Acts 26

As we near the end of this study on Acts, it is time to remind the reader that this IS the origorginalinal church. It has morphed into what we call “church” today. Acts does not give us a bulletin of the how a service should go, but then, a personal relationship with Christ is just that; not a routine. When it becomes a routine, we better understand the statement “morphed.”

The first 26 verses in Acts 26 is Paul’s defense:

  1. The complimentary “honor” to be in front of King Agrippa
  2. Paul’s credentials as a Pharisee, Roman, Jew, and now a believer in The Way
  3. His past as a Sanhedrin zealot persecuting members of The Way
  4. His transformation and encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus
  5. His call to bear witness of God and his unfailing efforts to so do.
  6. [T]his arrest for doing what? Following God?

The thankfulness to be standing and presenting his case in front of King Agrippa was in contrast to the flattery presented by the Sanhedrin hired lawyer (Tertullus; Acts 24). Paul realized that he did not have to explain to an outsider (Gentile) Jewish laws. Agrippa was the son of Herod the Great therefore an Idumaean; a descendant in the line of Esau. This too makes him a direct relative of Abraham and one familiar with Jewish customs. In a real sense, a distant cousin to Paul himself.

Act 26:22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass.

Paul sets his defense upon doing nothing outside the laws of Rome, laws of Moses, and teachings of Judaism SINCE the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Paul once again sides with the Pharisees in supporting the “first to rise from the dead” that person being Jesus. Remember that the Pharisees believed in an after-life and a resurrection. This was not so of the Sadducee. Since there is no objection or discord mentioned at this trial like it was in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin must have been less than by-partisan. Perhaps they did not bring along any Pharisees to this trial in Caesarea. The lack of disagreement among Paul’s accusers suggests this to be the case…no Pharisee present when Paul stated the resurrection of Jesus.

It is of particular interest per the exchange between Paul and the interruption of *Governor Festus in versus 24 & 25. Paul had just stated in 23b that the Messiah (Jesus) must suffer and, that by being the first to rise from the dead, HE [Jesus] would proclaim [the gospel] salvation to both OUR PEOPLE and the Gentiles.” Governor Festus, a Roman Gentile, probably reacted to OUR PEOPLE as explained in the above, reacted to the fact that Gentiles were included in Paul’s mission and vision. He said that Paul is out of his mind; too educated.

*During his administration (56 – 61 C.E.), Jewish hostility to Rome was greatly inflamed by the civic privileges issue. Feelings were aroused which played an important part in Governor Festus decision-making.

However, Paul responds by deferring his reply not to Festus, but to King Agrippa, an Edomite and one familiar with Jewish customs (Acts 26:26). Paul immediately turns to King Agrippa asking him if he believes in the prophets of which he had full knowledge and as Governor Festus did not. This was probably very *embarrassing to Agrippa. If he replied that he did believe in the prophets, which he most likely did, his Gentile counterpart in Governor Festus may have reacted as skeptical per the King who was also appointed by Rome

.hell*Sadly this is true of many “almost believers.” Sitting or standing among others and to say I want to believe would be drawing attention, pro and con, to one’s actions or response to the gospel message of salvation. How eternal to desire not to be a spectacle in an-other’s eyes only to exchange it for eternal destiny to hell.

Paul realizes his hesitance. He points out that his question is to all present and not present in verse 29. In a sense he takes the burden of the question off Agrippa’s back or shoulders and qualifies it as a question for all to answer.

Then comes the famous reply by Agrippa in the next verse (v28): “Would you in such a short time think you have convinced me?” The convincing had nothing to do with Paul’s guilt or innocence, but his appeal to Agrippa’s Jewish background and Jesus the Messiah; becoming a Christian or member of The Way. There is a well known psychological probability that when cornered or trying to hide something from an-other’s question, s/he avoids answering by ask a counter-question in reply. This is how Agrippa responded.

Agrippa and Festus go into a private conference and conclude that Paul is guilty of breaking no law be it Roman or Jewish. These two rulers represent both the Gentiles (Festus) of that time and the Jews (Agrippa). They both avoid having to deal with it during a time of tensions between the Romans and Jews by deferring to Paul’s appeal to the Emperor in Rome. They excuse their inaction by say…”If it were not for Paul’s appeal to Caesar (Emperor in Rome) he could be set free.

Rev. Dr. Jstark
December 2018

What’s In Your Church?

churchChurch services are meant to be about worship, ministry, instruction in the word, and the sacraments. They are not about foolish displays of human bravado and unnecessarily tempting or testing the Lord in experiences. How some who claim Christian standards can get their priorities so bent out of shape, wrong emphasis, and distraction of study is quite remarkable.

When the Apostle Paul was under guard and being transported to Rome to exercise his Roman citizen right of appeal to Caesar, he gathered wood for a camp fire. In this process he was bitten by a viper [Acts 28:1-6]. Even though he shook it off into the fire, those from the Malta population around him were startled that he did not dminiJimie. At first, in verse 4, they thought Paul “to be a murderer” and their superstitions considered the snake bite an omen and him a “dead man.”    However, he simply shakes the viper off into the fire and continues unaffected. The local natives who lived on the Island of Malta then thought him a god. Both of their assumptions were based upon weak knowledge, superstition, and past experience.

There is no later mention, message or proclamation by Paul that this is due to his faith and that this should now be a test of one’s belief in Jesus Christ. He did not seek to prove anything and had just saved his prison guards from a shipwreck. This happened while he was serving not seeking. As Bill Muehlenburg puts it, Paul was not “majoring in a minor principle” for living a life in Jesus.

