Acts: Introduction Thursday, May 25 2017 



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 approximately;

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. We are left with one of the biggest questions of life as to why the book ends so inconclusively. With the Holy Ghost inspiring the man called Luke, why no closure?  

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

In the Gospels the grain of wheat fell into the ground and died. In Acts it brings forth much fruit. In Acts the church is born, then rises into prominence, and the world is never the same. As this magnificent book unfolds, the eternal purpose of God is revealed to mankind. God saves lost humanity. As the gospel invades Europe, major cities become revival centers. The greatest revivals of antiquity occur in the book of Acts. The conquest of the gospel is chronicled in Acts.

The loose threads of Judaism and the four hundred silent years gel and produce God’s greatest creation: the Church.

The Gospel moves from a Jewish subculture, to Samaria, to Asia Minor and finally to the Roman Empire. Herein is the fulfilled manifesto of Jesus Christ

Thanks for reading today….


Closing thoughts on Jeremiah Monday, Apr 24 2017 

The volume of Jeremiah in the Expository Series will be published soon. It is now at the printer. Here are my closing thoughts:

It is the final pen stroke of this major prophet, after a lifetime of faithfully executing his charge to speak the Word of God faithfully. Few times in the history of the world has a man like Jeremiah appeared. The span of his vision is worldwide. He was faithful to his calling. His ministry spanned decades and kings. He knew great luxury and deep poverty. He experienced unparalleled spiritual highs and unspeakable human deprivations. He complained, he cried, he exulted joyfully, he was maligned, he was imprisoned, he was rescued, still he remained faithful to his calling. He left behind one of the greatest works of penmanship the world has ever seen. God in His infinite wisdom saw fit to only anoint four men as major prophets. Jeremiah is in that elite quartet. His voice was opposed at times, ignored and dissed often, but it will live forever, for the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.

Judges Chapter 21 Saturday, Feb 25 2017 

21.1-23 the preservation of Benjamin. Only the omnipotent God can maintain the balance of judgment and mercy. To judge this horrible sin yet maintain the mercy upon the tribe of Benjamin is truly a balancing act of God. We see here how He excels in it while guiding men through their own conscience to find a way to accomplish this balance. The bloodlust of Israel recedes quickly, and the result of the carnage is humbling. It appears even the women and children were massacred, for there are only 600 men left. It appears justice overshot the mark. One concubine-wife was killed in the beginning, and in return every married woman of Jabesh Gilead was slain. Only the virgins were spared. This provided wives for 400 men of Benjamin, but not all the men of this tribe. The solution they provided was to kidnap young women who danced at the celebration of the feast of Jehovah. This is probably the feast of tabernacles or the passover. These young maidens were paying tribute to Miriam and the dance of victory at the Red Sea.

21.24-25 conclusion. It is difficult to sum up 450 years in a short concise paragraph. These leaders performed feats never equaled in world history. They were military leaders as well as civil leaders. Their personalities and accomplishments are quite diverse. They preserved the way of life given them by the first generation of emigrant Israelis. The history here recorded covers every section of the promised land. The story of Judges is footnoted and amended in the short book that follows, the book of Ruth. Judges gives us the view into human hearts without the leadership of God. This theme is bridged into the Book of Samuel where Samuel, the last judge, transitions into the Monarchy. Judges does not end as per se. It transitions into the next phase of Biblical history, the 450 years of kings and one queen. Was this period of time a success or failure? It was both. The success is the nation survived the wars of seven other nations stronger than they were. The nation is preserved. The failure is the sinister actions of man without leadership. This era of every man doing that which was right in his own eyes stand as a sentinel of warning to every future generation. Mankind must have leadership. Without God, mankind sinks to austere levels of inhumanity.

Thanks for reading today….

Judges Chapter 20 Friday, Feb 24 2017 

20.1-16 the evidence. This entire story is horrible beyond comprehension. There is the Levite who could have divorced the concubine under the law but chose to reconcile. There is the concubine who played the whore. Then the Levite surrenders her to the sons of Belial. These men were worthless and evil. This title of Belial is later given to Satan himself. The leaders of the tribes investigate the charge and the evidence. The decision is made this cannot go unchallenged. The tribe of Benjamin is asked to give up the offenders. Benjamin refuses for reasons we cannot fathom.

