The Sequel – Day 23

April 30, Thursday

SnakebiteOnce we were safely on land, we discovered that the island was called Melita. The natives treated us with uncommon kindness. Because of the driving rain and cold, they lit a fire and made us all welcome.

Paul had collected a large bundle of sticks and was laying it on the fire when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. Seeing the creature hanging from his hand, the natives said to each other, “This man is obviously a murderer. He has escaped from the sea, but justice will not let him live.” But Paul shook the viper off into the fire. Nothing happened to him. Naturally they expected him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing untoward happen to him, they changed their minds and began saying he was a god.

In that part of the island were estates belonging to the governor, whose name was Publius. He welcomed us and entertained us most generously for three days. Now it happened that Publius’ father was lying ill with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him, prayed, laid his hands on him, and healed him. After that all the other sick people on the island came forward and were cured. Consequently they loaded us with presents; and when the time came for us to sail, they provided us with everything we needed.

However, it wasn’t until three months later that we set sail in an Alexandrian ship which had wintered in the island, a ship that had the astronomical twins, Pollux and Castor, as her figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days; from there we tacked round to Rhegium. A day later a south wind sprang up and we sailed to Puteoli, reaching it in only two days. There we found some of the brothers and they begged us to stay with them. After spending a week there, we finally made our way to Rome.


The brothers there had heard about us and journeyed about thirty miles south of the city to meet us at the Market of Appius and the Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was encouraged. In Rome Paul was given permission to live on his own, accompanied by just one soldier.

Three days later Paul invited the leading Jews to meet him. When they arrived, he spoke to them, “Brethren, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our forefathers, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner in Jerusalem. They examined me and were prepared to release me since they found me guilty of nothing deserving the death penalty. But the objections of the Jews there forced me to appeal to Caesar — not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. It is because of this accusation of the Jews that I have asked to see you and talk this over with you. The fact is that I am wearing these chains on account of the hope of Israel.”

But they replied, “We have received no letters about you from Judea, nor have any of the brothers come here with complaints against you, officially or unofficially. We want to hear you state your views; although as far as this sect is concerned, we do know that serious objections have been raised to it everywhere.”

When they had arranged a day for him, they came to his lodging in great numbers. From morning till evening he explained the Kingdom of God to them, giving his personal testimony, trying to persuade them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets. As a result several of them were persuaded by his words, but others would not believe.

As they could not reach any agreement among themselves and began to go away, Paul added these final words, “The Holy Spirit nailed it when He spoke to your forefathers through the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘Go to the people and say, ‘Even though you hear, you won’t understand; and even if I show you, you still won’t see it. For the heart of this people has grown dull; their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears; lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.’

“From now on the Message of salvation of our God has been sent to the Gentiles, at least they will listen to it!”

So Paul stayed for two full years in his own rented apartment, welcoming all who came to see him. He proclaimed to them all the Kingdom of God and gave them the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

The Sequel – Day 22

April 29, Wednesday

St Paul: The Great ShipwreckOnce it was determined that we should set sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were put under the charge of a centurion named Julius from the emperor’s own regiment. We embarked on a ship hailing from Adramyttium, bound for the Asian ports, and set sail. Among our company was Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. On the following day we put in at Sidon, where Julius treated Paul most considerately by allowing him to visit his friends and to accept their hospitality. From Sidon we put out to sea again and sailed on the sheltered side of Cyprus since the wind was against us.

When we had crossed the gulf that lies off the coasts of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we arrived at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and we boarded her.  After several days of slow progress we approached Cnidus; but since the wind was still blowing against us, we sailed under the shelter of Crete and rounded Cape Salmone.  It was with much difficulty that we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which is the city of Lasea. We had by now lost a great deal of time, and sailing had become dangerous as it was so late in the year.

Paul warned them, saying, “Men, I can see that this voyage is likely to result in damage and considerable loss, not only of ship and cargo but even of our lives as well.”

But Julius paid more attention to the pilot and the captain than to Paul’s words of warning. Besides, since the harbor at Fair Haven is unsuitable for a ship to winter in, the majority were in favor of setting sail again in the hope of reaching Phoenix and wintering there. Phoenix is a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

So when a moderate breeze sprang up, thinking they had obtained just what they wanted, they weighed anchor and coasted along, hugging the shores of Crete. But we hadn’t gone far before a terrific wind, which they call a northeaster, swept down upon us from the land. The ship was caught by it; and since she could not be brought up into the wind, we had to let it drive us. Running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we managed with some difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it aboard, cables were used to reinforce the ship. To make matters worse, there was a risk of drifting onto the Syrtis banks, so the crew set the anchor and drifted. The next day, as we were still at the mercy of the violent storm, they began to throw cargo overboard. On the third day, with their own hands the sailors threw the ship’s tackle over the side. After all that we were still being whipped around mercilessly by the storm without seeing sun or stars for days. All hope of our being saved was lost.

Nobody had eaten anything for several days when Paul came forward among the men and said, “Men, if you would have listened to me and not set sail from Crete, we would not have suffered this damage and loss. However, now I beg you to take courage; for no one’s life is going to be lost, though we shall lose the ship. I know this because last night the angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve stood by me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul! You must stand before Caesar. God has graciously extended His favor to preserve the lives of all those who are sailing with you.’ Take courage then, men, for I believe God. I am convinced that everything will happen exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run the ship ashore on some island.”

