Evangelism In The First Century
By F. M. Perry, April 8, 2008
(Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.)
“50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split, 52 and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;” (Matthew 27:50-52).
“18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations , baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28: 18-20).
“45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:45-47).
This article is a limited study of the first century advent of Christianity as it was received and further propagated by the small number of Jewish Disciples to whom Jesus first gave His “Great Commission.” It draws primarily on the Biblical accounts of Jesus and His Disciples in their lives together during the approximately three and half years of Jesus’ ministry, the Biblical accounts of the spread of Christianity during the first century, as well as upon secular historical accounts of the everyday life of middle eastern Jews under Roman rule during the first century. It is being presented as an encouragement to further thought to those of us in the twenty first century who have accepted the challenge presented by Jesus’ “Great Commission” in our time. It may be useful to compare the challenges of Christ’s disciples of the first century to the challenges of Christ’s disciples today.
First Century Disciples Needed “World View” That Includes Both Heaven and Earth.
The “twelve” Apostles (plus 108 or so other disciples, making a total of about 120 people) whom Jesus gathered closely around Himself during His teaching ministry and sent out after His ascension with His “Great Commission,” were “Galilean” Jews, representative of their social and political culture. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus chose as special Apostles four who were independent fishermen, rugged entrepreneurs of their day. Two of these He called “sons of thunder,” possibly referring to their political bent in a country occupied by a despised foreign power. One Apostle was known as “the Zealot,” obviously indicating someone with unusual “zeal” for a cause. One was a tax collector for the despised foreign power ruling over their country. And He chose one or more who were possibly known as “insurrectionists.”
The Scriptures lead us to understand, of course, that Jesus did not invite Apostles and disciples to follow Him because of their social or political prominence in their local secular societies, but because of His insight into their spiritual ability to believe and react “on earth” to unseen spiritual realities “in heaven.” Jesus prefixed His “Great Commission” with the important information that “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” It was important for the First Century disciples to understand that their “world view” must include “heaven” as well as “earth.” As Jesus found them, they were undoubtedly filled with built-in biases toward the causes of the world in which they lived. Even their own Jewish government permitted, and sometimes encouraged, mob rule and death by stoning for those who violated certain religious taboos. Witness the numerous times when mobs threatened to stone Jesus and His disciples for merely expressing thoughts which the politically empowered Jewish leaders considered improper. Jesus taught His disciples that, as Christians, they were still “in the world,” but not “of the world.” (John 18:36).
As Jews, the disciples were informed through Old Testament Scripture that the Almighty God is Spirit, living in an unseen spiritual realm of spiritual beings (heaven), in which realm raged spiritual warfare against God and His Angels. (Daniel 10:13-21; 12:1; Isaiah 14:12-15; Zechariah 3:1; etc.). But the vision of the spiritual realm portrayed in the Old Testament was to an ordinary Jew as “through a veil darkly.” Actually, the disciples who were to be sent out to preach the gospel to “all nations” on earth, had to first be taught that their opposition on earth would essentially come from Satan’s opposition to God from the unseen spiritual realm. They had to first be taught that the only real enemy is unseen, consisting of Satan and his demons, and not the misled souls of human beings. In fact, the disciples had to learn that the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches them to love all people including the very people whom perhaps the world had taught them to hate as enemies:
“35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Jesus to His disciples in Luke 6:35).
This conduct, to love your enemies, was commanded by Jesus and was so contrary to the biased thinking that the disciples had been taught by worldly teachers that Jesus went on at length in the sixth chapter of Luke, finally saying:
“36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Luke 6:36-37).
It seems to me that Jesus had to teach, and did teach, His first century human ambassadors that the realm of reality into which God had created them encompassed far more than just the fleshly world into which their bodies were born. Jesus taught them that the unseen spiritual realm of God Himself was not only real, but was a realm with which they had to deal in their everyday work for the Lord.
People Need “New Life” in Order to Propagate God’s Message of Love.
Then, in the expanded context which included the spiritual realm, God’s “ambassadors-to-be” had to bring their thinking into congruence with God’s own thinking. They had to learn that each individual of mankind was an object of God’s love. They had to learn that all human hate was but “spill over” felt in the world from Satan’s unseen warfare with God. Satan had not made any headway in his direct attack on God when he had lived in heaven. He had been banished to the environs of the earth where he turned his wrath toward humans on earth whom God loves. (Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 17:7-17). It is in this warfare that Satan’s cunning propaganda, appealing to man’s pride, destroys man by influencing him to choose to hate and not to love. Thus the worldly entrepreneurs, and the “sons of thunder,” and the zealots, and all who were finally to answer the call of the “Great Commission,” were taught by Jesus to put aside their own human judging and their own human condemning, and to personally pardon even their enemies. For it was only in this way that their own contrary human nature was enabled to take on the “new life” of a Christian and convincingly preach God’s gospel message of love.
Disciples Need “World View” That Includes Spiritual Realm.
Jesus had lived together with His twelve apostles and certain groups of disciples, men and women, for more than three years. They had all seen first hand His daily practices not only in his normal human life activities but also in His daily activities in calling upon His Father God in numerous supernatural activities. His followers had seen His practice of frequent prayer, of healing infirm people, of miraculously supplying food for large groups of people, and of “casting out” invisible demons that had seized the lives of people. Of course, His followers had from the first yielded themselves to His plea to make their spiritual lives ready for the coming “kingdom of heaven” by their individual repentance and baptism. Their exercise of faith to become followers of Jesus was in itself a first step into the spiritual realm. But when Jesus physically left them were they ready to cope on their own with spiritual reality?
At the time of Jesus’ actual utterance of His Great Commission, He was still physically visibly “on earth” to His disciples, but He had already informed them that He was leaving them physically and visibly. He had said, “I go (to My Father’s house) to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). This statement left the disciples with a quandary of unanswered questions, because He had also assured them, ”Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). They were still thinking in worldly political terms even as Jesus gathered them on the mount of Olives to see His ascension into heaven. Not knowing what was about to happen, they asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (It was almost as if they were saying, “Lord, are you ready now to become the King and free our nation from the Roman repression?”) Were they really ready for what was about to happen?
It must have been difficult for the disciples, ordinary men of the world, to think in terms of a reality with the Lord in which He was completely out of sight, and yet was still “with them always, even to the end of the age.” They had seen Him perform numerous miracles, and, by this time, they even knew that He had been resurrected from the dead. Yet they still did not understand that the “spiritual realm” would be included in the Kingdom of God of which Jesus was King. Their experience on the mount of Olives when they saw Jesus’ depart from them, must have been extremely challenging to their “world view.” Jesus’ words to them at that time (before He ascended) must have seemed strange indeed as Jesus told them in detail what to do and how to act as their understanding of their “daily working reality” was going to change and be enlarged to include God’s spiritual realm.
He said in answer to their question, “‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:6-9).
