We left off with Paul standing on the beach making his last good-byes to the leaders of Ephesus. He did all he could to instruct them and prepare them for the wolves who would infiltrate the flock. His greatest concern was for God’s people. The Kingdom of God was more important to him than life itself. Living in obedience to the Word of God compelled him to a higher level of energy and activity than any of his former church activities. Love for church had long since been replaced with love for Jesus.
Paul had only one mission in life. Only one goal. To reach the world and his fellow Israelites with the truth that Jesus, the Messiah, had come and with that coming had replaced all the temple feast days, holy days, sacrifices, rituals, services and traditions. They were all gone now. They no longer needed the shadows to point to The Way. They could see the Way clearly if they turned their eyes to Jesus. Paul was now in a hurry to reach Jerusalem in order to share that good news with all who would be at the temple for Pentecost.
Since the temple rituals and feast days were commanded by God to be kept only at Jerusalem, those wishing to partake in them had to be in Jerusalem to observe them. They could not be kept anywhere else in the world. They were only for the nation of Israel and those who were members of that nation. But now that the Messiah had come and removed all temple feast days, ceremonies, traditions, rituals and sacrifices with His body, and the nation as a theocracy no longer existed but was under the control of Rome, to a Christian, they were no longer of any importance. Now, the only importance was for Paul to use them to reach the nation of Israel with the truth.
Acts 21:1 - Acts 23:35
And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo.
Paul traveled a lot by boat. I am sure it allowed him time to pray, study and reflect between destinations. Today, we travel with our minds and time occupied with iPod, music, videos, phones and a million other things to distract us. When I travel, it is in quietness so I can pray, contemplate and talk with the Spirit of God. Driving by car just comes naturally. Eyes are open, but the mind is on Jesus and His work.
And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
We must be very careful how we “read” the Word. Paul was not going against the Spirit of God. The Spirit was simply sharing with the disciples what would happen to Paul. They were not willing to let it happen. But Paul understood his duty. No matter what the consequences of his mission, he was prepared to give his life.
The Spirit shared what would happen to Paul with the disciples in order for them to understand the future and the workings of God. Later, they would understand that Paul didn’t walk into a trap or get ambushed. He knew what was waiting for him and he went in obligation to his duty to Jesus. In this way, the disciples and future converts would understand that we must do our duty, as Paul, Peter, Jesus, James and John had done theirs. We do not concern ourselves with consequences, only obedience.
When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
Paul had plenty of opportunity to turn around, quit or find something else to do. He could have “reasoned” himself out of the journey and what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. I am sure the devil was doing all he could to convince Paul that he could be more profitable for God by staying away from Jerusalem. But when Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, Jesus had shown him how much he was to suffer for His name. Paul accepted the mission and there was no turning back now.
When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day.
Knowing what was awaiting him, Paul sought every opportunity to strengthen the believers. His heart ached as he let them know that we do not cringe in the face of troubles and persecutions. We hold firm to the faith of Jesus. He was only following the example of Jesus. Jesus, knowing all that was going to take place over the crucifixion weekend, did all He could to strengthen His disciples and encourage them. What are you doing for Jesus?
On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
Again, God needed the believers to understand their duty. He was using Paul to demonstrate to them their commitment to stand no matter what the trials, tribulations or persecutions. We don’t run. We don’t sit in church. We don’t play the “Christian” games the devil has developed for our ruin. We live in obedience to Jesus no matter what the consequence.
How sad that we today are so far from God, and primitive Christianity, that we have so few prophets in our midst. With what we know, we should be swarming with prophets of the Lord. Unfortunately, what we know and what we do are two very different things.
When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
Precisely! For a Christian, that is all that counts. The “will of the Lord”! Are you living in the “will of the Lord”? Have you actually picked up the Bible and read it cover to cover to find out what the “will of the Lord” is for your life? Have you knelt before the Lord and seriously asked the Lord to reveal His will for your life? Or do you simply sit in church playing games with God?
After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.
