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Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:9-12

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast[a] was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

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The first eight verses of Acts 27 describe the beginning of Paul’s and Luke’s voyage to Rome from Caesarea. Festus, the Roman governor, allowed Luke, the author of Acts, to accompany his good friend Paul on the journey. The centurion in charge of the ship, Julius, was also well disposed towards the Apostle.

The weather at this time of year, late summer, was unpredictable for sea voyages. In mid-September, seafaring became dangerous. By mid-November, sea voyages stopped until early the following year.

They had spent a few weeks at Fair Havens — Kalous Limenas — near the city of Lasea waiting for better prospects. Now, the Fast — the Jewish Day of Atonement — was already over. This would have been in the early autumn, and it was time to make a decision whether to stay or go (verse 9).

John MacArthur explains this next part of the voyage (emphases mine):

Now we come to stage two. If stage one is the start, stage two is the stay. Here they are in Fair Havens, taking on supplies and waiting for a change of winds. And they’re getting anxious to go to Rome. I mean they want to get to Rome, you see, before the season ends. They want to get to Rome before the winter comes. You see what happens is if they can’t get to Rome, then this fellow who is running the ship is going to have to take care of the whole crew for the winter. And that means three to four months in harbor before they can get off again.

In addition to that, to be stuck in Fair Havens would be absolute disaster. It was open, it was exposed to the winds of the sea. It was not a commodious harbor, as it says in verse 12. It wasn’t a good place to spend the winter. And nothing was happening there; no fun and games in Fair Havens. Plus there was a sort of a desire to make a little money on the deal. If the ship had been owned, indeed, as some indicate by its captain, he would have wanted to get his supplies there as fast as possible and get his money and not have to spend the whole winter paying these people for idleness. And so they wanted to gamble and they figured we’re going to try to make it. If we could just get a change of wind we’ll take off.

Now verse 9. “Now when much time was spent,” – Now, we don’t know how much time, but plenty of time. Maybe weeks went by, maybe more. Very likely at least a month – “and when sailing was now dangerous,” — Now notice. If they got there sometime at the end of August, and a month passed, the notation that Luke makes now is they’re in the dangerous season. They’re in the period of time when to sail is dangerous. Then he adds – “because the fast was already passed.” The fast is referenced to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the Jewish fast.

If you know anything about Jewish history you’ll remember that Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of the 7th month of the Jewish calendar, which is the month of Tishri. That falls into the Roman calendar at the end of September or the beginning of October. In A.D. 59 we know, historically, that Yom Kippur was on October 5th. If this is the year, then A.D. 59, it is already after October 5th. They are well into the dangerous season for trying to cross the open sea. Any attempt now would really be a gamble.

Paul, having been a passenger on many ships during his ministry, warned them that leaving Fair Havens would result in a perilous voyage, causing not only injury and loss of cargo but also the ship — and lives (verse 10).

However, Julius, the centurion, was more interested in what the ship’s pilot and captain had to say on the matter (verse 11).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates:

They would not be advised by Paul in this matter, Acts 27:11. They thought him impertinent in interposing in an affair of this nature, who did not understand navigation; and the centurion to whom it was referred to determine it, though himself a passenger, yet, being a man in authority, takes upon him to overrule, though he had not been oftener at sea perhaps than Paul, nor was better acquainted with these seas, for Paul had planted the gospel in Crete (Titus 1:5), and knew the several parts of the island well enough. But the centurion gave more regard to the opinion of the master and owner of the ship than to Paul’s; for every man is to be credited in his own profession ordinarily: but such a man as Paul, who was so intimate with Heaven, was rather to be regarded in seafaring matters than the most celebrated sailors. Note, Those know not what dangers they run themselves into who will be governed more by human prudence than by divine revelation. The centurion was very civil to Paul (Acts 27:3), and yet would not be governed by his advice. Note, Many will show respect to good ministers that will not take their advice, Ezekiel 33:31.

MacArthur explains the pilot and captain relationship. In his translation, the words used are ‘master’ and ‘owner’:

Now, those two words master and owner are very difficult to translate because they are obscure words. The best translation of the word master, in my mind, is sailing master or pilot. This is the man who was responsible for steering and navigating. And the word owner is not really the word for owner but probably should be translated captain. So that the thing would say the pilot and the captain. Now in some cases, the captain was an owner, if in fact it was a private vessel. But if it was one of the imperial fleet grain ships he would be simply the captain.

The word is used only here. It’s not the common word for owner, but has to do probably with him as the captain. And if he was the owner he probably was also the captain, but it seems best to see it perhaps as a Roman ship, and these two would be the sailing master or the pilot and the captain. And the centurion agrees with them. And you really can’t blame the guy. I mean they were the experts, right? You can’t blame the centurion for believing the navigator and the captain. And so he does.

Because Fair Havens was not a destination in which to spend the winter, the majority decided to sail to the port of Phoenix — Phenice, present day Lutro — on the island of Crete to spend the winter there (verse 12).

Phenice is a derivation of ‘palm tree’.

Henry says that the ship’s crew would have made the decision to set sail. He also has more information on Phenice and the appeal of Crete as a winter destination:

Some of the ship’s crew, or of the council that was called to advise in this matter, were for staying there, rather than venturing to sea now that the weather was so uncertain: it is better to be safe in an incommodious harbour than to be lost in a tempestuous sea. But they were outvoted when it was put to the question, and the greater part advised to depart thence also; yet they aimed not to go far, but only to another port of the same island, here called PheniceIt is here described to lie towards the south-west and north-west. Probably the haven was between the two promontories or juttings-out of land into the sea, one of which pointed to the north-west and the other to the south-west, by which it was guarded against the east winds. Thus hath the wisdom of the Creator provided for the relief and safety of those who go down to the sea in ships, and do business in great waters. In vain had nature provided for us the waters to sail on, if it had not likewise provided for us natural harbours to take shelter in.

MacArthur says:

Phoenicia is the ancient name of the coastline of Israel. That’s not the translation that’s best. It should be … Phenice, which was a port 40 miles down Crete. Forty miles further along the island was the port of Phenice …

Historians tell us that anciently the only place in the winter that was a comfortable place to stay was on Crete.

The story continues next week. Was there ever a time, post-conversion, when Paul erred in his speech? No.

