Acts 28:11-31

by Andrew Hillard

What started with waiting ends with a witness. As Acts begins, the apostles await the promised Holy Spirit, the one who would bring them the power they needed to be witnesses to the end of the earth. As Acts concludes, Paul is in Rome, welcoming all who come to him and teaching them about Jesus. What started with Saul persecuting the believers ends with Paul in prison for proclaiming the kingdom. As Acts begins, Saul is a leader of the Jewish opposition to Christianity. As Acts concludes, Paul (formerly known as Saul) is the main target of that opposition. A lot has changed in the world from Acts 1 to Acts 28, but some things remain constant throughout and to this today–the gospel is the power of God to save, and the Spirit is on the move.

Acts doesn’t show us that following Jesus is safe. The stoning of Stephen and the frequent imprisonment of the apostles make that much clear, but at every point where the apostles are pressed, the gospel goes out–from Peter and John before the council in Acts 4 all the way to Paul in Rome in Acts 28. The Spirit provides the boldness to proclaim Jesus without hindrance, in good times and bad, one on one and before a crowd, before a friendly crowd and before an angry mob. A lot of things changed from Acts 1 to Acts 28, and even more has changed in the centuries since. It’s hard even to list all the changes that have happened in our world in the last two months, but what hasn’t changed is what is most important. Jesus is alive, the gospel is the power of God to save, and in those of us who know Jesus, the Spirit is on the move. So let’s do what Spirit-filled people do and tell anyone who can hear about how Jesus changes everything.

Acts 27:1-28:10

by Shaun Caudill

It only takes one person who is obedient and has faith in Christ to change things. In Acts 27, things were bleak. Paul was traveling as a prisoner on a ship headed to Italy. The centurion, the owner of the ship and the captain had set sail against Paul’s dire warnings that everything and everyone might be lost in the storms at sea. The storm was horrendous and it seemed that all might be lost, but then Paul spoke. Starting in verse 21, Paul states that he had heard from an angel of the Lord that no one would perish, but the ship would be lost. Paul was not commanded by God to share this message with the whole ship, but he did so in order to do two things: 1) proclaim his God as the one true God and 2) to give comfort to those on the ship. When the time was coming closer for the ship to crash, Paul encouraged everyone to eat because they would need the strength, and that is exactly what the group did. They ate and were encouraged. There are times when we will be in bleak circumstances and we will encounter people who have no hope. As Christians, what are we to do? We should not give people false hope that sounds good in the beginning, but later reveals itself to be empty. We should not lie, telling others God has told us something, if in fact He has not. We should, however, be quick to give people the truth of the Bible and speak that which gives hope. Because Paul spoke up in that dark moment, the entire crew’s attitude changed, and they began to live in hope. It only takes one person. Will you choose to be that person?

Acts 25:1-26:32

by Doug Bratcher

I am envious of students today and the ability to do many, if not all, of their classes online. Don’t get me wrong, I think sitting in a lecture hall and listening to a professor in college is still an immensely valuable experience. At seminary, however, there was one thing I tried to avoid at all cost…the other students. Seminary is like every other institution, it trends to breed and draw in a particular type of student, and I didn’t fit in.  

I would sit for hours as the bow tied students waxed poetic about semantics and minute theological debates. To hear the audacity in their voice when they thought someone had an opinion that differed from their own still gets me fired up to this day. They loved to debate and quote and write papers. I’ll never forget in one of my classes, one I didn’t particularly like, the professor would always ask, “Who taught/preached this week and what was it over?” In a class of 40+, only 5-8 would raise their hands. I would be shocked every time.

I started taking classes in the Church Ministry department. They had their own building at the edge of campus and when you walked in the words “WHERE MINISTRY HAPPENS” was plastered prominently on the walls. I liked to convince myself it was a dig at all the “theologians” that were debating and not sharing, but I know deep down it wasn’t.  

I was in hours and hours of theological, ministry, history, spiritual disciplines, and educational classes, but the most powerful tool for sharing the good news came early in my time as a believer when I was told “no one will argue your story of what Jesus did in your life.” I think that is one of the reasons I would get so angry in those classes. I saw all these people, with all that knowledge, doing (what I felt) was not enough (yes I was too judgy).

Reading the story of Paul going through the judicial ringer reminds me of the advice I was given long ago. Paul lets us know throughout about his credentials as a Jew and a scholar, yet when he is asked to speak in his defense he doesn’t get into a theological debate, argue semantics, or try to disprove the opposition. He simply tells his story of how a risen Jesus changed his life to the point that he could do nothing else besides tell the world.

Over the last few years, it seems as though the art of debate has devolved from two sword masters trading parries to people slamming each other over the head with clubs (I’m looking at you social media). Today there is no “winning” an argument. My recommendation to you is to follow Paul’s example. Tell people how Jesus changed your life for the better. Tell them about the peace you have that passes all understanding, the patience you are cultivating, and how you can forgive and love others because Jesus forgave and loved you first.

