect. So he called loudly enough to be sure that he would be heard, and said, "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."


(Verses 29 through 34) "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."


Evidently there was no light in the jail, or, at least, not in the cell where Paul and Silas were. So the jailer called for a light, and obtaining it he went very quickly into the cell of Paul and Silas, (literally, "jumped" in"). It is unclear whether he had ever heard of either salvation or eternal judgment, as declared in the gospel. His question, "What must I do to be saved?" probably had no reference to salvation in our Lord Jesus, as preached in the gospel. His very act of throwing himself at the feet of Paul and Silas shows his Pagan superstition, and his fear of them, as if they had the power of destruction. Just as the people of Lystra wanted to offer sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, for the miracle of healing wrought upon the cripple, so this man was ready to worship Paul and Silas, and do any thing else they might demand, lest they destroy him. He desired safety from the power of destruction he thought them to have. Paul's answer to him has a great similarity to that of Peter to the impotent man at the temple gate. That man thought that he would receive money; but what he received was far greater than all the money a rich man could have given him. This jailer wanted safety from the destructive power he thought Paul and Silas had. Instead they told him of Jesus. Verse 31 is often misunderstood, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Many times we have heard it said, in reference to this, "The Lord promised that if I believed in Him, He would save my whole house, or family." Let me say emphatically, He did no such. The message here is the same as that expressed by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost, (Acts 2:39 ,) "For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." In this case it is to "You and your house, every one who believes;" for these are identical with "as many as the Lord our God shall call." They did then preach the word of the Lord to both him and "all that were in his house," and all were blessed of the Lord to believe, and they were all baptized. What is meant by the statement, "And he took them the same hour of the night_ _ _," is simply that he made no delay, but attended to this matter immediately. Then he brought them into his house, and provided food for them, rejoicing in the Lord. He had great cause for rejoicing, for not only had the Lord given him faith to believe the gospel, but also to his entire household. He now had a glorious hope of a future that heretofore he did not even know existed. No mention is made of it, but it is probable that Paul and Silas went back into the prison before morning for the protection of the jailer, since, when the authorities sent for them the next day, their being at his house would have put him in jeopardy.


The next morning the magistrates sent officers to the prison with orders to the jailer that he release the prisoners. When the message was relayed to Paul, he gave them an answer they were not expecting: "They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? Nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out." This is the first recorded instance of Paul's standing upon his Roman citizenship against the authorities, who were violating the very laws they were sworn to uphold. According to Roman law, a Roman citizen accused of a crime, could not be beaten until he was proven guilty, and condemned in open court. Someone might ask, "Did they not beat Jesus before He was condemned?" Certainly, they did, but there is never a statement in scripture to indicate that He had Roman citizenship. Moreover His whole trial was illegal, for the judge himself declared, "I find no fault in Him:" and then ordered Him crucified. When the Philippian judges heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, their whole attitude changed. They came personally to the jail, and begged them to come out of prison, and to leave the city. These judges were afraid that if Paul and Silas remained in the area, they would report them, the judges, to those in authority over them. When Paul and Silas left the prison, they had no need to rush, as men being driven out, but instead, they went to the house of Lydia , where they had been staying while in Philippi . There they visited with the other disciples in the city, whom they comforted, and then they departed.


Chapter 17

Back in Chapter XIII Paul and Barnabas declared to the Jews that they were at that point turning to the Gentiles, which they partly did, and it is to the Gentiles that most of Paul's ministry is dedicated. Yet, at this time, he was still maintaining his custom of going first to the synagogues in whatever city he entered. His earlier declaration must have been meant more in a local sense, concerning the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia, than concerning his overall ministry.


After leaving Philippi , they continued their journey through Amphipolis and Apollonia, where, apparently, nothing of any great moment took place. When they arrived at Thessalonica, they found a synagogue of the Jews, "and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures." (We here call attention to the "three Sabbath days," indicating that approximately three weeks is the length of their stay in Thessalonica. Yet when we read Paul's letters to the church at Thessalonica, we are made aware of a bond between him and this church, which is much greater than one would expect for such short acquaintance.) As Paul reasoned on the scriptures with the people, he proved from the prophecies concerning Him, that Jesus was purposed of God to suffer even to death. And then to be raised from the dead by the power of God; and he declared to them "that this Jesus, Whom I preach unto you is the Christ." (The K. J. V. omits "the," but it is in the Greek.) Some of the Jews and "a great multitude" of the Greeks believed, and followed Paul and Silas. (See our earlier notes concerning Gentiles in the synagogues of the Jews.) "And of the chief women not a few," is an old manner of saying, "many women of the chief families."


As they had done elsewhere, the unbelieving Jews, being envious because so many of their prospective proselytes turned from their teaching to the gospel, gathered some of the criminal element to themselves, and caused an uproar throughout the city. The mob went to the house of one Jason, who is nowhere else identified. Whether or not Paul and Silas had been staying at his house we do not know; but apparently the mob thought they had. At any rate they did not find them there. But they took Jason and certain other brethren, and took them before the rulers, or judges, accusing them of harboring Paul and Silas, who, they said, were teaching and doing "contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." This, of course, upset the judges and the people. Yet it seems that all they did was to put Jason and the others under bond, (they took "security of Jason, and of the others,") and released them.


The brethren, fearing for the safety of Paul and Silas, sent them away by night to Berea , where they continued preaching the gospel in the synagogue of the Jews. Luke bears witness to the character of the people of Berea thus: "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." As the result of their study, many of them, the Jews, believed, and also many of the Greeks, both men and "honourable women." Just as "chief women" above, "honourable women" signifies women of the more influential families of the city.


When the Jews of Thessalonica heard of the success of their ministry in Berea , they cane there, and stirred up the people against Paul and his company. However, only Paul left Berea , while both Silas and Timotheus remained there for a time. It is not clear whether Paul went to Athens by sea or by land. Luke says, "And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea_ _ _and they that conducted Paul brought him to Athens ." It could well be that their going "as it were to the sea" was a ruse to confuse the Jews, who likely would have followed him. When those who conducted him to Athens returned to Berea , he sent word by them for Silas and Timotheus to make haste, and come to him at Athens . In verses 16 through 21 Luke gives a very short description of the people of Athens and their activities. The first thing we notice is that "the city was wholly given to idolatry." This so stirred the spirit of Paul that he, apparently on Sabbath days, disputed in the synagogue with both the Jews and "devout persons," those who though Gentiles, were still regular attendants at the synagogue services, and daily in the market with those who met with him.  Both the Epicurians and the Stoics, (two schools of philosophy that were popular at the time,) after hearing him declare the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, called him "a setter forth of strange gods," and brought him to Areopagus. This is another name for Mar's Hill, a hill at Athens upon which met the council, or court, which had jurisdiction over religious questions as well as civil and criminal. This council was itself also called Areopagus. Here they inquired of Paul, "May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean." Luke says that their reason for so doing was that, every one in Athens , whether a native, or a stranger, was constantly doing nothing but either telling or listening to some new thing. So their bringing Paul before this council was not necessarily with evil intent, but because of their natural curiosity.