On the fourteenth night of the storm as we were drifting in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that we were nearing land. When they measured, they found the water to be one hundred twenty feet deep. After sailing on only a little way, they measured again and it was just ninety feet. Fearing that we might crash against the rocks, they threw out four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.

Some of the sailors wanted to desert the ship.  They got as far as letting down a boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to run out anchors from the bow. But Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay aboard the ship, there is no hope of your being saved.” At this the soldiers cut the ropes of the boat and let her fall away.

While everyone waited for the day to break, Paul urged them to take some food, saying, “For two weeks now you’ve had no food: you haven’t eaten a bite while you’ve been on watch. Now take some food, please. You need it for your own well-being, for not a hair of anyone’s head will be lost.” When he had said this, he took some bread; and after thanking God before them all, he broke it and began to eat. This raised everybody’s spirits and they began to take food themselves. There were about two hundred seventy-six of us aboard the ship. When we had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing the remaining grain over the side.

When daylight came, no one recognized the land. In the dim light of dawn they could make out a bay with a sandy shore where they planned to beach the ship if they could. So they cut away the anchors and abandoned them in the sea.  At the same time they cut the ropes which held the steering-oars. Then they hoisted the foresail to catch the wind and made for the beach. But they struck a reef where the two seas converge and the ship ran aground. The bow stuck fast while the stern began to break up under the force of the waves.

The soldiers’ plan had been to kill the prisoners in case any of them should try to swim to shore and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, stopped them and gave orders that all who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land; the rest should follow on planks and on the wreckage of the ship. In this way everyone reached the shore in safety.

The Sequel – Day 21

April 28, Tuesday

paul-agrippaThe next day, Agrippa and Bernice proceeded to the audience chamber with great pomp and ceremony, which included an escort of military officers and prominent townsmen. Festus ordered Paul to be brought in and proceeded to address the gathering, “King Agrippa and all who are present, I present before you the man about whom the Jewish people both at Jerusalem and in this city have petitioned me. They keep insisting that he ought not to live any longer, but I, for my part, discovered nothing that he has done which deserves the death penalty.

“Now that he has appealed to Caesar I must send him to Rome.  I have nothing specific to write to the emperor about him and have therefore brought him forward before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa. I trust that from your examination of him there may emerge some charge which I may put in writing. For it is embarrassing to me to send a prisoner before the emperor without indicating the charges against him.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have our permission to speak for yourself.”

So Paul, gesturing with his hand, began his defense:

“King Agrippa, in answering all the charges that the Jews have made against me, I consider it a privilege to be making my defense before you personally today. I know that you are thoroughly familiar with all the customs and disputes that exist among the Jews. Please bear with me as I present my case.

“It is known to all the Jews that I grew up among my own people in Jerusalem from my youth. If they would admit it, they know that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.

“Even today I stand here on trial because of a hope that I hold in a promise God made to our forefathers, a promise for which our twelve tribes served God zealously day and night, hoping to see it fulfilled. It is because of this hope, your Majesty, that I am being accused by the Jews!  I cannot understand why it should seem impossible to anyone here that God will raise the dead.

“There was a time when I felt it was my duty to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Right there in Jerusalem with the authorization of the chief priests, I had many of God’s people imprisoned and on trial for their lives. I gave my vote against them. Time and again in all the synagogues, I had them punished; I did everything I could to get them to deny their Lord. I was mad with fury against them, and I hounded them to distant cities.

“Once, your Majesty, on my way to Damascus, armed with the full authority and commission of the chief priests, my journey was interrupted at high-noon when a light from Heaven, far brighter than the sun, blazed around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It’s time for you to stop kicking against your own conscience.’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. And the Lord said to me, ‘I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet for I have shown Myself to you for a reason.  You are chosen to be My servant and a witness to what you have seen of Me today and of other visions of Myself which I will give you. I will keep you safe from both your own people and from the Gentiles to whom I now send you. I send you to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God Himself, so that they may know forgiveness of their sins and take their place with all those who are uniquely identified by their trust in Me.’

“So you see, King Agrippa, I could not disobey the heavenly vision. I proclaimed the Message in Damascus and in Jerusalem, through the whole of Judea, and to the Gentiles. Everywhere I went, I preached that men should admit they’ve been living for themselves, repent and turn to God, and let Him change them from the inside out. This is why the Jews seized me in the Temple and tried to kill me. God has been my help and I stand here as a witness to both rulers and peasants. My Message is nothing more than what the prophets foretold should take place; that is, that the Messiah should suffer and that He should be first to rise from the dead. This is the Message of light which I declare boldly both to our people and to the Gentiles!”

Festus wasn’t buying any of this. He blurted out in the midst of Paul’s statement, “You are crazy, Paul! All your learning has gone to your head!”

But Paul replied, “No, your Excellency, I am not out of my mind. I am speaking truth. The king here understands what I’m talking about because none of it has been done in secret.” Addressing King Agrippa directly, Paul said, “You believe the Prophets, don’t you? I’m sure you do.”

