1 John Lesson Eleven

1 John Lesson Eleven: 1 John 5:6-13 – The Full Assurance of Our Relationship to God

Jesus Christ—He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water  and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood —and these three are in agreement. If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son. 10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within him. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar,  because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.) 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 

12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (HCSB)

As John nears the completion of this letter, he drives home a point that directly challenges the false teaching from the Gnostics that he was confronting; Jesus is God. 

I’ll be splitting this lesson into two parts.

  • Jesus is God – verses 6-10.
  • Believers have eternal life – verses 11-13.

Jesus is God

In the previous section of the passage, verses one to five, John placed emphasis on trusting in Jesus and overcoming the world. To believe that Jesus is the Son of God is fundamental to the Christian experience. But how do we know that Jesus is God? 

Some of those alive at the time called Jesus a liar and a deceiver – Matthew 27:63. Others said that Jesus was a religious fanatic, a madman, or perhaps a zealous Jew who was sincere but sadly mistaken. We also need to remember the false teaching the recipients of this letter were receiving from the Gnostics. The false teaching of the Gnostics had two main points.

  • The “Christ” came upon the man Jesus when He was baptized.
  • Before Jesus died on the cross, the “Christ” left Jesus, and He died like any other person.

John’s letter refutes this false teaching by presenting three infallible witnesses to prove that Jesus is God.

  • Before we look at the three witnesses, we need to remember Jewish law. In order to confirm testimony, at least two witnesses were required.
    • Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness cannot establish any wrongdoing or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
    • John 8:17 – Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid.
  • The first witness is the water.
    • The water refers to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River at the beginning of His ministry.
    • Matthew 3:13-17 – Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” 15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him to be baptized. 16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him.  17 And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!
  • The second witness is the blood.
    • Blood refers to the shedding of Jesus’ blood at His crucifixion and subsequent death.
    • As the time drew near for Jesus to die, God spoke from heaven.
      • John 12:28b – Then a voice  came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!”
      • This was a reference to both what had already occurred and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
    • There are also Scripture references to the glorification of Jesus during His crucifixion.
      • Matthew 27:45 – From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.
      • Matthew 27:50-53 – Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  51 Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. 
      • Matthew 27:54 – When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!”
  • The third witness is the Holy Spirit.
    • The Holy Spirit was sent to bear witness to Jesus. We can trust the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit that is truth.
      • John 15:26 – When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me.
      • John 16:14 – He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.
      • Romans 8:15-16 – For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 
      • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated  spiritually.
  • John is showing that all three testify to the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the incarnation of the divine, and the pathway to redemption and restoration with God.
  • If human testimony is accepted on the basis of two or more witnesses, how much more should God’s testimony be accepted?
  • John makes two points in verses nine to eleven.
    • Divine testimony should be accepted because it is greater than human testimony, which everyone accepts.
    • Willful unbelief is sin. If we trust human testimony, why shouldn’t we trust God, who is more trustworthy than people?
  • When we consider these two points, we see the following three facts, which lead to one conclusion.
    • The Father witnessed at Jesus’ baptism.
    • The Father witnessed at the cross.
    • The Holy Spirit witnesses today within each believer.
    • Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Those who reject these facts are calling God a liar.
  • There is no middle ground in this discussion.
    • You are either with God and part of His spiritual family, destined to spend eternity in heaven.
    • Or you are against God, excluded from His spiritual family, and destined to spend eternity in hell.

Believers Have Eternal Life

  • John makes this point clear in the final three verses of this passage.
    • Those who accept the truth of the Father’s testimony concerning Jesus have life.
    • The life John is referring to in verse eleven is eternal life in heaven.
      • Life is contained in accepting the testimony about Jesus.
        • Those who accept the testimony about Jesus have the Son.
        • Those who accept the Son have life.
      • Death occurs for those who reject the testimony about Jesus.
        • They will have a physical death.
        • They will have a spiritual death, eternity in hell.
    • John is reminding and encouraging the recipients of his letter that those who believe in the testimony about Jesus have eternal life.

Before we take a summary look at this passage, let’s remember the situation that John was addressing. False teachers had permeated the early church, teaching heresy and leading some astray. Let’s consider the modern-day church. Few would argue that false teachers promoting heresy have permeated the church, leading believers astray.

Now, let’s consider three points essential to John’s writings.

  • The “blood” must remain central to all we are and preach. The “blood” refers to the cross.
    • In 1 Corinthians 1-4, Paul talks about the “foolishness” of the cross. Paul isn’t saying the cross is foolish. He is saying it is foolishness to those who reject the truth. 
    • As believers, we can never demote the significance of the cross.
    • 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 – But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
      • Christ is the power of God.
      • Christ is the wisdom of God.
    • Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the gateway to redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life.
  • The Holy Spirit is the preserver of truth.
    • However, John isn’t clear on how this is done on a practical level.
    • It could be spiritual discernment.
    • However, since John references water and blood, it makes the most sense he is referring to “what was at the beginning.” This understanding would point not to personal creativity and innovation but to the foundations on which the church was built.
      • The confessions and traditions of the original church.
      • The recitation of creeds.
      • An alarming trend has been noted by theologians.
        • The foundations for all of what we believe are no longer recognized by many “believers.” One of the more common is the teaching that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are fictional.
        • The validity of belief for many now appears to be functional.
      • One enlightening example is from a commentary author talking about his last year of seminary. The students were required to read one sermon per day for ten weeks. An observation from that exercise is that older sermons, those from pre-1950, contained a higher level of theological sophistication, which is lacking in many modern sermons. I’m sure many, if not all, who are reading this, can remember examples where the sermon they heard was light on sin, hell, love, and sacrifice. At the same time, those sermons may have been heavy on how to feel better about yourself or that God was still “love” even when we are engaged in willful sin.
    • Theology is losing ground to false teaching because churches have stopped pursuing and teaching truth.
  • Any claim to being a genuine follower of Christ is illegitimate if it denies what God has said about Jesus.
    • Jesus is both fully human and fully divine during the entirety of His life.
    • Any theology that rejects incarnation Christology must be dismissed as false theology.
    • Anyone who teaches false theology, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is part of Satan’s attempt to undermine and destroy the church.


  • Do you understand and believe in the absolute and unconditional truth that Jesus is who God the Father says He is? If not, examine why in light of what John wrote in this passage. Water, blood, and the Holy Spirit all testify about who Jesus is. 
  • If you hear or read about false teaching, confront it. Remember to always correct in a spirit of gentleness while not tolerating compromise.
  • Are you confident in your eternal destination? John is clear that if we believe the truth about Jesus and place our faith in Him, we have eternal life. If you have doubts in this area, determine why you doubt and pray for reassurance.

1 John Lesson Nine

1 John Lesson Nine: 1 John 4:13-21 – Combining a Right Belief and a Right Attitude

This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother. (HCSB)

In this section, John continues with his theme of love. In this passage, John outlines the duality of our love for God, as well as our love for fellow believers. To make it easier, I’ll break this passage into three sections.

  • Our assurance of Jesus as God’s Son – verses 13-16.
  • Our confidence for eternity – verses 17-19.
  • Love reveals the heart – verses 20-21.

Our Assurance of Jesus as God’s Son

In John’s time, there were many who physically saw Jesus. That is not the case for present-day believers. So what do we base our belief in that Jesus is who we claim Him to be? Let’s dig deeper into that argument.

  • The Apostles and the larger group who followed Jesus all saw Him in the flesh.
  • But it wasn’t just His followers who saw Him.
    • The Jewish religious leaders saw Him but, out of jealousy, plotted and succeeded in killing Jesus.
    • There were those not associated with the religious establishment who saw Jesus but chose to reject His message. One example is the rich young ruler.
    • There were those who cried out for His crucifixion and who saw Jesus.
    • The Roman leaders and soldiers in Judea saw Jesus and were complicit in His crucifixion.
  • It’s much easier to place our faith in something we can see or touch. Those alive in the first century benefitted from being eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry. How do we support our belief in Jesus?
    • Predominately through faith. But what supports our faith?
      • Belief in the testimony of eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus, saw His death, and witnessed His resurrected body.
      • Scripture testifies to the truth of Jesus and His works.
      • We’ve experienced the impact of Jesus on our lives when we submit to His Lordship.
      • We’ve seen the change in those around us as they submit to Jesus. In some cases, we may have witnessed an extraordinary change in the behavior of others.
      • Maybe we’ve witnessed miraculous healing that doctors can’t explain. 
    • One of the definitions of “faith” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” As Christians, we need to be careful and not ascribe to that definition for our belief in Jesus. There is ample “proof” of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His earthly ministry. 
  • The main basis of our faith is the Holy Spirit.
    • The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the truth of the Gospel to the lost.
    • As believers, one of our roles is to evangelize the lost. However, we can’t “convert” a person. We can only speak of the truth of the Gospel. It’s the role of the Holy Spirit to “open the eyes and ears” of the lost.
    • The indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives us assurance we are part of God’s family.
    • Paul speaks of the assurance given by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:16 – The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.
  • Building from previous lessons in 1 John, we remember that love and truth are mutually inclusive.
    • There is a relationship between God and the person testifying that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
    • Those who hold fast to this belief will do all they can to build this relationship to the fullest extent possible.
    • Those who have a heretical position on the identity of Jesus don’t have a relationship with God. Therefore, they have no relationship to build.
  • To remain or abide in God is a present tense verb.
    • It infers a vital, intimate, continuous, and growing relationship.
    • The believer understands they have an invisible power, through the Holy Spirit, to fulfill their kingdom work on earth.
    • The believer understands that physical life is a temporary one. Their real home is in heaven.
  • This section of the passage ends with a theme presented earlier; God is love, and those who live a life of love, live in God and God in them.
    • In John’s writings, this is the true test of Christianity.
    • The basic character of God is love.
    • We should experience love in our relationship with God.
    • Others should experience this type of love in their relationship with us.
    • It’s the reason God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, to have our love relationship restored with Him.
    • When we don’t live a life of love towards God and others, we need to reexamine our relationship with God.

Our Confidence for Eternity

John returns to the subject of the judgment seat of Christ, which he previously mentioned in 1 John 2:28. 

  • The judgment seat can bring either hope and peace or fear and anxiety.
    • When God’s love is perfected in us, we can live in confidence; we don’t need to worry about our future judgment.
      • Our lives should be filled with peace and hope.
      • We extend God’s love to others as we shine the light of Christ.
      • When a believer lives as an example of Jesus, there is no fear as they approach the judgment seat of Christ.
    • However, when we don’t live in a spirit of love, thinking about future judgment may unsettle us.
      • Our lives will be filled with fear and anxiety about the future.
      • Instead of shining the light of Christ, we will carry an air of gloom.
      • Believers who live without extending the love of Christ to others will approach the judgment seat of Christ with fear as they expect the loss of eternal rewards.
      • A believer who fears the judgment seat of Christ demonstrates that God’s love has not reached maturity in their lives.
  • The reason we love others is because God loves us first.
    • God commands us to love others.
      • 1 John 3:11.
      • John 13:34-35.
      • John 15:17.
      • Colossians 1:4.
    • Christian doesn’t mean we’ll always agree with what others do or their viewpoints.
      • It does mean we still extend that love because He first loved us.
      • Read James 4 to understand what happens when selfishness overshadows love.
  • The perfecting of God’s love in our lives happens in stages. It’s not a sudden change.
    • Before a person comes to saving knowledge of Jesus, they lived in fear and knew nothing of God’s love.
    • After submitting to Jesus, a person discovers a combination of fear and love in their heart.
    • As a believer grows in fellowship with the Father, the fear gradually decreases, and their heart becomes more controlled by His love.
    • An immature Christian bounces between fear and love.
    • A mature Christian rests in God’s love.
    • As a believer’s confidence in the presence of God grows, it’s an indicator that their love for God is maturing.
  • In verse nineteen, John makes a comparison between our love for God and God’s love for us. Let’s consider three reasons why this is significant.
    • Our love for God and others originates in God’s love for us.
    • Love is tainted by fear when there is a doubt it will be returned. A believer has no fear in this area since God’s love occurs before ours.
    • Affection flows from a heart filled with gratitude for God loving us first. The Father sent the Son to die for each of us.
  • God’s love is perfected in us when we extend unbridled love in three directions.
    • A believer’s love toward God.
    • A believer’s love toward others.
    • A believer’s love toward themselves.

Love Reveals the Heart

In the last two verses in this passage, John points out that our words and actions need to match. It also drives home the point that the theology of the false prophets and antichrists is refuted. 

  • If we remember back toward the beginning of this letter, one of the doctrines of the false teachers is that it was ok to sin as our spiritual being was not affected by what our physical body was doing.
    • Their theology was in disagreement with the idea that love for God requires obedience to God.
    • In disagreeing with Scripture, it proved their theology was a lie.
  • John also points out that it’s difficult to prove our love toward God as He is a spirit being, and we can’t “see” how others act towards God.
  • However, we can see how people act toward each other.
    • When we love others, it’s a reflection of our love for God.
    • Scripture gives us the command, “The one who loves God must also love his brother.”
    • Jesus also made this point in Matthew 25:40, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
  • An example of spiritual hypocrisy is found in Acts 5, the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira.
    • They sold some of their property and brought a portion of it as an offering.
    • However, to the church, they made it seem as if they were bringing the entire proceeds of the sale.
    • The sin wasn’t keeping back a portion for themselves. Peter was clear in the passage that they could have kept part of the proceeds for themselves.
    • The sin was in lying about it. They were trying to make themselves appear more generous and spiritual than they were.
  • Pretending is an act for children, but it isn’t a characteristic of a mature adult.
  • Adults must know and be themselves, fulfilling the purpose for which Christ saved them. Their lives must be characterized by honesty.
    • Spiritual honesty brings peace and power to a person.
    • They don’t need to keep track of their lies or spend energy covering up those lies.
  • Paul drives home the point about love in Galatians 5:14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.