(Verses 22 through 28) "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mar's Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens , I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is He worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not very far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring."


Thus Paul sets forth the foundation of his address. We were told earlier that his spirit was stirred by seeing that "the city was wholly given to idolatry." So when he says, "Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you," he is not, as some think, saying that God has visited them with the Holy Spirit, and led them to seek after Him, though they are ignorant of how He should be worshipped. Instead, he was well aware that their reason for erecting this altar with the inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD," was that in their superstition and ignorance they were afraid that they might slight some god, of whom they had not heard. Nevertheless he did tell them that, there is a God, of Whom they are indeed ignorant. And He is not to be worshipped, nor indeed can be, in the manner they have set about. For, in the first place, He does not dwell in temples made with hands of men, but in heaven itself; and second, He cannot be worshipped by hands, that is, by sacrifice and offering, because He needs nothing of man. On the contrary, every thing we have was given us of Him, even to life and breath; so we have nothing of which to make an offering to Him. Verse 26 is an often misunderstood, or misused declaration. The modern "do gooders," with no understanding of the scriptures, are constantly quoting it down to the first comma, and omitting the rest, in a vain effort to prove that the various races of people should be mixed, and amalgamated into just one race. In the first place, the fact that He did make all nations, or races, of men from that one blood is sufficient proof that it is not pleasing to Him that they be mixed. Had that been His will, he surely would never have separated them in the first place, but would have left them as they were in the beginning. Then too He has "determined the times before appointed." There are those who argue that conditions of climate under which different races have historically lived are the cause of the different racial features, including, but not limited to color. But it seems far more reasonable that when God confounded the languages at the tower of Babel , and scattered men over the face of the earth, He also made the differences of race. Yet for the sake of the argument we will allow their claim that it is due to climate. Then this also is God's work, for He has "determined the times before appointed." It was by His determination they were there long enough to bring about these changes. Finally, He also determined "the bounds of their habitation." Whatever race one may mention, it, for many centuries of time was found in a particular part of the world, in "the bounds of its habitation," as determined by God Himself. The world would be much better off today if this were still continuing. This is not intended to teach supremacy of one race above another, but simply to call upon each and every race to be thankful for the heritage given it of God, and that they not dishonor God by trying to change that which He has established, by mixing them.


Paul said that God has determined that they, people of every nation, and race, "should seek the Lord, if haply they may feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us." He had just declared that even the natural blessings, such as life and breath, are given of God. Therefore He is not far from every one of us. If He should completely withdraw from us, we would immediately cease to be. Nevertheless, every one does not "feel after Him." In fact, no man is inclined toward God, nor seeks God, until God has wrought a work of grace upon his heart. Then it is that he "feels after Him," and will seek Him. And our Lord says, (Mat. 7:7-8,) "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." This applies to one nation, or race, in exactly the same manner as to another. When Paul says, "For we are His offspring," he is quoting from one of the Athenian poets, but his meaning is not that we are begotten of God, as was Jesus. He is God's only begotten Son, but God is our Maker. He created man, and formed him from the dust of the earth. In that sense all men are His offspring.


(Verses 29 through 31) "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead."


We, as we consider that we, being made by the hands of God, are thus His offspring, certainly should never think that gold, silver, stone, or any other material, no matter how beautifully carved, or engraved, could ever represent Him. Although, for centuries God had suffered all other nations to walk in ways of their own choosing, thus "winking at" their ignorance, while giving His laws and His prophets to the Jews alone, He now commands "all men everywhere to repent." That is, not the Jews only, but people of every nation and every race. This is still subject to the apostle's earlier statement, "if haply they might feel after Him," just as Peter's expression at Pentecost, "all that are afar off," is subject to its following restriction, "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." The reason He now calls upon all to repent, and not just Israel , is that He has appointed a day of judgment, and the Judge will judge the world, not just Israel . This appointment, though made before the world began, has lately been confirmed by Him, in that He has given the assurance of it by raising the Judge, our Lord Jesus the Christ, from the dead.


It is obvious from their actions that few of his congregation believed. It seems that they did, through common courtesy, listen until Paul spoke of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. At this point some openly mocked, or ridiculed the whole matter, while others, a little more polite, but with no more interest in the subject than those who did ridicule, said, "We will hear thee again of this matter.


At this point Paul left them, and Luke tells us that there were some of the people, though, apparently very few, who believed, and followed Paul. Only two are mentioned by name, one, Dionysius, a member of the council, ("the Areopagite,") and a woman named Damaris.


Chapter 18

After this occasion, Paul waited no longer in Athens for Silas and Timotheus, but went to Corinth . Here he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila , and his wife Priscilla. They had not long before come from Rome , because the emperor, Claudius, had ordered all Jews to leave Rome . Nothing is said to that effect, but, though they are spoken of as Jews, they seem already to have been disciples, and since both they and Paul were tentmakers, he stayed with them, and worked, continuing his custom of going to the synagogue every Sabbath day, and preaching the gospel to both the Jews and the Greeks who were there. About the time that Silas and Timotheus arrived at Corinth , he was so moved by the Spirit, that he very boldly testified that Jesus is the Christ: which so angered some of the Jews, that they raised up against him, blaspheming what he had been teaching. This so aroused Paul, that "He shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles."


Luke says that Paul, when he departed from the synagogue, went into the house of a man named Justus, who is identified by the phrase "one that worshipped God." This shows him to be a Gentile, who, though not yet a full proselyte to the Jewish religion, did attend the synagogue, and did believe in God. His house was nearby. Even Crispus, "the chief ruler," or teacher, of the synagogue, together with his family and many of the Corinthians, believed the gospel, and were baptized.


(Verses 9 through 11) "Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night in a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."


Paul testifies, in his letter to the church at Rome , of the deep love he had for the Jews, and the great and continuous sorrow he had for their being shut up in unbelief. With such feelings, it no doubt made him greatly depressed to have to take the step recorded in verse 6. But the Lord appeared to him in a night vision with both comfort and exhortation to continue fearlessly on in the work to which he had been called, promising to be with him so that no man could do him harm. This is not to say that they would not try, as is soon made clear in this account. Apparently he met with comparatively little trouble for a year and a half, as he continued teaching and preaching the word of God among the disciples.