“You keep this up, Paul,” returned Agrippa, “and before long you will be making me a Christian!”

“O King,” Paul replied, “whether it happens ‘before long’ or down the road, I would to God that both you and all who can hear me today might become what I am — except for these chains, of course.”

Then the king and the other dignitaries stood up and excused themselves from the assembly. They discussed the matter among themselves and agreed, “This man is doing nothing to deserve either death or imprisonment.” Agrippa commented to Festus, “He might easily have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

The Sequel – Day 20

April 27, Monday

Paul and FelixSome days later Felix along with his wife Drusilla, herself a Jewess, sent for Paul and enquired about the Message of Christ Jesus. However, while Paul was talking about goodness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became troubled and dismissed him, saying, “That will be enough for now. When I find time, I will send for you again.” He was actually hoping that Paul would pay him money, which is why Paul was frequently summoned to come and talk with him. However, after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and as Festus wanted to curry favor with the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

Just three days after Festus had taken over his duties as Governor, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. While he was there, the chief priests and elders of the Jews informed him of the case against Paul and urged him to have Paul sent to Jerusalem. They had already made a plot to kill him on the way. But Festus replied that Paul was in custody in Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly.

“What you must do,” he told them, “is to provide some competent men of your own to go down with me.  They can present their charges against him there.”

About ten days later Festus returned to Caesarea from Jerusalem.  The very next day he took his seat on the bench and ordered Paul to be brought in. As soon as he arrived, the Jews from Jerusalem pressed in around him, bringing all kinds of serious accusations with no evidence whatsoever.  Paul defended himself by simply stating, “I have committed no offence in any way against the Jewish Law, against the Temple, or against Caesar.”

But Festus, wishing to gain favor with the Jews, asked Paul, “Are you prepared to go up to Jerusalem and stand your trial over these matters in my presence there?”

Paul replied, “Here I stand in Caesar’s tribunal which is where I should be judged. I have done the Jews no harm, as you very well know. If I were proven to be a criminal and had committed some crime which deserved the death penalty, I would willingly accept the sentence of death. But since there is no truth in the accusations these men have made, I am not prepared to be used as a means of gaining their favor.  I appeal to Caesar!”

Then Festus, after a brief meeting with his council, replied to Paul, “You have appealed to Caesar.  Then to Caesar you shall go!”

Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea on a state visit to Festus. They prolonged their stay for some days and Festus spoke with him about Paul’s case, saying, “I have here a man who was left a prisoner by Felix. Recently, while I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and Jewish elders made allegations against him and demanded his conviction!

“I explained to them that the Romans were not in the habit of handing someone over to their accusers until they had been given the opportunity of defending themselves on the charges made against them. Since these Jews came back here with me, I wasted no time in pursuing the case. However, once the prosecution got up to speak, their charges weren’t at all what I had expected.

“Their charges had to do with their religion and a certain Jesus who had died, but whom Paul claimed to be still alive. Since I did not feel qualified to adjudicate the matter, I asked the man if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there. It was at that point that he appealed to have his case reserved for the decision of the Emperor himself. So I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.”

Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”

“Then you shall hear him tomorrow,” replied Festus.

The Sequel – Day 19

April 26, Sunday

Military EscortThe next day Paul was released; and the commander, determined to get to the bottom of Paul’s accusation by the Jews, ordered the chief priests and Sanhedrin to convene. Then he took Paul down and set him in front of them.

Paul looked intently at the Sanhedrin and said, “Men and brothers, I have lived my life with a perfectly clear conscience before God to this day.” That’s as far as he got before Ananias the High Priest ordered those who were standing near to slap him in the mouth.

Paul reacted and said to him, “God will strike you, you white-washed wall! There you sit pretending to judge me by the Law when you violate it by telling them to hit me!”

Tension mounted as a bystander challenged Paul, saying, “How dare you insult God’s High Priest like that?”

But Paul quickly apologized and said, “My brothers, I didn’t realize that he was the High Priest; as Scripture says: ‘You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.’”

Then, as Paul realized that part of the council were Sadducees and the rest were Pharisees, he spoke loudly for all to hear, “I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees, and it is because I believe in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial!” Paul made this statement, knowing that it would distract the Council.

There was, in fact, a great uproar as the scribes of the Pharisees rose to Paul’s defense against the Sadducees who don’t believe in resurrection, angelic beings, or a non-physical spirit realm. “We find nothing wrong with this man!” they protested. “Suppose some angel or spirit has really spoken to him?”


By this point the Roman tribune feared that Paul might be torn to pieces. So he ordered the soldiers to come down and rescue him and bring him back to the barracks.

That night the Lord appeared at Paul’s side and said to him, “Courage! You have witnessed boldly for Me here in Jerusalem, and you must give your witness for Me in Rome.”

Early in the morning a group of about forty Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves by a solemn oath to neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. They approached the chief priests and elders and said, “We have bound ourselves by a solemn oath to let nothing pass our lips until we have killed Paul. Now you and the Council must ask the commander to bring Paul down to you, explaining that you want to examine his case more closely. While they are making their way here, we will kill him.

