Monthly Archives: January 2010

Acts 26:22-25 – Jesus “Fleshed Out” as The Resurrection

2) THE RESURRECTION AND THE PROMISE

Summary of last week:
Luke 24:44–47 (ESV) — 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…”

  • We looked at what Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms said about “the promise”.
  • We found it began as a promised offspring, land and nation and expanded to encompass a “continuously unfolding divine plan.”
  • We found that, from an OT perspective, there was not a central figure present known to the Jews as “The Messiah.”
  • But there was found a “shepherd”, “his salvation”, “his righteousness” and “Immanuel”, etc.
  • And we saw that Paul, Luke and the rest of the NT writers argued that Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the above and as such was anointed by God and so was “The Messiah.”

This leads us to today’s lesson, Part II, on how the death and resurrection of Jesus and relate to “the promises” of the Old Testament.

Today’s text:
Acts 26:22–25 (ESV) — 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: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” 24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.

What did Paul say about OT prophesy and the death and resurrection of someone in relation to “the promises”?

  • Not only did the NT argue that Jesus the Messiah was fulfillment of the Old Testament promises.
  • But they argued that His death and resurrection was also part of the Old Testament promises as we see in our text today.
  • Paul commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to verify his words, so we will too.

Now we need to investigate Paul’s claim that the OT said Jesus must suffer and that He would rise from the dead.
As we go forward, it may help us to know that even Jesus made the same claims that Paul and Luke were making in our text today.
For example, He said:

  • John 3:14 (ESV) — 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.
  • John 5:45–46 (ESV) — 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

What the OT says about Jesus and his appointed suffering:

  • Psalm 22:1 (ESV) — 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
  • Psalm 22:14–18 (ESV) — 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
  • Isaiah 53:3–5 (ESV) — 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

What the OT says about Jesus and His resurrection:
The typical OT view of death is expressed in the following verses.

  • Ecclesiastes 3:19–21 (ESV) — 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return [dust is representative of Sheol]. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
  • Psalm 104:29 (ESV) — 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
  • Job 7:9–10 (ESV) — 9 As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; 10 he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.
  • Job 20:11 (ESV) — 11 His bones are full of his youthful vigor, but it will lie down with him in the dust.
  • Isaiah 38:10 (ESV) — 10 I said, In the middle of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years.

As you can see, there isn’t much hope expressed about the afterlife.

  • Life there unfolded “without purpose and without communication” – AYBD.
  • No contact with the living or with God.
  • Sheol was a place of no return from which very few have left.
  • Sheol was not a place of judgment, but a “place which awaited the living” – AYBD.

But there was present a hope that Sheol would be remedied through God’s power, love and justice.

  • 1 Samuel 2:6 (ESV) — 6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
  • Isaiah 26:19 (ESV) — 19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
  • Psalm 16:10 (ESV) — 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
  • Hosea 13:14 (ESV) — 14 Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.
  • Daniel 12:2 (ESV) — 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Initially, many of these verses of hope “used the idea of resurrection to express the national hope of the re-birth of the nation” – NDB.

  • But the NT writers made clear that these verses were, in light of Jesus suffering, resurrection and His own teaching, references to Jesus Christ the Messiah.
  • Acts 2:30–32 (ESV) — 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
  • Jesus Christ was sent by God and raised by God’s power, love and justice.
  • Jesus Christ’s resurrection made it possible that both the dead in Christ and the nation of Israel would be redeemed from Sheol.
  • Of course to us, the parallel seems obvious, but the Jew had a hard time with this concept.

Some of the barriers Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection posed for the Jews:
Barrier 1:
For death not to be an occasion of scandal and for it not to appear as an unacceptable occurrence, three conditions had to be fulfilled, as far as the Israelite was concerned” – AYBD.

  1. One needed to die “full of days” or in one’s old age not in “the middle of one’s days”(Gen 15:15; Job 42:17; Isa 38:19).
  2. One needed to leave behind descendants, especially a son (Gen 15 – Abraham & Isaac).
    1. Why a wife’s sterility was such a problem (1 Sam 1).
    2.  Why death of only son was such a problem (Amos 8:10).
  3. Funeral rites “had to be scrupulously observed” – AYBD (2 Sam 1:11–27; 3:31; Jer 16:1–9; Ezek 24:15–17).

Divine punishment against a guilty person was manifested precisely through a shortened life, the lack of progeny, and a corpse abandoned to wild beasts” – AYBD.