In verses 12 through 17, Luke records an instance of attempted persecution against Paul, which, to some extent, fell back upon those, who started it. The clause, "When Gallio was the deputy of Achaia," although it does not say so explicitly, seems to mean "When he was appointed deputy," and the events appear to confirm this. The Jews may have feared to attempt anything under his predecessor, but, as people sometimes will, they decided to see just how far they could go with a new man in charge. So, they incited the mob, took Paul, and brought him before Gallio's judgment seat, accusing him of teaching people to worship God contrary to the law of Moses. Gallio, who as a Roman deputy, or governor, cared no more for the law of Moses than he did for the gospel of the Christ, before Paul could even begin to speak in his own behalf, dismissed court, as Luke describes the event.


(Verses 15 through 17) "Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of these things."


Gallio must have been one of those Roman governors who had little love for the Jews. Perhaps the Jewish population of Corinth may not have been large enough to have much political clout. At any rate, he sat by, totally unconcerned, while the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat, without even bothering to inquire whether or not he was a Roman citizen. Although the name, "Sosthenes," is Greek, it is evident from his position in the synagogue that he was a Jew. Yet he could have been a Roman citizen, for so was Paul, and he was a Jew. If Sosthenes had Roman citizenship, his beating was illegal, but Gallio was still unconcerned. His statement to the Jews, "look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters," Does not in any wise give the Jews authority to take Paul, and judge him themselves by their law, as is proven by the acts that followed the statement. What it does mean, as borne out by these facts, is "You will just have to make the best of it; for you are not to bring such foolishness to me for judgment."


In verses 18 through 23, Luke only gives the itinerary of Paul after leaving Corinth until he had passed through Galatia and Phrygia . He gives little detail of the events of this journey. He does tell us that when Paul left Corinth , He took Aquila and Priscilla with him, went to Cenchrea, where, in connection with a vow he had taken, he had all his hair cut off. (This was a fairly common practice among the Jews with certain religious vows.) Then from Cenchrea they went to Ephesus , where, apparently, Aquila and Priscilla remained while Paul continued his journey. At Ephesus , however, Paul again went into the synagogue to reason with the Jews. No mention is made of their reaction to his preaching. Although the brethren tried to have Paul remain longer with them, he was determined, if possible, to be in Jerusalem for the upcoming feast. There is at this point no indication what feast is intended, whether Passover, Tabernacles, or some other. Promising that if God permitted, he would return to Ephesus , he sailed to Caesarea, spoke to the church there, and went to Antioch , where he remained a little while, and then went through Galatia and Phrygia , encouraging and strengthening all the disciples in those areas. The remainder of this chapter deals with another man.


(Verses 24 through 26) "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus, This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."


Without further explanation, Luke has told us all we will ever need to know about who Apollos was, and from whence he came. So with no further reference to these, let us examine what he was. First, he was "an eloquent man." God had blessed him with great ability as a speaker. Next, he was mighty in the scriptures, that is, he was thoroughly versed in all the Old Testament, for that was all that was then in being of the scriptures. He had applied himself to much study of them; and God had given him great understanding of them. For clarity, let us re-arrange the word order of verse 25. "This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught these." In keeping with the fact that he was no further advanced in his knowledge than the baptism of John, the qualification, "as far as he knew them," would surely be understood with this verse. Sometimes we find those who seem to think that, God will Himself give His ministers all the knowledge they need to serve in the ministry to which He has called them. They will then quote John 16:13, "Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth." While, certainly, He says, "He will guide you into all truth," he does not say that He will reveal it all directly to you. He can, and does, guide you into some truth by leading you to those who already know it, and are willing to share it with you, as in this case. Apollos was an eloquent man, well versed in the holy scriptures of the Old Testament, and diligent in his service to God, with what knowledge he did have. Nevertheless his knowledge was severely limited. Since he only knew John's baptism, he knew nothing of the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, and promised return of our Lord Jesus the Christ. Yet he was bold in what he did know. After hearing him preach, Aquila and Priscilla "took him unto them, and expounded to him the way of God more perfectly." They created no public disturbance by correcting him before others. Instead, they called him aside, probably even taking him home with them, and told him of those wonderful gospel truths of which he was ignorant. Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned again in Paul's writing, and nowhere is anything said about whether or not Aquila was a preacher; and it is certain that Priscilla was not, but at this time they did some great teaching. The same principles are still in operation today. There can be no doubt, that Apollos gave heed to those things they taught him; for as Luke continues, he gives this account.


(Verses 27 and 28) "And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." (Literally, "by the scriptures showing Jesus to be the Christ.")


Chapter 19

(Verses 1 through 4) "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth , Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus : and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him, Which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."


Corinth was a city of Achaia , and in the preceding chapter, we saw that, Apollos went into Achaia, and evidently, to Corinth . So, while he was there, Paul, in his travels, had come back to Ephesus , the city where we first heard of Apollos. Here he found some disciples with whom he began to converse. Being interested in their spiritual welfare, he asked if they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed, only to find that they knew nothing about the Holy Ghost. Further questioning revealed that they were exactly as was Apollos before Aquila and Priscilla instructed him, that is, they had been baptized unto John's baptism, and that is as far as their knowledge of the way of the Lord had progressed. It is not clear whether they might have been disciples of Apollos before he met Aquila and Priscilla, or of someone else, but clearly they had been isolated from those to whom Paul had preached. At this point Paul said to them, "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him Which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." The baptism of John was good as far as it went. But it was only a witness that one had repented of his sins, while baptism in the name of our Lord Jesus is witness of faith in His death and resurrection, things of which these disciples had not even heard.


(Verses 5 through 7) "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And the number of the men was about twelve."


This seems to be clear enough without further explanation, but one very interesting point that shows here, as in other places, is that there is never any mention in scripture of the gift of "The Unknown Tongue." Instead of these disciples speaking with "the unknown tongue," they spoke with tongues, certainly, more than one other tongue, or language, and whether they were unknown, or, as on the day of Pentecost, universally known, is not made clear.


In verses 8 through 12, we are told of some more incidents during Paul's stay at Ephesus , events which, when compared to those that will follow, seem to be of somewhat less moment. After about three months of continuing to go to the synagogue to reason with the Jews, the disagreement of the Jews became so great that, Paul and those who believed his teaching quit going to the synagogue, and instead, went daily to the school of Tyrannus . No further information is given concerning Tyrannus. He may have been one of those philosophers who were so common in that era, and was accustomed to having his followers meet him at a certain place daily for his teaching, and possibly, debating among themselves. Be that as it may, he must have been friendly toward the disciples and Paul, for this arrangement continued for two years. This was a very successful ministry, for by it all who were in that area of Asia , both Jews and Greeks, heard the gospel. During this time the Holy Ghost conferred upon Paul special powers of working miracles, so much so "that from his body were brought to the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them."


(Verses 13 through 17) "Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, we adjure you by Jesus Whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus, I know; and Paul, I know; but who are ye? and the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews, and Greeks also, dwelling at Ephesus ; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds."


