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The Story of Paul

Acts 25:1-26:32

As a Roman citizen, Paul was supposed to get a fair trial. Instead he had to spend two years in prison.

The Roman governor was called Festus. He said, “I think you should come to Caesarea.” So for the fourth time, Paul was put on trial. This time, his enemies were there with him. They accused him of one crime after another. But no one had any proof. Festus did not want to get into trouble with the religious leaders.

Paul told Festus, “You’re the governor. If you can’t judge me, then don’t hand me over to my enemies. They tell nothing but lies about me. I’ll appeal to Caesar.”

Paul was claiming his right as a Roman to be tried by Emperor Nero himself. It meant that, no matter what, he would not be turned over to the religious leaders. But he also would not be let free until Nero had seen him.

Festus did not know what to do with Paul. He had no choice but to make sure he went to Rome. There he would be tried by the emperor. But before he let Paul go, Festus asked King Agrippa what he thought of the case.

Once again, Paul told what happened. This time he stood in front of the son of King Herod and many other very important people. When he had finished, Agrippa said to him, “Do you think you can talk me into becoming a Christian so easily?” Then he turned to Felix. “This man has done nothing wrong. In some ways it’s too bad he asked to see Caesar. Now can’t let him go free. He must go to Rome.”

Paul was finally on his way to Rome. It was not in the way he had though the would go. He was not traveling as a  free man, on his way to visit friends. Paul was under heavy Roman guard, a prisoner. He was on his way to see Emperor Nero.

One of the soldiers in charge of Paul was an officer named Julius. He could see that Paul was not dangerous. He treated him kindly. When Paul was put on board the ship to go to Rome, Julius said Luke and some of Paul’s other friends could travel with him. They changed ships, going from port to port. Over and over again they ran into bad weather. Finally the storms made sailing almost impossible. The little ship carrying Paul had found a harbor on an island. He told them, “If we don’t stop here for the winter, we’ll not only lose the cargo, but our lives as well.” The owner of the boat was in a hurry to deliver his cargo of grain to Rome. He did not listen to Paul and they sailed on.

Before long, a very strong wind caught the ship! There was nothing the crew could do. For more than a day, the storm tossed the ship. Waves swamped its decks. The crew threw the cargo overboard.

The sky was dark for many days . The captain could not see the moon or stars. They were lost at sea! All the crew were terribly seasick. No one had eaten for a long time. Paul told them, “Men, be brave,. None of you will die. Last night an angel of God told me I would stand before the emperor. None of you will die, we will land on an island.”

All of a sudden there was a terrible grating sound. The boat ripped open on the rocks! It started breaking up. “Jump ship!”

The waves crashed all around them. Each man made it to the beach safely. That was all that mattered. Once on shore, they found on the island was Malta,. They were close to Italy, after all, The people who lived there were very kind. Paul was safe and he would go to Rome after all.

Paul finally did arrive in Rome. Believers from all over the area came to meet him and Luke and the others. When Paul saw them, he thanked God. He felt brave again.

The Romans did not put Paul into prison this time. They let him go where he wanted. This was all right, as long as a soldier went with him. Paul went to the religious leaders in Rome. He told them what had happened. They said, “We haven’t heard anything about you from the Jews in Jerusalem. Come and tell us more.”

Once again Paul told how Jesus had met him on the road to Damascus. He told how he had traveled all over, telling people about Jesus. He told them how he met Jesus and how Jesus changes lives. He told how God had sent His Son for Jews and non-Jews. “I haven’t done anything wrong,” he finished.

The Jews didn’t know what to think. Some believed Paul. Others were not so sure. For the next two years, they would fight about Paul. In the meantime, Paul waited until the emperor would see him. The Romans let him go where he wanted, as long as his guard stayed close by. Paul used this time to preach and teach. He welcomed everyone. No one tried to stop him.

Those two years would be the last chance Paul ever had to preach freely. Some people think he spent part of that time going to Spain and then Greece. Later he was arrested again and put back into prison. There, he wrote letters to many of the friends he had met while preaching. Paul was finally killed by Emperor Nero in Rome.

The Story of Stephen

Acts 6:1-7:60

Story of Stephen

More and more people believed what the apostles were teaching. They wanted to find out about Jesus. They had chosen to follow Him. They had put Him first in their lives. As this happened, though, some practical problems came up. One problem was making sure some of the widows received their fair share of food.

The apostles chose seven men to take care of the problem. This gave the apostles more time to talk to people about Jesus. All seven of these men were full of faith and the Holy Spirit. One of them was called Stephen. He was very close to God. He did his job very well and God worked miracles through him.

There were some men who tried to argue with Stephen. They could not. There was no way they could match the wisdom of God’s Spirit. These bad men found some people to lie about Stephen.

“Stephen has said bad things about Moses and God.” Before long, more and more people joined the religious leaders. They made sure Stephen was arrested.

He was brought before a court. Stephen was not even a little worried. His face shone like an angel’s. The religious leaders did not care if Stephen had never done anything wrong. They tried everything they could to get him in trouble. They brought in people who lied about Stephen. This is what they did when Jesus was on trial, too. They twisted the words he had spoken about Jesus. This was very wrong, of course.

Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit helped Stephen know what he should say and when. He answered all their questions with great wisdom. Finally he said, “You have chosen not to listen to what God wants. Didn’t your fathers try to kill the prophets? Now look at you! You have killed the Messiah. He came to save you!”

The religious leaders were furious. Stephen looked up. He saw Jesus sitting next to God the Father in heaven. He said, “Look, I see the sky opening up. There is the Son of Man! “He pointed upwards.