Interesting how the community of believers did everything they could to protect Paul. Maybe it was God’s will for persecution to come to Paul, but they were going to make sure it wasn’t going to happen any sooner than God had planned. Therefore, “some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us” and kept Paul safe. Do we really look after each other as true Christians? I think not. Today, Christians are so very narcissist. It is all about “me” and “my” individual “rights”. “If you don’t believe as I do, I don’t associate with you.” The concept of “community” among Christians has almost been eradicated by the devil. How happy he must be. We need to return to the primitive Christianity of the early church.
When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.
Today, the first thing “Christian” brothers do when they meet is find out what you believe, what church you go to, what you eat, drink and wear, etc. Living for Jesus has nothing to do with “Christians” today. It is all about church and beliefs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, when we met, we shared what wonderful things God is doing through us for the salvation of souls? But if all you are doing is sitting in church or talking about what you believe, what wonderful things do you have to share? Who have you brought to Jesus this year?
On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God.
We now are about to see the “rift” in the early believers. It has been about 30 years since the death of Jesus. What was a wonderful beginning for the believers is now about to change. Those who defied the command of Jesus by staying in Jerusalem had been hampered in their growth in the gospel of Jesus. Living so close to the temple, the disciples in Jerusalem were losing sight of the significance of the death of Jesus. The temple laws with its rituals, feast days, traditions and services were destroying the Christians who had hung around Jerusalem. The temple “law” was once again becoming more important than obedience to Jesus. That is what church does.
And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, . . .
And yes they were. We are not talking about the Ten Commandment Law here, but the temple feast days, holy days, services, traditions and rituals. In order to “grow” the believers, the early Jewish converts, began accepting any Jew who would “believe” in Jesus without proper instruction in how to live in obedience to Jesus. This was the beginning of the “Messianic Jew”. Therefore, as time went on, more and more Jews “believed” in Jesus as long as they could continue in their traditions and temple (church) rites. They “believed” in Jesus as the Messiah in place of the sacrifices, but to give up the temple “law” as a “church” was not something they were inclined to do. “In the earlier years of the gospel work among the Gentiles some of the leading brethren at Jerusalem, clinging to former prejudices and habits of thought, had not cooperated heartily with Paul and his associates. In their anxiety to preserve a few meaningless forms and ceremonies, they had lost sight of the blessing that would come to them and to the cause they loved, through an effort to unite in one all parts of the Lord’s work.” AA 400.
. . . and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.
“This was the golden opportunity for all the leading brethren to confess frankly that God had wrought through Paul, and that at times they had erred in permitting the reports of his enemies to arouse their jealousy and prejudice. But instead of uniting in an effort to do justice to the one who had been injured, they gave him counsel which showed that they still cherished a feeling that Paul should be held largely responsible for the existing prejudice. They did not stand nobly in his defense, endeavoring to show the disaffected ones where they were wrong, but sought to effect a compromise by counseling him to pursue a course which in their opinion would remove all cause for misapprehension.” AA 403.
What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.
“The men who, while numbered among those who were in charge of the work at Jerusalem, had urged that arbitrary measures of control be adopted, saw Paul’s ministry in a new light and were convinced that their own course had been wrong, that they had been held in bondage by Jewish customs and traditions, and that the work of the gospel had been greatly hindered by their failure to recognize that the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile had been broken down by the death of Christ.” AA 402.
By this time, these “leaders” were slowly tending back towards their old, former customs and traditions of “church” in place of obedience to Jesus. The “Catholic” system was already in the making. Approximately 30 years after Christ a rogue disciple of John’s, Ignatius, would begin developing the “church” order and hierarchy of office claiming that the bishop presided “in the place of God” and to instigate the “primacy of the See of Rome”: the pope. “Ignatius is claimed to be the first known Christian writer to argue in favor of Christianity’s replacement of the Sabbath with the Lord’s Day.” Wikipidea.
Here we plainly see the falling away from the will of God by some of the primitive Christians and the “assembly” becoming a “church” under the banner of “Christianity”. A church that was intent on following the customs and traditions of the Jews in order to control its members. How well it succeeded. Within 300 years it would dominate all “Christian” churches and enforce the “antichrist” system John talked about. He knew because He saw the “antichrist” system being formulated by Ignatius, his former student.