Next time — Acts 27:13-20

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Bible ourhomewithgodcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:1-8

Paul Sails for Rome

27 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

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The Roman governor Festus had acquiesced to Paul’s request to go to Rome to have his case heard.

Festus had Paul put on board a ship to take him part of the way to Rome (verse 1). Other prisoners accompanied him. So did Luke, the author of Acts, and another Christian, Aristarchus (verse 2). It is possible that Festus, believing Paul was innocent, granted him permission to take two friends for mutual support.

Matthew Henry says that one more friend might have accompanied Paul:

Dr. Lightfoot thinks that Trophimus the Ephesian went off with him, but that he left him sick at Miletum (2 Timothy 4:20), when he passed by those coasts of Asia mentioned here (Acts 27:2), and that there likewise he left Timothy.

A centurion, Julius, was in charge of passengers and cargo. Julius was from the Augustan Cohort. Cohort in this context means legion or band of men. Some of his 100 men would have guarded Paul.

John MacArthur explains the role of the likes of Julius and his men in Roman history (emphases mine):

Now the Augustus’ band is interesting. I told you a couple of weeks ago that Augustus was a title for the emperor. This was a special band of men, a special cohort of men assigned to the emperor. They were special envoys. They were like special couriers. Their name – they were called frumentarii. Frumentarii means pertaining to grain. And the reason they got this name, pertaining to grain was because initially when the Roman government began to send its troops and garrison them and station them all over the imperial empire, they had to get food to their troops. And there were men assigned to the accompaniment of the food. They were men who were responsible for the transportation of the food safely.

These were the men who were the special food envoys and they were called frumentarii. That is they pertained to the grain. But as time when on, these special couriers also got into really becoming very sophisticated imperial agents. They were responsible for spying. They were responsible for transporting important political prisoners and personalities back and forth between Rome and its armies and its garrisons in its various provinces. And so they were set aside from the regular troop duty and assigned to this very important area.

Julius was a commander commanding a hundred such men. Now, how many of the hundred accompanied Paul on the ship we do not know. But with Julius and his men, the crew of the ship, Paul and the prisoners, there was a good group. Later on when they changed ships there was a total of 276 people. We don’t know how many on this first vessel, but at least 276 on the second as it’s indicated later on in the passage.

Acts 27 is about the entire journey to Rome, fraught with peril after an initial calm.

The first ship they sailed on was one registered in Adramyttium in Asia Minor (verse 2). It was a coastal vessel, which was returning with goods for the various ports of call in that part of the world. Henry’s commentary says that it would have picked up goods from Africa and made interim stops along the way:

this ship brought African goods, and, as it should seem, made a coasting voyage for Syria, where those goods came to a good market.

The next stop was Sidon, where Julius kindly let Paul and his friends disembark so that he could be ‘cared for’ (verse 3). As Henry stated above, Paul was ill and needed medical attention. Fortunately, Sidon also had a Christian community, as MacArthur explains:

In Sidon, apparently, there was a church. The believers were called Friends. And that didn’t come as any shock, I think. In reading that I thought back to John 15:15, where Jesus said, “No longer will I call you servants, but from now on I’ll call you” – What? – “friends.” And one of the terms that was used commonly for the designation of Christians was that of friends.

And there was a church founded in Sidon, most likely founded in the repercussions of the persecution of Stephen. You’ll remember back in the early part of the book of Acts that when the persecution broke out against Stephen, the church was scattered. And the scattering of the church Judea and Samaria area was pretty well evangelized. And, apparently, a church was begun in the area of Sidon, even as there was in the area of Tyre. Paul had visited that church on his trip to Jerusalem. Now he visits Sidon on the way from. And so he went there.

But an interesting thing to note is this. You say, “What did he do when he went there or why did he go?” Well I’m sure he went for the fellowship of believers because he loved that. I’m sure he did some teaching. I’m sure he did some ministering just because that’s the nature of the man, I mean you couldn’t restrain the man. He was too committed to those things. But it says here, “To refresh himself.” The interesting thing about this is the word refresh is a medical term. It has to do with medical care and it indicates that he was sick.

The apostle Paul at this particular point is a sick man. And it isn’t any wonder with all that he has endured in the time intervening since his liberty, having been a prisoner for two years. And so in his illness he is probably not able to gain the diet, the rest, and the care that he needed on shipboard. And Julius allows him the privilege of going to be with Christians who minister to him, equally, as he ministers spiritually to them.

When they left Sidon, they sailed under the ‘lee’ — shelter — of Cyprus, because the winds were against them (verse 4). The ship hugged the coastline.

MacArthur says that they were most likely on the sea in the late summer, a borderline season with regard to weather, not much different to hurricane season in the Caribbean and southern United States:

… when there was a problem with the wind, going along the coast was to the advantage because they could take advantage of land winds and, as well, the current of the Mediterranean runs that very route west. And so they took advantage of land winds, as well as the current to run them up around the island of Cyprus and to the west. The way the wind was blowing probably would have been very helpful to ships coming the opposite direction from, say Rhodes or Crete down toward Sidon. And that’s the way Paul came when he came. He came straight across south of Crete. But on the return, because of the winds, was unable to do that.

Now this is summer. It is estimated that Festus took office in early July of A.D. 59 or 60. And that means that if he took office in early July, by the time he went to Jerusalem, came back, heard Paul, had Agrippa come down, had that little thing with Agrippa and figured out what to do with Paul and waited for the proper ship, it is probably mid-August by now. And mid-August would be the time that Paul would be departing. The winds were basically westerly winds in the summer, blowing from the west. And they could easily tack against the wind and make good progress toward Rome.

But mid-August was pretty borderline. If you wait too long you get into a treacherous season. From November 11th on to the end of March, nobody crossed the Mediterranean. The winds were extremely strong and the sea was very rough and all shipping ceased from November 11th to the end of March. But from September 14 to November 11th, that period between the summer sailing season and the winter closed season was known as the treacherous season. You just really didn’t know. It was a gamble to sail in the open sea from September 14th till November 11th. So at this particular point, as they near the end of August, they are flirting with a borderline situation.