Disciples Were Taught To Obey Christ’s Instructions.
Jesus knew just what His apostles and disciples would need after viewing His ascension and disappearance in such a strange manner. He knew they might be dumbfounded and become incapable of taking further action. So He sent two Angels to stir them to rational obedience in their strange new working environment and relationship:
“And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.” (Acts 1:10-12).
The Diversity of Men, Women, and Young People Among the Disciples Presented with the Great Commission.
The members of the group who were present on the mount of Olives and who saw Jesus “lifted up until the cloud received Him out of their sight” were later listed by Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts. “Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:13-14). Those named were the eleven remaining Apostles whom Jesus had Himself chosen, accompanied by Mary, Jesus’ own mother. Among those listed but not personally identified, who also saw Jesus’ ascension, were “the women,” and the other sons of Mary, that is, the younger fleshly brothers of Jesus’ own earthly family. Note that the 120 or so Disciples with Jesus, receiving the charge of His Great Commission, were mature believers including both men and women. And some were relatively young. Jesus Himself was in His thirties. And His fleshly brothers were all younger than Him.
The parting instruction of Jesus was for them to wait for “power from on high to come upon you;” so they waited in an “upper room where they were staying,” and occupied themselves by “continually devoting themselves to
prayer.” Soon other disciples joined them, some of whom, according to spokesman Peter, had accompanied Jesus “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us – beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us.” (Acts 1:21-22). The Apostle Peter spoke up and proposed the selection of another disciple who had accompanied Jesus “all the time,” to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the Apostles. One named Matthias was chosen in a process by which the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Himself sanctioned the appointment. The total number of Apostles and Disciples then ready to work together was said to be “about 120.”
The “Type and Anti-type” Significance of the Annual Jewish Feast Days.
The ascension of Jesus into heaven had occurred at a time when the Jewish Feast of Pentecost was drawing near. The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was celebrated by the Jews on the fiftieth day after the start of the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). The Feast of Weeks began on the third day after the Passover with the presentation of the first harvest sheaves to God, and it concluded on Pentecost (50 days later) with the offering of two loaves of unleavened bread, representing the first products of the harvest (Leviticus 23:17-20; Deuteronomy 16:9-10).
The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was a great pilgrimage feast and many Jewish people from throughout the Roman Empire usually were gathered in Jerusalem on this day. So it was likely that the group of 120 Apostles and Disciples of Jesus were well aware that a great and exciting Jewish Feast Day was approaching. But they were possibly more concerned about the scene they had just witnessed of Jesus being taken up to disappear in the clouds and His very special promise that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” This thought may have eclipsed in their minds the importance of the annual Feast of Pentecost, not realizing that God had planned specifically to deliver His “power,” in the form of His Holy Spirit, on the Day of Pentecost.
Had these disciples of Jesus yet come to realize that the occurrence of events like Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension had been planned by God to coincide with certain annual feast days the Jews had observed symbolically since the time of Moses? Did they understand the occurrence of the Death of Jesus being coincident with the symbolic day of Passover, and His resurrection from the tomb being coincident with the start of the Feast of Weeks? Were they aware that it was God’s plan to coordinate the important thing they were awaiting, that is, their reception of power when the Holy Spirit was to come upon them, to occur coincidentally with the Feast Day of Pentecost? (On the other hand, perhaps it was understood better at that time by the first century disciples than it is understood by us today. For the Bible does indicate that the Jewish feast day celebrations were times of great expectation by some concerning the coming Messiah. And the preaching of both John the Baptist and Jesus was to get ready for His advent.)
Well, the day of the Feast of Pentecost did arrive right on time and “they (the Apostles and other Disciples of Jesus) were all together in one place.” The “place” was public, most likely the Temple Mount itself in Jerusalem where the Jews had gathered from throughout the world to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Did the Disciples of Jesus at that time understand the historical significance of the “place” they were gathered, the Temple Mount?
The History of God’s Use of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
At this point in this study I was struck by the fact that a certain mountain top in Jerusalem has played an important part in God’s interaction with mankind throughout Biblical history. That mountain top came to be known as the Temple Mount and it’s use as a geographical site for interaction between God and man in the Old Covenant era is clearly identified in the Old Testament and in the four New Testament accounts of Christ’s fleshly sojourn on earth.
In the time of Abraham the Temple Mount had been part of a wild place called Moriah, where Abraham had been sent by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The first altar of sacrifice ever built on or near the site, later called the Temple Mount, was the altar prepared by Abraham on which he had attempted to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God had stopped Abraham’s hand there as it descended to bring death to Isaac, and “restored” Isaac as Abraham’s promised son and heir through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis chapter 22).
In the time of King David the smooth rock surface across the top of this particular Mount had been made into the threshing floor of a Jebusite farmer named Araunah. This smooth rock mountain top, ideal for a threshing floor, overlooked the Jebusite City of Jerusalem where King David had established his headquarters.
It so happened that during King David’s reign from Jerusalem, he had grievously sinned against God by sending his military commander, Joab, to take an unauthorized census of Israel. Because of this sin, God had “sent a pestilence upon Israel ... and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba had died.” One day during that catastrophic time King David looked up from his headquarters in Jerusalem toward the Mount and saw standing on its top an Angel sent to execute God’s wrath. The Angel was stretching out his sword ready to descend on the city of Jerusalem.
“Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the Angel striking down the people, and said, ‘Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong, but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Thy hand be against me and against my father’s house.’” God answered David through His prophet Gad, commanding that David “go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” David with his servants went up to the top of the Mount and Araunah saw them coming. When David made request to purchase the threshing floor so that he could erect an altar to God on it, Araunah offered to give the mountain top threshing floor to David free of charge. In addition Araunah also offered his oxen “as the burnt offering” and “the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen as the wood” to be burned, adding the words, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
“However, the King said to Araunah, ... ‘I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 50 shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the Lord was moved by entreaty for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.” This was the second time that a sacred sacrifice had been offered to God from that “place.” (The entire story of David’s purchase of the Threshing Floor of Arunuah is found in 2 Samuel chapter 24.)
About the year 956 BC King Solomon, with the Lord’s blessing, completed construction of the first “permanent” Temple of God to occupy the Mount, This Temple, a replacement for the transportable wilderness Tabernacle, stood on the site of Mount Moriah until God allowed the Babylonians to destroy it in 586 BC. At that time the Jews were taken to Babylon as captives. From this historic site where Abraham had offered his son Isaac, and where David had offered the first sacrifice from Jerusalem, additional sacrifice and worship to God from this Temple had been constantly offered for about 370 years.
It is interesting to note that the Holy Spirit of God had dwelled “near” to the Children of Israel for an estimated 830 years, having first dwelt in the “Most Holy Place” of the wilderness Tabernacle for about 460 years and then in the “Most Holy Place” of the Temple built by Solomon for 370 years.
