Bible Study: Dr. J.W.Bernard
The Acts of the Apostles (AD 30-62) !
Luke's first commentary, the Gospel of Luke covered thirty-six years (BC 6 to AD 30) and dealt with the "words and deeds of Jesus" while on earth.
Luke's second thesis, the Acts of the Apostles, under Holy Spirit inspiration gives us the "words and deeds of Jesus" from heaven spanning a period of approximately thirty-two years (AD 30 to 62).
The Acts version was published after the Gospel message had been proclaimed throughout the Roman world with miraculous success. The publication of these thirty-two years of the Acts of the Apostles account was soon after AD 62. Luke's purpose for writing the Acts of the Apostles to a very wealthy Roman citizen, Theophilus might have been for the purpose of an excellent defense for Paul, before Caesar in Rome. It is fascinating that here we have a Gentile Medical Doctor writing to a wealthy Gentile about "the Man," Who is the Savior of all men.
Two themes are suggested in the Acts.
However, at a few crucial periods, in different places, Paul abandoned those Jews, just as they had rejected the gospel of Christ. Israel had cast aside the Gift of God and caused the glad news of salvation to be.. "...now sent to the Gentiles."
Luke describes the beginning of their intended national conversion in Acts, after the close of his first treatise, the book of Luke, when he makes it clear that Christianity was the true heir of Israel rather than the heretical sect of Jews. Luke's second treatise is a continuation of "the words and deeds of Jesus."
In my opinion the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles could be one long book of the words and works of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks on earth. In the Acts, He speaks from heaven. Both, in the days of His flesh (on earth) and in exaltation (in heaven), He speaks and does everything through the power of the Holy Spirit. The record in Acts exhibits the powerful deeds of the Apostles under the heavenly administration of Christ through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit of God.
Luke gives an account of Judaism in it's last days and the arriving of a quickening Christianity. The old wine-skin of legalism is incapable of restraining the expanding spirit of the new wine of Grace during this Acts period. Here we see the transition from the shadows and unyielding harness of Judaism to the brilliance and liberating salvation that is in Jesus Christ, embraced by this new Christianity.
In the book of Acts, Judaism and Christianity lived side by side until one ended and the other was set free to expand to the world. Here we see Paul describing the situation by the allegory of two sons living side by side in Abraham's house (Galatians 4:21-31), enjoying the same allotted time until, like Abraham's first son, Judaism is kicked out of the house in AD 70 and Christianity (like Isaac) inherits the significant place of honor as Isaac, the Father's delight.
Luke and Paul Together
Perhaps the most important sections of Acts reveal that Luke was with Paul in his travels. I call these sections the "we" sections; Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16. Luke had joined Paul on his second missionary journey at Troas ("we" in 14:10) and he had traveled with Paul to Macedonia and remained until some future date in Philippi. He traveled with Paul to Asia and then to Jerusalem (21:17). Luke was also with Paul in his imprisonment in Caesarea when Paul wrote to the Philippians. Then they went to Italy and Paul wrote to the Hebrews in Jerusalem. Luke completed Acts by the end of the two years mentioned in Acts 28:30.
After Paul turned his back on the Jews (Acts 28:28) we find him writing his second letter to Timothy in which he says that Luke is in Rome with him and was faithful to him, while others had forsaken the "prisoner of the Lord." In the 11th verse of the 4th chapter of Colossians Paul says that Luke was a Gentile. Luke must have published the Acts sometime around this time.
The Acts of Christ from Heaven
In the Gospel of Luke, we have all "that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach." Luke's following treatise, Acts is simply a continuation of the teachings and acts of Jesus recorded in the Gospel. For example, from heaven, Jesus acts in the selection of the twelfth Apostle, who takes the place of Judas. From heaven, He pours forth the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and "added to the assembly daily those that were to be saved." In the 3rd chapter of Acts, it was His performance from heaven that healed the lame man on earth. Throughout this book, we observe Him acting from Glory in guiding, directing, comforting and encouraging His servants. This is the beautiful evidence of His ascension and being away from earth, however, still in control from the Father's Throne in heaven. These are the acts of Christ upon earth while He was exalted at the Right Hand of the Father.
Three Supernatural Beings in Action
As we read the book of Acts, we are aware of Christ in the heavens as a supernatural Being. And at the beginning of Acts we also see the other "Comforter" (the Holy Spirit) giving gifts, whom the Lord had promised, working in His place while Jesus Christ was in heaven. When we look again, we see another supernatural being in the book of Acts. It is the accuser of the brethren. This one acts like a lion at times. At other times, it acts like a serpent. This supernatural being is trying to hinder the progress of the great change from Old Testament worship, rituals, sacrifices, tithes, dietary laws, baptisms, etc. to the pure Gospel of God in the death, entombment, resurrection, ascension and exaltation of Jesus Christ.
