FREE THEME DAYS: Evidence for the Risen Jesus
Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.
Hello! My name is Joel Fletcher and I am going to be writing the daily devotions for this week. I live in Minnesota with my wonderful wife, delightful daughter, and as of next Friday, a pastoral puppy. I like adjectives, alliteration, and Aussiedors.
This week we’re going to wrap up the book of Acts.
Since chapter 9, Luke has been chronicling the campaigns of one Saul of Tarsus (now called Paul), a Jewish Pharisee turned Christian Missionary. Now the story of how this up-and-coming member of an exclusive Jewish religious group became the follower and apologist of a so-called radical who was crucified has already been told, but over the next few chapters, it will be reiterated.
At the end of chapter 21, Paul is arrested due to a ruckus caused by his presence in Jerusalem. From this moment until his presumed death in Rome, Paul will be in the custody of the Romans. This incarceration will enable Paul to spread the Gospel to people he would have not met otherwise.
The method Paul will use to do this is called witnessing. Witness or testimony is the attesting of facts or events. A witness is someone with personal knowledge of something. What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus is the central point he uses when sharing his testimony. As we will see throughout this week, Paul does not shy away from sharing what he knows to be the truth—even if it means facing death.
As you read through these final chapters of the Book of Acts this week, be mindful of how passionate Paul is in defense of his beliefs. Paul uses every opportunity he has to persuade people of the power of God, demonstrated in the resurrection of the Christ and his coming Kingdom. We may not have the same powerful testimony of being struck blind by the risen savior, but each one of us who believes has the opportunity and mandate to witness to any who will listen.
In Acts 21 we see Paul as he is heading towards Jerusalem. He wants to report to the apostles what has been done during his ministry. While on his way there he is warned that he will be beaten by the Jews and handed over to the Romans if he enters Jerusalem. This does not deter Paul and he says “For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus”. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he met with James and the other elders of the church and reported to them about the gentiles that had come to Christ during his ministry. They rejoiced with him, but were worried that he would be attacked by the zealous Jews in Jerusalem because they thought that he was telling people to forsake the Law of Moses. In order to prove to them that he was not preaching that he went through a purifying ritual in the temple that lasted seven days. Even with this display of acceptance for the Law the Jews still mobbed him and beat him and turned him over to the Romans.
There are many people today who have a preconceived notion of what Christians believe and will not believe you about your faith even when you show them with your actions. I have had people tell me various versions of, “You are a Christian, therefore you believe/do such and such, and you are wrong”. And it doesn’t matter what you say to them, they are not there for a conversation, they just want to tell you that you are wrong and they are right. Now I wasn’t beat in the streets for my beliefs, but it can be discouraging and intimidating. As Christians we need to be like Paul and listen to Christ, not our detractors. We all have Paul’s boldness to thank for our Christian culture, because it was his boldness that enabled Christianity to be spread to the western world. I just hope that years from now people can look back and praise God for our boldness in following him.
In Acts 15-21 we see the hardships and adventures that Paul had while he was preaching the gospel to cities in modern day Turkey and Greece. In many ways these hardships that he endured seem like something that would only happen far away or to missionaries in a third world country. Historically we have not had much anti-Christian public in the US, but that has been changing for a while now. It is no longer socially acceptable in some areas of the US to be a Christian, and is frowned upon to voice Christian values. I think that during my life these situations that Paul found himself in will become more and more relevant to modern Christians as we are continually more and more ostracized from society for our beliefs. It will help us to stay strong to the end if we have a bold faith and a strong prayer life so that we are in tune with the leading of the Holy Spirit just as Paul was.
Thanks to all who have read along this week, I really enjoyed studying these chapters and hope that you grew from this as well.
I’ll see you around,
In Acts 20 Paul travels around some more, and is heading towards Jerusalem, but on his way he meets with the Ephesus elders one last time to talk to them and encourage them. He knows that God’s plan for him will not bring him back to Ephesus and that he would never see them again. He had spent three years with them and knew that they would be a strong pillar in the growing Church and he wanted to make sure that they would be okay. The Church had come under attack from the Jewish communities and from the government many times during Paul’s ministry and he knew that would continue, so he wanted to prepare them. He knew that those who would come after and try to lead them astray would try to attack him personally in order to get the Christians at Ephesus to doubt him and his message, and therefore their own faith. Paul reminds them that at all times when he was with them he took care of his own needs, and did not profit off of them in any way and only cared about their spiritual well being.
One of the biggest detractors in the Christian faith is hypocrites. How many times do you hear about the pastor at a church somewhere being involved in a scandal and then the church folding or many of the people walking away from the faith. As Christians we are held to a higher standard and when we do not live up to that standard it affects any who look up to us as a role model. Paul’s ministry was successful and had a deep impact on all of western culture because he preached boldly, and he backed it up with a righteous life. This is also why you need to make your faith your own. People will invariably let you down at some point, but Jesus is a rock on which you can build your life. Of course it is good to have role models, but know that they are only human.