When they reached Myra, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor, Julius found a ship registered in Alexandria and transferred prisoners and goods to it (verse 6). Henry tells us this was a good decision because it would not have made many stops:

Alexandria was now the chief city of Egypt, and great trading there was between that city and Italy; from Alexandria they carried corn to Rome, and the East-India goods and Persian which they imported at the Red Sea they exported again to all parts of the Mediterranean, and especially to Italy. And it was a particular favour shown to the Alexandrian ships in the ports of Italy that they were not obliged to strike sail, as other ships were, when they came into port.

The winds were against them — again, part of the borderline weather situation for that time of year — so it took them longer than expected to get near the port of Cnidus. They then sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone (verse 7).

MacArthur explains:

Verse 7, “and when we had sailed slowly many days,” – they had westerly winds, that is winds blowing at them from the west against which they could tack and progress – “and scarcely were come off Cnidus. The wind not permitting us we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone.” Now look at your map. They left Myra and very slowly did they sail west the inside passage between Rhodes and the mainland there of Asia Minor, and they proceeded to the very last point, Cnidus. Now, they would at that point have harbored in Cnidus. Now, if you feel you’re really bogged down in National Geographic trivia, hang on. The Lord has a purpose in all of this.

But they had passed Cnidus and, of course, immediately when they did this they left the shelter of land. The gentle land winds ceased. The protection ceased and the wind became extremely strong as they ventured immediately into the open sea. And they were unable to harbor at Cnidus. They could not direct the ship into the harbor and so they had to let it go. They couldn’t handle the wind. What they did was they ran smack into the prevailing wind and they plunged right into the pressing plummeting headwaters, and they couldn’t handle it. And you’ll notice, the only thing they could do is let it go and try to get the ship down around the underside of Crete in order to be able to hide from the wind, to have some kind of a break from the wind that was blowing.

Now you know, perhaps a different kind of ship could have handled it. They say that a schooner or a sloop or something can take a six-degree angle into a wind and ride it in. But a great big thing like this; these Roman ships – and we have much information about them archeologically – were clumsy. Great big heavy – in fact, they could displace a tremendous amount of water, much tonnage. And, of course, as grain ships they would be loaded down.

They were clumsy, they had a single mast with a great big square sail on it. And they preferred, usually, to sail under just that one enormous sail and run before the wind. They just really didn’t handle themselves well when the wind was contrary. And so the wind wouldn’t let them get into either of Cnidus’ two harbors, and they did have two there. And so they had to go down around the treacherous Cape Salmone and try get on the back side of Crete and be sheltered from the wind. And once they got around it they would be secured from the nor’wester wind that was blowing.

Eventually, they came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea (verse 8). The name was deceiving. Henry says:

It was not a commodious haven to winter in, so it is said, Acts 27:12. It had a fine prospect, but it lay exposed to the weather. Note, Every fair haven is not a safe haven

MacArthur gives us a glimpse into the rest of Acts 27:

Verse 8, “And passing it with difficulty,” listen they didn’t have an easy time getting around that Cape Salmone on the east coast tip of Crete. It was tough. With difficulty means just that. It’s a 140-mile long island, Crete is, and they just wanted to turn the edge and get into shelter. With great difficulty they finally made it and came to a place called Kalous Limenas. That’s Greek for Fair Havens, near to which was the city of Lasea. Now, you say, “That’s a terrific place to be in a storm, Fair Havens.” Well, Fair Havens was really a hokey place. And they weren’t at all excited about being in Fair Havens, but at least they made it. And the first foreboding sign of a difficult trip had made itself known.

Some might wonder why Luke went into all this detail about this journey to Rome. Henry says it was documented proof for historical reasons:

What course they steered, and what places they touched at, which are particularly recorded for the confirming of the truth of the history to those who lived at that time, and could by their own knowledge tell of their being at such and such a place.

Henry draws a useful conclusion about the Christian life from this voyage:

Though the voyage hitherto was not tempestuous, yet it was very tedious. They many that are not driven backward in their affairs by cross providences, yet sail slowly, and do not get forward by favourable providences. And many good Christians make this complaint in the concerns of their souls, that they do not rid ground in their way of heaven, but have much ado to keep their ground; they move with many stops and pauses, and lie a great while wind-bound. Observe, The place they came to was called The Fair Havens. Travellers say that it is known to this day by the same name, and that it answers the name from the pleasantness of its situation and prospect. And yet, (1.) It was not the harbour they were bound for; it was a fair haven, but it was not their haven. Whatever agreeable circumstances we may be in in this world, we must remember we are not at home, and therefore we must arise and depart; for, though it be a fair haven, it is not the desired haven, Psalms 107:30.

Something to keep in mind.

Next time — Acts 27:9-12

What follows are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Peter raises Dorcas (Tabitha) from the dead. The miracle brings many to believe in Christ.

Acts 9:36-43

9:36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.

9:37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.

9:38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”

9:39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

9:40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.

9:41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.

9:42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

9:43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm

This beautiful Psalm needs no introduction!

Psalm 23

23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Epistle

Readings from Revelation continue with the theme of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the one sufficient propitiation and sacrifice for our sins.

Revelation 7:9-17

7:9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

7:10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

7:11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

7:12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

7:13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”

7:14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

7:15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

7:16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;

7:17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Gospel

Jesus explains that He is the Shepherd whom God has called to look after His people forever more.

John 10:22-30

10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,

10:23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

10:25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;

10:26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

10:29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.

10:30 The Father and I are one.”

Wow. What excellent — and moving — readings. I pray that our clergy do them justice.

Bible read me 1The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 26:30-32

30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed (E)to Caesar.”

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Last week’s entry was about Paul’s earnest attempt to convert Herod Agrippa II, the last of the Herods.

The Roman governor Festus and Agrippa did not give Paul any more time to speak. Agrippa rose, then Festus, then Agrippa’s sister Bernice, then the other dignitaries gathered there (verse 30). Matthew Henry posits that Agrippa was close to conversion but, like Festus’s predecessor Felix, backed off. As with Felix, that was the last of the matter. Felix had visibly trembled. We don’t know what happened with Agrippa. He probably did not want to wrestle with a guilty conscience, either. More’s the pity.

Festus and Agrippa remarked on Paul’s innocence (verse 31).

Agrippa said that if Paul had not appealed to Rome for trial he would have been set free (verse 32).

However, one must ask whether Nero — ‘Caesar’ — even knew about Paul, his imprisonment or his innocence.