Acts 24:1-27

by Andrew Hillard

Before Felix, facing the charge of being a “plague…who stirs up riots” among other things, Paul stands up to “cheerfully” make his defense. To my knowledge, I’ve never been labeled a “plague,” but if I had been, “cheerful” doesn’t strike me as the first word I would choose to describe my defense. Maybe “spirited” or “impassioned” or even “accurately” come to mind before “cheerful.” Yet, falsely accused of inciting riots when all he’d done was preach the gospel, Paul defends himself, and more importantly his faith in Jesus, with joy.

Here’s the question for us. Why was Paul able to face opposition with joy? How did he respond cheerfully when his liberty was on the line? First, he knew the truth. He knew that Felix would find no proof of the crimes of which he was accused. Second, he knew what was ultimately at stake. It wasn’t just the truth about the charges against him. It wasn’t even his freedom. Ultimately, the issue was the resurrection hope that he was proclaiming, and that hope was unwavering. Jesus is risen from the dead, and that is not changing. It is settled, and our hope is secure. So, whatever we face today, we can face it “cheerfully,” and we can move forward with joy because Jesus is alive…today and forever.

Acts 23:12-35

by Crystal Townsend

Just the night before, Jesus stood with Paul and encouraged him to testify and share the good news of the gospel, going so far as to tell Paul that he would be going on to testify in Rome. The next morning, he listened as his nephew reported to him of the plot the Jews had formed to have him killed. His own people despised him so much so that they were willing to starve themselves of food and drink until they achieved their goal…ending Paul’s life. Paul sent his nephew to the commander to pass word of the threat, resulting in a covert nighttime transfer to save Paul from the uprising and get him to Governor Felix to stand trial. Paul was successfully moved and then kept under guard as he waited for the next chapter in his story to unfold. 

The entirety of this ordeal that Paul was undergoing must have been exhausting and frustrating to say the least. If Paul were anything like me, he’d have been racking his brain for logical solutions and ways to use diplomacy to his advantage, all while being rather put out that his own people hated him. However, we don’t read of any diplomatic pleas or arguments given by Paul. We don’t read of moping and quiet rants. We are only privy to one reaction that Paul has, he simply sends his nephew on to report to the commander. I can only imagine the comfort his encounter with Jesus the night before brought to him and the impact it made on his reactions. Yes, this was a ludicrous situation and he was in the hands of the Romans, but Jesus had told him to take courage. Jesus had told him he’d need to testify in Rome. So he waited as the story unfolded, ready and willing to testify in obedience to his Savior whatever the cost may be. This leads me to ask myself a few questions. Am I willing to trust Him with my next chapter? To follow Him in obedience no matter the cost? To boldly testify at every opportunity He provides? These are questions we should ask daily amidst the unpredictable and sometimes confusing landscape of our lives as we take comfort and courage in the power of our God.

Acts 21:37-23:11

by Andrew Hillard

Already arrested and on his way into the barracks where he would be held, Paul had a request. He wanted to speak to the people before he was taken away, and given the opportunity to speak, he began, “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you” (Acts 22:1). When he had everyone’s attention, he began to share his story, but his tone was anything but defensive. He boldly shared his personal testimony. He talked about his zeal for the Hebrew law that led him to persecute Christians with imprisonment and even death. He shared openly about his past and honestly about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Then, he told the people about the mission to which Jesus called him, first through Ananias and then through a vision of Jesus in the temple, a mission that had shaped every day of his life since that time, especially this moment.

Being taken into custody, Paul reminds us of the beautiful simplicity of our calling as witnesses for Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we too can share openly about our past, what our lives were like before we knew Jesus, and we can share honestly about how Jesus has worked in our lives. We can share about the calling Jesus has placed on our lives and how we’ve seen him work in and through our lives. Paul’s story also reminds us that everybody won’t be happy to hear our story, but in the trials we face, may we remember the words Jesus stood by him and said in the dark night of the barracks, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23:11). We might not testify in Jerusalem or Rome, but in the Spirit’s power, let’s take courage and testify today, tomorrow, and every day the Lord gives us breath.

Acts 21:1-36

by Shaun Caudill

There are times when we are so fearful of dying that we forget to live! Life is such a beautiful gift, but we must remember that a long life is not the goal in and of itself–but a life well-lived by faith to the glory of God. The Bible also tells us that there are some things worth dying for in order to find life. Jesus’ own words in Luke confirm this, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Paul was prepared to die, but that doesn’t mean he was recklessly seeking after danger. There were times when his mission meant he wisely escaped threats to his life, just like it is wise for us to avoid unnecessary danger during this pandemic. After having received salvation on the road to Damascus by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had been given a ministry to proclaim this same message to others. For years, he had been faithful in this endeavor and then in Acts 21, as Paul and those accompanying him arrived in Caesarea, a prophet came to reveal to him that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be bound and turned over to the Gentiles. It would seem from this warning that suffering and possibly death was implied. You would expect for Paul to receive the warning with gratitude and make plans to travel away from the danger, but that is not what Paul did. God had already revealed to Paul (Acts 20) that in Jerusalem he would experience affliction and possibly worse, yet Paul stated, “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.” Paul was confident in what the Lord had revealed to him and wanted nothing more than to please God.