Aside from the human activity in the book of Acts we are aware of....
Power From on High
For forty days after the resurrection and ascension, Jesus walked upon the earth and showed Himself to many people. His next-to-last appearance was to His Disciples. He ate with them and concluded his visit by opening their understanding to the teaching of Scripture about His death, entombment and resurrection. He further tells them that they are to be witnesses of these things and after ten days, at Pentecost He would give them a power that would rest upon them and give them great abilities (Luke 24:49). This power is not the indwelling Person of God, for this came FROM the Father. The indwelling Christ would come later. The Comforter (during this period covered by Acts) is the Authority and Power of God that Jesus takes possession of from the Father and gives to His disciples.
Throughout the New Testament, the physical presence of Jesus Christ was a hindrance to this powerful Comforter that was to be given to His followers. While the Messiah was alive and with them in the flesh, the Power from on High or Comforter or Spirit of Truth, would be far from them. What was it that hindered them of a life of powerful miracles and newly revealed truth? It was Jesus Himself, Who compassionately stood before them, teaching them, healing them, saving them. This was the hindrance to the temporary power from on High. As long as Jesus, bearing the prophetic marks upon Himself, stood before them in person, He would continue to be the realized institution and reinforcement to all that the Old Testament system of vanities which captivated their heads and hearts stood for. The Physical Form of Christ must pass from their eyes before the invisible Power-Spirit could come from the Father and abide along side of them and comfort them with truth and power. It was good for them that Jesus should go away. However, He would return to that generation.
When the (former) flesh-person, Jesus vanished, the (latter) spirit-power, Holy Spirit appeared. This forty years Acts program was the transforming power-act of God from heaven. While on earth, Jesus world finish the scheme of the Old Testament and then the Holy Spirit would get the message across to the world. When this was achieved, the Parousia or presence of Christ began and there was no more use for the fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures or a Power from God to give us the written Word of God. Luke 24:49 is linked with Acts 1:4,5 by the words "the promise of the Father." Beginning with Acts the second chapter, the Power from on High began to work with mankind. This promise of power from God could not be fulfilled until Jesus was removed from the earth (Acts. 2:33).
In Acts 2:38, Peter tells the Jewish Nation that if they would "repent and be baptized in the Name of Christ for remission of sins." ... then they would "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost," which is "the Power from on High." Acts 10:44 clearly says that... "the Holy Spirit (also) fell upon all them which heard the Word." Later in Acts 11:15, it says, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit (also) fell on them, as on us at the beginning." This power from on High was not a manifestation of one of the persons of the Triune God. This was the enabling power that was spoken of throughout the ages. This spiritual power also gave us Ephesians by the pen of Paul. Paul said that "the Mystery of Christ" had never been revealed by this power until "now." This was around AD 68. "...the Mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Eph. 3:5).
The Parousia or presence of Christ would not occur for two more years. So, the promised Power was still working from the Father with and in His people. "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man." (Eph. 3:16).
During the Acts period, when the "Power from on High" was working in their midst, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about their abuse of the power-gifts. He told them that the gifts of power would not last long. He said that the gift-powers of the...
....would all end when the "perfect" arrived. "But when that which is perfect (full maturity) is come, then that which is in part (temporary gifts) shall be done away." (1 Cor.13:10).
Paul told the Colossians that the complete Bible had been written in his day (Col. 1:25). He also told them that the Christian had been completed (Col. 2:10). Therefore, there is nothing in the future for Christians to look forward to in order to finally be completed. We stand "complete" before Him this very moment. "For in Him dwelleth all the completeness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, Who is the Head of all principality and power." (Col. 2:9,10). Nothing can be added to completeness.
However, when this demonstration of gift-powers ended, so did the inspired written Word and individual callings. The end was with the "presence of Christ" in the Parousia. This is the "full maturity" that had been anticipated. God had now made known to Paul the "mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY." This is the real presence of Christ.
An Over View of Acts
If we were to take an over view of the book of Acts, we would see that chapters 1 through 7 gives us the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, beginning in Jerusalem. The testimony is to the nation of Israel and Jews concerning the powers of the Kingdom and Jesus as the Christ. This testimony to Israel closed when Steven is stoned to death in the 7th chapter of Acts.