John MacArthur says that he probably did not know (emphases mine):

They could have let him go. There wasn’t any reason to appeal to Caesar now. There wasn’t any case. Caesar hadn’t heard a word about it. There hadn’t even been a letter written, but they hide behind the appeal of Paul. Oh, too bad. Boy, we could have let him go if he hadn’t appealed to Rome. Opportunistic fool, coward! How stupid. You see how a man – even though he has the gospel directed right at him – unless he activates his will, is lost? You say, “What – what hindered, what hindered Agrippa? What hindered Festus?” I mean he was innocent. Why would they – why would they push this case hiding behind this phony deal about he appealed to Rome.

Personally, I do not think either man cared about Paul. According to their reasoning, if he wanted to plead his case as a Roman citizen in Rome, that was his right. They probably thought he had been prisoner in Judea long enough and they wanted rid of him. In addition, the Jews had wanted to kill Paul for two years. He was likely seen as being too much trouble.

MacArthur thinks it was a question of the two rulers’ egos:

Because the most important thing to them was popularity, right? I’ll tell you what hindered them. One, popular, big egos. Two, immorality hindered Agrippa. He was a – he was absolutely vile, self-centeredness, unbelief, pride, ignorance, indifference, all the same old things that hinder other people.

He says that Paul was not bothered:

But you know something. It didn’t discourage Paul. He had some people who believed and some people who cursed him, but he didn’t change did he? When he got to Rome, remember what he did the first thing he got there? He started preaching Jesus again.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that, at this point in history, the Romans had not yet begun putting Christians to death, therefore, Paul was innocent of any crime:

After this, Nero made a law for the putting of those to death who professed the Christian religion, but as yet there was no law of that kind among the Romans, and therefore no transgression; and this judgment of theirs is a testimony against that wicked law which Nero made not long after this, that Paul, the most active zealous Christian that ever was, was adjudged, even by those that were no friends to his way, to have done nothing worthy of death, or of bonds.

Contrary to MacArthur, Henry states that some historians believe that as soon as a prisoner appealed to Rome, he had to be sent there for trial, yet, Henry did not think this was relevant in Paul’s situation. Yet, he says that Agrippa and Festus likely used it as an excuse:

Some think that by the Roman law this was true, that, when a prisoner had appealed to the supreme court, the inferior courts could no more discharge him than they could condemn him; and we suppose the law was so, if the prosecutors joined issue upon the appeal, and consented to it. But it does not appear that in Paul’s case the prosecutors did so; he was forced to do it, to screen himself from their fury, when he saw the governor did not take the care he ought to have done for his protection. And therefore others think that Agrippa and Festus, being unwilling to disoblige the Jews by setting him at liberty, made this serve for an excuse of their continuing him in custody, when they themselves knew they might have justified the discharging of him.

Henry was clearly troubled by Paul’s request to be tried in Rome, wondering if it was a case of acting in haste and repenting at leisure. He offers this analysis:

And now I cannot tell, (1.) Whether Paul repented of his having appealed to Cæsar, and wished he had not done it, blaming himself for it as a rash thing, now he saw that was the only thing that hindered his discharge. He had reason perhaps to reflect upon it with regret, and to charge himself with imprudence and impatience in it, and some distrust of the divine protection. He had better have appealed to God than to Cæsar. It confirms what Solomon says (Ecclesiastes 6:12), Who knows what is good for man in this life? What we think is for our welfare often proves to be a trap; such short-sighted creatures are we, and so ill-advised in leaning, as we do, to our own understanding. Or, (2.) Whether, notwithstanding this, he was satisfied in what he had done, and was easy in his reflections upon it. His appealing to Cæsar was lawful, and what became a Roman citizen, and would help to make his cause considerable; and forasmuch as when he did it it appeared to him, as the case then stood, to be for the best, though afterwards it appeared otherwise, he did not vex himself with any self-reproach in the matter, but believed there was a providence in it, and it would issue well at last. And besides, he was told in a vision that he must bear witness to Christ at Rome, Acts 23:11. And it is all one to him whether he goes thither a prisoner or at his liberty; he knows the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and says, Let it stand. The will of the Lord be done.

Luke, the author of Acts, sailed with Paul to Rome. Acts 27 is all about that dramatic journey.

Next time — Acts 27:1-8

What follows are the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This is the story of Saul’s — Paul’s — Damascene conversion. These posts discuss the reading in detail:

Part 1 of Acts 9:1-9: Saul’s — St Paul’s — conversion

Part 2 of Acts 9:1-9: Saul’s — St Paul’s — conversion (includes interesting info from John MacArthur on his own conversion)

Acts 9:10-19 — when scales fell from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus (final part of St Paul’s conversion story)

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)

9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest

9:2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

9:3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.

9:4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

9:5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

9:6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

9:7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.

9:8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

9:9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

9:10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

9:11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying,

9:12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem;

9:14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”

9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;

9:16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

9:17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

9:18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized,

9:19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus,

9:20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Psalm

Although David wrote this Psalm as one of thanksgiving for his own deliverance, it also befits Paul’s ministry as Luke documented it in Acts.

Psalm 30

30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.

30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”

30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication:

30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?

30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!”

30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Epistle

John gives us the image of Christ as the Lamb of God.

Revelation 5:11-14

5:11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,

5:12 singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

5:13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

5:14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

Gospel

In this moving passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus gives Simon Peter his mandate for ministry as a fisher of men and foretells his death as a martyr. This took place after the Resurrection and the episode with Thomas. John refers to himself in verse 7.

John 21:1-19

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Reading John’s Gospel always makes me feel as if I were there. He really wrote from the human point of view, yet with a true talent for incorporating imagery and themes (e.g., Light versus the Darkness).

I hope everyone has a blessed Sunday.

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 26:24-29

24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”[a] 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

————————————————————————————————————

My last post, just before Easter, discussed Paul’s account of his conversion. He ended by saying that Christ was the first to rise from the dead.

That statement caused Festus, the Roman governor, to accuse the Apostle of having lost his senses through too much education (verse 24). Festus was a pagan and knew nothing of ancient Scripture, which mentions life after death in several places.

John MacArthur explains:

Festus couldn’t handle that resurrection idea. He – he thought there’s only one kind of person who would babble on about visions and about revelations and about voices out of heaven and about resurrections, and that’s a mad man. Paul, you’ve learned too much.

