AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
The Book of Acts is so full of a reporter’s details, told so matter-of-factly that one can only conclude that all the events described—both ordinary and miraculous—actually happened! Being a physician (Colossians 4:14), the author Luke was used to dealing with the plain facts. Indeed, the earlier parts of the book may have been based on his own painstaking research. But beginning in Acts 16:10, he started writing “we” and “us,” indicating that he was personally present in the events described.
Luke’s own introduction (Luke 1:1-4) to his 2-volume work (Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts) ends with “so that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (v. 4). What can we conclude from this?
- If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then remain in the confidence of your faith. You are in the right place spiritually. Keep growing in both knowledge and practice, rejoicing in the pains and rewards. The “pains” are temporary, but the rewards are eternal!
- This book relates the career of a man named Paul—formerly Saul of Tarsus—transforming from being an enemy of the Christian faith to one who was ready and willing to give his life for the Name of Jesus Christ. Being highly educated and very well versed in Scripture, Paul explained the Christian theology in the letters he wrote to the churches he helped to establish. Those letters were adjudged by the church councils of early church history as being so “Spirit-filled” that they were worthy of being counted as “Holy Scripture”—directly inspired by the Holy Spirit of God! Therefore, it would be good to study the letters of Paul in the New Testament as assiduously as the rest of the Bible.
- If you self-identify as a “seeker” of truth, then open your heart and ask God in prayer to reveal the truth to you as you go through the pages of this Book of Acts. As God says through one of His prophets, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Nowadays we are bombarded with information from all sides. How do we make sure that in the midst of all that racket, we open our hearts to the Word of God so that we know we are always on the right path?
Dear God, give me the grace and the discipline to feed on the truth of Your Word daily—as often as I nourish my body with physical food. Amen.
LOVE OVERCOMES REJECTION
Paul was brought to Rome as a prisoner who had “appealed to Caesar” as a legal defense against the attempt of his own people, the Jews, to have him put to death. On his arrival, as his practice was, he first called together the leaders of the Jews in Rome to explain his presence and to share with them the wonderful news that God has fulfilled “the Hope of Israel” in the person of Jesus Christ.
Come to think of it, this follows God’s own pattern in sending His Son Jesus as Savior of the world. Jesus is born as a Jew. But as He was largely rejected by His own beloved people who sent Him to the cross (“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” John 1:11), Paul experienced a similar rejection from his own people numerous times!
But love for his own people and knowledge of Scripture kept Paul from being discouraged! From Isaiah 6:9, he knew that only a relative few would accept his message. “Go to this people and say: ‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive.’” In fact, he expected that rejection. Enroute to Jerusalem, he told the Ephesian believers, “The Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:23).
But Paul was totally devoted to Jesus his Savior! He goes on to say, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry, which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
Indeed, Paul especially appreciated God’s grace given his background as a persecutor of the early church (Acts 7:58). He was on that road to Damascus to hound more Christians there—after wreaking havoc on the church in Jerusalem—when Jesus personally appeared to him as a blinding light from the sky (Acts 9), and mercifully appointed him as an apostle of the faith that he had been trying with all his might to destroy! That’s why Paul could write in his second letter to his beloved trainee Timothy, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Do you think the Christian life is always a “bed of roses”? Are you ready to suffer certain inconveniences, as Paul did, for Jesus’ sake?
Dear God, I know that You love me and want only the best for me. But following Jesus may involve some pain and suffering. Please make me like Your servant Paul—loving Jesus with all my heart—that I would know that it’s all worth it. Amen.
THIS SECT IS EVERYWHERE SPOKEN AGAINST
Paul’s career teaches us: 1) When you know the truth of what you believe in, it doesn’t matter if the whole world is against you. Keep sharing it! 2) It’s normal for the Gospel to be misunderstood, but this creates curiosity and an opening for the Gospel to be explained more fully!
Upon Paul’s arrival in Rome as a prisoner (c. 60 AD), it’s been about 27 years since the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. That’s a long enough time for the Christian movement to have spread far and wide in that largely pagan and superstitious world under the sway of the Roman Empire. It was literally shaking the world and turning it upside down! Naturally, opposition was bound to arise.