The Bible makes this clear when Paul states, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) Are you living a life that is pleasing to the Lord in all areas? Do you need to stop today and repent of attitudes, actions, or thoughts that are in rebellion to God? Are there things God has called you to be obedient about but you have resisted out of fear? Is there someone that God has placed on your heart to share the Gospel with, but you have been too scared? The Bible encourages us to seek after God and be about living a life that is pleasing to Him. Remember, it’s never too late to start living!

Acts 20:1-38

by Andrew Hillard

Acts 20 doesn’t seem to start out all that well for Paul. First, after three months in Greece, a group of Jewish religious leaders started plotting against him. It’s not clear exactly what they were plotting and based on Paul’s speedy departure, he wasn’t interested in finding out. From there, Paul made his way to Troas where Paul had the opportunity to speak with a group of believers gathered together to break bread. Since he planned to leave town the next day, Paul “prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). As preachers, we like to think that it isn’t like anybody’s going to die if we preach just a little bit longer, but Eutychus proves that this isn’t always the case. As Paul talked longer and longer, Eutychus fell asleep, fell down three stories out the window he was sitting by, and died. The first nine verses of Acts 20 have not gone well for Paul.

Thankfully, things change for the better pretty quickly. Bending over Eutychus and taking him in his arms, Paul declares that the young man has been revived! And then he goes right back upstairs to continue his conversation until morning. We’re told that those who were present “were not a little comforted” (Acts 20:12). Paul’s travel plans were changed. He talked so long that someone fell out of a window. This surely wasn’t how Paul saw these days going, but the result was great comfort for those who heard him and continued ministry for Paul. So, in these days when things are surely not going how we saw them going, let’s follow Paul’s lead. Let’s keep on talking about Jesus.

Acts 19:1-41

by Crystal Townsend

As Paul persevered in his teaching and investment in the new believers of Ephesus, God continued to do great miracles through Paul, people confessed their sins and turned from their evil ways, and the number of believers grew! Just as Paul was about to move on from Ephesus, a riot broke out as some of the tradesmen became angry over the people’s conversion and feared they would lose business in their work on the temples of the false gods. The entire city became involved, and there was mass chaos with people screaming their arguments from both sides. “The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:32). This hysteria went on for hours before the city clerk was finally able to silence the crowd, remind them that the disciples had committed no crime, and warn them of the charge they may be facing for rioting with no reason. 

Imagine Paul’s desire to get involved and fight for the truth. Paul’s traveling companions were drug into the theater, but the disciples wouldn’t let him follow, while his friends begged him to stay out. We don’t know what would have happened had Paul entered and tried to end the riot, but we do know that he stayed out of it. This was not an argument based on truth. Remember most of the people involved didn’t even know what it was about. It was confusion and chaos caused by a prideful man wanting to continue gaining wealth through his work for the false gods. How often do we see arguments and rants going on all around us over one hot topic or another? Arguments where people’s emotions are ruling and words are senselessly flying? We are naturally drawn in to read or listen to them, and sometimes we even insert ourselves to be sure we have a say and our opinion is heard. I encourage you today to steer clear of the chaos. Draw close to Christ and focus on the truth of God’s Word. Remember, it is not always necessary to enter the riots, but rather, invest in those around you by teaching them and guiding them closer to Jesus. I pray we will choose wisely how we will spend our time and energy, that we will glorify God through our words and actions.

Acts 18:1-28

by Andrew Hillard

We’ve all been there. We know what God is calling us to do and what He is calling us to say, but we’ve got some questions. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don’t have the answers to their questions? In the midst of this extended section following the missionary work of Paul, Luke introduces us to a Jewish man named Apollos. He’s described as “an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). He had learned about Jesus and was eager to share the good news with others.

We might be tempted to think that if we had the resumè of Apollos, that if we were “competent in the Scriptures,” then we wouldn’t question what God calls us to do, but despite what his impressive credentials might suggest, Apollos didn’t have all the answers. His teaching revealed that his understanding had some gaps, but Priscilla and Aquila saw his gifting and his passion for the gospel, so they pulled him aside to explain God’s way more accurately. God hasn’t called us to have it all figured out. He’s called us to be faithful with what He’s given us right now, to share the good news we have with others, to instruct and encourage and sharpen one another, and then go share the good news again. God knows what we know, and much better than we do, He knows what we don’t know. So when He calls us, the best question for us to ask is, “Where?”