  • Do you practice love or legalism? While rules and standards are important, they can also create problems. The biggest issue Jesus had with the religious leaders in Israel was legalism. The question we need to consider is whether rules can inspire a life of devotion, service, and worship. Additionally, does a framework of legalism cultivate a lifestyle of reflex activity instead of a lifestyle of love and devotion? There’s a quote from C. S. Lewis where he says, “Love is that which forgives the most and condones the least.” The challenge for us is to love others while keeping to the standards outlined in Scripture.
  • Can we extend a love that is too generous? This idea is a branch of the first point. A love without expectations and consequences is a love that can be exploited. Sometimes it is a fine line we walk between extending love and holding people accountable. It’s always possible that we can go too far in extending love. When we consider this idea in dealing with fellow believers, we need to be careful and look to the example of Paul in Galatians. Paul is quick to point out the hypocrisy of disciples who fail to mature, yet he never threatens them with the idea that God will abandon them.
  • Do we have a proper awe of God? When we think about God’s love for us, it’s not difficult to go too far and think of God as too personal or approachable. God is not our “friend.” God is our all-knowing and all-loving Father, but He’s also infinitely holy and righteous. As our infinitely holy and righteous Father, He also is against sin. Sin can’t exist in the presence of an infinitely holy God. We need to understand who God is and live in reverent fear of Him.
  • Do we claim our Christian victory and life in a spirit of confidence? For many churches, especially in Western society, the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” We often hear or read about the Father and the Son, but the Holy Spirit only makes an occasional appearance from the pulpit. Jesus told His original followers they would receive power in Luke 24:29, “And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” We can’t live in victory and accomplish the work set before us if we aren’t empowered and led by the Holy Spirit.

1 John Lesson Seven

1 John Lesson Six: 1 John 4:1-6 – Another Demand For Right Belief

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. 

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. (HCSB)

John’s focus in this passage is all about spirits, both good and bad. John instructs the recipients of the letter to test whether the “spirit” is from God or if they are a false spirit. Let’s dig into this issue in greater detail.

  • When John mentions “spirit,” what is he talking about? There are three main interpretations of “spirit” in this passage.
    • Since John says, “many false prophets have gone into the world,” he is referring to the “spirit” behind the prophet who is speaking. In this case, the “spirit” is either the Holy Spirit or a demon, depending on whether or not the prophet was actually speaking on behalf of God.
    • John is referring to the prophet himself, with “spirit” being a figure of speech or a metaphor.
    • John is referring to the message, with “spirit” being a figure of speech or metaphor.
  • All three interpretations are possible.
    • Each option instructs the reader not automatically believe every message or sermon we hear.
    • We need to listen to the content of the message.
      • How does the message talk about Jesus?
      • Is there false teaching in the message?
    • The original hearers of John’s message were fighting against false teachers who rejected that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. 
  • However, the first two options make the most sense.
    • Verse two helps us to discard the third choice.
    • The phrase “every spirit who confesses” seems to be a phrase that refers to a person.
  • We need to be careful even with those who confess the fully human and divine nature of Jesus.
    • Does all of their message agree with Scripture?
    • There are many “attractive” heretical teachings present in the world today. But the “attractiveness” of the message will actually lead the person away from God.
      • The prosperity Gospel sounds good, especially for those who are struggling financially.
        • Jesus never said that His followers would become rich. In contrast, Jesus always spoke against selfish wealth.
        • It’s true that some followers of Jesus will experience financial gain. However, Scripture is clear that we are to share and help others. Those who are wealthy should sacrifice it for the benefit of others.
        • Often, those who preach the prosperity Gospel prey on the generosity of those who are less fortunate. It’s fairly common that the leaders of these movements wear fancy clothes, live in large houses, drive expensive cars, and sometimes have private planes. Their “prosperity” was the result of people donating money to them in response to their false message.
      • False teaching about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
        • Beginning in Genesis, Scripture teaches us there are two sexes, male and female, and that a man and a woman are joined in marriage.
        • These false teachers often use Galatians 3:28 to support their position. However, the reference to there being neither “male or female” needs to be understood in the context of the passage. Paul is talking about every believer being equal in the body of Christ. The issue is equal standing, not sexual orientation.
        • 1 Corinthians 6:9 – Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality.
        • Leviticus 18:22 – You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable
        • It’s clear from Scripture that homosexuality is wrong and marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.
      • These are probably two of the most prevalent false teachings the church and Christians face today.
      • However, there is one more area that has also led to a decline in the correct understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ; the lack of biblical-based discipleship training and expectations.
        • Many churches don’t teach discipleship. They are only concerned with a person making a profession of faith in Jesus. While that may be a noble position, not being involved in the spiritual growth of believers is a serious omission by the church.
        • What has happened is that a generation of shallow or marginally committed Christians has developed. Because their faith is shallow, they often leave the faith when trouble first appears. They also don’t make good teachers because they don’t have a proper theological foundation to disciple others. What we are seeing is a repeat of the downward spiral that occurred in the book of Judges. 
        • The church, made up of individual believers, is called to make disciples. When the church, and those who make up the church, fail to make disciples, we are being disobedient to the Great Commission.
  • In the last three verses of this passage, 4:4-6, John switches gears and reminds the readers that those who are genuine followers of Christ and who stay rooted in Him will be able to discern the false teachers and resist their heretical message.
    • First, John addresses them with the affectionate term “little children.” The use of this term indicates a close relationship between John and the recipients.
    • John reminds them they are victors. They are victors not because they are more intelligent or skilled but because the Holy Spirit lives in them.
    • The one who lives in the believer is greater than the one in the world.
      • The Holy Spirit, one part of the triune God, lives in each believer. Romans 8:9 –  You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him
      • The one of the world is Satan.
        • 1 John 5:19b – And the whole world is under the sway of the evil one
        • John 12:31b – Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
    • John then contrasts the difference between those who are of God and those who are of the world.
      • Characteristics of those who are from God.
        • Genuine believers will listen, understand, and follow the messages of faithful and theologically sound teachers.
        • The Holy Spirit guides genuine believers in discerning the source and truthfulness of the message.
        • There are three main factors that guide believers in determining whether a message is true or false; prayer, meditation, and spiritual sensitivity.
      • Characteristics of those who are of the world, both false teachers and followers.
        • Those who teach speak messages that are based upon the values of the world and not the values of God.
        • They reject the messages that come from God as they don’t have the Holy Spirit to lead them.
        • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.
  • Let’s conclude our study of this passage with a discussion of these six verses that are a challenge to the modern church and the threat that tolerance brings to the holiness and purity of church teaching.
    • Society (the world and its influence) today puts an emphasis on religious tolerance and pluralism.
      • One example is the heretical teaching on homosexuality and same-sex marriage presented earlier in this lesson.
      • Another is the idea that God is love and He would never condemn or exclude anyone. While it is true that God is love, God is also infinitely holy, and His commands in Scripture are clear. Those who teach and follow this line of thinking ignore the passages that speak of judgment to those who live in disobedience to God.
    • The modern church is called on to “test the spirits” in the same way the early church was instructed.
      • Testing the spirits requires leaders who are sensitive and obedient to what is written in Scripture.
      • It also requires leaders to demonstrate faith and trust that when they follow Scripture and go against the “world,” God will walk with them and protect them.
    • John stresses for each believer to grow in their Christian maturity, which will enable them to spot and challenge false teaching in the church.
    • The church is called to be a custodian of the truth.
      • Church bodies, organizations, and denominations must evaluate what is being taught and those who are teaching to ensure they align with Scripture.
    • The church must emphasize the dual nature of Christ, both His humanity and divinity. 
    • The church is called on to identify and warn people of false teachers.
      • False teachers should never be given the ability to speak to believers.
      • Congregants should be protected from hearing false messages and, if they do occur, be told about them.


  • Always listen to sermons or Bible studies (including mine) with discernment. Sometimes honest mistakes are made, especially during a “live” sermon where it’s easy to misspeak. However, there are false teachers who will try and lead believers away from the truth and prevent the lost from hearing the truth. If you find teachings that disagree with Scripture or you don’t fully understand, ask the person who gave the message. Their response may be an indicator of whether or not they’re deliberately trying to lead people astray or it was an honest mistake.
  • Live in victory. John tells us we are conquerors. Are you living as a conqueror? Proclaim the truth of the Gospel whenever and wherever opportunities exist. Don’t live in fear of what others will say. Jesus gave us the Great Commission; live it out.
  • When we present the Gospel to the lost, don’t be surprised if they reject it or respond in a hostile way. It happened to Jesus, and it will happen to us. The important point to remember is being obedient to the task. We never save anyone. Some sow, some water, but God gives the increase.

1 John Lesson Six

1 John Lesson Six: 1 John 3:11-24 – Another Demand for Right Attitude

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? 

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.  19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things. 

21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. 23 Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. (HCSB)

This passage deals with relationships. John talks about four levels of relationships, which is how I’ll be splitting up this lesson.

  • Murder – verses 11-12.
  • Hatred – verses 13-15.
  • Indifference – verses 16-17.
  • Christian love – verses 18-24.


Murder is the lowest level of any relationship. It’s the level on which Satan exists. John 8:44a, “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer  from the beginning and has not stood in the truth.” John goes on in this letter to talk about Cain. Let’s consider some facts about the passage in Genesis 4:1-16.

  • Cain and Abel were brothers.
  • They had the same parents.
  • They both brought sacrifices to God.
  • Cain is not depicted as an atheist but as a worshiper of Yahweh. 
  • This is the point of the passage.
    • Children of Satan often appear as true believers.
    • They attend church.
    • They may bring offerings.
    • None of these actions are proof of being born of God.
    • The real test is loving each other.
  • Each person has both a physical and spiritual lineage.
    • Our physical lineage comes from our parents.
    • Our spiritual lineage is linked to whether we follow darkness or light.
  • Cain murdered his brother and then lied about it.
  • The reason Cain’s sacrifice was rejected is that, in some way, Cain didn’t follow the proper instructions for worship. He rejected God and wanted to do it “his way.”
  • Cain’s envy of his brother turned to anger and hatred, and eventually murder.
  • Thousands of years later, the Pharisees did the same thing to Jesus, and Jesus called them children of the devil.


While we may have never actually murdered someone, John makes it clear in verse fifteen that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” The only difference between murder and hatred is the outward act of taking someone’s life. The inward intent is the same. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.

  • Maybe we haven’t killed anyone because of the consequences.
    • The fear of arrest and shame.
    • The possibility of spending a long time in jail.
    • The possibility of the death penalty.
  • The issue isn’t “what did you do?” but “what did you want to do?”
    • If you had the liberty to do what you wanted without the fear of consequences, what would you have done?
    • Jesus equates hatred with murder (Matthew 5:21-26) and lust with adultery (Matthew 5:27-30).
  • This doesn’t mean that hatred or lust does the same amount of damage to others as murder and adultery. It won’t carry the same level of guilt. But in God’s eyes, it’s just as bad.
  • There are three options for the interpretation of what John is saying in verse fifteen.
    • The face-value view: If you hate another person to the point of being willing or actually killing them, you are not a Christian.
    • The abiding view: The Christian, as long as they are living in a conscious relationship with Jesus, would never kill anyone. If they do, it’s because they are not abiding in Christ.
    • The continuing-to-hate view: A Christian may hate or murder someone, but if this happened, they would be filled with remorse. If they harbor continual hate or have no remorse for their feelings or actions, they are not a Christian.
  • The passage isn’t saying murderers can’t be saved. Paul was involved in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-60) and admitted he had voted to put innocent people to death (Acts 26:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-15). But he was saved by God’s grace.
  • The point isn’t whether or not a murderer can become a Christian. The point is whether someone can continue being a murderer and still be a Christian. Verse fifteen emphatically states the answer to that question is “no.”
  • The continuing-to-hate view is the proper understanding of verse fifteen.


The test of Christian love isn’t simply avoiding doing evil to others. Love involves doing good to others. In a way, Christian love is both positive and negative. Christian love involves stopping activities of evil and doing what is good (Isaiah 1:16-17).

  • Cain is an example of false love.
  • Jesus is the example of true love.
    • Jesus laid down His life for others (John 3:16).
      • Jesus didn’t just talk about sacrifice.
      • He willingly died to remove our sins.
    • We are to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).
      • John isn’t telling us to sacrifice our lives for our brothers and sisters.
      • He is telling us to sacrifice to help those in need.
  • Self-preservation is the first law of physical life, but self-sacrifice is the first law of spiritual life.
  • We can talk about loving other believers, but when we fail to help them in times of need, our actions don’t mirror our words.
  • Christian love is personal and active.
  • As believers, we don’t have to be intentional to hate others. We can do it by ignoring them or having an indifferent heart.
  • To meet the needs of others, three conditions must be met.
    • Have the ability to meet the needs.
    • Know the need exists.
    • Be loving enough to want to meet the need.
  • A believer who doesn’t have the means to help or is unaware of the need is not guilty. But the believer who hardens their heart and chooses not to meet the need is guilty.
  • Meeting the needs of others can be satisfied in various ways.
    • Through monetary gifts.
    • Through material gifts.
    • Through serving gifts.
    • Through time gifts.
  • If we desire to experience and enjoy the love of God, we must love others, even if it requires a sacrifice on our part.
  • When we are indifferent to the needs of others, we rob ourselves of what we need, the love of God in our hearts.

Christian Love

John now goes on to discuss the difference between false and true Christian love. 

  • False love.
    • To love “with word” means to only talk about the need but not take any action to meet the need.
    • A believer may pray about the need but take no action to meet the need, even though they are capable of meeting the need.
  • True love.
    • Not just knowing or talking about a need but taking action to meet the need.
    • It often requires a sacrifice of some sort by the person meeting the need.
    • The greatest love sacrifice was Jesus going to the cross for each of us.
  • The actual test of our Christian love is when we are called on to make a sacrifice for a brother or sister and we willingly take that action.
  • A believer’s relationship with others affects their relationship with God.
    • When our relationship with others is not right, we need to fix that (Matthew 5:23-24).
    • A condemning heart or accusing conscience will rob us of peace.
    • When a believer practices “active love,” they grow in their understanding of God, and their heart is filled with peace.
    • A believer also needs to be careful not to allow the devil to accuse them and rob them of their confidence falsely.
      • Once a sin is recognized and confessed, it is forgiven.
      • They shouldn’t continue to beat themselves up over the sin.
      • Although we shouldn’t treat sin lightly, often, we are harder on ourselves than God is on us.
  • When we love others, and our relationship with them and God is right, it gives us confidence in coming to God with our prayers.
  • This confidence isn’t “earning answered prayers,” but an understanding that when we are living in a right relationship with God, our prayers will align with His will.
    • If believers aren’t obeying God’s Word, their prayer life will be hindered (Psalm 66:18).
    • One of the great secrets of answered prayer is obedience.
    • The secret of obedience is love.
      • John 14:15.
      • John 15:7, 10.
    • We must also remember that the reason why we are obedient is important.
      • Obedience shouldn’t be out of fear or servitude. This was the sin of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:24-32).
      • Obedience should flow from a spirit of love toward God. When we live to please God, we will find that God will find ways to please us (Psalm 37:4).
  • The last two verses of this passage sum up the obligations of a Christian.
    • Faith toward God and love toward man.
    • Christianity is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
      • It’s easy to focus on faith and neglect loving others.
      • At the same time, some may ignore sound doctrine and focus only on love.
      • Both faith/doctrine and love are vital.
    • Abiding in Christ is a key factor in a believer having confidence in God and enjoying answered prayers.
      • John 15:1-14.
      • Jesus is talking about bearing fruit, not salvation.
      • As long as the branch draws its strength from the vine, it will produce fruit. But if it is separated, it will wither and die.
    • When a believer walks in love, it is easy to obey God and maintain a close relationship with Him.
  • The Holy Spirit is also key.
    • The Holy Spirit empowers us.
    • The Holy Spirit guides and directs us.
    • The Holy Spirit reveals the truth.
    • The Holy Spirit will convict us when we stray.