  • So surely the “righteous branch” and Israel’s deliverer, at the very least, would not have died young and had such an ignominious death and burial.

Barrier 2:
Deuteronomy 21:23 (ESV) — 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

  • The specific way that Jesus died would have been seen as a rejection by God.
  • A savior-king ordained by God would not have died in such a manner.

The NT writers had answers to these barriers:

  • Galatians 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

The very reason Jesus could redeem is because he took on our curse and bore its shame and God’s rejection on the cross.

And the OT itself had foreseen the Jews rejection:

  • Psalm 118:22 (ESV) — 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
  • Isaiah 8:14 (ESV) — 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

POI – It is also interesting to note that scholars point out that a crucified savior would have also been offensive to “Greek sensibilities.”

  • Yet, importantly and remarkably, the NT writers never made any attempt to hide or play down the Passion of Jesus.
  • Paul, in fact, readily admitted that the Gospel was foolishness to the unbeliever and that the believer was a fragrance of death to the unbeliever.

A short, biblical summary of the relationship of the resurrection to the promise:

  • Hebrews 11:13 and 17-18 (ESV) — 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

Things to consider:

  • It is important to point out that the barriers or hang-ups were very much “cultural baggage” hang-ups that had so often plagued the Jews.
  • We must remember that we have them too, materialism, post-modernism, relativism.
  • All of these can cloud our ability to know and experience Jesus the way God intended as revealed in the Bible.

Acts 26:1-21 – Jesus “Fleshed Out” as The Promise

Acts 26:1-21 – Jesus “Fleshed Out as The Promise”
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 26:1-21

Acts 26:6–8 (ESV) — 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

• These verses capture the essence of Paul’s 5th defense made since Chapter 22.
• The sentiment here is quite similar to the other defenses as well as his sermon in Acts 13.
• We will focus on “the promise” and “God raises the dead”.

1) WHAT WAS THE PROMISE?

We briefly addressed this question when we studied Paul’s sermon in Acts 13.
But because I can hardly remember what I learned yesterday, we shall explore “the promise” again in more detail.
“The promise” is also directly related to how we handle point 2 concerning the resurrection.

The promise is well attested:
Luke 1:70–73 (ESV) — [Quoting Zechariah] “…as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us…”

Acts 3:22–24 (ESV) — Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people [Deut 18:15].’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.

Acts 13:22–23 (ESV) — 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.

Acts 13:32 (ESV) — And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,

  • Luke, Peter and Paul reminded the Jews that “Abraham”, “David”, “the fathers”, “the prophets”, “Moses”, “Samuel” and “Zechariah” spoke of a promise that would find future fulfillment.
  • And whatever that promise was, Luke, Peter and Paul argued that it found fulfillment in Jesus whom they called the Messiah.

What exactly was the promise Luke, Peter & Paul were referring to?
Acts 3:25 (ESV) – You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

Acts 7:5 (ESV) — 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession AND to his offspring after him, though he had no child.

Acts 7:17 (ESV) — 17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt

Romans 9:9 (ESV) — 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

So simply put, the promise had three dimensions (source HIBD).

  • the promise of a seed or offspring (an heir; Gen. 12:7; 15:4; 17:16, 19; 21:12; 22:16–18; 26:3–4, 24; 28:13–14; 35:11–12)
  • the promise of land (an inheritance; Gen. 12:1,7; 13:17; 15:18; 17:8; 24:7; 26:3–5; 28:13, 15; 35:12; 48:4; 50:24)
  • the promise of blessing on all the nations (a heritage of the gospel; Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:17–18; 26:4; 28:14).

In following the cross-references throughout the Old Testament concerning “the promise”, it admittedly can become confusing.

  • It is clear that “the promise” comes to encompass more than just offspring, land and a blessing.
  • Underneath these 3 dimensions are all sorts of related prophecies and promises.

But, to stay on task, we will not explore this here.

What we want to know is how Jesus, from an OT perspective, fits into these three promises?
It seems that as God continued to work in the history of Israel, the 3 promises above were “fleshed out” or “Jesused out” even more.

  • God’s continuing fulfillment of His promises, “began to constitute the continuously unfolding divine plan by which all the peoples and nations of the earth would benefit – HIBD.”
  • And the benefit, of course, would come through Jesus Christ.