Today, we need to return to the early, primitive Christianity and get out of our churches. We need to get back to Jesus and Jesus only. “If primitive Christianity could enter the hearts of all who claim to believe the truth, it would bring to them new life and power.” 5T 580.
But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
The Messianic Jews still did not understand the truth. There was to be no distinction between any Christians. All were to be one in following Jesus, not a “church” or a “leader” or any system. All were to be free to follow Jesus in obedience to Him. But the Messianic Jews wanted to be “held in bondage by Jewish customs and traditions”. They did not want to accept Gentile believers unless they joined with them in their Jewish rites, ceremonies, holy days, feast days and services.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.
Paul should not have given in to the church. That is why, today, our churches are led by Lucifer, the deceiver, who cloaks himself as an angel of light. “These men had lost sight of the fact that God is the teacher of His people; that every worker in His cause is to obtain an individual experience in following the divine Leader, not looking to man for direct guidance; that His workers are to be molded and fashioned, not after man’s ideas, but after the similitude of the divine.” AA 401.
Years later, as Paul was writing to Titus, he instructed him to, “not pay attention to Jewish myths or commands given by people who reject the truth.” Titus 1:14. Those “myths” were the feast days, ceremonies, traditions, services and rituals of the old “shadows” of the national church of Israel. Since Israel no longer existed as a theocracy, it no longer existed as a nation in the eyes of God. The Christians were to stay clear of all feast days, ceremonies, traditions, services and rituals and remain committed to only that which was important for eternal life: sinlessly living in obedience to the Ten Commandments, perfectly.
When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
Church people just don’t get it. Their whole lives are so wrapped up in church ceremonies, traditions, forms, services and rituals that the love of God has been completely wiped out of their lives. It is nothing but a human love of manipulation and selfishness. Their temple (church) was more important than obedience to God.
God called the nation of Israel to proclaim His Ten Commandments to the world. And here we see them trying to keep Greeks out. We do much the same today. We isolate ourselves in our churches, thinking we are keeping the world out, instead of individually proclaiming to the world the truth God has for it. But then again, how can church members teach that which they do not believe? No wonder churches wrap themselves up in darkness.
Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
They were wonderful church people, were they not? Seizing, dragging and seeking to kill. That is all I see in the churches of today. They seize on this, drag on that and seek to kill anything and anyone who does not agree with their perverted religious understanding of God. We must get out of our churches and return to Jesus and Jesus only. The reason for this is so you do not continue in your complacency and brainwashing. You must get out in order to clear your mind and become an active member of God’s Kingdom.
He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
It was the civil government, a pagan government, that protected the servants of Jesus. The religious church members wanted to kill; the pagan government came to save. How ironic. Get out of your churches folks. God is calling you out if you want to have eternal life. Those who go to church need a completely new paradigm of thinking in their lives. It can only be found in Jesus.
Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”
“The violence of the crowd”. How sad. What a wonderful example of “godliness” they were giving to the pagans! The church people were “crying out, ‘away with him?’” Paul worked for God, the people worked for their church. Is the light beginning to brighten in your mind? The same is happening today in our churches and society. Universities that were once founded on the Christian principles of freedom of speech and religion, are now working to undermine those two principles. Institutions founded on Christian principles no longer know what it is to be Christian. From Harvard University to Andrews University and all in between, all have fallen. All no longer teach the Christian teachings that Jesus taught. Soon, chaos and anarchy will become so great that a dictator will be elected to bring “peace and safety” back to society.
As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”
Paul, a Christian, the peacemaker, wanted to bring peace to those who claimed to be of God, his old church. Would the church listen? Would they give themselves to the love of God and His peace? Or would they continue giving their hearts to their church of hate, dragging and killing.
And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying: “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness.
Paul was acknowledging what he had been before his Christian conversion as a very good, upstanding church member. He acted just like them while belonging to their church. He thought he was righteous and doing the work of God while belonging to the church. He obeyed the leaders of the church and did everything to please them. He thought that pleasing church leaders was pleasing God.