  • Examine how you treat others. Do you exhibit murder, hatred, or indifference to them, especially when there is a need you can meet? Or do you exhibit Christian love? Although none of us will be perfect in this area, an evaluation of how often we fall into each category will reveal the condition of our heart.
  • Do your actions match your words/thoughts/prayers? Scripture is clear that only thinking or praying about a situation is not enough if you have the ability to act and help in a situation. We are called to act when someone has a need. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal these inconsistencies in your life. 
  • When we realize we have fallen short in meeting the needs of someone. Repent, confess, meet the need if it still exists, and take comfort in the fact that when we fall short, God knows our heart. Those who are followers of Christ are not condemned. Don’t let your past shortcomings weigh you down and keep you from moving forward. When that happens, we fall prey to the traps of the devil.

1 John Lesson Four

1 John Lesson Four: 1 John 2:18-27 – The Importance of Right Belief

18 Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us. 

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. 21 I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah? This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son can have the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well. 

24 What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.  25 And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 

27 The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him. (HCSB)

I will split this lesson into two parts.

  • The Antichrist and false believers – verses 18-23.
  • Remaining steadfast and obedient – verses 24-27.

The Antichrist and False Believers

John’s letter was written to believers who were facing many of the same challenges we face today, false teachers (antichrists) who lead people away from the true Gospel and Scripture. These individuals, both then and now, tear apart the unity which should be present in the church. The antichrists follow and teach heretical Christology and lead believers astray and in opposition to Christ. Let’s look at the challenges facing the readers of John’s letter.

  • The antichrists were secessionists. Instead of maintaining unity, they left the church.
  • They taught a docetic Christology; Jesus’ human body was an illusion. They only believed in the divinity of Jesus and not the human element.
  • There were some who only believed in the human side, not believing that Jesus was also God.
  • Either interpretation is possible depending on how one understands verse twenty-two.

Today there are several false teachings that have risen in the church.

  • The idea of more than two genders.
  • The acceptance of same-sex marriage. 
  • The prosperity Gospel. 
  • Avoiding teaching the holiness of God and the dangers of sin.

There are more, but these are probably the main ones you may face in today’s church. However, John makes it clear these antichrists shouldn’t discourage us or make us surprised. Scripture is clear that in the “last days,” the period after Christ’s resurrection and before His return, there will be false teachers, and people will search after the “truth” that is attractive to them. 

Verse nineteen contains a two-pronged warning.

  • The shallow teaching and lack of discipleship prevalent in the modern church have created believers who will abandon the faith at the first sign of challenges or persecution.
    • Scripture is clear that following Jesus comes at a cost.
      • Believers aren’t guaranteed an easy life.
      • Sacrifice is often required of believers.
      • Believes may be sent to a location they wouldn’t choose.
      • Hardship, at some point, is to be expected.
    • Many modern churches don’t disciple believers, both new and mature.
      • When we look at how Jesus interacted with those around Him, we see a system where He taught, and then they applied the teaching. 
      • Discipleship isn’t a six or twelve-week course; it is a lifestyle that results in transformation.
      • Biblical teaching is often offensive and runs counter to the world. Yet, that is precisely how believers should live.
  • There are antichrists, wolves, in both leadership roles as well as in the general congregation.
    • Those in leadership roles are more dangerous.
      • They use their position to promote false teaching.
      • They will accuse those who disagree with them of being intolerant or not expressing “love.”
      • At times they can bring an entire church down or lead a large group away from the faith.
    • The congregational wolves may not create as much widespread damage, but they shouldn’t be underestimated. They can be just like cancer, slowly spreading their damage through the church.

What do we have to protect ourselves from these dangers? John talks about anointing and knowledge.

  • The anointing clearly points to the Holy Spirit.
    • Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of His ministry.
    • Scripture teaches that Jesus will send the “Spirit of truth” in John 14:17.
    • The Holy Spirit will teach believers all things – John 14:26.
  • The knowledge points to the Bible.
    • We are taught about God.
    • We are taught how to be obedient and what is expected.
    • We are warned about false teachers.
    • The Bible is the sole source of truth and instruction in a fallen world.

When John is talking about the truth, he is talking about Scripture. If we are followers of Christ, we should be immersing ourselves in reading the Bible. If we do that, we are constantly feeding on the truth. When believers don’t constantly immerse themselves in Scripture, they are in danger of falling for lies and falling away from God.

John now switches from believers who know and follow the truth to those who deny the truth contained in Scripture.

  • The main lie John addresses here is the false teaching that Jesus is not the Messiah.
    • Those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah are on the side of the antichrist.
    • John uses the word “liar” as a connotation for the devil.
    • In Johannine theology, the height of heresy is the denial of Jesus as the Messiah.
  • The designation of antichrist has a two-fold meaning.
    • In one sense, it is the specific apocalyptic figure who will arise at the end of time.
    • It also is a designation for anyone who opposes Jesus by rejecting His true identity.
  • In both cases, the end result is both the Father and the Son.
    • While the false teachers may not have denied the Father, their actions created a different consequence for them.
    • By denying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Father is implicitly denied.
    • Therefore, by denying that Jesus is the Messiah, they demonstrate they never truly knew the Father.
    • Acceptance of denial of Jesus is equivalent to acceptance of denial of the Father – John 10:30 The Father and I are one.
  • A person who denies the Son has no child-parent relationship with God. A believer enters a relationship with the Father through their relationship with Jesus. Matthew 10:32-33 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.”

Remaining Steadfast and Obedient

As we begin this section, there are two important points to emphasize.

  • John hammers home the point of steadfast faithfulness with the word “remain.” He uses it three times in verse twenty-four.
    • The relationship where the believer remains firmly rooted with God through their relationship with Jesus can’t be underemphasized. It is key to the entire relationship.
    • John highlights the order, first through the Son and then through the Father. As mentioned previously, without a relationship with the Son, there is no relationship with the Father.
    • When the relationship is done according to Scripture, the believer gets a relationship with the Son and the Father.
  • The second point to discuss is the meaning of “what you have heard from the beginning.”
    • There are three possible interpretations of this phrase. Let’s look at each one in increasing relevance.
      • It could refer to Jesus’ preexistence with the Father.
      • It could refer to the possibility of the readers hearing Jesus’ message in person during His time of ministry.
      • It is most likely referring to the original apostolic message prior to and at their time of conversion.
    • This would contrast with the false message the heretics were speaking and which John was warning them about. 

Verse twenty-five begins with “and,” indicating a blessing we receive when we remain in what we’ve heard from the beginning. Let’s look at a couple of things from this verse.

  • The Greek form of the verb is present tense, indicating the promise is available now for those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.
  • Who does “the promise that He…made” refer to?
    • The structure of the grammar allows it to refer to both the Father and the Son.
    • However, from a functional standpoint, the promise of eternal life comes from the Father through the Son.
    • Through this section, John stresses the relationship with both the Father and the Son. Therefore, it makes the best sense to interpret that John is referring to both with the term “He.”
  • The promise is eternal life. The promise should be understood in a two-pronged meaning.
    • It refers to the future promise of eternal life with the Father and Son.
    • It also refers to the present experience of a relationship with the Father and the Son.
    • In both John’s Gospel and this letter, eternal life refers to both the present and the future.
      • The forgiveness of sins has moved the believer from darkness to light in the present age.
      • The defeat of sin and death through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus secures the believer a future dwelling place in the kingdom of God.

As John moves into verse twenty-six, he returns to the warning about the false teachers, the antichrists.

  • The false teachers believed and were teaching a false doctrine.
  • Their goal was to drag others away from the faith.
  • Not only was this a danger in John’s time, but it also a danger we face today with false teachers. Believers need to be on guard against false teaching, challenge it, and warn others when they identify it.

As John moves into the final verse of this passage, he tells the readers to remain rooted in the teaching and illumination of the Holy Spirit.

  • John is referring to a linking of the Spirit and the Word in this verse.
    • The Word is the source of absolute truth, and the Spirit enables us to understand this truth and gives us the strength to put it into practice.
    • When the two are combined, it gives the believer the ability to discern and avoid false teachers and teaching.
  • The reader might misunderstand and think John is telling them they don’t need human teachers.
    • John does not deny the importance of sound human teaching.
    • The fact John wrote this epistle to the readers is proof that John values human teaching.
  • John ends this passage with the phrase, “remain in Him.” This reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 15:4, “remain in Me.” To remain in Jesus is only possible when the believer has a close personal relationship with the Father through the Son.


  • Believers need to cling to the truth that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, died, was buried, and on the third day, He rose and sits at the right hand of the Father.
  • Let the Spirit lead your life. The Spirit should both illuminate you to the truth in Scripture as well as those who spew false teaching. 
  • When we identify false teaching, we need to confront it and warn others about it. It’s not enough to do only one. Suppose we saw a criminal but didn’t warn others; that wouldn’t be right. The same idea applies to false teachers. It’s not enough to identify them. We also need to warn others, so they aren’t harmed by them.

Acts Lesson Fifty-six

Acts Lesson Fifty-six: Acts 28:11-31 – Paul in Rome

11 After three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island, with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there, after making a circuit along the coast, we reached Rhegium. After one day a south wind sprang up, and the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. 

And so we came to Rome. 15 Now the believers from there had heard the news about us and had come to meet us as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16 When we entered Rome, Paul was permitted to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded him. 

17 After three days he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them: “Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 After they examined me, they wanted to release me, since I had not committed a capital offense.  19 Because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar; it was not as though I had any accusation against my nation. 20 For this reason I’ve asked to see you and speak to you. In fact, it is for the hope of Israel that I’m wearing this chain.” 

21 Then they said to him, “We haven’t received any letters about you from Judea. None of the brothers has come and reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22 But we would like to hear from you what you think. For concerning this sect, we are aware that it is spoken against everywhere.” 

23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. 

25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: “The Holy Spirit correctly spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your  ancestors 26 when He said, 

Go to these people and say: 

You will listen and listen, 

yet never understand; 

and you will look and look, 

yet never perceive. 

27 For the hearts of these people 

have grown callous, 

their ears are hard of hearing, 

and they have shut their eyes; 

otherwise they might see with their eyes 

and hear with their ears, 

understand with their heart, 

and be converted, 

and I would heal them. 

28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this saving work of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!” [29 After he said these things, the Jews departed, while engaging in a prolonged debate among themselves.] 

30 Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance. (HCSB)

I’m going to split this lesson into three parts.

  • Sailing to Rome – verses 11-16.
  • Paul’s first meeting with the Roman Jews – verses 17-22.
  • The Jew’s reaction to the Gospel – verses 23-31.

Sailing to Rome

The group spent three months in Malta before continuing their journey to Rome. Based on standard sailing times in the Mediterranean, they likely left around the beginning of February. Let’s look at some details from this section.

  • The twin brothers were tied to Greek mythology. Their names were Castor and Pollux, the sons of Zeus.
    • They were considered protectors of sailors.
    • They were a common feature of Roman ships as a plea for safety on the seas.
    • When their constellation was visible in the sky, it was considered a favorable omen for a smooth voyage.
  • Luke doesn’t specify if all 276 people continued on this ship or not. In the end, it doesn’t matter since the narrative is about Paul going to Rome.
  • The first stop on the voyage was at Syracuse, about 80 miles away.
    • Syracuse is located in the eastern section of southern Sicily.
    • There were two harbors there.
    • During the Roman period, it was the capital of the island.
    • Luke doesn’t give details for the three-day delay. It is possible the ship was doing business, or the winds were not favorable during that time.
  • The second stop was at Rhenium, 70 miles from Syracuse.
    • Rhenium is located at the southern tip of the boot of Italy, opposite Sicily and at the entrance to the straits of Messina.
    • It’s possible this leg didn’t go as planned as Luke says they “sailed around,” which may indicate the ship needed to tack against the wind.
  • The next stop was at Puteoli, about 210 miles from Rhenium through the straits of Messina. 
    • They encountered a favorable wind as the ship made very good time between the stops.
    • In Paul’s day, Puteoli was likely the main port in Italy for the grain fleet.
    • It is now known as Pozzuoli.
    • It was located about eight miles northwest of Naples and 130 miles by foot to Rome.
  • In their final stop before Rome, the party met a group of Christians who invited them to stay for seven days.
    • We shouldn’t be surprised that a Christian community was already established in Puteoli when Paul arrived.
      • The edict of Claudius, which Luke referred to in Acts 18:2, dealt with a dispute in the Jewish community in Rome.
      • The dispute appears to have involved Christ and is evidence the Gospel had reached Italy by a.d. 49.
      • Paul’s letter to the Romans is possibly the best evidence for a Christian church being established well before Paul’s arrival.
    • We might also marvel at the amount of freedom Paul enjoyed while being in custody. The freedom he enjoyed speaks to the level of trust Paul had established with his Roman guards.
  • The group now completed the journey to Rome on foot. The journey was about 130 miles and would have taken five days by foot.
    • On the Appian Way, about forty-three miles south of Rome, was the stopping place known as the Forum of Appius. It was here that Paul first encountered Christians living in Rome.
    • The group continued on, and about ten miles later, they were met by more believers at a way station known as Three Taverns.
    • It’s possible the two groups of Christians were from different house churches within the capital. Only here are Roman Christians mentioned in Acts. They would serve as a constant source of encouragement to Paul during his time in Rome.
  • Verse sixteen acts as a bridge between the travel narrative and Paul’s witness in Rome. Although Paul was given quite a bit of freedom, he was still under the supervision of a guard. Paul was a witness in chains.

