Acts of the Apostles – The First Steps of the Church

January 7, 2023 version

 

   While Luke covers the 33 or so years of Jesus’ life on earth, Act tells the story of the first 33 or so years of the growth of the church, just after Jesus left, under the apostles, when it was full of undivided love and zeal. Some see it the blueprint for what the church should be like. However, this view can too easily gloss over the fact, that while their heart was in the right place, mistakes were made by the church in Acts, and it is instructive to see how they handled them. Of course, as we follow God’s will together, we are going to make mistakes too. How we handle mistakes and shortcomings in the church is more important than never making mistakes, because we are going to make mistakes. So maybe looking at Acts as a blueprint for what the church should be like is a pretty good view after all.

 

The Language: The Greek in Luke and Acts is some of the most difficult to translate in the New Testament. Luke was definitely a sophisticated and highly educated writer, sort of like one might expect from a doctor of that time. Luke's style of writing history has some similarities to the earlier Greek historians Xenophon and Plutarch, according to the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.884.

 

Dating of Acts: Everyone agrees that it was written after Luke, and the last event recorded was around 62-63 A.D. There are two “cliff-hangers” in Acts; did Paul ever go to Spain, and what as the outcome of Paul’s trial. Also, there is nothing about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. So, Acts was likely written between around 63 and 70 A.D.

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.351 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.23 say that nobody knows for sure. However, since Luke would likely have mentioned Paul’s death, the persecutions of Nero, and the fall of Jerusalem if they had occurred, Luke might have written the book of Acts between 61 and 64 A.D. Others say 63-70 A.D. due to silence of later events.

   The Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1576 agrees with the previous view. However, in support of a later date, it mentions an intriguing argument. It was possible that Luke was planning a third volume (though it was not in God’s will), so Luke could have written later and planned the later events for the third volume.

   Clement of Rome (96-98 A.D.) quotes 1/4 of Acts 20:35f (5 words out of 26 words) 1 Clement vol.1 ch.2 p.5 and Polycarp (100-155 A.D.) quotes half of Acts 2:24a (7 out of 15 Greek words) Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians ch.1 p.33. It was definitely written before 96-98 A.D.

 

Pre-Nicene Writers who refer to Acts. Underlined writers said it was by Luke.

Clement of Rome (96/98 A.D.)

Novatian (250-257 A.D.)

Polycarp (100-155 A.D.)

Treatise on Rebaptism (c.250-258 A.D.)

Shepherd of Hermas (c.160 A.D.)

Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.)

Justin Martyr (138-165 A.D.)

Pontius (after 258 A.D.)

Christians of Vienna & Lugdunum (177 A.D.)

Dionysius of Alexandria (246-265 A.D.)

Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.)

Adamantius (c.300 A.D.)

The Muratorian Canon (170-210 A.D.)

Victorinus of Petau (martyred 304 A.D.)

Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.)

Pamphilus (martyred 309 A.D.)

Tertullian (c.213 A.D.)

Peter of Alexandria (306,285-311 A.D.)

Hippolytus (222-235/236 A.D.)

Council of Neocaesarea (c.315 A.D.)

Origen (225-254 A.D.)

Athanasius (318 A.D.)

 

Eusebius of Caesarea (318-325 A.D.)

Pre-Nicene Christians, in 188 quotes, quoted only 20.1% (211.49 out of 1003 verses) from Acts.

Pre-Nicene Bible manuscript quote 29.1% of Acts (292 verses). Combined they quote 41.8% (419.02 verses) of Acts.

 

An Outline of the Book of Acts

Part 1: Acts 1-12 The Beginning of the Church from Jerusalem to Antioch

-  Acts 1:1-9:31 Jerusalem, Galilee, and Samaria

-  Acts 9:32-12:25 Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch

Part 2: Acts 13-28 Paul and the Spread of the Church from Antioch to Rome

-  Acts 13:1-15:35 Phrygia and Galatia – The First Missionary Journey

-  Acts 15:36-21:16 Macedonia – A New Continent for Christ

- -  Acts 15:36-18:22 – Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

- -  Acts 18:23-21:16 – Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

-  Acts 21:17-28:31 Jerusalem to Rome – Freedom to Grow through a Prisoner

- -  Acts 21:17-23:35 Imprisoned in Jerusalem

- -  Acts 24-26 – Imprisoned in Caesarea

- -  Acts 27:1-28:16 - The Prisoner goes to Rome

- -  Acts 28:16-31 – House Arrest in Rome

 

 

Acts 1:1-11 – Final Orders and the Ascension of Jesus

 

1. In Acts 1:1 and Lk 1:3, was Theophilus a real person?

 

 

2. In Acts 1:1-4, we might forget that to the readers in Luke’s lifetime, Acts was not so much history, but rather a “progress report”. If someone were to write a progress report of the church today, what do you think would be the key points?

 

 

3. In Acts 1:3, was Jesus on earth for forty days after His resurrection, or less than five days as Lk 24:50-52 supposedly implies?

 

 

4. In Acts 1:6-8, since the apostles’ hearts were right before God, why didn’t Jesus just answer their question? Why does Jesus sometimes not answer our questions?

 

 

5. In Acts 1:8, did the apostles know in advance what would happen when the Holy Spirit would come upon them?

 

 

6. In Acts 1:10, who were the men dressed in white?

 

 

7. In Acts 1:11, why did the angels mildly rebuke the apostles?

 

 

8. Does Acts 1:11 show how Jesus will return?


Acts 1:12-26 – Waiting on the Lord

 

1. In Acts 1:12, what is a Sabbath’s journey?

 

 

2. Does Acts 1:12 show we should not travel farther than this on the Sabbath?

 

 

3. In Acts 1:12, why did the disciples go to the Mount of Olives, since in Acts 1:4 they were told not to leave Jerusalem?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 1:12, did Jesus ascend to heaven from the Mount of Olives, or did He ascend to heaven from Bethany as Lk 24:50 says?

 

 

5. What does Acts 1:14 show about Joseph and Mary?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 1:17, why would God have Judas Iscariot be a part of the ministry prior to Judas betraying Jesus?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 1:17 and Mt 27:3-10, exactly how did Judas die?

 

 

 

 

8. In Acts 1:17, does the Bible talk about suicide? if a person would go to heaven or hell if a person committed suicide? ...I do not have a gun to my head. I am just wondering. It’s one of those questions that no one has ever brought up at a Bible study. I think it’s because people are too afraid to ask.

 

 

 

9. In Acts 1:20, how do these quotes from Ps 69:25 and Ps 109:8 relate to Jesus?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 1:20, why did Peter say, “his place”, since Ps 69:25 says, “their place”?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 1:21-26, how many Apostles were there biblically? I am pretty sure that Barnabas was acknowledged as one in the book of Acts. And that James the brother of Jesus was also an Apostle found elsewhere in the Scriptures. Also, Was Apollos an Apostle?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 1:22-26, when they chose Matthias by lot to take Judas’ place, was this what God wanted?


Acts 2:1-21 – Pentecost: The Birth of the Church

 

1. In Acts 2:1, how many days was it between the ascension of Jesus and Pentecost?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 2:3 who had the tongues of fire?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 2:4, why did God delay sending the Holy Spirit until Pentecost?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 2:4, how did everyone understand the tongues, since 1 Cor 14:27-28 says there should be no tongues in the church without interpretation?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 2:4, does the Holy Spirit filling people prove the Holy Spirit cannot be a person, as Jehovah’s Witnesses teach?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 2:4, does this prove speaking in tongues was a normal experience for future Christians?

 

 

7. In Acts 2:6-11, as most people at that time spoke either Greek or Aramaic, did the apostles speak to everyone in their own tongue by just speaking these two languages, which would not be miraculous, as the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1002 suggests?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 2:7, how could they tell that the apostles were Galileans?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 2:14-40, are the speeches in Acts recorded exactly?

 

 

10. In Acts 2:15 why did the Jews think it was wrong to have drunk wine at this time?

 

 

11. In Acts 2:16-21, was this prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 fulfilled here, or will it be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ?

 

 

12. In Acts 2:16-21, since this fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, how come the moon did not turn to blood?


Acts 2:22-47 – Peter’s Plea, Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit

 

1. In Acts 2:25-26 and 4:25-28, how do Ps 16:8-11 and Ps 2 relate to Jesus and the early Christians?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 2:34, did David go to Heaven, or not?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 2:36 the skeptic Bart Ehrman claims that Peter showed that Jesus received his exalted status at the resurrection (Jesus, Interrupted p.95).

 

 

 

4. Does Acts 2:38 mean water baptism is necessary for salvation?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 2:38 many say we need to repent of sins for salvation, others say only by faith, and others say repentance towards God. What does the Bible say?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 2:39, does any scripture indicate that the Bible applies to people who were not Jews living in Israel?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 2:40, why did Peter have such an urgency to share the Gospel message with people who were already trying to be good?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 2:42, what does the breaking of bread mean?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32, does this mean Christians should not own private property?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 2:44, does “everything in common” include promiscuous sex, as the Children of God cult teaches?


Acts 3 – Rise up and Walk!

 

1. In Acts 3:1-3, when can what we want differ and so much less than what we need?

 

 

2. In Acts 3:2, where or when was the man crippled?

 

 

3. In Acts 3:3-6, how much faith and hope did the man have that he would be healed?

 

 

4. In Acts 3:7, given the severity and length of time of his disability, the man had every reason to make an excuse that he could not walk. But he didn’t. When do we try to make excuses to God, when we should just do it?

 

 

5. In Acts 3:11-26, how does Peter's sermon here differ from his sermon in Acts 2?

 

 

6. In Acts 3:13, did the Jews deny Jesus in the presence of Pilate, though Pilate was determined to let Jesus go?

 

 

7. In Acts 3:14-15, what is Peter contrasting here, and how does it apply to us?

 

 

8. In Acts 3:17-21, were the Jewish people given another chance to have the Kingdom of God set up on earth here?

 

 

9. In Acts 3:16-17, what is significant about “the Name” of Jesus?

 

 

10. In Acts 3:19-20, why were they told to repent and be converted?

 

 

11. In Acts 3:21,26, does this support Universalism, that all will be saved?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 3:13,22,26 and 4:27 why is Jesus referred to in these verses as a holy servant, and when He is called the Son of Man what does that mean?

 

 

 

13. In Acts 3:26, was Jesus successful in turning every one away from their iniquities?

 

 


Acts 4:1-34 – Jesus is the Only Way

 

1. In Acts 4:3-14,why did the rulers merely warn them at this time?

 

 

2. In Acts 4:12, is Jesus really the only way?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 4:12, apart from the Bible, how do we know that all religions are not true?

 

 

 

 

4. In Acts 4:12, apart from the Bible, how do we know that all major world religions are not true?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 4:12, what can you say to someone who thinks all religions lead to God?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 4:12, are religions that do good works good?

 

 

 

 

7. In Acts 4:19, when should we disobey the commands of religious leaders?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 4:21, how did everyone glorify God here?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 4:22, what is the significance of the man being 40 years old?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 4:23, were Peter and John gossiping, to tell the other believers all the priests said?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 4:28-29, what is curious about their prayer?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 4:32-35 and 2 Cor 8:13-15, are Christians to have financial equality with all other Christians today?


Acts 4:36-5:42 – Life and Death

 

1. In Acts 4:36, how can a believer change to become more encouraging like Joseph/Barnabas was?

 

 

2. In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, why were the church contributions laid at the apostles’ feet?

 

 

3. In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, should churches today operate out of trust, or should they have financial controls?

 

 

4. In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, should contributions today go to a church or directly to the needy poor?

 

 

5. In Acts 5:1-10, what was wrong with Ananias and Sapphira selling land and laying only part of the money at the apostles’ feet?

 

 

6. In Acts 5:1-10, how come people who misrepresent their contributions to the church today are not killed?

 

 

7. In Acts 5:13,14, how did no one else join the believers, since they were adding to their number of believers?

 

 

8. In Acts 5:19-20, why were the apostles delivered here?

 

 

9. In Acts 5:34 and 22:3, what do we know about Gamaliel I apart from the Bible?

 

 

10. In Acts 5:36, when did Judas of Galilee live?

 

 

11. In Acts 5:36, when did Theudas live?

 

 

12. In Acts 5:36, what evidence is there that Paul studied under Gamaliel?

 

 

 

13. In Acts 5:38-39, was it characteristic for Pharisees to be so lenient here?

 

 

14. In Acts 5:40-41, what is ironic here?

 


Acts 6:1-4 – When Should We Complain?

 

1. In Acts 6:1, why would there be a lot of widows in the church, anyway?

 

 

 

 

2. In Acts 6:1, should the Greek-speaking Christians have complained at all, since Php 2:14-15 says to do everything without complaining or arguing?

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 6:1, when, and how, is it appropriate to complain?

 

 

 

 

4. In Acts 6:1, when, someone else complains in God’s church, how should you act, and what should you do?

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 6:1, why do you think Greek-speaking widows were overlooked in favor of Hebrew widows?

 

 

 

 

6. In Acts 6:1, do you ever think it is right to have different groups in the church?

 

 

 

 

7. In Acts 6:2, since the Twelve deliberately chose not to meet a legitimate need, when is it appropriate for us not to meet legitimate needs of other believers?

 

 

 

 

8. In Acts 6:3, why would these men need to be full of the Spirit and wisdom, since they were essentially doing administrative tasks?

 

 

 


Acts 6:5-15 – The Seven Deacons

 

1. In Acts 6:5, why do these names all show the same ethnic background?

 

 

 

 

2. In Acts 6:7, after choosing these seven men, why do you think a large number of priests became obedient to the faith?

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 6:8, why would they put Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, who did great wonders and miracles, in a “mundane” administrative role?

 

 

 

 

4. In Acts 6:9, based on the choice of deacons, why would opposition come from the synagogue of freedmen?

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 6:9, what can archaeologists tell us about the synagogue of the Freedmen?

 

 

 

 

6. In Acts 6:10-11, do you think Stephen would have won them over if he had done a better or more effective job at persuading them?

 

 

 

 

7. In Acts 6:11, what exactly is “blasphemy against Moses”?

 

 

 

 

8. In Acts 6:13, why would allegedly God-fearing, religious Jews set up false witnesses?

 

 


Acts 7:1-36 – Stephen’s Speech

 

1. In Acts 7:3-5 and Gen 11:21, did God call Abram from Ur or Haran?

 

 

2. In Acts 7:4 and Gen 11:26, when Abraham left the town of Haran, how was he 75 years old?

 

 

3. In Acts 7:6 and Gen 15:13, how could God prophesy the Israelites would be oppressed for 400 years, since Exodus 12:40-41 says that they were in Egypt for 430 years to the very day? (Two different Mormons pointed to this as a reason not to trust the Bible.)

 

 

 

4. In Acts 7:7, how was Egypt judged during the Exodus?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 7:14, exactly how many went to Egypt in Jacob’s time?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 7:16, how were Jacob and the patriarchs buried at Shechem?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 7:19, how did Pharaoh deal subtly with the Israelites?

 

 

 

9. Since Acts 7:22 says Moses learned the wisdom of the Egyptians, what did the Egyptians know back then?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 7:29, how do you take it when people who you are loyal to, and should be loyal to you, are willing to tell others on you?

 

 

11. In Acts 7:32 what is unusual about this quote?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 7:36, did they cross the Red Sea or the Reed Sea?

 


Acts 7:41-60 – Preaching to Stone Cold Hearts

 

1. In Acts 7:41-43, was the idolatrous calf a false image of the true God, or was it worship of heavenly beings?

 

 

2. In Acts 7:43, who was Moloch and the star Remphan?

 

 

3. In Acts 7:43, should it be “Moloch and Remphan” or “Sakkuth and Kaiwan” as the Masoretic text of Amos 5:26 says?

 

 

4. In Acts 7:43, when were they told in the future they would go to Babylon?

 

 

5. In Acts 7:48, what is interesting about the phrase “not … build by human hands”?

 

 

6. In Acts 7:51-53, what was Stephen’s aim here?

 

 

7. In Acts 7:51-53, sometimes people reject the gospel because they cannot understand it. Sometimes they reject the gospel because they won’t understand it. What is the difference?

 

 

8. In Acts 7:51-53, how do you get through to those who won’t understand the gospel?

 

 

9. In Acts 7:52, Mt 23:37; and Lk 13:34, what did Jewish non-biblical literature say about their treatment of the prophets?

 

 

10. In Acts 7:53, how did they receive the law from angels?

 

 

11. In Acts 7:55, since Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, why did the Holy Spirit have Stephen say things that got him killed?

 

 

12. In Acts 7:56 and Mk 16:19, how could Jesus stand at the right hand of God, since Jesus is God?

 

 

13. In Acts 7:59, how could Stephen be stoned, if the Sanhedrin did not have the power to execute anyone?

 

 

14. In Acts 7:59-60, was Stephen praying to Jesus here?


Acts 8:1-25 – Simon and the Samaritans, Heresies and Believers who were Different

 

1. In Acts 8:1, was this persecution a good thing?

 

 

2. In Acts 8:1, would the Christians have scattered throughout Judea and Samaria if there had not been the persecution?

 

 

3. In Acts 8:1, why did Christians flee Jerusalem because of persecution, while the apostles remained?

 

 

4. In Acts 8:2, why did devout believers lament over Stephen’s death, since Stephen went to be with Jesus?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 8:5-8, 8:26-40, which Philip was this?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 8:9-24, why did Simon try to buy the right to heal people?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 8:9-24, was Simon saved here?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 8:9-24, what happened to Simon Magus?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 8:14-17, was this a normal experience?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 8:15-17, why was the Holy Spirit not given to the Samaritans when they first heard the Gospel?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 8:1b-25, why do you think heresies start?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 8:1b-25, are there genuine Christians who are rather different today?


Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

 

This passage can be studied from two different perspectives: from the viewpoint of Philip and of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

 

1. In Acts 8:26, what was the purpose of Philip traveling from Jerusalem towards Gaza?

 

 

 

 

2. In Acts 8:27, when might God ask us to do something without us knowing why?

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 8:27, why would an Ethiopian want to go to the Jerusalem?

 

 

 

 

4. In Acts 8:27, why does it say the Ethiopian went to Jerusalem to worship, instead of to the temple?

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 8:27, who was Candace?

 

 

 

 

6. In Acts 8:36, should a person be baptized when they believe?

 

 

 

 

 

7. What are arguments for infant and believer baptism?

 

 

 


Acts 9:1-31 – The Persecution by Saul of Tarsus

 

1. In Acts 9:1-2, why would the Jewish priests be so desirous to kill Christians?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 9:1-2, why would letters from Jewish (not Roman) leaders in Jerusalem have any effect on a non-Jewish city outside of Judea? Imagine me going to my pastor and asking him to write a letter to the leader of North Korea, to release to me all Christian prisoners. When I travel to North Korea to deliver it, how do you think it will go over? If you think it would not go well, then why would Saul expect a better reception in Damascus?

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 9:1-2, what did Saul know?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 9:3-8, how come this differs from accounts in 22:6-11 and Acts 26:12-18?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 9:11, is there any archaeological evidence for Straight Street in Damascus?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 9:15-16, why did God choose Saul of Tarsus as His chosen instrument?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 9:16, what was the point of telling Ananias how much Saul would suffer for Christ’s name?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 9:19-25, how would you feel about opening your home to a man who had killed Christians, perhaps even some you knew?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 9:23, who was trying to kill Paul?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 9:26-27, were they right to avoid Saul? Why were the disciples afraid of Saul, since they should not have been afraid of death?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 9 27-28, was Barnabas brave or foolhardy to introduce Saul, a potential “infiltrator” to the others?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 9:27-28, why do you think Barnabas had such boldness as to not be afraid of Saul, even though the others were?

 

 

 

13. In Acts 9:31, how did the churches live in the fear of the Lord, and how should we do so today?


Acts 10 – The Gospel for Gentiles like Cornelius the Centurion

 

1. In Acts 10:2,4,31, what do we know about Cornelius?

 

 

2. In Acts 10:2,4,31, what was the relationship between Cornelius’ alms and God answering his prayers?

 

 

3. In Acts 10:2,22,44-48, since Cornelius was God-fearing and prayed to God regularly, yet still he was not yet born again until Peter’s visit, would Cornelius have gone to Hell if He had died?

 

 

4. In Acts 10:10-16 and Mk 7:17-23, since Jesus said he would not abolish anything in the law in Mt 5:17, why don’t Christians follow the Old Testament dietary laws like Muslims [allegedly] do?

 

5. In Acts 10:20-23, when Peter was commanded not to hesitate to go with the three men, did Peter disobey by questioning them, inviting them into his house, and leaving the next day?

 

 

6. In Acts 10:25-26, why did Cornelius try to “worship” Peter?

 

 

7. In Acts 10:31, does God remember all the righteous things people do?

 

 

8. In Acts 10:34-35, how could Peter [allegedly] contradict Jesus in saying God accepts people from every nation who fear God and do righteousness, when Jesus said no one comes to the Father but by Jesus in Jn 14:6? (The Muslim Ahmad Deedat brought this up.)

 

9. In Acts 10:30, Peter found out that his “prejudice” against Gentiles was outside of God’s will. What should we do if we suddenly find out that we are prejudiced about some people?

 

 

10. In Acts 10:34-43, how close are these to Peter’s actual words?

 

 

11. In Acts 10:38, how was God with Jesus, since Jesus is God?

 

 

12. In Acts 10:45-48, is water baptism essential to be saved?

 

13. In Acts 10:45-48, because this passage was a very special occurrence, does this negate using this passage to show water baptism is not essential for salvation?

 

14. In Acts 10:48 and Acts 2:38, since people are baptized in the name of Jesus, since people are baptized in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Mt 28:19, does that mean the three are all Jesus, as Oneness Pentecostalism teaches?

Acts 11 – Did Peter Have to Explain His Actions?

 

1. In Acts 11:1-3, since Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, why would God send Peter and not Paul to Cornelius?

 

 

2. In Acts 11:1-3, were the men correct in contending with Peter the apostle?

 

 

3. In Acts 11:1-3, Peter could have said, “I know I was following God, and I couldn’t care less about what you think. What would not be good about that?

 

 

4. In Acts 11:1-3, what are some times today were you, or someone else, could have or actually did say that. How would that work out?

 

 

5. In Acts 11:1-4, just how structured do you think the church should be?

 

 

6. In Acts 11:3, were the apostles obedient to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth?

 

 

7. In Acts 11:14, was Cornelius saved prior to sending for Peter?

 

 

8. In Acts 11:18, what two effects would this have: first on other Gentiles and second on Jews?

 

 

9. In Acts 11:18 how do you think a former pagan, who converted to Judaism just to convert to Christianity, feel about this?

 

 

10. In Acts 11:19, why were they preaching only to the Jews?

 

 

11. In Acts 11:20, what is significant about Antioch?

 

 

12. In Acts 11:25-26, what was Paul doing back in his hometown of Tarsus?

 

 

13. In Acts 11:26, what is the significance of the term “Christians” being first used at Antioch?

 

 

14. In Acts 11:28, Acts 14:17, and 2 Cor 8-9, what evidence is there of a famine throughout all the world in the time of Claudius (41-54 A.D.)?


Acts 12 – When God Steps in and Saves, - and When He Doesn’t

 

1. In Acts 12:1-2, who was this Herod, and why would he want to kill James and Peter?

 

 

 

 

2. In Acts 12:6, how could Peter sleep so soundly, the night before his execution?

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 12:15, why did they think “Peter’s angel” appeared at the door?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 12:23, what is extra-Biblical evidence of Herod suddenly dying of worms?

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 12:2,7 James, John, and Peter were three of Jesus’ closest disciples. Why do you think the three had such different deaths?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 12:2,7, why does God save some people, some miraculously so, and not others?

 

 

 

 

7. In Acts 12, why doesn’t God bless us financially as much as we are able to take?

 

 

 

 

8. In Acts 12:13-16, what is rather embarrassing about this?

 

 

 

 

9. In Acts 12:17, could the other have been Rome, and Peter stayed there for 25 years, as some Roman Catholic theologians have suggested?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 12:18-19, why would the guards be concerned?

 

 


Acts 13:1-15 – Missionaries Going Out of Their Way to Preach

 

1. In Acts 13:1, what were these offices and what did the laying on of hands here signify?

 

 

 

 

2. In Acts 13:1, was Simon/Simeon Niger from the land of the African country of Niger?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 13:6, why was the sorcerer called Bar-Jesus?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 13:6, why would a seemingly level-headed proconsul employ a magician in his court?

 

 

5. In Acts 13:6-13, what extra-Biblical evidence exists for Sergius Paulus?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 13:7, what was the difference between a procurator and a proconsul?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 13:7-9, did Saul of Tarsus perhaps take his new, Roman name from Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Paphos?

 

 

8. In Acts 13:9-11, why did Saul rebuke Elymas so sharply?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 13:11, what kind of mist fell on Elymas?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 13:13, why do you think John (aka John Mark) left them so abruptly to return to Jerusalem?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 13:1-15 what is the difference between evangelizing “as you go” and going out of your way to evangelize?

 

 

12. In Acts 13:14, what province as “Antioch in Pisidia” in? (a trick question)

 


Acts 13:16-52 – Paul’s Early Missionary Sermon

 

1. In Acts 13:16, why did Paul stand and speak, while in Lk 4:16,20 Jesus stood to read scripture and sat down to speak?

 

 

2. In Acts 13:19, who were the seven nations of Canaan that the Israelites conquered?

 

 

3. In Acts 13:20, what do “about 450 years before Joshua to Samuel” mean to Old Testament dating?

 

 

4. In Acts 13:22, how could David be a man after God’s own heart, since David sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah?

 

 

5. In Acts 13:30, how did God raise Jesus from the dead, since Jesus is God?

 

6. In Acts 13:32-33, the skeptic Bart Ehrman writers, “In this text the ‘day’ Jesus became begotten as God’s son was the day of resurrection.” Then Ehrman asks how that is reconciled with Jesus being begotten in Lk 3:22. (Jesus, Interrupted p.95)

 

 

7. In Acts 13:32-37, how is combining Ps 2:7 and 2 Sam 7:14 messianic?

 

 

8. In Acts 13:41, how is Hab 1:5 Messianic?

 

 

9. In Acts 13:42-43, how could Paul and Barnabas be favorably received, yet be rejected in Acts 13:45?

 

 

10. In Acts 10:46-47, how could some judge themselves unworthy of eternal life? Aren’t all unworthy of eternal life?

 

 

11. In Acts 13:48, what is this verse saying about election?

 

 

12. In Acts 13:50 how could they stir up trouble for Paul and Barnabas?

 

 

13. In Acts 13:52, since the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit, should Christians today be this way?

 

 

14. In Acts 13:16-42, what were the main points of Paul’s preaching here?


Acts 14 – Hardship during Ministry

 

This area was originally not Greek but Phrygian. It was quite isolated, though well-watered and full of lakes and forests. The Romans pretty much let them rule themselves, except that Iconium had a Roman garrison.

 

1. In Acts 14:2, what can you do when Satan works in some non-believers to poison the mind of others against the message?

 

 

2. In Acts 14:6, what is significant here about them “leaving” for Lycaonia?

 

 

3. In Acts 14:8-13, how surprised would pagans be at seeing this miracle?

 

 

4. In Acts 14:11-13, how is this Satanic attack worse than others?

 

 

5. In Acts 14:12-14, why would the Lystrans think Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes?

 

 

6. In Acts 14:14, why did Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes?

 

 

7. In Acts 14:2,19, what is it about people that could have a crowd turn from wanting to worship Paul and Barnabas to stoning Paul and leaving him for dead?

 

 

8. In Acts 14:10-20, why do you think God did not do one additional miracle, like calling fire down from heaven on the people who stoned Paul, or keeping the rocks from hitting Paul??

 

 

 

9. In Acts 14:15-17b, why don’t you think Paul quoted the Old Testament here?

 

 

10. In Acts 14:19-20, how would you preach, knowing that you would be stoned, depending on what you said?

 

 

11. In Acts 14:23, why did they fast at that time?

 

 

12. In Acts 14:23, how long had these elders been in Christ? Should a person have been a Christian a long time before becoming an elder?

 

 

13. In Acts 14:21b-22, why is it important for missionaries to tell the church what they did?


Acts 15 – The Council at Jerusalem

 

There are two different ways to view this passage. The first way is what was decided; then second way is the idea of having a peaceful council to decide things and have all come to agreement.

 

1. In Acts 15:1-29, was Peter the “Pope” of the first church council, as some Roman Catholics would like to say?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 15:1-6, was the entire church present, or just Paul, James, and the apostles?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 15:1-3, how do the Hebrew Roots Movement and many Seventh Day Adventists carry on this combining of God’s covenant in Christ and the Old Testament Law today?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 15:5, when these Pharisees became Christians, why did God not set them straight on circumcision and the Old Testament Law?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 15:9 how are our hearts purified by faith?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 15:14-21, what is a summary of James’ speech?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 15:15-17, why would James’ quote of Amos 9:11-12 agree with the Septuagint and not the Masoretic text? Here is Amos 9:11a, 12?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 15:16, what is the tabernacle of David?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 15:20, are blood transfusions wrong?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 15:20, why would they have these four prohibitions here?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 15:22-29, why didn’t Paul repeat the decree of the Council when he wrote to the Galatians?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 15:28, since it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, why was it relevant whether or not it seemed good to them also?

 

 

 

13. In Acts 15:29, are these commands still valid for Christians today?

 

 

 

14. In Acts 15:37-40, who was right, and how did this turn out?


Acts 16 – When in Prison – Praise God

 

1. How do you think Paul felt going back yet again to a town where they stoned him and left him for dead?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 16:1-5, why did Paul and Silas circumcise Timothy after affirming that gentiles did not need to be circumcised?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 16:3, was it right for Paul to circumcise Timothy, just for others’ approval, since 1 Cor 7:18-19, says circumcision is nothing, and Gal 5:2-3 says we should not get circumcised

 

 

 

4. In Acts 16:6, how did the Holy Spirit keep Paul and his companions out of the Roman province of Asia?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 16:6-7, how should we react when God says “no” to something that we know is sinful and would further His kingdom?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 16:9, was the man in the vision Luke?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 16:14, why did Lydia need to have her heart opened to respond to Paul’s message, since she already worshipped God?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 16:16-18, why was Paul troubled by the possessed slave girl saying they were from God?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 16:19, what Paul effectively did was exorcise the source of income of the slave girl’s masters. When in our own lives should we “exorcise our source of income” because it is not pleasing to God?

 

 

 

 

10. In Acts 16:19, when another believer is making money in a way not pleasing to God, how do we tell them to exorcise their income?

 

 

11. In Acts 16:21, how do you handle it when you are not supposed to preach?

 

12. In Acts 16:25, what does this teach us about pain and praise?

 

 

13. In Acts 16:26-28, is there any extra-Biblical evidence for this earthquake?

 

 

14. In Acts 16:34, how would you feel being the house guest of the man who put you in stocks?

 

 

15. In Acts 16:37, what was the Roman law Paul and Silas appealed to?


 

Acts 17:1-18 – The Hunters and Seed Pickers – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 17:6, what extra-Biblical evidence is there for this strange Greek word for “city-ruler” (politarch)?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 17:11, why were the Bereans more noble than the Thessalonians, for not trusting Paul as much?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 17:14-15, did Paul go to Athens [allegedly] alone leaving Silas and Timothy behind in Berea, or did Paul send Timothy back to Thessalonica as 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 indicates?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 17:16, why would Paul be provoked seeing all those beautiful sculptures? How should we feel when we see artistic, well-crafted temples and altars?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 17:16, what are three responses Paul could have done, and which one did he choose to do?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 17:18-34, why did Paul quote truth from pagan sources? Specifically, the poet Epimenides (600 B.C.) of Knossos, Crete in Cretica as Zeus’ son Minos say, “in him we live and move and have our being” and the Cilician poet Aratus (c.315-240 B.C.) in Phaenomena, and the Stoic Cleanthes of Assos (331-233 B.C.) in Hymn to Zeus “We are his offspring”

 

 

 

 

7. In Acts 17:23-30, since Paul proclaimed to the Greeks the unknown god they had some sense of, do other religions today have an unknown god that they sense, or as one person put it, “the hidden Christ of Hinduism”?

 

 

 

 

8. In Acts 17:18-34, did Paul later regret this approach when he emphasized that he preached nothing but Christ to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 1:18-2:8, his next stop after Athens?

 

 

 

 

9. In Acts 17:18-34, what is the evidence that Paul was not successful?

Acts 17:18-34 – Opposing Rival Philosophies of the Day

 

1. In Acts 17:18, what were they accusing Paul of being?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 17:18, how did Paul try to reach the Epicureans, who came from Epicurus of Samos (341-270 B.C.)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 17:18-31, why mention idols to Epicureans?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 17:18, how did Paul try to reach the Stoics, who came from Zeno of Citium on Cyprus (c.320-c.250 B.C.)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 17:18-31, why did Paul mention idols to the pantheistic/ atheistic Stoics?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 17:18-31, was Paul using a straw-man argument, saying the gods were not these man-made idols? Some polytheists believed the idols were only lifeless representations of the gods.

 

 

 

7. In Acts 17:23, is there any extra-Biblical evidence of an altar to an unknown god?

 

 

 

8. Does Acts 17:23 somehow support the atheistic contention that “God” is simply the name for what we do not know?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 17:28, how and when should we quote from non-Christian sources, as true, in sharing the gospel or debating with non-Christians?

 

 


Acts 18 – Corinth and Apollos, Two Problems to Praises

 

The population of Corinth was about 200,000, while Athens, 50 miles northeast, was about 10,000. The Romans destroyed Corinth in 149/148 B.C., but Julius Caesar rebuilt it in 46 B.C.

 

1. In Acts 18:2, do we have any extra-Biblical confirmation that the Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) ordered all Jews to leave Rome?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 18:3, 20:34; 1 Cor 9:1-18; 2 Cor 11:7-12; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:7-10, why was Paul a tentmaker and not a professional rabbi?

 

 

3. In Acts 18:6, when do you think it appropriate to be like Paul here and “shake the dust off your feet”?

 

 

4. In Acts 18:9-10, why do you think God spoke to Paul here?

 

 

5. In Acts 18:9-10, why do godly leaders sometimes get down and discouraged?

 

 

6. In Acts 18:9-10, what should we do when we feel discouraged?

 

 

7. In Acts 18:9-10, what should we do to encourage godly leaders?

 

 

8. In Acts 18:12, do we have any extra-Biblical information about Gallio the proconsul?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 18:17, who beat Sosthenes and why?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 18:24-28, was Apollos a believer prior to knowing about Jesus?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 18:24-28, if Apollos had died prior to talking with Christians, would he have gone to heaven?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 18:24-28, how do you instruct someone who has partial but incomplete knowledge of the truth?


Acts 19 – Effectiveness in Ephesus

 

While Ephesus was a large city, there was a very strong pagan presence there, and monetary interests tied up with continuing paganism. Its commercial peak was past since the harbor was silting up, due to excessive tree-cutting, over-grazing, and charcoal burning upstream. The Romans tried to remove the silt in 65 A.D., but they were not that successful. They still could make a lot of money off of their silver goddess of Artemis though. The main street was very wide for its time, about 11 meters. But none of this did not really affect the great spread of the gospel there. The Temple of Artemis was 239 feet wide and 418 feet long according to Pliny’s Natural History 36.95. This was probably the largest theatre in the world, about four times the size of the Parthenon of Athens according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.409, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.492-493, The Message of Acts revised edition p.294, and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.414.

 

1. In Acts 19:2-3, how could they truly believe without receiving the Holy Spirit?

 

2. In Acts 19:2-3, can people today truly believe without receiving the Holy Spirit?

 

3. In Acts 19:5 can you explain why in the book of Acts it says the disciples of Jesus baptized only in Jesus' name. Why?

 

4. In Acts 19:6-7, were the Ephesian disciples genuine Christians prior to being baptized with the Holy Spirit?

 

5. In Acts 19:12, should faith healers today give out handkerchiefs for healing?

 

6. In Acts 19:12, since people were healed by handkerchiefs and aprons the apostle touched, does that support religious relics, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches use?

 

7. In Acts 19:13-17, why could the Jewish exorcists not cast out the devils?

 

8. In Acts 19:13-17, do we have any evidence of later magical exorcists trying to use the name of Jesus?

 

9. In Acts 19:19, what should our attitude be toward books of the occult and counterfeit religions?

 

10. In Acts 19:26,28, why did Demetrius summarize all of Paul’s teaching in this way?

 

11. In Acts 19:31, what are Asiarchs?

 

12. In Acts 19:35, why were they so sensitive about “Artemis of the Ephesians”?

 

13. In Acts 19:35, what do we know about this position of “town clerk”?

 

14. In Acts 19:35, why do they mention the image that fell down from Jupiter?

 

 

 


Acts 20:1-21 – The Start of the Homeward Stretch

 

1. In Acts 20:3, should we sometimes change our plans due to fear or caution in a dangerous situation?

 

 

2. In Acts 20:4, how was Gaius from Derbe, since Gaius a Macedonian in Acts 19:29?

 

 

3. In Acts 20:6, what were the days of unleavened bread?

 

 

4. What does Acts 20:7-9 say to Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses?

 

 

5. In Acts 20:9-12, what does the name “Eutychus” mean in Greek?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 20:9-12, was Eutychus dead, or was his life still in him as Paul apparently said?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 20:13, why did Paul want to travel on foot here?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 20:15,17 what do we know about the city of Miletus?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 20:16, why did Paul want to hurry to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 20:18-35, what were the main points of Paul’s message here?

 

 

 

 

 

11. In Acts 20:20, what guidelines can we learn from Paul for speaking God’s message?

 

 

 

 

12. In Acts 20:21, why was Paul teaching them to have faith in the Lord Jesus instead of faith in God the Father?

 


Acts 20:22-38 – Paul in Transit

 

1. In Acts 20:22-23, why was the Holy Spirit leading Paul to persecution and perhaps death?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 20:22 - Acts 21:11, was Paul obedient or disobedient to the Holy Spirit?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 20:25, why did Paul say they would never see him again, since they would see Paul again in Heaven?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 20:26, how in the world can Paul say he was pure of the blood of all people, since he had killed so many Christians?

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 20:28, since Christ purchased His church with His own blood, does that mean he did not purchase salvation for the non-elect?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 20:28, what are all the commands Paul gave to the elders (episkopous) here?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 20:29-30, why would Almighty God allow “savage wolves” to come in and ravage His flock?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 20:31 did Paul admonish the Ephesians for three years, or did he teach at the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus for two years, as Acts 19:10 says?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 20:35, where did Jesus say “it is more blessed to give than to receive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. In Acts 20:38, why did some grieve over Paul’s upcoming martyrdom, and is it OK for Christians to mourn?


Acts 21 – When arrest and suffering call Your name

 

1. In Acts 21:4, why did the disciples urge Paul, through the Spirit, not to go to Jerusalem, since the Spirit told Paul to go in Acts 20:22-23?

 

 

2. In Acts 21:4-6, since Paul had nothing to do with the church founded in Tyre, why did Paul spend seven days with the disciples?

 

 

3. In Acts 21:9, who were Philip and his four daughters?

 

 

4. In Acts 21:11, why did Agabus prophesy the Jews would bind Paul in this way, since the Romans were the ones who bound Paul in Acts 22:25,29?

 

 

5. In Acts 21:19, why was Paul always telling other believers what God had done through Him?

 

 

6. In Acts 21:21, do Jewish people who are Christians have extra regulations that non-Jewish Christians do not have?

 

 

7. In Acts 21:21-26, was the request James and the elders gave Paul wise?

 

 

8. In Acts 21:22-26, to what extent should we change our customs to better fit in with those among whom we are ministering?

 

 

9. In Acts 21:24-26, since Jesus died on the cross, why do you think Paul would pay for animal sacrifices.

 

 

10. In Acts 21:28,31 is there any archaeological evidence for the Jewish rule that non-Jews were to be killed if they entered the Temple?

 

 

11. In Acts 21:30, when the Jews “shut the gates” of the temple to keep anyone coming in to rescue Paul, it symbolized the authorities’ final rejection of the gospel. When should you try to help an organization get back on track, vs. leaving because you realized that “The gates are shut”?

 

 

12. In Acts 21:38, what do we know about this Egyptian Paul was confused with?

 

 

13. In Acts 21:40-22:23, why did Paul want to address the crowd?

Acts 22 – Paul’s “Stormy weather” sermon

 

1. In Acts 22:1, what is curious about the start of Paul’s speech?

 

 

 

 

2. In Acts 22:6-8, Paul could easily guess that when he told of his conversion experience, many would write him off as foolish. Would we still share the gospel, knowing that when we do many will write us off as deluded?

 

 

 

 

3. In Acts 22:9, why does it say they did not understand the voice, since Acts 9:7 says they heard the sound?

 

 

 

 

4. In Acts 22:16, how do people get baptized and wash away their sins?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. In Acts 22:22-23, the Jews seemed to have a “trigger phrase” here, of going to the Gentiles. When should we use, or not use a trigger phrase?

 

 

 

 

6. In Acts 22:24-25, how do people today sometimes judge right or wrong of a person or viewpoint solely by the commotion other people cause?

 

 

 

 

7. In Acts 22:28, why did the captain say he himself paid to become a Roman citizen?


Acts 23 – Paul on Trial for Religion

 

1. In Acts 23:1-2, what was the high priest Ananias son of Nedebaeus like?

 

 

2. In Acts 23:3, how are some people like whitewashed walls?

 

 

3. In Acts 23:3, did Paul get angry and lose his temper here?

 

 

4. In Acts 23:5, why did Paul say he did not know Ananias was the high priest?

 

 

5. In Acts 23:5, why did Paul say you should not speak evil of the ruler of your people?

 

 

6. In Acts 23:6, was Paul right to stir up the Pharisees and Sadducees against one another?

 

 

7. In Acts 23:6-7, do you agree or disagree that a Sadducee, on becoming a Christian, ceases to be a Sadducee, but a Pharisee, on becoming a Christian could still be a Pharisee, as the New International Bible Commentary p.1307 says?

 

 

8. In Acts 23:6-7, today what kinds of groups could a person transparently still be a part of when they become a Christian, and what kinds of groups could they no longer be a part of?

 

 

9. In Acts 23:11, why would the Lord appear to Paul here?

 

 

10. In Acts 23:1-11, with his boldness, did Paul do a good job testifying here?

 

 

11. In Acts 23:15-25, did the forty assassins die, and why were 470 Romans used?

 

 

12. In Acts 23:26-30, what are some significant parts of this letter?

 

 


 

Acts 24 – Paul on Trial before the government

 

1. In Acts 24:1-27, what do we know about the one Tertullus called “noble Felix” and his wife Drusilla?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 24:5-8, what is the essence of Tertullus’ charge of Paul’s guilt?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 24:11-21, what is the essence of Paul’s defense?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 24:25b, what is the difference today between rejecting the gospel and merely delaying considering the gospel?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 24:25-27, was Felix unjust to keep Paul in prison?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 24:26, why would Felix hope for a bribe from Paul, a mere tentmaker?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 24:27, what is the extra-biblical information we have on Festus?


Acts 25-26 – Paul’s Retrial

 

1. In Acts 25:2, why does it say, “chief priests” (plural) when there was only supposed to be one chief priest?

 

 

2. In Acts 25:23, what else do we know about Bernice / Berenice?

 

 

3. In Acts 25:23, why do some people do things with “pomp”?

 

 

4. In Acts 26:12-15, Paul left out some details here, such as about Ananias and getting the commission later. When is it OK for us to summarize and simplify?

 

 

5. In Acts 26:14, how could the voice be speaking to Saul in Hebrew, since the popular phrase “it is hard to kick against the goads” was known in Greek, but not Hebrew?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 26:14, an ox goad was a hard, sharp stick to poke an ox with when the ox would not move. Kicking against the goads is more than just sinning. How do people sin and kick against the goads today?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 26:23, what precisely does “first” mean here?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 26:24-29, why was Paul so bold before King Agrippa?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 26:24-25, why did Festus accuse Paul of being insane?

 

 

10. In Acts 26:27, Paul was doing well with his eloquent, learned, and scriptural speech, but Paul interrupted all that to ask King Agrippa a direct, proving question. When do you think we should pause in our sharing the gospel to ask direct, probing questions?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 26:27-29, why did King Agrippa not accept Christ when Paul spoke to him?

 

 

12. In Acts 26:32 and Acts 25:11, should Paul have appealed to Caesar?


 

Acts 27 – Sailing into Uncertainty

 

Fair weather, then storm, then shipwreck, then an escape from death. If we are really doing God’s will in God’s way, and God is pleased with us, shouldn’t our way be easy?

 

1. In Acts 27:1-28:13, what can we tell from the writing style?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 27:10, did Paul give a false prophecy here, that people would lose their lives, since no one lost their life according to Acts 27:22-23?

 

 

 

3. In Acts 27:10, how should you live when you are an unwilling part of something that is drifting toward wreckage?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 27:14, what is a Euroclydon wind?

 

 

5. In Acts 27:14, how do people today feel better by taking small precautions in dangerous situations?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 27:21, how, and when should you say “I told you so” as Paul seemed to do here?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 27:27, how were they sailing in the Adriatic Sea, since they should have been south of Italy?

 

 

8. In Acts 27:37, why were there so many people (276) in the ship Paul traveled on?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 27:41, what is the significance driving the vessel ashore between two seas?

 

 

10. In Acts 27:42, why were the soldiers so eager to kill the prisoners?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 27:1 to 28:1, we all have storms in life. How would you compare and contrast Paul’s journey with Jonah?

 

Acts 28 – A Date with Destiny in Rome – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 28:1 what do we know about the island of Malta?

