Friday, October 13, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday October 15, 2017

THE BOOK OF FIRST CORINTHIANS

A CALL TO UNITY
1 Corinthians 1:10-17

INTRODUCTION TO PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS

   In the biblical Greek, the word translated as “Church” in the English language is “Ekklesia”. Ekklesia is a word that comes from the Greek word “kaleo”, which means “I call”, or “I summon”. In secular Greek it refers to “any assembly or gathering of people for any purpose”, and can be a political gathering, a riot, or even an orgy. That is why Bible translators use the term “Church” instead of the terms “assembly” or “gathering”.
    The biblical use of the word “Ekklesia” (Church) refers only to “a gathering of Christians to praise and worship CHRIST”.  That is why, in the Bible, GOD specifies that, “When two or more are gathered together in MY name”, a phrase that would distinguish between HIS people, who assemble for praise and worship of HIM, and, any other secular assembly or gathering for worldly purposes, which might include “worship of other gods”.
    Before JESUS ascended back into Heaven HE charged HIS disciples to return to Jerusalem and assemble together and wait for HIM to send the HOLY SPIRIT (Acts 1-2). This “gathering in JESUS’ name” quite literally became the birth of the Christian Church in the world. However, it would be a little while longer before CHRIST JESUS would call the Apostle Paul (Acts 9) to pull it all together as he became the face of the Christian movement in the first century.
    Corinth was a Greek city located on the isthmus (a narrow strip of land which connected two larger land masses) between Peloponnesus and mainland Greece, about 40 miles west of Athens. It derived its name from the Greek term “korinthiazomai” (kor-in-thia-zom-ahee) which means “fornication”. That should give you some idea of what kind of city it was when Paul first visited there on his second missionary journey.
   Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth was written to address the many problems that had cropped up, immediately following his founding of the church there, during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-8). The believers in Corinth had begun to question Paul’s authority as an apostle appointed by CHRIST. They were also misusing worship, suing each other in court, engaging in all sorts of immorality, and even denying that the resurrection of CHRIST ever took place.
    The Apostle Paul wrote this letter circa A.D. 57 on behalf of himself and Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. Sosthenes was the man, who was beaten by an angry mob in the courtroom, while standing before the Roman governor Gallio of Achaia (Acts 18:17). Sosthenes must have converted to Christianity some time following that mob scene in his city.
    The obvious purpose of this letter was to correct any damage that had already been done to the Christian belief system in Corinth by anti-CHRIST teachers, and to stave off any further damage that could yet occur in this young Church. You see, it is not enough that we say we are Christian, but rather, we must also demonstrate our beliefs in our lifestyle, lest we dishonor CHRIST JESUS, the ONE WHO sends us to spread the Gospel with dignity and respect for those whom we seek to convert. It is CHRIST’ power in us that makes it possible for us to actually live as GOD wants us to live.


PAUL’S GREETINGS AND OPENING SALUTATIONS
1 Corinthians 1:1-9

   In the opening lines of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth (Vs.1-10), we find no less than 10 references to CHRIST JESUS, our LORD. Here Paul begins by presenting himself as an authoritative representative of JESUS CHRIST, the head of the Christian Church. Paul says here that he has been authorized to teach the Gospel to all who have been called to be GOD’s holy people. He reminds them that GOD has decided to make them holy through CHRIST JESUS, just as HE has all the other Christians who have voluntarily chosen to join the Christian movement and network of believers.
    In verses 4-9 Paul gives thanks to GOD for all of the wonderful gifts that HE had blessed the Church at Corinth with, in such a short time. GOD had enriched the Church with eloquence and every kind of knowledge, which stood to verify everything that Paul had told them about CHRIST. And even though the Church still had many flaws, they also had gained much strength that would bolster their hope, and keep them strong, until the great day when JESUS CHRIST returns. The GOD of promise, WHO invited us into a right relationship with HIS SON, will surely keep HIS Word and deliver us safely into HIS glorious presence in the end.