But, then, Jesus was also derided in a similar fashion. So were the prophets of the Old Testament (emphases mine):

Jesus spoke what He spoke in John 8 and they said, “You’ve got a demon”In chapter 10, verse 20 and 21 of John’s gospel they said, “You’re mad. You’re out of your mind talking like that.” Yes, and that’s what Paul said. In I Corinthians 1, he said, “The preaching of the gospel is to them that perish foolishness, foolishness, because the natural man understandeth not the things of God.” It isn’t even anything new. In Hosea 9:7 they said the prophets were mad.

Matthew Henry’s commentary takes Festus’s remark further, as an excuse not to condemn Paul. The reason Festus has Agrippa in attendance is so that Agrippa can work out a criminal charge that Festus can put on his report accompanying Paul to Rome, where he requested trial. Henry says:

he thinks he has found out an expedient to excuse himself both from condemning Paul as a prisoner and from believing him as a preacher; for, if he be not compos mentis–in his senses, he is not to be either condemned or credited.

Paul responded by saying he was speaking ‘true and rational words’ (verse 25). He responded to the charge with courtesy, by referring to the governor as ‘most excellent Festus’.

Paul then narrowed his focus to Agrippa, his primary goal all along. He told Festus that Agrippa knew about these events in the life of Christ, because news of them had spread everywhere; they did not happen in a vacuum (verse 26).

MacArthur provides this analysis:

Oh, the Jews had bought off the Roman soldiers and told them to tell everybody that the disciples stole the body. But still it was common knowledge that the Christians had gone everywhere preaching Jesus was alive. Here we are 25 years later and Agrippa is no dumbbell. He knows what the Christians taught. Common knowledge. “You know the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were common knowledge, you know that, Agrippa, don’t you? You know that what I’m saying is not the babbling on of a madman. You know there are people who believe there’s evidence for this.”

Beloved, you know how Paul – he is so brilliant. He has presented to Agrippa the whole gospel and now he just nails him against the wall and forces him to a conclusion that he probably wouldn’t have made on his own. And he forces Agrippa to be a silent witness to Festus. Agrippa hasn’t said a word, and yet Agrippa is standing there with his mouth shut attesting to what Paul has said as being true. You know this, don’t you, Agrippa? By the very fact that Agrippa didn’t say anything he acquiesced. The case is clear. The king knows it.

Anybody who believes the prophets, anybody who believes Moses, and anybody who believes historical fact must conclude that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. “And you know it Agrippa, you know it.” Ooh, that is – I mean going after it. That’s attack folks. He really tackled Agrippa head on.

Then Paul confronted Agrippa directly, first by asking him if he believed in the prophets then by stating he believed in them (verse 27). Recall that in addition to Festus and Agrippa, also listening were Agrippa’s incestuous sister Bernice and a roomful of local dignitaries. Everyone knew Agrippa and Bernice were adherents of the Jewish faith. Paul took clear advantage of that fact.

MacArthur explains:

He wants to do for Agrippa what he wants him to do for himself. Make the only logical conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah. Well Agrippa’s stuck. If Agrippa says, “Yes, I do believe the prophets,” then he has admitted that he believes Jesus is the Messiah and he’s in real trouble with his whole nation. If he says, “No, I don’t believe the prophets,” then he’s still in trouble with his nation. So he can’t say yes or no. “You believe, don’t you Agrippa?” Argh.

Agrippa knew where Paul was going with his rhetoric, so he asked Paul if he expected conversion in such a short time (verse 28). Agrippa’s question can be interpreted in a number of ways ranging from tongue-in-cheek to a serious response. Henry’s commentary posits that Agrippa was close to conversion, as Festus’s predecessor Felix was until he sent Paul away because the Apostle had disturbed his conscience:

Some understand this as spoken ironically, and read it thus, Wouldst thou in so little a time persuade me to be a Christian? But, taking it so, it is an acknowledgement that Paul spoke very much to the purpose, and that, whatever others thought of it, to his mind there came a convincing power along with what he said: “Paul, thou art too hasty, thou canst not think to make a convert of me all of a sudden.” Others take it as spoken seriously, and as a confession that he was in a manner, or within a little, convinced that Christ was the Messiah; for he could not but own, and had many a time thought so within himself, that the prophecies of the Old Testament had had their accomplishment in him; and now that it is urged thus solemnly upon him he is ready to yield to the conviction, he begins to sound a parley, and to think of rendering. He is as near being persuaded to believe in Christ as Felix, when he trembled, was to leave his sins: he sees a great deal of reason for Christianity; the proofs of it, he owns, are strong, and such as he cannot answer; the objections against it trifling, and such as he cannot for shame insist upon; so that if it were not for his obligations to the ceremonial law, and his respect to the religion of his fathers and of his country, or his regard to his dignity as a king and to his secular interests, he would turn Christian immediately. Note, Many are almost persuaded to be religious who are not quite persuaded; they are under strong convictions of their duty, and of the excellency of the ways of God, but yet are overruled by some external inducements, and do not pursue their convictions.

Paul answered Agrippa by saying that he did not mind a short or lengthy conversion. He would pray that Agrippa — and everyone else present — could enjoy the same experience in Christ, minus the persecution — ‘chains’ (verse 29).

MacArthur says:

You know, he wasn’t bitter. He didn’t say, “Ah, you ought to have these chains and I ought to be sitting up on that throne.” There wasn’t any of that brash talk. He just says, “I wish you had, I wish you had what I have. I want to give you my soul liberty. Oh I don’t mean I want to give you my physical chains. I just – I want to give you the freedom of soul that I know. There’s Agrippa in purple, Bernice decked out in all of her jewels. Festus is there in his Roman scarlet. All the dignitaries are there, and Paul looks at all this fancy group and he says, “I wish you were all like I am.” They’re looking at each other and he says, “Except for these chains. I’m talking spiritually.”

They had everything in the world but they had nothing, right? “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his own soul.” What will a man give in exchange for his own soul? Jesus said. I will die to save Agrippa but I wouldn’t wish my chains on him. Yeah, because you know he could have died on the spot for what he said. He would die to save Agrippa. He was expendable. It didn’t bother him. But he wouldn’t wish his chains on Agrippa. That’s the heart of the Christian. That’s sincere evangelism. That’s evangelism with love.

How true.

