Thru the Bible -- Acts of the Apostles

Devotional

How the Trouble Began


We followed Paul back to Jerusalem and enjoyed his reunion with the Jerusalem church, but it doesn’t take long to realize the believing Jews are confused about how to go forward in their new faith. 


The local Jews hate Paul because he teaches you don’t need to go through the Mosaic system to be saved. (You don’t—you only need to believe on the name of Jesus.) When the group sees him in the temple, they swarm and beat him. A Roman captain steps in and arrests Paul, thinking he is a criminal. The crowd is so violent, the soldiers had to carry Paul out on their shoulders. Back at the barracks, Paul identifies himself. “I’m a Jew from Tarsus. Can I speak to the crowd?” And the captain agrees, amazed Paul spoke in Greek to him. 


But then Paul addresses the crowd in Hebrew, and the minute they hear the language they love, it was like a raging wind suddenly quieted. Paul tells them he once had been one of them—a strict Pharisee. He persecuted everyone who followed “the Way.” He tells them about his experience on the road to Damascus when Jesus Himself appeared to him and describes what it was like to be blinded for a few days. He then describes his mission to tell the Gentiles about the Lord. 


Everyone listened intently up until that moment—then it was like he lit a fuse. The captain had to rescue Paul again. The captain thought he should beat the truth out of Paul. 


To escape being flogged, Paul asks, “Is it legal to torture a Roman citizen without a fair trial?” (21:25). Whoa! Immediately the captain stops the interrogation, amazed his prisoner is a Roman citizen. He then arranges a hearing for Paul with the chief priests for the next day. 


The next morning, Paul stands before the Sanhedrin. From the start it’s obvious he won’t get a fair hearing. When Paul does speak, he is struck across the mouth. The tension escalates until a riot breaks out and again the captain saves Paul from the angry Sanhedrin. “Why do they hate you so much?


That night in prison, the Lord Himself visits Paul in his cell. He stood by Paul and encouraged him. “You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome” (23:11). 


Paul learns of a plot to kill him and the captain again rescues Paul out of harm’s way. He takes him up to Caesarea, to appear before Felix, the Roman governor. 


For two silent years, Paul sits in a Roman prison. He appears before Felix first, who sees early on Paul is innocent of any charges. He should have freed Paul. However, Felix was a clever politician and so, uncertain of his best move politically, he played for time.


Festus, the next governor, follows Felix. Paul knew he isn’t going to get a fair trial with Festus, so Paul exercises his right as a Roman citizen and appeals to Caesar. Going back to Jerusalem would mean death for him. And besides, two years before, the Lord Jesus had promised him a trip to Rome. 


The Lord also had said Paul would appear before kings. Now Festus is in a hot seat. He knows he should release Paul, but he asks for the support of visiting King Agrippa. Agrippa likely knew of Paul and was eager to hear Paul defend himself. So the king and governor arrange a meeting with Paul, yet all the while they are actually fulfilling prophecy. 


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