Monday, August 23, 2010

“Upheld by God” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 29,2010

Purpose: To recognize and seek the same deep commitment to Christ exemplified in Paul's ministry

Scripture Text: Acts 28:16-25a, 28-31 (NRSV)

Acts 28:16-25a, 28-31
(16)When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. (17)Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. (18)When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. (19)But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. (20)For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” (21)They replied, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. (22)But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

(23)After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets.(24)Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.(25)So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

(28)Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
(29-30)He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him (31) proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As I start to study and read our text for this lesson a couple of questions come into my unlearned mind; Since this is most likely in the spring of 61, and Paul had written a great letter to the church at Rome while he was in Corinth at least two years prior, where was the greeting party? My second question comes from the “we” in verse 16, was this “we” someone other than Dr. Luke? There are those that believe the “we” sections that start in chapter 16 may be from a third source, in the form of a diary, that Luke used for this portion of his letter to Theophilius, which he began in what we call the “Gospel of Luke.” In fact, it originally was just one long letter that was divided by some early editor.

My first impression as I read verse 17, is why bring attention to yourself by seeking out the very group of people that had you sent to Rome in the first place? I realize Paul was living in a rental near the praetorium, chained to a Roman guard, but he still had great freedom. Paul's normal custom was to go to the synagogue and speak to the Jews first. Is it possible that this first meeting actually took place in the synagogue? Since we know from verse 23 there was a second meeting at Paul's place. My thoughts ramble to the point; I wonder If Paul was so full of himself, he may have thought he was more important than he was, and it bothers me that the text says “Paul called the leaders together” I would rather have it say that “God spoke to him and told him to call the leaders together,” or something like his Macedonian call. Still thinking “conspiracy,” was it possible Peter and Mark were already in Rome and gave Paul the cold shoulder? I say all of this because some bible scholars believe Mark's Gospel was written from Rome around this same time.

Conspiracy theories aside, Paul's actions seem to be that of someone who is committed to a “Jews first” approach to spreading the gospel of the Risen Messiah. After Paul tells his sad tale, I think he is shocked that no one had heard of him or his story, they were only aware of a “sect” that thought the Messiah had come in the flesh, and was willing to talk to Paul about that evil thought.

Paul was a very good and zealous Jew, and he seemed to be very proud of that and whenever he had an opportunity he always shared with his Jewish “brothers” the story of the carpenter from Nazareth, which was the “hope of Israel.” The lesson for us is about our own family, and no matter how many times our message may be rejected or scoffed at, the story of the Christ we serve, must continue to be told. Paul did not convince all of them, but “some believed.”

It appears that after a couple of years Paul was released, because of a lack of evidence. We know that after this Paul continued to travel and wrote several of his letters including Titus and 2nd Timothy. Some years later, around 67, Paul was again arrested and taken to Rome, this time he paid the ultimate price. Paul's life and testimony are indeed a great legend, but I have always noticed that his testimony was almost always identical to that first testimony that he had heard when he was leading in the stoning of Steven; Paul lived with that vision his whole life, maybe that was the “thorn in his side.”

The story of the first century church abruptly ends as we close this chapter of Acts. Now some two thousand years later the story of a loving redeeming God still goes on. Who will you tell? God has never left His people without a witness. Paul was certainly a great inspiration for centuries. Who are you being an inspiration to?

On a personal note, I have been writing this blog for two years, about the same amount of time as Paul spent under house arrest in Rome, according to my “Stat Counter” it has been opened over 220,000 times, just imagine if Paul had had this tool to tell his story.

My uncle Lewis passed away about 10 years ago, but he is the one that inspired me, I hope they have an internet in heaven so he can see my 104 post to date.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on two years of commentary. I found your site recently (My congregation uses the Present Word series and I am one of the adult class teachers). Your insights have been helpful to me in my lesson preparation, and I thank you.

- Erica