Luke tells us nothing of the success or failure of any of the exorcists except the seven sons of Sceva. Yet it seems probable that they fared little better. By making an example of these seven, God called attention to the fact that He is, in such matters, no respecter of persons because of nationality or position. These men were Jews, God's chosen nation of people, and their father was "chief of the priests," not the high priest, for his station was in the temple at Jerusalem , but the highest ranked priest in Ephesus . The great lesson in this event is that, to pretend a gift one does not have is a serious, and can be a dangerous, matter, because such is an affront to the living God, Who gives spiritual gifts according to His will alone. This matter was not something that was quickly "hushed up," but was known to all in the area, both Jews and Greeks. As a result of this incident, no doubt the pretending came to a sudden stop, for "fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified." Verse 18 may, possibly, only have a general reference to many who, believing the word of God, came before the apostle and the brethren, confessed their sins, and openly told of their past evil deeds. But just the order it occupies in this record makes it seem to apply especially to many of the exorcists of verse 13, who, being so astonished at the power of God manifested in this event not only believed, but to show that they wanted no more to do with their former ways, "came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds."


(Verses 19 and 20) "Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."


Not only did these false exorcists confess, and openly declare their evil deeds. But many who practiced black magic, witchcraft, and soothsaying, came, brought their books, and publicly burned them. The value of these books is a little unclear, since the literal expression is "fifty thousand of silver." However, since the drachma was the monetary unit in Ephesus , it is probably meant. The word of God spread far and wide, and was accompanied by such power of the Holy Ghost, that it wrought these wonderful miracles.


(Verses 21 and 22) "After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must see Rome also. So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season."


Looking back to verse 11, we find, "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul," Then Luke explains what these "special miracles" were, and recounts some events that took place. Here he says, "After these things were ended." This is a strange statement, unless by it he is saying that, the power of these special miracles was given only temporarily, for a specified time, and have now come to an end. Although Paul was still by the Holy Ghost able to do miracles, even, in Chapter XX, raising the dead, these special miracles are never again mentioned. When these things were ended, the Spirit moved Paul to plan another journey. Some may say that "Paul purposed in spirit" simply means that Paul, in his own spirit, or mind purposed this. And if we only consider the words themselves, perhaps it does. But when we read the remainder of Luke's account of his activities, we see that the Holy Ghost must have been the One Who planned this trip, for it took place exactly according to plan, and by means that Paul could not have foreseen. These plans were, "when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem , saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome ." So, he sent two of his associates, Timothy and Erastus, ahead of himself into Macedonia , while he remained a little longer in Asia .


From verse 23 through the remainder of this chapter, Luke describes an incident incited by one Demetrius, a silversmith, whose principal item in trade was silver shrines, or images of Diana, a pagan goddess, considered the patron goddess of Ephesus . Demetrius called together the first labor union meeting about which we have any record, that of the silversmiths, whom he aroused by the fear that if everyone turned away from paganism to the gospel of the Son of God, they would be left without any income from the sale of these shrines. This caused a great deal of anger among them toward the disciples, and they stirred up confusion throughout the city; and, although most of the people did not know what the disturbance was about, the mob was aroused. They took two of Paul's companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, and dragged them into the theater, which also served for the judgment seat. Paul wanted to go into the theater, and address the people, but was prevented by the disciples. From the little that is said about him, the only thing we really know about Alexander is that he was a Jew. Nevertheless, the other Jews kept pushing him to the front, so that, as he motioned for silence that he might speak, the mob, recognizing him to be a Jew, started shouting, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." This they continued for about two hours. Finally the town clerk, realizing that they had no lawful grounds for such a meeting, and fearing that the higher authorities might call them in question for such confusion, quieted the mob, and dismissed the assembly.


Chapter 20

In verses 1 through 6 Luke quickly passes over a little more than three months of Paul's ministry without noting any special events. During this time he and his companions traveled from Ephesus through Greece and Macedonia , finally coming to Troas , shortly after Passover ("the days of unleavened bread"). In Troas they remained for seven days, and, with their plans made for departing on the following day, went to the gathering place of the disciples for the "breaking of bread" on the first day of the week. When Luke says, "The disciples came together to break bread," he is referring to the taking of The Lord's Supper, not the eating of a meal. Since Paul planned to leave on the next day, he preached to the disciples. We do not know what time he started his discourse, but he did preach until midnight . Here let us go back to Luke's words to describe the event.


(Verses 8 through 12) "And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted."


This account seems clear enough without a great deal of explanation. A few things, perhaps, should be mentioned. We have no information as to whether the building in which they met was a residence or a public building of some sort. It was at least a three-story house, and their meeting place was on the third floor. The presence of "many lights" in the room, which also had exterior windows, tells us that at this time and place the disciples were openly meeting, apparently without fear of persecution. As Paul's sermon was quite lengthy, Eutychus, who was seated in an open window, fell asleep, and fell out the window to the ground three stories below. There is no contradiction between Luke's statement, "And was taken up dead," and Paul's, "for his life is in him." Until Paul went down, "fell on him, and embraced him," he was dead, but at that point the Holy Ghost restored his life, both to give comfort to the disciples, and to confirm their faith in the Lord Jesus. After this Paul and the others went back up to the meeting room, where they "broke bread." When this was over, since they had been there for a long time, and had evidently brought food, they ate, and Paul continued talking until daybreak, and then set out on his journey. The restoration of the life of Eutychus was a source of great comfort to the brethren.


In the next five verses Luke simply tells us that Paul sent his companions by ship from Troas to Assos, while he went himself on foot, and joined them at Assos. From thence they sailed to Mitylene, then to Chios, and from there to Samos, and to Trogylium, where they tarried for the night, and then they went to Miletus . Paul was in a hurry, because, if possible, he wanted to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, which seems a very short time for covering that much distance with the means of transportation of that day. Passover had already passed when they left Philippi, and it took five days to come from thence to Troas . When they arrived at Troas, they spent another seven days there, and at least three days were used in traveling from Troas to Miletus , which cannot leave more than thirty-five days until Pentecost. Because of his hurry Paul would not go to Ephesus , but, at Miletus , he sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus . When they arrived, Paul made to them his farewell address.


(Verses 18 through 21) "And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."


This might be considered as the introductory of his sermon. He reminds the brethren that they know him. They also know, and have known from the first day of his coming into Asia , both his manner of living and the doctrine he has taught. They know that he has never been arrogant and self-centered, but has served the Lord in humility of mind. They have all the time been aware of the sorrows and tribulations, (this is also an accepted translation of the word translated "temptations," and in this case, a more applicable one,) which have been thrust upon him by the Jews, who have constantly tried to ambush him, both figuratively and literally. He also calls them to witness that he has never kept back any thing that would have been spiritually profitable to them, but he has taught them not only publicly, but also privately, from house to house. He was not just a preacher while in the pulpit, and something else when out of it, but wherever he was, and under whatever conditions, he was continually testifying to both Jew and Greek that two things are necessary, "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."