The 8th chapter through the 12th gives us the transition period. The Gospel goes forth to Samaria. Saul of Tarsus sees the risen Lord and is converted. Peter goes and preaches the Gospel to the Gentiles. Peter is cast into prison and miraculously delivered. This indicates that the later imprisonment of Paul was the Will of God. For God could have performed the same deliverance for him as He did for Peter. However, God did not let Paul out before he was safe and writes his prison epistles. In these chapters, Peter is in the forefront preaching. He is using the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" that was given to him by Jesus. Whoever has "the keys" to the kingdom can enter in first. Peter uses "the keys" in the second chapter to let the Jews in. He uses "the keys" in the tenth chapter to let the Gentiles in.
Between chapters 13 and 28, we have the close of Peter's and James' ministry and the travels and labors of Paul. At the end of Acts, Paul goes to Jerusalem and Rome. There is much more. However, Luke breaks off the record in AD 62. There is eight more years before the Presence of Christ arrives in judgment and blessing.
A Transition Period
It will be advantageous to be very careful how we apply the book of Acts to our lives today. It takes us back to the beginning of the transition from Old Testament shadows into the realities of Christianity. This was a period of powerful change. To hold on to the beginning changes and keep it in vogue today is to misunderstand the transition period of change.
If today, we try to work these things into the Grace situation, we will blaspheme the pure Grace of God. The book of Acts and the epistles written during that time must be considered as transitional material. It is a war zone of Judaism verses Christianity, Shadows verses the reality of Christ in you.
In Acts 9, Paul is Converted
After Paul's conversion, he stays in Damascus and "preaches Christ in the synagogues" (9:19,20). Paul then goes to Jerusalem (9:26), Caesarea and Tarsus. Luke takes up Peter's story here (9:32-12:25). Then the story of Paul is taken up in Acts 13. Paul is at Antioch until it is time for...
Paul's First Missionary Journey
This first missionary journey was primarily conducted in the Roman province of Galatia, where he preached in many Greco-Roman cities (Acts 13:13-14:28). He travels with Barnabas to Seleu'cia, Cyprus, Sal'amis, Paphos, Perga and to Antioch in Pisidia, where the ruins of it's Roman style temple, aqueduct and theatre are still visible today. The Jews were preached to, while the Gentiles begged for the Gospel (13:42-45). The Jews "expelled them out of their coasts" (13:50) to Iconium (51), which was just to the South-East of Antioch. Paul went to Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia (14:6), then on to Iconium and Antioch (14:21). He traveled through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia and sailed to Antioch (14:24-26). Paul and Barnabas passed through Phoenicia and Samaria to Jerusalem (15:3,4), then Paul, Barnabas and Silas went to Antioch (15:30).
Paul's Second Missionary Journey
Paul worked in the major cities of the Greek world. Paul, Barnabas and John Mark go to Pamphylia (15:38). Paul and Silas go "through Syria and Cilicia... to Derbe and Lystra" (15:41 & 16:1). They go throughout Phrygia and regions of Galatia to Mysia, and Troas (16:6-8). Paul then goes to Samothracia, Neapolis, Philippi in Macedonia (16:11,12), just 13 miles from the Aegean Sea. Paul and Silas are put into prison (16:24). They were released and "passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia 'til they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews" (17:1-9). Paul spent over two weeks preaching to the Jews and Greeks. Many believed in Christ (17:4). Paul and Silas flee to Berea, some fifty miles to the Southwest. Next, they go to Athens (17:10 & 15). After Paul preaches on "Mars Hill" he leaves Athens and comes to Corinth (18:1-18). Silas and Timothy join Paul in Corinth (18:5). Paul turns his back on these Jews (18:6). Many Corinthians are saved (18:8). Paul stays a year and six months teaching (18:11).
Then comes the epistles of Paul. To see the list of his epistles and their order, go to "Bible Study - The Order of Paul's Epistles."
In Acts 18:1 & 2 (AD 52 & 53) from Corinth, Paul writes 1st and 2nd Thessalonians to Jews (Acts 17:1) and Greeks (Acts 17:4). These two epistles were written soon after the conversion of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:8,9). The news of their conversion was spreading through Macedonia and Achaia. Paul was taken from them for a brief period (1 Thess. 2:17) and had been recently visiting Athens (1 Thess. 3:1). He had already preached in Achaia (1 Thess. 1:7,8). Timotheus and Silas just returned (1 Thess. 3:6) from Macedonia, which happened (Acts 18:5) soon after Paul's first arrival at Corinth. In these two letters...