20.17-48 There is a very detailed account of this battle. When God places exact details in the scripture it behooves us to pay attention. We are privy to their attitude, to their plans, and to their prudence by having these details. Like an archaeological find this provides us with understanding of their time. This is easier to understand when we realize this occured at the beginning of the time of the Judges. This particular mobilization of the tribes was not long after they had done this numerous times to invade the land. Had this event happened at the end of the four hundred and fifty years the assembling of the tribes might not have happened. The men of Israel follow the same customs of war they used in the invasion and conquest of Palestine. They killed the inhabitants and burned the cities. Ten percent of the army of Israel fell in the first two days of combat. The tribe of Benjamin comes very close to being obliterated. In the providence of God, a remnant of Benjamin is preserved so the first King of Israel and the greatest Missionary of all time will arrive in due time. If Benjamin had been wiped out there would have been no King Saul and no Paul the Apostle. Much of the unseen future was riding on this battle in the beginning of the days of the Judges. 

Thanks for reading today…

Judges Chapter 19 Thursday, Feb 23 2017 

19.1-21 the concubine. The subject of concubines is a difficult one for the western mind to grasp. Why was this allowed? Is it ok today? Why a concubine and not a wife? The first consideration is there were no provisions for a woman if she was without support of father, family, or husband. She had no social assistance to turn to. Secondly, due to wars and their prevalence there was usually more women in the society than men. This left women without any means of support. She was left with the option of being a harlot or prostitute, or becoming a concubine. A concubine had no wedding dowry to give her husband. God did not institute this way of life any more than He did slavery. What God did in the Old Testament was regulate the social customs of that historical era to provide fairness and equity. This was why the social institution of concubines existed in that day and not today. Today we have provisions for women and children who are destitute. A concubine in some ways was not the equal of a wife for no dowry had been provided. In other ways a concubine was equal in being supported and provided for as we see in the 12 tribes of Israel. In this chapter the concubine of a Levite is abused and therefore falls under the same consideration as a wife because protection was provided for concubines. The ensuing battle and it’s consequences would not be different if she had been a wife of the Levite. 

19.22-30 This event transpires early in the book of Judges because Phinehas is the high priest (20.28), so this event occurred soon after the death of Joshua. This chapter records the crime, chapter 20 records the war that resulted, and chapter 21 is the preservation of the tribe of Benjamin from complete extinction. This is supported by the fact the entire nation goes to war and this is the only time in the entire book we know of this happening. Therefore, the sin was egregious and was offensive to every man in Israel. This crime touched a nerve so deep in every man that every tribe mobilized for war. Eventually 65,000 men will die over this issue. This totals more casualties than all the wars of the seven nations combined. The inner war of Israel between her own tribes killed more than the wars fought against the heathen nations. The enemy within is more dangerous than the enemy without.

Thanks for reading today….

Judges Chapter 18 Wednesday, Feb 22 2017 

18.1 Dan. This interlude sets forth an important principal. It shows the consequences of not being satisfied with your inheritance. The tribe of Dan was not content with what had been given to them. They were in the west toward the south. They chose to abandon what God had allocated them and choose a new inheritance. The consequences of this is the removal of any legacy of Dan in the rest of the Bible. One descendant is mentioned as helping in the construction of the temple. In Revelation when the 12 tribes are listed, Dan has been eliminated. This concept was being highlighted by the anointing spirit upon the writer of Judges. The consequences of not being satisfied with your inheritance is you will be removed from the people of God.

18.2-12 It is at the house of Micah with his hired priest that Dan gets religious approval for his journey to destruction. The approval of a priest does not always signify the approval of God. Sadly, Dan and all his future posterity are cursed by trusting a religious voice that was not ordained by God. The result was Dan was removed from any inheritance because he disdained the inheritance God allocated him.

18.13-30 Having been given religious approval, the tribe of Dan now feels justified to proceed. As they make the move to oblivion, they stop long enough to force the hired priest to join their rebellion, for he has sanctioned it. Dan takes the gods of Micah and indentures the hired priest. The priest confiscates the gods and ephod that are not his, and joins Dan’s rebellion. When Micah pleads for restoration, he is scorned. The writer of Judges is showing all future generations what the heart of man is capable of when true religion is cast aside. Once Dan has relocated, he sets up his false image and puts his hired priests in place. Rebellion has birthed idolatry. Murder and mayhem have now been given religious sanction. This is the DNA of rebellion and idolatry. Every man doing what is right in his own eyes.