DIVISION IN THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 1:10-17

    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “divisions” in verse 10 is “schismata”, and it describes “a condition of tears and splits that divide the wholeness of a unit”. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, after giving thanks to GOD, Paul focuses in on the obvious divisions taking place in the Church at Corinth, and he sets out to present his appeal there for unity. The debate in the Church at Corinth over Christian leadership had all but destroyed the unity of that local congregation. They were constantly engaged in heated debate over who they should follow. Some wanted to follow Paul, while others were loyal to Apollos, and Peter, and fortunately, some, who were still in their right mind, were yet willing to follow CHRIST JESUS, the GOD appointed, true HEAD of the Church. 
    Some people, and understandably so, have come to cite this passage as an argument against forming different denominations within the Christian body. When we separate the Christian church into different factions, we are, in effect, arguing that our group is “best” or “right”, and as a result, we separate ourselves from others who are really equal members in the body of CHRIST.
    We all can agree that, here in the twenty-first century, we have become more interested in teaching people about our various denominations (i.e. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic), than we are about teaching GOD’s perfect idea that is now called “Christianity”. However, it would serve us well to always remember that “Christianity” is the only “true” religion, because it is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. Every other religion, sect, or denomination known to man, is quite simply, a product of man’s own mind, and therefore, in essence, is wrong.
    The good news is that GOD already knew that this kind of desire, for human superiority, would rise up out of the minds of men. It is GOD’s desire that man leave “human ingenuity” out of the Church that HE has already established for HIMSELF. The only thing GOD needs from man in the Church, and quite frankly, everywhere else, is “obedience”. Our “human ingenuity” can only get in the way of GOD’s plan for the Church, and how GOD has already established the Christian belief system, which does not need to be tweaked by mankind.
    JESUS CHRIST states the greatest of all Christian doctrine when HE commands that, we;

“Love GOD with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. HE goes on to further state, that, “All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (NLT).

    “Christian unity”, is intended by GOD to transcend all the differences that men may have with each other regarding worship and anything else, and when we follow HIS instructions, those divine directives can bring men together in fellowship and love.
    It is that kind of “Christian unity” that JESUS prayed about in John 17, and, that same kind of “Christian unity” that Paul wrote about to the Church, here in this letter to the Corinthians, and indeed, in all of his other doctrinal letters to the various Churches along the newly formed Christian network. It concerns a unity that is not born of bricks and mortar, or human ingenuity, but rather, it is a unity of “personal relationships”, not unlike the one we’ve already seen, between the FATHER and the SON, as an example to us, for all time.


THE WISDOM OF GOD
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

   The words and the message of the Christian Bible, sounds foolish to those who are on their way to destruction. However, to those who are being saved, it represents, quite literally, the very essence and power of GOD. The Bible promises that GOD will utterly destroy human wisdom, and discard their most brilliant ideas (v.19), for there is no room, especially in the Church, for human ingenuity, there is only room for obedience. 
     So where does that leave the world’s philosophers, scholars, and brilliant debaters? Here in verse 20, Paul says that they will be made to look “foolish” (“moros” in the Greek) by GOD, WHO will show their worldly wisdom to be total non-sense. A man will never find GOD through his own human wisdom. In fact, GOD uses the seemingly foolish preaching of HIS servants to save only those who choose to believe in HIM. The very definition of a “foolish” person, “moros”, here in this passage, describes one who looks at reality from a perspective that is distorted, because they fail to take GOD into account.
    GOD’s way always seemed foolish to the anti-CHRIST Jews, as they always wanted a “sign” from Heaven to prove it was true. And so GOD used many miracles through HIS prophets, that couldn’t be explained by “human reasoning”. And since they still couldn’t wrap their inferior minds around it, they continued on in their unbelieving lifestyles.
    Equally, GOD’s way has always seemed foolish to the Gentile, as they could only allow themselves to believe in what agrees with their own worldly wisdom. When we say things like “JESUS was crucified”, anti-CHRIST Jews are offended and unbelieving Gentiles say, “Go away”, and that, “it is all non-sense”.
    The plans and things of GOD that worldly people call foolishness, is far wiser than the plans and things of men that are devised through “human ingenuity”. In fact, GOD often chooses things that the world considers foolish, in order that HE may shame those who think they are wise. He also sometimes uses powerless people to shame or bring down those who are considered powerful. GOD will sometimes even choose things that are despised by the world, and counted as nothing at all, and then, use those things, to “bring to nothing”, those things that the world considers important.
    And now, it is GOD alone, WHO has made it possible for us to be saved from ourselves, through CHRIST JESUS, of WHOM HE made wisdom personified. JESUS voluntarily gave HIS OWN life for the lives of we who were still embedded deeply in sin. And so, the person, who is proud enough to boast, can only boast about what JESUS has done for us, and not, what we’ve have done for ourselves.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, September 22, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday  September 24, 2017