However, Paul’s nephew got wind of this plot and hurried to the barracks to tell Paul about it. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander. He has something to report to him.”

So the centurion took him to the commander and said, “The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to speak to you.”

The commander took him by the hand, led him away from the others, and asked him privately, “What did you want to tell me?”

The boy replied, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow as though they were going to enquire more carefully into his case. But you mustn’t let them persuade you because more than forty of them are waiting for him.  They have sworn a solemn oath that they won’t eat or drink until they have killed him. They have everything set in place and are waiting for you to give the order.”

At this the man dismissed the boy, warning him, “Don’t let anyone know that you have given me this information.” Then he summoned two of his centurions and said, “Get two hundred men ready to proceed to Caesarea with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen by nine o’clock tonight.” A horse was also to be provided for Paul so he could make it safely to Felix the governor.

The commander then wrote this letter of explanation to Felix: “Claudius Lysias sends greetings to his Excellency Governor Felix. This man had been seized by the Jews and was on the point of being murdered by them. When I arrived with my troops and discovered that he was a Roman citizen, I rescued him. In my investigation of the charges against him, I had him appear before their Sanhedrin. That was where I discovered he was being accused regarding some of their laws and certainly nothing which deserved either death or imprisonment. Now, however, it has come to my attention that there is a plot against his life, so I have sent him to you without delay. At the same time, I have notified his accusers that they must make their charges against him in your presence.”


So it was that the soldiers took Paul and, riding through that night, brought him down to Antipatris. The next day they returned to Jerusalem, leaving the horsemen to accompany him the rest of the way. The contingent proceeded to Caesarea; and after delivering the letter to the governor, they handed Paul over to him. Once Felix had read the letter, he asked Paul what province he came from. On learning that he came from Cilicia, the governor said, “I will hear your case as soon as your accusers arrive.” Then he ordered him to be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Five days later Ananias the High Priest arrived with some of the elders and an attorney by the name of Tertullus. They presented their case against Paul before the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began his prosecution with these words:

“Most Excellent Felix, it is because of your outstanding leadership and reforms that our nation enjoys peace and a greatly improved standard of living. At all times, and indeed everywhere, we acknowledge these things with the deepest gratitude.

“However, getting quickly to the point so as not to impose on you, we request this brief hearing. Quite simply, the issue is that we have found this man to be a pest, stirring up trouble among Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazarenes, and he was about to desecrate the Temple when we apprehended him. I’m certain you will recognize the danger just as soon as you hear this man’s own testimony.”

While Tertullus was speaking, the Jews kept butting in, confirming each detail.  The governor looked toward Paul and called for his statement.

“Because you have been governor of this nation for many years, your Honor,” Paul began, “I am pleased to present my defense before you. The facts show that it was just twelve days ago that I went up to worship at Jerusalem. Not once did I argue with anyone in the Temple or start a riot, either in the synagogues or in public.  What these men are claiming cannot be substantiated in the least.

“I will admit to you, however, that I do worship the God of our fathers according to the Way, which they call a heresy.  My beliefs are based solidly on the authority of both the Law and the Prophets; and I have the same hope in God which they themselves hold, that there is to be a resurrection of both good men and bad. It is because of this belief that I do strive to live my whole life with a clear conscience before God and man.

“It is worth noting that I have been away from Jerusalem for several years and returned at this time to bring financial assistance to my own nation and to make my offerings. Indeed, I had completed purification rituals and was about to present my offering when I was accosted. There was neither mob nor disturbance until the Jews from Asia came, who, by the way, ought to be here bringing their accusations against me. Otherwise, let these men themselves speak out now and say what crime they found me guilty of when I stood before their Council — unless it was that one sentence that I shouted as I stood among them. All I said was this, ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”

Then Felix, who was well-acquainted with the Way, adjourned the matter and said, “As soon as Commander Lysias arrives, I will decide this case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul in custody but to grant him reasonable liberty and to allow any of his personal friends to look after his needs.

The Sequel – Day 18

April 25, Saturday

Paul arrestedSome of the disciples from Caesarea went along with us. They brought us to the home of Mnason, a native of Cyprus and one of the earliest disciples, where we stayed. On our arrival at Jerusalem the brothers were glad to see us. On the following day Paul went with us to visit James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he gave them a detailed account of all that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

They praised God upon hearing the report and said to Paul,

“You know, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews who, though having become believers, still remain very zealous about upholding the Law. A rumor has spread among them that you teach all Jews who live among the Gentiles to disregard the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor observe the old customs. We’re concerned about what may happen once they hear that you have arrived.

“We have an idea that may calm their fears. There are four men here who have made a vow. Why don’t you join them and be purified with them? You might even pay their expenses so that they can get their hair cut. Then everyone will know there is no truth in the stories about you but that you also observe the Law.

“Mind you, we’re not suggesting that any of this be imposed on the Gentiles who have believed. We have sent them a letter explaining that they should abstain from what has been offered to idols, from blood and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

So Paul joined the four men and on the following day, after being purified with them, went into the Temple to give notice about the period of purification, when it would be finished, and what offering would be made on behalf of each one of them.

