Sunday, August 6, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday August 6, 2017

 Acts 26

   In Acts 26, after Paul had made his defense to the Roman Governor of Judea, Porcius Festus, without any written charges ever being filed against him, Luke now paints for us, a very vivid description of a regal courtroom scene, full of pomp and grandeur. Here we see King Agrippa II and Bernice, the eldest daughter of Agrippa I, make their grand entry into the auditorium accompanied by military officers and other prominent Jewish men of the city.
    They arrived to great cheers and adoration from the people in the audience. It is into this dramatic scene that Festus orders that Paul be ushered in to testify before the king. Here we see Paul, a somewhat diminutive man in physical statue, bound in chains, and yet, from the moment he begins to speak, he clearly has command of this royal setting. But let us go back a ways to explain how Paul ultimately found himself in this predicament.
    Two years earlier, Paul had been arrested shortly after he arrived in Jerusalem, as a group of Jews from the province of Asia saw him in the temple, and roused a mob against him. They dragged Paul out of town that day, beating him all along the way. Paul was soon rescued by a regimen of Roman soldiers who were called to disperse the situation (Acts 21:26-36).
    After allowing Paul to speak to the angry mob in Aramaic, the soldiers took him inside and ordered that he be whipped until he confessed his crime. As they began tying Paul down to whip him, he reveals to them that he is a Roman citizen, and legally, he couldn’t be punished without first being granted a trial (Acts 22:24-29).
    The next day, Paul was released from his chains by the army commander, who ordered the leading priests to go into session with the Jewish high council to find out just what the trouble was all about (Acts 22:30). After appearing before them, and witnessing of the resurrection, and, of CHRIST JESUS, Paul was removed from chambers of the angry Pharisees and Sadducees, because the commander feared that they might kill him. That night the LORD appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul, just as you have told the people about ME here in Jerusalem, you must also preach the Good News in Rome” (Acts 23:1-11).
    The next morning a group of more than forty Jews got together and hatched a plan, with some of the members of the Jewish high council, vowing to each other to neither eat nor drink again, until they had killed Paul (Acts 23:12-15). However, Paul’s nephew, who was standing close by, overheard the scheme, and went to Paul, where he was being incarcerated, and told him what the mob was planning to do. Paul then instructed his nephew to inform the army commander of the plan also.
    The army commander then sent Paul to Caesarea under heavy guard, where he appeared before, then governor of Judea, Felix. Five days later Ananias, the high priest, arrived with other Jewish leaders and a lawyer named Tertullus, to press charges against Paul. After hearing the case Felix, a few days later, sent for Paul. At that time Paul told Felix and his wife, Drusilla, about his faith in JESUS CHRIST. As he reasoned with them about righteousness, and self-control, and, about the judgment to come, Felix became terrified and sent Paul away. After that, Felix left Paul in prison during the final two years of his term in office as governor of Judea (Acts 24). Paul’s case would not be addressed again until Porcius Festus took over as governor of Judea.
    And so three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to take over his new position as governor, he left for Jerusalem to hear allegations leveled against Paul by the Jewish leaders. The leaders actually wanted to get permission from Festus to move Paul to Jerusalem, and then, they would kill him on the way there. However, Festus invited the leaders to come to Caesarea instead, so Paul could be tried there in the official Roman court. During the trial, the Jewish leaders weren’t able to prove any of their allegations against Paul, and so Paul appealed his case to Caesar (Acts 25).
    This brings us up to snuff, here in Acts 26, where in this pompous and regal atmosphere, Paul’s long and unjust ordeal is about to come to a head. He has now been divinely placed into a position where he can witness of JESUS to the King of Judea, himself, Herod Agrippa II. The defense of a man changed by GOD is all that Paul has to offer up. Perhaps the one thing that great men of GOD always had in common was that they were not ashamed to confess what they had once been.
    And so that is how Paul started his defense on that fateful day in the official court of the Roman Empire. He was able to show how his shameful behavior toward the adherents of “The Way”, those men and women who preached CHRIST, was now being used to glorify CHRIST, WHOM he had once publicly and outwardly detested (Vs. 2-11).
    It was William Barclay who wrote that, “In this passage, Paul insists that the center of his whole message is the resurrection. His witness is not of someone who has lived and died, but of someone who is gloriously present forever more. For Paul, every day was Easter”.
In verses 12-18, as Paul recounted his Damascus Road experience, he tells once again of the light that was brighter than the sun at high noon. But now, for the first time, we are told that CHRIST spoke to him in Aramaic. The description by JESUS that Paul was “kicking against the pricks” suggests that Paul had guilty feelings about his persecution of the Christian Church, and that he was violating his conscience, acting in ignorance and unbelief in those days.
    Paul’s testimony before the court left Festus stupefied when he spoke of the idea of the resurrection of CHRIST (v. 23). In fact, Festus believed that Paul had so enveloped himself in his studies that he had finally lost his grip on reality by making such a statement (v. 24). And as for King Agrippa, he was left with a feeling of embarrassment, and was not about to admit to beliefs that his own appointed governor thought to be preposterous.
    In the end, Festus had the power to acquit Paul, but he let his political astuteness overrule his heart instead. Paul had been courageous enough to share his testimony and witness of CHRIST JESUS with everyone, small and great. And clearly he doesn’t lend the impression that he is even a prisoner in this dramatic scene. He seems to emit a power that raises him head and shoulders above anyone else in the auditorium, because he spoke with the confidence of a man, who clearly had GOD on his side.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, June 30, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday July 2, 2017

