The Book Of Acts II

Moving on in the book of Acts, whilst trying to avoid the matters of travel and the like...

The girl with a divining spirit that followed Paul around, proclaiming they had a message from God, did not grieve Paul because it did not give him a moments peace to just be himself. The girl's owners were trying to attach themselves into the astonishing new doctrine of the Gospel in order to make money. It was not that the girl had lost the spirit that she divinated with, (any one could write a horoscope) but that the opportunity to turn profit by a "prophetess" within this new faith had escaped them. And on top of that - any hope of using the girl for the old purposes had been ruined by the public display that she was powerless, by men of faith that astounded all with miracles, healings and their doctrine.

It would seem odd to me that the jailer would take them across town to his family home if he nearly killed himself fearing they had escaped. Rather since he was woken and near to the prison when the quake occurred, and even if he was saved, he didn't risk his life bringing the apostles out of jail. He lived in the prison building. A simple fact like that clears things up quick. (Thats one of my failures to realise the obvious for you!) There is very little reason why today we would expect a man to be converted because his life was spared the headsman's axe. Since the reason for the uproar was a financial one, the ability for them to escape, (though they didn't) and the clear act of God from the quake, must have persuaded the man that this was no money making scheme, threatening to spoil their town and cripple people's finances as alleged. Nope, this was the real deal - not the one advertised by the hue and cry of the marketplace to the town as a whole.

This is the one everybody cites. I hope you do so too (at time of writing I havent included the verses themselves, though I may later!)

In comparison with Peter's experience "Can any man here deny water?" These indeed had been baptised with water, but not the Holy Spirit. Were they baptised with water again? I don't think so, and neither would most if indeed it was John's baptism and not say of another faith. A mere laying on of hands is all that is implied.

Upon reading you must have noticed that every time there is dissention within the Jews of a city in the synagogue, Paul et al leave and withdraw. If they have had no success they leave town, but here they begin to withdraw to homes of believers and to seperate themselves from the Jews. By seperating themselves they keep the believers without division amongst themselves. This is an important issue throughout Acts as well as the rest of the NT. Those that the believers begin to seperate themselves from clearly mark the dividing line between those receiving the Holy Spirit, and those non believers. By this same process Christians cease to be a sect of the Jews, and become a remnant.

Contrary to being able to make money by attaching themselves to Christ as the divinating girl's owners had attempted, Here the popularity of the Gospel brings economic harm in the eyes of those who profit by making idols and the like. Christ Jesus is not good for money making at His expense either way, for or against.

After seperating themselves, the greatest threat facing the christians was, is and always will be the acceptance of pervsity in doctrine. After much effort resisting and seperating the flock from within first synagogues, then market money schemes, idols and books of a superstitious and contrary nature, the threat comes always after the most zealous of us are gone. The statement is always "not here" or "maybe over there, we're ok" , the danger is always what is wrong now - not what once was or MUST BE some point far down the line.

The world threw many things at the early faithful. First judaizers, to pollute the truth of salvation, then opposition from those who did not stand to gain financially - The opposition of the Jews, those to whom the message was delivered first, and the root of the faith, could be the most damaging. It certainly explains some of the origins of antisemitism. That there was still a church presence in Jerusalem should not escape notice. - It was the act of Paul mixing back in with the Jews in the temple that angered them. In a strange circumstance, what God has seperated (the just from the unjust), let no man join together.

Paul shows exceptional slyness. Their concern was division of Christians from the jews and the temple - excomunicated if you like. That they held deep divisions amongsth themselves made obvious the political issue was the problem, and not the doctrinal division of Paul's own belief on the resurrection. As Caiaphas deemed it was good for a man to die for the people because it satisfied the division and upheaval - accusing Paul to placate the tumult in the streets was the concern, and not the doctrine.

As Paul preached in Jerusalem, a prisoner - he would in Rome. But being of good cheer, Paul was offered protection in Jerusalem and he had much to appreciate if he were defended against harm between here and then.

There begins a strange parody of the last few hours of Christ's life before his crucifixion. Behind their backs, Paul's sister's son rats out the Jews, (cf Judas ratting out Jesus) who have taken a curse on themselves, to kill Paul. (like "His blood be upon our heads" whilst baying for Christ's life.) Paul is taken before a succession of rulers as was Christ, but over a far longer time. The most obvious difference other than God intending Paul to survive - is that Paul talks much more than Christ did in his own situation The curse those lying in wait for Paul was enforced by Paul's escape, whereas the curse was broken in Jesus' case when he died. A strange comparison indeed.

Paul indeed has much more to say whilst under arrest than Christ did. It seems preaching to Rome started a long time before he arrived there. Over the years in prison, Paul is brought before the officials and King and spreads his defence of the gospel as his own. That the rulers set him aside for a more convenient hour shows how little pressured they were by the Jews, although the latter had not lost interest.

Chap25v4 .
Is the difference that Paul was a Roman? Here he states he is brought to a roman judgment - as was Christ. The Jews here are happy to leave it with the romans, but they do not insist that he should be brought before the people as Christ was. In Christ's case he was brought before the judgement of "God",- as the jews would wish it. Paul is brought before caesar for judgement, not the approval of a judgement already made as was Jesus to Pilate. God had purposed Christ to die to fulfill scripture, but Paul was to live

Exactly the same concensus is made on Paul as was with Christ by Pilate and Herod. Only Paul's citizen status allowed him to appeal to Caesar and not be taken to the Jews. - A situation not open to Jesus. That he might be set at liberty in their opinion shows how little difference there was. Other than that Paul was entitled a trial, whereas Christ was at the whim of Pilate - there is little between the two situations. Crucifixion was not taken lightly, and it is not to be thought that Paul did not escape by the skin of his teeth.

After multiple warnings by many to Paul to not go to Jerusalem, Paul had considered it a vow to go and to perform himself to be not as he was slandered. Whilst Paul considered it finer that he should show himself not the criminal he was purported to be - He considered Jerusalem more to him than perhaps he should have. He had very little success in preaching there and almost lost his life. After many years of imprisonment which upset the whole impetus of his ministry and his productivity in starting churches, It finally appeared that Rome was more the place he should have had for his own than Jerusalem. The book ends without much more content. - But Paul by no means had chosen the better of two paths - It was clear things were not as they should be in Jerusalem - rather than "not as they were".

All in all, the fate that awaited Paul in Jerusalem, whilst perhaps not of God's preference did serve some purpose. With the death of Christ it could be alleged that God was not disposed to saving his own life. The Jews cried at him to come down from the cross. In exactly the same situation, God turned the tables and saved Paul. It does serve the Christian faith that a follower of Christ should be saved despite the same method of accusation, the laying in wait and the arrest by roman soldiers prompted by a similar tumult of the people surrounding the temple. In the very least I would hope it would draw attention that if a follower could be saved so easily, there must be greater purpose in the death of the one the follower affirms in worship.

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