 

 

 

2. In Acts 28:1, exactly where did Paul land on Malta?

 

 

 

From https://drivethruhistory.com/location-of-pauls-shipwreck-on-malta/

 

3. In Acts 28:3, how could a viper fasten itself on Paul’s hand, since there are no vipers in Malta today?

 

 

 

4. In Acts 28:4, who or what is “Justice” here?

 

 

 

5. In Acts 28:7, is there any archaeological evidence for the title “first/chief man” of the Island?

 

 

 

6. In Acts 28:7, is there any extra-Biblical evidence for this Publius, the “chief man of the island”?

 

 

 

7. In Acts 28:7-10, why would the islanders give them supplies?

 

 

 

8. In Acts 28:8, what could Publius’ father have been suffering from?

 

 

 

9. In Acts 28:11 who were Castor and Pollux?

 

 

 

10. In Acts 28:13 (KJV) since it says, “we fetched a compass”, does that mean that compasses existed back then?

 

 

 

11. In Acts 28:24-25, what do we know about the Jews in Rome?

 

 

 

12. In Acts 28:30-31, what did Paul do for two years under house arrest in Rome?

 

 

 

13. In Acts 28:30-31, do you think Paul went free or not?

 


Acts 1:1-11 – Final Orders and the Ascension of Jesus – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 1:1 and Lk 1:3, was Theophilus a real person?

A: There are three possibilities, and I favor the third view.

No: The Greek word Theophilus means lover of God, and many see this as a generic invitation to lovers of God in general. According to the historian Plutarch, a Cleomenes was miraculously protected by a snake, and he was called theophiles, or “a favorite of the gods.” See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.564 for more info.

Yes: However, Theophilus was a known Greek name, and some, such as the Nelson Study Bible p.1685 say Theophilus was an individual believer. The title indicates he might have been an official of the equestrian order. Likewise, The NIV Study Bible p.1532 says Theophilus “almost certainly refers to a specific person rather than lovers of God in general.” Theophilus might have been Luke's patron, who paid Luke's expenses while he did his research and writing. The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.886 says that "in all likelihood he was an actual person".

Deliberately ambiguous: A third view is that this ambiguity is deliberate, either on Luke’s part or else on God’s part.

   Theophilus was the name of a number of people:

1) An ancient Greek geographer mentioned by Plutarch, Ptolemy, and Josephus

2) An Indo-Greek king either 130 B.C. or 90 B.C.

3) a bishop of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.)

4) A Theophilus of Caesarea (c.170-180 A.D.)

5) The Arian Theophilus the Indian (died 364 A.D.)

6) A patriarch of Alexandria somewhere around 391 A.D.

7) The writer of the Martyrdom of Habib the Deacon, which occurred in 315 A.D.

   While it can be frustrating to some western readers to no eliminate all ambiguity, in some cultures ambiguity can be intentional.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1068,1070 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1270 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 1:1-4, we might forget that to the readers in Luke’s lifetime, Acts was not so much history, but rather a “progress report”. If someone were to write a progress report of the church today, what do you think would be the key points?

A: It would vary in different parts of the world.

In many places it would be bearing up in the midst of persecution. In other places Christians would be ostracized due to lack of political correctness. In some places it would be a sad progress report of compromise with the world. In other places it would be a glowing report, of standing up under pressure. In fact, if you put all of those progress reports together, it might be similar to the letters to the seven churches in Revelation.

 

3. In Acts 1:3, was Jesus on earth for forty days after His resurrection, or less than five days as Lk 24:50-52 supposedly implies?

A: Jesus was on earth after His resurrection for forty days as Luke tells us in Acts 1:3. In contrast, Luke tells us in Luke 24:50 of the last five days, but the Gospel of Luke does not specify the number of days before Jesus led them to Bethany and ascended to Heaven.

The five words about carried into Heaven is present in p75 (125-175 A.D.), Vaticanus, Sahidic Coptic, Bohairic Coptic, Peshitta Syriac, Harclean Syriac, Palestinian Syriac, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Freer Gospels, Armenian, Ethiopic, Vulgate, Byzantine, and Tatian’s Diatessaron (died 172 A.D.) and Augustine in two places. It is absent in the original Sinaiticus, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Sinaitic Syriac (3rd/4th century), Italic (including Vercelli Latin a 4th century) and Augustine in one place. Some Georgian manuscripts have it the first way, and some the second. Here is one place where Augustine has it. “His [Luke’s] statement proceeds in this form: ‘And He led them out as far as to Bethany; and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them; and it came to pass, that while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven.’” Harmony of the Gospels book 3 ch.83 p.224.

 

4. In Acts 1:6-8, since the apostles’ hearts were right before God, why didn’t Jesus just answer their question? Why does Jesus sometimes not answer our questions?

A: Sometimes God judges that we do not need to know some things, or else do not need to know them at this time. There might be a reason for us not to know. It also might be a test of faith. Rather than worrying about what God has not told us, let us focus our energy on obeying what God has told us.

 

5. In Acts 1:8, did the apostles know in advance what would happen when the Holy Spirit would come upon them?

A: Scripture does not say, but there is no indication they did. Many times when we follow God, God does not always tell us in advance the blessings He has for us.

 

6. In Acts 1:10, who were the men dressed in white?

A: They were angels. Luke called them men because they appeared like human beings.

 

7. In Acts 1:11, why did the angels mildly rebuke and also comfort the apostles?

A: They understandably just stood there in amazement seeing Jesus ascend to heaven. They would be shocked and perhaps dismayed at the moment their Savior left. But after Jesus disappeared, they kept gazing. They do not have to be worried about not missing seeing Christ return; every eye will see it. We, like them, are not called to be stargazers only looking up, but we are called to be witnesses to people around the world.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.31 and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1578 for more info.

 

8. Does Acts 1:11 show how Jesus will return?

A: Yes. Jesus will bodily return in the clouds, just as He bodily ascended into the clouds.

   The early Christian writer Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) after quoting 1 John 5:1 says, “knowing Jesus Christ to be one and the same, to whom the gates of heaven were opened, because of His taking upon him flesh; who shall also come in the same flesh in which he suffered, revealing the glory of the Father.” Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch.16:8 p.443

   See also When Cultists Ask p.194 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.354 for more info.


Acts 1:12-26 – Waiting on the Lord – some brief answers

 

a1. In Acts 1:12, what is a Sabbath’s journey?

A: This colloquial term was the distance the Pharisees decided a person could travel on the Sabbath without doing work. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.260 says the Mishnah teaches that it was 2,000 cubits, which would be 1.11 km or 1,200 yards or 2/3 of a mile.

 

2. Does Acts 1:12 show we should not travel farther than this on the Sabbath?

A: No. The fact that a “Sabbath’s journey” was a common term and was used here, does not mean we have to follow the traditions of the Pharisees. A Sabbath walk was about 3,000 feet, or less than half a mile, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.354.

 

3. In Acts 1:12, why did the disciples go to the Mount of Olives, since in Acts 1:4 they were told not to leave Jerusalem?

A: The Mount of Olives was less than a mile from the walls of Jerusalem proper. It was still within the area of greater Jerusalem, just as a suburb bordering a city is still considered a part of the city environment.

 

4. In Acts 1:12, did Jesus ascend to heaven from the Mount of Olives, or did He ascend to heaven from Bethany as Lk 24:50 says?

A: Both because Bethany was on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was closer to Jerusalem than the distance a Jew was permitted to walk on the Sabbath, and the Mount of Olives was in between Bethany and Jerusalem.

   As a side note, Luke's description of the mount of Olives sounds like it was written for a Gentile reader who would otherwise be unfamiliar with it. Jewish readers who had been to Jerusalem would already know where the mount of Olives was. So, you do not find language like this in any of the other gospel writers, who might not be as likely to see a need for it. See The Expositor's Greek New Testament vol.2 p.58-59 for more info.

 

5. What does Acts 1:14 show about Joseph and Mary?

A: Joseph, Jesus' adopted father, is not present. As John Chrysostom taught, Joseph had probably died before Jesus was crucified. They were there worshipping and praying to God; there is no mention of venerating or praying to Mary. Mary is honored as the mother of Jesus; the title "Mary, mother of God" is unknown in the New Testament. This is the last time Mary is directly mentioned in the New Testament. See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1580 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 1:17, why would God have Judas Iscariot be a part of the ministry prior to Judas betraying Jesus?

A: Judas’ treachery was a part of God’s plan according to Acts 2:23. Judas is just one example in the Bible of unworthy people who act as leaders of God’s flock but are in fact spiritual wolves. It happened back then in Acts 20:29-31, and it happens today sometimes.

   However, God was not surprised at that; in fact, God wove even Judas’ treachery in as a part of His plan. See 1001 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.404 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 1:17 and Mt 27:3-10, exactly how did Judas die?

A: Acts 1:18-19 says Judas fell headlong onto a field, which would imply a fall from at least some height. Putting these verses together gives two possibilities. In both scenarios, Judas hung himself, most likely from a tree, possibly overhanging a cliff.

The hanging failed: While Judas was still alive, the rope broke, and he fell headlong down onto the field, and his body burst open.

The hanging succeeded, and Judas died from being hung. However, if nobody would go up to take him down, sooner or later the body would come down, one way or another.

Either way, there was a hanging, a broken rope, and a split open body.

   See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.56, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.511-512, When Critics Ask p.361, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.344, The Expositor's Greek New Testament vol.2 p.65, the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1580, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.36, and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1071 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 1:17, does the Bible talk about suicide? if a person would go to heaven or hell if a person committed suicide? ...I do not have a gun to my head. I am just wondering. It’s one of those questions that no one has ever brought up at a Bible study. I think it’s because people are too afraid to ask.

A: On both suicide and other sins, the Bible does not specify how God judges a person. Suicide is a form of murder, and from the ten commandments we are not supposed to murder. The Bible has a couple of examples of evil people committing suicide: King Saul and Judas.

   Some people think that if you accept Christ, you could lose your salvation if you commit any sin and never repent. A person who commits suicide, depending on the means, may not have time to repent before they die.

   However, this reasoning is false: while Christians are supposed to repent of all their sins, we are saved by God’s grace through faith; not on the basis of our repenting from every sin. I am sure every Christian who dies has not explicitly repented of some sin, because they either forgot about it or were not aware it was a sin. But our salvation is a gift from God to all who accept.
   In the early church there was an example of a beautiful, godly Christian mother and her two daughters, who were caught by Roman soldiers. The mother talked to her daughters, and before they were raped, they asked to go to the side of the road by a river [presumably to use the restroom]. Then they threw themselves in the river and drowned. Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History book 8 ch.12 p.332-333 mentions these among the “admirable martyrs of Christ”. However, this was a sin because you are not supposed to murder. Among early Christian writers, Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) taught that suicide is wrong in The Divine Institutes book 3 ch.18 p.89. Augustine of Hippo also taught that suicide, even to escape rape, is wrong.

 

9. In Acts 1:20, how do these quotes from Ps 69:25 and Ps 109:8 relate to Judas?

A: Psalm 69:21 also relates to Jesus. There are three points to consider in the answer.

1. These three verses do not say explicitly that they refer to the future Messiah.

2. Nor is there any reason we should interpret these verses to not be applicable to anyone except Jesus and Judas.

3. However, the kind of situation Jesus was in, fits very closely to the types of situations that these Psalms reference.

   See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.8 p.264, The Expositor's Greek New Testament vol.2 p.65, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.356, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1071, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.887, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.37-38, and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1580-1581 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 1:20, why did Peter say, “his place”, since Ps 69:25 says, “their place”?

A: Peter did not recite from memory Psalm 69:25 word-for-word, and the book of Acts is telling us (without error) what Peter actually recited. There are two views of the significance of this.

First view: The choice of Matthias as the twelfth apostle was a mistake, since Matthias is not heard of after this, and Paul became an apostle. Peter’s decision to choose a twelfth apostle by lot was based on Peter’s faulty recollection of Psalm 69:25. Thus, while Peter was trying to obey God’s word, even Peter could make mistakes too. That is OK though, because God still works through imperfect people.

Second view: Peter’s paraphrase was a proper application, because the Psalm spoke of the enemies of the Messiah, and Judas was certainly one of those.

 

11. In Acts 1:21-26, how many Apostles were there biblically? I am pretty sure that Barnabas was acknowledged as one in the book of Acts. And that James the brother of Jesus was also an Apostle found elsewhere in the Scriptures. Also, Was Apollos an Apostle?

A: The word “apostle” has multiple meanings. The word can generally mean “ambassador”, and Barnabas and James the Lord’s brother were apostles in that sense. While Barnabas was called an apostle in Acts 4:36; 14:14; James and Apollos were not called apostles in the Bible per se, though they had important roles in the church.

   To distinguish from these, there was another, more restricted group, called “The twelve”, which brings up an interesting point. Since eleven disciples of Jesus became apostles, what about the twelfth? Peter saw a need for the twelfth, they cast lots between Joseph and Matthias, and Matthias won (Acts 1:21-26). When casting lots, it is doubtful there was a third choice “don’t pick yet”. Yet we hear nothing more about Matthias. Later Paul became the twelfth apostle and was recognized by the others (Gal 2:8-10; 2 Pet 3:15-16). It is almost as if God just ignored their casting lots because His pick of Paul would come later.

   An interesting sidenote is that in the Qumran community, they had twelve leaders of their community, as well as an inner circle of three, according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.8 p.265.

 

12. In Acts 1:22-26, when they chose Matthias by lot to take Judas’ place, was this what God wanted?

A: Scripture does not record either approval or disapproval of this decision. However, many Christians think this is not what God wanted, for three reasons.

1. God only recognized twelve as apostles in Revelation 21:14.

2. Paul was mentioned as an apostle in 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:7; Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; and Titus 1:1.

3. Matthias was never heard of again in the Bible.

Here are arguments that Matthias should have been chosen.

1. It would be good to show "12" as a fulfillment of Israel at Pentecost in the next chapter. See the New International Bible Commentary p.1272 for more info on this.

2. Related to the previous, Paul had a distinctly different ministry, not being at Pentecost and going far away to the Gentiles. See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1581 for more info on this.

3. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would have a good understanding of how to apply these psalms here.

4. There was no criticism or censure by God. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.357 and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.38-39 for more on this.

When sincere believers are serving God wholeheartedly, they will still make mistakes. However, God is great enough to make allowances for our mistakes. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.512-514 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.356-357 for more info.

   F.F. Bruce takes the view that this was proper. See The New International Commentary : Acts p.47-48 for his view. F.F. Bruce also points out that they did not replace Judas because he died. Rather, they replaced Judas because he deserted his place. They did not practice literal “apostolic succession” as when James was martyred in Acts 12:2, they did not think to replace him. Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in his On Prescription Against Heretics ch.20 p.252 also believes the choice of Matthias was proper.


Acts 2:1-21 – Pentecost: The Birth of the Church – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 2:1, how many days was it between the ascension of Jesus and Pentecost?

A: Since Jesus went up into Heaven about 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3), and Pentecost was 50 days after the Passover, so it was about 10 days.

 

2. In Acts 2:3 who had the tongues of fire?

A: While scripture does not explicitly say it was limited to the apostles, it probably was. We cannot tell if Matthias had a tongue of fire or not. On the other hand, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.357 thinks that all 120 or so believers had the tongues of fire but only the twelve speaking in tongues. Also, it does not precisely say "tongues of fire", but rather "tongues as of fire". Likewise, it does not say the sound of a rushing wind, but a sound as a rushing wind.

   See The Expositor's Greek Testament vol.2 p.72, the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1582, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.887 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 2:4, why did God delay sending the Holy Spirit until Pentecost?

A: Scripture does not say why there was a fifty-day delay from the Passover. However, two reasons are readily apparent.

Perhaps the ascension had to occur first: Jesus appeared frequently to His disciples before ascending to Heaven. He had to finish teaching them, and give the commission found in Acts 1:7-8 prior to ascending to Heaven. His ascending to Heaven was prior to the Holy Spirit coming upon them.

Followed the feasts: God instituted the Jewish feasts in the Old Testament. Jesus’ life paralleled the feasts, and it would only be fitting that the Holy Spirit should come on the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is commanded in Leviticus 23:15-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-12.

   See Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.359-360 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 2:4, how did everyone understand the tongues, since 1 Cor 14:27-28 says there should be no tongues in the church without interpretation?

A: The reaction of the crowd shows that the apostles were not speaking in unknown tongues, but in tongues unknown to the speakers but known to the listeners. Thus, no interpreters were needed.

   As for the idea that they were disobeying 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, remember that

a) The listeners could interpret for themselves

b) This was not in a church

c) 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 was not written yet.

   Though Muslims are not Christians, they should have no trouble accepting this account. One of the most pre-eminent early Muslim historians, al-Tabari, also states that Jesus’ disciples could miraculously speak the language of the people to whom they were sent. (al-Tabari’s History vol.8 p.99)

   See Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.357-359 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1273 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 2:4, does the Holy Spirit filling people prove the Holy Spirit cannot be a person, as Jehovah’s Witnesses teach?

A: No. If that logic were valid, then since God fills the Heavens and the earth as Jeremiah 23:24 says, then God would not be a personal god. The fact that the Holy Spirit can do things we cannot do, and the fact that God is infinite, do not restrict Him from also being an intelligent being with thoughts and feelings. As When Cultists Ask p.194-195 points out, Ephesians 4:30 says Christ fills all things, so by the same faulty logic, is Christ not a person either?

   While the previous paragraph shows that nothing restricts the Holy Spirit from being a person, the following list shows that the Holy Spirit has the attributes of a person. By person we do not mean a human being, but an intelligent, personal being.

Parakletos (the comforter, the one alongside us)

Speaks to us (John 14:16,26; John 15:26; Acts 13:2; Hebrews 3:7)

Reminds us (John 14:26)

Like a parent, so we will not be orphans (orphanos in Greek) (John 14:18)

Guides us (John 16:13)

Teaches us (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13)

Lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; Romans 8:9,11, Ephesians 2:22)

In our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22; Galatians 4:6)

We live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25)

Led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:9)

He intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27)

Can be insulted (Hebrews 10:29)

Testifies of Christ (John 15:26)

Has a mind (Romans 8:27)

Can be grieved (Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30)

Chooses who to give gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11)

Possesses love (Romans 15:30)

Can think things are good (Acts 15:28)

Searches deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

God in us (1 John 4:12-13,15-16; Romans 8:9-10; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; John 14:23, 15:4)

With us always (Matthew 28:20)

Groans, and thus cares, for us (Romans 8:26)

Gives joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

   See Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.139-141 for an extensive discussion.

 

6. In Acts 2:4, does this prove speaking in tongues was a normal experience for future Christians?

A: The experience of the twelve apostles in Acts 2:4 neither proves nor disproves this, unless you think flames of fire is a normal Christian experience too. Speaking in tongues was not done before this, because the apostles were not filled with the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost. For other people who spoke in tongues after this, there is no mention of tongues of fire.

 

7. In Acts 2:6-11, as most people at that time spoke either Greek or Aramaic, did the apostles speak to everyone in their own tongue by just speaking these two languages, which would not be miraculous, as the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1002 suggests?

A: Many people in Palestine spoke both Greek and Aramaic. Asimov’s explanation of this as them speaking two languages does not make any sense for at least five reasons.

1. “a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed,…” (Acts 2:6-7 NIV) How many people today are utterly amazed at learning that a stranger is bilingual?

2. “amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ (Acts 2:12 NIV).

3. Others said ‘…They have had too much wine.” (Acts 2:13)

4. Acts 2:8 says that people of fifteen ethnic groups heard the Gospel in their own language. It would not make sense to list fifteen groups if only two languages were spoken.

5. Finally, it is unlikely all the Parthians and Arabs spoke either Greek or Aramaic.

 

8. In Acts 2:7, how could they tell that the apostles were Galileans?

A: The crowd could tell by their accent. According to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.272 there were two main things. People tended to drop syllables o’er in Galilee. Galileans also had difficulty pronouncing gutturals (as do English speakers). Gutturals are almost absent in English, except perhaps for the word “loch”. They are most similar to h, g, k, and German r’s. They are prominent in German, Hebrew, Arabic, as my friend Akhmed would know. For example, two Arab words, kalb, and qalb, mean “dog” and “heart”. I have heard that Arabs loved to hear foreign missionaries, speaking in Arabic, telling people to give God their "heart".

 

9. In Acts 2:14-40, are the speeches in Acts recorded exactly?

A: No for a couple of reasons. Acts 2:14-40 can be read in a minute or two, and Peter likely spoke longer than that. In fact, In Luke 2:40 Luke tells us that Peter spoke many other words too. Luke gave a summary of what Peter said, and Luke likely paraphrased parts of it too.

   We have a good example in secular history by the reliable historian Thucydides in the fifth century B.C.. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, he includes a lot of speeches too. Thucydides writes, "As to the speeches…it was hard for me, and for others who reported them to me, to recollect the exact words. I have therefore put into the mouth of each speaker the sentiments proper to the occasion, expressed as I though he would be likely to express them, while at the same time I endeavoured, as nearly as I could, to give the general purport of what was actually said. … Of the events of the war I have not ventured to speak from any chance information, nor according to any notion of my own; I have described nothing but what I either saw myself, or learned from others of whom I made the most careful and particular enquiry. The task was a laborious one." Thucydides, translated into English by Benjamin Jowett (1881) vol.1 ch.1..22. Take from The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.51-52,53.

 

10. In Acts 2:15 why did the Jews think it was wrong to have drunk wine at this time?

A: While drinking wine in moderation was practiced, The New Geneva Study Bible p.1713 says that on feast days it was customary to fast until at least the fourth hour. A person is a serious alcoholic if they need wine to get up in the morning. In general, Jewish people did not drink wine in the morning. See the New International Bible Commentary p.1273, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.358, and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1584 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 2:16-21, was this prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 fulfilled here, or will it be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ?

A: It is to be fulfilled at every coming of Christ. A part of it was fulfilled at Jesus’ crucifixion when the sun turned dark in the afternoon in Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44-45. Peter mentioned this in Acts 2:16-21.

   It also will turn dark before the second coming of Jesus in Revelation 6:12-14; 8:12; 9:2; 16:10. See also the next question and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.358 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 2:16-21, since this fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, how come the moon did not turn to blood?

A: The moon turning to blood simply means that the moon appears with a red color. The sun was darkened for three hours during Jesus’ crucifixion according to Luke 23:44-45. A non-Christian Palestinian historian named Thales (also spelled Thallus), wrote in 52 A.D., that darkness accompanied the crucifixion of Jesus. A Carian Greek writer named Phlegon also wrote that in the 202nd Olympiad (33 A.D.) there was an eclipse of the sun.

There are two views on Acts 2:16-21:

Totally fulfilled: Since the moon often shows itself during the day, when the sun was darkened, the moon likely would be darkened, or reddened too.

Partially fulfilled: The prophecy in Joel 2:28-32 had a number of parts. The pouring out of the Spirit did not happen until fifty days later at Pentecost. The moon was apparently not darkened here, but it will be darkened at the Second Coming of Christ. The sun was darkened both at the crucifixion and at the Second Coming. See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.90 for more on how this prophecy was only partially fulfilled.

   See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.377, the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1584, and When Critics Ask p.427 for more info.

 


Acts 2:22-47 – Peter’s Plea, Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 2:25-26 and 4:25-28, how do Ps 16:8-11 and Ps 2 relate to Jesus and the early Christians?

A: These relate primarily to Jesus. Because Jesus has given us His life, they also relate secondarily to us.

In Psalm 16:8-11, the body of Jesus never saw decay, and Jesus will have eternal pleasure in Heaven. Our earthly bodies will decay. However, we will later receive glorified bodies, and for us too, those bodies will never see decay, and we will have eternal pleasure in Heaven.

In Psalm 2, Jesus will sit on his throne and rule the earth. Ephesians 2:6 says that we will sit with Christ on His throne (not our own), and reign with Him.

   Combining two verses with the same words in them was the “second midrashic rule” attributed to the famous Jewish rabbi Hillel according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.279.

 

2. In Acts 2:34, did David go to Heaven, or not?

A: Eventually, yes. Two points to consider in the answer.

1. At the time David penned the quoted passage, David was still living on the earth.

2. Today David’s soul is in Heaven. However, his body is not in Heaven, as Acts 2:29 says.

   See When Critics Ask p.427-428 and Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.198-199 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 2:36 the skeptic Bart Ehrman claims that Peter showed that Jesus received his exalted status at the resurrection (Jesus, Interrupted p.95).

A: Ehrman is half-right and half-wrong. While Acts 2:36 shows Jesus’ receiving exalted status, John 17:5-7 shows that Jesus received back His exalted status that He had before the world began.

 

4. Does Acts 2:38 mean water baptism is necessary for salvation?

A: No, as the thief on the cross and some early martyrs can attest. Jesus is necessary for salvation. Neither repentance nor water baptism merits our salvation. Those are our responding to Jesus’ work. Baptism is to be an outward sign of our prior inward repentance. But Peter did not say "only inwardly believe". Their inner faith was combined with the outward testimony to God and others.

   Note that Acts 2:38 was a command, not a formula. If Acts 2:38 was a formula, then one might erroneously conclude that loving God, faith, believing, and trusting God are unnecessary, as they are not mentioned here. All who come to Christ should be baptized, and that is as true today as it was then. However, it is the blood of Jesus, not our baptism, which saves us. Still, Christians will want to obey Christ, and be water baptized.

   Colossians 2:11-12 shows that circumcision was a type of baptism. As Justin Martyr pointed out, since only males and not females could be circumcised, that proved that circumcision was given by God as a sign, not a work of righteousness. (Dialogue with Trypho ch.23 p.206)

   See When Critics Ask p.428-429, The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.208-211, When Cultists Ask p.195-196, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.514-515, the New International Bible Commentary p.127, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.888, and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1586-1587 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 2:38 many say we need to repent of sins for salvation, others say only by faith, and others say repentance towards God. What does the Bible say?

A: I believe the first way is what the Bible teaches. I heard one time there were two Campus Crusade missionaries in Moscow, Russia, and they saw a couple of prostitutes on the street. They went over to them and started talking to them, pulling out a Four Spiritual Laws tract. The prostitutes then pulled out their Four Spiritual Laws tracts and said they believe that, and even gave them to all of their clients!

   Some Bible verses say, “repent and believe” but others say “believe”. But “believe” in the Biblical sense implies obedience, and not just intellectual assent, as taught in James 2:14-20 and 1 John 2:3-4,9; 1 John 2:15-16. Now John is not saying you have to be sinless (1 John 1:10), but rather we are not to continue in sin (1 John 3:6)

   In the message Peter gave at Pentecost in Acts 2:38, it was “Repent and be baptized”. As Peter said in 1 Peter 4:21 the baptism is not actually to remove the dirt (whether physical or spiritual), but it is the pledge of a good conscience towards God.

   Other verses stressing our need for repentance are:

Ezekiel 18:23;32

Matthew 3:2; 3:8,11; 4:17; 11:20; 21:32

Mark 1:4,15; 6:12

Luke 3:3,5,8; 5:32; 15:7,10; 16:30; 24:37

Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20

Romans 2:4

2 Corinthians 7:9,10

2 Timothy 2:25

Hebrews 6:1,6

2 Peter 3:9

Revelation 2:5,16; 2:21,22; 3:3; 3:19; 9:20,21; 16:9,11

(From The NIV Complete Concordance)

 

6. In Acts 2:39, does any scripture indicate that the Bible applies to people who were not Jews living in Israel?

A: Yes, there are some verses that extend the promises to us. (All of these quotes are taken from the NIV)

Acts 2:39 “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Romans 10:11-12 “As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,”

Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

2 Peter 1:1 “...To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:” Note that Peter is writing here, and our faith as Gentiles is just as precious as his faith as a Jew, for in truth, there is only one faith.

Romans 11:17 “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,”

Now Christians have different opinions as to what extent we are the Israel of God, and God’s role for the ethnic Jews today. Looking at such things as the terrible Holocaust of World War II, Satan apparently still has his eye on Jews for evil. Jews themselves have questioned how much protection God is giving them since that happened. In general, Christians who are dispensationalists tend to hold Jewish people today with special respect as God is still dealing with them. Christians who are into “covenant theology” tend to say that since the Jews rejected Christ, they currently have no different place in God’s eyes than any other ethnic group.

Regardless of how God looks at Jewish people today, they apparently have a special role to play in the endtimes. The 144,000 witnesses in Revelation will all be pure Jewish men. In Zechariah 12:1-9 they will have enemies gathered around Jerusalem. In Zechariah 12:10-14 they will have a mass conversion to Christ, “mourning for the one they pierced.” In Daniel 9:26 the Antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews and break it after 3 1/2 years and destroy the city and the sanctuary.

Prior to the Jews, God promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him (Galatians 3:8-9), we all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and we are all considered children of promise, of Sarah and not Hagar as Galatians 4:24-28 shows.

 

7. In Acts 2:40, why did Peter have such an urgency to share the Gospel message with people who were already trying to be good?

A: Peter genuinely cared for them. Just trying to be good is not sufficient to get to God’s Heaven, a transformation is required. Even the Jews needed to be born again.

   Peter was even pleading with the Jews to accept Jesus in 2:40. If someone is in a burning house, you do not just invite them to come outside because the weather is nice; you urgently tell them to be saved.

   It is remarkable that this same Peter, who denied Christ three times at the house of the high priest, is now in the Temple courts boldly proclaiming Christ. Would Peter get flogged or killed for doing so? Peter did not care very much, compared to the urgency to get the gospel message out. See The Expositor's Greek Testament vol.2 p.77 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 2:42, what does the breaking of bread mean?

A: This does not simply mean eating and drinking, because they would not have “devoted” themselves to just eating and drinking. Instead, this refers to partaking of the Lord’s Supper, which Jesus told them to do in remembrance of Him in Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-26.

 

9. In Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32, does this mean Christians should not own private property?

A: No. This example of the first Christians living in Jerusalem is not necessary for us to follow. In the New Testament there is a counter-example, of Paul’s private ownership of his cloak in 2 Timothy 4:13. Furthermore, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be generous in 2 Corinthians 8. He would not have to do that if the church already had taken all of their property.

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.360 points out that this distribution was voluntary, and not given to all, but given to those who had needs

   See When Critics Ask p.429-430, When Cultists Ask p.198 and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.517-519 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 2:44, does “everything in common” include promiscuous sex, as the Children of God cult teaches?

A: No, for two reasons.

1. Women and men are not things to be traded or used as objects. This refers to material things, not people or relationships.

2. Since they were obeying God, they would not have evil things in common, such as stolen goods, either.

   This sounds like straining a gnat and swallowing a camel, to try to justify promiscuous sex based on this verse and ignore everything the Bible says about sexual purity. See When Cultists Ask p.197-198 for more info.


Acts 3 – Rise up and Walk! – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 3:1-3, when can what we want differ and so much less than what we need?

A: The man wanted a little money to ease him in his current condition. Peter called him to rise up out of his current condition. The man had given up hope that he could ever be healed, but after Peter spoke in the name of Jesus, he had faith to do so. The man knew that Jesus just recently was crucified, but he also likely knew that Jesus rose from the dead.

   Some people, even Christians, think they can never quit smoking, getting drunk, control their anger, or other sins. But God calls us to have faith and rise up out of our crippling bondage to sin.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1074-1075 and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1592 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 3:2, where or when was the man crippled?

A: The Greek word koilia can mean stomach or womb. While the New Testament uses this word elsewhere is both senses, Luke only uses this word to mean "womb". So the man was crippled from birth.

   See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.9 p.295 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 3:3-6, how much faith and hope did the man have that he would be healed?

A: The beggar was lame from birth, he lay at the temple door day after day, and he gave no hint that he hoped to be cured. He was just content with a small handout of money. How much today are we content with just a little from God, when God wants to do more in our lives.

   This healing is unusual as the man simply asked for something small, with little faith, and by God’s grace he got something big.

 

4. In Acts 3:7, given the severity and length of time of his disability, the man had every reason to make an excuse that he could not walk. But he didn’t. When do we try to make excuses to God, when we should just do it?

A: How powerful something is does not matter, compared with God’s power. If we just keep obeying God, as we have opportunity, God will meet us and guide us. While an infant who has the potential to be able to walk still goes through a long process to be able to learn to walk, the man did not. Not only were his legs healed to give him the potential, but he had the ability and skill to walk, jump, and leap immediately.

As one person said, “Don’t tell God how big the storm is; tell the storm how big your God is.”

   See the Believer'\s Bible Commentary p.1592 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 3:11-26, how does Peter's sermon here differ from his sermon in Acts 2?

A: This extemporaneous sermon does not come across so polished as the sermon in Acts 2. But perhaps how smooth and well-rehearsed our speaking is does not matter when we are sharing the truth of the gospel that is within us. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.9 p.295-296 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 3:13, did the Jews deny Jesus in the presence of Pilate, though Pilate was determined to let Jesus go?

A: Yes. This is shown clearly in Matthew 27:17-26, Luke 23:4-25, and John 19:4-16. It is shown less clearly in Mark 15:9-15.

 

7. In Acts 3:14-15, what is Peter contrasting here, and how does it apply to us?

A: The crowd at Jesus' trial had a choice; set free a murderer who takes life away or set free the Messiah who gives life. Their choice was the one who takes life away. Sometimes people make wrong choices and travel down a wrong path, whose end takes life away. But Peter was telling them the good news, that it is still not too late, for them to repent, change their mind, and follow the path of life. Peter is not being hard on them, but proclaiming in dire, urgent terms what they did and what they need to do now.

   See The Expositor's Greek Testament vol.2 p.112 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 3:17-21, were the Jewish people given another chance to have the Kingdom of God set up on earth here?

A: Christians disagree.

Yes: 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.128, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.361-362, and Scofield believe the Jews as a nation were given the opportunity here to set up the Kingdom of God on earth. Of course, God knew in advance that they would reject this opportunity though.

No: Many others say that the appeal here was made to each individual hearing the message.

Moot point: This is a genuine offer, but a purely hypothetical case, like offering the gospel to reprobate people. God knew they would not accept. The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1593-1594 advocates this view.

   The Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1593 adds that godly men disagree on this.

 

9. In Acts 3:16-17, what is significant about “the Name” of Jesus?

A: Luke certainly considered it significant, as he mentions it 33 times: Acts 2:21; 38; 3:6,16; 4:7,10,12,17,18; 5:28,40,41; 8:12,16; 9:14,15,21,27,29; 10:48; 15:26; 16:18; 19:5,13,17; 21:13; 22:16; 26:9; Luke 10:17; 21:8; 24:47

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.361 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 3:19-20, why were they told to repent and be converted?

A: This is an important point to notice. Acts 3:19 states that the purpose of repentance and turning to God was so that their sins would be wiped out. There is still an eternal aspect to salvation, since God foreknew and predestined those who would go to Heaven. However, Acts 3:19 shows there is a “time” aspect also, and in one respect, our sins are forgiven “when” we repent and are converted.

   The refreshing and renewal of all things was known already to the Jews, as it was also prophesied in Isaiah 34:4; 51:6; 65. It is also mentioned in the Book of Enoch 45:2; 62:1; 91:16-17, the Apocalypse of Baruch 32 according to The Expositor's Greek Testament vol.2 p.116.

 

11. In Acts 3:21,26, does this support Universalism, that all will be saved?

A: No. Jesus came as the atoning sacrifice for the whole world (1 John 2:2) in order to turn everyone away from their wicked ways. However, for those who choose not to turn from the ungodly ways, God does not force anyone into Heaven against their will.

   Immediate universalism, that all immediately go to Heaven is false according to Mt 21:46; Jn 3:36; 5:40-43; 6:45; 8:24; 10:8; 12:47-48; 14:6; (Implied) Acts 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

   Eventual universalism, that some may go to Hell but all eventually go to Heaven, is false according to Mark 9:44-48; Revelation 20:10.

  See The Expositor's Greek Testament vol.2 p.116-117, When Cultists Ask p.198-199, and When Critics Ask p.430 for complementary answers.

 

12. In Acts 3:13,22,26 and 4:27 why is Jesus referred to in these verses as a holy servant, and when He is called the Son of Man what does that mean?

A: Two of Jesus’ favorite titles seemed to be “Son of man” and “Son of God”. But Jesus apparently first introduced one title at a time. The first emphasizes that Jesus is fully human, and the second is that Jesus was fully God. Jesus did not just look like a man, had some commonality with humans, but rather Jesus was 100% man. He was every bit as human as you and I. Likewise, Jesus was not a little bit God, or partially God, but He was 100% God.

   Jesus had all the glory due to God in Heaven. And yet, Jesus descended down to earth. Hebrews 5:7-8 does not say Jesus as a “Friend” of God the Father, but on earth Jesus was “subject” and learned obedience. Philippians does not say Jesus was a rightful servant, or that He deserved to be a servant, but rather that He voluntarily chose to become a servant.

   But scripture goes on. Servants often had high positions, as schoolmasters, tutors, government officials, and accountants. It was only lowly servants who would have to wash their master’s feet. Yet Jesus was not just a servant, but a lowly servant of the disciples, washing their feet in John 13:4-17. Jesus still affirmed that they were right to call Him Lord in John 13:13, yet Jesus was acting as a servant of the disciples and saying we should all be servants of each other.

   As a side note, the quote here of Deuteronomy 19:15,18-19 is not exactly the same as either the Masoretic text or the Septuagint. But it does follow the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 in the scroll 4Q175 (=4QTest), written 100-1 B.C. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.9 p.299-300 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 3:26, was Jesus successful in turning every one away from their iniquities?

A: Three points to consider in the answer.

1. Jesus was completely successful in doing everything He was supposed to do, and in providing everything, on God’s end, for everyone to turn away from their iniquities.

2. However, some choose not to turn away from their sins, and that is not the fault of Jesus.

3. Peter was emphasizing the kingdom, not the church, as he was speaking to just Jews here.

   See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1594 for more info.

 


Acts 4:1-34 – Jesus is the Only Way – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 4:3-14,why did the rulers merely warn them at this time?

A: First note that in Acts 4:7, the rulers essentially asked “by what authority”; they were all about having the proper authority. The Sadducees had thought the Messianic Age had already begun in the Maccabean Period according to the Message of Acts Revised Edition p.78. The Sadducees, who made up a majority of the Sanhedrin, saw the apostles preaching about Jesus without any justifiable reason whatsoever.

   While scripture does not specifically answer this question, there are likely three reasons.

   The rulers were afraid of what some call “optics”. They were afraid of losing the support of the people, and turning against the Jewish rulers, for punishing people who did nothing but do good in healing someone. This was said to be a primary concern in Acts 5:26. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, touched on this point in Acts 4:9. There might be a better time to get rid  of these apostles secretly.

   Second, they were afraid of the Roman reaction to a crowd riot. The Romans had shown they had no qualms about killing Jewish leaders. If the crowd were acquiescent in killing the leaders they no longer supported, they could be in a bad situation. This was a primary concern of Caiaphas in John 11:48-50.

   Third, according to Jewish law, a person had to be aware of the consequences of their crime before being punished for it. So, the warning was just the first step, of making them aware of the consequences.

   Peter made no attempt to placate the Sanhedrin or speak in a compromising way to placate the Sanhedrin. This might have been shocking, coming from someone who had fled after the arrest, not to mention denying Jesus three times. Sometimes when we fall at something, and repent, God will have us in a similar situation to that we can be victorious where we had fallen.

   A result of the Sanhedrin’s decision was essentially a declaration of “war” between the Sanhedrin’s earthly authority and Jesus’ heavenly authority.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.300,306-307, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1595-1596, the New International Bible Commentary p.1276, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.890, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1076, The Expositor’s Green New Testament vol.2 p.126, and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.79 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 4:12, is Jesus really the only way?

A: Yes. Jesus is the only way for everyone according to this verse, John 14:6, and Acts 4:12. If you disagree, you are disagreeing with almost all genuine Christians throughout history is a not as bad as calling Jesus and Peter either liars or else crazy to think Jesus was the only way. Do you really believe that Jesus said something that misled all His followers for thousands of years, and allowed His apostles to do so, too? Do you really think you know better than Jesus or Peter?

   Slander is saying something that a person either knows is a lie, or else has a reckless disregard for the truth. If you believe Jesus and Peter were slanderers, it would be a lie for you to say you believe in Jesus and you are a follower of Him.

   Some people would like a “Bible buffet”, of accepting all the doctrines they want, and rejecting those they don’t want. It is sort of like an attitude of “me and God” vs. “God and me”. But that is not what God, our Lord, intended.

   See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.515-517, Now That’s a Good Question p.140-141, When Critics Ask p.430-431, and When Cultists Ask p.199-200 for more info. Jesus Under Fire : Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus p.178-205 has an entire essay by R. Douglas Geivett, associate professor at Talbot on this topic.

 

3. In Acts 4:12, apart from the Bible, how do we know that all religions are not true?

A: Before answering the question, here is a brief acrostic of the beliefs of some religions. (See the handout on the next page.)

 

4. In Acts 4:12, apart from the Bible, how do we know that all major world religions are not true?

A: Here are some brief statements.

Jews believe Jesus is not the Messiah from God. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah from God. Hindus and many Buddhists believe worshipping idols as god(s). Christian and Jewish teaching says that idolatry is a great evil. Early Christians preferred torture and death to worshipping idols. Mohammed taught Muslims that idolators who do not repent should be killed.

   If you stopped and asked five people for directions to get somewhere, and they gave as different answers as these religions give, you would have to conclude that at least some of them were wrong. Either

a) idols are OK to worship,

b) people who worship idols should be killed

b) it is better to be tortured and die than to worship idols,

All three of the above cannot be true.

Either

a) you should be a blessing to others, or

b) it is a good thing, pleasing to God to curse Jews and Christians as Mohammed taught.

Both cannot be true.

   Imagine you are looking at the intersection of two streets on a small island. You can probably take any street and eventually end up on any desired destination on the island. Most religions are like that. As long as you want to travel on the island, it does not matter which road you take. You can drive around the island to the right, to the left, or down the middle. The roads will cross eventually. However, if you get off the island and on the mainland of God’s Kingdom, before the hurricane comes, you must take the one long bridge. Saying this is not narrow-mindedness, but geography on the map. Saying there is only one way to God is not narrow-minded opinions by us, but the truth taught by Jesus.

   An old tale tells of a con-man who shows new immigrants to America the Brooklyn bridge. With all the cars going over it, the con-man offers to sell the bridge, which he does not own, to the immigrant so the immigrant can make money collecting tolls. Sometimes people want to trust in an imaginary bridge, or a bridge they plan to build themselves. The truth about salvation is that you cannot “buy” anything. You can freely cross the narrow bridge of Jesus’ cross, or you can stay on the island of catastrophe.

 

5. In Acts 4:12, what can you say to someone who thinks all religions lead to God?

A: It depends on the person and the situation. Here are three different but complementary responses.

a. It is comforting to think that all is right with the world, and every religion leads people to God. Are the Taliban, the wealthy Rev. Moon, the immoral Rajneesh, violent David Koresh, suicidal Jim Jones, all “beacons” that have led their followers to what pleases God? Was Jesus’ sacrifice, dying in agony on the cross, of no consequence, or worse yet, an unneeded waste? No, Jesus said that broad was the way that led to destruction, and narrow was the road that led to eternal life. Now some reject Jesus’ words as those of a fool, thinking He did not know what He was talking about. However, if we honestly trust Jesus, we have to come to grips with the fact that all is not right with the majority of the world, and that we have work to do in sharing about the narrow way.

b. On a lighter note, if someone tells me that all religions lead to God, I ask them if they know that they are really sticking their neck out when they say that. For example, in the Thuggee religion it is an act of worship to strangle other people to death. So since they believe all religions lead to God, and they don’t know you very well, would they please turn around and close their eyes so that I can practice an act of worship in that religious tradition?

c. Mohammed taught attacking non-Muslims and killing pagans in Sura 9:29 and Bukhari Hadith vol.4 no.196 p.124. People called Muslims extremists are simply people who take everything Mohammed said seriously. This kind of violent Muslim might say to a Universalist: My prophet, Mohammed peace be upon him, told us to kill unbelievers. However, before I chop off your head in obedience to Allah, I just wanted you to know I appreciate your validating my religion as being correct.

 

6. In Acts 4:12, are religions that do good works good?

A: Here is a letter of recommendation about one of those religions, which emphasized love for others.

 “Knowing of your congregation’s deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country is a great inspiration to me.” -- Walter Mondale (U.S. Vice President) in a letter of reference for Rev. Jim Jones. Jones presented this letter of reference to the government of Guyana when Jonestown was first established. (quoted in The New Republic, 12/2/1978) and in Experts Speak p.283. Jim Jones later forced his followers at Jonestown to commit suicide.

 

7. In Acts 4:19, when should we disobey the commands of religious leaders?

A: Three points to consider: the commands, the ungodly religious leaders, and Peter.

Commands: In a similar way as the laws of a nation take precedence of the laws of a province, God’s commands take precedence over the commands of others. Everything that people tell you, even the words of godly pastors, one should check against Scripture.

Leaders: Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:5 that there will be people who have the form of godliness but deny its power. We are to have nothing to do with them. Of course, you are having something to do with a person if you acknowledge them as your spiritual leader.

   Titus 3:10 says to have nothing to do with someone who is divisive after you have warned him twice. In Revelation 2:20, the church of Thyatira was rebuked by Jesus for tolerating a false prophetess who promoted sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.

   Now no Christian leader is sinlessly perfect, or 100% on every single minor doctrinal point. But if a Christian leader is unwilling to submit to God, we should not submit to him. For our Christian leaders who are walking with God, imperfect though they may be, we are commanded to submit to them as Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 5:2-5 show.