In 538 BC King Cyrus of Persia, who had conquered Babylon, being “stirred up in spirit” by the Lord, sent out a proclamation saying, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has appointed me ... to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord.” (Ezra 1:1-3). As a result of King Cyrus’ proclamation, Zerubbabel and a number of other Jewish leaders gathered together in Babylon a group of Jews numbering about 43,000 people. (Ezra 2:64-65). This group returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount. The rebuilding was complete in 516 BC, 70 years after its destruction. (This was many years before Nehemiah came from Babylon with a group to rebuild the walls to refortify the city of Jerusalem.) Then, for an estimated 546 years longer, until Pentecost ten days after the ascension of Jesus, the historic site continued to be the “place” where sacrifice and worship was constantly offered and received by God whose Holy Spirit dwelt in the Temple’s “Most Holy Place.”
This Temple was in use, of course, during a period beginning about 37 BC, when King Herod Antipater was given power by the Roman Caesar over the area around Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. This Herod was said to have sponsored many building projects throughout the city of Jerusalem, including a refurbishing and expansion of the Temple.
It was Herod’s refurbished Temple which Jesus visited during His life on earth, and near which the 120 or so Disciples were gathered on the morning of the Feast of Pentecost just ten days after the ascension of Jesus. Another important step in God’s plan for the redemption of mankind, and in the past glorious history of this Temple Mount, was to occur on this Pentecost morning.
What Happened in Jerusalem on This Day of Pentecost?
“And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they (the eleven Apostles) were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Partians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia, Egypt and the district of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.’ And they continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:2-12).
What Did This Mean?
“Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. ... this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:’ ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; ... And it shall be, that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (A portion of Acts 2:14-21. Please read the entire 2nd chapter of Acts.)
The Start of God’s New Covenant with Mankind.
The second chapter of the Book of Acts in the New Testament gives all the facts necessary to begin the answer to the question asked by the Jews of Jerusalem on this Pentecost morning. A great number of prophecies recorded in God’s inspired Scripture had been fulfilled on this Pentecost morning. It amounted to no less than the start of God’s “new covenant” prophesied by Jeremiah: “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.’” (Jeremiah 31:31). Jesus Himself referred to the coming “new covenant” when He ate the “last supper” with His Apostles. (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). Later the writer of the Hebrew letter discussed the “new covenant.” (Hebrews 8:7-13). A detailed answer to the question of meaning depends on one’s understanding of many prophecies.
At least three distinct actions, pertaining to the triune God’s plan for use of His Holy Spirit in drawing near and establishing a “new covenant” with His people, were taken by God on that Pentecost morning:
1. God Baptized All Mankind in His Holy Spirit (No Ethnic Restriction).
The Holy Spirit of God was “poured out” on all mankind (no ethnic restriction). In other words, all mankind was “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
This baptism fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet Joel as quoted by Peter on Pentecost morning (Joel 2:28-32), as well as other prophesies, especially the prophecy of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:5,7; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:32-33, and the prophecy of Jesus Himself in Acts 1:4-5. (My understanding of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” prophesied in the above listed Scriptures is somewhat different from that of any other I have heard or read. So it may seem strange to the readers of this study. I caution the reader to remember that the Holy Spirit is “unseen.” Also, only the physical bodies of subjects being baptized were “immersed in” the spiritual essence of the Holy Spirit. In a baptism, the Holy spirit is not inserted into the body of the subject being baptized. God did the baptizing in this case and subjects, “all mankind,” were unaware of it until Peter was inspired to preach the first gospel message revealing that Joel’s prophecy had been fulfilled. In baptism the Holy Spirit of God is “poured out” and brought as near to human beings as was possible without actually entering their bodies. When the subjects in Jerusalem on Pentecost morning were informed of this baptism as described by Peter, it became a part of their faith in “things unseen.” So it must be understood “by faith” by us today. - Acts 2).
The Bible informs us that through this one time action God came near to all mankind for the “new covenant age,” becoming “Emanuel (God with us)” to the fullest possible spiritual extent since creation (Isaiah 7:1.4; Matthew 1:23; 28:20; John 4:23-24). The Holy Spirit of God had been “near” to the Old Covenant Children of Israel, the Jews, for more than 1300 years through His presence in the “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Now in His “New Covenant” age He is “near” and available to “all mankind” through being “poured out on all mankind.” (Isaiah 4:3; Zechariah 14:8; John 7:37-39). However, that the Holy Spirit came “near’ in this “pouring out” is not all that occurred on that Pentecost morning:
2. The Holy Spirit Was Given to Indwell the Bodies of Those Choosing to Become Christians (No Ethnic Restriction).
The Holy Spirit of God was given as a gift to indwell the fleshly bodies of Christians, that is, those who, after professing faith and repentance, submitted their bodies to be baptized (in water) into Christ (John 7:37-39; Acts 2:38; 5:32; Romans 6:4; 8:11). (This was a new water baptism putting one into Christ, not the water baptism of repentance that was preached by John the Baptist to prepare for the kingdom of heaven.) Following this openly visible baptism in water, having been received by more than 3,000 human beings on the day of Pentecost, the Body of Christ (the assembly of Christian souls, the church) became the promised Kingdom of God. The earthly residence of God’s Spirit was moved on that day of Pentecost from the “Most Holy Place” of the Temple on the Temple Mount, and given as a gift from God to indwell the human spirits in the fleshly bodies of those who were becoming Christians (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 8:14,16). Then through the Holy Spirit resident in the spirits of Christians, the Holy Spirit began to dwell in the church, the Body of Christ and kingdom of Heaven on earth (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). This “gift of the Holy Spirit” to indwell the bodies of Christians was not the baptism which brought the Holy Spirit merely near to all mankind, but a miraculous gift which brought spiritual life to each individual choosing to become a Christian.
Jesus’ prophecy to the “Samaritan woman at the well” was fulfilled on that Pentecost morning: “‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. ... An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:21-23).
God set in motion on that Pentecost morning the fulfilling of His promises concerning the inclusion of Gentiles in His plan of salvation. Bible commentator William Hendriksen wrote the following concerning Biblical prophecies about the Gentiles:
“The fact that one day Israel would include the elect from the Gentile-world and that in this world-wide ‘Israel’ God’s promises would be fulfilled had already been revealed to the prophets, though not as fully as it was made known to Paul later on (Eph. 3:1-6). The restoration of ‘the preserved of Israel’ (Isa. 54:1-3) is fulfilled when the Gentiles accept Christ (Gal. 4:27). The new covenant promised by the Lord through His servant Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34) is the one which guarantees complete salvation to every believer – whether Jew or Gentile – through simple faith in Christ, apart from all ceremonial ordinances (Heb. 8:8-11; 10:16-20). The symbolism of Ezekiel’s healing waters (Ezek. 47; cf. Isa. 44:3; Zech. 14:8) is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out (John 7:37-39). The prediction accorded those ‘not pitied,’ and those who had been called ‘not my people’ would be called ‘my people’ (Hos. 2:23; cf 1:9, 10) was fulfilled by means of the establishment of the church, considered as the body of those who are called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles (Rom. 9:24-29). The raising up of David’s tent (Amos 9:11 ff.) is fulfilled when God visits the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name (Acts 15:14 ff.). It is clear, therefore, that there is a sense in which it is entirely proper to say, ‘The blessings promised to Israel are for the church.