Acts 25:1-22

   In Acts 25, three days after the new governor, Festus, had arrived in Caesarea to take over the office that was involuntarily vacated by Felix, he traveled to Jerusalem, and while there, he met with the Jewish leaders who then officially made their charges of heresy, sacrilege, and sedition against the Apostle Paul.
    The former governor, Felix, had been forced out of office because of his unethical and illegal practices in his dealings with the people of Judea. He had spitefully left Paul in prison for the last two years of his administration, because he had been unsuccessful in his attempts to extract bribes from him. He also wanted to gain the favor of the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem who sought to prosecute Paul on trumped up charges.
    While meeting with Festus in Jerusalem, the Jews tried to get him to transfer Paul back to Jerusalem for further questioning. They saw an opportunity to put their old plan of ambushing Paul while in route between the two cities, back into action. Remember they had tried to run the same scheme a couple of years earlier when they sought to trick the Roman commander, Lysias, into unwittingly going along with their plot.
    However, Governor Festus had another idea and he suggested that since he would be heading back to Caesarea soon, why don’t those of the Church who are in authority, ride back with him to see Paul. And if Paul has done anything wrong, they could address those charges then (Vs.1-5).
    The Jews found Festus to be quite different from Felix, and they realized very early that he was not one to be handled. He had little desire to come up against the Jews so soon and so he offered them a compromise they couldn’t refuse. And besides, none of the charges leveled against Paul mattered to Rome anyway. They weren’t concerned at all about the religious differences that they had with Paul. Those charges of heresy, sacrilege, and sedition were totally unimportant to Rome, and they certainly didn’t merit the death penalty that the Jews were seeking from them. And even the Jews themselves only believed that the heresy charge was legit. They knew full well that the charges of sacrilege and sedition were accusations that they made up in order to strengthen their case.
    Days later Festus returned to Caesarea to take over his new responsibilities, and the day after he arrived, Paul’s trial began (v.6). When Paul arrived at the courthouse, the Jews began to lay out many charges against him that they couldn’t prove. Paul declared his innocence against all charges saying that he was not guilty of any crime against the Jews, the Temple, or, the Roman government (Vs.7-8).
    Governor Festus, now wanting to please the Jews, asked Paul if he would consider going to Jerusalem to stand trial. However, Paul, knowing his rights as a Roman citizen, declined to go, saying, “This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty. If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But I am innocent, neither you nor anyone else has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me!” And then Paul declared the key words that could put a halt to the legal proceedings that he found himself in that day, “I appeal to Caesar!” (Vs.9-11).
    Festus then quickly conferred with his advisers who apparently informed him that he couldn’t proceed any farther, and he was forced to grant Paul his request to take his case before Caesar in Rome (v.12). By law, if a Roman citizen felt that they were not getting a fair shake in a provincial court, they could appeal directly to Caesar the Emperor, and so Paul did.
    A few days later King Agrippa arrived in town with his sister, Bernice, to pay their respects to Festus. In the course of their visit of several days, Festus took the opportunity to discuss Paul’s case with the king. He filled him in on the details of the case and the now curious king expressed that he would like to hear what Paul had to say for himself.

