Monday, October 30, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Numbers 15-21

Readings for this week

Monday: Numbers 15
Tuesday: Numbers 16
Wednesday: Numbers 17
Thursday: Numbers 18
Friday: Numbers 19
Saturday: Numbers 20
Sunday: Numbers 21

Introduction to Numbers 15-21

Chapter 15

God tells Moses that the Israelites and the foreigners who present offering sot God are to be considered the same. There is one law for them both. He also tells them to make an offering if they sin unintentionally, not just for willful sins. And he says that anyone who sins defiantly shall be cut off. And example is giving a man working on the Sabbath out of defiance, and the people stone him to death. The people also place tassels on their garments as visual reminders to follow God’s laws every day.

Chapter 16

Moses’ first-cousin, a Levite named Korah, along with three Reubenites named Dathan, Abiram, and On started a rebellion. 250 council members joined them and confronted Moses and Aaron, claiming they had just as much right to be priests as Aaron did. Moses is like, “Be content with the special role God already gave you.” Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, but they refused to come, and were like... “Moses is a slave-master!” and “It’s Moses’ fault that we’re not in the Promised Land yet!” The rebels tried to make their own offerings to God, and Moses got angry and told God not to accept them. God told Moses and Aaron to get out of the way so that He could wipe out all of Israel. Moses says, “Please don’t destroy the innocent along with the guilty!”

Moses declared a test for the people to see who was Israel’s true leader: “If these men die a natural death then you will know I am not, but if the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up then you will know they were not.” As Moses was speaking, “the ground split open” and “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed” the rebels and they went down into “Sheol” alive. The other Israelites panicked and moved out of the way, thinking they would also fall into Sheol.

Fire also came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering incense. God told Moses to use the gold from the censers of the dead men to cover the altar so the people wouldn’t forget what had happened.

The very next day, the people surrounded Moses and accused him of “killing the LORD’s people.” “The Glory of the LORD” came down in smoke and began slaughtering the people. Moses had Aaron grab his censer and quickly go out and offer atonement for the people. The text says, “He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.” 14,700 people died from the plague in addition to the people who had died in Korah’s rebellion.

Chapter 17

God proposed a test for the Israelites to prove to them who the rightful priest was. Moses asked each of the leaders of the twelve tribes to give him a staff with the name of their leader on it. God told Moses to put the twelve staffs in front of the Ark of the Covenant, and said to Israel that the man whose staff sprouted was the man that He had chosen. In the morning, Aaron’s staff had not only sprouted, but had also budded, blossomed, and produced almonds. God told Moses to put Aaron’s staff in front of the Ark as a sign to Israel warning them not to rebel. This story ends with the Israelites convinced that God is going to kill them all... which is funny because they apparently only decided this after seeing Aaron's staff blossom and not after seeing all of the terrible ways God had already punished them for their rebellion.

Chapters 18-19

The LORD told Aaron: "I have given you the Levites to work at the Tent of Meeting. Everything that is devoted to the LORD is yours." He also tells him to burn a heifer outside the camp for the water of cleansing. And anyone who is unclean and does not cleanse themselves shall be cut off.

Chapter 20

Israel arrived in the Desert of Zin. Here Miriam died. There was no water and the people rebelled against Moses again, saying, “We’d be better off dying from God’s plagues, or dying in Egypt!” God told Moses and Aaron to gather the people at a nearby rock. He said, “Speak to the rock…and it will pour out its water.” But Moses screamed at the people, calling them “marah.” He then wacked the rock twice with his staff and water came out. God told Moses and Aaron they had represented Him poorly, and he said, “Neither one of you will enter the Promised Land.”

Later, Moses sent a message to the Edomites to let them know that their “brother” Israel planned to pass through their territory. Edom told them not to come near. Moses responded that they would stay only on the main highway that went through their land. Edom again denied them, and sent out an army to block their way. Israel turned back and stayed away from Edom.