PAUL MINISTERS ON THE ISLAND OF MALTA
(GOD provides opportunities to use our faith)
(Acts 28:1-10)

   G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “For whatever is or is not true, this one thing is certain, “We are not what we were meant to be”. Man is the highest form of GOD’s creation here on earth, and thereby, is the greatest benefactor of HIS brilliance and largess. Men and women were made by GOD to have dominion over the works of HIS hand, here on earth. But instead, we’ve become creatures who are frustrated by our own, self-imposed circumstances, who are defeated by our temptations, and, who are surrounded by our own weaknesses.
    And so, it is into this seemingly hopeless situation that GOD sent us HIS only begotten SON, so that whosoever believes in HIM, will not perish, but rather, will have everlasting life. JESUS made it possible for us to overcome, an otherwise, saddened and doomed state of existence, and, at one and the same time, helped us to understand, and become, what we ought to be.
    In Acts chapter 28, verses 1-10, Paul and the 276-man crew find themselves shipwrecked and stranded on the Island of Malta. It would be three months before they could board another ship to Rome. Malta was a small island in the Mediterranean Sea located between Sicily and Africa. While Paul was stranded there, he seized the opportunity to preach the Gospel to its inhabitants, and was actually able to expand the Kingdom of GOD to a group of people, the Maltese, who were called “barbarous”, because they were said, by the Greeks, to speak an unintelligible foreign language. In fact, not only did Paul teach the Gospel of CHRIST there, he was also actually able to plant a new church there before he left.
    The people on Malta were very kind to the crew, and it was very cold and wet when they arrived. As they were gathering wood for a fire, a poisonous snake attached itself to Paul’s hand. The people of the Island saw what was happening and thought for sure that Paul would be killed. However, Paul shook the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people, however, waited for a long while to see if Paul would swell up and die, but when nothing happened, they started believing that he must be a god (Vs. 1-6).
    While on Malta, they met the chief Roman official, Publius, who invited them to his estate where he generously fed them for three days. Publius had a father who was suffering with an ailment called dysentery (dis-en-ter-e), which is a painful infection of the lower intestinal tract that also causes fever and severe diarrhea. While there, Paul laid hands on him and healed him. He also healed many other sick people on the Island who came to him seeking relief, and they were honored greatly by the people, and were given many things that they would need when they re-embarked upon their journey to Rome (Vs. 7-10).
    Throughout our lives GOD gives us many opportunities to be all that we can be, and all that HE intended us to be. We are to mature in faith to the point where can, first, master control over the sin in our lives, and then, help others to do the same. With the power of the HOLY SPIRIT in us, we become all that we can be under GOD. We can defeat the forces of satan quite handily because, HE WHO is in us (the HOLY SPIRIT) is greater than he who is in the world (satan). 


PAUL ARRIVES IN ROME
Acts 28:11-16

    Three months later they set sail for Rome on another ship that had docked on Malta for the winter. It was a ship from Alexandria in northern Africa, which featured the “twin gods” as its figurehead. In the first century, many ships had images of various idol gods, carved prominently at the front of the boat, kind of like a hood ornament on modern day automobiles, only, of course, sized in proportion to the ship. In those days two of the most popular idol gods were the twins, Castor and Pollux. This ship had carved images of those “Greeks gods of the constellation” called “Gemini” (Greek mythology & astrology) as its figurehead.
    Their first stop was at Syracuse, a Greek city on the southeast coast of the island of Sicily, where they stayed for three days. Then they sailed across the Strait of Messina to Rhegium (Ree-jee-uhm), on the coast of southern Italy. From there they sailed up the coast to Puteoli (Poo-TEE-uh-lih) on the western shore of southern Italy where they found some believers, who invited them to stay with them for seven days.
    Puteoli was the port of the great capital city of Rome, situated at the foot of the “Appian Way”. It was here at the original “Famous Forum”, some 43 miles from Rome, that, faithful believers came to meet their fearless, hardworking leader, Paul, to greet and encourage him.
    Still others met him ten miles farther inland at “The Three Taverns”, giving the man who thought that he was nearly without human support in Rome, a hero’s welcome. And when they arrived in the city of Rome, Paul was placed under “house arrest”, under guard by only one soldier (Vs. 11-16).