Acts 25:23-27

    And so the next day Agrippa received his opportunity to examine Paul in the regal setting of the auditorium there in Caesarea. There was great pomp and anticipation as the king and his sister Bernice, the governor Festus, and many other prominent men of the city gathered inside to witness the proceedings.
    Festus then ordered that Paul be brought in, and he introduced Paul to the royal audience who came to see the man whose death was demanded by both the local Jews, and, by those who resided in Jerusalem. Festus began by expressing that he himself didn’t see anything that Paul had done wrong, and certainly, he had done nothing that merited the death penalty, as far as Rome was concerned.
    But still, all things considered, Paul had appealed his case to Caesar, and even though he had no real charges against him, as far as Rome was concerned, Festus was bound by law to grant his request. However, having nothing to write to the Emperor concerning Paul (no relevant charges) it presented the governor with a dilemma, and it just didn’t seem reasonable or wise to send a case to Caesarea that had no merit. In fact, such an unwise decision might even endanger his newly acquired position as governor, by causing Caesar to question his judgment, and his ability to perform his new appointment over the province of Judea. Stay tuned!

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, June 9, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday June 11, 2017

Acts 24

   Five days after Paul was delivered to Caesarea by order of Lysias, the commander of the Roman garrison, to stand trial before the governor Felix, Ananias, the high priest, and a few of the Jewish leaders, arrived in town with their lawyer, Tertullus, to press charges against Paul.
    When Paul was called before Felix, Tertullus laid down the charges against him before the court in a dramatic, eloquent, and flattering style that would make even the best of our modern-day Prosecutors blush. In fact, it is even sickening the way this courtier kisses up to Felix who was known to be a man who accepted bribes for his favor. In the Old Testament times he would have been called “Dayyaneh Gezeloth”, the Hebrew term for “Robber Judges”.
    The anti-CHRIST Jews’ case against Paul (Acts 24:1-9) basically involved these three false charges;

·         They presented Paul as a troublemaker, and a disturber of the peace. Such a person would have been deemed as highly likely to involve himself, and others, into “civil disturbances”, something that was absolutely forbidden by the Roman Government.
·         They presented Paul as a leader in the “MESSIANIC Movement” and a member of the much-hated “Sect of the Nazarenes” (as they were referred to by the world), who were followers of the doctrine of JESUS CHRIST, and, who referred to themselves as “Adherents of the Way”, or, in short, “The Way”. They were considered to be, not only a threat to the Jews, but also, in many ways, a threat to the Roman Empire itself.
·         They falsely presented Paul as one had defiled the temple by allowing a Gentile (Trophimus) to enter into areas that were restricted to Gentiles.