Later, God told Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s son Eleazar, to go up to Mount Hor, and that there Aaron would die. Aaron “was gathered to his people,” and Eleazar took over as high priest. The people mourned 30 days.

Chapter 21

Moses led the Israelites through the desert to avoid going through Edom. They spoke against God and Moses. They wanted to go back to Egypt. They whined that there wasn’t enough food or water. God sent poisonous snakes to attack the Israelites. The Israelites confessed their sins and Moses prayed for them. God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten and looked at the bronze snake survived. In the New Testament, Jesus used the story of the bronze snake to explain his own death.

The Israelites moved from place to place:

Hormah, where they were raided by Canaanites
Iye Abarim
Zered Valley
Alongside the Arnon, on the border between Moab and the Amorites
Beer, where Israel sang, “Spring up, O well!” and God gave them water.
Moab, at the valley where the top of Pisgah overlooks the wasteland

Israel sent a message to Sihon of the Amorites and asked if they could pass through his land. Sihon gathered his army and attacked Israel. Israel defeated Sihon and claimed his territory, including territory he had previously stolen from the Moabites.

Moses sent spies to the city of Jazer. Israel then drove out the Amorites that lived there.

Israel then followed the road towards Bashan. Og, king of Bashan, and his army met Israel at Edrei and declared war on them. Israel defeated Og and took his land. Elsewhere, Og is described as a “giant.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Numbers 8-14

Readings for this week

Monday: Numbers 8
Tuesday: Numbers 9
Wednesday: Numbers 10
Thursday: Numbers 11
Friday: Numbers 12
Saturday: Numbers 13
Sunday: Numbers 14

Introduction to Numbers 8-14

Chapters 8-9

God tells Moses to present the Levites as a wave offering to the LORD and make atonement for them because he has set them apart to serve at the tent of meeting. And the text says that in the first month of the second year the Israelites kept the Passover, and that whenever the cloud lifted from the tabernacle they journeyed.

Chapter 10

Two years, two months, and twenty days after leaving Egypt, the Israelites left Sinai. The cloud of smoke lifted up from the Tabernacle and went ahead of the Israelites and they followed it. Moses tried to convince his father-in-law to go with them. Israel set out from Sinai and the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them as they followed the cloud of smoke. They traveled for three days before the cloud stopped.

Chapter 11

Israel complained about their “hardships” within “earshot” of God. Fire from the LORD began to consume the outskirts of the camp. The people cried out to Moses. Moses prayed and the fire died down. The people named that place “Taberah,” which means “burning.”

Later, the people complained about God’s manna and wanted the food they claimed they had back in Egypt. Here, the text refers to these people as “rabble.” God got angry and Moses got worried. Moses complained to God about the people, saying, “Did I give them birth?” Moses asked God to give the people meat. God said he would give them so much meat that it would come out their nostrils and they would “loath” it. Moses questioned God’s ability to provide meat. God said, “Is the arm of the LORD to short?”

Halfway through this story, two guys start prophesying and Joshua tries to stop them, but Moses tells Joshua not to be jealous.

Later, God sent a wind to drive in flocks of quail from the sea, and the people began to gorge themselves on the quail. God became angry with them and sent a plague upon them and some people died from it. They named the place “Kibroth Hattaavah,” which means “graves of craving.”

Chapter 12

Aaron and Miriam bad-mouthed Moses because he had married a “Cushite” woman. They also pointed out that God had spoken through them as well, and not just Moses, and the text says “the LORD heard” them. Here, the text also says that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” God told Moses to go get his brother and sister and He appeared to them in the cloud and vindicated Moses. God made a distinction between Moses and other prophets saying that He spoke to other prophets through dreams and visions, but that He spoke with Moses face to face. When the cloud lifted, Miriam had leprosy. Aaron begged Moses for forgiveness, and Moses begged God to heal Miriam. God told them that she would be “unclean” and have to stay outside the camp for seven days before she could come back.