Paul’s First Meeting With the Roman Jews

It’s interesting to note that as Luke begins to wind down the events in Acts, Paul’s witness is focused primarily on the Jews living in Rome. The reason for Paul’s journey to Rome was his appeal to Caesar. However, Luke doesn’t include anything regarding that meeting. Maybe the reader shouldn’t be surprised after all. A familiar pattern is repeated here; Paul’s initial preaching to the Jews, which is initially received in a favorable manner, followed by resistance, and finally, Paul turning to the Gentiles. Luke has emphasized this theme, Jewish rejection and Gentile acceptance of the Gospel, throughout Acts. Now, let’s take a closer look at Paul’s meeting with the Roman Jews.

  • Paul initiated the first conversation with the Jews.
  • Looking back at verse seventeen, it was a meeting with the Jewish leaders in Rome.
  • Rome had a large Jewish community, but it wasn’t a homogenous and seamless community. From the context of the passage, it appears there were several synagogues since “many” leaders came to him.
  • Paul then gives an abridged version of the circumstances that brought him to Rome. 
    • He hadn’t done anything against his fellow Jews or their customs.
    • He had been arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.
    • The Romans found no substance to the charges against Paul and wanted to release him.
    • However, at every step the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem objected to Paul’s release.
    • Paul had no accusation against Israel.
      • He was a loyal Jew.
      • He was not guilty of any crime against the Jews.
      • He was innocent of any ill intent toward them.
      • He only wanted their commitment to Christ.
    • As stated in previous lessons, the real point of contention between Paul and the Jews was Paul’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus, that Jesus is both Messiah and Lord.
  • The Jewish leaders in Rome told Paul they hadn’t heard anything about him, either in official correspondence or by word-of-mouth. Although this may surprise us, we must also remember that Paul had left for Rome as late fall was setting in and, as evidenced by the storm they encountered, winter wasn’t far behind. 
    • The most likely reason for the Roman Jews not to have about Paul is because of winter and the delay in correspondence.
    • The other possible, albeit less likely reason, is that the Roman Jews were making a conscious effort to dissociate themselves from Paul and escape any fallout from the result of Paul’s trial.
  • Their second response, to hear about the Christian “sect,” indicates a lack of knowledge about the movement. This may seem puzzling since there was a well-established Christian community in Rome. It’s possible this lack of knowledge was due to the edict of Claudius.
    • The edict was issued about ten years prior to Paul’s arrival in Rome.
    • It involved a dispute within the Jewish synagogue over Christ.
    • If the Jewish leaders really didn’t know much about the Christians, it would seem the edict caused the synagogues to isolate themselves from the Christians completely.
    • It’s also possible the Roman Jews were being diplomatic and were keeping as much space as possible from the situation involving Paul.
  • From the Roman Jew’s actions, we deduce they found nothing wrong with Paul and had no accusation against him.
  • The first encounter with the Roman Jews focused on Paul’s innocence.
    • Paul didn’t have a martyr’s complex.
    • He didn’t come to Rome to die.
    • From the context of the last few chapters in Acts, it’s clear Paul expected to be released.
    • After his release, he likely felt he would evangelize Rome and then move west towards Spain.

The Jew’s Reaction to the Gospel 

In contrast to verse seventeen, it appears that a significantly larger contingent of Jews visited Paul in this section. Let’s take a deeper look at the final section of Acts.

  • Luke mentions that “many” came to see Paul. In Paul’s first meeting with the Roman Jews, he only met with the leaders. Now, it would appear that others joined in the meeting with Paul.
  • Since Paul was under guard, the Jews were required to visit him in his quarters. 
  • Paul spent the entire day presenting the Gospel to them.
  • Paul’s presentation focused on two terms.
    • The kingdom of God.
      • The Jews always looked to the coming of the Messiah.
      • When the Messiah came, God’s kingdom would be restored in a renewed Israel.
    • Jesus.
      • Jesus is at the center of God’s sovereign rule.
      • God’s people are gathered around Jesus.
  • The message throughout Acts had been this had already occurred with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
  • Paul presented the same message to the Roman Jews.
    • The Law of Moses.
    • The words of the Prophets.
    • Luke doesn’t specify which texts were used, but it’s safe to conclude they would have spoken about the Messiah’s suffering and resurrection.
    • Jesus also used the Law of Moses and the Prophets to speak about himself in Luke 24:27, 44-47.
    • Peter did the same in Acts 2:17-36 and 3:12-26.
    • Paul had previously spoken the same message in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13:32-39.
  • The result was a sharp division between the Roman Jews.
    • Some were persuaded by Paul’s message.
    • Others refused to believe Paul.
    • However, the synagogue as a whole didn’t believe Paul’s message.
  • As the Jews were arguing or discussing Paul’s message, Paul put in one final shot by quoting Old Testament Scripture. Paul’s use of this passage prompted the Jews to leave en masse.
    • Paul uses a passage talking about future unbelief among the Jews and not a passage about the Messiah.
    • The term “correctly” in the original Greek means “the truth.”
    • The Holy Spirit spoke the truth through the prophet Isaiah about the unbelief in Israel.
    • Paul also begins to create “space” between himself and the unbelieving Jews.
      • In verse seventeen, he addressed them as brothers.
      • Now he addresses them with the term “your ancestors.”
      • Paul hadn’t stopped being a Jew, but his faith in Jesus separated him from the Roman Jews who refused to believe.
      • Paul wasn’t one of the hardhearted Jewish ancestors who rejected the Gospel.
  • The section from Isaiah that Paul quotes is from the Septuagint.
    • The Greek version of the prophecy focuses on the people’s stubbornness in refusing to accept the message.
    • Three types of perception are highlighted in the text.
      • Their eyes are closed to seeing the truth.
      • Their ears are closed to hearing the truth.
      • Their hearts are closed to accepting the truth.
    • An understanding of the message would have resulted in repentance and receiving God’s forgiveness and healing.
    • The Roman Jews matched the prophecy in Isaiah.
      • They heard Paul preach the Gospel, yet the hardness of their heart caused them to reject it.
      • In Paul’s message to the Jews, the Greek verb “to hear” occurs five times at key points.
      • The quote from Isaiah refers to hearing three times.
      • The point is hearing isn’t really hearing if there is no response to the message.
      • The final time Paul uses the Greek verb “to hear” is when he is talking about the Gentiles.
      • The Gentiles would hear with receptive hearts and repent.
  • As the Roman Jews left Paul, he declared the Gentiles would be the recipients of the Gospel.
    • However, we shouldn’t interpret this as meaning Paul had finally given up on the Jews.
    • Paul was always able to reach at least some Jews in his missionary journeys, including here in Rome. 
    • As Acts concludes, Luke writes that Paul welcomed all who visited him. This likely included some Jews.
    • The statement about the Gentiles responding to the message is not a declaration about Jewish exclusion from God’s Kingdom; it’s about the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s Kingdom.
  • Paul spent two years in Rome preaching the Gospel to all who visited him.
    • Although Paul was, in essence, under house arrest, he was still given the freedom to entertain visitors. 
    • Paul preached with boldness.
    • Paul preached without hindrance. This likely means the Romans allowed him to speak freely, seeing nothing dangerous or subversive in his message.
    • During this time, Paul was also busy writing epistles.
      • Ephesians.
      • Philippians.
      • Colossians.
      • Philemon.
    • Most believe Paul was released after this two-ear period, around a.d. 63.
      • Paul likely continued his evangelism in the eastern portion of the empire.
      • It’s also possible Paul fulfilled his desire to reach Spain with the Gospel.
      • In 2 Timothy 4:16-18, we read of a second trial containing a tone of resignation over Paul’s future.
      • Paul was beheaded in Rome by order of Emperor Nero around a.d. 67.
  • At the end of Acts, we see a Gospel that is without chains, victorious over every barrier of superstition and human prejudice.
  • Although Luke ends Acts rather abruptly, it wasn’t meant as a biography of Peter or Paul. Acts is a narrative about the early church’s expansion and influence on the world.
  • However, Acts is not a finished book. Chapter 29 is still being written. It is the longest chapter containing the largest amount of people involved in evangelism. Chapter 29 is being written by us, by every believer from the time of Paul until Christ’s return. The question posed to every follower of Christ is, “what will your contribution be?”


  • We need to have patience as we encounter storms and see things through to the end. Paul’s life was an endless series of storms, some more severe than others. Yet, Paul never lost sight of the commission he was given, taking the message of the Gospel wherever Christ sent him. Do our lives exhibit the same traits? Or do we put into the nearest port and call off our journey as soon as things get rough? 
  • Don’t be afraid to preach the Gospel. Fear was never an issue with Paul; it shouldn’t be with us, either. However, some people feel they aren’t qualified or are just uneasy talking about the Gospel. If your church has any classes on evangelism, join the class. If you aren’t in a small group, join one and bring up the topic of evangelism. You could even ask who is actively involved in evangelism and your desire to participate with them and learn. There are numerous good books about sharing your faith. A couple that I have read are Share Jesus Without Fear and Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence.
  • Don’t limit yourself to evangelizing only a specific group of people. Paul always had a heart for his fellow Jews, yet he only had marginal success with that group. Instead, the Holy Spirit led him to evangelize the Gentiles, and the results were amazing. There’s a lesson for us here. Don’t be dogmatic in your evangelism. You may have a preference but go where the Spirit leads you and watch an amazing harvest unfold. 

Acts Lesson Fifty-four

Acts Lesson Fifty-four: Acts 27:1-38 – Sailing for Rome

When it was decided that we were to sail to Italy, they handed over Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Imperial Regiment. So when we had boarded a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, intending to sail to ports along the coast of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.  The next day we put in at Sidon, and Julius treated Paul kindly and allowed him to go to his friends to receive their care. When we had put out to sea from there, we sailed along the northern coast of Cyprus because the winds were against us. After sailing through the open sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we reached Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. Sailing slowly for many days, we came with difficulty as far as Cnidus. Since the wind did not allow us to approach it, we sailed along the south side of Crete off Salmone. With yet more difficulty we sailed along the coast and came to a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea. 

By now much time had passed, and the voyage was already dangerous. Since the Fast was already over, Paul gave his advice 10 and told them, “Men, I can see that this voyage is headed toward damage and heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid attention to the captain and the owner of the ship rather than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided to set sail from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenix, a harbor on Crete open to the southwest and northwest, and to winter there. 

13 When a gentle south wind sprang up, they thought they had achieved their purpose. They weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 But not long afterward, a fierce wind called the “northeaster” rushed down from the island. 15 Since the ship was caught and was unable to head into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 After running under the shelter of a little island called Cauda, we were barely able to get control of the skiff. 17 After hoisting it up, they used ropes and tackle and girded the ship. Then, fearing they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the drift-anchor, and in this way they were driven along. 18 Because we were being severely battered by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo the next day. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s gear overboard with their own hands. 

20 For many days neither sun nor stars appeared, and the severe storm kept raging. Finally all hope that we would be saved was disappearing. 21 Since many were going without food, Paul stood up among them and said, “You men should have followed my advice not to sail from Crete and sustain this damage and loss. 22 Now I urge you to take courage, because there will be no loss of any of your lives, but only of the ship. 23 For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.” 

27 When the fourteenth night came, we were drifting in the Adriatic Sea, and in the middle of the night the sailors thought they were approaching land. 28 They took a sounding and found it to be 120 feet deep; when they had sailed a little farther and sounded again, they found it to be 90 feet deep. 29 Then, fearing we might run aground in some rocky place, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight to come. 

30 Some sailors tried to escape from the ship; they had let down the skiff into the sea, pretending that they were going to put out anchors from the bow. 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut the ropes holding the skiff and let it drop away. 

33 When it was about daylight, Paul urged them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting and going without food, having eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For this has to do with your survival, since none of you will lose a hair from your head.” 35 After he said these things and had taken some bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all of them, and when he broke it, he began to eat. 36 They all became encouraged and took food themselves. 37 In all there were 276 of us on the ship. 38 When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing the grain overboard into the sea. (HCSB)

I will split this lesson into two parts.

  • Smooth sailing – verses 27:1-8.
  • Stormy seas – verses 27:9-38.

Smooth Sailing

As the journey begins, we should note that Luke is in the travel party since he used the term “we” were to sail to Italy. There were sections in Acts where Luke was separate from Paul, but that is not the case as the journey begins. Let’s take a closer look at this section.

  • Two people are identified in the party besides Paul.
    • Luke may have been allowed to accompany Paul as his personal physician.
    • Aristarchus was most likely Paul’s personal attendant.
  • In addition to Paul, there were other prisoners on the ship.
    • A closer look at the original Greek shows the meaning to be “others of a different kind.”
    • These other prisoners were going to Rome to be executed and not to stand trial.
  • The prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius.
    • Being a member of the imperial regiment meant Julius was part of the auxiliary forces comprised of the local population.
    • Julius could also have been a special officer representing the emperor and not attached to a specific military unit.
  • The group boarded a ship from Adramyttium.
    • Adramyttium was the seaport of Mysia, southeast of Troas.
    • The ship was most likely a coastal vessel. These would travel along the short and stop at various ports along the journey.
    • It would have been unusual to find a ship sailing directly to Rome from Caesarea.
    • Julius probably took the first available ship with the intention of transferring to another ship later in the journey.
    • The ports along the southern coast of Asia (modern-day Turkey) would offer many chances of finding a ship bound for Rome.
  • The first stop was at Sidon, approximately seventy miles north.
    • Most likely, the ship needed to load or unload cargo there.
    • Paul was also allowed to visit Christian brothers and sisters in the city.
    • The establishment of a church in the city may be linked to early mission work mentioned in Acts 11:19.
    • Receiving “their care” was a reference to Paul receiving food and supplies for the journey since passengers were expected to provide for themselves.
  • Julius extended kindness to Paul by allowing him to visit these Christians.
    • It is apparent Paul garnered a high level of trust and esteem from the centurion.
    • It also testifies to the generous spirit of Julius.
    • Once again, Luke portrays Roman military leaders in a positive light.
  • Once the ship left Sidon, it sailed along the northern coast of Cyprus, using the island to block unfavorable winds. 
  • The ship then headed north from Cyprus to sail along the southern coast of Asia, skirting the regions of Cilicia and Pamphylia before reaching the port Myra located in Lycia.
    • Lycia was the southernmost portion of Asia.
    • Myra was the main port for ships that carried supplies throughout the Roman empire.
      • Grain from Egypt passed through the port.
      • It was the main hub for ships sailing between Alexandria and Rome.
      • Grain ships were often quite large, often in excess of one thousand tons and over one hundred feet in length.
  • From the context later in the chapter, it is evident the group now boarded a grain ship headed to Rome.
  • It was customary for grain ships to sail to the north of Crete as they made their way to Rome.
  • The distance from Myra to Cnidus is approximately 130 miles and shouldn’t have taken “many days.” 
  • However, the winds were not cooperating, and as the ship approached Cnidus, located in modern-day southwest Turkey, they needed to divert course and sail south of Crete.
  • Instead of sailing north of Crete and off the southern coast of Greece, the ship is now pushed far off course.
  • The trip was getting more arduous, and with difficulty, the ship made its way to Fair Havens.
  • It was time for the group to take stock of the situation and decide how they should proceed.