“In other words, when a prophecy is destined to be fulfilled in the new dispensation it is fulfilled according to the spirit of that new era. Hence, these Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the Spirit-filled church, and there is not the slightest indication anywhere in the Old or New Testament that at some future time the clock will be turned back. Let us begin to breathe the air of the new dispensation. Let us live and think as New Testament people should live and think. Not ‘Back to Jerusalem,’ should be our slogan, but ‘From Jerusalem into all the world.’” (William Hendriksen).
3. The Holy Spirit Willed To Perform Certain Supernatural Actions For the Common Good.
A third specific action was taken by the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost day which was separate and apart from being “poured out on all mankind,” and separate from the “gift of the Holy Spirit” to indwell Christians. The Holy Spirit caused an apparently supernatural noise to be heard “like a violent, rushing wind” and an apparently supernatural vision that “appeared to them tongues of fire distributing themselves.” (Acts 2:2-3). The Holy Spirit of God willed (made the decision) that the Apostles be given certain responsibilities to cooperate with God’s Holy Spirit in actions which would be considered miraculous in the eyes of mankind. The first such was given to the Apostles
on that Pentecost morning “to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:4). The record in Acts reveals that this responsibility was given to the Holy Spirit appointed apostles and certain other specified disciples to carry out the will of the Holy Spirit for the “common good” in propagating for the first time the gospel of Christ, or, in other words, executing for the first time Christ’s “Great commission.” This accounts for the ability of certain apostles and disciples to call on the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous signs and wonders. That these miracles were actions of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul explained as follows:
“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
Study of the record in the Book of Acts also makes it clear that this work of His Holy Spirit was one of the ways in which Jesus carried out His pledge, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Start of God’s New Covenant Age.
After Herod's death, Roman oppression on the ancient but small Nation of Israel intensified and with it Jewish resistance also intensified. Finally a revolt broke out, fomented by the Jewish Zealots, who entered Jerusalem in 66 AD and liberated the city from Rome until the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, in 70 AD. At that time, a number of years after the start of spiritual worship under God’s New Covenant age, God allowed the Roman legions under the command of Titus to erase the visible Temple from history. Attempts to worship in the Temple on Mt. Moriah was finally and totally destroyed. Only a few foundation stones of the old building still remain in place today. Attempt to worship by some Jews continues there today in the presence of these relics.
Today in. the year 2008 AD, the threshing floor of Araunah, which became the site of the Holy Temple, is occupied by an edifice built by the Muslims of the Islamic religion and called the “Dome of the Rock.” It is a shrine said to commemorate the spot where Muhammad, the so-called prophet of Islam (570 to 632 AD), claimed that Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son. It is considered to be the third most holy of all Islamic shrines. The “Dome of the Rock” shrine (once called the “Mosque of Omar”) was built by the Muslim ruler Abd el-Malik in 689-691 AD shortly after that area of the Middle East was conquered by Muhammad’s army of Islam.
A “Dome of the Rock” Islamic edifice stands on the Temple Mount even today. Inside this edifice in classical Arabic is inscribed a blasphemous quotation from Muhammad’s Koran, “O you people of the Book (that is, people of the Christian’s Bible), overstep not bounds in your religion, and of God speak only the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and his Word which he conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit proceeding from him. Believe therefore in God, and his apostles, and say not Three. It will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from his glory that he should have a son.”
The “Desolation of Jerusalem” and the “Times of the Gentiles.”
I am reminded of Jesus’ prophecy, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. ... and they (the Jews of Jerusalem) will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-24).
In examining history since the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, it seems clear that the desolation of Jerusalem, which He foretold, was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and made clear to doubters by the Roman Legions in the year 70 AD. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at that time made it clear that Jesus’ prophecy to the Samaritan “woman at the well” already had been fulfilled (John 4:23). But the “times of the Gentiles” in terms of blasphemy, such as the inscription now inscribed on the Temple Mount, seem yet (even in 2008 AD) to be continuing. However, I am not sure that the “times of the Gentiles” phrase uttered by Jesus has to be understood in its negative connotation. It may be received as meaning the times in which the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles. In a sense that time started with the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost and continues now even in the 21st century. In the “new covenant” era, the gospel was to be preached to all mankind both Jews and Gentiles and was to end only at the end of the age when Jesus returns to harvest the souls of His church and present them to the Father.
After Pentecost Disciples Looked for Opportunity to Tell the Story of Jesus.
As a result of the Holy Spirit’s work on the day of Pentecost, the little group of 120 disciples in Jerusalem was increased by 3,000 souls. The inspired writer, Luke, wrote about the new disciples:
“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, 4and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47).
Apparently, to record the first of the wonders and signs that were to take place through the Apostles, Luke wrote about an encounter by Peter and John with a lame man begging alms at the gate of the temple. When Peter and John were asked by the lame man for a donation, Peter replied, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene – walk!” When Peter seized the man’s hand and raised him up, “immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened. And with a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. And while he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. ” (Acts 3:1-11).
In this example we are able to see Peter and John, acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit, taking the courage to call on the Holy Spirit for a miracle. In this way an amazed crowd was gathered to hear Peter again tell the story of Jesus as he had told it on the day of Pentecost. Indeed, the Jews who gathered in amazement on this day were some who, not may days before, had called for the crucifixion of Jesus, and possibly had been present at the temple on the day of Pentecost. Peter told them that he knew they had acted against Jesus in ignorance, and called for them to: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19). Luke tells us that “many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4). Here is an early example of an opportunity for the Apostles to act, and for people to be saved, an opportunity engineered by the Holy Spirit of Jesus (who was invisibly with them always.) As a result, the new disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem grew by 5,000, counting the men only. The total number of Christians (men and women) in Jerusalem by then probably were considerably more than 8,000 (3,000 + 5,000).
“You Will Even Be Brought Before Governors and Kings for My Sake.” (Matthew 10:18).
But this day, the Holy Spirit of Jesus had something more to teach His Apostles. Although Peter’s audience at the temple had welcomed the preaching of the gospel by Peter and John, there was a group of Chief Priests and Elders holding a special gathering in Jerusalem that day who were disturbed because the Apostles were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” So the captain of the Temple Guard and certain Sadducees arrested Peter and John , as well as the man who had been healed, and kept them over night in jail so they could be brought before this group; some of the priests actually had officiated at the mock trial that had condemned Jesus to death.