Chapter 13

Israel traveled to the desert of Paran and Moses sent out twelve spies from each of the twelve tribes to go explore the land of Canaan. Among the spies were two men named Caleb and Joshua. Here, Joshua is also listed as “Hoshea.” The text says that Moses had given the name “Joshua” to Hoshea. Caleb was from the tribe of Judah, and Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim.

Moses sent them on a mission to go see whether or not the land they were entering was good. The spies explored the land and spied on its people for forty days. At the end of their mission, they took a cluster of grapes back with them that was so big that two men had to carry it on a pole. 
The spies reported on all they had seen and how good the land was. Caleb said they should go up and enter the land. The other spies disagreed and told the people that the land was filled with giants and that they would all be killed if they tried to go there. They compared themselves to grasshoppers. They even said the “Nephilim” from Genesis 6 lived in the land.

Chapter 14

The people cried out that they would be better off dead in the desert than entering Canaan. They wanted to replace Moses with a new leader. Joshua and Caleb pleaded with them not to rebel in fear, but the people wanted to stone them. “The Glory of the LORD” suddenly appeared and God again told Moses He would kill all the people in His anger and make Moses into a great nation instead. God says, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?”

Moses again interceded for the people to turn away God’s wrath, saying, “What will the Egyptians say when they hear?” God decided not to kill the people, but said that none of the people of that generation who had rebelled against Him “these ten times” would ever enter the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb.

God sentenced the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years until every last person who had seen His miracles in Egypt had died. The people wept when they heard this and they decided to go up into the land anyway. Moses warned them not to do so because God would not go with them. The people went up anyway without Moses and they were defeated by the Canaanites and Amalekites.

Monday, October 16, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Numbers 1-7

Readings for this week

Monday: Numbers 1
Tuesday: Numbers 2
Wednesday: Numbers 3
Thursday: Numbers 4
Friday: Numbers 5
Saturday: Numbers 6
Sunday: Numbers 7

Introduction to Numbers 1-7

Chapters 1-4

The book of Numbers gets its name from the content of its first four chapters. The first four chapters are a record of Moses conducting a census of the people…which led to a long list of numbers. The Hebrew name for the book of Numbers is “Bamidbar,” which means “in the wilderness.”

Chapter 5

Moses gives some new rules to the people and tells them that anyone who sins shall make restitution but also add a fifth. He also says that if a man suspects his wife of unfaithfulness he shall take her to the priest, rather than taking the law into his own hands and killing her.

Chapter 6

Numbers 6 discusses rules regarding the Nazirites. The Nazirites were a group of people who were set apart from others and were devoted to special service for God. They followed special rules... like "Don’t cut your hair," "Don’t eat grapes or drink wine," and "Don’t touch dead things." Some famous Nazirites in the Bible include Samuel and Samson.

The oldest manuscript of the Scriptures that exists today is a small section of Numbers 6. This section is the priestly blessing that Moses commanded Aaron to give to the people.

“The LORD bless you
    and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

Chapter 7

The leader of each tribe brought a grain offering, a burnt offering, a sin offering and peace offerings. And the text says that Moses spoke with the LORD on their behalf.

Monday, October 9, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Acts 22-28

Readings for this week

Monday: Acts 22
Tuesday: Acts 23
Wednesday: Acts 24
Thursday: Acts 25
Friday: Acts 26
Saturday: Acts 27
Sunday: Acts 28

Introduction to Acts 22-28

Chapter 22

Paul tells the Jews that he himself is a Jew who studied under the great teacher Gamaliel and that he used to persecute the people of the Way. He then goes on to tell them that while he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus, Jesus himself appeared to him with a blinding light on the road, saying, “Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” He tells them how he had been blind, but had been healed, and how he had been baptized as a believer in Jesus. He then tells the crowd how he had been given a message from God while in a trance at the Temple, telling him to leave Jerusalem because the people there would not believe his message. 

And when he says that God had told him to go and deliver his message to the Gentiles, the crowd went into an uproar once again, shouting, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” The Roman commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be tortured and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. But when Paul mentions that he’s not only a Jew from Tarsus, but also a high-ranking Roman citizen, the commander gets scared and tells the interrogators to get away from him.