    After the Jews sounded out in agreement with Tertullus’ charges against Paul (v.9), in verses 10-21, it becomes Paul’s turn to speak and Governor Felix motions for him to stand up and speak to address the charges being leveled against him. Here Paul offers up several points toward his own defense, and after giving the Governor his props, he begins his refutation. 
    The first thing Paul points out is that he hadn’t even been in Jerusalem long enough to stir up any kind of disorderly acts among the people, and even at this point, he’d only been in the area of Jerusalem for about 12 days. And no one could honestly say that they had seen him instigate a riot, nor a disturbance of any kind.
    Secondly, Paul points out that he is a devout follower of CHRIST JESUS, the SON of the living GOD of his ancestors, and that he firmly believes in the written law of GOD. He also went on to say that he has his hope in the Almighty GOD just as his accusers claim they do, and he believes that GOD will eventually raise both the righteous and the unrighteous from the dead.
    Paul goes on to explain to Felix that, after being away for several years on his third missionary journey trying to raise money to help relieve the famine in Jerusalem, he returned to deliver the proceeds, and to celebrate the Pentecost and worship and teach in the temple. In fact, Paul says, he was just completing a purification ritual when this whole debacle started. And there was no crowd around him at the time.
    After completing the purification ritual, as had been recommended by the Church leaders, Paul says that a group of anti-CHRIST Jews from the province of Asia, who, by the way, should be there to bring these charges (not these men), came and stirred up trouble for me, and in fact, tried to kill me. These men (the Sadducees) standing here bringing charges against me now, don’t have anything against me, except that I believe in salvation through CHRIST JESUS only, and, in the resurrection of the dead, while they don’t.
    Felix was quite familiar with the religious group called “The Way”, because his wife, Drusilla, was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, and herself, was a Jewess trained in the Jewish tradition of having high regard for the things of GOD. She had been previously married to a man named Azizus, who was the king of Emesa. Felix seduced her from him and persuaded her to marry him. And so Paul had probably tweaked his feelings of guilt by drudging up his memories of the high morals of GOD, that he had so obviously violated, with his adulterous marriage to Drusilla, another man’s wife.
    Feeling quite disturbed at this point, Felix decided to adjourn the proceedings, and opted instead to wait on the arrival of Lysias, the commander of the garrison that brought Paul to Caesarea. Paul, however, was ordered to be kept under house arrest until then. Felix did grant him some freedoms, however, and he also allowed Paul to have visits from friends who could take care of his personal needs.
    A few days later Felix and his wife, Drusilla, sent for Paul, and they sat down and listened to him talk to them about faith in JESUS CHRIST and the things of GOD. As Paul spoke to them about righteousness and self-control, and also about the judgment from GOD that would inevitably come, Felix seemed terrified and very upset, and in fact, requested that Paul leave and come again at another time.
    However, unfortunately we see in verse 26, the underlying reason why Felix really wanted to see Paul in the first place. I said earlier that Felix was a “Robber Judge” who accepted payment to rule in a person’s favor. There Scripture tells us here that Felix was seeking an opportunity to extract a bribe from Paul. In fact verse 26 also tells us that after this first occasion, Felix often talked to Paul and he continually sought opportunities to line his pockets.
    Paul remained incarcerated for two more years before Felix was finally got caught up in some other wrongdoings, probably involving the extraction of bribes from some imperiled defendants, who had the misfortune to stand before him in front of the judgment seat. As a result he was recalled from his governmental post by Caesar, and Jewish history now tells us that his offense was so dire that he faced a possible death sentence if he had been convicted. In fact, he was actually saved from execution by his brother Pallas, and he was immediately replaced by Festus, and the Jewish leaders hurried to him to try and win his favor, hoping they could persuade him to help them in their ongoing plot to execute, or assassinate Paul.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, May 12, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday May 14, 2017

Acts 23:1-11

   The Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council of Israel, was made up of a group of seventy men, some were Pharisees, and some were of the group known as the Sadducees. These two groups, though they formed one governing body, were vehemently opposed to each other in certain doctrine. For example, in addition to embracing the Law of Moses, the Pharisees also believed in following their own “Oral Law”. The Sadducees, on the other hand, only accepted the written Law of Moses, which is the Ten Commandments, and the “Penteteuch”, the first five books of the bible.
    Like with the governing body here in the United States, the Congress (Democrats and Republicans), there were also other differences that kept these wayward Church leaders separated and opposed to each other. The Pharisees believed in “predestination”, while the Sadducees believed in the “free-will” of man. The Sadducees did not believe in spirits and angels, while the Pharisees did. However, the biggest disagreement between these two groups is that the Pharisees believed in the “Resurrection”, and the Sadducees said “No way!!
    Here in Acts 23, as Paul begins his defense of himself before the religious hierarchy of Israel, he exhibits a certain boldness and defiance, in his demeanor and speech that was probably not going to bode well for him during these proceedings. In verse 1 we see Paul looking these powerful Church leaders right in the eyes, and began to address them improperly by referring to them as if they were only his peers.
    Here, Paul opens up by referring to the council as his “Brothers”, instead of referring to them in the politically correct way in which they were accustomed to being addressed, which is “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel!” It would have the same negative impact of disrespect in today’s courts if we stood before the Judge and referred to him as “man” instead of “Your Honor”. That is why Ananias, the High Priest, ordered the person closest to Paul to “slap him in the mouth”.
    In this passage, verses 1-11, a quick thinking Paul exposes to the court, his knowledge of Jewish law, because, after all, Paul himself was a former practicing Pharisee (one of their peers). First of all, Paul tells the High Priest that “GOD will slap him!” reminding his honor of the Jewish law that states, “He who strikes the cheek of an Israelite, strikes, as it were, the glory of GOD”. Paul then further rebukes the head of the council by calling him, a “whitewashed wall”, which was a well known reference that referred to a priest who had rendered himself “ceremonially unclean” by his touching of the tomb of the dead.
    In those days, tombs that actually contained dead bodies were “whitewashed” in order to keep the priests from accidentally, or unwittingly touching them, and thereby, temporarily rendering themselves unfit for service in the temple. However, here Paul is actually telling Ananias, the High Priest that he is unfit to be a priest, because, by ignoring Jewish Law, he was not conducting himself in the way that a true leader of the Church of GOD should.
    In verse 4, we see that those standing next to Paul questioned him about the way he had spoken to Ananias. Paul then offers up what can only be considered as a half-hearted apology when he says, in verse 5, that, “I’m sorry, brothers, I didn’t realize he was the High Priest. For the Scriptures say, “Do not speak evil of anyone who rules over you”.
    In reality Paul knew exactly who Ananias was, and he also knew of his reputation of being a traitor, and a puppet for the Roman government. He was also well-known as being a glutton and a thief, who robbed from the poor among his people. Even the “Jewish Talmud”, a collection of books and commentaries on Scripture, compiled by Jewish Rabbis from around A.D. 250 to A.D. 500, ridicules Ananias for his greed, brutality, and deception. 
    Realizing that many members of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, Paul stakes his claim on the fact that he himself was once a Pharisee, as well as all of his ancestors, and he was a believer in the Resurrection. He knew full well that such a comment by him would likely set the council up for a fight amongst themselves, and it certainly did. In fact Paul’s statement divided the council, and they began to engage in their favorite argument, the question of whether or not there would be a resurrection of the dead.
    The Pharisees, of course, sided with Paul. In fact, at this point, they declared that they could see nothing wrong with Paul at all. The fighting grew more and more fierce and the men actually begin tugging at Paul from both sides. It became so intense that the Roman commander had to step in to keep Paul from being literally torn apart. The Roman soldiers secured Paul and rushed him back to the fortress for safe keeping. Over night the LORD came to Paul to encourage him, telling him that, “Just as you have told the people here in Jerusalem about ME, so you must do the same by preaching the Good News (The Gospel) in Rome”. 
Acts 23:12-22