“And it came about on the next day, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high priestly descent. And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.’” (Acts 4:5-12).
After this speech by Peter, the Council sent the accused out of the room and then conferred with one another saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.” (Acts 4:16-17).
When commanded to speak no more about Jesus, Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). Peter and John and the man who had been healed were released because the Council was aware that many people of Jerusalem were “glorifying God for what had happened.” The Council admitted that they could find no basis on which to punish them. When Peter and John returned to the company of the disciples, a spontaneous prayer meeting took place. “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31). Again the Holy Spirit had taken a prominent leading part in the disciples understanding and action.
The writer Luke reports at this point about the growing church: “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them, however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.” (Acts 5:12-16). The new believers who were coming to the Lord were numbered in “multitudes of men and women,” and hereafter in the Book of Acts Luke no longer attempts to indicate the total number of Christians. He simply indicates the total with the word “multitudes.” Notice that the church of the Lord at this point in its establishment existed only in Jerusalem with some believers coming to Jerusalem from other cities near Jerusalem.
Apostles Are Put in Jail, But Are Released by an Angel.
The fact that the Apostles continued to teach and heal very publicly in Jerusalem, with great success in making conversions, caused the High Priest and Sadducees to be “filled with jealousy.” (Acts 5:17). So they had the Apostles of Jesus seized and thrown in jail.
“But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, ‘Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this life.’ And upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak, and began to teach.” (Acts 5:19-21).
Now the High Priest did not know that an angel had released his prisoners from jail during the night. So the next morning he “sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, saying, ‘We found the prison house locked securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up we found no one inside.’ Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. But someone came and reported to them, ‘Behold, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and are teaching the people!’ Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, lest they should be stoned).” (Acts 5:21-26).
Then the High Priest had them brought before the Council accusing them of trying to incite a riot against the Council with their words to the people that the crucifixion of Jesus had actually been murder of the Son of God. In other words they were preaching that the Council was guilty of shedding innocent blood. More than that, they were antagonizing the Sadducees especially by saying that Jesus had been raised from the dead, for the Sadducees did not believe in any life after death. The Council had become so angry they were “cut to the quick and were intending to slay them.” But Gamaliel, a Pharisee member of the Council, rose up and advised them to let the Apostles go free. He said, in essence, if these are telling falsehoods, they will eventually come to naught and there is no need for us to antagonize the people by killing them. If they are telling the truth they must be from God, and we can’t fight against God anyway.
So the Council took Gamaliel’s advice, but before letting the Apostles go, “flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus.”
The Apostles then “went on their way ... rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:39-42).
The Apostles Rejoiced To Suffer Shame For His Name.
Let us note that the Apostles rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. They had not only been thrown in jail, but they had been flogged. Flogging meant being whipped with a whip across the bare back. The Law of Moses provided for such a beating in certain egregious cases, but allowed no more than 40 minus 1 stripes. So it is likely that the Apostles had received 39 stripes each for which they did not deserve. There are probably some brave men who have stood up to such flogging without flinching. But no one was expected to rejoice because of receiving a flogging. Yet the Apostles rejoiced because of the suffering. Why?
Perhaps it was because, only a few weeks earlier they knew that they had abandoned their Savior and fled when He had been seized and crucified.
Jesus knew at the time that they had fled. He had even known that they were going to flee before it had happened. They knew that Jesus had not had any confidence in them at the time of His trial and crucifixion. Now, they had grown in faith and were happy to show the Lord that He now could have confidence in them. They did not flee from suffering. Perhaps they realized that this opportunity to suffer had not come about accidentally. Jesus had warned them that opposition and suffering was bound to happen. He was showing them now that He finally had confidence in them by giving them the opportunity to suffer. Here was the first test of Jesus’ disciples alone, without the physical presence of Jesus, and faced with real opposition which had the power to hurt them physically. They passed the test. They realized that Jesus had given them victory over the active opposition that was bound to come.
Their ability to rejoice in physical suffering lay in their faith in the reality of the spiritual realm and their hope of the promise of everlasting life even after death of the body. They had come to know that they need not fear the evil one who inflicts physical pain, even physical death, for he could not harm their souls. They had come to know that the spiritual life is real and transcends physical life to the point that physical suffering and death is relatively insignificant to those spiritually alive in Christ.
The world has been amazed by the word of God which speaks so clearly about the fact that innocent Christians actually rejoiced (had emotions of joy) when forced to suffer under persecution. Most Christians in America have never had to suffer under persecution meant by the persecutors to actually inflict physical pain. But some thorough studies of the marvelously crafted human body indicates that the motivated live human being is actually capable of achieving “mind over matter.” So to me it is fully believable that the human body, designed and created by God in His own image, and especially the whole Christian composed of “spirit and soul and body,” with God’s gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, will actually rejoice when forced to receive persecution in lieu of renouncing His Savior.
Stephen and the Synagogue of the Freedmen.
A man named Stephen, one of Jesus’ active disciples, was one of seven disciples chosen by the Apostles to serve food daily to the widows of the growing community of Christians in Jerusalem. Stephen was seen to be a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” and upon whom the Apostles had “laid their hands.” The writer, Luke, says of him:
“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’ And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. And they put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’ And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:8-15).
Stephen, in answering the charges made by the false witnesses, said nothing in his own defense but used the occasion to try to bring his accusers to repentance for their sin of opposing God. He went over the entire history of Israel from the time of Abraham to the day in which they then lived to show how the Jews had often opposed the messengers whom God had sent to them. He closed his recitation of history with these words: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the Law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53).
“Now when they (the Council) heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and they rushed upon him with one impulse. And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus receive my spirit!’ And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this against them!’ And having said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.” (Acts 7:54-60).
This incident in the fledgling church of Christ in Jerusalem was perhaps a necessary stage in the work of those who answered Jesus’ call through His Great Commission. The border of the church was here clearly established. A hearer of the gospel message is either opposed to God or attracted to God. God’s church, the kingdom of God’s Son, came into being in a world where Satan had established his regime. The kingdom of God is presented to the life of one living in Satan’s world. One is called upon to embrace the spiritual word of God and be lifted out of the world. Although one’s body must continue to function in the world, one who gives himself to Christ is no longer of the world. A Christian becomes aware that he is an everlasting child of God and that the sting of physical death has been alleviated. Christians are called upon to serve the Lord just as prophets like Stephen served.
Christians answering the call of the Great Commission are to make sure that the gospel is preached in its fullness. Stephen served God by preaching God’s word in its fullness. Even in his death Stephen served God.
The Holy Spirit Considers a Young Man Named Saul.
“And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death.”
The writer of the Book of Acts mentions that a young man named Saul was present at the affair in which Stephen was stoned to death. The witnesses laid their robes at Saul’s feet, we are told. This indicates that Saul probably had some kind of official status with the Council and was in agreement with the assassination of Stephen. Then the writer Luke tells us that “Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3).