The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, so the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them. 

Chapter 23

Paul tells the Sanhedrin that he has fulfilled his duty to God. At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!” Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’” 

Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, decided to change the subject and play the parties against each other, and he called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers! I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees! I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. You see, the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things. The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. 

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The next morning more than forty Jews formed a conspiracy and plotted with the Sanhedrin to get the commander to have Paul brought in for more questioning so that they could intercept him and kill on the way. But when Paul’s nephew heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul had a centurion take his nephew to the commander to tell him what he had overheard. The commander listened to the boy and warned him not to tell anyone about the report he had brought.

The commander then calls together 470 soldiers and prepares to have them transfer Paul over to Caesarea that night to be kept under the care of Governor Felix. And he wrote a letter to be delivered to the Governor, explaining why Paul was being delivered to him… with a few extra lines making himself look like a hero for saving Paul from those crazy Jews. And Paul and the letter were delivered, but Governor Felix told Paul that he would wait to hear his testimony until his accusers arrived. And he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Chapter 24

Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. After flattering the Governor for awhile, they state that Paul is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect who tried to desecrate the temple and that they tried to seize him but the Roman commander Lysias violently interfered. Felix then lets Paul defend himself, and Paul proclaims his innocence, but he does admit to the Governor that he did intentionally play some already angry Pharisees and Sadducees against each other by shouting about the resurrection. Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings, saying that he would decide the case after commander Lysius arrived. He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now!” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. 

When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

Chapter 25

Three days into his new job, Festus went up to Jerusalem, and there the Jewish elders met up with him, making the request to have Paul transferred back to Jerusalem. They were plotting to ambush Paul and kill him en route. But Festus said there was no point in having Paul brought to Jerusalem since he himself was on his way back to Caesarea. And he told the elders that if they wanted to press charges they needed to come to him. 

About half a month or so later, the elders appeared before Festus in Caesarea and laid out their accusations against Paul, but they were unable to prove anything they said. Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” 

Festus wanted to do a favor for the Jews, and asked Paul if he was willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial there. Paul knows this is a trap and he calls everyone out, saying, “I’m standing in Caesar’s court right now. This is where I ought to be tried. I haven’t done anything wrong to these Jews. And if I were deserving of death, I would accept my punishment. But since these Jews are liars, I refuse to be handed over to them. I appeal my case to Caesar himself!” 

After Festus had conferred with his council, he agreed to send Paul to Caesar. 

A few days later King Agrippa (aka Herod Agrippa I) and Bernice, his royal sister, arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Governor Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. And Agrippa wanted to hear Paul for himself. The next day, Festus had Paul brought in to speak with Agrippa and Bernice in front of an audience of nobles.

Chapter 26

Paul tells Agrippa how pleased to is to have the king’s ear, since Agrippa was familiar with all of the Jewish customs and controversies. He then goes on to tell the king the story of how he had been raised a Pharisee, and how this whole controversy he had found himself in was a debate on the idea of resurrection, which was not a new debate and nothing to freak out about. He tells the king how he persecuted the followers of Jesus, but that Jesus himself appeared to him with a blinding light on the road to Damascus, saying, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads!” The line about kicking against the goads is unique to this retelling of Paul’s conversion experience. It refers to a device that helps to keep an animal on a straight path instead of wandering off. Paul is comparing himself to a stubborn animal who ultimately finds it pointless to resist the guidance of his master. 

Paul then says that he obeyed God and preached the Gospel message all over the Roman Empire, to both Jews and Gentiles, saying that what Moses and the prophets predicted had come true: “that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense, accusing him of insanity. And Paul tells the Governor that he is not insane and that he is only speaking of what is considered common knowledge among the Jews, and he says that King Agrippa understands what he’s talking about. 

Paul then asks, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” 

After they left the room, they began saying to one another that deserves neither death nor prison. Agrippa says to Festus that he could have set Paul free had he not appealed to Caesar.