PAUL PREACHES IN ROME UNDER GUARD
Acts 28:17-31

    Three days after arriving in Rome, Paul called the local Jewish leaders together and informed them, firsthand, of his situation. He told them that he had been arrested in Jerusalem, and tried, both there, and, in Caesarea, but hadn’t been formerly charged with any crime. They agreed that they had heard nothing against Paul, and had no letters from Judea, nor, reports from anyone else, accusing him of anything against anyone. However, they were still curious to know about the, much-denounced, “Christian sect” that they had heard so many negative things about (Vs. 17-22).
    And so a time was set for Paul to speak to the Jews in Rome, while under arrest in his rented house. He took that glorious opportunity to preach and teach the doctrine of CHRIST JESUS from Scripture. He taught them from the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, and, from the books of the prophets. These teachings continued throughout the day, and into the night, and some believed, while others did not. However, after debating back and forward among themselves, Paul left them with a quote from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-10), and after that, they all walked away, greatly disagreeing with each other (Vs. 23-29).
    For the next two years, Paul continued to preach and teach from his rented house in Rome, and he proclaimed boldly, the Kingdom of GOD, and the doctrine of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. It is also during this period that he wrote his, now famous, “jail house letters”, which includes letters to the Philippians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, and, to Philemon.  
    Jewish history tells us that Paul was acquitted of the false charges against him, and he continued to minister for a while, away from Rome. However, he returned to Rome after a couple of years and was re-arrested. This time he was executed by the Romans, reportedly beheaded during the wave of persecutions against Christians, that was spearheaded by the “miming emperor, Nero, in close proximity to Peter’s death, in and around A.D. 68.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander




                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

  



Friday, September 1, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday September 3, 2017

PAUL SAILS FOR ROME
Acts 27:1-12

   Here in Acts 27, Paul’s long sought after appeal to argue his case before Caesar in Italy, is finally looking like it’s going to happen.  Paul, Luke, Aristarhcus, who was a Macedonian from Thessalonica, along with some other prisoners, all set sail on a cargo ship to Rome, under the guard of the Roman centurion, Julius.
    Luke’s accurate description of this Mediterranean scene, impresses even today’s scholars, as he gives us a vivid account of the ports, sea vessels, and weather conditions in that area of the world in late October, and early November. There can be no doubt that this biblical account has to be based on the experiences of someone who had actually traveled these waters, during this particular season, at some point in their life. Luke tells us that they set sail from Caesarea on a ship that had come from Adramyttium (Add-rah-MITT- ee-um), an important sea port in northeastern Asia Minor. It was scheduled to make several stops along the coast of the province of Asia.
    The following day they docked at Sidon, an ancient Phoenician seaport on the Mediterranean coast of northern Palestine. There we get a glimpse of the kindness that Julius shows to Paul as he permits him to go ashore and visit with friends, who were able to provide for some of the needs of this, now famous, apostle (v. 3).
    After leaving Sidon the crew encountered some strong headwinds that made it very difficult to keep the ship on course. As a result, they were compelled to sail farther north between the island Cyprus and the mainland. They sailed along the coasts of Cilicia and Pamphylia, coming to shore at Myra, in the province of Lycia, a mountainous country in southwest Asia Minor. It was there where they changed ships, and boarded an Egyptian vessel from Alexandria, that would take them on to Italy (Vs. 4-6).
    After several days of very rough waters they finally came near Cnidus (NYE-dus), a city of the province of Caria, which is situated on the extreme southwestern tip of Asia Minor. But, unfortunately the winds were too strong against them for them to land. As a result, they had to sail down the wind-sheltered side of Crete, past the cape of Salmone, where they struggled along the coast, finally arriving at Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. 
    This detour caused the crew to lose a great deal of time, and it was now becoming more and more dangerous with early winter approaching. Paul, who had traveled these waters before, went and spoke to the officers of the ship, because he believed that if they continued on their journey, they would no doubt meet with disaster.
    However, the officers made the decision to go on, in spite of Paul’s admonishments. They reasoned that Fair Havens was a port that was badly exposed to the winter elements, and that the port of Phoenix, which was located farther up the coast, would be a much safer place to spend the winter (Vs. 9-12).  