Saul was a pharisee of pharisees, that sect of the Jews who believed in a resurrection (though they were not all accepting the resurrection of Jesus) . Up to this time the record seems to indicate that the persecution of Christians was being led by Sadducees, the sect which did not believe in a resurrection. The Sadducee leadership of the Council had on more than one occasion taken the Apostles into custody and had given them a hearing each time. Now as the pharisees take over the persecution there are no more hearings and trials. The Sadducees had held trials to try to put across the idea that the Council needed to be protected or defended from the Christians. Now as the pharisees take over the persecution, there is no more talk of mere defense. The opposition to Christianity now goes agressively to the offensive.
Earlier at one of the trials of the Apostles, it was noted that a pharisee by the name of Gamaliel had saved the Apostles by persuading the Council to let them go. Gamaliel’s advice had been to leave the Christians alone. It so happened that the young man, Saul, had been a student in the school of Gamaliel. But Saul is not following the advice of his teacher, Gamaliel. Saul is agressively trying to lay waste to the church, not leaving it alone.
The more aggressive persecution which seemed to start with the martyrdom of Stephen had leadership from Jews who were not residents of Jerusalem. The record indicates that Jews from Cyprus and Alexandria and Cilicia and Asia took part in the persecution. Saul’s hometown was far away Tarsus.
However, at first the preaching of the Apostles was confined to the environs of Jerusalem. After the death of Stephen, the Christians began to flee from Jerusalem. They went into the neighboring parts of the Province of Judea and the adjoining Province to the north, the Province of Samaria. At first the Apostles, especially Peter, were doing all the public speaking. Now other disciples, such as Stephen and Philip, are also speaking publicly.
The Christians are being scattered by the persecution. A scattering like this would have wiped out almost any other kind of movement except Christianity. An organization made up of human beings only, based on human ideas, and confined in its operation to the physical lives of people on earth, would not have been able to function with the adherants fleeing for their lives. But these Christians were looking to a leadership that consisted of spiritual beings, the Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Christians realized that they were also spiritual beings confined for a short while to the flesh and to the world. The Christians considered their spirituality to be real and the spiritual realm of live spirits to be real. They knew that they lived lives that transcended the flesh and were eternal. So their scattering about on earth because of persecution did not become a big impediment. It did not contradict or destroy their religion. Indeed it confirmed the prophecies of Jesus Himself, their King. The gospel they received and now proclaimed became good news indeed to people who knew something of persecution and suffering. So the scattering did not harm Christianity. It had the opposite effect. It spread and strengthened Christianity. Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. This word was the word of God, passed to them by the Holy Spirit of God through the Apostles. This was the word of the spiritual King that people everywhere needed to hear.
God was firmly in control of all forces during the persecution. Satan was given just enough rope to present his alternative so men could make a choice. God used the Christians as vessels to preach His word. God used the opposition in such a way that it presented opportunities to spread His word. God used the persecution to work His good purpose, to further spread the gospel. The young man, Saul, who was found fighting God’s purpose by persecuting the Christians, at this point has come under the consideration of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.
Philip Went Down to the City of Samaria.
“And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. ... Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs that he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; ans many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. And there was much rejoicing in that city.” (Acts 8:2-8).
Who was this Philip who went down to Samaria? Could he have been the Apostle Philip, one of the twelve? No, for Luke has told us that many went down to Samaria “except the Apostles.” As we read on we note that this Philip was a friend and close worker with Stephen, and one of the seven special servants named in Acts 6 chosen to serve the Grecian widows.
Let us note in passing that the Samaritans were Jews of mixed blood. They were despised by many full blooded Jews, but were not denied as being rightfully of the Jewish religion. They had chosen another city, the city of Samaria, and another temple, in which to worship God. They did not worship at the temple in Jerusalem. But they studied the Old Testament Scriptures and were looking for a Messiah to come. Jesus Himself had contact with the Samaritans through the woman He met at the well, and to whom Jesus had prophesied, “An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:21-23). The Holy Spirit of Jesus has now chosen Philip to lead in preaching the gospel in Samaria.
The word Philip was preaching was accompanied by signs (supernatural miracles) which attested to the Samaritans that this word was coming to them from the spiritual realm of the Almighty God. Philip now is only the second Christian thus far in the Book of Acts, other than the Apostles themselves, who is said to have been able to perform attesting miraculous signs. But he and Stephen only had been able to do so because the Holy Spirit had willed to work through them in this way. (1 Corinthians 12:11). This Philip was one who had been designated as a special servant by the “laying on of the Apostles’ hands.” (Acts 6:5-6).
Philip Called to Introduce Gospel to an Ethiopian.
“But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a desert road.) And he arose and went; and behold there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this Chariot.’” (Acts 8:26-29).
Again we note that the actions of the early Christians in preaching the gospel were directly guided by the Lord. An angel of the Lord was sent to speak to Philip and tell him exactly what to do. This was miraculous, supernatural guidance. The angel must have been identifiable as an angel of the Lord, or Philip would not have accepted his direction. Philip arose and went in accordance with the direction of the angel.
It appears that Philip did not know exactly why he was being sent to the Gaza road. He received further direction after he got to the Gaza road. This shows us that Philip knew that God was in charge his work. Philip knew that he was a mere vessel to serve the Lord’s will. Philip trusted the Lord to do His part while he just put one foot in front of the other to get him down to the Gaza road. Philip was a man of faith who knew he was in league with God and God’s creatures of the spiritual realm. Philip did not think it necessary that he know the full mind of God concerning this journey before he undertook it. Neither did he think it necessary to have a round trip ticket nor a hotel reservation before he started the trip. Philip didn’t have a chariot of his own. Apparently, he was afoot and had to run to catch up to the Ethiopian’s chariot.
“The spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’” The Lord not only directed him by means of an angel, but the Holy spirit Himself spoke to Philip to complete the direction. This indicates, of course, that the Holy Spirit is equipped to communicate from the invisible spiritual realm to the fleshly realm (which should be no surprise to us - God created us for His own purposes - surely He can communicate with us.) It also indicates that Philip, a human being, was equipped to receive a communication from the Holy Spirit. It calls to our mind the fact that Philip has also a personal spirit which occupies the same realm as the Holy Spirit. All human beings (all mankind) have personal spirits.
How did the Holy Spirit speak to Philip? I do not know the infrastructure of the invisible communication circuit. I simply suggest that since Philip had a personal spirit, and as a Christian that personal spirit is one with God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:9-16), that Philip was on a common level with the Holy Spirit, as are all Christians. It was the Holy Spirit who bridged the gap and spoke to Philip without using the realm of flesh.