Chapter 27

Eventually, Paul and his companions are placed in the custody of a centurion named Julius, and, along with some other prisoners, are put aboard a ship headed to Italy. They stop at Sidon, the Julius allows Paul to see his friends there, and his friends give him some supplies for his journey. They put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against them. When they had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, they landed at Myra in Lycia. 

There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put them on board. They made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow them to hold their course, they sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. They moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. 

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that they should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 

Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so they gave way to it and were driven along. After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said that an angel told everything would be okay… but that they would run aground on some island.

On the fourteenth night they were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away. 

Just before dawn Paul took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 people on board, and when they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship, and in this way everyone reached land safely. 

Chapter 28

Once ashore, they learned that they had landed on an island called Malta. The islanders were very kind to them and built them a fire because it was cold and raining. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. 

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed them to his home and showed them generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored Paul and his companions in many ways; and when they were ready to sail, they furnished them with the supplies they needed. 

After three months they put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. When they got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. After three days in Rome, Paul called together the Jewish leaders and explained to them why he was there. The Jews said that they had heard nothing about him, and that no one had sent them any kind of report, but they said they wanted to hear more about the sect Paul was a part of because they knew that everyone was talking bad about it. 

So a crowd of Jews came to listen to Paul on another day, and he witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God; and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to argue and leave after Paul said that his own people are ever hearing but never understanding and that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen! 

The Book of Acts ends with these words: “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” 

The New Testament never says what happened to Paul, but we know that he continued to write letters to the different churches he had helped to start around the Roman Empire, some of which became books of the New Testament. And according to Church tradition, Paul did finally stand trial before the Emperor Nero, who thought little of his case, and who eventually had Paul and many other Roman Christians beheaded after passing the blame onto them for the Great Fire of Rome.

Monday, October 2, 2017

READ IT! - Introduction to Acts 15-21

Readings for this week

Monday: Acts 15
Tuesday: Acts 16
Wednesday: Acts 17
Thursday: Acts 18
Friday: Acts 19
Saturday: Acts 20
Sunday: Acts 21

Introduction to Acts 15-21

Chapter 15

There was a disagreement among the greater church about whether or not male Gentile believers should be circumcised according to the Law of Moses. So the church called for the first council to be established, and delegates from around the Roman Empire gathered to Jerusalem, including Saul and Barnabas who came from the church in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas told everyone they met about how so many Gentiles were becoming believers. The dispute was between those, such as the followers of the "Pillars of the Church," led by James, who believed, following his interpretation of the Great Commission, that the church must observe the Torah, i.e. the rules of traditional Judaism, and Paul the Apostle, who believed there was no such necessity. 

At the Council, following advice offered by Simon Peter, the apostle James submitted a proposal, which was accepted by the Church and known as the Apostolic Decree, which requested that Gentiles only follow four Jewish laws: to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

Then the elders sent two men named Judas and Silas back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with the church’s letter of proclamation. They read the letter to the believers, and everyone was encouraged by what the elders had decided. Judas and Silas also offered encouragement to the Gentile believers while they were there.

Some time later Paul asked Barnabas to go back with him and visit the believers in all the towns where they preached to see how they were doing. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul didn’t think that was a good idea, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed for Cyprus, and Paul chose Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. 

Chapter 16

Paul and Silas visited Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra, they met Timothy, a disciple who was spoken well of, and decided to take him with them. Timothy was considered a half-blood by the Jews because his father was a Greek and his mother a Jew. So Paul circumcised Timothy to prove to the Jews that Timothy was serious about his faith, and that God welcomed both Greeks and Jews. The text says that the Church kept growing, adding believers, and strengthening in faith daily. 

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let them preach the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Luke writes that after Paul had seen the vision, “we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” At this point in the narrative, it would seem that Luke is not only narrating the story, but participating in it as well.

They sail from Troas to Samothrace and Neapolis, before going up to Philippi, the main city of Macedonia. On the Sabbath, they went down to the river to pray, and met with many women who were gathered there. One of the women was named Lydia, and she was a worshiper of God. She and her entire family were baptized, and she insisted that Paul and his companions stay with her while they were there. And so… the man from Macedonia turned out to be a woman! 