Some might say this was another ‘loss’ for Paul, but MacArthur views the matter differently:

People say to me, “You know, I – I’ve tried to share Christ here, there, and everywhere and there doesn’t seem to be any response.” That’s all right. God didn’t call you to save people. He called you to preach Christ. He’ll do the saving. All He asks out of you is that you be faithful. You could not sublimate Paul’s passion. You could not catch his dominant spirit and squelch it. He just continued to be faithful. Why? … Because his orientation to service was toward God not based on the response of men.

Spread the Gospel and be faithful to the Lord. That is all He asks of us.

Next time — Acts 26:30-32

What follows are readings for the Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

This particular day is traditionally known as Quasimodo Sunday. This name comes from the words of the Introit in Latin: ‘Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite’. This translates to: ‘As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile’ and is intended for those baptised the week before.

You can read more about it here:

Quasimodo Sunday — seriously

First reading

In this passage from Acts, Luke describes Peter and the Apostles’ appearance before the Sanhedrin shortly after the first Pentecost.

Acts 5:27-32

5:27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them,

5:28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”

5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.

5:30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.

5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

5:32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Psalm

There is a choice of two Psalms, both of which are jubilant in their thanksgiving.

Option One

Psalm 118:14-29

118:14 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

118:15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;

118:16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”

118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

118:18 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

118:25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.

118:27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

118:28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

118:29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Option Two

Psalm 150

150:1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!

150:2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

150:3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

150:4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

150:5 Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

150:6 Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

Epistle

Our Lord will come again in glory. Verse 8 is a personal favourite.

Revelation 1:4-8

1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,

1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,

1:6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1:7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.

1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Gospel

The Gospel is the same for all three years in the Lectionary: John’s account of Doubting Thomas, whose feast day is December 21. These posts explain more:

Doubting Thomas — John 20:19-31

Doubting Thomas: When seeing is believing

John 20:19-31

20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

20:31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Is that not a marvellous ending to a marvellous Gospel? We all have our favourites, and John’s is mine. I thoroughly recommend it, especially to those whose faith is weak.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomHappy Easter, everyone! He is risen!

Before going to the readings for Easter Day, I have a number of previous posts on this most important feast in the Church year:

Easter: the greatest feast in the Church year

Easter Sunday: Thoughts on this greatest of days

Happy Easter — He is risen!

Happy Easter — yes, Jesus rose from the dead! (2018, with explanation of Resurrection accounts)

The significance of Easter to the Church (various questions answered)

Easter poems from an inspired Anglican, the Revd George Herbert

George Herbert: 17th century poet and priest

Part I of a Martin Luther Easter sermon: the story of Christ’s Resurrection

Part II of a Martin Luther Easter sermon: the fruits and benefits of Christ’s Resurrection

Easter: the drama and glory of the Resurrection (John MacArthur explains Gospel accounts)

Holy Week and Easter — the two-part story

The Easter story: reflections on Mark 16:1-8 (Dr Gregory Jackson, Lutheran)

Judge Andrew Napolitano on the meaning of Easter (great, especially from a layman)

Easter documentaries — when knowing the Bible helps — part 1

Easter documentaries — when knowing the Bible helps — part 2

Emphases in the readings below are mine.

First reading

The celebrant has two options.

Option One

This reading from Acts has to do with the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius, the first Italian saint and first Gentile convert. Peter addressed Cornelius and his household as well as the Jewish converts who accompanied him.

This post discusses it in more detail:

Epistle for Easter – Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43

10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,

10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.

10:37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:

10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;

10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,

10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.

10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Option Two

This reading, near the end of Isaiah’s prophecy, foretells the blessings that the Church will receive. In the immediate context of the whole chapter, the prophet says that God will judge the Jews coming out of Babylonian captivity for their hardheartedness or bless them for their faithfulness.

Isaiah 65:17-25

65:17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

65:18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

65:19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.

65:20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

65:21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

65:22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

65:23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD– and their descendants as well.

65:24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.

65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent–its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

Psalm

I have more details on the Psalm in the following post:

Psalm 118, Christ’s Passion and Eastertide

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

118:14 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

118:15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;

118:16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”

118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

118:18 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Epistle

There are two options for the Epistle.

Option One

The first two verses of this excerpted letter from Paul to the Corinthians express what is still very real today.

Verse 19 says if we had hoped in vain for Christ — i.e. yet He died and was never seen again — then we are to be pitied. This is the prevailing thought amongst unbelievers, especially in the UK, where — amazingly — Religious Education is required in all schools!

Verse 20 states that we can rejoice, because Christ was raised from the dead and will raise others from the dead. People do not understand what Easter means these days. I have often been told in Britain and have read on British websites that Jesus died, and that was it. They say that Easter represents a celebration of His death with chocolate bunnies and eggs! That makes no sense at all — nor is it remotely true! I despair for this once great nation, I truly do. May God have mercy on all of us!

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

15:19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

15:21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;

15:22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.

15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

15:24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.

15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Option Two

Acts 10:34-43, as above, if it has not been already read for the First Reading.

Gospel

There is a choice of Gospel readings.

The four Gospel accounts each have slightly different details. John MacArthur explores them and the Easter story, as I’ve excerpted in the following post:

Easter: the drama and glory of the Resurrection

Option One

John’s account features a moving account of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ. John was ‘the other disciple’, ‘the one whom Jesus loved’.

John 20:1-18

20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

20:2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

20:3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

20:5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

20:6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,

20:7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

20:8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

20:9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;

20:12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.

20:13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

20:15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

20:17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Option Two

This passage from Luke introduces the account of the road to Emmaus, more about which below:

The road to Emmaus — a great Easter story

Luke 24:1-12

24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.

24:2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

24:3 but when they went in, they did not find the body.

24:4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.

24:5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

24:6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,

24:7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

24:8 Then they remembered his words,

24:9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.

24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.

24:11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

24:12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

I hope wherever you are today that you have a very happy and blessed Easter — and Eastertide, in the weeks that follow.

May the risen Lord bless all of us abundantly.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 26:19-23

19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

———————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s defence before King Herod Agrippa II, the Roman governor Festus, Agrippa’s incestuous sister Bernice and a group of dignitaries. Paul spoke of his Damascene conversion.