Still, the believers’ personal experience with Jesus, the sure hope He gave for eternal life, the desire to share Jesus with one and all was irresistible, regardless of opposition. As Peter and John told the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, when they were commanded not to speak at all in the name of Jesus: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The Jewish leaders in Rome expressed their curiosity about what Paul believed in, having heard only a smattering of news about this new “sect” of Jesus believers. “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere” (Acts 28:21-22).
In today’s world, with the constant cacophony of information, people are bound to hear only a smattering of faith in the promise of zoe life (a life that is really life or eternal life as opposed to bios or biological life) in Christ Jesus “who has abolished death and brought immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:1,10). Thus, the importance of the teaching ministry of the church that all members get to know more and more of the truths of our faith so that we would always be ready to share—in word and deed—our true hope with the world that desperately needs it.
How do we rate ourselves in terms of our readiness to share our faith with others?
Dear God, as I develop my professional skills in my secular occupation, help me to also develop my knowledge of the faith and my ability to share it—convincingly and politely addressing objections and doubts that seeking people have. Amen.
APPEAL TO CAESAR
“In Imperial times the Emperor took an active role in legal matters, especially in response to private petitions (libelli) … ” This quote by Mark Cartwright partly explains Paul’s appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:10), which was his right as a Roman citizen by birth, although he was a Jew being accused of a crime worthy of death by his own countrymen. This is an excellent example of why it is not wrong for Christians to be as knowledgeable as possible about the world in all its aspects, not falling behind but even being on the cutting edge of new knowledge.
Scientific knowledge grounded in fact and truth is no threat but an ally of the Christian faith! It enhances rather than diminishes our appreciation of the awesome, infinite knowledge and power of Almighty God as Creator of the Universe! From studies on the smallest particles of matter, to the nature of light and sound, to the electromagnetic spectrum, to the minutest functions of the various organs of the human body, to the mind-boggling structure of the brain, all the way to the farthest stars, galaxies, and so-called “dark matter”—to all the subjects of knowledge in both nature and society— the Christian, when given the opportunity, must gain the utmost expertise in his chosen field of knowledge and profession to be of the best service to his fellowman. May we follow the never-changing will of God, love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Paul’s appeal to Caesar was based on his knowledge of Roman law and his rights as a Roman citizen. And God used his defense to fulfill His purpose for Paul, eventually to be brought to Rome where, according to researcher Paul Tanner, ThM, PhD, he wrote the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, and 2 Timothy.
Paradoxically, as a balance to an obsession with knowledge, Scripture also shows that lack of sophisticated knowledge is not an obstacle to serving God. As Jesus also said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
In the final analysis, the rule is: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
How does your profession open opportunities for you to share Jesus with others?
Dear God, give me the grace to see and use opportunities in my field of work to share your precious Gospel with others. Amen.
A TREASURE TROVE OF TRUTHS
This inspired book closes with Paul continuing to “preach the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (v. 31).
Our small group studied Acts and found it loaded with gems of truth and edifying practical applications. As a way of keeping them, our group decided to turn the truths and principles we found into a 31-day devotional. We had two principles for each day, so we had 62 gems of truth in all. Here is a random selection of seven gems.
- Jesus will come again (1:9-10). Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father and will come again in the same way as he was taken up.
- The grace of love and sharing, signs and wonders, manifested in the first Jerusalem church (2:43-47, 4:32-36). When faith is strong, God gives grace and power.
- A faithful and humble servant never forgets his place in relation to his master (14:15). Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you.
- Don’t impose artificial obstacles, requirements, or standards on new believers (15:10-11,19). “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. … It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
- In spreading the Gospel, opposition and persecution will come from those with vested interest in beliefs and ideologies that the Gospel will discredit (19:23-27). “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there.”
- At times, an apostle may have to talk long (20:7-12). “Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. … After talking until daylight, he left.”
- Be ready to lose liberty and life for Jesus’ name (21:13). “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
What have we learned from this study of the Book of Acts?
Dear God, give me the grace to take to heart the truth and principles in this book so that I may apply them to my own life and the life of my church. Amen.
- For a chronology of Paul’s career, see http://paultanner.org/English%20Docs/SpecialArt/Pauline%20Chronology.pdf
- The opening quote by Mark Cartwright in Thursday’s devo is taken from https://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Law/
- Paul Tanner’s quote in Thursday’s devo can be found at http://paultanner.org/English%20Docs/SpecialArt/Pauline%20Chronology.pdf
- If you want a copy of the 31-day devotional referenced in Friday’s devo, contact Tom Matic at[email protected]