Stormy Seas

Up to this point, Luke had given precise details regarding the route of travel. Now, he provides a fairly precise clue as to the time of year. Luke lets us know the “Fast” was already over. He is referring to the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur since these events took place in either a.d. 59 or 60, which would place it towards the end of September or the beginning of October. The time the lost from Myra to Fair Havens had resulted in a delay where navigation on the Mediterranean was problematic. It was well known that navigation in this part of the Mediterranean was dangerous after September 14th and impossible after November 11th, and didn’t resume until the beginning of February. Let’s consider some points as they discuss whether to continue or not.

  • Paul may not have been a ship’s captain, but he was familiar with the Mediterranean and would likely know they were now entering a time of the year where travel would be extremely dangerous.
  • They had already encountered bad winds, which had blown them off course and delayed them.
  • The port at Fair Havens was not considered a suitable place to spend the winter.
    • It was open on a 180-degree arc and faced to the east.
    • The dangerous winter winds were generally from the east and northeast.
  • The ship’s crew knew of another port, Phoenix, a short distance to the west, where the opening of the port faced northwest and southwest, creating a better shelter from the winds.
  • Whether or not Paul’s words about the dangers of continuing the journey were prophetic, we don’t know for certain.
  • Since this was likely an imperial grain ship, the centurion would make the final decision.
  • After what was most certainly a lively debate about the pros and cons, the centurion decided to listen to the captain’s advice and continue the journey.

They left the relative safety of the harbor and began what they thought would be a short journey along the southern coast of Crete to Phoenix. However, not long after leaving Fair Havens, the winds again became their enemy. Let’s now take a closer look as the storm begins to rage.

  • As the ship left Fair Havens, a gentle southerly wind began to blow, and the sailors felt this was a positive sign they could make it safely to Phoenix.
  • The total distance from Fair Havens to Phoenix was about 35 miles in total.
    • They would travel six miles west and round Cape Matala.
    • The route would proceed north and then due west again.
  • With a favorable wind, this should have only taken a few hours.
  • The topography of Crete now likely came into play.
    • Crete has numerous mountains, some rising 7,000 feet above the sea.
    • Anyone who has ever lived around mountains knows it is not unusual to get powerful downslope winds.
  • The Greek word Luke uses to describe the “fierce” wind is typhonikos
    • In both Greek and English, the word describes a whirling, cyclonic wind formed by opposing air masses.
    • Luke called it the “northeaster,” the deadly winter storm of the Mediterranean.
  • Ships of that day were not built to withstand such storms. Instead of trying to fight against the wind, they would have shortened the sails and attempted to make progress the best they could towards Phoenix.
  • However, the ship was pushed about 25 miles southwest past an island called Cauda.
  • As the ship passed along the southern coast, they were offered a brief respite from the wind and were able to secure the ship as best they could.
    • The first step was to pull in the lifeboat. This was completed with some difficulty and likely required the assistance of some of the passengers since Luke uses the term “we.”
    • Then they used rope or cables passed under the ship to help reinforce the hull.
    • Finally, they lowered the drift anchor to slow their progress.
  • They were fearful of running aground on Syrtis.
    • Syrtis was a series of sand bars and shoals located off the North African coast.
    • They were located about 400 miles south of Cauda.
    • They were a well-known menace to shipping, and the sailors were taking no chances about the ship running aground.
  • In a storm of this magnitude, there wasn’t much a 1st-century ship could do.
    • They likely had lowered the sails.
    • Those on board were spectators as the storm drove the ship along.
  • It’s reasonable to conclude the ship was developing leaks as they began to throw the cargo overboard.
    • They may have thrown some of the grain overboard, but we know from later in this passage they didn’t throw all of it overboard.
    • Non-essential gear would also have been some of the first to go.
    • The crew was playing a balancing act; how much to discard to keep the ship afloat without throwing too much away.
  • The crew had now lightened the load to the point that the ship could stay afloat. For days those on the ship didn’t see the sun or the stars, only an ominous gloom as the storm continued to rage.
  • With no compass, the crew could only guess their location, and they were on a downward spiral of losing hope of being saved.
  • Luke may have intended a hidden meaning by the use of the phrase “being saved.”
    • He could have meant their physical salvation.
    • He could have meant their spiritual salvation.
      • For the Christians on board, they were already saved in a spiritual sense.
      • The same couldn’t be said for the pagans.
      • Luke doesn’t say whether or not Paul had preached to those on board during the storm, but it would seem, given the circumstances, that Paul didn’t miss an opportunity to share the Gospel.
  • As we read the account of this storm, we are reminded of the storm during the voyage of Jonah.
    • In the case of Jonah, the crew also threw cargo and equipment overboard.
    • They feared for their life.
    • Ultimately, the ship and crew were delivered.
    • However, there is a significant difference between the two events.
      • Jonah’s presence is the reason for the storm, and when he was thrown overboard, the storm ceased, and deliverance was ensured.
      • In the events in Acts, it’s Paul’s presence that leads to the deliverance of the ship and all those on board.
  • In the depths of their despair, Paul comes and speaks a message of encouragement.
    • Paul begins with an “I told you so” moment. It would be easy to misunderstand and think Paul was chastising them. 
    • Paul’s previous message was prophetic. He warned of the danger, was ignored, and it had come to pass.
    • In the same way, Paul’s current message, that everyone on board would be saved, was prophetic. Paul had been correct with his first message. Now, they needed to trust that he was speaking the truth once again.
    • The message was given by an angel to Paul during the night. The angel’s message contained two promises.
      • Paul would appear before Caesar. This was God’s plan, and it wouldn’t fail.
      • All those on the ship would be delivered from the storm.
      • Once again, unmerited grace will deliver people when all seems lost.
    • The situation now changes from one of despair to one of hope.
  • The deliverance does come with one caveat; the ship would have to run aground on an island. The implication is the ship would be lost in the process of its deliverance.
  • It was now the fourteenth day since the ship had been driven by the storm across the Adriatic Sea. The location needs some clarification. 
    • In modern times we understand the Adriatic Sea to refer to the body of water between Yugoslavia and eastern Italy. However, ancient writers referred to it as the Gulf of Adria.
    • In ancient times the Adriatic Sea was understood to mean the north-central Mediterranean between Greece and Italy and extending south to Crete and Malta.
  • The ship had been blown across 475 miles from Cauda to Malta.
  • On the northeastern tip of Malta, there is a feature known as Point Koura. The breakers against Point Koura can be heard for miles. It may have been the sound of these breakers that alerted the crew to approaching land.
  • The crew then began to take soundings. With the depth decreasing on two successive soundings, the crew realized the ship was rapidly approaching shore, with the inherent danger of hitting the rocks and breaking apart.
  • To avoid that possibility, the crew dropped four anchors to slow the ship and keep the bow pointed towards the coast. This was a common practice among ancient seafarers.
  • In a scene reminiscent of the shipwreck of Odysseus, the pagan sailors now prayed to their “gods” for daylight and deliverance. 
  • Their prayers would be ultimately answered, not by their “gods” but by Paul’s God.
  • However, before their final deliverance occurred, there was still some drama to unfold.
  • Some of the sailors demonstrated a lack of faith in their future deliverance and decided to take matters into their own hands.
  • Under the pretense of putting anchors out from the bow of the ship, which would help to stabilize it and was not an unusual practice, some of the sailors attempted to use the lifeboat and escape to shore.
  • Paul, knowing their intentions, informed the centurion that unless everyone stayed aboard, they wouldn’t be saved.
  • Obviously, Paul’s advice now went unquestioned as the soldiers immediately cut the ropes holding the lifeboat before anyone could get in.
  • The sun now began to rise on their day of deliverance.
  • Paul, knowing they would soon be headed to land, urges everyone to eat. Whether those on board had not eaten during the fourteen days or they had eaten very little because of the storm. Eating to regain energy was now essential.
  • Paul also tells them eating is connected with their deliverance, and none of them will suffer loss as they make their way from the ship to shore.
  • Paul then conducts what some have mistakenly interpreted as a form of the Lord’s Supper.
    • The breaking of bread and giving thanks was a traditional Jewish form of blessing a meal.
    • Paul was practicing this custom in the presence of a predominately pagan group.
    • Luke often depicted Jesus in meal scenes.
    • The implication is that Paul and other Christians are reminded of how Jesus broke bread with his disciples and continues to do so, as well as continuing to be present in the lives of believers.
    • The meal would have a meaning to the Christians on the ship that the pagans didn’t share. The Lord was always present with His people. The meal was more than sustenance; it was a sign of Jesus’ presence in their deliverance.
  • Paul’s confidence rubbed off on his shipmates as they all ate.
  • One might wonder why Luke would include the exact number aboard the ship, 276. The most plausible reason is to show this was a significant event, a host of people were saved from certain death at sea, and no one suffered any harm.
  • After everyone had eaten enough, they made final preparations to beach the ship. This involved throwing the remaining cargo overboard to lighten the ship and allow it to get closer to the shore before running aground.


  • Acting in a trustworthy and courteous manner will often lead to better treatment and acceptance from others, even if the two parties are on opposite sides of a dispute. Paul’s conduct had been above reproach, and the Roman soldiers treated him with respect and some measure of freedom. As we face struggles and persecution, we would do well to remember this. Too often, our present world would say we need to fight and be aggressive as we confront opposition. Except in confronting the Sanhedrin’s lies, Paul’s conduct had always been the pinnacle of cordiality.
  • Even if our message isn’t accepted, we should still speak the truth in whatever situation we find ourselves in. If our message has been rejected in the past, it shouldn’t prevent us from speaking the truth in the future. It’s easy to become discouraged and withdraw if we are consistently ignored or rejected. However, we need to continue to speak the truth no matter how often we are rejected.
  • If we find ourselves in the middle of a storm, do we act in a calm and faithful manner, or do we panic and look for the nearest exit? Sometimes the exit will lead us into bigger trouble. Go to God in prayer and surrender your situation to Him.
  • Give thanks even during your storms. Sometimes the storms come to test our faith. Sometimes the storms are to shape us for future service. We never know when God is using trials to mold us into what He desires. We are created to worship and serve God, not ourselves. 

Acts Lesson Fifty-three

Acts Lesson Fifty-three: Acts 25:23-26:32 – Paul Before Agrippa

23 So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the commanders and prominent men of the city. When Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in. 24 Then Festus said: “King Agrippa and all men present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community has appealed to me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he should not live any longer. 25 Now I realized that he had not done anything deserving of death, but when he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore, I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this examination is over, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner and not to indicate the charges against him.”

26 Agrippa said to Paul, “It is permitted for you to speak for yourself.” 

Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense: “I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that today I am going to make a defense before you about everything I am accused of by the Jews, especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. 

“All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem. They had previously known me for quite some time, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand on trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, the promise our 12 tribes hope to attain as they earnestly serve Him night and day. King Agrippa, I am being accused by the Jews because of this hope. Why is it considered incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? In fact, I myself supposed it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 In all the synagogues I often tried to make them blaspheme by punishing them. I even pursued them to foreign cities since I was greatly enraged at them. 

12 “I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. 13 King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  

15 “Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

“And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. 17 I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them 18 to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.’  

19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple complex and were trying to kill me. 22 To this very day, I have obtained help that comes from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing else than what the prophets and Moses said would take place — 23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.” 

24 As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, “You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!” 

25 But Paul replied, “I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. 26 For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.” 

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?” 

29 “I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains.” 

30 So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, 31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, “This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.” 

32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (HCSB)

I’ll split this lesson into three parts, with the last two being further divided.

  • Paul’s introduction to King Agrippa – 25:23-27.
  • Paul’s testimony – 26:1-23.
    • Introduction – 26:1-3.
    • Paul’s faithfulness to the Jewish hope – 26:4-8.
    • Paul’s persecution of Christ – 26:9-11.
    • Paul’s commission from Christ – 26:12-18.
    • Paul’s witness for Christ – 26:19-23.
  • The outcome – 26:24-32
    • Paul’s appeal for conversion – 26:24-29.
    • Paul headed to Rome – 26:30-32.

Paul’s Introduction to King Agrippa

Before diving into this passage, let’s take a moment to consider the first verse in this passage. One Jewish man who had been in confinement under false charges for over two years was drawing quite a bit of attention from the upper circles of society. Consider those who were gathered for this meeting.

  • King Agrippa and Bernice.
  • Festus.
  • Key military men.
  • Officers of the Roman government.
  • Likely some of the Jews.
  • Since Paul had been under house arrest for two years, it’s likely the vast majority of those present were aware of some of the details of the case.
  • Jesus had promised Paul he would witness before “Gentiles and kings” in Acts 9:15. It was now coming to pass.

Let’s look at Festus’ introduction of Paul to King Agrippa.