    The following morning a group of over forty antichrist Jews got together and bound themselves together in pledge with a “cherem”. They vowed that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul. When invoking a cherem, one is asking GOD to curse him if he fails to complete his vow. Here we can see that this “religiously confused” group of men believed that, by killing Paul, a man who preached CHRIST, they were actually doing GOD a favor. They now regarded Paul’s murder as “justifiable under GOD”, and they honestly felt that Paul was a danger to the GODly morals and principals of Israel.
     And so now the men, who were determined to exact justice in Israel, went to evoke the help of the Church (the leading priests), to assist them in completing their mission. They asked the high council to deceive the Roman commander by telling him to bring Paul back to them for further examination before the council, and while they are in route, they would siege Paul from them, and slay him.
    Fortunately, Paul’s nephew heard of their little scheme and went to the fortress and informed him of their planned ambush. Paul then told the officers on duty what the Jews were plotting, and he asked them to take the young man to speak with their commander. The commander listened to everything the young man had to say, and then began to set his own plan into motion. He told Paul’s nephew not to tell anyone else about what he had heard.

Acts 23:23-35

    Perhaps the strongest commitment that the Roman Empire had to its citizens was that, she would always vigorously protect them from the harm of outsiders. The commander took this threat against Paul very serious because Paul had already proven to him that he indeed was a Roman citizen. And so he was obligated by the law of the Roman Empire to protect Paul from hurt and harm at all costs. The commander quickly moved to get Paul to safety in Caesarea, which at that time was the capital of the province where Jerusalem was located.
    The fact that the commander assigned such a large number of soldiers to this detail (200 men), and, by their plan to depart for Caesarea at nine o’clock at night, speaks volumes about how determined he was to protect his Roman prisoner, Paul, from danger. And perhaps more importantly to him, he needed to protect his own self, and, his job as commander, which would both be in jeopardy if he let anything happened to a prisoner in his custody.
    When the detail left for Caesarea, the plan was for the foot soldiers to take Paul as far as Antipatris, which was the most dangerous part of the journey, and was about 35 miles from Jerusalem. The foot soldiers would then return to their fortress in Jerusalem, and the horse soldiers would take Paul the remaining 25 miles to Caesarea, where he would stand trial before the governor of Judea, Felix. When Paul arrived at Caesarea he met briefly with Felix, and then was placed in a holding cell in Herod’s headquarters until morning.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, April 14, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday April 16, 2017