(Verses 22 through 27) "And now, behold, I go bound in spirit unto Jerusalem , not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God , shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."


After having called their attention to the life and doctrine he had set before them, thus assuring them that they would also know that the things he was about to say would be said, not for show, nor to excite sympathy, he said, "And now, behold, I go bound in spirit_ _ _," That is, "There is laid upon my mind and spirit such a forceful impression that it is as if I were a prisoner, bound and being carried to Jerusalem. In addition to this great force that is applied to my spirit, the Holy Ghost bears witness, everywhere I go, `in every city,' that bonds and afflictions await me. They are already prepared. Beyond that, I do not know what will befall me." This would no doubt have made a man of lesser faith want to turn back, and not go to Jerusalem . When we look back to verse 21 of the preceding chapter, we see that, though it is not here mentioned, the binding of Paul in spirit extended beyond his journey to Jerusalem ; for there he said, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome ." Still he declares that, though the Holy Ghost Himself witnesses of what is in store for him, none of these things could shake the determination by which he was bound in spirit. His only desire, and only concern was to finish his course and the ministry given him of the Lord Jesus, to testify, or declare, the gospel of the grace of God, with joy. If that had to be at the cost of even his own life, So be it. He was now fully aware that his ministry was coming to a close, and so he says, "I know ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God , shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." Knowing that their separation at this time was to be permanent, Paul called these brethren to witness that regardless of what pressures, threats, or even acts of violence, may have been brought upon him, he had never backed away from declaring God's truth, "all the counsel of God." Inasmuch as Paul was an apostle of our Lord Jesus, all the counsel of God, that is all that we His children need to know, was revealed to him, and he declared it all without any hesitation, and without shunning any of it. We, though perhaps not blessed with such a full measure of the counsel of God as was he, should nevertheless strive to follow his example, in that, as far as we know His counsel, we should faithfully declare it. And we should constantly study His word, and pray for understanding, that we may know as much of it as we are capable of understanding. Only thus can we be pure from the blood of all men.


(Verses 28 through 31) "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God , which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn you night and day with tears."


This, without controversy, is the charge that should weigh continuously upon the mind of every minister God has called into His service. "Take heed unto yourselves." Remember that Paul has just reminded these brethren, who are all elders of the church at Ephesus, how he has lived, what he has preached, and how unshakable is his determination to finish faithfully the ministry he has received from the Lord Jesus. Now he says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves." To what purpose? That you do as I have done. Next he says, "(Take heed] to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." Several things stand out in this quotation. These elders were not by the church, but by the Holy Ghost, made overseers of the flock, not bosses of them, but watchmen and feeders, for the protecting and nourishing of the church of God . It is their responsibility to be alert against danger from without and from within, to encourage the weak, and rebuke and restrain the headstrong, and to feed the flock, both the sheep and the lambs, the strong and the weak; and they must (and so must we) remember that the only food they have for the flock is that which God has provided, the word of God. If, and when, they begin trying to manufacture food for them by trying to "interpret" the word of God to fit their own ideas, the ideas of someone else, or even the traditions of their church, the flock will become sickly. This flock was not bought with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus the Christ of God.


Paul then tells the brethren not that he thinks there may be trouble ahead, but that he knows that after he is gone "grievous wolves" shall enter in among them. He is not speaking of the four-legged creatures known as wolves, but of evil men, who will have the same effect upon the church that real wolves will upon a flock of sheep. Their only purpose and desire is to kill and destroy. It is bad enough that such will "enter in," that is, come in from the outside, but, what is far more shameful, some "of your own selves" will arise, speaking perverse, or contrary things, and lead disciples after themselves. "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." When Paul calls them to remember that for three years he continuously "warned every one night and day with tears," it brings with great force the thought that much of a minister's efforts, if he is faithful, must be in doing that which is not pleasant, "warning with tears." There are two outstanding things about any warning. The first is that, a warning is not needed nor given against desirable or good things. The second is that, when there is no possibility for that which is warned against to take place, no warning is needed. The fact that Paul continuously warned every one indicates that the danger was imminent, and the fact that he warned with tears, shows how serious he considered that to be against which he warned. In our modern day, we seldom hear a sermon in which a minister is warning anyone against anything in a serious enough manner that he is actually weeping because of the severity of it. True enough, we sometimes see someone, when speaking of some subjects, shed a few tears, but this is usually when on some other line of thought, and not on a warning of any kind. We even find brethren who say, "I try not to preach too hard against what people are doing, lest I drive them away. I preach what God has done for them, and draw them by love." This is a far cry from Paul's manner of preaching, as we shall see in a later chapter. Someone will surely say, "But Paul was only warning them against those deceivers that would arise." This cannot be proved, and probably is not true, but if it were, if he did not warn against the wicked acts and evil doctrines of these deceivers, how would any one know how to recognize them when they do come?


Paul now closes his address. (Verses 32 through 35) "And now brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."


As Paul is about to leave these brethren, to never see them again, he says, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace." That is, "I leave you in the protection of God, and the word of His grace." This grace of God is able to strengthen them, and give them an inheritance among all that are sanctified.  Certainly the word of this grace together with God Himself is sufficient for their protection, and for ours. He gives them a final reminder that he has been no burden to them, but has with his own hands provided for his own necessities, and for those of his companions. Keep in mind that these men to whom he spoke, were the elders, or ministers, of the church at Ephesus , and he says to them, "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak_ _ _." Since this is a charge to the ministers of the church, should it not also be in effect today? If not, when was it canceled? Most ministers of today seem to think that, the church should labor to support them, so that they can play golf, go fishing, take long trips, etc. Some demand that the church which they claim to pastor pay their salary even while they are guest speakers at some other church, which is also paying for their services in that. Few, and far between are the ministers today, who follow Paul's charge and example.


(Verses 36 through 38) "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words that he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship."


Paul had during his stay at Ephesus become very close to the Ephesian brethren. So, when he told them that he knew they would not see him again, it caused them great sorrow. Not only would they not be able to enjoy fellowship together any more, but also they would not have him to turn to for the answers to their questions, and the solutions to their problems. Now they must rely upon those things the apostle had taught them, and, of course, the leadership of the Holy Ghost.