  • Festus was exaggerating when he said that the whole Jewish community appealed to him.
    • It made Festus appear important in the eyes of the Jews.
    • It also would make the Jews who were present feel better about the situation.
  • Festus declares that Paul is innocent of any wrongdoing, at least in regard to Roman law.
  • However, since Paul had appealed to Caesar, Festus was now obligated to send him.
  • Festus is implying that he is absolved of any consequences regarding Paul.
  • Paul is now responsible for the whole situation because he appealed to Caesar.
  • Festus now gives the agenda for the meeting. He needed something to put in the report that would go to the emperor regarding Paul.
  • But Festus had no specific charges against Paul. 
  • Festus needed Agrippa’s background and knowledge of Jewish religious matters to assist him in crafting a message to the emperor. It would make no sense to send Paul to Rome without any specific charge. 
    • These reports were not optional.
    • It could be fatal to Festus’ career if he failed to support his decision to send Paul to the emperor.
    • There’s a bit of irony in Festus’ statement in verse 27. The whole situation was unreasonable, and Paul should have been set free.

Paul’s Testimony

Introduction – 26:1-3

The first three verses are the formal introduction to Paul’s speech. The king now formally gives permission for Paul to address the assembly. Paul continues the solemn atmosphere set by the circumstances and audience who had gathered.

  • Paul begins his address by stretching out his arm to begin his defense.
    • This was not a gesture intended to quiet the assembly. Such a move would have been offensive to the king.
    • Instead, it was the typical outstretched arm of a Greek philosopher presenting his argument.
  • Of all the speeches recorded in Acts, this one is presented in the most elevated and cultured language.
  • This was not a defense in a formal sense. The hearing was designed to assist Festus in determining what to write in the report that would accompany Paul and be presented to the emperor.
  • Paul was not defending himself against any charge. Instead, he was giving his personal testimony as a Christian.
  • Paul then continues by saying he is fortunate to make his case before Agrippa. 
    • As the Jewish king, Agrippa would be familiar with Jewish customs and issues of dispute.
    • He was also a Hellenistic king living a Roman lifestyle.
    • This unique combination gave him perspective on the situation from both viewpoints.
    • It was also the reason Festus was eager to have Agrippa hear the case.
  • By this point, there is only one accusation left that was brought by the Jews.
    • Festus has already found Paul innocent of sedition and stirring up political unrest.
    • The charge that Paul defiled the temple had vanished due to a lack of witnesses.
    • The only charge left is that Paul was teaching against Jewish law.
  • Festus knew Agrippa was a better judge on those matters.

Paul’s Faithfulness to the Jewish Hope – 26:4-8

Paul begins his witness by outlining his early life and education in Judaism.

  • He grew up among his own people.
  • He lived and was educated in Jerusalem.
  • He was a member of the Pharisees and had lived according to the strictest requirements of Jewish religious law.
  • Just as Paul had done before the Sanhedrin, he states the real issue behind his arrest is his belief in the resurrection and that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah.
  • The hope of the promise made by God to Israel was the resurrection. 
  • The hope Paul spoke of aligned perfectly with Judaism but was missed by the religious leaders.
  • Let’s consider Paul’s “Jewishness.”
    • He was born a Jew.
    • He was raised a Jew.
    • He was trained in the strictest Pharisaic interpretation of Judaism.
    • He was still a Jew.
    • It was his faith in the resurrection that pointed to his loyalty to Judaism.
    • Israel’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.
  • The hope of the resurrection is something about which the Jews were passionate.
    • They prayed for it night and day.
    • It was shared by all of Israel, the twelve tribes.
    • Yet it was this very hope that caused the Jews to hate Paul, make false accusations against him, and attempt on several occasions to kill him.
  • Paul then turns from addressing primarily Agrippa to addressing the entire crowd. Was Paul aiming for the Jews or the Gentiles?
    • Gentiles couldn’t understand the idea of a resurrection.
    • Except for the Sadducees, the Jews believed in the resurrection.
    • It was Christ’s resurrection that Paul always pointed to.
    • However, all of them, Jew and Gentile, found it incredibly hard to believe.

Paul’s Persecution of Christ – 26:9-11.

  • Not only had Paul been a strict Pharisee, but he had also been a persecutor of Christians.
  • Paul had once felt it was God’s will for him to do everything possible to oppose Christ and His followers.
    • Paul had received official documents from the Sanhedrin to find and arrest Christians.
    • In this address, Paul changes the title for followers of Jesus. He now calls them saints. 
    • Paul also adds that he was actively involved in the execution of Christians, “I cast my vote against them.”
  • Paul’s retelling of his actions now gets darker.
    • Paul attempted to make the saints blaspheme the name of Christ, most likely under duress.
    • Paul would route out the Christians in the synagogues.
    • Paul then expanded his activity to cities other than Jerusalem. 
      • Either Paul doesn’t mention them, or Luke feels it unnecessary to record them.
      • We do know it was on the way to Damascus where Paul’s persecution ended with his personal encounter with Jesus.

Paul’s Commission From Christ – 26:12-18

This is the third time in the book of Acts where Paul’s conversion is recorded. However, this one has the fewest details.

  • Paul’s blindness is not mentioned.
  • The visit with Ananias is not mentioned.

Instead, Paul’s emphasis is on his commission from Christ. But it’s not only the commission; it’s the connection of the commission with the location on the Damascus road. On his way from Jerusalem and Jewish territory to Damascus and Gentile territory, Paul receives his commission to bring the Gospel to all people. Paul wanted to place the emphasis of the encounter on the commission and not the experience.

There are several significant differences in the Damascus road encounter in this passage.

  • Paul saw a “heavenly light.”
    • This occurred around noon and outshone the sun. In previous accounts, the light was associated with Paul’s blindness.
    • Here, the heavenly light is associated with Paul’s commission to witness the light of the Gospel.
    • In addressing Agrippa and the Gentile audience, Paul wasn’t concerned with relaying the miracle of recovering his sight. He was attempting to bring them the light of the Gospel he had received on the road to Damascus and the commission to carry it to all people.
  • This is the only account that says all those traveling with Paul fell to the ground.
    • The purpose of stating that is to emphasize the reality of what happened.
    • Although everyone fell to the ground, only Paul experienced the conversion and calling.
  • The message Paul heard was in Hebrew.
  • Although all three accounts list the question Jesus asks Saul, “Why are you prosecuting me,” this is the only one that adds, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
    • This statement was a common proverb at the time, especially among Greeks and Romans.
    • It would be understood to mean, “why are resisting your destiny or fighting the will of the gods.”
    • It fit the context of what Paul was doing.
    • Paul was fighting against God’s will of Paul being set apart from birth, Galatians 1:15, to accomplish His purposes.
    • It was futile and senseless to fight against God.
  • Christ’s commission to Paul is given in a format that reminds us of how Old Testament prophets were commissioned by God.
    • Paul was directed to rise and stand on his feet – Ezekiel 2:1.
    • Paul was being sent to proclaim the Gospel – Ezekiel 2:3.
    • Jesus would rescue Paul from his enemies – Jeremiah 1:8.
  • Paul’s task is contained in two words.
    • Servant.
      • This emphasizes Paul’s relationship with Jesus.
      • He would serve his Master.
      • He would be faithful to his Master.
    • Witness.
      • Paul would testify to what he had seen and heard.
      • Paul had seen the risen Lord.
      • Paul had heard His commission.
      • Paul’s entire story in Acts demonstrated his faithful witness before Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Romans, the poor, the educated, and kings.
  • The role of witness is key for every disciple.
    • Everyone who has encountered the risen Christ is commissioned to be a witness. 
    • Christ was the servant of God who opened the eyes of the lost and bring light to the nations.
    • Those who proclaim Jesus brought the light of the Gospel.
  • The turning from darkness to light is to turn from Satan to God.
  • The idea of two extremes, light and darkness, is found throughout the New Testament and is a metaphor for divergent ways of living.
    • To live in darkness under the dominion of Satan and apart from God; to live a self-centered life.
    • To live in the light under the direction of the Holy Spirit following God’s will; a life marked by righteousness and not self.
  • Paul concludes his summary of the Gospel by describing two results of responding to Jesus.
    • The forgiveness of sins and the removal of the barrier that separates us from God.
    • A place among the saints in God’s eternal kingdom.
  • Paul had effectively used this hearing to preach the Gospel to Agrippa and the Gentiles who were gathered.

Paul’s Witness for Christ

Paul now continues with his personal history as a witness for Christ.

  • Paul had been obedient to the heavenly vision he received.
  • Paul had not “kicked against the goads.”
  • Paul had been faithful to preach the Gospel wherever the Holy Spirit led him.
    • Damascus.
    • Jerusalem.
    • All the regions of Judea.
      • There is scholarly disagreement on what this means as Acts doesn’t specify this in detail.
      • It could mean Paul preached in every region among both the Jews and Gentiles.
      • This understanding would fall in line with Paul’s pattern of preaching first in the synagogues before turning to the Gentiles.
      • Paul followed this pattern in Acts 13-19.
    • To the Gentiles.
  • Paul then states the reason for his missionary work.
    • People would repent.
    • People would turn to God.
    • These two actions go hand-in-hand. True repentance is evidenced by turning from sin and turning to God.
    • The proof of repentance is a life characterized by good works. The works don’t lead to salvation but are evidence of salvation.
  • Paul then gives details about the opposition he faced on his return to Jerusalem while carrying out the Lord’s commission.
    • A mob seized him and was intent on killing him because of his witness of Christ.
    • However, through this event and previous ones, Paul was kept safe by God.
    • There were no boundaries in Paul’s ministry.
      • He traveled far and reached many different people.
      • He witnessed to both the poor and the rich.
      • There were no social boundaries.
      • Paul preached the same message to the peasant farmers of Lystra and the Jewish king.
  • Now Paul gives his final reference to the Gospel in this speech; the key to salvation.
    • It was the death and resurrection of Christ.
    • This is a typical pattern throughout Acts.
      • Referring to the Old Testament and demonstrating from “Moses and the prophets” that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead.
      • Paul doesn’t reference the Old Testament texts in this passage.
    • Paul was the servant of the Servant. He was fulfilling his commission to be a witness to Christ.
    • As Paul was witnessing for Christ, it was allowing Christ to be the light to all nations and enabling anyone who responded in faith to share in the resurrection life.

The Outcome

Paul’s Appeal for Conversion – 26:24-29

When Paul spoke about the resurrection, it was too much for Festus. Previously, Festus had told Agrippa about his lack of understanding regarding Paul’s claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. In a way, Festus’ response of “Too much studying is driving you mad” was a compliment. Festus was showing genuine respect for Paul’s knowledge while at the same time showing a level of prejudice that is often directed at scholars. Paul politely tells Festus he is far from crazy; he is speaking the truth to the gathering.

Paul then directs his following remark to the king. We need to remember this meeting was held for the benefit of Agrippa, and Paul had consistently addressed the king with his speech.

  • The content of the speech would have resonated with the Jewish king.
  • Paul emphasized his complete Jewish background.
  • The roots of the Gospel as the hope of Israel.
  • Agrippa knew the Jewish hope in the resurrection.
  • Agrippa would have been familiar with Scripture.
  • Agrippa would understand what Paul was talking about when he referenced the prophets.
  • Agrippa would have at least some understanding of Christians and their belief in the resurrection “since this was not done in a corner.”
  • The phrase “not done in a corner” could have a couple of meanings.
    • It wasn’t hidden from public view.
    • It wasn’t a small or insignificant movement.
    • Most likely, Paul meant it as a combination of both.
    • Paul had been open in his evangelism wherever he went, and Christianity was not some small movement. It was expanding and reaching many in that region of the world.
  • Paul then becomes even bolder in his remarks.
    • He states he knows the king believes in the prophets.
    • If Agrippa believed the prophets, why didn’t the king believe Christ was the Messiah?
    • Paul’s direct message to the king put him in an awkward position.
      • Agrippa didn’t want to deny the prophets.
      • But he wasn’t prepared to become a Christian.
      • Agrippa followed the expedient political decision; he evaded Paul’s question.
  • Paul was not discouraged at all by the king’s response. 
    • He left the invitation open to accept Christ.
    • Paul didn’t care whether or not it was an easy or difficult decision to convert.
    • Paul didn’t care how long it would take for them to come to a decision.
    • Paul wished that everyone present would become a Christian.
  • It is reasonable to believe that Paul would have continued his message if the king had not stood up.
  • Agrippa had heard enough of the matter.
    • He knew Paul was innocent of any wrongdoing.
    • He knew he wasn’t ready to become a Christian.
    • In a way, he was the most civilized of the Jews Paul encountered in Acts.
      • There was no sense that Paul deserved to be stoned for his position.
      • He listened to Paul politely, even showing interest.
    • In the end, Agrippa was not persuaded to repent and convert to Christianity.
  • In a way, Agrippa’s lack of decision tragically summarizes the Jews in Acts.
    • They were God’s people.
    • The prophets were their prophets.
    • Christ was their Messiah.
    • His resurrection fulfilled their hope.
    • They were still not persuaded.

Paul Headed to Rome – 26:30-32

The delegation who heard the exchange between the men now got up and left the meeting. The phrase “those sitting with them” likely referred to Agrippa’s advisory council on the issue with Paul. If that is true, this only enhanced the position that Paul was innocent of all charges because Luke states they all declared they couldn’t find anything which deserved death or imprisonment. For the fifth time, Paul has been declared innocent.

  • By the Pharisees – Acts 23:9.
  • By the Roman commander Lysias – Acts 23:29.
  • Twice by Festus – Acts 25:18, 25.
  • By Agrippa and the council.

Agrippa then states that if Paul hadn’t appealed to Caesar, he could’ve been released. However, when Paul made his appeal, he started a process that couldn’t be undone.

  • Festus couldn’t stop the appeal as this would have been an insult to the emperor and an admission he was incompetent by letting the entire process occur.
  • However, Festus now had enough information to craft a letter that accompanied Paul.
  • Paul was innocent of all charges.
  • Consider the parallels with Jesus.
    • Both the governor and the king declared Jesus innocent, yet he went to the cross – Luke 23:14f.
    • Both the governor and the king declared Paul innocent, yet he went to Rome in chains.


  • No matter the circumstances, be respectful in your conduct and plead your case with truth and restraint. Paul displayed remarkable qualities as he spoke to the gathering. Granted, this wasn’t the unruly Jewish mob he was addressing. Still, his conduct was above reproach.
  • Always base the words you say on the truth. Paul didn’t need to embellish anything. He spoke a powerful and truthful message. The recipients of the message were not offended by Paul.
  • Never miss an opportunity to present the Gospel. It took great courage to speak so boldly to Agrippa, yet Paul never wavered. Each person, regardless of their position, wealth, education, or social status, will be judged before God. Each will either enter heaven to spend eternity in God’s presence or be banished to hell to spend eternity apart from God.     