So although the first fulfillments or benefits of the promise were found in things like:

  • the birth of Isaac
  • the increase of the Israelite population while in captivity
  • the redemption from Egypt and entry into the promise land

There was also present in the OT aspects of “the promise” (the confusing stuff mentioned earlier) that more fulfillment was on the way.
And looking back, the Christian, can plainly see the person of Jesus coming into sharper and sharper focus ultimately culminating with his birth and life as revealed in the NT.

To get a sense of this, examine the verses below:
2 Samuel 7:12 (ESV) — When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

Psalm 98:2–3 (ESV) — 2 The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) — 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 40:11 (ESV) — 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Jeremiah 23:5–6 (ESV) — 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

Zechariah 2:10 (ESV) — Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.

Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) — 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

  • In these verses, we are introduced to someone called “offspring”, “his salvation”, “his righteousness”, “Immanuel”, “shepherd” and “righteous branch”.
  • Compared to “the promise” and the examples of its fulfillment revealed in the Pentateuch, we have here a much different picture as to the “who” and the “how” “the promise” will be fulfilled.
  • For the New Testament writers Jesus the Messiah is, was and will be the ultimate fulfillment of the “the promises” God made to Abraham, David and the nation of Israel.
  • So, “Luke never tires of showing, that the reality of Jesus has produced a new understanding of what the Messiah is, and hence of what Scripture says about Him” – TDNT.

POI – It is interesting that a search of the OT for the English word Messiah will come up with no hits.
(The NASB and NKJV translate Daniel 9:25-26 with the word Messiah, but it is apparently controversial).

In fact, “the term ‘anointed’ [messiah] is never used of a future savior/redeemer, and in later Jewish writings of the period between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100 the term is used only infrequently in connection with agents of divine deliverance expected in the future” – AYBD.

We are in a very debatable area when we discuss the development in Israel of Messianic ideas which express the hope that a time of salvation will come with the accession of a king of David’s line—a time that is often regarded also as a last time” – TDNT.

The extensive use of the term Messiah (Christ) as a title of the coming great Son of David is primarily a NT phenomenon” – TWOT.

So when the NT writers used the word “messiah”, they were saying (among other things) that:

  • Jesus’ birth, miracles, message, divinity, death, resurrection, etc., revealed that he was the one used by God to fulfill God’s promises of the “offspring”, “his salvation”, “his righteousness”, “Immanuel”, “shepherd”, and “righteous branch”, etc.
  • “The promise” fulfillment came through Christ’s capacity as prophet, priest and king (e.g., Heb 4:14-5:10).
  • He was “anointed” by God to perform these duties – as was the case with OT prophets (Aaron), priests and kings.
  • Therefore, Jesus was the “Anointed One”, the Christ, the Messiah (Acts 17:3, Luke 4:18-21).
  • How was Jesus anointed? (Acts 10:38)

Summary of this section:
The prophecies listed in this section announce a decisive and lasting change in the plight of the people, brought about by God. War will end, peace and plenty will be restored, Israel and Judah will be reunited, people in Exile will return; salvation has worldwide dimensions. In these prophecies, the central figure is a descendant of David who represents an ideal of kingship in the name of YHWH. The complexity of this ideal allows for all sorts of nuances in the individual texts. The emphasis is not on the person of the future king but on the fact that, at last, the Davidic ideal, which no historical king (including David) ever fulfilled, will be realized” – AYBD.

And in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the New Testament enlarges the ancient promises 3 ways (HIBD):

  • The first, and most frequent, are the references to God’s promises to Abraham about the heir he was to receive, even Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:13–16, 20; 9:7–9; 15:8; Gal. 3:16–22; 4:23; Heb. 6:13–17; 7:6; 11:9, 11, 17)”.
  • A second major grouping may be made around David’s seed and the sending of Jesus as a Savior “according to the promise” (Acts 13:23, 32–33 HCSB; 26:6).”
  • The third major group is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promises appear after our Lord’s resurrection (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33, 38–39).”

This encapsulates Paul’s argument concerning Jesus throughout the book of Acts and to the Jewish King Agrippa II.
But another question remains, where do the promises speak of a resurrection?
This is the issue that was causing the Jews and skeptics alike so much problem; more next week.

Acts 25:13-27 – Luke’s Apologetic & Political Interests

Acts 22-26 – Luke’s Historical & Apologetic Interests
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 22-26

Although we have come to Acts 25:13-27, I will not undertake a lesson specific to these verses.
Given the subject matter of these verses, I think it a better use of our time to explore some larger over-arching issues that are on display both in our text today and all the way back to Acts 22.
The below chart gives a quick overview of what I mean and it is the foundation of our lesson today.