From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
Yes, it was from the church and its leaders he received authority, not to love, bring peace and joy, but to hunt down, take prisoner and destroy those who loved Jesus. What is your church doing? Do you hunt down members and drag them to church tribunals, condemning them and punishing them? Are you a good church member or have you given your heart to Jesus? Do you spend your time condemning “sinners” or are you out finding the lost sheep? That is why Jesus was very clear that those who thought they were “whole” or “saved” as church members, were actually lost. Jesus came to save those who recognized they were “lost” and needed saving. Which one are you?
“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Why are you in church persecuting Jesus? Why don’t you get out, go to Jesus falling at His feet, learning how to live as Jesus lived: perfect, sinless and commandment keeping?
And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
Those who stay in their churches are persecuting Jesus. They are breaking every command of the Ten Commandments. And it doesn’t matter what day you go to church on, the Bible does not command you to go to church. It commands you to live the Ten Commandments perfectly. Jesus commands you to keep the 7th day Sabbath HOLY, not go to church. Going to church does not make the day HOLY. Living the sinless, perfect and commandment keeping life makes the day holy. “But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ.” DA 283. Are you coveting your church over obedience to Jesus? Are you coveting your pride and ego over obedience to Jesus? Are you “killing” people with your thoughts, tongue and actions by hating or refusing to forgive and love your “enemy”? Are you stealing salvation from your neighbors by sitting in church? Do you have the “righteousness of Christ” in your life?
Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
Are you seeing the light in this ministry? Or do you read this with eyes blinded and ears deaf to the voice of God? Is your church membership interfering with your sight and hearing? Are you living the “righteousness of Christ”? This ministry was started by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God dictated and directed the book, “Change Your Life Biblically”. The information coming from this ministry is written under the direction of the Spirit of God. Are you listening?
And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
Jesus didn’t tell Paul to go back to church. He told him to “go”. We need to “go” from church in order to “be told all that is appointed” for us to do. Go to Jesus. He will instruct you. Sit quietly at His feet, reading His Word and living as Jesus did, in obedience to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God for your eternal life.
And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
I do admit, there are times when the truth from Jesus is so bright I am not able to understand it. At first it blinds me. But because I am determined to live in obedience to Jesus, the Spirit of God can continue illuminating my understanding. And then comes that day when “Yes!”, there it is, and I understand. But that has only been able to happen since God called me out of the church system.
And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.
Ananias was a devout man according to the Law of the Ten Commandments. He had come out of the church and was serving Jesus. Paul had to come out of the church in order to hear Jesus speaking to him. Where are you?
And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Going to church will not save you. Jesus is not in your church. Your church is no different than a Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Catholic or any other church system. All church systems come from Catholicism which came out of the pagan-Jewish systems. And oh yes, “the God of our fathers appointed you”. Yes He did. Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not belong to, or sit in, any church. They belonged to Jesus. Will you become a child of God and let Him be your God as He was to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
“When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’
No they would not. No church will ever accept the truth. They all have bits and pieces of Bible facts, but none have “The Truth”. There are many who go to church reading this and refuse to “accept your testimony about Me”. Church has become their God. The testimony that Jesus and Jesus only, without any church or denomination, is a truth the churches, religions and denominations refuse to accept. Many read this, but because of their pride, ego and arrogance, they refuse to bow before the Spirit of God and repent and accept His truth.
And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’
They will only accept you as long as you are fighting for the church, spilling blood for the church and approving of church activities. But they will hate you if you tell them the truth and live as Jesus commands.
And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
God has sent me “far away to the Gentiles”; inmates and those who are willing to see the truth in Jesus and Jesus only. He has sent me to those who are tired of the “games” churches play. Tired of their “meaningless forms and ceremonies”.
Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”
And that is about as far as this ministry can get with those who go to church. They just don’t want to hear the truth. They want to rid the earth of me and this ministry.
And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.
That sounds so much like church people of today. If you speak against their idol, the church, or their opinions and beliefs, be prepared to be shouted at, dust flung at you and other unchristlike behavior and speech directed at you. Where your treasure is, that is where your heart is. They have put their treasure of ego, money, pride and time into their churches and opinions and they will kill to protect them.