THE STORM AT SEA
Acts 27:13-26

   And so they ignored the voice of the man of GOD among them, and they sailed away into peril. When a light wind began to blow from the south, the heads of the ship thought for sure that they could make it to Phoenix. However, the weather then changed abruptly, and a wind, of typhoon strength, caught the ship and blew it out to sea. All they could do was surrender helplessly to the power of the wind (Vs. 13-15).
    Having nothing else constructive that they could do, they pulled in the lifeboat to keep it from being damaged, and then girded up the battered ship with ropes to strengthen its hull. They were afraid of being driven across the sand bars of Syrtis on the African coast, and so they lowered the anchor as they were being helplessly pushed by the wind. The gale force winds continued on for several more days, blotting out the sun, and the stars, until all of their hopes (except Paul’s) were dashed (Vs. 16-20).
    Then the man of GOD, Paul, stepped forward one more time, to say “I told you so”. Then he encouraged the frightened crew by telling them that they would lose the ship, but none of them would lose their lives. Paul goes on to tell them that an angel of “the GOD he served” had come to him the previous night, and assured him that they would all live, and he himself would stand trial in Rome, before Caesar. However, Paul disclosed to them that they would be shipwrecked on an island (Vs. 21-26), and they were (Vs. 39-44).

THE SHIPWRECK
Acts 27:27-44

   By this time Paul had garnered so much credibility that he was, quite literally, in charge of the ship. The lesson that can be learned here is that, authority is not something that rests on position alone, but rather, it is something that comes with integrity, and demonstrated competence. Once again Paul had been proven right by GOD before men, and now, he represented the hope of the entire 276-man crew.  
    At around midnight of the fourteenth day of the storm, the ship was being driven across the Sea of Adria. The men could sense that land was near, and so they began to take soundings to get an idea of how deep the water was where they were. They found it to be only 120 feet deep at that time, and then a little later another sounding showed that the water was only 90 feet deep.
    These measurements gave the men some concerns that, at the speed they were closing in, they might soon crash against the rocks along the shore. At this point they threw out all four anchors from the (stern) rear of the boat, and then prayed for daylight. However, their fear overcame them, and they all (except Paul and his crew), decided that they needed to abandon the boat as fast as they could.
    When the sailors began to lower the lifeboat, Paul interceded and said to the commanding officer and his soldiers, “You will all die unless you stay on board this ship”, and so the sailors cut the ropes that was attached to the lifeboat and let it fall from the ship.
    At the crack of dawn Paul began to encourage the frightened crew to eat some food, something they hadn’t done throughout the course of the storm (two weeks). Then Paul took some bread and lifted it up giving thanks to GOD, broke off a piece, ate it, and shared the rest with the men on board. After they ate, they further lightened the load of the ship by throwing the entire cargo of wheat overboard.
    When daylight came they didn’t recognize the coastline but they saw a beach and wondered if they could navigate, what was left of the ship, between the rocks in order to get there. And so they cut off the anchors, lowered the rudders, raised the foresails, and headed for shore.
    Just as they were beginning to relax a little, the ship hit a shoal and ran aground. The stern was repeatedly pounded by the force of the waves and the ship finally began to break apart. The soldiers wanted to kill Paul and the other prisoners to keep them from escaping, but the commander wanted to keep Paul alive and didn’t allow his men to carry out their plan. He ordered everyone off the ship who could swim, and told the others to float in on some of the planks and debris from the broken ship, and just as Paul had foretold, none of the 276-man crew died from the disastrous shipwreck.
    Even before this dramatic voyage, Paul had become accustomed to facing life-threatening situations that would more than buckle the average person. However, the apostle always believed what GOD told him, and that gave him strength to continue on with his work, and his calling. And so I find it appropriate to end this lesson by leaving you with these four anchors of faith;

·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s presence (believe)
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s promise (believe)
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s plan (trust)
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s power (trust and believe)

    Whenever we are in danger of being overwhelmed by the storms of life, GOD, will keep in perfect peace, the mind that stays on HIM, because we trust HIM. GOD will always bring the person who believes in HIM, through the storms of life, but not always necessarily on a sound, well-put-together ship. JESUS comes to us from across the storms of life, with HIS hands stretched out to save, speaking in a calm, clear voice, that bids us to “have no fear” (have faith). And sometimes when HE delivers us, HE may just have to bring us in on shipwrecked, broken pieces, because we were too prideful to consult with HIM, during fair weather.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website




Sunday, August 6, 2017

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday August 6, 2017

PAUL’S TESTIMONY BEFORE KING AGRIPPA
 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

BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
larrydalexanderbiblestudies.blogspot.com

BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday July 2, 2017

PAUL APPEARS BEFORE FESTUS
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.


PAUL SPEAKS TO AGRIPPA
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






                                 
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