The Book Of Acts, The Bridge. Sunday, Apr 11 2010 

Acts

Oft times I have wondered about certain books of the Bible.  I have thought, what if we did not have this book in our Bible?  How would that affect the whole?  When I place the book of Acts on that pedestal, and consider, I am certain of the answer.

Only Acts and Genesis seem to hold the place of absolute.  Without them we simply could not survive.  They are both irreplaceable.

The book of Acts was written by Luke.  Luke is the only Gentile writer in the Bible.  It is interesting to me that Luke is responsible for 25% of the New Testament.  His two books equal one fourth of the volume of the New Testament.

I am not positive, but it appears to me that Luke wrote at the bequest of a wealthy patron named Theopholis.  His two books address this individual.  This was a common practice that carried well into the middle ages.  A wealthy patron would sponsor someone to write a book or thesis. This is how men like Voltaire and Rousseau were supported financially.

To me, Acts is about three men.  Those men are Simon (Peter), Saul (Paul), and Stephen. The book is evenly devoted to the ministry of Peter and Paul with Stephen being the bridge from one to the other.

The contrast of these two men is stark.  Peter is a country fisherman.  Paul is a polished cosmopolitan.  Peter was ignorant and unlearned.  Paul was a trained rabbi, having studied at the feet of Gamaliel. Peter spoke Aramaic, the common language.  Paul could speak that language, as well as Greek.  Peter was a country Jew, Paul was a Hellenistic Jew and a Roman Citizen.

The first twelve chapters of Acts are about Peter.  In chapter 13 the spotlight shifts to Paul and never moves back to Peter again.  Peter, the great apostle fades from view in Acts.

How important is Acts as a book?  It is irreplaceable! Without the book of Acts we would go from the Gospels to Romans.  We would wonder who is Paul?  What is the church?  How did it start?  Acts is the link to all of the New Testament.

Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus.  It moves on to choosing Judas’ replacement. It then tells of Pentecost, the beginning of the church, and eventually documents the church’s emigration to the Roman Empire.

Christianity conquered the Roman Empire, period.  The Roman Empire paved roads, established peace and continuity, and through this open door walked the church.  The church flourished during the Pax Romana, the empire wide peace. Within 300 years 10% of the Roman Empire was Christian.

The book of Acts documents the beginning of this conquest of the church.

When the spotlight shifts to Paul in chapter 13, Luke begins to relate Paul’ missionary journeys.  Paul made three journeys.  ( Some scholars say up to five).  The dates of these journeys are:

  • 46-48, first journey
  • 49-52, second journey
  • 53-57, third journey

It is simply amazing that in 47AD there were no churches in Asia Minor.  In ten years there was a ring of churches that included every major city in Galatia, Macedonia, Asia and Acacia.  This remarkable achievement has never been repeated anywhere globally.

On his first journey, when he gains his first convert, the Apostle Paul jettisons his Hebrew name Saul, and forever becomes know as Paul.  He was the Apostle to the Gentiles and he bore his Gentile name to his death.

Luke is a gentile, writing a book about the gentile revival by the Apostle to the gentiles.  This fact shows up in the book repeatedly.  It is very clear in the story of the appointment of the deacons.  When the division came and the controversy showed itself, out of the seven men chosen, 5 were Greeks according to their names.  Luke makes this point, or rather the Holy Ghost does.

The final chapters of the book of Acts are concerning Paul’s last days.  I am left with one of the biggest questions of my life as to why the book ends so inconclusively.  With the Holy Ghost inspiring the man called Luke, why no closure?

My only hypothesis is that the book is still being written in heaven.  Maybe the final words were something like “to be continued”.

What chapter will you write to add to the book of Acts?

Thanks for reading today!

God Moments! Tuesday, Mar 23 2010 

A God moment……

While the Apostle Paul was on his 2nd missionary journey around 51ad, a woman

named Phoebe came and told him she was going to Rome.

Paul asked her if she would carry a letter to the church there

for him.  She agreed.   Paul set down to write a letter and what

resulted was the book in your bible called Romans.

It is a great treatise on Christianity.  The broad expanse of

the role of the Jew, and the new role of the Gentile.

In his opening introduction Paul says some things about humanity

in general.  He was at Corinth at the time, where he spent 18 months.

As he walked the streets of the second largest city of the Roman

Empire with its new shiny architecture, he saw the population, of

700,000 people.  There were soldiers, Roman officials, merchants, beggars, in fact the

whole composite of  Corinth.

He concluded several things he put in the letter to the Romans.

He concluded that all have sinned and come short of the

glory of God.  He concluded that the gentile world needed

God, and the Jewish world needed God.

He covered an interesting concept by asking what if some did not hear

the Gospel?  His answer was they are without excuse! Why?

He went on to say because there are different ways God speaks to

mankind.  God speaks through conscience, God speaks through

creation. That lets me know that God never leaves man anywhere, anyplace

without some kind of “God Moment”.

Somewhere, somehow, God confronts man and introduces himself, so

that no one will ever stand at the final tribunal of God and say I had no

Witness.

During the 35 years I have preached the gospel I have heard and seen

some of these “God Moments”.  I saw one a few days ago in a nursing

home down in Puyallup, Washington.