But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”
Paul was not against being flogged if he deserved it. However, he was a Roman citizen and entitled to all the legal rights it offered. Through it all, he was kind, gentle, patient and courteous to those who were only doing their job.
When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.”
We also are to be citizens of the Kingdom of God by a “new birth”. All who have died to the old life of this world are to be reborn as citizens of God’s kingdom. The devil wants to kill us, but God will protect us. Even if we should die in this world, our new lives are hid in Christ and will be raised at His second coming. Going to church does not make you a “born again” citizen of the Kingdom of God. Going to church does not bring you the “new” life Jesus offers. Only those who live in obedience to Jesus and live His sinless, Ten Commandment life perfectly are citizens of the Kingdom of God.
So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
In my own experience, in a subtler way, I have seen this happen. There are those who have wanted to hurt and destroy me, but when they learned that I belonged to the Kingdom of God, they withdrew. God has been very good to me. If you are valuable to God and His cause, He can’t let anything happen to you outside of His plan. But if all you are doing is sitting in church, doing nothing for His cause, you are on your own.
But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
The civil government is in a dilemma. It needs to keep peace, which means acting on behalf of the “mob” and the ethnic and controlling powers that be. On the other hand, Paul is protected under the laws of Rome as a Roman citizen and therefore, the tribune needs to find the source for the trouble and a peaceful resolution.
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
And yes he did. Even as a Pharisee, he did all the “good” he understood as a member of the church. When he realized he was following the wrong “church”, his “good conscience” continued doing good by switching allegiance from the church to following Jesus. But all in all, he followed God to the best of his ability.
And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.
Typical church authority: hit, strike, beat, condemn, hate, yell and destroy. Most interesting that the church was not living in obedience to the laws of the church, while the civil government, which was about to flog Paul, lived in obedience to its own laws and refused to flog him when it was known he was a citizen of Rome. Have you looked closely at your life lately? Who do you follow? The meek and lowly Jesus or the haughty church? And again, I need to make this very plain. Many have come out physically from a church, but most have come out because of pride, ego and arrogance. They have not come out spiritually to join Jesus. They came out to continue in their own opinions and beliefs. We need to be “born again” and follow Jesus by surrendering our pride, ego and beliefs.
Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
That is the problem with “church”. Without Jesus in the heart, the “church” system develops an ego, a pride in the life. It’s like, “I can do anything to you because I belong to ‘God’s church’”. Those who go to church put church ahead of Jesus in their lives. “Church” has taken the place of Jesus. That is why it is called, “antichrist” in the Bible.
Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
Well, first of all, he wasn’t “God’s high priest”. If he was, he would not have crucified Jesus. If he was, he would have been listening to Paul and treating him with respect. If he was, he would be working with Paul to convert the “church” to Jesus Christ. No, he and the church system had long since become agents of the devil.
And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
Even though the high priest was not of God, of which Paul was very well aware, he was their ruler. We are to show the same respect Jesus did when he stood before rulers. He took all their insults, beatings, maligning and hypocrisy without any retaliation in word or action.
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
Paul is not trying to purposefully cause “division” but is trying to find a way to get a conversation going. He wants to bring truth into the council and get them thinking. Unfortunately, church people are not interested in thinking or truth, only “I’m right, you are wrong”. Therefore, conflict, dissension and controversy swirls in our churches today.
And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
You see, the unregenerate heart is not interested in truth. The rift between the Pharisees and Sadducees had nothing to do with truth. It was all about pride, position, honor, ego and belief. But truth, that which is most important, had long since been abolished from the heart. The church members no longer had love, joy, peace, kindness, respect and God’s honor in their hearts.
Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”
Oh, they could “find nothing wrong in this man” as long as it had to do with a belief or concept they believed. They had been fighting over those same beliefs for centuries. But they were firmly united in the concept and belief in “church”. They had to have their church in order to keep their pride, ego, positions and wealth intact. In that, both sides were firmly in agreement. Church is a betrayal of Christianity. Have you ever wondered why Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”? Matthew 22:37. Never did He teach to “love your church”. Jesus stated that He only spoke what His Father commanded Him. He did not speak hastily or stupidly. There is exactness to the words and order in which Jesus spoke.