The seven days were almost over when some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and shouted, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who is teaching everywhere against our people, our Law, and this Temple. Besides, he has brought Greeks into the Temple and has defiled this Holy Place!” This last accusation was because they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian with Paul in the city, and they assumed that Paul had brought him into the Temple.

The whole city was stirred by their speech. They seized Paul and dragged him outside the Temple, and the doors were slammed behind him.

They were about to kill him when a report reached the commander of the Roman cohort that the whole of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down into the crowd.

When the people saw the official and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander took hold of Paul and arrested him, ordering that he be bound with two chains. Then he began asking who the man was and what he had been doing. Some of the crowd shouted one thing and some another. Since he could not be certain of the facts because of the shouting that was going on, he ordered Paul to be brought to the barracks. By the time they got to the steps, Paul had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. The crowd kept shouting furiously, “Away with him!”

As they were about to enter the barracks Paul asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”

“What? Do you know Greek?” the tribune asked. “Aren’t you that Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt along with those four thousand assassins who escaped into the desert?”

“I am a Jew,” replied Paul. “I am a man of Tarsus, a citizen of no insignificant city, I might add. I’d like a chance to address this crowd.”

On being given permission Paul stood on the steps and made a gesture with his hand to the people. The crowd quieted as he began, “My brothers and my fathers, listen to what I have to say in my own defense.”

When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, a profound silence came over the place.

“I myself am a Jew,” Paul told them. “I was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but I was brought up here in Jerusalem, having received my training at the feet of Gamaliel and being educated in the strictest observance of our fathers’ Law. I was as much on fire with zeal for God as you all are today. You may not know it but I am also the man who persecuted The Way vigorously, arresting both men and women, throwing them into prison, and killing many, as the High Priest and the whole council can readily testify. Indeed, it was after receiving letters from them that I was on my way to the synagogue in Damascus.  I intended to arrest any followers of The Way I could find there to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

“Then this happened to me: As I neared Damascus, about midday, a great light from Heaven suddenly blazed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ I replied, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth Whom you are persecuting.’ Those traveling with me also saw the light but they did not hear the voice of the One who was talking to me.

‘What do You want me to do, Lord?’ I asked. The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus. There you will be told of all that has been determined for you to do.’ The bright light had blinded me, so my companions had to lead me by the hand into Damascus.

“A man by the name of Ananias, a devout observer of the Law and one highly respected by all the Jews who lived there, came to visit me. He stood by my side and said, ‘Saul, brother, receive your sight!’ And just like that, I looked and saw him. He went on to explain, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, to hear words from His own lips. He wants you to become His witness before all men of what you have seen and heard. There’s no time to waste! Get up and be baptized! Let your sins be washed away as you call on His name.’

“Then it happened that when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, I fell into a trance and saw Him, and He said to me, ‘Quickly! Leave Jerusalem at once because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’  ‘But Lord,’ I said, ‘they know that I have gone from one synagogue after another imprisoning and beating any who believe in You. And they know that when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval, even guarding the outer garments of those who killed him.’ But He said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

They had listened intently to him until he said this, but now they raised their voices shouting, “Kill him, and rid the earth of such a man! He is not fit to live!”

As they were yelling and ripping their clothes and hurling dust into the air, the commander gave orders to bring Paul into the barracks and directed that he should be examined by scourging, so that he might discover the reason for such an uproar against him. But when they had strapped him up, Paul spoke to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen before he has had a trial?”

Troubled at hearing this, the centurion went in to the commander and reported, saying, “Do you realize what you were about to do? This man is a Roman citizen!”

Then the commander himself came up to Paul, and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”

And he said, “Yes.”

“I had to pay a lot of money to get my citizenship,” said the commander.

“Well, I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.

Fear rippled through those who were about to examine him and they left quickly. The commander was especially alarmed when he realized that he had put a Roman citizen in chains.

The Sequel – Day 17

April 24, Friday

EutychusPaul was about to sail for Syria when some Jews made a further plot against him, so he decided to make his way back through Macedonia instead. Part of the team, Sopater, a Berean, the son of Pyrrhus; two Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and two Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus, went ahead to Troas. The rest of us sailed from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread and joined them five days later at Troas, where we spent a week.

On the first day of the week, we assembled for the breaking of bread. Since Paul intended to leave on the following day, he began to speak to them and talked nearly till midnight. There were a great many lamps burning in the upper room where we met, and a young man called Eutychus, who was sitting on the window sill, fell asleep as Paul’s address went on and on. Finally, completely overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground from the third story. When they got to him, he was dead; but Paul bent over him and embraced him. “Don’t be alarmed,” Paul said, “he is still alive.”

They all went upstairs again; and when they had broken bread and eaten, they continued to talk together until daybreak.  Paul then departed.  As for the boy, he was taken home alive, much to the relief of all.


Meanwhile we had gone aboard the ship and sailed for Assos. Paul had arranged for us to pick him up there since he chose to go overland.  After he boarded at Assos, we went on to Mitylene and then to the coast. We sailed from there and arrived off the coast of Chios the next day. From Chios we sailed to Samos and finally Miletus. Paul had decided not to visit Ephesus in order to save time so that he might reach Jerusalem in time for the day of Pentecost.

While we were in Miletus, he called for the elders of the Church in Ephesus to come to him as he had a message on his heart for them.

