Here we are back again, at Day 16 of The Acts Challenge 2019! We keep unfolding more and more of what the early church had to go through in order to spread the Gospel. I’m glad that they did, though! Now, it’s our business to keep on spreading THAT gospel… not the one that has become so wrapped up in “man’s doctrine” that it’s no longer recognizable!
If you’ve missed previous posts, you can check here to go back and read through them:
- The Beginning: Chapter 1
- The Apostles: Chapter 2
- Rise Up & Walk: Chapter 3
- Peter & John: Chapter 4
- Apostle’s Persecution: Chapter 5
- Stephen & The Apostles: Chapter 6
- Stephen Recalls Moses & More: Chapter 7
- Philip & Simon: Chapter 8
- Saul of Tarsus: Chapter 9
- Cornelius & His Household: Chapter 10
- Gentiles Conversion: Chapter 11
- The Imprisonment of Peter: Chapter 12
- Paul in the Synagogue: Chapter 13
- Paul & Barnabas: Chapter 14
- The Circumcision Debate: Chapter 15
Paul Circumcised Timothy
(Vs. 1) Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
(Vs. 2) Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
(Vs. 3) Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters; for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
There are several things here that can look like a “red flag” to those looking for discrepancies in the Bible. We know, as recently as the last couple of chapter of Acts, that Paul was not a proponent of circumcision.
He himself said, in Galatians 5:2, that if a person was circumcised (as in newly circumcised… not having been circumcised and THEN coming to the faith) then Christ would profit them nothing. But here he is, taking Timothy along and circumcising him, “because of the Jews”.
So what exactly is going on?
Understanding Paul’s Logic
First of all, it could have easily been that Paul, a self-described “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), simply erred in his judgment here. However, when you look at a few of the things surrounding the bigger picture, it’s easier to understand.
Paul believed it was often necessary to do whatever possible to further the word of evangelism. In 1 Corinthians 9:20, he said, “And unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews;” meaning that he would appeal in any way necessary to find a common ground in God.
However, when people started saying that circumcision, as was Moses’ custom, was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1), he blasted that idea quickly and boldly.
In this particular situation, with Timothy having a very devout Jewish mother and grandmother, and having been raised up in the Law his whole life, Paul must have thought it best that for him to reach those he was supposed to reach, that he should be in good standing in the presence of all.
Preaching & Church Planting
(Vs. 4) And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
(Vs. 5) And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
At this point, the main gist of what was preached, “for to keep”, was the word and preaching of the apostles and elders. The 12 disciples were in that number of “elders” as they had been the ones who actually walked and talk with Jesus. To deny their teaching, was to deny the teaching of Jesus Himself, who had sent them forth with the message HE GAVE THEM.
If you’ll notice, every time “human understanding” came into play, especially in error against Jesus’ original teaching, Paul and those with him were vehemently opposed, debating the issue with the apostles and elders.
In other words, when someone, somewhere down the line, decided to render a teaching to fit the way they believed, and not the way it was originally intended – such as, necessitating that Gentiles be circumcised and follow the Law for salvation – then it was NECESSARY to DEFEND the GOSPEL.
The Holy Ghost Leads
(Vs. 6) Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
(Vs. 7) After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
(Vs. 8) And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
(Vs. 9) And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
(Vs. 10) And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
Paul and his group had intentions of preaching in specific locations, but being sensitive to the Holy Ghost, they listened when He said “no”.
As it is with us many times, when the Holy Spirit blocks something we think is pleasing, and even Godly, the reason is not always clear at first. When the Holy Spirit denied them passage into those cities, it wasn’t at THAT TIME that the cause was made known.
Later, in a dream, Paul then understood. He was passing those places up for the moment in order to minister in Macedonia.
Moving Along from City to City
(Vs. 11) Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
(Vs. 12) And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
It took some days, and several cities to reach Philippi, a “chief city” in Macedonia. But they had finally arrived.
(Vs. 13) And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
(Vs. 14) And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul
(Vs. 15) And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Already a worshiper of God, Lydia was moved by the Holy Ghost to listen to what Paul was saying. Her spirit then bore witness with Paul’s words, which were surely about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, that she was in need of conversion.
The result was that she, and her entire household, were baptized. After that, she urged Paul and his group to stay with her, and they did.