Peter: Peter’s reaction could have been just silence (but not consent), and then he could have spoken secretly, or said that he never agreed. But rather Peter did the opposite. He was not afraid that he would fall outside of the protection of God. We might have implied that he agreed if he had just kept silent, and then, rightly or wrongly, they could accuse Peter of going back on what he had tacitly agreed to. No, Peter was bold here, and what they supplicated to God for was boldness.

One early writer to discuss this point was Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in Scorpiace ch.14 p.648.

As a historical note, John Wycliffe (~1330-1382) took this one step further. He was influenced by Richard Fitzralph in the idea that “dominion comes from God.” This concept is that human power and authority come from God and are sustained by God. Disobedient and ungodly religious leaders should not be supported or paid. Wycliffe asked: If the entire Roman Catholic Church is corrupt, then why should England be supplying Rome with money?

   What was the Roman Catholic reaction? Wycliffe’s death from a stroke probably saved him from being martyred. Anyway, the church dug up Wycliffe’s body and threw it out.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1596 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 4:21, how did everyone glorify God here?

A: The context of “all the people” were all the people who saw what happened. Some of them might turn away from the apostles later, but for now, they were all expressing their praise to God.

 

9. In Acts 4:22, what is the significance of the man being 40 years old?

A: The significance is the lesson that age is not significant to God.

   Bodies do not grow much after 20, and bodies heal more slowly with age. All of this is irrelevant to God who works miracles.

   Likewise, an older person might be reluctant to repent and turn to God, because they have wasted their earlier years, and they feel too set in their ways. All of this is irrelevant to God. Do not try to tell God that you want to come to Him, but that He is not powerful enough to overcome your limitations or your age. God does not believe that, and neither should you.

 

10. In Acts 4:23, were Peter and John gossiping, to tell the other believers all the priests said?

A: No. Four points to consider in the answer.

1. Gossiping is a serious sin, according to Proverbs 11:13; 16:28; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20,22 and 2 Corinthians 12:20; 3 John 10; Romans 1:29; and 1 Timothy 5:13. Gossiping and slander include telling things about others that there is no good reason to say, and telling things falsely.

2. Peter and John were not gossiping, because they were telling what happened to them, and they were telling the truth.

3. In addition, the judgment and actions of the chief priests and elders was important for the other Christians to know about.

4. Finally, they were telling about the healing of God, and one can always tell others about what God has done.

 

11. In Acts 4:25-29, what is curious about their prayer?

A: Two things are very interesting: what they stated to God, and what they did not pray for.

One might expect them to tell God that the rulers were set against God’s will. But instead of saying that, there is a “surprise” here. They are acknowledging to God that the ungodly leaders were in fact doing exactly what God had determined for them to do, according to Psalm 2 in Acts 4:25-26.

   They essentially made three requests to God.

1. Look at the threats of the rulers (without presuming to tell God what He should do about it)

2. Give them boldness to speak God’s Word

3. Continue glorifying Your Name with the healing, signs, and wonders.

   What is most curious is what they did NOT pray for. They addressed God as the Sovereign Lord, but yet they did not pray for safety, relief from oppression, or that God would protect them. They did not pray that God would lay opportunities in their lap to preach the word. They saw ample opportunities. Rather they only prayed that God would change them, giving them more boldness to make or take advantage of opportunities that were bound to arise to preach the word.

   God showed that He was very pleased with their prayer by the place being shaken. As John Chrysostom remarked, when the place was shaken, they were made more unshaken.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.309, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.83, the New International Bible Commentary p.1277, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1596-1597 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 4:8; 4:31; 2:4; 6:3; 11:24; 13:9; 7:55, why does God fill people with the Holy Spirit?

A: The Book of Acts gives us seven different reasons.

For speaking God’s word (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 4:310

For serving (Acts 6:3)

For shepherding (Acts 11:24)

For rebuking (Acts 13:9)

For dying (Acts 7:55)

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1597 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 4:32-35 and 2 Cor 8:13-15, are Christians to have financial equality with all other Christians today?

A: Acts 3:32-36 shows that the earliest Christians were very generous and shared things in common, and that no one was in need. However, the Bible neither commands nor gives the example of a “Christian communism”, because Acts 5:4 shows that Ananias had the right to keep the land and the money for himself. It is just that he did not have the right to claim to give all the money to the church when in fact he did not. Paul had personal property of his cloak and some scrolls that he writes about in 2 Timothy 4:15.

   2 Corinthians 8:13-15 says that no one should have too much and no one should have too little. These are challenging verses for wealthy Christians, but we are to follow all of the Bible, not just parts of the Bible.


 

 

If All Religions Lead to God…

 

If all religions are true, or at least true enough to lead to God, how can God want all of these things?

 

Animist - Nearly every tree and rock has a spirit to fear and appease with offerings.

Buddhism - Life is suffering.

Cargo Cult - (New Guinea) March in formation like the gods (really WWII soldiers) did, so they will return with their gifts of cargo.

Daoism (later) - There are many spirits to be worshipped.

Epicurean philosophy - Life is great. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Original Epicureanism was not really hedonism, but rather do everything (even evil) in moderation.

Family of Love (Children of God) be a sexual prostitute for Jesus.

Greek - Worship Zeus, who raped Europa and others. There is Hades but no heaven.

Hashashins (small Muslim sect) - They got stoned on hashish before assassinating people.

Islam - The Trinity is false, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God

Jainism - It is spiritual to starve to death.

Khonds (of India) - It is good to slowly torture people to death.

Lubavitchers - (of America) The promised Messiah may have come, and his name is Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of New York.

Mayan (and Aztec too) Ripping people’s hearts out while alive is pleasing to the gods.

New Thought Movement - A receptive mind can cure every illness. Sickness is not reality.

Oneida Community - (of America) All adults are “married” to all others in the community.

Papua New Guinea – The Fore people, as a sign of reverence, eat the brains of their dead relatives.

Quraysh (pre-Mohammed) - worship a moon god idol named Allah.

Roman (later) - You must worship the Roman Emperor or die.

Shakerism (of America) - All sexual relations are forbidden.

Thuggees - (of India) In January one worships God by strangling unsuspecting men.

Unitarian Universalists - You may join with any religious belief whatsoever. (except that there is only one way through Jesus.)

Vikings - The only way to go to heaven (Valhalla) is to die violently.

Witchcraft (early) - There are many things you must do to avoid the evil eye.

Yamamoto (Indians) - One of the highest virtues is treachery.

Zoroastrianism - There is only one true God, and worship of others should be forcibly suppressed.

It should be obvious that all of these contradictory statements cannot be true.

 

10. In Acts 4:36, was there a genuine Gospel of Barnabas, written by Barnabas as some Muslims claim?

A: No. The Gospel of Barnabas was a forgery of the Middle Ages. Here some of the reasons we know it is not an ancient work.

Basic facts show that is not an ancient work. The Gospel of Barnabas is known only in Italian, and no ancient writer ever referred to it. It mentions things that were not used until centuries later. Furthermore, other gospel forgeries written in Arabic were also found in Granada. They were discovered after 1588, and the forgers were Moors. When all generally reject these other gospels forgeries, then why accept this one? Though one Muslim writer, Ata ur-Rahman, has confused the Gospel of Barnabas with another writing called the Letter/Epistle of Barnabas, there is no similarity except for the name of the person.

Contradicting both the Bible and Qur’an

The following are teachings of the Gospel of Barnabas that contradict Islamic doctrine in the Qur’an, as well as Christian teaching in the Bible.

 

Jesus is not the Messiah. ch.83 p.181 ch.97 p.223 ch.42 p.97

A prophet’s words are only to the people they were sent to. ch.43 p.101. (Sura 4:150-151 says not to separate between messengers.)

The Messiah is Mohammed. ch.97 p.225-227

Ishmael was the ancestor of the Messiah. ch.190 p.425; ch.191 p.407; ch.208 p.459; ch.43 p.103

God created all things for the Messiah. ch.191 p.427

God created everything for Mohammed ch.39 p.91 “[Mohammed] shall be my messenger, for whom I have created all things; who shall give light to the world when he shall come; whose soul was set in a celestial splendour sixty thousand years before I made anything.”

“The messenger of God [Mohammed] shall answer: ‘O Lord, I remember that when thou didst create me, thou saidst that thou hadst willed to make for love of me the world and paradise, and angels and men, that they might glorify thee by me thy servant.’”ch.55 p.131. Also ch.56. p.133

Without faith in Mohammed, none will be saved. (Most Muslims do not believe you should have saving faith in Mohammed.) ch.192 p.429

Some Other Differences with the Bible

Jesus is a voice in the wilderness. ch.42 p.97

Angels “rolled” the soldiers away for Jesus. ch.153 p.355

Mohammed is coming. ch.44 p.105

Some Other Differences with the Qur’an should make Muslims wary of wanting to appeal to this “Gospel”. According to the Bukhari Hadith volume 4 book 56 no.712 p.467 Mohammed said that one of the three worst lies is “to attribute to me what I have not said.”

Faithful Muslims who do not have works will be in Hell for 70,000 years. ch.137 p.319

Mohammed will go to Hell and be terrified as he beholds the punishment of others ch.135 p.315

Mary gave birth to Jesus without pain ch.3 p.9

Unlawful to hate anything except sin. ch.86 p.199

God is a father. ch.133 p.307

God is our Father. (-no sons, though) ch.17 p.31,33

There shall be no envy in Heaven. ch.177 p.401

General Errors - Sailing to Inland Cities: These are not just small mistakes but demonstrate that the author knew very little about the geography and history of Palestine.

Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee, and having embarked in a ship sailed to his city of Nazareth. ch.20 p.41 (Nazareth is inland.)

Romans said the idols were almighty. ch.152 p.353

Canaanites despised Pharisees. ch.144 p.335

Pharisees in Jesus’ time were very strange in their ascetism. ch.145 p.337-339

Funny things about Pharisees. ch.143 p.343-345

Rome has 28,000 gods. ch.152 p.353

Roman Senate decreed that none should call Jesus God of Son of God. ch.98 p.227, or speak of Jesus. ch.157 p.367

Roman Senate’s decree. ch.210 p.461

People who preached penitence were called Nazarenes (after Jesus). ch.194 p.433

Judas smiled when the disciples mistook him for Jesus. ch.216 p.471

Israel says Jesus was God or the Son of God. ch.138 p.321

Barnabas was one of the disciples of Jesus. ch.83 p.191; ch.88 p.205; ch.19 p.39; and ch.72 p.167

There was a great famine in Israel in Jesus’ time. ch.138 p.321

God gave Jesus bad consequences because others called Jesus God. ch.112 p.257

The mountains (plural) of Samaria. ch.81 p.189

Historical Anachronisms: The point here is not that the Gospel of Barnabas has a few historical oddities. The point is that the numerous errors prove that the book was written during the Middle Ages in Europe.

Coins in chapter 54 (golden denarius divided into sixty minuti) were Spanish.?

 

Abraham’s father claimed there were an infinite number of gods. (The Sumerians did not have the concept of infinity.) ch.26 p.57

Whereupon, as the food was going down [Adam’s throat], he remembered the words of God; wherefore, wishing to stop the food, he put his hand into this throat, where every man has the mark.” (The phrase “Adam’s apple” was first a Medieval European phrase) ch.40 p.93

Pilate was governor of Judea when Jesus was born. ch.3 p.7

Jews taught to fast, do alms, make prayer, and go on pilgrimage. ch.89 p.207

Jubilee is now every 100 years. ch.83 p.191-193

Kings’ barons. ch.131 p.301

You desire horses like knights. ch.69 p.159

The burden of the republic. ch.69 p.161

Courtiers. ch.133 p.307

After the nightly prayer. ch.131 p.299

Pinnacle where the scribes used to preach. ch.127 p.291; ch.129 p.297; and ch.12 p.19

Prodigal son, new [leg] hose. ch.147 p.241

God is not composite. ch.161 p.377

Man is composite. ch.168 p.389

Lazarus and his two sisters were proprietors in other towns of Magdala and Bethany, just like in the Middle Ages! ch.194 p.433

Jesus (really Judas) was dressed as a juggler. ch.217 p.475

Pine-cones (there are none where Jesus lived). ch.113 p.259

Fistula. (A medical term not used until the Middle Ages for an opening in the body for the purpose of drainage.) ch.120 p.275

Jesus could not read at age 12. ch.9 p.15

Do penance. ch.121 p.277

Jesus made prayer in union with the messenger of God, and Jesus heard Mohammed’s voice, [Did Mohammed live before he was born?] ch.84 p.195

These “more than a few” errors prove that the book was written during the Middle Ages in Europe.

 

11. In Acts 4:36, so who wrote the Gospel of Barnabas?

A: First some clues, and then three possible suspects.

Clues: An Italian printer named Arrivabene in 1547 published the first Italian translation of the Koran. The writer of the Gospel of Barnabas was not well versed in Biblical history nor in orthodox Muslim theology, but apparently he (or she) was very knowledgeable of European Medieval customs. The Italian of the Gospel of Barnabas had evidence of both Venetian and Tuscan dialects. Latin spellings showing Latin Vulgate influence. There are also influences from Dante’s works.

   There were Arabic notes in the margin. However, as David Sox (p.51) mentions, they were not written by an orthodox Muslim. The Raggs conjecture that since the dark green, oriental-type binding is very similar to the binding of a Turkish document of 1575 in the Venetian archives, the binding and marginal notes could both have been done in Istanbul/Constantinople.

First Suspect: Fra Marino was the father inquisitor of Venice from 1542 to 1550, and perhaps his motive was revenge (Sox p.68). Felice Peretti (the future Pope Sixtus V) was a severe, devoted inquisitor of Venice who made many enemies. In the sixteenth century there were 843 trials for Protestantism and Anabaptism, 65 for blasphemous speech and 148 for sorcery in Venice alone. (Sox p.57) In the 1530’s Venice was criticized for its tolerance. An Augustinian friar was punished for teaching heresy at the Church of St. Barnabas in Venice. (Sox p.59) A handwriting analysis of Fra Marino’s handwriting and the Gospel of Barnabas show they could have come from the same person according to Sox p.70.

Second Suspect: Anselmo Turmeda (who later became Abd-Allah ibn Abd Allah) from Majorca, Spain, studied in Bologna for ten years. In his biography, written 1383-1390, he claimed to be a priest before his conversion to Islam. His teacher at Bologna was a secret Muslim. De Epalza (p.63-64) says he was a converted Franciscan who took revenge on Christianity after his conversion to Islam. The mention of Spanish coins in the Gospel of Barnabas supports this theory.

Other Suspects: Other Gospel forgeries, these at least written by Moors in Arabic, are from Grenada. None was known prior to 1588 though.

Conclusion: Imagine you were a Muslim who was told that someone found a lost “book” from God. Among other things, this “Sura” mentioned that Mohammed sailed on a boat to Mecca, and this Sura contradicted the teaching of the Bible and contradicted the Qur’an on ten points. The oldest manuscript of the alleged Sura was written in Italian, which is not only not a Mideastern language, but Italian did not exist in the time of Mohammed. Finally, this supposed Sura had some historical customs, which did not occur until 1,000 years later in Europe.

I think it is safe to say a Muslim would probably have a few questions, to say the least. Before you embrace this medieval forgery as an authentic work that shows the “real” teachings of Jesus, remember that this work contradicts the Qur’an, too.

For more information, see Answering Islam, and Origins and Sources of the Gospel of Barnabas. To read the Gospel of Barnabas in English, see The Gospel of Barnabas translated by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg (Bakhtyar Printers, Lahore, Pakistan, 1981).


Acts 4:36-5:42 – Life and Death – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 4:36, how can a believer change to become more encouraging like Joseph/Barnabas was?

A: There are a number of things you can do, as well as a few things to stop doing.

When a person sees you, do they expect to hear encouraging things more often, or critical things more often. There is a place to say critical things, but in general they should be less than the encouraging things.

You should ban from your speech discouraging things, and cynical things.

Be grateful for the contributions and efforts of others. Even if the well-intentioned effort failed, be thankful they tried.

Be sure to point out the good things others are doing or trying to do.

On the other hand, be honest, don’t flatter people by complimenting things they know were not done with the best of motives or not carried through well.

 

2. In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, why were the church contributions laid at the apostles’ feet?

A: Scripture does not say, but we can see four possible reasons.

Authority: Recognition of the apostles’ authority in the church to take and distribute the money and other contributions.

Lack of Preconditions: By giving the gift this way, there were no strings attached, and no conditions mandate.

Nameless Giving: Since the apostle’s had it distributed instead of the giver himself, there might not be as much of an opportunity for praise or fame for the giver.

Trust: The people giving trusted that the apostles would use the gift wisely.

 

3. In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, should churches today operate out of trust, or should they have financial controls?

A: Both. If we know we cannot trust a church leader or organization, we should not be giving to that leader or organization. The issue here is not just fraud, but spending God’s gifts on things that are not honoring God. Designated gifts are OK, as they were for the famine in Israel in Paul’s time.

   However, trust does not mean that financial controls should not also be used. In 2 Corinthians 8:17-18, multiple people were sent with an offering to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That is just as important today to avoid the appearance of impropriety too. Even good ministries, on occasion have had problems with an employee taking money. Good ministries have caught that with financial controls. There is an umbrella organization, called the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA), that has hundreds of Christian organizations as its members. Each organization has to agree to the Statement of Faith, and each has to conform the ECFA accounting practices, which include an outside, independent audit by an accounting firm once a year.

 

4. In Acts 4:37 and Acts 5:2, should contributions today go to a church or directly to the needy poor?

A: There is no hard and fast rule, but there are four points to consider in the answer.

1. Helping the poor, orphans, and widows, should be an important priority in our lives (James 1:27; Deuteronomy 15:11; Isaiah 1:17; 58:6-10; Jeremiah 5:28; 22:16; Galatians 2:10; Psalm 41:21; 24:11-12; 29:7; 31:9,20 68:5; Proverbs 19:9-10; 22:9; Matthew 25:34-36; Zechariah 7:9-10; Acts 10:2,4; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18-19). “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard.” (Proverbs 21:13 NKJV)

2. The poor who refuse to work are not to be helped, until they are willing to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

3. When you give directly to the poor, give wisely. Try to reduce the chance that the money will be used for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, or other wasteful things.

4. When you give to or through a church, give wisely. Find out what the organization is supporting. For example, a certain percentage of the offerings of many mainline denominations went to the World Council of Churches. They were giving money to Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) guerillas, who killed missionaries of one of the member organizations of the World Council of Churches.

   If some of your money goes to support apostates (such as Episcopalian bishop Spong) or seminaries where they deny Christ’s physical resurrection (such as some at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University), realize that some of the money you claim you are giving to God is being given to wolves who scatter the flock. Why waste money giving it to those who not committed to following the Christ represented in the Bible?

 

5. In Acts 5:1-10, what was wrong with Ananias and Sapphira selling land and laying only part of the money at the apostles’ feet?

A: Giving only part of the money was fine. In Acts 5:4 Peter shows there was no pressure on anyone to follow Barnabas’ example. The problem was that they lied and said it was all of the money. The secondary problem was dishonesty. The primary problem was thinking they could fool the Holy Spirit.

   Luke writing this shows his candor in recording this unfortunate, somewhat embarrassing event in the church. Ananias and Sapphira are to the early church what Achan’s family was to the Israelites, a sinful deceit interrupting the victorious progress of God’s people.

   In general, Satan attacks the church in three ways.

External: violence in the book of Acts

Internal infiltration, such a moral compromise and heretical teaching

Distraction: get caught up doing other good things, that God did not intend for those people to do.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1277, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1598, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.87-91, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament p.364-365 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 5:1-10, how come people who misrepresent their contributions to the church today are not killed by God?

A: Four points to consider in the answer.

1. This was a new period of the “bright light of almost perfect testimony of the early Church, as the New International Bible Commentary p.1277 says.

1. On one hand they were dishonest, but it was even a greater sin to lie to the apostles and think they could get away with lying to God.

2. Nothing says that they were more deserving of immediate physical death than all others who have cheated people in the name of religion. However, they received their justice “earlier” to make an example of them during the first days of the church under the direct leadership of the apostles.

3. Ananias and Sapphira were close to the apostles and the center of God’s working. That is a good thing if you are obeying God and honest with Him, but painful if you are not.

   See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.519-521 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1277 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 5:13,14, how did no one else join the believers, since they were adding to their number of believers?

A: According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.365 the literal Greek is “none of the rest”. Because of fear of persecution and what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, nobody would tag along with the believers, unless and until they too came to believe. As The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1078 says, “Unfortunately, when God starts working, the devil does too.”

 

8. In Acts 5:19-20, why were the apostles delivered here?

A: Acts 5:20 shows they were delivered for a purpose: to go and speak to the people again, standing in the temple. They were not to do so secretly but boldly and openly.

   God comically showed the religious authorities to be fools. The jailers were carefully guarding empty prison cells. The council gathered to judge prisoners they did not have. While they were trying to figure out where the prisoners had fled to, they were out in the open in the temple courts preaching again.

   Note that when they were arrested again, the questions of could Jesus be the Messiah or how they got out to preach were not even on the table. In fact, in this “interrogation” no questions to the apostles are recorded at all. Only a statement by the high priest that they broke the Sanhedrin’s rules.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.366, the New International Bible Commentary p.1278 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.320 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 5:34 and 22:3, what do we know about Gamaliel I apart from the Bible?

A: Gamaliel, son of Simon, was a famous Jewish rabbi who was the grandson of another famous rabbi named Hillel. Gamaliel I died in 52 A.D. The Pharisaic tradition of Hillel believed that a man could divorce his wife for any reason.

 

10. In Acts 5:36, when did Judas of Galilee live?

A: According to Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.1-6; 20.5.2 (c.93-94 A.D.); Wars of the Jews 2.8.1; 2.17.8-9, this Judas lived around 7 A.D. He was born in Gamala in Gaulanities, which was considered a part of Galilee. He refused to give tribute to Caesar and founded the Zealots. Eusebius of Caesarea (323-339/340 A.D.) discusses a rebel named Judas, a Gaulonite from Galilee, from a city called Gamala in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History book 1 ch.5.5-6 p.89. Eusebius says that Judas exhorted the nation saying taxation was downright slavery, and that the Jews were cowards if they submitted to pay tribute to the Romans, or endured masters who were mortal.

   See The Expositor’s Greek New Testament vol.2 p.160 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 5:36, when did Theudas live?

A: First what is not the answer, then a fact not relevant to the answer, and finally the answer.

Not the answer: It could be that Gamaliel made a mistake here, and Luke was just telling us what incorrectly Gamaliel said. However, given the following answer, there is no reason to question the sequence or timing of what was said.

Not relevant to the answer: Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.1 (c.93-94 A.D.) mentions a Theudas that was decapitated by Cuspius Fadius in 44 A.D. while Fadius was procurator. However, Gamaliel said this Theudas was before the enrollment, which was 6-7 A.D. Also, this Theudas had a fairly large army, not just 400 people.

   Complicating matters is that there were a lot of mini-revolts at this time. Josephus mentions four of the revolts were led by different people all named Simon, within a 40-year span. He also mentions three different revolts, led by three different man all named Judas, within ten years. Of course, while Josephus was in general a careful historian, he made other mistakes too. So either Josephus or a subsequent copyist could have written a name down incorrectly too. Many used to think that Luke used Josephus as a source. However, a couple or writers, including Emil Shürer have “demolished” this according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.323

The Answer: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.367, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.377-378, and When Critics Ask p.431-432 say that the Theudas with 400 rebels was another person by the same name. Rebel sentiment against the Romans was high, since there were a group of people, called Zealots, who were almost continuously fighting against the Romans, until the successful, but short-lived revolt in 70 A.D. This Theudas was one who rebelled prior to Judas, while the rebel Josephus mentioned rebelled after Judas.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.98-99, The Expositor’s Greek New Testament vol.2 p.157-159 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.323 for extensive discussions on this.

 

12. In Acts 5:36, what evidence is there that Paul studied under Gamaliel?

A: Besides Paul’s excellent knowledge of the Old Testament and claim to be a Pharisee, there is one specific example. In 1 Corinthians 14:21, Paul called a quote from Isaiah 28:11-12 a part of the Torah (Law). The Sadducees and others only accepted the first five books of the Bible as the Torah, but the Pharisees considered all the Old Testament Torah (Wycliffe Bible Commentary p.651). So this indicates Paul studied under a Pharisee, not a Sadducee.

   As an aside, though Gamaliel was a well-respected Pharisee, he is said to be just a member of the Sanhedrin council in Jerusalem. Pharisee rabbis were never the head of the Sanhedrin until after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. according to The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.156.

 

13. In Acts 5:38-39, was it characteristic for Pharisees to be so lenient here?

A: There are different subgroups of Pharisees, and some such as Gamaliel I and Josephus, were of the more lenient kind. A later rabbi, Gamaliel II, was stricter. Josephus writes, “the Pharisees are naturally lenient in the matter of punishments” in Antiquities of the Jews book 13 294 [x.6]. A later Pharisee, Rabbi Johanan the sandal maker, who  studied under the famous Rabbi Akiba, said something very similar to what Gamaliel said. In Pirke Aboth 4:11 he said, “Any assembling together that is for the sake of heaven shall in the end be established, but any that is not for the sake of heaven shall not in the end be established.” See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.323 for more info.

 

14. In Acts 5:40-41, what is ironic here?

A:The apostles suffered forty lashes minus one. Sometimes people did not survive that. Unless God intervened, they probably had permanent physical damage. So the apostles whom God sent out in the world would have physical damage because of their flogging. Yet, the apostles felt honored for being dishonored, and given the grace to be disgraced!

   As Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere said, “Without bleeding the church fails to bless.” Tertullian famously said, “Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice if proof that we are innocent. …The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”.” Apology ch.50 (ANF vol.3 p.33).

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.100 and Alexander, J.A. A Commentary on the Book of Acts of the Apostles 1857 1 p.239.

 

 

 


Acts 6:1-4 – When Should We Complain? – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 6:1, why would there be a lot of widows in the church, anyway?

A: First a wrong answer: “because their husbands were killed for the faith”, is not correct at this time, because almost no one had been killed for their faith yet. There are probably three reasons. 1)  there might be a lot of needy widows in society in general. Back then it was hard for a woman to make a living without a man, unless she was a weaver or merchant, or had a disreputable profession.

2) Part of the reason might be what has been observed in some developing countries; when an elderly person turns to Christ, the family that was financially supporting them stops doing so. This would not only persuade many to return to their family’s faith, but be a financial burden for the church to bear, drawing away money that could otherwise be used for evangelism. And if the church did not care for her own widows, then it would show the world that Christians don’t really care for other people, or at least other people who don’t have money.

3) Apart from their family, the Jews already had a means of distributing food to poor hungry Jewish people according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.330. But if a person no longer listened to the Jewish leaders, then the Jewish leaders might no longer include them in the food distribution.

   But the widows’ needs were not at all a drain on the church; rather it was the church’s proper role to take care of them. Evangelism, and the money involved with that, is not our primary responsibility; obediently pleasing God is. Helping the poor and widows is not a drain on the church’s mission; rather it is a fundamental part of the church’s mission.

 

2. In Acts 6:1, should the Greek-speaking Christians have complained at all, since Php 2:14-15 says to do everything without complaining or arguing?

A: The Greek word in Acts 6:1 is the same as in Philippians 2:14, goggusmos, which means complain, grumble, grudge, or murmur. It is also used in John 7:12 and as an adverb in 1 Peter 4:9. Murmurers are in Jude 16, and the verb form in Matthew 20:11; Luke 5:30; John 6:41,43,61; 7:32; and 1 Corinthians 10:10. It is always used in a negative sense. These Christians should not have complained, but they still should have brought up the issue.

   So we should try to do everything without complaining or arguing. But when there is a real need, they need to express that need to the appropriate people.

 

3. In Acts 6:1, when, and how, is it appropriate to complain?

A: It is never appropriate to complain or murmur. But it often is appropriate to bring up issues and things that need to be fixed. When you do so, you might be falsely accused of complaining, but there is a difference.

   Murmuring can be demoralizing. Putting others down, and destructive way of focusing on the problem. Bringing up issues can be focused on the solution, and working with others to implement it. It is constructive, but sometimes part of being constructive involves tearing down that which is bad and sweeping away the debris.

   An interesting point that The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.330 brings up is that if Luke were just trying to paint a picture of the perfect harmony of early Christians, then Acts 6 goes exactly against this purpose. Rather, Acts 6 shows that Luke’s purpose was to tell it like it was, problems and all.

 

4. In Acts 6:1, when someone else complains in God’s church, how should you act, and what should you do?

A: Look at the tone of their complaint, and the content of their complaint separately. Even if their suggestion is good and legitimate, they might need to change how they voice their concern. It is fine to be forceful to get your point across, but you also need to show respect to your leaders and those you are talking too. If someone is bringing up something in a divisive or otherwise inappropriate way, you should correct or rebuke them. But if it is still a valid issue they brought up inappropriately, you should still address the issue.

   Sometimes a genuine believer can bring up what they think is an issue, in an appropriate way, and they are totally wrong. You need to be able to tell them, in a gentle way, that you have fully considered everything they said, and you have decided it is best not to do anything. If they feel very strongly about starting a new ministry, and you don’t feel that strongly about it, give them a little leeway, and let them start it.

   Second, regardless of whether or not their complaint was in the right tone, look at whether or not their issue is a real concern, and if their suggestion might be a good one. If they feel strongly about it, you might want to ask yourself, or better yet, ask them, why. They might be something there that you do not see.

   In this specific case, the apostles did not try to pin the blame on anyone; they just decided to solve the problem. See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.892 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 6:1, why do you think Greek-speaking widows were overlooked in favor of Hebrew widows?

A: Not being speakers or at least native speakers of Aramaic, they had probably come to Jerusalem for only a few years and did not have strong roots in the community. There were different sub-cultures within the church, and it was expected that Christians would help other Christians without showing favoritism based on culture.

   This problem might not have been intentional, but there is unintentional favoritism and prejudice too. When you selectively help those you see the most, watch out that you are not unintentionally showing favoritism, for it is easy to do. In this case, the solution was not to tell the food distributors to not show favoritism, but to bring a diverse group of food distributors.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1079 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 6:1, do you ever think it is right to have different groups in the church?

A: It can be good to have the different groups within a church, but sometimes there are difficulties. Sometimes differences in language or culture are so great it is better to have different services, congregations, or churches. I heard of a church in Peru with city-dwellers, and with villagers who would bring their babies to the service, and not use diapers. Urine flowing on the group did not go over well with the city-dwellers. So sometimes differences churched can be friendly towards each other, but still be different churches.

   Regardless of culture and language though, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 says there are to be no divisions among us a Christians. So each member might want to expend more effort getting to know, befriend, and love those who are different than they are, rather than the people just like themselves. If you are a mature believer, whatever your ethnic background, consider strengthening a church by joining a church where your ethnic background is not the majority.

 

7. In Acts 6:2, since the Twelve deliberately chose not to meet a legitimate need, when is it appropriate for us not to meet legitimate needs of other believers?

A: “You” should meet everyone’s needs. But that is not “you” singular, but “you” plural, in that the church should meet everyone’s needs. They did not need senseless overwhelming pressure of thinking they had to meet every need personally. The church is not the individual but the team. Once a Christian was talking with a neighbor about Christ and was willing to receive Christ. So the Christian hurriedly called up the pastor and told him to come over quickly because the person wanted to accept Christ. The past said OK and then hung up the phone. Then the pastor felt a conviction of the Holy Spirit. He called back and said, “I’m not coming; you need to lead them to the Lord.” As a Christian, don’t delegate what you should do yourself. As a pastor, don’t foster dependency.

   Remember that Peter boldly risked his life to preach the gospel, telling the rulers and elders “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Now try to imagine Peter deciding not to preach the gospel very much anymore after all, because he was going to spend all of his time helping poor Christians.

   Imagine Peter saying, “I need to preach the gospel, and I need to help the poor, so something has to go, so I will just cut out most of my prayer time.”  I don’t think that thought every occurred to Peter. Rather, in Acts 6:4 Peter appears to think of prayer and ministering the word as going together, as he cannot effectively do the second without the first.

   In Acts 6:3 they actually did meet the needs, but indirectly instead of directly. They told them to choose seven men to administer to food to the needy widows.

 

8. In Acts 6:3, why would these men need to be full of the Spirit and wisdom, since they were essentially doing administrative tasks?

A: First some background. The Jews had a food distribution network for the poor, it would seem natural for Christians who came from Judaism to do the same. Jewish poor and widows who were receiving food from the Jewish distribution would likely have bene cut off once they became Christians. So, a witness of how the church took care of its poor might have had special importance here. It is one thing to give food sporadically and intermittently to the poor, but it is another thing to have consistent giving that they can rely on.

   These men were to wait (diakonein/diakoneo) on others’ needs. The food distribution was the diakonia. To do this with a good testimony for the church, these people would need to be honest and reputable (a good example above reproach), spiritual (full of the Holy Spirit) and practical (full of wisdom). Deacons are also mentioned in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13. But these deacons would also need to be able to encourage others to give money for food. People might not be as likely to give, if they did not think that the money was being used as intended, and wisely. Sometimes God’s people do not receive as they should because God’s people do not always give as they should.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.166-167 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1601 for more info.

 

 


Acts 6:5-15 – The Seven Deacons – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 6:5, why do these names all show the same ethnic background?

A: These are Greek names, not Hebrew. The solution to the unequal distribution of food was to give part of the leadership of this to those of the minority ethnic group.

   Of course, it is possible they a few of them might be ethnically non-Greek but were given Greek names. But for all seven to be given non-Hebrew names strongly implies that most if not all of them were either Greek, or primarily Greek speakers.

   A few have speculated that Greek-speaking Jews meant only Gentile converts to Judaism. However, this is not correct, because Nicolas from Antioch in Acts 6:5 is the only one mentioned who was a convert to Judaism. Mentioning Nicolas alone strongly implies that the other six were not converts.

   An interesting side note is that the apostles saw the problem and proposed a solution, but it was the entire church congregation that chose the men, not the apostles. The apostles did not assign blame for the problem, and they saw that it would be better for others to make the final decision instead of them. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.331 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 6:7, after choosing these seven men, why do you think a large number of priests became obedient to the faith?

A: There was no natural reason that choosing these seven men, who all had Greek names, as deacons would make Jewish priests more likely to come to Christ; naturally speaking, one would think the opposite. Perhaps the timing of this showed God’s pleasure with the selection of the seven men.

   Also, “priests” would include not just Sadducees, but also other actual priests, priestly families, and even Essenes who also called themselves priests, according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.333, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.172-173, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.893.

 

3. In Acts 6:8, why would they put Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, who did great wonders and miracles, in a “mundane” administrative role?

A: Apparently, they did not think being a deacon and having equitable food distribution was insignificant. They wanted someone who was honest and known to be full of the Holy Spirit which would also imply he had a good reputation. It is also important that he was a Greek-speaking Jew. (Stephen is not a Jewish name but a Greek one.). In fact, the other names were Greek too.

   Today also it is important to choose the right people to do important jobs, such as keeping people fed. You want people who are qualified and trustworthy to fill a role. If a person falls a bit short in an area, you would rather them be a bit less qualified than a bit less trustworthy. Also, since the Greek-speaking widows were being neglected, it was important to have a Greek-speaking deacon for a couple of reasons. With his contacts he might better know who the Greek-speaking widows were. Also, this would show to everyone that someone was solving the problem who was not unsympathetic to their needs. So, for example, if every elder or every deacon in the church is from the same race, ethnic background, primary language, or economic class, even though they might be trying to take care of everyone equitably, there can be the appearance of partiality, which James 2:1-5. If every leader is from one classification, surely the leaders could not find a single person of a different classification to be a leader too?

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.335 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 6:9, based on the choice of deacons, why would opposition come from the synagogue of freedmen?

A: The appointment of these deacons shows that Greek-speaking Jews were not just second-class members of the church. The freedmen were likely Greek-speaking, and this would tend to encourage Greek-speaking Jews to become Christians. Other freedmen Jews would not like that.

 

5. In Acts 6:9, what can archaeologists tell us about the synagogue of the Freedmen?

A: The Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology p.321-322 says that on the tip of the southeast hill of Jerusalem archeologists found what is called the “Theodotus Inscription”, and it is dated to around 70 A.D.. It reads in part, “Theodotus son of Vettanus, priest and synagogue president, … has built the synagogue … and the hostelry and the chambers and the cisterns of water in order to provide lodgings for those from abroad who need them….” It is thought that his family name was from the Roman family of Vettani.

   In later tradition, native-born rabbis looked down on Hellenistic Jews as sort of second-class Jews according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.329

 

6. In Acts 6:10-11, do you think Stephen would have won them over if he had done a better or more effective job at persuading them?

A: No, these people were full of fury. These Jews almost started a revolt because Pilate had placed in his own palace in Jerusalem gold shields with the names of Greek idols, according to The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.165.

   Their mind was made up, and they twisted what Stephen said to justify their actions. They left their robes at the feet of Saul before Stephen spoke, in preparation for the stoning Saul had organized. It is almost like “we want to seriously consider what you say, but do you mind us taking off our outer robes and collecting stones while you are speaking?”

   Stephen was saying indirectly that venerating the Promised land more than God can miss God’s working in other ways.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.339-340, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1601, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.368, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.107, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.893 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 6:11, what exactly is “blasphemy against Moses”?

A: The term is never used in the Bible by believers, either before or after this. Blasphemy against God is saying impious things against the majesty of God. While Moses was a good man, it is almost as though they had set up Moses like an idol.

   Stephen obviously respected Moses and his teaching, but when Stephen and early Christians said that the Mosaic Law was not the ultimate end, but only temporary until Christ came, many Jews would reject that as blasphemy, without even considering it. Today likewise, when you speak again someone’s “sacred cow”, even if it needs to be spoken against, they might shut you off.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.177 and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.109-110  for more info.

 

8. In Acts 6:13, why would allegedly God-fearing, religious Jews set up false witnesses?

A: One can be very religious, yet not be right with God. Apparently, they thought the end justified the means, and they never thought (or cared) if God wanted them to use those means or not. Some people can try to work for God, and yet have a profound lack of faith in God’s ability to take care of things Himself.

   Today, if you are ever in a situation where you think you have to do something evil, or sin to “help God out”, then stop immediately. God does not require help, and He certainly does not desire that kind of help.


Acts 7:1-36 – Stephen’s Speech – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 7:3-5 and Gen 11:21, did God call Abram from Ur or Haran?

A: While Stephen, a godly speaker, hypothetically could have been mistaken, Stephen was correct here. Acts 7:2-4a specifically says that God called Abram from Ur, before he and his family lived in Haran. Then, in Acts 7:4b-5, after his father died in Haran, God moved Abram from there into Palestine. God spoke to Abram more than once.

   Today, when God guides us, He not only guides us to the final place where we are supposed to be, but God guides us on each step of the journey. God also guides us in the timing of when to move. Obedience is not just going where God wants you to go, but promptly obeying God and following His timing.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.179-180 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 7:4 and Gen 11:26, when Abraham left the town of Haran, how was he 75 years old?

A: Unless Abram, Nahor, and Haran were triplets (which though possible is unlikely), Genesis 11:26 refers to Terah being 70 years old when he started having children. Abram was not born until Terah was at least 130. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.136-137, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.378, When Critics Ask p.45-46, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.309-310 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 7:6 and Gen 15:13, how could God prophesy the Israelites would be oppressed for 400 years, since Exodus 12:40-41 says that they were in Egypt for 430 years to the very day? (Two different Mormons pointed to this as a reason not to trust the Bible.)

A: The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years, but prior to that, they were in Egypt for 30 years under Joseph. (I know of one seventh grader, Amy, who figured out this alleged contradiction in less than one minute.) See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.137-139 for more info.

   By the way, Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) quotes Acts 7:2-8,56,60a and what he quotes is what we have today. (Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch21 p.434)

 

4. In Acts 7:7, how was Egypt judged during the Exodus?

A: Judgment can be an evaluation, or a punishment, and both senses were true here.

Evaluation: When God told Pharaoh through Moses to let his people go, Pharaoh’s initial refusal, late conniving, and finally sending the army after them showed his intentions. Rather than stopping this, God allowed Pharaoh to oppose God as he wished. The consequences both showed just how hard Pharaoh’s heart was, and that the continuing plagues only hardened his heart more.

Punishment: Not only did Pharaoh’s son die, but there was judgment on all of Egypt for the 400 years they oppressed God’s people.

 

5. In Acts 7:14, exactly how many went to Egypt in Jacob’s time?

A: Five points to consider in the answer.

1. Stephen said 75. Even if Stephen were mistaken in speaking here, the Bible could be accurately recording the alleged mistaken that Stephen said. However, we should not be hasty in thinking Stephen was wrong, as the following points show

2. In the Hebrew manuscripts, Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5 both say 70 men, including Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s two sons. Acts 7:14 says 75. The Greek Septuagint for Deuteronomy 10:22 also says 70.

3. The Greek Septuagint for Exodus 1:5 says 75. The Greek Septuagint for Genesis 46:27 says 75, because it says Joseph had nine (not two) sons. Genesis 46:20 in The Dead Sea Scroll 4QExod(a) also says seventy-five. See the last question at the end of Genesis and the last question at the end of Exodus for quotes of what the Hebrew and Septuagint say. See A General Introduction to the Bible p.481, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 2 p.262, ibid vol.9 p.341, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.893, and the New International Bible Commentary p.1280 for more info on 70 vs. 75.

4. Who were these extra sons in the Septuagint (and probably the Dead Sea Scrolls? Genesis 46:20 in the Septuagint lists these seven “sons” (actually grandsons and great-grandsons) as follows:

“ …And there were sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, even Machir. And Machir begot Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam; Edom.”

   Note that this only lists 3 grandsons and 2 great-grandsons, or five total (not seven). However, both Manasses and Sutalaam had sons (plural).

5. Since Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew (see Acts 6:1-5), Stephen probably did use the Septuagint and not the Hebrew Old Testament, and this little detail is inerrantly recorded.

Summary: Perhaps Stephen spoke an error here, and the Bible, without error, records what he said. On the other hand, Stephen was probably correct after all.

   See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.141-142, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.378-379, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.521-522, and When Critics Ask p.432-433 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 7:16, how were Jacob and the patriarchs buried at Shechem?

A: Abraham purchased land in Mamre near Hebron for Sarah in Genesis 23:16-20, but that is not in the same place. As for the land purchased in Shechem, there are three possible answers.

Jacob and Abraham bought it: Both Joshua 24:32 and Genesis 33:18-19 say Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was the person who purchased the land near Shechem. Regardless of whether Abraham came to witness the purchase of the land with the money he passed on to Isaac or not, one could say that the clan of Abraham purchased the land. Even today, a teenager, with his father’s consent, can buy a car in his father’s name.

Stephen might be mistaken: Since Jacob purchased the land his sons were buried on, yet Jacob himself was buried at Mamre with Abraham, Stephen might have been accidentally combined these two separate events. Even if Stephen were mistaken, the Bible would still be inerrant. The Bible simply recorded, inerrantly, what Stephen said, mistake and all.

Reburied: Once they settled in the land permanently, they decided to rebury Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca to be all together.

   See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.142-145, 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.309, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties 379-381, and the discussion on Genesis 50:13 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 7:19, how did Pharaoh deal treacherously / subtly with the Israelites?

A: He was treacherous in that after all the hard work the Hebrew slaves were doing, he told them to cast their male babies in the river. Also, a number of times Pharaoh told them they could go and then changed his mind. After the last time, he later still sent his army after them.

 

8. In Acts 7:20, why was Moses called a “beautiful child”?

A: This Greek is the term a medical person might use. It means a healthy, fit, well-nourished child as The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.186-187 says.

 

9. Since Acts 7:22 says Moses learned the wisdom of the Egyptians, what did the Egyptians know back then?

A: The Egyptians knew much about astronomy, the calendar, geography (including places as far away as India), use of iron from meteorites, and weaving fine linen clothes. Silk, presumably from China, has been found in Egypt as early as 1,000 B.C. (See http://www.silk-road.com/artl/egyptsilk.shtml) They were excellent architects, and for what it is worth, excelled at embalming bodies.

   In the time of Moses, the Egyptians did not know about making saddles suitable for horseback riding, cavalry soldiers, or smelting iron ore.

 

10. In Acts 7:29, how do you take it when people who you are loyal to, and should be loyal to you, are willing to tell others on you?

A: Moses saw that at least some Israelites would not protect him; indeed, perhaps the Israelites could not protect him. So Moses left to where he would be safe.

   Don’t stay in a position where you need to rely on people who have shown themselves to be unreliable, towards you or towards others. You can forgive someone for when they treated you wrong, or at least when your opinion is that they treated you wrong. However, even if you forgive a thief, you don’t have to trust him to give him more stuff to steal.

 

11. In Acts 7:32 what is unusual about this quote?

A: Stephen’s quote of Exodus 3:5 follows the Samaritan Pentateuch, not the Masoretic text or the Septuagint. See The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p. 934 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 7:36, did they cross the Red Sea or the Reed Sea?

A: Four points to consider in the answer.

1. The Greek word in both Acts 7:36 and the Septuagint version of Exodus 15:4 is eruthro, which means “red”, and not “reed”.

2. The Hebrew is like the English without the vowels: “Rd” could be either “Red” or “Reed”.

3. Either it was the Red Sea, and Stephen was repeating that.

4. Or else it was the Reed Sea, though the Septuagint Greek translated it as “Red”. Stephen, a Greek-speaking Jew, is merely saying what he had learned.

Summary: Either way, the Bible can be inerrantly recording what Stephen said.

 


Acts 7:41-60 – Preaching to Stone Cold Hearts – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 7:41-43, was the idolatrous calf a false image of the true God, or was it worship of heavenly beings?