I hope that you have noticed that these things do not relate to this present day Christian system of Grace. If we say these things are happening today, we have to pretend that these things are happening to us. These things were a reality during the transition period described in the Acts interlude. So, it is very important to know when Paul wrote his letters and how the letters relate to us today. We need to find out what is "for our learning" and what is "to our present situation."
Paul's Third Missionary Journey
Paul leaves Corinth and sails to Syria with Pricilla and Aquila (18:18). They come to Ephesus (18:19) and return to Antioch (18:22). After Paul spent time in Antioch, he travels on his third missionary trip through Galatia and Phrygia to strengthen the disciples (18:23) and then ends up in Ephesus, where he spends two and a half to three years.
In the 19th century, Ephesus was extensively excavated and a stadium that Nero had built in Paul's day was uncovered. There also was a theatre with a capacity for 24,000 people. A main street was there that was about 35 feet wide with colonnades at 15 feet deep intervals on either side. The Temple to Diana with dimensions of 180 X 360 feet had 60 feet columns, which were overlaid with gold leaf. It is no wonder that Paul felt the fiery hate of the local merchants when he criticized the cult's idolatry (Acts 19:23-41).
In Acts 19:1 (AD 57) from Ephesus, Paul writes 1st Corinthians. Apollos had been working at Corinth, and was now with Paul in Ephesus (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4,22; 4:6; 16:12). During the writing of this epistle, Paul resides at Ephesus (Acts 19:1), during the days of unleavened bread (1 Cor. 5:7) and planned on remaining at Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Cor. 16:8). He meets with an uproar from the Jews, in the theatre. Aquila and Pricilla were also with him at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19) and had taken up their residence at Ephesus before the visit of Paul (Acts 18:26). After leaving Ephesus, he arranged to go through Macedonia to Achaia (1 Cor. 16:5-7). Also, the great collection was going on in Achaia (1 Cor. 16:1-3). When he wrote to the Romans from Corinth during his three months' visit there (Acts 20:3), the collection of money and goods was concluded in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom. 15:26). At that time, Paul expects to go by Corinth to Jerusalem, and them to Rome (1 Cor. 16:4 & 15:25-28). The time he entertained this plan was at the close of his Ephesian residence (Acts 19:21). During this time Paul reminds the Corinthians that...
When Paul finishes writing the first letter to the Corinthians, he leaves Ephesus for Macedonia (20:1). In Acts 20:2 (AD 57) from Macedonia, Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul was exposed to a great danger in Proconsular Asia, i.e. at Ephesus (2 Cor. 1:8) and is under great pressure. This happened in Acts 19:23-41. He traveled from Troas after staying there for some time and then made his voyage to Macedonia (Acts 20:1). Paul was in Macedonia at the time of this writing (2 Cor. 9:2). He intended (2 Cor. 13:1) shortly to visit Corinth. This second letter is in effect to comfort and warn. However, he has to prove his Apostleship again.
Paul had never been to Rome when he wrote this epistle (1:11-15). He intended to go to Rome after visiting Jerusalem (15:23-28). This was his purpose in Acts 19:21. This gives us a time setting. He was going to bear a collection of gifts for the poor from Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem (15:26,31). He carried the collection from Corinth to Jerusalem at the close of this three months' visit (Acts 24:17). When Paul wrote this epistle, Timotheus, Sosipater, Gaius and Erastus were with him (16:21-23). Out of these four, Luke mentions three in the Acts as being with him at Corinth during the three months' visit (Acts 20:4). Paul sailed to Syria and met Aristarchus and Secundus. They sailed from Philippi to Troas. Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus waited for Paul in Troas and they all ministered late into the evenings. Paul restored a man's life to him again. Paul meets his friends in Samos, Trogyllium and to Miletus and Ephesus where he preached. He said that the Ephesians would never see him again. Paul left Ephesus and sailed to Coos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia and Tyre. Paul waited a week there and went to Ptolemais and Caesarea and stayed with Philip, the evangelist. Paul was warned by a prophet to not go to Jerusalem. However, he went anyway.
Paul met James and had to clear up some of his teachings to the former Jews in that congregation. At this same time, Paul went through a Jewish purifying and entered into the Temple to show that he had accomplished "keeping the law." An offering was made for them. A riot broke out in Jerusalem over Paul being in the Temple. The chief captain rescued Paul from a Jewish fate and imprisoned him in a castle. Paul speaks in Hebrew to the Jews and they listen. They take Paul to Caesarea (23:23).