Thanks for reading today…

Judges Chapter 17 Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

17.1 The book of Judges is unique in this section of the remaining chapters. These five chapters are an appendix, a summation, and an overview of the times. They reveal the core of the people in this era, and reveal it’s subsequent consequences. Things start here that take a thousand years to eradicate. The events in this book are difficult to place on a timeline. Some postulate they are in sequence. Another view places them in geographical settings, beginning in the north with Deborah, moving to the center with Gideon, then the east with Jephthah, and finally the west with Samson. None of the judges ruled over the entire 12 tribes, all of them were regional at best. The major theme is there was no king in those days and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Ultimately this was disastrous. In the mix of failure and idolatry there were those who never compromised. Boaz in the book of Ruth, is an example of a faithful man in the midst of wholesale departure from truth. Spiritual compromise always leads to moral corruption. 

17.2-13 the genesis of idolatry. This introduces us to the DNA of idolatry. How did a people with such a magnificent beginning end up being entangled with idols for a thousand years? The introduction of image worship, and the final story of Israel warring against each other, are the two major points in these last five chapters. Woven into these are the tribe of Dan moving from it’s inheritance in the south to the north. Micah attempts to put a religious spin on his idolatrous image by inviting a Levite to be his priest. This proves to ultimately be the most damning part of Israel’s idolatry. Israel tried to blend her religion with other religions. This is always more reprehensible in the eyes of God. The wandering Levite gets hired as a personal priest to Micah. This is a complete reversal in every way of the purpose of the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi was to serve the entire nation as priests, and their inheritance of tithe and offering supported them. The spirit of God is writing for all future generations to see the result of man made religion. The new Testament speaks of pure religion in James 1.27. It uses the term undefiled. The universal failure of man is always manifested in his attempt to improve on what God has set in place. The result? Spoiled, defiled, religion. It reeks of a single drop of poison in a fresh clear glass of water. James says this kind of religion is vain, empty and profitless. This type of religion produces what occurs in the next chapters of Judges. Mayhem, murder and molestation rule the land.

Thanks for reading today….

Judges Chapter 16 Monday, Feb 20 2017 

16.1-3 the harlot and the gates of Gaza. This is one of the moments of Samson’s life that perplexes us. We see his low moments and then quickly he turns and achieves an inhuman feat. He stays with the harlot until midnight, then rips the gates of the city which weigh an incredible weight right off the wall, and carries them 38 miles uphill to Hebron. Our minds struggle with this. How? Why? How can he go from such wrong to such right so quickly? The harlot is the second woman involving Samson, the third will be Delilah. We are left to wonder what the outcome might have been had Samson been connected to a godly woman like Deborah. Is the midnight hour significant here? Many momentous events happen at midnight in the Bible. Why did he awaken? Why did he rip the gates off? Why carry them so far away? All these bizarre connections cause us to wonder. One suggestion is the foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus Christ who would assail the very gates of hell and free the captives from Abraham’s bosom. Ps 24.7 “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in”. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

16.4-22 Delilah. History has offered us a few women who are infamous worldwide. Delilah joins the likes of Jezebel and Cleopatra for universal recognition. Her name is synonymous with treachery. We again muse what Samson saw in her. All three women he was connected with were Philistines, and all three showed no love for him. To Delilah, Samson was a cash cow who would fatten her purse by 5,500 pieces of silver. Delilah was a gold digger. It is a mystery to us that Samson could not ever see through his relationships and see the deceit. Was God trying to illustrate to Israel how they were treating Him? Israel, God’s chosen wife, was not promising to be much better than Samson’s choices. Israel was selling God out for grain. Israel also turned to the five lords of the Philistines for rewards, and sold their deliverer out as well by turning to idols. The life portrait here is being painted on a living canvas for Israel to see. Before we indict Delilah, we should always inventory our own heart to insure we are not guilty of the same actions. 