Acts 22:1-23

   In Acts 22 the Apostle Paul begins to defend himself against the slanderous charges that had been brought up against him by the anti-CHRIST Jews who had followed him from the province of Asia, to Jerusalem. Paul, had been communicating to the Roman commander of the cohort, who rescued him from peril, in the Greek language, but now, he turns and begins to speak and address the riotous crowd who tried to kill him, in the Aramaic tongue.
    Most of the crowd was Jewish, and the Jews in those days communicated mostly in the Aramaic tongue, which was a sort of blending of the Hebrew and Arabic languages. When they heard Paul speaking in their own language, a divine hush fell over the crowd, and they were all just as surprised as the Roman commander was when he heard Paul address him in Greek. Here Paul demonstrates more than anywhere else in Scripture, his ability to communicate in many languages (tongues), as he had once declared he could, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).
    He begins by sharing with the crowd, some of his pedigree. Here he tells them that he was Jewish like them, and was born into the tribe of Benjamin in the city of Tarsus, an important seaport in Cilicia at the mouth of the Cydnus River. Paul was raised and educated in Jerusalem under the most important teacher in Israel in those days, Gamaliel, who had taught at the famous School of Hillel, and had died just five years earlier. There, he learned how to follow the Laws of Moses, and all Jewish customs to the letter, and he was indeed, a Rabbi, and, a Pharisee.
    Paul goes on to share his history of being a persecutor of Christian Jews, hounding them, throwing them into jails and prisons, and even overseeing the murder of some (i.e. Stephen-Acts chapter 7). The High Priest and all the Council members (The Sanhedrin) could attest to this fact. For they often armed Paul with letters authorizing him to arrest and bring in Christians, so that they could be prosecuted by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem for treason and blaspheme.
    Paul then shared his famous “Damascus Road” experience with the crowd, and how he received his calling from CHRIST to deliver the message of salvation to the Gentiles. He tells of how he was blinded by intense light, and had to be led into Damascus by his companions. There he was confronted by a GODly man named Ananias, a prophet, who lived there in that ancient city.
    The prophet first restored Paul’s sight, and then, he informed him that GOD had chosen him, an enemy of the Christians, to deliver the Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles. He told Paul to get up, go be baptized and have your sins washed away, calling on the name of JESUS.
    When Paul returned to Jerusalem he said that he was instructed by JESUS to leave and go to the Gentiles in far-away lands, and it is at this point that the crowd, once again, turned on him shouting, “Kill him!”, and began throwing dust into the air, a gesture of insane anger that usually led to the death of the person who is the object of its dissatisfaction.
    Paul believed that GOD loves all mankind, but his audience mistakenly believed that GOD only loved the Jews. In fact, they even believed that it was blasphemous to teach otherwise. And so, in some sense Paul could identify with the angry crowd, however, in the divine sense of Christianity and the desires of GOD, he could not.       

Acts 22:24-30

    As the angry crowd worked its way back up to a fever pitch, the commander, not knowing what Paul had said to them in Aramaic to rile them up again, took Paul inside the fortress and ordered him to be whipped, trying to force him to confess his alleged crime. As they were tying Paul down to lash him, he shouted to one of the officers standing there, “Isn’t it illegal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
    The officer walked over to the commander and said, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen! And so the commander went over to Paul and asked if it was true that he was a Roman citizen. Paul replied, “Yes! I certainly am! The commander, who had to buy his freedom replied, “I am too, and it cost me plenty!”
    Paul, who was born a citizen of Rome, did not have to purchase his freedom as the commander once had, and so the commander was terrified at the consequences he could face for his mistreatment of Paul, a natural born Roman. He quickly ordered his men to cease and desist, as he was concerned about what would happen to him for even ordering Paul to be bound and whipped in the first place, without a trial.
    The commander did, however, still hold Paul overnight, mostly for his own safety, and the next day he freed him from his chains and ordered the Jewish hierarchy, the Sanhedrin, into emergency session to try Paul, in order to determine his guilt or innocence. Knowing that his task was just beginning, Paul readied himself for the defense of the Gospel of CHRIST JESUS, his LORD and SAVIOR, for WHOM he was totally prepared to die for, when the time came.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, March 17, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday March 19, 2017

Acts 21:1-14

   In Acts 21, things begin to accelerate quickly, as the apostle Paul and his entourage press on towards Jerusalem. After saying goodbye to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, Paul and his company sail first to the island of Cos, and then subsequently to Rhodes and Patara. There, they boarded a cargo ship to the Syrian province of Phoenicia. They passed the island of Cyprus on the left, and landed at the port called Tyre. There they went ashore, found some believers, and abode with them for a week, while the ship they were sailing on unloaded its cargo.