In Paul's day, the Roman governors kept their residence in Caesarea. This city was a contribution of Herod the Great to the royalty of Rome. It was their playground. It was a major harbor in that area. The style of all the buildings was Greco-Roman. A large theatre, a hippodrome for chariot races and an amphitheatre for athletic events and gladiatorial combats were built there by Herod as his crowning gift to the Roman world.
In Acts 25:6 (AD 59), from Caesar's prison (Phil. 4:22), Paul writes Philippians. This epistle was written during his first imprisonment (AD 59-63) in Caesarea (Acts 24:27). The success of the gospel among the praetorian guard (Phil. 1:13) relates to Paul preaching the subject of the kingdom of God, as indicated in Acts 28:31). Paul has hope of soon sending Timothy to Philippi and also the hope of his immediate release (Phil. 2:23,24).
In Acts 28:14 (AD 59), from Italy (Heb. 13:24), Paul writes Hebrews.
Paul's Fourth Missionary Journey
After Luke closes his account and Paul is released from prison in Caesarea, Paul writes to his son in the ministry (AD 64), Timothy. A year later, Paul writes to Titus. Then Paul is arrested and taken into custody by Rome before he writes to Timothy (AD 67) the second time. The closing words of Luke's account (Acts) rounds out Paul's Acts ministry. However, it also implies that a change took place after the two years ministry in his hired house. Some say that the change was Paul's death. I wonder why Luke did not mention his death? A release of Paul after the close of Acts is the more convincing alternative to his death. A release explains the difficulties involved with both letters of Timothy and Titus. Clement of Rome wrote: "Paul won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world, and having reached the furthest bound of the West (Spain)." The Muratorian fragment (AD 170) mentions the "departure of Paul from the city to Spain." Eusebius states that at the end of the two years of imprisonment, the Apostle went forth again upon the ministry of preaching, and on a second visit to the city (Rome) ended his career by martyrdom under Nero. Following his release, Paul begins his unrecorded fourth missionary journey. His travel takes him East to Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3) where he preaches the hope of the eternal life promised long ages ago (Titus 2:1). During this period he wrote two pastoral epistles, 1st Timothy and Titus. Both of these young men needed further instruction by the Apostle concerning organization and structure for the local assemblies.
Paul's Final Imprisonment
This is the last year of the conflict that rages among the Jews. Here we find Paul in prison (AD 67-69) for the second and last time. Throughout Paul's imprisonment, the activities of the young preachers still banded together with him. He would send them out to various places with messages from him and then they would return with news from the churches. For example, at the writing of 2nd Timothy, Paul replaced Titus (at Crete) with Artemas (Titus 3:12). Then Titus was sent to Dalmatia after his visit with Paul at Nicopolis, the winter before Paul's imprisonment (Titus 3:12 & 2nd Timothy 4:10). Luke remained a companion of Paul in his Roman imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:11). Finally, Timothy is told to come and be with Paul in his imprisonment (2 Tim. 1:8; 2:3). Paul wanted Timothy's fellowship badly (2 Tim. 4:9,21). Remember, Timothy was with him in his first imprisonment. He is told to bring with him, Mark, who now can be of great use. Paul's attitude in 2nd Timothy is one of quiet resolve, waiting for his final appointment of death. He speaks of the promise of life as his main message (2 Tim. 1:1,10,11) at that time.
A year later, Paul writes (AD 68) to the Ephesians. He writes two letters that his mail carrier, Tychicus would take to Colossae. They are the letters to Philemon and the Colossians (AD 69). This is the last year of the conflict that rages among the Jews. However, in Paul's final imprisonment, Timothy must have completed his journey to see Paul (Col. 1:1 & Phile. 1:1) and bring his friend Demas, whom he picked up in Thessalonica. This caused great joy for Paul (Col. 4:14). These last epistles contain further truth that was revealed by the Holy Spirit to Paul.
The Revelation of The Mystery
Only the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians contain the last revelation, the Mystery. After Paul receives this revelation, he writes three letters in view of the Mystery. They are: Ephesians, Philemon and Colossians. The divine and important revelation of "the mystery" of the Body was given only to Paul and "His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Eph. 3:3-5) and is explained in Ephesians (a circular letter to be carried to many churches) and Colossians. This truth is put into practical application in the Epistle to Philemon concerning a run away slave. This subject, "the mystery" is the cap stone of Church teaching. Now, Paul no longer expects his demise. These letters reveal a hope of release and victory. Paul was optimistic of his release by their prayers and a miracle of God (Philemon 22). The concluding statement of Paul in Colossians 1:25 is "...to complete the Word of God." This ends the New Testament record. Everything is now COMPLETE.
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