16.23-31 Samson’s death. Samson was now blind. Actually, he had been spiritually blind all along. The deliverer of Israel is out of sight for a while, but when he returns it is with great victory. The victory at Samson’s death is one of the great Old Testament moments. The shadow of this moment reaches all the way to the coming of our deliverer. Jesus is away for a while, but our deliverer will come again and when He does the whole house of the Philistines (the wicked) will fall. Samson, the lone wolf deliverer, brings his greatest victory at his death. Jesus Christ, our great deliverer, brought His greatest victory at His death on Calvary.

Thanks for reading today…

Judges Chapter 15 Saturday, Feb 18 2017 

15.1-5 the foxes. Time had passed and the anger of Samson had waned. To reconcile with his wife he takes a gift and goes to see her. This altercation is to be the launchpad of one of his most heroic feats. His father in law has given his wife to another so Samson seeks revenge. Whether he caught jackals (which run in groups) or foxes (which are solitary), it is an amazing feat. These animals are numerous in Palestine and are mentioned several places in the scriptures. Probably at nightfall Samson sends these animals with fire tied to their tails into the Shefala of Philistia. The Shefala is the plain of Philistia where their corn was grown and was on the border of Dan and Judah. This was a fertile plain where much corn was grown. The fire spread to the vineyards and olive groves. The Philistines were getting some of the same medicine they had doled out to Israel. It is apropos that Samson’s wife revealed the riddle to avoid being burned with fire, and she ultimately ends up suffering that exact judgment at the hands of her countrymen. So often the thing we give up to appease unrighteousness, comes back to be our defeat.

15.6-20 This event gave birth to an even greater heroic event. The angry Philistines seek to kill Samson and he has a running battle with them and defeats them. Samson is unique as a judge in that he is never a general or leads an army. The other judges mostly led armies. He could not lead men any more than he could control his own desires. Samson flees to a fortified place called the rock of Etam. It is here in the place of the falcon or hawk (etam), that Samson’s most famous victory occurs. Judah sends 3,000 men to seek the cause of the problem and they leave Samson to fight alone. Judah sells him out to save themselves. Judah binds him and delivers Samson to the Philistines. It is of note that Samson was not recognized by his own brethren as a deliverer. The refrain of Samson in verse 16 concerning heap upon heaps indicates a running battle of sorts. It appears the Philistines began to flee and Samson pursued and left more than one heap of dead enemies. It has been debated if it was a literal 1000 men or if this number represents a great multitude. The word is used over 500 times and almost universally means a literal number. The law of Hermeneutics would dictate if it can be literal, it is literal. This jawbone today would be enshrined in a museum somewhere, but Samson casts it away. The power was not in the bone but rather in the benevolence of the Lord. He names the place Enhakhore the fountain of one calling. He is still listed as judging Israel 20 years and is listed in Hebrews 11 as a hero of faith, even though he was a lone wolf judge.

Thanks for reading today…

Judges Chapter 14 Friday, Feb 17 2017 

14.1-10 Samson’s bride. The ways of God sometimes befuddle us. The achieving of His purpose, and the means in which he does it, at times baffles us. One thing is for sure, God does nothing by reaction. He knows where every situation is headed. Howbeit, there are times he uses people’s choices to achieve an end he desires. Samson’s life is a lesson in how self will is a tragic way of life. God does not allow Samson’s defects and failures to abort His divine purpose. Timnath lay just across the frontier border, and the moment of Samson’s marriage is a lesson in not marrying someone who is a Philistine. This marriage was trouble from the start. An unholy marriage pulls you down to levels you would not go otherwise. This is illustrated in Samson violating two of his three Nazarite vows. He touched a dead animal and attended a drinking feast. The New Testament is clear in teaching marriage should only be in the Lord. 

14.11-20 the riddle. The riddles of life are always born of our failures. The why’s of our life never center on when we obeyed. It is the dark moments and our weak moments that cause us riddles. This riddle was drawn from Samson breaking his vow. His vow hid the riddle from the 30 men who were trying to figure it out. He did not touch dead things, so they never mentally went there. This principal is the fountain of guilt and shame on all men. The secret failures that no one observes provide the riddles of life we cannot solve.

Thanks for reading today…

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