    At the end of the week, they re-boarded the ship and sailed to Ptolemais, where they stayed for one day, fellowshipping with believers there. They then traveled on to Caesarea and abode in the home of Philip the evangelist, who had been one of the chosen seven that had been picked by the congregation at Jerusalem to administer the food program, prior to the death of Steven (Acts 6:1-6). It had now been 20 years since Philip had come to Caesarea, after his fateful encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch on the desert road to Gaza (Acts 8:26-40).

    During their stay with Philip (about 3 days), a man named Agabus, the same prophet who had predicted the great famine in the Roman Empire at a meeting of the believers back in Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:28), arrived from Judea. During his visit, the prophet took Paul’s belt from his waist, and used it to bind his own hands and feet. He then declared, through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, that, “the owner of this belt will be tied and bound the same way by the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem, and then, he will be turned over to the Romans”.
    When Paul’s company heard this, they begged him not to go to Jerusalem. Paul then declared that, “Even though their weeping broke his heart, not only was he ready to go to jail for CHRIST, but he was also ready to die for HIM”. After it became clear that they were not going to be able to deter Paul from pressing on to Jerusalem, they ceased their pleading and weeping, and gave him their blessings.
    In this powerful passage, Luke clearly shows the parallel between CHRIST’, and Paul’s, unwavering commitment to do GOD’s will. In both cases their own Jewish people had become their worst enemies, and both, were handed over to the Gentiles and made to suffer. And while this story serves to highlight Paul’s heroic attitude, it also serves to remind us that we too, are called to follow the example of CHRIST JESUS, no matter where HE may lead us, and HE doesn’t always lead us into what we consider safe territory.
    There was an overwhelming determination in Paul to complete the mission that CHRIST had called him to do. It is a comforting thing to know that, everywhere we go, we can find waiting, a Christian community that will welcome us. We see here in this story of Paul’s final missionary journey, that it was no different for him either. It is also, an even more comforting thought to know that, a person who lives in the family of CHRIST, need not worry about pressing on into the unknown dangers of this world. The person, who lives in CHRIST, always has family to comfort them, wherever they go, anywhere in the world.

Acts 21:15-25

   After spending several days with Philip the Evangelist in Caesarea, Paul and his crew packed their things and headed on toward Jerusalem. Some of the believers who lived in Caesarea joined the crew and took them to the home of Mnason, in Jerusalem. Mnason, who was originally from Cyprus, Barnabas’ homeland, was one of the earliest disciples to convert to Christianity.
    After receiving a warm greeting from the brothers and sisters at Jerusalem, the following day Paul went to meet with James (the half-brother of JESUS), who was the head of the Mother Church at Jerusalem, and the other elders. At that meeting Paul gave the men a detailed account of everything GOD had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
    When the leaders heard Paul’s report, they praised GOD, not only for what HE had done among the Gentiles, but because those same wonderful things had also influenced many Jews to believe on CHRIST, and take the commandments of GOD more seriously. However, they told Paul that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had been told that he was teaching the Jews, who lived in Gentile areas, to turn their backs on the Law of Moses.           They even heard that he was teaching that the Jews did not have to obey the law of circumcision, or follow other Jewish customs. These accusations however were slanderous, as Paul had only taught that Gentiles did not have to abide by the Jewish customs and rites that GOD only intended for the Jews to adhere to.
     In order to appease the skeptical believers at Jerusalem, the elders thought it may be wise if Paul would engage himself in a public display of support for Jewish customs by taking part in a “Nazarite vow” that was about to get underway involving a group of local men in the temple courtyard.
    They suggested that Paul go over to temple and join the men as they were preparing to shave their heads, for the purification ceremonies. They also asked that Paul would pay for their haircuts too, and that way everyone will know that the rumors they heard about him were false, and that he really does observe Jewish laws and customs.
    The “Nazarite Vow” is a vow that is taken in gratitude for a special blessing, or special favor that one had received from GOD. It usually involved abstention from meat and wine for at least 30 days. During this time the heads of the men had to be shaven and allowed to grow back, and the last 7 days had to be spent entirely inside the temple courts.
    At the end of this 30-day period a 1-year old lamb for a sin offering, a ram for a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, a meat offering, and a drink offering, all had to be provided by each person involved. Then finally, the shaven hair of each person had to be burned on the altar with the sacrifices.
    And so, it can be seen that, in light of the fact that the person taking the vow also had to give up several days of work (in this case, at least the last seven), in addition to paying for all these items needed for sacrifice, what Paul was asked to do by the elders to prove himself, was no small matter.
    However, Paul agreed to the request of the elders, and the following day he himself went through the purification ritual with the other four men at the temple. He then publically announced the date when their vows would end, and the sacrifices would be offered up on the altar for each of them.