The real danger in this passage is to think the successful practice of snake handling snake handlingis some form of proof of one’s faith. Some churches in the South do precisely this. Many good intending men (and women) have died, one might say, in his or her misunderstanding of a minor incident per scripture and attempting to major in it as a routine church-sanctioned practice; just like the Malta Islanders who witnessed this event by the campfire swung from one unproven expectation to another false conclusion. Miraculous yet minor incidents in scripture should never become major practices or theological planks.

This instance is only mentioned as one incident in the travels and life of Paul (Acts 16:18). It also may be based upon and incorrectly juxtaposing a supposition from Mark 16:18. Mark is the first New Testament book ever written. There is even strong theological thought that Mark 16:8 was actually the end of Mark’s passage in chapter 16. Mark 16: 9-20 seems out of place from the previous 8 verses since it is based upon a suddenly hurried shorthanded coverage of events. Some translations don’t even mention the verses in 16:9-18. The ESV, GNB, Wescott-Hort Greek New Testament, and the Lexham English Bible, to mention but a few, put these verses and passage in [brackets] to denote the possibility these were inserted by someone else at a later date. The Book of Mark is the ONLY synoptic gospel to record this account.

NOTE: Scripture is inerrant however, those who translate it can be in error. Some may even have an agenda for so doing. Study, Study, Study to show one’s self approved [2 Timothy 2:15]; begin with awareness, next step is to study for understanding, only then comes personal conviction of accept or reject what one was originally and only recently made aware. A jump from awareness or introduction to new information to conviction misses the critical step of study or understanding. Knowledge without understanding is very dangerous ground. Such is the original basis of ‘jumping to a conclusion.’

The reference in Mark 16:9-20, whether he actually wrote it, is often a situation of reading the text outside of its own context. In verse 14 we read that whomever, presumably Jesus, is addressing “the eleven and their unbelief” of it being Him who appeared to them. His statement per “the eleven” becomes what is ­­-called in grammar, an antecedent to the “believers” mentioned in verses 16 and 17. These men were not without fault. They were sitting at their tables not even remembering that Jesus promised his resurrection would be three days after his crucifixion. In verse 14 Jesus rebukes their unbelief. Yes, some of these guys were in unbelief. Then, in the following verses (16 and 17), talking to the same eleven and knowing the free will of man has not been removed, Jesus says “those who remain as unbelievers will not have this power that is mentioned in the following verses” (my paraphrase). But, those who with their free will decide to totally believe, to them will be given the powers to overcome the things mentioned in verses 17 and 18.

Once again to address a previous article about what some call grave-sucking. This was an Old Testament one-time occurrence that was NOT intended for anything but to fulfill a promise made to Elisha and to get this dead guy out of the way so the other Israelis could flee the scene. It was nothing other than an act of urgency. Just as with snake handling, and the rest of Mark 16: 17, 18 which is only discussed in the Book of Mark. The eleven were protected, but were not instructed to practice this to prove anything. There is real caution and danger of practicing “grave sucking” to supposedly absorb the spirit of the deceased. A person is opening one’s self up to be dwelt by a spirit or spirits. Who can control what type or kind of spirits may leverage this opportunity. As Christians we already have the indwelling of the most powerful Spirit; i.e. the Holy Spirit.

Another Gospel?

Paul Hoffmaster

Paul Hoffmaster

The Christian faith seems to have a mentality of receiving rather than of giving, being served instead of serving. The Believer is more concerned about worldly benefits than Heavenly rewards. There is more emphasis on the outer man than the spiritual man. Human nature has always wrapped itself up in tangible things (what can be seen and touched). Success is measured by what can be exhibited to others. If one becomes financially mature, evidenced by possessions, one will boast of his endeavors and accomplishments.

A problem arises when the Christian adopts the financial symbol as the evidence of a vibrant relationship with Jesus. It is becoming more and more obvious that the Church has hired promoters to help the statistically declining congregations. The simple Gospel message that Jesus saves has given way to a thing called the Prosperity Gospel. Paul warned in Galations about another gospel “Which is not another…” (Gal. 1:7)

Scriptures that are used to promote this teaching are taken out of context. Take any Scripture used to promote prosperity and one would readily see the benefit of any financial reward was to pass it on, not keep it. Notice that those who preach the principles of financial abundance want you to “seed” to their ministry. What entices people back to half filled churches is that by their financial giving, God will bless them with monetary significance. There is a line between spiritually sowing and financially sowing and it is being crossed continually.

A Christian’s life should be as the hymn writer wrote, “More like the Master.” Jesus’ life was a life of giving, not getting. He continually reached out to the needy. Jesus offered a changed life, not a change of garments. He did not offer a house on the Sea of Galilee or a thoroughbred donkey with golden shoes. Jesus did not guarantee one would have a six oar boat so one did not have to travel commercial across the Sea of Galilee. What Jesus offered was that God would take care of everything that would pertain to one’s life. Read Luke 12:19-34 and you will quickly become aware of how God has made every provision for your life. It is a choice between believing that one will receive financial blessings, by sowing as directed by a scripture that is taken out of context or trusting God that He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philip. 4: 19)

The Christian must render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and unto God the things that are Gods. (Mt. 22: 21) The world says “in money we shall trust.” The Believer says in “in God will I trust.” Today many Christians believe financial security is the evidence of God’s blessings, but to the Truth seekers it is the peace that passes all understanding.

Let the Holy Spirit reveal what is truth and let man’s interpretation fall idly to the ground.

Website host comment: James 3:1 and Galatians 5:10b are but two additional scriptures to seriously consider for those teaching and preaching the Word of God.