A: Stephen is not explicitly saying the golden calf was worship of heavenly beings. Rather, he mentions the golden calf, and that God turned away from them, and in the following centuries they turned to worshipping many various idols, including heavenly beings.

   As to the use of the golden calf, it as an image to a false god and broke the first commandment. Acts 7:42 indicates it was to false gods. Even it had been made as a graven image to the true God, it still would be sinful and break the second commandment.

 

2. In Acts 7:43, who was Moloch and the star Remphan?

A: This was a quote from Amos 5:25-27 in the Septuagint.

 

3. In Acts 7:43, should it be “Moloch and Remphan” or “Sakkuth and Kaiwan” as the Masoretic text of Amos 5:26 says?

A: Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew, and he probably was quoting from the Septuagint. Since Acts is merely recording without error what Stephen said, this verse by itself cannot prove which was the original wording in Amos. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.381-383 for more info and an analysis of the consonants and vowels.

 

4. In Acts 7:43, when were they told in the future they would go to Babylon?

A: Deuteronomy 28:64 says that if the Israelites were disobedient, they would be scattered. It did not mention Babylon though. Stephen is paraphrasing from Amos 5:25-27. It would almost be a quote from the Septuagint, except that Amos 5:25-27 says “beyond Damascus” in both the Hebrew and Septuagint, and Stephen said Babylon, which is the exact location beyond Damascus of the exile of the southern Israelites.

 

5. In Acts 7:48, what is interesting about the phrase “not … build by human hands”?

A: This phrase of Stephen’s is somewhat distinctive, but it must have impressed at least one hearer. Paul uses the same phrase in speaking to the Athenians in Acts 17:24. The idea, but not the wording, is found in Isaiah 66:1-2 and 1 Kings 8:27. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.198 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 7:51-53, what was Stephen’s aim here?

A: Stephen’s listeners were hard-hearted because they thought in different terms. Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the three prominent pillars of Judaism were 1) the land, 2) the law, and 3) the temple. Stephen spoke to all three, but indirectly. Stephen did not renounce these, but rather showed that God was greater than these.

   But remember that Stephen was stopped before he could finish his speech. One wonders how unbiased Stephen’s listeners were. Imagine them saying, “we want to hear you fairly, but do you mind if we leave all of our cloaks at Saul’s feet first, - the easier to throw stones. When they laid their clothes at Saul’s feet, was likely because Saul was the instigator of this, according to the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.894.

   Thus, Stephen’s life was NOT at stake, as the Jews under Saul of Tarsus had already decided Stephen’s fate. Stephen’s manner of speaking indicates that his main purpose here was not to try to save his own life, but to save some of his hearers’ lives, eternally. Stephen did not plead for his own life; he essentially was pleading for theirs.

   Stephen probably already saw that he had no chance, but since he was given a forum to make his defense, he used that last opportunity to preach to them. While to readers today his speech might seem long, actually there are so many details he left out. But from what Stephen included, there seems to be a pattern to his message. He mentioned Abraham leaving Ur and Haran, Joseph moving to Egypt, Moses leaving Egypt, and first the tabernacle and then David in Jerusalem building the temple.

1) There is progress and change in God’s work.

2) God’s blessings are not limited to the land of Israel and the Temple. God led them long before there was a temple, and even long before they went into the Promised Land. Stephen used the word “Egypt” six times.

3) Israel was always opposed God’s plans. Both Joseph and Moses were not received until their second appearance.

   As the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1604 insightfully observes, The Jews thought that Stephen was on the defensive, but by the end Stephen became the prosecutor and they were actually the guilty defendants.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.337,349 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.369-370 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 7:51-53, sometimes people reject the gospel because they cannot understand it. Sometimes they reject the gospel because they won’t understand it. What is the difference?

A: Some have only been told a caricature of the gospel. Others don’t understand how there can only be one God; some cannot understand how we could be saved by grace, through no merit of our own. On the other hand, some others might understand, but choose not to believe.

“Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” Matthew 15:6b. See also Mark 7:13.

“But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.” John 5:38

“…but you seek to kill Me, because Me word has no place in you.” John 8:37b

Demetrius the silversmith in Acts 19:23-34. Acts 19:34 “But when they found out that he [Paul] was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’”

 

8. In Acts 7:51-53, how do you get through to those who won’t understand the gospel?

A: First understand that it is not you who converts people; it is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit working in their life, there would be no hope of them coming to Christ. Second, we are not necessarily speaking to people who totally objectively just look at the facts. Some people have an extra hard time understanding because they have been taught wrong things, and they are confounding what you are saying with what they have been taught. For some others, they might claim they can’t understand but it is really an issue of not wanting to understand. As someone once said, you can never wake up someone who pretends to be asleep.

   But we need to be patient, because even if they refuse to accept the gospel now, they are still listening, the seed is being sown, and a seed can still sprout even if it lies dormant for a long time.

   Sometimes you can find common ground and relate to things they are already familiar with. Even then, it does not always work. In the Mideast there is a story of a man who went before a judge in his village asking what the law in this case was. His bull had gotten out accidentally and gored the judge’s bull to death. The judge said the law was clear: the man had to pay for the dead bull. The man apologized because he said he got one detail wrong: actually it was the judge’s bull that had gotten loose and gored the man’s bull to death. In that case, the judge said, the law was not clear. That is where the expression comes from “it depends on whose ox is being gored.”

   For us to get through to fallen, mis-taught people, we need the Holy Spirit and the power of the cross. As Paul said about himself, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

 

9. In Acts 7:52, Mt 23:37; and Lk 13:34, what did Jewish non-biblical literature say about their treatment of the prophets?

A: b Pesahim 87b says the prophets lived to great age (Jeremiah and Daniel did). B Nedarim 38a says the prophets were wealthy (Joseph and Daniel were). However, the prophets were persecuted and/or killed by the Jews according to b. Gittin 57b, b Sanhedrin 96b, Lev R 10.3; Exod R 31.16; Pesikta Rabbati 26:1-2. However, these were given as lessons they had learned from. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.348 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 7:53, how did they receive the law from angels?

A: God used angels in guiding the Israelites with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. He apparently also used angels to give Moses the original tables of the Ten Commandments.

 

11. In Acts 7:55, since Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, why did the Holy Spirit have Stephen say things that got him killed?

A: Two complementary answers:

1. The Holy Spirit sometimes does deliberately lead obedient Christians into situations where they will glorify God and die for their faith.

2. They were going to kill him anyway. Stephen had already been arrested in Acts 6:11-7:1, and they were going to stone him regardless of what he said.

 

12. In Acts 7:56 and Mk 16:19, how could Jesus stand at the right hand of God, since Jesus is God?

A: Right hand means a position of honor. Jesus is often pictured as “sitting” at the right hand of the Father, but here Jesus is giving a standing ovation.

   The word “God” in the Bible, when it does not refer to a false god, has multiple meanings. The simplest proof of this is John 1:2 and Hebrews 1:9. In each of these verses, the word God is used two times, and the meanings are obviously the Father and the Son.

The word “God” has three closely related meanings. They are:

God the Father here and in 1 Peter 1:2,3; Ephesians 1:3,17; 3:14; 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-22; 2:16; Titus 1:4

God the Son in Hebrews 1:8-9; John 1:1,18; 20:28; Hosea 1:7, Isaiah 7:14; 1 John 5:11,12 + 21; Colossians 2:9; Matthew 1:23

God the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:9-16; Luke 1:35; 1 John 4:12,13,15-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16 + 1 Corinthians 6:19; Acts 5:4

In addition,

The Father is eternal in Psalm 90:2; 93:2.

The Son is eternal in Hebrews 7:3; 13:8

The Spirit is eternal in Hebrews 9:14.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1081 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 7:59, how could Stephen be stoned, if the Sanhedrin did not have the power to execute anyone?

A: These were interesting times in the government of Judea. Pontius Pilate was no longer around. At the insistence of Vitellius, the prefect of Syria, Pilate was recalled to Rome in disgrace to answer before the Emperor Tiberius for Pilate’s misgoverning. There would not be another Roman governor in Judea until later, under Marcellus. However, this view would mean that Stephen was killed somewhat later, in 37 CE.. During this time, Vitellius would have wanted to placate the Jews, so the Romans might have let it be known they would allow this. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.203 for more on this view.

   Also, the later Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:1 says that for a capital murder trial, the punishment cannot be given on the same day as the verdict; they have to wait at least a day. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.350 for more info.

 

14. In Acts 7:59-60, was Stephen praying to Jesus here?

A: Yes. He specifically addressed “Lord Jesus” and asked “Jesus” to receive his spirit.

 


Acts 8:1-25 – Simon and the Samaritans, Heresies and Believers who were Different – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 8:1, was this persecution a good thing?

A: No, it was an evil thing to persecute Christians. They were probably encouraged by Saul of Tarsus and emboldened when they saw no bad consequences for killing Stephen. This appeared to be a very dark day for Christianity, as the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1605 observes. However, God used this evil thing for good, as God can use all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Apparently, the earliest Christians were slow to obey the great commission in Matthew 28:19 and especially Acts 1:8. Persecution drove them out of Jerusalem and into other places where they were supposed to be evangelizing anyway.

   In addition, the Samaritans, who disliked the Jews, might not be inclined to hear the gospel from people who came from Jerusalem. But since the Christians, especially the Hellenistic ones, were fleeing Jerusalem, the Samaritans might be more inclined to hear people that the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did not like. Perhaps that is one reason in Acts 1:8 that Jesus told them to be witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, and then Samaria. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.359 for more on this view.

 

2. In Acts 8:1, would the Christians have scattered throughout Judea and Samaria if there had not been the persecution?

A: They probably would have spread out at a slower pace than if the persecution had not occurred. When Christians either disobey, or are slow to obey God’s will, sometimes God uses hardship and persecution to get them where they are supposed to be.

 

3. In Acts 8:1, why did Christians flee Jerusalem because of persecution, while the apostles remained?

A: There are two views.

1. According to Hard Sayings of the Bible p.522-523, the persecution was by the Sanhedrin and directed mainly against the Greek-speaking Christians. Christians who were also Aramaic-speaking Jews were not persecuted until later. See also The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.371-372 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.355 for more on this view.

2. They did try to persecute the apostles, when they killed James the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter. However, since God protected Peter, they did not try anymore, because of how it would look to the people.

 

4. In Acts 8:2, why did devout believers lament over Stephen’s death, since Stephen went to be with Jesus?

A: Scripture does not say, but we can see a few reasons.

1. They were sorrowful over this “apparently premature” death of the mighty man of God, and all opportunities for God’s service that were lost because of his death. However, God is in control, and what could appear a premature death may have been a factor in Saul coming to Christ.

2. They might have been lamenting that they would not see Stephen again until Heaven.

3. Even though they knew Stephen would be in Heaven, sometimes it is hard to see things through the eyes of faith when the torn, crumpled body of the beloved friend lay before them under a pile of cold, cruel stones.

   The Greek word for “death” here, anapesei, is not the common word for death, but a medical term, according to The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 207.

   When a beloved believer dies today, it is natural and OK to mourn at our not being able to see them for a while. But we do not mourn like those who have no hope, because we will see them in heaven.

   As a side note, they might have mourned for Stephen privately, because the Jewish Mishnah says that “open lamentation” should not be done for those executed by a judgment of the Sanhedrin, though quiet mourning was OK. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.354 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 8:5-8, 8:26-40, which Philip was this?

A: Scripture does not say whether it was Philip the apostle or the Philip the Greek in Acts 6:1-5 and Acts 21:8-9. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.372, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1330, the New International Bible Dictionary p.781, and the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1008 all agree that it was Philip the Greek. The NIV Study Bible p.1658 also says this was the same Philip the Greek in Acts 6:5. This would mean the ability to perform many mighty miracles was not limited to the twelve apostles.

   On the other hand, the New Bible Dictionary (1962) p.684 mentions that Papias, Polycrates, and Eusebius all viewed Philip the Evangelist in Acts 8:3 and Philip the apostle as the same person.

 

6. In Acts 8:9-24, why did Simon try to buy the right to heal people?

A: From Simon Magus’ perspective, this would not have appeared so bad. Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1011 says that the Jewish high priesthood was bought in Seleucid times and under the Romans. In the Middle Ages, some popes supposedly fulfilled “papal succession” by buying their office of Pope. Simon Magus was only doing what many other false religious leaders did.

   However, from the perspective of God and Peter, Simon Magus did a terrible thing. To purchase what God gives freely, and possibly to charge for dispensing the grace God freely gave, would be an insult to God.

 

7. In Acts 8:9-24, was Simon saved here?

A: Acts said Simon believed and was baptized too. To the typical observer, there seemed to be no difference whatsoever between Simon and anyone else. However, to use American football terms, this was a “fumble”. Peter told Simon, “your money perish with you”, while believer’s will never perish according to John 3:16. Peters said that Simon had no part in this ministry., his heart was not right, and he was poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity. Simon was certainly NOT saved at the time Peter said these things to him. Those who believe that people can lose their salvation, and the Simon lost his, would have to understand that Simon, if he were in fact saved, would only have been saved for an hour or so at the most. Simon seemed more concerned about escaping this judgment than in God’s mercy and pardon.

   The real answer can be seen in Simon’s subsequent history. He started a heresy, and even had a disciple named Menander, who carried on his heretical tradition.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1606-1607 for more info. It also says that this is where we get the English word “simony” meaning to pay money to become a church official.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.130,132 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 8:9-24, what happened to Simon Magus?

A: Scripture does not tell us anything about Simon’s eventual repentance or lack of repentance. At that time Simon was not saved; the word for belief here, pisteuo, is also the same word for the faith of demons in James 2:19, Luke never says Simon received the Holy Spirit, and most importantly, Peter said Simon was [still] perishing. In other words, Simon “professed” the faith, but he did not “possess” the faith. The English term simony came from this passage. It is the evil practice of trying to obtain a church office by bribery.

   The church writers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Hippolytus tell us Simon’s subsequent deeds as a notorious heretic. (Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the apostle. Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus.)

Justin Martyr (c.150 A.D.) a Samaritan Christian himself, says that Simon was from the Samaritan village of Gitto/Gitta. He says he had a disciple, Menander, a Samaritan from the town of Capparetaea, started his own heresy after Simon. Justin says that Simon later went to Rome, performed magic, and there a statue was built honoring him. First Apology of Justin Martyr ch.26 p.171. Justin is almost certainly mistaken here. A statue on an island in the Tiber River was dug up with the inscription “Semoni Sanco Dei Fidio” which refers to “Semo Sancus” a Sabine god similar to Hercules. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.213 for more on this.

Irenaeus in Against Heresies (182-188 A.D.) devoted all of chapter 23 to Simon Magus. He said that Emperor Claudius honored Simon Magus with a statue because of his magic. Irenaeus says that Simon taught that he appeared to the Jews as the Son, to the Samaritans as the Father, and to other nations as the Holy Spirit. Simon freed from slavery a woman from Tyre named Helena, whom Simon said was the first conception of his mind. Simon said this was the same Helen over whom the Trojan War had been fought. Irenaeus says the Simon Magus’ successor was the heretic Menander.

Against All Heresies (200-210 A.D) also devotes the first chapter to discussing Simon Magus. Tertullian says that Simon called himself “The Supreme Virtue”, and that his successor was Menander.

Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in A Treatise on the Soul ch.34, that Simon devoted his energies to destroying the truth after Peter rebuked him. He adds that Helen was a woman of Tyre who was a slave in a brothel.

See http://www.BibleQuery.org/history/churchhistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html for quotes from the other writers.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1605,1606 and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.895 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 8:14-17, was this a normal experience?

A: No. The delay in believing in Jesus without having the Holy Spirit inside of them was either due to:

1. The apostles coming, or

2. Inadequate teaching by Philip, or

3. Incorrect understanding of what Philip taught.

If they had received the Holy Spirit without the apostles, then perhaps they might have thought of themselves as a “second church” independent of the church that started in Jerusalem. But they were lacking until the apostles from Jerusalem came, and so everything was linked to the [one] church, which started in Jerusalem.

   1001 Bible Questions Answered p.50 also says that this is experience was transitional in the history of the church. See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.523-525, Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1606, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.139, and the New International Bible Commentary p.1282-1283 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 8:15-17, why was the Holy Spirit not given to the Samaritans when they first heard the Gospel?

A: Christians have two views.

1. The preaching they heard was incomplete.

2. The preaching was fine, but for this “great transition” of preaching to the Samaritans, it was fitting that some of the apostles were present before the Holy Spirit came to these non-Jews. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.50,53 for more on this view.

 

11. In Acts 8:1b-25, why do you think heresies start?

A: Walter Martin once said that heresies are the unpaid bills of the church. When the church wants to omit teaching certain doctrines, that failure to shepherd the flock provides an opening for cults to step in with false teaching. I once heard of a church in Galveston that was interviewing candidates to be a pastor. One of the deacons asked if the pastor could explain the Trinity. The pastor said it was a complex topic and he could not really explain it. Later the deacon told him that was a good answer, because if he had said he could explain it, then they would not have hired him. This wrong attitude towards truth is what can make the flock vulnerable to Christians. Yes, the Trinity is complex, and yes, God has not told us everything about it in the Bible. But an experienced godly teacher should be able to adequately explain what God has revealed about the Trinity, as well as all the other major Christian doctrines. When a church wants to downplay the teaching of doctrine, then, the church is ripe for departing from orthodoxy, though it might be a decade or so.

 

12. In Acts 8:1b-25, are there genuine Christians who are rather different today?

A: Genuine Christians differ on secondary doctrines such as believers’ s. infant baptism, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and people’s free agency/will, the Lord’s Supper, charismatic gifts. Christians also disagree on what they think are the best practices: should little children always be in church with adults, should there be a standardized curriculum, should a denomination or a local congregation own the church property, should there be a denominational mission board, and many other things that are not specified in the Bible.

 


Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch – some brief answers

 

This passage can be studied from two different perspectives: from the viewpoint of Philip and of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

 

1. In Acts 8:26, what was the purpose of Philip traveling from Jerusalem towards Gaza?

A: From Philip’s perspective he had no idea. There were lots of people in Jerusalem, and very few traveling the 50 miles along the desert road from Jerusalem to either New Gaza (built in 57 BCE) or Old Gaza (sacked in 93 B.C.), aka, Gaza by the desert. There were lots of believers for discipling, lots of unbelievers to share the gospel with, and in general lots of opportunities for witnessing. – a lot more than would be on a desert road. Philip did not know why he was commanded to go to Gaza. By the way, Acts 8:40 shows that Philip never made it to Gaza, at least on this trip.

   But from God’s point of view, there was an important purpose in Philip going out of his way to talk to just one man. Christianity started in Ethiopia from this time. It is as though Judaism prepared this people for the gospel, and God took advantage of this right away. Neither Philip nor the demons would know this though. Also, Christians had not yet preached the gospel outside of Jerusalem and Samaria yet, and so God brought Philip to the Ethiopian.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.362, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.141, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.374 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 8:27, when might God ask us to do something without us knowing why?

A: God could do that anytime He wants to. God might do so to test our obedience, or that God wants us to react how we would react if we did not know the entire story.

   One can look at the story of the great missionary Adoniram Judson, who lived from 1788-1850. He was born in Malden, Massachusetts to a Congregationalist minister and his wife, and Adoniram followed Christ from childhood. He went to college (later Brown University) at age 16 and graduated as Valedictorian at age 19. However, while in college he became good friends with a skeptic and deist and lost his faith. He opened a school and wrote a grammar and math textbook. Later on a trip he was staying at an inn, and he heard the deathly groaning of the person in the room next to him. The next day Adoniram found out that the person had died, and “by coincidence” it was his best friend. Judson returned to the faith after that in 1808. He knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Judson and his wife Nancy got married and the next day board a ship to Calcutta, India as Congregationalist missionaries in 1812. Judson also studied baptism and concluded that baptism was something believers were to do; it was not for infants. Se when he arrived he left the Congregationalist mission and asked the Southern Baptists to support him, which they did. William Carey baptized him. During the British-American War of 1812 the British East India Company ordered American missionaries out of India, so in 1813 they boarded a ship to Burma; his wife miscarried on the ship. He spent three years studying Burmese about 12 hours per day. From 1810 to 1823 he saw only 18 people come to know the Lord, but he was on his way on his 24-year task of translating the Bible into Burmese. finished translating the Bible into Burmese. During the Anglo-Burmese War of 1824, the Burmese king threw him and his partner in a horrible rat-infested prison. His pregnant wife gave birth to their third child. Then his second child died, and then in 1824 his wife died. Then in 1827 his third child died.

   While preaching to the Karen and other tribal peoples to the south, Adoniram ransomed and freed a slave from one of his converts: Ko Tha Byu. He was not a very promising. Unlike Judson, he could not read. While Judson had spent a grueling three years, Ko Tha Byu could not even speak Burmese. He had been a bandit, and he could not recall how many men he had killed, though it was at least 30. – impeccable credentials indeed! After he was freed he was baptized, and then immediately disappeared into the jungle to go back to his tribe. But in preaching to his fellow Karen tribe members, four of them immediately came to Christ. The Karen people had a “tradition of the elders” of an unchangeable, eternal, all-powerful God, the creator, who created man and a woman taken from his rib. They were tempted by the devil, and that some day a Savior would come. They believe that some day white foreigners would bring them sacred writing about this. Christianity spread like wildfire as Ko Tha Byu and George and Sarah Boardman, evangelized the southern Karen people. Encouraged by this, Judson shook off his year-long depression. So he went to tiger-infested jungles to evangelize the northern Karen people. With all of these hardships, setbacks, and meager initial reaction, what were the results. By the time of his death there were 100 churches and 8,000 believers, mainly Karen and Kachin tribes people. Today the countries with most Southern Baptists are the U.S., India, and Myanmar. (Taken from Wikipedia on Adoniram Judson, 3/30/2018).

 

3. In Acts 8:27, why would an Ethiopian want to go to the Jerusalem?

A: The ancient land called Ethiopia was actually north of modern Ethiopia in modern Sudan. Persia and the Bible p.245-246, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary p.649, and the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible mention that after 590 B.C., Jewish mercenaries manned a fort at Elephantine in south Egypt to keep the Nubians from attacking Egypt. Some who came from Ethiopia could have been their descendants.

   In addition, the Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem during Solomon’s time (around 960 B.C.). While Sheba was across the Red Sea from Ethiopia, apparently some people from the land of modern-day Ethiopia converted to Judaism at that time, and they were still there in the twentieth century. In the tenth century A.D. the northern Ethiopian kingdom of Beni Hamwiyah fought the Christian Ethiopian kingdom south of them.

   Irenaeus Against Heresies (180-188 A.D.) book 3 ch.12.6 p.432 and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History book ch.1.13 p.105 says that the eunuch was sent by God to preach to the Ethiopians.

In summary, this Ethiopian was probably going to the Jewish Temple because he was of the Jewish religion. In addition, it is possible he might have had a small bit of Jewish blood in him too.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.222, Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1607, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.374 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 8:27, why does it say the Ethiopian went to Jerusalem to worship, instead of to the temple?

A: Deuteronomy 23:1 says that a eunuch could not enter the temple. Since, being a eunuch, he was not supposed to enter the temple itself, he could at least go to the outer court of Gentiles. We don’t know if he went to Jerusalem knowing that or not.

   Prior to Philip joining him, he might have been reading Isaiah 56:3-7. The Ethiopian Eunuch still could have gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and had others go to the temple for him. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.362-363 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 8:27, who was Candace?

A: Candace (or Kandake) was a term for the queens of Nubia, much like Pharaoh is a term for the kings of Egypt, and Caesar was a term for the emperors of Rome.

   An Ethiopian queen always ruled as regent for her son because the son was considered a child of the sun and too sacred to deal with secular things. This is based on Bion of Soli Aethiopica 1; Strabo’s Geography 17.1.54; Pliny the Elder’s Natural History 6.186, Dio Cassus History of Rome 54.5.4, and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 2.1.13 NPNF2 p.105. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.363 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 8:36, should a person be baptized when they believe?

A: Once a person believes and understands simply what it means to be a Christian, they should be baptized. There are two issues here: classes before baptism, and baptism of believers versus infants.

1. Some Christians believe a person should be baptized immediately after they believe in Christ, as was the Ethiopian eunuch. Other Christians believe there should be instruction first, and the church in Alexandria took this to the extreme by having a two-year catechumen class prior to baptism. Notice that the eunuch was versed in the Scriptures prior to meeting Philip, and though his knowledge was imperfect, it was sufficient to be baptized immediately.

2. This verse does not address the baptism of believers versus infants. All Christians believe that if an adult believes in Christ and has not yet been baptized, they should be baptized.

   As a side note, on this desert road we don’t know exactly where Philip and the Eunuch went down in the water to be baptized, but the Wadi el-Hesi, northeast of Gaza, would have been convenient and on the way. However, we cannot be sure because there were a number of seasonal wadis between Jerusalem and Gaza, and the climate in Palestine was a bit less arid back then. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.365 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1283 for more info.

 

7. What are arguments for infant and believer baptism?

A: Baptism is an outward sign of “circumcision by Christ”, done when we were dead in our sins with a sinful nature. True Christians differ on infant baptism.

Pro infant baptism: As circumcision of Jewish male babies was a sign of their participation in the visible expression of God’s people on earth, baptism is similar. “Babies” implies their consent was not required, and “males” implies it was not for personal gain but for the corporate expression of faith. From the times of Ambrose of Milan (c.378 A.D.) and Augustine of Hippo (388-430 A.D.) on, the church has continuously practiced infant baptism.

   R.C. Sproul in Now That’s a Good Question p.341-342, in the context of someone who had infant baptism being baptized as an adult says, “I would say the repetition of the act [baptism] would be a thinly veiled insult of God’s integrity, though I fully recognize that not one person in a million who undergoes a second baptism intends it to be an insult.”

Pro believer’s baptism: Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3-7 show that baptism is a visible expression of our identification with Christ’s burial and resurrection. While babies who die may still be saved by God’s grace, Baptism is a sign of our pledge toward God (1 Peter 3:21) and receiving the Holy Spirit. As Jewish males were circumcised right after they joined the Jewish nation (by natural birth), Christians should be baptized right after they join God’s people, the church, by second birth. Justin Martyr (wrote about c.138-165 A.D. First Apology chapter 61) records that in the early church baptism was given to “those who are persuaded and believe” and after immediately after discussing babies says not that the babies are baptized, but that baptism is over “him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins”. Justin calls believers, “children of choice and knowledge.”

   An Ebionite heretic in Clementine homily 17 ch.7 says, “He sent us to the ignorant Gentiles to baptize them for remission of sins, and commanded us to teach them first.” (anonymous author 1-4th century)

For all: If the ultimate reason for baptism is to obey Jesus, genuine Christians should not divide from other Christians who are genuinely trying to obey Jesus.

   For more on infant vs. believer’s baptism, see the discussion on 1 Corinthians 1:16; 7:14, Christian Theology by Millard Erickson (Baker 1985) p.1089-1105, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1608-1609.


Acts 9 – The Persecution by Saul of Tarsus – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 9:1-2, why would the Jewish priests be so desirous to kill Christians?

A: There are three concurrent reasons.

Primarily a Religious threat: Jesus coming and setting up things in a new way that went against the traditions of the Pharisees was a threat to their religious leadership.

Secondarily Political power: It was at this time that the Romans took something away that was considered very important to the Jewish leaders; the right to execute people for capital crimes. Since the Romans would apparently acquiesce in the killing of Christians, a conjecture is that this would be a way to at least have the appearance of retaining that power.

Spiritually, Satan was at work here. Even today, Satan is wanting to kill worshippers of God.

 

2. In Acts 9:1-2, why would letters from Jewish (not Roman) leaders in Jerusalem have any effect on a non-Jewish city outside of Judea? Imagine me going to my pastor and asking him to write a letter to the leader of North Korea, to release to me all Christian prisoners. When I travel to North Korea to deliver it, how do you think it will go over? If you think it would not go well, then why would Saul expect a better reception in Damascus?

A: There are two answers, and both can be true.

1) It is likely that Rome would recognize the right of Jewish priests to extradite Jews from other cities to stand trial.

2) The Nabataean Arab king of Syria and Damascus at that time, Aretas IV, hated the Romans who controlled him. He would be very likely to grant a favor to the Jewish priests, whom he knew also disliked Rome. There were a lot of Jewish people in Damascus, Josephus reports that the people of Damascus killed (conflicting) either 10.500 or 18,000 Jewish people in Damascus.

   Finally, Saul might not have been certain whether or not the letters from the Jewish priests would be recognized. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.375 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.370 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 9:1-2, what did Saul know?

A: In his own life, Saul probably valued tradition highly. According to Genesis 10:4 and archaeology, either the city or people of Tarsus was older than Abraham. In Philippians 3:4-6 Paul pointed to his ancestry, stature as a Pharisee, and his zeal. That is, before Philippians 3:7 where Paul said it was all dung compared to knowing Christ.

  About Christians, Saul knew they were dedicated, willing to sacrifice, and would go to great lengths to win Jewish people to Christ.

 

4. In Acts 9:3-8, how come this differs from accounts in 22:6-11 and Acts 26:12-18?

A: The accounts differ in three aspects.

Light and Paul’s companions

Acts 26:13: The light was around Saul and his companions

Acts 22:13 Saul and his companions all saw a bright light in Acts 22:13.

Acts 9:3 A light from heaven flashed around Saul, but it does not specify what was around his companions or what they saw.

Conclusion: Saul and his companions all saw a bright light that was around them. It does not specify whether the light was around Saul first, or around all of them at the same time, and actually it does not matter.

Voice and Paul’s companions

Not the answer: In Acts 22:8-9 Paul might simply have been mistaken about what the men heard, and Scripture faithfully recorded what Paul said. However, Paul probably knew, and Paul was likely NOT mistaken here.

The answer:

Acts 26:14 Saul of Tarsus (Paul) heard a voice. It does not specify what his companions heard

Acts 22:9 Saul’s companions did not hear/understand the voice.

Acts 9:7 Saul’s companions heard the sound, but did not see anyone.

Conclusion: The other men saw the light and heard the sound, but God only intended for Saul to understand the words. There is no difficulty if Saul’s companions heard a sound but did not understand the voice. The word in Acts 22:9 is used 153 times in Luke’s writing. 57 times it means listen to understand, and 7 times is means to obey. This verb in the genitive form tends to mean just hear. In the accusative form, as used in Acts 22:9 it often means listen to understand, though it can just mean hear also.

Posture of Saul’s companions

Acts 26:14 Saul and his companions all fell to the ground

Acts 22:6-9 Saul fell to the ground, but it does not specify what his companions did.

Acts 9:7 Saul’s companions stood there speechless.

Conclusion: All of them were standing initially. Saul was blinded and fell to the ground. After initially standing speechless, the fear of the voice and the light would easily cause his companions to fall to the ground too.

   See The Resurrection of Jesus p.387 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 9:11, is there any archaeological evidence for Straight Street in Damascus?

A: Yes. Not only is there archaeological evidence that the street was once flanked by colonnades (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.418,1627), but the street is in use today. The street goes from the northeast to the southwest and in Paul’s time was at least two miles (3.2 km) long.

 

6. In Acts 9:15-16, why did God choose Saul of Tarsus as His chosen instrument?

A: This is one of a number of verses that show the Lord works in mysterious ways. While we today all can read the Book of Acts and see that God chose well, this must have looked very strange to Ananias. It is understandable that Ananias, though believing God, asked for confirmation in Acts 9:13-14, and God freely and graciously gave it to Him.

 

7. In Acts 9:16, what was the point of telling Ananias how much Saul would suffer for Christ’s name?

A: Scripture does not say. Ananias should not have felt that Saul of Tarsus got off “easy”, because the sufferings he endured likely were more than the sufferings he inflicted on any one person.

 

8. In Acts 9:19-25, how would you feel about opening your home to a man who had killed Christians, perhaps even some you knew?

A: It might be hard; you don’t want to take unnecessary risks. You might want to make sure that he had really repented, and you might pray for protection for you and your family. But if you knew that God wanted you to do so, then you need to obey and open your home.

 

9. In Acts 9:23, who was trying to kill Paul?

A: Acts 9:23 says the Jews were trying to kill Paul. In addition, 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 says that the Roman governor under King Aretus was also trying to arrest Paul.

 

10. In Acts 9:26-27, were they right to avoid Saul? Why were the disciples afraid of Saul, since they should not have been afraid of death?

A: Christians are to be prudent, and Jesus told believers that while persecution was inevitable (John 15:20), believers can flee persecution (Matthew 10:23).

   In addition, the disciples might naturally have feared the painful death Saul of Tarsus had given to others.

 

11. In Acts 9 27-28, was Barnabas brave or foolhardy to introduce Saul, a potential “infiltrator” to the others?

A: While brave and foolishness can go together, Barnabas was not foolish here. He confidence in what God did in Saul gave Barnabas the courage to go forward and introduce Saul to the others.

 

12. In Acts 9:27-28, why do you think Barnabas had such boldness as to not be afraid of Saul, even though the others were?

A: Scripture does not say, but we can speculate on three reasons.

Temperament Barnabas was an encouraging kind of guy, and he might have been more willing to trust someone.

Spent time with Saul Barnabas did not just hear rumors that Paul might have changed; he talked with Paul himself and heard Paul debating with others in Damascus.

God showed him If God communicated with Barnabas about Paul, as God did with Ananias, or if God gave Barnabas the confidence, then of course Barnabas would not be afraid.

   One point to learn from this is that the God does not always reveal things to the leadership of the church first. Leaders should be willing to learn from other members too.

 

13. In Acts 9:31, how did the churches live in the fear of the Lord, and how should we do so today?

A: They had an awe of God and His power. The respected His Word, and the fear of the Lord was a motivation for evangelism and holy living.

   Other verses that show a believer’s fear of the Lord are Genesis 22:12; Proverbs 1:7; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Chronicles 6:33; 19:7; Nehemiah 5:9; Psalm 19:9; 22:25; 33:8; 119:74; 128:1; Ecclesiastes 8:13; 12:13; Isaiah 11:3; Jeremiah 5:22; Micah 6:9; Malachi 3:5, and 2 Corinthians 5:11.


 

 

11. In Acts 9:43 was a tanner an unclean profession for Jews?

A: The Israelites learned this important trade from the Egyptians, though the Syrians practiced this too. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1241-1242 says that the Jews did not consider tanning a good profession among the Jews of Jesus’ time since they had to deal with dead animals to take off the hides. Simon found fellowship among Christians, but he might not have found fellowship among the Jews. The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.726 also says this was a ceremonially unclean profession, and in Joppa the tanner’s houses were located on the south, just outside of Joppa on the coast (where the spent chemicals could be disposed).

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.379 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 9 p.383 also say that rabbis considered tanning an unclean trade.


Acts 10 – The Gospel for Gentiles like Cornelius the Centurion – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 10:2,4,31, what do we know about Cornelius?

A: Cornelius had both an unusual and a common name. In 82 B.C., Cornelius Sulla freed 10,000 slaves, all of whom then changed their name to Cornelius in his honor. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.384-385 surmises that perhaps Cornelius descended from one of them. We know that the Roman “Italian Regiment” served in Syria in 69 A.D.

   Cornelius himself was an unusual man, being a soldier in an occupying army, and yet he gave money to help the poor in the occupied land. He probably had some private fortune as he was able to give enough alms to build a synagogue. For centurions in general, the historian Polybius says, “Centurions are desired not to be bold and adventurous so much as good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive or start fighting wantonly, but able when overwhelmed and hard-pressed to stand fast and die at their post.” History book 6 ch.24. Caesarea was the capital of Judea as far as Roman government was concerned.

   Since it says Cornelius was the centurion of a cohort, “Centurion” meant over 100 men, but centurions were typically over a cohort, which was one-tenth of a legion, or 300 to 600 men. The “Italian cohort”, it was probably Cohors II Miliaria Italica Civium Romanorum. This cohort was comprised of freedmen from Italy who had become citizens and were all archers. They were transferred to Syria a little before 69 A.D., and were involved in the capture of Jerusalem in both 70  A.D. and 135 A.D. While archaeologists cannot independently verify where the cohort was in 41-44 A.D., it makes sense that the water supply at Caesarea had to be guarded.

   As an aside, this event was very important to Peter, as he brought it up again in Acts 11 and 15:6-9.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.384-385, the New International Bible Commentary p.1286, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1612, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.898-899, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.379 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 10:2,4,31, what was the relationship between Cornelius’ alms and God answering his prayers?

A: Cornelius saw the truth about God in the Old Testament. Three points to consider in the answer.

1. Cornelius’ alms were in no way required to enable the Almighty God to work or to answer his prayers.

2. Cornelius’ sincere prayers were heard, just like God hears everyone’s sincere prayers to know Him.

3. It is interesting that both alms and prayers came up before God. It is almost as though the alms were considered as a form of prayer or as strengthening his prayers.

 

3. In Acts 10:2,22,44-48, since Cornelius was God-fearing and prayed to God regularly, yet still he was not yet born again until Peter’s visit, would Cornelius have gone to Hell if He had died?

A: This is a moot point. If the God we are discussing was either not knowledgeable to know Cornelius would accept Jesus joyfully, or not powerful enough to keep Cornelius alive until this time, then we are not talking about the God of the Bible. The angel told Cornelius that Peter would tell Cornelius the words by which Cornelius might be saved, that that indicates that he is not saved yet.

   Note that Cornelius’ prayers and gifts, prior to hearing about Jesus, were an acceptable memorial to God. This is also true for people who died prior to Jesus who obeyed God’s word in the Old Testament, and Cornelius was respected by the Jews, not for his fear of any god, but for his fear of the true God, their God.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1612,1613-1614 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 10:10-16 and Mk 7:17-23, since Jesus said he would not abolish anything in the law in Mt 5:17, why don’t Christians follow the Old Testament dietary laws like Muslims [allegedly] do?

A: While neither Christians nor Muslims follow the dietary laws, Christians do not because they listen to Jesus. Five points to consider in the answer.

At this time, Jesus’ followers obeyed the Old Testament dietary laws. Jesus actually said that not one jot or tittle would pass away until all is accomplished.

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection fundamentally changed the way God dealt with His children. An angel informed Peter, Jesus’ apostle, that God had made all food clean in Acts 10:9-16. Note it does not say these animals were always clean, but rather that God had made them clean.

Even Muslims who bring up this objection, themselves have to agree that some the Old Testament dietary laws are not to be followed. Mohammed taught Muslims that they could eat camel meat (Sahih Muslim vol.1 book 1 no.220 p.70), yet Leviticus 11:3-8 and Deuteronomy 14:6-8 prohibit eating camel.

Listen to Jesus in Matthew 15:10,17-20 and Mark 7:14-15. Jesus said it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean, not what goes in. Mark 7:19 shows that by this Jesus declared all foods clean. If we call Jesus a prophet, we should listen to His words.

A voice from heaven commanded Peter to eat In Acts 10:10-16, showing him that the dietary laws were only in effect until Jesus’ sacrifice, not after. We should obey the voice of God’s angel and Jesus’ apostle.

In conclusion, we should not ignore what God’s prophets said, but listen to them.

 

5. In Acts 10:20-23, when Peter was commanded not to hesitate to go with the three men, did Peter disobey by questioning them, inviting them into his house, and leaving the next day?

A: Peter was a hungry man sent to people hungry for God’s word. Perhaps Peter was not as prompt as possible. On the other hand, if it was late in the day, the only practical thing to do was leave early the next morning rather than try to find a house in the dark. Remember, back then they had no street signs or streetlights. Caesarea was about 30 miles north of Joppa.

   Regardless, Peter definitely intended to go with them. It was not lawful for a Jew to eat with a Gentile, yet after Peter learned his lesson from the vision, he invited the men to eat with him.

   It probably took both courage and a direct vision to convince Peter to eat any kind of food. The Jewish skeptic Asimov in Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1050 points out that in Maccabean times Jews had died under torture rather than eat pork.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1286 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1612 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 10:25-26, why did Cornelius try to “worship” Peter?

A: The Greek word here is proskuneo, which means either “worship” or “to fall down in reverence.” Either Cornelius, who was not yet instructed in the Christian faith, was confused in trying to worship Peter, or else he was not intending to worship, but to show great respect to the one who would teach him the way to be saved.

   While it is not certain whether or not Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet in worship or deep reverence, to remove all doubt Peter forbade Cornelius to do that. It would be better if the Roman Catholic “alleged successors” of Peter, i.e., the popes, did the same, but that did not happen.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1613 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 10:31, does God remember all the righteous things people do?

A: God knows all the righteous (and unrighteous) things we do before we were even born (Psalm 139). However, as far as counting them for getting rewards in heaven; not necessarily. Ezekiel 3:20 gives an example of a righteous man who turned from his righteousness and his righteous acts were not remembered. Also, Paul was concerned lest he drift away and lose the crown he had worked for.

 

8. In Acts 10:34-35, how could Peter [allegedly] contradict Jesus in saying God accepts people from every nation who fear God and do righteousness, when Jesus said no one comes to the Father but by Jesus in Jn 14:6? (The Muslim Ahmad Deedat brought this up.)

A: There is no contradiction here. God has children who believe in Him from every nation. There are Arabs, Chinese, Australians, Africans, Europeans, Eskimos, and Chileans and Argentines who believe in Jesus. Whatever your people group, from Ababda to Zuni, Jesus is for you.

   No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Even people like the patriarch Abraham, who died before hearing the name Jesus, only go to the Father in heaven through Jesus. In John 8 Jesus said that Abraham saw [in the future] Jesus’ day and was glad.

There are three points to remember:

1) Not everyone who has gone to heaven, has heard the name of Jesus before they died, such was the those who followed God in the Old Testament and prior to heaving of Jesus.

2) All who put their trust in the true God go to Heaven through Jesus.

3) Those who reject Jesus in this life, (and never repent) have rejected the only way they could have gone to Heaven.

 

9. In Acts 10:34, Peter found out that his “prejudice” against Gentiles was outside of God’s will. What should we do if we suddenly find out that we are prejudiced about some people?

A: There are different kinds and levels of prejudices, against different groups of people, not just by gender or against blacks, or against whites, or Hispanics, or Asians, etc.. Prejudice can also be against the poor, or against the rich, against lesser or better educated, lesser or more fashionable, geeky, or many other factors.

   But regardless of the kind and degree of prejudice, we should stamp it out in our lives. The time to act on that is “now”, as soon as you discover it. Make friends with someone of that group, and as Philippians 2:3-4 teaches, consider their interests more important than your own. Obey promptly and rejoice that God has removed blinders from your eyes that you might have been aware that you had.

   If you find that a fellow believer is prejudiced, that is very sad. But they could still be a genuine believer, just either disobedient or blind. Besides praying for them, positively encourage that to express their love to “all people”, to love your neighbor as yourself.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1613, the Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1086-1987, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.382, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.392, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.899,900 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 10:34-43, how close are these to Peter’s actual words?

A: While Luke could have paraphrased, we think he was quite literal here. Luke’s style was sophisticated, refined Greek, with technical words and complex sentences. But this section here was word choices and the style of a Jew speaking Greek, according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.392 and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.900.

 

11. In Acts 10:38, how was God with Jesus, since Jesus is God?

A: On earth, Jesus voluntarily emptied Himself of His glory and temporarily gave up the use of His attributes of deity. However, the Father and Holy Spirit showed that they were with Jesus. They showed this at His baptism and by Jesus’ miracles. See the discussion on Acts 7:56 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 10:45-48, is water baptism essential to be saved?

A: No. Four points to consider in the answer.

1. They spoke in tongues prior to being baptized with water.

2. Speaking in tongues is a sign (but not the only sign) of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

3. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is only for those who are born again,

4. Those who are born again are saved.

So, they were born again prior to being baptized with water. See the discussion on Acts 22:16 for a second example of being saved prior to water baptism. See also the next question for more info.

 

13. In Acts 10:45-48, because this passage was a very special occurrence, does this negate using this passage to show water baptism is not essential for salvation?

A: No. This passage does describe an important transition for the church, but that does not disqualify us from understanding all of its teaching. Three points to consider in the answer.

1. Gentiles could be filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus be saved, prior to baptism at this time. This was not impossible for God to do and still be true to His word.

2. Thus, it is possible for people to be saved, prior to baptism at other times, without God breaking His word.

3. If a person’s interpretation of the Bible requires that God cannot be true to His word if anyone after Christ is saved prior to being baptized, then consider that their interpretation, and not God’s word, is wrong.

 

14. In Acts 10:48 and Acts 2:38, since people are baptized in the name of Jesus, since people are baptized in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Mt 28:19, does that mean the three are all Jesus, as Oneness Pentecostalism teaches?

A: No. It was Jesus, not the Father or Holy Spirit, who commanded Christians to be baptized. “In his name”, also means by the authority of Jesus, as the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1608 says. See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.211-212, When Cultists Ask p.196-197, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.120-121 for more info.


Acts 11 – Did Peter Have to Explain His Actions? – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 11:1-3, since Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, why would God send Peter and not Paul to Cornelius?

A: There are four parts to the answer.

First, Paul had not been consecrated to be sent out until Acts 13, perhaps God did not see a need to wait that long to have someone talk with Cornelius.

Second, it would be better to be Peter, the leader of the apostles, so that it would be clearer that there was only one church, not a Jewish church and a Gentile church.

Third, Peter might have been reluctant to share Christ with a Gentile, due to his upbringing. In Acts 10:34 Peter says, now I realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism. Sometimes if a believer is prejudice against a certain group, God might have that Christian go minister to that specific group. This way, instead of Peter being one to question the actions of baptizing a Gentile, Peter was the one defending his own action of baptizing a Gentile.