Festus asked Agrippa to hear Paul speak so that he, Festus, would have a criminal charge to put on Paul’s report which he needed in order to be tried by Nero. Paul believed that he had a fairer chance with Nero than he would in Jerusalem, where he had spent his younger years as a Pharisee under Gamaliel’s tutelage then as a persecutor of Christians. Now the Jews wanted to kill him because he had converted to Christianity himself.

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us that this scene took place two decades after Paul’s conversion (emphases mine):

It was now above twenty years since Paul was converted

Furthermore, Paul knew that it was God who helped him survive in his ministry (verse 22):

and all that time he had been very busy preaching the gospel in the midst of hazards; and what was it that bore him up? Not any strength of his own resolutions, but having obtained help of God; for therefore, because the work was so great and he had so much opposition, he could not otherwise have gone on in it, but by help obtained of God.

In verse 19, Paul says that he did not disobey our Lord’s instructions during that dramatic conversion, which left him blind for three days. That blindness and shock forced him to think about his role as persecutor. He was going from Jerusalem to Damascus to persecute Christians there. He had to rethink his hate, repent and turn his energies towards preaching God’s grace and Christ Jesus with the same strength of conviction. And, with much prayer then and afterwards, so he did.

Paul told Agrippa where his ministry led him, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, giving all the same message: repent — (re)turn to God — with commensurate behaviour (verse 20).

Henry explains:

… they ought, (1.) To repent of their sins, to be sorry for them and to confess them, and enter into covenant against them; they ought to bethink themselves, so the word metanoein properly signifies; they ought to change their mind and change their way, and undo what they had done amiss. (2.) To turn to God. They must not only conceive an antipathy to sin, but they must come into a conformity to God–must not only turn from that which is evil, but turn to that which is good; they must turn to God, in love and affection, and return to God in duty and obedience, and turn and return from the world and the flesh; this is that which is required from the whole revolted degenerate race of mankind, both Jews and Gentiles; epistrephein epi ton Theon–to turn back to God, even to him: to turn to him as our chief good and highest end, as our ruler and portion, turn our eye to him, turn our heart to him, and turn our feet unto his testimonies. (3.) To do works meet for repentance. This was what John preached, who was the first gospel preacher, Matthew 3:8. Those that profess repentance must practise it, must live a life of repentance, must in every thing carry it as becomes penitents. It is not enough to speak penitent words, but we must do works agreeable to those words.

Yet, Paul said, the Jews in Jerusalem objected, seizing him in the temple, where he was completing his Nazirite vow, and attempting to kill him (verse 21). Henry points out the irony of the situation, coming from self-proclaimed holy men:

As true faith, so true repentance, will work. Now what fault could be found with such preaching as this? Had it not a direct tendency to reform the world, and to redress its grievances, and to revive natural religion?

Of course, they were enraged because Paul preached that the same promise that was given to Jews was also given to the Gentiles. John MacArthur says:

That was the problem. Verse 21, “For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple and went about to kill me.” You know why they wanted him dead? Because he was offering equal salvation to whom? Gentiles. The Jews could not tolerate equality with Gentiles. And so Paul says, “They wanted me dead because I offered an equal salvation to Gentiles.” They wanted to kill me in the temple. And you remember they tried to kill him, didn’t they, in the temple. That’s how this whole thing started. That’s how he became a prisoner to begin with.

Paul proclaimed that only God could have allowed him to survive his many travails. MacArthur elaborates:

He says, in 22, “Having therefore obtained help from God,” I love that. He always was getting that. I mean when he – when he was in Lystra they killed him outside the city. The Lord raised him from the dead. When he got to Philippi and they put him in jail, the Lord brought along an earthquake and let him out. It’s amazing the man had help from God all the time. And again, here you have the – the tremendous dichotomy of human effort and divine sovereignty. We struggle and work and give and sweat, and discipline ourselves to work as hard as we can to produce as much as we can for the glory of the Lord. And at the same time it’s all His undergirding strength, isn’t it? This is what Paul is acknowledging.

Paul then said that nothing he preached ever went against Scripture, from Moses through to the prophets (verse 22). Christ — the Messiah — would come to mankind, redeem their sins through suffering and rise from the dead, at which point God’s promise of salvation was equally open to the Gentiles (verse 23).

Henry explains that all of this was in Scripture, therefore, it was strange that could the Jews would object:

Three things they prophesied, and Paul preached:– (1.) That Christ should suffer, that the Messiah should be a sufferer–pathetos; not only a man, and capable of suffering, but that, as Messiah, he should be appointed to sufferings; that his ignominious death should be not only consistent with, but pursuant of, his undertaking. The cross of Christ was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and Paul’s preaching it was the great thing that exasperated them; but Paul stands to it that, in preaching that, he preached the fulfilling of the Old-Testament predictions, and therefore they ought not only not to be offended at what he preached, but to embrace it, and subscribe to it. (2.) That he should be the first that should rise from the dead; not the first in time, but the first in influence–that he should be the chief of the resurrection, the head, or principal one, protos ex anastaseos, in the same sense that he is called the first-begotten from the dead (Revelation 1:5), and the first-born from the dead, Colossians 1:18. He opened the womb of the grave, as the first-born are said to do, and made way for our resurrection; and he is said to be the first-fruits of those that slept (1 Corinthians 15:20), for he sanctified the harvest. He was the first that rose from the dead to die no more; and, to show that the resurrection of all believers is in virtue of his, just when he arose many dead bodies of saints arose, and went into the holy city, Matthew 27:52,53. (3.) That he should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles, to the people of the Jews in the first place, for he was to be the glory of his people Israel. To them he showed light by himself, and then to the Gentiles by the ministry of his apostles, for he was to be a light to enlighten those who sat in darkness. In this Paul refers to his commission (Acts 26:18), To turn them from darkness to light. He rose from the dead on purpose that he might show light to the people, that he might give a convincing proof of the truth of his doctrine, and might send it with so much the greater power, both among Jews and Gentiles. This also was foretold by the Old-Testament prophets, that the Gentiles should be brought to the knowledge of God by the Messiah; and what was there in all this that the Jews could justly be displeased at?

MacArthur reminds us of the symbolism in the Old Testament, which is particularly apposite as we approach Easter:

Have you read Psalm 22? Have you read Isaiah 53? It’s there. What about all the pictures of all the lambs in the Old Testament? What about the Passover Lamb? It’s all there. “And then that He should rise from the dead.” That’s there too in the Psalms. “Thou shalt not suffer Thine holy one to see corruption.” It’s all there. I’m just preaching what the Old Testament teaches.