Acts Lesson Fifty-two

Acts Lesson Fifty-two: Acts 25:1-22 – Paul Appeals to Caesar

Three days after Festus arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.  Then the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews presented their case against Paul to him; and they appealed, asking him to do them a favor against Paul, that he might summon him to Jerusalem. They were preparing an ambush along the road to kill him. However, Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to go there shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let the men of authority among you go down with me and accuse him, if there is any wrong in this man.” 

When he had spent not more than eight or 10 days among them, he went down to Caesarea. The next day, seated at the judge’s bench, he commanded Paul to be brought in.  When he arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him and brought many serious charges that they were not able to prove, while Paul made the defense that, “Neither against the Jewish law, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I sinned at all.” 

Then Festus, wanting to do a favor for the Jews, replied to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem, there to be tried before me on these charges?” 

10 But Paul said: “I am standing at Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as even you can see very well. 11 If then I am doing wrong, or have done anything deserving of death, I do not refuse to die, but if there is nothing to what these men accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!” 

12 After Festus conferred with his council, he replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go!” 

13 After some days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid a courtesy call on Festus. 14 Since they stayed there many days, Festus presented Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There’s a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix. 15 When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews presented their case and asked for a judgment against him. 16 I answered them that it’s not the Romans’ custom to give any man up before the accused confronts the accusers face to face and has an opportunity to give a defense concerning the charges. 17 Therefore, when they had assembled here, I did not delay. The next day I sat at the judge’s bench and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 Concerning him, the accusers stood up and brought no charge of the sort I was expecting. 19 Instead they had some disagreements with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, a dead man Paul claimed to be alive. 20 Since I was at a loss in a dispute over such things, I asked him if he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be held for trial by the Emperor, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.” 

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

“Tomorrow you will hear him,” he replied. (HCSB)

I will split this lesson into two parts.

  • Paul before Festus – verses 1-12.
  • King Agrippa visits Festus – verses 13-22.

Paul Before Festus

As we get ready to dig into this section, we need to remember that about two years have passed since the events in chapter 24 occurred. Luke didn’t record what Paul did during that time. Although Paul was restricted in his activities, one can hardly imagine he was idle during the two years. 

Let’s look at some information regarding Festus before we proceed.

  • Admittedly, very little is known about the administration of Porcius Festus as the procurator of Judea.
  • We have the details recorded in Acts 25-26.
  • Josephus’ writings contain two brief references.
  • He took office in a.d. 58/59.
  • He died suddenly from an illness in a.d. 62.
  • Josephus gives him high marks. He was successful in suppressing the revolutionaries who plagued the countryside during Felix’s administration.
  • Luke also portrays him as fair-minded and concerned with preserving Roman justice.
  • However, Luke records that Festus was also swayed by the pressure exerted by the Jewish power structure and compromised his sense of justice regarding Paul’s situation.
  • In a way, Festus behaved much like Pilate during Jesus’ trial. There are parallels between Paul’s experience in Acts 25-26 and Jesus’ trial in Luke 23:1-25.

The opening of chapter 25 has Festus arriving in Judea and almost immediately making a trip to Jerusalem.

  • Since Jerusalem was the religious and cultural center of the people now under his jurisdiction, it was only natural for Festus to make a trip as quickly as possible.
  • One gets the impression the religious leaders were waiting for Festus to visit them.
    • The religious group included the high priest and the leaders of the Jews. The second group is almost certainly the ruling elders of the Sanhedrin.
    • They presented their case against Paul, which would have been biased in their favor.
    • Likely they wanted Festus to transfer jurisdiction from Rome to them.
    • We see one significant difference from Acts 23. Here, the leaders are the ones who were plotting to kill Paul and not a group of zealots. We see here the chief Jewish power structure was now determined to kill Paul.
  • Festus would have been unaware of the Jewish plot to kill Paul and was likely not aware of the plot two years prior.
  • Regardless, Festus was not going to hand Paul over to the Jews before he knew more about the situation.
    • Paul was under the jurisdiction of Festus as the Judean procurator.
    • Festus would be returning to Caesarea in a few days.
    • Any proceedings regarding Paul would take place in Caesarea before a Roman tribunal.
    • This was a sensible decision. It was more convenient to hear the case in Caesarea.
    • Once again, Paul receives divine protection from an unlikely source.

Just over a week later, Festus returns to Caesarea and convenes the tribunal to hear the charges against Paul.

  • Since their previous attempt, using a lawyer, was unsuccessful, they brought the charges against Paul themselves.
  • It also appears they attempted to intimidate Paul physically. The narrative says they “stood around him.”
  • They also brought up “many serious charges.” Luke doesn’t specify what they were, likely the same ones as before based upon Paul’s response in verse eight, although we can’t be certain.
  • However, just as in the tribunal over two years prior, the Jewish religious leaders had no proof to back up their words. 
  • Paul refutes each of their claims.
    • He didn’t violate Jewish law.
    • He didn’t violate the temple.
    • He didn’t violate any Roman law.
    • The third charge was the one that kept Paul in Roman custody.
  • Obviously, Festus isn’t impressed by the lack of evidence to support the claims against Paul.
  • It’s possible Festus believed there were be some proof brought forth if they continued the proceedings in Jerusalem.
  • Festus then asks Paul if he’s willing to continue in Jerusalem but still under the jurisdiction of Festus and Roman law.
    • Festus wasn’t willing to turn the trial over to the Jews, but he was willing to change the venue.
    • It’s not certain what Festus had in mind with this offer.
    • It may have been similar to Paul’s initial apprehension when Claudius Lysias oversaw the hearing in Jerusalem.
    • It may have been a formal trial with some of the Jewish religious leaders on the advisory council.
    • We can’t conclude that Festus’ motives were innocent, as he wanted to “do a favor for the Jews.”
      • At the beginning of the chapter, Festus resisted doing a favor for the Jews.
      • Now Festus was being swayed by the pressure.
      • Festus was now showing favoritism to the Jews, to the detriment of Paul.
  • Favoritism never goes together with fair justice, and Paul knew this.
    • Paul had previously escaped a plot against his life.
    • Paul knew that if Festus showed favoritism to the Jews in this matter, his life would be in danger.
  • Paul’s response was immediate and, to a certain degree, somewhat defiant.
    • Paul rebukes Festus with his response. Paul tells him, “even you can see very well.” 
    • He had done no wrong to the Jews.
    • Paul understood Festus wanted to grant the Jews a favor, and in verse eleven, he is basically saying, “You want to give the Jews a favor by giving me to them.”
    • Paul knew his only chance of a fair trial was under Roman law. 
    • If Paul was given over to the Jews and tried under their jurisdiction, he was as good as dead.
    • Paul then invoked the only thing that would prevent Festus from handing him over to the Jews, an appeal to Caesar.
    • In one sense, this was the fastest and surest way for Paul to go to Rome.
    • The appeal would also grant him the highest level of Roman protection during his journey.
    • Let’s look at what is known about the appeal process.
      • Paul makes use of an ancient right of Roman citizens that goes back to at least the fifth-century b.c.
      • It gave the right of a citizen to appeal a magistrate’s verdict to a jury of fellow citizens.
      • Under the Roman empire structure, the emperor became the court of appeals, replacing the jury of citizens.
      • In cases where precedent was already established, governors had the authority to pronounce sentences, even to the point of execution.
      • In cases where precedent wasn’t established, such as this case, the right of appeal was absolute.
      • Festus was in no position to deny the appeal.
      • Normally, the appeal was made after the sentence was announced. However, based on this situation, it appears that an appeal could be made before the verdict was announced.
      • It is not clear if the magistrate could revoke the appeal if the defendant was proven innocent.
      • In this case, it was probably a relief to Festus when Paul made his appeal. The Jews couldn’t blame Festus for following Roman law and sending Paul away to Rome.
    • The procurator had an advisory council who would be consulted when necessary. Although the final decision was with Festus, he sought advice from his council.
    • Festus then announces that Paul will go to Caesar.
    • The Caesar in question was Nero, who ruled from a.d. 54-68.
      • It would be easy to think that Paul was in trouble immediately.
      • However, this was towards the beginning of Nero’s reign, a period marked by stability.
      • Nero’s dark side had not yet manifested itself.
    • In any case, Paul was headed to Rome to witness to the emperor himself.

King Agrippa Visits Festus

It would be normal to expect the Jewish king to visit and establish cordial relations with the new procurator after his arrival. Let’s take a closer look at Agrippa II.

  • He was the son of Agrippa I, Acts 12, and the great-grandson of Herod the Great.
  • He was born in a.d. 27 and grew up in Rome.
  • In a.d. 48, after the death of an uncle, he was given rule over the small kingdom of Chalcis.
  • In a.d. 53, he left that role to rule over the territories formerly under the rule of Philip and Lysanias. These territories included Abilene, Batanea, Traconitis, and Gaulinitis.
  • In a.d. 56, his rule was further expanded when Nero placed him over several other villages in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee, including Caesarea Philippi. 
  • The regions under his rule were mainly Gentile, and he never ruled over the main Jewish territory in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.
  • The Romans gave him custody of the ceremonial clothes worn by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
  • He held the authority to appoint the high priest.

Let’s take a closer look at Bernice.

  • She was the sister of Agrippa II and was one year younger.
  • She was known as a Jewish Cleopatra.
  • At the age of thirteen, she married her uncle, Herod of Chalcis.
  • When Herod of Chalcis died in a.d. 48 and her brother was granted rule over Chalcis, she moved in with him and remained his constant companion for many years.
  • There were widespread rumors they were involved in an incestuous relationship.
  • In a.d. 63, she married King Polemon of Cilicia, apparently in an attempt to turn aside those rumors. However, she didn’t remain with King Polemon very long.
  • She then accompanied Agrippa to Rome in the early 70s and became the mistress of Titus, emperor Vespasian’s son.
  • Their relationship created a major scandal in the Roman upper circles.
  • Titus wanted to marry her, but marrying a Jewish woman was not acceptable for someone of his stature. When Titus became emperor in a.d. 79, he abandoned his relationship with her.

Since Agrippa was king, Festus felt he was in a position to assist in the situation involving Paul. Festus was required to have a written report describing why Paul was being sent to Rome for his appeal. Because the matter was initiated by the Jews and involved Jewish religious customs, Festus felt unqualified to communicate the matter accurately. Let’s take a closer look at the conversation between the two men.

  • Festus doesn’t present any new information on the situation from the reader’s standpoint.
  • However, Festus gives his version of the events covered in Acts 25:1-12.
    • Festus tries to paint himself in a positive light while embellishing what occurred.
    • He says the Jews wanted a judgment against Paul, while in the actual conversation, the Jews only relayed the charges and asked for Paul to be transferred to their jurisdiction.
    • Festus was showing himself as Paul’s protector.
    • Festus then implies the Jews wanted Paul handed over without a fair trial, and he informed them that it wasn’t permitted under Roman customs.
    • The Jews would have to confront Paul face-to-face, and Paul would be given an opportunity to defend himself against the charges.
    • There is no question that was standard Roman legal protocol.
    • However, looking back at Acts 25:1-12, the main question was where the legal proceedings would occur and not the fairness of the trial.
    • It was the question of fairness that prompted Paul to make his appeal to Caesar.
    • Festus ensured a speedy trial occurred, which was true. The following day Paul had faced his accusers.
  • Apparently, Festus was expecting the Jews to charge Paul with treason or some crime covered by Roman law. 
  • Instead, the Jews were arguing about religious matters. The main point is Jesus and the resurrection.
  • It was this matter which convinced Festus he was in over his head. The pagan world couldn’t grasp the idea of resurrection.
  • The entire argument was over Jewish religious matters and not Roman law.
  • The question is, why would Festus want to continue the trial under Roman jurisdiction but in Jerusalem if Paul was innocent of breaking any Roman law?
  • Festus desired to curry favor with the Jewish power brokers.
  • When Paul made his appeal, the entire legal process in Judea came to a screeching halt.
  • Festus then placed Paul into custody until the transfer to Rome could be started.
  • Agrippa then asked to hear from Paul, and Festus granted that request on the following day.


  • When we are in a position of leadership, we must make sure our conduct is above reproach. In this passage, Festus allowed the influence of the Jewish religious leaders to sway his judgment. As followers of Christ, our allegiance should be towards Jesus and the instructions contained within Scripture. When we let the world influence our decisions, we are no longer walking in the light.
  • When we are in a situation where we are accused of wrongdoing, we must speak the truth. When we are threatened or intimidated, we must remain strong. Paul did both as he appeared before Festus and the Jewish accusers. He spoke the truth and was not intimidated by their physical proximity.
  • If we don’t have the knowledge or background to make a critical decision, we need to consult experts who can assist us. If at all possible, those experts should be faithful Christians who can guide us in the decision process.
  • We need to remember that each of us will need to make an account of our actions and words as we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We may have been faithful Christians with our salvation assured, but our works and words may be burned in the fire, and we’ll lose our eternal rewards, crowns, because of our behavior.  

Acts Lesson Fifty-one

Acts Lesson Fifty-one: Acts 24:1-27 – Paul Before Felix

After five days Ananias  the high priest came down with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. These men presented their case against Paul to the governor. When he was called in, Tertullus began to accuse him and said: “Since we enjoy great peace because of you, and reforms are taking place for the benefit of this nation by your foresight, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with utmost gratitude. However, so that I will not burden you any further, I beg you in your graciousness to give us a brief hearing. For we have found this man to be a plague, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the Roman world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes! He even tried to desecrate the temple, so we apprehended him [and wanted to judge him according to our law. But Lysias the commander came and took him from our hands with great force, commanding his accusers to come to you.] By examining him yourself you will be able to discern all these things we are accusing him of.” The Jews also joined in the attack, alleging that these things were so. 