Fourth, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, with a tongue of fire on him during Pentecost, and his description of what happened to these Gentile believers sounds reminiscent of Pentecost.

On one hand, some might think it great that Peter had a vision, and an angel told him specifically what to do. But on the other hand, God seeing that Peter needed “hand-holding” might have been a sign of Peter’s weakness, not Peter’s strength.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.166,170 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1615 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 11:1-3, were the men correct in contending with Peter the apostle?

A: They were correct in one way, and incorrect in a greater way.

Correct: They were correct to question what any Christian was doing, even Peter, when they thought it did not line up with Scripture. After all, Mt 10:5-7, at that time, Jesus said do not go talk with the Gentiles, only with the House of Israel. Also, Paul corrected Peter in Galatians 2:11-21.

Incorrect: Their scriptural understanding was incorrect. Furthermore, after the Council of Jerusalem settled the issue with all of the living apostles, some of these people continued to cause division, because they would not allow themselves to be corrected by others.

 

3. In Acts 11:1-3, Peter could have said, “I know I was following God, and I couldn’t care less about what you think. What would not be good about that?

A: Peter did not want to create any misunderstandings because he should be a good example. There are two issues in leadership; doing what is right, and doing it the right way. Even though Peter did what was right (as the Holy Spirit showed), he humbly (and rightfully) submitted his actions to questioning by others. He patiently explained why he did his actions, and unbiasedly shared the results. Leaders today should be servant-leaders, leading by their words, actions, and the way they handle themselves respecting others.

 

4. In Acts 11:1-3, what are some times today were you, or someone else, could have or actually did say that. How would that work out?

A: I once was a member of a Chinese Christian church in America. In America groups, committees and voting are common. One past was hired who was trained oversees, with a more hierarchical mindset. In a rather difficult time, the pastor said that the elders are accountable to me, and I am only accountable to God. He was let go not long after that. The issue was NOT that he did not do things in a non-Catholic American style (though he did not). The issue here was he did not do things in a Biblical style; even Peter the apostle did not act that way.

 

5. In Acts 11:1-4, just how structured do you think the church should be?

A: The “best” answer might be different in different cultures and circumstances. There are two sides to this question: super-cultural constancy, and cultural flexibility.

Super-cultural constancy: Concepts of Church leadership and organization that are commanded are shown in scripture should be done in all churches. For example, 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 give requirements for the elders, deacons, and deaconesses in a church. There is no “escape clause” where Paul says, “unless you are in this culture, then you don’t have to.”

Cultural flexibility: Churches should adapt to the environment, culture, and time they are in. Large church buildings vs. house churches. How do you handle multiple languages in a church? If you have a church of sophisticated city-dwellers and tribes people, should they always meet together? How much should the leaders be hand-on vs. hands-off. Should men and women be together or separated? Precepts that can help you answer these questions for your church are in scripture, but the answers themselves are not in scripture. That is likely deliberate on God’s part, since the answers vary based on the church, and God wants us to use godly judgment to decide.

 

6. In Acts 11:3, were the apostles obedient to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth?

A: The apostles were not sinless, and it does not appear they were actively obeying this. The reason might have been their hang-up about associating with non-Jews. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians today can let their hang-ups keep them from fully obeying God, too. See the discussion on Acts 8:1 for how God apparently dealt with that situation.

 

7. In Acts 11:14, was Cornelius saved prior to sending for Peter?

A: This passage shows that he was not. However, by God’s grace, Cornelius sought God and sent for Peter. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.91 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 11:18, what two effects would this have: first on other Gentiles and second on Jews?

A: For Gentiles it would be a demonstration that Gentiles were as welcome in God’s church as Jews. On the other hand, pagan Gentile religious leaders might feel more threatened than if they thought they were having people become Jews before they could become Christians.

   For Jews it caused more of a division between Jewish Christians and non-Christian Jews.

See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.382 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 11:18 how do you think a former pagan, who converted to Judaism just to convert to Christianity, feel about this?

A: An adult male would take about a week to recover after becoming circumcised. What didn’t somebody tell him “just kidding!”. The believer might feel “cheated”. Here he was told by believes he had to become a Jew first, and yet all of these people would be let in without becoming Jews first. Did he really do this for God, since God apparently did not anyone else to do this?

   But God looks at our intentions and heart, not just the actions. Things done unnecessarily, because a Christian leader gave bad counsel, would still be done for God.

 

10. In Acts 11:19, why were they preaching only to the Jews?

A: At that time there was disagreement on whether a Gentile could become a Christian without becoming a Jew first. Even after that disagreement was settled at the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15, Paul still had the practice of preaching the Gospel to the Jews first, and only afterward to the Gentiles. Read Acts 18:6 for an example.

 

11. In Acts 11:20, what is significant about Antioch?

A: Antioch was not that old a city, being founded around 300 B.C. by Seleucus Nicator I, whose father and son were both named Antiochus. It was about 300 miles north-northeast of Jerusalem. But Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire with about 500,000 people. Only Rome and Alexandria were larger. It was also called Antioch Orontes to distinguish it from fifteen other cities Seleucus founded named Antioch. Romans, Greeks, Syrians, and Persians all lived there, and an estimated one-seventh of its population was Jewish. However, later during the time of Caligula (37-41 A.D.) many Jews were killed. Antioch was sacked by the Persians in 540 A.D., and it never really recovered after that.

   See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.901, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.383 the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1615, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.184-185, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.266-267, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.399 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 11:25-26, what was Paul doing back in his hometown of Tarsus?

A: Scripture does not say directly for these perhaps seven or eight years. But Paul mentions that he received five lashings by synagogue authorities in 2 Corinthians 11:24, and other physical persecution in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, and it is not recorded when these occurred. Perhaps some or all of them occurred while Paul was preaching in Tarsus.

   As Acts 11:20-21 shows us, Paul was not essential to the spread of the gospel. There were a great number of believers in Cyrene (northeast Libya) and Cyprus (where Barnabas was from), and they were involved with a great work of the Lord in Antioch. We do not know the name of a single one of these “rank-and-file” Christians, and apparently God did not see a need for us to know or for them to become famous.

   This is now the second time that Barnabas had worked to facilitate Paul’s ministry. What opportunities do you take advantage or to encourage and enable the ministry of others?

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.402, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1615,  The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.186, and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1087-1088 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 11:26, what is the significance of the term “Christians” being first used at Antioch?

A: Two points to consider in the answer.

Derision: Other people perhaps first called them Christians as a form of ridicule. At that time there were people who were very devoted to the worship of Caesar, and they were called Caesareans. 1 Peter 4:15 says that if you are insulted because of the named of Christ you are blessed. In 1 Peter 4:16 mentions suffering as a “Christian”.

Honor: The believers accepted the word “Christian” as a badge of honor. Christ is the only name under which people can be saved.

   Christian was a precious name for the early followers of Christ. It was the name we are to use for ourselves according to 42 early Christian writers prior to 325 A.D. See http://www.BibleQuery.org/History/ChurchHistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html for quotes from each one.

 

14. In Acts 11:28, Acts 14:17, and 2 Cor 8-9, what evidence is there of a famine throughout all the world in the time of Claudius (41-54 A.D.)?

A: Christians have two views.

Local famine

1. The Greek word for world/land here, oikoumene. It does not necessarily mean the entire planet or world, like the Greek word cosmos. Rather the famine was over Judea.

2. Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 15.9.1-2 (c.93-94 A.D.) mentions a famine in Judea in 44/46-47/48 A.D.. This famine was caused by drought, and there was disease after the famine occurred.

3. As further evidence, Paul collected an offering from the churches in Greece (where presumably there was no famine) to send back to Palestine in 1 Corinthians 16:2-3 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 13-15, 18-21.

4. In further support, Helena and later her son Izxates after the converted to Judaism, sent wheat purchased from Egypt and figs purchased from Cyprus to distribute to Judea to help with the famine around 46 A.D. according to Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews book 20 ch.51-52 [ii.5].

Famine Over the Whole Roman Empire

The Greek phrase here was commonly used by the Romans to refer to the entire Roman world. There was no single famine that affected the entire Roman Empire at the same time. However, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume 9 p.403-404, says that the historians Suetonius (Life of Claudius 18:2), Tacitus (Annals 12:43), Dio Cassius (History of Rome 60:11), And Orosius (History 7.6.17) mention several famines over the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius. There is no other period in Roman history where famines are spoken of so frequently, according to The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.270. See also The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.187 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1288 for more info.


Acts 12 – When God Steps in and Saves, - and When He Doesn’t – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 12:1-2, who was this Herod, and why would he want to kill James and Peter?

A: This was neither Herod the Great nor Herod Antipas, but another Herod, called Herod Agrippa I, who reigned starting in 41 A.D. and died in 44 A.D. He was born around 10 B.C., the son of Aristobulus IV and Bernice. He was the grandson of Herod the Great who reigned during Jesus’ birth. Agrippa II in Acts 25:13-22 is a different person.

   As a three-year old, Herod Agrippa I was taken to Rome Herod the Great had his father, Aristobulus IV, strangled to death in 7 B.C. He was close to the royal family. He fled to Idumea (Edom) in 23 A.D. to escape his creditors. He later was given a pension by his uncle Herod Antipas, though he eventually quarreled with him. In 36 A.D. Agrippa I returned to Rome, offended the Emperor Tiberius and was imprisoned. When Tiberias died in 37 A.D., the new Emperor, Caligula, released him. When Herod Antipas was banished in 39 A.D., Agrippa I received his lands. Agrippa I and his wife were careful to follow the Jewish Law, probably to gain the favor of the Jews, which he succeeded in doing, at least until he allowed himself to be worshipped as a god. When Claudius, a personal friend of Antipas I became emperor in 41 A.D., Claudius gave Judea and Samaria to Agrippa I to govern, until he died after an illness of intestinal parasites in 44 A.D. We are not certain which festival this was. It could either be a special festival Agrippa I started to honor Claudius’ birthday on August 5th, or the once every five years festival on the founding of Caesarea which would be around March 5th, or it could have been the annual Feast of Tabernacles.

   Roundworms can grow to 10 to 16 inches long can cause intestinal obstruction, lots of vomiting, severe pain, and death. Josephus’ account differs somewhat from Luke’s but says that he died after five days of agony. The man who executed James the apostle and tried to execute Peter did not die easily but became worm food.

   Herod Agrippa I was not known for being particularly bloody, unlike Herod the Great, except that he enjoyed bloody gladiator games. Herod Agrippa I wanted to kill James, Peter, and probably others to become popular. He apparently was very concerned about having the support of his Jewish subjects, so that they would not complain to Rome about him. Agrippa I persuaded Caligula not to put a statue of himself in the Temple in 40 A.D.

   The Jews might not really appreciate Herod’s favor to them during the Passover, and it was probably not appropriate to execute during the Passover anyway, so Herod would want to wait until the week was over to execute Peter.

In 40 A.D. Emperor Caligula wanted to erect a statue of himself in Jerusalem, but Herod talked him out of it.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1617, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.407-408,413, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.272-273,280, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1089, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.901-902, and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews books 18 and 19 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 12:6, how could Peter sleep so soundly, the night before his execution?

A: People with trouble sleeping sure wish they had what Peter had! Peter had confidence that God was protecting him, and that the words of Jesus would not fail. From John 21:18-19, Peter knew for certain that he would not die until he was old. Imagine if you knew that no one or nothing could possibly kill you, until the time that God allowed it. However, Peter was still sleeping soundly despite the fact that he knew the apostle James had been beheaded not long before.

   Peter was probably in the secure fortress of Antonia on the north side of Jerusalem. Usually a prisoner would be chained to at most one guard. But Peter was chained to two guards. He was guarded by four squads of four soldiers each in Acts 12:4. Perhaps each squad had a six-hour shift. Why would they have so much security for just one unarmed man? Remember it was the second time around for the authorities for Peter. An angel had Peter escape in Acts 5:18-21. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.384-385, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.408, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.191, and the New International Bible Commentary p.1288 for more info.

   We may have no promise as to how long we will live on this earth, but we do have the promise that God will watch over us, and that we will live forever in Heaven. So, sleep well.

 

3. In Acts 12:15, why did they think “Peter’s angel” appeared at the door?

A: There are two views.

1. The simplest view is that they thought Peter had been killed, and it was Peter’s spirit.

2. However, they could have used other terms, such as “his spirit”, rather than “his ghost”. As Hard Sayings of the Bible p.526-527 points out, they might have believed that since people have guardian angels, it was his guardian angel, which looked like Peter. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.385 for more on this view.

   Regardless, these were the beliefs of young Christians in that house. The Bible shows they were wrong here because it was Peter himself who appeared.

 

4. In Acts 12:23, what is extra-Biblical evidence of Herod suddenly dying of worms?

A: The Jewish writer Josephus records the following in Antiquities of the Jews 19.8.2. (c.93-94 A.D.)

“When Agrippa had reigned three full years over all Judea, he came to the city of
Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato’s Tower. There he exhibited shows in honour of Caesar, inaugurating this as a festival for the emperor’s welfare. And there came together to it a multitude of the provincial officials and of those who had been promoted to a distinguished position. On the second day of the show he put on a robe all made of silver, of altogether wonderful weaving, and arrived in the theatre at the break of day. Then the silver shone as the sun’s first rays fell upon it and glittered wonderfully, its resplendence inspiring a sort of fear and trembling in those who gazed upon it. Immediately his flatterers called out from various quarters, in words which in truth were not for his good, addressing him as a god, and invoking him with the cry, ‘Be propitious! If hitherto we have revered thee as a human being, yet henceforth we confess thee to be superior to mortal nature.’

   The king did not rebuke them, nor did he repudiate their impious flattery. But looking up soon afterwards he saw the owl sitting on a rope above his head, and immediately recognized it as a messenger of evil as it had formerly been a messenger of good, and a pang of grief pierced his heart. There came also a severe pain in his belly, beginning with a violent attack… So he was carried quickly into the palace and the news sped abroad among all that he would certainly die before long…. And when he had suffered continuously for five days from the pain in his belly, he departed this life in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the seventh of his reign.”

   As a side note, this is not something that would often happen to obedient Jews who never ate any unclean animals.

   Taken from the New Testament Documents : Are They Reliable 5th edition p.105. F.F. Bruce points out that though Josephus and Acts are similar, the differences are great enough so show that Luke could not have just copied from Josephus or vice versa. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.413 also quotes this and says the same. It says they were probably intestinal roundworms, as does the Evangelical Bible Commentary p.902. Roundworms can be up to 16 inches long.

 

5. In Acts 12:2,7 James, John, and Peter were three of Jesus’ closest disciples. Why do you think the three had such different deaths?

A: Scripture does not say, and it does not say any one of them was “more-deserving” or any other reason. But this is like Christians today. Some Christians live a long time and die a peaceful death. Some appear (at least to our very limited vision) like their life was cut short by some accident or disease. Some die gloriously as martyrs, doing no violence while violence was done to them, while serving the Lord. At the last, this shows us that God deals with us individually in different way.

   But who do you think was the “most fortunate” one? James who was martyred quickly, who skipped so many temptations? Peter, who died much later, around 63 A.D. as a martyr being crucified upside-down in Rome. Or John, who was able to minister the longest, but did not die as a martyr. You cannot judge the quality for a person’s life by the length of it. Actually though, you don’t need to judge the quality of another person’s life at life; God will do that, not you.

 

6. In Acts 12:2,7, why does God save some people, some miraculously so, and not others?

A: Paul answers this in Philippians 1:22-25. God could take Paul home right away, but Paul believed God wanted him to remain for a while for the work he had to do here. In a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, Calvin says, “God put me on earth to accomplish certain things, and at the rate I’m going, I’ll live forever!” Calvin’s theology might not always be the best. Even so, God could have us go to heaven right now, but God delays, giving us opportunity to serve Him and glorify Him on earth. Take full advantage of the opportunities you have been given.

 

7. In Acts 12, why doesn’t God bless us financially as much as we are able to take?

A: First of all, Proverbs 30:8-9 shows that a person could be blessed beyond what they are able to take. They could be so blessed that they forget God. But besides that, many believers could take more financial blessings than they have been given. But to God our faith is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7) and God uses struggles to strengthen and deepen our faith. It is said that when a new butterfly emerges from its cocoon, if you assist the butterfly in getting out of the cocoon, the butterfly will never fly. It has to have that struggle, of exerting itself to free itself from its cocoon, to strengthen its muscles to be able to fly.

   Apparently, God’s plan concerning us is not primarily our material blessings. Rather, than hope that God will follow our priorities, we should abandon our priorities and instead makes God’s priorities ours. God might not be too interested in blessing us for the sole purpose of us living more comfortably with more material wealth. Rather, God might greatly bless some for the purpose of them helping others.

 

8. In Acts 12:13-16, what is rather embarrassing about this?

A: The embarrassment is not so much for Rhoda (Greek for Rose), who forgot to open the door because of her astonishment. Rather the Christians in the house, who were praying for Peter in Acts 12:5, were chiding Rhoda for essentially telling them that God answered their prayer. Note to self: if you are going to pray for something, believe that it is going to happen! As the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.902 says, this was probably the only time it was easier to get out of jail than to get into a prayer meeting! See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1089, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.191-192, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1617 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 12:17, could the other have been Rome, and Peter stayed there for 25 years, as some Roman Catholic theologians have suggested?

A: No, there is no indication that the place was Rome any more than it was China. However, Peter was in Jerusalem, or else back in Jerusalem, in Acts 15:7, just a couple of years later. After that Peter was in Antioch in Syria in Galatians 2:11 and traveled around according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 9:5. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.385 and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.193 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 12:18-19, why would the guards be concerned?

A: Under Roman Law, such as the Code of Justinian 9.4.4., a guard who allows a prisoner to escape suffers the same penalty the prisoner would have suffered. The Greek in Acts simply says the guards were “to be led away”, probably meaning they would be executed. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.411, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.278 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.411.

 


Acts 13:1-15 – Missionaries Going Out of Their Way to Preach – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 13:1, what were these offices and what did the laying on of hands here signify?

It is interesting in the church in Antioch they had two different offices: prophets and teachers. The prophets were Simeon, Lucius and Manaean. This was not an ordination, because Barnabas was also in church ministry as was Saul. Manaean and Herod Antipas (the Tetrarch) were both brought up in the household of Herod Antipas, who tried Jesus. Manaean became a follower, and Herod the Tetrarch opposed Christianity and beheaded John the Baptist.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1289 and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.197 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 13:1, was Simon/Simeon Niger from the land of the African country of Niger?

A: No. the country did not exist then, and niger is simply the Latin word for black. He could have been black. However, as Mr. White or Ms. Green can tell you, surnames do not necessarily denote skin color. However, The NIV Study Bible says this surname could indicate his dark complexion.

   It does not matter because as the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1619 aptly says “A new measuring stick has been brought into being: it is not who you are but whose.”

 

 

3. In Acts 13:6, why was the sorcerer called Bar-Jesus?

A: Bar-Jesus means “son of Jesus”. Perhaps his father had been named Jesus/Joshua. Allegorically speaking, cults today can be said to try to be “sons of Jesus”. They claim to be compatible with Christianity, plus they claim to be “new and improved” versions of what Jesus taught.

   While the outreach in Samaria encountered Simon Magus, the outreach beyond Palestine encountered Elymas (Bar-Jesus). Luke wrote this section in such a way that the reader could see the parallels. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.418 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 13:6, why would a seemingly level-headed proconsul employ a magician in his court?

A: In Roman society magicians were employed not only by government officials, but many others “as Roman writers from Horace to Livy testify.” According to The Greek Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.286. It also adds that frequently skepticism and gullibility can go hand-in-hand in the same person. That is true today as well.

 

5. In Acts 13:6-13, what extra-Biblical evidence exists for Sergius Paulus?

A: There are two sources.

1. An inscription at Soli (now Karavastasi) on the northern coast of Cyprus mentions the proconsul Paulos. (Inscriptiones Graecae ad res Romanas pertinentes, 3:930). An inscription in Pisidian Antioch of L. Sergius Paullus, a propraetor of Galatia in 72-74 A.D. was probably his son. (See W.M. Ramsay The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1914 chapter 12). See also The New Bible Dictionary (IVP) for more info.

2. The early Christian writer Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) in On Idolatry ch.9 p.66 mentions that the magician who served Sergius Paulus lost the use of his eyes.

  An additional possibility is a Lucius Sergius Paulus who was a “curator of the Tiber” under Emperor Claudius. (Corpus Incriptionum Latinarum 6.4.2, No. 31545). Possibly after his term he was sent to Cyprus as proconsul.

   As an aside, Sergius Paulus had a daughter, Sergia Paulla, who was a Christian, and her son Gaius Caristanius Fronto, who became a Roman senator, was also a Christian.

   On a related note, some manuscripts have Etymas or Hetiomos instead of bar Jesus, Elymas (magician / wise man / the learned one). Josephus writes of a Jewish magician on Cyprus named Atomos who was employed by Felix to persuade Azizus’ wife Drusilla to leave her husband/fiancée and marry Felix, along with his three other wives. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.419-420,421 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1656 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 13:7, what was the difference between a procurator and a proconsul?

A: Most provinces were under the emperor, but a few, including Cyprus were under the Senate. To govern the provinces, procurators were appointed by the Roman emperor, while the Roman Senate appointed proconsuls. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.388 and The NIV Study Bible p.1670 for more info.

   This used to be a major Bible difficulty. If Cyprus were an imperial province, Luke would be wrong to use the word “proconsul”; it would seem he should have used the word “procurator”. However, as Bible Difficulties Answered p.29-30 points out, it was discovered that the Emperor and Senate had made a “swap”, and at this time Cyprus was under the Senate, and Luke indeed used the correct word. Someone might not have known of this swap unless the lived at or near this time. Also, an inscription has been found of the “proconsul” Paulus.

 

7. In Acts 13:7-9, did Saul of Tarsus perhaps take his new, Roman name from Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Paphos?

A: This is the first time the name “Paul” was used for Saul of Tarsus, and so the Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.5 p.562 claims that he might have. However, there is no other support for that speculation. Paulus means “little” in Greek.

 

8. In Acts 13:9-11, why did Saul rebuke Elymas so sharply?

A: There is a time and a place for sharp rebuke, and this was it. Elymas had not only deliberately chosen to reject the truth himself, but he was actively trying to turn others away from the truth. In 1 Thessalonians 2:16, Paul speaks of those who actively opposed God’s message. Paul was blinded once too, both spiritually and physically, so Paul knew what that was like. Perhaps Paul thought this would be the only hope for Elymas.

   In 2 Peter 2:20-21, Peter speaks of some people for whom it would have been better for them not to know the truth than to know it and reject it. Today we should differentiate between four kinds of people.

1. Some are likely to want to know the truth and to follow it. They should be taught.

2. Some, like in 2 Peter 2:20-21, will reject the truth that you give them. Giving them more can be like throwing pearls before swine. A question I like to ask people in Rev. Moon’s Unification church is this: if somehow you learned for certain that Rev. Moon was not from God, what would you do? Would you still follow him anyway, or would you seek the truth, whatever it may be?” I have asked a number of people, and I have only received an answer, “that they would follow the truth” once.

3. Some, like Elymas, not only reject the truth, but try to turn others away. It was a further manifestation of the truthfulness of God’s words that Elymas was made blind. This is done not so much to help Elymas, as to authenticate the truth for Sergius Paulus and others.

4. Newly acquainted: we do not know which category they are in.

   See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.904 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 13:11, what kind of mist fell on Elymas?

A: This does not mean water rained on Elymas, but rather his eyesight was clouding over, as though in a mist.

 

10. In Acts 13:13, why do you think John (aka John Mark) left them so abruptly to return to Jerusalem?

A: While scripture does not give the reason why John Mark abandoned them, we can speculate on some possibilities of why believers sometimes abandon their work with other believers today.

This was not exactly what John Mark signed up for.

Barnabas was the original leader, and now it was Paul.

They were preaching primarily to Jews, and now to Gentiles.

The road over the Taurus mountains was dangerous.

The city of Perga suffered from malaria, and perhaps Paul contracted Malaria there. Paul had some illness in Galatians 4:13.

Mark’s mother might have been a widow (Acts 12:12. Perhaps Mark was homesick.

See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.388-389 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 13:14, what province as “Antioch in Pisidia” in? (a trick question)

A: It was actually not in Pisidia, but right next to Pisidia in Phrygia. It was historically called Pisidian Antioch to distinguish it from the other Antioch, which was in Phrygia too. It was founded by Seleucus Nicanor in 281 B.C., in honor of either his father or son, both of whom were named Antiochus. There was a lot of Roman influence there, because in 25 BC, Emperor Augustus moved 3,000 army veterans and their families there. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.422 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.389 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 13:1-15 what is the difference between evangelizing “as you go” and going out of your way to evangelize?

A: Be prepared for and doing “unintentional evangelism” is good. You originally did not plan to share the gospel, but the opportunity came up and you were able to share. But intentional evangelism is just as good, where you plan and sharing with someone. Just doing unintentional evangelism is no substitute for doing intentional evangelism, and vice versa. When is the last time you did unintentional evangelism? When is the last time you did intentional evangelism?

   Acts 13:1-15 is a start of intentional evangelism strategically going where the gospel had not been proclaimed before. First they were going to Cyprus, where Barnabas was from (Acts 4:36). Acts 13:5 does not say they proclaimed the message in “a synagogue”, but rather “synagogues” plural, so there must have been a large Jewish population in Cyprus. Paul was from Tarsus, and they would be going by there too. But after that they would go to “points unknown.”

   It is good for us to share the gospel “unintentionally”, but all intentionally go to places we are familiar with and share the gospel with those who need to hear it. Then it is good to also go to “points unknown” to see how God would use us to share the gospel there too.

 


Acts 13:16-52 – Paul’s Early Missionary Sermon – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 13:16, why did Paul stand and speak, while in Lk 4:16,20 Jesus stood to read scripture and sat down to speak?

A: Philo, the Jewish scholar from Alexandria, also says that speakers would be standing when addressing the congregation. Apparently, at least in Palestine, they would stand when reading scripture and sit when explaining the scripture. That way people could tell what words were scripture and what words were just their interpretation of on scripture. But when they were not explaining a passage, at least outside of Palestine, they would stand to speak, just like Greek and Roman orators stood to speak. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.424-425 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 13:19, who were the seven nations of Canaan that the Israelites conquered?

A: When Paul was speaking, he was apparently thinking of (alphabetically) the Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, and Perizzites. Deuteronomy 7:1, Joshua 3:10, and Joshua 24:11 have these seven in a different order, so there is nothing special about the order.

   The nations sort of blended together, as there were many small city states. Exodus 3:8; 3:17; Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 20:17, Joshua 12:8, and Judges 3:5 mention six nations, with each of the six verses leaving out the Girgashites. Exodus 13:5 mentions only five nations, leaving out the Girgashites and Perizzites. 1 Kings 9:20 and 2 Chronicles also mention five nations, leaving out the Girgashites and Canaanites.

   See the discussion on Deuteronomy 7:1 for more info on the nations that lived in Canaan prior to the Israelites.

 

3. In Acts 13:20, what do “about 450 years before Joshua to Samuel” mean to Old Testament dating?

A: The Israelites were oppressed for 400 years in Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for at least 40 years, and Joshua’s conquest was up to ten years.

   This is similar to 1 Kings 6:1 says that Solomon built the temple in the 480th year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt. Archaeologists are reasonably certain Solomon’s temple was completed in October/November 960 B.C. (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1673). This would make the Exodus about 1440 B.C. Since Samuel died about 30 years before Solomon’s Temple, this would be about 990 B.C..

   The date of 1440 (or 1447/6 B.C.) for the Exodus is important, because in the early Twentieth Century many held a date of the Exodus of over a hundred years later. However, the later date does not line up so well with archaeological evidence.

 

4. In Acts 13:22, how could David be a man after God’s own heart, since David sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah?

A: David’s sin was horrible. The wonderful news is that David repented, and God accepted His repentance. Of course, there was discipline and consequences: the child died, the sword did not depart from David’s house, and David’s beloved sons, Amnon and Abimelech both died violently. Abimelech killed Amnon. Abimelech was killed after David sent his army to put down Abimelech’s revolt.

   All of these negative things are still small compared to the fact that God mercifully forgave David. Not only did God forgive David, but God both “forgives and forgets”. While God does not “lose information”, God chooses to view David as though those sins were never committed.

   It should be obvious to all that when David, Solomon, Abraham, or others committed some sin, Christians have no need to follow their bad example. God does not call us to sin as they did. However, when Jesus set an example to do something, I do believe in following His example.

 

5. In Acts 13:30, how did God raise Jesus from the dead, since Jesus is God?

A: This is a repeat of the answer for Galatians 1:1.

Even humans can work together jointly. The three in the Trinity worked together even more in this wonderful miracle. Here is what scripture says.

1. The Father was involved. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Acts 3:26)

2. Jesus was involved in raising Himself. (John 2:19-21; 10:18)

3. The Spirit was involved. (Romans 8:11)

4. God did. Acts (17:31; 2:32; 3:10; Hebrews 13:20)

5. Father and/or Spirit. (2 Corinthians 4:14)

 

6. In Acts 13:32-33, the skeptic Bart Ehrman writers, “In this text the ‘day’ Jesus became begotten as God’s son was the day of resurrection.” Then Ehrman asks how that is reconciled with Jesus being begotten in Lk 3:22. (Jesus, Interrupted p.95)

A: It is generally agreed that both passages are by Luke, and Luke certainly did not see any problem here. It would appear that Ehrman did not read either Luke or Acts very carefully. Three points to consider in the answer.

a) Luke 3:22 does not say Jesus was begotten at His baptism, and neither does it say Jesus became God’s Son at His baptism. Rather, the Father gave the recognition that You are my Son, without specifying when this occurred.

b) Likewise, Acts 13:32-33 does not say Jesus became God’s son at His resurrection either. It quotes Psalm 2, without specifying when, and then moves on to the demonstration of Jesus’ credentials by His resurrection.

c) So Ehrman is wrong about when Jesus became the Son of God, but when exactly did Jesus become the Son of God? According to Christianity Jesus was the Son of God in two distinct senses. First, he was always the Son of God, before time began. Second, the Father was the closest thing to a biological Father Jesus had, though Jesus’ body was not the product of a sexual relationship.

 

7. In Acts 13:32-37, how is combining Ps 2:7 and 2 Sam 7:14 messianic?

A: See can see today that these passages refer to the Messiah, but even at this time, a pesher commentary found at Qumran called 4QFlorilegium also brings together Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 as talking about the Messiah. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.98 p.426 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 13:41, how is Hab 1:5 Messianic?

A: Habakkuk 1:5 refers to the Messiah according to the Dead Sea scroll 1QpHab. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.427 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 13:42-43, how could Paul and Barnabas be favorably received, yet be rejected in Acts 13:45?

A: Different people can have different opinions, and people’s opinions can change. Both Gentiles and initially the Jews wanted to listen to Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:42-45. But after they heard them, a week later, some of the Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy at the reception Paul and Barnabas were receiving from other Jews and Gentiles, and they opposed them. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.428-429 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1291 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 13:46-47, how could some judge themselves unworthy of eternal life? Aren’t all unworthy of eternal life?

A: Nobody on there is good enough to go to heaven without Christ; but that is not Paul’s point here. Rather, Paul is criticizing these people as them choosing themselves not to hear, let alone believe, the gracious gift of eternal life giving through Jesus.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1091 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 13:48, what is this verse saying about election?

A: This verse is merely saying that when Paul spoke to this particular crowd, all the elect (people who would go to Heaven) in the crowd believed at that time.

 

12. In Acts 13:50 how could they stir up trouble for Paul and Barnabas?

A: Judaism at this time was a lawful religion in the Roman Empire. But since the Jews could tell the Romans that Paul’s preaching was not legitimate Judaism, the Romans could expel them as preaching an illegal religion. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.428-430 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1291 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 13:52, since the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit, should Christians today be this way?

A: Yes. Perhaps it was easier back then, with the apostles around, and Jesus’ resurrection only a few years prior, but Paul’s command in Philippians 3:1 is as much a command today as it was in his time. Now That’s a Good Question p.71-72 points out that we should not idealize the early church. They had significant problems too, as 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and the seven churches in the book of Revelation show.

 

14. In Acts 13:16-42, what were the main points of Paul’s preaching here?

A: Here are some key points.

How this fits with the truth they already know.

How Paul made the break

Preparation for the break: John the Baptist. Acts 13:23-26

The break: Jesus died, rose, and offers us forgiveness. Acts 13:27-31

Going back to their history: Acts 13:32-37

Appeal to accept Acts 13:38-39

Warning not to reject Acts 13:40-41


Acts 14 – Hardship during Ministry – some brief answers

 

This area was originally not Greek but Phrygian culture. It was quite isolated, though well-watered and full of lakes and forests. The Romans pretty much let them rule themselves, except that Iconium had a Roman garrison.

 

If you are obediently and faithfully following God, successfully doing what He called you to do, God will always bless your life and make things easier for your, right???

 

1. In Acts 14:2, what can you do when Satan works in some non-believers to poison the mind of others against the message?

A: Satan works in the spiritual as well as physical realm, so the most important thing you can do is pray for them and that God would bind Satan in this situation. Second, we can make sure that we are shining as lights for Christ, and showing our love and patience.

Acts 14:3 says, “there they stayed there a long time”. Apparently, they needed a long stay in order to counteract Satan’s lies. Some struggles take a long time, and we should have the endurance to outlast Satan’s onslaught on them.

Acts 14:4 says the God granted signs and wonders to show the truth. We can not only pray, but rely on the power of God through prayer. Besides your words, you can also witness by your character and how you handle suffering and persecution.

 

2. In Acts 14:6, what is significant here about them “leaving” for Lycaonia?

A: Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe were all in the large province of Galatia. Galatia was so large that it was split into five districts including Phrygia and Lycaonia. According to the Roman writers Cicero and Pliny’s Natural History 5.25, all three cities were in Lycaonia. However, the archaeologist Sir William Ramsay showed that Iconium was a part of Phrygia from 37 A.D. to 72 A.D., a relatively short period of time. So not only did these events happen at this time, but this would indicate the author, Luke, would have to live at this time to know this, as later they were all in Lycaonia. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.433 and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.210 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 14:8-13, how surprised would pagans be at seeing this miracle?

A: Perhaps not as surprised as we might expect. They thought that their gods and goddesses could do miracles, so they tried to fit Paul’s miracles as like one of the miracles of their gods.

 

4. In Acts 14:11-13, how is this Satanic attack worse than others?

A: If Paul and Barnabas had simply done nothing and not responded, the focus would be on Christ’s servants and not Christ. That could almost have happened, since Paul and Barnabas did not know what they were shouting in their local language. This would have been on interpreting the power as done by pagan idols instead of the true God. Today a work of God can focus too much on the people doing the work, and not on God. Then it is easy for Satan to “co-opt” or hijack the ministry to do his purposes. See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1624-1625 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 14:12-14, why would the Lystrans think Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes?

A: Ovid was a Latin poet who lived from 43 B.C. to 18 A.D., about 50 years before Paul and Barnabas. Ovid is the only writer to record this, but in his eighth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (lines 626 ff.) that Zeus and Hermes came to Lystra unrecognized, and visited an elderly couple named Philemon and Baucis. They shared their home, while nobody else would. Zeus and Hermes destroyed the other houses, but changed their home into a temple with marble columns and a golden roof. They became caretakers of the temple. The gods granted their wish, that when one would die the other would as well. When they died they were turned into intertwining trees. So of all the Greek gods, this is likely why the Phrygians thought they might be Zeus and Hermes.

   Bulls and garlands were sacrificed to Zeus and Hermes according to Ovid’s Metamorphoses 4 755, Persis Sat. 2 44 Vergil’s Aeneid 5 366 Euripides Heracles 529 according to The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.307.

   F.F. Bruce in The New Testament Documents : Are They Reliable? 5th edition p.96 and the Evangelical commentary on the Bible p.906 says that an inscription at Sedasa near Lystra (c.250 A.D.) records the dedication to Zeus of a statue of Hermes by men with Lycaonian names.

   Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.) in Exhortation to the Heathen ch.4 p.186 gives a number of other examples of people being called gods or even a specific god. He says that Ceux, son of Eolus, was called Zeus by his wife Alcyone. Her husband called her Hera. Ptolemy IV was called Dionysius. Alexander wanted to be considered a son of the Egyptian god Ammon and have horns on his statues. Menecraetes the doctor took the name of Zeus. The grammarian Alexarchus wanted to be known as the sun-god. Nocagors of Zela was called Hermes and used to dress as Hermes. He also cites various other people who were worshiped as god.

   So the two choices were that Paul and Barnabas were Hermes and Zeus, or that they were imposters. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1091 points out that in their particular pagan worldview, those were the only two choices possible.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.391-392, the Geneva Study Bible p.1737, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.211, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.435 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 14:14, why did Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes?

A: There are three views.

1. This was their way to try to show the Lystrans that they had on ordinary clothes and they were just ordinary men.

2. It was a normal sign or grief of distress, according to the New Geneva Study Bible p.1737, or of protest and sorrow as the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1625 says.

3. It was a Jewish custom to tear their robes when they heard blasphemy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.392 teaches this view and adds that the rips were made four to five inches into the neckline of the clothes. The person would still be modestly dressed, but the clothes would be ruined after that.

 

7. In Acts 14:2,19, what is it about people that could have a crowd turn from wanting to worship Paul and Barnabas to stoning Paul and leaving him for dead?

A: Their greatest cheerleaders turned into their greatest critics and persecutors. This illustrates fickleness at its most extreme. Perhaps the Lystran perspective was like this.

   Some Lystrans wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods. A second group might have wondered if they were imposters.

1. For the first group, Paul and Barnabas made them look foolish.

2. For the second group, they did not want imposter gods. When others claimed Barnabas and Paul were Zeus and Hermas, and the people found out that Barnabas and Paul were not (because they told them), then they leapt to the conclusion that Barnabas and Paul were imposters.

3. For all Lystrans, Paul and Barnabas advocated turning from their traditional idol worship to follow a “new” God, for whom they could not make idols.

4. Idol priests who made money from sacrifices would not want to hear this.

5. Idol worshippers who were basically told that their past offerings were money that was wasted, would not want to hear this.

Sadly, it is often more comfortable to believe a lie, when the truth involves admitting that you were wrong in the past and wasted your resources and money.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.436 and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1092 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 14:10-20, why do you think God did not do one additional miracle, like calling fire down from heaven on the people who stoned Paul, or keeping the rocks from hitting Paul??

A: Paul stressed that he and Barnabas were just humans like them in Acts 14:14-18. Supernaturally saving them would give the impression they had superhuman defenses and reinforce that they were in fact deities too.

   Later, after Paul was stone, they returned to where Paul was stoned. While they could have taken a shortcut, only 160 miles back to Antioch in Syria, in Acts 14:21 they took they long way, retracing their steps, going back a second time to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.

It is unlikely that Paul was hurt so seriously that he was left for dead, and recovered naturally, since people with broken bones and large wounds do not easily walk somewhere. Perhaps Paul was left for dead, but recovered, but God either partially or completely healed him. Or perhaps Paul was really killed, and God resurrected him. While scripture only says Paul was left for dead, perhaps because whether God healed him of his wounds, or healed him of “death”, Paul got back to preaching either way.

 

9. In Acts 14:15-17b, why don’t you think Paul quoted the Old Testament here?

A: In Acts 14:15-17 Lystra had no synagogue, there were few Jews there. There should be a synagogue if there are at least ten Jewish men according to M. Sanhedrin 1:6 and M Pirke Aboth 3:6 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.460. See also the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.909).

The things Paul said here he did not normally say to Jews. Jews already knew that. Paul did not stress scripture nor philosophy (like later in Athens) but rather nature, and the futility of idols.

 

10. In Acts 14:19-20, how would you preach, knowing that you would be stoned, depending on what you said?

A: In a sense, one could say Paul got his “just desserts”, he got what was coming to him. As Saul of Tarsus he persecuted and killed other Christians, and now he would be persecuted and eventually killed for his faith. But Paul did not shrink from that; he was fearless. Rather than run away from the ministry he embraced his calling, and even the persecution was used to bring people to God. What would you do if you were fearless. Not fearless because God told you He would keep you from being stoned, thrown to wild beasts, or killed, but fearless because  even for the things he knew were coming, Paul knew that nothing would happen to him that God could not use for His glory. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

 

11. In Acts 14:23, why did they fast at that time?

A: In combination with their prayers, they fasted to ask God for direction in ordaining elders. It was a real challenge to appoint mature Christian men as elders, when they had only been Christians a short while.

 

12. In Acts 14:23, how long had these elders been in Christ? Should a person have been a Christian a long time before becoming an elder?

A: These people had only been Christians for weeks to at most a few months. So there was a little bit of time between Paul’s initial contact and his return for them to grow in their faith. But still, that was not much time. On the other hand, one could say that they had “walked with God” before knowing about Christ as Jews. But against this argument is that in Acts 14:15-17 Lystra had no synagogue, so there were almost no Jews in Lystra.

   1 Timothy 3:6-7, written after this, says that an elder should not be a new believer. So it is normally good for a person have been a Christian for a number of years. It is interesting that they appointed elders who lived there, and knew the language and culture, rather than “importing” elders from Antioch or Jerusalem.

 

13. In Acts 14:21b-22, why is it important for missionaries to tell the church what they did?

A: It is not boasting, rather it is telling what God did through them. One purpose is to encourage believers. But it is also to help direct them in how to pray. Finally today, it is to help the church make decisions on allocating money for missions.


Acts 15 – The Council at Jerusalem – some brief answers

 

There are two different ways to view this passage. The first way is what was decided; then second way is the idea of having a peaceful council to decide things and have all come to agreement. In the earliest days of Islam after Mohammed they had similar disagreements and resolutions, except they did not call they councils; they were battles. (i.e., the Battles of the Camel, Siffin, Harra, and Karbala).

 

1. In Acts 15:1-29, was Peter the “Pope” of the first church council, as some Roman Catholics would like to say?

A: No. Peter was a leader in this church council but not the sole leader. In support of this is the following.

1. The dispute was brought before the apostles and others in Acts 15:4,6.

2. Peter spoke in Acts 15:7-11, but others spoke too in Acts 15:1; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:5.

3. Peter did not have the last word, Paul and Barnabas (supporting Peter) spoke next in Acts 15:12

4. The very last word was given by James, who gave his “judgment” in Acts 5:13-21.

5. The letter that was sent out was not sent out as a “papal bull”, or even by Peter’s authority (Acts 15:22-29). Rather, it was sent out by the authority of all the apostles and elders.

6. Finally, the word “pope” comes from pappa for father, and Jesus said to call no man your father in Matthew 23:9.

   See When Cultists Ask p.200-201 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 15:1-6, was the entire church present, or just Paul, James, and the apostles?

A: This took place around 49 A.D. It was urgent to meet fairly quickly, so that this potential divisiveness would not fester. Also, note that the men came from Judea, but James in Acts 15:24 specifically says they gave no such commandment that you had to be circumcised first. There are two views.

Just the elders: The Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1628,1629 says that while Acts 15:6 appears that only the apostles and elders were present, Acts 15:12 seems to show it was the entire church.

The entire church: Acts 15:6 does not indicate it was anyone except the apostles and elders. The “whole assembly” in Acts 15:17 can be the assembly of the apostles and the elders. But when the decision was reached, in Acts 15:22 it was announced to the apostles, elders, and the whole church. So the leadership was transparent; the entire church could see the problem, here the different sides, see how everyone acted, and the resolution. One could see the Judaizer’s position, as Genesis 17:14 says a Jewish male is to be “cut off” from the people if they will not be circumcised. Even Exodus 12:48-49 says that foreign men living among them, who wanted to celebrate the Passover, needed to be circumcised. So, assuming the entire Old Testament was still in force (a big assumption), you could understand their point.

   As an aside, Acts 15:7 can be translated as much discussion, debate, inquiry, or questioning. Cornelius (in Acts 10:1-11:18) was alluded to in Acts 15:7, and that was ten years ago.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1293, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.393, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.223 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 15:1-3, how do the Hebrew Roots Movement and many Seventh Day Adventists carry on this combining of God’s covenant in Christ and the Old Testament Law today?

A: These two different heresies share the common them of trying to add Jesus on to the Old Covenant laws. You can tell if someone is in the Hebrew Roots Movement because they claim to follow Christ, yet they will not affirm that Paul was an apostle from God. They will typically write “G_d” or “g_d” instead of “God”. They believe in keeping the Sabbath (Saturday) and in keeping the Mosaic dietary laws. They believe that Jesus merely added on to the Mosaic Law.

   Seventh-Day Adventists do not all believe identically, but the more “traditional” ones deny the Trinity, keep the Mosaic dietary laws, and keep the Sabbath (Saturday). They believe the mark of the beast is in the world today, and the mark of the beast is Sunday worship. Imagine telling your children, “I don’t know what you’re planning to do today on Sunday, but whatever it is, it better not involve worshipping God!”

 

4. In Acts 15:5, when these Pharisees became Christians, why did God not set them straight on circumcision and the Old Testament Law?

A: Scripture does not say, and God has the prerogative to reveal as much or as little as He wishes. For those who do not learn something God that has revealed already, God has the prerogative to “repeat it until they get it” or to refrain from doing so.

   While no attempt is made here to explain exactly why God does everything He does, in this case we can make some observations that provide a reasonable answer as to why God does not immediately correct all errors of all professing Christians.

Being connected to Christ, as a branch is to a vine (John 15) is apparently more important in God’s eyes more than us always having the correct answer. If a person is not connected, the main problem is not their wrong answers but the fact that they are not connected.