Acts 21:26-36

   The final seven days of the Nazarite Vow were almost over, when a group of anti-CHRIST Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple and quickly instigated a mob of people against him. They incited the crowd to violence by telling them that Paul had been traveling around the whole Roman Empire preaching against their Jewish laws and customs.
    The Jews from Asia also accused Paul of bringing Gentiles into restricted parts of the temple. They had seen Paul with his Gentile friend, Trophimus, earlier in the day, and they assumed that he had taken him into the temple with him as he completed his vow. Being a Gentile, Trophimus would have been restricted from going into the temple areas beyond the outer court, which was known as the “Court of the Gentiles”. It was the outermost part of the temple, and it was separated by a barrier from the next court in, which was the “Women’s Court”, where JESUS made HIS, now famous proclamation, “I AM the LIGHT of the world” (John 8:12).
    This restriction was held so seriously that the Jews were actually allowed by the Roman government to apply the death penalty to any person who violated it, without prior consent from Caesar.  In fact, it was the only crime that the Jews could apply the death penalty for, without consent from Rome. And so now we see, that, Paul’s compromise with the elders, had turned into a potential disaster, for himself.
    The whole city was rocked by the accusations that these Asian Jews made against Paul, and they dragged him out of temple and closed the gates behind them. As they were trying to kill Paul, word quickly reached the commander of the Roman cohort (1000 men) that had been assigned by Caesar to keep the peace during the Pentecost Festival, which was just getting underway.
    A riot, or any civil disturbance, within the Roman Empire was something that was not tolerated by the government. Not only were the inciters of such incidents subject to the death penalty, but also the persons put in charge by Rome at the time, were in danger of suffering the same fate. And so the commander moved quickly to quell the situation.
    When the mob saw the soldiers coming, they stopped beating Paul, and the commander placed Paul under arrest for his own safety. They bound Paul with two chains and then asked the crowd, “Who was he? And, “What did he do? Some shouted one thing, and some shouted another, and so, being unable to discern the truth, the commander ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress and held. The crowd’s violent behavior continued, and the soldiers had to lift Paul over their heads to protect him from the ensuing mob, who continued to shout, “Kill him! Kill him!”
Acts 21:37-40

   The great Jewish historian and general, Josephus, writes in his chronicles of a revolutionary Egyptian imposter who also claimed to be a prophet. He had garnered a large following of several thousand men. In around A.D. 54, less than 30 years after the crucifixion of CHRIST, this man came to the Mount of Olives and promised his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would come down at his command. Instead, the Romans army marched on the man and his followers, killing many of them and taking many into custody before executing them. However, the Egyptian imposter escaped with a few of his followers and was never seen again.
    The commander of the cohort had suspected that Paul might be this man, and now, he could finally be brought to justice. However, as they climbed the stairs to their barracks at the fortress, with the mob in hot pursuit, Paul spoke to the commander in the Greek tongue and asked, “May I have a word with you?
    The stunned commander looked at Paul and replied, “Do you speak Greek? Aren’t you the Egyptian who led the rebellion some time ago and took four thousand members of assassins out into the desert? “No”, Paul replied, “I’m a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please let me talk to these people” (NLT). Realizing he was wrong about who he thought Paul was, for he certainly was no thug, the commander allowed Paul to speak as they stood on the stairs. And seeming with the power of GOD, Paul raised his hands and motioned for the crowd to be quiet, and a deep hush fell over them all. Then Paul began to address the now silent crowd, now speaking in the Aramaic tongue, which was language most commonly spoken by the Palestinian Jews in those days.    

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website