Chapter 21

In the first nine verses of this chapter, Luke relates a somewhat uneventful passage from Miletus to Caesarea, passing through Coos, Rhodes, Petara, and Tyre, where Paul and his companions stayed seven days with the disciples in that city, who tried to persuade them not to go to Jerusalem. Luke says that those disciples, "Said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem ." Some may wonder why God would have these disciples warn Paul through the Spirit against going to Jerusalem , and at the same time have Paul so unalterably "bound in spirit" to go. We shall not attempt to answer as to what was His purpose, but we shall try to show one important result. We must remember Paul's own statement, Chapter XX, verses 23 and 24, "Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me_ _ _." These brethren were only bearing witness to what the Holy Ghost had already told Paul. But since it was God's purpose that Paul go not only to Jerusalem, but to Rome also, He laid upon him such a binding of the spirit to go to Jerusalem that nothing could dissuade him. And throughout this entire matter God is glorified, and His people even down to this day are strengthened by the record of His protection of Paul through all the trials involved in the journey.


After leaving Tyre , they came to Ptolemais, and spent one day with the brethren there, before going on to Caesarea . At Caesarea they lodged many days in the home of Philip the evangelist, he who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Chapter VIII). "And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy." Although, in New Testament usage, "prophesying" often has reference to preaching more than to foretelling events, it seems that these young women were given of the Holy Ghost the ability to foretell things to come. However there is nothing said about any prophecy they may have delivered. In verse 10, Luke says, "And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a prophet named Agabus." The phrase "many days" cannot mean much, if any, more than two weeks, since it was Paul's determination to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost. This Agabus is the same prophet who prophesied the great famine in Chapter XI.


(Verses 11 through 14) "And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem . Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done."


Just as with the brethren at Tyre , Agabus' prophecy was only a reiteration of what the Holy Ghost had already told Paul. And since God had so fixed Paul's mind that he was ready to give his life at Jerusalem , if need be, for the name of the Lord Jesus, he was not to be deterred from his purpose, which was also the purpose of God. The sorrow of the brethren was about to break Paul's heart, but not his determination. Finally they realized that the only thing left for them to do was to recognize it as the will of God. When this was over, Paul and his company left Caesarea, and went on to Jerusalem . Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with them, among whom was an "old disciple," named Mnason, originally from Cyprus , but evidently now living at Jerusalem , for it was with him they were to lodge. The phrase "old disciple" may mean that Mnason was an elderly man, or it could mean that he had been a disciple for a longer time than most of the others, and possibly both meanings might apply. The brethren at Jerusalem gladly received the party, and the next day after their arrival at Jerusalem the travelers went to see James. Whether coincidentally, or whether they had been called together, we do not know, but all the elders were present with James at the time. This was an opportune time for Paul to report to all of them God's work through him among the Gentiles.


(Verses 20 through 25) "And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither walk after the customs. What is it therefore? The multitudes must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say unto thee: we have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication."


Although Jesus Himself said, "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment _ _ _," the church at Jerusalem continued until the destruction of the temple (70 A. D.) to observe the law religiously, and Paul says, (I Cor. 9:20 ,) "And to the Jews I became a Jew, that I might gain the Jews." Here the brethren at Jerusalem , in an effort, which they hoped would avoid confusion, asked Paul to engage in a ritual of the law which Paul knew was of no value to a believer, but which, in his judgment, would do no harm. The elders reminded him that they had already decreed that Gentile believers had no necessity to engage in such things. Here they repeat the constraints they had previously laid upon the Gentiles. These prohibitions were originally called by them "necessary things," and that, we should still consider them today.


Paul agreed to do what the elders asked of him, and everything continued smoothly until the seven days required for this were almost finished. Then some of the Jews who had come to Jerusalem from Asia, thinking that Paul had brought Trophimus, an Ephesian with whom Paul had been seen in the city, into the temple, stirred up a great uproar, shouting that Paul had polluted the temple by bringing Greeks into it. The mob was so enraged that they dragged Paul out of the temple, and the doors were shut. They then began beating Paul, trying to kill him, and the word reached the commander of the city guard that the whole city was in an uproar. He immediately took his soldiers and officers, and went to investigate the matter. When they arrived on the scene, the Jews stopped beating Paul.


At this point the commander ("chief captain") gave orders that Paul be taken prisoner, and bound with two chains. Then he began to inquire who Paul was, and what he had done. The confusion was so great that he could get no satisfactory answer from the mob, and so he ordered Paul to be taken to headquarters. The violence of the mob was so great that for Paul's safety the soldiers actually carried him up the stairs, with the mob all the while demanding that he be killed. Here we return to Luke's own words.


(Verses 37 through 40) "And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said to the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city of Cilicia , a citizen of no mean city: and I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,"


This is certainly plain enough without any further explanation, but another thing is also crystal clear. Those who divided this book into chapters and verses, used neither rhyme nor reason in so doing.


Chapter 22

In verses 1 through 13 we find Paul recounting to the people that which was covered in Chapter IX, his persecution of the saints, his experience on the road to Damascus , and the restoration of his sight at the laying on of the hands of Ananias. Some have tried to imagine a discrepancy between Paul's statement in verse 9, "but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me," and that of Luke in Chapter IX, verse 7, "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man." The imagined discrepancy immediately vanishes when we consider that the Greek word translated "voice," can mean either "voice" or "sound." They heard the "sound," but it was not to them an intelligible "voice." Paul also tells a little more of what Ananias said to him than was given earlier.


(Verses 14 through 16) "And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."


Luke had, in the earlier chapter, said concerning Ananias' speech, that when he put his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus That appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." Here Paul says that he also told him that the God of our fathers had chosen him to be His witness to all men, not just the Jews, of all the things he had seen and heard, and further, he exhorted him, Paul, to get up and be baptized without further delay, and wash away his sins, calling upon the name of the Lord. Paul certainly does not intend that baptism itself washes away sins. To say such would be in total disagreement with what both he and the Apostle Peter declare in other places, but since it is the symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, which do take away our sins, it does, in a figure, wash them away.


(Verses 17 through 21) "And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee: and when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And He said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."


This is the only scriptural record we have of this vision that was given to the Apostle Paul. Luke does not mention it at the time of its occurrence, and Paul makes no note of it in any of his epistles. Nevertheless it no doubt was the reason why Paul stayed only fifteen days in Jerusalem on his return from Damascus . The Lord appeared to him, and commissioned him not to go at his leisure, but to get himself out of Jerusalem quickly, that he might begin the ministry to which he had been called, spreading the gospel among the Gentiles.


The Jews listened to Paul until he told them of his being sent to the Gentiles; and to them this was the insult of insults. They were so enraged that they began tearing off their clothes and throwing dirt into the air, all the time declaring that such a person was not fit to live, and demanding that he be put to death. The guard commander had Paul brought into the castle, and gave orders that he be "examined by scourging," a common practice of whipping a criminal suspect until he confessed to the crime of which he was accused.


(Verses 25 through 28) "And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born."