We were made to need each other in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:17-19,21-26). Each believer has something to contribute to the body, and each believer lacks something that they can only get by being connected to each other.

A temptation Christians have is to let opinions on secondary issues become so important to us, that we fail to obey God’s command to love others and to work together. For whatever reason, God has not removed this or other temptations. It is always possible, if we let this happen, for secondary doctrinal issues to make a shipwreck of our faith, our collective witness, and our unity among other true Christians.

Unity in Christ despite our different opinions is a challenge God has given us. With one heart and mouth we (still) are to glorify God (Romans 15:5-6). Unity would be much easier if all Christians had identical opinions. Given that we do not, Christ’s prayer was that we would still be one (John 17:21-23). The Bible never says we are to create a unity that is not there. Rather, Ephesians 4:3 says we have the responsibility to “preserve the unity of the Spirit.” There were differences of doctrine among believers in Romans 14. Paul accepted believers who believed both ways on those secondary issues, and we should accept other believers just as Christ accepted them (Romans 15:7).

Timing and priorities are often different with God than with us. We may want others to be corrected on a particular detail immediately, while God wants the person to work on other areas first.

Summary: Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). God is more concerned with those who know the primary truth of the gospel obeying him, loving others, and having unity with other true Christians, and with us being correct on all secondary issues.

 

5. In Acts 15:9 how are our hearts purified by faith?

A: God pronounced His people purified in his sight when Jesus died for us on the cross. Peter said it was “through the grace of the lord Jesus” not “grace plus the law”. However, we need to experience purification in this life. By God’s grace through our faith, not only did God save and justify us, but God is making us pure and sanctifying us.

   While no one except Jesus will have a sinlessly pure heart until we get to heaven, we are to be undergoing the process of purification now on earth. Purification is not something we can do alone, but something God does to us as we submit to Him. Purification occurs not when we focus on the sin repeating “I am not going to do that, I am not going to do that, etc.” but rather by faith when we fix our eyes upon Jesus as Colossians 3:1-4 urges us to do. It is significant that the beautiful picture in Colossians 3:1-4 is almost a preparation for a battle (actually a fight to the death) against our sinful nature in Colossians 3:5-10.

 

6. In Acts 15:14-21, what is a summary of James’ speech?

A: In Acts 15:14-18 James was explain the recent work among the Gentiles by correlating a history of what happened to prophecy in the old Testament. In Acts 15:19-21, James concludes what should be done, and what restrictions (and lack of restrictions) should be placed upon Gentile believers. It is interesting that James speaks of eating food offered to idols and eating blood in the same thought as the evil of sexual immorality.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 320-321.

 

7. In Acts 15:15-17, why would James’ quote of Amos 9:11-12 agree with the Septuagint and not the Masoretic text? Here is Amos 9:11a, 12.

Masoretic: “In that day, … That they may possess (yaras in Hebrew), the remnant of Edom (Edom is ‘dm in the Hebrew) and all the nations who are called by My name, says the Lord who does these things.”

Septuagint: “in that day  … that the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, saith the Lord who does all these things.”

Acts 15:17a “After this … That the remnant of men (Adam is ‘dm in Hebrew) may seek (daras in Hebrew) the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear My name, says the Lord who does these things”

Midrash 4Q Florigium 1:21. ?

A: This is difficult because the old Testament was originally written without vowels, and the consonants for “Edom” and “Adam” (‘dm, translated as men” are the same. The work for possess, yaras is only one consonant away from the Hebrew for seek, daras. This quote is in a Hebrew Midrash manuscript found in the Dead Sea Scrolls called 4Q Florigium 1.12, and is similar to, but not identical to the Septuagint. The Masoretic text has “they will inherit of men” and “the remnant” is the subject, vs. the Septuagint and 4Q Florigium have “they will seek of men” and “the remnant” is the object. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.447 for more info.

In summary, James’ quote agrees with the Hebrew 4Q Florigium 1:21. The Masoretic is not always the best copy.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.394, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1629, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.90, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.447 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 15:16, what is the tabernacle of David?

A: The NIV translates this as “rebuild David’s fallen tent.” Just like we would refer to the house of so-and-so when speaking of their family, more nomadic cultures would refer to tents. This verse is a reminder of God’s promise about David’s family line. The importance of David’s throne is mentioned in 2 Samuel 7:16 and Psalm 89:4. Christ would sit on a throne in Matthew 19:28; 25:31. The point of quoting this was in the next verse, about the Gentiles who would bear God’s name. It seems that God delights in restoring something that is fallen; but He often restores it in a different way than the original. Some see this as fulfilled in the church; others see this as fulfilled in the Millennium. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.133-134 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.394-395 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 15:20, are blood transfusions wrong?

A: No, Scripture does not say this. They did not have the concept of blood transfusions then. They were not introducing any new rules, but the meaning of their terse statements “abstaining from blood” clearly meant that they taught the Old Testament regulations about eating blood were still valid. Receiving your own blood in a transfusion is not cannibalism against yourself, and receiving a blood transfusion from someone else is not cannibalism either, as nothing is “eaten”. See When Cultists Ask p.201-202 for more info, and When Critics Ask p.433-435 for a more extensive discussion.

 

10. In Acts 15:20 and Acts 21:25, why would they have these four prohibitions here?

A: First of all, James was not talking about salvation, but about practice and fellowship with the Jewish believed, and what the Gentiles should obey. Here are two possible answers. Let’s look at both, and then decided which one is correct.

Possible answer 1: Cultural sensitivity to avoid giving offense: Sometimes a Christian might not do something, at least in public, because it would hurt the conscience of others and they would think the Christian wrong. For example, in Andra Pradesh in India in the 21st century, a Hindu threw a beef bone inside a church. Then Hindus accused Christians of secretly eating beef inside the church, and based on the evidence of the beef bone, the church was torn down by the village people. In times of persecution Christians might not do things that would bring immediate persecution upon themselves that are not involved with preaching the gospel. In some churches men and women site separate in church, because it would seem culturally scandalous for them to sit together. However, avoiding sexual immorality (porneia in Greek) is the same for all Christians around the world. A counter argument is that many Christians think drinking blood (such as blood soup in Germany and China) is OK, and perhaps mentioning porneia here was to emphasize avoiding even the slightest appearance of sexual immorality. Some who cast this as only ceremonial things re-interpret this to mean just close-kin relationships banned in Leviticus. However, the Greek here would be interpreted by a Gentile Christian as immorality in general, so this interpretation is rather “force-fitted” to support the conclusion.

Possible answer 2: Regular morality: All Christians, even today, should not do any of these things. Not eating food that we know has been sacrificed to idols is not eating food polluted by idols is also in Revelation 2:14,20. Forbidding sexual immorality is throughout both the Old Testament and New. The prohibition against eating blood, while in the Mosaic Law too, actually goes all the way back to Noah in Genesis 9:4. Animals that are strangled, with the blood not drained, is implicitly in Leviticus 17:10-14.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1630, 1632-1633 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 15:22-29, why didn’t Paul repeat the decree of the Council when he wrote to the Galatians?

A: First what is likely not the answer, then the primary answer, and then a secondary answer.

Not the answer: It is possible that Paul visited and wrote to the Galatians, in central Asia Minor, prior to the Jerusalem council. However, most Christian scholars think the Jerusalem Council occurred about 49 A.D., and Paul wrote to the Galatians between 53 to 59 A.D.

Primary answer: Paul did mention his discussions in Jerusalem in Galatians 2:2-10, but only part of it. Galatians 2:2-10. The Galatians accepted that both he and Peter were apostles, and Paul mentioned Peter and him reaching agreement. It is unclear that the Council was public or if it was actually private and only the final decree was public. Finally, he did not know what men who claimed to be from James said. So Paul emphasized what Peter told him himself.

Secondary answer: If Paul had repeated the decree of the council, it is unclear that they would have believed it or accepted it. For centuries after Paul’s time there were heretics called Ebionites, who taught said they believed in Jesus and taught that all believers still had to follow all the Mosaic Law. They said that Jesus was called God only has a title of honor. Also, Peter, technically speaking, was not disobeying the decree of the council when he did not eat with Gentiles when some Jews came.

   See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.908 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 15:28, since it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, why was it relevant whether or not it seemed good to them also?

A: This indicates they knew it was what the Holy Spirit wanted. While they would not want to go against the Holy Spirit, is would not do for the Holy Spirit to want them to obey and do something and nobody know what was wanted.

   Likewise, today God knows what is good or not. However, we still need our judgment to discern what is best from God’s perspective.

   As an aside, Judas Barsabbas is an interesting name. “Barsabbas” means son of the Sabbath, so possibly he was born on the Sabbath, but almost certainly he was a Jewish believer.

 

13. In Acts 15:29, are these commands still valid for Christians today?

A: Christians agree the commands on sexual immorality have not changed, but they disagree on the commands on food sacrificed to idols, blood, and the meat of strangled animals. All agree that the letter from the apostles was binding on all Christians at that time, and keeping these would not give offense to Jewish people (both Christian and non-Christian).

1. Some genuine Christians see that as this letter was from the apostles, and they never said it was only for a period of time, so all of these are binding today. This is generally the way Christians in the second and third centuries viewed these commands. This is my view too.

   For example, The Octavius of Minucius Felix (c.210 A.D.) ch.30 p.192 says that Christians did not even use blood of eatable animals in their food. Other pre-Nicene Christians who said that Christians did not partake of blood were Justin Martyr (150 A.D.), Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.), Tertullian (198-220 A.D.), and Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.)

2. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.527-530 for the view that the sexual restrictions are binding, and the dietary restrictions are subject to the conscience of ourselves and the people we do not want to stumble. While the letter was binding at that time, the absolute ban on meat sacrificed to idols was later said to be a matter of conscience by Paul.

 

14. In Acts 15:37-40, who was right, and how did this turn out?

A: From the perspective of Barnabas, John Mark was his cousin, and perhaps Barnabas saw that Mark had truly repented of deserting them. From the perspective of Paul, for this ministry it is critical to have someone who was battle-tested (and passed), who not only could be relied upon, but Paul knew could be relied upon. Paul probably did not know Mark as well as Barnabas did.

   From God’s perspective the separation worked out for God’s glory. Silas (=Silvanus) and Timothy were added as co-workers of Paul. Church history tells us that Barnabas and Mark went down to Egypt and evangelized there. A couple of centuries later Egypt became one main centers of Christianity, the other three being Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople. Paul and Mark were reconciled in 2 Timothy 4:11.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1294-1295 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1631 for more info.


Acts 16 – When in Prison – Praise God – some brief answers

 

1. How do you think Paul felt going back yet again to a town where they stoned him and left him for dead?

A: Perhaps Paul had some fear that they would do again what they had already shown they were willing to do. Or perhaps Paul did not give it a second thought. A third view is that that painful memory did come to mind when Paul entered the city again, but Paul decided he didn’t care. Perhaps after all he did against Christians, and God’s wonderful grace, Paul might have thought that following God was going to bring more hardship and death before he went to heaven, and Paul might as well get busy, finish what God wanted him to do, and get it over with.

   There might be places and people that are rather painful memories for you. But if God called you to go back, hopefully God’s love in your heart is greater than your memories.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1632 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 16:1-5, why did Paul and Silas circumcise Timothy after affirming that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and not circumcising Titus?

A: Paul knew Timothy did not need to be circumcised, but this “elective circumcision” was to placate the Jews. This is really three questions: why did Paul do it, was Paul correct to do it, and today what principles should we follow.

1. Why did Paul circumcise Timothy?

Paul did it to mollify the Jews who knew Timothy was not circumcised like a Jew should be. Paul wanted to remove a stumbling block to the Jews accepting the gospel. Within reason, we are to be all things to all people in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. For a second example, Paul would even stop eating certain meat if it meant not causing a person to fall in 1 Corinthians 8:13 and Romans 14:20-21.

2. Should Paul have circumcised Timothy?

Paul was an apostle, but that does not mean he never had an error in judgment. Yes, I am sure it mollified the Jews, but at a cost. Many Jews never got the message that the gospel superseded the law, and we were no longer under law but under grace. Many Jews came into the church as “Judaizers”, and never got the message straight. Acts 16:1-5 says this was at Lystra near Derbe and Iconium. All these towns are in Galatia, and there were problems with them turning back to the law according to the Book of Galatians. Though Paul earlier had circumcised Timothy in Galatia simply to placate the Jews, later ended up telling the Galatians “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” (Galatians 5:2)

3. What principles can we learn from this and follow today?

3.1 Yes we should compromise and follow the principle of being all things to all people, but we should not neglect the higher principle of not compromising the message. Circumcising Timothy might have made evangelism appear easier, but at a cost of non-believers getting in the church and young Christians being confused. Likewise, we can appear more effective in evangelism if we never talk about Hell or the lordship of Christ. But is watering down the gospel really what obedient ambassadors want to do?

3.2 When you want to make a compromise to make it easier to share the gospel, ask yourself why. If it is not related to the gospel, then go ahead and make it. If it directly relates to the gospel then do not make it. If it indirectly relates to the gospel, such as food will get you closer or farther from God, then see the next point.

3.3 There is a better way to make a compromise in Romans 14:15-16. Do not do the activity that causes your brother to stumble, but on the other hand do not allow it to be spoken of as evil.

3.4 Even leaders such as Peter and Paul can mess up and make bad decisions. These decisions can so bad that they can have consequences that can confuse new Christians. We should show the leaders their errors, and we can broadcast the correction to the extent of the people who have been misled by the problem, as Paul did with Peter in Galatians 1. However, as long as they do not do things that disqualify them from office they are still our leaders. If you think any Christian leader is perfect, that just means you do not know that Christian leader very well. None of us are perfect, and we should all be struggling to be more Christ-like.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1094 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 16:3, was it right for Paul to circumcise Timothy, just for others’ approval, since 1 Cor 7:18-19, says circumcision is nothing, and Gal 5:2-3 says we should not get circumcised

A: There are five different views.

a) Different issue: Paul and Timothy never believed circumcision would justify Timothy. It was not done for religious reasons, but it was done so as not to give offense to the Jews. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.398 for more info.

b) An earlier time: Paul circumcised Timothy long before writing 1 Corinthians and Galatians. God apparently had not yet revealed to Paul that Christians should not be circumcised for religious reasons. God does not expect someone to obey a command God has not yet given.

c) Paul was inconsistent: Paul made a mistake by circumcising Timothy because it gave the appearance to the Jews of being for religious reasons. After Paul later realized his mistake, he wrote 1 Corinthians 7:18-19 and Galatians 5:2-3. Paul specifically mentioned not circumcising Titus in Galatians 2:3.

   It should come as no surprise that the apostles were not perfect. Peter made a somewhat similar mistake in not eating with Gentiles in Galatians 2:11-14.

d) Not to stumble others: Paul circumcised Timothy earlier because he did not want to stumble weaker brethren, as in Romans 14. However, as R.C. Sproul points out in Now That’s a Good Question p.588-589, when the “weaker brothers” become so strong that they tyrannize the church, Paul had to respond to this threat of legalism. See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1632 for more on this view.

e) Going into the synagogue: Timothy would be considered a Jew because his mother was a Jew. Furthermore, the verb tense indicates his father was dead. Since Paul’s method was to go to the synagogue first, and timothy would not be permitted if word were out that Timothy was never circumcised. This view is from Hard Sayings of the Bible p.530-531. While When Critics Ask p.435 acknowledges that Paul might have made a mistake, it differentiates between circumcision being necessary for salvation (which Paul never implied), and it being helpful to evangelism.

 

4. In Acts 16:6, how did the Holy Spirit keep Paul and his companions from preaching in the Roman province of Asia?

A: There is no evidence of force or coercion. Paul and his companions were obedient to God, and most likely the Holy Spirit did not allow them to have peace about going into Asia, or else the Holy Spirit simply told them not to go. Paul travelled through the outskirts of eastern Mysia (including Troas), but Paul apparently did not preach there. The city of Troy in Paul’s time was south of the classical city of Troy. Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.370-371 adds that this prohibition was only until the fitting time arrived. Alternately, some think that sickness was the means the Holy Spirit used to keep Paul from there. Sometimes today the Holy Spirit moves our spirit to let us know that we should or should not do something.

   This could be termed “double guidance”, where God says, “don’t do that, do this instead.”. other examples of double guidance are that David Livingstone tried to go to China, but God instead sent him to Africa. William Carey wanted to go to Polynesia, but God sent him to India instead. Adoniram first went to India, but did not stay and went to Burma (Myanmar) instead. God apparently tells you as much as you need to know, only when you need to know it.

   Apparently God had other plans for the Bithynians and those in the province of Asia (including the Ephesians). They heard the gospel later, as Acts18:19-21, 18:24-19:41; and 1 Peter 1:1 show.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.241-242,243, When Critics Ask p.435, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.342, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1095, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1633, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.398 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 16:6-7, how should we react when God says “no” to something that we know is sinful, even if it might would further His kingdom?

A: To still want to do it is disobedience. Don’t be like Balaam whom God used a donkey to warn in Numbers 22, and Balaam still desired the money anyway. Furthering God’s kingdom is not our primary goal. Our primary goal is glorifying God by loving and obeying Him. Whether spiritually, in business, or in other ways, people, who are fallen, are very prone to take their eyes off the goal, and confuse one means of working towards a goal with the goal itself.

 

6. In Acts 16:9, was the man in the vision Luke?

A: No. The NIV Study Bible p.1676 says there is no indication that it was. On the contrary, in Acts 16:11, Luke uses the pronoun “we” when speaking of Paul and his companions going to Europe for the first time, so Luke was with Paul here. There is also a speculation that Paul first met Luke here, going to him for medical reasons. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.456,458 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 16:14, why did Lydia need to have her heart opened to respond to Paul’s message, since she already worshipped God?

A: We all need our hearts open to respond to the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works in people according to John 16:8-11. None, and that includes those who are naturally the best among men, seek God on their own, as Romans 3:10 indicates. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says that the gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. We need to pray that it be unveiled for them. Acts 16:14 simply records the marvelous news that the Holy Spirit worked in Lydia so that she would accept the Gospel. While there is no hint of coercion on God’s part, the work of the Holy Spirit is essential for someone to become born again.

   As an aside, Thyatira was a city of the country of Lydia prior to the Romans conquering it. In Paul’s time the Romans incorporated it in their province of Asia, but it was still a Lydian city. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.460-461 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 16:16-18, why was Paul troubled by the possessed slave girl saying they were from God?

A: Scripture does not say. Scripture said she had a “pythonic” spirit, meaning possessed by a python spirit from the Greek demon Apollo. Here are a few theories about why Paul was troubled.

1. She spoke in a style that would drive people away. Or perhaps she was constantly shouting distracting form Paul’s message.

2. She was saying this in a positive way, so that after Paul left, they would believe the demon-possessed girl was one of them and follow her teaching later. She was co-opting their message.

3. The demon wanted everyone to know that Paul was trying to convert Gentiles (thee was a Roman law against that), and telling Roman citizens not to worship the Emperor or Roman gods.

   It is easy for people to hear our message incorrectly, and think that Jesus is “a way of salvation”. By people believing the true things that slave girl said, it would give legitimacy in the eyes of others that following Apollo was also good.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1634 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 16:19, what Paul effectively did was exorcise the source of income of the slave girl’s masters. When in our own lives should we “exorcise our source of income” because it is not pleasing to God?

A: Luke used the same verb twice. When the spirit had “gone out” of the girl, the source of income had “gone out” of them. This can be quite painful if we value the money, prosperity, and security as more important than glorifying God. But you can have a better attitude by realizing that if it not pleasing to God, then it was never yours to make in the first place.

   If people use deception, the occult, or someone’s desperation, or even religion to get more from people, we should help the victims, and future potential victims, by exposing that. If in our lives we have a source of incomes from something displeasing to God, we should cut off that source of income. That might mean taking a financial loss and stopping it, not just selling it to someone else to make money off of it.

   Notice that this girl was possessed by a demon, and when she was freed form it, the owners, not caring at all about her well-being, were made that they lost income. This would not be the last time evil people would rather have others suffer rather than lose some income. There is no indication that the owners cared about the religious aspect at all; they just wanted to get Paul for diminishing their income.

   Sometimes a person might think that if their career is not robbing people, stealing, or murdering others, then their career is good. But what if you work at a regular job, as an accountant, programmer, factory worker, etc. for a company that you know that is robbing, stealing, or murdering others (including unborn babies), and your work is helping them achieve their goal. Then you need to “exorcise” that job out of your life.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.247, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1095, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.463, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1635, and The Greek Expositor’s Testament vol.2 p.349 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 16:19, when another believer is making money in a way not pleasing to God, how do we tell them to exorcise their income?

A: Acts only tells us of two places where Gentiles harmed Paul and Silas: here and at Ephesus in Acts 19:19:23-41. In both places the main issue was loss of income. Satan used two different techniques here: false friendship and open war, according to the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1636.

   Imagine you told another person, “I have exorcised you from needing to practice your profession. In fact, I went to the enforcing body and you will be unable to practice your chosen profession any more. You can thank me later.” How would that go over?

See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.401 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 16:21, how do you handle it when you are not supposed to preach?
A: The Roman Empire allowed people to have their own religion, but they were not allowed to try to convert Roman citizens, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.400.

 

12. In Acts 16:25, what does this teach us about pain and praise?

A: Paul and Barnabas were in a dark cell, with their bodies beaten and their backs bloody. The jailer cleaned Paul’s newly acquired wounds in Acts 16:33. Hope they did not usually sleep on the back! The situation did not look very hopeful, and they had no idea of the outcome. But they praised God, not in sunny times, but here in the midst of their pain and hopelessness. God asks us to praise Him but God wants us to praise Him in the midst of our own pain and hopelessness too, when we have no idea of the outcome.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1096 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1636 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 16:26-28, is there any extra-Biblical evidence for this earthquake?

A: No. However:

1. There were frequent earthquakes in this mountainous region of northern Greece and Macedonia. Here are some major earthquakes in this region. (In ancient times, reporting was very spotty.)

403 A.D.  Constantinople (Chrysostom exiled)

856 A.D.  Corinth, Greece      45,000 dead

1858         Corinth, Greece          

1928         Corinth, Greece          

3/18/1953 NW Turkey 1,200 dead 7.2 Richter Scale

7/26/1963 Skopje, North Macedonia 1,100 dead 6.0 on the Richter Scale

   As for minor quakes, the Encyclopedia Britannica reports for Greece and Turkey that:

Between 1902 and 1946 there were 58 quakes

Between 1947 and 1966 there were 82 quakes

Between 1967 and 1976 there were 45 quakes

Between 1977 and 1981 there were   9 quakes

2. But this was no ordinary earthquake. The building stood, but the chains miraculously broke off. It could have just been local to the prison area.

As for how all the doors could be opened, in some Turkish prisons the doors were merely closed by bars. An earthquake could have forced the doorposts apart.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.351 for more info.

 

14. In Acts 16:34, how would you feel being the house guest of the man who put you in stocks?

A: Just prior to this in Acts 16:33 the jailer washed the wounds of Paul and Silas, probably to keep infection out. Naturally, it would seem very weird. But the jailer would be very grateful to them for not escaping, because the person guarding a prisoner would receive the same punishment as the prisoner if the prisoner escaped, according to the (later) Code of Justinian 9.4.4. Also, if the jailer and his family wanted to come to Christ, then it would be the only thing to do to accept. First was the physical earthquake, and then the jailer’s spirit quaked when he thought all the prisoners had escaped. As John Chrysostom noted, since the jailer and his family were washed from their sins by Christ, it was only fitting that they wash the wounds of Paul and Barnabas.

   As a side note, jailers were typically retired army veterans according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.464.

   Consider the diverse composition of the church at Philippi: a wealthy Jewish business woman, a formerly pagan, demon-possessed slave girl, and a Roman jailer, among others. When we are Christians show that we are all one in Christ, in the midst of our diversity, it glories God and is a witness to the world.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.248-249,250-251 and John Chrysostom’s Acts of the Apostles Homily 36 p.223-224 for more info.

 

15. In Acts 16:37, what was the Roman law Paul and Silas appealed to?

A: According to Valerian and Porcian laws, written between 509 B.C. and 195 B.C., a Roman citizen was not subject to local laws unless he consented. The Roman citizen could avoid death, torture, or being put in bonds by appealing to Caesar, who would then decide the case. As for why they would scourge Paul before first asking if he was a Roman citizen, a similar event occurred to a Roman citizen, who was scourged for a while even after he cried out, according to Cicero In Verrine Orations., 2.5.161-162. But if a magistrate did beat a Roman citizen when they were not supposed to, that could prevent the magistrate from ever holding Roman office again.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.350 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.466 for more info.

 


Acts 17:1-18 – The Hunters and Seed Pickers – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 17:6, what extra-Biblical evidence is there for this strange Greek word for “city-ruler” (politarch)?

A: There used to be none whatsoever. However, archaeologists first discovered the word in 1835 in an arch outside of Thessalonika. The term has since been found in sixteen or seventeen other places, but only for cities in Macedonia. As an aside, it must have seemed strange for these Jews to pretend to be so incensed about the need to defend the reputation of the Roman Empire. For a list of these places see Burton in American Journal of Theology July 1898 p.598-632. See the Rose Book of Charts, Maps & Time Lines p.117 for a photograph of one of them. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.360, The NIV Study Bible p.1679, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.469, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1637 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 17:11, why were the Bereans more noble than the Thessalonians, for not trusting Paul as much?

A: They were more noble because they critically compared Paul’s words with the Old Testament. The Thessalonians’ faith was not any less valid. Today, a Christian’s faith is still valid if they have simply believed what their Christian friends and family have told them. However, it is better to examine the facts, and see all the evidence for faith.

 

3. In Acts 17:14-15, did Paul go to Athens [allegedly] alone leaving Silas and Timothy behind in Berea, or did Paul send Timothy back to Thessalonica as 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 indicates?

A:First of all, we do not know if Paul had originally planned to go to Athens, which at that time probably had a population no greater than 10,000. At this time it had lost all political influence, but was the “intellectual capital” of Greece. It was basically a “historical temple town” and a college town. Paul might have intended to follow the 500-mile long Egnatian Way to the Adriatic Sea and go straight to Rome. But unrest of Thessalonika might have worked to turn him south to Athens. There are two different responses that effectively answer this question, though I prefer the second.

No proof of Timothy being in Athens: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 never said Timothy was with Paul in Athens. Rather, it only says that Paul sent Timothy. Paul could have told Timothy to go by letter, or verbally through another worker. People, then and now, delegate things to others through messages all the time.

Timothy could have gone to Athens and then left: Acts 17:14-15 says that Paul first went to Athens, but he waited for them in Athens. So, Paul went to Mars Hill before Timothy and Silas came to Athens, they came to Athens, and then Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica.

So after Timothy went to Berea either

a) he went to Athens after Paul, then was told by Paul to go back to Thessalonica.

b) he stayed in Berea and was told by letter or messenger to go back to Thessalonica.

c) on the way to traveling to Athens, he was told by letter or messenger to go back to Thessalonica.

This is one of the details that Acts does not tell us.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.472-473 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 17:16, why would Paul be provoked seeing all those beautiful sculptures? How should we feel when we see artistic, well-crafted temples and altars?

A: Worst case, think of the meticulous, professional article of the Mayan temples, with their well-design pools at the bottom to throw the dead bodies of the human sacrifices. Now the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and others did not practice human sacrifice. Xenophon, by the way, referred to Athens as one great altar and sacrifice. He sarcastically said that it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. There were likely more altars in Athens than in the rest of Greece combined. But these idolatrous temples and altars but people in spiritual bondage to their “gods” who were really demons. Think also of the architect of the beautiful Taj Mahal. This was not a religious temple but a mausoleum for a ruler’s much-beloved wife. He wanted to make sure nothing else would be built to rival it, so he rewarded the architect for his good job by executing him. God might look more at the moral side of things, while many people look only at the physical side. The Greek word for Paul being “distressed” here, is a medical term that can also refer to a seizure or an epileptic fit. Perhaps we should look more at the moral side too.

   The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.273 says that maybe we do not speak like Paul because we do not feel like Paul did. We do not feel like Pau did, because we do not see like Paul did.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.259-261 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 17:16, what are three responses Paul could have done, and which one did he choose to do?

A: Three responses are fight, flight, or engage. Emotionally, Paul could have operated out of anger, fear, or love. Paul chose to engage them because of his love for God and them. See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.262-263 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 17:18-34, why did Paul quote truth from pagan sources? Specifically, the poet Epimenides (600 B.C.) of Knossos, Crete in Cretica as Zeus’ son Minos say, “in him we live and move and have our being” and the Cilician poet Aratus (c.315-240 B.C.) in Phaenomena, and the Stoic Cleanthes of Assos (331-233 B.C.) in Hymn to Zeus “We are his offspring”

A: Paul’s quotes were both intentional and understood as such by his listeners. Paul was establishing a point of common ground many for which many of his listeners could relate. Aratus wrote, “It is with Zeus that every one of us in every way has to do, for we are also his offspring” Clement of Alexandria, in Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 1 ch.14 p.313, has an interesting thought on this. He says Paul quoted true statements of Greek poets to edify some and shame others. Perhaps Paul wanted to point out how curious it was that semi-atheistic Epicureans and Pantheistic Stoics would worship and write hymns to Greek idols. See When Critics Ask under Titus 1:12 p.507-508, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.403, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.476, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.269-270, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.911 for more on quoting from pagan sources.

 

7. In Acts 17:23-30, since Paul proclaimed to the Greeks the unknown god they had some sense of, do other religions today have an unknown god that they sense, or as one person put it, “the hidden Christ of Hinduism”?

A: This idea and phrase came from Raymond Panikkar in “The Unknown Christ of Hinduism p.137. This is as wrong as saying that Baal worshippers really worshipped in true God of Israel. Paul did not commend their worship, but rather their candid admission that they did not know of a particular God. How close or far a non-believe is from Christ, or what they did for a false god vs. seeking the one True God are not details we need to ascertain. Rather, Paul is “in a spasm” when he saw all the gods and alters in Athens in Acts 17:16. Paul knew they need to turn from idols, whose offerings are to demons, not to God, in 1 Corinthians 10:19. Paul said, “Therefore my beloved, flee from idolatry.” in 1 Corinthians 10:14. We must keep ourselves from idols in 1 John 5:21.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.267-268 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 17:18-34, did Paul later regret this approach when he emphasized that he preached nothing but Christ to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 1:18-2:8, his next stop after Athens?

A: While people disagree on this, some think he did.

In Athens, Paul started by relating to their religion, showed some of the good truths to respect in their religion, showed some of the inconsistency of their idol worship, and differentiated the truth of Christ.

In Corinth, Paul emphasized that worldly wisdom cannot be gradually altered to come to Christ, that he preached Christ alone, and he wanted their faith to rest on God’s power, not human wisdom.

Regardless, Paul preached Christ, used scripture, spoke to the people’s needs, still demolished arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5), and tried to be all things to all people in order to save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

It is interesting to contrast three of Paul’s sermons:

1) Pisidian Antioch (actually in Phrygia, not Pisidia though) Acts 13:16-43

2) Lystra had no synagogue Acts 14:15-17

3) Athens Acts 17:22-31, Acts 20:18-35; see 1 Corinthians 2:2-5

   See the discussion on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:8 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 17:18-34, what is the evidence that Paul was not successful?

A: The view that Paul was disappointed with the results in Athens was made popular by Sir William Ramsay, according to The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.272-273. However, N.B. Stonehouse writes that this is “untenable”. Four points to consider in the answer.

 1. The church must have been insignificant in one of the leading cities of Greece; only two people were mentioned, and he never wrote to that church. On the other hand, though Athens and its university were considered a cultural and educational capital of the Roman world, the population of Athens was only about 10,000.

2. There is little evidence from church history of the importance of the church in Athens.

3. In Acts 17:18, some criticized Paul as a “seed-picker”, an eclectic who took words from differing sources to form his own philosophy.

4. When Paul came from Athens to Corinth, he came in weakness, fear, and much trembling in 1 Corinthians 2:3.

   The Athenians wanted to listen to him, and though they disagreed and were condescending towards Paul, they did not persecute him. Some love to debate about God and spiritual things, but are never willing to commit to anything. Some reject the gospel because they think it false, but others reject the gospel because they think it trivial. They think that because they have a “God-substitute”. An idol is anything that is a God-substitute. Sometimes even an ideology can be an idol-ology.

   But at least on the positive side, the Jews that were chasing Paul from town to town apparently did not dare to try to stop him once he got to pagan Athens. Athens was ashamed that centuries ago they put the philosopher Socrates to death. Since then, they were eager to let all schools speak, and since they considered Paul a philosopher, they would be more likely to harm persecutors of a philosopher than a philosopher.

Conclusion: The evidence is not conclusive that Paul was totally unsuccessful. However, it is an established fact that the church in Athens was much smaller and less influential than the Greek churches of Philippi, Thessalonika, and Corinth.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.402-403, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1097, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.273, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.911 for more info.


 

Acts 17:18-34 – Opposing Rival Philosophies of the Day – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 17:18, what were they accusing Paul of being?

A: The word here, sometimes translated as “babbler” actually had a more specific meeting. It was used of birds who collected various seeds, and people who were scrap collectors. They were in essence accusing Paul of having no original ideas, but instead picking up bits of wisdom here and there and presenting them as though they were something new.

   It is interesting that the Athenian philosophers themselves were accused of just sitting around wanting to hear new ideas. Not only did Luke say this in Acts 17:21, but Thucydides History 2.38.5 says of the Athenians, “You are the best people at being deceived by something new that is said.” Later when the Macedonians were about to conquer Athens, the Athenian Demosthenes accused the Athenians for always asking for new ideas. Philip 1.10.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.367, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.264-265, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.911, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.403-404, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.474, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1638 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 17:18, how did Paul try to reach the Epicureans, who came from Epicurus of Samos (341-270 B.C.)?

A: Epicurus believed the two main things man could be conscious of were pain and pleasure. He said the chief end of man was to maximize pleasure and happiness. He believed that the gods, if they existed at all, were irrelevant to mankind, and matter and chance were primary causes. http://www.nidlink.com (October 29, 2002) says that Epicurus was novel in allowing women and slaves in his school.

   Epicureans believed only material atoms lasted forever, and there was no afterlife. Epicurus and Chrysippus said either there is no god at all, or if there is, he cares only for himself, according to Theophilus’ Letter to Autolycus book 2 ch.4 p.95.

   Both the Stoics and Epicureans believed the world will be destroyed in fire according to The Octavius of Minucius Felix (210 A.D.) ch.34 p.194. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the chief goals of Epicurus was to remove from man the fear of the gods. People should be free from the fear of death and judgment. The Epicureans did not have much ethical teaching. There were two types of Epicureans: original and “mutated”. The original Epicureans believed in moderation. For example, both starvation and over-eating caused pain. The later, mutated Epicureans were party-goers who said “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” One might see today’\s followers of Ayn Rand as similar to the original Epicureans. There were few famous Epicureans, but the Roman poet Lucretius was one. For more info see The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.318-319.

   Against this, Paul mentioned the following.

1) It was God, not chance who made the world and everything in it

2) God determines when and where people live

3) Men should seek God

4) We need to repent before God

5) God is near to us

6) God will judge the world with justice

7) Proof of the true religion: Resurrection of Jesus

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.263,268, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.538, The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.318-319, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.403 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 17:18-31, why mention idols to Epicureans?

A: Epicurus did not deny the existence of the Greek gods, since he wrote (Letter to Menoeceus 123) “their existence is known to us by immediate apprehension.” Other Epicureans wrote, “Fashioned of finer stuff that we, they dwell afar in the intermundial spaces (Plutarch Moralia 731 D, 734 C, Intermundia Cicero N.D. i.8). The Stoics accused Epicureans of being atheists. That accusation was not really true, but the Epicureans did not believe that gods cared about or influenced human affairs.

   The Epicureans’ main opponents were the Stoics. While Stoics were pantheists, and Epicureans were similar to atheistic rationalists, both of them had the inconsistency of denying gods, yet explicitly affirming the Greek and later Roman idols.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.366 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 17:18, how did Paul try to reach the Stoics, who came from Zeno of Citium on Cyprus (c.320-c.250 B.C.)?

A: The Stoics believed in a pantheistic force or divine soul that pervaded everything, and they believed a great purpose directed history. They did not see that pleasure was necessarily the best way to avoid pain. Sometimes one did not know how to correctly choose the best pleasure. They were fatalistic, and Josephus remarks they had many similarities to the Pharisees. Rather than believing in a divine law, they believed they should follow a “law of nature.”

   According to Athenagoras in A Plea for Christians (177 A.D.) ch.19 p.138, the Stoics say that all will be burned up and the world will receive another beginning. Tatian’s Address to the Greeks ch.6 p.67 adds that the Stoics believed everything will be destroyed, and cycle back to be as it was before.

   The stoics emphasized three things: logic, physics, and ethics, and they strove to shape people’s character to be strong through triumph and tragedy. Its four highest virtues were wisdom, courage, self-restraint, and justice. Stoicism was a significant influence. Seneca, Epictetus, and the emperor Marcus Aurelius were Stoics.

   Against Stoicism, Paul in Athens mentioned the following.

1) God made the world and everything in it; the world is not God

2) God being personal

3) God sustains us, we don’t do anything to sustain God

4) Men should seek God, not just wisdom and ethics

5) We need to repent before God

6) God will judge the world

7) Proof of the true religion: the resurrection of Jesus

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.263,268, The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.964, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1625, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.403 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 17:18-31, why did Paul mention idols to the pantheistic/ atheistic Stoics?

A: The famous philosopher Socrates was the only Greek philosopher known to be executed for not believing in the Greek gods. Since then, no other Greek philosopher stood up and said the Greek gods were false. One of Socrates’ disciples, Antisthenes, found the Cynic school, and the Stoics came from the Cynics.

One must observe the inconsistency between Stoic philosophy and the actual beliefs of the Stoics.

Stoic Philosophy: Stoicism taught that all people are derived from the one universal spirit, (not Greek idols) that pervaded matter, and that all men are brothers and equal.

Stoics: However, the Stoics were not atheists, as one of the Stoics’ prominent leaders, Cleanthes of Assos wrote the Hymn to Zeus (Zeus was Greek idol) that Paul quoted from. Stoics who believed in idols later became a life and death matter for Christians. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic who persecuted Christians, for among other things, not believing in any gods except the One True God.

Paul’s purpose: In Acts 17:18-31, Paul was probably shrewdly but implicitly pointing out the intellectual hypocrisy of hymns to Zeus and approval of Greek idols vs. belief in only one (but pantheistic) God. The root issue is that if God is the cause of our being, then we cannot be the cause of God’s being.

 

6. In Acts 17:18-31, was Paul using a straw-man argument, saying the gods were not these man-made idols? Some polytheists believed the idols were only lifeless representations of the gods.

A: Pagans inconsistently believed in both in invisible gods and the visible statues. Specifically, the gods could be localized to “indwell” the visible statues, which were sacred and had the power to give prophecies and heal. For example, at Ephesus they did not say the goddess Artemis was important; rather, they cried “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Let’s look at what early Christians, modern Hindus, and modern Catholics said, not about polytheism in general, but about the worship of the actual stone statues themselves.

Early Church: Besides Paul, many early Christian writers pointed out this inconsistency, using many arguments of the same type, that “the actual wood, metal, and stone, cannot do anything”. A few examples are:

Tatian’s Address to Greeks ch.4 p.66 110-172 A.D.

Theophilus to Autolycus book 1 ch.10 p.92 168-181/188 A.D.

Athenagoras’ Plea for Christians 177 A.D. takes the pagans to task for believing actual statues heal the dead and utter oracles.

Clement of Alexandria Exhortation (193-217/220 A.D.) ch.10 p.199 criticizes taking stones and wood as sacred things.

Minucius Felix (210 A.D.) “How much more truly do dumb animals naturally judge concerning your gods? Mice, swallows, kites, knew that they have no feeling : they gnaw them, they trample on them, they sit upon them; and unless you drive them off, they build their nests in the very mouth of your god. Spiders, indeed, weave their webs over his face, and suspend their threads from his very head. You wipe, cleanse, scrape, and you protect and feed those whom you make; “ Octavius of Minucius Felix ch.24 p.187

Octavius of Minucius Felix 210 A.D. ch.19 p.184 and ch.27 p.189-190. In chapter 27 p.190, he mentions that demons lurk under the statues and images,

Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258) Treatise 6 ch.7 p.467 paraphrases Octavius about evil spirits lurking under statues and consecrated images.

Hindu Idolatry: Today, Vedantic Hindus emphasize the Upanishads, and one, pantheistic being, Brahman. Unlike other Hindus, they do not emphasize Indra the king of the gods, or that Shiva is Supreme, or that Vishnu is Supreme, or other gods. Yet, inconsistently, they can still have idols of these or other idols in their homes, which they give ghee (butter), or other offerings. How do these small plastic or metal idols consume the butter and other foods, especially if all is Brahman?

Catholic Idolatry: Today, Catholics believe not just that Mary sheds tears and heals, but that actual statues of her shed tears and heal.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.270 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 17:23, is there any extra-Biblical evidence of an altar to an unknown god?

A: There is no archaeological evidence, but abundant literary evidence. Pausanius (2nd century A.D.) in Description of Greece 1:1:4 says, “altars of gods unknown” and Philostratus (3rd century A.D.) in Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6:3:5 mentions “It is more prudent to speak well of all gods, especially at Athens, where altars are erected even to unknown gods.” Diogenes Laertius in Lives of the Philosophers 1:110, mentions during a plague in Athens that Epimenides let loose black and white sheep. The Athenians were to sacrifice the sheep wherever they laid down to the altar closest to where they stopped. When the sheep stopped far from any existing altar to a god, the Athenians erected an altar to an unknown god.

   Also, we do not know for certain that Paul had finished his preaching when he was interrupted by the Athenian philosophers mocking him, according to the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1639.

 See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.475 and Kirsopp Lake’s article “The Unknown God” in F.J. Foakes-Jackson and K. Lake The Beginnings of Christianity vol.5 p.240-246 (1933) for more info.

 

8. Does Acts 17:23 somehow support the atheistic contention that “God” is simply the name for what we do not know?

A: There is one point Christians can partially agree with atheists on. “God” is the term for what they do not know. But through Christ we do know God. A second point atheists ought to agree on is that, given the volume of the Bible, and given the many testimonies of Christians, Christianity, assuming it is true, reveals a lot about God.

   As an aside, Eumenides in his writing had the god Apollo say, “When the dust has soaked up a man’s blood, once he is dead, there is no resurrection”. If someone believed that, then they would scoff when Paul spoke of the resurrection.

   Everybody, atheists included, can be said to believe in God. Defining God here as that which is uncreated, that which set in place the natural laws, the original cause, the name of the atheists’ god is “random chance.” (taken from a talk by David Prentiss.)

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.478 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 17:28, how and when should we quote from non-Christian sources, as true, in sharing the gospel or debating with non-Christians?

A: The way it should be done is: very carefully. We do not want to give the impression that we believe, or that they should believe, the entire work they are quoting from, even if some piece of it is true. Paul, and us, might quote from something to establish common ground, in agreeing on things both sides already consider true, before moving to new ground. But we can preface what we say with something like “I don’t believe this book/source is all true, but I think we can agree that this one sentence in this is true.” In a sense you are walking a tightrope between an ad hominem argument of appealing to what they believe they already believe is credible and reliability, without affirming or adding to their view of the credibility of an anti-Biblical source.

   Sometimes there are some interesting truths though. For example, Xenophanes, writing in 570 B.C., ridiculed why the gods in heaven were all light-skinned and blue-eyed, just like Thracians, at least according to the Thracians in modern Bulgaria and northeastern Greece. But instead, the gods in heaven were all dark-skinned and all looked like, well, Ethiopians, to Ethiopians. For that matter, did you hear about the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Hindu goddess named “Brigitte”, or the Hindu god named Chau Chung? – I did not think so. If each culture thought that the people who most physically resembled the gods in heaven were themselves, one might wonder if the images of these gods in heaven were all fakes or deceptions, and Xenophon might have been on to something. So would you share this with a pagan? – maybe. Is this preaching the gospel. – no. This is called polemics.

   In many cases there is no need to appeal to or bring up any non-Christian and anti-Biblical sources at all. But if the people who are listening to you have a barrier to the gospel, in that case, sometimes, but not all the time, it can be good to show what is correct and what is incorrect about the source or authority they are trusting.

   In Paul’s case, Christians are divided on if Paul did the best thing here. We do not see any flourishing church in Athens, and only a few people believed. Perhaps the listeners thought that Paul’s words were interesting, but his teaching could easily fit within their existing religious viewpoint, as everything he said was said by their own sources anyway. On the other hand, others would argue that under the circumstances of a very skeptical audience, Paul did the best that could be done.

   I knew of a born-again Christian, an ex-Mormon, when he witnessed to Mormons, would just quote to them from the Book of Mormon (which he knew quite well). They could not really argue with him, as it is in their own religious book. But how much success he had with that unique approach, I don’t know.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.377 for more info.


Acts 18 – Corinth and Apollos, Two Problems to Praises – some brief answers

 

The population of Corinth was about 200,000, while Athens, 50 miles northeast, was about 10,000. The Romans destroyed Corinth in 149/148 B.C., but Julius Caesar rebuilt it in 46 B.C.

 

1. In Acts 18:2, do we have any extra-Biblical confirmation that the Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) ordered all Jews to leave Rome?

A: Yes, the Roman historian Suetonius in Claudius 25, writes of the expulsion and says the reason was “their continual tumults instigated by Chrestus”. Chrestus was probably a misspelling of Christ, and the tumults likely were opposition of many Jews accepting Christ. This happened about 50 A.D., but Suetonius does not give the exact year.