10 When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: “Because I know you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I am glad to offer my defense in what concerns me. 11 You are able to determine that it is no more than 12 days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. 12 They didn’t find me disputing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple complex or in the synagogues or anywhere in the city. 13 Neither can they provide evidence to you of what they now bring against me. 14 But I confess this to you: I worship my fathers’ God according to the Way,  which they call a sect, believing all the things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 And I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there is going to be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 I always do my best to have a clear conscience toward God and men. 17 After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my nation, 18 and while I was doing this, some Jews from Asia found me ritually purified in the temple, without a crowd and without any uproar.  19 It is they who ought to be here before you to bring charges, if they have anything against me. 20 Either let these men here state what wrongdoing they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin, 21 or about this one statement I cried out while standing among them, ‘Today I am being judged before you concerning the resurrection of the dead.’ ” 

22 Since Felix was accurately informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from serving him. 

24 After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I find time I’ll call for you.” 26 At the same time he was also hoping that money would be given to him by Paul. For this reason he sent for him quite often and conversed with him. 27 After two years had passed, Felix received a successor, Porcius Festus, and because he wished to do a favor for the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison. (HCSB)

I’ll divide this lesson into three parts.

  • The Sanhedrin’s accusation against Paul.
  • Paul’s defense before Felix.
  • Felix delays his decision.

The Sanhedrin’s Accusation Against Paul

As we begin this section, let’s break down three areas; the religious “team” that arrived from Jerusalem, a detailed look at Tertullus, and a look at the timeline involving Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem to this meeting before Felix.

  • The religious team.
    • The high priest, Ananias.
    • Some elders who were likely members of the Sanhedrin.
    • A lawyer named Tertullus.
  • Tertullus.
    • We can’t be certain whether he was a Jew or a Gentile hired by the Jews.
      • In verses three, four, and six, he identifies himself with the Jews by the use of the word “we.”
      • In verse nine, he seems to separate from “the Jews.”
      • It was not uncommon for Jews to hire pagan lawyers who were skilled in Roman law.
    • Tertullus showed himself to be skilled in Roman legal procedures.
      • He began the case against Paul with lengthy and bloated praise for the Roman governor, which considerably stretched the truth.
      • There was less peace in Judea during Felix’s rule than any Roman governor until the final years before the outbreak of war with Rome.
      • The Romans prided themselves on preserving the peace, and the comment would surely resonate with Felix.
      • Foresight and reforms were hardly a highlight during Felix’s reign. 
        • Felix had made life miserable for the Jews.
        • There was an increase in rebellions during his rule.
        • Felix had a complete lack of sympathy for the Jews and made no attempt to understand their positions.
      • There were few Jews who would feel a sense of gratitude towards him.
  • Timeline of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem.
    • Day 1 – arrived in Jerusalem.
    • Day 2 – visited James.
    • Day 3 – visited the temple.
    • Days 4-6 – in the temple with the vow upon him.
    • Day 7 – arrested in the temple.
    • Day 8 – before the Sanhedrin.
    • Day 9 – the Jew’s plot and Paul’s escort to Caesarea.
    • Day 10 – presented to Felix.
    • Days 11-12 – waiting in Caesarea.
    • Day 13 – the hearing before Felix.

Tertullus presented three charges against Paul.

  • A personal and political accusation – he is a plague and an agitator.
    • Paul stirred up riots throughout the civilized world.
    • This aligned with the Asian Jews’ charge in Acts 21:28.
    • Tertullus was attempting to connect this to the idea of insurrection in the Roman empire.
      • It was a charge of sedition.
      • Romans wouldn’t concern themselves with Jewish religious matters, but they would take a threat to Roman “peace” seriously.
    • Given Felix’s behavior in dealing with Jewish insurrections, this would have struck a nerve with him.
  • A religious accusation – he is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
    • This charge was true…in a sense. Paul was a Christian leader.
    • By linking this statement with the charge of insurrection, Tertullus was implying that Christians as a group were dangerous to the peace Rome sought, and Paul was one of the main instigators.
    • By linking the two, Tertullus was implying the charge against the entire Christian community, implying they were a danger and should be viewed as an insurrectionist movement.
    • Fortunately, Tertullus was unable to make this point stick, and Felix was already informed about Christians and wouldn’t have accepted this point anyway.
  • He desecrated the temple.
    • The Romans delegated religious legal matters to the Sanhedrin and granted the Jews the right to ban Gentiles from sacred areas.
    • Paul was charged by the Asian Jews for violating the ban on Gentiles in sacred areas.
    • If Tertullus were able to prove this point, Felix would have been obligated to turn Paul over to the Sanhedrin and almost certain death by stoning.
    • The charge was based on a false claim by the Asian Jews, which is likely the reason they were not present at this hearing.
  • All three charges were false.
    • Paul was never a plague or an agitator. He only spoke the truth, which offended many. Also, Paul never sought to change anyone’s politics. However, he did preach the lordship of Christ, which would be in conflict with Caesar’s demand that he be worshipped as a god.
    • Since many Jewish Christians still participated in some aspects of temple worship, They were viewed as a subset of Judaism and not a new religion.
    • Paul never violated the temple. The charge by the Asian Jews was entirely baseless.

Tertullus also lied about Claudius Lysias.

  • He described the mob action in the temple as an attempt to arrest Paul.
  • He embellished the actions of Claudius by saying Paul was snatched from the Jews with great force.
  • God used Claudius to rescue Paul, and the Jews hated him for that.

Paul’s Defense Before Felix

As this section begins, we get a sense of Felix’s attitude of superiority. He doesn’t ask Paul to speak; he merely gave a nod of his head or a wave of his hand. Paul begins his defense with the customary greeting, but it is markedly different from the one given by Tertullus.

  • Paul didn’t appeal to Felix’s ego.
  • He didn’t stretch the truth about Felix’s rule or accomplishments.
  • Paul only acknowledged that Felix had been a governor for “many years.” 

Paul then begins his defense by making a response to each of the charges brought against him.

  • The charge of stirring up an insurrection.
    • There was no history of Paul inciting the Jews in Jerusalem.
      • He had only been in the city for twelve days, and his sole reason for coming was to worship at the temple.
      • Twelve days is not enough time to organize a rebellion.
    • Pilgrims were generally not the ones who caused trouble.
  • Paul stated that he had not stirred up any crowds.
    • He didn’t do it in the temple.
    • He didn’t do it in any synagogue.
    • He didn’t do it anywhere within the city.
  • Paul concluded his response to the charges by stating the Jews had no proof to support their claims that would stand up in court.

Paul then moves on to address the issue of being a leader of the Nazarene sect.

  • Paul uses the opportunity to give a mini-sermon, changing from a defensive posture to a positive witness for the Gospel.
  • Tertullus tried to present Christians in a negative light as a subset within Judaism.
  • Paul doesn’t deny his connection with the group but chooses another term instead of Nazarene.
    • Paul tells Felix he is a member of “the Way.”
    • He wasn’t part of a subset within Judaism.
    • Christ is the only way to the Father.
  • Paul believed in Scripture, the prophets, and the Law, just as the Pharisees did.
  • Paul also shared the Pharisees’ hope in the resurrection, both the wicked and the righteous.
    • The mention of the resurrection of the wicked implied judgment.
    • Even the Gentiles, who may not understand or believe in the resurrection, would have some understanding of judgment.
  • Paul’s reference to the resurrection is the pinnacle of his witness contained in his speeches of Acts 23-26.
    • This was not an accident.
    • Paul’s absolute conviction in the truth of the resurrection was the real point of contention with the Jews.
    • Paul was trying to highlight this point with the Jews.
      • Paul believed in the same Scriptures.
      • Paul worshiped the same God.
      • Paul shared the same hope.
    • The Way diverged with the rest of the Jews on this very point.
      • Christians believed it had already begun with Christ.
      • The Jews were still waiting for it.
      • Christians also had a different definition for it.
        • Resurrection of the just.
        • Resurrection of the unjust.
        • Since both groups would be resurrected, judgment was implied.
      • Paul’s belief in Christ would make him blameless for the judgment he would face.
      • The resurrection of Christ was the dividing point between Paul and the Jews.
      • For Paul, the church, and contemporary Christians, this remains the division between Christian and Jew and the starting point for dialogue between the two groups.

Paul now moves on to answer Tertullus’s third charge, the desecration of the temple.

  • Paul briefly summarized the events in Acts 21.
    • His presence in the temple for purification connected with the four Nazarites.
    • The Asian Jews created the disturbance under false pretenses.
    • The absence of the Asian Jews at this hearing underscores the fact their charges were baseless.
    • Paul was still upset over the fact they refused to confront him face-to-face in a formal hearing.
    • Paul was exercising proper Roman legal procedure. The failure to appear by those who brought the initial charges highlighted the falseness of their claims.
      • For Tertullus to make an allegation against Paul and then fail to produce the witnesses to the event was a serious breach of Roman court procedure.
      • There was no evidence to support the claim of Paul defiling the temple.
      • If anything, the opposite was the case. Paul was ceremonially clean and had traveled to Jerusalem to bring an offering.

Having successfully demonstrated that all of Tertullus’s charges lacked any supporting evidence, Paul moves on to confront the one charge which could be brought against him, Paul’s belief in the resurrection.

  • The prosecution had witnesses present to support this charge.
    • The high priest.
    • The elders.
    • They could testify about the veracity of this charge since Paul had successfully refuted their other charges.
  • Paul now was essentially in control of the trial.
    • He had broken no law.
      • Roman.
      • Jewish.
    • The resurrection was the only point of contention between Paul and the Jewish religious leaders.
      • Paul and the Christian church believed the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus.
      • The Jewish religious leaders were mistakenly still waiting for the Messiah to come.
      • Paul was on trial for his Christian faith.
  • It was essential the Roman courts understood this was an issue of Jewish religious matters and not something to be decided under Roman law.

After Paul had finished giving his defense, Felix adjourned the day’s proceedings.

  • Felix would pass his final judgment after he had gathered further evidence.
  • In effect, he was waiting for Claudius Lysias to arrive and give his report of the events under dispute.
    • Lysias had already sent his report and stated he believed the entire matter was one of Jewish religious law.
    • He also believed that Paul had done nothing that deserved death or imprisonment.
    • However, there is no evidence that Lysias ever made the trip to Caesarea or gave a face-to-face account of the events in question.
  • Felix was avoiding making a decision in the case.
    • Felix was already aware of the “Way.”
    • The Christian movement was not a group of revolutionaries.
    • The charges brought by the religious leaders weren’t supported by factual evidence.
    • The evidence from the trial only pointed to Paul’s acquittal.
    • Paul wasn’t guilty of breaking any Roman law.
    • However, Felix ruled over the Jews and had to live with them.
    • There were powerful Jews in the group who were calling for Paul’s condemnation.
    • Felix didn’t want to incur their anger, especially with the unrest that had already occurred under his watch.
    • It was easier to avoid making a decision, even if it meant Paul would continue to be jailed.
  • Felix may have had a guilty conscience, or he may have considered Paul’s Roman citizenship.
    • Paul would be kept “under guard,” which should be interpreted as a liberal type of detainment.
    • It would allow Paul a certain level of freedom of movement.
    • It would allow friends and family to visit him.

Luke now gives a break of “some days” between the adjournment and Felix’s next meeting with Paul. This meeting introduces Felix’s wife, Drusilla, to the narrative. Let’s look at her background.

  • She was the youngest daughter of Agrippa I, the “Herod” from Acts 12.
  • At the age of fourteen, through an agreement by her brother Agrippa II, she was married to Azizus, the king of Emesa
  • A short time after this, Felix saw her and was struck by her beauty, and was determined to make her his wife.
  • Felix used a magician as an intermediary to convince Drusilla to leave Azizus for Felix.
  • Drusilla was already unhappy in her marriage and readily agreed to the offer.
  • Drusilla was sixteen when she married Felix.
  • She may have been the source where Felix became knowledgeable regarding the “Way.”

Paul, never one to miss the opportunity for evangelism, spoke frankly with the couple.

  • He spoke about faith in Christ.
  • He focused on the coming judgment.
  • Paul’s emphasis on righteousness was another way of saying each person would be held to God’s standard.
  • The issue of self-control, whether intentional or not, would have struck a nerve considering Felix’s marital history and the circumstances surrounding his marriage to Drusilla.
  • Felix was shaken by Paul’s message and quickly ended the conversation.
  • Felix would call for Paul periodically in the hopes of receiving a bribe.
    • The practice of bribes was frowned upon and forbidden by law.
    • However, it was rampant in Roman administration.
    • Other Roman governors were known for taking bribes, and it appears Felix followed suit.
  • Felix never did come to a decision in Paul’s case.
    • He kept Paul in prison for two years.
      • Felix may have desired to receive a bribe.
      • He may have desired to grant a favor to the Jews.
      • It could have been a combination of both.
    • Felix knew Paul hadn’t broken any Roman laws, and releasing him would almost certainly have resulted in Paul being handed over to the Jewish religious leaders.
    • Felix followed the safest, for him, course of action.

In the end, Felix’s role as governor was terminated.

  • The corruption and brutality of his rule were finally his undoing.
  • A civil incident in Caesarea between the Jewish and Gentile communities was handled with a heavy anti-Jewish bias.
  • The incident provoked the Jews to send a delegation to Rome, protesting his action, which resulted in his removal.
  • When the reader reflects on verses 24-26, we have to wonder how close Felix was to becoming a Christian.
    • Both Felix and Drusilla showed at least some level of interest in hearing about Christ.
    • It appears these conversations happened with some frequency, even if part of the reason was Felix’s hope of receiving a bribe.
    • The fact that Felix felt fear about a coming judgment indicated an understanding of his sinful behavior.
    • Tragically, this conviction never moved acknowledgment to a profession of faith in Jesus.

With Festus now in charge, there might be new hope for Paul. Often new procurators would quickly conclude any lingering cases left by their predecessors. However, that was not to be the case with Paul.


  • When we face persecution or false charges, remain calm and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. In this narrative, we see Paul calmly waiting until called upon to testify. Once he was asked to speak, he calmly and effectively addressed each charge and refuted them with the facts.
  • Never miss a chance, even under duress, to be an effective witness to the truth of the Gospel. After Paul gave his defense, he switched over to the offensive and attempted to evangelize the gathering.
  • Never compromise your ethical or moral grounds. Paul could have given Felix a bribe and most likely been released. However, he trusted that God would take care of him, and he didn’t do anything to compromise his moral or ethical standing.
  • Have patience as you go through any trial. The situation Paul endured lasted for years. Although it is likely we won’t go through a situation that long, we still need to exhibit self-control and patience as we face challenges.