Bible Study Moment

Continuing Paul’s story in Acts 23:12, more than 40 people have taken a vow not to eat or drink anything until they have killed Paul. Paul’s nephew learns of this plot and comes to where Paul is being held, telling him. Paul sends him to the commander to tell him of the plot. The commander, Claudius Lysias, orders that 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen take Paul to Caesarea (a city on the coast where the Roman governor stayed) under cover of darkness; they start at 9:00 that night.

I now see some political gamesmanship going on. Lysias writes a letter to Governor Felix (Acts 23:26-30) where his version of what has happened differs significantly from Luke’s account.

Chapter 24 is Paul before Felix, where he recounts what has happened in the less than 2 weeks that he was in Jerusalem, pointing out that those who were the first to accuse him of wrongdoing are not there. Felix keeps Paul in prison to please the Jewish leaders, while hoping that Paul or Paul’s friends will pay him a great deal of money. In other words Felix is playing political games with Paul’s freedom. After 2 years Felix is replaced by Festus and we move on to chapter 25.

Paul is brought before Governor Festus and plays his political card. He points out that he is being held in a Roman jail and therefore should be tried according to Roman law and not be tried by any Jewish authorities. He appeals to Caesar, a right he has since he is a Roman citizen and Festus grants the request. Except Festus has a problem. He doesn’t have a charge under Roman law to charge Paul with. Several days later King Agrippa and his wife Bernice arrive to formally welcome the new governor. Agrippa wants to hear from Paul himself and so Paul tells his story to King Agrippa and Bernice, which brings us to chapter 26.

Paul tells more of his story including his conversion on the road to Damascus. It is basically an evangelistic witness, trying to persuade those listening to become Christians. In verse 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

Next is Paul’s journey to Rome.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In Acts 21:11 a prophecy has been delivered to Paul that he will be arrested and handed over to the Gentiles if he goes to Jerusalem. Paul goes anyway.

In verse 17 he and his traveling party arrive in Jerusalem. In the following verses he shares with the leaders of the church there what has been happening with his preaching to the Gentiles; the leaders share that thousands of Jews have become believers, but there is also this rumor that Paul is teaching the Jews living among the Gentiles to abandon their religious practices including circumcision. The leaders encourage Paul to go to the temple with four men who are completing a nazirite vow, and pay their offering to show he is still a good Jew. (Samson parents were told to raise him as a nazirite from birth which is why he needs to keep his hair long in his story in Judges 13-16.)

Paul does what is suggested but there are Jews from Asia Minor, where Paul has been doing ministry, who grab him, falsely claiming that he has brought Gentiles into the temple. This causes an uproar and Paul is the one arrested. Paul asks the commander if he can speak to the crowd which brings us to chapter 22.

Paul recounts his experience on the road to Damascus years earlier (see Acts 9). The crowd listens until Paul says that the Lord told him, “I will send you to the Gentiles.” The crowd is ready to kill Paul. Now the Roman commander orders Paul to be whipped but Paul states that he is a Roman citizen, and that is not done to citizens who haven’t been found guilty of some crime.

The commander still doesn’t know what the problem is so he orders the Jewish council to assemble the next day and has Paul address them.

And now we are in chapter 23. Paul notices that there are both Pharisees and Sadducees gathered and proclaims that he is on trial because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead. This leads to the two groups arguing with each other so intensely that the commander is afraid that they will tear Paul to pieces. (Remember that the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection while the Pharisees do.)

Paul then receives a vision that night that he will testify about Jesus in Rome just as he has done in Jerusalem.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

From Acts 20:1 – 21:14 Paul is set on travelling to Jerusalem and to get there by Pentecost.

I learned Acts 20:7 as a proof text to explain why 1) Christians worship on Sunday and not the Sabbath, Saturday; and 2) why we in the Christian Church tradition have communion every week.

Other notable activities in Troas in Verses 7-10, Paul has so much to say that he speaks all night with an interruption when near midnight Eutychus, a young man trying to stay awake, falls asleep and falls out of the 3rd story window. Paul goes down and revives him.

Then in verse 17 Paul sends a message to the elders in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, and what is recorded as his final words to them in verses 18-35 is worth reading.