While in Philippi, Paul was followed around by a slave-girl who was possessed by a demon who could predict the future. She kept telling everyone that Paul had come to tell them how they could be saved. This went on for several days until Paul became so annoyed that he turned and cast out the demon in the name of Jesus. The girl’s masters were then unhappy about the loss of income her soothsaying provided, so they turned the city against the missionaries, and the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped, beaten, flogged, and put in jail. 
While locked up, they sang praises to God, much to the astonishment of the other prisoners. 

At midnight, there was a severe earthquake, and the gates of the prison fell apart and Paul and Silas could have escaped but remained. The jailor believes he will be executed for letting the prisoners escape, and is about to commit suicide, but Paul and Silas stop him. This leads to conversion of the jailor and the baptism of his entire household. 

The next day, the magistrates decide to release Paul and Silas, but Paul calls them out, saying that they were just trying to cover up the fact that they had beaten and imprisoned two Roman citizens. So the magistrates were alarmed, and they gave Paul and Silas an official escort out of town, but let them say good-bye to Lydia and her family first. 

Chapter 17

Paul and his companions pass through Amphipolis and Apollonia on their way to Thessalonica. Paul taught in the Synagogue and few of the Jews and a large number of Greeks, including many prominent women, were persuaded by his message about Jesus. But some other Jews were jealous, so they rounded up a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. 

Paul and Silas went to the Synagogue there and Paul taught the people about Jesus. Luke writes that the Berean Jews were “of nobler character” than the Thessalonians, and they accepted what Paul said after having examined the Scriptures to see if what he said was could be backed up. But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 

Paul was escorted to Athens, and he was distressed to see the city full of idols and so he went to the synagogue and the marketplace to preach about the resurrection of Jesus. Some Greeks took him to a meeting at the Areopagus, the high court in Athens, to explain himself. The Areopagus literally meant the rock of Ares, and was a center of temples, cultural facilities, and a high court. It was illegal to preach a foreign deity in Athens, so Paul's sermon was in fact a combination of a "guest lecture" and a trial. 

The sermon addresses five main issues: 

Introduction: Discussion of the ignorance of pagan worship. 
The one Creator God being the object of worship.  
God's relationship to humanity.
Idols of gold, silver and stone as objects of false worship. 
Conclusion: Time to end the ignorance.  

Paul begins his address by emphasizing the need to know God, rather than worshiping the unknown.

Paul then explained concepts such as the resurrection of the dead and salvation… he present the Gospel to them.

After the sermon, a number of people became followers of Paul. 

Gospel Message Topics Mentioned: 

Hell: 0 
Heaven: 0 
Sin: 1 
Jesus’ life: 0 
Jesus’ death: 1 
Jesus’ resurrection: 1 
Jesus’ lordship: 1

Chapter 18

Paul travels to Corinth and meets a Jewish couple from Italy named Priscilla and Aquila who had been banished from their homeland, along with many other Jews, during the reign of Claudius. Paul stayed with them and they had a tent-making business together. Every Sabbath Paul would teach in the Synagogue, but the Jews abused him so he declared, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. 

God told Paul not to be afraid to stay in Corinth, so Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching the word of God. However, while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment, accusing him of teaching people incorrect worship. Paul was going to speak, but Gallio cut him off and told the Jews to get lost as he was not a judge of religious law. Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul, but Gallio couldn’t care less.

Priscilla and Aquila travel with Paul to Ephesus, where Paul teaches in the synagogue. The people want Paul to stay, but he says he needs to move on. He leaves Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus and sails to Caesarea and travels down to Jerusalem and to Antioch to meet the believers there. He then travels to Galatia and Phrygia, and encourages the disciples he meets. 

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, and taught about Jesus accurately, even though he only knew the story up until the baptism of John. Priscilla and Aquila invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him, and he was a great help there.