The Holy Spirit spoke supernaturally to Philip. But to expose the Ethiopian to the gospel message, the Holy Spirit did not speak in a supernatural way to the Ethiopian. He spoke to the Ethiopian through the sacred Scripture He had previously inspired through the prophet Isaiah, and through the human being, Philip. The Ethiopian received the gospel through the senses of his flesh.
The Ethiopian was reading God’s word recorded by Isaiah. He was obviously in good conscience a seeker of God. He had been to Jerusalem to worship God. Now God was taking action to answer the call of a “seeker.” In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said, “Seek, and you shall find” - “He who seeks, finds.” (Matthew 7:7-8). This truth does not depend on men. Phillip just happened to be the willing servant whom God providentially used to bring the gospel to the “seeker.”
The Ethiopian was reading the passage of Scripture from the Prophet Isaiah which foretold of the great High Priest who would suffer and be sacrificed. It spoke of Jesus. It illustrates that the gospel of salvation starts in the Old Testament. The writer of Acts, Luke, simply recorded that “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down in to the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.” (Acts 8:35-40).
Saul Chosen to Bear the Lord’s Name Before the Gentiles.
“Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city; and it will be told you what you must do.’ And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus, and he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:1-9).
Saul had known that he was persecuting the followers of Jesus. But he had thought of Jesus as a mere human being who was then dead. Jesus being dead, could not be persecuted directly any more, Saul must have thought. Yet someone had spoken to Saul and said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” The claim of the Christians that Jesus was raised from the dead and now lived in the spiritual realm at the right hand of God, that Jesus was the Son of God - which Saul had not believed up to this point in his life - suddenly struck Saul as being true. The Lord’s words in answer to Saul’s question seems to indicate that the Lord was aware that Saul immediately understood who He really was. For Jesus confidently told Saul to “enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
Jesus knew Saul, although Saul did not as yet know Jesus. But even on the Damascus road, Saul began to yield his life and Jesus began to take possession of it. Perhaps from that very moment on the Damascus road, Saul felt compelled to obey Jesus. Later in life when his name was changed from Saul to Paul, he said, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:16). He later said, I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20). “For me to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21). “I count all things but loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:9). These words of Saul were all foreshadowed by the words of Jesus to Saul on the road to Damascus, “Rise, enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.” Saul got up from the ground and they brought him into Damascus.
Although Saul had already met Jesus on the road to Damascus, one of the Christians whom Saul was attempting to persecute, Ananias, was given the job of preaching the details of the gospel to Saul, and of baptizing him, thus assisting him to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And it was through the hands of Ananias that the Holy Spirit restored Saul’s sight.
The Holy Spirit’s immediate assignment for Saul after his baptism was to simply proclaim the great thing that he had once denied, that Jesus was the Son of God. Saul had gained such a widespread reputation as a leader of the persecution, everyone who heard him preach was amazed. Saul began now to try to convert the very Jews he had enlisted to help him catch and imprison Christians. “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 9:22).
Saul had been a leader of the persecution. But now he became a leader of Christians. Soon he gained disciples to his teaching. It was “his disciples” who helped him escape from a Jewish plot to kill him by letting him down in a basket from the wall surrounding the city of Damascus. Then Saul met the Christian, Barnabas, who introduced him to the Apostles in Jerusalem. But Saul, who then had reason to be afraid of the Jewish Council which he had deserted, moved about Jerusalem as unafraid, speaking out boldly in the name of Jesus whom he had recently persecuted. No wonder now the Jewish Council made a plot to kill him. But the Christians learned of the plot and they got Saul out of town, first to Caesarea on the coast, then to Tarsus in Asia, Saul’s birthplace and hometown. So Saul then became one of those Christians who was scattered because of persecution by the Jews, but preached the gospel wherever he went. The Lord was working on a willing Saul now, and showing him how much persecution he must suffer for the Lord. (Read Acts 9).
The Holy Spirit’s Delivery of the First Gospel Message Directly to the Gentiles.
Thus far in the Book of Acts there is indication that the gospel has been preached to Jews in Jerusalem, the Province of Judea, the Province of Samaria, Caesarea on the coast, Damascus in Syria, and Tarsus of Asia. Peter and the Apostles in Jerusalem had authorized preaching the gospel message only to the Jews. So the Holy Spirit found it necessary to give Peter a special vision to remind him that God had “poured out His Spirit on all mankind” and the gospel message was to be taken to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter and other Jewish Christians from Joppa were directed to go into the household of the Gentile, Cornelius, to whom the Holy Spirit had also given a vision. When all were gathered there, both Jews and Gentiles, the Spirit of Jesus willed to miraculously cause Cornelius and the other Gentiles who made up his household to “speak in tongues and praise God.” Thereby it was indicated to Peter and the Jewish Christians with Peter that “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.” Note that after this Spirit directed demonstration, Peter “ordered them to be baptized (in water) in the name of Jesus Christ,” just as the believing and repentant Jews had been baptized after Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. And after their baptism the Holy Spirit must have been given as a gift to indwell the bodies of the new Gentile Christians, just as the believing and repentant Jews had been given “the gift” on the day of Pentecost. (Please read Acts, chapter 10).
It is interesting to note, in this account of Peter’s experience at the home of Cornelius at Caesarea, how Jesus’ Great Commission pledge, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” was carried out. A reading of Acts, chapter 10, clearly discloses how the Spirit of Jesus engineered this entire encounter between the Apostle Peter and this group of Gentiles in Cornelius’ household. Until Peter received special instruction from the Holy Spirit, he had labored with the erroneous impression that the gospel of Christ was to be declared to Jews only. The Holy Spirit’s “will” in this conversion (1 Corinthians 12:11) is demonstrated in that instructive visions were given not only to Peter but, in this case, to Cornelius also. Clearly the leader in this “Great Commission” presentation to Gentiles was the Holy Spirit.
Peter Called to Account for Preaching to Gentiles.
“Now the Apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’ But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, ... And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” (Please read the entire passage Acts 11:1-18).
Jesus Himself, and His Apostles, had ministered in person only to the Jews while Jesus was on earth. Even though Jesus finally had ordered His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15), the Jewish disciples had developed a bias against the Gentiles that Jesus did not intend for them to maintain. Jesus had trained His Jewish Apostles only to prepare them to be His ambassadors to the whole world, including the Gentiles. So Jesus, now absent from their fleshly midst, came to them in His Holy Spirit to correct their bias against the Gentiles. In accepting Peter’s explanation of why he had preached the gospel to Cornelius’ household, the Jewish disciples in Jerusalem were appraised of the fact that Jesus, in spiritual reality, was still with them to instruct them. They remembered Jesus words, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
But the bias against the Gentiles continued with Jewish disciples who were not present in Jerusalem to receive Peter’s explanation. “ So then those who were scattered abroad because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. (Acts 11:19-22).
So Jesus, in His spiritual presence with the disciples as the Holy Spirit, was able to troubleshoot and remedy the error of the early Jewish church evident in their bias against the Gentiles. The Gentile city of Antioch then became a center for the church to send out missionaries to the whole world. “And the disciples (both Jews and Gentiles) were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26).