In Acts 21:8 Paul and his group, which since this is a “we” section would seem to include Luke, arrive in Caesarea where they stay with Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven (deacons). This may have been where Luke talks with Philip and gets his information for parts of Acts, like Philip’s adventures in chapter 8, and about the deacons in chapter 6, and maybe more of the events in those earliest chapters of Acts. Philip has four daughters who are prophets.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

The events in Ephesus in Acts 19 got me to remembering a publication I read several years ago about 1 Timothy 2:12-15. So I’m interrupting Acts to write about it.

I don’t allow a woman to teach or to control a man. Instead, she should be a quiet listener.  Adam was formed first, and then Eve.  Adam wasn’t deceived, but rather the woman became the one who stepped over the line because she was completely deceived. But a woman will be brought safely through childbirth, if they both continue in faith, love, and holiness, together with self-control.” (CEB, adjusted).

The paper pointed out that Timothy is in Ephesus (from 1 Timothy 1:3) and that Ephesus is a major center in the worship of Artemis, a female deity (from Acts 19, but I never picked up the extent until I read this paper).

The main thing this paper mentioned is that in the original Greek is a word that appears in the New Testament only once and in wider Greek writings from the time period is very rare. So knowing precisely what it means is difficult thus making translating it even more difficult. The writers offered another possible understanding of this passage; that Paul is writing to Timothy about specific women who had been very involved in the worship of Artemis before becoming Christians, and that they had a tendency to continue to teach ideas that were more about Artemis and not Jesus. Thus Paul was advising Timothy not to let these specific women teach. He was not making a blanket statement about all women.

What prompted me to read this paper was that one of the authors had died and Christianity Today had reported her death since she was a notable evangelical Christian. And seeing a woman recognized by CT without being closely related to a more notable man is rare.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Acts 19:23 says that there arose no small disturbance about the Way (a means of referring to Christians). It seems that it was begun by Demetrius, a silversmith in Ephesus whose business was making silver models of the temple of Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology). Paul’s preaching was convincing so many people to follow Jesus and abandon the worship of Artemis that it was having a major economic impact on not only Demetrius, but the entire Ephesus economy. Verse 27 states Demetrius’ position very well, “This poses a danger not only by discrediting our trade but also by completely dishonoring the great goddess Artemis. The whole province of Asia—indeed, the entire civilized world—worships her, but her splendor will soon be extinguished.” (CEB)

The craftsmen began to shout “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” rush into the theater where town meetings were held, grab two of Paul’s companions, throwing the city into turmoil. Luke states the crowd was in a state of confusion, some shouting one thing, others shouting something else, and most of them not knowing what’s going on. Alexander, a Jew tries to speak but when the crowd realizes that he is a Jew they all shout “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two hours!

The city manager is able to bring order, and even though this disturbance has been going on for a couple of hours he still believes if they disburse now they won’t be seen as was having had a riot.

The riot when I was in high school was a lot shorter than 2 hours. The Ephesians apparently believe the city manager and disburse. In Acts 20:1 Luke calls it a riot.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Acts 19 is about Paul in Ephesus and there is a lot here.

First off Acts 19:1 places Apollos in Corinth while Acts 18:24 had him in Ephesus. This may be another place where the chapter division may have been better to include 18:24-28 with chapter 19.

Maybe Apollos was first in Ephesus and then went to Corinth since Paul finds about a dozen people who have been baptized into John’s baptism like Apollos had been doing. Paul asks if they received the Holy Spirit and they know nothing of the Holy Spirit. Paul places his hands on them and they receive the Spirit and start speaking in tongues and prophesying.

Those Christian groups that include things like speaking in tongues as part of their practice interpret the presence of tongues and prophesy when people are described as receiving the Holy Spirit as proof that they are the signs of the Holy Spirit. Groups that don’t regularly include them tend to look at 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 where Paul lists several gifts of the Spirit, de-emphasizing speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is part of the latter group, which is interesting because the beginning of the Christian Church side (Barton Stone) of our heritage there were people speaking in tongues, sometimes described as “barking in the Spirit” because the sound was like dogs barking. It seems that the Disciples side (Campbell) prevailed with its emphasis on reason, the idea that a reasonable (person) could read the Bible and discern God’s plan for them without any “emotional” event.

Then in verses 13-17 there is a story that has always seemed somewhat humorous to me. Seven brothers try to cast a demon out of a man by saying “By the power of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, come out!” The demon responds “Jesus I know and Paul I know but who are you” then overpowers all 7 of them so that they run out of the house naked and wounded.