Lysais Felix Festus Agrippa II
Acts 22:30
“set him before them.”

Acts 23:29
“charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.”

Acts 22:1
Paul said “hear the defense that I know make before you.”

Acts 24:27
“wishing to do Jews a favor”

Acts 24:26–27
Never passed judgment.

Acts 24:10
Paul “cheerfully made his defense.”

Acts 25:9
“wishing to do Jews favor”

Acts 25:25
“done nothing deserving death”

Acts 25:8
Paul “argued in his defense.”

“His concern for Judaism is not in doubt…” – AYBD

Acts 26:31
“doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.”

Acts 26:1
Paul “made his defense.”

Given events listed in the above table, which took place from about 57-59 A.D., 2 main questions arise.
What were the reasons the Roman leaders of Palestine put politics above justice and go out of their way to placate the Jews?
Why did Luke see fit to document these somewhat identical events?

The answer to the first question is found in the political climate that existed at that time.
The answer to the second question is found in Luke’s apologetic intentions.

1) POLITICAL CLIMATE

So to answer the 1st question we must consider the following information.

It was during Felix’s term as procurator that rebellion firmly took hold in Palestine” – AYBD.

  • For example, Josephus documents Felix’s suppression of a Jewish riot at Caesarea in which he ultimately used force.
  • We know that Felix was booted because of his brutal tactics in handling the Jews growing rebellion.
  • In fact – “Josephus writes that Felix was saved from disciplinary action under Nero by the intervention of Pallas, who at that time enjoyed favor with Nero” – AYBD.

So, “It is against this background of severe and growing disorder that we must understand Felix’s [and the others] detention of Paul (Acts 24: 26–27)” – AYBD.

Evidence of this lingering tension between the Romans and the Jews can be seen in the following:
Acts 22:30 (ESV) — 30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

  • Lysias took the unorthodox action of calling an informal meeting of the Sanhedrin.

Acts 24:27 (ESV) — 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

  • Even after Felix was booted, he left Paul in prison for Festus to deal with.
  • His retention of Paul in custody for two years is understandable: “other Roman governors, including the upright Cicero (ad Att 6.1.7), are known to have avoided decisions that could earn them criticism, and Felix will have been aware that two of his predecessors had been recalled for trial” – AYBD.

Acts 25:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him,

  • We know that Felix was removed from office for the way he dealt with Jewish unrest.
  • Given the political tension between Rome and the Jews, it was in Festus’ (and Rome’s) interest to quickly be conciliatory to the Jewish leadership.

Acts 25:9 (ESV) — 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?”

  • Festus “hesitates to offend the Jews and suggests a trial at Jerusalem, where he might have allowed an advisory role to members of the Sanhedrin” – AYBD.
  • His actions are described as “an attempt to ingratiate himself with the Jewish officials” – AYBD.
  • Even in Josephus’ portrayal of Festus we see documentation of “his desire to have good relations with the Jewish leadership” – AYBD.

And from history, we have the following example:

  • We know that Festus died 3 years into office (after Paul had been shipped off to Rome).
  • The high priest Ananias, appointed by Agrippa II, “took advantage of the interval which elapsed before the arrival of Festus’ successor to assume the right of capital jurisdiction” – AYBD.
  • It was during time that Ananias had James, the brother of Jesus, killed.
  • This usurpation of an authority which was not his would have brought down Roman reprisals on the province if his action had not been disowned by his being deposed from the high priesthood” – AYBD.

And so for the answer to our first question, “what were the reasons the Roman leaders of Palestine put politics above justice and go out of their way to placate the Jews?

From the political background, we can see that an uneasy tension existed between the local Roman politicians and the nationalistic Jewish leadership and laymen.

  • This relationship was complicated by the Jews hatred of Christianity and the Romans indifference to it.
  • In addition, the Roman provincial governors’ standing in the eyes of Rome was negatively impacted when things went badly in the provinces; not good for their careers.
  • Therefore, “maintaining peace was the highest priority of a Roman provincial governor” – John MacArthur.

It was for these reasons that Paul was, in many ways, simply a means to an end for Felix, Festus and to a lesser extent, Lysias.

  • He was used to engender good will between themselves and the Jewish leadership.
  • He was a pawn in political game to placate the Jews at the expense of His due process.