Herod Kills the Apostle James and Puts the Apostle Peter in Prison.
“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.” (Acts 12:1-4).
The fact that King Herod thought it necessary to guard Peter with four squads of soldiers seems to indicate that Herod saw the Christians as a potential violent threat because of their growing number. In fact, Luke’s record in the Book of Acts also says that Peter was kept in prison “between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.”
But “prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” Peter himself “was sleeping,” when the Holy Spirit of Jesus sent an angel to rescue him. “And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shown in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and aroused him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. And when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and along one street; and immediately the angel departed from him. And when Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’ (Acts 11:7-11).
This episode in the life of the early church ended with Herod condemning to death the guards who had been guarding Peter. Concerning Herod himself, “an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied.” (Acts 12:23-24).
Antioch of Syria Becomes the Geographic Center for Evangelizing the World.
Among the integrated (Jewish and Gentile) members of the church in Antioch (in the Middle Eastern country of Syria) were a number of men who apparently were named and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be missionary prophets and teachers to the whole world. (Acts 13:1-2). Luke’s record in the Book of Acts tells us about the missionary trips on which the Holy Spirit of the Lord sent men from this group during the first century years of the church. After these missionary journeys described in the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul indicated in Colossians 1:23 that the gospel message had been preached “in all creation under heaven.” In this figurative statement, Paul was aware that the gospel message had gone into parts of all the known world by the time Colossians was written and perhaps was prophetic along the lines of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” (This makes us aware that in this 21st century, no matter how widespread the gospel message has been in the past, the complete fulfillment of the Great Commission is not achieved.)
Paul With Various Companions Is Dispatched By the Holy Spirit on Missionary Journeys.
While the Christians in Antioch were fasting and praying, the Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Saul to go on a missionary journey. Taking with them the young man John Mark (later to write the Gospel of Mark), Barnabas and Saul started their journey by going down to Seleucia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and by booking passage on a sailing vessel, sailed away westward to the large island of Cyprus. We note that the former Pharisee, Saul, at this time took on the name of Paul.
After traveling (probably walking) across Cyprus and coming to the town of Paphos, Barnabas and Paul tried to preach the gospel to the governing Proconsul of that area but were opposed by a magician named Elymas. The Holy Spirit of the Lord enabled Paul to strike Elymas temporarily blind, after which the Proconsul received and believed the good news about Jesus.
Then leaving from the Cyprus port of Paphos, Barnabas and Paul took passage on a vessel which sailed north to the mainland town of Perga in Pamphilia where John Mark is said to have left Barnabas and Paul to return to Jerusalem. (This exit of John Mark from the mission became the reason for later disagreement between Paul and Barnabas about taking him on another mission journey.) Going on from there, Barnabas and Paul came to the town of Pisidian Antioch.
In Pisidian Antioch Paul preached a sermon in the Jewish synagogue on a Sabbath which was especially worded to meet the needs of Jews living some distance from the Temple in Jerusalem and not knowing first hand the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Paul quoted from the Psalms and the Prophets, and from witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem, to convince these people that through Jesus “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you , and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” As Paul and Barnabas were going out of the synagogue, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them again the next Sabbath. Paul and Barnabas stayed on until the next Sabbath when “nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God.” “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul and were blaspheming.”
Thus began a pattern of audience behavior wherever Paul preached in a synagogue. Some people believed, and some did not. Some who did not believe, especially from among the Jews, violently opposed the message and tried to drive Paul and his companions from their town. Here in Pisidian Antioch the Gentile believers “began believing and glorifying the word of God” while many of the Jews “instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of their district.” In response to the opposing Jews, Paul and Barnabas shook off the dust of their feet in protest and went on to the town of Iconium in another nearby Province. (Please read the entire chapter of Acts 13).
In Iconium both Jews and Gentiles gathered in the synagogue to hear the message of Barnabas and Saul. Some believed and some opposed the teaching. Some of the opposing Jews stirred up some of the Gentiles so that opposition came from both Jews and Gentiles. Despite the opposition, Barnabas and Paul “spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord.” The opposition finally deteriorated to the point that some of both Gentiles and Jews were threatening to stone them. At that point they fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra, and Derbe.
At Lystra Paul healed a lame man before an audience described as a multitude. As result of the supernatural healing of the lame man, some in the audience tried to worship Barnabas and Paul as mythological Greek gods and “began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.” And the priest from the nearby Temple of Zeus tried to offer animal sacrifices to Barnabas and Paul. Of course, Barnabas and Paul then rushed out into the crowd “crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them. And in the generations gone by He permitted all nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.’ And even saying these things, they with difficulty restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.” (Acts 14:15-18).
“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, the stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city. And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.” (Acts 14:19-20).
In their visit to the city of Derbe, the record in Acts simply says, “And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch (of Pisidia), strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’ And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. And they passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; and from there they sailed to Antioch (of Syria), from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent a long time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:21-28).
Thus ended the first missionary journey of Paul which he took together with Barnabas.
I did not start this study with the intention of achieving what this study seems to be - that is, a verse by verse commentary on the Book of Acts. Instead I intended the study to be a summary of the Book of Acts pointing out the basic actors and basic principles of the first century action which produced the phenomenal success reached in that century. I intended to compare the conditions which the first century disciples faced to the conditions of the 21st century which the disciples of Christ face today. I expected to find that the conditions and actions required to be successful in the 21st century might be different from those of the first century. But the more I have thought on the subject the more I have concluded that the conditions today, although different in the minute details, are very similar in basic principle.
People composed of body, soul, and spirit are involved in both centuries in categories of people involvement, people who are Christian teachers and people who are the worldly recipients of the teaching.
Paul’s Summary of his Personal Mission Work For Christ in his 2nd Corinthian Letter.
We have summarized Paul’s first missionary journey above, but will not attempt to summarize in this article his second and third journeys and the rest of his life. The Book of Acts gives a Holy Spirit inspired concise summary of examples of “Great Commission” outreach by first century disciples. This record along with the rest of the New Testament are provided to the21st century disciples by the Holy Spirit of Jesus in at least partial answer to His promise, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Paul provided a seventeen year summary of his personal work in his 2nd Corinthian Letter, from the time of his conversion about the year 40 AD to the time when he was in Macedonia on his third missionary journey about the year 57 AD. This summary in Paul’s own words follows below.
“7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you. 13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore also we speak; 14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” 2nd Corinthians 4:7-15).
“1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain .... 3 giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in affliction, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonment, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, 6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; 9 as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” (2nd Corinthians 6:1-10).
“23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30 If I have to boast, I will boast to what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blest forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.” (2nd Corinthians 11:23-33).
With love, F. M. Perry, April 8, 2008.