Next time – the riot!

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In Acts 18 Paul arrives in Corinth. Here we learn that Paul is a tent-maker or leather worker. He meets a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla who are also leather workers and have been forced to leave Rome. Paul ends up staying 18 months in Corinth. Scholars believe during this time he writes letters to the believers in Thessalonica, what we know as 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

We get an indication that Paul’s group sometimes splits up when in verse 5 it states that Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia, perhaps Philippi.

Again the same pattern happens in Corinth, some who reject Paul’s message cause trouble, bring him before the civil authority, Gallio, who in this case says he doesn’t care about their religious beliefs.

Paul eventually leaves, going back to Asia Minor (Turkey) to Ephesus and other cities in the area.

In Ephesus while Aquila and Priscilla are there, Apollos arrives preaching about Jesus but his practice of baptism is only John the Baptist’s type. You may recall Apollos being mentioned in 1 Corinthians. Aquila and Priscilla befriend Apollos and privately teach him more fully about baptism as it relates to Jesus.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In Acts 17 Paul and Silas get in trouble again. In Thessalonica those upset with them cause a riot by proclaiming that the ones who have turned the world upside down are here, proclaiming that someone other than Caesar is king – Jesus.

Eventually Paul ends up in Athens. He goes about the city seeing idols to various gods and goddesses, most likely including seeing the Parthenon. One idol he sees says “to an unknown god” which he uses to talk about the Jewish god and Jesus and the resurrection.

I’ve read some Bible teacher saying that Paul never preached this way again because it wasn’t effective enough. I wonder how closely this teacher has read Acts, because the results are the same as other places; some believe and accept his message, some reject it, and some want to learn more at a later time. And Paul may not have preached that same way again, although we don’t have all his sermons so we can’t say if he preached this way again or not, and I tend to go with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I become all things to all people in order to save some”.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Beginning in Acts 16:11, the rest of the chapter is about Paul’s (and the group with him) time in Philippi in Macedonia.

After days of being followed by a woman that is described as having a spirit in her that enables her to predict the future who  has been shouting “These people are servants of the Most High God! They are proclaiming a way of salvation to you!” Paul is annoyed and casts the spirit out of her. Our modern ways tend to discount the idea of being possessed by spirits but there seems to be something to this story, because those who have been making money off this woman now recognize that she can no longer predict the future, therefore they can’t exploit her in that way anymore. And these men grab Paul and Silas and proceed to stir up the crowd into a riot so that the authorities arrest and beat Paul and Silas.

Paul and Silas spend the night in jail praising God and singing hymns, becoming the inspiration for a verse in “The Old Time Religion” (It was good for Paul and Silas). This seems a little ironic since the message Paul is preaching is a new one within his old-time religion.

An earthquake occurs, freeing the prisoners. The jailer is about to kill himself (the punishment for allowing prisoners to escape) until Paul stops him by telling him that they are all still there. The jailer tends to the needs of Paul and Silas by cleaning their wounds and feeding them, while they tell him of Jesus and baptize him and his household.

The next morning the authorities want to quietly release Paul and Silas, but Paul won’t have it. He tells them that they are Roman citizens and therefore shouldn’t have been beaten without being found guilty of a crime, so he won’t leave quietly. They escort them out and beg them to leave Phillippi.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Between Acts 15:22 and 16:10 some individuals are introduced.

In Acts 15:22 Silas is one of the delegates chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with the results of the Jerusalem Council. In verse 40 Paul chooses Silas to go with him to the places that Paul and Barnabas went to earlier.

In 16:1 Paul meets Timothy in Lystra. In verse 3 Paul wants Timothy to go with his growing group and has Timothy circumcised since Timothy has a gentile father and Jewish mother. This can seem to be a strange decision given the whole discussion about circumcision earlier, but Paul looks at each situation, and makes what he believes is the best choice.

Then in verses 6 through 8 the Spirit keeps them from going to certain places, and then in Troas in verse 9 Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia urging them to come there and help. In verse 10 begins the “we” passages which has led many to conclude that Luke now joins Paul’s group and I have read one biblical scholar speculate that Luke may be the Macedonian urging Paul to come there.

Mark Phillips