   The Roman historian Dio Cassius and the Jewish historian Josephus also mention the decree of Claudius to expel all of the Jews from Rome, but they do not give the year.

   The Christian writer Orosius also mentions this, saying this is based on Josephus. Orosius says the year was 49 A.D.. See the Evangelical Bible Commentary p.959 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 18:3, 20:34; 1 Cor 9:1-18; 2 Cor 11:7-12; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:7-10, why was Paul a tentmaker and not a professional rabbi?

A: There were no professional rabbis. All rabbis were to be taught a trade, according to Mishnah Pirke Aboth/Avot 2:2. See SBK 2:745-746.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.480, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.912,  and The Message of Acts – Revised edition p.281 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 18:6, when do you think it appropriate to be like Paul here and “shake the dust off your feet”?

A: They had decided under no circumstances would they accept Paul’s words, and they made that clear to Paul  When it is a conviction of all the people you are talking to not to follow God, rejecting you and your message, and paying no attention to our words, then your usefulness to warn them might be done. Shaking the dust off of your feet is a final message to them that God Himself can warn them from now on. By the way, Paul was doing this to the synagogue in Corinth only. Later on Paul visited the synagogue in Ephesus.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1641 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 18:9-10, why do you think God spoke to Paul here?

A: After his persecutions, and the lack of positive reception in Athens, he might have felt depressed. Even in other places he often had a promising start, only to be forced to leave due to all the opposition. When he might have been wondering if his effort was bringing any lasting effect at all, God encourage Him. Despite what had happened before, God promised Paul that no one would harm him in Corinth. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 also shows the depression Paul was feeling at this time.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.484 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 18:9-10, why do godly leaders sometimes get down and discouraged?

A: Sometimes it can be because they are not seeing the results they expect that they should. Or, just as bad, they do see positive results, but then see that the positive results don’t last. Remember though, the results belong to God.

   On the other side, sometimes leaders can get too full of themselves. This can be discouraging for other people.

   Obedient Christians, who love the Lord, can still get discouraged. Examples form the Bible include Job, Elijah, David, and Paul. Other examples of Christians suffering from discouraged or depression are Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, Mary Morrison the wife of Robert Morrison, David Brainerd, and A.B. Simpson.

   Let’s look at what Paul could see in situations in his life. There could be great strategic value where Paul was heading. If Paul could talk with the Jewish leaders, and persuade the leadership to accept Jesus as the Messiah, that would have a tremendous impact. If Paul could witness to the Roman Emperor, and lead him to Christ, or at the very least make Christianity an accepted religion that would not be persecuted, that would make it so much easier for Christians across the Empire. Paul took steps in both those directions, but we don’t know how much Paul that about those strategic initiatives. Regardless, though, both of these potentially great opportunities came to naught. Christians at this time would not have the resources of the Jewish nation, or the resources of the Roman Empire available to help them in spreading the gospel. Instead, they had an uphill battle with help from God, but not institutions.

   How would you feel if you were a gifted preacher, teacher, and miracle worker, and then you were in prison for two years, with only a very limited opportunity for impact? We are tools. I have a hammer in my tool chest and it is a good hammer. I take it out and use it when I need to, and the rest of the time I leave it in my tool chest. I don’t worry if the hammer is being fully utilized or not, of if the hammer feels fulfilled. We are tools for God. God uses us when He wishes, and might give us only limited opportunities at other times.

   Sometimes God has asked us to be prisoners and slaves. We are not always allowed to do things to our full potential, or even to do things for God to our full potential. But God asks us, not for results, but for obedient love. We need to be prepared, always be ready, and not take offense when we are put on the back burner and have to wait.

 

6. In Acts 18:9-10, what should we do when we feel discouraged?

A: As one good Christian writer said, we should be unoffended by the unexplained. Draw close to God. Realize that the present moment is very small compared to future of eternity. Who you are, is more important that what you do and what happens to you. Paul realized this, from prison, and that is the secret of how he could be joyful, even there, singing and praising God.

 

7. In Acts 18:9-10, what should we do to encourage godly leaders?

A: Pray for them, let them know that we value them and are praying for them. Even when they might need correcting, or even rebuke, also let them know that we still respect them and care for them.

 

8. In Acts 18:12, do we have any extra-Biblical information about Gallio the proconsul?

A: Yes, but before discussing about Gallio in particular, let’s talk first about proconsuls in general. Some Roman provinces were under the control of the Imperial legatus reporting to the Emperor, others were under a proconsul reporting to the Senate. It was an important difference in Rome, as to who got the taxes. Corinth was an ancient city, demolished by the Romans, but rebuilt in 47 B.C.. Corinth was the capital of the region of Greece known as Achaia. Achaia was a part of Macedonia until 27 B.C., and under a proconsul (from the Senate). In 15 A.D. Tiberius united with Macedonia and Mysia and an imperial province. Claudius made it under a proconsul of the Senate in 44 AD., according to Claudius 25.

  Junius Annaeus Gallio was the older brother of the famous Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who was the tutor of Nero. An inscription at Delphi says Gallio was proconsul from c.51-52 A.D. Others interpret the date to be 52-53 A.D. Apparently, he had recently become proconsul when Paul was there. Gallio was very easy-going. According to Gallio’s own brother Seneca, “No mortal is so pleasant to any person as Gallio is to everyone.” Gallio was not proconsul very long. He took a cruise within a few years to rid himself of a recurring fever. A few years later he took a cruise to Alexandria to help his asthma. Eventually, Gallio’s brother Seneca was forced to commit suicide, and later Nero had Gallio killed.

   Gallio’s decision to dismiss the case against Paul was important in setting a precedent. If Gallio had found Paul guilty of advocating a religion that was not lawful, other governors could have followed suite and kicked Paul out as soon as Paul entered their territory.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.485-486, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.389, The Message of Acts – Revised Edition p.283, the New International Bible Commentary p.1299, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.407, and The NIV Study Bible under Acts 18:12 and 1 Thessalonians (p.1819) for more info.

 

9. In Acts 18:17, who beat Sosthenes and why?

A: Scripture does not say who beat Sosthenes or why. Let’s look at four alternatives and then decide which is most probable.

a) Anti-Semitic Greeks beat Sosthenes

b) Jews beat Sosthenes for being a lukewarm spokesman.

c) Sosthenes the Jew took a beating “sacrificially” to try to convince Gallio.

d) Jews beat Sosthenes because he became a Christian.

   The correct answer is most likely a, as The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.486-487, The Message of Acts – Revised edition p.284, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.407 say. Paul mentions Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1. Since Paul did not differentiate another Sosthenes, it was likely the same one, which makes d) probably the correct answer. Sosthenes was not a common Greek name, according to The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans’ publishing, 1962) p.1208.

 

10. In Acts 18:24-28, was Apollos a believer prior to knowing about Jesus?

A: Apollos did not know of Jesus, but like Abraham, Job, and others true followers, Apollos believed in God, but did not yet have the opportunity to hear of Jesus. As J.D. Pentecost taught, as far as Apollos was concerned, he was still the Old Dispensation prior to talking with Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos was from Alexandria, and probably had a “Hellenistic flavor of Judaism” that would be familiar with Greek philosophy. He might have been better talking with the Greek philosophers than Paul.

 

11. In Acts 18:24-28, if Apollos had died prior to talking with Christians, would he have gone to heaven?

A: Scripture does not say, but there are three points.

1. Apollos believed the truth about God that he knew.

2. He probably did not understand or have the Spirit.

3. Rather than abandoning Apollos to this in-between state, of being sort of like an old Testament believer, God ensured Apollos would learn the truth.

 

12. In Acts 18:24-28, how do you instruct someone who has partial but incomplete knowledge of the truth?

A: If they are a non-believer, start with prayer; only the Holy Spirit can convert them, but you can plant seeds, bring them along, or bring them to Christ depending on where they are. For many Christians who are ex-Mormons that I talked with, they said the thing that got them out of Mormonism they had to hear about ten times before it had any effect on them. Only then did they decide to do some research “knowing” that they would prove the Christian wrong. Then they found out they could not, and eventually the left Mormonism and later came to Christ.

   If they are a believer that is wrong about important but secondary things, still start with prayer. You might still need to be patient with them too. Don’t debate them except where necessary. Sometimes, you need to carefully prove every point you make; but sometimes you don’t need to waste time doing that, just present your points. You have to find out where they are, and gauge by the person and the situation. It is good to ask them on what basis they hold their position. Perhaps they already see merit in your view, but they feel they cannot accept it because then they think they would have to change another view. But you will not know that, until you ask them why they hold to their position. Then perhaps you can show them they can changed and adopt your view, without having to change their view on the other position.

   It can also be that after you presented your case, and they have explained the reasons for their position, you might find that you are the one who is mistaken, and either you, or else both of you, should change your views to conform to the truth.

 


Acts 19 – Effectiveness in Ephesus – some brief answers

 

While Ephesus was a large city, there was a very strong pagan presence there, and monetary interests tied up with continuing paganism. Its commercial peak was past since the harbor was silting up, due to excessive tree-cutting, over-grazing, and charcoal burning upstream. The Romans tried to remove the silt in 65 A.D., but they were not that successful. They still could make a lot of money off of their silver goddess of Artemis though. The main street was very wide for its time, about 11 meters. But none of this did not really affect the great spread of the gospel there. The Temple of Artemis was 239 feet wide and 418 feet long according to Pliny’s Natural History 36.95. This was probably the largest theatre in the world, about four times the size of the Parthenon of Athens according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.409, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.492-493, The Message of Acts revised edition p.294, and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.414.

 

1. In Acts 19:2-3, how could they truly believe without receiving the Holy Spirit?

A: Four points to consider in the answer.

Intellectually, anyone can believe Christianity is true without committing to being a Christian and being saved.

In Old Testament times, many believed God without having the Holy Spirit inside of them.

In this transitional time, these Gentiles were obedient to believe, even though the Holy Spirit had not filled them yet.

Today, while this case is not an example for us, it does prove that the Holy Spirit being inside a person was not a requirement for them to believe in God.

   See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.531-533 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.409 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 19:2-3, can people today truly believe without receiving the Holy Spirit?

A: Two points to consider in the answer.

1. This passage, as well as the experience of many believers in the Old Testament, proves that, theoretically, it is possible for God to have people believe without having the Holy Spirit inside of them.

2. By the time Paul wrote Romans 8, the Holy Spirit would dwell inside of everyone who was a genuine believer.

   See also the previous question for more info.

 

3. In Acts 19:5 can you explain why in the book of Acts it says the disciples of Jesus baptized only in Jesus' name. Why?

A: While scripture does not specifically say, we can observe a number of things.

1. Other people baptized too. Jews had ritual washings, and later the Cerinthian heretics baptized. There were various ceremonies for Greek mystery religions.

But unlike these other baptisms, they baptized by the authority of Jesus; so "in the name of" here certainly includes the meaning of "by the authority of".

2. Of course John the Baptist baptized too. In fact, some Christians did things incorrectly at Ephesus. See Acts 19:1-6 for more.

3a. Some see that whether you baptized in the name of Jesus or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not matter, it is all the same. It is not the "formula" or words that count, but the meaning and intent.

3b. On the other hand, perhaps Christians or Luke deliberately wanted to not publicize that they baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but as a shorthand just said baptize in the authority/name of Jesus.

4. Oneness Pentecostals claim that they are synonyms because Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Holy Spirit. But this cannot be true because in Matthew 27:46 JESUS cried out saying "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".

So 1 and 2 are both definitely true, and either 3a or 3b might be true. 4 is definitely false.

 

4. In Acts 19:6-7, were the Ephesian disciples genuine Christians prior to being baptized with the Holy Spirit?

A: They were not Christians yet, though they were among the elect. Four points to consider in the answer.

In Old Testament times, a person could truly believe in God without having the Holy Spirit inside of them. The Holy Spirit could leave someone, as God left Samson in Judges 16:20, and David asked God not to do in Psalm 51:11.

In New Testament times, all genuine Christians have the Holy Spirit inside of them, as Romans 8:9-11 says and 1 Corinthians 2:16 implies. Acts 19:2 shows people who believed in Jesus but did not have the Holy Spirit yet. Since the transition from Old Testament Mosaic Covenant/Dispensation to New had already occurred, the thing to do was immediately ask for the Holy Spirit.

God is not limited to working inside our expectations. For example, some infants die without having the ability to believe in Jesus. Nothing in the Bible restricts God from having them go to Heaven through Jesus.

The Ephesian disciples knew only of the Old Testament and John the Baptist. (Perhaps Apollos had spoken to them.) They might have been like those in Old Testament times.

   See Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.356-357 for more on the view that they were believers.

 

5. In Acts 19:12, should faith healers today give out handkerchiefs for healing?

A: Speaking as a non-Charismatic, there is nothing in this scripture, or any other in the Bible, to directly rule this out.

 

6. In Acts 19:12, since people were healed by handkerchiefs and aprons the apostle touched, does that support religious relics, like the Catholic and Orthodox churches use?

A: No because there were significant differences between the apostle’s handkerchiefs and later relics.

1. The clothing was used for healing, and not used in worship or veneration.

2. It was only clothing from the apostles, not from other saints, such as Mary or James the Lords’ brother.

3. There was no money involved here.

   From the time of John Climacus (before 670 A.D.) on, various Christian theologians attempted to formulate a comprehensive list of virtues and vices. What is most significant about almost all of these lists is that they totally forgot about the second of the ten commandments. (If you are not sure what the second commandment is, you might want to read Exodus 20:4-6.)

   Note that there are some differences between the Catholic and Orthodox views of veneration. The orthodox usually have icons, or two-dimensional images that they pray to God through. Catholics have more statues.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.410 and When Cultists Ask p.204-205 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 19:13-17, why could the Jewish exorcists not cast out the devils?

A: They were saying the correct words, but the power was not in the words. The important part was the power of God flowing through the life of a Christian. Since they were not Christians, that power was not there.

   As an aside the fact that Sceva (pronounced SEE-va) was claimed to be a chief priest does not actually mean that he was one or not; it might have just been a title he gave himself. Also, while Sceva’s sons were into exorcism, the scripture does not say if Sceva himself was or not.

   Note that these exorcists did not submit to Jesus as their lord and Savior, but they saw no reason not to use the name of Jesus for their own benefit. Some people today are the same.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1101 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1644 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 19:13-17, do we have any evidence of later magical exorcists trying to use the name of Jesus?

A: Actually yes. The Paris magic papyrus no.574 lines 3018-3019 says, “I adjure you by Jesus the god of the Hebrews (cf. K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, 2 vols. [Leipzig: Teubner, 1928, 1931] 1 plate IV. Also Jewish rabbis wrote against using the name of Jesus in healing in (cf. Tos Hulin 2:22-23; j. Shabbath 14.4.14d; j Abodah Zarah 2.2.40d-41a; b Abodah Zarah 27b” Why would they denounce this unless some people were trying to do this? You cannot mix the occult and Jesus. As Christians, we must not get involved with horoscopes, palm reading, Ouija boards, tarot cards, or any occult practices.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.498,501 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 19:19, what should our attitude be toward books of the occult and counterfeit religions?

A: As Zola Levitt said, “If you play with Satan, he will play with you.”

   There might have been one or two medicinal remedies that worked, mixed in with a large number of bogus remedies. There might have been a few wise words that were sound, mixed in with many occultic lies. There might have been a few spells that actually worked because demons made them appear to work. Nevertheless, all the books were burned.

   While books of other religions do contain many true things, we are not to look for truth by studying books to other gods. In Proverbs 9:17 it is folly, not wisdom that says, “Stolen water is sweet: food eaten in secret is delicious” (NIV). This means that it is folly that tries to be eclectic and take whatever good “details” might be in a work to a false god. Do you have any questionable statues, magazines, videos, or books in your house? If so, get serious about your relationship with Jesus and get rid of them.

   The balance to the previous paragraph is that Paul quoted from pagan Greek poets when speaking to the Greeks in Athens and other places. While Paul made his opinion of trusting in Greek philosophy very clear in Colossians 2:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Paul’s was using his knowledge of Greek philosophy and religion to explain Christian concepts in a way to which they could better relate. Christians disagree on the relative effectiveness of Paul using this method versus “preaching nothing but the Gospel” as he said he did in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

 

10. In Acts 19:26,28, why did Demetrius summarize all of Paul’s teaching in this way?

A: His lopsided summary actually is highly instructive. He took all of Paul’s teaching and “condensed” it to what he considered relevant to him. Since he did not desire to follow the truth, all he heard was that his business of making idols might decrease if people believed in a God who had no idols.

   Some Christians might be amazed when a non-Christian’s summary of their words might be as lopsided and superficial as Demetrius’ analysis. Though Paul was an effective Christian communicator, his words were just not bridging the gap, for people like Demetrius had burned the bridge on the other side. Even if you knew as much as Paul, had his experience, and could do the miracles he did, if the Holy Spirit is not working in the heart of the listener, your words alone will not be effective to bridge the gap.

   On the other hand, the same words were effective in converting many in Ephesus. So the fact that your words might fail to reach some people does not mean the failure is in the words.

 

11. In Acts 19:31, what are Asiarchs?

A: The NIV translates this as officials of the province. Asiarchs were part honorary society, and tasked with promoting the worship of the emperor in the province of Asia. Their headquarters was at Pergamum. One person at a time functioned as an Asiarch of the entire province, and there were Asiarchs of each city. After their term expired, they were honored for life with the title of Asiarch. There were also Lysiarchs in the province of Lycia, and Galatarchs in the province of Galatia. Apparently, the mob might think that if someone was a friend of Asiarchs then they were not a threat to the Roman Empire.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.503-504 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 19:35, why were they so sensitive about “Artemis of the Ephesians”?

A: The temple of Artemis was built here, most likely after a meteorite landed which they worshipped. The Greek Artemis was the celibate goddess of the hunt, while this Artemis was a grotesque-looking goddess of fertility. A Greek god or goddess could have different attributes in different places. The offerings left at the Temple, and the sale of idols of Artemis brought revenue to the city. In addition, since a temple was considered a sacred and thus a safe place, it also served as a bank where the wealthy could store their fortunes. As the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1072 points out, conquerors generally spared Ephesus because of respect for the Temple of Artemis. However, in 400 B.C. the Temple was accidentally burned down, and in 356 B.C., a fame-seeker named Herostratus purposely burned down the temple on the birthday of Alexander the Great so that Herostratus’ name would be immortal. They executed Herostratus, and in the future would likely execute anyone accused of desecrating the Temple of Artemis, which brought them safety and income. In Paul’s time it was an ornate temple, with 127 marble pillars with gold and white. The New Geneva Study Bible p.1746 mentions that the temple served as a banking depository, too.

   For some people, worshipping an idol is equated with national patriotism. In Roman times, loyal Roman citizens were supposed to sacrifice to the emperor. The magazine Hinduism Today April 1998 p.36 mentions that Hinduism is “patriotic” to India. Of course, until the British came, one of the few elements common to all Hinduism was “Suttee”, the practice of the widow being burned to death on the husband’s funeral pyre. If traditional Hinduism is true patriotism, thank goodness few Indians are “patriotic” by the twisted definition of being true to their Hindu traditions.

   It does not require someone have a prophetic gift to be able to predict that Paul would have an interesting time in Ephesus, with many difficulties. But that did not seem to slow down Paul one bit. If you knew that going somewhere would put you in a lot of difficulties, but you also knew that God wanted you to go there, would you still be eager to go? – I hope so.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.502, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.412, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.914 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 19:35, what do we know about this position of “town clerk”?

A: The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans’, 1962) p.1287 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1730 both mention that the town clerk, or grammateus, was usually top city government official, the leader of the city council, and not just a secretary. It would be sort of like a city manager in the united States. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary adds that the Roman provincial government was in Ephesus, and the town clerk was the liaison between the city and the Roman government. He was not appointed by the Romans, but the Roman proconsul would hold him accountable for public order according to the New International Bible Commentary p.1302 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.504. If there were a riot, his job, and possibly his life might be at stake. The theatre at Ephesus could hold over 24,000/25,000 people. The town clerk’s short yet effective speech demonstrated his skill at using his knowledge of the people to persuade them to keep calm, and the respect the people had for him. See also The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.412, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1645, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.504 for more info.

 

14. In Acts 19:35, why do they mention the image that fell down from Jupiter?

A: Apparently, one factor in the special emphasis of Artemis at Ephesus was a meteorite that fell from the sky near there. Besides at Ephesus, meteorites were also worshipped at Troy, Pessinus, Enna, and Emesa (Amasea), according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p. 502.

   Similarly, a meteorite was reverenced at the Ka’aba in Mecca both prior to and in Mohammed’s time. The early Christian writer Arnobius (297-303 A.D.) writes, “You [pagans] laugh because in ancient times the Persians worshipped rivers, as is told in the writings which hand down these things to memory; the Arabians an unshapen stone; the Scythian nations a saber;…” Arnobius Against the Heathen book 6 ch.10 p.510


Acts 20:1-21 – The Start of the Homeward Stretch – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 20:3, should we sometimes change our plans due to fear or caution in a dangerous situation?

A: Paul did. Paul was protected, not supernaturally, but by learning of the plot and taking appropriate action. Paul had originally planned to sail from the crowded Corinthian harbor of Cenchreae southeast straight to Syria, the fastest route to Jerusalem. But when Paul learned of the plot against him, Paul went the opposite direction, inland and north to Macedonia, and perhaps north of that to Illyricum (modern Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro) also. Either Paul or one of his companions brought the gospel to Illyricum in Romans 15:19. See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.302 and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.914 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 20:4, how was Gaius from Derbe, since Gaius a Macedonian in Acts 19:29?

A: Derbe is in the middle of modern-day Turkey, far from Macedonia. While it is possible a Macedonian would move to Derbe, a much more likely answer is that these are two different men. Gaius was a very common name back then. There is also a Gaius (probably a third person) in 3 John. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.412, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1646, and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.421 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 20:6, what were the days of unleavened bread?

A: This was an expression for the time of the Passover, as the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1647 and the New Bible Dictionary p.420 say. In the Bible, this is equated with the Passover in Exodus 23:15 and Leviticus 23:4-8. Paul wanted to hurry to Jerusalem for two likely reasons. He wanted to get there before Passover, and did not want to be robbed since he was carrying a large amount of money. He did not make it in time for Passover though, so instead Paul came to Jerusalem 50 days later, on Pentecost. Being a Christian does not guarantee does not mean you should not take safety precautions, and it does not mean you cannot be robbed.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.506-507 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1647 for more info.

 

4. What does Acts 20:7-9 say to Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A: The early Christians worshipped on the first day of the week, Sunday, as they did in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. If it was OK for Paul and the earliest Christians to worship God on the first day of the week, it is Ok for us too. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.509 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 20:9-12, what does the name “Eutychus” mean in Greek?

A: The name Eutychus means “Lucky”. You can remember this story, as few people who fall asleep at the window of opportunity get a second chance. Some scholars have speculated that since it was night many lamps were likely burning, and this might have taken some of the oxygen from the room and made people feel sleepier. However, Eutyches was sitting on a window, so he probably would have had plenty of oxygen.

 

6. In Acts 20:9-12, was Eutychus dead, or was his life still in him as Paul apparently said?

A: Eutychus’ life was in him after Paul raised him from the dead. Luke was a medical doctor, and he could probably determine if a sleeping person, falling out of a third-story window, was dead or not. See When Critics Ask p.436, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.305-306, and Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.337 for essentially the same answer.

 

7. In Acts 20:13, why did Paul want to travel on foot here?

A: Scripture does not say why Paul wanted to walk these 20 or so miles. Perhaps Paul wanted to spend some time alone, with the Lord, or else Paul wanted to see some people one last time on earth. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.427, the New International Bible Commentary p.1303, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1647 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 20:15,17 what do we know about the city of Miletus?

A: Both the Persians and silt made this a city “past its glory.” The Persians sacked Miletus in 499 B.C.. It recovered to become a major city of Asia Minor. Miletus was on the coast about 30 miles from Ephesus. Today, the seacoast is ten miles away, because large quantities of silt were deposited along the entire coast.

   The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1118 says it had a population of 100,000 during the first century A.D. However, the New International Dictionary of the Bible p.650 says it was a city of no great standing.

   The reason for this difference of opinion is probably because Miletus was originally larger than Ephesus. However, around the second century A.D. it was insignificant because the harbor was silting up. It is unclear how big it was in Paul’s time.

 

9. In Acts 20:16, why did Paul want to hurry to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost?

A: Apparently, Paul knew he had an appointment with destiny at that particular place and time. Acts 20:23 mentions that the Holy Spirit revealed some of Paul’s future to him.

   A second reason might be that he knew great crowds from many lands would be in Jerusalem at that time, and Paul wanted to preach to them.

 

10. In Acts 20:18-35, what were the main points of Paul’s message here?

A: A past example of services (20:18-21)

The present course (20:22-27)

Warnings to elders about the future (20:28-31)

Commendation to the Lord (20:32)

Example of generous giving (20:33-35)

See the New International Bible Commentary p.1303 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.413 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 20:20, what guidelines can we learn from Paul for speaking God’s message?

A: This verse does not give an exhaustive list, but here we can learn five things.

Paul did not hesitate: He spoke whether it was positive or negative, regardless of what the listeners wanted to hear. In contrast to Paul’s “discharging his duty” in 2 Timothy 4:5-9, false teachers satisfied people’s itching ears in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

What would be helpful: There is no limit to the number of interesting little topics that are not relevant to a person’s being born again or growing in their relationship in the Lord. Paul spoke to encourage, correct, and rebuke (2 Timothy 4:22), and encourage, comfort, and urge (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Our conversation is always to be “seasoned with salt” as Colossians 3:6 says.

To you: Jesus often did not use the exact same words with different people. Paul likewise spoke what was needed by his listeners.

Taught Publicly: Paul was not afraid to extemporaneously address a crowd of people, knowing that God would be speaking through him.

And from house to house: Paul’s stature, reputation, and success did not make this public speaker proud, that he would not speak one-on-one to small groups of people for their benefit.

 

12. In Acts 20:21, why was Paul teaching them to have faith in the Lord Jesus instead of faith in God the Father?

A: Rightly understood, faith in one is faith in the other, for with the Holy Spirit they are a Trinity. The heresy of Oneness (Modalism) was so far removed from the mind of Paul and the minds of the early Christians at this time, that the issue was not even considered.

 


Acts 20:22-38 – Paul in Transit – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 20:22-23, why was the Holy Spirit leading Paul to persecution and perhaps death?

A: The answer is found in Acts 20:24. The Holy Spirit frankly told him what would happen if Paul followed God. Paul, with that knowledge, freely made the decision to go anyway. Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem in Acts 19:21. We should not be confused in thinking that something that requires bravery is never needed. Sometimes God leads Christians today this way, too. It can be that God’s way for an obedient Christian end in a death for God’s glory.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.512 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 20:22 - Acts 21:11, was Paul obedient or disobedient to the Holy Spirit?

A: Paul was obedient. Here are four points to consider in the answer.

1. The Holy Spirit specifically told Paul of God’s will for him to go to Jerusalem.

2. Multiple times, the Holy Spirit warned him of the dangers there.

3. Perhaps Paul was given an option of going to Jerusalem and suffering, or not going to Jerusalem.

4. Paul’s own choice, to do exactly what God wanted and go to Jerusalem, was not coerced, nor was it made in ignorance, but it was made with the knowledge that God gave to Paul that he would suffer.

   See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.383-384 and Hard Sayings of the Bible p.533-535 for complementary answers.

 

3. In Acts 20:25, why did Paul say all of them would never see him again, since they would see Paul again in Heaven?

A: First of all The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.414 says it does not mean no individual present would ever see him again, but rather, as a group all of them will not see Paul again. Regardless though, for most or all of them, their mortal eyes would never see Paul again. Paul was making a prediction, but Paul was not necessarily making a prophecy here, as he specifically said he did not know all of his future, only parts of it, in Acts 20:22-23. Paul is  In addition the Greek literally says they would never see Paul’s face again. Since 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but the perishable must be changed to the imperishable. Thus, it is true that they would never see Paul’s flesh or mortal face again.

  See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.432-433 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 20:26, how in the world can Paul say he was pure of the blood of everyone, since he had killed so many Christians?

A: There are two aspects to this: physically and failing to share the gospel.

Physically, Paul used to be guilty of those crimes against God, but God purified Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No matter how evil a person may be, Christ’s blood can purify that person of their sins, if they repent and believe in Jesus. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.647-649 for more info.

Failing to share the gospel: Paul freely shared the gospel with all, except in the few cases where the Holy Spirit expressly showed him he should not yet, in Acts 16:6-7. In both Ezekiel 3:17-21 and Ezekiel 33:2-7, God made the prophet Ezekiel a watchman, to warn the people. If they did not heed the warning, then their blood would be on their own head. But if Ezekiel failed in his duty to warn them, Ezekiel would be called to account for that. Likewise, when God wants a Christian to share the gospel, and the Christian fails to do what God wants, he will be called to account, as 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 shows. This does not refer to loss of salvation, but rather loss of rewards.

 

5. In Acts 20:28, since Christ purchased His church with His own blood, does that mean he did not purchase salvation for the non-elect?

A: There is only one answer, but it has two parts.

No. Christ made the sacrifice and included everyone in the offer.

Yes. Since they did not accept the offer, the transaction of Jesus purchasing their salvation was never completed.

   There is a root inconsistency in many Calvinists, (Amyraldian Calvinists and hyper-Calvinists excepted). They believe that Christ offered to even the non-elect something He did not buy for them and never intended or desired for them to have.

   Also note that “God” purchased them with “his blood”. Does the Holy Spirit have blood, or God the Father? Of course not. This is yet another verse showing that Jesus is God.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.414 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 20:28, what are all the commands Paul gave to the elders (episkopous) here?

A: Paul said to take head, and to be a shepherd. There are multiple objects here: they are to take head over both themselves and the church. So besides watching over the church, each elder is to watch over himself, and well as watch over the other elders.

   Elders should not tolerate either heresy or persistent unrepentant sin by other elders, or themselves. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (ESV). We are not just to watch over errant or misguided believers, but also those whom Paul calls “savage wolves”. Unfortunately, there is disagreement among some Christian churches in Europe if “savage wolves” should be allowed to teach in the church. In other words, if a person is teaching not just some mistakes, but heresy, they are still allowed to teach in church. You can imagine what that would do to the vitality of the church. A sad story that I read is that after World War II a number of Christian missionaries went to Japan. The very liberal theologian Paul Tillich was invited to come to Japan to speak. After he did, the church there did not have much growth. We can ignore Paul’s teaching here only at the church’s peril.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.312-313 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 20:29-30, why would Almighty God allow “savage wolves” to come in and ravage His flock?

A: For whatever reason, God often allows testing of His people. One purpose of life on earth is as a proving ground for Heaven. However, through all the tests that Christians have, God promises that He will always show them a way to succeed. Specifically, here are the verses in the following areas.

Temptation: 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that no temptation comes upon us except what is common to man. What is even more important is the last part of the same verse: when we are tempted, God will also provide a way out so that we can stand up under it.

Doctrine: In John 16:13, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. 1 John 4:1-3 gives us one doctrinal way to test the spirits. Jesus gave us another way (by their fruits) in Matthew 7:15-20. 2 Timothy 3:5,8-9 says that the kind of false teachers who have the form of godliness, but deny its power will be discernible by everyone.

Discouragement: Jesus promised that those who mourn, will be comforted in Matthew 5:4, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 promises that the Father will comfort us in all our troubles. Sometimes leaders can get discouraged, or have a shortage of patience for their flock. But since Jesus died for them, couldn’t we at least labor for them?

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.315 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 20:31 did Paul admonish the Ephesians for three years, or did he teach at the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus for two years, as Acts 19:10 says?

A: Both are true. Prior to teaching in the Hall of Tyrannus in Acts 19:10, Paul spent time in Ephesus making converts (Acts 18:1-7), and he spoke in the synagogue for three months (Acts 18:8) among other places.

   Paul, in spite of opposition from Gentiles, opposition from Jews, and some speculate health conditions, continued to preach the gospel. One suggestion is for you to make a list of family and friends close to you, to whom you have never shared the gospel, and stop being timid or lazy and share with them.

 See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.383 and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1103 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 20:35, where did Jesus say “it is more blessed to give than to receive?

A: As both The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament p.414 and the skeptical Asimov’s Guide to the Bible p.1075 point out, these words of Jesus are not found in the four Gospels. The apostle John said in John 21:25 that Jesus said many other things, which were not recorded. See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.535-537 for a more extensive discussion.

 

10. In Acts 20:38, why did some grieve over Paul’s upcoming martyrdom, and is it OK for Christians to mourn?

A: Yes, it is OK to grieve over someone’s death for a while, and it is OK for Christians to mourn. Jesus expected godly people to mourn over sin in Matthew 5:4, though the larger context could support mourning in general.


Acts 21 – When arrest and suffering call Your name – some brief answers

 

The third missionary journey was from about 53 to 57 A.D. Paul was going to Jerusalem to hand over the funds and to preach.

 

1. In Acts 21:4, why did the disciples urge Paul, through the Spirit, not to go to Jerusalem, since the Spirit told Paul to go in Acts 20:22-23?

A: First of all, when the disciples urged Paul not to go, scripture does not say whether Paul recognized this was from the Holy Spirit or not. However, when Agabus, a prophet recognized by Paul said the same, then Paul would know.

   Acts 20:22 and 21:14 show that God was pleased Paul was going to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit told the disciples that they would never see Paul alive on earth again if he went. Warning Paul of the dangers is different from forbidding him to go. Was the Holy Spirit telling Paul not to go through Agabus, or was Agabus using his own initiative in telling Paul what the Holy Spirit showed him? It could be either way. However, God knew that if He told Agabus the future, Agabus would respond this way, and the outcome was that Paul was well-aware of what would happen to him in Jerusalem. After he was in Jerusalem, God told Paul that Paul would testify in Rom in Acts 23:11.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.415, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.318-319, and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1650-1651 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 21:4-6, since Paul had nothing to do with the church founded in Tyre, why did Paul spend seven days with the disciples?

A: The church in Tyre was not Paul’s church, but neither Corinth, Thessalonica, Iconium, or any of the churches were Paul’s churches either. They were all God’s churches! Paul was there to instruct and encourage believers, and whether they came to Christ through him or not was irrelevant. Likewise, we should help the body of Christ without caring about the recognition we will get or who led them to Christ.

 

3. In Acts 21:9, who were Philip and his four daughters?

A: Philip was not an apostle, but rather one of the seven original deacons in Acts 6:5. He was likely the same Philip who preached to the Samaritans and Simon Magus in Acts 8:5-13, and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 26-40. Philip had four celibate daughters who prophesied. Most women would get married, and in Greek culture polygamy was allowed, so it is likely that they chose to be celibate for devotion to God. While women should not be pastors over men, the Holy Spirit gives His gifts without distinguishing gender. Eusebius writes that Papias mentioned them during the time of the early church.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1104, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.415, the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.915, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.444-445, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.516-517, and the New International Bible Commentary p.1304 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 21:11, why did Agabus prophesy the Jews would bind Paul in this way, since the Romans were the ones who bound Paul in Acts 22:25,29?

A: As an aside, Agabus was the same prophet who prophesied the famine in Acts 11:28. Using motions (a mime) to prophesy something was also done by Isaiah in Isaiah 20:3, Ezekiel in Ezekiel 4:1, and Ahijah the Shilonite in 1 Kings 11:29-39.

   First of all, the Jews may also have bound Paul when he stood before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:1-10. Regardless, the Romans acted in the Jews behalf when they bound Paul because of the Jewish commotion. This use of language is similar to what Peter used in Acts 4:10, when he said to the council “you crucified” Jesus, even thought it was the hand of the Roman soldiers that actually carried it out.

   The idea that someone who plotted and ordered a crime to be committed would be innocent because it was another’s hand, was as foreign a concept to them as it should be to us.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.317 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.517 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 21:19, why was Paul always telling other believers what God had done through Him?

A: There was nothing wrong with that. James and the others glorified God for Paul’s work, according to Acts 21:18-20.

 

6. In Acts 21:21, do Jewish people who are Christians have extra regulations that non-Jewish Christians do not have?

A: At that time they did. Jews who became Christians were expected to keep the Old Testament law, and there were two pragmatic reasons for not giving offense to the Jews.

a) They wanted to be able to win them to Christ.

b) They might avoid some persecution when living in their land.

That being said, an angel told a Jewish Christian (Peter) essentially that all Christians were not to obey Jewish dietary laws (Acts 9:9-16). Another Jewish Christian (Paul) said that it was OK for genuine Christians to differ on observing the Sabbath and on eating some meats (Romans 14).

That being said about dietary laws, there is no indication that the moral law of the Old Testament was changed or made obsolete.

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.416 points out that despite what Paul told Gentiles, he never told Jews not to follow Jewish customs or not to circumcise their sons.

   See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.537-539 for a different, but complementary answer.

 

7. In Acts 21:21-26, was the request James and the elders gave Paul wise?

A: Based on Acts 21:27-36, it would appear that the plan backfired. If it gave anyone the impression that converted Jews should still obey the law, the impression was obscured by the false charge that non-Jews were brought into the Temple and Paul was arrested. On one hand, perhaps Paul was trying to be all things to all people in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, but on the other hand it would give the appearance to some that Paul was trying to look like he was under the law again. But yet, even though we are not under the law, we have the freedom to take a Nazirite vow if we want to. As F.F. Bruce said, “A truly emancipated [freed] spirit such as Paul’s is not in bondage to its own emancipation.”

   By they say this was a purification-ritual, not Paul making a Nazirite vow, because the minimum period of time for a Nazirite vow was 30 days according to Mishnah Nazir 3:6

   Paul and James were agreed that salvation was through Christ and not the law. Second, they agreed that Gentiles did not need to follow Jewish customers, as was already decided at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:1-31. But should Jewish people, who have become Christians, still follow Jewish customers, either as a requirement or else just as a witness to Jews. James and the elders thought yes, and Paul went along.

   But either way, it did not work. Sometimes godly people, diligently trying to serve God, can still make mistakes. However, as Paul saw it, he was in the center of God’s will. He said he did not violate his own conscience in Acts 23:1.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.520-521, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.329, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1651-1652, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.416 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 21:22-26, to what extent should we change our customs to better fit in with those among whom we are ministering?

A: In the 1860’s when most Chinese men wore their hair in a pigtail, when in China should you have worn your hair in a pigtail, - like Hudson Taylor did? In the Mideast, when many men have long bears, should Christian missionaries grow long beards, if they can do so? When Chinese women in the 1860’s bound the feet of their daughters so that they would look “cuter” when they walked with their crippled feet, should Christians do so? Where do you draw the line, and why?

   Books have bene written on this, but we can see in scripture a few guiding principles. First of all, whether it is socially acceptable or not, we must not compromise what God teaches us in scripture. So if it is socially acceptable to be immodest or gossip about other people, then we do not do what is socially acceptable. We must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19-20). On the other hand, as much as is possible we should compromise and follow with local customs when it does not compromise our faith (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) for the sake of the gospel. We should not do things that cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9,13; Romans 14:13-15,21), either by our not doing something, or our doing something. Yet we should not allow what we know as good to be spoken of as evil (Romans 14:16).

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1105 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 21:24-26, since Jesus died on the cross, why do you think Paul would pay for animal sacrifices.

A: He would likely consider this a memorial, as sacrifices will be a memorial in Ezekiel 43:18-46:24; Malachi 1:11, and Malachi 3:3-4. By the way, it was considered a pious act to pay for the expenses of a Nazirite. Herod Agrippa I paid for the expenses of a number of poor Nazirites according to Josephus Antiquities of the Jews book 19 ch.n294 (6.1).

See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.520 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.416 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 21:28,31 is there any archaeological evidence for the Jewish rule that non-Jews were to be killed if they entered the Temple?

A: Yes. In 1871 an inscription was found at Jerusalem that reads “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to thank for his ensuing death.” In 1935 a second inscription was also found. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.452, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.330-331, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.417, The New Testament Documents : Are They Reliable? p.93-94 by F.F. Bruce (IVP, 1943) and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.521-522 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 21:30, when the Jews “shut the gates” of the temple to keep anyone coming in to rescue Paul, it symbolized the authorities’ final rejection of the gospel. When should you try to help an organization get back on track, vs. leaving because you realized that “The gates are shut”?

A: As The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.322 says, “Luke’s statement …“was surely more than a statement of fact. The slammed gates seemed to symbolize the final Jewish rejection of the gospel.” When there are those in a church was deliberately and defiantly refuse to submit to the authority of God, as taught by Jesus and the apostles, either they need to be put out of the church as false teachers, or else you, your family, and your friends need to leave and find a church that, at the bare minimum, is at least attempting to obey God and His word. Otherwise, why are you still there?

 

12. In Acts 21:38, what do we know about this Egyptian Paul was confused with?

A: According to the Jewish historian Josephus, an Egyptian claimed to be a prophet, formed an army of 30,000 and came to the Mount of Olives saying the walls of Jerusalem would collapse at his command. Luke says it was only 4,000, but Josephus often has unbelievably large numbers.

   By the way, when Paul spoke with pride of Tarsus, with the curious-sounding expression: “a citizen of no ordinary city”, it is the same phrase Euripides used in describing Athens as “no ordinary city of the Greeks” 500 years earlier in Ionia 8.

 See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.417, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.454-455, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.523-524    , The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.332, and the New International Bible Commentary p.1305 for more info.

 

13. In Acts 21:40-22:23, why did Paul want to address the crowd?

A: It was probably not to appease and satisfy them. Remember, Paul had a very similar experience, except that he was on the other side, when Stephen spoke in Acts 7:1-58. Paul actually had the nerve to mention this in Acts 22:20. Paul was evangelizing them so that they would believe in Jesus.


 

Acts 22 – Paul’s “Stormy weather” sermon – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 22:1, what is curious about the start of Paul’s speech?

A: Paul starts off his speech as “brothers and fathers”, which is the same way Stephen started his speech in Acts 7:23. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.417 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.524 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 22:6-8, Paul could easily guess that when he told of his conversion experience, many would write him off as foolish. Would we still share the gospel, knowing that when we do many will write us off as deluded?

A: Hopefully yes, because we should value the pleasure and favor of God more than the praise and respect of people. When some people write you off it might still hurt a little, but that is not as important as pleasing God. When some people are always telling you that you are foolish, good-for-nothing, useless, or worthless, to thrive you have to reach the point where you just don’t care what they think. See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1653 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 22:9, why does it say they did not understand the voice, since Acts 9:7 says they heard the sound?

A: They heard the sound but could not make out the words. Three points to consider in the answer.

1. Acts 22:9 in the Greek, Paul says, “but voice not they heard of Him” (Green’s Literal Translation)

2. Acts 9:7 in the Greek says, “hearing indeed the sound

3. As Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties 382-383 points out, they heard a sound, but did not hear the words of a voice. While the Greek noun is the same, the verb is genitive case when they hear a noise, and accusative case when it means they heard a thought-conveying message.

 

4. In Acts 22:16, how do people get baptized and wash away their sins?

A: In Acts 22:6 the Greek is a bit more precise than the English here. Here there are two separate clauses. The first is to get up and be baptized. The second is to wash away your sins, calling on His name. See the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.916 for more info on this.

   It is OK to say that people wash away their sins here as long as you remember four points.

1. The power to wash away is with God, not magic in the water.

2. God is not restricted to being “unable” to save people who are not baptized, because the thief on the cross was with Jesus in Paradise.

3. For our part, the pledge of a sincere conscience before God is more important than the water, as 1 Peter 3:21 shows. However, being baptized with water is a command for every single Christian.

4. The Jews were familiar with ceremonial washings in the Old Testament Law. Thus, Paul’s audience understood what he meant and did not mix it up with the errors of “magic water” or “a restricted God”.

   The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.418 sheds some helpful light on the Greek here. The phrase “calling on His name” is a Greek aorist participle, which “refers either to action which is simultaneous with or before that of the main verb. Here Paul’s calling on Christ’s name (for salvation) preceded his water baptism. The participle may be translated, ‘having called on His name.”

   See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.539-540 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 22:22-23, the Jews seemed to have a “trigger phrase” here, of going to the Gentiles. When should we use, or not use a trigger phrase?

A: Paul might not have realized that would be a trigger phrase, that set them off, but regardless, God said in Genesis 13:3 said that all nations would be blessed with Abraham, Jonah went to the Ninevites, and Isaiah 49:22 says all the nations shall come. Obviously if Paul’s primary goal was his own safety, he should not have said it, nor should he have come to Jerusalem. But Paul’s primary goal was to preach full gospel, and they needed to know that the gospel was for everyone, including the Gentiles.

   When we share God’s truth with someone, sometimes we might want to start with “common ground” affirming the things that we can agree upon, as Paul did here in Acts 22:3. But when there is a specific place where the hearers go against the gospel, we need specifically to bring that up and show them where they need to change. Otherwise, if you only tell them things they already know and agree upon, have we really given them any new light?

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.526 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 22:24-25, how do people today sometimes judge right or wrong of a person or viewpoint solely by the commotion other people cause?

A: Some people are not concerned with justice, only with keeping the peace. Of course the Roman garrison commander, called a chiliarch, probably did not understand Paul’s speech in Aramaic.

   Just assuming a conclusion, trusting others instead of finding out the facts for yourself, is faster, and can either be more efficient or lazier, if a person is not too concerned about the correctness of the conclusion. But to his credit, the Roman commander did change and want to determine the reason for himself.

  See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1654, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.453, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.527,530, and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1106 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 22:28, why did the captain say he himself paid to become a Roman citizen?

