The Acts of the Apostles
Introduction – In this Session, we will be going through Acts 24 and continue the narrative of the spiritual warfare from the spirit of religion against Paul as he addresses the crowd that has attacked him during the rioting. As we go through the text, we should keep in mind the following:
1 – Spiritual warfare begins in the unseen realm and manifests in the natural realm in the form attacks on Christians, riots, violence, rejection of Jesus and rejection of the grace and love of God.
2 – God is good and kind and pursues people with His love. As Paul addresses the crowd, this the Lord’s last attempt at inviting the unbelieving Jews into the grace and forgiveness of Messiah.
3 – God is moving providentially behind the scenes of this narrative to protect Paul from harm and protect Paul’s destiny of preaching the gospel to kings.
a) As Paul addresses the crowd he begins to relate to them in the context of him being tied to them as brother and fellow Israelite. Many in the crowd may have assumed Paul was a Hellenized Jew and not one who spoke Aramaic. Therefore, the crowd was hushed as he began to speak. As we learned in the last session, Paul spoke 3 languages; Latin, Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic.
b) As we move deeper into the text, God through Paul, makes His last mass appeal to the unbelieving Jews and their leadership into relationship through Messiah. 1 Corinthians 5:20 – We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
c) Paul’s love for his own people is displayed to them as he shares his testimony and presents Jesus to them.
a) Paul begins his witness by presenting to them his qualifications. 1 – Paul was from a wealthy and important city. 2 – He was a Jew who was educated by one of the most respected Rabbi’s and member of the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel. 3 – Paul was a Pharisee (separated ones) and would have been recognized as a belonging to that group who were considered fundamentalists concerning the Law. Paul mentioning that he was zealous implied him being concerned and having a regard for the Torah. Paul is building his credibility and defending himself against the attack from the Ephesian Jews.
b) Gamaliel – This was the famous Rabban Gamaliel, The Elder whose Rabbinic School flourished from AD 1 to AD 49. Gamaliel led the Sanhedrin and had an authoritative voice in this Council. He is mentioned in the Talmud and the Mishna, and is held in high esteem even today. The Talmud says regarding Gamaliel, “When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, regard for the Torah ceased, and purity and piety died.” Gamaliel was also a Pharisee. Christian tradition says that Gamliel eventually became a believer in Messiah and was baptized by Peter and John along with his son and Nicodemus. Here is an interesting quote from Gamaliel; “one who has memorized everything by study, but has no understanding, and is the son of poor parents”.
a) Paul in Galatians 1:13-14 makes a very similar statement concerning his persecution of the Church. Paul understands the deception of the spirit of religion because he was deceived by it at one point in his life. What we overcome gives us authority to release others from that same bondage. See 1 Timothy 1:12-16.
b) As Paul mentions the high priest and Sanhedrin, he is addressing people who knew him and could testify that he is who he says he is. They could testify to the truth that they had charged Paul with letters to persecute believers in Messiah.
c) Paul calls faith in Christ the Way. Greek – Way – HODOS – a way, a travelled road, metaphor for a course of conduct, a way of thinking, feeling, and deciding. It is important that we see faith in Jesus as a process and journey into being accepted and Fathered by God.
d) Historically we should note that Christianity has not separated from Judaism at this point, but was considered an extension of it through the New Covenant that Jesus cut on the cross. Belief in Messiah confirmed all the previous Covenants because they all pointed and prophesied His appearing and redemption. It would be approximately 200 years before Christianity had taken on a distinct identity and ceased to be a movement within Judaism.
e) Paul begins the narrative of his conversion to Messiah on the Damascus road.
a) We should never underestimate the power of our testimonies. They are on-ramps for people to consider truth about God, and they cannot be easily disputed because they are personal and they “humanize” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Testimonies are theology personalized. The Lord Jesus was so kind to intervene in Paul’s life and His grace towards Paul was immense, making a persecutor into an Apostle.
b) Notice that Jesus says to Paul that he is persecuting Him. When people persecute God’s Church, they are persecuting Jesus. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27 – If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
c) Paul being left blind from the intensity of the light, was a sign that Paul, thinking he was enlightened, was spiritually blind.
a) Paul describes Ananias to the crowd in a way that communicates to them that Ananias is a reliable witness and a man who is being obedient to God.
b) In this account Paul gives a little more detail than in the account of his conversion in Acts 9. Notice that Paul is telling the crowd that is God’s will to see the Righteous One, Jesus, and to hear His voice and witness to what he hears. Paul is communicating to them that he is being obedient to God in following Jesus Christ.
c) Paul clearly presents to the crowd the forgiveness of sins by calling on the Name of Jesus. Paul’s conversion shows us the great lengths that the Lord will go to, to pursue people in love and grace.
a) The parallel account for this part of Paul’s testimony is Acts 9:26-30. Notice that Paul has an encounter with Jesus in a trance as he was praying. Supernatural encounters with God are natural part of our faith. Our access point into deep communication with the Lord is prayer. In his testimony to the crowd, Paul is having a dialogue with Jesus in the trance. Jesus is always ready to speak to his own. See John 10:3.
b) In his dialogue with Jesus, Paul assumes that his testimony would be received because of previous persecution of the Church, and his dramatic turnaround in becoming obedient to Jesus.
c) Paul has been a believer for about 20 years at this point in the Acts narrative. We can look back through his journey with God and see the wisdom of God calling him to the Gentiles. Paul was an expert in the Scriptures and could explain the Covenants, the prophesies in the Scriptures, their fulfillment in Jesus, he could testify in the synagogues and teach Gentiles the foundations of their faith as ones who have been grafted into Israel.
d) Paul’s mentioning him going to the Gentiles would have been very offensive, because Gentiles were considered rebellious and rejected by God.
a) The crowd reacts to Paul’s mention of God being concerned for the Gentiles and protests his word violently. The attack against Paul and the rejection of Jesus Christ as Messiah, is the manifestation of the spirit of religion that hates the grace of God. They are demanding death because they could not fathom that God would save Gentiles and include them into the same grace and mercy extended to the Jews.
a) Paul was no stranger to the punishments of the Jews and the Romans. 2 Corinthians 11:24-25 – Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones.
b) The Romans were interested in keeping peace with law and order. The common method for extracting information from a non-citizen in Roman custody was examination by flogging. The method was to strip the individual, tie his hands one
post to another and flog him with flagellum until the crime is confessed. The centurion must have been perplexed by the reaction of the crowd, so he wanted to flog Paul to get more information.
c) It was illegal to punish a Roman citizen without a trial.
a) The centurion brought the tribune. This would have been a Roman military tribune who would have had authority over the those stationed at the Antonia Tower.
b) The conversation between Paul and the tribune is interesting when understood in the context of the culture. Roman citizenship was either by birth, right, reward, or bribe. The tribune’s statement to Paul about paying a large sum of money for citizenship is his way of saying, “anyone can buy citizenship”. Paul being a citizen by birth, carried more cultural weight that one obtained by a bribe. That explains their reaction of fear in regards to Paul’s arrest and attempt at flogging him.
c) Our take away from this encounter shows us three things that are veiled but present in the text. 1 – The spirit of religion is a satanic attack as manifested in the hatred of the riotous crowd. 2 – Despite our rebellion, the Lord seeks opportunities to show us mercy and offer forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to Himself. 3 – The Lord is faithful to Paul and working providentially behind the scenes to deliver him from harm.