Had Paul not been a Roman citizen, there seems to be little doubt that he would have been executed for this very same purpose.

  • But, by God’s design, Paul was indeed at once Christian, a Pharisee and a Roman citizen – a necessary trinity of a different sort.
  • And, in God’s timing, he was sent to Rome at a time appointed by God.
  • It is an awesome thing how God works in the details of history (Roman, Jewish & Paul’s) to accomplish His purposes.

Speaking of God’s timing:
One could easily question the wisdom of God allowing Paul to languish in prison these 2 years.
It would seem his time, talents and love of the Gospel could have been put to much better use.
But we must learn 2 things.

  1. God’s timing and reasoning are His to know and accomplish as He sees fit.
  2. And, if we ever find ourselves in a metaphorical “prison” lingering in life seemingly without purpose, we must look to Paul’s example on how we are to find our purpose.
  • Felix was hoping for a bribe, and so “sent for him often and conversed with him” and Paul “reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” – Acts 24:25-26.
  • We always have purpose in speaking the Gospel!

And What of Agrippa II whom we meet in today’s text?
Acts 25:13 (ESV) — 13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus.
Acts 25:22 (ESV) — 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”
Acts 25:26 (ESV) — 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write.

There were, of course, some Jews, such as Agrippa II, that were sympathetic to both Roman and Jewish causes.

  • Agrippa owed his kingship of Judea, Galilee, etc. to Emperor Claudius in 53 AD.
  • Because he owed his kingship to Rome, he “seems to have thought that the best future for the Jews lay in acquiescence in Roman rule, which was to be coaxed and tempered rather than thwarted” – AYBD.

Yet he also was a Jew.

  • And as the King of the Jews, he had the authority to appoint the Jewish high priest (e.g., Ananias from Acts 23:3, 24:1) and over the temple.
  • Therefore he had sympathies for his Jewish heritage.
  • This is also evidenced by, for example, “the fact that he took costly steps to save the Temple from subsidence [sinking or settling at it foundation]” – AYBD.

Why is he involved in Paul’s odyssey?
We will learn more about that as we explore more of the end of chapter 25 and chapter 26 in the coming weeks.

2) LUKE’S APOLOGETIC INTENTIONS

Now on to our second question, “Why did Luke see fit to document these somewhat identical events?
We have at least 3 reasons.

Luke was revealing how God brought Paul to Rome:
In Acts 25:11, Paul appealed his case to Rome.
The appellatio was introduced to protect the Roman citizen against unfair treatment by a magistrate” – New Testament Milieu.
Interestingly, initially this practice was limited to the city of Rome itself, but by the time of Paul it had been extended to the Roman provinces.
Yet another example of God working through the details of history.

There seem to be 4 specific reasons why Paul made the appeal.

  • He knew he could not receive justice in Palestine because of the influence of the Sanhedrin upon the Roman courts there” – Believers Study Bible.
  • The Roman courts were notoriously unjust when they had sufficient motive” [placating the Jews, e.g.] – Believers Study Bible.
  • Acts 22:17-18 tells us that Jesus had told Paul not to go back to Jerusalem.
  • Acts 23:11 — The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Luke was showing that Christianity was not a political threat to Rome:
From the texts we have dealt with today we see that:

  • Lysias (& probably Felix), Festus and Agrippa II determined that Paul had not committed any acts of sedition (crimes against Cesar & Rome).
  • And that any charges by the Jews of sectarianism (law breaking) or sacrilege (temple defilement) were not under the purview of Roman law.

And looking forward we see that this theme continues.
Acts 28:18–19 (ESV) — 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation.

Luke’s political apologetic is intended to emphasize that there is nothing seditious about Christianity; on the contrary, Christians are law-abiding subjects of the Roman Empire.”– AYBD.

Luke is, in fact, one of the first Christian apologists. In that particular type of apologetic which is addressed to the secular authorities to establish the law-abiding character of Christianity he is absolutely the pioneer” – F.F. Bruce.

POI – Luke, in his Gospel, also shows that even Jesus was not found guilty of sedition by Pilate.
Luke 23:4 (ESV) — 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
Luke 23:14 (ESV) — 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.
Luke 23:22 (ESV) — 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”

Luke was showing that at issue for the Christian faith was the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Acts 23:6 (ESV) — 6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
Acts 24:15 (ESV) — 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
Acts 24:21 (ESV) — 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ”
Acts 25:19 (ESV) — 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.
Acts 26:8 (ESV) — 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
Acts 26:23 (ESV) — 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Acts 26:26 (ESV) — 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner [It was done in history for all to see].