Roman law was probably the best man-made system of law the world had ever known, but it also had imperfections. Although it gave protection to all throughout the empire who had Roman citizenship, it provided none for those who did not. They were considered subjects of occupation, and could be treated almost as the military commander of the locality might wish. That is why the chief captain had ordered Paul to be scourged, but when he was made aware of Paul's citizenship, he knew that he had already gone as far as he dared. Apparently he thought he would impress Paul by saying, "With a great sum obtained I this freedom," but no doubt Paul's answer set him back somewhat. Actually "free" was added by the translators, and was not in the Greek, which makes Paul's answer to really mean, "But I was (so) born," which puts Paul in an even more acceptable position than the chief captain.


(Verses 29 and 30) "Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty whereof he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them."


Those who were going to administer the whipping to Paul were immediately sent away, but perhaps the chief captain had to have a little time to prove that Paul was actually a Roman citizen: for he left him bound until the next day, although he was afraid that he had overstepped his authority. Nevertheless on the next day he did loose Paul, and he also ordered the chief priests and all their council to come to his headquarters. Doubtless this very much displeased the chief priests, for they always preferred to have someone appear before them rather than to go where the accused was. When they were assembled, the chief captain brought Paul down and set him before them. The place where Paul had been kept was on an upper floor, while apparently the council room was on a lower level.


Chapter 23

(Verses 1 through 5) "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by to smite him on the mouth. Then Paul said unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."


Paul opened this meeting, instead of waiting for his accusers to begin it, which may have been what angered the high priest, and caused him to order that they hit Paul on the mouth. Be that as it may, Paul immediately called his hand on the matter, saying, "Thou whited wall," which is just another way of calling him a hypocrite, and telling him that such an order was contrary to the very law he pretended to be using as the basis of this judgment. It is not made clear whether or not the order was carried out. Paul's answer completely astounded those who stood by; for never would they have dared to say such to the high priest. So they said to Paul, "Revilest thou God's high priest?" Paul's answer may seem strange to some. They may think it only a cop out, that he was only pretending not to recognize the high priest. In truth, there are several reasons why he may not have known him as such. He had so long been away not only from Jerusalem, but even from the Jews in general, that he may not have known who was high priest at the time, and with Ananias attending this council, without his high priest's garments, since it was in the military guard's headquarters, and not at the temple, he was not identified as high priest, and certainly Paul would not have expected the high priest to have such a blatant disregard for the law. So Paul, in a manner, apologized for his answer, admitting that to revile God's high priest was contrary to the law.


Paul, observing the council, saw that it was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees, and threw them all into confusion by his next statement, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." Because of the basic difference between Pharisees and Sadducees this caused immediate pandemonium, since the Sadducees deny the resurrection, deny the existence of angels, and deny the existence of the Spirit, while the Pharisees firmly maintain all of them. The Pharisees who were in the council immediately rallied to Paul's defense, saying, "We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken unto him, let us not fight against God." The contention was so great that Lysias (We later find this to be the name of the chief captain.) sent the soldiers down to the council room to rescue Paul, and bring him back into the castle.


(Verse 11) "And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem , so must thou bear witness also at Rome ."


Thus the Lord comforted Paul, and assured him that he must indeed do that which he had earlier been so bound in spirit to do, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome ." Here the Lord says, "_ _ _so must thou bear witness also at Rome ," showing that all of this from Paul's leaving Ephesus down to his present experience was only part of His purpose.


The next day a band of more than forty of the Jews made a conspiracy, binding themselves under a curse, vowing that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. The priests and the council joined with the conspirators, promising to have Paul brought before them, on the pretext of wanting to inquire further into the case; at which time the conspirators would make their move to kill him. Paul's nephew heard of this, and brought the news to Paul.


(Verses 17 through 22) "Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. So he took him and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?  And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul tomorrow into the council, as though they would inquire something of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.  So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me."


Some may think that Paul's nephew "accidentally" heard of this plot against Paul, but we can rest assured that God caused this, and further He caused that Lysias should give heed to the message that God might bring to pass His purpose of sending Paul to Rome . However the whole process was designed to work slowly, that it might be fulfilled in the Lord's appointed time, and not according to man's schedule. Lysias was sufficiently convinced of the truth of this report that he immediately set about to send Paul to a place of greater safety. With a guard of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen, under the command of two centurions, the cavalcade set out at nine o'clock that night for Caesarea, where Felix, the governor of that province resided with a much greater force than Lysias had at Jerusalem . They also provided a beast for Paul to ride instead of having to go afoot, as was often the way with prisoners. Lysias ordered his men to deliver Paul safe to Felix, and he wrote a letter to the governor.


(Verses 25 through 30) "And he wrote a letter after this manner: Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or bonds. And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent him straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell."


This letter seems to give a reasonably accurate account of the event, except for one item. It seems to imply that Lysias knew Paul was a Roman citizen before he rescued him; but according to Luke's account, he did not know it until after he had ordered Paul scourged. Of course, Lysias was trying to make it appear that he was especially zealous in looking out for the welfare of Roman citizens.


(Verses 31 and 32) "Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle."


On the map, Antipatris appears to have been more or less halfway between Jerusalem and Caesarea . So it was deemed a proper place to reduce the armed guard, since they were probably far enough ahead of any of the band of conspirators who might have tried to follow them that they would not be able to overtake the unit which continued on to Caesarea . Also the horsemen could travel faster without the foot soldiers.


(Verses 33 through 35) "Who when they came to Caesarea , and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia ; I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall."


There is nothing unusual in these events. The horsemen continued on to Caesarea without incident, and delivered both Paul and the letter to Felix, whose only interest at the moment was from what province Paul was. When this was ascertained, he simply gave orders that he be held in Herod's judgment hall until he and his accusers could be brought face to face, as demanded by Roman law.


Chapter 24

In verses 1 through 9 Luke tells us that the Jews came down to Caesarea after five days, and brought with them an orator, as we would call him today, an attorney, to plead their case for them against Paul. His name was Tertullus. When the court was set, with Felix as judge, Tertullus made his opening remarks, flattering the judge, and setting forth a false accusation against Paul, to which the Jews assented. This Jewish contingent was headed by the same man who had presided at the council in Jerusalem , Ananias the high priest. Since there is little in the address of Tertullus worthy of notice, we shall pass it without comment.


(Verses 10 through 13) "Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I came up to Jerusalem for to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me."


Notice that Paul answered for himself. He had no witnesses, and neither had, nor needed, an attorney. In Roman court the burden of proof was on the accuser. He declared himself willing to answer for himself before Felix, because the governor for many years had been a judge of the nation of Israel , and therefore should be competent to judge this matter. Then he declared that only twelve days had passed since he arrived in Jerusalem , for the purpose of going to the temple to worship. Felix was acquainted with this practice of the Jews. Wherever they might reside, they felt compelled to come to Jerusalem at times to worship. Next Paul declared that the Jews did not find him disturbing the peace, even by disputing with anyone in the temple, in the synagogue, nor in the city, and, further, they could not prove the things of which they now accused him.