“My life has been an open book among you ever since I first set foot in Asia. You are witnesses of how humbly I served the Lord and of the tears I shed because of the grievous trials I suffered at the hands of the Jews. You yourselves recall how I taught publicly and in your homes, always ready to proclaim whatever would be profitable for you. My Message was the same whether to Jews or Greeks: repentance towards God and unwavering trust in our Lord Jesus.

“And now I am compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what is going to happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit keeps warning me that imprisonment and persecution lay ahead.  Mind you, I’m not concerned for my own life as long as I can finish my course and complete the ministry which the Lord Jesus has given me in declaring the Good News of the grace of God.

“I am painfully aware that not one of you to whom I preached the Kingdom of God will ever see my face again, which is why I wanted to meet with you one last time. My conscience is clear, for I have never shrunk from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.

“Let me urge you to be on your guard for yourselves and for the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians.  You are to be shepherds to the Church of God, which our Lord Jesus won at the cost of His own blood. It won’t be long before savage wolves will come in among you, having no mercy for the flock. Yes, and even from among your own group, men will arise speaking perversions of the truth, trying to draw away the disciples and make them followers of themselves.

“This is why I tell you to keep on the alert. When things get tough, remember my example, how for three years I never failed night and day to warn every one of you, often with tears. Now I commend you to the Lord and to the message of His grace which can strengthen you and secure your inheritance among all those who are consecrated to God.

“I have never coveted anybody’s gold or silver or clothing. Instead, with my own hands I have provided for my needs and for those of my companions. I have demonstrated to you that through hard work we must help the weak, always bearing in mind the words of the Lord Jesus when He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

With these words he knelt down and prayed with all of them. There were plenty of tears as they reflected on the possibility of never seeing him again. Each of them embraced Paul with much affection before accompanying him down to the ship.


From Miletus we sailed to Cos, then on to Rhodes and Patara where we transferred to a ship bound for Phoenicia. We passed by Cyprus and arrived in Tyre where their cargo was to be unloaded.

We contacted the disciples there and stayed with them for a week. They felt led by the Spirit again and again to warn Paul not to set foot in Jerusalem; but when the time came, we left there and continued our journey. They all came out to see us off, bringing wives and children with them. We walked together down to the beach where we prayed and said our farewells. Then we went aboard the ship while the disciples went back to their homes.

We sailed away from Tyre and arrived at Ptolemais where we fellowshipped with the brothers. On the following day we sailed to Caesarea where we met up with Philip the evangelist, one of the original seven deacons, and his four unmarried daughters, all of whom were gifted prophetesses. While we were there, a prophet by the name of Agabus came down from Judea. When he came to see us, he took Paul’s belt and used it to tie his own hands and feet together, saying, “The Holy Spirit says this: the owner of this belt will be bound like this by the Jews in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles!”

Upon hearing this, those of us traveling with Paul, along with the believers in Caesarea, begged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered us, “You’re breaking my heart with all your tears. Don’t you know that I am ready not only to be bound but to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the Name of the Lord Jesus.”

Since there was nothing we could do to change his mind, we committed the situation to the Lord, saying, “May the Lord’s will be done,” and said no more. After this we made our preparations and went up to Jerusalem.

The Sequel – Day 16

April 23, Thursday

RiotFinally, Paul launched a third mission excursion throughout Galatia and Phyrgia, encouraging the believers along the way.

Meanwhile a Jew by the name of Apollos, a native of Alexandria, a gifted communicator, and a man well-acquainted with the Scriptures, arrived at Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he was very effective in teaching about Jesus even though he only knew about the baptism of John. He was fearless in proclaiming the Truth in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained God’s Message to him more accurately.

When he decided to cross into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote a letter introducing him to the disciples there, asking them to make him welcome. Upon his arrival he proved a source of great strength to those who believed through grace. With a powerful defense he publicly refuted the Jews, showing from their Scriptures that Jesus was the promised Messiah.


While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul journeyed through the upper parts of the country, finally arriving at Ephesus. There he found a dozen disciples and asked if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They indicated that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit.

“How were you baptized?” Paul asked. So they explained that they had been baptized into John’s baptism.

“John’s baptism was a baptism to show a change of heart,” Paul explained, “but he always made it clear that they must believe in the One who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When these men heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. As Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them; and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy.

Paul spent about three months in Ephesus, at first reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue, explaining the Kingdom of God until, sensing a growing resistance to the Message and some open hostility, he withdrew from there and continued his daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. He carried on this work for two years, giving opportunity to all who lived in Asia, both Greeks and Jews, to hear the Lord’s Message. God confirmed Paul’s ministry with unusual demonstrations of power. People were being healed or delivered of evil spirits, at times through the laying on of Paul’s hands, but sometimes just by touching handkerchiefs or aprons which had been in contact with his body.

Interestingly, there were some itinerant Jewish exorcists who attempted to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus when dealing with evil spirits. They got into the practice of saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven brothers, sons of a chief priest called Sceva, were among those doing this when one time the evil spirit answered, “Jesus I know, and I am acquainted with Paul, but who on earth are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was living jumped on them and over-powered them all with such violence that they rushed out of that house wounded and naked, having had their clothes torn off by the man. Once this story became common knowledge to all who were living in Ephesus, a great sense of awe came over them; and the name of the Lord Jesus became highly respected.