Luke’s choice of the narrative form is deliberate. He explicitly designates his work a diegesis “narrative” (Luke 1:1) and emphasizes that he tells events “in sequence”. It is clear from several other places that Luke regards the narration of events “in order” to have a peculiarly convincing quality (e.g., Acts 9:27; 11:4; 15:12–14). For him, the development of the plot itself, in sequence, has a persuasive force (Dillon 1981: 217–33). In this, Luke shares the conviction of Hellenistic rhetoric, which regards the narratio as critical to historical argument or personal defense, as he shows also in the construction of Paul’s “defense speeches”” – AYBD.

And so we have answered our 2nd question.
It should come as no surprise that there is intent behind anything that God is purposing.
Even if at first glance it seems as simple repetition, if you get off the tour bus and explore the “nature preserve” you can often see more than you did from the comfort of a padded seat.

Acts 25:1-13 – Paul, A Wanted Man

Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 25:1-12

The title is drawn from Acts 25:3 of our text.
We will find that this is the eighth attempt on Paul’s life that we know of.
In today’s Diving Deeper, we will try to explore the Bible’s perspective on these murder attempts as it relates to God’s role in protecting Paul’s life.

1) PAUL – WANTED DEAD OR DEAD

Acts 25:3 (ESV) — 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way.

In our text today, we find yet another plot to kill Paul by the Jewish religious authorities of Jerusalem.
This latest plot is all the more remarkable because Paul had been out of the public eye and in prison for 2 years.
In spite of that, they still harbored such a hatred for Paul and Jesus that they couldn’t let it go.

Quick review of “Paul & Jesus on Trial” lesson:
Here is an excerpt from the “Paul & Jesus on Trial” lesson.
It will serve as a reminder for why the Jews despised Jesus, and therefore Paul, so much that even after 2 years they still wanted him dead.

Jesus’ View of His Authority – Review:
A typical rabbi’s teaching style was seen to be authoritative because the source material from which they taught was deemed to have authority.
They would quote the law, the prophets or oral law and explain what it means.

Jesus, in stark contrast, taught as one who was the very source of authority – even above that of the law and the prophets.
The best example of this is seen in the Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, & 43, we see the following method:
“You have heard that it was said…///…But I say to you…”
Here we see that Jesus “placed his personal authority on a par with that of the divine law” and “he adjusted the Law on his own authority.” – Craig

We get a Scriptural glimpse of the crowds recognition of this authority in Matthew 7:28-29:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus authority was evident to others.

But Jesus’ view of His authority is even more profound than this.
Take, for example, Matthew 5:31-32.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Here, Jesus claims the authority to actually change, correct and reinterpret the law! (See Mark 10:2-9)

Jesus seems to assume an authority over Torah that no Pharisee or OT Prophet assumed – the authority to set it aside.” – Ben Witherington.

The extent that this would have offended the Jew cannot be understated or exaggerated.
For a man to claim the authority to change, correct or reinterpret the law would have been outrageous!

Now back to today’s lesson.
So we see that Jesus was a heretic as far as the devout Jew was concerned.
And they were duty bound by God to have Paul killed because he was teaching this heresy.

Just how determined were both Jews and Gentiles to kill Paul:
Acts 14:5–6 (ESV) — 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country,

Acts 14:19 (ESV) — 19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.

Acts 9:23–25 (ESV) — 23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

Acts 9:28–30 (ESV) — 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Acts 16:22–23 (ESV) — 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely.

Acts 21:30–31 (ESV) — 30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.

Acts 23:12 (ESV) — 12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

From these examples, we see that Paul was almost murdered 7 other times, in addition to our text today.
In almost every instance, it seems that something happened so that the attempt was foiled.

  • They learned of it and fled.
  • Dragged him out, supposing he was dead.
  • Plot became known to Saul.
  • The fellow believers learned of this.
  • They ordered the jailer to keep them safely.
  • Word came to the tribune.
  • The son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush.
  • Appealed to Cesar in Rome.

I can’t help but ask, was Paul just lucky to get away with his life or was something else going on?

2) PAUL – UNDER THE PROTECTION OF GOD

Psalm 37:32–33 (ESV) — 32 The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. 33 The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

Psalm 97:10–11 (ESV) — 10 O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.