(Verses 14 through 16) "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets: and have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. And herein I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men."


Although Paul firmly denied the charges leveled at him by the Jews, he openly confessed to Felix, and before the Jews, that his manner of serving the God of his fathers was what the Jews called heresy. Yet they also allowed the very thing for which he stood, "hope toward God_ _ _that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." Some might think that, since a great part of the Jews were Sadducees, Paul's statement might not be true. Notice should be taken that he did not say that they believed there would be a resurrection of the dead, but only that they allowed hope of that. The Pharisees, who were the other dominant party of the Jews, believed in the resurrection, and were a strong enough party that, even against the unbelief of the Sadducees, they were allowed to maintain that hope. Paul declared that he believed "all things which are written in the law and the prophets," which constitutes all the written word of God up to that time. The New Testament was not yet written. Last, but certainly not least, He said that he exercised himself, "to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man."


(Verses 17 through 21) "Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, ‘Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.’"


Here Paul tells Felix that another part of his purpose for being in Jerusalem was that he might bring to those at Jerusalem the alms and offering which the brethren among the Gentiles had sent. Paul tells us about this in his letters to the Corinthians. Having come to the temple, he then, as a faithful Jew, was "purified in the temple,” having no crowd with him, and causing no disturbance. Since some of the Jews from Asia were they who found him in the temple, and are not here as they ought to be to state their charges against him, he leaves it to those present to say what evil he has done. When he mentions the declaration he made to the council, it is not to be thought that he is apologizing for it, but rather that it is the only thing he can think of that they might consider evil, since it caused so much confusion among the council members themselves. Felix, being well acquainted with the ways of the Jews, apparently felt that he would have more confidence in the testimony of Lysias than in theirs, deferred judgment on the matter until he could confer with him. Then he ordered Paul to be placed more in "house arrest" than imprisonment until the case could be decided, and gave orders that none of his friends should be forbidden to come to him or to minister to him.


(Verses 24 and 25) "And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way; when I have a convenient season, I will send for thee."


Felix's curiosity was aroused, so after a while he and his wife had Paul brought before them to tell them about this faith in the Christ. Here is the part which gospel ministers of today seem to have forgotten. Many years ago we sometimes heard ministers reason "of righteousness, temperance, [self control,] and judgment to come." Today you seldom hear a sermon on righteousness, other than the righteousness of our Lord, which is imputed to us. (We readily admit that this is the only righteousnes that will justify us in the sight of God; but He also requires that those who are justified manifest that by working righteousness as they sojourn here.) We also seldom hear any preaching on the necessity of our exercising self-control. Paul expressed his view of it thus: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Then if we hear any one even mention "judgment to come," which is indeed seldom, he will try to water it down so that it will only amount to the proverbial slap on the wrist. Inasmuch as Felix, a hardened Roman military governor was made to tremble at Paul's preaching on this subject, one would have to admit he made it somewhat stronger than that. Some try to say that it was not Paul's preaching that caused Felix to tremble; but that the Spirit of God was beginning a work upon him.


(Verses 26 and 27) "He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix's room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound."


If, as some have suggested, the Spirit had begun a work on Felix, which caused him to tremble when Paul was preaching to him, one would have to admit that He either worked very slowly, or else abandoned it altogether; for the reason why Felix called Paul often, and talked with him was not from any love of Paul or his teaching, but that he wanted Paul to bribe him to release him; and this went on for two years. When, at the end of the two years, Felix was replaced by Festus, Felix showed his true colors by leaving Paul bound just to please the Jews. Whether in this instance, "bound" actually means in chains, or just house arrest, we do not know, but one thing we do know is that Felix considered himself authorized to release Paul, if he so desired, but since Paul would not bribe him, he left him a prisoner.


Chapter 25

When Festus took over the governorship of the province, he stayed at Caesarea for three days, and then went to Jerusalem, where the high priest and the leaders of the Jews made accusations to him against Paul, and tried to persuade him to have Paul brought to Jerusalem for trial, all the while planning to ambush and kill him on the way. However, Festus would not yield to them, but told them that he would soon return to Caesarea himself, and they would have to come there to make their complaints. After about another ten days Festus went back to Caesarea , and some of the Jews accompanied him. The next day after his arrival at Caesarea , Festus opened court, and had Paul brought in. As in the trial before Felix, the Jews made grave accusations, which they could not prove, against Paul.


(Verses 8 through 11) "While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. But Festus, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go to Jerusalem , and there be judged of these things before me? Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof they accuse me, no man shall deliver me unto them. I appeal to Caesar."


Paul's first answer was only a simple declaration of what we would call a plea of "Not guilty." Festus then showed how hypocritical he could be for the sake of politics. Luke has already told us that the Jews could not prove their charges. With this background, and with Paul, as his own attorney, having made his summation, and declaration of innocence in open court, Festus, with no evidence of guilt having been presented, legally, had but one option, dismiss all charges; but to curry favor with the Jews, he asked Paul if he would accept a change of venue, and a new trial. Whereupon, Paul, knowing what the Jews had in mind, declared that he was already before Caesar's judgment seat, as represented by Festus, which was the proper place for his trial, and since the judge knew him to be innocent of the charges, but would not declare it in open court, he was appealing to Caesar himself. He, as a Roman citizen, had this privilege, and since the appeal was made in open court Festus could not deny it. This placed upon Festus the responsibility to Caesar himself of maintaining protective custody of Paul until he could be transported to Rome , there to appear before Caesar.


Then all Festus could do was to confer with the council, not to ask their advice, or opinion, but simply to let them know that he had gone as far as he dared in trying to help them in their wicked scheme. So he then said to Paul, "Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shalt thou go," This, though neither Festus nor the Jews knew it, was exactly according to the purpose of God, as the means of Paul's going to Rome .


(Verses 13 through 22 have little that should require explanation, since they only tell of a "state visit" made to Festus by Agrippa and his wife Bernice. As he talked with Agrippa, Festus told him of Paul's case. Agrippa expressed an interest in hearing Paul, So with great pomp and ceremony, Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice, with all their attendants, took their places in the council room, and Festus ordered Paul brought in.


(Verses 24 through 27) "And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him."


Here we can see what a sorry situation Festus had placed himself in by trying to play politics with the Jews. He could have released Paul at the trial, but would not. Now he found himself with a prisoner who must be sent to Caesar, but against whom he had no crime to allege. He was hoping that Agrippa, being more expert in the laws and customs of the Jews than he, might get him off the horns of his dilemma.


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