Chapter 19

Paul leaves Apollos in Corinth and travels to Ephesus. There he meets some disciples of John the Baptist who had apparently missed the part of his message about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and had only heard the part about the water baptism of repentance. Paul reminds them of John’s words about the one who would come after him, Jesus, and the disciples believe and receive the Holy Spirit when Paul places his hands on them. So these twelve disciples of John the Baptist became disciples of Jesus.

God did all kinds of miracles through Paul. The text says that even handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul had touched were able to cure diseases and cast out demons. A group of Jews, seven sons of Sceva the priest were going around casting out demons, saying, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches…" But one day a spirit answered them back, saying he knew Jesus and had heard about Paul, but he didn’t know who these jokers were. He then beat them so bad that they ran away naked and bleeding. The whole city was afraid because of this and they began to confess their sins, which included practicing sorcery, and they burned thousands of expensive magic scrolls - about 150 years’ worth of a man’s wages.

After nearly three years of training his disciples and teaching in the synagogues and outdoors in the lecture hall, Paul decided he was going to go back up to Jerusalem. Around that time, a guy named Demetrius who crafted and sold idols in the city stirred up all the other craftsmen against Paul because the people weren’t buying their idols anymore. Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together.

Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. Eventually, the city clerk quieted the crowd down, asking them why they would risk getting charged with rioting just to bring some random guys in who hadn’t really done anything. He then dismissed the crowd. 

Chapter 20

Paul traveled through Macedonia, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia with Timothy and some others. Paul stopped in Philippi along the way and caught up with the others at Troas later. 

Paul stayed with the believers for a week at Troas, and the night before he was to leave he kept talking and talking to the people until midnight. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him, saying, “Don’t be alarmed! He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. Paul sends for the Ephesian elders, and when they arrive, he says his good-byes to them, and tells them that the Holy Spirit is leading him to Jerusalem, and that he doesn’t know what will happen to him there. He blesses them and warns them to be on their guard against false teachers who will try to take over their group. Everybody wept when Paul told them that they would never see his face again, and they walked with him down to the ship where he boarded and sailed away. 

Chapter 21

They sail to Kos, then Rhodes, and then Patara, where they switch ships and sail all the way south of Cyprus and land in Tyre. The disciples at Tyre urged Paul not to continue on to Jerusalem. They all pray together on the beach, and then Paul and his companions set sail for Ptolemais, and then on to Caesarea.

There they stay with Philip the Evangelist, who was one of the original seven chosen by Jesus’ disciples to take their place in serving the Greek-speaking Jews. Here the text mentions that Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After several days, a prophet named Agabus comes down from Judea. He takes Paul’s belt, ties his own hands and feet with it and says, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” The believers then begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul tells them to stop crying and breaking his heart, saying that he is willing not only to be bound but to die for Jesus. And they set out for Jerusalem. 

When they arrive, they go to see James and the other elders, and they report to them what God had been doing among the Gentiles. The elders praise God, but then they inform Paul of a rumor going around that Paul denounces not only circumcision among Gentiles, but among Jews as well, telling them to throw out the Law of Moses. And they let Paul know that there are four men among them who are waiting to finish participating in the Jewish purification rites, and they recommend that Paul accompany them and pay for their expenses so that the rumor that Paul is against the Laws of Moses will be put to rest. And they add that they themselves have not forgotten the letter of encouragement they had previously sent to the Gentile believers, saying that they needed only to follow a small handful of laws intended for all of humanity, and not the special laws made specifically for the Jews. And Paul went with the four men and paid for their purification rites.

A week later, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple, and they stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, accusing him of bringing Gentiles into the Temple. They said this because they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him and asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.

As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he starting asking questions to the commander, and the commander was surprised that Paul could speak Greek. He had assumed that Paul must have been that trouble-maker Egyptian guy he’d heard about that led 4000 terrorists out into the desert.

Paul tells him he is a Roman Jew from Tarsus, and he gets permission to speak the crowd once they settle down. When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.