I went to the room of a lady who had told her daughter she wanted to pray, she was afraid she was nearing the end of her life’s journey. I went and joined the daughter, son, and two other people.  We prayed for that woman to be assured God was with her.  When we laid our hands on her to pray, it was a “God Moment”.

It was as if we had placed the shock paddles that EMTs use on her chest. She raised up off that bed and the spirit of God fell on her.

It was a supernatural moment.  We were all amazed and aware that this moment was a God thing.

Thirteen days later, death walked in that same room and claimed that woman.

That Woman was Phyllis Crandall.


Death came to claim her only to acknowledge that God arrived first, letting everyone know, that she was His child.

Thank you God for that incredible, unforgettable moment when you showed yourself as

God.

Thanks for reading today!

Has there ever been such a brood of vipers? Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

The lives of the Herod family intertwine with the life of Jesus and the lives of His Apostles.  At times it is difficult to discern which Herod is being mentioned.  They are often just referred to as “Herod”.  Sometimes they are mentioned only a few verses apart, yet are different members of the family.

This blog today is for those of you who would like to be able to keep them separated in the scriptures.  It is not always easy because this brood of vipers were constantly writhing and hissing!

Here are their biographies.

Herod Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, is not mentioned in the New Testament, but ten of his descendants played major roles in the lives of Jesus and of the apostles.

The Herod family were Idumeans. That is, they were descended from Abraham through Isaac and Esau, rather than through Isaac and Jacob. They saw themselves as Jewish, participating in God’s covenant with Abraham, but their ancestors had not gone to Egypt with Joseph and returned with Moses and Joshua.

Herod Antipater formally converted to the Jewish religious practice of the descendants of Jacob. His family would not allow their portraits (graven images) on the coins they issued, they did not eat pork as they followed the Jewish dietary laws, and the women of the family were not allowed to marry men who were uncircumcised.

But the family also followed Roman social practices. They traveled to Rome frequently and commissioned buildings in the Roman style of architecture. Herod the Great sent his sons to live in the household of Octavian (Caesar Augustus) in Rome while they received their formal educations.

Members of the family sponsored athletic games in the Greek style, which were offensive to the Jews. And they also arranged marriages between uncles and nieces in the Roman fashion.

Herod the Great undertook great building projects in Palestine, including whole cities like Caesarea Maritima and Masada and the rebuilding of Jericho. Most important, he rebuilt the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. After he completed the work, he deeply offended the Jews of Jerusalem by placing an eagle, the emblem of Roman rule, on the Temple. His last act in life was overseeing the execution of the Jews who tore it down.

In Matthew 2, the wise men from the East asked Herod the Great where the King of the Jews was to be born. Herod was deeply disturbed, because he had earned the title, King of the Jews, from the Romans, and he was planning that one of his sons would inherit the title from him. Equally disturbing was the news that the child would be born in Bethlehem, the site of Herod’s summer palace.

Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of all boys under the age of two years, and Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety. Joseph did not bring his family back to Nazareth until after Herod the Great’s death in 4 b.c.

After the death of Herod the Great, the Romans divided his kingdom between his sons, and none of them was called King of the Jews.

Herod Archelaus ruled Judea after the death of his father. In Matthew 2: 22, Joseph decided to take his family north to Galilee, because he was also afraid of Archelaus. Archelaus ruled badly, and the Romans removed him after ten years, replacing him with a Roman Governor.

His brother, Herod Antipas, was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. In the New Testament, he is called Herod the Tetrarch. Another brother, Herod Philip, was tetrarch of Iturea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis. Their cousin, Herodias, first married and divorced an uncle living in Rome, then married Philip, and then divorced Philip to marry Antipas.

When John the Baptist preached against this marriage and divorce within the family, Antipas had him thrown into prison. The daughter of Herodias by her first marriage is unnamed in the New Testament, but she is called Salome (a common name in the family) in later accounts. With her mother’s prompting, she requested the head of John the Baptist on a platter, and Antipas ordered John beheaded (Mark 6).

In Mark 8:15, when Jesus warned the disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, he was talking about Herod Antipas. Antipas was also the fox that the Pharisees warned Jesus about in Luke 13: 31.

Antipas presided over Jesus’ trial in Luke 23, and with Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, determined Jesus’ death sentence. Jesus would not even speak to the murderer of John the Baptist! John and Peter refer to the decision of Antipas and Pontius Pilate to execute Jesus in Acts 4: 27.

Herod Agrippa I, King of Iturea, Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Galilee, and Perea, was the grandson of Herod the Great and the nephew of Philip and Antipas. He ordered the execution of James the Elder, and was so buoyed by the public response that he had Peter arrested and put in prison (Acts 12).

Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I and the great-grandson of Herod the Great. His sister Bernice accompanied him at public functions, and Paul spoke before them in Acts 25 and 26, asking for his right to be tried as a Roman citizen. Agrippa seemed to enjoy talking to Paul, and he used the word Christian to describe him.

Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, was married to Felix, the Roman procurator. She may have argued for compassionate treatment of Paul by her husband (Acts 24: 24).

They were a brood of vipers down to the last one.


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