Sep 06 2008

21-THE BOOK OF ACTS part 5

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The Acts of the Apostles

(Part 5 of 5 parts)

SECTION 4 (continued)

The Ministry Of St. Paul The Apostle (Ch. 12-28)

The Third Missionary Trip (Acts 18:23 – 21:16)

It started from Antioch (53 A.D.), continued north to Tarsus then west to Derbe and Lystra, and then to Ephesus after going as far north as Galatia.  After staying about 3 years at Ephesus, St. Paul and his coworkers left to Troas then to Macedonia and the East Ports of Greece and returned to Jerusalem (57 A.D.) from Troas through the sea passing by Miletus and the island of Rhodes (see attached map).  Details of some parts of this trip are mentioned in St Paul’s Epistles, while the book of Acts cover them very briefly.

Main Events of this Trip:

1- St. Paul’s ministry in Ephesus: St. Paul spent about 3 years teaching there.  Ephesus was the center of trade and money market in Asia Minor as well as the center of crime and corruption.  In it was the temple of the goddess “Diana” or “Artemis”.  The temple building was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  In Ephesus St. Paul met Apollos’ (from Alexandria) disciples who believed in the Lord but did not hear about the Holy Spirit and were baptized with the baptism of John the Baptist only.  St. Paul laid his hands upon them, and they received the Holy Spirit, completing the sacraments of baptism and chrismation.  St. Paul continued teaching everyday in Ephesus until all the inhabitants of Asia Minor, Jews and Gentiles heard the word of God.  The Lord did extraordinary miracles through Paul so that handkerchiefs and aprons that has touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19: 12).  However, his stay there ended with public uproar in defense of Diana (Acts 19:23-41).

2- Establishing the worship on Sunday: In Troy, the disciples were gathered for the breaking of the bread (Sacrament of Eucharist) in the beginning of the week (Sunday, Acts 20:7).  Paul preached a long sermon that extended to midnight.  A young man named Eutychus who was sitting in a window sinking into a deep sleep fell from the third floor down and died.  But Paul embraced him and raised him from the dead.

3- The Farewell Sermon: In Miletus, St. Paul called the elders (presbyters) of the Church in Asia and delivered to them a pastoral sermon saying, “take head to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops), to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).  It was a very emotional sermon in which he said “And see, now I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).  With prayers and tears they accompanied him to the ship that took him to Jerusalem.

The Fourth Missionary Trip of St. Paul to Rome (Acts 23:31 – 28:16)

After St. Paul returned from his third missionary trip to Jerusalem, the Jews plotted against him accusing him that he brought Gentiles to the Temple and defiled it.  The city was disturbed and they arrested Paul and wanted to kill him.  They presented him for trial in front of the Sanhedrin and they condemned him to death.  St. Paul was saved from a plot to kill him in Jerusalem (Acts 23: 12-25) and was sent to Caesarea (see attached map).  He was imprisoned under supervision of a Roman guard in Caesarea for more than two years.  When Festus the ruler wanted to deliver him to the Jews, St. Paul objected saying that he is appealing to Caesar (in Rome, Acts 25:9-12).  He was delivered (59 A.D.) to a Centurion, Julius, who took him with other prisoners and traveled to Italy by sea (Acts 27).  During the journey, the ship was wrecked in the Mediterranean Sea, but the Lord kept Paul with all the passengers safe until they arrived to Rome (60 A.D.).  There, St. Paul rented a house where he lived for two years waiting for the trial. He welcomed all those who came to him preaching them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 28).

At this point, the author of the book of Acts does not mention the end of the ministry of Paul, which continued in his jail.  Also, he does not mention an end to the book of Acts because the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church is continual yesterday, today, and forever.

Main Events of this Trip:

1- Reason behind the Trip:  It appears that Paul was sent as a prisoner to be tried in Rome before Caesar at his request, and as a privilege because of his Roman citizenship.  However, it was his earnest desire to preach in Rome (Ro. 1:11, 57 A.D.), and the Lord himself in a vision assured him in Jerusalem that he must also bear witness for Him in Rome, as he did in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11).

2- Witness to the Gospel:  In Jerusalem, St. Paul preached the Gospel to the Jews and their chief priests (Acts 22, 23).  At Caesarea, he witnessed to the Gospel before the rulers, Felix and Festus (Acts 24, 25), and king Agrippa (Acts 26).  During this trip he witnessed also before the centurion and the other prisoners on the ship, and to the natives of Malta after the shipwreck (Acts 27, 28).  At Rome, he “received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God … no one forbidding him” (Acts 28: 30,31).  The Lord’s words (that were told to Ananias who baptized Paul) that “he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15), were thus all fulfilled in this trip.

N.B. This study is only a brief outline.  Please read the details in the Book of Acts.  Two illustrated maps of the Third and Fourth Missionary Trips of St. Paul are attached to help you in your study.

Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowshipurges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same.  Please feel free to make any copies from these notes and distribute them to your relatives and friends.  The Fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these “Short Notes” or in private correspondence. Write to us: PO Box 6192, Columbia, MD 21045

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