A Soothsayer Wearies Paul
(Vs. 16) And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination, met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
(Vs. 17) The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
This is just a great example of how even evil-inclined people can speak a form of “Truth”. I don’t know why that was, here in this place, that the witch spoke exactly who Paul was, and exactly what they were there to do.
It was a demon that possessed the girl, which also makes the case that even demons KNOW who God is, can CONFESS Him to be the “Most High”, and ARE AWARE exactly what the way of salvation is. To say that “belief” and “confession” (which are, yes, a part of the conversion of any believer) are all that is necessary for salvation is to greatly err.
It leaves a person open to the demonic influence that they need not strive for holiness, and that even if they died in sin, they would still go to heaven.
(Vs. 18) And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
This verse makes me wonder why Paul waited to cast the demon out of the girl. Why he waited until he, himself, was grieved in the spirit before casting it out. At any rate, as demons do, it had to obey the commandment given in Jesus Name!
Paul and Silas in Arrested and Beaten
(Vs. 19) And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers.
What was it about the situation that made these masters realize their cash cow was gone? Did they know, beforehand, that she was possessed by a demon? Had they played some role in causing her to be that way? Whatever it was, there was some kind of “evidence” that she was no longer profitable to them as a soothsayer!
(Vs. 20) And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
(Vs. 21) And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
(Vs. 22) And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
Without trial, evidence, or witnesses, Paul and Silas were arrested, convicted, and severely beaten. Such is the “way” of the council, a spirit that is still prevalent in religious societies to this day.
Paul and Silas in Prison
(Vs. 23) And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely.
(Vs. 24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
(Vs. 25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
They had been beaten with MANY stripes. They were cast into the “inner prison”. The inner prison was the innermost portion of the jail, with no light and no air. To be placed in stocks, in some cases, was known as fastening feet, ankles, and neck, into a “stock” that held them in one place.
And yet they SANG PRAISES to God!
Many of us lose our song, our worship, our ability to focus on HIM with much, much, MUCH lesser afflictions. We would do well to remember, it can be worse. And with the way the world is moving along these days, it looks like we might even see it in our lifetime!
The Earthquake and Loosed Prisoners
(Vs. 26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
(Vs. 27) And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
(Vs. 28) But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
The jailer knew that to lose the prisoners in his keep, regardless of the reason, meant total death for him. It was such an impending doom, that he would rather kill himself than suffer at the hands of those he was accountable to.
But Paul knew there was no reason for him to kill himself. They were there. They had not run away, as the jailer assumed them to have done. And so this jailer wanted to find out exactly what was going on.
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
(Vs. 29) Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
(Vs. 30) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
(Vs. 31) And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
(Vs. 32) And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
When asked, What must I do to be saved, Paul and Silas informed the jailer he would have to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Many take this verse and set it aside, all by itself, to create the illusion that “belief” is all it takes.
As I said earlier, even the demons believe (James 2:19) and tremble before the Name of Jesus. They MUST! He is GOD!
The meat of what must be done to be “saved” is wrapped up in the words, And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
They didn’t just say, “Believe in Jesus,” and pat him on the back and walk away. They took the time to teach him the Words of Jesus. Again, while we are NEVER “saved by works”, there are certain works that come about as a result of understanding our belief in the One who died for us!
(Vs. 33) And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
(Vs. 34) And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Paul & Silas Released
(Vs. 35) And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.
(Vs. 36) And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore depart, and go in peace.
(Vs. 37) But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay, verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
Well, the truth finally comes out. While it was true that Saul/Paul was a Jew, and a studied one at that, he was also, by birth, a Roman citizen. He made it known that he understood that they had been jailed without a cause, and beaten falsely as well.
While most would be jumping at the chance to get out of such dire consequences, Paul refused to leave with Silas, until the magistrates had come and gotten them out themselves. And no doubt, acknowledging that they were Romans.
Back to Lydia’s House
(Vs. 38) And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
(Vs. 39) And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
(Vs. 40) And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
Most people getting out of a prison situation like Paul and Silas had just been through would need to BE comforted. But no. Instead, they came back to the new converts they had just been with, prior to their arrest, and comforted THEM!
Don’t you imagine they were feeling awfully bad? To know that their own conversion had cost these two men so much?
But, I’m sure Paul and Silas must have been thinking of One who paid SO MUCH MORE!