The crowd went crazy. They covered their ears and rushed at Stephen. They drove him out of the city. Then they threw stones at him. He fell to his knees and cried out, “Lord Jesus, take my spirit! Lord, don’t hold this against these people! “Then Stephen died. He died a hero for Jesus, a man of courage and wisdom.

Story of Peter

Acts 12:1-17

More and more people listened and believed Jesus’ followers. This was sometimes very dangerous. The evil King Herod wanted to kill all the Christians.

Many of the Christians were forced to run away. Some had to live in caves to meet secretly. Not everyone got away. Herod did catch Peter. Herod threw him into prison and ordered four squads of soldiers to guard him. “After the Passover we will put him on trial,” King Herod said. But God had other plans.

Peter was not alone. Many people were praying for him. Peter wasn’t afraid to die. He could still hear the words Jesus had said so often to him,”Don’t be afraid.” He thought about this during the night before his trial. Peter was chained to two soldiers. There were also guards in front of the door.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord filled the prison cell with light. He shook Peter, “Get up quickly.” Peter stood up. The chains fell right off him!” Put on your sandals and coat. Then follow me!” the angel said.

Peter did as he was told. He did not believe it was really happening. “I must be dreaming,” he thought. One by one, they passed the guards. No one even looked at Peter! When they reached the gates into the city, they opened all by themselves! Peter stepped out onto the street. The angel disappeared.

Peter made his way to a house where the Christians were meeting that night. When Peter knocked at the door, a servant answered. She heard Peter’s voice. The servant was very happy it was Peter. She ran to tell the others, but forgot to open the door! “It’s Peter outside!”

The others looked up. “What? Well,maybe it was his angel.”

All this time, Peter was knocking and knocking on the door. They finally opened it and everyone started talking at once.

Peter calmed them down. Then he told them how the Lord had let him out of prison.

Acts Bible Study

Author: Luke
Date: c. A.D. 65

Luke wrote the Book of Acts as a continuation of his history of the church. Volume one, which we know as the Gospel of Luke, tells about Jesus and the establishment of Christianity by his death and resurrection. Volume two, the Book of Acts, picks up with the ascension of Jesus back to heaven and the spread of the gospel out from Jerusalem, ultimately to Rome, where the book ends. It is not known whether or not Luke intended a volume three which would have gone to the end of the apostles’ lives. It is possible that he never lived to complete the work, even if that was his intention.

The reasons Luke wrote the Book of Acts are not hard to find. First, he wanted to present the facts about the new movement. Much was being said about it that was false, and Luke wanted to correct any misimpression’s that might have existed.

Second, he may have wanted to show Theophilus, to whom the book was dedicated, that as a Roman official he need not fear what Christianity might do. Granted when it went to some places trouble arose, but it was not the fault of the believers. They were trying to live peaceably, and within the law. It was usually the pagans who rose up in protest causing the difficulties.

Third, Luke wanted to show how the two primary leaders of the church, Peter and Paul, exercised their ministry. Because of some misunderstandings about the relations between the two, some people were trying to create separate churches. Luke tried to show that they were not in opposition to each other, but in fact agreed on the basic point at issue, namely, whether a person needed to become a Jew in order to become a Christian. Both said that it was not necessary, and so did the rest of the church (15:1-21).

Finally, Luke wanted to chart the progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Syria, to Asia Minor, to Macedonia and Greece (Europe), and finally to Rome. It was Paul’s desire to see the gospel go to all people, and this was a fulfillment of his dreams. It is ironic that he went as a prisoner rather than freely, but he saw God’s hand in it. He wanted to make it to Rome, one way or another, and this was how God decided to do it. So Paul, the prisoner, preached freedom in Christ.

The book divides easily into two sections, the first half dealing with events in and around Jerusalem (1:1-12:25) and the second half with the spread of the gospel out from there (13:1-28:31).

Theological Themes in the Acts of the Apostles

The first half of Acts stresses some important theological points. The message is rooted in the Old Testament, as would be expected, because the preaching was primarily to Jews. There was also a strong emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus. This point could be made forcefully because it was in the very place where those events took place and many people there remembered it well. There was also a special focus on coming judgment and the end of the age. The judgment was to come sooner than most expected it, with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Finally, there was an urgent call to repentance and faith.

In the second half of the book, new theological insights are added to what is found in the first part. Because the gospel had gone beyond the bounds of Palestine, follow-up was stressed. That was necessary if the church was to grow. It isn’t enough to preach the gospel and leave; one must make sure that the church’s continuing needs are met. Also, the organizational structure of the church must be attended to. The church is not a place where anyone can be anything or one person rules like a despot. It is a place where the Spirit of God directs life and worship in an orderly manner through proper organizational structures.

Finally, new ways of expressing the message were needed. Because most of the converts outside Palestine were Gentiles, they would not be familiar with the Old Testament or its ideas. Ways to communicate to them, without changing the essential nature of the gospel, had to be found. What was done by the early missionaries in the Book of Acts sets a pattern for all of us to follow.

Outline for the Acts of the Apostles

  1. Early days of the church ACTS 1:1-2:47
  2. The gospel in Jerusalem ACTS 3:1-7:60
  3. Spread of the gospel to Samaria, Joppa, Caesarea, and Antioch ACTS 8:1-12:25
  4. Missionary journeys of Paul ACTS 13:1-21:16
  5. Arrest of Paul and journey to Rome ACTS 21:17-28:31