Psalm 34:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Psalm 52:1 (NET) — 1 Why do you boast about your evil plans, O powerful man? God’s loyal love protects me all day long!

Psalm 66:8–9 (CEV) — 8 All of you people, come praise our God! Let his praises be heard. 9 God protects us from death and keeps us steady.

We will comment more on these later.
But to suffice it to say, there is no doubt a sense here in which David is teaching that God will “protect us from death.
And certainly, based on David’s own life and the 8 attempts to take Paul’s life, we see that this is true.
However, something happens with Paul that leads us to our next point.

3) PAUL – WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PROTECTION OF GOD

The problem is, of course, that Paul was ultimately murdered.
He was martyred; probably beheaded in Rome in the mid 60’s.

The prophet Isaiah puts our apparent contradiction like this:
Isaiah 57:1a (NLT) — 1 Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why [not to mention, “What happened to God’s protection?”].

Well, I am wondering why.
If God’s aim (as revealed in the Psalms) was to protect Paul, why did he linger in prison and ultimately have his head chopped off?
I can’t help but ask if Paul had an opinion on the question raised by Isaiah?

To find the answer, we turn to the last letter Paul ever wrote – 2nd Timothy.
In this letter Paul, yet again, languishes in prison, but this time in Rome.
Interestingly, he knows that his time has come.
2 Timothy 4:6 (ESV) — 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

It is in this backdrop that Paul makes what I find to be an astonishing theological statement while counseling Timothy.
In a weird way, it reminds me of a quote by Ronald Spiers from the “Band of Brothers” series.

When offering advice to a replacement, Spiers states:
The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.

Here is Paul’s council to Timothy, his replacement:

2 Timothy 1:8–12 (ESV) — 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

POI – I am in complete agreement with the ESV translation of verse 12 above.
1st – To accept the NASB, KJV, NIV, etc., translations is to say that Paul would be alive until the Lord’s return.
2nd – I agree with the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:
A first point to decide is whether παραθήκην μου means “the good thing that I have entrusted” or “the good thing entrusted to me.” Mention of the eschatological day (v. 12) and regard for the generations which follow (2:2) definitely suggest the second, passive interpretation. Christ is able to protect and keep the Gospel committed to the community not only up to the time of the first apostle who will soon depart, but through the storms of coming generations right up to the last day. The genuineness of continuity is established not by the transmitted teaching as such but by the One who is Himself its content. In terms of this insight the Pastoral Epistles can repulse the false doctrinal traditions of the Gnostics without absolutising their own tradition. TDNT.

So, having cleared that up, God’s “purpose and grace” for us is to believe and teach Jesus Christ manifested through the Gospel.
Paul is declaring that it is not ourselves that will necessarily be protected; after all he equates the Gospel as a “share in suffering”.
But “he is convinced” that the one thing that God will sustain and “guard until that Day” is the Gospel!
So any protection we receive is not necessarily for our sake, but for the sake of God’s “purpose and grace”.
BTW – This is one reason why the prosperity gospel is such a huge pile of rubbish.

Knowing this about God’s purpose, I want to go back to the Psalms from point 2 above.
With Paul’s perspective, I think we can get a fuller grasp of what God “protects”, “delivers” and “does not abandon”.
I think it is fair to say that God will protect our lives when His purpose warrants it.
And, conversely, we know from Paul that He will allow us to suffer and even to die when His purpose warrants it.
But whatever happens, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will endure until Judgment Day.

What was at least 1 reason, God did not allow King Saul to kill David?

And finally, we finish with the concern of the prophet Isaiah mentioned earlier about the untimely death of believers.
Isaiah answered his own concern by bringing an eternal perspective to death.

Isaiah 57:1-2 (NLT) — 1 Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. 2 For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.

Or as Paul put it:
Philippians 1:21 (ESV) — 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:12–14 (ESV) — 12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 AND most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Or as Jesus put it:
Luke 12:22–23 (ESV) — 22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Summary:
So we have both the eternal perspective of life and the “life is not about us but about the purposes of God” perspective.
These perspectives are, admittedly, extremely hard to stomach.
Yet without them, there is little comfort or perspective when faced with hardship and death.

So as Spiers exhorted his replacement and as Paul exhorted his replacement, the word of God also exhorts us.
Acts 20:24 (ESV) — 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

The sooner we “do not account our lives of any value” except for the purposes of God, the better “replacement soldiers” we will be.