A: It could have been to try to trick Paul if Paul were lying. A man who was faking to be a Roman citizen might simply say he became a Roman citizen by paying for it, too. It was very rare to become a Roman citizen by paying for the privilege. One could purchase Roman citizenship during the time of Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.). The Roman historian Cassius Dio says that Messalina, the wife of Claudius, and freedmen, sold Roman citizenship for the price of one or two cracked drinking cups. See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.463, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.419 for more info. Papers proving Roman citizenship were often stored away safely, and not carried on a person, so that is why they would accept a verbal affirmation and not demand papers. Also, a second reason to accept a verbal affirmation was the severeness of the penalty for lying about this. A false claim of citizenship could be punishable by death according to the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.916 and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.353-354,463..

   Also, the captain might have been persuaded because, while Paul earlier spoke to the people in Hebrew, Paul probably spoke in Greek, and since he was from Tarsus, it was probably perfect Greek without an accent from Palestine.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.335 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.528-529 for more info.

  


Acts 23 – Paul on Trial for religion – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 23:1-2, what was the high priest Ananias son of Nedebaeus like?

A: Josephus wrote that the high priest Ananias son of Nedebaeus in Acts 23:1-2 was insolent, hot-tempered, profane, and greedy. He was appointed high priest by the Roman ruler, Herod of Chalcis from 47-59 A.D.. The Evangelical Bible Commentary p.917 says that Paul’s retort of striking Ananias came true. Ananias was high priest from 47 to 58 A.D. He was known to be brutal and steal the tithes in the temple funds and give bribes to both Jews and Romans. The Jewish people hated him; the Talmud even has a mocking poem about him. “Lift up your heads, O you gates, and let Yohanan [Ananias], the son of Narbai/Nadbai [meaning “generous one”] and disciple of Pinqai (meaning to pamper), enter and fill his stomach with the divine sacrifices (b.Peshim 57a). When the War with the Romans broke out in 66 A.D., Jewish zealots burned down his house. He escaped, but he and his brother Hezekiah were soon killed on the palace grounds of Herod the Great.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1306, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.336-337, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.530, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.465, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.419 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 23:3, how are some people like whitewashed walls?

A: Whitewash is cheap paint. It can make a fence or wall look very white, but the white color comes off easily in the rain or when things touch it. With Ananias, he was judging if Paul broke the Law or not, but Ananias himself commanded what was illegal by having Paul struck even though Paul was not yet found guilty of anything. Likewise, some people can appear very righteous, but the righteousness comes off very easily. We should strive for a righteousness that penetrates our whole being. Whitewash is OK for fences and walls, but not for Christians.

 

3. In Acts 23:3, did Paul get angry and lose his temper here?

A: Yes, it looks like he did. Paul was not sinless, and often when we lose our temper we can say things that we regret. Remember James 1:20, that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.336, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.530-531 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1306 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 23:5, why did Paul say he did not know Ananias was the high priest?

A: Paul said Acts 23:5 based on Exodus 22:38. Ananias was high priest from 47 A.D. to 58 A.D. when Agrippa deposed him and set Ishmael ben Phabi as High Priest starting in 58 A.D. Scripture does not say, but there are four possible reasons.

(unlikely) 1. Paul was being sarcastic here. It would be hard for a stranger to recognize Ananias as high priest, by the way Ananias broke the Jewish Law to have Paul be struck.

(unlikely) 2. Some people think that Paul had poor eyesight, and they did not have eyeglasses back then. If Paul knew Ananias’ face, he did not recognize him from a distance.

(likely) 3. Since Paul did not live in Jerusalem, he did not know Ananias was the high priest, or if he knew the name, he had never seen the man before.

(likely) 4. When Paul was struck, Paul heard the command to strike him, but Paul did not see who was speaking. Paul spoke against the speaker, not realizing the speaker was the high priest.

   See When Critics Ask p.436, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.336-337, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1654, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.531, and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.466 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 23:5, why did Paul say you should not speak evil of the ruler of your people?

A: Exodus 22:28 says not to “curse” the ruler of your people. The Hebrew word here, qalal, also means to revile, bring into contempt, esteem lightly, and so forth.

 

6. In Acts 23:6, was Paul right to stir up the Pharisees and Sadducees against one another?

A: It was fine for Paul to do so. Paul brought up an important matter (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), to show that the unity between the Sadducees and Pharisees was only superficial. Since Pharisees later came to Christ in great numbers (Acts 15:5), in a sense they were still Pharisees.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.467 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 23:6-7, do you agree or disagree that a Sadducee, on becoming a Christian, ceases to be a Sadducee, but a Pharisee, on becoming a Christian could still be a Pharisee, as the New International Bible Commentary p.1307 says?

A: This is too complex to answer as a yes or no. Let’s look at the Pharisee case first, and then the Sadducee case. For comparison purposes, let’s also ask if a genuine Christian could have been a Nazi in World War II.

Could a Christian still be a Pharisee? Yes, but Later no.

Transparently Yes: There was nothing official about having to deny Jesus was the Messiah to prevent someone from joining or remaining in the Pharisees. They love and knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures was a plus. So a Pharisee, upon becoming a Christian, would not have to decide to voluntarily leave the Pharisee group. Early in the church’s history, Acts 15:5 shows Christians who were still a part of the Pharisee group, though unfortunately they brought their insistence on following Jewish customs with them.

Later no: However, the other Pharisees might kick him out, because they did not like him believing Jesus was the Messiah. But if they did not kick him out, then he could remain. As an aside, there were only about 5,000 Pharisees in Jesus’ time. They had been persecuted by the Sadducees, but the Pharisees were highly esteemed among the people as teachers of the law. So remaining, if possible, might be an advantage.

   Let’s look at Paul’s attitude in Philippians 3:6. Paul, in his words, was a Pharisee, just as he was a Hebrew, of the tribe of Benjamin. Those did not change. However, Paul in Philippians 3:7–9 Paul counted those things as rubble compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ. Paul still had his Pharisee background, and he was not afraid to mention it as an achievement, but he did not let it get in the way of him obeying Christ.

Could a Christian still be a Sadducee? Transparently no, Sneakily yes

Transparently no: The Sadducees all denied the resurrection, denied the afterlife, and denied that angels and demons existed. A Christian could not believe what Jesus and the apostles said about those things, and at the same time believe the exact opposite.

Sneakily yes: But if a person were a Sadducee, and then became a Christian, they could be a “covert Christian” and secretly not tell anyone those in charge that they denied those Sadducee teachings. That would work with until the Sadducee leaders found out. Or it might work indefinitely if the particular leaders looked the other way or did not care. So a Sadducee-Christian would be a “secret believer” who have to mislead the authorities (perhaps by silence) that he believed Sadducee teaching while perhaps spreading the truth of the gospel to other Sadducees.

Could a Christian be a Nazi in World War II: Transparently no, Sneakily yes

Assume a Nazi became a Christian afterwards, or else a Christian became a Nazi, not knowing what the Nazi party stood for.

Transparently no: The Nazi party believed what they mis-labelled the Aryan race was the master race, and those of other races were to be subjugated or killed. They advocated killing Jews, mentally disabled, and many eastern Europeans to make Rome for expansion. A Christian, who is supposed to love all people, believe that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, or any other divisions, and believes that murder is wrong, could not follow Christ and believe what the Nazis taught.

Sneakily yes: Did you know there is a Nazi party member who was buried, with honor, in Jerusalem? Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member who saw what was happening to the Jews, did NOT renounce his Nazi party membership. Rather he used it to save around 1,200 Jews in Europe from extermination, spending all of his considerable fortune on bribes to save Jews. Later he went bankrupt. In China, a German Nazi named John Rabe worked to protect a quarter of Nanjing, and about 200,000 Chinese, from Japanese atrocities. Again, he could have said, “I don’t like what the Nazi party stands for, I am out and I am just going to isolate myself.” But no, instead he used where he was at, and his membership in that evil organization, to save lives. Because of that, after the war he was denounced for being a Nazi, and later suffered malnutrition from not being able to get work. Also, Schindler and Rabe were not known to be Christians, both were very dedicated Nazis when the war started.

Relevance today

This is a very relevant issue today because Christians debate whether a follower of Jesus can also be a Muslim or a Hindu.

On the con side, they might be sinning by affirming the lie that the Qur’an or the Vedas are valuable spiritual books from the One True God, or fail to warn people that Mohammed is a false prophet, and that you cannot worship any but the true God. If some (but not most), reject that Jesus is God, or deny that Paul is an apostle and writer of scripture, then they are not really believers at all.

On the pro side, in countries like Malaysia, when someone is born in a Muslim family, their identity card says they are a Muslim. It does not matter what they believe after that, the identity card won’t be changed.

In the end times, there might an opportunity for believers to try to work from within, to sneakily be a part of Babylon, to survive and secretly share with others. But believers must NOT take it, but to flee Babylon, as God command in Revelation 18:4.

 

8. In Acts 23:6-7, today what kinds of groups could a person transparently still be a part of when they become a Christian, and what kinds of groups could they no longer be a part of?

A: I suppose a person could be a part of a group that did not have any anti-Biblical beliefs you had to agree to in order to join or remain a member. But if the group advocated anti-Biblical beliefs, but you did not have to believe them, you should ask yourself why you want to be a member. To become a Muslims you have to say, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” You cannot say that without sinning.

   Suppose somebody said they became a Christian, but they say they do not believe in God, do not want to follow Jesus and do not accept God’s Word. Would you at least have some suspicions that they might be a fake Christian? What is true about denying the core tenets of Christianity is true about denying the tenets of other religions too. So yes, hypothetically a person could be a Christian and a fake Hindu, a fake worshipper of the Roman gods, or even a fake Satanist. But would the True God want you to do that? – of course not.

 

9. In Acts 23:11, why would the Lord appear to Paul here?

A: Paul was about to go through some hard times, being imprisoned for two years. God spoke to encourage Him, and assure Paul was in the right place, exactly when he needed to be there. Note that there was no criticism of Paul going to Jerusalem in the first place, and there was no criticism of Paul setting the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1307 and the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1654-1655 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 23:1-11, with his boldness, did Paul do a good job testifying here?

A: Yes because he did testify. One way to guarantee failure in sharing the gospel is not to share it at all. But Paul did not want to let this opportunity to slip past. Pray that we have the boldness Paul had. There is a lack of smoothness in the dialog here. Paul was not asked to give a speech; rather this was question and answer, where they could interrupt at any time. Today, when were are in a chaotic, unrehearsed format, it is god to make your key points first, like a newspaper article does, in case they decide not to listen to the rest of what you say.

First what is not the answer, and then the answer.

Not the answer: Paul did not really testify here; he would testify in Caesarea in Judea, and then later in Rome. However, this is not the answer because the Lord did not commend him for what  he would do, and He did not commend Paul for testifying in Judea, but rather in Jerusalem.

The answer: He did good enough job testifying courageously before a hostile audience.

 

11. In Acts 23:15-25, did the forty assassins die, and why were 470 Romans used?

A: It is interesting that the Jews thought they had better odds of Paul dying by ambushing a Roman military guard than by convicting him in a court of law. This suggests that they themselves realized the weakness of their case.

   These Jews all took an oath to not eat or drink until they killed Paul. However, if they were not able to kill Paul, through no fault of their own, the Jewish leaders would relieve them of their oath. Rabbis allowed vows to be broken for four reasons: vows of incitement, vows of exaggeration, vows made in error, and vows that cannot be fulfilled by reason of constraint (M Nedarim 3:1-3). See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.533-534 for more info.

   The Roman commander, Claudius Lysias, wanted to ensure Paul’s safety, not because of honor or concern for Paul, but rather he would look bad if by his laxness he let the Jews kill a Roman citizen under the protection of his custody. Caesarea was 65 miles northwest of Jerusalem, sufficiently out of range for a riot. They probably stopped in Antipatris, about midway at 35 miles from Jerusalem and 23 miles from Caesarea. Also, for speed, the infantry might have ridden on the pack animals.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1634, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.384,535, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.420 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 23:26-30, what are some significant parts of this letter?

A: There is a mistake and a couple of omissions in it. The letter sounds like Lysias rescued Paul because he was a Roman citizen. Actually, Lysias did not learn that Paul was a Roman citizen until much later. Lysis apparently “forgot” to mention that he was about to flog Paul. Most of the rest of the letter is accurate, but it was very self-serving.

   Luke would know about this letter from Paul, but how would Paul know the contents of this letter? Even if Felix had not shown Paul the letter later, the letter was likely read during the court proceedings.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.340 and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.473-474 for more info.


 

Acts 24 – Paul on Trial before the government – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 24:1-27, what do we know about the one Tertullus called “noble Felix” and his wife Drusilla?

A: According to the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.918 Antoninus Felix was born a slave, freed by the mother of Emperor Claudius and in 52 A.D. promoted to the governor of Judea due to the influence of his brother Pallas. Felix was greedy and dealt with bandits cruelly.

   After this time there was a revolt in Caesarea, and Felix had handled this with his soldiers, killing many Jewish civilians and taking their wealth. A Jewish high priest named Jonathan wrote to Felix asking him to be more worthy of his office. So Felix paid the anti-Roman Sicarii, who were assassins, to murder Jonathan. For Felix’s behavior in general some Jews went ot Rome to complain to Nero, and Felix was recalled. He would have suffered in Rome, except that his brother Pallas interceded for him.

   Drusilla was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I. Her siblings were Berenice, Mariamne, and Herod Agrippa II in Acts 25:13-26:32. Drusilla was Felix’s third or fourth wife. She and Azizas/Azizus, the king (under the Romans) of Emesa (modern-day Homs, Syria), had planned to marry, when she was 14, on the condition that he convert to Judaism. But later Felix persuaded her to leave Azizas/Azizus and marry Felix instead as his fourth wife.

   Tertullus himself had a fairly common name, meaning little Tertius. Felix was acquainted with Jewish customs, and Felix had put down a revolt of robbers, which Tertullus is probably alluding to in Acts 24:2. Other than that, there was probably little else complimentary for Tertullus to say about Felix. Sometimes buttering up someone can be a tough job!

   See Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews book 20 ch.7.1-2,5 p.420-421, the New International Bible Commentary p.1307, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.539, The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.347-349, the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1656-1657, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.476-477,486-487,the New International Bible Commentary p.1308, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.918 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 24:5-8, what is the essence of Tertullus’ charge of Paul’s guilt?

 A: Tertullus only had four things. He rather subjectively called Paul a plague, said Paul was a creator of dissension, correctly said Paul was a leader of Nazarenes (aka Christians), and falsely said that Paul tried to profane the Temple. But anybody you, or those who hired you, do not like you can just call a plague. Strangely, the Jews who followed Paul around, and even had a plot to kill him, were not said to cause dissension, just Paul. Is it a crime to lead a group of people? – Jews themselves had various rabbinical schools. So Tertullus saved the most serious charge, profaning the Temple, for last, and even that was false. As a lawyer, Tertullus tried to get the most mileage out of what little he had.

 

3. In Acts 24:11-21, what is the essence of Paul’s defense?

A: During the very brief time he was in Jerusalem, twelve days, he did not incite anything. The Jews who incited the mob should be here, not him. Paul did not profane the Temple, and they have no proof that he did so. Yes, he was a part of the “Way”, i.e. a Christian.

   But Paul also said a lot that was not really for his defense. He first challenged they did not give any specific charges of how he profaned the temple, or really what he was on trial for, so Paul was happy to tell Felix what the real accusation was that they had against him. Paul took that opportunity to preach part of the gospel, about the resurrection of the dead. It is like he interrupted his defense in the middle, because he had to get the gospel out.

   At the start of the trial Felix did not say, “we have to wait on a verdict until Lysias comes down.” It is almost as though Felix saw no quick result, perhaps got tired of the trial, and just decided to delay until Lysias himself came down. If Felix had acquitted Paul then and there, the Jewish leaders would be angry at him, and Felix was concerned with keeping their favor and keeping the feast. Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders would have to trudge back to Jerusalem, and return later for the continuation. But Felix probably did not care about their trouble, or how long Paul would remain in prison. By the way, we do not have any record of Lysias ever making the two-day trip to come.

   See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1656-1657 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 24:25b, what is the difference today between rejecting the gospel and merely delaying considering the gospel?

A: When the delay is infinite, then ultimately there is no difference whatsoever. But God is patient with us, and we can pray that someone’s delay is temporary and that they will turn around. God is very patient with unbelieves, ne we should be too. Unfortunately, in this case, Felix said to go away, and that Felix would send for Paul when it was convenient for Felix. Apparently, there never was a convenient time for Felix to accept the gospel. When someone will only listen to the gospel when it is convenient for them, in many cases there is never a convenient time.

 

5. In Acts 24:25-27, was Felix unjust to keep Paul in prison?

A: By Roman standards Felix was not unjust, but in reality he was. Felix had made no wrong judgment against Paul. But, by imprisoning Paul for two years, that was wrong. Paul was in a state the Romans called custodia libera, meaning he was always guarded, but his friends could come and go to visit him. Also, while it was just for Paul to defend himself during trial, Paul essentially had four trials, with the Sanhedrin, Festus, Festus, and Herod Agrippa II. Paul might have wondered how many trials he had to go through, without them finding any guilt, before they would free him. Today people can be unjust not just by denying what somebody should have, but by indefinitely postponing it.

   See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.343,347 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 24:26, why would Felix hope for a bribe from Paul, a mere tentmaker?

A: Paul was very likely not wealthy, but someone who could bring a substantial offering of money to Jerusalem either had friends that together had a lot of money. Also, according to Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews book 20 ch.9.5 p.424, after the rule of Felix and Festus, the governor Albinus almost emptied the prisons, and the only ones left were those who could not pay Albinus any money at all.

   On one hand, Felix probably could have gotten money by asking the Jews for a bribe to turn Paul over to them. But if anyone ever told that Felix did this to have a Roman citizen killed, it would be very dangerous for Felix.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.488,490 for more info.

 

7. In Acts 24:27, what is the extra-biblical information we have on Festus?

A: Porcius Festus was appointed to be the governor of Judea in the Fall of 60 A.D., according to the Believer’s Bible Commentary (Nelson, 1989) p.1657. However, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.605-606, says there is some uncertainty about the date, which could vary from 55 A.D. to 60 A.D. Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.9-11; 20.185-188 and Wars of the Jews 2 271) written about 93-94 A.D.) also says Festus was appointed governor of Judea. The Jews would have viewed Festus as better and more reasonable than his predecessor Felix, and also than his successors Lucceius Albinus (62-64 A.D.) and the corrupt Gessius Florus (64-66 A.D.)

   The New Geneva Study Bible (p.1754) records that Festus was the surname of a noble family in Rome.

   The New International Study Bible p.1693 says that there is no record of Festus prior to his coming to Palestine. However, records of his rule show that he was wiser and more honest than Felix. Even so, Felix had to go to Rome to answer for his handling of riots between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea.

   In contrast, Felix repressed the population violently. He was originally a slave and later was freed. The Roman historian Tacitus said of Felix, “He exercised royal power with the mind of a slave”. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.421 and The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.3369 for more info. He arranged for the assassination of a high priest named Jonathan, who criticized him for his bad rule, according to the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1656.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.544 for more info.


Acts 25-26 – Paul’s Retrial – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 25:2, why does it say, “chief priests” (plural) when there was only supposed to be one chief priest?

A: The chief priest at this time was Ishmael, son of Phabi, appointed by Herod Agrippa II (Marcus Julius Agrippa II). Ishmael succeeded Ananias. In general a former chief priest could still be called a chief priest, but there was a more immediate reason here. Ananias still held the power up until the Jewish rebels killed him in 66 A.D. Ananias was not reluctant to use murder and assassination to achieve his purposes, and it is fitting that those who lived by the sword died by the sword. See Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 20 179 (i.8), 194-196 (8.11) and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.544,547-548 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 25:23, what else do we know about Bernice / Berenice?

A: First of all, her name was either Berenice or Pherenika, pronounced as Veronica in Latin. Bernice was engaged to Marcus, a nephew of the Jewish philosopher Philo. Then she married her uncle Herod of Chalcis, a very small kingdom under Rome in the mountains of Lebanon. After he died in 48 A.D., she left her third husband and lived with her brother (one year older) Agrippa II. Both the Roman historian Seutonius (Satirae 6.156-160) and the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 20.145-147) said they had an incestuous relationship. This would not be a problem though, as the Emperor Nero had a sexual relationship with his own mother (though she was probably unwilling.) She sided with the Romans in the Jewish War and later became the mistress of Vespasian and then the Roman General Titus. That became a public scandal, then finally Titus had to send her away

   So here you have this “couple” trying to write to an Emperor who will later (after 60 A.D.) become a monster, trying to write charges to Emperor Nero as to why Paul is an evil, guilty man, and they are having a hard time. Note that Paul still treats them with respect though.

   Anyway, because Agrippa was considered an expert on Judaism and a friend of the Emperor’s family, he was given the privilege of choosing the Jewish high priest, and he deposed Ananias and chose Ishmael son of Phabi. Later there was a dispute over a wall that blocked the king’s view of the Temple, and so Agrippa deposed Ishmael and chose Joseph son of Simeon. Regardless though, the former chief priest Ananias was still in control behind the scenes, and this is probably why Luke speaks of chief priests plural. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.544,547-548 and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.495 for more info.

 

3. In Acts 25:23, mentions that Agrippa and Bernice came in with great pomp, but Scripture does not record that for Herod or Pilate. Why do some people do things with “pomp”?

A: This was meta polles phantasies in Greek. They do things for appearance, pretending the appearance matches the substance. The Romans often had a lot of pageantry. Perhaps the pomp would be thought to impress Jewish leaders or intimidate the accused.  There were five cohorts stationed in Caesarea, and each cohort was nominally 1,000 men. So there would be five Roman chiliarch’s attending Festus.

   Roman emperors were sometimes called Augustus, Sebastos in Greek, meaning they were higher than other mortals. It was not until the time of Nero that they were called “Lord” though.

   Today some people have the idea that if they look important, people will accept them as important, and they will then be more important. It is sad if you think your self-worth depends on your appearance and popularity.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.423 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 26:12-15, Paul left out some details here, such as about Ananias and getting the commission later. When is it OK for us to summarize and simplify?

A: Paul did not use deceit, and neither should we. But Paul omitted some details, as they would not be considered important to the audience. It is perfectly fine for us to leave out details too.

   See The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.364 and the New International Bible Commentary p.1310 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 26:14, how could the voice be speaking to Saul in Hebrew, since the popular phrase “it is hard to kick against the goads” was known in Greek, but not Hebrew?

A: It was a well-known phrase in Greek, meaning to fight against deity, as these five references show. Euripides’ Bacchanals 794-795; Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 324-325; Agamemnon 1624, Pindar’s Pythia 2.94-95, Terence Phormio 1.2.27. Paul knew Greek and Greek culture as well as Hebrew. There are two possible answers, and frankly, it does not matter which one is true.

1. It is not uncommon to translate a slang expression from one language to another, especially when Paul, not to mention God, knew both languages well.

2. God could have spoken to Paul in Hebrew and spoke just this phrase in Greek. It would still be accurate, though imprecise, to say God spoke to Paul in Hebrew if God also spoke one small phrase in Greek.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.552 and The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.354 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 26:14, an ox goad was a hard, sharp stick to poke an ox with when the ox would not move. Kicking against the goads is more than just sinning. How do people sin and kick against the goads today?

A: As a more modern writer quipped, “your arms are too short to box with God.” It is one thing to sin, but it is another to be defiant about it. When God has clearly said not to do something, and with that knowledge you go off and do it anyway, you are basically fighting against God.

 

Q: In Acts 26:23, how do different translations say Christ is first?

A: Originally the Greek had no punctuation, so there are two ways this could be translated.

Putting “first” with the preceding clause.

“that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light…” (KJV)

“that he would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light…” (NKJV)

 “as the first to rise from the dead would proclaim light…” (NIV)

“by being the first to rise from the dead was to proclaim the light…” (Williams)

“by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light…” (RSV, NRSV)

“He being the first to rise from the dead is destined to be a proclaiming light…” (Wuest’s Expanded Translation)

Putting “first” with the following clause.

“by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light…” (NASB, uNASB)

“by a resurrection of the dead He was first going to proclaim light…” (Green’s Literal Translation)

By the way, some modern translations say, “rise from the dead” for better readability, but the Greek is actually “resurrection from dead”.

My conclusion: While the Greek could be either way, Paul’s use of the term “firstborn of the dead” in other passages suggests that “first” goes with the preceding clause.

 

7. In Acts 26:23, what precisely does “first” mean here?

A: First let’s look at the Greek word for “first” that Paul uses here and elsewhere, then let’s look at precisely what Paul meant by resurrection, here and elsewhere.

Greek protos/proton (Strong’s 4412/4413) are related words that can mean first in time, order, or importance. Paul also uses this word in an approximate sense to mean “early on” or “before another”.

Combining Paul’s writings, and Luke’s account of Paul’s teaching, Paul uses this word as follows:

Time or order only: Acts 13:46; 20:18; 26:20; 1 Cor 14:30; 16:2; Gal 4:13; Eph 1:12; 4:9; 1 Thess 4:16; 2 Thess 2:3; 1 Tim 3:10; 5:4; 5:12; 2 Tim 1:5; 4:16; 2 Tim 2:6; Tt 3:10

Importance only: 1 Cor 11:18; 12:28; 15:3; 2 Cor 8:5,12; 1 Tim 1:16; 2:1

Both time/order and importance: Acts 26:23; Rom 1:8; 1:16; 1 Cor 15:45,46,47; 1 Tim 2:13

Early on or before another: Romans 10:19-20; 15:24; Eph 1:12; 6:2; Php 1:5; 1 Tim 1:16; 2 Tim 4:16

Undifferentiated: Rom 2:9; 2:10; Eph 6:2

Conclusion: Acts 26:23 can mean all three: time/order, importance, and before another. Christ was the first to rise with an incorruptible body, He is the source of our resurrection, and rose before any of us will rise.

What Kind of Resurrection:

Paul was no stranger to resurrection, having raised Eutychus from the dead in Acts 20:9-12. But to be technical, the Greek is not the action of “rising from the dead”, but rather the noun “resurrection of dead”. So what is Paul referring to?

a) Temporary resurrection with bodies that would die again: Lazarus (John 11:38-42), the widow’s (1 Kings 17:22), the Shunamite’s son (2 Kings 4:28-37), and Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12).

b) Permanent resurrection, of which Jesus was the first to rise with an incorruptible body.

   Paul no where else preached the first type, only the second. In Romans 6:9 he says that Christ was raised “never to die again”, and likewise our resurrected bodies are incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 35-55). Paul also says, “The fact that God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, never to decay” in Acts 13:34a

   It would be false to think that Paul preached either that Christ only had a temporary resurrection, or that Paul promised us only a temporary resurrection. His message to Festus and Agrippa, and to everybody else, was only about the permanent resurrection that Christ and we have. See The Expositor’s New Testament vol.2 p.510 for more on this passage.

 

8. In Acts 26:24-29, why was Paul so bold before King Agrippa?

A: What did Paul have to lose? The Holy Spirit told Paul that he would testify at Rome, and Paul knew he was going to Rome. Paul was bold here for the sake of converting his listeners. Paul apparently thought a direct, simple appeal was the best approach. There also might have been an urgency for Paul to appeal to Rome now. Festus was not familiar with the situation, and apparently had no suspicions that the Jews just wanted Paul sent to Rome so that they could ambush him. Paul might have appealed to Rome now because he saw that he was about to be sent to Jerusalem.

   One might ask why Paul would bother to preach the gospel to rulers who seemed so far outside the reach of the gospel. Perhaps the answer is that the Paul did not see it that way. Paul did not ask, who is outside the reach of the gospel, but since Paul had the opportunity, he was going to take it and preach not only to Felix and King Agrippa, but everyone else who was listening.

   As a historical side note, in the second century (100-200 A.D.) Roman citizens were generally sent to Rome without needing to appeal to Caesar. In the third century, almost all non-slaves I the Roman Empire were citizens, so almost anyone could choose to be sent to Rome. But back in Paul’s time, Roman citizens were not sent to Rome unless they specifically appealed.

   Today, we should be bold, too. Do not just make presenting the Gospel an ulterior motive, but say up-front the most important motive for our speaking to them is that they can be saved.

   See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.545 and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1110 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 26:24-25, why did Festus accuse Paul of being insane?

A: It was not because he thought Paul was ignorant; in fact, he claimed that all of Paul’s great learning made him mad, which sort of says something about Festus’ own level of learning. One reason Festus might have said this is because he might not have follow all of Paul’s argument. A second reason is that Festus was Greek, not Jewish, and Greek philosophy had (almost) no concept of people rising from the dead. See the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1661 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 26:27, Paul was doing well with his eloquent, learned, and scriptural speech, but Paul interrupted all that to ask King Agrippa a direct, proving question. When do you think we should pause in our sharing the gospel to ask direct, probing questions?

A: With a gospel speech, it can be easy for the reader to listen passively, and not get the idea that they are about to make the most important decision in their life: whether or not to believe and follow the message of the gospel. King Agrippa was supposedly an expert on Judaism including the prophets. But Paul drew a line in the sand here. Agrippa, know about the prophets, did, yes or no, did he believe in them? Agrippa was definitely an audience willing to listen, but was he an audience willing to make a difference and change based on what he would hear?

 

11. In Acts 26:27-29, why did King Agrippa not accept Christ when Paul spoke to him?

A: While we do not know all the reasons, it could have been out of pride, fear, other people watching. Ultimately, God foreknew and predestined who would go to Heaven. Regardless of how you might think foreknowledge and predestination interrelate, it is incorrect if you combine the two in such a way as to explicitly or implicitly absolve King Agrippa of his responsibility to accept and believe.

 

12. In Acts 26:32 and Acts 25:11, should Paul have appealed to Caesar?

A: This meant that Paul would travel to Rome so that Caesar would decide his case personally.

   Paul was smart to appeal to Caesar for three reasons.

On one hand, Paul wanted to go to Rome, and that would be his ticket.

Second, Paul might have realized that the implacable, murderous opposition would mean he would never get released in Judea. Remember the chief priests wanted Paul to return to Jerusalem, so that they could ambush him.

Third, if Paul went before Caesar and was declared innocent, it would give Christianity a legal footing, as Judaism had.

   Finally remember that when somebody says something that does not mean what they are saying is necessarily true. Felix and Festus agreed that Paul was innocent, and had he not appealed to Caesar, they would have let him go. That was easy for them to say now. They could have let Paul go any time in the two years Paul had been staying in the prison! They could even have freed him now, which would have made the appeal to Caesar a moot point. It is easy for someone to sound very nice and conciliatory when there is no cost in doing so, they have nothing to lose, and they know it is impossible for their “generosity” to be exercised. Actually Felix probably breached a sigh of relief when Paul made his appeal, because it got Festus out of a tricky situation. He did not want to antagonize the Jews, and he would prefer not to kill an innocent Roman citizen that he might have to answer for later. So Festus probably realized that even if Paul was innocent, he could still be a dangerous person.

   See the New International Bible Commentary p.1309, The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.350, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.515, and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.546 for more info.


Acts 27 – Sailing into Uncertainty – some brief answers

 

Fair weather, then storm, then shipwreck, then an escape from death. If we are really doing God’s will in God’s way, and God is pleased with us, shouldn’t our way be easy?

 

1. In Acts 27:1-28:13, what can we tell from the writing style?

A: This is so detailed that Luke must have been an eye witness, and likely even had access to the ship’s logs. As Thomas Walker said, “There is no such detailed record of the working of an ancient ship in the whole of classical literature.” Being a physician, Luke, who frequently wrote in medical terms in the Books of Acts, would have an eye for detail. But on the other hand, Luke’s plain terminology about sailing indicates that he was no sailor. James Smith of Renfrewshire, Scotland was a yachtsman for thirty years and went to Malta to study Paul’s voyage. He wrote The Voyage and Shipwreck of Paul in 1848, “no sailor would have written in a style so little like that of a sailor; no man not a sailor could have written a narrative of a sea voyage so consistent in al its parts, unless from actual observation.” On the other hand, not counting this voyage, Paul’s eleven other voyages traveled a total of 3,500 miles. So though Paul was not an experienced sailor, he was an experience ship passenger.

  Also, who else would likely be on board? The passengers probably also included other prisoners going to Rome to be tried or executed. They would often execute them in the Colosseum or other arenas.

   See The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.368,372 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 27:10, did Paul give a false prophecy here, that people would lose their lives, since no one lost their life according to Acts 27:22-23?

A: No, but there are two different answers.

Paul’s original opinion vs. God’s later promise: Paul was speaking from his own knowledge in Acts 27:10, because Paul said, “I can see”, and not “God said”, or “an angel said” as in Acts 27:22.

God’s revealed will can change when our will does: Perhaps God did tell Paul that there might be loss of life prior to Acts 27:10. Since Acts 27:24 says that the lives of those with Paul were “granted” to him, Paul must have prayed earnestly for them. God’s revealed will toward us can change when we pray, or our will changes. For another example of this, see Genesis 20:3-7. For an example of where David’s faithful, frequent, and earnest prayer was answered “No”, see 2 Samuel 12:15-19.

 

3. In Acts 27:10, how should you live when you are an unwilling part of something that is drifting toward wreckage?

A: First pray about it, and then warn others, as Paul did. Sometimes that does not work because those you are telling underestimate either the severity of the danger or the probability that it will happen. You might want to get off the boat if you can, though that was not feasible in Paul’s case. Or if you were on the Titanic when it was sinking, you might tell people to get in the lifeboats, tell people to wait for others to fill up the lifeboats, and in general act as Christ would have you act in this situation. But in order to do those things, you would have to keep level-headed and not panic. People are more likely to panic when they don’t know that God is watching over them. But God watching over you might include calming your nerves so that you can choose to take the best course of action.

   We might content ourselves to think that as long as we are faithfully following God, we will not encounter severe storms or shipwreck. But that is not true physically and emotionally, even for Paul. God will carry us through the storms, but in the meantime we are to be a “center” of calm” as we are good witness, praising God even in the middle of the storm.

   See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1111 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 27:14, what is a Euroclydon wind?

A: It literally means “northeaster”, and it is a strong, northeastern wind that occurs in fall and early winter in this part of the Mediterranean. It makes sailing in the eastern Mediterranean treacherous after September 14th. This was after the Day of Atonement, and according to William Ramsay, in October 59 the Day of Atonement was on October 5, so calm sailing times were over until about March 5th.. Cauda was a small island about 25 miles south of Crete. It was foolish to sail in this season, but the owners probably wanted to risk it for money. Sailing to Fair Heavens was less than 100 miles, and the wind was gentle when they first set out, so they decided to risk it.

   See The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.370, the New International Bible Commentary p.1312, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.559, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.520,523, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.919 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 27:14, how do people today feel better by taking small precautions in dangerous situations?

A: In Acts 27:14, they put ropes around the outside of the ship to hold it together better in rough seas. Imagine being told you are going to encounter hurricane-force winds at sea, but don’t worry about a thing, we will put ropes around your boat! While putting ropes around the vessel was a good idea, it was not one-hundredth as good as the idea of not sailing there so late in the first place. But once they made that decision, for monetary gain at the risk of everyone’s safety, frapping the ship, was better than nothing. The other four things that they did, hauling the lifeboat on the ship, lowering the sail to slow their progress, dropping anchor to slightly slow their progress, and out of desperation throwing the cargo overboard, were the best they could do, now that they were already in this situation. They wanted to slow the ship down, because they did not want to hit the shore of Libya at night. There were feared sandbars off the coast of Libya.

   Today sometimes people do things that result in them being a tiny bit safer, not because it makes much difference, but to feel better about being in a risky situation. It is better to evaluate the overall risk, and perhaps not to have gotten in the risky situation in the first place. Small steps to make something better or less risky are fine, but don’t let that blind you from looking at the overall situation. For example, think of Robinhood, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Should he have robbed? No. But if he gave a little to the poor, would that make him feel better? It is better not to rob people, than to rob people, even if give money that was not yours to the poor.

   See The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.370 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.561 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 27:21, how, and when should you say “I told you so” as Paul seemed to do here?

A: A lot depends on your attitude and tone of voice when you say it. Paul was not trying to put them down, but his saying this would suggest that in the future they should pay more attention to his recommendations.

   See The Message of Acts : Revised Edition p.372, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.561, and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1111, for more info.

 

7. In Acts 27:27, how were they sailing in the Adriatic Sea, since they should have been south of Italy?

A: Back then what they called the Adriatic Sea also included water south of Italy down to Sicily and Malta on the west to the island of Crete on the east. This is considerably south of what today is called the Adriatic Sea. Josephus, who was also shipwrecked here, called it the “Sea of Adria”.

   See The NIV Study Bible, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.529, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament p.428 for more info.

 

8. In Acts 27:37, why were there so many people (276) in the ship Paul traveled on?

A: It was apparently a large ship, and most ships at that time had slaves to row the oars. Josephus in Life book 15 ch.3 mentioned that the ship that carried Josephus to Italy on had 600 passengers. Josephus was also shipwrecked, and only 80 passengers survived.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.428, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.561,562 and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.533 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 27:41, what is the significance driving the vessel ashore between two seas?

A: There were (and still are) sandbars in what is now called St. Paul’s Bay between the islands of Malta and the nearby islet of Salmonetta. This spot was perfect for driving the ship aground, as one would not want to drive the ship against rocks.

   As the New Geneva Study Bible (p.1759) implies, this insignificant detail is very significant, because nobody would know this unless they either lived on Malta or were an eyewitness.

 

10. In Acts 27:42, why were the soldiers so eager to kill the prisoners?

A: Roman soldiers could be killed for letting their prisoners escape, but they would not be punished for killing their prisoners to keep them from escaping. Perhaps the soldiers would be satisfied since any blame would go to the centurion, since he commanded them not to kill the prisoners.

 

11. In Acts 27:1 to 28:1, we all have storms in life. How would you compare and contrast Paul’s journey with Jonah?

A: It is interesting to contrast Paul’s voyage with a similar voyage over about the same area by Jonah. Both had storms and unexpectedly had to leave the protection of the ship. But Jonah under God’s protection, was voluntarily fleeing to disobey God. Paul despite Satan’s potentially opposition, but still under God’s protection, was a prisoner with no control over where he would go. Both of them got to the destinations God intended though. And both got there in ways totally unexpected by them.


 

Acts 28 – A Date with Destiny in Rome – some brief answers

 

1. In Acts 28:1 what do we know about the island of Malta?

A: Malta is a small island (18 by 8 miles, 95 square miles (246 square kilometers, which is only 58-60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Sicily and about 180 miles northeast of Tunisia. It is 600 miles (960 kilometers west of Fair Havens, Crete.

The inhabitants were former Phoenicians plus Roman soldiers and their families. They were called “barbarians” not because they were not civilized, but barbarian originally meant someone who did not natively speak Greek (or later Latin). The NIV Study Bible p.1699 adds that these people were the descendants of Phoenicians who were Romanized, and thus quite civilized..

   See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1099, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.563, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.429 for more info.

 

2. In Acts 28:1, exactly where did Paul land on Malta?

A: It was likely a place that today is called Paul’s Bay (for obvious reasons). It is about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of the city of Valetta. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.563 for more info.

 

From https://drivethruhistory.com/location-of-pauls-shipwreck-on-malta/

 

3. In Acts 28:3, how could a viper fasten itself on Paul’s hand, since there are no vipers in Malta today?

A: Today there are only two species of snakes in Malta, and both of them were imported. There is not much forest to gather wood from on Malta today, either. However, before men cleared out the forest, there is no reason to suppose that there were not the same kinds of snakes that were in the surrounding lands. The snake Vipera aspis lives in southern Europe, Vipera latastei inhabits in Spain and Portugal, and Vipera amondytes is somewhat farther away in southeastern Europe.

   While this could have been a demon disguised as a snake, there is no reason to suppose it was not a normal, natural animal. Whether the snake was indigenous or came in on a ship, the Maltese were not strangers to poisonous snakes.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.538 for more info.

 

4. In Acts 28:4, who or what is “Justice” here?

A: Justice means “justice, but also a Greek goddess, name Dike/Dice, also called “Lady Justice”, who was the goddess of justice and moral order. She was the daughter of Zeus and his second wife, the Titan Themis, who was goddess of “divine order and justice.” So the Maltese might have been talking about either one of them. While most of the Maltese were of Phoenician/Carthaginian origin, others were families of Roman soldiers. Apparently various gods and goddesses flowed freely between the cultures. See The Tony Evans Bible Commentary p.1112, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.563,564, and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.539 for more info.

 

5. In Acts 28:7, is there any archaeological evidence for the title “first/chief man” of the Island?

A: Yes. Malta was too small to be a province of kingdom. An inscription shows that Emperor Augustus installed a “chief man over all the municipality of Malta.” See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.540, the New Geneva Study Bible (p.1759) and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.564 for more info.

 

6. In Acts 28:7, is there any extra-Biblical evidence for this Publius, the “chief man of the island”?

A: Yes. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1428 and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.540 mention that tradition says Publius became the first bishop of Malta. Gennadius/Jerome in On Illustrious Men 19 says that he was later killed for his Christian faith.

 

7. In Acts 28:7-10, why would the islanders give them supplies?

A: Malta is a small island, and the islanders were not under any obligation to give supplies instead of selling supplies. But they likely were very grateful for the people Paul healed on the island. So all of the Roman soldiers and crew benefited from the actions of Paul. As a believer today, do people around you benefit from your blessed life?

 

8. In Acts 28:8, what could Publius’ father have been suffering from?

A: Malta has temperate weather. In winter time, the temperature can be between 50 to 65 F (10-17 C), so it could have been a number of things. In most places dysentery comes from bad water or spoiled food. However, in Malta there is a third cause. There is a microorganism, found in the milk of goats on Malta, Gibraltar, and other warm places in the Mediterranean called micrococcus melitensis. Today there is a vaccine against it, but without the vaccine intermittent fever can last from four months up to three years. See The Message of Acts Revised Edition p.377 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.565 for more info.

 

9. In Acts 28:11 who were Castor and Pollux?

A: According to Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were twins born of Zeus and Leda queen of Sparta, when Zeus took the form of a swan and impregnated Leda. They were the patron gods of sailors. If their constellation, Gemini was seen during a storm, it meant good luck. They supposedly hatched from eggs. This was not so popular as other myths at that time, but later during the Renaissance, many artists worked on paintings show the graphic act. Including Leonardo da Vinci (never finished) and Michelangelo. They were paid to do so by patrons. If you are paid to do something, how much time do you spend asking if God really wants you to work on that or not?

   By the way, in the Vatican on St. Peter’s Basilica door, there is a picture of what appears to be Leda and the swan. Trip Advisor had a picture of this. I don’t know why that is there in the Vatican.

   See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.429, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.542, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol.9 p.566, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.919 for more info.

 

10. In Acts 28:13 (KJV) since it says, “we fetched a compass”, does that mean that compasses existed back then?

A: Some Mormons have appealed to this to show that compasses were used in ancient times, and thus having a compass exist in the Book of Mormon would not be an error of a historical anachronism after all.

Three points to consider in the answer.

1. The Bible was written in the Greek language, not English. The Greek is “Going around from there”, and absent is any mention of any navigational instruments in this verse.

2. The English language has evolved, and the English in the 400-year-old King James Version is not identical with the English of today. The word “compass” meant “to go around” in KJV times.

3. “Compass” is used in the KJV to mean to go around or surround in Luke 21:20 also.

As an aside, Acts 28:13 shows that with good weather and favorable winds, they sailed 180 miles in just two days.

Summary: Thus, the translators of the King James Bible did not translate incorrectly here. Rather they used a word that was correct in English 400 years ago.

   See What You Know Might Not Be So : 220 Misinterpretations of Bible Texts Explained p.45 and The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.543 for more info.

 

11. In Acts 28:24-25, what do we know about the Jews in Rome?

A; They were first in Puteoli, a suburb of Rome around 4 B.C. Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome between 41 to 53 A.D., but since had been allowed to return. There were seven different Jewish synagogues in Rome. They were a minority in Rome, but a significant minority.

   See The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.544,547 for more info.

 

12. In Acts 28:30-31, what did Paul do for two years under house arrest in Rome?

A: Scripture says that Paul say visitors and preached the gospel, but it does not say much more. This might have been the time that Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, according to the Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1665, The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.552, and the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible p.920, or at least the first three according to the New International Bible Commentary p.1314.

 

13. In Acts 28:30-31, do you think Paul went free or not?

A: Scripture does not say. History also does not tell us whether a) Paul was convicted and martyred, or b) set free, did more things, then was arrested later, then convicted and martyred. But we can look at the situation. There is no indication that his Jewish accusers showed up, probably because they knew they had such a week case. Nero was not murderously crazy early in his career. So there was a good chance that Paul eventually was freed. The New International Bible Commentary p.1314, Believer’s Bible Commentary p.1665, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.431 say the same.

   Like us, Paul had good times and bad, times where he was confident of what would happen and times when he had no idea. But whether Paul went free this time or not, Paul was a Christian for all seasons. He could be content preaching to large crowds and healing people, he could be content in prison, from where he wrote Philippians. Paul could be content with the certainty that he was going to Rome, and Paul could be content in the uncertainty times where life seemed like a shipwreck. As we have examined Paul’s life, we should aspire to make our lives more like Paul’s (Philippians 3:17).


 

 

 

by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.

 

Medical terms in Acts

Odoi in classical Greek and also medical usage. Acts 10:9. The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.253

Thurei Acts 10:13 medical term. The Expositor’s Greek Testament vol.2 p.253

 

Message of Acts : Revised Edition 358. Lancelot Andrewes “We are renovators, not innovators.”

Works vol.3 p.26 (Parker, 1843)