A new openness and boldness was evident among those who had professed their faith. Many who had previously practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly, and the Word of the Lord continued to grow irresistibly in power and influence.

Seeing the Word established in Ephesus, Paul determined in his spirit to travel on through Macedonia and Achaia, then to Jerusalem. “And after I have been there, I must see Rome as well,” he confided. He sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia while he remained a while longer in Asia.

Not everyone in Ephesus was thrilled with the flourishing church, however. Those whose business depended on the worship of Diana saw profits plummeting. A prominent silversmith by the name of Demetrius called together the craftsmen in his trade and rallied them to take action, saying, “Men, you all know just how much our prosperity depends on this particular work. Why, reports from all of Asia show that this man Paul has persuaded great masses of people to join “The Way” by telling them that gods made by human hands are not gods at all.

“Do you understand what this could mean? Not only are our careers at risk, but the very temple of the great goddess Diana may also be neglected. Think of it: she whom all of Asia, yea, the whole world worships, dethroned from her place of honor!”

Demetrius’ speech succeeded in stirring up the crowd who began chanting with angry fervor, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” It didn’t take long for the whole city to take up the cause.  They rushed into the coliseum dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, two Macedonians who were Paul’s travelling companions. Paul wanted to go in to address the crowd, but the disciples would not allow him to. Some high-ranking officials in the city who were Paul’s friends also urged him not to risk his life by entering the theatre.

As is often the case in mass protests, most of the people didn’t even know why they had gathered. Some shouted one thing and some another. The whole assembly was in utter chaos. Finally the Jewish contingent pushed Alexander to the front to make a speech; but when the crowd recognized him as being a Jew, they shouted him down, chanting for two hours straight, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”

When the town clerk was finally able to silence the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, come now! Who in the world doesn’t recognize that our great city of Ephesus is temple-guardian of the great Diana and of the image which fell down from Jupiter himself? Since these are undeniable facts, you ought to restrain yourselves and not do anything you might later regret.

“These men you have dragged in here aren’t guilty of robbing the temple or blaspheming our goddess. If Demetrius and the rest of you have any charges to bring against anyone, the courts are open and there are judges ready to handle such cases; let them take legal action. If you want anything else, then bring it before the regular assembly.  As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting over today’s events especially since we have no good explanation to offer for all this commotion.” And with these words he dismissed the assembly.

After this uproar subsided, Paul sent for the disciples to give final words of encouragement before departing on his way to Macedonia.  Passing through the region, he exhorted the people and then went on to Greece where he stayed for three months.

The Sequel – Day 15

April 22, Wednesday

AreopagusSo Paul and Silas were sent off to Berea that night. When they went to the Jewish synagogue there, they enjoyed a much better reception than in Thessalonica. These folks listened to the Message eagerly and studied the Scriptures every day to see if what they were now being told was true. Many of them became believers, as did a number of prominent Greek women and quite a few men.

When the Jews at Thessalonica found out that Paul was spreading the Message in Berea, they came there to stir up the people. To avoid trouble, the brothers sent Paul down to the coast; but Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. The men who accompanied Paul took him as far as Athens and returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as possible.


While Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, he was overwhelmed with the large number of idols throughout the city. He talked about it with the Jews in the synagogue as well as the God-fearing Gentiles. He even argued daily with any who were in the marketplace. Athens was a popular gathering place for philosophers and tourists who were always on the lookout for some new idea or fad. Some Epicurean and Stoic devotees engaged Paul in conversation and invited him to present his novel teachings to the council at the Areopagus. They thought he was introducing new deities when he spoke of Jesus and the resurrection.

This was Paul’s speech:

“Men of Athens, I see that you are an extremely religious people. In getting acquainted with your city I even noticed a shrine TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. It is this God, Whom you acknowledge while admitting that you don’t know Him, that I am here to proclaim to you. Your “unknown” God is the One who made the world and all that is in it. He is the Supreme Ruler of both heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands, nor could mere humans contribute anything to His well-being. Clearly, what could He need since He is the one who supplies life and breath and all that is needed to every living creature?

“Starting with the creation of one man, He has created every race of men and scattered them over the face of the whole earth. He determined when and where each should live, intending for them to search for God, in the hope that they might reach out for Him and find Him — yes, even though He is not far from any one of us. Indeed, it is by Him that we live and move and have our being. Some of your own poets have said as much, ‘For we are also His children.’ If then, we are the children of God, we ought not to picture God in terms of gold or silver or stone, conceived and constructed by human art or ingenuity.

“It is true that God has overlooked man’s ignorance for a long time. Today, however, He commands all men everywhere to repent. He has set a day on which He plans to judge the whole world by the perfect standard of the Man whom He has appointed.  He has certified that Man’s authority to judge by raising Him from the dead.”

Now when the audience heard Paul talk about the resurrection from the dead, some of them laughed and mocked him, but others said, “We would like to hear you speak again on this subject.” As Paul left the gathering, some did join him and took hold of the faith. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus; a woman by the name of Damaris; and a few others.