Paul was not telling his story to Agrippa just as a self-defence, but also as a means of converting him. More on that after Easter.

Next time — Acts 26:24-29

Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 26:12-18

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry discussed the first part of Paul’s witness — and self-defence — to King Herod Agrippa II, the last of the Herods, who heard him in a grand assembly with his incestuous sister Bernice, the Roman governor Festus and local dignitaries decked out in their best finery.

Festus had to place a criminal charge on his report that would accompany Paul to Rome, to be heard, at the Apostle’s request, by the emperor — Nero, at that time. Therefore, Festus asked for Herod Agrippa II to hear what Paul had to say. Agrippa II, a Jew by practice but not by tribe, would know more about Jewish law than the recent newcomer from Rome.

Think of it. Paul believed he stood a better chance of justice in Rome, by a pagan court under a mad emperor, than in Jerusalem, where he was educated as a young Pharisee.

Paul explains his Damascene conversion, which really gives witness to the supernatural. Paul continued his defence by saying that he was going the Syrian city as as the chief persecutor of Christians. Not being content, he journeyed with all the authority provided by the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem (verse 12).

He then went on to say that at midday, a light immeasurably brighter than the noonday sun struck him and those travelling with him (verse 13). What else could it mean than a divine act, especially when that indescribable light caused them to be struck to the ground (verse 14)? As Matthew Henry’s commentary says, if only Paul had been struck to the ground by its brilliance, one might hold his testimony suspect. Yet, all his companions were similarly blinded and lost their balance, too (emphases mine):

… it shone round about those that journeyed with him: they were all sensible of their being surrounded with this inundation of light, which made the sun itself to be in their eyes a less light. The force and power of this light appeared in the effects of it; they all fell to the earth upon the sight of it, such a mighty consternation did it put them into; this light was lightning for its force, yet did not pass away as lightning, but continued to shine round about them.

Paul recounted that he heard a voice — Christ’s — speaking in Hebrew asking him why he was persecuting Him, noting that Paul was having a tough time kicking against the goads (verse 14). Goads are used to tame animals. They are strong restraints which they learn to accept. Restraint — as well as repentance and conversion — was what the future Apostle was about to experience in the three days to come, blinded and duly restrained from his zealous urge to persecute the faithful.

Paul said that he stopped kicking at the goads at that point, addressing Christ as Lord — unthinkable for such a puritanical Pharisee as he. Yet, there he was, blind, helpless — and, most importantly, powerless.

These three posts describe, scripturally and with theological sources, what Paul experienced, as recounted in Acts 9:

Part 1 of Acts 9:1-9: Saul’s — St Paul’s — conversion

Part 2 of Acts 9:1-9: Saul’s — St Paul’s — conversion (includes interesting info from John MacArthur on his own conversion)

Acts 9:10-19 — when scales fell from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus (final part of St Paul’s conversion story)

Paul then sped up the story for Agrippa II by giving him his ministry: to witness for Christ in having seen Him via that brilliant light, delivering him from the spiritually blind Jews of his day into giving him the power to witness to the Gentiles (verses 16, 17).

The message to Paul from Christ Jesus was that he would send him to open the eyes of both to turn from Satan — from ‘darkness to light’ — so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and sanctification by faith through belief in Him (verse 18).

Even reading this passage now, Paul’s fifth defence, it is equally as powerful when told it before and Luke, the author of Acts, recounted as the Apostle experienced it early on.

Paul was trying not only to defend himself and his scriptural beliefs. He was also trying to urge Agrippa — and, possibly indirectly, his incestuous sister Bernice (known throughout the ancient world as such) — to repent of his sins and embrace the risen Christ as Lord and Saviour. MacArthur posits this about Agrippa II and Paul’s discourse:

He doesn’t need more of God. He doesn’t need more information. He needs a total rebirth. And then, in addition he [Paul] says, “My message was this. To tell that they may receive forgiveness of sins.” Boy, I imagine old Bernice was wiggling around at that point. I imagine Agrippa was going, “Mph,” like this. Paul was a penetrating personBut when he said that they may receive forgiveness of sins, I can see a long stare and a long pause. Because Agrippa and Bernice knew enough to know that what they did was sin. They knew it not only because they knew the Scriptures, but – the Old Testament, but they knew it because they knew their conscience.

In a sense Paul was saying, “Forgiveness is available, Agrippa. Whatever you and Bernice have done, whatever you are, that’s our message.” I’m telling you that’s an exciting message to be able to give the world, isn’t it? To be able to say to somebody who is a Christian, “My little children, He has forgiven you all your trespasses for His name’s sake.” Oh what a blessed thought. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impugn iniquity. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord charges no sin.”

Some might object to that, however, MacArthur rightly points out that we do not know who God’s elect are. And, as Sunday’s Gospel reading, that of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, teaches: those who repent at the eleventh hour are part of that elect. MacArthur tells us:

You say, “But surely even if you’re a Christian, God will lay some sin at your feet.” Not at all. “Who shall lay any charge to God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Shall Christ? Nay.” Shall Christ accuse the one He died to save? No. Shall Christ accuse you of the sin He died and bore? No. There’s no accusation against you. Forgiveness is full and free and complete. In addition to the moment transformation from darkness to light, power to Satan to God, forgiveness of sin, there’s the future. He gives you an inheritance among them who are sanctified. The word sanctified means holy. You know another marvelous thing about becoming a Christian is the future promise of an inheritance undefiled and reserved for us. Isn’t that marvelous? An inheritance with God.

And then he gives the way you can attain it. Look at the end of verse 18. It’s all yours Agrippa, by” – What? – “faith that is in Me.” Jesus said to Paul that day, Paul you go and you preach “to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” You tell them that if they believe in Me it is all theirs. And so Paul quotes to Agrippa the words of Jesus, the words of our Lord as they were given to him in Damascus.

There’s only one way to know those things and that’s by faith. The simple gospel of Jesus Christ that we’re called on to preach is the gospel of Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” So he says, “Agrippa, look what happened to me. I was a Jew of all the Jews. I was zealous not only for Judaism, but I was killing Christians and trying to get them to blaspheme

Paul’s testimony continues next week.

Next time — Acts 26:19-23

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