Let us say John, a young man, looks across the room while sitting in class and sees a lovely young lady, Mary. He instantly falls in love with Mary. He is head over heels in love. You would be very correct in stating that John is in love with his heart and feelings for Mary. That heart-love produces an action from the “soul” of John to put forth every effort to woo Mary. So now, John loves Mary with his heart and his “soul”: actions. That leads him to love her with his mind. He wants to learn everything he can about Mary. As he does, what he learns leads to a deeper heart-love of Mary. That in turn leads to more “soul” love, action on his part that proves he loves Mary, which in turn leads to more “mind” or knowledge of Mary, which in turn leads to more “heart” and feelings of love for Mary. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
All right, they get married and now John wants to learn even more about Mary, therefore, he goes to Susan, who is Mary’s best friend. He begins spending every waking moment with Susan to learn about Mary. He is now spending far more time with Susan than with Mary and Mary is getting upset. But John tells Mary he loves her so much he wants to continue going to Susan to learn all he can about Mary. What would you think of John?
But that is what is happening in our religious experiences. We are going to church, pastors, denominations, religious school and every other source to learn about Jesus when we should be going to Jesus. Jesus is very upset over our “adultery” with the other “women” in our lives. Jesus tells us to come to Him, not “go to church” or anyone else. Therefore, I ask you, are you betraying Jesus? Would you do to your spouse what you are doing to Jesus? Get out of your church, go home and spend hours each day talking to and learning about Jesus from Him and Him alone.
And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
Again, it was the civil authority that protected Paul. How sad. So it will be at the end of time. It will be the civil authority that will protect those of us who serve God from church members. The churches will unite, both those who go to church on Sunday and those who go to church on the Sabbath, against those of us who serve Jesus, not church. But eventually, after the “Little Time of Trouble”, the civil government will no longer be able to protect us and the whole world, civil and religious, will be united around church-going to fight against us who are Jesus-going.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
Our only purpose on earth is to testify “to the facts” about Jesus. That is it! Our lives are to be lived as Jesus lived. As He testified about His Father and the kingdom to come, so are we. Anything that comes between us and our duty to Jesus is an idol in our lives and will cause us to be destroyed. That includes church.
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
If you live in obedience to Jesus, take note. This will happen to you as it happens to me. People will plot and bind themselves together to destroy you. But do not fear man. God can remove man with a blink of an eye. Trust and obey and do not worry.
There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
And yes, again, it is the religious, the Sabbath church-going people who are the most “offended” over their church. They hate the truth. I have not found one church or denomination that loves the truth. Not one person, in 22 years, has been able to show me any recently printed material from their pastor, church or denomination that teaches the teachings of Jesus to stop sinning, be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to get their eternal life. Not one!
Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.”
Praise God for little children. They are not wrapped up in “church” or the ego of position and do not care about what people think of them. They are so honest and ready to do what is right. People wanted to hurt his uncle and that was all that counted. Would it not be wonderful if we were like little children and simply did what was right without first filtering it through our egos, pride, church affiliations, money and positions? Of course, the world of grown-ups would call it “prudence”. I wonder if God calls it being a coward?
So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.” Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”
And again, it is the civil authorities coming to the rescue of God’s servant. Praise God for civil authority. No wonder Paul wrote that we are to live in obedience to the authority that is over us. Church is not an authority over you except by your choice. Nowhere in all the Bible will you find where God has set a “church” over you to obey. Have nothing to do with church.
And he wrote a letter to this effect: “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”
How sad. Instead of being a witness about God and His truth, justice, mercy and grace, the church was witnessing before the civil government about how hateful, murderous and wicked “their law” was. The civil government had to step in and rescue Paul from “their law”.
So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.
Paul, up to this point, had spent about 20 years evangelizing the world. His work had been very extensive and time consuming. Now he needed a break. He needed time to reflect on his work. Under the protection and care of the civil authorities he would have more time to think, contemplate and write. God needed Paul to write down for posterity the information he had received and learned over the past 20 years of his life.