It wasn’t long after this that Paul left Athens and went to Corinth where he found a Jew by the name of Aquila, a native of Pontus. He and his wife Priscilla had recently moved to Corinth from Italy because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul visited in their home; and because they were tent-makers as he was, he stayed with them and worked alongside them. Every Sabbath Paul used to speak in the synagogue trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself full-time to proclaiming the Message, showing the Jews as clearly as he could that Jesus is the Messiah.

Here, as in the previous cities, the religious Jews turned against him and accused him of serving the devil. That was the last straw! He shook out his garments at them and said, “Your blood be on your heads! From now on I go with a perfectly clear conscience to the Gentiles.” So he left the synagogue and went next door to the home of a man named Titius Justus who feared God. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, trusted in the Lord along with his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard the message believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and don’t let anyone stop you, for I Myself am with you; I won’t let anyone harm you. I have many people in this city.”- So Paul settled down there for eighteen months and taught them God’s message.

At one point a cadre of Jews apprehended Paul and took him to court. They set him before Gallio, the governor of Achaia, charging him with “brainwashing people to worship God in a way that is contrary to the Law.” Just as Paul was about to defend himself, Gallio addressed the Jews, saying, “If you were bringing a violent criminal before me, I might put up with you Jews; but since it’s just a squabble about words and names and your Law, take care of it yourselves. I don’t have time for this.” With that he had them ejected from the courtroom. In their pent-up frustration they grabbed Sosthenes, the synagogue-leader, and beat him right in front of the court-house, but Gallio still refused to take up their cause.

Paul remained in Corinth for a while after this incident and then sailed for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him. At Cenchrea he had his hair cut off, fulfilling a vow he had made. They all arrived at Ephesus where Paul once again went into the synagogue to debate with the Jews. They asked him to stay longer but he declined, saying, “If it is God’s will I will come back to you again.” Leaving Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus, he set sail for the port of Caesarea, traveled up to Jerusalem for a brief visit with the believers there, and returned to the sending church in Antioch where he spent considerable time.

The Sequel – Day 14

April 21, Tuesday

paul silas prison liahonlp_We spent several days in Philippi; and on the Sabbath day we went out of the city gate to the riverside, where we hoped to find a place for prayer.  We joined the group of women who had assembled, among them a woman named Lydia who came from Thyatira and was a dealer in purple-dyed cloth.  She was already a believer in God, and the Lord opened her heart to accept Paul’s words. After she and her household had been baptized, she invited us to her home, saying, “If you accept that I am a true believer in the Lord, then come down to my house and stay there.”  She persisted until we had agreed.

Once, on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a young girl who had a spirit of divination and who brought her owners a good deal of profit by foretelling the future. She kept following Paul and the rest of us, crying out, “These men serve the Most High God. They offer a way of salvation.”

She kept it up for several days until Paul could take it no longer. He turned and spoke to the spirit in her, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” Immediately it left her.

When the girl’s owners saw that their source of income was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities in the market square. There they presented them to the chief magistrates, charging, “These Jews are causing a great confusion in our city by proclaiming customs which it is illegal for us as Roman citizens to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack. The magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After giving them a severe beating, they threw them into prison, instructing the jailer to guard them closely. Assuming they were dangerous criminals, he took them into the inner jail and fastened their feet securely in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them when suddenly there was a great earthquake strong enough to shake the foundations of the prison. All the doors flew open and everyone’s chains fell off. When the jailer woke and saw that the doors of the prison had been opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, for he imagined that all the prisoners had escaped. But Paul called out to him in a loud voice, saying, “Don’t hurt yourself; we are all here!”

Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and overcome with fear, fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. He led them outside, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Put your trust in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”

There, in the middle of the night, Paul and Silas explained to him and his family the word of the Lord. The jailer washed their wounds, and he and his family were baptized right then. He then took them into his house for a meal. He and his whole household were overjoyed at finding faith in God.

When morning came, the magistrates sent officers with the message, “Let those men go.”

The jailer reported this message to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to have you released. So now you can leave this place and go on your way in peace.”

But Paul said to the officers, “They beat us publicly without any kind of trial, and they threw us into prison despite the fact that we are Roman citizens. And now they think they can send us away quietly? Oh no, let them come and take us out themselves!”

When the officers reported to the magistrates that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were extremely afraid and came in person to apologize to them. After taking them outside the prison, they asked them to leave the city. But upon their release from prison Paul and Silas went to Lydia’s house. Only after seeing the brothers and encouraging them did they depart from Philippi.


Their journey took them through Amphipolis and Apollonia and finally to Thessalonica where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul attended each Sabbath, explaining from the Scriptures why the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is God’s Messiah!” he declared. Some of them were convinced and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of Greeks and leading women in the city.

But the Jews, motivated by jealousy, rallied a bunch of troublemakers in the marketplace to start a city-wide riot against Paul and Silas. They ransacked Jason’s house looking for them. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the civic authorities, shouting, “The men who have turned the world upside down have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. Besides that, they violate the decrees of Caesar by claiming that there is another king called Jesus!” This really unnerved the local authorities who would only release Jason and the others after they pledged to cooperate.